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Creatures of Cain$
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Erika Lorraine Milam

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181882

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181882.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021

The Old Determinism

The Old Determinism

Chapter:
(p.246) 14 The Old Determinism
Source:
Creatures of Cain
Author(s):

Erika Lorraine Milam

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691181882.003.0015

This chapter explores the increasingly heated debates over sociobiology. These debates within academic circles had polarized into arguments over nature versus nurture, biology versus culture, as the primary determinants of why humans behave the way we do. Scientists on both sides of the issue accused the other of allowing politics to interfere with clear-headed scientific analysis. Sociobiology's critics mobilized out of a concern that sociobiologists were using their authority as scientists to advance ideas and concepts that at best lacked rigorous proof and at worst reframed social policy in the language of natural order. That sociobiologists did not intend for their theories to be used as the basis for social policy was irrelevant. If the not-so-Cold War had taught scientists anything, sociobiologists' detractors argued, it should have been that they had a moral obligation to choose their research topics carefully. This precept extended to conflicts at home, where courts and politicians used biological and anthropological research to prop up discriminatory social policies, they suggested, as well as abroad, where the efforts of scientists in creating bombs and other weapons of war were deployed to devastating effect.

Keywords:   sociobiology, politics, Cold War, social policy, sociobiologists, nature, nurture, biology, culture

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