Not in Our Genes

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Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature
File:Not in Our Genes.jpg
Author Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, Leon Kamin
Language English
Subject Sociobiology
Published 1984 (Pantheon Books)
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 322
ISBN 0-14-013525-1

Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature is a 1984 book by evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, neurobiologist Steven Rose and psychologist Leon Kamin, who criticize sociobiology and genetic determinism.[1] The book, which is informed by Marxism,[1] has been criticized for misrepresenting the views of scientists such as Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins.[2]


Not in Our Genes makes a strong statement about the entanglement of science and politics: "Science is the ultimate legitimator of bourgeois ideology", and makes the following comparison "If biological determinism is a weapon in the struggle between classes, then the universities are weapons factories, and their teaching and research faculties are the engineers, designers, and production workers.[3] Not in Our Genes described Dawkins as "the most reductionist of sociobiologists".

Dawkins, in reply, defended the "perfectly sensible belief" in reductionist arguments of viewing properties of the whole "in terms of its parts", which he saw in the book as (ironically) reduced to "an idiotic travesty", "that the properties of a complex whole are simply the sum of those same properties in the parts". He also accused the authors of giving "ideology priority over truth",[3] and of promoting a "bizarre conspiracy theory of science". Accusing them of lies and idiocy, he concluded that Not in Our Genes is a "silly, pretentious, obscurantist and mendacious book".[4]

Biologist Dean Hamer considered Not in Our Genes a political rather than a scientific book, and disliked its politics. Nevertheless, the book taught Hamer that the genetics of human behavior, especially of sexuality, is an emotionally charged topic, and partly motivated him to change fields from metallothionein research to the genetics of homosexuality.[5]

Richard Webster writes in Why Freud Was Wrong (1995) that Not in Our Genes as "a critique of sociobiology and genetic determinism which is, for the most part, much more subtle and valuable than the Marxism which frequently informs it."[1]

Historian of science Roger Smith describes the work as an accessible critique of sociobiology.[6] Steven Pinker wrote that the book's authors use words such as "determinism" and "reductionism" as "vague terms of abuse", and misrepresent the views of scientists such as Wilson and Dawkins, falsely ascribing ridiculous beliefs to them.[2]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. p. 611. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pinker, Steven (2003). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. London: Penguin Books. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-140-27605-X. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richard Dawkins, "Sociobiology: the debate continues", a review of Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature by Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin and R.C.Lewontin (Pantheon Books, 1985), appeared in New Scientist 24 January 1985, web version
  4. Dawkins, C.R. Critical review in New Scientist by Richard Dawkins. New Scientist 24 January 1985
  5. Hamer, Dean; Copeland, Peter (1994). The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-671-88724-6. 
  6. Smith, Roger (1997). The Norton History of the Human Sciences. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 1006. ISBN 0-393-31733-1. 

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