11. Religion and Science - Sex and Society:
Forms and processes of cohesion



Religion has been in the past, and still is in a number of countries, the main cohesive force holding populations, particularly genetically disparate ones, together in one system. Patterns of sexual behaviour (often strongly influenced by religious beliefs and prescriptions) in different societies have determined the organisational character of the society - from the nuclear family (now apparently in decline) in most Western countries and the extended family of earlier periods. Both religion and patterns of sexual behaviour as cohesive forces have been radically challenged by science, both as a mode of thought and as the source of technologies which change the environment in which societies operate. A sociobiology of societies has to be founded on a sociobiology of the individuals forming the society and on a biologizing of sociology. The survival of populations (interpreted as gene pools) and of societal forms are interlocked; a sociobiology of societies can start to consider the conditions and forces which over long periods determine the relative success or failure of nations and social systems.


Groupism (in some ways a preferable term to ethnocentrism) is a central aspect of human evolutionary psychology. Nations, societies, or states are in-groups on the largest scale, formed of multiple subsidiary in-groups and regarding other nations, societies or states as out-groups. The same questions arise for nations as in-groups as for smaller groups: what are the forces which constitute or underlie their cohesion and persistence. Consideration of smaller groups can throw light on the cohesion of the largest groups; even learned societies or other similar organisations, can be studied in a general process of understanding the evolutionary origin and significance of group formation, the benefits and drawbacks of any in-group which tends to treat consensus as truth. "Religion and Science: Sex and Society", the main title of this chapter, indicates the particular aspects of societal cohesion considered here. This is not to say that these are the only significant cohesive forces; there are other important ones discussed in an earlier European Sociobiology Society paper (Allott 1996) notably: language, genetic relationship, appearance, behaviour, interests.

A necessary project is how best to inject biology into sociology, or into the theory of the society. This seems to involve a number of questions not all of which can be dealt with adequately in this paper: the evolutionary origin of group feeling; from the mother/child relation to the nuclear family to the extended family to the group to the nation; the genetic basis for groupings: the only certainty about kinship exists for mother and child or child and mother - and perhaps not even in these cases nowadays; the genetic bases of cultural preferences and cultural change and their effect on the society's cohesion and survival (monozygotic twin studies are of particular interest); group preference as prior to kinship, or probabilistic indicia of genetic similarity as Rushton (1995)proposes; cohesion automatically implies division but not automatically xenophobia -- inter-group trading systems extend beyond economics but different forms of cohesion interact with one another and may generate conflict; group needs for behavioural predictability and compatibility.

In any discussion of ethnocentrism at the level of society in present times, one must be impressed with the urgency of the large-scale problems which require consideration from a sociobiological standpoint; perhaps an empirical approach might be profitable comparing the forms and processes of social cohesion in different countries. A second impression is that one may need to move to consideration of the structure of the mind, of perception of self and others, of social mapping in the individual, working outwards from individual biology and psychology, to the group, society, State. If a society wants to survive, it must understand, promote and defend cohesive forces operating within individual members of the society.

11.2 Cohesion

What is it that glues societies together and prevents them from disintegrating into chaos and war? What is it that enables people to predict each other's behaviour? What is it that enables them to cooperate with one another? These are questions asked by Jon Elster (1989) in his book The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order. They seem to be the right questions but he offers no very specific answers. A society can be considered as an in-group but it is formed from a multitude of sub-groups; to survive and prosper a society depends upon a dynamic balance between forces of cohesion and division resulting from the interaction of the groups forming the society. Diverse groups - that is groups which exist in different functional areas of the society e.g. religion and politics - may contribute to cohesion but groups belonging to the same category which seek to cover the same functional area may be sources of division. A group in a society which extends to the whole society (for example, a national religion) is in itself not an active force of cohesion - rather, negatively, it is not a promoter of division unless it splits into sects - but can be a source of significant cohesion externally for the society in confronting other societies. The integration of diverse groups into the society is likely to be extremely complicated, particularly in modern Western societies; groups may be integrated hierarchically into supergroups or may cut across one another with individuals belonging in different capacities to different groups which sometimes may compete, sometimes cooperate or sometimes have no interaction. Every source of cohesion, every patterning of groups, within a society can be a source of division; while each form of group cohesion within a society or between societies automatically implies division and the potential for conflict, conflict is not the necessary outcome; as in economics in trade between nations there can, as a result of the concept of comparative advantage, be mutual benefits; the same is true for interaction between groups within a society, not only economically but culturally. There can be inter-group synergy.

