Edward Wilson is probably the best writer on scientific subjects since Thomas Henry Huxley. He writes in a style that combines trenchant lucidity with mastery of exposition. Even the subtlest and most confusing intricacies of human nature are rendered easily accessible by Wilson's deft and engaging pen. He is especially good at providing apt metaphors to illustrate what might otherwise be difficult scientific conceptions. Behavioral tendencies in human nature are described, for example, as various channels, some of which are shallow (and can therefore more easily be overcome), while others are much deeper (and therefore much more resistant to efforts to counteract them). As befitting a man of science, Wilson supports his views, not with abstruse argumentation, but with facts collected and verified by practicing scientists. Yet despite the solidity of Wilson's research, when "On Human Nature" first came out, it was viciously attacked by left-wing ideologues who violently disagreed with Wilson's conclusions regarding the limitations of man's nature. The Left, of course, wants to believe that human nature is largely fluid and malleable. Man, leftists argue, is the product, not of genetics or biology, but of social conditions, which can be changed. Under a "just" society, human nature would become transformed and evil would virtually disappear from the world. Wilson's "On Human Nature" thoroughly demolishes all these sterile hopes for man's secular salvation. Using scientific evidence, he demonstrates that most human behavior is genetic (or related to or influenced by genetics) and therefore unalterable. The sociologist Vilfredo Pareto has probably described this view of man most trenchantly when he wrote: "The centuries roll by, and human nature remains the same!" In "On Human Nature," Wilson shows us why Pareto is right.
I read this book a number of years ago and loved Wilson's overview of human nature through his observations of human behaviour across cultures. I am amazed at how the previous reviewer politicized Wilson when he is anything but political. Wilson does not exclude the influences of societal attitude and the changes in human behaviour from small to large groups. His review of treatment of women in different societies -- from equal partner in small groups to chattel as the struggles for power emerge in larger groups is an example of Wilson's wonderful eye for human behaviour. Although Wilson is the father of sociobiology, he does not exclude such patterns of human nature that can be attributable to societal interactions, not unlike Jane Goodal's observations of chimpanze behaviour as situational. While it is clearly obvious that our essential makeup is genetic, it is equally clear that as learning beings, our behaviour also has a nurture element, and Wilson is clear about this. One must read Wilson with an open mind,not cluttered by political preconceptions as the previous reviewer. Wilson makes a point of not politicizing science, and to find a political context to "On Human Nature" one must create it as Wilson certainly does not.
I read this book in a weekend a few months ago. I simply couldn't put it down. Wilson's style is clear and elegant, and he displays true concern about people and society. Reading _On Human Nature_ probably made me more tolerant of others because it helped me understand people. I wish everybody would read chapter 6 (read it and find out what it's about)!
In a superb synthesis of the biological and social siences, Wilson attempts to explain the core principles of our shared humanity as the accumulated result of evolutionary processes over millions of years. His account is remarkable in that it includes comparisons and examples from a diverse range of life-forms, human cultures, and branches of human knowledge. Wilson's empathy with his subject is compelling; his fundamental understanding of socio-biological principles, and sometimes deeply intuitive application of them to other fields is always thought-provoking if not entirely convincing. A worthy and mind-broadening book
Sheer genious! Application of evolutionary biology to human behavior is the first step in understanding why humans act the way that we do. More people need to understand that evolutionary biology is THE FOUNDATION of science and reading this book will provide enlightenment to anyone. As biological organisms, we are programmed to do everything in our power that will allow us to successfully reproduce and pass on our genes. This book discusses this and many other aspects of human behavior. A wonderful read!
if you are looking at a scientific look on human nature this is the book for you. wilson debunks the myth that all behaviour is determined by culture, and shows that natural selection has created us above anythign else a must read for anyone who wants to understand human nature
I read this book in only a few days - TWICE! It's one of the most superbly written science books of the 20th century. Wilson shows true mastery of our human nature; this book should be required reading for ever thinking person on the planet. GET THIS BOOK!