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on August 28, 2002
This hard hitting, thought provoking book should be read by everyone.
The author sides with S.J. Gould that evolution has no goal (no anthropic cosmological principle). Species evolve by natural selection. The brain exists because it promotes survival and multiplication of the genes. He goes even further: the capacities to select particular esthetic judgments and religious beliefs must have arisen by natural selection. He argues that human beings are innately aggressive and fight wars to gain long-term reproductive success.
He hits hard at the interpretation of sexuality by Judaism and Christianity: the sex rules are biological and written by natural selection. In that way, he defends homosexuality.
Facing human nature as it is and evolves, how can we make life better: by the true Promethean spirit of science to liberate man by giving him knowledge and some measure of dominion over himself and his environment.
It will be difficult to refute the strong arguments of the author. He forces us to face the real realities of life and nature. The only solution is knowledge in order that mankind can take the necessary measures to save this planet.
By the way, he sneers at T. Roszak, who didn't find it necessary to replace God by reason; for him it is pure obscurantism.
A great read.
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on October 17, 2001
Edward O. Wilson simple thinks bigger than the rest of us. As a scientist who devoted his career to the study of ants, Wilson has blossomed into an intellect capable of shedding light on the most important topics related to the human condition. In his book Sociobiology, Wilson singlehandedly created and defined a new discipline, and structured the context of the debate in that area for the forseeable future. In Consilience, Wilson compelling proposed nothing less than the unification of all branches of knowledge. Wilson simply sees the "big picture" better than anyone else writing today.
On Human Nature is a compelling demonstration of the biological and genetics bases for a wide range of human behavior. Whether considering sex, religion, aggression or altruism, Wilson argues convincingly that there is a Darwinian explanation for our behavior. Many will choose to resist his conclusions, but it is important to consider thoughtfully his arguments before moving to another explanation of the behavior of our species.
In short, essential reading!
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on August 3, 1996
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
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on July 27, 2000
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!
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on August 20, 2006
It is rare that I read a book which makes me stop and think at every page. Littered with deep insights and interesting information, and still an easy read. E.O. Wilson projects a briliant mind that knows how to express and communicate his thoughts to any reader. Being a scientist myself (Physics), this book was a great vehicle to learn on sociobiology. Wilson has an incredible ability to provide just enough facts to support his ideas in a clear and economical style. I wish more scientist would know how to write like him. A pleasure from beginning to end.
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on February 22, 2009
A must-read for every, well, human! There's little to be added to the thorough comments left by other reviewers. I just wanted to add my 5-star rating to the tally.

(Some of the "intellectuals" are really tough with the ratings, huh? Looking at the 3-star ratings for this classic work, I can only guess that the reviewers must be Nobel Prize winning social scientists who graciously took the time to pop in on Amazon and leave a review of their poor colleague's acceptable-but-somewhat-pedestrian work.)
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VINE VOICEon June 25, 2014
There is little that E. O. Wilson has written that isn't worth reading and this is a fine contribution to his library. He is a brilliant and seminal thinker who has influenced socio-biology and our understanding of eusocial animals more than any other writer.
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on December 21, 2013
Gradually gnawing through E.O. Wilson's oeuvre (rather like one of his social insects) I think I am beginning to know how Darwin's contemporaries must have felt as they consumed his texts: Wilson is deceptive because his limpid, lucid prose belies the depths of his insights and accomplishments. He is credited with having more or less having invented a whole new discipline in this book--human sociobiology, or evolutionary sociology: in this book he seems to shine a spotlight on the tangled no-man's-land that lies between the social sciences, the "natural" sciences and the humanities--showing that much in the way of our cultural traditions, habits, ideas and interactions as individuals and species are likely rooted--or perhaps better put--imprinted by our very genetic makeup--by our biology. Probably the signal achievement of the 20th Century in science was unraveling the genetics--the DNA--of life. At the same time most scientists and humanists were somewhat complacent in their conviction that the human condition was informed primarily by "nurture"--it's hardly surprising that by connecting the dots from his study of social animals and his observations of human behavior, Wilson upset the intellectual apple cart of the late 20th Century. After all, it has taken nearly two centuries, and evolution has yet to be universally acknowledged in our so-called advanced nation--I think that Wilson's bold contentions may be adopted sooner: much of our social and personal behavior may not be platted by our genetic makeup--but reading this book I am convinced that that much of what we have viewed as "human nature" is in fact coded into our very genes--and that what free will we do ultimately possess will only come about from acknowledging this biological fiat and somehow exercising a higher reasoning that stretches beyond our species' biological limitations. This feat is termed a "break through", which we have likely performed in the past and must do so in the future ever more intentionally.. As a scientist who was trained in the humanities, this book is nothing less than a revelation: a contemporary classic: I can't imagine any thoughtful reader not being persuaded by Wilson's compelling point of view and ineluctable deductions.
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on August 28, 2004
About "On Human Nature" by Edward O. Wilson.

Wilson considers "On Human Nature" (1978) to be part of a trilogy that began with "Insect Societies" (1971) and includes his "Sociobiology - The New Syntheses" (1975). He describes the inception of this third book of the trilogy as follows:

"The aftermath of the publication of Sociobiology led me to read more widely on human behavior and drew me to many seminars and written exchanges with social scientists. I became more persuaded than ever that the time has come to close that famous gap between the two cultures, and that general sociobiology, which is simply the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory, is the appropriate instrument for the effort. On Human Nature is an exploration of that thesis."

About the book itself he says:

"To address human behavior systematically is to make a potential topic of every corridor in the labyrinth of the human mind, and hence to consider not just the social sciences but the humanities, including philosophy and the process of scientific discovery itself. Consequently, 'On Human Nature' is not a work of science; it is a work about science, and about how far natural sciences can penetrate into human behavior before they will be transformed into something new."

This is a theme he was later to pursue also in his "Consilience - The Unity of Knowledge" (1998). Discussing the great branches of knowledge in it he says: "The greatest enterprse of the mind has always been and always will be the attempted linkage of the sciences and the humanities. The ongoing fragmentation of knowledge and resulting chaos in philosophy are not reflections of the real world but artifacts of scholarsip." I find myself in total agreement with that. "Consilience" subsequently inspired the New York Academy of Sciences to organize a three day conference entitled "Unity of Knowledge - The Convergence of Natural and Human Science" in June 2000. Wilson was the keynote speaker and when it came time for questions, the first question out of the box was about his support for eugenics. Marxists have always been trying to pin that label on him ever since "Sociobiology" came out. This is part of the ongoing Marxist attack on Wilson and sociobiology which he himself referred to as "The aftermath of the publication of Sociobiology..." The full account of that attack which has lasted more than a quarter century and is still going strong is found in "Defenders of the Truth - The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond" by Ullica Segerstråle. She was originally against him, even attended meetings of the Sociobiology Study Group as an observer, but has come to feel that Wilson has been vindicated.

"On Human Nature" covers aggressioin, sex, altruism and religion as well as heredity, development and emergent behavior brilliantly. He is extremely persuasive and has a very humane approach to these topics. To find out about him as a person you can read his memoir "Naturalist." And for those who truly desire a more in-depth analysis I recommend that they also take in Wilson's "Consilience" and Segerstråle's "Defenders of the Truth."
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on July 10, 2001
Whether you agree or not with the major premise of Wilson's work, that human behavior is largely determined by evolutionary adaptation which has enhanced our chances for survival and reproduction, this must be considered as one of the dozen or so "essential works" for those who are interested in getting a broad background of general science education, in spite of its highly controversial subject matter.
Wilson argues with the authority of a man with a supreme background in biology, but more importantly he states his arguments without excessive polemic or sensationalism, perhaps in anticipation of the attacks that he surely knew were to come.
This would surely be excellent follow-up reading to Darwin's Origin of Species - if you are feeling especially ambitious.
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