Re: EO Wilson still antsy after all these years
- From: Mark Isaak <eciton@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 03 Jun 2012 07:24:44 -0700
On 6/2/12 9:39 PM, *Hemidactylus* wrote:
On 06/02/2012 09:05 PM, Robert Camp wrote:On Jun 2, 9:26 am, *Hemidactylus*<ecpho...@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:http://www.voanews.com/content/at-82-social-biologist-still-provokes-...
[quote]At age 82, Wilson remains active. He's still on the faculty of
Harvard University, as professor emeritus. And he's just out with the
latest of his more than 20 books. It's called "The Social Conquest of
Earth," and it stitches together ideas from science and the humanities.
"So it's increasingly clear that not only will biology be connecting
tightly with psychology. That's already begun. ... But also connecting
with subjects like the origin of morality, the origin of aesthetics, the
origin of the creative arts. All of those I explicitly address in my new
book, "The Social Conquest of Earth." I show how to do it."
Wilson writes that religion and philosophy are not enough to answer the
really big questions - Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we
going? Science, he says, must be a key part of the answer.
Only acclaimed biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson could manage to use
his research on ants to explain the arts and so much more about the
human condition. [/quote]
[quote] Not that his days as a controversialist are entirely behind him.
“The Social Conquest of Earth,” presented by his publisher as the
capstone work of his career, is written in the graceful style that has
won him two Pulitzer Prizes but grounded in a view of evolution that has
already prompted sharp criticism from his fellow scientists.
Specifically Dr. Wilson argues that the tendency toward cooperation and
collaboration that has powered our spectacular success as a species is
explained not by kin selection — in which evolution favors the genes of
individuals who sacrifice themselves for the sake of relatives — but by
group selection, the tendency of evolution to favor groups that work
together altruistically, beyond what might be predicted by simple
If no one is quite ready to dump a pitcher of water over Dr. Wilson’s
head, many colleagues are mystified and dismayed by his late-life
embrace of group selection — a highly controversial notion among
biologists — and rejection of the kin-selection theory that he helped
popularize in “Sociobiology.” [/quote]
Dawkins reviews E. O. Wilson,
In my enthusiasm for Dawkins's atheism, I had forgotten about my dislike
for his simplistic genocentric accounting turned dominant mode view of
evolution by selection, his errors of omission for drift or neutrality
and his self-serving dismissal of Gould's hierarchical view for
selection, which wasn't the same animal as group selection. Of course
Dawkins couldn't pass on a chance to take an underhanded potshot at
As far as Wilson, my impression of him is that he too has been a quite
dogmatic flag-bearer for the sociobiological precursor to ev psych. And
I just love how Dawkins manages to slip names into his argument for
authority against Wilson listing evolutionary *biologists* that I
recognize as evolutionary psychologists instead, like Pinker for
instance and Tooby and Cosmides. Are you kidding?
As for Wilson's transition to group selection, I dunno. I've never been
that fond of the idea. Maybe an argument can be made that humans are
socially cohesive enough to exhibit it, but there's still the free-rider
problem, though people can detect cheating and deception to an extent
and shun those who depart from group normative behaviors. If so we are
an exceptional species in that regard and not significant enough to make
a dent in the general mode of individual level selection, when selection
is the significant player in evolutionary change versus drift and versus
I was originally dubious of group selection, but there has been a fair amount of game theory research to make group selection at least plausible. In particular, there are, in many circumstances, selective advantages for punishing free-riders. I do not remember specific research, but searching on "the ultimatum game" would probably turn up something relevant.
Curiously, I seem to hear the research mentioned more in the fields of psychology and economics than in evolutionary biology.
Mark Isaak eciton (at) curioustaxonomy (dot) net
"It is certain, from experience, that the smallest grain of natural
honesty and benevolence has more effect on men's conduct, than the most
pompous views suggested by theological theories and systems." - D. Hume
- Prev by Date: Re: Brian Greene: Why is our universe fine-tuned for life?
- Next by Date: Re: Can the respective value of philosophy and science be compared?
- Previous by thread: Re: EO Wilson still antsy after all these years
- Next by thread: Re: EO Wilson still antsy after all these years