The Nature of Difference : Science, Society and Human Biology (PBK) book cover
1st Edition

The Nature of Difference
Science, Society and Human Biology (PBK)

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ISBN 9780849327209
Published April 19, 2006 by CRC Press
312 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Unprecedented advances in genetics and biotechnology have brought profound new insights into human biological variation. These present challenges and opportunities for understanding the origins of human nature, the nature of difference, and the social practices these sustain. This provides an opportunity for cooperation between the biological and social sciences – one that is capable of prompting a synergistic exchange of ideas with far-reaching implications.
     The Nature of Differencecritically analyses biological explanations for morality, criminality, race, sexuality, and disability. Based on the 45th annual symposium of the Society for the Study of Human Biology, this work synthesizes the perspectives of established experts in the field of human biology with those studying the social meanings of human biological variation and scientific practices in human biological research.
Some questions addressed by The Nature of Difference:
·        Is there a biological basis for morality, criminality, witchcraft, sexuality or disability?
·        What do comparisons of humans and apes tell us about society?
·        How do people draw on scientific methods to justify racism?
·        Why do geneticists continue to use racial categories in their research?
·        Do ethical guidelines constrain or facilitate research into human biology?
·        Can science and society escape from biological determinism?
As biotechnology expands the frontiers of what we know and what we are able to do, and as the genomic revolution moves out of the laboratory and into our daily lives, we are faced with a number of pressing social issues that need to be resolved. Offering an unparalleled collection of multidisciplinary perspectives on the meanings of biological diversity, this book provides readers with a vibrant analysis which revisits these issues with deepened insight from contrasting yet complementary perspectives.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Human Biology and the Embodiment of Difference; George T.H. Ellison and Alan H. Goodman

Part 1: Looking for ‘Nature’ in Human Nature

Is There a Biological Basis for Morality? Matt Cartmill
Biological Determinism and Its Critics: Some Lessons from History; Robert Dingwall, Brigitte Nerlich, and Samantha Hillyard
The Scientific and Cultural Meaning of the Odious Ape–Human Comparison; Jonathan Marks
Everyday Explanations of Diversity and Difference:  The Role of Lay Ontologizing; Kevin Durrheim and John Dixon
Part 2: Geneticisation and the Nature of DIFFERENCE
Inventing the History of a Genetic Disorder: The Case of Huntington’s Disease; Alice Wexler
Constructing and Deconstructing the “Gay Gene”: Media Reporting of Genetics, Sexual Diversity, and “Deviance”; Jenny Kitzinger
The Dilemma of Predictable Disablement: A Challenge for Families and Society; Tom Shakespeare
Race in Medicine: From Probability to Categorical Practice; Richard Ashcroft
Part 3: Scientific Practice AND THE Pursuit of Difference
The Truth Will Out: Scientific Pragmatism and the Geneticization of Race and Ethnicity; Simon M. Outram and George T.H. Ellison
Indigenous Peoples, Bioanthropological Research, and Ethics in Brazil: Issues in Participation and Consent; Ricardo Ventura Santos
To the Science, to the Living, to the Dead: Ethics and Bioarchaeology; Bethany L. Turner, Diana S. Toebbe, and George J. Armelagos
Seeing Culture in Biology; Alan Goodman

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“The chapters in this volume are incisive, accessible, carefully-edited explications of scientific issues and their intersection with ethics and historical legacy. From these discussions, researchers, students, and a more general readership can learn much. There are new ideas and newly contextualized information for almost everyone. Discussions are concrete and the writing has remarkable clarity and explanatory power. …Importantly through this volume they offer us the possibility that by analyzing regrettable mistakes, we can learn what to look for, what questions to ask, and what approaches to use to engage the challenges that continue to rise in human biology at the intersection of science and society.”
—American Journal of Human Biology, April 2006
“This timely collection of essays should be required reading for anyone conducting biological research on human populations.”
—Trefor Jenkins, Professor of Human Genetics, Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand
“Ellison and Goodman offer a salutary lesson for biologists and social scientists alike – that interdisciplinary collaboration and mutual respect are essential to avoid the pitfalls of biological determinism.”
—Ann Oakley, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, Institute of Education, University of London
“At a time when the sacred bundle of an integrated anthropology seems to be unraveling, The Nature of Difference demonstrates how boundary crossing between the biological and social sciences can lead to a new set of problems and interpretations that address the issues of our times.”
—R. Brooke Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“This anthology makes a significant contribution to the ongoing, and increasingly contentious, debates about the meaning of human biological diversity. It elevates the dialogue and genuinely engages a wide range of positions across the biological and social sciences.”
—Troy Duster, President American Sociological Association