Next week, Steve Fuller (Dept of Sociology, University of Warwick) and Chris Renwick (Dept of History, University of York) will discuss ‘The Biological Challenge to the Social Sciences’ in Warwick:
The social and biological sciences came into existence in the second half of the 19th century and have always pursued partly overlapping agendas. No one has doubted that human societies are forms of life and life itself is inherently ‘social’ in several senses. Nevertheless, many of these ‘socio-biological’ agendas have had controversial political consequences that led to their stigmatisation as ‘pseudo-science’ by the founders of sociology. Indeed phrases like ‘Social Darwinism’, ‘eugenics’ and ‘scientific racism’ remain problematic to this day. However, revolutions in molecular biology and biotechnology in the second half of the 20th century, along with developments in neuroscience, have led to a re-assessment of this legacy and its prospects. At play here is a cultural horizon that takes seriously the moral relevance of animals and ‘evolutionary psychology’ as a metatheory of the social sciences – not to mention explicit financial incentives for social scientists to define their research agendas in closer alignment to the biomedical sciences. There has been so far relatively little social science reflection on why we find ourselves in this situation. Rather, social scientists either presume or ignore it.
Great question! Next stop: how do the humanities cope with the biomedical challenge?
It’s Wednesday 14 March, 2-5 pm, Millburn House, University of Warwick; make booking here: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/socialsciencesdtc/advanced/booking/