photo blog_head_zpsfscr4tie.jpg
More adventurous than the average bear

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Tabula Rasa and Academia

"There were few aspects of my childhood as predictable as the subject of our dinner conversations. The discussion invariably gravitated to the topic of nature versus nurture, with the point being that all one is springs from his or her environment. As a product of my upbringing, I came to share this belief. Another fundamental lesson from my social psychologist father concerned the importance of rigorous demonstration of evidence that satisfied the highest of scientific standards. For much of my career as a social scientist, these two values rarely, if ever, generated dissonance. But that has changed. The last several years has seen a dramatic rise, across the social sciences, in approaches that ground themselves in the fundamentals of human biology, including physiology and genetics. No social science discipline has been untouched; indeed, one might have imagined that the most resistant would be sociology, yet a 2008 special issue of the American Journal of Sociology entitled Exploring Genetics and Social Structure suggests otherwise. In some ways, political science has lagged behind. The present volume is an attempt to make up ground and move political science forward in the consideration of these approaches to explain important political phenomena.

The scholars at the forefront of this movement, including all the authors in this book, are careful, thoughtful, and rigorous scientists. It is for this reason that I find myself in a state of conflict: the substance of the argument counters my inclinations but the evidence, while like all research subject to critique, appears beyond reproach when it comes to serious, honest efforts to reveal social and political dynamics. While I am not yet sure where this leaves my thinking (other than uncomfortably conflicted), I am certain that reading this volume would behoove the entire discipline...

When I contemplate the larger research agenda on biology and politics, a number of considerations – some of which I am sure are more thoughtful than others – come to mind...

[One must be] extremely clear what can and cannot be explained. Environmental forces are not easily observed and thus failure to pinpoint a situational factor does not mean biology (which is unobservable to most) is at work. Just as scholars demand clear documentation of an exact environmental variable, they should also require identification of precise biological processes (and how the environmental and biological interact). This volume offers a number of examples on how this can be achieved.

My fifth point is a sensitive one, concerning consideration of the policy implications. Many perceive a connection between biological approaches and conservative ideologies (e.g., since biological approaches often privilege individual actions and responsibility rather than social situations). It turns out that relationship is more complex and domain specific (e.g., conservatives invoke genetic explanations on socio-economic topics but liberals do so on other issues such as sexual orientation; see Suhay and Jayaratne 2010)."

--- Forward for Hatemi, Peter K., and Rose McDermott, Man Is By Nature a Political Animal / James N. Druckman
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes