Bill Charlesworth on Washburn

Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (right) and Hans Hass (left). Hans Hass was a diving pioneer who led the first Xarifa Expedition.
Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (right).

Since he has a name virtually unpronounceable in the Anglosphere, the great ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1928-2018) is not nearly as well-known as he ought to be outside of specialist circles. German is also a language that is really hard to render idiomatically in English, so his many books take some getting into. That is a pity. They are first-rate, in the great tradition of Eugene Marais, Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz. See especially Ethology, the biology of behavior (1970) and Human Ethology (2007). How else would one uncover wonderful quotes like the following? Here the late Bill Charlesworth responds to Sherwood Washburn’s bog-standard and tiresome guilt-by-association stuff about sociobiology. It is a zinger.

Speaking of rhetoric, there should be an editorial rule that sentences associated with sociobiology, with efforts to “justify slavery, imperialism, racism, genocide, and to oppose equal rights or ERA” [a quote from S.L. Washburn] should always appear next to sentences associating environmentalist/learning theory, with efforts to justify propaganda, psychological terror, false advertisement, public indoctrination of hatred of foreigners, class enemies, minority groups, and so on and so on. Juxtaposing sociobiology and learning theory in this manner ought to show how unproductive it is to claim through innuendo or otherwise that science will lead to pseudoscience, will lead to man’s inhumanity to man: ergo no science. Actually, one could argue that since man is such a cultural/learning animal we should have greater fear of learning theory since learning has far more power over man’s behavior than genes. More specifically, if humans were not such learning animals, they would not learn all that Galton trash: ergo stop learning research so that bad guys will not use the data to teach the trash more effectively.

William R. Charlesworth, “Comments on S.L. Washburn’s review of Kenneth Bock’s HUMAN NATURE AND HISTORY: A RESPONSE TO SOCIOBIOLOGY” Human Ethology Newsletter (Volume 3, Issue 3, September 1981, p.22)

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