11.3 Religion

Religion has been in the past, and still is in a number of countries, the main cohesive force holding populations, particularly genetically disparate ones, together in one system. Where they are still influential, in an ever more closely interacting world system, religions may create strife as much as they support group social structures. Religion has been a factor in group survival and success. It has been practically useful and central to human psychology:

"The predisposition to religious belief is the most complex and powerful force in the human mind and in all probability an ineradicable part of human nature" (Wilson, 1978, 169).

Religion as significant evolutionary force has been particularly important through its link with morality. Morality has an objective physiological and neurological basis in so far as it exists to moderate the expression of the array of genetically-derived emotional patterns. Religions might be seen as pragmatic experiments in coping with extra-scientific reality - a provisional attempt at scientific truth - but also serving an important purpose in maintaining social cohesion. Religion unites those who adhere to it; provides a shared view of life and death, of the situation of humanity in existence; it provides a prescription for the relationships of adherents to each other; it seeks to harmonise co-existence of its adherents and strengthens the group they form. Religion has been an important force in human evolution even in the narrowest physical sense, by its prescriptions affecting reproduction:

"Are religions adaptive? Do they help their members survive by promoting behaviours that are suitable in a particular environment? ... [religions] establish the right and wrong conditions for conception to take place, the rights and wrongs of abortion and infanticide; they control adolescent sexuality, they regulate marriage, divorce, remarriage and widowhood."(Reynolds, 1992, 206).

Religion can be seen as part of the evolutionary predisposition of the human mind satisfying the ache of not understanding; it has played a major role in guiding the development of human societies and even can be seen as an instrument of group selection between societies, a motivating force in struggles between groups, populations, nations. Regardless of the truth of their dogmas, at a minimum religions can be seen as catalysts.

11.4 Sex

Sexuality is the fundamental cohesive force in all societies and is a major influence on social structure and institutions. A society which does not reproduce itself ceases to exist; the sexual algorithm, the drive of male towards female resulting in the production of children who then have to be protected and nourished in order to survive, means that the forms taken by sexuality determine the success or failure of societies. Patterns of sexual behaviour (often strongly influenced by religious beliefs and prescriptions) give rise to social organisation and result in different group forms which move from the nuclear family (now apparently in decline in most Western countries) to the extended family still surviving over a large part of the third world. Sex has a reciprocal relationship with social institutions; there are relationships between sexual morals and social structure in different societies, most obviously in the relative social circumstances of men and women; it is claimed that strict sexual morals lead to a higher birth-rate in society as a whole - not smaller. However, the technological separation of sexual intercourse from reproduction, the growing use of abortion, the short duration of marriages, the growing use of artificial fertilisation, all operate to move patterns of reproduction away from those which operated in the distant evolutionary past and bring changes in the structure of societies, for example, smaller families, an increase in the proportion of single individuals, and a reduction in the contribution to societal cohesion made by family relationships. Further technological change is in prospect - asexual cloning of humans, now that it has been shown that mammals can be cloned, opens up startling possibilities for societal organisation and cohesion in the future. It seems likely that sexuality will over time be a less important source of societal cohesion.

Recent primate research (Schaik, 1996) has emphasised the importance of sexuality in social systems. To explain the variation in primate social systems, socio-ecology has focused on the role of ecological factors, ignoring male-female associations and relationships and the possibility that male behaviour modifies other aspects of the social system. The study of baboons shows that a causal mechanism connecting social conflict patterns with sexual behavior is indeed biologically possible. For another primate species, recently attracting a great deal of attention (de Waal, 1995), sex is said to be the key to the social life of the bonobo; sexual behavior is indistinguishable from social behavior. Bonobo males remain attached to their mothers all their lives, following them through the forest and being dependent on them for protection in aggressive encounters with other males. There are no indications that bonobos form humanlike nuclear families. The burden of raising offspring appears to rest entirely on the female's shoulders. In fact, nuclear families are probably incompatible with the diverse use of sex found in bonobos. In some modern Western societies one might, not altogether seriously, trace a pattern of sexual behaviour and associated social forms from the Victorian gorilla or orangutan to Sixties chimpanzees to Nineties Bonobos - in California!

