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Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, agriculture, and health Paperback – November 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1583671573 ISBN-10: 1583671579 Edition: First Edition (US) First Printing

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583671579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583671573
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #900,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“In this major collection of essays, Lewontin and Levins range from the Human Genome Project and evolutionary psychology to Cuban agriculture. Throughout, their work is illuminated by an insistence on a dialectical understanding of biology from the molecular to the socio-ecological. In rejecting reductionist understandings, they offer important insights into how biology—and science in general—could be reconceptualized in the service of human liberation.”
-Steven Rose,emeritus professor of biology, Open University, United Kingdom

About the Author

Richard Lewontin is Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. He is the author of The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment (2000), It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions (2000), Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (1992), Human Diversity (1982), and (with Richard Levins) The Dialectical Biologist (1985).



Richard Levins is John Rock Professor of Population Sciences, Department of Population and International Health at Harvard University.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Prem on September 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found the book very interesting and stimulating. I had read their earlier book `Dialectical Biologist' published in 1985 and was influenced by their logic of holism against reductionism particularly the genetic determinism. In fact I was inspired by this book to write on a dialectical approach to Indian agriculture (Need for a dialectical approach in agricultural research for sustainable growth: Current Science, Vol. 83 (25), 690-693, Sept. 2002).
The present book on dialectical essays on ecology, agriculture and health has been extended to clarify that dialectics is different from systems theory in that the former looks at the total process including social aspects in complex systems whereas the latter attempts to deal with complexity, nonlinearity, and change through sophisticated mathematical and computational techniques. For instance, a systems analysis of the regulation of blood sugar may include the interactions among sugar itself, insulin, adrenaline, cortisol, and other molecules but is not likely to include anxiety as a factor. A larger system including anxiety and social factors affecting it can reverse the expected effects of a pathway studied in the usual systems approach. The book, divided into three parts, attempts, in general, to apply the insights of dialectical materialism that emphasizes the wholeness, connectedness, historical contingency, the interaction of the levels of analysis and the dynamic nature of things as snapshots to processes. Interesting topics cover a wide range from Human Genome Project to psychological issues in Cuban agriculture. It is a major attempt to impact the public understanding of science and nature and is therefore worth reading by scientists and laymen alike.
I strongly recommend the book for reading and study by one and all.
P. Narain
E-mail: narainprem@hotmail.com
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By stanley aronowitz on May 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
this is a collection of essays by two of America's leading biologists. It is generally written for the general public, although some of the essays are a bit more technical. On the whole, Lewontin and Levins succeed in providing a comprehensive picture of some of the leading debates in the field, notably, the relevance of molecular biology and evolutionary thought for issues such as education and other aspects of social policy. Highly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. Webster on March 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
Apologists for capitalism love those scientists who claim that the inequalities, competition and conflict inherent in the capitalist system are the inevitable consequence of "human nature" and of biologically determined inequalities between people.

Those apologists will not like this book. One of the main achievements of Lewontin and Levins is to destroy scientifically the foundations of theories such as sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, which claim that everything about human behaviour and society can be explained by our genes.

The authors are not new to this battle. Over 20 years ago Lewontin co-authored "Not in Our Genes" with Steven Rose and Leon Kamin, and he is also the author of the excellent "The Doctrine of DNA". The late Stephen Jay Gould was also part of the small community of radical scientists fighting against the currently dominant trend of genetic determinism. But Lewontin and Levins are even more radical than Gould in that they are explicitly Marxists.

The other main aim of Lewontin and Levins is to show that a dialectical approach can and must be applied to science as a whole. Some Marxists are doubtful about the usefulness of dialectics, especially when applied to the natural sciences. This book ought to convince those doubters. The authors show the necessity of applying a dialectical materialist method in science if we want to gain a full understanding of the world. They argue for "a dialectical emphasis on wholeness, connection and context, change, historicity, contradiction, irregularity, asymmetry, and the multiplicity of levels of phenomena, as a refreshing counterweight to the prevailing reductionism".
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Libson on August 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Any one interested in science or who teaches science should get this book. It's a wonderful collection of essays on genetics, evolution and natural science seen through the lens of Marxist dialectics and materialism. Every essay has an original point of view and whether you agree with everything the authors say or not, each essay will make you think more deeply about science and its role in society today.
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
I love the work by Levins and Lewontin. They are great thinkers. The make exellent reflections about the history of natural sciences (especially biology). But I think that the essays on this book do not represet the full capacity of this authors. In part this may be caused by a misunderstanding of the role of social sciences in the explication of social phenomena. They use mostly Marx, and very lightly. I do not want to imply that marxism is not a good way to aproach social events but I think that it is innapropiate considering the incredible number of theories (modern and posmodern) that social scientis have produced. Mabye this is in part to allow for some causalism (wich is one of the things they criticize). The book still has great passages and explanations but those passages are not trying to do a pseudo-marxist interpretation of the "role"of sciencie in society. I think that to complement Levins and Lewontin one should also read Latour, Hacking, Foucault, Keller (feminist biologist) and Gould (paleontologist).
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