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The Social Conquest of Earth
by Edward O. Wilson

Overview - Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first (Discover magazine).  Read more...

 
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More About The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson
 
 
 
Overview
Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first (Discover magazine). Refashioning the story of human evolution in a work that is certain to generate headlines, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to show that group selection, not kin selection, is the primary driving force of human evolution. He proves that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology. Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth s biosphere."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780871404138
  • ISBN-10: 0871404133
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publish Date: April 2012
  • Page Count: 352


Related Categories

Books > Science > Life Sciences - Evolution
Books > Social Science > Anthropology - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-02-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this wide-ranging book, Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Harvard scientist (The Ants), addresses the large question of “why advanced social life exists at all, and has occurred so rarely in the history of life.” Wilson, the world’s leading expert on ants, compares the evolutionary similarities between the social insects—“2 percent of the one million known species of insects”—and humans. Much of this material has been recycled from Wilson’s previous work. He triggers more interest when he argues that biologists have been seriously mistaken about the way evolution operates. Instead of the current paradigm stressing the importance of individual and kin selection (as kin carry many of the individual’s genes), Wilson believes that human evolution is driven by individual and non–kinship-based group selection (prehumans living in groups cared for their young and divided labor; groups competed against each other on one level of selection, and within a group, individuals competed to reproduce). Wilson believes that complex patterns of social behavior are the result of selection at both group and individual levels, but he doesn’t go into enough depth (which would include mathematical analysis) to be completely persuasive. He does, however, explore the factors leading to the development of morality, religion, and the creative arts in human society. 90 illus. Agent: John Williams, Kneerim & Williams Agency. (Apr.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Answering the questions of human evolution

With his probing curiosity, his dazzling research, his elegant prose and his deep commitment to bio­diversity, Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist (The Ants) and novelist (The Anthill) Edward O. Wilson has spent his life searching for the evolutionary paths by which humans developed and passed along the social behaviors that best promote the survival of our species. His eloquent, magisterial and compelling new book offers a kind of summing-up of his magnificent career.

In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson asks three simple questions: “Where do we come from?”; “What are we?”; and “Where are we going?” Answering these questions, however, is not so simple, and he brings together disciplines ranging from molecular genetics to archaeology to social psychology in his quest to address these persistent queries.

Drawing upon detailed mathematical models and meticulous biological research, including his own work with the social insects—ants, wasps, termites—Wilson concludes that multilevel group selection, rather than inclusive fitness and kin selection, offers a fuller and more accurate explanation of the origins and development of human social behavior. He demonstrates persuasively how the conflict between individual selection (the competition for survival among members of the same group) and group selection (which shapes instincts that tend to make individuals altruistic toward one another) has led to our very human struggle between good and evil. The worst in our nature coexists with the best; to scrub it out, even if such were possible, would make us less than human.

While not everyone will agree with Wilson’s provocative and challenging conclusions, everyone who engages with his ideas will discover sparkling gems of wisdom uncovered by the man who is our Darwin and our Thoreau.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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