Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

November 30, 1977 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-11-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Page 4--Wednesday, November 30, 1977-The Michigan Daily


tbr 3itbian atI
Eigh oy-Eight Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Vol. LXXXVIII, No. 68
News Phone: 764-0552
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

The sociobiology myth

Newest prison deaths in
LAfrica must spur inquest

A MIDST THE rumblings surround-
ing the government's inquest into
the death of political detainee Steven
Biko, comes the news: yet another
political detainee has died in a South
African prison. The sum now totals 214
deaths of blacks held without trial in
just 20 months.
From that white supremacist
regime, in which blacks are treated
subhumanly by society, such news
comes with an appalling lack of sur-
prise. The fact that government and
security officials there claim they
treat blacks arrested as threats to
white supremacy "very well" at all
serves as a blatant example of that re-
gime's arrogance.
Official explanations of the 21
deaths include: suicide by hanging,
tumbling over chairs, falling down
stairs, choking on food and toppling
from the 10th floor outdoor ledge of a
police station.
And then there was Steven Biko, a
black civil rights leader. Biko, they
claimed, died of starvation at the end
of a hunger strike. But at the inquest a
different story came out.
Biko had been locked in his cell,
stripped, then shackled to the bed. He
later died of massive brain injuries
4 suffered from a crushed skull. Officials
-R said Biko "may have hit his head" in a
j scuffle during an interrogation.

It is just far too incredible to
Political prisoners -especially
those labeled as a threat to the regime
and held wihout trials - do not just
die in prison. They do not just trip over
chairs, stumble on soap cakes or fall
out of 10th story windows for no reason.
Political prisoners - especially
black ones held by white racist securi-
ty officers - do not get bruised, cut,
suffocated or have their skulls crushed
The inquest tells us that much. But
if a government-run investigation
dares to reveal that much about its
own law enforcement agencies, just
how much more is really going on?
How many prisoners are being beaten,
starved, shackled and abused daily in
those cells?
Inquests into the treatment of all
detainees in South Africa must be held
by impartial juries immediately. If ob-
jective juries cannot be found within
South Africa's borders - and
presumably they will not be found
there - outsiders must be found.
Then and only then will fewer
prisoners experience daily torture.
Then and only then will fewer
prisoners die. And somewhere along
the way, police and government of-
ficials actively or inactively promoting
current. prisoner treatment policiesI
might be brought to world justice.

This is the second article in a two-part
series on the "Sociobiology myth."
What evidence do sociobiologists offer us
that a behavior is "genetic"? First they claim
that if a behavior is found universally in all
human societies, it must be genetic. Univer-
sality, though, does not show that a behavior
is genetic. People in essentially every human
culture wear clothes. Does that mean that we
have a gene for wearing clothes? Even if the
universality of a trait were sufficient evi-
dence of genetic determination, the
sociobiologists' arguments would remain un-
supportable, because they rest on distortions
of the available data. They have drawn se-
lectively on certain pieces of ethnographic
data to support their assertions, while com-
pletely ignoring those which refute them. For
example, the universality of warfare is a
prime tenent of sociobiology. This is in direct
contradiction to the mass of ethnographic evi-
dence which indicates its non-universality.
The absence of any form of warfare has been
reported among the Adaman Islanders, the
Arunta, the Eskimos, the Mission Indians, the
Semang, the Todas, the Western Shoshoni,
and the Yahgan (War, Fried, M., Harris, M.,
and Murphy, R.). The Tasaday of the Phil-
lipines do not even have a ord for war. In
societies where it does occur, warfare often
consists of threats, insults, and single com-
bat between aggrieved individuals. Rarely
are more than a few individuals killed in an
episode of warfare; in some cases, such as
that reported of the Tiwi of Northern
Australia, the war is stopped as soon as one
person is wounded.
Another key element in the sociobiologists'
view of human nature is the universality of
sex roles as we know them. Again, this is
clearly refuted by the ethnographic data.
Margret Mead's classic study, Sex and Tem-
perament in Three Primitive Societies,
describes a society in which both sexes con-
form to our ideal of the "feminine" role,
another where both sexes fit our "masculine"
norm, and a third in which women are "mas-
culine" and the men are "feminine." Many
societies have little division of labor; the
Tasaday are reported to have none. Even
where this division exists to some extent, the
form which it takes is not necessarily the
"man, the hunter," "women, the homemak-
er" model set out'as genetically "preordain-
ed" by the sociobiologists. There is relatively
little specialization by sex among both the
Pygmies of _the Congo, and the Tasaday.
Neithersare roles always more aggressive,
another component among the scenario.
Among the Arpesh, Pygmies and Tasaday so-
cieties, both sexes are non-aggressive. Re-
cent visitors to China also report that children
there of both sexes are non-aggressive.
THE USE BY sociobiologists of primate
behavior as evidence of genetic determina-
tion of human traits is equally misleading:
Patterns of aggressive, dominance, sex roles,
and other features of social organization vary
greatly even among primates of the same
species. Baboons living on the savannah,
which are the most frequently cited models of
primate behavior, display a rigid authority
hierarchy, male dominance, and extreme ag-
gressiveness. There is, however, another side
to the story which the sociobilogists have
managed to obscure. Forest baboons show lit-
tle aggression and no male dominance hierar-
chies. In times of danger, the males run up
trees, leaving the females to protect the
young. Adult females frequently direct troop
movements as well. Clearly, males are neith-
er more dominant nor more aggressive in
these groups. Similar behaviors have been
found among chimpanzees and mountain
gorillas, who are our closest relatives evo/
lutionarily. These groups also display a lack
of aggressive behavior and rigid male domi-
nance hierarchies.

