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Final solutions : biology, prejudice, and genocide

Author: Richard M Lerner
Publisher: University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State University Press, ©1992.
Edition/Format:   Print book : State or province government publication : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
The nature-nurture debate continues to stir controversy in the social and behavioral sciences. How much of human behavior and development can be attributed to biology and how much to the environment? Can either be said to "determine" human development? And what are the implications of each view for society? In this important study, a noted developmental psychologist contributes to this debate by confronting the  Read more...
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Named Person: Konrad Lorenz; Konrad Lorenz; Konrad Lorenz; Konrad Lorenz; Konrad Lorenz
Material Type: Government publication, State or province government publication, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Richard M Lerner
ISBN: 0271007931 9780271007939
OCLC Number: 23767028
Description: xxii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Contents: Foreword / R.C. Lewontin --
Foreword / Benno Muller-Hill --
Ch. 1: Nature, Nurture, and Social Policy --
Ch. 2: A Path to Mass Murder: Foundations of the Nazi Program of Genocide --
Ch. 3: Konrad Lorenz's Biological Determinism: Then and Now --
Ch. 4: Sociobiology, the New Biological Determinism --
Ch. 5: Biological Determinism, Women, and Blacks: The Past as Prologue to the Present --
Ch. 6: Developmental Contextualism: Biology and Context as the Liberators of Human Potential --
Ch. 7: Developmental Contextualism and Social Policy: The Enhancement of Human Life.
Responsibility: Richard M. Lerner ; with forewords by R.C. Lewontin and Benno Müller-Hill.

Abstract:

The nature-nurture debate continues to stir controversy in the social and behavioral sciences. How much of human behavior and development can be attributed to biology and how much to the environment? Can either be said to "determine" human development? And what are the implications of each view for society? In this important study, a noted developmental psychologist contributes to this debate by confronting the difficult issue of "doctrines" of human development and the consequences for society of deriving political programs and public policy from them. Beginning with the premise that scientific ideas are not neutral but can be used for either good or evil, Richard Lerner considers the recent history of one such idea, biological determinism, which at times has had the backing of respected scientists, intellectuals, and political leaders. During this century, biological determinism has been coupled with political philosophies that hold that some people are inherently better than others. This has meant that certain groups of people--Jews, Blacks, Native Americans, women--have been stigmatized because of supposedly innate, even "biological," differences, with sometimes disastrous consequences. The most notorious instance was Nazi Germany, where "racial science," given legitimacy by the scientific community, became a cornerstone of the Nazi "Final Solution." Meanwhile, theories of biological determinism continue to find adherents within the scientific community. Konrad Lorenz, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1973, was a critical figure in the development of the most recent manifestation of biological determinism--sociobiology. Lerner examines the work of Lorenz and current sociobiologists and the implications of their claims for modern society. He fears that biological determinism may again be co-opted to serve the political agenda of today's reactionary politicians. In fact, Lerner notes, sociobiologists have had to face the fact that organizations such as the fascist National Front party in Britain and its counterparts in France and the United States have selectively seized upon sociobiology to fuel their notions of genetically superior and inferior races. Recognizing the inadequacy of both biological and cultural determinism to explain the complexities of human development, Lerner offers a scientific alternative to biological determinism: "developmental contextualism." This alternative recognizes that biology plays a ubiquitous role in human behavior but denies that either biology or environment alone determines that behavior. Developmental contextualism emphasizes that biology develops in relation to the complex and changing contexts of human life. Furthermore, one's biological heritage provides a "liberator of human potential" rather than an inescapable path. Lerner shows how biology allows human existence to be improved and, in fact, to be "recreated" across the entire span of human life. Finally, he demonstrates the policy implications of developmental contextualism, stressing that humans can be active agents in improving the quality of their lives. Forewords by R.C. Lewontin and Benno Muller-Hill lend further weight to this significant study.

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"Final Solutions is a book about the extreme horrors that arise when people take seriously the proposition that there are racial and national characters from which we cannot escape. Unlike other Read more...

 
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