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When Edward O. Wilson published Sociobiology, it generated a firestorm of criticism, mostly focused on the book's final chapter, in which Wilson applied lessons learned from animal behavior to human society. In Defenders of the Truth, Ullica Segerstrale takes a hard look at the sociobiology controversy, sorting through a hornet's nest of claims and counterclaims, moral concerns, metaphysical beliefs, political convictions, strawmen, red herrings, and much juicy gossip. The result is a fascinating look at the world of modern science.
Segerstrale has interviewed all the major participants, including such eminent scientists as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard C. Lewontin, Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, Nobel Laureates Peter Medawar and Salvador Luria, and of course Edward Wilson. She reveals that most of the criticism of Wilson was unfair, but argues that it was not politically motivated. Instead, she sees the conflict over sociobiology as a drawn-out battle about the nature of "good science" and the social responsibility of the scientist. Behind the often nasty attacks were the very different approaches to science taken by naturalists (such as Wilson) and experimentalists (such as Lewontin), between the "planters" and the "weeders." The protagonists were all defenders of the truth, Segerstrale concludes, it was just that everyone's truth was different.
Defenders of the Truth touches on grand themes such as the unity of knowledge, human nature, and free will and determinism, and it shows how the sociobiology controversy can shed light on the more recent debates over the Human Genome Project and The Bell Curve. It will appeal to all readers of Edward O. Wilson or Stephen Jay Gould and all those who enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at modern science.
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How do scientists separate their politics from their work--or is such a distinction even possible? These questions frame the two levels of sociologist Ullica Segerstrale's analysis of the sociobiology controversy, Defenders of the Truth. From E.O. Wilson's 1975 publication of Sociobiology to his 1998 release of Consilience, he has consistently been the often-unwilling center of the vitriolic debate over human nature and its scientific study. Heavy hitters like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and John Maynard Smith have lined up to attack and defend the scientific, political, and moral interpretations and implications of Wilson's synthesis, and Dr. Segerstrale tells a compelling story of their battles on multiple fronts. The author knows her science, having trained extensively in biochemistry before turning to sociology. While she distances herself from assessing the validity of the various claims, Segerstrale is clearly sympathetic to Wilson, who seems almost naïve at times when his ideas are interpreted ideologically rather than scientifically.
That, of course, is the heart of the contention surrounding sociobiology. The political left, well-represented among evolutionary biologists, has long considered any genetic influence on human behavior anathema--such theories are believed to support racist policies, even in the unlikely event that they were not merely reflections of racist attitudes. To their credit, many scientists held more complex beliefs, but some used the ideological argument as a back door to introduce their own neo-Darwinian scientific theories. The struggle for understanding has been eclipsed for some time by the struggle for political and academic survival and dominance, and Segerstrale reports and scrutinizes both with humor, intelligence, and aplomb. The end of the controversy--if there can be one--is far off, but a careful reading of Defenders of the Truth will give insight into the forces influencing our scientific self-examination. --Rob LightnerAbout the Author:
Ullica Segerstrale is Professor of Sociology at Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago. She holds advanced degrees in organic chemistry and biochemistry, in communications, and in sociology. Born and raised in Finland, she now lives in Chicago.
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Book Description Oxford University Press, 2001. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110192862154
Book Description Oxford University Press. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0192862154 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0036685
Book Description Oxford University Press, USA, 2001. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0192862154
Book Description Oxford University Press, 2001. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0192862154