Re: Feminist critique of sociobiology...critiqued

Gerold Firl (
6 Sep 1996 19:37:00 GMT

In article <50k9du$>, (Bruce Scott TOK ) writes:

|> To those concerned with the feminist critique on sociobiology, I ask
|> what is to be made of a feminist sociobiologist? Example, Sarah Hrdy.

Yes - lets remember that only _some_ feminists are ideologically
opposed to sociobiology. Many feminists are able to reach logical
conclusions based on the rules of evidence.

|> In _The Woman That Never Evolved_ she opens with clarification of the
|> misconceptions that biology works against women, that "looking to the
|> science of biology for information that bears on the human condition" is
|> something to which feminists should take exception instead of (much more
|> productively) mining for information which exposes stereotypes for what
|> they are, and that "biology is destiny". She demonstrates to complete
|> satisfaction that sociobiology has no such agenda, and if anything is
|> more favorable to those of feminist persuasion and hope than otherwise.

That's where I'm coming from.

|> So what's the problem? Why do feminists see this as their enemy? I've
|> never understood why that should be the case and would be quite willing
|> to see a serious explanation.

Way back in the 30's, sigmund freud wrote that he hoped the art of
psychology would eventually develope into a science, perhaps as a
branch of biology. We are finally seeing some of the fruits of that
development, as our understanding of human biology gets sufficiently
sophisticated to shed some light on human psychology.

In fact, our incresed understanding of biology is bringing important
insights to bear on other areas of the social sciences. I suggest that
_the selfish gene_ is a landmark of intellectual history, in that it
answers a philosophical question which seemed ambiguously
unanswerable: what is the meaning of life? The tools of cultural
materialism are quantitative and reductionistic, and have resulted in
illuminating the hithertofor enigmatic vageries of culture; see
harris, _sacred cow and abominable pig_.

Of course, all this encroaching and clarifying has provoked a
territorial defense reaction, as people from the more
literary/fictional tradition see their turf being usurped. As kuhn
noted, even scientists can become illogical reactionaries when their
paradigm is overturned, and will try to maintain their position despite
any and all evidence to the contrary.

I suspect that the motivation behind the "feminist" attacks on
sociobiology is the same as for the post-modern/cultural anthro
clique: these are people who don't feel comfortable with quantitative
analysis. They prefer a more literary, narrative style of thinking,
and see that mode of operation being challanged by methods imported
from the hard sciences. What's more, those scientific methods are
generating new insights into human culture and psychology, insights
which never would have appeared using semiotic/narative modes. This is
threatening for people who don't think that way, and they are trying
to contain that threat.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf