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by Marshall Sahlins

Download Use and Abuse of Biology: Anthropological Critique of Sociology (Social Science Paperbacks) ePub
  • ISBN 0422762709
  • ISBN13 978-0422762700
  • Language English
  • Author Marshall Sahlins
  • Publisher Tavistock Publications Ltd; First Edition edition (June 1977)
  • Pages 144
  • Formats docx lit lrf lrf
  • Category Social Science
  • Subcategory Politics and Government
  • Size ePub 1849 kb
  • Size Fb2 1525 kb
  • Rating: 4.1
  • Votes: 572


Sahlins is no less critical of Wilson that Science for the People, Richard Lewontin, or Stephen Jay Gould, but in this .

Sahlins is no less critical of Wilson that Science for the People, Richard Lewontin, or Stephen Jay Gould, but in this nicely written, witty, and insightful book, the author tries to present a dispassionate critique--light rather than heat. The 'Sahlins Fallacy' The most embarrassing and infamous passage from 'The Use and Abuse of Biology', which illustrates the full depth of his misunderstanding, comes when Sahlins claims that there are, in his words, "epistemological problems presented by a lack of linguistic support for calculating r coefficients of relatedness which amount to a serious defect in the theory of kin selection".

The ‘Sahlins Fallacy’ The most embarrassing and infamous passage from ‘The Use and Abuse of Biology’, which illustrates the full . And as there is this continuation of topics it still pays off to read Sahlins critique of sociobiology.

The ‘Sahlins Fallacy’ The most embarrassing and infamous passage from ‘The Use and Abuse of Biology’, which illustrates the full depth of his misunderstanding, comes when Sahlins claims that there are, in his words. Epistemological problems presented by a lack of linguistic support for calculating r coefficients of relatedness which amount to a serious defect in the theory of kin selection.

Edward O. Wilson, the butt of his critique in this slim volume, is perhaps the most celebrated living naturalist and animal behaviorist

Albert James Bergesen. Racial Profiling and Use of Force in Police Stops: How Local Events Trigger Periods of Increased Discrimination.

The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology. Albert James Bergesen. The Mark of a Criminal Record.

Anthropology Biological Sciences Biology Politics & Social Sciences Science Science & Math Science . In this book, Marshall Sahlins de-constructs the interpretation of human societies done by certain of the most eminents sociobiologists

Anthropology Biological Sciences Biology Politics & Social Sciences Science Science & Math Science & Scientists Science & Technology Social Science Social Sciences Sociology. More by Marshall Sahlins. The Tanner Lectures Vol 27 (Tanner Lectures on Human Values). In this book, Marshall Sahlins de-constructs the interpretation of human societies done by certain of the most eminents sociobiologists. He shows that certain elements of human nature and civilisation are not reductible to biological principles. He thus stresses the importance of anthropology as a science that contributes to understand the variety and unity of human cultures.

The diversity challenge: Social identity and intergroup relations on the college campus. Prepar- ing students for a diverse future: Using service-learning for career training in soil science community outreach. NACTA Journal, 58 (4), 293–301

The diversity challenge: Social identity and intergroup relations on the college campus. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. NACTA Journal, 58 (4), 293–301. Sorensen, . Nagda, B. (R). Gurin, . & Maxwell, K. E. (2009). Taking a hands on approach to diversity in higher education: A critical-dialogic model for effective intergroup interaction. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 9 (1), 3–35. Spitzberg, . & Changnon, G. Conceptualizing intercultural competence.

The Sociology of Sociology SOC3029. Previous: The social animal. Section: Week 6: Sociology and other disciplines: biology and genetics. Library availability.

Marshall Sahlins is one of the most prominent American anthropologists of our time. He argues that the importance of anthropology as a science must contribute to understand the variety and unity of human cultures. In the text, The Use And Abuse of Biology, Sahlins reveals his true worries that culture can be usurped as an independent super-organism directing all human thought, emotion and behavior and this in turn undermines the prestige or importance of cultural anthropology (His early work focuses on debunking the idea of 'economically rational man'). In the first part of the text, the inadequacies of sociobiology are presented.

Traducción de: The Use and Abuseof Biology

Traducción de: The Use and Abuseof Biology. An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology El autor escribe su ensayo para refutar las pretensiones de la obra Sociobiología: la nueva síntesis, de Edward o. Wilson. Marshall, aporta elementos que muestran la insuficiencia de la sociobiología como teoría de la cultura y desvela las razones ideológicas que llevan a aplicar por analogía la selección. natural como modelo de organización social humana. In 300 pages, this book shows how disciplines from cultural anthropology and psychology to biology and economics can come together to explain human evolution, the current state of the world, and the way forward.

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Marshall Sahlins is one of the finest anthropologists of the post-WW II period. Edward O. Wilson, the butt of his critique in this slim volume, is perhaps the most celebrated living naturalist and animal behaviorist. The bone of contention, Wilson's monumental Sociobiology (1975) was the opening shot of a forty year (to date) attempt to create a theory of social organization relevant to all social species, not just humans. Wilson is well equipped for this task, as the leading world expert on ant societies. Sociobiology, the book, dealt almost exclusively with ant societies, but the final chapter broached the subject of human society. The chapter is brilliant and still worth reading, although I think overly influenced by Robert Ardrey, Konrad Lorenz, Desmond Morris, Lionel Tiger, Robin Fox, and others who attempted to explain war, aggression, and other anti-social but typically human behavior in terms of primordial emotions and behaviors we share with other animals. Sociobiology has matured in succeeding years, sometimes under the rubric of evolutionary psychology, or behavioral ecology, and more recently, gene-culture coevolutionary theory.

The reaction of mainstream social scientists to Wilson's suggestion that biology might have something to do with human behavior was enormous and mostly viciously critical. You can read about this debate in Ullica Segerstrale's beautiful and exciting book, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond (Oxford 2001). Sahlins is no less critical of Wilson that Science for the People, Richard Lewontin, or Stephen Jay Gould, but in this nicely written, witty, and insightful book, the author tries to present a dispassionate critique---light rather than heat. By and large he does so in the first three quarters of the book, only to descend into inanity in the last quarter, which argues that sociobiology is an ideological defense of capitalism. "Sociobiology," Sahlins proclaims, "contributes primarily to the final translation of natural selection into social exploitation." (p. 73) Many social theorists shared this sentiment because the early sociobiological models dealt with competition and conflict rather than cooperation and altruism. This one-sidedness has been completely reversed in recent decades, especially since the recognition that multicellular organisms are themselves cooperative societies, as well as the publication of John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary's great book, The Major Transitions in Evolution (1997). At any rate, I believe there is no place in scientific debates about modeling social organization for dwelling on such irrelevancies as the ideological impact of a doctrine, so I will not discuss this part of Sahlins' argument.

Sahlins' main argument is that sociobiology treats human culture as a simple side-effect of human biological organization, and hence reduces the social sciences to biology. "In place of a social constitution of meanings, [sociobiology] offers a biological determination of human interactions with a source primarily in the general evolutionary propensity of individual genotypes to maximize their reproductive success." (p. x) Sahlins asserts emphatically that "biology...is completely unable to specify the cultural properties of human behavior or their variation from one group to another." (p. xi) For E. O. Wilson, by contrast, "any Durkheimian notion of the independent existence and persistence of the social fact is a lapse into mysticism. Social organization is rather, and nothing more than, the behavioral outcome of the interaction of organisms having biologically fixed inclinations." (5) This critique does really hit the mark. Until quite recently the denigration of culture and the critique of social theories for which human culture are central and independent variables was characteristic of sociobiology and its offshoots. Even E. O. Wilson's recent insightful attempt at integrating the behavioral sciences, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998) amounted to little more than reducing culture to biology.

Tragically, but no surprisingly, Sahlins simply reverse Wilson's causal order. "The structure of determinations is a hierarchical one set the other way round," he says, meaning that in humans, biological issues are strictly subordinate to cultural issues. Moreover, he asserts "I am making no more claim for culture relative to biology than biology would assert relative to physics and chemistry." (p. 63)

This view, to my mind, is the cardinal sin of pre-sociobiology social science: relegating human genetic composition to a purely infrastructural role in human behavior. The correct position, I believe, was articulated by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Marcus W. Feldman, Cultural Transmission and Evolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981); Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Robin M. Dunbar, "Coevolution of Neocortical Size, Group Size and Language in Humans", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16,4 (1993):681-735 and other gene-culture coevolutionists. Because of the importance of culture and complex social organization to the evolutionary success of Homo sapiens, individual fitness in humans depends on the structure of social life. Because culture is both constrained and promoted by the human genome, human cognitive, affective, and moral capacities are the product of an evolutionary dynamic involving the interaction of genes and culture. We call this dynamic gene-culture coevolution. This coevolutionary process has endowed us with preferences that go beyond the self-regarding concerns emphasized in traditional economic and biological theory, and with a social epistemology that facilitates the sharing of intentionality across minds. Gene-culture coevolution is responsible for the salience of such other-regarding values as a taste for cooperation, fairness, and retribution, the capacity to empathize, and the ability to value such character virtues as honesty, hard work, piety, and loyalty.

When environmental conditions are positively but imperfectly correlated across generations, each generation acquires valuable information through learning that it cannot transmit genetically to the succeeding generation, because such information is not encoded
in the germ line. In the context of such environments, there is a fitness benefit to the epistatic transmission of information concerning the current state of the environment; i.e., transmission through non-genetic channels. Several epistatic transmission mechanisms have been identified, (Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb, Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution: The
Lamarckian Case, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), but cultural transmission in humans and to a lesser extent in other animals (John Tyler Bonner, The Evolution of Culture in Animals, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984; and Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd, "The Evolution of Ultrasociality", in I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt and F.K. Salter (Eds.) Indoctrinability, Ideology and Warfare, New York: Berghahn Books, 1998:71-96), is a distinct and extremely flexible form. Cultural transmission takes the form of vertical (parents to children) horizontal (peer to peer), and oblique (elder to younger), prestige (higher status influencing lower status), popularity, and even random population-dynamic transmission, as in Stephen Shennan, Quantifying Archaeology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997) and James M. Skibo and R. Alexander Bentley, Complex Systems and Archaeology (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2003).

The parallel between cultural and biological evolution goes back to Thomas Huxley (1955), Karl Popper (1979), and William James (1880)--see Alex Mesoudi, Andrew Whiten and Kevin N. Laland, "Towards a Unified Science of Cultural Evolution", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (2006):329-383for details. The idea of treating culture as a form of epigenetic transmission was pioneered by Richard Dawkins, who coined the term "meme" in The Selfish Gene (1976) to represent an integral unit of information that could be transmitted phenotypically. There quickly followed several major contributions to a biological approach to culture, all based on the notion
that culture, like genes, could evolve through replication (intergenerational transmission), mutation, and selection.

I do not know what Sahlins would think if he returned to view the current state of sociobiology, which is much more balanced than the fragments that existed in 1976. He might well be as hostile as ever, but his grounds for criticism would have to be considerably different from those presented in this volume.
Murn
While an early chapter deals with pre-sociobiological writers such as Konrad Lorenz and Desmond Morris, whose views are largely rejected by modern sociobiologists, and later chapters focus on the supposed ideological inspirations for and implications of sociobiology, the substance of Sahlins's critique of sociobiology lies in his chapter on kin selection.

"Whether sociobiology will succeed," Sahlins writes, "depends largely on its theory of kin selection" (p17).

Actually, sociobiology has contributed various insightful and empirically productive theoretical concepts (e.g. differential parental investment theory, which appears to underlie many observed sex differences) and most research in human evolutionary psychology has focussed on mating behaviour rather than kin-directed altruism.

Nevertheless, while it is questionable whether, as Sahlins claims, the success of sociobiology depends on the theory of kin selection, it is certainly that case, given the disproportionate emphasis he places on this concept, that Sahlins attack on sociobiology must itself stand and fall on the basis of his critique of this concept. It is therefore this critique upon which my review focusses

Kinship Classification
At the heart of Sahlins critique of the sociobiological concept of kin selection is his emphasis on the cross-cultural variability in kinship classifications. Methods of classifying kin, he emphasizes, vary a great deal from culture to culture. However, he claims, "no system of human kinship relations is organized in accord with the genetic coefficients of relations as known to sociobiologists" (p57).

However, it is consistent with sociobiological theory that individuals related by, for example, marriage should ally together as kin because, although not themselves biologically related, they share a common genetic stake in offspring emanating from the union, as the latter inherit genes from both parents. This is why political marriages between royal dynasties were so often arranged to cement alliances between the rival royal houses.

Furthermore, if kinship terminology does not perfectly mirror our notions of biological relatedness, the two systems of classification do nevertheless strongly correlate. This is, of course, why both anthropologists and biologists chose to refer to the two systems by the same word (i.e. 'kinship').

The importance of kinship, however precisely defined, as a basis of social organization across so many diverse cultures itself surely demands an explanation.

Indeed, as Sahlins himself observed in an earlier paper, kinship appears to be "the organising principle or idiom of most groups and most social relations" in virtually all cultures around the world (Sahlins 1965: p150).

Thus, Robin Fox contended that “kinship is to anthropology what logic is to philosophy or the nude is to art; it is the basic discipline of the art” (Fox 1967: p10). Yet, as William Irons observes, prior to the rise of sociobiology, “anthropological research… left unanswered the basic question of why kinship is important in every human society” (Irons 1979: p79).

The ubiquity, if not universality, of kinship as a primary form of social organisation in every society that has ever been studied surely invites an evolutionary explanation. In short, the tendency to affiliate on the basis of kinship appears to be a universal and innate facet of human nature.

Moreover, Sahlins own earlier summary of the ethnographic record in this earlier essay, actually coincides remarkably well with sociobiological predictions.

Thus, Sahlins observes that "close kin tend to share, to enter into generalised exchanges, and distant and non-kin to deal in equivalents or in guile" and "equivalence becomes compulsory in proportion to kinship distance lest relations break off entirely" (Sahlins 1965: p149). In contrast, "to non-kin... no quarter must be given: the manifest inclination may well be 'devil take the hindmost'" (Sahlins 1965, p150).

This is almost precisely what would be predicted on the basis of sociobiological models of kin selection, inclusive fitness theory and 'reciprocal altruism' theory. Moreover, that Sahlins's observations were made independently and in ignorance of sociobiological theory (theory that was itself being independently formulated by biologists in an entirely different side of the university campus) means the convergence cannot be dismissed as mere 'confirmation bias'.

Indeed, one suspects it was the fact that sociobiologists had already begun to cite this passage from Sahlins in support of their theories that motivated Sahlins to come out so strongly against against sociobiology in the present work, lest he be somehow misconstrued as a supporter of sociobiology, or tarred through 'guilty by association', due to the frequency with which sociobiologists had begun to quote his words.

At any rate, it bears emphasizing that selective pressures act on behaviours rather than terminology.

In this context, it is interesting to note that Napoleon Chagnon, an anthropologist celebrated for his groundbreaking studies of the Yąnomamö people of the Amazonian rainforest, describes how "he was always struck by the degree to which actual genealogical relatedness, as distinct from fictive kinship, seemed to be important to the Yanomamo" who "discriminated in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways against non-kin, no matter how they classified them" (Chagnon 1979, p87).

By analogy, we might observe that, in modern societies, although stepparents often refer to their stepchildren as their own children, there is nevertheless evidence that they treat them less well, as the latter suffer disproportionately high rates of abuse (see The Truth About Cindedrella).

Kinship terminology may also be distorted for purposes such as mate competition (Chagnon 1988) or by elites to enhance the willingness of subjects to sacrifice themselves during wartime (e.g. reference to the 'motherland' or 'brothers in arms': see Johnson et al 1987).

Other groups, such as members of trade unions, and African-Americans in the USA, have been known to refer to refer to one another as 'brothers' and 'sisters', co-opting the language of kinship, presumably in order enhance their solidarity.

Indeed, even some of the cultural variability in kinship classification on which Sahlins lays such stress may be explained in Darwinian terms as examples of what David Buss has termed 'evoked culture'.

Thus, for example, the so-called 'avunculate', whereby property is inherited down the female line from uncle to nephew (i.e. via one's sister's son), may be adaptive in societies with high levels of marital infidelity because, in these circumstances, men may be unsure of the paternity of their own putative offspring but, since maternity is never in doubt, inheritance down the female line will ensure that those who inherit family resources and status also inherit at least some portion of the family's genes (Hartung 1985).

In short, over the past thirty years, kin selection has been found to explain a vast diversity of behaviours among humans as among other species, from patterns of support in an axe fight among the Yanomamö (Chagnon and Bugos 1979), to patterns of violent crime and homicide (see Homicide by Daly and Wilson) and inheritance patterns in modern industrial societies (Smith et al 1987).

It has even been implicated as the basis of ethnocentrism and racism (see Pierre Van Den Berghe's The Ethnic Phenomenon).

The 'Sahlins Fallacy'
The most embarrassing and infamous passage from 'The Use and Abuse of Biology', which illustrates the full depth of his misunderstanding, comes when Sahlins claims that there are, in his words, "epistemological problems [for sociobiology] presented by a lack of linguistic support for calculating r coefficients of relatedness which amount to a serious defect in the theory of kin selection" because "fractions are a very rare occurrence in the world's languages" (p44-45).

In other words, Sahlins is arguing that, since fractions are "a very rare occurrence in the world's languages", primitive peoples cannot possibly be capable of calculating the relevant coefficients of relatedness for particular classes of kin in order to behave adaptively in accordance with sociobiological theory.

Then, embarrassing himself even further, he continues by pointing out that the problems are even greater in respect of non-human species, writing, "I refrain from comment on the even greater problem of how animals are supposed to figure out that r [ego, first cousins] = 1/8" (p45).

There is now substantial research on the mechanisms underlying 'Kin Recognition' in both humans and animals, none requiring conscious mathematical calculation.

