Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The social Conquest of Earth (or how to look up to an Ant)
Now this is good my copy is on order !
Edward O. Wilson doesn't come across as the kind of man who's looking to pick a fight. With his shoulders upright and his head tilting slightly to the side, he shuffles through the halls of
. His right eye, which
has given him trouble since his childhood, is halfway closed. The other is
fixed on the ground. As an ant researcher, Harvard University has made a career out
of things that live on the earth's surface. There's also much more to Wilson . Some consider him to
be the world's most important living biologist, with some placing him on a
level with Charles Darwin. Wilson
In addition to discovering and describing hundreds of species of ants,
's book on this
incomparably successful group of insects is the only non-fiction biology tome
ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. Another achievement was decoding the chemical
communication of ants, whose vocabulary is composed of pheromones. His study of
the ant colonization of islands helped to establish one of the most fruitful
branches of ecology. And when it comes to the battle against the loss of
biodiversity, Wilson is one of the movement's
most eloquent voices. Wilson
'Blessed with Brilliant Enemies'
's fame isn't solely
the product of his scientific achievements. His enemies have also helped him to
establish a name. "I have been blessed with brilliant enemies," he
says. In fact, the multitude of scholars with whom Wilson has skirmished
academically is illustrious. James Watson, one of the discoverers of the double
helix in DNA is among them, as is essayist Stephen Jay Gould. Wilson
At 83 years of age,
is still at work
making a few new enemies. The latest source of uproar is a book, "The
Social Conquest of Earth," published last April in the Wilson and this month in a
German-language edition. In the tome, United States attempts to describe
the triumphal advance of humans in evolutionary terms. Wilson
It is not uncommon for
to look to ants for
inspiration in his writings -- and that proves true here, as well. When, for
example, he recalls beholding two 90-million-year-old worker ants that were
trapped in a piece of fossil metasequoia amber as being "among the most
exciting moments in my life," a discovery that "ranked in scientific
importance withArchaeopteryx, the first fossil intermediary between
birds and dinosaurs, and Australopithecus,
the first 'missing link' discovered between modern humans and the ancestral
But that's all just foreplay to the real controversy at the book's core. Ultimately,
uses ants to explain
humans' social behavior and, by doing so, breaks with current convention. The
key question is the level at which Darwinian selection of human characteristics
takes place. Did individuals enter into a fight for survival against each
other, or did groups battle it out against competing groups? Wilson
Prior to this book,
had been an
influential champion of the theory of kin selection. He has now rejected his
previous teachings, literally demolishing them. "The beautiful theory
never worked well anyway, and now it has collapsed," he writes. Today, he
argues that human nature can only be understood if it is perceived as being the
product of "group selection" -- a view that Wilson 's fellow academics
equate with sacrilege. They literally lined up to express their scientific
dissent in a joint letter. Wilson
Some of the most vociferous criticism has come from Richard Dawkins, whose bestselling 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" first introduced the theory of kin selection to a mass audience. In a withering review of
's book in Wilson 's Prospect magazine, Dawkins accuses a man he
describes as his "lifelong hero" of "wanton arrogance" and
"perverse misunderstandings". "To borrow from Dorothy
Parker," he writes, "this is not a book to be tossed lightly aside.
It should be thrown with great force." Britain
SPIEGEL recently sat down with sociobiologist Wilson to discuss his book and the controversy surrounding it.
SPIEGEL: Professor Wilson, lets assume that 10 million years ago some alien spacecraft had landed on this planet. Which organisms would they find particularly intriguing?
SPIEGEL: And you think those insects would be more interesting to them than, for example, elephants, flocks of birds or intelligent primates?
SPIEGEL: What else might the aliens consider particularly interesting about ants?
SPIEGEL: So the aliens would cable back home: "We have found ants. They are the most promising candidates for a future evolution towards intelligent beings on earth?"
SPIEGEL: Would our ancestors not have caught their eye?
SPIEGEL: What do you mean?
SPIEGEL: ... similar to birds.
SPIEGEL: And our ancestors followed the same path?
SPIEGEL: What difference would that make?
SPIEGEL: And this development of groups drives evolution even further?
SPIEGEL: Meaning that this is the origin of warfare?
SPIEGEL: You say that this so called group selection is vital for the evolution of humans. Yet traditionally, scientists explain the emergence of social behavior in humans by kin selection.
SPIEGEL: But you yourself have long been a proponent of this theory. Why did you change your mind?
SPIEGEL: Turning away from kin selection provoked a rather fierce reaction from many of your colleagues.
SPIEGEL: Isn't that too easy? After all, 137 scientists signed a response to your claims. They accuse you of a "misunderstanding of evolutionary theory".
SPIEGEL: Does it even make a substantial difference if humans evolved through kin selection or group selection?
SPIEGEL: Is this Janus-faced nature of humans our greatest strength at the end of the day?
SPIEGEL: So how do we negotiate this conflict?
SPIEGEL: Which element of this human condition is stronger?
SPIEGEL: ... the ultimate form of communism?
SPIEGEL: What determines which ideology is predominant in a society?
SPIEGEL: Earlier, you differentiated between the "virtue" of altruism and the "sin" of individualism. In your book you talk about the "poorer and the better angels" of human nature. Is it helpful to use this kind of terminology?
SPIEGEL: However, our virtues towards others go only so far. Outside groups are mainly greeted with hostility.
SPIEGEL: ... or American football.
SPIEGEL: "Humans," the saying goes, "have Paleolithic emotions" ...
SPIEGEL: It seems that, in this process, you would like to throw religions overboard altogether?
SPIEGEL: That might well be a futile endeavour ...
SPIEGEL: With this new Enlightenment, will we reach a higher state of humanity?
SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilson, we thank you for this conversation.
Interview conducted by Philip Bethge and Johann Grolle
A self help guide by Amy Mah (Vampire) for teenage vampire girls, the guide is fully illustrated by manga Artist Heby and is written in an easy to follow A - Z format explaining everything a teenage vampire girl would need to know about living life as a modern Vampire. What is fashionable to wear when eating out? Fang maintenance & how to keep your claws sharp. Should you let a boy bite you on the first date? Easy to understand clear advice is given to every day problems Example: When you get an urge to bite: We all get those normal urges to bite things, and I must point out it is very normal, Claws are all well and good in a fight but a bite gives the extra advantage of getting a refreshing drink at the same time. Lots of girls worry about showing their Fangs in public believing that to show your fangs is rude, but don't be shy they can be a girls greatest asset (ok second greatest asset) if a boy is being rude to you, don't just snarl at him, just bite him! You are a vampire why do you think you have sharp teeth if not for sinking them into a boy that is being rude to you.
Today's world is difficult for everyone, especially teenagers. They face the stresses of school, deciding whom to date, and the biggie of sex, just to name a few. Imagine all of those things ten times worse, and you might get an idea of what it's like being a living, breathing teenage vampire. At last, the world can read about the life of a girl with good teeth, her problems with strong sunlight that gave her spots, and the sunblock that made her hair go yucky and produced more spots. Yes, sunlight was dangerous, as she could be the first teenager in history to die from terminal acne! In her everyday life, older vampires expected her to walk about at night in the traditional female uniform, a see-through, 18th-century nightdress, without undies! Well, this female vampire knew why the cold winds blowing along the corridors were called, "male winds," so she wore her see-through nightdress over jeans and a very thick jumper. To be sure that people would still know she was a vampire, the jumper had a very large, pink bat on it. And as to guys, well, it was normal for a girl to dream about guys; she just wished the dreams could have involved chocolates and holding hands, not leaping out at someone, ripping off his shirt, and demanding to know what blood type he was (at least not on the first date).