bhandari at berkeley.edu
bhandari at berkeley.edu
Sun Aug 12 18:47:46 MDT 2007
I have no problem with taking sociobiology seriously. I take Patrick
Bateson seriously though I do not take even the Santa Barbara evo
pscyhology that seriously (thinking the critical review by Elizabeth Lloyd
excellent). This is exactly what Sayan has not done--taken anything
seriously. Compare the debate about sociobiology, John Maynard Smith, Ruth
Hubbard and Marshall Sahlins we had on lbo-talk years ago. Jim F
contributed, I actually tried to take some of Maynard Smith's ideas
seriously. But Sayan refuses to do the work.
I received a private email where he told me that it is not a racist claim
that the English population first reached some kind of tipping point in
genetic change which then had momentous consequences (apparently the
cultural change needed to become the first industrial society to break out
of the Malthusian trap). Indeed he defended this claim as if it were
obviously true and his own and not racist.
But for some reason he won't send the post to the list. I don't want the
discussion in private.
On the basis of what evidence does he advance such a claim? The review of
Clark's book in the New York Times? Many reasons have been given why many
of us think such a claim absurd and understand its plausibility in terms
of the imbrication of racism and biology and the contemporary politics of
dysgenic specters and racist resignation to the poverty of very poor
Indeed I think there is probably something mistaken in even taking the
thesis seriously as there would be something amiss in taking accusations
of withcraft seriously enough to show that no quantum mechanics has not
finally allowed science to catch up to the powers of witches. You can't
but be caught up in distortion once you take the thesis seriously as Sayan
insists we must--whether that thesis be about the wickedness witches have
unleashed or the assessment of which select peoples have the genetic right
stuff and had it first for industrial capitalism.
And what exactly is being said about the peoples who have not successfully
industrialized? That they have not yet had an internal bourgeois cultural
revolution? And how is that failure explained? That the rich did not
outreproduce the poor sufficiently to bring about a change in the gene
Some very serious things are being said and some very disturbing things
are being implied. It's too bad that Wade sugar coated this controversy.
We are not obliged to do so. And Sayan is a nuisance unless he takes this
debate more seriously, does some research about exactly what is viable and
unviable in sociobiology, and says something of substance while addressing
directly and sympathetically the general fears of implied racism.
If he can't understand why many Marxists would be simply dismissive of
what Wade presented as Clark's findings, then he is surely on the wrong
list. He is not trying to communicate with Marxists, convince them of
anything. He is simply being a troll.
In my opinion, all he is doing is playing with disturbing topics in the
most superficial and costless way so that he can pathetically make himself
the center of attention.
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