Then again, if a certain behavior can't be
found in primates (i.e., it is "species-
specific" to humans), it is argued that this
must be due to genetic differences between
primates and us, and this too is taken as evi-
dence of its genetic nature (Wileen, Fall 1977,
Daedalus). The analogy from primate be-
havior to ours is too often a consequence of
our biased perception of their behavior, pro-
jecting our social interactions onto nature and
then turning around and describing our be-
havior as "natural."
The adaptiveness of a behavior is often
given as the final piece of "proof" of its
genetic basis. If you can figure out some way
a behavior could possibly benefit an individu-
al or his/her genes, sociobiologists will claim
that is due to the action of natural selection
operating over evolutionary time. This is the
sociobiologists' favorite pasttime, to think up
adaptive explanations for even the most
bizarre behavior. For example, why is it
adaptive for children to dislike spinach? De-
vore, et. al., in a high school text (EDC, 1972)
remind us that spinach has oxalic acid in it,
which combines with calcium and may inhibit
bone formation. Children may therefore have
a genetically-based dislike for the vegetable.
Perhaps they also like to eat candy because it
is really, genetically, the best thing for them
to eat. But even when you see a behavior that
could be defined as maladaptive, these, too,
are genetic, they are just being selected
against. In discussing the problem of divorce,
Devore et. al. explain it as " 'holdovers' from
prehuman history. Perhaps natural selection
has simply not had enough time to perfect the
human pair bond." And, if all else fails you
can claim that it was adaptive during the
Pleistocene, even though it isn't now. Heads
they win, tails we lose.
ently constructed a set of criteria for deciding
whether a behavior is genetic so that they can
claim that any behavior has a genetic basis.
And indeed they have made such claims on a
list of behaviors that is increasing every day
to include such recent additions as "economic
behavior" (Wilson, Daedalus, 1977) and
"space travel" (Yinger, Ann Arbor News,
Oct. 19, 1977). But even if they were to find a
certain behavior to be adaptive according to a
more fair set of criteria, this would not be
enough to show that it was genetic, for it
would also make sense for a purely cultural
phenomenon to be adaptive.
What do sociobiologists mean when they
say that something has a genetic basis? The
common notions, that it is natural, pre-or-
dained, inevitable or difficult to change, are
either false or not well-defined. Certainly
everything we do has a genetic basis in the
sense that if we didn't have any genes, we
wouldn't have any behavior. Further, an indi-
vidual with the genes of a frog or a tape worm
would presumably exhibitumuch different be-
havior than the rest of us even if it were
brought up in the same social environment
(whatever that means). So what do we learn
by knowing that a behavior is genetic? Only
that frogs and tape worms are not likely to
exhibit human-like social behavior? No,
sociobiologists, Petersen included, claim that
from genetic knowledge we learn of our "true
nature" and can learn to better overcome
these tendencies. But if this is the "promise of
sociobiology," it is a hollow one. Does knowl-
edge of a genetic basis really help us to
change a behavior? PKU diseasehwhich is
due to a single mutation, produces severe
brain damage if the person's diet includes
phenylalanine, but no bad effects at all if a
diet lacking phenylalanine is provided. The
knowledge of the cure was not a result of the
knowledge of the genetic basis. On the other
hand, we have no idea how to cure Tay-Sach's
disease, also known to be caused by a single

