Joy (cithra) wrote,

Blame pseudoscience-tists for the cranky bits

This piece about Robert Trivers in the Guardian (pointed to in the latest Edge) reminds us all that when evaluating the usefulness of sociobiology, it helps to study the actual animal you are theorizing about.

In other words, if you're going to make theories about ants, being obsessed with ants is just dandy. If you're going to take that ant-based sociobiological theory and apply it to humans, it isn't going to fit 100%. That's not an invalidation of the general idea, though, and may I suggest you talk to someone who has collected evidence on human behavior and biology to see what they have to say on the issue.

The above is ranted with apologies to Bill Hamilton and EO Wilson - but like them, most of the early early socio-biologists were studying insects. May I suggest a jaunt along the clades until you hit mammals, at least, before insisting the ideas are crap because they don't fit?

To get less ranty, part of what I like best about Robert Trivers is he seems much more grounded than most of the regrettably clannish Ivy League (Harvard in this case) intellectual [group noun]. Having bipolar disorder may have something to do with that - when dealing with mental illness you have to learn how to focus on what is as opposed to what you think is, or what you'd like to think is, and so forth. I'm glad to hear he is still working, and has returned to anthropology.

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