BOOK REVIEW



Nancy L. Segal, Glenn E. Weisfeld & Carol C. Weisfeld (Eds.) Uniting Psychology and Biology: Integrative Perspective on Human Development. Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 1997 (ISBN 1-55798-428-X, 568 pages).

by Johan M.G. van der Dennen (Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Groningen, the Netherlands)

"Even as smaller and smaller niches in psychology are carved out, the discipline moves toward a more holistic approach to behavioral science. Pursuing the 'big picture' has been the life's work of Daniel G. Freedman, PhD, a distinguished psychologist whose wide range of interests have provided remarkable variations on a single theme: an interactionist, holistic view of human behavior. His pioneering ethological analyses encouraged naturalistic studies of the evolved bases of behavior; his comparative view of human behavior helped set the stage for current cross-cultural research. Students and scholars interested in the twists and bedrock of human development will find in this volume a stimulating sampler of cutting-edge research on the topics that define Freedman's career: behavior genetics, human ethology, evolutionary psychology, and culture. An expansive ripple effect of scholarship has resulted from Freedman's broad-based research and teachings, and Uniting Psychology and Biology presents this intellectual ancestry."

This is the text on the wrapper, and though for some scholars 'holism' may evoke uneasy associations with 'New Age' obscurantism, Daniel Freedman indeed comes as close to the Renaissance ideal of the Homo universalis, pursuing the big picture, as a contemporary scientist can possibly get.

The volume Uniting Psychology and Biology is, first and foremost, an unabashed and unashamed homage to, and a Festschrift dedicated to, Dan Freedman, in honor of his unique scholarship. Dan Freedman is a brilliant and inquisitive mind, who pioneered and explored many novel areas of investigation: the genetics of dog behavior ("Constitutional and environmental interactions in rearing of four breed of dogs", Science , 127, 1958, 585-586), genetically based behavioral dispositions and motor patterns in human infants ("Smiling in blind infants and the issue of innate versus acquired", J. Child Psychol. & Psychiat., 5, 1964, 171-189), the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the ontogeny of human (social) behavior (Human Infancy: An evolutionary perspective, Hillsdale: Erlbaum, 1974), observational studies of dominance hierarchies, evolutionary psychology, MZ and DZ twin studies, and human cultures.
And, only four years after Edward Wilson's synthesis, Dan Freedman produced one of the first books on human sociobiology (Human sociobiology: A holistic approach, New York: Free Press, 1979), in which his propensity toward integration was already prominently present.
He worked with the finest minds of his generation: Abraham Maslow, Kurt Goldstein, Gregory Bateson, and John Paul Scott, and he was ahead of his time most of the time.
I had the honor to meet Dan Freedman 'in the flesh' a few years ago at the Ringberg Castle Conference on 'Indoctrinability and Warfare', organized by Eibl-Eibesfeldt and his assistants, in Andechs, Germany. It turned out to be a memorable meeting, and I can now understand the impression he must have made on his students who wrote this Festschrift for him.

