One of the latest trends in science is identified by experts by what can be described as a "rapprochement" between the natural sciences and the humanities. The dominant "force" in this process, however, belongs to biology and it is easy to see why - living beings to whom we belong are much nearer and dearer to us than some physical objects. And so, the range of interactions between biology and social sciences and humanities is much broader and deeper than, let us say, between physics and chemistry. All this is reflected in the rapid progress in areas like biolinguistics, biosemiotics, social ethology, zoopsychology and other associated areas of modem research.
Priority attached in modem research to things like the cloning of animals, artificial insemination of humans and development of new crop varieties by means of genetic engineering is clear evidence of what we could call a serious socio-political niche now occupied by biological research. And justly so!
In this new area of research - biopol-itics - the trail-blazers are political scientists who have been drawn to this field by the progress and achievements scored in ethology, sociobiology, ecology, neurophysiology and studies of evolution. As has been established by ethologists, the differences between what we call the inborn, or instinctive and the acquired forms of behavior are
but relative, since each behavioral response rests upon some genetically pre- programmed components reinforced by practical experience. The starting point of sociobiology is a modern version of Darwinism according to which the process of evolution rests on selective preservation in a chain of successive generations of genotypes with the best adaptability (natural selection of genes). The interaction of living beings with the environment and the interrelations between living organisms within the framework of ecosystems and the biosphere are part and parcel of ecology. The range of studies into brain functions as a complex data-processing system consisting of individual functional cells (modules)
belongs to the sphere of interest ofneu-rophysiologists.
In their studies of the neuron organization of the brain they are paying special attention to the role of what are called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for the pulse transport between individual nerve cells, and also to neuromodulators which have a major socio-behavioral role to play. Continued studies of evolution have led experts to accept a "common ancestor" model for all races that are thought to have originated from a common "ancestor" who must have dwelled somewhere in Africa.
In a word, present-day biology views man as a creature linked with nature in thousands of different ways. This interpretation belongs to the version of naturalism which does not challenge the position of man as a unique living being endowed with reason, coherent speech and the ability to develop on this basis languages, culture, technology and the like.
Proceeding from the above, a Moscow University researcher Alexander Oleskin, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), champions the view that the concept of the nature of man developed within the framework of biopolitics accords with the concept of what experts call "genetic-cultural co-evolution" which assumes an interdependence of changes of the human genotype and cultural evolution. Viewed from this angle, cultural traditions serve to provide certain advantages for certain social groups in the transmission of genes to the progeny And at the same time the progress of culture itself is "fueled" by natural selection of genotypes: selection by "intellect", by "gifts of leadership" and suchlike personal qualities which enable the carriers of such genes to create, maintain and develop cultural traditions in society.
The current plight of Russia - its endless economic crisis, deteriorating ecological situation and the loss of positive guidelines in life by most people - draw, paradoxically enough, increased public attention to any and all social and political assets promised to this nation by biological studies at the threshold of the 21st century
Take, for example, relations between different ethnic groups. The biological species of Homo sapiens is evolutionary predisposed to be friendly to those of his kind and be hostile to "aliens", or strangers, that is to say, support his kinsmen and reject "birds of a different feather". Within this context one can speak of human relations and social organizations on the basis of ethological, neuro-physiological and anthropological factors. In other words - man is more than just part of the biota.
According to Alexander Oleskin, of particular interest in this country today are doctrines of local self-sufficiency, including the important factor of self-sufficiency in foodstuffs. It is suggested, for example, that local residents turn their rooftops into vegetable gardens on condition that this does no harm to the environment. It is obviously assumed that to maintain the ecological balance, man should "make up" for the products extracted from the ecosystem by supplying to it what is called "nutritive substrate".
Another example of the application of biopolitics in Russia calls for setting up minor "producer networks" as the basis of science labs and small businesses. This model is reminiscent of extended primitive families, or clans, with their sense of common involvement in a vital cause, informal and personalized friendly relations, the absence of any rigid centralized hierarchy, broad specialization and the possibility for kinsmen to master and practice several occupations, or skills.
Alexander Oleskin points out, however, that it would be wrong to assume that on the basis of biopolitics one can build a self-sufficient system of social and political values. And it is also quite clear that no matter how important any such social and political facets of biology can be, they can hardly enter as a sufficiently tangible component into a multilevel system of ideas and values which can illuminate the life of our compatriots with hopes for a better future, promote the development of our civil society as a self-sufficient political force independent from the state.
In the scholar's view biopolitics and other biosocial trends can take root on Russian soil only on the basis of viewing human life as part of living nature. This accords with the ideas of the philosophy of Russian cosmism which is now undergoing a revival in line with the ideas of the Russian philosopher and mystic Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948). Within this context the meaning of human existence is linked to natural, largely biological, laws, with man being involved in the whirlwinds of natural ecosystems and biological rhythms, and with every living thing being of absolute value.
As a single region, corresponding to some extent to what used to be the multinational Soviet Union (now split up into a whole number of "ethnic homesteads"), this land remains a biopolitical whole. But on the other hand, people of this country - both globally and locally minded, so to say - demonstrate a mounting spirit of local enterprise (mainly at the grassroots level) which is accompanied by a growing sense of one's personal identity with a local community
Summing up, one can say that the present-day biological science accentuates what experts call the "globaliz-ing-localizing" effect generated by the computer (INTERNET) revolution which makes it possible for an individual to keep in touch with the whole world even within the confines of what may well be his "hermit" isolation.
Alexander Oleskin concludes by saying that "the political potential of biology should be implemented while passing its findings through the lens of our conscious perception. Then ideas, like the ones examined here, can become a component of a system of values in a new Russia.
A. V. Oleskin, "Political Potential of Modem Biology; Potential of Contemporary Biology in Russia ", VestnikRAN, Vol. 69, Nos. 1 and 3, 1999 (in Russian)
Prepared by Sergei PSHIRKOV Collage by V. Brel
Permanent link to this publication:
LUnited States LWorld Y G