sociobiology

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sociobiology,

controversial field that studies how natural selection, previously used only to explain the evolution of physical characteristics, shapes behavior in animals and humans. The theory has contributed to the understanding of certain evolutionary traits in the animal world, such as how instinctive parental behaviors of animals are determined in part by the need to ensure survival of offspring. A related aspect of sociobiology deals with altruistic behaviors in general. In a theory called kin selection, animals that behave altruistically would have their genes passed on by helping relatives who share their genes survive to reproduce, just as they would by producing offspring of their own.

The theory first gained attention when E. O. WilsonWilson, Edward Osborne,
1929–, American sociobiologist, b. Birmingham, Ala. Founder of sociobiology, Wilson was educated at the Univ. of Alabama and Harvard, joined the Harvard faculty in 1956, and later became a professor of zoology.
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 of Harvard published Sociobiology (1975); it became controversial when he proposed extending the theory to explain human social behavior and psychological patterns. Critics charged that this application of sociobiology was a form of genetic determinism and that it failed to take into account the complexity of human behavior and the impact of the environment on human development.

Scientists have recently discovered individual genes in laboratory worms that influence social behavior, such as gregarious feeding habits. Continued research of this kind, into what has been called the "molecular biology of social behavior," is likely to provide new insights into sociobiology.

sociobiology

theory and research within the field of evolutionary biology which seeks to provide biological explanations for the evolution of social behaviour and organization in animals and humans. Proponents of sociobiological theories (e.g. E. O. Wilson, 1975) regard the problem of the evolution of altruism as a major challenge, since altruism implies a sacrifice of individual fitness incompatible with classical evolutionary theory. Proponents of sociobiology have been criticized for arguing their case from selective evidence, for making claims for behavioural ‘universals’ speculatively and assuming their innate basis. See also ETHOLOGY, TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE.

sociobiology

[¦sō·sē·ō· bī′äl·ə·jē]
(anthropology)
A discipline that applies evolutionary biology to the study of animal social behavior, including human behavior; considered a synthesis of ethology, ecology, and evolution, in which social behavior is viewed as the result of natural selection and other biological processes.
References in periodicals archive ?
We deliberate the role of several sociobiological principles involved in the arrangement of unions in consanguineous families.
A second important aspect of the position which deserves attention but does not get it is the seeming tension between the sociobiological view of morality as based in altruism with the Greek conception of morality which is based on individual flourishing.
69) Rolnick similarly concludes that "rather commonly, biologists have recently defined altruism solely in terms of sociobiological assumptions regarding reproductive value.
Although sociobiological arguments have been occasionally used [as proof of racial inferiority] this type of criticism [of sociobiology] is not only analytically weak but is often very counterproductive.
He consistently understands knowledge as an active process of interpretation, and, despite his objections to Darwinism, he understands such interpretation as a means by which the individual adapts to the environment--though Emden insists that Nietzsche does not resort to the "reductive sociobiological evolutionism" (155) ascribed to him by Daniel Dennett.
The relief effect: a sociobiological model for neurotic distress and largegroup therapy.
It could be impossible when the full range of human emotions are considered - of the biologically built in short-sightedness that helped our ancestors survive in an all 'natural' world, of the sociobiological interpretations that indicate that humans are designed to fluctuate between altruism and deadly hostility as mechanisms for survival.
hereinafter Sociobiological Perspective] ("Is it possible that
The first sociobiological theory to be developed was also the most important theoretical advance in the evolutionary analysis of ethnicity.
A matter-of-fact accounting that does not excuse or justify immoral behavior, but rather seeks to understand its sociobiological origins, on the premise that science and knowledge of the problem's roots, not ignorance, are a necessary first ingredient to making the world a better place.
Wilson's sociobiological theories claimed that the need to bear and nurture children was encoded in women's genes, and only childbearing can make a woman psychologically actualized (Lerner 19).
Thus there is a sociobiological explanation of why the tendency to be moved by the needs of others, especially the needs of kin, has become a characteristic of the species.