The world of biology and politics: Organization and research areas: Volume 11


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Purpose – The chapter provides background for the reader, lending context to the aims of this book.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter begins by placing the study of biology and politics in a larger framework. It also compares and contrasts the biological perspective of politics with the mainstream view. Finally, the chapter orients the reader by providing a brief summary of the volume’s contents.

Findings – An introductory chapter would seldom provide findings. However, its goal is to provide the reader with context.


Purpose – This chapter provides one aspect of the organizational side of the biology and politics enterprise.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter provides a historical description of two organizations that help to structure the “business” of biology and politics: The International Political Science Association’s (IPSA) Research Committee #12 and the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences (APLS).

Findings – Research Committee #12 had its origins in the early 1970s, whereas APLS came about in the later 1970s. The discussion of these two organizations gives the reader a better sense of the twin enterprises. In the process of discussing APLS, the chapter also outlines the contributions of its professional journal, Politics and the Life Sciences.

Originality/value – Seldom has there been a detailed discussion of these two organizations in one place.


Purpose – This chapter is designed to acquaint readers with examples of and issues in graduate education in biology and politics.

Design/methodology/approach – The main method adopted is the case study. Several programs or suggestions of how a program might develop are provided.

Findings – There are several examples of graduate education in biology and politics. These illustrate how different departments carry out educating students in biology and politics. Approaches include a biology and politics track in a political science program or interdisciplinary collaborations.

Research limitations – There are only a handful of case studies. Considering how other programs work would be a useful future research initiative to pursue.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to show that because the evolutionary roots of many kinds of phenotypic social phenomena can be partly traced to genotypic factors, it would be useful for social sciences to adopt a socio-biological research formula, which combines the impacts of genotypic and environmental explanatory factors.

Design/methodology/approach – The exclusion of evolutionary factors from social sciences and some previous studies using evolutionary factors is first reviewed, after which a socio-biological research formula (y=(a+b)+x) is introduced. It is hypothesized that national IQ as an important genotypic factor explains a significant part of the global variation in all kinds of phenotypic social phenomena. The hypothesis is tested and the use of the socio-biological research formula is illustrated by studies of democratization (ID-10) and human development (HDI-11).

Findings – The results of correlation analysis support the hypothesis on the evolutionary variable’s (national IQ) universal explanatory power. National IQ explains 33 percent of the variation in ID-10 and 68 percent of the variation in HDI-11. Environmental variables increase significantly the explained part of variation in a dependent variable in the case of ID-10 but less in the case of HDI-11.

Practical implications – Because it is evident that national IQ as an evolutionary variable explains a significant part of the variation in all kinds of phenotypic social phenomena, it would be sensible for social sciences to adopt the suggested socio-biological research formula based on the idea that intelligence constitutes an important common explanatory factor.

Originality/value – The suggested socio-biological research formula provides for the social sciences a common theoretical starting point to study many kinds of social problems.


Purpose – Acknowledging that the field of neuroscience is expanding rapidly and the implication of recent neuroscientific advances on the study of politics is equally vast, this chapter will focus primarily on three key areas of convergence that have influenced the direction of neuropolitics: first, decision-making (emotions, preferences, and voting behavior); second, research on in-group/out-group relations, such as coalitional groupings and discrimination and prejudice; and, third, the rise of neuroeconomics.

Approach – This chapter is concerned with the intersection of political science and neuroscience and discusses how recent technological and theoretical developments in the latter are greatly contributing to the field of neuropolitics.

Findings – The insights generated by neuroscience permit the study of politics to be anchored on a scientific foundation for the first time. In turn, this opens the door to a renaissance in the political psychology subfield of political science, as the scientific origins of political behavior are revealed.

Research implications – The ongoing revolution in neuroscience is producing insights into international political behavior that is largely unacknowledged by political scientists.

Value – The implications for domestic and international policy are major. Fundamentally, this is because neuroscience allows us to comprehend better the origins of human political behavior.


Purpose – This chapter contributes to comparative biopolitics and reviews primatological literature, especially about our nearest relatives, the Great Apes.

Design/methodology/approach – Biopolitics in this chapter means evolutionarily informed political science, with emphasis on power relations. I review the literature on intrasexual and intersexual dominance interactions among individuals and competitive and/or agonistic interactions among groups in the Great Apes (Hominidae, formerly Pongidae): orangutan (Pongo with two species and three subspecies), gorilla (Gorilla with four subspecies), bonobo (Pan paniscus), and common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes with four subspecies). In the final section I present some (speculative) thoughts on Pan prior or the modern human ancestor.