There is no reason to believe that know
edge of a genetic basis for racism or warfar
will clue us in to the environmental or socia
changes that we should make to alleviat
these problems.
Petersen describes sociobiology as "a ne
set of revolutionary scientific theories." W
have argued above that in fact these theorie
have little scientific validity. We should als
point out that they are not particularly new
Sociobiologists like to ignore the long histor
of Social Darwinism. (Trivers, for example
claims that despite the power of the concep
of natural selection, it "has lain dormant, o
virtually dormant, for 110 years since Darwi
enunciated it; in particular, people have bee
very reluctant to apply it systematically t
human behavior, especially to human socia
behavior") Social Darwinists explained wo
an's subordinate role as a natural cons
quence of her biology, and thus argued agai
st women suffrage or even coeducation. The
claimed that whites were the fittest race, an
were greatly worried about inter-racial ma
riage and immigration. This movemen
resulted in the passage of eugenics laws fo
sterilization of the "unfit" in 31 states, and t
the Immigration Act of 1924, which severel
limited immigration from Southern and Eas
er Europe, Asia and Latin America. Thes
limits on immigration led to America's den
ing refuge to many persons who were lat
victims of the Nazi extermination camps i
World War II.
THE IMPORTANT point about Social Da
winism, however, is that in its time, it wa
viewed as just as scientific as sociobiology i
seen today. Social Darwinists produce
massive books filled with impressive scie
tific evidence, and their numbers include
many of the most respected names in co
temporary science - Nobel Prize winner
members of learned societies, and universit
presidents (including the University's ow
C.C. Little). Social Darwinism, too, claime
to have found revolutionary new tools of a
alysis (for example, the IQ tests which prove
that, among immigrants to America, 79 pe
cent of the Italians, 89 per cent of the Poles
and 83 per cent of the Jews were "feeble
minded"). It is quite possible that 50 year
from now scientists will look back on soci
biology in much the same way we look bac
on Social Darwinism.
Sociobiology is a political issue. It ca
have as profound social and political ramifi
cations as Social Darwinism did in the earl
1900's. Sociobiological claims about our "tru
human nature" have already been accepte
by many as scientific fact, despite the lack o
evidence and poor methodology. This view o
human nature breeds contentment with th
status quo. If our behaviors are so deepl
rooted and difficult to change, why should w
bother trying? If that's the natural way to act
why should we try and fight nature?
It is no accidentathat sociobiology ha
become popularized at this time in history.
With social problems; crime, war, pollution,
etc., getting worse, it is convenienf to place
the blame on the individual's behavior and
not on the economic and political structure o
our society. If we blame war on individual
patriotic fervor or the tendency "innate in
man (sic) that has brought us to our grave-
site," then we can let IBM, Standard Oil, Dow
Chemical, ITT, etc. off the hook.
Sociobiology is not realism, but cynicism.
It is a sinister ideology whose effect is to con-
tribute to the perpetuation of racial, sexual
and economic oppression in our society. The
real lesson we learn from sociobiology is how
easily ideology can be disguised as science.
This article was prepared by the Socio-
biology Study Group of Ann Arbor
Science for the People. They helped edit
the recently published book Biology as a
Social Weapon.

Petition against apartheid

A NEW COALITION has formed to
put pressure on the University to
withdraw it's investments from firms
in South Africa.
The Washtenaw County Coalition
Against Apartheid is one of the first
groups to attack the University's im-
mobility on the investments issue, not
only with words, but with action. The
Coalition consists of campus groups as
well as individuals, and.has adopted
three major objectives to put new
pressure on the University. They are
demanding that the University make
public all holdings in corporations in
South Africa. The group is also calling
for disclosure of all ties with South
Africa other than investments: Lastly,
but in many ways most important, the
Coalition is calling for the creation of a

timetable by which the administration
should meet all goals.
The group realizes that what is
truly needed to get the University out
of South Africa is grass-roots
pressure, and they plan to accomplish
this by circulating petitions around the
campus and the city which demand for
immediate action by the administra-
We urge everyone to go out of their
way to search out and sign these peti-
tions if they don't come to you first.
The invested money, after all, belongs
in part to each tuition-paying student.
The end of apartheid in South Africa
can only come when organizations like
the University withdraw their support
from the white regime. Support the
Coalition Against Apartheid.


