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Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies Hardcover – Illustrated, March 19 2019
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Asserting that religious creeds and philosophical questions can be reduced to purely genetic and evolutionary components, and that the human body and mind have a physical base obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry, Genesis demonstrates that the only way for us to fully understand human behavior is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species. Of these, Wilson demonstrates that at least seventeen—among them the African naked mole rat and the sponge- dwelling shrimp—have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism and cooperation.
Whether writing about midges who “dance about like acrobats” or schools of anchovies who protectively huddle “to appear like a gigantic fish,” or proposing that human society owes a debt of gratitude to “postmenopausal grandmothers” and “childless homosexuals,” Genesis is a pithy yet path-breaking work of evolutionary theory, braiding twenty-first-century scientific theory with the lyrical biological and humanistic observations for which Wilson is known.
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Wilson (On Human Nature), a Pulitzer Prize winner and Harvard evolutionary biologist, addresses what he calls the six “great transitions of evolution” that led to human society in this ambitious treatise, his 32nd book.... He does an impressive job in this short text of making the nature of the transitions clear.” —Publishers Weekly
Arresting.... Deeply informative and provocative.—Ray Olson, Booklist
Genesis is a beautifully clear account of a question that has lain unsolved at the core of biology ever since Darwin: how can natural selection produce individuals so altruistic that, rather than breeding themselves, they help others to do so? —Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox
In his characteristically clear, succinct, and elegant prose, one of our grand masters of synthesis, Edward O. Wilson, explains here no less than the origin of human society.—Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Endlessly fascinating, Edward O. Wilson - in the tradition of Darwin - plumbs the depths of human evolution in a most readable fashion without sacrificing scholarly rigor.—Michael Ruse, author of A Meaning of Life
About the Author
- Publisher : Liveright; Illustrated edition (March 19 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1631495542
- ISBN-13 : 978-1631495540
- Item weight : 300 g
- Dimensions : 14.22 x 20.83 x 2.29 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #345,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I wasn’t familiar with Edward O. Wilson’s work or reputation before picking up this book so came in without any preconceptions but, having taken some anthropology courses at university, I’ve always been interested in explanations for why human societies have turned out the way they have, I was interested in expanding my knowledge.
With his experience and background, Wilson - as you expect - knows his subject and he writes about it well with a fluid style that is quite academic but not so much as to be alienating. He’s very clearly interested in insect societies because the book focuses much more heavily on them than on mammals and there are lots of interesting facts here about how they’re organised and how the biology of the eusocial groups works to maintain the relevant structures.
However, I have to say that given the book blurb says that this is a book that aims to fully understand human behaviour, I can’t say that it delivers on that. Given the obvious differences between human and, e.g. termite societies, I couldn’t quite grasp how it is that evolution has determined how our society is structured. I did follow the arguments about why we would decide that altruism was a good thing to do in the long term, but I didn’t necessarily understand how that is a genetic or evolutionary concept. To be fair, this could just be because my knowledge of science and biology is rudimentary at best and as such, perhaps I just didn’t get Wilson’s points or see how they tied into evolutionary principles.
Saying that, I did enjoy learning things about the natural world, such as the purpose of starling murmurations or territorial chimpanzee behaviour, and I also found the primer on evolution and how it operates to be useful. I also enjoyed the fact that Wilson is clearly so passionate about his subject and so knowledgeable about it that it comes through in each page. On that basis, although this book didn’t quite work for me I still think it’s worth a look if you have an interest in the subject matter.
The content, what little there is, is not bad, just a bit brief. The book covers the interesting topics of how altruism arise, safety in numbers and Eusociality. It's not as though there isn't plenty to cover in such a well-studied area of evolutionary biology so I don't understand why the book is so short. It does cover a lot of similar ground to The Selfish Gene and has the advantage of being much more recent, but I still think The Selfish Gene is a far better book than this.
The theme of this book, if there is one, is that humans are eusocial like ants and termites. He might be right but he'd doesn't explore the subject sufficiently to really make his point.
If you can get this as an e-book for under 2 quid I'd consider it, but I wouldn't bother getting the paper version.