Findings – Not only Man is a political animal.

Originality/value – Impartial, objective, and as complete as possible review of the literature for the students of (comparative) politics, ethology, and psychology.


Purpose – This chapter examines the need, and possibilities, for social science research that is grounded in the life sciences.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter starts with the observation that the social sciences have been tied far too closely to models and concepts in the physical sciences, which has both limited and distorted research findings. The predominant models used in much of social science cannot meet the challenges we face. Examining issues in political science in particular, the author demonstrates the value of a biopolitical perspective for political science research and policy analysis relevant to the challenges we face.

Findings – Studies about human issues should be based on research that considers humans as part of the evolving biological world. Key biopolicy research areas illustrate the value and flexibility of life science models and data. Political science can and should provide important insights to our understanding of socio-political issues and options, but to succeed the discipline must abandon mechanistic models of human nature and motivation and return to an understanding based in the life sciences.

Practical implications (if applicable) – The discussion analyzes the overall strengths and weaknesses of the proposal to adopt a biopolicy approach, and concludes that obstacles, though real, can be overcome. There are opportunities for substantial contributions to social science.

Social implications (if applicable) – Failure to integrate political science with a life sciences perspective will mean a continuation of disciplinary work that is largely irrelevant or inadequate to emerging issues and problems.

Original/value of chapter – The value of this chapter is to highlight the need for a reexamination of the mechanistic models as well as the disciplinary boundaries that control most social science, and political science in particular. It examines widely recognized issues and challenges facing Western societies (and global communities) to illustrate that a life sciences perspective is essential to both analysis and policy options. It is an important consideration for academics (teachers and students) policy researchers, and policy makers as well.


Purpose – This study demonstrates that serious episodes of presidential ill health can have positive impacts on role performance.

Design/methodology – The author utilizes both primary source materials (personal interviews with White House physicians and several other physicians who treated Reagan at the hospital, and the writings of key Reagan aides and family members) and secondary source materials (writings of political scientists, historians, and journalists).

Findings – Reagan was at first in critical condition. It was then that his Secretary of State appeared to make a bold grab for power, an act that contributed materially to the end of his political career. Additionally, the administration’s failure to invoke the presidential disability amendment allowed the official chain of command to be in doubt. Finally, the significant increase in Reagan’s popularity that flowed from his light-hearted demeanor after he was shot is examined here in terms of the President’s subsequent legislative successes.

Originality/value – This study suggests strongly that Reagan’s impressive legislative achievements in mid-1981 were due significantly to his heroic response to having been shot.


Purpose – This chapter uses evolutionary theory to determine if certain aspects of political thinkers’ societal visions might comport with human nature.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter summarizes the political views of two thinkers and then applies our evolutionary understanding of altruism/cooperation to determine if their views can in any way be considered consistent with human nature.

Findings – The chapter explores the underlying commonality between individualist anarchism and anarcho-communism. There is a subtle but credible relationship between these two libertarian perspectives through the evolution of cooperation in its several manifestations. It can be said that the key tenets of Max Stirner and Peter Kropotkin are underlain by evolutionary impulses, thus rendering their claims of cooperation and sociality plausible.


Purpose – This chapter discusses the increased acceptance of biopolitical research by mainstream political science and examines the potential causes. It demonstrates that the changing status of biopolitics is part of a more general pattern in academia, where biological explanations of social phenomena are increasingly viewed as acceptable and even necessary.

Design/methodology/approach – A brief review of the history of the literature of biopolitics with a content analysis of the three leading general-readership journals of political science and other measures of activity in biopolitics.

Findings – Political scientists until recently have not been receptive to the arguments advanced by proponents of biopolitics, but this resistance is weakening. This case for a more biologically oriented political science is more tenable now in part because of the groundwork done by the early generation of biopolitics scholars but mainly because of changing circumstances.


Purpose – This chapter makes sense of the volume and suggests avenues for future research.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter reflects upon some of the challenges facing biology and politics; it offers two case studies of areas calling for more research and discussion.

Findings – Some evolutionary theorists criticize religion. In the process, they undermine the ability to reach out to religious people about the value of evolutionary theory. Two case studies – group selection and genetic bases of political behavior – are examined to illustrate ongoing issues that call for further attention

Publication date
Book series
Research in Biopolitics
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN