I didn't realize I'd gone that long without posting. Anxiety about the job search distracting me, I suppose. Anyway, I have been reading about the sociobiology controversy, and while I haven't reached many conclusions about the controversy itself, I have had a related thought which connects more to my dissertation.
I employ some of the ideas of Ruth Millikan in my exposition of a functionalist theory of mind, drawing on her notions that words and concepts are essentially products of evolution. This idea is of course neither original nor unique to Millikan; there are those meme theorists, and plenty of earlier philosophers have suggested similar things. Millikan does a lot more detail work than a lot of others, though.
Anyway, the critics of sociobiology have generally attacked it on the grounds that it encourages genetic determinist thinking about behaviors. Defenders of sociobiology have occasionally simply been genetic determinists, of course, but the vast majority of them have claimed that there's nothing in sociobiology which makes it inherently a genetic determinist theory. The expression of genes is heavily influenced by environment, of course, and sociobiology per se does not rule out the possibility that selection may operate on factors other than genes; sociobiology merely argues for adaptationist explanations based on selection, not for genetic explanations.
I'm still not sure whether that's true of sociobiology; public statements of the advocates of a theory are not always perfectly reliable evidence of what the theory says. However, it does occur to me that genetic determinism is wildly incompatible with the most blatantly obvious evidence in the case of our languages and concepts. While genes surely have some influence (Chomsky and his critics may disagree about how much), it is overwhelmingly obvious that a vast number of important features of our languages and concepts are produced by our environments. Thus, I wonder if an evolutionary account of words and concepts may help undermine the automatic connection people draw between evolution and genes, or if, instead, I'll be accused of genetic determinism about theorizing on the basis of endorsing an evolutionary account of concepts.