These mechanisms of 'kin recognition' include 'phenotype matching' (i.e. detecting kin by recognising similarity in scent or appearance: Holmes 1986); or simple natal proximity (i.e. if someone occupies the same nest as you in infancy, they are probably your kin).

[The crudeness of this latter heuristic explains both the vulnerability of some bird species to 'brood parasitism' (i.e. the practice whereby some bird species, such as cuckoos, surreptitiously lay their eggs in the nests of other birds so that the latter provide the necessary parental care), as well as the so-called 'Westermarck effect' in humans, whereby people are rarely sexually attracted to those with whom they are brought up in close proximity (e.g. in the same household).]

Sahlins's error has since been christened the 'the Sahlins fallacy' in his honour (Dawkins 1979) and is written up in several introductory level textbooks on both animal behaviour and evolutionary psychology.

Had Sahlins indeed "refrain[ed] from comment" (to comment that one will "refrain from comment" is itself a form of comment) he may well have saved himself from being a laughing stock to subsequent generations of biology students.

Conclusion
The only value of Sahlins's book was that it inspired research falsifying its claims.

For example, Joan Silk found that, contrary to Sahlins' claim that they "violate the moral [sic] logic of kin selection with regard to parental care, concern for one’s own offspring as against those of genetic competitors, etc" (p48), Polynesian adoptions overwhelmingly involved close biological relatives (Silk 1980).

Likewise, whereas Sahlins saw infanticide as biologically maladaptive, Daly and Wilson show that infanticide is practised by precisely those mothers for whom deferring reproduction is adaptive – namely those currently lacking the resources or male support to successfully raise offspring to adulthood (i.e. poor and unmarried), but with much of their reproductive careers still ahead of them (i.e. young teenage mothers) (see Daly and Wilson's Homicide).

Sahlins began the book by acknowledging in his Preface that he had "written this essay with some haste" because of "the good possibility that it [i.e. sociobiology] will soon disappear as science" (pXV).

This may perhaps partially explain – but certainly not excuse – his sloppy thinking.

However, contrary to Sahlins' prediction, sociobiology thrives as an underlying theoretical foundation for both the study of "Animal Behavior" and, increasingly, of human behaviour as well over thirty years after Sahlins penned these words.

In contrast, Sahlins's discredited critique, still occasionally cited by professors of cultural anthropology as the castle crumbles around them, gathers dust on the shelves of university libraries around the world.

References
Chagnon (1979) 'Mate competition, favouring close kin and village fissioning amongst the Yanomamo Indians' (pp86-131) In Chagnon and Irons (eds.) Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behaviour: An Anthropological Perspective (Belmont: Duxbury Press).
Chagnon (1988) 'Male Yanomamo manipulations of kinship classifications of female kin for reproductive advantage' (pp23-48) In Betzig, Mulder & Turke (ed.) Human Reproductive Behaviour: A Darwinian Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Chagnon and Bugos (1979) 'Kin selection and conflict: An analysis of a Yanomamo axe fight' (pp213-137) In Evolutionary Biology and Human Social behaviour: An Anthropological Perspective Irons W and Chagnon N (eds.) (Belmont: Duxbury Press)
Dawkins (1979) 'Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection' Z. Tierpsychol., 51: 184-200
Fox (1967) Kinship and Marriage (Penguin, 1967).
Hartung (1985) 'Matrilineal inheritance: new theory and analysis' Behavioural and Brain sciences 8: 661-88
Holmes (1986) 'Kin recognition by phenotype matching in female Belding's ground squirrels' Animal Behaviour 34:38-47
Irons W (1979) ‘Kinship’ (pp79-85) in Evolutionary biology and human social behaviour (1979) Irons W and Chagnon N (eds.) (Belmont: Duxbury Press 1979).
Johnson, Ratwik and Sawyer (1987) 'The vocative significance of kin terms in patriotic speech' (pp157-174) In Reynolds, Falger and Vine (eds) The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism: Evolutionary Dimensions of Xenophobia, Discrimination, Racism, and Nationalism (London: Croom Helm)
Sahlins (1965) 'On the Sociology of primitive exchange' (pp139-227) In The relevance of models for social anthropology M.Barton (ed) (Association of Social Anthropologists).
Sahlins (1977) The Use and Abuse of Biology (London: Tavistock)
Silk (1980) 'Adoption and Kinship in Oceana' 82(4) American Anthropologist 799-820
Smith, Kish and Crawford, 'Inheritance of Wealth as Human Kin Investment' (1987) Ethology and Sociobiology 8: pp171-82.