Gould and darwin: is nature talking to us

Gould's primary criticism held that human sociobiological explanations lacked evidential support, and argued that adaptive behaviors are frequently assumed to be genetic for no other reason than their supposed universality, or their adaptive nature. Gould emphasized that adaptive behaviors can be passed on through as well, and either hypothesis is equally plausible. Gould did not deny the relevance of biology to human nature, but reframed the debate as "biological potentiality vs. biological determinism." Gould stated that the allows for a wide range of behaviors. Its flexibility "permits us to be aggressive or peaceful, dominant or submissive, spiteful or generous… Violence, sexism, and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviors. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological—and we may see their influence increase if we can create social structures that permit them to flourish."

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Gould received many accolades for his scholarly work and popular expositions of natural history, but was not immune from criticism by those in the biological community who felt his public presentations were, for various reasons, out of step with mainstream evolutionary theory. The public debates between Gould's proponents and detractors have been so quarrelsome that they have been dubbed "The Darwin Wars" by several commentators.

darwin vs gould: is nature talking to us?

But Gould did not rule out sociobiological explanations for many aspects of animal behavior, writing: "Sociobiologists have broadened their range of selective stories by invoking concepts of inclusive fitness and kin selection to solve (successfully I think) the vexatious problem of altruism—previously the greatest stumbling block to a Darwinian theory of social behavior. . . . Here sociobiology has had and will continue to have success. And here I wish it well. For it represents an extension of basic Darwinism to a realm where it should apply."

Language Diplomacy In this reprint from the December 1983 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Geoffrey darwin vs gould: is nature talking to us?
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