Listening to this book was like being at a boring lecture of a pompous professor. It is the perfect storm of droning delivery, armchair speculation, and obfuscated writing. At the end of a topic, I would grit my teeth as the author would write "In summary..." as that meant I was in for lengthy, pompous, and obfuscating recap. Add to that the fact that the work is highly speculative with little actual science, this book becomes much work for little reward. I couldn't make it past chapter 7 and should have stopped sooner.
I've read 84 books this year, and this was the best one. What more can I say? E O Wilson is a brilliant mind, a Pulitzer Prize winning science educator, and this book is the perfect capstone for his long and amazingly productive career. By tirelessly studying ants, he has learned the meaning of humanity's existence and proves it here.
A new explanation
The Red Queen, The Third Chimpanzee, and The Moral Animal. A book of the same type and nature but a totally different explanation and if hods up making large parts of those books obsolete.
Professor Wilson makes a cogent argument for looking at our evolution in a different way. His argument that we are eusocial animals (like ants and bees) at first seems hard to swallow but by the end of the book, it all makes sense. The argument for multilevel evolution, if it holds up, will replace the theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. Clearly this a big change and this theory has its detractors.
Wilson's book is an accessible presentation of current thinking in sociobiology. He presents his views on the state of the science clearly, fairly representing varying viewpoints, though, of course, his own ideas prevail in this book. It is an interesting review of the evolution of his own thinking as various hypotheses and theories have risen and themselves evolved over the past half century. It is a wonderful explication of the process of science at the same time that it describes one aspect of science.
I particularly appreciated Wilson's hope that the sciences, humanities and social sciences will find more mutual understanding as they all seek to describe and improve the human condition.
Hogan does a masterful job of presenting Wilson's work. I suspect that if I heard Wilson speak, I would be surprised that he didn't sound like Hogan.
E.O. Wilson stands among the foremost authorities on modern evolutionary biology and this book presents a fascinating view of modern theories in the origins of human culture. Instead of focusing purely on close genetic relatives of homo sapiens, he takes an interesting approach and compares our species with the other highly socialized animals we know of. A fascinating read for anyone interested in learning more details about human history. The only thing keeping me from a 5-star rating on this book is his occasional divergences into theology and the intro regarding artist Paul Gauguin which seems out of place.