Health Service Handbook

,. i

QUESTION: How can I prevent
vaginal and urinary infections? I
am not on the pill but get them of-
ten. I don't hold in my urine
Answer: In seeking a physician
to consult with on this question,
we found one who is female,
pregnant, and considerably ex-
perienced in gynecological ser-
vices. She is Dr. Thirza Smith
and her answer is as follows:
The best way of avoiding
vaginal and bladder infections is
to be born male. However,
assuming it's too late for that,
there are some other ways.
Most women at some time in
their lives will get these infec-
tions. Many women get them
recurrently and this can, be a
frustrating problem for them and
for their doctors.
There are three major causes
of vaginitis-yeast (candida on
monilia), trichomonas (a
parasite), and a bacterium
(Hemophilus vaginalis,, also
known by other names). Yeast in-
fections are probably the most
common. Yeast are normally
found in the vaginia in small
amounts but under certain con-
ditions they will proliferate and

fection may result. If you get
yeast infections frequently you
should mention this to your doc-
tor when and if an antibiotic is
prescribed for other conditions
and s /he may give you
something to prevent it. Avoid
deodorant tampons, deodorant
sprays and soaps in the vaginal
area, since these will kill off the
bacteria. Tight clothing, nylon
underclothes, etc. will decrease
the air supply to the area and
make conditions better for yeast,
too, so avoid these. Other con-
ditions such as being pregnant,
having diabetes, or taking the
Pill make these infections harder
to cure.
TRICHONOMAS is generally
caused by sexual relations with
an infected partner and if you get
it, it is important to have him
treated so as not to keep passing
the infection back and forth.
Homophilis or non-specific
vaginitis can arise in the same
way as yeast but if you get it
frequently, your sex partners
may need to be treated too. No
matter what you do, you may
keep getting vaginitis, but if you
follow the aforementioned
precautions, they should be less
frequent. Unfortunately, the
vagina is a great place for these.

tum, a region with many bac-
teria, and therefore one which
can be infected more easily. It is
impossible to keep bacteria out of
the bladder, but you might deter
their growth by frequent
This means drinking enough
fluid so that you will have to
urinate every 2-3 hours during the
day. Many infections are related
to sexual relations because the
vagina is immediately behind the
bladder and urethra and the ac-
tion of intercourse can push bac-
teria into the bladder. It is useful
(although annoying) to urinate
right after sex and to drink some
fluids. In fact, some women will
get an infection any time they
don't follow this procedure. Other
suggestions are to always wipe
from front to back when using the
bathroom, use tampons instead
of sanitary napkins, and be sure
you have a good fluid intake.
IF YOU DO all these things and
still get frequent infections, you
should be examined by a
urologist to look for structural
abnormalities, although these
are not very common. If they
still persist, you may need to be
on a program of antibacterial
medication daily for a prolonged
neriod or after- each time von

occasional infection because of
the female anatomy, but I hope
this will help.
QUESTION: Do you have any
simple rule for figuring the
proper limit of fat in the diet? I
read somewhere that no more
than 1/3 of one's calories should
come from fat but the food labels
always give fats, carbohydrates
and proteins in grams. I know
grams and calories are not the
same thing, but I don't know how
to make the conversion.
ANSWER: There are only
three things to remember:
There are 9 calories in a gram
of fat
There are 4 calories in a gram
of carbohydrate or protein
The total grams of protein and
carbohydrate combined should
be at least 4 times the number of
grams of fat in your diet.
Now, you can take the number
of calories which your diet con-
sists of, calculate the proportions
of fat, carbohydrate and protein,
and convert it all to grams. If the
total of the protein and. car-
bohydrate together equals 4
times the fat, you will end up with
the /. which is recommened.

/ I


Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan