Handbook of Biology and Politics
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Handbook of Biology and Politics

Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit

The study of biology and politics (or biopolitics) has gained considerable currency in recent years, as articles on the subject have appeared in mainstream journals and books on the subject have been well received. The literature has increased greatly since the 1960s and 1970s, when this specialization first made an appearance. This volume assesses the contributions of biology to political science. Chapters focus on general biological approaches to politics, biopolitical contributions to mainstream areas within political science, and linkages between biology and public policy. The volume provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the subject.
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Chapter 23: The science of human nature and the social contract: a biological frame for public policy

Peter A. Corning


One of the most urgent political challenges of our time is social justice, or fairness. In this chapter, I will advance a framework for guiding public policy that I call a ‘biosocial contract’, a social justice paradigm that is undergirded by the rapidly emerging, multidisciplinary science of human nature, which I will briefly overview. I will propose that a biosocial contract requires three empirically-grounded fairness precepts – equality, equity and reciprocity – that must be bundled together and balanced in order to achieve the goal of a ‘Fair Society’ (the title of my recent book on this subject). The obvious logical objection to such a paradigm, commonly referred to as the ‘naturalistic fallacy’, is briefly addressed from the perspective of the empirical problem of survival and reproduction and the fundamental nature of a human society as, quintessentially, a ‘collective survival enterprise’. To illustrate this new social justice framework, I will briefly consider the serious deficiencies of the United States and will compare the performance of this country to what has been called the ‘European Way’ – a model that comes much closer to achieving the objective of a fair society, with Norway as the premier example.

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