Cover Image
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

II. Sociobiology or biosociology? how to view humans and their society

I have already mentioned that the basis of sociobiology is the theory of neo-Darwinism. This theory is based on the organism. Human behaviour in sociobiology can be seen to result from any of the followings:3 (1) The human brain, as a result of evolution, has become an "equipotential learning machine" determined by culture. In other words, the human mind is free from genetic influence. (2) Human social behaviour is constrained by genes, although the genetic variability that exists within humans has been fully used. In this sense, human behaviour is to a certain extent influenced by our genes, although each human being possesses the same potential. (3) Humans, as a species, are to a certain extent limited, although genetic differences between individuals are displayed. As a result, humans possess the biological capability for social behaviour and maintain the potential for continued evolution.

The above summary of the points made by Wilson reflects a debate on three levels, that is, mind, action, and genetic structure. However, common to all three is the tendency to equalize human beings. A question to raise is: What are the sources for development in neo-Darwinism which, as we have seen, places emphasis on natural selection, in cases where no genetic relationship or major variation exists?

Kenneth Boulding divides the genetic structure and process into two categories: biogenetic and non-genetic. In the biogenetic structure, both DNA and the gene play a part. This structure is connected to behaviour through the production of nervous systems. It is from here that instinctive behaviour derives; however, at some stage in the evolutionary process, the ability to learn is achieved. There also is the non-genetic structure. It is here that learning comes into play. These non-genetic structures and processes are not simply passed on from generation to generation: they also have the capacity to organize behaviour and make new artifacts. In the human species, such processes are dominant; indeed, it is the non-genetic processes that characterize the human race. And it is learning that creates the non-genetic processes.

Simply combining human beings and their actions does not make a society. This is the problem in the sociobiological approach to human society. Exactly the same problem remains even after the development of Darwinism into neo-Darwinism. Several of the ideas of the authors introduced here are in fact incompatible with neo-Darwinism. We can view this as an attempt to transcend the confines of the Darwinian system, although the ideas are still not fully developed from the perspective of scientific theory.

In scientific theory, we began research at the level of the elements composing the system. Except for physics, however, hardly any success has been achieved in attempts to try and deduce the nature or structure of the system. If the interaction is simple, a theory linking the micro and the macro is possible; however, in the case of social phenomena, because they come into being as a result of extremely complex relationships, the possibility of achieving a theoretical link between the micro element, that is, the individual, and the macro element, that is, society, is at present almost non-existent. Yet this certainly does not mean it is impossible in principle, since one of the unique characteristics of the modern scientific method, namely, methodological progress, might one day bring to light a solution to the problem.

In this respect, it should be pointed out that the biosociology of Imanishi is an example of a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution that approaches things from the system's level as with, for example, thermodynamics. Imanishi adopts a holistic point of view, In this theory, an entire system is simply part of another larger system, and, through the mutual relationships between these systems, each system becomes embedded in a hierarchical structure. The above does not simply pertain to what kind of system to adopt, but also depends on what a system is considered to be. Societies can thus be divided into single and complex-level societies.

In biosociology, which recognizes the existence of a society in any species, society is a universal phenomenon. In this sense, human society is no more than one example from among many. Thus, human society becomes an object of research for biosociology, which has its roots in two types of sociology: (1) sociology of the inter-species, and (2) sociology of the intra-species. The former considers geographical and historical factors; the latter, in contrast, includes the level of the individual organism and a society of species. The higher animals form herds, and the phenomenon of the herd level is related to the cultural phenomenon in human society. In other words, the origin of culture can be sought in the herd.5

Let me give the major conclusion of Imanishi's theory of evolution: "Congeneric organisms, which are the same morphologically and functionally, or systematically and behaviorally, must all undergo change in the same way when the time for change arrives. Moreover, as a result of these changes brought about by mutation occurring in all the organisms of the species, mutation improves the species's fitness to win." The path to human society, too, Imanishi argues, is of this type.

A species society is a society constructed out of the individual species's capacity to lead an independent life. In this sense, a society made up of those leading an independent life is the basic level of a species society. In a species society, for example, birds and wild animals which are taxonomically different form independent, yet parallel, societies. Moreover, among both those leading an independent life and those leading a group life, the necessity for raising offspring makes demands on some of the species. It can be seen, therefore, that the road to human society began with a society which supported those taking care of the offspring in the group.

To our distant ancestors who led a daily nomadic life, a life of constant movement would have been an extreme burden to females with young. If they were bipeds, moreover, the difficulties would have been compounded; indeed, the possibility of abandoning the young or breaking up the group may have had to be faced. The way to avoid such a crisis, Imanishi suggests, is to change from a nomadic to a sedentary life. It is quite likely that with the establishment of this kind of life, a meat diet came into being; that is, a change to a hunting and gathering life took place. Here the division of labour between the man, doing the hunting, and the woman, doing the gathering and child rearing, became the rule. As a result of this division of labour, Imanishi continues, a family type was established that necessitated the running of a joint, co-operative household. A local society held together by neighbourly ties then developed. Work, carried out cooperatively by those of the same sex, maintained the group and also allowed opportunities for new families to be formed.

Even if we consider this to be the first step along the road to becoming human, it was still a life completely dependent on nature and a single-level society based on equal relationships. When it comes to the formation of groups in bird and wild animal society, various adjustments are necessary and new behaviour patterns come into existence in order to maintain the group. If this is true, therefore, there is absolutely no need to consider group instinct.

Imanishi stresses the importance of sister relations as the origin of group life among higher animals. Following this way of thinking, it is possible to trace the origin of culture as far back as the establishment of the herd. It was through farming that human beings came to take a completely different evolutionary path than animals. What is of importance here is that farming allowed the production of a social surplus. In contrast to biological evolution, therefore, which occurred through a metamorphosis in the form of the body in order to adapt to nature, human beings evolved as a result of modifying the environment and achieving independence from nature. To put it another way, human beings evolved through culture. In fact, we can consider that speciation in humans came about through culture and that culture is the same as a species in the animal kingdom.

The most important factor in bringing about this evolution was the use of tools. Tools developed into technology; at present, technology is subsumed under the rubric "science and technology." The production of a social surplus through using this technological power led to unequal possession of the surplus and thus the stratification of human society. Between societies, too, it is creating at present a hierarchical structure" As in the animal kingdom's food chain, groups within societies or societies (states) themselves are appearing as predators. In this sense, human beings today are living in a dual hierarchical structure.