About This Issue

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email sftp.publishing@gmail.com

About This Issue

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 12, No. 1, January/February 1980, p. 4

The first three articles in this issue all examine the different ways political ideologies affect personal experience. Each article demonstrates how scientific justifications or systems of belief can influence the way we perceive and value ourselves.

We are pleased to present an important piece of “people’s science” from the Fertility Consciousness/Woman Controlled Natural Birth Control Group of the Women’s Community Health Center in Cambridge, Mass. In addition to pointing out one way in which women can begin to understand and regain control of their own bodies, this article also makes the crucial point that such information is never value-free. By examining the Natural Birth Control program of the Catholic Church, this article demonstrates that the same techniques of birth control can take on quite different meanings depending on the context within which they are taught.

As part of our continuing critique of biological determinism, we offer Doug Futuyma’s cogent treatment of the analysis of homosexuality in the sociobiological literature. Although many gay individuals have hailed sociobiology’s suggestion that homosexuality is genetically based and therefore simply an alternative mode of normal behavior, Futuyma suggests that gays must be wary of this apparently “liberal” attitude and emphasizes the essentially non-scientific nature of sociobiology as well as pointing out its potentially repressive character toward homosexuality. Stressing the ultimate irrelevance of sociobiology, Futuyma comments, “To concentrate on discerning the causes of homosexuality is, first, implicitly to judge it a personal or social problem and to divert attention from the more pressing, liberating questions: What cure is there for society’s homophobic oppressive attitudes? And how can we help people whose judgement of their own worth has been warped by repressive societal values?”

From Eileen Van Tassel’s experience of the sexism embodied in many of our current college biology textbooks, we are reminded again of one of the many barriers to women’s self-valuation. This article provides us with examples of how pervasive sexist attitudes are and how they oppress both men and women. In addition, we discover to our “amazement” that certain common “truths” are not so true after all. For instance, how many of you out there believe that men and women have recognizably different skeletal hip structures? Don’t be shy, raise your hands if you think it’s true. OK, all you people with your hands up, turn to page 16 and start reading.

The two current opinions on disarmament in this issue express divergent views from the Disarmament/Energy Group of Boston SftP. The editorial committee would like to express its reservations about these two articles.

The argument in ”Why Disarmament Now?” rests on the assumption that the Soviet Union is an imperialist country in the same way as were the dominant European countries before World War I. Based on this premise, war between the leading imperialist powers, i.e., the United States and the Soviet Union, is inevitable. However, this central premise is not sufficiently developed in the article to be convincing.

“The Arms Race” cites several facts about the current phase of the investment in armaments by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. However, it does not really address the question: “Why is the disarmament movement more likely to succeed now than in the 1950’s?” The article does not address the political and economic forces that foster the “arms race,” nor does it explain why SftP should focus its efforts on the disarmament issue now.

Related to the disarmament issue is the problem of the impending spread of nuclear power plants to Third World countries. The lack of concern for human safety on the part of a repressive, dictatorial regime (as in the Philippines) is not surprising. But in reading E. San Juan Jr.’s article, we see the active role that the U.S. government and U.S. corporations have played in “encouraging” reactor proliferation. In addition to safety issues, there are many other economic and technical reasons why nuclear power makes even less sense in developing countries than it does here.

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