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The Social Conquest of Earthby Edward O. Wilson
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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." New Yorker
"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." Oliver Sacks
"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." James D. Watson
"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." Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel
"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." Booklist (Starred Review)
"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
"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." Howard W. French The Atlantic (Starred Review)
From the most celebrated heir to Darwin comes a groundbreaking book on evolution, the summa work of Edward O. Wilson's legendary career.
About the Author
Regarded as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson grew up in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where he spent his boyhood exploring the region's forests and swamps, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants — the latter to become his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Ants and The Naturalist, as well as his first novel Anthill, Wilson, a professor at Harvard, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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