Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives
David Sloan Wilson
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
What is the biological reason for gossip?
For laughter? For the creation of art?
Why do dogs have curly tails?
What can microbes tell us about morality?
These and many other questions are tackled by renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. With stories that entertain as much as they inform, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from the origin of life to the nature of religion. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent design to share Darwin’s panoramic view of animal and human life, seamlessly connected to each other.
Evolution, as Wilson explains, is not just about dinosaurs and human origins, but about why all species behave as they do—from beetles that devour their own young, to bees that function as a collective brain, to dogs that are smarter in some respects than our closest ape relatives. And basic evolutionary principles are also the foundation for humanity’s capacity for symbolic thought, culture, and morality.
In example after example, Wilson sheds new light on Darwin’s grand theory and how it can be applied to daily life. By turns thoughtful, provocative, and daringly funny, Evolution for Everyone addresses some of the deepest philosophical and social issues of this or any age. In helping us come to a deeper understanding of human beings and our place in the world, it might also help us to improve that world.
From the Hardcover edition.
daughter, Tamar, I illustrated by giving her a magic phrase that she could say anytime she wanted me to stop doing something: “I really, really don’t want you to do this!” I would illustrate by tickling her, and when she uttered the magic phrase it was like being protected by an invisible shield. None of this was very deliberate but it worked better than I could have imagined. Our kids were so scrupulous that they didn’t even resort to crossing their fingers. Each in turn solemnly announced to
other theory does. My problem with this response is that the other theory is never clearly described. It just arrives on the scene to save the day, like the hero of a bad movie. You might be thinking, “What about learning and culture? Aren’t these the heroes that we have always relied upon to save us from our villainous genes?” Right, but later I will show that learning and culture are better understood within the framework of evolutionary theory than as alternative theories. What response is
nations how to live.” Another character is a British colonial administrator named Mr. Green, who arrogantly makes judgmental statements about Nigerians throughout the novel, which ends with the following words: “Everybody wondered why. The learned judge, as we have seen, could not comprehend how an educated young man and so on and so forth. The British Council man, even the men of Umuofia, did not know. And we must presume that, in spite of his certitude, Mr. Green did not know either.” You
the sailors, but just allowed themselves to be plucked from their perches and tossed into the cooking pot in another fiendish version of my surreal dream. What do I mean by humanlike intelligence, and how does it save us from dancing with ghosts? When we are placed in a brand-new situation, we have at least some capacity to realize that we have a problem and work toward a novel solution. A fast mental process takes place that accomplishes roughly the same thing as the slow generational process
colleague Chris Boehm, whose work on egalitarianism was described in Chapter 21, and we wrote a grant to study forgiveness in hunter-gatherer societies (Chris’s part) and modern religions (my part) from an evolutionary perspective. The project was funded, and I was launched on one of the most exciting intellectual adventures of my career. My own background is not at all religious. My parents were both warm, nurturing, and moral people, but neither attended church, and my father in particular was