The sexual algorithm, one might argue, was the evolutionary origin of group feeling, spreading from the mother/child relation on to the nuclear family and then from the extended family to the group and to the nation. The family can be seen as central to social relationships; it exists as a consequence of and for reproduction; for social life to continue, people need to be replaced; families accomplish this by having children. The family is the main instrument of socialisation, the induction of the individual into the society. In the family, children are taught values, beliefs, and norms, and learn their identity. Regulation of sexual behavior - sexual relations within marriage are the norm for appropriate sexual activity throughout the world. The family institution is the main socialising element in society. The tendency to the formation of groups, from the very small to the very large, seems to go way back in the evolutionary history of the species. It may have originated in the family group, the parents and children, which became necessary because of the altriciality, the helplessness and very partial development of the human infant. In human society, a number of factors can contribute to the unity of the group but empathy is essential. Empathy develops and is expressed above all in the family, in the solidarity of the family, which can be seen as the nucleus round which wider group feeling develops. This may not only be an evolutionary account of the origin of sociality but an explanation applicable for current societies.

11.5 Science

Both religion and patterns of sexual behaviour as cohesive forces have been, and increasingly will be, radically challenged by science, both as a mode of thought and as the source of technologies which change the environment in which societies operate, both at the societal level and at the level of the individual human being. An extreme view no doubt is that science and religion are totally incompatible and thus as science progresses, religion as an important cohesive force will simply disappear, with important consequences for many existing societies. This is a prospect which has long been commented on. So Amiel (1922), the 19th century Swiss author, said:

"La science est implacable. Supprimera-t-elle toutes les religions?"

What then is a science that it should have this potential destructive force? T.H. Huxley (1869), Darwin's bulldog, described science as that fashioning by Nature of a picture of herself, in the mind of man, which we call Science but, less rhetorically, science can be seen the brain's demand for consistency, for relatedness in phenomena. The history of science differs from the history of other cultural institutions in that it produces a progressively more adequate understanding of the natural world. Lorenz (1966, 249) characterised scientific truth as

"wrested from a reality existing outside and independent of the human brain. Since this reality is the same for all human beings, all correct, scientific results will always agree with each other ... [where political doctrine is allowed to influence] these particular results will simply fail on practical application." ,p
One does not need to be a realist to believe that there is an external, material world that has some kind of inherent order -- one can believe in such things but also maintain that the knowledge of that order is always partial and incomplete, such that realist notions of scientific theories asymptotically approaching Truth can be seen as radically misguided.

"We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched" (Wittgenstein 1922).

Many have seen the need for science is some way to replace religion as a positive force in society. So John Morley (Huxley, 1926, 235)said that

"the next great task of Science is to create a religion for humanity."

It can be argued (notably for example by Einstein, 1938,;1950) that religion and science are not necessarily incompatible.

"Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? [Cosmic religious feeling] The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgements of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. On the relation of religion and science."

Einstein offered his views as a physicist. Others with closer contact with biological thought have also taken positions. So;

"The modern scientific view of the universe is incomparably more wonderful than any competing view, at any time in history, in any culture or religion, anywhere." (Dawkins, 1994).

"Unless at least half my colleagues are dunces, there can be no conflict between science and religion." (Gould 1996)

Perhaps some of what von Uexkull wrote as a zoologist about the umwelt of the woodlouse is relevant. Each creature has the instruments of perception and analysis necessary for the life it actually leads. The limits of the world it perceives are set by the instruments available to it. We humans, like other creatures, have a limited array of senses (not, for example, including some senses available to bats, electric eels, dogs, fish, bees). The world we can perceive and claim to understand is delimited by the senses we have and the brain resources available to make use of them. Science provides a static sketch of reality as we are able to perceive it (not capable of course of dealing with the totality of reality in space and time). With different senses and different brains we would perceive a different world and one might argue that there is room for religious speculation and for religion as a construct to deal with total reality in space and time (including such minor questions as wonder that we exist or anything exists or that matter behaves as we think it does). Before science, there must be consciousness and we perceive the natural world only through consciousness; at the least, as already noted, religion might serve as a catalyst for the development of human thought. What makes science unsuitable as a religion? To a hungry people, science offers only stone; it cannot deal with problems of freedom and indetermination, free will as a practical problem. Reason (science) has no answer, as yet, to the question (central to religion) "What should I do? ". However, the division between Is and Ought may not be ultimate; we begin to see the possibility of the transformation of moral ideas into facts that can be assimilated to scientific phenomena since they are linked to evolution and represent new elements comparable to anatomical and physiological characters.

