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The Social Conquest of Earth von [Wilson, Edward O.]

The Social Conquest of Earth Kindle Edition

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Länge: 343 Seiten Word Wise: Aktiviert Sprache: Englisch

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The Social Conquest of Earth is a huge, deep, thrilling work, presenting a radically new but cautiously hopeful view of human evolution, human nature, and human society. No one but E. O. Wilson could bring together such a brilliant synthesis of biology and the humanities, to shed light on the origins of language, religion, art, and all of human culture. --Oliver Sacks

Starred review. Never shy about tackling big questions, veteran evolutionary biologist Wilson (The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth) delivers his thoughtful if contentious explanation of why humans rule the Earth... Wilson succeeds in explaining his complex ideas, so attentive readers will receive a deeply satisfying exposure to a major scientific controversy.

Wilson 's newest theory...could transform our understanding of human nature and provide hope for our stewardship of the planet.... [His] new book is not limited to the discussion of evolutionary biology, but ranges provocatively through the humanities.... Its impact on the social sciences could be as great as its importance for biology, advancing human self-understanding in ways typically associated with the great philosophers. --Howard W. French

E. O. Wilson 's passionate curiosity the hallmark of his remarkable career has led him to these urgent reflections on the human condition. At the core of The Social Conquest of Earth is the unresolved, unresolvable tension in our species between selfishness and altruism. Wilson brilliantly analyzes the force, at once creative and destructive, of our biological inheritance and daringly advances a grand theory of the origins of human culture. This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the intersection of science and the humanities. --Stephen Greenblatt, author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"

... a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion. --Jennifer Schuessler

...a sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating... it is fascinating to see such a distinguished scientist optimistic about the future. --Michael Gazzaniga

Biologist E. O. Wilson 's brilliant new volume, The Social Conquest of Earth, could more aptly be entitled Biology 's Conquest of Science . Drawing on his deep understanding of entomology and his extraordinarily broad knowledge of the natural and social sciences, Wilson makes a strong case for the synthesis of knowledge across disciplines. Understanding the biological origin of what makes us human can help us to build better theories of social and psychological interaction; in turn, understanding how other social species have evolved may help us to better understand the origin of our own. But the main reason that Wilson 's book is successful is that he also brings into biology the best of what social science has to offer. --James H. Fowler

An ambitious and thoroughly engaging work that 's certain to generate controversy within the walls of academia and without Provocative, eloquent and unflinchingly forthright, Wilson remains true to form, producing a book that 's anything but dull and bound to receive plenty of attention from supporters and critics alike. --Colin Woodard

Wilson 's examples of insect eusociality are dazzling There are obvious parallels with human practices like war and agriculture, but Wilson is also sensitive to the differences This book offers a detailed reconstruction of what we know about the evolutionary histories of these two very different conquerors. Wilson 's careful and clear analysis reminds us that scientific accounts of our origins aren t just more accurate than religious stories; they are also a lot more interesting. --Paul Bloom

E. O. Wilson's passionate curiosity--the hallmark of his remarkable career--has led him to these urgent reflections on the human condition. At the core of The Social Conquest of Earth is the unresolved, unresolvable tension in our species between selfishness and altruism. Wilson brilliantly analyzes the force, at once creative and destructive, of our biological inheritance and daringly advances a grand theory of the origins of human culture. This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the intersection of science and the humanities. --Stephen Greenblatt, author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"

Wilson's examples of insect eusociality are dazzling... There are obvious parallels with human practices like war and agriculture, but Wilson is also sensitive to the differences... This book offers a detailed reconstruction of what we know about the evolutionary histories of these two very different conquerors. Wilson's careful and clear analysis reminds us that scientific accounts of our origins aren't just more accurate than religious stories; they are also a lot more interesting. --Paul Bloom

Wilson's newest theory...could transform our understanding of human nature--and provide hope for our stewardship of the planet.... [His] new book is not limited to the discussion of evolutionary biology, but ranges provocatively through the humanities.... Its impact on the social sciences could be as great as its importance for biology, advancing human self-understanding in ways typically associated with the great philosophers. --Howard W. French

Wilson frames The Social Conquest of Earth as a dialogue with painter Paul Gauguin, who penned on the canvas of his 1897 Tahitian masterpiece: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" ...Wilson attempts to answer Gauguin... by embracing the existential questioning of the humanities without sacrificing the "unrelenting application of reason" at the core of empirical science. --Alyssa A. Botelho

Biologist E. O. Wilson's brilliant new volume, The Social Conquest of Earth, could more aptly be entitled 'Biology's Conquest of Science'. Drawing on his deep understanding of entomology and his extraordinarily broad knowledge of the natural and social sciences, Wilson makes a strong case for the synthesis of knowledge across disciplines. Understanding the biological origin of what makes us human can help us to build better theories of social and psychological interaction; in turn, understanding how other social species have evolved may help us to better understand the origin of our own. But the main reason that Wilson's book is successful is that he also brings into biology the best of what social science has to offer. --James H. Fowler

Pretty much anything Wilson writes is well worth reading, and his latest, The Social Conquest of Earth, is no exception... Read the master biologist himself in this marvelous book... --Michael Shermer

The Harvard University naturalist and Pulitzer Prize winner angered many colleagues two years ago, when he repudiated a concept within evolutionary theory that he had brought to prominence. Known as kin selection or inclusive fitness, the half-century-old idea helped to explain the puzzling existence of altruism among animals. Why, for instance, do some birds help their parents raise chicks instead of having chicks of their own? Why are worker ants sterile? The answer, according to kin selection theory, has been that aiding your relatives can sometimes spread your common genes faster than bearing offspring of your own.In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson offers a full explanation of his latest thinking on evolution. Group dynamics, not selfish genes, drive altruism, he argues: "Colonies of cheaters lose to colonies of cooperators." As the cooperative colonies dominate and multiply, so do their alleged "altruism" genes. Wilson uses what he calls "multilevel selection"--group and individual selection combined--to discuss the emergence of the creative arts and humanities, morality, religion, language and the very nature of humans. Along the way, he pauses to reject religion, decry the way humans have despoiled the environment and, in something of a non sequitur, dismiss the need for manned space exploration. The book is bound to stir controversy on these and other subjects for years to come. --Sandra Upson and Anna Kuchment

An ambitious and thoroughly engaging work that's certain to generate controversy within the walls of academia and without... Provocative, eloquent and unflinchingly forthright, Wilson remains true to form, producing a book that's anything but dull and bound to receive plenty of attention from supporters and critics alike. --Colin Woodard

What Wilson ends up doing is so profound that the last eight chapters... could stand alone as a separate book, because what he ends up doing is no less than defining human nature itself. --Robert Knight

Wilson s examples of insect eusociality are dazzling There are obvious parallels with human practices like war and agriculture, but Wilson is also sensitive to the differences This book offers a detailed reconstruction of what we know about the evolutionary histories of these two very different conquerors. Wilson s careful and clear analysis reminds us that scientific accounts of our origins aren t just more accurate than religious stories; they are also a lot more interesting. --Paul Bloom"

A sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion. --Jennifer Schuessler"

Biologist E. O. Wilson s brilliant new volume, The Social Conquest of Earth, could more aptly be entitled Biology s Conquest of Science . Drawing on his deep understanding of entomology and his extraordinarily broad knowledge of the natural and social sciences, Wilson makes a strong case for the synthesis of knowledge across disciplines. Understanding the biological origin of what makes us human can help us to build better theories of social and psychological interaction; in turn, understanding how other social species have evolved may help us to better understand the origin of our own. But the main reason that Wilson s book is successful is that he also brings into biology the best of what social science has to offer. --James H. Fowler"

Wilson s newest theory...could transform our understanding of human nature and provide hope for our stewardship of the planet.... [His] new book is not limited to the discussion of evolutionary biology, but ranges provocatively through the humanities.... Its impact on the social sciences could be as great as its importance for biology, advancing human self-understanding in ways typically associated with the great philosophers. --Howard W. French"

A sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating... it is fascinating to see such a distinguished scientist optimistic about the future. --Michael Gazzaniga"

The Social Conquest of the Earth has set off a scientific furor... The controversy is fueled by a larger debate about the evolution of altruism. Can true altruism even exist? Is generosity a sustainable trait? Or are living things inherently selfish, our kindness nothing but a mask? This is science with existential stakes. --Jonah Lehrer"

Religion. Sports. War. Biologist E.O. Wilson says our drive to join a group and to fight for it is what makes us human. "

That Wilson provides nimble, lucid responses to the three core questions, speaks volumes about his intellectual rigor. That he covers all of this heady terrain in less than 300 pages of text speaks volumes about his literary skill. --Larry Lebowitz"

Starred review. With bracing insights into instinct, language, organized religion, the humanities, science, and social intelligence, this is a deeply felt, powerfully written, and resounding inquiry into the human condition. "

An ambitious and thoroughly engaging work that s certain to generate controversy within the walls of academia and without Provocative, eloquent and unflinchingly forthright, Wilson remains true to form, producing a book that s anything but dull and bound to receive plenty of attention from supporters and critics alike. --Colin Woodard"

"Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Those famous questions, inscribed by Paul Gauguin in his giant Tahitian painting of 1897, introduce The Social Conquest of Earth. Their choice proclaims Edward O Wilson s ambitions for his splendid book, in which he sums up 60 distinguished years of research into the evolution of human beings and social insects. --Clive Cookson"

Wilson has done an impressive job of pulling all this evidence together and analyzing it. His interdisciplinary approach, his established scholarship, and his willingness to engage hot-button issues are all much in evidence in The Social Conquest of Earth . His reflections on this subject are varied, original, and thought provoking as is the rest of his book. --Carl Coon"

I just finished The Social Conquest of Earth, a fabulous book. --President Bill Clinton"

Wilson offers a full explanation of his latest thinking on evolution. . . . The book is bound to stir controversy on these and other subjects for years to come. --Sandra Upson and Anna Kuchment"

Once again, Ed Wilson has written a book combining the qualities that have brought his previous books Pulitzer Prizes and millions of readers: a big but simple question, powerful explanations, magisterial knowledge of the sciences and humanities, and beautiful writing understandable to a wide public. --Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel"

A monumental exploration of the biological origins of the Human Condition! --James D. Watson"

With his probing curiosity, his dazzling research, his elegant prose and his deep commitment to bio-diversity, 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.... 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. --Henry L. Carrigan, Jr."

A huge, deep, thrilling work, presenting a radically new but cautiously hopeful view of human evolution, human nature, and human society. No one but E. O. Wilson could bring together such a brilliant synthesis of biology and the humanities, to shed light on the origins of language, religion, art, and all of human culture. --Oliver Sacks"

E. O. Wilson s passionate curiosity the hallmark of his remarkable career has led him to these urgent reflections on the human condition. At the core of The Social Conquest of Earth is the unresolved, unresolvable tension in our species between selfishness and altruism. Wilson brilliantly analyzes the force, at once creative and destructive, of our biological inheritance and daringly advances a grand theory of the origins of human culture. This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the intersection of science and the humanities. --Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"

Wilson is a brilliant stylist, and his account of the rise of Homo sapiens and our species conquest of Earth is informative, thrilling, and utterly captivating. --Rudy M. Baum"

Kurzbeschreibung

New York Times Bestseller



From the most celebrated heir to Darwin comes a groundbreaking book on evolution, the summa work of Edward O. Wilson's legendary career.


Sparking vigorous debate in the sciences, The Social Conquest of Earth upends “the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first” (Discover). Refashioning the story of human evolution, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to demonstrate that group selection, not kin selection, is the premier driving force of human evolution. In a work that James D. Watson calls “a monumental exploration of the biological origins of the human condition,” Wilson explains how our innate drive to belong to a group is both a “great blessing and a terrible curse” (Smithsonian). Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, the renowned Harvard University biologist 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.

Produktinformation

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 6512 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 343 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0871404133
  • Verlag: Liveright; Auflage: 1 (9. April 2012)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0074V3712
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
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  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Verbesserter Schriftsatz: Nicht aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.7 von 5 Sternen 3 Kundenrezensionen
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #206.691 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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E.O. Wilson, der "Vater der Soziobiologie", hat es nie gescheut, im Zentrum von Kontroversen zu stehen, im Gegenteil. In den Siebizigern war er der Buhmann für alle "linken" Wissenschaftler, da er es gewagt hatte, das herrschende Paradigma der fast unendlichen Formbarkeit des Menschen anzugreifen, und die menschliche Natur in der Biologie zu verankern.
2010 stand er wieder im Zentrum einer Kontroverse, als über hundert Wissenschaftler öffentlich gegen einen Aufsatz protestierten, den er zusammen mit den Mathematikerm Nowak und Tarnita verfasst hatte, und in dem es um das Thema der Eusozialität ging. War Wilson in den Siebzigern noch der Wegbereiter der Theorie der Egoistischen Gene à la Richard Dawkins, so wird ihm nun vorgeworfen, hinter seine eigenen Einsichten von vor 40 Jahren zurückgefallen zu sein, und etwas längst überholtes wie die Theorie der Gruppenselektion aus der Mottenkiste geholt zu haben.

Das vorliegende Buch ist die weit gespannte Anwendung dieser Theorie der Gruppenselektion (oder multilevel selction, wie es technisch korrekt heißt) auf die Evolution des Menschen. Als ich vor vielen Jahren die Bücher von Dawkins las, da war für mich klar: Gruppenselektion ist Quatsch. In letzter Zeit dagegen habe ich einiges gelesen, das mich zum Anhänger dieser weithin diskreditierten Theorie gemacht hat: Sober/ D.S. Wilson (mit dem E.O. Wilson nicht verwandt): "Unto Others"; S. Bowles/ H.Gintis: "A Cooperative Species" und schließlich das vorliegende Buch.
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Wilson has always been one of my heros--not only an outstanding biologist, but one of the tiny and vanishing minority of intellectuals who at least dares to hint at the truth others studiously avoid.

I found sections with the usual incisive commentary (though nothing really new or interesting if you have read his other works and are up on biology in general) in the often stilted prose that is his hallmark, but was quite surprised that the core of the book is his rejection of inclusive fitness (which has been a mainstay of evolutionary biology for over 40 years) in favor of group selection. One assumes that coming from him and published in major peer reviewed journals like Nature, it must be a substantial advance in spite of the fact that I knew group selection had always been nearly universally rejected due to its basic conflict with our understanding of evolutionary biology.

I have read all the reviews here and on the net and many have good comments but the one I most wanted to see was that by renowned science writer and evolutionary biologist
Richard Dawkins. Unlike most of those by professionals, which are in journals only available to those with access to a university, it is readily available on the net.

Sadly one finds a devastating rejection of the book and some of the most trenchant commentary on a scientific colleague I have ever seen from Dawkins--exceeding anything I recall
even in his many exchanges with late and unlamented demagogue and pseudoscientist Stephan Jay Gould. Although Gould was infamous for his personal attacks on his Harvard colleague
Wilson, Dawkins notes that much of this book reminds one uncomfortably of Goulds frequent lapses into "bland, unfocussed ecumenicalism".
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A narrative explaining a lot of material about anthropology and social psychology.
Dr. E. O. Wilson gives the accent of Homo sapiens from origin to present-day
achievements.

This book is a very important new history of animal and human evolution.

Asking, why does advanced social life exist? Where do we come from? How about,
the forces of social evolution! What are we? Where are we going?

Greatly recommended!

Dag Stomberg
St Andrews, Scotland
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HASH(0x91828e58) von 5 Sternen A Brief Summary and Review 6. April 2012
Von A. D. Thibeault - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
*A full summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of Edward O. Wilson's 'The Social Conquest of Earth'

The main argument: Since the dawn of self-awareness we human beings have struggled to understand ourselves. This struggle has found form in religion, philosophy, art and, most recently, science. The most pivotal turning point in science's quest to understand humanity came with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in the mid 19th century. While the application of this theory to understand human behaviour has taken time (and engendered a great deal of controversy), enough progress has now been made to outline the story in full, and to fill in several of the details. It is just this task that legendary biologist E.O. Wilson takes up in his new book `The Social Conquest of Earth'.

For Wilson, understanding humanity must begin with an understanding of how we came to be the ultrasocial species that we are. Drawing upon evidence from other eusocial species (such as bees, wasps, termites and ants--the latter of which Wilson has spent much of his career studying), as well as numerous sciences focused in on humanity and its past, Wilson recreates this story. According to the author, the story reaches its first major turning point when our ancestors began establishing home-bases at which they raised their young, and near which they foraged and scavenged for food. This development itself was largely a result of a genetic modification that led our ancestors to rely more and more on meat in their diet (and was greatly spurred on by, if not entirely dependent upon, the ability to control fire, which fire was used to establish more lasting campsites).

Once human beings had established nests, environmental pressures began selecting for traits that increasingly drew group members into cooperative relationships with one another (which cooperation was beneficial in such enterprises as hunting expeditions). This added cooperation not only contributed to the extent to which these early humans could reap resources from the environment, but also helped them in competition with other groups--especially in warfare. The benefits of cooperation and cohesion in allowing groups to out-compete other groups eventually allowed group-level selection to add a layer of tribalist sentiment to the members of our species (which tribalist sentiment draws from us a deep attachment to our in-groups, and a corresponding mistrust and contempt for members of out-groups). This tribalist sentiment eventually set the stage for the development of the first religions. The cooperative and tribalist sentiments that evolved during this time ultimately explains why our psyches are torn between selflessness and selfishness, virtue and vice. (On the topic of group-level selection, it turns out that this theory has been out of favour in the scientific community for over 40 years, and a big part of Wilson's purpose here is to resurrect the theory, and reestablish its credibility.)

Backing up in our story just a bit, for our in-group cooperation to occur, added mental equipment was needed (and evolved) that allowed humans to understand each others' intentions and work together to achieve goals. This added mental ability drew upon earlier increases in brain capacity that our ancestors had used first for life in the trees, and later for life on the ground, to fashion rudimentary tools. Eventually, the added mental capacity evolved into the ability to understand abstraction, and to use arbitrary symbols for communication, thus leading to the evolution of language.

Once the capacity for abstraction and language were established, the capacity for culture exploded and our ancestors were set on the fast track that led to our current way of life. Specifically, the onset of language led to the development of religion, art and music, and all of the other trappings of culture that we know and enjoy today. Wilson takes us through each of them one by one, and the process of gene-culture co-evolution that acted upon them, in order to help us understand how this process unfolded. Later, the explosion of culture led to technology that eventually gave rise to agriculture, and then to the rise of chiefdoms, and finally states and the first true civilizations.

Wilson's work is well geared to a general audience and he very rarely goes outside of what might reasonably be expected from such an audience. On the rare occasions when he does, he is sure to follow this up with a simplified summary of his line of thought. Also, Wilson occasionally strays outside of his story to moralize and (at the end) prognosticate on the future, and at times these efforts seem awkward and out of place. Again, though, these forays are few and far between, and many will no doubt enjoy them. A full summary of the book is available here: An Executive Summary of Edward O. Wilson's 'The Social Conquest of Earth'
70 von 78 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x9182dab0) von 5 Sternen Intriguing, Credible Answers and Theories 7. April 2012
Von Loyd Eskildson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
'Where Did We Come From?,' 'What Are We?'' and 'Where Are We Going?' are the three fundamental questions raised in Wilson's latest book. Author Wilson's work challenges one of the central tenets of evolution - that natural selection acts far more strongly on individuals and genetic relatives than on broader social groups. "The Social Conquest of Earth" also reverses his prior view that the evolution of altruism was driven by kin selection rather than group selection. As cooperative colonies dominate non-cooperative ones and multiply, so do their alleged 'altruism' genes.

Much of the author's logic is derived from social insects like bees, ants, and termites. Mr. Wilson contends that the competition of one group against others favors self-sacrificial behaviors in individuals that benefit the group - even those that aren't related. The 'bad news' for the real devotees of the topic, is that more than 130 of his peers wrote a public letter last year contending his latest thinking is wrong. Wilson, however, isn't bothered - also declaring that the function of this new book is to upset the current thinking, and that he expects to be lambasted.

The term 'eusocial' plays a large role in the book. It is used to describe situations with reproductive division of labor (with/without sterile castes such as ants, bees, wasps, termites, naked mole rates), overlapping generations, and cooperative care of the young. Wilson contends that eusociality is one of the major innovations in the history of life, spurred originally by nests (birds), burrows (moles, etc.), and campsites (humans).

Roots of society begin with offspring remaining with parents long term, each tolerating the other, and the group then growing to include additional generations, aunts, uncles, and even unrelated individuals. These pre-humans not only had to be altruistic/sharing, but murderous as well, at times - fighting off other groups.

Side Bits: Eusocial insects evolved well over 100 million years ago, while humans have evolved only over the past half million years. Neanderthals became extinct only 30,000 years ago - Wilson challenges us to imagine the racial discrimination issues if their lineage had continued through today.

Humans' ultimate success rests on our being a large terrestrial animal (supports a big brain, allows the use of fire), and having grasping hands with opposable thumbs.

The bulk of 'The Social Conquest of Earth' consists of explanations for how humans evolved. For example, we learned/developed walking on our hind legs and then running to catch prey, learning to throw (eg. spears), living around campsites (similar to birds' nests, fox burrows, lion prides), and becoming meat-eating helped expand our brains to develop and implement complex strategies (eg. wolves, lions). Living at campsites encouraged job specialization and sharing.

The destructive consequences of incest is a general phenomenon in humans, plants, and animals. Among all 19 social species whose mating patterns have been studied, young individuals leave the group they were born in and join another - in some species it is the males that leave, in other the females, and in a few both sexes depart. In humans, exogamy occurs in the form of young adults, usually women, being exchanged between trives. Secondly, little sexual activity takes place between closely related individuals. Other examples have led Wilson to conclude that humans develop little sexual interest in those known closely during their earliest years.

Wilson also covers the origins of religion, language, culture (spread largely by imitation within groups), and the birth of sociality, though not in great detail. Every religion teaches that its adherents are a special fellowship and that their moral precepts and privileges from divine power are special. Charity and altruistic acts are concentrated on their fellow believers; when extended to outsiders it is usually to proselytize and boost their numbers. Hallucinogenic drugs play an important role in the creation of genesis myths. Wilson sees religions as encouraging ignorance, even of other religions, distracting people from recognizing problems of the real world, and often leading them in wrong directions.

