"Sociobiology" originally used principles from biology to describe group behavior; principles that cross boundaries between species. Wilson (1981) considered SB to mean "... the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior." De Waal (1994) refers to SB as "...the contemporary study of animal (including human) behavior from an evolutionary perspective," a shift that moves SB into the study of solitary behavior (if such exists) as well. The information that we have from sociobiology, and its offspring, evolutionary psychology, has strong implications for the way that we conduct ourselves and help each other.
1) First, the things that we do well as people are highly consistent no matter what the culture being studied. It appears that there are "universals" in human conduct. 2) Second, the implications from sociobiology are highly consistent with our traditional religious and cultural values. It appears that there is an underlying moral code for much that we do. (See posting "It's Not About Monkeys" of 9/2/97.) While current trends in our own society appear to violate traditional outlooks, even the mismatches and distortions are consistent with sociobiological principles and mechanisms. "Hunting and gathering minds build hunting and gathering cultures." 3) Third, there are powerful implications that predict some of the current sensitive issues in health care and offer guidance for making things a little better ("better" does not mean "more efficient") for patients as well as their healers. Thus, "clinical" sociobiology becomes possible. (1)
Training primary care givers as well as mental health professionals in clinical sociobiology and evolutionary psychology should:
1) Encourage a closer alliance with the patient and, therefore, a greater interest in listening to the patient. 2) Produce an awareness of biological or anthropological contributions to health treatment 3) Shift treatment strategies somewhat as practitioners understand there may be several legitimate approaches to a patient's distress. 4) Reduce the tendency to "see backs" or "see kidneys" instead of helping a person. 5) Increase personal satisfaction for clinician and patient.
A "clinical sociobiology" should:
1) Avoid some of the existing territories and factions between disciplines. The "Us/Them" chip operates easily to create alliances and schools; it also creates boundaries. The tension between organized psychology and psychiatry is one. 2) Reduce the tendency for current schools and theoretical camps to rewrite, without revision, existing doctrines into Darwinian language. While existing psychologies have a established leaders and fans, there is a need to reformulate existing models. The "Adapted Mind," for example, has a chapter translating Freud into an evolutionary framework. Jung gets similar treatment in Stevens & Price, "Evolutionary Psychiatry." 3) Recognize existing data, even when it has been founded on DSM classifications. The data still exist, regardless of labels. We still have to account for it and to use it whether about anxiety, depression, 5-factor theory, or ADHD. 4) Help us understand the falsity of "if it exists, it must be adaptive and have its own gene." Things do break, especially in biology. Excitable fields, K/r-Selection, and other phenomena significantly alter gene expression. 5) Simplify (and even void) the existing mass of discipline-specific regulation. The clinical disciplines have evolved, much as if they each had a skin, into more elaborate organizations to the extent of perhaps needless complication and rituals that have as much the function of discouraging competition as protecting the public.
The long term prospects for the ideas associated with clinical sociobiology are good. The ideas are infectious. Hearing or reading them likely changes philosophies and treatment decisions even if there should never be an "Association/Diplomate in Clinical Sociobiology." Autocratic belief systems may oppose some of the concepts; however, the outcomes implicit in sociobiology are nearly identical to those endorsed by traditional Judeo-Christian tradition. There could be some highly creative synergies if the respective "alphas" stay out of the way.
1) Richard Gardner of the University of Texas Medical School advocates a course in "sociophysiology" for medical students.