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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time

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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time Cover

ISBN13: 9780316037679
ISBN10: 0316037672
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

After decades studying creatures great and small, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson had an epiphany: Darwin's theory won't fully prove itself until it improves the quality of human life in a practical sense. And what better place to begin than his hometown of Binghamton, New York? Making a difference in his own city would provide a model for cities everywhere, which have become the habitat for over half of the people on earth.

Inspired to become an agent of change, Wilson descended on Binghamton with a scientist's eye and looked at its toughest questions, such as how to empower neighborhoods and how best to teach our children. He combined the latest research methods from experimental economics with studies of holiday decorations and garage sales. Drawing upon examples from nature as diverse as water striders, wasps, and crows, Wilson's scientific odyssey took him around the world, from a cave in southern Africa that preserved the dawn of human culture to the Vatican in Rome. Along the way, he spoke with dozens of fellow scientists, whose stories he relates along with his own.

Wilson's remarkable findings help us to understand how we must become wise managers of evolutionary processes to accomplish positive change at all scales, from effective therapies for individuals, to empowering neighborhoods, to regulating the worldwide economy.

With an ambitious scope that spans biology, sociology, religion, and economics, The Neighborhood Project is a memoir, a practical handbook for improving the quality of life, and an exploration of the big questions long pondered by religious sages, philosophers, and storytellers. Approaching the same questions from an evolutionary perspective shows, as never before, how places define us.

Review:

"Wilson (Evolution for Everyone), an evolutionary biologist at the University of Binghamton, explains how Charles Darwin's concept of the 'tangled bank,' which describes how species are influenced by their surroundings, can be used to understand human psychology in order to build healthier societies. Arguing that the 'Ivory Archipelago' of disparate disciplines — psychology, anthropology, sociology, urban planning, economics, even theology — should be united under the umbrella of evolutionary studies, Wilson brings various methodologies to his investigation of the city as a living, evolving organism much like a coral reef. The Neighborhood Project, an organization Wilson founded to rejuvenate his hometown of Binghamton, N.Y., provides a test case — it uses evolutionary theories to analyze behavioral data and improve quality of life through a more holistic approach. Wilson searches for how our habitats can influence our propensity for civic engagement and environmental awareness, and our physical and financial health. Although the book meanders — Wilson gives a vivid, in-depth description of several scientific studies, and offers a biography for each scientist he cites — the tangents are mostly pleasurable and provide more evidence for how lives, like ideas, intersect in fascinating ways. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

After decades of studying animals in their habitats, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson had a radical idea-apply evolutionary science to the study of a city. Cities are like organisms, so why not study them as such?

Inspired to become an agent of change in his post-industrial hometown, Wilson descended on its neighborhoods with a scientist's eye. What does bullying feed on? How can we give kids the best start in life? Is spirituality expanding into new areas, or shrinking? How does neighborhood quality affect test scores? After learning how these traits live throughout a city, how can we improve the lives of its citizens?

Populated with original research and the latest science, and written in an appealing, personal narrative, THE NEIGHBORHOOD PROJECT is a significant book that strives to define how places define us.

About the Author

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He is widely known for his fundamental contributions to evolutionary science and for explaining evolution to the general public. His books include Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, and Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (with Elliott Sober). In addition to his own research, Wilson manages programs that expand the scope of evolutionary science in higher education, public policy, community-based research, and the study of religion.

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hazel-rah, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by hazel-rah)
A recent NYT book review of 'The Neighborhood Project' rightly comments that it is "premature." Truly, I am confused why Dr. Wilson decided to publish this (quite lengthy) book when his own neighborhood project in Binghamton, NY is still in its fetal stage. There are examples of the research he and his team have conducted and they are fraught with problems (e.g. counting Halloween and Christmas decorations as a measure of 'prosociality'). The town itself plays an even lesser role in Wilson's argument. Well-known sources of Binghamton's woes are breezed over, while the he devotes an astounding number of pages to descriptions of his office, his bicycle outings, and his treehouse. Recent, life-shaking events in Binghamton (including a flood in Summer 2006 and a mass murder in Spring 2009) are left out entirely. These issues may not trouble those outside of Binghamton, but they are glaring faults in his representation of this town.

Annoyingly, what Dr. Wilson substitutes for historical research or positive scientific results make the book even more broadly unsatisfactory and tiring. He slips continuously between cliches, platitudes, personal anecdotes about his children and graduate students, and exhausting praises of his colleagues' lives and research. While some readers find his writing delightful, I find it tedious, patronizing, and empty. Given what is missing from 'The Neighborhood Project', Dr. Wilson apparently did not write it 'for' the people of Binghamton. But I am at a loss to pinpoint an audience for this kind of prose. Obviously, I am not among them.

To his credit, Dr. Wilson's optimism and idealism regarding evolutionary theory and science-at-large are here in spades. He may even be more breathlessly (but not word-lessly) excited than he was in 2007's 'Evolution for Everyone'. In contrast to writers like Richard Dawkins, Dr. Wilson's tone is bubbly in the extreme. He clearly goes to lengths not to be the public fire-brand that Dawkins has become. But, in the latter's defense, a reader is never unclear as to WHY Dawkins wrote the books he has, or what the point might be in reading them. I can hardly say the same for Dr. Wilson's book, which repeatedly left me feeling like I was wasting my time. Not recommended.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780316037679
Author:
Wilson, David
Publisher:
Little Brown and Company
Author:
Wilson, David Sloan
Subject:
Biology-Evolution
Subject:
Sociology-Urban Studies
Subject:
Evolution
Subject:
Urban development; City planning; Community life; Sociology; Evolution; Biology; Science; Technology; Economics
Series Volume:
Using Evolution to I
Publication Date:
20110831
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
9.75 x 6.5 x 1.5 in 1.51 lb

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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time Sale Hardcover
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Product details 448 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316037679 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Wilson (Evolution for Everyone), an evolutionary biologist at the University of Binghamton, explains how Charles Darwin's concept of the 'tangled bank,' which describes how species are influenced by their surroundings, can be used to understand human psychology in order to build healthier societies. Arguing that the 'Ivory Archipelago' of disparate disciplines — psychology, anthropology, sociology, urban planning, economics, even theology — should be united under the umbrella of evolutionary studies, Wilson brings various methodologies to his investigation of the city as a living, evolving organism much like a coral reef. The Neighborhood Project, an organization Wilson founded to rejuvenate his hometown of Binghamton, N.Y., provides a test case — it uses evolutionary theories to analyze behavioral data and improve quality of life through a more holistic approach. Wilson searches for how our habitats can influence our propensity for civic engagement and environmental awareness, and our physical and financial health. Although the book meanders — Wilson gives a vivid, in-depth description of several scientific studies, and offers a biography for each scientist he cites — the tangents are mostly pleasurable and provide more evidence for how lives, like ideas, intersect in fascinating ways. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , After decades of studying animals in their habitats, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson had a radical idea-apply evolutionary science to the study of a city. Cities are like organisms, so why not study them as such?

Inspired to become an agent of change in his post-industrial hometown, Wilson descended on its neighborhoods with a scientist's eye. What does bullying feed on? How can we give kids the best start in life? Is spirituality expanding into new areas, or shrinking? How does neighborhood quality affect test scores? After learning how these traits live throughout a city, how can we improve the lives of its citizens?

Populated with original research and the latest science, and written in an appealing, personal narrative, THE NEIGHBORHOOD PROJECT is a significant book that strives to define how places define us.

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