Open main menu

Sociobiology Study Group

The Sociobiology Study Group was an academic organization formed to specifically counter sociobiological explanations of human behavior, particularly those expounded by the Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975).[1] The group formed in Boston, Massachusetts and consisted of both professors and students.

Members of the Sociobiology Study Group included Richard C. Lewontin (geneticist, Harvard University), Stephen Jay Gould (paleontologist, Harvard University), Jon Beckwith (Harvard Medical School), Stephan Chorover (psychologist, MIT), David Culver (biologist, Northwestern University), Ruth Hubbard (biologist, Harvard University), Anthony Leeds (anthropologist, Boston University), Margaret Duncan (research assistant, Harvard Medical School), Hiroshi Inouye (resident fellow, Harvard Medical School), Chuck Madansky (graduate student, Harvard Medical School), Lawrence G. Miller (medical student, Harvard Medical School) Miriam Rosenthal (research associate, Harvard School of Public Health), Reed Pyeritz (doctor, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital), and Herb Schreier (psychiatrist, Massachusetts General Hospital).[2]

The Sociobiology Study Group later associated itself with the Boston chapter of Science for the People, thereby forming a larger coalition "The Sociobiology Study Group of Science for the People." The group met monthly, and often held meetings at Harvard lecture halls and in the homes of its members.[2] The meetings often included guests such as Noam Chomsky and Evelyn Fox Keller.[2]

AAAS SymposiumEdit

In February 1978 George Barlow and James Silverberg of the Sociobiology Study Group organized a two-day symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. The proceedings included approximately twenty speakers, and included both advocates and critics alike. Speakers included such scientists as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, E. O. Wilson, and David Barash. The talks were later published into the book Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? by Westview Press (1980).

The symposium is perhaps best remembered for an incident involving a group of protesters from the International Committee Against Racism (INCAR). Just before Wilson gave his talk, the microphone was taken over by members of INCAR chanting "Racist Wilson you can't hide, we charge you with genocide".[2][3] A couple of members then rushed Wilson and poured a pitcher of ice water over his head.[2] The symposium's moderator Alexander Alland took the microphone and apologized to Wilson; Stephen Jay Gould condemned the attack as only posturing, and thus an inappropriate way to attack sociobiology (quoting Lenin regarding violence as best used not for posturing, but for real action). Wilson, still wet, gave his speech and received a prolonged standing ovation. Wilson, however, recalled that after the attack "No one asked them to leave the premises, no police were called, and no action was taken against them later" even though an opportunity existed to do so.[3]


  1. ^ Wilson, E. O. (2006). Naturalist. New York: Island Press, p.337
  2. ^ a b c d e Segerstråle, Ullica Christina Olofsdotter (2001). Defenders of the truth. Oxford University Press, pp. 19-24
  3. ^ a b Wilson, E. O. (2006). Naturalist. New York: Island Press, p.349