Dear Jay:

Thank you very much for sharing this with me.

I am not a scientist (I got a BA in math/cs in 1973 from UT-Austin but it
coincided with my radicalization and when I did return to grad school in
the 1980s I studied political economy).

The question of who we are, hence of "human nature," is central to any
theory of history.  As a Marxist, I have been happy to go along with Marx's
and Engels' view that we humans are the sum total of our social relations
shaped by the prevalent mode of production. As I became interested in
ecology crises and reviewed ecological socialist theories, I became aware
that they are, despite creativity of the theorists involved, at the end the
proposition that capital accumulation undermines the ecosystems.  This much
was asserted by Marxists well before ecosocialism was coined.  Clearly, a
theory of history that includes all of nature is required as M&E themselves
point out in The German Ideology (1845). But they, like any good scholar,
argue that they set these aside to focus on society and social classes.  We
know what came after: The Communist Manifesto (1848) that provided a class
analysis of written history (about 3000 years old) and concluded with the
struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat that they argued might
lead to socialism.  Marx's Capital is an application of historical
materialism to the capitalist mode of production.  Thus, it too excludes
nature to focus on society.

Marx's conception of human nature evolved in his lifetime. But his most
enduring view that stamped his materialism and theory of history is the
notion I mentioned above: human nature is the sum total of our social
relations shaped by the prevailing mode of production.

To my knowledge there has been no significant advances so far among Marxist
on any of these issues. In the light of advances in biology, Marxists
generally concede that we are a combination of nature and culture. But they
still hang in with the Marx's conception noted above.

I have dealt with these issues in my essay "The Coronavirus Pandemic as the
Crisis of Civilization
(March 2020) where I also offer an ecological theory of human nature based
on the latest available scientific understanding.  I sum it up in a dense

Thus, human nature is the sum total of our eco-social relations shaped by
the dynamic interrelation of three trends: (1) The transhistorical trend
which recognizes and celebrates our continuity with other animals, in
particular the primates. We are animals, mammals, an evolutionary cousin of
the chimpanzee. Therefore, we share certain traits with them. (2) The
historical trend of our species, *Homo* sapiens, that goes back at least
300,000 years, including cultural heritage from earlier *Homo* genera: We
inherited the knowledge to use of fire from *Homo* erectus who domesticated
it 400,000 years ago.  And, (3) the trend specific to the mode of
production influences, e.g. capitalistically developed global culture today.

I have watched prof. Sapolsky lectures and interviews available on Youtube
and posted some on Our Place in the World (a blog I edit and publish for
ecological socialist discussion).  What I have heard him say is appealing
to me: He says and I am paraphrasing it: *the brian, genes, culture, and
ecosystems evolve together*.   I  find this resonates well with the summary
provided above of what I have learned from my readings over the years.

Of course, I am not in a position to enter a discussion of the issue you
have raised. Have you written to him with your objection? If so, what was
his response? And, even if he made an error of judgement in that case, does
that invalidate the summary of his view which I paraphrased above?  (I
include the lecture where he presents that view below--it is an hour plus
long talk)

Thank you again for your response to my question.

Best regards,


The Brain and Genes Co-Evolve With Ecosystems and Culture
note, I picked the title for his lecture as the editor for OPITW. I thought
it captures the thrust of his presentation better)

On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 8:20 AM Jay Joseph <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Kamran,
> I have been a critic of research produced by the "behavioral genetics"
> field, particularly twin studies, since 1998. In "Behave" (Chapter 8),
> Sapolsky endorsed most major behavioral genetic claims and research
> methods. In particular, he loves Bouchard's greatly flawed and heavily
> genetically biased "Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart" even while, like
> many commentators, he got the basic facts wrong about this study (eg.,
> twins were not "separated at birth," which implies that they grew up not
> knowing each other, and were reunited when studied). Given the fact that
> the Minnesota study is often cited by white nationalist groups, in addition
> to having been financed by the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, I wish he
> would have reviewed it more closely and critically. To his credit Sapolsky
> did discuss several criticisms of behavioral genetic twin and
> adoption research, but he concluded in favor of this body of research and
> in favor of general behavioral genetic positions, even if the "perceived
> importance" of genes may be "inflated." For this and other reasons, I
> cannot endorse this book.
> Jay Joseph, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist
> Author of *The Trouble with Twin Studies: A Reassessment of Twin Research
> in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
> <>*
>  (2015), and Schizophrenia and Genetics: The End of an Illusion
> <> (2017)
> Website:
> Blog: "The Gene Illusion" <>
> <> Virus-free.
> <>
> <#m_3103492507400370066_m_757959916080885101_DAB4FAD8-2DD7-40BB-A1B8-4E2AA1F9FDF2>
> On Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 6:01 PM Kamran Nayeri <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>> Dear All:
>> I have been reading Behave and watching lectures and interviews by Robert
>> Sapolsky. He is a fascinating speaker and has obviously a depth of
>> knowledge in his field of study.
>> I wonder if anyone on this list is familiar with his work and has
>> opinions about it and can share any critique of the view of the biological
>> nature of humans.
>> Thank you.
>> Kamran

Kamran Nayeri