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Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W. D. Hamilton Volume 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour (Narrow Roads of Gene Land Vol. 1)
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About the Author
W. D. Hamilton is a Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. He is known throughout the world for his work on social evolution and sexual selection. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. W.D. Hamilton, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS. Tel. 01865-271166.
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Let me back up a little. I gave THE SOCIAL CONQUEST OF EARTH five stars. It was a good, accessible book on the subject. So many folks who gave it a negative review said "it" was wrong. But what was the "it" that was wrong? I thought the book was well written, poetic at times even. And if you look at the discussion leading up to the "it," you'll find that "it" likely. Let me provide these main points.
First, Dr. Wilson highlighted a painting by Gauguin. And he really nailed its meaning over the course of the book. "Where do we come from?" "What are we?" "Where are we going?" Wilson tries to answer those questions, first from agreed upon science mixed with likely opinion, and then, finally, where the disagreement looms, from his opinion alone.
The human condition, notes Wilson, is "...selfish at one time, selfless at another, the two impulses often conflicted." It is based upon numerous pre-adaptations, according to Wilson, the first being our large size and relative immobility, then us depending more on vision and less on smell than did most other mammals, bipedalism, control of fire, the gathering of small groups at campsites--assemblies--and the eating of meat that sealed the deal to our eusociality. So far so good. The "it" to now, about page 50, is correct.
But when Wilson stated that "...it has been popular among serious scientists seeking a naturalistic explanation for the origin of humanity, I among them, to invoke kin selection as a key dynamical force of human evolution." He wrote that "...the foundations of the general theory of inclusive fitness based on the assumptions of kin selection have crumbled, while evidence for it has grown equivocal at best. The beautiful theory never worked well anyway, and now it has collapsed." That's the "it" that reviewers thought--knew to be--wrong.
And it is from NARROW ROAD OF GENE LAND, by W.D. Hamilton, that we can read articles on inclusive fitness and decide for ourselves which is the correct view. It is a great "book," though not really a book at all; rather, it is a collection of articles, with articles on the articles written by the author. Here, we get to read what Hamilton was thinking while he wrote his famous articles, and they are as humorous as they are informative.
Just one point from E.O. Wilson before closing. He stated that "If the benefit from group membership falls below that from solitary life, evolution will favor departure or cheating by the individual. Taken far enough, the society will dissolve. If personal benefit from group membership rises high enough, or alternatively, if selfish leaders can bend the colony to serve their personal interests, the members will be prone to altruism and conformity." It's hard to disagree with that hypothesis; it is meaningful, true and, like me, I bet you will be able to come up with personal experiences that validate it. It's just that the reasoning is not as Wilson believes it to be, for Hamilton and his theory gave good reason for both; that, is, they are two sides of the same selfish coin.
Highly recommended... - lc