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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time 1st Edition

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316037679
ISBN-10: 0316037672
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Editorial Reviews



"Imagine combining a moving autobiography, dozens of moving mini-biographies, accidental and intentional experiments in raising and educating children and planning cities, and explanations of what biology and religion are really about. Out of that mix comes this unique, beautifully written, wide-ranging book that will delight a universe of readers."―Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA, and Pulitzer-prize-winning author of books including Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse

"The Neighborhood Project, an organization Wilson founded to rejuvenate his hometown of Binghamton, NY...uses evolutionary theories to analyze behavioral data and improve quality of life...pleasurable...provide[s]...evidence for how lives, like ideas, intersect in fascinating ways."―Publisher's Weekly

"An evolutionary biologist applies his science to making the city of Binghamton, NY a better place to live, and in the telling, illuminates evolution and spells out his efforts to increase understanding of it....The side trips are...pleasurable, informative, and worthwhile."―Booklist

"The city reflects the nature of the human species in the same way that the hive reflects the nature of bees. In his usual engaging style, David Sloan Wilson uses the prism of evolution to explain our role in and control over these larger organisms of our own making."―Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape and The Age of Empathy

"Once again David Sloan Wilson reminds us that wherever we look, whether deep in a forest, in our backyards, or in urban classrooms, evolutionary processes -- biological, psychological, or cultural-are at work and understanding these processes can not only deepen our sense of place but also improve the way we lead our lives."―Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding

"Just as Charles Darwin had his finches and Jane Goodall her chimps, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has his city as a subject of study in what has to be one of the most unique projects ever undertaken in the history of science. Through the lens of evolutionary theory we see not just Wilson's city of Binghamton, New York in a new light, we view all of humanity and civilization from a perspective unique in the annals of research, and written in an engaging style that carries the reader from one chapter to the next. A compelling read. An important book."―Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University, and the author of Why Darwin Matters and The Mind of the Market

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (August 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316037672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316037679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By darwinst on September 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Sloan Wilson's has given us a terrific - and monumentally ambitious - new book The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City One Block at a Time. Wilson, a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton University) is suggesting that by reading the directions of our species, written in the language of evolution, we can create not just a better city (his city being Binghamton, NY) but in fact a better world.

Wilson is best known in the academic community for reviving the concept of "group selection." But as of late Wilson's efforts have been to expand the tendrils of evolutionary theory into the role it can play in everyday life. His most recent book prior to The Neighborhood Project was modestly titled Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think about Our Lives. Perhaps this recent offering could have been titled "Evolution for Everything" since myriad and seemingly disparate topics such as economics, early childhood education, and city planning are all skillfully brought under the umbrella of evolutionary theory. In fact he states that his goal is nothing less than to illustrate how using an evolutionary paradigm can "make the world a better place." For Wilson the group (tribe, community, neighborhood, city, nation, etc.) is in fact an organism in itself, the adaptive unit, and thus can be viewed as a product of natural selection. And that until we re-establish our ancestral human social environment our group will never feel at home.

He cogently argues throughout that we can use evolution to both understand and improve the human condition.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Biggs on July 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't usually write book reviews. I buy books to read for pleasure or information, get what I can out of them, and leave the reviewing to people who want to do that kind of work. But this book absolutely stinks.

First of all, the title is misleading. This is a rambling, shuffling collection of stories about David Sloan Wilson's life and the people with whom he works and lives -- almost never in the context of using evolution to improve his city "one block at a time", except that he may be describing the life of a person who is helping him with this Project. Don't get me wrong, I like that kind of story; I really enjoy seeing the connections between where people came from (genetically and/or culturally), where they are, and where they're headed. But, for example, you will not read a single word about the actual Project from page 162 allllll the way to page 300. I didn't buy this book because I wanted to get a better picture of David Sloan Wilson's life. I bought it because the housing market holds me prisoner in an absolutely terrible place to live, and since I can't get out of here, I must try to make it better.

In the 305 out of 390 pages I've so far read, I've found four things that might help me: decorate the outside of my house for holidays, bring peer pressure to bear (already do it), set my primarily European-descended neighbors up for success so that they'll work harder at community, and maintain/improve my property so that people feel constrained to act respectfully in its vicinity (already do it). Two of these I've been doing instinctively for seven years, but now I know there is a scientifically-proven correlation between my intuitive action and the result I'm trying to achieve! Gee.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lynn E O'Connor on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I skim many books and read very few. David Sloan Wilson's recent book, "The Neighborhood Project," is one that I read. And I didn't just read it. I purchased a second copy, just for my kindle reader, and gave it to friends and colleagues for Christmas because I knew they would read it, and I knew we'd have hours of conversation about it. We're in San Francisco and Berkeley, hotbeds of social activism, or so it is claimed. To have a book that examines contemporary society and spells out the need for change by using evolutionary theory is quite remarkable. To link the social systems of wasps, the immune system, attributes of neighborhoods, the culture of crows, and the larger economic system -to name a few-- is brilliant. In his many "parables" (the topics he covers) he is teaching us to think about systems, rules by which they operate across specific examples, the self-organization of complex adaptive systems, and the absolute significance of context in which they are embedded. He is teaching painlessly, by way of presenting numerous examples of this broad message, by telling stories.

The story of Wilson's research in Binghamton New York is an awesome piece of social science, seen through the lens of evolution. It's inspiring. It made me want to study San Francisco, using similar methods. I'm a social and clinical evolutionary psychologist and throughout my "fields" there is almost always the absence of the perspective of the ultimate purpose of individual, group, city and national behavior. The ultimate purpose -the evolutionary purpose--is what allows Wilson to ask: "Why?" That said, he doesn't always ask "why" enough, as he is looking for how to do things better, in line with our wired-in and cultural characteristics "hammered" into shape by evolution (I love the way he writes that).
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