Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 1-31-2000

Degree Name

Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication - (M.S.)


Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Robert Edward Lynch

Second Advisor

Burt Kimmelman

Third Advisor

Thomas B. Swanzey


Biological determinism is a field of scientific theory that attributes human behavior, relationships, and social structures predominantly to hereditary and biological rather than cultural and environmental influences. In almost twenty-five years of published essays, the Harvard evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, has sounded an alarm that biological determinism-through its scientific rationalization of slavery, eugenic sterilization, Nazi atrocity, and more subtle forms of injustice perennially poses a real and dangerous threat to humanity. This thesis explores the career-long anti-hereditarian thread permeating Gould's published works on evolutionary history and the history of science. Gould's assertions regarding the cultural embeddedness of science are emphasized-as well as his view that the human species' role within the "big picture" of geological time and space is often dangerously misinterpreted. His alternative view, biological potentialism, is presented and defended.



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