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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Jordan F. Baye, BA, PhDcand (Medical College of Wisconsin Health Policy Institute)
Description: This book addresses the schism that exists between science (both science proper and applied sciences) and sociology. In particular, this anthology attempts to "reclaim biology" by reframing the scientific theories and beliefs in a sociological context.
Purpose: This work's objectives are three-fold: to address the shortcomings of scientific theory in the sociological context, particularly the underlying reductionist attitude in these theories; to debate the need to unify biology and sociology; and to provide a basis for further debate within science, medicine, and society. These objectives are of great importance for a society in the biotechnology era. We are beginning to question the moral permissibility of certain areas of science — some rooted in tradition and some appearing for the first time. This book provides a springboard for identification and a continuing debate of these issues.
Audience: As evidenced by the introduction, the editors appear to intend the book for those within the fields of science, medicine, or sociology. The reader is immediately tossed into the debate with little background on the sociological or biological theories. It seems that an intermediate to advanced understanding of either biology or sociology (preferably both) is required to make full use of this anthology. The content of the chapters themselves, on the other hand, is largely accessible to the student. This is made possible by the contributors' introductive approach and the contemporary nature of the topics. Each of the editors and contributors has an advanced degree in some field pertaining to this anthology.
Features: The book covers a wide range of topics — each covered under the umbrella of "sociobiology." Within the context of sociobiology, the book is divided into five sections. These sections cover arguments for healing the sociology/science schism; social inequality in medicine and biology; the interweaving of biology and society; mediation between individual benefit and social good; and the politics of sociobiology. The chapters are relatively short, about 15 pages on average. Although the essays are brief, the contributions are, for the most part, concise and eloquent. The topics are scholarly in nature and range from metaphysics to evolution to androgenic steroids. This gives the reader a wide range to find common interest. However, the title of the book is a bit deceiving. Given the title, one might hope for a full dialogue between those in favor of a sociobiological theory and those opposed. Rather, we receive a one-sided argument.
Assessment: The book does a good job of outlining the issues surrounding the biology/sociology divide. It focuses on ethical, biological, medical, psychological, and sociological issues while keeping the recurrent theme of sociobiology theory. The editors have arranged the contributions such that the reader can follow the chapters in order and understand the overarching themes. The introduction is particularly well written in a seemingly oratorical fashion. It also gives an excellent outline and synopsis of the essays that follow. This book might be best used for undergraduate or graduate level sociology, biology, and psychology courses, and to some extent, medical school courses.