The Behavioral Sciences and Sociobiology: A Darwinian Approach

  • John AlcockEmail author


Darwinian natural selection theory is the theory of choice for the overwhelming majority of behavioral biologists interested in the evolution of adaptive social behavior despite many challenges to the discipline of sociobiology over the years. The initial criticisms came from a group of ideologues who argued that sociobiology was based on a form of genetic determinism. This view was dismissed by working sociobiologists for several reasons but primarily because the criticism fundamentally misrepresents the goal of the discipline, which is to test hypotheses about the evolution and adaptive value of social traits and not to examine the proximate causes that influence the development of an individual’s social behavior during its lifetime. Among the additional opposing views to the discipline that have been presented over the years are those held by academics who believe (1) that evolution occurs because of differences among groups (not individuals), (2) that kin selection theory (an amendment to Darwinian natural selection theory) has failed and should be dropped, and (3) that Darwinian sexual selection (a subset of natural selection theory) should be replaced by a more modern and inclusive theory of the evolutionary effects of the interactions between the sexes. This chapter debunks each of these competitors. Darwinian theory as modified over the last 50 years continues to be the basis for evolutionary research into the interactions between the sexes, helpful behavior in its various forms, especially the evolution of altruistic behavior, and all aspects of human sociality.


Adaptation Altruism Cooperation Darwinism Evolutionary psychology Group selection theory Natural selection theory Selfish genes Sexual selection theory Sociobiology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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