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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession III: Biology, medicine, and the future of mankind
close this folderRestructuring a framework for assessment of science and technology as a driving power for social development: a biosociological approach
close this folderYuji Mori
View the documentI. Introduction - The darwinian and ned-darwinian systems
View the documentII. Sociobiology or biosociology? how to view humans and their society
View the documentIII. Three levels of production and consumption
View the documentIV. Needs
View the documentV. Science and technology as cultural phenomena
View the documentVI. The turning point of social development: space and time
View the documentNotes

I. Introduction - The darwinian and ned-darwinian systems

It may appear circuitous to commence a discussion on the problem of social development by reference to biological evolution, particularly as there are academic disciplines involving researching the unique characteristics of human society and social development. Since Darwin few have questioned that the human species and society spread around the globe because of biological evolution. Nevertheless, the historical position of Darwin should not be assessed in relation to his discovery of evolution; rather, it should be assessed, and highly evaluated, in terms of his having firmly established a scientific theory to explain the causes of evolution.

Darwin's theory of evolution was, self-evidently, profoundly influenced by the social ideas prevalent in 19th-century Europe. To put it another way, his theory was profoundly influenced by the entire socio-cultural fabric of a developing society. Hence, Darwinism has not simply been confined within the bounds of a theory of biological evolution; it proved a major challenge to social ideas, too, becoming a philosophy that powerfully shaped the central elements of modern culture.

The quintessence of Darwinism is that: (1) an over productivity of living things occurs beyond the possible bounds for survival, and (2) superior/inferior differences exist between individual organisms so that, as a result of the "struggle for existence" between the organisms, only the "fit" are able to survive. In the process, natural selection operates. In other words, the selection operation is left to nature. Through the developments of biological science, especially genetics, both Darwinism and neo-Darwinism are now manifest; but this fundamental premise remains unaltered. In the differences between individual organisms, only mutation due to variations of genes bears any relationship to evolution in Darwinian theory. In this sense, natural selection has come to be regarded as a major cause of evolution.

One of the unique characteristics of modern culture is the existence of the following phenomenon: on the one hand, there is a high degree of trust in the axiomatic quality of natural laws; on the other, there is an amorphous trend in ideas, an uncertainty regarding social laws, and a lack of laws to explain social phenomena. Darwinism and neo-Darwinism have both been shaped by the influences of a competitive society; however, when evolution or development based on competition i.e. the principle of a competitive society - and the survival of the fittest were established as natural laws, they were in fact accepted by society as laws governing society. Needless to say, nowadays such ideas have so fully penetrated people's lives that they are regarded as common sense. Moreover, that extreme form of Darwinism known as social Darwinism is at present being emphasized, and the ideologies of big powerism, war, and aggression in human society are being put forward. It is no exaggeration to say that people accept as axiomatic the necessity to win domestic and international competition, to become a big power, and to gain advantage over others through war, all under the banner of "social development."

At the beginning of the 1960s, the publication of Konrad Lorenz's Das Sogenannte B Zur Naturgeschichte der Aggression (1963) set off a lively debate on aggression. Lorenz details how both animals and humans are equally endowed with an aggressiveness that may manifest itself spontaneously. Insofar as animals are concerned, Lorenz says that aggressive behaviour does not lead to the defeat of the other party, but rather becomes a bond of solidarity between the animals; thus, aggressive behaviour functions to maintain order in the animal world.

In the case of human beings, however, Lorenz posits that the manifestation of aggression leads to the killing of the other party and causes war. He then asks: Hasn't an error occurred in the function of aggression since the time man became man by the use of tools? This theory is behind the modern ideas that connect Darwin to Lorenz. It is aggression that lies behind Freud's development of the idea of aggressive drive, too.

