Biopolicy: The Life Sciences and Public Policy: Volume 10


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Purpose – This chapter introduces the volume to the reader and provides a simple case study of the value of evolutionary theory for public policy.

Design/methodology/approach – The scope of this chapter is to lay out a map of the rest of the volume for the reader, provide an explanation of the subject of biopolicy, and use a case study analysis to illustrate the approach adopted in this book.

Findings – While this chapter is at one level a simple introduction, at another level it tries to orient to reader to the remainder of the larger work. The one case study illustrates an approach using evolutionary theory to examine policy implications of knowledge from the life sciences.

Purpose – This chapter focuses on the role evolution has played in our development of politics and public policy and reviews the theoretical approaches and studies of the last decade that address biopolitics and evolution, such as the “gene-culture co-evolution theory.”

Design/methodology/approach – In this chapter some of these theoretical developments will be reviewed, including what has been called the “Synergism Hypothesis,” with particular emphasis on what is relevant for understanding the role of politics and public policy in the evolutionary process.

Findings – A new, multileveled paradigm has emerged in evolutionary biology during the past decade, one which emphasizes the role of cooperative phenomena in the evolution of complexity over time, including the evolution of socially organized species such as humankind. I refer to it as “Holistic Darwinism.”

Practical implications – This study develops an understanding of the complicated relationship between human biology and the role of evolution in shaping politics and public policy.

Originality/value – This study addresses several existing biopolitical concepts and presents new explanations and terminology for its understanding.

Purpose – This chapter provides an overview of the policy implications of neuroscience and argues that research initiatives, individual use, and aggregate social consequences of unfolding knowledge about the brain and the accompanying applications require particularly close scrutiny because of the centrality of the brain to human behavior and thoughts.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter summarizes the technological context of interventions in the brain and discusses their policy implications. It then examines research findings, principally from neuroimaging studies, that relate to decision making and emotions and looks at their potential impact on frameworks of political decision making.

Findings – Research on brain structure and functioning raises difficult policy issues and necessitates a reevaluation of our assumptions concerning the policy process, itself.

Practical implications – Given the inevitability of expanded strategies for exploration and therapy of the brain and the concerns they raise, it is important that these issues surrounding their application be clarified and debated before such techniques fall into routine use.

Originality/value – The chapter provides original analysis of the policy ramifications of interventions in the brain and neuroscience in general and makes some observations about the brain and society.

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to explore to what extent global disparities in the wealth and poverty of nations can be explained by the evolved human diversity measured by the average intelligence of nations (national IQ).

Design/methodology/approach – It is hypothesized that nations with a higher average intelligence are able to produce better living conditions for their members than nations with a lower average intelligence. The hypothesis is tested by empirical evidence of national IQs measuring the average intelligence of nations and by indicators of per capita income, poverty, and human development measuring the wealth of nations from different perspectives. The study covers 187 contemporary countries.

Findings – The results of correlation analysis support the hypothesis. The correlation between national IQ and per capita income is 0.506, between national IQ and Population below $2 a day % it is −0.733, and between national IQ and human development it is 0.830. Regression analysis was used to illustrate the relationship between national IQ and income and human development at the level of single countries.

Practical implications – Because significant parts of global disparities in the wealth and poverty of nations can be traced to evolved human diversity measured by national IQ, human chances to remove or even to decrease those disparities are quite limited. We should learn to accept the inevitable social consequences of the evolved human diversity.

Originality/value – This study provides for social scientists a new perspective to explore the problems of global inequalities in human conditions.

Purpose – Conflict models in international relations, particularly foreign policy decision-making models, have relied extensively upon the logic and explanatory power of rational choice theories. These models suggest that actors select a strategy, or foreign policy, that will maximize expected utility given the information available at the time and the beliefs about the state of the international system. However, prospect theory has shown us that context during conflict matters and evolutionary theory, supported by biopolitical science, has revealed how individual characteristics, and human nature in general, influence the decision-making process. Through these approaches, we can begin to understand that a comprehensive model of foreign policy analysis (FPA) requires an examination of how human behavioral traits are affected by different conflict scenarios, such as a context of ambiguity and risk as opposed to one of certainty.

Approach – Drawing from recent neuroscience findings and taking a life sciences approach, this chapter seeks to challenge the rational choice theories of FPA by constructing a model of international conflict inclusive of a neural theory of decision-making.

Findings – With a model founded on an evolutionary analysis and a neural theory of decision-making, we can begin to better understand not only the causes of war and deterrence failures, but also the frequency and intensity of genocide and ethnic conflict in the international system.

Originality/value – Recent advances and technological breakthroughs in the fields of behavioral genetics and social neuroscience have revealed a plethora of new information valuable to the study of international conflict that shed light on brain-behavior processes within different decision-making contexts.

Purpose – Description of the effects of the revolution in neuroscience and other areas of biology that can help to explain the roots of some portion of violent crime. The chapter reconsiders the role of brain chemistry in social behavior and violent behavior. To illustrate the interdisciplinary complexities entailed when linking brain chemistry to policy decisions concerning violent crime, this analysis has four main stages: first, why might SiFs (H2SiF6 and Na2SiF6, jointly called “silicofluorides” or SiFs) be dangerous? Second, what biochemical effects of SiF could have toxic consequences for humans? Third, on this basis a research hypothesis predicts children in communities using SiF should have increased uptake of lead from environmental sources and higher rates of behavioral dysfunctions known to be caused by lead neurotoxicity.

Design/methodology/approach – To illustrate the implications of the new issues involved, this chapter focuses on a public policy that inadvertently seems to increase rates of violent crime. Since violent behavior is one of the effects of lead neurotoxicity, the hypothesis is tested using multiple sources of data including rates of violent crime studied using a variety of multivariate statistical techniques (including analysis of variance, multiple regression, and stepwise regression).

Findings – Various data sources point to greater violence among individuals with greater exposure to SiFs.

Originality/value – Testing hypotheses linking neurotoxins to violent behavior reveals the generally unsuspected value of analyzing human social behavior and public policy from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

Purpose – Starting from the premise that human behavior is the result of a complex interaction between physiological processes, psychological values systems, and socio-institutional contexts, this chapter examines how political behavior can be better understood through a multilevel approach.

Design/methodology/approach – Employing social functionalism and Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory, the conceptual model presented is predicated on the premise that human phenotypes are the product of evolutionary processes which have resulted in an intensely social animal. This chapter examines how physiological processes operating at the individual level, as demonstrated by recent neuroscience scholarship, are intricately involved in attitude formation as well as the presence of and variation in moral values. These individual-level traits are both responsible for socio-institutional processes as well as shaped by this larger social context.

Findings – The chapter cites that there are specific neural substrates that correlate with moral values responsible for the formation of preferences for particular policies.

Originality/value – In order to better understand political behavior and policy formation, it is incumbent upon political scientists to include individual-level analyses in theoretical models.

Purpose – This study addresses the great apes' fatal situation in the wild by integrating perspectives from conservation biology, conflict research, and bioethics.

Design/methodology/approach – We introduce the great apes' red list status and describe habitat destruction and bushmeat commerce as main threats to their survival. We analyze the complex context in which great ape extinction takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and thereby focus on a threatening factor that is interlinked with habitat destruction and bushmeat commerce: armed conflict.

Findings – The study shows that some characteristics of so-called “New Wars” are apparent in the DRC and that they directly or indirectly impact the great apes' situation. Because the human role in the animals' extinction is so severe and so obvious, ethical consequences become apparent. Animal ethics (the welfare as well as the rights approach) has to acknowledge the severity of the situation of the great apes in the wild. Implications for the human–animal relationship and the human identity come into play. After all, we have to ask ourselves what it means for us and for coming generations if our nearest relatives are going to be extinct one day.

Practical implications – It is argued that conservation policy has to include insights from conflict research. Likewise, peacemaking has to address ecological consequences of warfare.

Originality/value – Our findings promote an interdisciplinary approach. Armed conflict as a threatening factor to great ape survival has so far largely been neglected within the literature on conservation biology as well as in conflict research.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that, contrary to prevailing opinion in the social sciences, people are not driven by pure selfishness. Behavioral studies demonstrate that human beings have an inherent sense of fairness in the sharing of resources. What this should mean to leaders when distributing wealth will be discussed.

Approach – Anthropological and archaeological work indicates how this sense of fairness evolved and how the expectation of fair play provides a model of government that will work not only for the people but also for the leaders. It also demonstrates what happens when the model is not followed.

Findings – Recent events in the Middle East demonstrate how not following the model results in revolution and several examples are briefly discussed. The current situation in Russia is also discussed as another volatile hotspot. Finally, a worldview is taken arguing that corporate manipulation of governments has resulted in a global situation that does not take into account the underlying human sense of fair play, and, therefore, is setting up a worldwide situation for revolutions.

Value – Evolved human behavior has been overlooked by classical economics and social science theory. However, looking at the recent revolutions and current world economic situation from this behaviorist point of view provides a means of solving the situation.

Purpose – To consider the issues of cognitive freedom and neuropolitics via a comparison of d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) use in the 1960s and the emerging twenty-first century debate about nootropics.

Design/methodology/approach – Drawing upon theoretical concepts from the study of biopolitics and on the tools of narrative policy analysis, this qualitative analysis uses multiple sources from scientific, mass media, regulatory, and the secondary literature.

Findings – LSD use in the 1950s and 1960s caused an unprecedented social confrontation with the consequences of a key sector in society deciding to use synthetic chemicals to alter personality and consciousness in ways that did not necessarily accord with mainstream society. As such, the era contains key lessons that can inform the new debate about neurological enhancement.

Research limitations/implications – The present study provides a starting point and historical context for development of regulatory policy for the coming era of nootropics and cognitive enhancement.

Originality – This chapter analyzes LSD use in the 1950s and 1960s not as a form of moral panic but as a technological adaptation that raised crucial questions about the possibilities and limits of psychedelic citizenship.

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