April 27, 2006


The Murderer Next Door: The limits of sociobiology: a review of The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, by David M. Buss (Theodore Dalrymple, 24 April 2006, City Journal)

All this fits quite well with the data, as does the fact that stepfathers are 40 times more likely to kill a stepchild than is a biological father to kill his child. A stepfather wants his woman to attend to his offspring, not those of another man (do not lions routinely kill the cubs of the lioness’s former impregnator?). But the example of stepchildren actually demonstrates the limitations of sociobiological explanation as well as its strengths: for the fact is that, even if stepfathers kill stepchildren 40 times more often than biological parents, only one in 2,000 stepchildren dies at his stepfather’s hand.

With this statistic in mind, it follows that the best reproductive strategy for men, if they were really concerned mainly to spread their genes, would be to father as many children as possible, and then desert them to the care of stepfathers, secure in the knowledge that only one in 2,000 of their children will be killed. The time that a biological father would otherwise have devoted to—wasted in—supporting his own offspring would now be free to devote to impregnating hundreds or thousands of women and thereby spreading his genes far and wide. Meanwhile, hundreds or thousands of foolish stepfathers would be raising children who were not theirs, and in the process putting themselves hors de combat in the biological competition.

One might argue that something approaching this state of affairs has developed in the western world’s lower-class ghettoes. But then why has it not existed throughout human history, if the principle determinant of human behavior were of the kind sociobiologists propose?

There is nothing in Buss’s book as to why the murder rate in the United States was 1.5 per 100,000 in 1900 and 10 per 100,000 in 1990 (and the rate would have been 50 per 100,000 if not for improvements in the medical treatment of trauma). There is nothing either as to why the murder rate in Japan was one eleventh that of the United States in 1990. Are the Japanese sociobiologically different from the Americans? Were the Americans of a century ago sociobiologically different from the Americans of today?

The explanatory force of sociobiology, contrary to its practitioners’ claims, is slight when it comes to human behavior—precisely where the discipline’s aspirations are greatest.

One of the most amusing things about Darwinists is the staggering amount of nonsense they're required to believe while denouncing faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2006 10:58 AM

Rodger that.

Why have we seen the men become beasts in the last hundred years? When the disciplines of religion are removed, critter impulses have free rein to flow back like a black tide of mud.

This is much too high a price to pay to succor the sensibilities of the occasional village athiest, the occasional practitioner of splinter sects and the occasional sexual pervert.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 27, 2006 11:58 AM

Dalrymple make several major errors in his analysis:

  • He presumes the interchangeability of fathering
  • He assigns zero value to a stable family environment, a particularly egregious error for Dalrymple
  • He presumes the existence of unlimited step fathers
  • He confuses a statistical theory (sociobiology) with a determinstic one (e.g., Newtonian mechanics).
  • Once you remove the parts based on these errors, there's nothing left of his argument. Are you sure this isn't really a straw man designed to mock anti-Darwinists?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 27, 2006 1:44 PM


Oops, there you go, trying to impute Judeo-Christian values to Darwinism, a particularly predictable error for someone who doesn't believe his own public posture. A stable family has no intrinsic value, only moral.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 2:40 PM

This type of social darwinism discussed in the article should not be confused with what serious biologists would agree to be legitimate research into the processes of evolution of all life on earth.
As a matter of fact, upon quite an extensive examination of the posts on this site that deal with evolutionary biology, (or as some would like to simplify under the easily attacked label "Darwinism") I found very little topic matter for discussion that I, as a grad student studying molecular genetics, would consider to fairly represent the size and scope of what is being done today, or even for the past 50 years, in universities around the world.
On the topic of increased murder rates in the past 200 years, I would rather concern myself with the much more drastic increases in the type of murder that is seen as legitimate; that is, state sanctioned murders that take many different forms, and kill many more people.

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2006 3:14 PM


Another obviously anti-Darwinian development--you're following a dog that won't hunt. These philosophical implications are what caused Gould & Lewontin to ditch Darwinism too, so you're in good company.

Of course, microbiology is just as devastating to Darwinism:


Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 3:16 PM

What is usually called "Evolutionary biology" isn't science, but have fun, Jeff!

