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E. O. Wilson, a central figure in the history of sociobiology.

Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the hypothesis that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context.


  • I believe that human preferences came to be what they are in those millions of years in which our ancestors (whether or not they can be classified as human) lived in hunting bands and were those preferences which, in such conditions, were conducive to survival. It may be, therefore, that ultimately the work of sociobiologists (and their critics) will enable us to construct a picture of human nature in such detail that we can derive the set of preferences with which economists start. And if this result is achieved, it will enable us to refine our analysis of consumer demand and of other kinds of behaviour in the economics sphere.
    • Ronald Coase, "The Firm, the Market, and the Law", in The Firm, the Market and the Law (1988)
  • Even God cannot make two times two not make four.
    • Hugo Grotius, as quoted in Delbert D. Thiessen (ed.), A Sociobiology Compendium: Aphorisms, Sayings, Asides, p. 18
  • Thus perhaps the chief error of contemporary ‘sociobiology’ is to suppose that language, morals, law, and such like, are transmitted by the ‘genetic’ processes that molecular biology is now illuminating, rather than being the products of selective evolution transmitted by imitative learning. This idea is as wrong - although at the other end of the spectrum - as the notion that man consciously invented or designed institutions like morals, law, language or money, and thus can improve them at will, a notion that is a remnant of the superstition that evolutionary theory in biology had to combat: namely, that wherever we find order there must have been a personal orderer. Here again we find that an accurate account lies between instinct and reason.
  • Sociobiology reduces the human to the animal instead of observing how the animal becomes human.
    • Harvey Mansfield, How to Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science (2007)
  • Wilson clearly laid down a radical biosociological research programme, claiming that sociology should be reduced to biology. This idea has profoundly influenced sociobiology and its reception in the larger public. Because of his claims to 'biologicize' culture and even ethics and the changes in evolutionary biology, which he at least co-provoked, sociobiology was soon singled out for criticism. But this challenge to other subject areas also inspired interesting new theories for instance in psychology or in philosophy.
    • Momme von Sydow, From Darwinian Metaphysics Towards Understanding the Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms (2012).

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