Is Biology Destiny?

Winter 1996

Is Biology Destiny?

Is Biology Destiny? Cover Image

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Since World War II, the academy has been the site of more than a few heated intellectual debates. None has been more passionate than the one set off by efforts to apply the bio-evolutionary perspective to human behavior. Even while provoking vicious criticism, the new applications of Darwinian principles-whether called sociobiology, biosociology, or evolutionary psychology -have shed valuable, and appreciated, light on everything from violence to sexist practices. The debate, however, is far from over. The very notion of an underlying human nature flies in the face of contemporary postmodernist theories held dear by many intellectuals and artists. Here we offer a history of the modern human nature debate, as seen by two participants.

Table of Contents

In Essence

"The Strange Silence of Political Theory" by Jeffrey C. Isaac, in Political Theory (Nov. 1995), SAGE Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, Calif. 91320.

"Lincoln's First Love" by Mark E. Neely, Jr., in Civil War Times (Nov.-Dec. 1995), P.O. Box 8200, Harrisburg, Pa. 17105-8200.

"Adventures in Wonderland: A Scholar in Washington" by Diane Ravitch, in The American Scholar (Autumn 1995), Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1811 Q St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009.

"Motor Trouble for Democrats" by Geoff Earle, in Governing (Aug. 1995), 2300 N St. N.W., Ste. 760, Washington, D.C. 20037.

"Toward an Appropriate Politics" by Charles Siegel, in New Perspectives Quarterly (Fall 1995), 10951 W. Pico Blvd., Third Floor, Los Angeles, Calif. 90064.

"From World War to Cold War" by George F. Kennan and John Lukacs, in American Heritage (Dec. 1995), 60 Fifth Ave,, New York, N.Y. 10011.

"Is the Environment a National Security Issue?" by Marc A. Levy, in International Security (Fall 1995), Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Univ., 79 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

"Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?" by Richard B. Freeman, "Income Inequality and Trade: How to Think, What to Conclude" by J. David Richardson, and "How Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers" by Adrian Wood, in The Journal of Economic Perspectives (Summer 1995), American Economic Assn., 2014 Broadway, Ste. 305, Nashville, Tenn. 37203-2418.

"Are Drivers of Air-Bag Equipped Cars More Aggressive? A Test of the Offsetting Behavior Hypothesis" by Steven Peterson, George Hoffer, and Edward Millner, in The Journal of Law 6' Economics (Oct. 1995), Univ. of Chicago Press, P.O. Box 37005, Chicago, 111. 60637.

"Federal Personal Income Tax Policy in the 1920s" by Gene Smiley and Richard H. Keehn, in The Journal of Economic History (June 1995), 302 Thayer St., Box 1981, Brown Univ., Providence, R.I. 02912; "Tax Projections and the Budget: Lessons from the 1980s" by Alan J. Auerbach, "Behavioral Responses to Tax Rates: Evidence from the Tax Reform Act of 1986 by Martin Feldstein, and "Income Creation or Income Shifting? Behavioral Responses to the Tax Reform Act of 1986" by Joel Slemrod, in American Economic Review (May 1995), American Economic Assn., 2014 Broadway, Ste. 305, Nashville, Tenn. 37203.

"Who Killed History? An Academic Autopsy" by William Craig Rice, in The Virginia Quarterly Review (Autumn 1995), One West Range, Charlottesville, Va. 22903.

"How to Run a Police Department" by George L. Kelling, in City Journal (Autumn 1995), Manhattan Institute, 52 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; "Giuliani: Start Spreading the News" by David Brooks, in The Weekly Standard (Nov. 13, 1995), 1150 17th St. N.W., Ste. 505, Washington, D.C. 20036-4617.

"What's Your Name?" by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass, in First Things (Nov. 1995), Institute on Religion and Public Life, 156 Fifth Ave., Ste. 400, New York, N.Y. 10010.

"Vietnam in Retrospect" by Peter Braestrup, in Forbes Mediacritic (Fall 1995), P.O. Box 762, Bedminster, N.J. 07921.

"The Decline of Religious Beliefs in Western Europe" by Mattei Dogan, in International Social Science Journal (Sept. 1995), UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris, Cedex 15, France.

"The Debate on Universals before Peter Abelard" by Augustine Thompson, O.P., in Journal of the History of Philosophy (July 1995), P.O. Box 24580, Los Angeles, Calif. 90024.

"The Best Computer in All Possible Worlds" by Tim Folger, in Discover (Oct. 1995), 114 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 1001 1-5690; "A Quantum Leap for Computers?" and "Computer Scientists Rethink Their Discipline's Foundations" by James Glanz, in Science (July 7 and Sept. 8, 1995), American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, 1333 H St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.

"Are Breast Implants Actually OK?"by Marcia Angel], in The New Republic (Sept. 11, 1995), 1220 19th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; "A Confederacy of Boobs" by Michael Fumento, in Reason (Oct. 1995), 3415 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Ste. 400, Los Angeles, Calif. 90034-6064; "Anti- Medicine Man" by Henry Miller and "Implanting Fear" by B. D. Daniel and Michael Weiss, in National Review (Oct. 9, 1995), 150 E. 35th St., New York, N.Y. 10016.

"Bring Back the Urban Visionaries" by David Gelernter, in City Journal (Summer 1995), Manhattan Institute, 52 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, N.Y.10017.

"Mondrian & Mysticism: 'My Long Search Is Over'" by Hilton Kramer, in The New Criterion (Sept. 1995), 850 Seventh Ave, New York, N.Y. 10019.

'Writing for the New Millennium: The Birth of Electronic Literature" by Robert Kendall, in Poets & Writers Magazine (Nov.-Dec. 1995), 72 Spring St., New York, N.Y. 10012.

"Sound and Sentimentality: Nostalgia in the Songs of Stephen Foster" by Susan Key, in American Music (Summer 1995),Sonneck Society for American Music, P.O. Box 476, Canton, Mass. 02021.

'Russia and the Far East: Working toward a Serious Partnership with China" by Peter Ferdinand, in Transition (Sept. 1995), Open Media Research Institute, 1201 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

"Democracy or Technocracy? European Integration and the Problem of Popular Consent" by William Wallace and Julie Smith, in West European Politics (July 1995), Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., 900 Eastern Ave., London IG2 7HH, England.

"Historians and Nation-Building in Germany after Reunification" by Stefan Berger, in Past and Present (Aug. 1995), 175 Banbury Rd., Oxford OX2 7AW, England.

"Transforming Television in India" by Sevanti Ninan, in Media Studies Journal (Summer 1995), Columbia Univ., 2950 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10027.

Reviews of new research at public agencies and private institutions

Book Reviews

THE POLITICS OF RAGE: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. By Dan T. Carter. Simon & Schuster. 572 pp. $30

By Alain Finkielkraut. Translated by Judith Friedlander. Columbia Univ. Press. 165 pp. $22.95


For venturing to explore the role of biology in our social lives, I have had more than my share of interesting moments. In addition to slander and calumny--depressingly standard fare in the academy today--I have received bomb threats at lectures in Vancouver and Montreal and the promise of a "kneecapping" at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Lionel Tiger

The artists, poets, composers, and dramatists now reaching their maturity have lived through a time of crisis for the arts. Some of us are questioning the whole 200-year-old tradition of the avant-garde and rethinking our aesthetics from the ground up.

Frederick Turner

Budget cuts. Debt reduction. Smaller government. One hundred and fifty years ago, the state of New York fired the first shots in a nationwide political revolution strikingly similar to today's.

James A. Henretta

During the half-century since World War II, American colleges and universities have been education's Emerald City, not only for Americans but for millions of others who have followed the yellow brick road from abroad. No matter what ups and downs have afflicted the economy, no matter that the stunning mediocrity of our primary and secondary schools has been recognized as a national crisis--through all this and more, higher education has grown in scale, in wealth, in allure and, at least until the very recent past, in stature.

Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Bruno V. Manno

The corporation is downsizing and going international. Government is being reinvented, even disinvented. Unions are disappearing. Churches are turning themselves into spiritual shopping malls, offering something for everyone. The family has fractured or recombined. Radical change is the order of the day in the life of American institutions--except in academia.

Alan Wolfe

In last autumn's barely defeated referendum, supporters of sovereignty for Quebec claimed a "distinct society" as the strongest justification for severing most ties with the rest of Canada. The author explores that difference in the character of Quebec City.

Clark Blaise

It is hard to think of a phrase whose revival in the language was as welcome, and whose subsequent history has proved quite so disappointing, as "public intellectual."

David Samuels

When a wrecker's ball divides the facade of an old building, or a switch is thrown to ignite efficient charges at its core, you see how the physical work of years can be undone instantly. There's less show to the death of a tradition. It's hard to fix the moment, or sequence of moments, at which breath goes out of it and decay takes hold of the remains.

James M. Morris

One of the remarkable things about the work of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013) was the way it extended from the realm of the personal to the political.

Helen Vendler

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