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On Human Nature

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,106 Ratings  ·  112 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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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 of
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
quyển sách được viết dưới dạng review ấy, bạn nào đọc các loại tài liệu nghiên cứu rồi sẽ thấy rõ. nói chung, nội dung quyển sách không có gì mới, chỉ đơn giản là tổng hợp nhiều nguồn thông tin vào làm một.

quyển sách bảo dễ hiểu thì chắc chắn là không, nhưng cũng không phải là không quá khó hiểu. quan trọng là bạn phải đầu tư thời gian cho nó và phải tập trung, vì lơ là một chút là mất ngay. quay trở lại với dạng review, thì nội dung của các câu văn luôn súc tích và không-bao-giờ-thừa. bạn bỏ mấ
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 This book was very informative, but maybe a little bit outdated since the field of sociobiology has gone a long way since its inception when this book was written.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
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
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
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
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Grasped in Thought
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
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
Raegan Butcher
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A bit rough going in places, but overall very informative and holds up well after all these years. An important read for those on the right and left that insist that humanity is a blank slate, that culture is everything, that there is no difference between sexes, and that genes and evolution don't have any effect on humans.
Vlad Tanasoiu
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Somewhat outdated; Wilson is trying to prove a lot of concepts that, nowadays, are almost mainstream in the scientific field. Nevertheless, a very nice read for those who are new to sociobiology/evolutionary psychology or for those who want to learn more about the history of these areas.
Panayoti Kelaidis
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gradually gnawing through E.O. Wilson's oeuvre (rather like one of his social insects) I think I am beginning to know how Darwin's contemporaries must have felt as they consumed his texts: Wilson is deceptive because his limpid, lucid prose belies the depths of his insights and accomplishments. He is credited with having more or less having invented a whole new discipline in this book--human sociobiology, or evolutionary sociology: in this book he seems to shine a spotlight on the tangled no-man ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Exactly what is it that separates homo sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom? Is human behavior just a deterministic product of our genetics? The more I learn about the natural world the more I return to questions like this. Wilson's book is a very lucid and thought provoking read about a subject with no easy answers. If you've ever wondered just why human's behave the way they do it is certainly a volume worth reading.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
On Human Nature is primarily a science book, specifically a significant science book that launched sociobiology aka evolutionary psychology. And as a science book, it's a great piece of work. But it aspires to more, and largely succeeds. In the last chapter, "Hope", Wilson says that scientific materialism is a mythology because its most sweeping assertions will never be proven, but it is superior to other mythologies (religion) because it has been successful in accurately describing the world, i ...more
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
In this incisive book, E. O. Wilson made the claim that the natural sciences could serve as an ante-discipline for the social sciences and humanities - helping to inform them by more clearly defining the issues that can be discussed with precision. By means of analogy, he compares this relationship to that between physics ("lower" level) and chemistry ("higher" level). After elucidating the basic principles of sociobiology (the study of the genetic roots of behaviour across animal species), he t ...more
Dave Garnand
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If it wasn't for a couple funny historic anachronisms, you would not know this book was written…last century... While the socio-biology synthesis that Wilson helped bring about is largely in place in the scientific community and more and more so in our society, this book will still read fresh and full of insights for almost all readers. It may seem obvious to us now that you cannot separate our biological selves from our social and cultural context, but not only did Wilson feeling like he was fi ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Wilson's classic is showing signs of age. Overall, its still an enjoyable read but it does feel dated.

The book starts off quite well; you can see where Wilson's desire for consilience starts. Here he tackles such topics as heredity, development and the general overview of sociobiology. He not only presents his argument, that the hard sciences and going to become much more entwined into the social, but he points out paths that he suspected the convergence would flow. Additionally, he fully admit
Matheus Freitas
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! It needed a lot more attention that I feel like I was able to give. I really hope to hear it again, soon, because the amount of information is delightful...

This author is very pleasant and captivating. His words roll smoothly. He has a good balance of Biology and Sociology: it isn't all biological, nor is all sociological. The Lamarckian Social Evolution was absolutely fantastic! It's so simple and self-deductive, when he shows what he means with the metaphor.

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Edward Osborne 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 matters. He is Pellegrino University Re ...more
More about Edward O. Wilson...
“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” 4 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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