Debating Biology / Edition 1

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Relations between the biological and social sciences have been hotly contested and debated over the years. The uses and abuses of biology, not least to legitimate or naturalize social inequalities and to limit freedoms, have rightly been condemned. All too often, however the style of debate has been reductionist and ultimately unfruitful. Bringing together contributions from both biologists and sociologists, Debating Biology takes a fresh look at the relationship between biology and society as it is played out in the arena of health and medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: 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.

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415279031
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 7/29/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Debating biology 1
1 Evolution and human disease: Bridging the biology/culture gap 15
2 Ultra-Darwinism and health: The limits to evolutionary psychology 27
3 Shaping biology: Feminism and the idea of 'the biological' 39
4 Realist agendas on biology, health and medicine: Some thoughts and reflections 53
5 Biology, social class and inequalities in health: Their synthesis in 'health capital' 69
6 Gender and health status: Does biology matter? 84
7 Ethnicity and health: Biological and social inheritance 96
8 The 'biological clock'? Ageing, health and the body across the lifecourse 109
9 The problem with sex/gender and nature/nurture 123
10 Childhood bodies: Constructionism and beyond 133
11 Hormonal bodies, civilized bodies: Incorporating the biological into the sociology of health 145
12 Incorporating the biological: Chronic illness, bodies, selves, and the material world 157
13 'Liminal' bodies? Sleep, death and dying 169
14 Investing in mothering: Reproduction, sex selective technologies and biological capital in an Indian case study 185
15 Rights, risks and responsibilities: New genetics and disabled people 198
16 A normal biological process? Brittle bones, HRT and the patient-doctor encounter 210
17 Enhancing biology? Cosmetic surgery and breast augmentation 223
18 Through the lenses of biology and sociology: Organ replacement 235
19 Prozac nation and the biochemical self: A critique 245
20 The bioethics of biotechnology: Alternative claims of posthuman futures 261
21 Biology, vulnerability and politics 271
22 Ecology, health and society: A red-green perspective 283
23 A metaphysics for alternative medicine: 'Translating' the social and biological worlds 298
Index 311
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