Not in Our Genes
|Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature|
|Author||Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, Leon Kamin|
Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature is a 1984 book by evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, neurobiologist Steven Rose and psychologist Leon Kamin that criticizes sociobiology and genetic determinism. The book, which is informed by Marxism, has been criticized for misrepresenting the views of scientists such as Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins.
Not in Our Genes makes a strong statement about the entanglement of science and politics: "Science is the ultimate legitimator of bourgeois ideology", and makes the following comparison "If biological determinism is a weapon in the struggle between classes, then the universities are weapons factories, and their teaching and research faculties are the engineers, designers, and production workers. Not in Our Genes described Dawkins as "the most reductionist of sociobiologists".
Dawkins, in reply, defended the "perfectly sensible belief" in reductionist arguments of viewing properties of the whole "in terms of its parts", which he saw in the book as (ironically) reduced to "an idiotic travesty", "that the properties of a complex whole are simply the sum of those same properties in the parts". He also accused the authors of giving "ideology priority over truth", and of promoting a "bizarre conspiracy theory of science". Accusing them of lies and idiocy, he concluded that Not in Our Genes is a "silly, pretentious, obscurantist and mendacious book".
Biologist Dean Hamer considered Not in Our Genes a political rather than a scientific book, and disliked its politics. Nevertheless, the book taught Hamer that the genetics of human behavior, especially of sexuality, is an emotionally charged topic, and partly motivated him to change fields from metallothionein research to the genetics of homosexuality.
Richard Webster described Not in Our Genes as "a critique of sociobiology and genetic determinism which is, for the most part, much more subtle and valuable than the Marxism which frequently informs it."
Steven Pinker writes that the book's authors use words such as "determinism" and "reductionism" as "vague terms of abuse", and misrepresent the views of scientists such as Wilson and Dawkins, falsely ascribing ridiculous beliefs to them.
Breakdown of Patriarchy
In the chapter “The Determined Patriarchy”, Lewontin, Rose, & Kamin analyze patriarchy in science by breaking down the arguments used by determinists to “prove” its natural existence. The three authors of this piece break down the structure of the deterministic argument into three parts: statement of a “biological fact”, showing a parallel between this fact in humans and in any other animal species, and repeating a very outdated argument that natural selection made females and males so different. Lewontin & co. are very quick to point out that this last part is sociobiological, with quite a bit more emphasis on the social half. The determinists use biology not as real evidence, but instead as crutches to prop up the claims that have been accepted as norms. The determinists handpick what answers fit their beliefs, like the fact that men “have larger brains, compared to women”, and ignored that this was not the case “when considered in proportion to body weight”. These are accepted as scientific fact, and so can be used to “prove” that men are more suited in roles of power and intelligence, while women should continue to stay as homemakers. The determinists would take their facts and compare the behavior of men vs. women to the different gendered behaviors in another species, as if humans and other animals are one hundred percent parallels that have no differences in DNA, behavior, or social structure.
Another problem that Lewontin, Rose, & Kamin find with the determinists methods of scientific observation as evidence/fact is that all of the observation of humans and/or animals was biased. Biological determinists were looking for the traits, behaviors, or biological indicators that could be used to enforce and prop up the gender difference ideologies perpetuated by the patriarchal society that has been in existence since the 17th century. Lewontin notices that often when scientists are doing observations of infants to find the gender differences in behavior and neurobiology, they fail to take into account the fact that as soon as they are born, babies are molded to the norms of their genders. In trying to observe differences, determinists fail to account for the creation of these differences because society calls for them. The ideologies surrounding gender demands that infants be raised firmly in accordance to one gender or the other, and that the boundaries between the two must be clear.
Lewontin, Rose, & Kamin differ from the biological determinists because they believe that society, not biology, is the cause of the large difference in acceptable female and male traits. The strongest evidence for this is the statement that “these apparently scientific claims…serve as ideologies that perpetuate them [current gender divisions in society]”. The three authors of this chapter looked at the many different arguments that determinists made over periods of time and could only find bias and perpetuation of heteronormative ideologies. They believe that human gender behavior is driven by society and culture, not by biology and natural selection. To Lewontin and co., the patriarchy molded science to its ideologies; science did not form the patriarchal society that delegates the norms, but was instead formed by society to perpetuate its claims. An argument that is evidently popular among determinists is that there are differences in the brain, which must support the generalizations made about the differences in intelligence and skill between the genders. Lewontin agrees that there are differences in the brain anatomies of males and females, but also acknowledges that science as a whole has no proper grasp on singular functions for each hemisphere and piece of the brain, and so small differences are interesting, but cannot be attributed to major behavioral differences.
- Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature ISBN 0-14-022605-2
- Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. p. 611. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4.
- Pinker, Steven (2003). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. London: Penguin Books. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-140-27605-X.
- Richard Dawkins, "Sociobiology: the debate continues", a review of Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature by Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin and R.C.Lewontin (Pantheon Books, 1985), appeared in New Scientist 24 January 1985, web version
- Dawkins, C.R. Critical review in New Scientist by Richard Dawkins. New Scientist 24 January 1985
- Hamer, Dean; Copeland, Peter (1994). The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-671-88724-6.
- Lewontin, Richard, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin. Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. “The Determined Patriarchy,” Pg. 135
- Lewontin, Richard, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin. Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. “The Determined Patriarchy,” Pg. 131
- Lewontin, Richard, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin. Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. “The Determined Patriarchy,” Pg. 143
- Lewontin, Richard, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin. Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. “The Determined Patriarchy,” Pg. 146