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On Human Nature

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,788 ratings  ·  154 reviews
No one who cares about the human future can afford to ignore E.O. Wilson's book. On Human Nature begins a new phase in the most important intellectual controversy of this generation: Is human behavior controlled by the species' biological heritage? Does this heritage limit human destiny?

With characteristic pugency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challen
Paperback, Revised, 288 pages
Published October 18th 2004 by Harvard University Press (first published September 1st 1978)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Riku Sayuj


Many animals, especially mammals, have evolved social mechanisms to aid in survival. But a few exceptional species, such as wasps, bees and ants, have taken this to the extreme and these are the species that dominate the planet today. They can only be termed as "UltraSocial”.

Humans can also be included in this elite list of earth conquerors. After all, we live in the ‘Anthropocene’ now.

Wilson asks us to view humans as not an completely exceptional species, in spite
I have to admit that I have approached this text in a hypercritical mood. This is unfortunate and not in the best interests of a fair review, but rather inevitable I am afraid. This book is the progenitor of a thousand others that go about explaining complex human social and cultural relationships on the basis not so much of Darwinian evolution, as of a remarkably limited notion of human sexual selection. Endless books now ‘explain’ human culture as a kind of Freudian just-get-me-laid-right-now ...more
Tudor Vlad
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
No time for a proper review, and to be honest, I don't even know what I could say. This book was very informative, but maybe a little bit outdated since the field of sociobiology has gone a long way since its inception when this book was written. I had that in mind when I picked this book up so I'm not going to hold that against it, what I'm going to hold against it is the writing. It was a mixed bag, while it had moments when it was fascinating and it kept me interested, there were so many time ...more
Dec 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in sociobiology
This was one of the most interesting books I read during my college exploits as an anthropology major. If you're ever confused by my way of experiencing the world, read this and you might get a better idea of why I think the way I do. The moment I remember most vividly to this day is Wilson's writing on the our attempts at discovering the meaning of life. He basically postulates that our brains are not constructed in a way that would facilitate deciphering or understanding the life, universe and ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: anth-sosh
Disappointing. Wilson uses very dry language throughout which makes it difficult to stay interested. And while the subject might have been groundbreaking when it came out in the 70s, now it's just kind of boring. There are some interesting observations on sexuality, witchcraft, and the pastoral nature of the Judeo-Christian monodeity, but they are not nearly enough to make up for the various ideological and literary shortcomings.

First, it's difficult to even tell what Wilson is trying to say, wh
Dennis Littrell
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Without euphemism

On reading this again after a couple of decades, I am struck with how brilliantly it is written. The subtlety and incisiveness of Wilson's prose is startling at times, and the sheer depth of his insight into human nature something close to breath-taking. I am also surprised at how well this holds up after all these years. There is very little in Wilson's many acute observations that would need changing. Also, it is interesting to see, in retrospect, that it is this book and not
Kenia Sedler
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing work of science. I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.
Kunal Sen
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book today, 42 years after its original publication, the ideas does not sound as surprising, though it still remains an intensely though provoking and important book. There are many more people now who agree with this point of view, and an even larger number who have accepted this perspective. But I can only imagine the uproar it must have created in the seventies, when the academic world was totally convinced that there is no such thing as human nature, and that all of it is a prod ...more
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Lemuel Gulliver made his famous evaluation of humanity after observing little people, big people, nonsentient people and sentient horses. Little people, big people and nonsentient people still being people, and horses being mammals, his reference points were not very far removed from Homo Sapiens. Edward Wilson is an entomologist specializing in ants, social animals that are as different from humans as any on Earth (coral polyps are even more different, but they are not very behaviorally interes ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ethicists
This book is both captivating and refreshingly honest, and I'm pretty embarrassed that it has taken me so long to read it. Wilson is happy to admit that "scientific materialism" is a myth, on a par with religion and Marxism--the three main myths he concerns himself with in the book. In the end, he simply thinks that it is a better myth, one more likely to be vindicated in the ultimate analysis. But he recognizes that it is far from vindicated, nor does he envision such work will be easy or soon ...more
Feb 02, 2010 rated it liked it
"The first dilemma, in a word, is that we have no particular place to go. The species lacks any goal external to its own biological nature. It could be that in the next hundred of years humankind will thread the needles of technology and politics, solve the energy and material crises, avert nuclear war, and control reproduction. ... But what then? Educated people everywhere like to believe that beyond material needs lie fulfillment and the realization of individual potential. But what is fulfill ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
An amazing book. Edward O. Wilson asks if there is anything more important than human nature or, in other words, who we are and why? And then he proceeded to attempting to answer that question, based on the then-new discipline of "evolutionary psychology." We humans, like any other species, are the result of millions of years of evolution, 99% of which we spent as hunter-gatherers, which makes our needs and responses based pretty much on that experience and not as a result of "civilization" duri ...more
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I wish I had read 20 years ago. It has the potential to completely redirect one's life, to make one reconsider so many notions about sex, religion, morality and history. The book is dated only because there is more data nowadays, but the ideas and ways in which Wilson puts them together have an important contemporary tone and value.

A must read. Even for people who have read a lot on science and anthropology, even if you don't find a new hypothesis or theory in here, the essence of
2.5 stars for the bad and unorganized writing.

I would recommend Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature instead of this one. That book was a true delight.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
EO Wilson has his moments of obsequiousness, but his ability to calmly state and explain strong signposts of human beings is staggeringly impressive. Especially since this book was written in the 70s. He's definitely a scientist father figure for me. I want to read his ant books.
Waldimar Pelser
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Intriguing blast from the past about that which is socialised behaviour and that which has its root in our biology as humans.
Cornelis Haupt
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
And just like that I am now a supporter of training members of a society to eliminate all sexual differences and behaviour as done by diversity quotas in the West or conditioning members of a society to exaggerate the differences between men and women and their behaviours as done by Japan.

The book points out that there is a third option that societies can take to deal with gender power-imbalance and that is to actively do nothing other than to provide equal opportunity and access. This is the vi
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociobiology
It is not surprising that On Human Nature receives a lot of criticism in the social sciences field. The solution he suggests is to effectively re-engineer the social sciences more thoroughly within the natural sciences. A process that would completely eradicate some current fields of academics (such as theology). While his delivery is crass in this sense, I do believe the book is worth reading and contains much valuable insight and knowledge. It is interesting to point out that the 1st dilemma ...more
Son Tung
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I just learn a new word "progenitor". This book was written in 70s,a progenitor of subsequent works on modern psychology, evolutionary biology, sociobiology, anthropology.

There are sections on sex, agression, altruism and religion as part of human nature, they would have been amazing if i did not read those modern books on interdisciplinary fields mentioned above before this one. I regret to say that it could have been 5 stars.

Here is 2 ideas i like, but it is subjected to changed in the future
Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great insight into who we are, why we are, how we are, what we are, and, where we may be headed.

"Pure knowledge is the ultimate emancipator. It equalizes people and sovereign states, erodes the archaic barriers of superstition and promises to lift the trajectory of cultural evolution."

It's a short book--from my perspective--but it packs lots of information; information that can lead one to delve deeper into many and varied disciplines of the study of mankind.

If you want to understand some of the
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to AGamble by: My father
I have a copy of this book signed to me by E.O. Wilson, with a drawing of an ant as well. It is a first edition, and is NOT for sale.

This is one of the most personally influential books I have ever read. From the age of thirteen, when I first read it, to today, when I am twenty-two, the way I perceive and think about human activities stems more from this book than any other written work. If that doesn't deserve five stars, what does?

