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The Social Conquest of Earth
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Group Reads > September 2013: The Social Conquest of Earth

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message 1: by Kristoffer (new)

Kristoffer Stokkeland (kristofferst) | 159 comments Mod
Post your questions, comments and outrages here to share and discuss with other members. Happy reading!

Florence Millo | 31 comments I just downloaded it to my Kindle. I generally love everything E.O.Wilson has ever written so I am looking forward to this one!

Florence Millo | 31 comments I never know what to expect when starting to read a new book by Edward O. Wilson. I never know which way his brilliant mind will go. To read the prologue and find a brief biography and discussion of Paul Gauguin and his impressionist painting was an interesting surprise. Now on to the rest of the book.

message 4: by Lindsay (new) - added it

Lindsay Miller | 11 comments I'm quite interested to read this, particularly as I will have just finished reading The Selfish Gene. Judging by the reviews on The Social Conquest of Earth, there's quite a lively debate between the authors' two philosophies of the driving force of evolution, and indeed the authors themselves. I plan to read Richard Dawkins' blogged rebuttals after this book.

Florence Millo | 31 comments Chapter 1
Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? These are the basic questions of philosophy and religion and E.O.Wilson will enlighten us. Truly, he ventures where angels fear to tread.

Florence Millo | 31 comments Some interesting quotes from Chapter 2:
"We have conquered the biosphere & laid waste to it like no other species in the history of life. We are unique in what we have wrought."
"We are an evolutionary chimera, living on intelligence steered by the demands of animal instinct. This is the reason we are mindlessly dismantling the biosphere and, with it, our own prospects for permanent existence. "
"Homo sapiens emerged in the last hundred thousand years and spread around the world only in the last 60,000 years. There was not time for us to co evolve with the biosphere. Other species were not prepared for the onslaught. "
"This shortfall soon had dire consequences for the rest of life."

"The prehumans evolved to eusociability by the interaction of selection at the level of individual selection and at the level of the group."

Florence Millo | 31 comments Pre adaptations leading through the evolutionary maze to eusociality:
Large size & relative immobility
Hands & feet developed for grasping
Control of fire

"In evolution, with diversity comes opportunity "
"Our prehuman ancestors were not chosen; they were lucky."

Florence Millo | 31 comments Carnivores at campsites are forced to behave in ways not needed by wanderers in the field. They must divide labor: some hunt and forage, others guard the campsite and young. They must share food in ways that are acceptable to all.
Group members compete with one another for status, food, mate, and a comfortable place to sleep. The advantage is with those who are able to read the intentions of others, gain trust and allegiance of other, and manage rivals.
Social intelligence was always at a high premium

Jane (rapaciousreader) | 4 comments Just started reading this book for the second time. There's so much here to absorb. The summary of trajectory from before chimp/human line split up to Homo is written so beautifully--sentences so concise and elegant. Little bits of prose containing perfectly formed precepts. "In every game of evolutionary chance, played from one generation to the next, a very large number of individual must live and die... For the entire course of human evolution leading from our primitive mammalian forebears of a hundred million years ago to the single lineage that threaded its way to become the first Homo sapiens, the total number of individuals it required might have been one hundred billion. Unknowingly, they all lived and died for us."

Florence Millo | 31 comments An unavoidable and perpetual war exists between honor, virtue, & duty (the products of group selection) and selfishness, cowardice, & hypocrisy (the products of individual selection)
Much of culture and the creative arts has arisen from the inevitable clash of individual selection and group selection.
The human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolutionary processes that created us. The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be

Florence Millo | 31 comments Chapter 7
Different parts of the brain have evolved by group selection to create groupishness.
It is an uncomfortable fact that when given a guilt-free choice, individuals prefer the company of people of the same race, nation, clan, & religion.

Florence Millo | 31 comments Folks, I found Part IV tedious and repetitious. Onward to Chapter 20.

Sara Van Dyck (saravanc9) | 10 comments I've posted a slightly longer review. My take-away thought is: how great it would be to get Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) and Wilson together. Wilson says we need to rely on "decency" and "reason," but Haidt argues that these values don't seem the same to everyone. Could they find a meeting point?

And by the way- my name is showing up wrong again - it is Sara van Dyck with the "van" part of the last name. Not that I am in the same class -but the name of the French explorer is not Ponce Leon, the famous painter is not Leonardo Vinci,and those arches weren't built by Donald.

message 14: by Robin (new)

Robin Hawdon (robinhawdoncom) I'm intrigued by this group and so would Darwin be! See what he says from beyond the grave -
And if you'd like to know what his viewpoint might have been on the philosophical implications of his evolutionary theory, go to
(Yes I know, one shouldn't promote one's own work here but it's so relevant to this group).

Steven This comment is in the wrong section. This space is reserved for E O Wilson's book and our group to discuss it.

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