Sociobiology Pioneer Joins Black Panthers
Robert L. Trivers, the sociobiologist who left Harvard two years ago to become professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, joined the Black Panther Party last month.
Trivers had become close friends with Huey P. Newton, the Black Panther leader, after Newton attended some of Trivers's lectures at Santa Cruz.
The Black Panther, the party's newspaper, reported last week that Trivers will write a book with Newton called "Deceit and Self-Deception," as well as articles for the Black Panther on the discriminatory use of I.Q. tests and other topics in sociobiology.
Trivers taught Natural Sciences 4, "Natural Selection," and did ground-breaking research in sociobiology, the study of the biological basis for social behavior.
He left Harvard after President Bok rejected the Biology Department's April 1977 recommendation to grant him tenure and postponed a final decision.
Trivers is writing a book in Jamaica, and was unavailable for comment yesterday.
"I knew Huey Newton was attending Bob's classes at Santa Cruz, and I knew Bob had become sympathetic to the Black Panther Party's point of view about the events of recent years," Irven DeVore, professor of Anthropology, who taught Nat Sci 4 with Trivers, said yesterday.
Jonina Abron, editor of The Black Panther, said yesterday Trivers first became interested in the party's "survival programs," community services such as free health clinics, community-run elementary schools, and senior citizens programs.
"The Black Panther Party's emphasis on survival and survival programs is very meaningful to a biologist like myself who appreciates that the ultimate way that living creatures are measured is their ability to survive and reproduce," Trivers said in an interview in The Black Panther.
"We call these survival programs because these are things that can help poor people survive until the major changes that this country needs occur," Abron said. "Our programs are models that people in the rest of the country have followed," she added.
Abron said Black Panther Party members do not mind working with a former Harvard professor. "There's no problem--he's a very beautiful person. We in the party accept people for whatever they are," she said.
She added that the party would benefit from the contributions of a scientist. "We want to develop a lot of positions and perspectives on the field of social biology," she said.
"At Harvard, I dealt with a lot of light and middleweight minds. It is a pleasure to come into contact with a real heavyweight mind, such as that of Huey, a man who has a great deal of genuine warmth and love for people and a very deep commitment to justice." Trivers said in the same interview