by Edward Osborne Wilson
Library Journal According to two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson (The Ants), recent advances in evolutionary science provide practical answers to two of humanity's enduring existential questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Succinctly, Wilson explains that we are members of a "eusocial" species with behaviors, aptitudes, and perceptions that evolved via interplay among multilevel evolutionary forces. Our innate, interdependent social organization evolved in response to pressures not fundamentally different from those that led to stratified insect "superorganism" colonies. The difference is intelligence, and Wilson shows how culture, religion, altruism, conflict, and even art can be explained by an evolutionary tug-of-war between the pressures of individual versus group selection. A positive answer to humanity's last big question-Where are we going?-depends on our ability to use our species' self-knowledge to create the world we want. VERDICT Wilson is a prolific and popular biological theorist, and this significant addition to his legacy of thought will be controversial, provocative, and influential.-Gregg Sapp, Olympia WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list *Starred Review* Each new book by renowned biologist Wilson is a provocative invitation to see life differently. He begins this paradigm-altering tour de force not with science but with art, namely, French painter Paul Gauguin's masterpiece titled (in translation) Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? For Wilson, these fundamental questions are rooted in the evolutionary process that made humankind the earth's dominant species. He takes us through the great maze of adaptations that led to our ancestors' distinguishing trait among mammals, advanced social life, which resembles that of the other social conquerors of Earth, namely, ants (Wilson's specialty), bees, wasps, and termites. Wilson's supple prose is radiant with wonder as he compares the lives of ants in protected nests with our forebears' defended campsites and argues that this social cohesion launched the final drive to modern Homo sapiens. This drive involved both genetic and cultural evolution, that is, concurrent individual selection and group selection, or multilevel natural selection, in which groups compete with groups, favoring cooperative social traits, while individuals compete against each other. Furthermore, Wilson avers, this evolutionary dynamic is the biological wellspring for tribalism, art, and morality. With bracing insights into instinct, language, organized religion, the humanities, science, and social intelligence, this is a deeply felt, powerfully written, and resounding inquiry into the human condition.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly In this wide-ranging book, Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard scientist (The Ants), addresses the large question of "why advanced social life exists at all, and has occurred so rarely in the history of life." Wilson, the world's leading expert on ants, compares the evolutionary similarities between the social insects-"2 percent of the one million known species of insects"-and humans. Much of this material has been recycled from Wilson's previous work. He triggers more interest when he argues that biologists have been seriously mistaken about the way evolution operates. Instead of the current paradigm stressing the importance of individual and kin selection (as kin carry many of the individual's genes), Wilson believes that human evolution is driven by individual and non-kinship-based group selection (prehumans living in groups cared for their young and divided labor; groups competed against each other on one level of selection, and within a group, individuals competed to reproduce). Wilson believes that complex patterns of social behavior are the result of selection at both group and individual levels, but he doesn't go into enough depth (which would include mathematical analysis) to be completely persuasive. He does, however, explore the factors leading to the development of morality, religion, and the creative arts in human society. 90 illus. Agent: John Williams, Kneerim & Williams Agency. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved