Wednesday, June 12, 2013

We're all looking out for ourselves here.

Book: Sociobiology and Behavior
Author: David P. Barash
Published: 1977 (Elsevier North-Holland)
Pages: 324

I read this whole thing because it was an interesting subject. Not for the writing style.
It’s a textbook. There’s a sticker on the back from where they sold it at the local college bookstore for $9 before it found its way to the used bookstore I volunteer for. So that means the usual tics of unnecessarily announcing what it’s going to talk about like a sentence before it gets into it and contorting sentences and repeating itself – although I appreciate that last bit, because this is scientific information that I haven’t had a test about in about two and a half years.

But! To the subject: sociobiology is basically applying biological principles to social behaviors in animals. This gets into altruism, mating and parental behavior, territory defense, and also how all this applies to humans. It turns out that most everything can be traced back to individual fitness, which means how many offspring individuals can produce to their own reproducing age.

That’s a massive simplification on my part, because that is the backbone from which the rest of the body of theory grows. Yeah. Like, even a lot of altruistic behavior that seems detrimental to the individual doing the altruising (I made that gerund up, y’all) actually increases their individual fitness because it helps their kids and grandkids survive longer so it helps the gene line go on.

Applying all this humans gets delightfully messier because we have to add the whole cultural conditioning influence on top of biology, and holy crap who the hell can untangle those two by now. Nobody. But science sure has fun trying, so this is staying on my nonfiction shelf.

But don’t use this for gospel sociobiological truth right now. It was published in 1977, so I’m sure there are a bajillion advances on this by now. Go take an AP class. 

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