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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time
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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  134 ratings  ·  36 reviews
After decades studying creatures great and small, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson had an epiphany: Darwin's theory won't fully prove itself until it improves the quality of human life in a practical sense. And what better place to begin than his hometown of Binghamton, New York? Making a difference in his own city would provide a model for cities everywhere, whic ...more
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Published August 24th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
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Michael
I had high hopes for this book, in which the author tells the story of his attempt to describe and then to improve his home city of Binghamton, New York, by means of "The Neighborhood Project." I was soon disappointed. Supposedly using evolutionary science as his guiding light, Wilson tries to understand the complexities of the city and its citizens by using sloppy social science methodologies (e.g., who decorates front yards for Halloween and/or Christmas, standardized tests of school children, ...more
itpdx
As a biologist I have always been leery of sociological studies. If you get large enough groups of people and find ways to identify and control some variables, you might be able to get reproducible results. But I am not often convinced. At least the author, David Sloan Wilson, make a persuasive argument that our societies might have an evolutionary basis in that people who are members of successful societies have a better chance of surviving and reproducing. And that societies are a genetic syst ...more
Sue
This was a recommended book from the bibliography and notes in the back of _No Impact Man_. Although at times the writing got a bit bogged down, there were many more interesting parts that held my attention. I enjoyed the chapters on the water striders and wasps, and how his team designed the different data surveys for the Binghamton Project. I also liked how he gave a mini-bio on each person that plays a role in the Project.
My least favorite chapter was about the relating of evolution to relig
...more
Julie
I enjoyed this book. It is entertaining especially for those with a background in science. The author takes an interesting approach to conducting research for the book. I recommend this book.
Salam
Have you ever looked at a group, or a city as an organisms? You may after reading this.This eminently readable book is at once the story of a single initiative - The Binghamton Neighborhood Project - which is using evolutionary science to improve that city's quality of life. More profoundly, it's a survey of the state of that science as it is being applied to social and economic problems throughout the country. As such, it's also an excellent primer in applied evolutionary science. This is an ex ...more
Kathy
Intriguing frame for conscious evolution. Interesting to consider what circumstances catalyze people to make choices that benefit the whole, rather than just their own interests. I liked reading about the work he has done with the school, and I particularly liked his two "Ant Commandments":
(1) To defy the authority of empirical evidence is to disqualify oneself as someone worthy of critical engagement in a dialogue.
(2) If you're undermining the commons, then you're degrading your soul.
How we mov
...more
Braxton Lewis
Understanding, in a time of confusion, improves the human condition. I want to thank Dr Wilson for taking the time to reseach and pen this work. We should indeed "avoid our bad habit of regarding ourselves as more intelligent, cultural, and moral in every way," so that we may recognize "the most important and interesting differences among people arise when the mental modules that we share in common are triggered by different environmental stimuli."
Alysa
I enjoyed this book more than Evolution for Everyone, largely because it felt more cohesive. Evolution for Everyone, was a bit scattered, as DSW was trying to explain numerous concepts where the only common thread was evolutionary theory. In The Neighborhood Project, he was able to keep everything tying back to good ol' Bing (with some standard DSW detours, of course), which kept the whole reading process smoother. I felt like I was reading a book, not several independent papers by the same auth ...more
Alice
Wow - I’ve read other books where the author thinks their particular field is IT; if only everyone would follow that one particular path everything would be fantastic. But, this author really takes the cake - he’s completely and enthusiastically convinced that evolution is **IT**. Evolution will solve all problems. Except, he never actually gives any examples of problems being solved using evolution. He gives lots of examples of looking at things through an evolutionary perspective to see them a ...more
Andrew Klem
I don't know how many of you will enjoy this. The writing is not perfect, and he's a bit of a wanderer when it comes to making is point. I was frequently feeling annoyed that he hadn't gotten down to the point. I guess I like my science books to be anecdote- and example-heavy rather than philosophical. This book tended towards metaphors and parables and only mentioned a few studies. I also came to the book with a lot of desire for there to be some "Before and After" style stories. These were vir ...more
Jeramey
Beware, this book has very little to do with neighborhoods, and even less to do with ideas about improving them. It does have quite a bit to do with evolution. I was disappointed that large swathes of the book had nothing to do with the Binghamton Neighborhood Project, and instead seemed to follow the author's travels in the year 2009.

It took until page 386 out of 390 for an idea to be offered about how to improve a neighborhood (converting vacant land to parks). There was some information about
...more
Jessica Vogt
This book starts out promising, outlining the beginning stages of Wilson's Binghamton Neighborhood Project to "use evolution to improve his city." However, the book quickly spirals into a amalgamation of stories about how the author does research, what he reads, who he meets, what he finds interesting and inspiring, and, at times, is little better than stream-of-consciousness story telling. Undoubtedly, Wilson's prestige as a researcher and evolutionist and his previously well-written books allo ...more
Jenny Stringham
This is an evolutionary science book and it reads like a science book. I wasn't quite expecting that when I started reading the book so it took awhile to get into it and I found myself skipping along every once and awhile until I would happily find some interesting points in each chapter. Towards the end he had some chapters on the the 'natural history of the afterlife', and 'body and soul' that were interesting. One of the quotes I liked was "the only hope for managing our affairs is to see the ...more
Emmkay


I was looking forward to this: the topic sounded intriguing, and the author was writing about a town I lived in for a while. I enjoyed bits here and there, but it wasn't well-written or well-edited (the use of the same 'cute' phrases over and over was irritating, and the book meandered a lot). It would also have been more interesting to read about what his neighborhood project had accomplished and how - but I think it is in its very early stages, so it's really a matter of reading about confere
...more
Mark
Wilson's ideas are intriguing, and his book is full of interesting anecdotes, but he never quite brings it all together. Mostly I spent the book wanting to read about the outcomes of project after project he writes about, although it's too early for results. Still, the work would have benefited from a more structured approach to its argument, rather than a string of stories and new beginnings.

I like his ideas about evolution as paradigm, but I wonder if maybe other books of his would be better f
...more
Tahrana
An all encompassing book about how evolutionary theory explains cultural constructions.
Scott Kellicker


The initial chapters regarding evolution were readable and interesting. The initial neighborhood project field studies and how he proposed evolutional thought could benefit a community were also interesting. (Would have been nice to have visuals of the GIS data that was referred to as so fascinating and important) But then the book lost focus and became more about the authors opportunities and other experiences that came about because if the initial project. I read several chapters past this po
...more
Kerrie
Terrible. How you can write a book like this and not include even one graph, picture or diagram is baffling. The book was less about the project than the reputation and opportunity afforded the author by it. He spends a ridiculous number of pages teaching the reader about evolution and his opinions on the failings of the scientific community while barely talking about the project itself which, call me crazy, I thought was the actual topic of the book. Painful, officially putting this author on m ...more
tawathie
I was really interested in the insights Wilson had to share, and kept reading and reading, hoping to get to the point where he would begin relating his results and how he USED them to benefit his community. Sadly, the book never got to that part of the project; it never moves beyond relating the various scientific approaches he employs to collect civic data. And here I was, curious to glean HOW I could make a difference in my own community. Bummer.
Kristina
Title is completely misleading. Much of the book seems to ramble on, talking about who Mr. Wilson is working with, and his categorization of scientific study. Unfortunately it's not useful discussion on how he improved his city. Actually, the book ends at year 5 of his work without any results of improvement. I suppose there will be future books for that purpose. I'll look for the Cliff Notes version.
Rob Cantrall
Based on the sub-title, I expected much more in the way of practical, how-to type information on how to improve one's city. This is not that (much, anyway). However, it is an interesting look into the practical ways that Evolution Science can be used to understand the world, and I was fascinated by some of the case studies on water striders, bees, and, especially/oddly, crows.
Sandy
Quite an interesting read, but what I really wanted to know how his group was able to improve his city, which was never answered. Some thoughtful discussions about evolution, and I enjoyed reading this, but I really want to know if worked. The book was more of a 488 page introduction. I'm still waiting for the method, results, and conclusion.
Karen
A lot of thought-provoking nuggets, but his chapters flit around in search of the next shiny object. As a city-dweller I hoped for some more practical info. Not disappointed in the read, just not sure I'll be able to synthesize his ideas and act.
Gabe
This is an interesting book. I have a background in science so I found some of the topics organized by chapter to be more appealing than others. I found the book overall to be well written and entertaining.
Eric
Although the book doesn't actually discuss the namesake of the book (i.e., the Binghamton Neighborhood Project) it is packed with fantastic information about evolutionary theory and group selection.
Cindy
The title didn't really fit the book. There was more statistical analysis than evolution going on. I'm not convinced that evolution is what the author thinks it is.
Steve
A great idea, but more proof-of-concept than anything. It would be great if he had written this after he had implemented some of the ideas he discusses.
Brian
AWESOME book - I would highly recommend this one to just about anyone - Bill Bryson meets Carl Sagan is kinda how I would describe it.
Joan
kept waiting for author to say something worthwhile. I read the whole thing and wish I hadn't. It was a waste of my time.
Dunrie
Mar 02, 2013 Dunrie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dunrie by: On Being
Shelves: nonfiction
it is much more a study of academia and cross-disciplinarity than the study of a neighborhood. that disappointed me.
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David Sloan Wilson has been a professor of evolutionary biology at Binghamton University for more than twenty years. He has written three academic books on evolution, authored hundreds of papers, some with E.O. Wilson, and his first book for a general audience was Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think.
More about David Sloan Wilson...
Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities L'altruismo: La cultura, la genetica e il benessere degli altri

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