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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q097-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

Following Darwin, biologists and social scientists have periodically been drawn to the theory of natural selection as the source of explanatory insights about human behaviour and social institutions. The combination of Mendelian genetics and Darwinian theory, which did so much to substantiate the theory of evolution in the life sciences, however, has made recurrent adoption of a biological approach to the social sciences controversial. Excesses and errors in social Darwinism, eugenics and mental testing have repeatedly exposed evolutionary approaches in the human sciences to criticism.

Sociobiology is the version of Darwinism in social and behavioural science that became prominent in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Philosophical problems of sociobiology include challenges to the explanatory relevance of Darwinian theory for human behaviour and social institutions, controversies about whether natural selection operates at levels of organization above or below the individual, questions about the meaning of the nature–nurture distinction, and disputes about Darwinism’s implications for moral philosophy.

Citing this article:
Rosenberg, Alex. Sociobiology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q097-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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