The Social Conquest of Earth

The Social Conquest of Earth

Book - 2012
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Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while "overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first" (Discover magazine). Refashioning the story of human evolution in a work that is certain to generate headlines, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to show that group selection, not kin selection, is the primary driving force of human evolution. He proves that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology. Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth's biosphere.

Publisher: New York : Liveright Pub. Corp., c2012.
ISBN: 9780871404138
Characteristics: viii, 330 p. :,ill., map ;,25 cm.


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Dec 23, 2015

The distinguished E.O. Wilson has presented a salient scientific analysis (sometimes boring but never disingenuous) with an urgent message of sustainability. To correct some of the statements made below, Wilson clearly states there are “about a dozen” social species (science has proven there is NO evidence of more), but humanity is the most successful species because unity and cooperation equals power, especially for defending camps and moving out across the globe. Underneath is the eternal conflict among tribal associations which spurred the survival of humanity but also created the tensions among tribes, which all believe they are better than the others. That is the crux Wilson presents us. This is why he points out how religious missionaries aren’t likely to say nice things about other religions, no matter how inclusive and inspirational their message. Religious inclusion works against societal inclusion. And he says that now we have science to answer the questions religious figures purported to answer in our first millennia. And that science (facts) and religion (faith) are irreconcilable But he is not as antagonistic as Dawkins and Sam Harris. One of his main arguments seeks to prove “kin” preference has less impact than “mulitlevel” (individual plus group) selection. This is an ongoing argument and it gets bogged down in technicality here as it must. Also I loved his idea that maybe aliens stayed home because they eventually “grew up” and realized it was hard enough to make their own world work than use up precious resources to conquer new worlds. None of this has to be a “mystery.” In fact, mystery works against us. It’s facts that will save us. Viva Paris Climate pact!

May 26, 2015

This author has a knack for making a fascinating subject boring and his work suffers from a lack of reliable knowledge and little insight into the human condition. Imagine someone weighing in on the essentials of the human personality armed only with a list of ways psychopaths deviate from the norm!

Feb 21, 2015

Out-Dawkins Dawkins in terms of showing how dangerous religion is, and how it and other tribalisms are ruining our future.

srmechs Jun 22, 2013

– Fewer than 10 species have developed eusociality. Only humans have managed to balance the negative and positive pressures to achieve civilization and advance as far as we have. If the altruistic tendencies had dominated, according to Wilson, we would have become like ants. If the individualistic tendencies had dominated, we would have torn any attempt at uniting apart long ago.
It’s a fascinating book. Wilson takes time at the end to put down all religion, perhaps a bit more than necessary. I can understand his position easily, but he overlooks the human ability (perhaps even need) to accept discordance and mystery. I’m tempted to write to him and explain how lifetime skepticism could bring me to a religious vocation and keep me here for 50 years. Maybe it’s just fear (I’m not especially courageous), but perhaps not

Feb 08, 2013

Wilson's getting grumpier as he goes along, but I can't say that I blame him. Still one of the best science writers going.

Nov 03, 2012

Wilson is a world expert on ants. His thesis is that two social organisms have taken over the earth - ants and humans - and that it's their tight social organization that's permitted this. His discussion is detailed and fascinating, and worthy of careful reading by any student of human behaviour.

His presentation has a weakness, however - he considers such social organization to be extraordinarily rare. A wider study calls this into question: organisms that display various elements of social organization form a continuum from total solitude to total subservience to sociality. Most biologists use the term eusociality in a far broader context than Wilson does, and deservedly so.

Still, read it and see where your thought takes you. It'll be well worth your while.

Oct 23, 2012

Fascinating, accessible examination of a comples subject. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Excellent read.


thoughtful and scholarly, a good way to revisit evolution and our place in it.

f. pelchar

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