On another personal note, this book was given to me by my fathe
Error Theorist
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had some problems with this book, but the chapter on religion is what caused me to give it 4 rather than 3 stars. My biggest issue was his random switch from claiming the mind was essentially dispositions for certain behaviors which are adaptive (allow the organism to cope with its environment), to claiming in the last chapter that the mind is merely an epiphenomena of the neuronal machinery of the brain. Either I'm misreading him or there's a bit of inconsistency on Wilson's part. Other than ...more
Aug 10, 2007 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biology students, and other members of Homo dapiens sp.
Once one of my friends told me: by readnig this book you see how wise this man (E.O.Wilson) is... well, he was right about it.
Clive F
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A really important and profound book on how we're a social species, and that although our overall nature is significantly shaped by environment (mostly culture), the set of possible shapes that our nature might take is still profoundly constrained by our genetics. We are not a blank slate at all, despite what some sociologists might claim. Instead, we can:
"hope to decide more judiciously which of the elements of human nature to cultivate and which to subvert, which to take open pleasure with and
Jim Robles
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for this highly readable, erudite treatment of human nature. I would say a must-read for those interested in who we are, and how we became the way we are.

Of hunter-gatherer societies, "Murder, which is as common per capita as in most American cities, is most often committed in response to adultery and during other disputes over women" (83).

The Conservative (protect the tribe from outsiders) -- Liberal (equity within the tribe) is on p. 86.

"Are human beings innately aggressive? . . . .
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is more of an essay than a scientific work, but nonetheless of significant historical importance because it was published in the heat of the 'sociobiology debate'. This is also the foundation of the later field of evolutionary psychology. Wilson's main thesis is easy to follow: our behaviour is - just like our physiological constituency - shaped by genes. In other words: our behaviour is firmly rooted in our evolutionary past. To understand our mental capacities (psychology), and as a corol ...more
Clifford Vandemortele
This book was interesting enough. It gives a broad and objective overview of tendencies in human behavior based sociobiological predispositions. The author verifies in a logical progression how human nature based on the science of genetics remains relatively constant at the core. Progress in civilization and cultural evolution are based on genetic coding that can be found in even primitive hunter-gathering tribal behavior. This book is very academic. And I don't think there is anything new to re ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is just another book by Science religion.

"Science is truth and everything"
He didn't say it. But I'm sure that he believes it.
He wrote religion group and progress are just process of creatures.

Maybe yes.
But did he think Jesus and Muhammad Buddha also did same?

Do They just believed God or truth without reasoning or other logical thinking?
Or Science believer wanna believe it.

Since Quantum physics and Relativity theory, old axioms must be changed.
We don't know what is time, matter, space etc..
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ever since I had come across the sociobiology, I wondered how biology and humanities interact and render who we are and how we behave. This book may be the best answer for it.

Human being just like every other species of fauna and flora conditioned by its genes which have evolved for billions of years. Later humans began developing cerebral capacities over millions of years. Finally, the culture and language of modern species have emerged as recently as tens of thousands of years.

Though we are
Mariah S
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-lessons, human
This book made me laugh allot and not because it was funny but because when I related my life to these observations I saw a correlation. And I know correlation does not cause causation but Wilson's excuses for such behavior is incredibly accurate from my perspective. I have to admit it can get bland but if you power through, there can be some incredible breakthroughs on, not only why other people do a thing but on why you, yourself do whatever it is that you do. I also like that Wilson touches o ...more
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Edward Osborne Wilson, sometimes credited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical ma ...more

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Karen M. McManus, the bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and One of Us Is Next, doesn’t shy away from secrets and...
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“Human beings appear to be sufficiently selfish and calculating to be capable of indefinitely greater harmony and social homeostasis. This statement is not self-contradictory. True selfishness, if obedient to the other constraints of mammalian biology, is the key to a more nearly perfect social contract. - pg. 157” 2 likes
“innate censors and motivators exist in the brain that deeply and unconsciously affect our ethical premises; from these roots, morality evolved as instinct. If that perception is correct, science may soon be in a position to investigate the very origin and meaning of human values, from which all ethical pronouncements and much of political practice flow.” 2 likes
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