The beginning of the 1960s saw the Cold War reach its extreme and, with the US invasion, Viet Nam became "America's Viet Nam War." The formation of Lorenz's theory of aggression and the debate surrounding the theory could not possibly have occurred in isolation from this historical setting. The debate on aggression which developed involved not only ethnologists, but also biologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and other social scientists. Without entering fully into the debate on aggression,1 I will simply make the following points: First, Lorenz formulated and developed his theory focusing on the aggressive behaviour of biological organisms and human beings. In this respect, the core of his theoretical construct is identical to Darwin's. Second, Freud's theory of aggressive behaviour was formulated after the end of World War 1, and, along with the sex drive, aggression was considered to be one of the instinctive drives of our species. Here can be clearly seen the impact of World War I.

At the beginning of World War II, a Japanese entomologist-ecologist, Kinji Imanishi,2 raised serious doubts concerning Darwinism. Imanishi proposed a theory of evolution based on a thorough criticism of Darwinism.

Before he went to the battle front, Imanishi wrote The World of Life (1940). This contains the basic ideas of biosociology in which he succeeds in developing a theory of evolution. Fortunately Imanishi returned safely from the war and in the post-war period has energetically devoted himself to research on animal society, social surveys of villages, and so on. In fact. during this period he organized and widened the scope of his research to encompass fields of study ranging from primatology to anthropology. His research cannot be considered apart from his experiences as a mountaineer and explorer, for they gave consistency to his theoretical work. In my discussion of Imanishi's system of biosociology, I will take all of the above into consideration.

If I were to suggest one phrase for Imanishi's system, it would be "post-Darwinian system." In contrast to Darwin, who bases his theory on the over-productivity of living things and variations between organisms, that is, the construction of a theoretical system based on the organism, Imanishi takes into consideration the historical and social nature of a species to construct a theoretical system based not on an organism belonging to a species (i.e. specion), but on a society of species (i.e. specie). His theoretical system is thus called "biosociology.''

The purpose of my presentation is to push forward the basic ideas of biosociology and investigate science and technology as the driving forces for social development. Within these bounds, I will comment on and examine Imanishi's theory. In doing so, however, I feel it is first necessary to touch upon another theory, one which approaches human nature and society in terms of neo-Darwinism. This is sociobiology, the subject of debate which broke out with the publication of Edward Wilson's Sociobiology: A New Synthesis (1975). As a technical term, sociobiology had already been used independently by John Scott (1946) and Charles Hockett (1948). Sociobiology can be defined as an interdisciplinary science comprising biology (particularly ecology and physiology), psychology, and other social sciences. Research covering such fields also is referred to as biosociology and animal sociology.

The debate that arose with the publication of Wilson's scientific theory again cannot be considered in isolation from the social factors present at that particular time in history, as we moved from the 1970s to the 1980s. Of course, for Wilson, the publication of a comprehensive compilation of research results is probably due to nothing more than pure research activities. In making such a compilation at this particular time, however, it is obvious that even Wilson's choice of a research theme was profoundly influenced by the social and cultural pressures of the age. In fact, if we examine the debate surrounding sociobiology, we find that it has been most actively pursued by those outside the original fields of study, for example, by journalists, intellectuals, social scientists, and others.

What are the present social and cultural conditions that lie behind the debate on human nature and its future development vis-is sociology? As we have already seen, behind the debate on Lorenz's theory of aggression was the manifest display of human aggression in the Viet Nam War. The misgivings, despair, fear, anger. and then opposition to the war can be said to have urged people on to examine not only instinctive human drives, but also the aggression that runs through the animal kingdom. The identical situation does not exist at present; in fact, it might seem as if behaviour directly exhibiting aggression has already been hidden from view. Still, oppression has not disappeared, nor has opposition to oppression vanished; it seems rather as if a complex, powerful, oppressive organization - one that is difficult to come to grips with - is gradually blanketing the world. Isn't this the reason why the path to liberation is no longer clearly visible? Moreover, many of the problems pertaining to natural resources, energy, the population explosion, and environmental destruction are viewed as being difficult, almost impossible to solve, types of natural phenomena. Simply put, these are the political, social, cultural, and natural crises of the modern world. Here, I think, lies the fundamental reason for the attempt of sociobiology to search out a means to solve these problems faced by mankind and society, because sociobiology is a coherent theory ranging in applicability from animals to humans. In the next section I will briefly consider the unique characteristics of sociobiology in comparison with biosociology.