We are in the midst of a pandemic that has upended human societies across the globe. The COVID-19 coronavirus evolved to exploit a niche created by the very social connections and international exchanges that sustain our communities and magnify our productivity.
We are simultaneously in the midst of a social movement against systemic racism that is global in its scope and yet deeply rooted in the United States’ sordid history of slavery.
The cultural contradiction between prizing the freedom and dignity of individuals and denying the attainment of those goals on the basis of group membership can no longer be covered up. Both crises represent the collision of biological and sociological processes that magnify in intensity the more that this underlying reality is denied.
In other words, we believe that it is a propitious time for sociologists to engage in a deeper conversation with evolutionary scientists about human origins and human needs; about the biological underpinnings of social connection and group affiliation.
Not because we seek to return to the racist distortions of Herbert Spencer’s social Darwinism, but because we can understand better, together, the fallacy of those beliefs.
Not because we endorse the genetic determinism of the evolutionary biologists who popularized in the 1970s biological explanations for the social world, but to highlight the scientific foundation for the rejection of those beliefs by leading evolutionary biologists in the new millennium.
We thank the authors of this series of essays for helping to construct a montage of where the field of Sociology stands with respect to evolutionary science at the 1/5th mark of the 21st Century. You will find in the essays clear evidence of the value of connecting our disciplines in service of better understanding of the social world. You will also see varying degrees of recognition of the new approaches in evolutionary biology that create such possibilities for synergy between the disciplines. We hope the essays encourage more such transdisciplinary engagement.