11.6 Sociology

A necessary project is how best to inject biology into sociology, or into the theory of the society. A sociobiology of societies has to be founded on a sociobiology of the individuals forming the society, where the validity of the insights of evolutionary psychology is for consideration, and on a biologizing of sociology, the interpretation of social forms in the light of evolutionary thinking. If sociology as at present organised presents a satisfactory account of the functioning of society and the forces which hold a society together, then no new sociobiological approach would be needed. The contention here is that sociology is inadequate insofar as it focuses only on interplay of groups, power structures and learned behaviour without introducing biological or evolutionary considerations.

There are varying accounts of the nature of sociology. There is no single authoritative statement but the following conflation of views from many different sources may be generally acceptable:

The basic insight of sociology is that human behaviour is shaped by the groups to which people belong and by the social interaction that takes place within those groups. The sociological perspective enables us to see society as a temporary social product, created by human beings and capable of being changed by them as well. Most behavioural and social sciences assume human sociality is a by-product of individualism. Briefly put, individuals are fundamentally self-interested; "social" refers to the exchange of costs and benefits in the pursuit of outcomes of purely personal value, and "society" is the aggregate of individuals in pursuit of their respective self-interests.

Sociologists would say that societies survive because of the acquiescence of population in the prevailing power structure, and the direction pursued by the power system. The genetic make-up has little or nothing to with success or failure. It is the culture which determines the persistence and prosperity of the society - and this is only very loosely related to the composition of the population in biological terms. The nation- state offers most of its members a stronger sense of security, belonging or affiliation, and even personal identity, than does any alternative large group. Society as a whole succeeds in shaping the character of its members to create the kinds of citizens it requires for social well being; modern political systems routinely shape the identities, memories, stereotypes, beliefs, language, emotions, and actions of their citizens. Ideology integrates and gives consistency to individuals' wide-ranging experiences, beliefs and values, and organises their social drives.

Up to now sociologists have generally resisted any attempt to introduce evolutionary or biological considerations into the understanding of the functioning of society but this has not produced any clear and useful account or any consensus. A recent President of the American Sociological Association has said that the field finds itself in the doldrums. In an interview, Jonathan H. Turner (1997), an eminent sociologist, has expanded on this:

"I am a firm believer that sociology can be a natural science; the ultimate goal of sociology is to produce abstract laws and models about basic social processes, and then, to assess these with data. Sociology has failed to become a mature science after over 150 years of work; if we lack accomplishments, we cannot blame it on our youth; the answer lies in how we have organized and practised sociology. Why has the promise of sociology been lost in the last decades? How did a discipline dedicated to discovering the nature of human social organization and to making a better world come to be so split and divided, and so often trivial? The science of social organization seems incapable of saying much about the world's mostly organisational problems."

Turner goes on to say:

"I have developed an interest in the biological foundations of human organization."

In this he follows Talcott Parsons (1966) who was committed to an evolutionary model of social development and came in the later years of his life to take a much deeper interest in the biological sciences. This seems indispensable. There is an imperative need for biology (and so for evolutionary considerations) in considering society because our main concerns: birth, death, survival, children, food and drink, warmth, protection from weather, disease, are all biological and the manner in which these concerns can be dealt with, needs satisfied, is dependent on human mental and physical evolution.

Genetic and cultural processes interact. Insofar as genes or complexes of genes influence behaviour, culture can determine within a population the survival or elimination of genes or gene-complexes - modify gene-frequencies relevant for behaviour e.g. socially responsive or unresponsive behavioural traits and the genes which are a precondition for their existence. Ideas change behaviour, and behaviour changes the possibilities and probabilities of physical survival and multiplication, of physical change. Ideas change response to the environment and change the environment (directly and indirectly). Ideas change neural structure, restructure brains and minds.

