April 9, 2012
Based on a lifetime of pioneering research, The Social Conquest of Earth is nothing less than a new history of evolution, presented in an elegant and provocative narrative that promises to have reverberations in fields as diverse as anthropology in social psychology, neuroscience and twenty-first-century intellectual and religious history.
Edward O. Wilson, “a writer of enthralling importance for our place and time” (Edward Hoagland, Los Angeles Times), begins The Social Conquest of Earth by addressing three “fundamental questions” of religion and philosophy that have fascinated thinkers for centuries: Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? But almost as quickly as Wilson raises these questions, depicted in a renowned painting by Paul Gauguin, he demonstrates that religion, philosophy, and introspection alone can never sufficiently answer such inquiries – and that the only realistic way of solving the riddle of our human condition emerges from rigorous scientific scholarship.
Writing that “the origin of modern humanity was a stroke of luck, good for our species for a while, bad for most the rest of life forever,” Wilson traces the rise of Homo sapiens from its infancy to its greatest creative achievements. In refashioning the story of human evolution, he draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to present us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition.
In doing so, Wilson also brilliantly reveals how “group selection” can be the only model for explaining man’s origins and domination. Examining new research in human genetics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary biology, he shows how and why one such defining event – the rise of social insects over 100 million years ago – gave rise to today’s domination of Earth’s biosphere by land-dwelling invertebrates. Indeed, it was an evolutionary force that has led to man’s “social conquest of Earth,” yet, as Wilson warns here, has now accelerated – through unregulated and untrammeled growth – to such a point that the planet as we know it is being threatened.
The Social Conquest of Earth unfolds a powerful origin theory that traces life’s evolution “from so simple a beginning” to the present, dangerous “Star Wars civilization” that seems to define us today. The result is the single most important new history of animal and human evolution in a generation.
Edward O. Wilson is regarded as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than twenty books, including The Creation and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Ants and Naturalist, Wilson, a professor emeritus at Harvard University, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.