Usefulness of Sociobiology (was Re: Suppression...)

F. Bryant Furlow (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 01:21:20 +0000

omar shafey wrote:

> In article <58ssoo$>, (Bryant)
> wrote:
> > Here, for your information, are the questions currently addressed > > by sociobiologists...:[Large snip]
> I find tail-wagging-the-dog theory-driven formulation of the above
> questions more interesting than the questions themselves

Naturally. :) But seriously, would you mind explaining the tail wagging
comment in another way? (I'm not getting your meaning.)

> and I am disheartened to imagine that anthropologists study the
> behavior of animals marking their territory in the same manner in
> which they study post-partum depression in women.

Studying the underlying, evolved neurological mechanisms behind a wide
array of animal (including human) behaviors (including language
acquisition and other culturally-relevant behaviors) does not seem
disheartening to me at all. Why would a better understanding of
functional psychological mechanisms (even those generating cultural
behaviors) bother you, exactly?

> Animals differ from people precisely because people
> have culture and culture is the subject matter of anthropology.

Sociobiology is hardly at odds with that. Explaining the evolution
of mechanisms does not deny the phenotypic/developmental placisticity of
their expression!

Less elaborately developed examples of cultural behaviors are also
evident in other species, of course.

> There are many other approaches in anthropology including but not
> limited to symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, > hermeneutics, structural-functionalism, neo-Marxism, conflict
> theory, exchange theory, and critical theory which may be used to
> generate different questions and answers in response to the cultural > features described above.

Yes, and you could add sociobiology to your list. Depending on what
level of causation you are interested in addressing, different
conceptual tools and/or research paradigms will best lend themselves
to a given task.

I'll respond to your characterization of sociobiology in a followup
thread. Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.