This tome was very informative and very thorough It was also way too dense for most lay people If it was intended as a textbook, it serves the purpose well Not so much as a little light reading. Incredible text a book to double check through one s library before purchasing a copy There is nothing I can add here or elsewhere, and so this is of a digital note to self than a review You ll never have to do anything save suppress a philosophical roll of the eyes the next time one hears, It doesn t make sense why so many people do Well, it actually makes perfect sense if one is willing to skip the futile political protest and give E.O Wilson some serious time Then again if the majority of human beings took to critical reading, research, and unbiased contemplation of presented facts, they would have much less to complain about And now that none of the hundreds of thousands who promised to leave the country last November have Suprise decided to stay, it has become glaringly obvious that a good deal of human beings live to complain And I mean literally live lives that revolve around the act of complaining Without the ability to complain, be it brought on by enlightenment or some sort of of technological fascist ploy, the suicide rate would indeed skyrocket And since trust fund money goes into the child s bank account much quicker with the States, we can become witnesses to ceaseless chimpanzee howling for several years, the soundtrack of suicidal delusions gone optimistically haywire, or one can remove one s self from all scenarios whereby one is witness to mass mental retardation, preferably with a big sociobiological masterpiece in one hand, machiato in the other Yrstruly suggests the latter. View A Collection Of Videos On Professor Wilson Entitled On The Relation Of Science And The Humanities Harvard University Press Is Proud To Announce The Re Release Of The Complete Original Version Of Sociobiology The New Synthesis Now Available In Paperback For The First Time When This Classic Work Was First Published In , It Created A New Discipline And Started A Tumultuous Round In The Age Old Nature Versus Nurture Debate Although Voted By Officers And Fellows Of The International Animal Behavior Society The Most Important Book On Animal Behavior Of All Time, Sociobiology Is Probably Widely Known As The Object Of Bitter Attacks By Social Scientists And Other Scholars Who Opposed Its Claim That Human Social Behavior, Indeed Human Nature, Has A Biological Foundation The Controversy Surrounding The Publication Of The Book Reverberates To The Present DayIn The Introduction To This Twenty Fifth Anniversary Edition, Edward O Wilson Shows How Research In Human Genetics And Neuroscience Has Strengthened The Case For A Biological Understanding Of Human Nature Human Sociobiology, Now Often Called Evolutionary Psychology, Has In The Last Quarter Of A Century Emerged As Its Own Field Of Study, Drawing On Theory And Data From Both Biology And The Social SciencesFor Its Still Fresh And Beautifully Illustrated Descriptions Of Animal Societies, And Its Importance As A Crucial Step Forward In The Understanding Of Human Beings, This Anniversary Edition Of Sociobiology The New Synthesis Will Be Welcomed By A New Generation Of Students And Scholars In All Branches Of Learning Wow WAAAAAAAAAAAAY over my head on this one, but when I could parse out meaning, it was pretty cool stuff I mean, cool in the sense that it validated all of my thinking with regards to why animals, people in particular, act like they do.I imagine that this book is to modern animal behavior science what the Pythagorean theorem is to geometry a very simple representation of some very basic principles that, when expounded upon, lead to some real revelatory shit.That being said, I picked at this it s a textbook after all so I can t claim to have read it cover to cover Nor can I vouch for the legitimacy of all the of the science, which a lot of Creationists evidently have a big problemalthough I m the type to think that if you drive your car to a church heated through a modern heating system, you ve already basically given the edge to science in that little debateAnyway I d recommend this for people who are much smarter than me, who have long attention spans Surprisingly, I d also recommend this to Creationists, if only because I wouldn t mind hearing about their heads exploding while trying to rationalize actual science with their beliefs. I m a sociologist and Wilson is kind of the boogey man to us I was pleasantly surprised though when finally reading this Not because I think he explains much human social stuff, but because he s much modest than reductionists like Dawkins, and he at least nominally recognizes the issue of multiple levels of reality and analysis that probably can t be simply collapsed into each other So not a major threat to socials science, but ants are definitely cool. Sociobiology The Field That Dare Not Speak its NameOn publication, the