Defenders of the Truth

Defenders of the Truth : The Sociobiology Debate

4.1 (50 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

List price: US$17.96

Currently unavailable

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


For the last twenty-five years, sociobiologists have come under continuous attack by a group of left-wing academics, who have accused the former of dubious and politically dangerous science. Many have taken the critics' charges at face value. But have the critics been right? And what are their own motivations? This book strives to set the record straight. It shows that the criticism has typically been unfair. Still, it cannot be dismissed as 'purely politically motivated'. It turns out that the critics and the sociobiologists live in different worlds of taken-for-granted scientific and moral convictions. The conflict over sociobiology is best interpreted as a drawn-out battle about the nature of 'good science' and the social responsibility of the scientist, while it touches on such grand themes as the unity of knowledge, the nature of man, and free will and determinism. The author has stepped right into the hornet's nest of claims and counterclaims, moral concerns, metaphysical beliefs, political convictions, strawmen, red herrings, and gossip, gossip, gossip. She listens to the protagonists - but also to their colleagues. She checks with 'arbiters'. She plays the devil's advocate. And everyone is eager to tell her the truth - as they see it. The picture that emerges is a different one from the standard view of the sociobiology debate as a politically motivated nature-nurture conflict. Instead, we are confronted with a world of scientific and moral long-term agendas, for which the sociobiology debate became a useful vehicle. Behind the often nasty attacks, however, were shared Enlightenment concerns for universal truth, morality and justice. The protagonists were all defenders of the truth - it was just that everyone's truth was different. Defenders of the Truth provides a fascinating insight into the world of science. It follows the sociobiology controversy as it erupted at Harvard in 1975 until today, both in the US and the UK. But the story goes more deeply, for instance in its account of the circumstances surrounding W.D. Hamilton's famous 1964 paper on inclusive fitness, and on the connections of the sociobiology debate to the Human Genome project and the Science Wars. General readers and academics alike will find much to savour in this more

Product details

  • Paperback | 504 pages
  • 130 x 195.1 x 28.2mm | 582.25g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0192862154
  • 9780192862150

Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. The storm over sociobiology; 3. Colleagues on collision course: Wilson's and Lewontin's contrary moral-cum-scientific agendas; 4. The British connection; 5. The delayed scientific critique of sociobiology; 6. Sociobiology adapts to criticism; 7. Broadening the conflict; 8. Inside the mind of critics; 9. Planters and weeders in the garden of science; 10. To be or not to be - in the sociobiolgy controversy; 11. A clash of traditions; 12. Conflicting views of the nature of science; 13. Scientific competition and the quest for moral credit; 14. 'Science as usual' in the sociobiology debate; 15. Sociobiology as a science; 16. The sociobiology debate and the Enlightenment quest; 17. Who won the sociobiology debate?; 18. Truth & consequences in the sociobiology debate and beyondshow more

About Ullica Segerstrale

Ullica Segerstrale is Professor of Sociology at Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago. She holds advanced degrees in organic chemistry and biochemistry, in communications, and in sociology. Born and raised in Finland, she now lives in more

Review quote

"Ullica Segerstrale's splendid book on the controversies over sociobiology-a book 20 years in the making, and well worth the waiting." -- Alison Jolly, Science"Segerstrale has given us an authoritative account of how it all began."--Science & Technology"The author...has written an expansive and objective account of the controversy....she provides a thorough overview of one of the most contentious and publicized academic skirmishes in recent years. For larger public and all academic libraries."--Library Journal"Segerstrale begins at the start of the clash, with Harvard titans Wilson and Richard Lewontin; backtracks to Britain in the mid-1960s, with a population biologist's investigations of altruism; and zooms forward to the 'Science Wars' of the mid-1990s and the international slugfest over The Bell Curve. Partisans in these controversies will likely find something here to make them angry; they will also learn much they didn't know. Even those who might dispute Segerstrale's conclusions will appreciate her assiduous chronology of these tangled issues and her accounts of what many of the participants thought they were doing in their 'battle for the soul of science in one of the few fields where it might still be fought.'"--Publishers Weekly"Segerstrale gives us a blow-by-blow account of the sociobiology feud and a multilevel analysis of its components and historical setting."--Scienceshow more

Rating details

50 ratings
4.1 out of 5 stars
5 42% (21)
4 32% (16)
3 22% (11)
2 2% (1)
1 2% (1)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X