Sociobiology states that genetics is the sole factor responsible for the behavior in humans and animals.1
Sociobiology, in the form that college
students study and dictionaries define, dates from the 1970s and was the work of Edward O. Wilson
. Despite him being credited that "discovery
", the roots of Sociobiology are older. The first use of the term Sociobiology actually goes back to the work of Warder C. Allee and Alfred E. Emerson published in their 1949 book, Principles of Animal Ecology
Sociobiogists study the behavior of social species, including humans, primates, and bees. Sociobiology has developed from studies in population biology as well as genetics. Sociobiologists study these species looking for links between their biological make up and their behavior. They study behaviors such as instinct, agression, and reproduction. They look at things like the breeding chickens and dogs to make them more agressive, as well as examine the social structure of insects such as bees and ants. While there are many branches of Sociobiological research, most of the material I have come across has dealt with behavior in relationship to reproduction. Much of this research has served to test Darwin's theories concerning individual selection.
Research in the social insects, especially ants and honey bees, had shown that the old Darwinian theory didn't necessarily always hold true. Darwin proposed a theory of individual selection where the individuals work towards their own reproductive success. When examining honey bees this doesn't hold water in that the worker bees do not reproduce, yet defend their nests often to their own death. Such behavior is not easily explained under Darwin's theory. One such concept which has attempted to bridge this gap is the concept of "inclusive fitness". This concept was developed by W D Hamilton and states that " individuals not only work for their own reproductive success, but also that of their relatives"2. In the case of bees, all the worker bees are related to the queen, and therefore would be working the survival of their genes, not their own personal reproduction.
While this theory sounds plausible when applied to honey bees, when you apply it to human behavior, it quickly becomes controversial. Are we born with the makings to survive, or do we learn it from our parents and culture? Are criminals born, or are they made? There lies the debate between the Sociologists and the Sociobiologists.
Somewhere there has to be a middle ground between nature and nurture. I believe we are born something and with some help from the people and things around us we become someone.
1 Alled, Principles of Animal Ecology , 64.
2 ibid, 2.
Alled, W.C. Principles of Animal Ecology. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders, 1949.