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Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the biological context of sociology, and the influence of the theory of natural selection on sociobiology.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Image from; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on sociobiology. As always don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

Today, we're looking at sociobiology. Now, sociobiology is just a theoretical approach that really looks at the connection between the human body and human biology and the way that that connects and affects culture. I'm going to go through some examples here today. But first, let's maybe go back to thinking about what are the basics of biology that sociobiology is concerned about.

It's really based on the work of Charles Darwin. He's someone I'm sure you've heard of. He wrote Origin of Species. He really is famous for coming up with the theory of evolution. And what evolution is really based on is this idea of natural selection and that changes that happen within species happen because of natural selection. Natural selection is just a natural, gradual change in common traits within a species. These changes happen because of competition and limited resources.

So that's the basics of biology. So you have this natural selection, where there's a competition. Maybe it's really beneficial to have-- I actually said this in a different tutorial-- web feet. And so eventually, if web feet is really there is going to help you survive, that gene has a better chance of surviving, going forward to future generations. And that could be passed on. And eventually that could become the way that all duck have webbed feet, or most ducks have webbed feet.

So here's one way that I like to think about it. So sociobiology, you have the culture and society. And they take the individual apart from that. But they don't just take the individual part. They take the individual part and then they look at the biology of the individual and see how that all connects.

One really great way to see these connections are looking at cultural universals. So a sociobiologist would argue that these universals are actually based on biological universals. I have two examples that I think really help bring this point home.

The first one is sexual promiscuity. Now, the idea is that across cultures there is a cultural universal that in general males are more promiscuous, more likely to have multiple sexual partners than females. And the argument would be then that this is because of their basic biology. And that biology is that males-- their physical makeup of their sexual organs is different from females.

And so, for example, if you're a female and you want your genes to succeed, you get pregnant. And you have nine months until your child comes out. So you are limited to at least one chance every nine months to have a baby and pass on your genes. Males, on the other hand, they can have as many partners as they want. And so their best chance to pass on their genes is not to have one necessarily, to have one partner, but to have many partners and pass on those genes.

Now, this is a pretty controversial idea because it's kind of giving an out to men saying, well, men act this way-- they have an excuse to act this way because their biology says they can. But that is one way that sociobiology looks at how cultural universals are tied to biological universals.

Another one is altruism. Altruism is just being nice to other people. And a sociobiologist would say that when we are nice to other people, it's not based on some moral thing that's going on within us. It's based on a biologic concern about how being nice them will help our group succeed and help that-- that teamwork will give a better chance for my genes to be passed on.

So today's take-away message, sociobiology is just a theoretical approach that looks at the way that the human body is connected to culture. And Charles Darwin is the famous scientist who came up with the theory of evolution based on natural selection.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

An approach to sociology which explains how culture is affected by human biology.

People to Know
Charles Darwin

A 19th century scientist world-famous for the theory of evolution by natural selection.