Re: WHAT!?!?

Jay Bernstein (jbernst@PIPELINE.COM)
Sun, 5 May 1996 13:50:24 GMT

On Sun, May 5, 1996 0:29:26 at Deus Ex Machina wrote:

>OK I'll bite. Does anyone else find sociobiology dubious? I wonder why
>nobody reads Shapiro? I ask is this sociobiology stuff thought up or
>"theorized" in the same manner that Elaine Morgan did when she wrote
>her books? In other words is sociobiology actually based on legitimate
>research or is it just a bunch of "cool thoughts?" Any qualified
>physical/biological anthropologists care to comment on any of this.
>I don't know enough about it to make a serious judgement, but I have my

Not a qualified physical anthropologist, but a cultural anthropologist

Like everyone trained in the cultural anthropology graduate program at
Berkeley in the 80s I was taught to shun sociobiology. I read Elaine
Morgan and that was cute. I never heard of Shapiro (you don't mean Warren
Shapiro do you?). And I think cultural anthropologists were right to scorn
70s sociobiology. I don't want to get into a discussion of it, and don't
have the materials here, so let's leave it at that.

But more recently a new subject, evolutionary psychology, has flourished,
and it is sophisticated, theoretically powerful, and relevant to
anthropology. It is important in understanding sexual behavior and
male/female differences and conflicts. In an age where feminist
anthropology has taken the upper hand and you can't get a job unless you
can do "gender studies" (actually, this is just a coded excuse to prefer
women over men--but that's a thought for another thread), evolutionary
psychology is a very important antidote. I call your attention to the
writings of David Buss, Timothy Perper, Donald Symons, Tooby and Cosminides
(sp.), Donald Brown, and William Jankowiak.

I think this stuff is very important, and "cultural constructionists"(see
volume edited by Ortner and Whitehead) shun it as an article of faith.

To answer your question, the new evolutionary psychology, which probably
should not be called sociobiology, uses biological theory but ethnographic
field methods of interview and observation, and is not dubious.

Jay Bernstein