The Use and Abuse of Sociobiology

Topics: Anthropology, Sociology, Evolution Pages: 3 (882 words) Published: December 10, 2012
“The use and abuse of sociobiology: an anthropological critique of sociobiology” –Marshall Sahlins Marshall Sahlins wrote this short book in 1976 in response to E O Wilson's 'Sociobiology'. Sahlins gives a brief critique of what he called 'vulgar sociobiology' which is a critique of simplistic notions of genes and evolutionary biology. The majority of the book is a critique of what he called 'scientific sociobiology' and which he basically reduced to 'kin selection' and what he sees as its failings. He says human kinship is culturally created and about shared interests, and is not literal blood dependent. Sahlins believes that human groups make up some close blood kin, but also people who are non-relatives while there are normally people of closer blood kin than these in others groups. This is also the case for all other social mammals. The origins of this goes back before humans to the first social animals, when sexually maturing offspring of one sex or both sexes dispersed to find mates in other groups. Groups do not inbreed. It is this flow of individuals between groups that spreads genes throughout the species - and if this does not happen there is speciation. A group that simply inbred would either degenerate or become a new species. Sahlins does not mention how other social animals also live in 'mixed' groups so it is not clear if he thinks it is a unique feature of humans or not. Marshall Sahlins critique of sociobiology seems to be focused towards Edward O. Wilson who is well known as a naturalist and animal behaviorist. In 1975 Wilson wrote “Sociobiology” in which he attempts to create a theory of social organization that would prove relevant to all social species, not limited to humans. Wilson is well suited for this as he was the leading world expert on ant societies. Sociobiology, Wilson’s book, dealt almost completely with ant societies, but the final chapter broadened his view to the subject of human society. Wilson attempted to explain war,...
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