The Social Conquest of Earth


Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
6.49 X 1.21 X 9.41 inches | 1.42 pounds

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About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hรถlldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


... a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion.--Jennifer Schuessler
...a sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating... it is fascinating to see such a distinguished scientist optimistic about the future.--Michael Gazzaniga
Once again, Ed Wilson has written a book combining the qualities that have brought his previous books Pulitzer Prizes and millions of readers: a big but simple question, powerful explanations, magisterial knowledge of the sciences and humanities, and beautiful writing understandable to a wide public.--Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel
A monumental exploration of the biological origins of the Human Condition!--James D. Watson
Starred review. With bracing insights into instinct, language, organized religion, the humanities, science, and social intelligence, this is a deeply felt, powerfully written, and resounding inquiry into the human condition.
That Wilson provides nimble, lucid responses to the three core questions, speaks volumes about his intellectual rigor. That he covers all of this heady terrain in less than 300 pages of text speaks volumes about his literary skill.--Larry Lebowitz
Wilson's examples of insect eusociality are dazzling... There are obvious parallels with human practices like war and agriculture, but Wilson is also sensitive to the differences... This book offers a detailed reconstruction of what we know about the evolutionary histories of these two very different conquerors. Wilson's careful and clear analysis reminds us that scientific accounts of our origins aren't just more accurate than religious stories; they are also a lot more interesting.--Paul Bloom
Religion. Sports. War. Biologist E.O. Wilson says our drive to join a group--and to fight for it--is what makes us human.
Wilson's newest theory...could transform our understanding of human nature--and provide hope for our stewardship of the planet.... [His] new book is not limited to the discussion of evolutionary biology, but ranges provocatively through the humanities.... Its impact on the social sciences could be as great as its importance for biology, advancing human self-understanding in ways typically associated with the great philosophers.--Howard W. French
An ambitious and thoroughly engaging work that's certain to generate controversy within the walls of academia and without... Provocative, eloquent and unflinchingly forthright, Wilson remains true to form, producing a book that's anything but dull and bound to receive plenty of attention from supporters and critics alike.--Colin Woodard
Wilson is a brilliant stylist, and his account of the rise of Homo sapiens and our species' conquest of Earth is informative, thrilling, and utterly captivating.--Rudy M. Baum
What Wilson ends up doing is so profound that the last eight chapters... could stand alone as a separate book, because what he ends up doing is no less than defining human nature itself.--Robert Knight
The Social Conquest of Earth is a huge, deep, thrilling work, presenting a radically new but cautiously hopeful view of human evolution, human nature, and human society. No one but E. O. Wilson could bring together such a brilliant synthesis of biology and the humanities, to shed light on the origins of language, religion, art, and all of human culture.--Oliver Sacks
The Social Conquest of the Earth has set off a scientific furor... The controversy is fueled by a larger debate about the evolution of altruism. Can true altruism even exist? Is generosity a sustainable trait? Or are living things inherently selfish, our kindness nothing but a mask? This is science with existential stakes.--Jonah Lehrer

In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson offers a full explanation of his latest thinking on evolution. Group dynamics, not selfish genes, drive altruism, he argues: "Colonies of cheaters lose to colonies of cooperators." As the cooperative colonies dominate and multiply, so do their alleged "altruism" genes. Wilson uses what he calls "multilevel selection"--group and individual selection combined--to discuss the emergence of the creative arts and humanities, morality, religion, language and the very nature of humans. Along the way, he pauses to reject religion, decry the way humans have despoiled the environment and, in something of a non sequitur, dismiss the need for manned space exploration. The book is bound to stir controversy on these and other subjects for years to come.--Sandra Upson and Anna Kuchment