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E. O. Wilson: Darwin “greater than Copernicus”

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E.O. Wilson/Jim Harrison

In “E. O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything ” (The Atlantic ,November, 2011) a glowing profile of venerated Darwinist E. O. Wilson, Howard W. French informs us of his views,

“I believe Gould was a charlatan,” he told me. “I believe that he was … seeking reputation and credibility as a scientist and writer, and he did it consistently by distorting what other scientists were saying and devising arguments based upon that distortion.” It is easy to imagine Wilson privately resenting Gould for another reason, as well—namely, for choosing Freud as a point of comparison rather than his own idol, Darwin, whom he calls “the greatest man in the world.”

“Darwin is the one who changed everything, our self-conception; greater than Copernicus,” Wilson told me. “This guy is irritatingly correct, time and time again, even when he has limited evidence.” In Darwin’s mold, the thrust of Wilson’s life work has been aimed at changing humankind’s self-conception. Indeed it can be difficult, from today’s vantage point, to see what much of the fuss of the 1970s was about, so thoroughly has the Wilsonian idea that our genes shape our nature penetrated the mainstream.

Sounds like it.

Actually, some interesting material here, because Wilson abandoned his kin selection theoery recently, for reasons that French glosses over:

The authors conclude that a very small number of species simply seem to be genetically “spring-loaded,” or “strongly predisposed” to the development of eusociality in conditions where natural selection favors it. The article then ropes humans into the picture in its last and most provocative sentence: “We have not addressed the evolution of human social behavior here, but parallels with the scenarios of animal eusocial evolution exist, and they are, we believe, well worth examining.” Until now, the conventional wisdom on the social evolution of humans has focused on the growth and development of the brain, not on the existence of a social gene or set of such genes that may have spring-loaded humans for civilization—or for altruism. Yet Wilson and his co-authors imply that such genes very likely exist.

They have n o idea whether such genes e xist,but they need an excuse for espousing their view of humans as merely animals. The lasstone didn’t work, and we are now to embrace this one.

The other “greatest scientist of the age” doesn’t like it:

The outcry from the evolutionary-theory establishment, including luminaries in the field ranging from Richard Dawkins to Robert Trivers, was exceptionally fierce, including unusually personal attacks. One of several critical letters to the editor published by Nature was signed by 137 scientists. Another letter called the authors’ findings “largely irrelevant.”

Elsewhere, commentators objected that Nature should never have published the article, and only did so because Wilson’s name was attached to it.

So among Darwinists we get to choose reasons why we are just animals, with all that follows, andthe schools contend.

It’s been said that societies have the ideas they deserve, hence the media they deserve, and the government they deserve.


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