"To what extent is the process that leads us to engage in what some term the 'social construction of reality' itself pre-programmed into our brains? The adapted mind probably constructs adaptive realities. In other words, there is no reason to suspect that social constructs are arbitrary. Reality is not constructed, except in brick and mortar and social relations. Reality is external to and independent of our imaginings." (Salter, 1997)

Social identity plays an important role in in-group/out-group relations, the distribution of resources, self-categorization, and expectations for behaviour. It is an automatic redefinition of "self" in terms of shared group membership. Social identity is more complicated for many people in the modern world because they potentially belong to multiple "lineages" of groups. Is there a way of bringing together, from the one side, a vision of evolution as hierarchical, repeatedly assembled levels of organisation, and from the other, a line of empirical research on the hierarchical organization of human social identity?

11.7 Evolutionary Psychology

Sociological approaches to the issues associated with societal cohesion are unsatisfying and confused. Whilst nominally sociology is individualist, in practice it concerns itself with the phenomena of group interactions considered simply as arbitrary and changeable aspects of socially-learned behaviours. Adhesion to a group is a consequence of the inadequacy of the isolated individual; the isolated individual (in an aggregation of individuals) cannot survive, must belong, feel he belongs and be seen as belonging to some group. But this goes further. The isolated group may not survive but must belong to some larger group of groups. The need at every level is for protection and contact and one should look for foundations of group feeling in empathy, love, emotions, often pre-human. Individuality can be considered both externally, that is the recognition of one individual by another and internally, the construction of the self, which we can discuss for human beings (I propose that it derives from language) but which we can only guess at for other creatures. The forces forming groups exist in the minds of the individuals; underlying these forces is the relation of individual identity and group identity. The forces of cohesion and division depend on individual evolutionary psychology (shared by members of the group) in interaction with the imitable social patterning, It seems clear that in understanding the formation of groups and social cohesion one must move to consideration of the structure of the mind, of perception of self and others, of social mapping in the individual, working outwards from individual biology and psychology to the group, society, State. One seeks explanation for societies in terms of individual behaviour and psychology. The foundations for societal structures are to be found in the evolved psychology of the individual plus his physical needs and capabilities plus the link between individual and society formed by the integration of the individual and social self. This is what the recently developed approach of evolutionary psychology claims to do but how satisfactory is its account? The following paragraphs first present the content of evolutionary psychology as adherents describe it. This is followed by criticisms expressed by others who do not accept 'orthodox' Evolutionary Psychology (that is as promoted primarily by Cosmides and Tooby, 1989: 1990: 1992).

11.7.1 Presentation of EP

Evolutionary psychology is an alternative to the Standard Social Science Model, in which the individual is viewed metaphorically as a general purpose learning machine, and the origin of behaviour is primarily through learning and culture. In the evolutionary psychology model, the individual is viewed as having both a cultural and an evolutionary history. Evolutionary psychology takes many of the lessons of human language and applies them to the rest of psyche. Evolutionary psychology provides deeper insights into the fundamental psychological mechanisms of humans.

All manifest behaviour depends on the underlying psychological mechanisms. These are special purpose learning devices, domain- specific modules which evolved by natural selection because they solved adaptive problems confronting ancestral humans in the EEA, the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA, the era of evolutionary adaptation in the Pleistocene. Specifically the set of information-processing machines were designed to solve problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The specialised psychological mechanisms are like keys that fit particular locks.

The brain is a physical system functioning as a computer, circuits are designed to generate behaviour that is appropriate to the environmental circumstances. The research programme is to search for the origins of the basic psychological mechanisms that comprise human nature. Humans are living fossils - collections of mechanisms produced by prior selection pressures operating on a long and unbroken line of ancestors, not invariably 'fitness maximisers' but executing adaptations which may be less well-tuned for modern environments. Evolutionary universals may not be adaptive now but such behaviours must have arisen as adaptations in the Pleistocene, for the different ancestral environment of life of small bands of hunter-gatherers on the African savannas.

Evolutionary psychology is generally restricted to studying universal aspects of human behavior and mentality, thereby explicitly avoiding the study of differences among individuals or groups. Variations among individuals, and such groups as races and social classes, only reflect the influence of diverse environments upon a common biological heritage. The psychological modules may differ in effectiveness from one individual to another, but given the number of different modules, their effect is to "average out" individual differences. Beneath the level of surface variability, all humans share certain views and assumptions about the nature of the world and human action by virtue of these human universal reasoning circuits.