reception accorded Wilson s Sociobiology was divided.Among biologists, the reception was overwhelmingly laudatory My 25th anniversary edition proclaims on its cover that it was voted by officers and fellows of the Animal Behavior Society as the most important ever book on animal behavior.Yet, on the other side of campus, the reception was largely hostile Indeed, sociobiology became almost a dirty word in the social sciences, to such an extent that the word fell into disuse and was replaced by euphemisms like behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.Indeed, even those researchers whose work carried on the sociobiological approach in all but name almost always played down the extent of their debt to Wilson.Thus, books on evolutionary psychology typically begin with disclaimers acknowledging that the sociobiology of Wilson was, of course, crude and simplistic, and that their own approach is, of course, infinitely sophisticated.Indeed, reading some recent works on evolutionary psychology, one could be forgiven for thinking that evolutionary approaches in social science began around 1989 with Tooby and Cosmides.What then does sociobiology mean Today, the term has largely fallen into disuse, save among some social scientists as a term of abuse for any theory of human behavior perceived as placing too great a weight on biological factors, including many areas of research quite separate from sociobiology e.g behavioral genetics.Wilson himself did not coin the term However, he did popularize and ultimately unpopularize it.Wilson defined sociobiology as The systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior p4 p595.However, sociobiology came to be associated with the question of why behaviors evolved and the evolutionary function they serve i.e one of Tinbergen s Four Questions.The hormonal, neuroscientific, or genetic causes of behavior are just as much part of the biological basis of behavior , yet these lie outside of sociobiology As Wilson himself admitted Behavioral biology is now emerging as two distinct disciplines centered on neurophysiology and sociobiology p6.Yet Wilson s definition was also too narrow Behavioral ecologists have come to study all forms of behavior, not just social behavior e.g optimal foraging theory.A Book Much Read About, But Rarely Actually Read Wilson proudly proclaims that the book was Written with the broadest possible audience in mind and most of it can be read with full understanding by any intelligent person whether or not he or she has had any formal training in science p577 However, the size of the work was probably enough to deter most such readers long before they reached p577 where these words appear.Indeed, I suspect this was a factor in the hostile reception accorded the book It was so big that most social scientists were disinclined to read it for themselves, especially since most of it concerned non human species and was thus, as they saw it, irrelevant to their own work.Thus, their entire knowledge of the field was filtered to them by the critiques of other social scientists, who presented a straw man caricature of the field Indeed, reading these critiques, one suspects that those not bothering to read the work for themselves included many of those taking it upon themselves to write about it As a result, it became, among social scientists and the educated public, a book much read about, but rarely actually read and, like other books falling into this category e.g the Bible and The Bell Curve , myths have emerged regarding its contents.HumansThus, it is often claimed Wilson extended his gaze to humans only in his final chapter In fact, humans are mentioned before.His chapter on Roles and Castes closes with a discussion of Roles in Human Societies p312 3 the final section of the chapter on Aggression is titled Human Aggression p254 5 and in his chapter on Sex and Society , he discusses the association between adultery and violent retribution in humans p327.Another misconception is that, while he did not found the field of sociobiology, Wilson attracted most of the flak because he was the first biologist brave, foolish, ambitious, farsighted or na ve enough to apply sociobiology to humans.In fact, much of Trivers 1971 paper on reciprocal altruism discussed human emotions, like guilt and gratitude Trivers 1971.Reductionism Among the familiar charges levelled against sociobiology is that of reductionism.It is thus a surprise to find in the opening pages of Sociobiology Wilson defending holism against the triumphant reductionism of molecular biology p7.This passage is even surprising for anyone who has read Consilience, where Wilson champions reductionism as the cutting edge of science breaking down nature into its constituent components and the primary and essential activity of science Consilience p59 The love of complexity without reductionism makes art the love of complexity with reductionism makes science Consilience p59.Of