The bulky volume contains almost 40 (including section introductions and conclusions) contributions by some 25 accomplished scholars, most of them former students and colleagues. The contributions are grouped into 8 sections: Section I: Introduction; Section II: Genetic Basis of Behavior: Contributions to Psychological Research; Section III: Biological Approaches to Developmental Issues: Rethinking the Data; Section IV: Naturalistic Studies of Behavior: How Does a Cross-Cultural Approach Inform Ongoing Research?; Section V: Evolutionary Analyses: New Issues and Continuing Controversies; Section VI: Film Retrospective: The Method and the Medium. Section VII: Behavior Genetics, Human Ethology, Evolutionary Psychology, and Culture: Looking to the Future; Section VIII: Final Overview: Uniting Psychology and Biology. It is, indeed, hard to think of a relevant subject- matter which is not represented in this book.
The quality of these contributions is, not unexpectedly, extremely heterogeneous in both readability and content. It is hardly possible, within the framework of a book review, to do justice to every single contribution in this Festschrift. Therefore I shall limit myself to presenting some impressions, necessarily biased by my own subjective preferences and taste, and finally summarize some of the conclusions as formulated by the editors. I apologize beforehand to those authors who are left out.
Dan Freedman's own contribution ("Is nonduality possible in the social and biological sciences?: small essays on holism and related issues") tries to transcend the classic dichotomies which have haunted our disciplines: mind versus body, innate versus acquired, culture versus biology, nature versus nurture, reductionism versus holism, etc. etc.
Michael Bailey's contribution ("Are genetically based individual differences compatible with species-wide adaptations?") is highly informative on a number of issues at the behavior genetics-evolutionary psychology interface, such as heritabilities of behavioral traits and sex differences as frequency-dependent reproductive strategies.
Genetics as a risk factor throughout the life span is highlighted by Irving Gottesman, Hill Goldsmith & Gregory Carey ("A developmental and a genetic perspective on aggression"). They present a sophisticated 'reaction surface' model of behavioral traits and conclude that "It is likely that insofar as genetic risk factors may be important, they are most relevant to a subset of individuals manifesting chronic antisocial behavior with nonacute onsets. That such a subgroup exists has been repeatedly shown in the literature...". This small group of young male, hard-core, chronic recidivists is, however, responsible for the majority of violent crimes, including rape.
John Paul Scott, grand old man of aggression research, describes in his contribution ("Genetic analysis of social behavior") two major lines of research, which span a 20-year period: the discovery of the critical period of social attachment, and gender and breed differences in agonistic behavior.
Nicholas Blurton Jones, Kirsten Hawkes & James O'Connell ("Why do Hadza children forage") demonstrate the power of the evolutionary and adaptationist approach by simply asking what Hadza children might gain from foraging and how foraging might enhance their fitness. A refreshing exercise in evolutionary anthropology.
In a small, but extremely fascinating, contribution ("Genetic basis of intrapsychic conflict"), one of the founding fathers of sociobiology, Robert Trivers, discusses 'genomic imprinting' or parent-specific gene expression, and its implications for internal conflicts between different sets of cells, for example the maternally imprinted neocortex and the paternally active hypothalamus.
One of the founding fathers of evolutionary psychology, Jerome Barkow ("Happiness in evolutionary perspective") notes that, oddly enough, evolution joins with Medieval Roman Catholicism in a discussion of how, although the 'seven deadly sins' definitely do not lead to happiness, they may have yielded adaptive advantages in older hominid environments. Unfortunately, evolution is not about maximizing the happiness of organisms, but about relative gene frequencies and reproductive success. Fortunately, unhappiness is predicted by evolutionary psychology to be just as episodic and situational as happiness.
Glenn Weisfeld ("Discrete emotions theory with specific reference to pride and shame") presents ten principles for constructing a list of the basic emotions, and he presents convincing evidence of homologies between pride-shame in humans and dominance- submission in other animals. Principle 10 provides the rationale for this finding: "If all human emotions possess at least rudiments in other species (Principle 3), then we can expect to find homologies between each basic human emotion and some motive in other species. These homologies support the notion that the human emotion in question evolved from the animal emotion and therefore is basic" (italics in original). This is an excellent theoretical exercise in a time-honored tradition starting with Darwin's Expression of the Emotions (1872).

In their final overview ("Final overview: Uniting Psychology and Biology"), Glenn Weisfeld, Carol Weisfeld & Nancy Segal wonder what such an integration - the application of evolutionary theory to our own species' behavior - would look like. They identify three requirements:
"First, there would be emphasis on species-wide behaviors, not on variability. No natural science dwells on diversity; all try to generalize, to establish laws that describe the main phenomena of interest. Psychology skipped over this descriptive stage in its history...
Once these universals, these building blocks of human behavior, were recognized, the causes of their variability could be addressed. Much interindividual variation is a result of genetic differences... Moreover, the influence of genes on most behaviors does not subside as children get older...
Perhaps most important, functional analyses of universal human behaviors and developmental events are needed. The great, unique contribution of biology to psychology is the Darwinian perspective, Tinbergen's 'why' question of function...".
In my own words - the credo I have tried to disseminate in my own publications - I would say that proximate explanations of behavior would benefit considerably if they were put squarely within an ultimate, evolutionary, context, and that it helps a lot if one tries to understand a behavioral phenomenon, including its neural and/or endocrinological substratum, to try to understand why it evolved in the first place.

Evolutionary psychologists, ethologists, sociobiologists, and even evolutionarily-informed sociologists like Pierre van den Berghe have often pondered the question why the social sciences resist Darwinism. Trivers suggested that widespread ignorance of biology is a factor. Certainly that must play a prominent role, but it cannot account for the intense hatred and hostility, the sometimes blood-spitting rage with which otherwise reasonable scholars have greeted attempts to unite psychology and biology, as demonstrated by a recent incompetent review of Frank Salter's excellent book Emotions in Command in Ethology (103[9], pp. 791-3), and by a maligning and humiliating review of my edited volume The Nature of the Sexes in Archives of Sexual Behavior (27[3], pp. 317-21). In Salter's case, Ethology denied him the right of reply even after prolonged pleading on his part, thus cramping the scientific process. There is apparently still a lot of educating to do, if only in basic scholarly standards and courtesy.


Please send your reactions and personal URL to j.m.g.van.der.dennen@rechten.rug.nl