Biology As A Social Weapon

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

Announcement: Biology As A Social Weapon

by The Ann Arbor Science for the People Editorial Collective (Douglas Boucher, Kathryn Dewey, Robert Noonan, Steven Risch, Scott Schneider, Jean Stout, and John Vandermeer)

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 9, No. 5, September-October 1977, p. 25

The idea that human behavior is genetically controlled is called “biological determinism.” Throughout history this ideology has been used as a justification for oppression. Women and minorities were claimed to be inferior because of biological differences that could not be changed. There has been a resurgence of this ideology over the last fifteen years, coincidentally at a time when oppressed people are gaining more power. 

Two and a half years ago, several members of the Ann Arbor chapter of Science for the People began planning a symposium. The topic was “Biological Determinism: A Critical Appraisal.” The intent was to tie together many issues where science was being used as an ideological weapon to maintain the status quo by blaming societal problems on our biological nature. 

The symposium was held September 29–0ctober 3, 1975, in Ann Arbor and was a great success. It was followed by a weekend mini-course where several students met to discuss the issues raised at the sumposium. The organizers of the symposium decided to communicate their concerns to a wider audience. As a result, tapes from the symposium were made available and were aired over public radio in Ann Arbor and Los Angeles. The group then collected manuscripts from the talks, edited them and added two chapters by members of the Boston chapter of Science for the People. The result was this book “Biology as a Social Weapon.”


Biological Determinism as a Social Weapon, by Richard C. Lewontin

Race and IQ
The Politics of Statistics: Heredity and IQ, by Arthur J. Schwartz 
IQ and Scientific Racism, by Val Woodward 

Sex Roles
Science and Sex Roles in the Victorian Era, by Robin Miller Jacoby 
Biological Determinism and Sexism: Is It All in the Ovaries? by Pauline B. Bart 

The XYY Male: The Making of a Myth, by Reed Pyeritz, Herb Schreier, Chuck Madansky, Larry Miller, and Jon Beckwith 
Political Determinants of Violence, by Richard Kunnes 

The Environmental Crisis
Ecological Determinism, by John H. Vandermeer
Ecology, Society, and the Myth of Biological Determinism, by Murray Bookchin 

Sociobiology: A New Biological Determinism, by Boston SftP
Sociobiology Study Group

1977, 154 pages, paperbound, $5.95.

Available from: Burgess Publishing Company, 7108 Ohms Lane, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55435, the Ann Arbor and Boston Chapters of Science for the People, or ask for it at your local bookstore. 

>>  Back to Vol. 9, No. 5  <<