course, reductionism is a matter of degree Dennett distinguishes greedy reductionism , which oversimplifies the world , from good reductionism , which attempts to explain it in all its complexity.Many critics of reductionism seem to promote an untestable and unscientific obscurantism, whereby any attempt to explain behavior in terms of causes is dismissed as reductionism and determinism.Wilson s writings on this topic must be understood as responses, not to the controversies these works provoked, but rather the controversies that preceded them.Thus, just as Wilson s defence of reductionism in Consilience was a response to the sociobiology debates, so Wilson s defence of holism in Sociobiology was a response an earlier academic controversy, in which molecular biologists led by James Watson had contended that molecular biology was the only biology, and that traditional fieldwork and experiments were positively pass see Naturalist.Wilson responded Raw reduction is only half the scientific process the remainder consist ing of the reconstruction of complexity by an expanding synthesis under the control if laws newly demonstrated by analysis reveal ing the existence of novel emergent phenomena On Human Nature p11.Group Selection Among the key breakthroughs that formed the basis for sociobiology was Williams s critique of group selection.A focus the individual, or the gene, as the sole unit of selection came to be viewed as an integral part of the sociobiological paradigm.It is therefore surprising to discover that Wilson was himself apparently a group selectionist all alone.This is apparent not only in his recent work but also in Sociobiology itself.Certainly, Wilson regurgitates the familiar criticisms of group selection p106 7 However, he continues to offer group selectionist explanations e.g p275 and concludes Group selection and higher levels of organization, however intuitively implausible are at least theoretically possible under a wide range of conditions p30.Unlike Dawkins, Wilson did not regard group selection as a terminally discredited theory.HumanReturning Wilson s infamous last chapter today, it is a disappointment.Inevitably, any science book will be dated after forty years However, while true of the whole book, this is especially true of this last chapter, which bears little resemblence to modern evolutionary psychology.This is perhaps inevitable While the application of sociobiological theory to other species was already well underway, the application of sociobiological theory to humans was in its infancy.Yet, while the substance of the chapter is dated, the general approach is spot on.Indeed, even some of the advances claimed by evolutionary psychologists as their own were anticipated by Wilson Thus, Wilson recognises One of the key questions in human sociobiology is to what extent the biogram represents an adaptation to modern cultural life and to what extent it is a phylogenetic vestige p458 He thus anticipates the key evolutionary psychological concept of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness.Wilson proposes examine human behavior from the disinterested perspective of an alien zoologist and concludes, In this macroscopic view the humanities and social sciences shrink to specialized branches of biology p547 Sociology and the other social sciences, as well as the humanities, are the last branches of biology waiting to be included in the Modern Synthesis p4.The idea that the behavior of a single species is alone exempt from principles of general biology, such that it must be studied in entirely different university faculties by entirely different researchers, the vast majority with little knowledge of biology reflects an indefensible anthropocentrism.However, Wilson actually urged caution Whether the social sciences can be truly biologicized in this fashion remains to be seen p4 The evidence of the ensuing decades suggests that they indeed can be and are being The only stumbling block has proven social scientists themselves.AmbitionThe scale of Wilson s ambition is enormous First, he sought to synthesize the field of animal behavior under the rubric of sociobiology and in the process produce the New Synthesis promised in the subtitle, by analogy with the Modern Synthesis of Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics that forms the basis for modern biology.Then, in a final chapter, he decided to add human behavior to his synthesis.This meant, not just providing a new foundation for a single subfield within biology, but for several whole disciplines formerly virtually unconnected to biology i.e psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics.Oh yeah and moral philosophy and perhaps epistemology too I forgot to mention that.PhilosophyWilson s forays into philosophy proved even controversial than those into social science Though limited to a few paragraphs in his first and last chapter, they were among the most critiqued in the whole book.Not only