ON HUMAN NATURE by Edward O. Wilson
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Take the controversial parts of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, add an occasional qualifying ""I strongly believe,"" and you have the substance of this lively summary of Wilson's speculations on human nature, a book guaranteed to inflame feminists, Science-for-the-People groups, and others opposed to Wilson's brand of genetics determinism. The arguments that human societies are characterized by male-dominance, aggression, incest taboo, pair bonding, division of labor, etc., are the laminar extrapolations from the animal and tribal studies of Tiger, Fox, Lorenz, and others. Wilson believes that sociobiology, the discipline he called into being, will absorb the social sciences and put them on the firm scientific basis of biology and genetics. He asserts that we are the product of natural selection which adapted us for life in the last Ice Age. The genetically programmed individual ""strives for personal reproductive success foremost and that of his immediate kin secondarily: further grudging correlation represents a compromise struck in order to enjoy the benefits of group membership."" Critics will argue that extrapolation from other species and statistical sampling are inadequate to describe human behavior and that the favored themes of the ethologists--aggression, territoriality, sex, etc.--omit much and may tell more about the writers than about mankind. To be fair, Wilson discusses religion and myth-making and is concerned about the dilemma of the failure of organized religion. His own faith and optimism are revealed in a final chapter in which he argues that the choices available in cultural evolution should aim at diversification in the gene pool and universal human fights. His belief that science itself may take over as the shaper of a new human ethics may be the most optimistic belief of all. . . or express the most hubris!

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1978
ISBN: 0674016386
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press