September 03, 2010


For most of the 20th century, disciplines like sociology and anthropology emphasized culture as the main shaper of human behavior and were skeptical of suggestions of biological or genetic influences on human social life.

They had some reason on their side. Anyone who thinks human nature is fixed by heredity has a lot explaining to do about our species' variability across time and space. Also, many previous attempts to bridge the gap between biology and society were suspect on many grounds.

So-called Social Darwinists misused Darwin's ideas to justify cut-throat unregulated capitalism in the Victorian era. Eugenics was the rage on both the right and left up until the mid 20th century. Racists and imperialists misused "science" to reinforce their bias and social positions. The Nazi movement imagined a struggle for existence between races. No wonder people wanted to focus on culture.

Lately, with growing knowledge in the fields of biology and genetics, things have begun to change. Biological determinism is still out as a catch-all explanation for social life, but there seems to be a greater willingness to consider the genetic bases of at least some behavior at the group and individual level.

More on this to come.

STATING THE OBVIOUS is a good thing these days. Here's another op-ed on the need for more action to create jobs. Krugman throws in his two cents here.

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT. Massey executives went deep into the Upper Big Branch mine shortly after the disaster, which raises lots of questions.

FRAME THIS. Here's George Lakoff on politics, morality and messaging.

TAX THIS. Here are some reasons why raising taxes on the wealthiest makes sense.



1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

My life as a livestock breeder makes me feel like genetics is a lot more important than people think.

Epigenetics also seems to explain a lot things too.