Selfish Genes, Sociobiology And The Emergence Of Modern Darwinism

Evening class

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Chris Knight

Selfish Genes, Sociobiology And The Emergence Of Modern Darwinism

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 18:45

When Richard Dawkins' book 'The Selfish Gene' was published in 1976, it caused an outrage on the left. Marxists, feminists and others took the book to be a celebration of laissez-faire economics and competitive individualism. But when we look at the versions of Darwinism which had prevailed in the previous period, it becomes clear that 'selfish gene' theory represented a major scientific advance. Far from justifying selfishness, the new Darwinism explains in a convincing way why instincts of solidarity and generosity are commonplace throughout the natural world. Today, one of the major figures in human evolutionary theory is the feminist thinker and 'selfish gene' pioneer Sarah Hrdy, whose book 'Mothers and Others' explains how cooperative childcare was the critical factor which gave rise to our species. Hrdy's work represents a modern scientific vindication of the traditional Marxist theory, popularized by Frederick Engels, that early human kinship and family life was based on collective rather than individual parenthood. This talk will review the catalogue of misunderstandings which led the left across most of the western world to respond to a scientific controversy by tragically backing the wrong side.

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Next evening class

Morna Finnegan

Communism In Motion: How Hunter Gatherers Make Egalitarianism Work
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

Drawing on her fieldwork with the Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin, Morna explains how women take the initiative in regular riotous yet playful rituals to make sure that men behave. She calls this 'communism in motion' because gender egalitarianism is never a fixed or settled state but has to be constantly nurtured and established anew. Morna's feminist message is politically uncompromising. One not to be missed!