Gregg Sapp's Reviews > The Social Conquest of Earth

The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson
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's review
Feb 06, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 31 to February 06, 2012

The following is slightly modified from my Library Journal review of E.O. Wilson's "The Social Conquest of Earth."

WILSON, Edward O. The Social Conquest of Earth. Liveright, April 2012. c 352 p. illus, index. 978-0-87140-423-8, $27/95
According to Wilson, recent advances in evolutionary science provide practical answers to two of humanity’s enduring existential questions: Who Are We? and Where Did We Come From? Succinctly, we are members of a “eusocial” species with behaviors, aptitudes, and perceptions that evolved through an interplay between multilevel evolutionary forces. Our innate, interdependent social organization evolved in response to pressures that weren’t fundamentally different from those that led to stratified insect “superorganism” colonies (see his "The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies", 576 pages : W.W. Norton, 2008). The difference-maker is intelligence, though, 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 upon our ability to use species self-knowledge to create the world we want. For the record, he thinks that it is possible for us to manufacture our own human paradise right here on earth. 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
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