CEM Seminar - Ullica Segerstrale
Professor, Department of Sociology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Sociobiology, The Sequel: Conflict about cooperation
In science, the field of evolution seems unusually prone to controversy. A memorable case is the acrimonious, quarter century long academic sociobiology debate around E.O. Wilson’s Sociobiology (1975) and Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene (1976), which were attacked as scientifically wrong as well as politically motivated. As the sociobiologists kept pleading their innocence, the critics moved their assault to more scientific issues while retaining their political suspicions. We had here complete worldviews in conflict (Defenders of the Truth, Segerstrale, 2000). But now it has happened again! There is now a new sociobiology controversy – initiated by E.O. Wilson himself this time. Wilson says it is time for the popular paradigm of ‘kin selection’ to be replaced by group selection when it comes to the evolution of cooperation. What boggles the mind is that kin selection was earlier welcomed as a breakthrough in evolutionary theory just because it was seen as replacing the then prevailing group selectionist “good for the species” thinking.. What is going on?
Ullica Segerstrale is Professor of Sociology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. She is widely known for her work in the sociology and social psychology of science, focusing especially on scientific worldviews, "nature-nurture" controversies, and the ethics of research. Her books include Defenders of the truth: The battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond (2000), Beyond the science wars: The missing discourse about science and society(2000), and Nonverbal communication: Where nature meets culture (1997). Defenders of the Truth has been translated into Japanese and Beyond the Science Wars into Chinese. Her most recent book, Nature’s Oracle (2013, paperback 2015), is an intellectual biography of the enormously creative theoretical biologist W.D. (Bill) Hamilton. Her work has been supported by, among others, the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Sloan, and Kone Foundations and by the American Philosophical Society. Segerstrale is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters.