Sociobiology: The New Synthesis


Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975; 25th anniversary edition 2000) is a book by the biologist E. O. Wilson. It helped start the sociobiology debate, one of the great scientific controversies in biology of the 20th century and part of the wider debate about evolutionary psychology and the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology. Wilson popularized the term "sociobiology" as an attempt to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviour such as altruism, aggression, and the nurturing of the young. It formed a position within the long-running nature versus nurture debate. The fundamental principle guiding sociobiology is that an organism's evolutionary success is measured by the extent to which its genes are represented in the next generation.The book was generally well reviewed in biological journals. It received a much more mixed reaction among sociologists, mainly triggered by the brief coverage of the implications of sociobiology for human society in the first and last chapters of the book; the body of the text was largely welcomed. A review reached the front page of the New York Times, such was the level of interest in the debate. The sociologist Gerhard Lenski, admitting that sociologists needed to look further into non-human societies, agreed that human society was founded on biology but denied both biological reductionism and determinism. Lenski observed that since the nature-nurture dichotomy was false, there was no reason for sociologists and biologists to disagree. Other sociologists objected in particular to the final chapter, on "Man": Devra G. Kleiman called Wilson's attempt to extend his thesis to humans weak and premature, and noted that he had largely overlooked the importance of co-operative behaviour and females in mammalian societies.
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original title: Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
language: English
date of publication: 1975
main subject: sociobiology
followed by: On Human Nature


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