Where are we going? Scientific knowledge and technology double every 1 - 2 decades, making the future hard to predict beyond a decade. Science will eventually upend religion by demonstrating its man-made origins. Wilson cites declining percentages of scientists believing in a supernatural being; evolutionary biologists are down to only 2%.

Ending, Wilson says it is time to ask seriously why, during the 3.5 million year history of Earth our planet has never been visited by extraterrestrials or even received a message from outer space. We should also stop the dangerous delusion that emigration into space is a solution when we have used up this planet.

Wilson's latest book and the controversy it has engendered also tells us that we are in the midst of expanding/revising evolutionary thinking.
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HASH(0x9182dcf0) von 5 Sternen In the name of perspective... 7. April 2012
Von Paul J. Watson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In "Social Conquest," Wilson helps articulate and spread a few sober insights concerning the human condition. That's good. We must somehow digest such self-observations, individually, collectively, and pan-culturally, to the point where we actually are empowered by the resulting self-knowledge to "do something about ourselves." Scientific self-knowledge, unsettling and widely understood, seems the only hope for mitigating and ultimately halting the escalating human-caused calamities faced by our own adolescent and very tenuous civilizations, and by the earthly biosphere that supports us and so many other living wonders.

However, Wilson's "revolutionary" views on how we evolved to our current condition are highly suspect. This matters: not accurately understanding the basis of our condition in terms of its historical (evolutionary) causes will lessen our ability to navigate toward any real solutions. We cannot afford it.

Therefore, anyone reading this book who is interested in its purported "revolutionary" scientific content, specifically, Wilson's claims that we are better off abandoning William Hamilton's inclusive fitness theory as an important basis for understanding the design of the human psyche, should have easy access to the responses of Dr. Wilson's peers. So, here you go. There are five pieces in the journal Nature, collected under the heading, "Brief Communications Arising,"

Nature v471, issue 7339, pp. E1-E9 (24 March 2011).

These articles are brief and very readable. These pages also include a response by Wilson and his coauthors that, as far as I can see, just ignores all the specific criticisms.

Nature Publishing Group should make the full text of these comments freely available to the public in electronic form, via Nature.com, in my opinion. (I would put up links to the full pdf's myself, but Amazon would probably have to tear them down due to the copyright violation. My server would probably crash too.)

Additional evaluations of Wilson's argument (actually, that of Nowak, Tarnita, and Wilson, 2010, Nature 466, 1057-1062, plus much "Supplementary Information") were also published in Nature:

Nature v467, issue 7316, pp. 653-655 (7 October 2010);

Nature v467, issue 7316, p. 661 (7 October 2010, several short pieces of correspondence on this page);

Nature v471, issue 7338, pp. 294-295 (17 March 2011).

I tried putting up the direct Nature.com URL's to all this, but Amazon does not allow external links.

ADDED 06-23-2014: Another excellent and accessible read debunking Wilson's bid to dump inclusive fitness theory:
Bourke, A.F.G. (2011) The validity and value of inclusive fitness theory. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, v.278, pp. 3313-3320. I will try to put a direct link to it in a comment immediately below this review. If that does not work, email me for a pdf.

In addition, you easily can get hold of the full text of this article from the open access journal Evolutionary Psychology: Evolutionary Psychology 10(1): 45-49, by Michael E. Price, 2012. Go to epjournal dot net on your browser. It is a very readable review of a recent book by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis which Wilson cites in support of his group selection thesis.

Wilson demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the profoundly altruistic sentiments and behaviors individual selection for inclusive fitness maximization can cause to evolve in places where he implies that you need a genetic group selection process to obtain such traits.

Moreover, the notion that individuals sudden become "robotic" when they evolve traits designed for indirect reproduction, such as programs to stay home and raise siblings or other relatives instead of their own offspring, makes absolutely no sense. Such individuals are no more robotic and no more an extension of their parent's phenotype, than individuals unconsciously bound by programs designed to accomplish direct reproduction via their own offspring, which by the way are grandchildren for their parents.

For an delightfully enlightening and thorough "detox" after exposure to Wilson's theoretical..., uhh..., mess, or just for a truly modern, professional treatment of social evolution, I highly recommend Andrew F.G. Bourke's (2011) Principles of Social Evolution (Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution). Bourke's book is succinct, lucid, and clearly shows the immense, still under-appreciated (!) utility of inclusive fitness theory in explaining cooperation, altruism, selfishness, and spite across all biological levels of organization - the six fundamental kinds of "individuals" on earth, including eusocial societies.

Added 4/29/2014: Also be on the lookout for a special edition of the top journal "Animal Behaviour" (which, appropriately, occasionally publishes work on humans) devoted to the grand utility of kin selection and inclusive fitness for understanding social life and other aspects of behavior. Contact me via email, and I can send you the first chapter of this promising edition on the probable usefulness of inclusive fitness theory for understanding the evolution of religiosity, a major research and teaching interest of my own.

Whatever his motivations, Wilson clearly wishes to create some turbulence in the profession, which is always good in science. However, the general public must be helped to access perspectives that conflict with Wilson's and to appreciate more fully the hard work and genius of biologists other than himself. Wilson now seems content, if not happy, to dismiss them all, as on the Charlie Rose interview, as all being "stuck in a box," but without explaining the very high hurdles his own ideas about human evolution have to clear to be taken seriously. It is revealing that Wilson barely mentions complex (i.e., multi-partner, multi-currency) contractual reciprocity, the real basis for cooperative human social life, as an easy source of standard individual / kin selection for deeply altruistic impulses and actions (e.g, see a classic work by Richard Alexander (1987, reprinted 2009) The Biology of Moral Systems (Foundations of Human Behavior)). If Wilson did so, readers would be likely to see for themselves that there is not a single human experience or behavior mentioned in "Conquest" that needs an onerous group selectionist explanation.

Charlie Rose, whom I've watched quasi-religiously for years, except when he has those sports people on, did a terrible job interviewing Wilson several days ago concerning this book's main idea. The adoration quotient was just way too high. Rose should have other practicing evolutionary biologists on his program to provide a balanced perspective on this "revolution," the general topic of the evolution of altruism, and to highlight the wonderful contributions of other key scientists to, what is aptly termed, "The Second Darwinian Revolution" of the 1960's and 70's. That's when naturalists and organismal biologists en masse finally began to deeply understand Darwin's ideas and their heavy awesome implications. Wilson certainly wasted no effort in the Charlie Rose interview, or in the current book, to mention them or accurately characterize their great labors. For example, William Hamilton, who of course Wilson has to mention a lot, was as great and passionate a naturalist as Wilson, not some ecologically naive theoretician. Hamilton understood natural selection in all respects. Moreover, Hamilton did not stop developing inclusive fitness theory with his 1964 papers, as reading or listening to Wilson might lead one to believe; get hold of Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W. D. Hamilton Volume 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour (Narrow Roads of Gene Land Vol. 1)." Others, far more so than Wilson, who actually were responsible for the core ideas that gave us the aforementioned revolution of the 60's and 70's, all of whom Wilson sees fit to completely or largely ignore - one has to, with sadness, wonder why - include George Williams, George Price, Robert Trivers, John Maynard-Smith, and Richard Alexander, not to mention a large group of theoretically savvy ace empiricists.

Wilson should be using his not wholly undeserved position as one of the most popular and socially powerful organismal biologists on earth to make the public MORE aware of these human treasures. Hey, Mr. Rose, Robert Trivers recently had a book come out! The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. Too scary for you?

My actual rating of "Conquest" is 2.5 stars, but I rounded up.

For more, see comments following this review and the review by Warren Criswell.

Dr. Paul J. Watson
Department of Biology
University of New Mexico
7 April 2012; revised 25 May 2014
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91830060) von 5 Sternen Between a rock and a hard place 19. April 2012
Von Warren Criswell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A sweeping history of life and a great read. Despite his special interest in entomology, Wilson is a great generalist who is able to combine evidence from the sciences and the humanities to give us a new look at human nature and an understanding of its consequences, both for us and the rest of life on this planet. Having evolved by both individual selection and group selection, we are torn between selfishness and altruism. These two driving forces make us what we are, for better or for worse. Defined by these opposites, we struggle for a balance between our creativity and our destructivity. "The brain ... is an organ not merely divided into major parts but divided against itself." This dichotomy has given rise to all of our great art, music, literature and science, but it has now brought us to the brink of disaster.

"The struggle to control vital resources continues globally, and it is growing worse. The problem arose because humanity failed to seize the great opportunity given it at the dawn of the Neolithic era. It might then have halted population growth below the constraining minimum limit. As a species we did the opposite, however. There was no way for us to foresee the consequences of our initial success. We simply took what was given us and continued to multiply and consume in blind obedience to instincts inherited from our humbler, more brutally constrained Paleolithic ancestors."

This book is a perfect companion to Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Using Gauguin's great painting "Where Did We Come From? What Are We We? Where Are We Going?" as an outline, Wilson, in tackling that last question, comes to the same conclusions as the authors of Limits, who first warned us of them back in 1972, that we are "destroying our birthplace":

"The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming. Also evident upon even casual inspection is the rapid disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands and other habitats where most of the diversity of life exists. If global changes caused by HIPPO (Habitat destruction, Invasive species, Pollution, Overpopulation, and Overharvesting, in that order of importance) are not abated, half the species of plants and animals could be extinct or at least among the 'living dead'--about to become extinct--by the end of the century. We are needlessly turning the gold we inherited from our forebears into straw, and for that we will be despised by our descendants."

After acknowledging that myths and gods have been the well springs of much great art, Wilson rightly condemns today's organized religions because "they encourage ignorance, distract people from recognizing problems of the real world, and often lead them in wrong directions into disastrous actions." But then he confesses to his own blind faith: "Earth, by the twenty-second century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise for human beings, or at least the strong beginnings of one. We will do a lot more damage to ourselves and the rest of life along the way, but out of an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are, our dreams will finally come home to stay."

Unfortunately this faith is not supported by the evidence. Wilson is not taking into consideration the rapidly closing window of opportunity to turn things around. As Limits to Growth shows, population, non-renewable resource depletion and pollution are growing exponentially, overshooting the ability of the global ecosystem to sustain them. Their computer models, using current data, show a collapse of the industrial system around 2050, just as their 1972 models did. The one thing Wilson overlooked in his examination of Homo sapiens' evolution is that our brains and our cultures have developed during long periods when rates of change were very slow compared to the present. We're not wired to deal with problems beyond our own generation. By the time our politicians and corporations see it coming, it will be too late. Yes, we have the technology to begin converting to long-term sustainability right now, but it's not happening. We are creatures of the moment. Selfishness comes first, altruism later, both for individuals and nations. If it were otherwise, as Wilson says, we would be social robots like the ants. But "acceptance of what we truly are" may be our only hope, and in that sense books like these are of great value.
17 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91830270) von 5 Sternen Not Quite Convincing 5. Juni 2012
Von Mike Garrison - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I'm not a biologist, but I have taken an amateur interest in this subject for 20+ years. So I was able to follow the discussions in the book, but they ended up leaving me confused. I followed this up by reading the NATURE article which is referred to several times in the book as being the "mathematical proof" or the argument he is making.

It's just not clear exactly what Wilson is doing, but I think it's essentially a bait-and-switch. He takes a very narrow definition of "eusocial" and "inclusive fitness" and argues that inclusive fitness is not the best predictor of eusocial behavior. Then he suddenly makes sweeping conclusions about all of social behavior and altruism, claiming that inclusive fitness explains none of it. This is like saying: "Sheila is not a man, therefore no men exist." Um, what???

I think that in general the concept behind inclusive fitness (which is to say that if we help out our relatives then we help spread our own genes, because our relatives also share our genes) is not only valid but necessary to explain why social species (such as humans) can be the product of natural selection. And this book doesn't disprove that! Wilson has been sidetracked by a particular question about how certain types of bees evolved to be eusocial and lost sight of the big picture.

Furthermore, he keeps talking about how he "mathematically proved" that inclusive fitness doesn't work, but I just read his NATURE paper and I sure wasn't convinced of that. Nor were the literally hundreds of other authors who wrote replies to his NATURE article, most of which said essentially the same thing that I just said in this review.

All that having been said, the book is still a very interesting and useful description of how social behavior interacts with natural selection. If he hadn't spent so much time trying to draw what seemed to be a meaningless distinction between inclusive fitness and what he dubs the "standard model" of group selection, then it would have been a more understandable and useful book for the non-specialist reader.

I will also note that toward the end of the book he goes on some wild tangents, such as why religion is an outgrowth of the evolutionary pressures of social living. I think he nails this perfectly (although he isn't the first to do so), but he knows this explanation is almost certain to be instantly rejected by religious readers. So I'm not sure why he bothered to include it in the book.

He also talks a bit about environmentalism and even his assertion that we should give up wasting money on manned space exploration because robot probes could do better space science. I think he fears the idea that we may feel like we can just use up the resources of the Earth and move away to somewhere else, so he wants to stop all such activity. (But if we are never going to leave the Earth, why bother sending out the robot probes anyway?)

All in all it is a book with a lot of really good information in it, as well as some very interesting speculation. But the speculation and the information are just a bit too muddled together, making it hard to be sure where one ends and the other begins. This is a serious flaw in a science book.
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