Monday, April 09, 2012
The Social Conquest of Earth?
At a certain point in their careers, great jazz musicians are almost bound to disappoint their fans...The vision that made them great the first time pushes them into new territory, and the magnitude of their early accomplishments—and the number of admirers they have attracted—makes their public's sense of betrayal all the more bitter. This reality comes to mind when reading Edward O. Wilson's "The Social Conquest of Earth," a sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating, presented with equanimity and serenity even though a firestorm of disagreement surrounds them. It's not every book that is preceded by a critical public letter from more than 130 of the author's peers, as Mr. Wilson's was when a legion of biologists wrote to the journal Nature last year to register their belief that his current thinking is wrong. more