Evolutionary Sociology

A Cross-Species Strategy for Discovering Human Nature

Authored by: Jonathan H. Turner , Alexandra Maryanski

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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Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have made extraordinary claims about how the social universe can be explained in Darwinian terms. These approaches, however, often remain ignorant of, and unreceptive to, sociological theory and research on social processes, with the result that their explanations of the social order always seem both reductionist and rather simplistic. In this chapter, an alternative to these approaches is outlined, an approach we term evolutionary sociology. Part of this new evolutionary sociology is highly Darwinian and, like sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, seeks to explain the evolution of biologically driven behavioral propensities. This approach, however, emphasizes the selection pressures on primates as they evolved first in niches within the arboreal habitat and later in niches of the terrestrial habitat of the African savanna. An entirely new kind of explanation is generated using research findings on (1) network structures of present-day primates, (2) cladistic analysis for the social structures and behaviors among the last ancestors to humans and extant apes, (3) preadaptations in primates that could be subject to selection, (4) behavioral propensities of primates and mammals that could also be subject to selection over the last 7 million years, and (5) comparative neuroanatomy on the differences between great-ape brains and human brains, with these differences marking the footprints of natural selection on the hominin ancestors of humans.

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