Culture is the manufactured product of evolved psychological mechanisms situated in individuals living in groups. Evolutionary psychology offers tools which can be applied to any behavioural topic: sex and sexuality, how and why people cooperate, whether people are rational, how babies see the world, conformity, aggression, hearing, vision, sleeping, eating, hypnosis, schizophrenia.

11.7.2 Criticism of EP

The imprecision with which certain terms are conceptualised and defined (e.g. psychological mechanisms, decision rules, procedures) is a problem.

The central weakness in the whole approach is the hypothetical psychological mechanisms which look very much like the ad hoc constructs used in mainline psychology for many years. A 'psychological mechanism' is

"as classic a case of a hypothetical construct as has ever been invented by theorists to make sense of inputs and outputs".

These 'mechanisms' - a rather out of date term for aspects of brain function - do not seem to be tied down in any way to neural organisation or indeed to genetic organisation and expression. The mind does not have an anatomy like the liver; a psychological mechanism cannot be treated as an organ.

Our knowledge of the hypothesised EEA environments is scant. The 'Pleistocene models' offered are often extremely facile; virtually none of the data from paleoanthropology or ethnography are used. It is unlikely that natural selection has essentially ceased since the Pleistocene. The quest for a universal set of genetically invariant mechanisms which evolved in the Pleistocene is quite likely to be illusory.

Why assume that adaptation started in the Pleistocene and the "mechanisms" then evolved have persisted unchanged to the present. Central aspects of human evolutionary psychology go back long before the Palaeolithic. Basic plans for perception, movement and thought were evolved long before then. We would do better to consider primate evolutionary psychology. Why not, following Darwin, trace emotional structures in modern humans much further back; the behavioural similarities manifested in apes, baboons, monkeys, even dogs, to which Darwin drew attention, are striking

Why assume overriding human uniformity in mind/brain organisation. It seems highly implausible that whilst there are manifest physical differences between human populations, there should be no significant differences in mental/neural organisation - causing not differences in achieved result (equal effectiveness of all languages, all visual perception) but differences in the structures through which e.g. language and perception operate.

It is implausible to treat e.g. fear of snakes and language as comparable modules or to claim them for evolutionary psychology as prime examples of psychological mechanisms which evolved in the EEA.

Where are the examples of specific evolutionary psychological modules satisfactorily confirmed by standard laboratory techniques? How can the assumptions be verified by direct experiment? How can it be verified that our minds are not adapted to modern circumstances? How can the difference between the modern man and the way of life of pleistocene man be measured?

Where in the brain are the relevant circuits and how, physically, do they work? What kind of information is being processed by these circuits? What information-processing programs do these circuits embody? and what were these circuits designed to accomplish (in a hunter-gatherer context)?

Much of evolutionary psychology therefore devolves into a search for the so-called EEA, or "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" that allegedly prevailed in prehistoric times. Evolutionary psychologists have gained some sophistication in recognising that they need not postulate current utility to advance a Darwinian argument; claims about an EEA usually cannot be tested in principle but only subjected to speculation. The task of evolutionary psychology then turns into a speculative search for reasons why a behaviour that may harm us now must once have originated for adaptive purposes.

The unstated implication is that we are exclusively a bundle of pleistocene adaptations. There is plenty that went on before and much that went on after. One cannot believe that about 10,000 years of post-Neolithic time went by without any genetic evolution whatsoever, particularly if the environment was so drastically altered by Homo Sapiens (which would produce strong selective pressures).

A starting point for evolutionary psychology was the analogy with language, the idea that there must be a specialised language module or organ. There is increasing evidence that this is not so - the analogy with language fails. The modular theory of mind, of cognition and psychological processes, originated by Fodor, has little neuroscientific basis and seems increasingly implausible in the light of recent advances in neuroscience. Basing evolutionary psychology on the model offered by Chomsky's UG, principles and parameters, approach can seriously mislead, not least because Chomsky himself does not accept that UG could be a selection-driven adaptation. Neurobiology and evolutionary psychology employ the concept of modularity for opposite theoretical purposes. Neurobiologists do so to stress the complexity of an integrated organ. Evolutionary psychology uses modularity to atomise behavior into a priori, subjectively defined, and poorly separated items (not known modules empirically demonstrated by neurological study).

