January 2022

The subtitle is “An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology”, and I actually first read an excerpt in a larger anthology I discussed in the comment to my last post. I wasn’t sure if I would just make another comment or two below that, since this one is a slim volume, but I ended up taking enough notes to merit an entire post (though it’s not especially organized). Marshall Sahlins claims that he wrote it quickly and without the usual scholarly practice of adding lots of citations & endnotes. That’s more fitting for me than his peers, since it’s not like I have access to an academic library to look up his citations anyway. Plus, the whole thing is a shorter & quicker read. He does at least distinguish himself from critics he designates as leftists (even though I know Sahlins as a lefty who denounced the Milton Friedman Institute at his own University of Chicago. In a way, this is keeping with his arguments against the Marxist anthropologist Marvin Harris of “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches”, who tried explain cultural variation via economics. (more…)

As promised at the end of my last book review, I started reading the late E. O. Wilson‘s only novel before he died, and thus before the big hubbub about an unusually stupid op-ed denouncing him in Scientific American, resulting in an open letter whose signatories started dropping off under pressure (like the Harper’s letter*). It’s not that long a book, but I read it very inconsistently thanks to the distractions of the internet and under the assumption I wouldn’t have to worry about having to return the book due to others requesting holds.

*I had forgotten Gelman chimed in on that one, and just recently linked in a post-script to a response to the Wilson controversy by a creationist (as a way of mocking the outlet publishing anti-Darwinism).