PDF David Sloan Wilson Ñ Evolution for Everyone How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Ñ

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 uestions 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 otherEvolution 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 moralityIn 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

10 thoughts on “Evolution for Everyone How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

  1. says:

    This book is packed full of so much information from why dogs have floppy ears to why some people become homicidal all approached from an evolutionary perspective Wilson shows us that a better understanding of evolution leads us to a better understanding of every aspect of our daily lives and social interactions His goal is to prove that science isn't something accessible only to an elite few but instead is an exciting and rewarding field that can easily be understood by anyone Further it's crucial to our development as a society that we embrace scientific knowledge in order to explain and adapt to the world around us I especially was interested by his theories on the evolutionary origins of religion in human societies Overall I found this book fascinating and it's a great jumping point for many books and articles on evolution religion and human development if you're so inclined

  2. says:

    I’m really bad at stopping reading a book that I’m not enjoying Usually I just plow through and get angry That was the case here I was hoping to read this and get some tidbits for teaching evolution maybe even assign the book to students Nope It’s the vanity project of an well known old white guy touting this evo psych and group selection garbage It all just sounds so dated and he sounds like a writer from another time the sage scientist born into wealth which allowed him to pursue his own bizarre theories Of course most of the scientists he cites are other men of the same sort He even manages to make a breast joke when talking about tits the birds There’s maybe one or two chapters that could be excerpted and be useful for teaching

  3. says:

    Evolution for Everyone includes a fine enough and simple description of natural selection early in the book but it becomes increasingly laden with ideology after the first few chapters The author clearly has a socio political point that he's trying to advance which would be fine if he had openly disclosed that As is the title and description of the book are uite misleading He should have titled it something like How the Theory of Natural Selection Can Be Used to Advance My Ideology He works so hard at it that his logic becomes rather muddled and his data is selective to say the leastFor example he dismisses a lengthy and thorough body of research discrediting the group problem solving process known as brainstorming by asserting that previous experiments have simply made the mistake of applying brainstorming to the wrong kinds of problems He constructed his own experiments in support of brainstorming in which he asked groups to recall previously learned information Previous brainstorming experiments have ask groups to solve creative problems not list generating problems because brainstorming was originally designed for creative problem solving It seems “intuitively obvious” as professors like to say that groups will outperform individuals at generating laundry lists but there is a great deal of research demonstrating that brainstorming fails miserably as a tool for creative problem solving In this book Wilson does an end run around that fact essentially saying that existing research findings are wrong if you redact a lot of history The book is peppered with similar problems in logicAs an author myself it pains me to write a harsh book review and in the interest of full disclosure I only made it about halfway through before skimming the rest and putting it down but writers need to tread very very carefully when using science to advance ideologyOn the plus side the first few chapters offer a nice simple overview of the theory of natural selection

  4. says:

    Evolution as it affected everything not only in the distant past but also in the recent past and today For example a discussion of how our million years' heritage makes us obese today The title is misleading the book is not Darwin 101 but at the Scientific American level with some autobiography added

  5. says:

    I have rarely read a book grievously mistitled This isn't evolution for everyone It isn't even evolution for fellow travelers otherwise well disposed to the claims of science as explanatory for much of life This is evolution for the very small set of people who think exactly like DSW which is to say those who believe with something akin to religious fervor that the theory of evolution explains literally everything The theory may in fact do that; it would take a far careful and self aware exploration of the issues than this volume manages to make that case DSW's book suffers from intellectual mission creep Having gotten his mind around an idea that he rightly regards as key for explaining many facets of biology he then extends the theory's provenance to everything Nowhere are the book's shortcomings apparent than when DSW attempts to colonize other fields for evolution His grasp of any number of historical trends and philosophical theories is freuently and embarrassingly wrong He has a touching but misplaced naïveté in the work of experts in other fields that he never bothers to vet with the same precision that he might were they biologists he was discussing Lest one be accused of fundamentalist knee jerkism this reviewer has to report himself fully convinced of evolution and not in thrall to fact denying elements of religious practice in any way I'm not a believer threatened by Darwin There are plenty of excellent reasons to uestion many of the conclusions DSW reaches in his experiments simply out of a kind of self awareness or other point of view that DSW himself cannot seem to muster Obsessed by his own idée fixe he is as blinkered as the fact denying religionists he freuently dismisses in his narrative His enthusiasm and messianic fervor for evolution as the key to unlock every box has a kind of boyish charm; the constant self reference and discussion of family and friends tends to pall rather uickly however The book does explain the basics of evolution for those who aren't familiar with them Many readers will find they could have done without all the self reference and particularly the cringe inducing final chapter explaining DSW's long march to science It is by turns self congratulatory and revealing in ways far beyond what its author intends DSW's charming obliviousness to the degree which his text nevertheless will put off the devout or say reasoning humanists who refuse to see Homer as nothing than the agglomeration of male kinship groups seeking dominance it is that of course but to say this is to only begin not end the discussion on the evidence of this text evolutionary narrative studies have a VERY long way to go is exceeded only by his confidence that literally everything he thinks is worth putting on the page

  6. says:

    Evolution provides a framework for thinking about all aspects of the human condition A significant teaching for me is the distinction between the proximate and ultimate cause of an adaptive change The proximate cause is an immediate response to something in the environment that turns out to be useful for survival Kids may gather to play because it's fun the proximate cause but it makes them safer to be in a group so the behavior is reinforced the ultimate causeIt was surprising to find out how limited the application of evolutionary principles are in academia Surprising that each discipline is so cloistered that it is not even aware of such principles and scholars in different disciplines are parochially resistant to even considering the application of evolutionary thought to their studiesMost thought provoking are the application of evolutionary thinking to the study of culture

  7. says:

    various thoughts of theory evolution I reference their thoughts very well

  8. says:

    How discoveredstumbled upon? Twitter dkorten recommendation from author David KortenWhat media type? Read on my Kindle but to my chagrin noted that it is also available on the shelf of the local library down the streetWhat is the book about? Evolution not so much in hard core science sense although there are some chapters devoted to such experiments but jargon is toned down for a universal audience and appeal is made that evolution should be broadly applied and not just confined to the biology domain 36 chapters after a gentle introduction tilt from specific path carving experiments to general ueries on religion morals human nature Is it a easy medium difficult read? The author employs a very accommodating writing style that is luring to the reader very soulfully open in style and is able to express concepts and ideas concisely economically and succinctly The book was a joy to read and after completing felt a big letdown where normally even in books I enjoy and savor feel relieved and satiated after completionWhat are the takeaways author wishes to plant within the reader? That anyone can roll up their sleeves a phrase used repeatedly and do science and become an evolutionary thinker That evolution just doesn't apply to biology and even science departments but has implications and applications in every realm from the lowest life forms to human psychologyIs the author successful in making his case winning his reader appeal? For the most part I would not state 100% as I uestion some of the material but definitely he was successful in stoking my interest in the topic and encouraging a follow through readSources author relies upon? Students inspired by his teaching or used books procured who devoted time to their own experiments and studies dilettante from non academia and professional colleagues that spiked his interest EO Wilson who was a lifelong mentor his Dad but the work seems independent and not based on any narrow band of volumes Author has several previous books I am unfamiliar withRecommended follow up points I bookmarked a few sites mentioned EvOS and just ordered The Literary Animal from May take a gander on the psychology recommended titles do not have the book in front of me now

  9. says:

    I was uickly won over by this excitable biologist's presentation of evolutionary theory mainly because of the fascinating studies he describes though I'm not sure that they necessarily support the conclusions he wants them to support and his cheerful sometimes even dorky but certainly humble story of his own development as a scientist His special take on the meaning of evolutionary theory for us humans at this time is interesting and perhaps heartening but not all that convincing He thinks that survival of the fittest no longer applies to individuals of our species but rather to groups so cooperative group members are the fittest of our species; but is a group mind really a better mind and are we willing to let go of even an inch of our sense of ourselves as individuals? Also standard evolutionary theory has some big problems which are commonly known but seldom publicly admitted to by scientists it is far from a finished theory but we can't give Creationists any ammunition it seems and Sloan too doesn't adeuately address these weaknesses Still a stimulating read especially for those who love science but aren't specialists

  10. says:

    Evolutionary theory as a guide to lifeThe most extraordinary fact about public awareness of evolution is not that 50 percent don't believe the theory but that nearly 100 percent haven't connected it to anything of importance in their lives p 315This is a bit curious but when you consider that Edward O Wilson's Sociobiology was published only 34 years ago and further that evolutionary psychology has only recently made its way into the curriculum of our university psychology departments it is understandable For my part like David Sloan Wilson son of Sloan Wilson who wrote a couple of fiction bestsellers in the 1950s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Summer Place I took to the application of evolutionary ideas to my life the way a duck takes to water But the overall public awareness and acceptance has lagged in part due as Wilson explains to the failure of the larger academic community to incorporate evolutionary ideas and findings into their fields of studyThat is changing fast with evolutionary medicine evolutionary psychology and other scientific approaches now established fields of study What David Wilson hopes follows is an awareness of evolutionary ideas and principles in the social sciences and the humanities which is one of the reasons he wrote this book which grew out a class he taught to undergraduatesThe essence of evolutionary thought as applied to our daily lives is to ask the uestion how does such and such a behavior or such and such an idea relate to the way evolution works? For example not so long ago we were urged to drink lots of water every day probably from studies funded by bottled water companies But if you think about the human experience in the Pleistocene in what is called the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation EEA you might ask yourself how was it possible for humans to drink so much water? Clearly humans would develop an ability to function very well even optimally without having to drink so much water which in those days and climes would have been difficult to do safely Conseuently doing this thought experiment I began to doubt the necessity to drink so much water And lo and behold it came down from newer studies that actually humans don't really need to drink so much water David Sloan Wilson gives a number of other examples of evolutionary thinking that has helped us to better understand ourselves and our place in the world and our communities He is very strong on the idea of cooperation as an adaptive force in evolution especially human evolutionOne of the ideas that most impressed me is his recognition of the arms struggle between society and the selfish individual Some old line evolutionists are loath to accept altruism and other seemingly selfless behaviors that benefit the tribe or larger groups as adaptive other than through kinship since the genes that code for such behavior would be easily overrun by genes from individuals looking out only for themselves But what I think is overlooked is the human ability to spot these cheaters and keep them in check or to kick them out of the tribe or worse Wilson makes the very interesting point that gossip is part of this process Through gossip a society maintains a dossier of information on every member and uickly detects social failings p 160 Sociopaths don't fare well in communities in which everybody knows everybody else But of course gossip doesn't work well and a sociopath can flourish where almost everyone is a stranger to one another which is usually the case in our big cities This lack of communal checks explains in part why there is so much crime in our citiesAnother interesting and fundamental idea is what Wilson calls dancing with ghosts The idea is that the adaptations we made during the EEA in some cases no longer apply effectively to the current environment Thus the very nice ability to efficiently put on fat when large amounts of sugar carbs and fats are temporarily available worked well in the prehistory when the dearth of winter or the dry season was to come; but in today's world of supermarkets and a MacDonald's on every corner this ability has become a detriment leading to obesity and chronic disease Many people in the West are dancing with the ghosts of eat your fill when it's available This predictive adaptive response PAR is no longer adaptive Wilson gives some other examples relating to pronghorn antelopes that still flee with amazing speed and endurance from predators that no longer populate the American plains and baby sea turtles that mistake the lights of the city for the moon shining off the ocean and crawl in the wrong direction pp 52 53Wilson also argues convincingly for the idea that life in the ghetto is dangerous than say life in the suburbs because young people in the ghetto must take greater chances in order to be gain status and wealth For a person like David Sloan Wilson to risk his life for some status gain would be foolish since he is going to gain enough wealth and status to be successful because of his many social and economic advantages For a guy in the ghetto it is sometimes worth the risk or so it seems to fight another at the drop of an insult because of the gain in status that can lead to better mating opportunities and a greater command of turf When the environment is unstable and life expectancy is low a good strategy is to take care of immediate needs and reproduce early When you have a stable environment and high life expectancy on the other hand you should plan for the long term including delayed reproductionThere is also a lot in this book about religion from an evolutionary point of view which I don't have space to go into some of it based on Wilson's earlier book Darwin's Cathedral 2002 Dennis Littrell author of “Understanding Evolution and Ourselves”