11.7.3 Alternative approaches

Sociology, one concludes, offers no adequate account of the cohesion of societies and the current version of evolutionary psychology is also open to powerful criticisms. However no one doubts that human behaviour, human psychology, the human brain, underwent an evolutionary development so the question remains how one ought to approach these; what other account can one give of the physiological and psychological evolutionary foundations of society? A new approach to psychological evolution is needed. The unity, the balancing of cohesion and division forces in society can only take place in the mind of the individual, of the individuals composing the society.

Some have termed a national community as an 'imagined community' but how is such an imagined community created, sustained, transmitted from generation to generation? Similarly others have described society, the state in terms of 'virtual reality' - necessarily a shared virtual reality if the society is to function effectively. At this point one begins to see the possible application of the term 'methodological individualism'. Methodological individualism is at the base of most social sciences on the basis that all social processes are to be explained by laws of individual behavior, that social systems have no separate ontological reality, and that all references to social systems are merely convenient summaries for patterns of individual behaviour. This must surely be the case. There are obviously artefacts of society: buildings, courts, legal systems, rituals, parliaments, corporations, but these are significant only so long as the individuals forming the society see them as part of a social system, that is individuals have mentally mapped society in much the same way as they might mentally map a neighbourhood, or indeed as they might mentally map their own body. On this view the nation/country/state is perceived as an object moving through time. There is a society-image in much the same way as there is a self-image, a body-image, used to adjust and control behaviour, building up a picture of the physical and social environment - a mapping which makes possible appropriate behaviour.

Where is the state? where is society? one might ask and the right answer is: in your brain. But if this is so, how is the state-image, the society-image created and sustained in the individual's brain? The usual answer is: By the culture - but this is uninformative. The real sources of the state-image, the society-image, even indeed of the self-image, are language and constructive imitation. Language and imitation are the important underlying generators of cohesion and an account of their contribution has to be framed in terms of brain functioning and dealt with on the basis of an evolutionary account of the development and functioning of language and imitation. Elsewhere (Allott, 1989; 1992) I have given an account of the evolutionary basis of language origin and function and the relation of language as a motor activity to cerebral motor control more generally. An implication of this is one should take individual words more seriously as indicators of their meanings. In the present context this means taking more seriously the folk psychological lexicon to refer to our emotions, our attitudes, our thoughts. What stands out immediately one does this is that the psychological lexicon is body-based, a product of functional extrapolation from the familiar which seems to result from the economy of the brain manifested in abstraction and metaphor. Examples: Hold this in mind ; I see what you mean; ; The answer is staring us in the face; I can't swallow that ; Digesting this information ; Reflect on this ; Chew on this! The verbal account of the activities and states of the brain/mind is framed in terms drawn from the activities and states of the body. That this is so is not, I would contend, merely a curiosity but requires exploration in terms of neural functioning and can lead to a revaluation of folk psychology, often nowadays dismissed as trivial and insignificant. This could lead to a systematised folk psychology, a genuinely biological (evolutionary) psychology.

11.8 Concluding Remarks

Dobzhansky (1951, 304) observed that human genetics has not been superseded by human culture; the former remains the foundation which enables man to manifest the kinds of behaviour which are called social and cultural. The interrelationships between biology and culture are reciprocal.

The human society is a product of evolution because it is founded on the obvious reproductive and survival needs of the human individuals who compose it and is also an expression of evolved human behavioural and emotional patterns. The survival of populations (interpreted as gene pools) and of societal forms are interlocked. Success or failure of societies is also success or failure of the lineages of the individuals who compose the societies. Survival of a society necessarily carries with it survival of the array of genes found in the human individuals who form that society - the societal genome. The survival or failure of societies is a manifestation of group selection. The concept is inescapable in accounting for human evolution under the influence of language, imitation and the accumulation of cultural patterns. Ernst Mayr (1997), in a recent commentary, asked:

"whether groups as cohesive wholes can serve as targets of selection. The answer is 'it depends' some do and others not. ... A group, the selective value of which is simply the arithmetic mean of the fitness values of the composing individuals (when in isolation), is not a target of selection. ... This is false or soft group selection. ... If due to social actions, the fitness of the group is higher or lower than the arithmetic mean of the fitness values of the composing individuals, then the group as a whole an object of selection, hard group selection."

