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Australian J. Psychology, 1979, 31 (3), 234-235.

BOOK REVIEW

The Biological Origins of Human Values

George Edgin Pugh. London. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1978. xii + 461. 12.50.


The unorthodox thesis of Pugh's work is that human values are innate, a production of man's evolution and genetics. Drawing on recent biological findings which indicate that the fundamental behavioural motivations of each species are inherited, Pugh looks at the brain as a biological decision system in which innate values in the form of human motivations serve as the decision criteria. He develops a simple model of an innate value structure, which he attempts to show is consistent with human social and intellectual motivations.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, the human decision system, develops Pugh's theory of decision systems and provides a decision oriented theory of human behaviour. It provides the scientific foundation for the theory, being based on recent developments in cybernetics and decision science. Part two, the structure of human values, deals with the evolutionary factors that seem to have determined the present structure of instinctive human values. It provides a revised interpretation of human behaviour within the context of Pugh's theory of values. It draws on work concerning primate behaviour and human psychology and develops a new interpretation of these results in terms of the decision science theory. It includes a preliminary analysis of the innate human "value structure" and of the evolutionary role of this value structure in motivating eflective human behaviour.

The final section, values for personal decisions and social policy, deals with the potential implications of the theory for human policy. It shows how our innate human values seem to explain many of the traditional principles of personal ethics and social policy. It also develops some illustrative general ethical and social principles that seem to arise from the theory and discusses some implications of the theory with regard to personal and social issues of current interest. Part three is the least technical of the three parts. It is also the one in which Pugh attempts to apply his theory to real social problems.

The book is written in a style that avoids all technical terminology, including unnecessary use of mathematics. It seems that Pugh is writing for a wider audience than psychologists and other behavioural scientists, namely, the intelligent layman. For anyone interested in the recent developments in sociobiology, Pugh's work is a valuable contribution to the theoretical understanding of human values and the goals of social policy.

JOHN J. RAY, School of Sociology, University of New South Wales.




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