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Paradigms in Evolutionary Theory: The Sociobiological Model of Natural Selection

Jill S. Quadagno
American Sociological Review
Vol. 44, No. 1 (Feb., 1979), pp. 100-109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094820
Page Count: 10
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Paradigms in Evolutionary Theory: The Sociobiological Model of Natural Selection
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Abstract

One of the few theories in the history of ideas which has been held in common by both the social and natural sciences as well as philosophy is that of evolution. As a scientific paradigm evolutionary theory can be analyzed according to five principles: change, order, direction, progress and perfectibility. Darwinian evolutionary theory was based on the idea that change in forms occurs through the mechanism of natural selection. Darwin's central problem was to explain the apparent instability of species, which he observed in fossils. In contrast, the central problem of sociobiology has been to explain the evolution of social behaviors, including complex human social behaviors. A key issue has been the origin of altruism. In explaining the origins of social behavior, sociobiologists have altered the paradigm of evolutionary theory as originally formulated by Darwin in several ways. First, they have argued that the principal effect of natural selection must be the maximization of reproduction. Second, the concept of fitness has been altered; species typical behavior has come to be defined as fit behavior. Third, there has been an increased stress on the adaptive nature of behavior, with the subsequent effect that nonadaptive evolution has been ignored. Two specific examples of sociobiological reasoning which both purport to explain altruism, kin selection and reciprocal altruism, provide an example of tautological reasoning. In terms of both logic and method, sociobiology cannot be applied to the analysis of complex human social behavior. Sociobiology is based on a preconceived notion of change leading to a necessarily adaptive order in which the morality of human consciousness is replaced by the morality of gene survival.

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