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Olagaray, J. (1998). Biology and Sexuality: Chaired by Alex Kacelnik, Oxford. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:991-994.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:991-994

Biology and Sexuality: Chaired by Alex Kacelnik, Oxford

Jorge Olagaray

This was one of the two interdisciplinary panels at the Congress. It included a discussant, Jacques Hochmann, the only psychoanalyst among the panellists, and was chaired by Alex Kacelnik, an ethologist and evolutionary biologist from Oxford University. The panel started with the biologists giving their views, later to be confronted from the psychoanalytic standpoint. With his presentation on ‘The problems’, the Chairman introduced the panel's scope—the philosophical and epistemological implications of the subject; life, death, reproduction and evolution; mind/body and, mainly, sex—with lively humour. He characterised the biologists as outsiders, with respect to psychoanalysis, and politely forewarned the audience that the arguments they were going to hear could be considered unconventional or provocative for analysts. He summarised the prejudices that affect the interaction between biologists and psychoanalysts. They mistrust psychoanalysis, as it is very difficult to test its hypotheses. And psychoanalysts underestimate the sophistication of the contemporary thinking on evolution and consider it to be ‘reductionist’.

Kacelnik then asked about the adequacy of Darwin's theory of natural selection for studying the design of the mind and sexuality. After a lively review and discussion of different opinions, he gave a possible explanation of people's reluctance to apply evolutionary theory to the human mind, in terms of the narcissistic injuries involved.

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