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On Human Nature: Revised Edition | [Edward O. Wilson]

On Human Nature: Revised Edition

This revised edition of 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 pungency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate.

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Publisher's Summary

This revised edition of 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 pungency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate. He shows how evolution has left its traces on the most distinctively human activities, how patterns of generosity, self-sacrifice, and worship, as well as sexuality and aggression, reveal their deep roots in the life histories of primate bands that hunted big game in the last Ice Age. His goal is nothing less than the completion of the Darwinian revolution by bringing biological thought into the center of the social sciences and the humanities. Wilson presents a philosophy that cuts across the usual categories of conservative, liberal, or radical thought. In systematically applying the modern theory of natural selection to human society, he arrives at conclusions far removed from the social Darwinist legacy of the last century.

Sociobiological theory, he explains, is compatible with a broadly humane and egalitarian outlook. Human diversity is to be treasured, not merely tolerated, he argues. Discrimination against ethnic groups, homosexuals, and women is based on a complete misunderstanding of biological fact. But biological facts can never take the place of ethical choices. Once we understand our human nature, we must choose how "human" in the fullest, biological sense, we wish to remain. We cannot make this choice with the aid of external guides or absolute ethical principles, because our very concept of right and wrong is wholly rooted in our own biological past. This paradox is fundamental to the evolution of consciousness in any species; there is no formula for escaping it. The book is published by Harvard University Press.

©2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2010 Redwood Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Wilson is a sophisticated and marvelously humane writer. His vision is a liberating one, and a reader of this splendid book comes away with a sense of the kinship that exists among the people, animals, and insects that share the planet." (The New Yorker)

"Compellingly interesting and enormously important.... The most stimulating, the most provocative, and the most illuminating work of nonfiction I have read in some time." (Washington Post Book World)

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    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 07-22-14
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 07-22-14 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    of the neo-Darwinean movement. If you know the work of Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett, Wright and other writers who have expounded on the evidence that an innate, biological human nature is a real and tangible thing (as opposed to the concept of the "blank slate" put forth most famously by Skinner, Watkins and the behaviorists during the early part of the century), you should know the work of Edward O. Wilson, a man who was so far ahead of the now accepted modern decriers of the "tabula rasa" that his early work was deemed scientific heresy. Wilson does not deny the influence of the environment on the genetic basis of human nature, but wipes away the absurd notion that a human being is shaped soley and absolutely by culture and surroundings. On Human Nature is a fine summation of his main ideas and comes highly recommended from these quarters.

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