Sociable Darwinism

From The New York Times:Angi600span

Evolution for Everyone by David Sloan Wilson: David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, takes a different and decidedly refreshing approach. Rather than catalog its successes, denounce its detractors or in any way present evolutionary theory as the province of expert tacticians like himself, Wilson invites readers inside and shows them how Darwinism is done, and at lesson’s end urges us to go ahead, feel free to try it at home. The result is a sprightly, absorbing and charmingly earnest book that manages a minor miracle, the near-complete emulsifying of science and the “real world,” ingredients too often kept stubbornly, senselessly apart.

In Wilson’s view, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has the beauty of being both simple and profound. Unlike quantum mechanics or the general theory of relativity, the basic concepts behind evolutionary theory are easy to grasp; and once grasped, he argues, they can be broadly applied to better understand ourselves and the world — the world both as it is and as it might be, with the right bit of well-informed coaxing. Wilson has long been interested in the evolution of cooperative and altruistic behavior, and much of the book is devoted to the premise that “goodness can evolve, at least when the appropriate conditions are met.” As he sees it, all of life is characterized by a “cosmic” struggle between good and evil, the high-strung terms we apply to behaviors that are either cooperative or selfish, civic or anomic.

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