Human groups typically demonstrate this synergy.

Finally, two familiar quotations from E.O. Wilson (1975, 42; 11978,10):

"One of the functions of sociobiology ... is to reformulate the foundations of the social sciences in a way that draws these subjects into the Modern [evolutionary] Synthesis."

"the two cultures ... will be joined at last... This concern is the deep structure of human nature, an essentially biological phenomenon that is also the primary focus of the humanities."

This paper, a tentative exploration of a possible sociobiology of human societies, is intended to serve that objective. Obviously much fuller research and development of the ideas is needed. As the major forces promoting societal cohesion, religion, the sexual basis of society, distinctness of culture weaken, what is going to happen to existing societies? A nationalism based on tribal hatreds grows steadily stronger as, paradoxically, nation-states multiply and become weaker. A period of fragmentation of societies seems probable despite ambitious attempts to form new multinational groupings. All this no doubt goes well beyond anything sociobiology as such can hope to comprehend but surely there is a contribution it can make.


Allott, R. (1989), The Motor Theory of Language Origin. Lewes: Book Guild.

Allott, R. (1991), Objective Morality. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 14: 455-471.

Allott, R. (1992), The Motor Theory of Language: Origin and Function. In Jan Wind et al. (Eds.), Language Origin: A Multidisciplinary Approach. NATO ASI. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Amiel, H.F. (1922), Fragments d'un journal intime. 14th edition. Paris: Librairie Fischbacher.

Cosmides, L. (1989), The Logic of Social Exchange: Has natural selection shaped how we reason? Cognition 31: 187-276.

Cosmides, L. and J. Tooby. (1992), Cognitive adaptations for social exchange. In Jerome H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, and J. Tooby, (Eds.), The Adapted Mind, pp. 163-228. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Dawkins, R. (1994), Daily Telegraph. 7 March

de Waal, F. (1995), Bonobo Sex and Society; The behavior of a close relative challenges assumptions about male supremacy in human evolution. Scientific American March 1995 82-88.

Dobzhansky, T. (1951), Genetics and the Origin of Species. 3rd Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Einstein, A. (1930), Religion and Science. New York Times Magazine, November 9 1930,1-4.

Einstein, A. (1950), Out of My Later Years. New York: Philosophical Library.

Elster, J. (1989), The Cement of Society: A study of social order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gould, S.J. (1996), An Urchin In A Haystack An Interview by Michael Shermer

Huxley, J. (1926), Essays of a Biologist. London: Chatto & Windus.

Huxley, T.H. (1869), That fashioning by Nature of a picture of herself, in the mind of man, which we call Science. Nature 1: 10.(Quoted in Alan L. Mackay (1977) The Harvest of a Quiet Eye. Bristol and London: The Institute of Physics.

Lorenz, K. (1966), On Aggression. Translated by Marjorie Latzke. London: Methuen.

Lorenz, K. (1977), Behind the Mirror: A search for a natural history of human knowledge. London: Methuen.

Mayr, E. (1997), The Objects of Selection. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94, 2091-2094.

Parsons, T. (1966), Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Reynolds, V. (1992), Socioecology of Religion. In M. Maxwell (Ed.), The Sociobiological Imagination, 205-222. New York: SUNY, 205-222.

Rushton, J.P. (1995), Race, Evolution, and Behavior. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Salter, F. (1997), Message on HBE-L.

Tooby, J. and L. Cosmides. (1989), Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, Part I: Theoretical Considerations. Ethology and Sociobiology, 10, 1-3, 29-49.

Tooby, J. and L. Cosmides. (1990), On the Universality of Human Nature and the Uniqueness of the Individual: The Role of Genetics and Adaptation. Journal of Personality 58,1 17-67.

Tooby, J. and L. Cosmides. (1992), The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In J.H. Barkow and L. Cosmides (Eds.), The Adapted Mind. New York: Oxford University Press.

Turner, J.H. (1997), An Interview conducted by Ronald Mack

van Schaik, C.P. (1996), Social Evolution in Primates: The role of ecological factors and male behaviour. Proceedings of the British Academy 88: 9-31

Wilson, E.O. (1975), Sociobiology The New Synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wilson, E.O. (1978), On Human Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (1922), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul._