- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (April 9, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0871404133
- ISBN-13: 978-0871404138
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 268 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Social Conquest of Earth 1st Edition
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“Wilson’s examples of insect eusociality are dazzling… There are obvious parallels with human practices like war and agriculture, but Wilson is also sensitive to the differences… This book offers a detailed reconstruction of what we know about the evolutionary histories of these two very different conquerors. Wilson’s careful and clear analysis reminds us that scientific accounts of our origins aren’t just more accurate than religious stories; they are also a lot more interesting.”
- Paul Bloom, New York Times Book Review
“... a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion.”
- Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
“Religion. Sports. War. Biologist E.O. Wilson says our drive to join a group―and to fight for it―is what makes us human.”
“Wilson has done an impressive job of pulling all this evidence together and analyzing it. His interdisciplinary approach, his established scholarship, and his willingness to engage hot-button issues are all much in evidence in The Social Conquest of Earth…. His reflections on this subject are varied, original, and thought provoking―as is the rest of his book.”
- Carl Coon, The Humanist
“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.”
- Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
“...a sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating... it is fascinating to see such a distinguished scientist optimistic about the future.”
- Michael Gazzaniga, Wall Street Journal
“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.”
- Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel
“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.”
- Howard W. French, The Atlantic
“A monumental exploration of the biological origins of the Human Condition!”
- James D. Watson
“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.”
- Oliver Sacks
About the Author
Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than thirty books, including The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives with his wife, Irene Wilson, in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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Wilson makes some excellent points about both physical and social evolution, basing much of his evaluation of human societies on his life-long work with ant colonies. He sometimes takes exception to the work of Dawkins and other biologists, but generally he presents a very special, often personal look at human society.
Although I absorbed much of what he proposed, there were sections of the book (the reader was warned) that I found difficult to understand by a layman in the field. His most telling opinion is at the end of the book, wherein he proposes many changes to peoples' use of Earth's resources; changes which would go much beyond avoidance of global warming.
The book is written much like a series of essays; perhaps a gleaning of his years of experience in the societal makeup of ant, termite and similar colonies.
The shortcoming of the book is Wilson's illustrations and photos. I don't think any of them clarify or truly illustrate any point in his book.
Details can certainly be discussed (for example, his understanding of cave art: from what I've read elsewhere, people were not living in the painted caves and it is more likely that the paintings had the same role as those of the Australian aborigines). But this does not detract from the core of the book, which is probably the most convincing synthesis I've ever read on human nature.
This book is a fascinating read. I especially like Wilson's positive slant on what many see more negatively. Take, for example, the observation that human beings are both innately good and innately wicked. Wilson observes, "In a constantly changing world, we need the flexibility that only imperfection provides." (p. 241)
He clearly reiterates his conceptualization of evolution, which distinguishes between the evolution of genes (that has to do with individual selection and is responsible for what we call sin) and the evolution of culture (that has to do with group selection and is responsible for altruism). He summarizes: "...selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals." (p. 243) This conceptualization of evolution, while controversial, is an important contribution to understanding our human biological origins.
Wilson underscores how interconnected human beings are and how much larger and discordant our modern social networks are becoming. He concludes that our increasing interconnectedness worldwide will inevitably "weaken confidence in creation myths ..." (p. 293) I disagree. Because the human mind needs stories to explain its meaning, I believe that our increasing interconnectedness will force a new interpretation of creation myths taking into account our intersubjectivity.
Furthermore, I believe Wilson arrives as such an interpretation by the end of his book. I quote, "So, now I will confess my own blind faith. Earth, by the twenty-second century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise [read: Garden of Eden] for human beings, or at least the strong beginnings of one. We will do a lot more damage to ourselves and the rest of life along the way, but out of an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are, our dreams will finally come home to stay." (p. 297)
I highly recommend this book for all concerned with human existence and the future of our earth.
Most recent customer reviews
Thenk you Dr. Wilson!!