Darwinism Invades the Social Sciences

In the 1970’s, 80s and 90’s, “economic imperialism”–a term that refers to the invasion by the methods of neoclassical economics and game theory of the other social sciences–was the rage. Now evopscyh begins its tear across the social sciences and the “standard social scientific model”. A review of Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists (edited by Jerome H. Barkow), in Evolutionary Psychology.

I began my graduate career in the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington, where the great sociobiologist Pierre van den Berghe taught all his career. I was a stupid SSSM (“Standard Social Science Model”) sociology graduate student then, and I joined the chorus of the confederacy of dunces to ridicule Pierre’s sociobiological work. More than a decade later, I discovered evolutionary psychology on my own by reading Wright’s The Moral Animal, and converted to it overnight. When I began working in EP, I apologized to Pierre for having been too dense to see the light a decade earlier, and told him my grand plan to introduce EP into sociology and revolutionize social sciences. Pierre was encouraging but cautious. He told me that he had tried to do that himself a quarter of a century earlier but to no avail. Sociologists were just too stupid to understand the importance of biology in human behavior, a view that he has expressed in print (van den Berghe, 1990), and he eventually left the field in disgust. Blinded by youthful optimism and ambition, I did not heed Pierre’s cautionary words and tried very hard to introduce EP into sociology. Nearly ten years later, I too have now come to his conclusion, and have left sociology in disgust. I have given up on the social sciences.

Now a group of ambitious scholars, under the leadership of no less an authority on EP than Jerome H. Barkow, attempts to accomplish what Pierre and I failed to do. Missing the revolution: Darwinism for social scientists is a collection of essays by evolutionary scientists from a range of disciplines, all with the aim of convincing social scientists to take evolutionary theory seriously and join the “Darwinian revolution.” If social scientists continue to miss the revolution after reading this book, they have nobody but themselves to blame. They certainly cannot blame Barkow and his collaborators in this volume, because (with one exception) they compile truly impressive contributions in an earnest attempt to show the Darwinian light to the social scientists.