This article is reprinted by permission of Dœdalus, journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, “Discoveries and Interpretations: Studies in Contemporary Scholarship, Volume 11,” Fall 1977, vol. 106, no. 4, 127–40.
BIOLOGY AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
Version of Record online: 15 DEC 2005
Volume 25, Issue 3, pages 245–262, September 1990
How to Cite
Wilson, E. O. (1990), BIOLOGY AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES. Zygon, 25: 245–262. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00791.x
- Issue online: 15 DEC 2005
- Version of Record online: 15 DEC 2005
- biological evolution;
- cultural evolution;
- economic theory;
- genetic determinism;
- learning theory;
- psychoanalytic theory;
- relationships between scientific disciplines
Abstract. The sciences may be conceptualized as a hierarchy ranked by level of organization (e.g., many-body physics ranks above particle physics). Each science serves as an antidiscipline for the science above it; that is, between each pair, tense but creative interplay is inevitable. Biology has advanced through such tension between its subdisciplines and now can serve as an antidiscipline for the social sciences—for anthropology, for example, by examining the connection between cultural and biological evolution; for psychology, by addressing the nature of learning and the structure of the unconscious; for economics, by examining economically irrational behavior and by comparing economic activity in humans and other species. Sociology, concerned mainly with advanced literate societies, is relatively remote from the genetic basis of human social behavior. However, moving between biological and social levels of organization generates richness and points to new and unexpected principles.