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Is Sociobiology Reactionary? The Political Implications of Inclusive-Fitness Theory

Roger D. Masters
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 57, No. 3 (Sep., 1982), pp. 275-292
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2827464
Page Count: 18
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Is Sociobiology Reactionary? The Political Implications of Inclusive-Fitness Theory
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Abstract

Is inclusive fitness theory, popularly called "sociobiology," necessarily conservative or reactionary? While this criticism is usually focused on the extension of evolutionary reasoning to human behavior, it implies that contemporary biological theory is ideologically biased. Historical, logical, and empirical evidence shows, however, that models of natural selection based on reproductive success-particularly when redefined in terms of inclusive fitness-are not incompatible with scientific objectivity. This approach is a cost-benefit analysis of social behavior, akin to "rational actor" models in economics, game theory, and public-choice theory. Derived from the "social-contract" tradition in Western political philosophy, epitomized by such varied thinkers as Thrasymachus, Hobbes, and Rousseau, such a calculus of individual advantage has had as broad a range of ideological overtones as the contrasting "sociological" tradition of Aristotle, Marx, and Durkheim. Previous evolutionary explanations of human society have likewise suggested diverse political conclusions. Indeed, if inclusive-fitness models do have political implications, they could well challenge existing sociopolitical beliefs and institutions rather than support them.

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