were opponents of sociobiology and philosophers indignant, but even those taking up the sociobiological gauntlet were mostly skeptical.In proposing to reconstruct moral philosophy on the basis of biology, Wilson was widely accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy.If a behavior is natural, this does not make it right, any than the fact that dying of tuberculosis is natural means that it is morally wrong to treat tuberculosis with such unnatural interventions as vaccination or antibiotics.Evolutionary psychologists were only too happy to reiterate the sacrosanct inviolability of the fact value chasm, not least because it allowed them to investigate the evolutionary function of such behaviors as infidelity, sexual coercion, war and infanticide, while denying they are justifying such behaviors.Yet if we cannot derive values from facts, whence can values be derived Only from other values Whence then are our ultimate moral values, from which others are derived, derived Must they be taken on faith Wilson has recently argued The posing of the naturalistic fallacy is itself a fallacy Consilience p273.His point in Sociobiology is narrower, namely that, in contemplating the appropriateness of different theories of prescriptive ethics e.g utilitarianism, Kantian deontology , moral philosophers consult the emotional control centers in the hypothalamus and limbic system of the brain p3.Yet these same moral philosophers take these emotions for granted They treat the brain as a black box rather than a biological entity the nature of which is the subject of scientific study p562.The philosophical implications of recognising that moral intuitions are themselves a product of the evolutionary process have since been investigated by both biologists and philosophers, not least Wilson himself in collaboration with Michael Ruse Ruse Wilson 1986.The same applies to the other major subfield of philosophy, namely epistemology, to which Wilson devotes only a single parenthesis p3 What humans are capable of knowing is, like morality, a product of the brain see Taking Darwin Seriously.Dated Is Sociobiology worth reading today At 700 pages, it represents no idle investment of time.Wilson has the unusual honour for a working scientist of being a twice Pulitzer Prize winner However, Sociobiology The New Synthesis is not a book one would read for its literary merits alone.As a textbook, Sociobiology is dated.Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a true science is the speed at which cutting edge work becomes obsolete Religious believers still cite holy books written millennia ago, while adherents of pseudo sciences like psychoanalysis and Marxism still paw over the words of Freud and Marx.However, the scientific method is a cumulative process based on falsificationism and is no respecter of persons Scientific works become obsolete almost as fast as they are published.The speed with which Wilson s work became obsolete is hence a marker of the success of the research project it inspired.If you want a textbook summary of the latest research in sociobiology, I would instead recommend the latest edition of Animal Behavior An Evolutionary Approach or An Introduction to Behavioral Ecology or, if your primary interest is human behavior, the latest edition of Evolutionary Psychology The New Science of the Mind.The continued value of Sociobiology lies in the field, not of science, but History of Science.ReferencesRuse Wilson 1986 Moral Philosophy as Applied Science Philosophy 61 236 173 192Trivers 1971 The evolution of reciprocal altruism Quarterly Review of Biology 46 35 57 Amazing that so many nuts object to this book Basically humans are just another animal, behave like animals and have instincts like animals, below the veneer of civilisation and intelligence Only egotistical people such as creationists would believe otherwise Get over yourselves Wilson has been assaulted and vilified for daring to articulate this simple fact A science hero A classic Long and requires a significant commitment, this book is a text that serves better as a reference Reading the chapters on primates for a full appreciation of its significance and controversy Read the original in collegewill always be relevant Humans are animals, get over it Humans are special, so is every living thing. Camus said that the only serious philosophical question is suicide That is wrong even in the strict sense intended The biologist, who is concerned with questions of physiology and evolutionary history, realizes that self knowledge is constrained and shaped by the emotional control centers in the hypothalamus and limbic system of the brain These centers flood our consciousness with all the emotions hate, love, guilt, fear, and others that are consulted by the ethical philosophers who wish to intuit the standards of good and evil What, we are then compelled to ask, made the hypothalamus and limbic system They evolved by natural selection.