Posted by: b at April 27, 2006 3:32 PM

AOG, thanks for your thoughts(like your website too). I would swear that all your points are used in evolution and sociobiology, except for your last one, which seems to mock how sociobiologists view their field. Is this a Caesar's Wife thing?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 27, 2006 3:44 PM


The important thing to remember is that the regular "Darwinist" commenters here are also Judeo-Christian moralists who obviously can't reconcile the two. Sit back and enjoy--they're very funny to watch as they try squaring the circle.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 3:49 PM

Thanks, OJ. It just looks to me as if Darlymple used the points that the Darwinists had used in the orginal arguement. If they make a mistake, how does that make us stupid?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 27, 2006 4:44 PM

When Darwinists do something they're being scientific. When you do it you're being a faith-addled kook.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 4:56 PM

Those who you would call Darwinists find patterns in the study of the fossil record, genetic material, and other natural data; where exactly do you draw your blind assertions from, Judd et al?

Posted by: jeff at April 27, 2006 6:14 PM

Well, Jeff, for this topic we're using the same data the Darwinists are. As to the point I think you are trying to make, you're off to a good start.
Now all you have to do is form a theory, fail to invalidate it in the lab, get published, confirm that no one else can invalidate it, and you'll be able to call yourself Doctor. It's an open field, should be easy!

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 27, 2006 6:28 PM

Once again, like the other "Darwinist" posts I have observed, ignorance and personal insults prevail over substantive debate. Did you guys, when you were kids, ever plug your ears and repeat the phrase "I'M NOT LISTENING" whenever someone told you something that you might have been reluctant to hear?
"When Darwinist do something..." - could you be a little more specific as to what Christian perspectives on the study of natural data deserve the label "scientific"?
Robert, have you read any good evolutionary biology literature recently?

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2006 6:51 PM

"Those who you would call Darwinists find patterns in the study of the fossil record, genetic material, and other natural data; where exactly do you draw your blind assertions..."

Jeff, for someone who claims to have undertaken "quite an extensive examination of the posts on this site that deal with evolutionary biology" it would probably be a good idea for you to demonstrate that you comprehend the debate..."science" and "Darwinism" are not at all the same thing. "Darwinism" is "Science" not "science" (capitalization is crucial).

Posted by: b at April 27, 2006 7:04 PM

Well, if you haven't I recommend this article as a little refresher on what's going on today:

Please check it out.

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2006 7:04 PM

But you are a faith-addled kook.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 27, 2006 7:05 PM

Ok, capitalizations aside, is there anything of value you want to add?

Posted by: jeff at April 27, 2006 7:11 PM

Jeff, you brought two mistakes in with you when you strode mightily into this debate: first, no proper respect for metaphysics, and second, a false dualism which assumes anyone against Darwinism must be a Bible-thumpin' creationist.

Posted by: Pontius at April 27, 2006 7:32 PM


The point isn't that Creation is scientific but that Darwinism isn't.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 7:39 PM


Friendly advice. OJ posts these anti-Darwin things nearly daily, mainly to mock people like you. Ever hear of a no win situation. You are in one.

Posted by: Bob at April 27, 2006 7:40 PM

Pontius, I hold no such stereotype against the detractors of Darwinism, even though, statistically speaking, I would imagine it holds true.

Bob, I'm starting to see that.

OJ, if you don't want to listen to what scientists say, that's fine; but don't pretend you actually know what you're talking about. By the way, did you actually check out the article on wikipedia about horizontal gene transfer?

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2006 8:01 PM


Sure, it's quite unsurprising to see "science" gradually get around to acknowledging that contrary to Darwinism the same templates were used rather often in Creation. Just another nail in the coffin.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 8:06 PM

OJ, could you please elaborate, I don't completely get you?

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2006 8:27 PM

Sure, it shows that even biologists are coming around to the view that evolution isn't a wholly vertical process driven by natural selection.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2006 8:37 PM

Mr. Judd;

Stable family has large survival value, given the huge per offspring investment in humans. I made no discussion of morality.

Mr. Mitchell;

I am not current in the field of sociobiology, although I studied it when I and it were younger. At that time, it was clear that sociobiology was a predictor of trends, tendencies, statistical correlations in the large and did not address things in the kind of detail necessary to explain short term trends in murder rates. For instance, it would predict a strong tendency for a higher murder rate for step children than children, but that hardly means you would observe that in every society, only almost all of them. And that is the distinction between statistical sciences and deterministic ones.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 27, 2006 10:18 PM

AOG, thank you for your response. I have always had a bad vibe from the way Sociobiologists spoke in public in a 'Voice Of God' way. The insecurity which comes with being a 'social science' as apposed to actual science explains a lot of that. Thank you.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 27, 2006 11:56 PM


No, it doesn't. The most surviving offspring are produced by the least stable families and the least by the most.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2006 12:01 AM

Ah, but OJ, when the famine strikes, the stable families will be the ones to live through it. It is you, evil christer and you're planning for the future, that has ruined biology's plan! Dang, it's late, but just so stories are soo much fun....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 28, 2006 12:12 AM