Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory and Sociology

Throwing New Light on an Old Path

Authored by: Richard Machalek , Michael W. Martin

Handbook on Evolution and Society

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  November  2015

Print ISBN: 9781612058146
eBook ISBN: 9781315634203
Adobe ISBN: 9781317258339


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After decades during which sociology largely ignored biology the publication of Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) prompted a small, but now growing, number of sociologists to explore the possible value of incorporating contemporary evolutionary thinking into sociology. The result was the emergence of a new evolutionary sociology built on the platform of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Rejecting the tabula rasa assumption about the human mind, evolutionary social and behavioral scientists, including sociologists, are attempting to reconstruct the phylogeny of the human brain and mind in an effort to identify evolved adaptations that may influence human social behavior. Their work addresses several areas of human social life, including the bases and origins of gender inequality, the manner in which the human mind works in both archaic and novel social environments, and the interaction between biological and sociocultural factors in shaping human behavior. Additional topics of investigation include efforts to integrate neurological research into the study of human social behavior, the use of cladistics to reconstruct human nature, and the study of the distribution and functioning of generic forms of sociality across species lines. A promising area of future inquiry involves sociological reconstructions of elementary and archaic social forms that could have constituted selection forces that gave rise to evolved adaptations for coping with human social life.

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