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Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature Paperback – February 12, 1985

ISBN-13: 978-0394728889 ISBN-10: 0394728882

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Pantheon (February 12, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394728882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394728889
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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Three eminent scientists analyze the scientific, social, and political roots of biological determinism.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Lewontin, Rose, and Kamin have expressed in clear language the problems of research in psychology and biology. They expose the social function of psychological, biological, and cultural reductionism as well as exploring the limits of their internal logics and validities. Needless to say, those caught up in the mainstream of traditional psychological and biological theory will protest, but in doing so will only betray the strong "interests" which shape and color their so-called dispassionate and objective endeavors -- which is part of what this book will detail. This book allows its readers to move outside the box of their over-learned scientistic practices; and it asks us to think about what we are doing when we do scientific research, its social implications, and its socio-economic determinants. I found this challenge compelling and enjoyable.
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22 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Lewontin is a very famous geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and New York Review of Books polemicist. Steven Rose is a neurobiologist, and Leon Kamin is a psychologist. Only Kamin knows anything about human beings by training in a behavioral science. This distribution of training explains why the only seriously scientific contribution in this book is the discussion of IQ. Lewontin and Rose feel qualified to offer extended expositions of social theory by virtue of their adherence to Marxism, which is a complete theory of society, history, and culture---or so the authors apparently believe.

"We share a commitment to the prospect of the creation of a more socially just---a socialist---society," they inform us (p. ix). Well, okay, this is 1984 and there were still many smart people with good hearts out there who believed that Marxian socialism was the path to social justice. Lewontin, Rose, and Kamin argue that sociobiology of the sort developed by Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) and Edward O. Wilson (Sociobiology) is a deeply conservative defense of the status quo, capitalism. The authors' concept of ideology and its position in society is refreshingly simple: "we use the term ideology here and throughout this book," they say, "with a precise meaning. Ideologies are the ruling idea of a particular society at a particular time. They are ideas that express the "naturalness" of any existing social order and help maintain it." (p. 4) There then follows a most famous and indeed lyrical quote by Marx and Engels from The German Ideology: "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas... the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships.
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26 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
I did not read this book cover-to-cover, partly because I got disgusted with what becomes an obvious agenda by at least one author who should know better (Lewontin). They take the worst of the eugenics movement to exemplify its "leaders" and often argue by anecdote. They also fail to provide refuting data to many claims - intelligent readers will see they are not refuting very much, just "banging up" some ideas on the premise they are not perfectly measureable. I was really dissappointed that Dr. Lewontin played down the role of genes so much given that he also authored a textbook on genetics. If genes can determine so much behavior (mating, song singing, etc.) in biology, why is it so hard to believe that genes cause human intangible traits such as behavior or intelligence? Furthermore, why is it so incredible to suppose there could be racial differences in either? It's certainly got some good parts and points, but it is OBVIOUS these authors are out to prove their agenda rather than objectively discuss the issues.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Spongie on May 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this book for a college human nature class and found it highly enlightening. I have long been an opponent to the rigid structure of the nature v. nurture argument, and have thus far found few (if any) serious intellectual scientific works to clearly articulate other possible explanations for why we are the way we are. Kudos to the authors of Not in our Genes for presenting a possible alternative to the norm. Read it and see whatcha think.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Clayton on June 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lewontin, Rose and Kamin argue that people are the way they are because of social conditioning and birth privilege, not because of their biology. Not in Our Genes, and similar books, balance the argument that our actions and motives are governed only by our genes.

This book has some useful insights worth exploring. Having said that, as with many other books that argue specific areas have controlling influence on human behavior, this book needs to be read with discretion.

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide to: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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15 of 26 people found the following review helpful By David Mackenzie on March 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
A breath of fresh air in a fetid miasma of assumption and association, anecdotes and lies. The politics of the radical left are obviously clear, yet this is an honest response to the radical right who have claimed for years to be neutral. This finally lays to rest the false dichotomy of the nature vs nurture debate. The attack on the cultural determinism which for many years has given ammunition to the "common sense" view of the world, is attacked with equal venom as that of the genetic determinists of Richard Dawkins and other chauvinists. Deserves to be printed more times than lira.
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