Misusing Sociobiology


To the Editors of The Crimson:

In recent months we have become very much alarmed by the political use of sociobiology by European far-right and neo-fascist groups. The National Front of England, an offspring of the British Union of Fascists, has published a lengthy piece entitled "Sociobiology: The Instincts in Our Genes," which attempts to justify the virulent racism of that organization by means of sociobiological arguments. Unfortunately, this group has achieved significant inroads into British politics. Several groups in France have embarked on a similar route, hoping to use the scientific respectability of the American sociobiologists (prominent among them several Harvard faculty members) to support their most reactionary social policies.

Time magazine (Aug. 13, 1979) stated that these French groups are "proclaiming ominous theories on race, genetics and inequality rarely heard since the dark days of the Third Reich...New Right partisans hold that individuals and races are divided by insurmountable barriers of hereditary inequality; in support of this view, they cite the much debated research by such American scientists as Arthur Jensen, William Shockley and Edward O. Wilson." A report in the New York Times (Sept. 26, 1979) on the assassination of a French-Jewish leftist, remarked about the "emergence of a group of intellectuals calling themselves the New Right who argue that there is a scientific base for elitism in sociobiology."

As critics of sociobiology who have warned about the political consequences of this theory, we feel that these developments can neither be ignored nor minimized. We, and others, have pointed out that the pernicious social conclusions of the theory are based on a faulty methodology and a misuse of the scientific evidence. American sociobiologists cannot dismiss the European political applications of their work as distortions of a sound scientific doctrine. Rather, these applications are the logical extension of a theory whose very assumptions reflect the political perspective of the sociobiologists.

We urge everyone, and especially students and researchers in fields such as anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology, to examine carefully the appearance of sociobiological ideas in their disciplines. It is not merely a matter of exposing the lack of scientific foundation for these theories. The recent events in Europe show us that it is not that great a leap from quasi-scientific theories in academia to their political application.


An exposition of the political basis of sociobiology, as well as its role in current political reality, will be given by our group on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Geology Lecture Hall. This forum, entitled "Biology as a Social Weapon," will also deal with the close parallels between sociobiology and previous historical attempts to "naturalize" social inequality. Joseph Alper '63   University of Massachusetts, Boston   Jonathan Beckwith '57   and Molecular Genetics   Edward Egelman   for the Sociobiology Study Group of

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