On Human Nature

Thought provoking and enormously important, read! this book by E.O. Wilson, the father of Sociobiology. BOOK PREFACE Can there be a more important subject than human nature? If the subject can be truly fathomed, then our species will be more precisely defined, and our actions perhaps more wisely guided. When On Hu_man Nature was written, in the 1970’s, two conceptions of the human condition dominated Western thought. Theologians, plus all but the most liberal followers of the Abrahamic religions, saw human beings as dark angels in animal bodies awaiting redemption and eternal life. Human nature, in their view, is a mix of good and evil propensities, which we must sort out with the aid of writings by ancient Middle Eastern prophets. In contrast, most intellectuals, whether religiously inclined or not, doubted that a human nature exists at all. To them the brain is a blank slate, an engine driven by a few elementary passions but other_wise an all-purpose computer that creates the mind wholly from in_dividual experience and learning. Culture, the intellectual majority in the 1970’s believed, is the cumulative learned response to environ_ment and historical contingency. Meanwhile, an alternative, naturalistic view was gaining strength. Still embryonic in form, it held that the brain and mind are entirely biological in origin and have been highly structured through evolu_tion by natural selection. Human nature exists, composed of the complex biases of passion and learning propensities often loosely re_ferred to as instincts. The instincts were created over millions of years, when human beings were Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. As a consequence, they still bear the archaic imprint of our species’ bio_logical heritage. Human nature can thus be ultimately understood only with the aid of the scientific method. Culture evolves in re_sponse to environmental and historical contingencies, as common, sense suggests, but its trajectories are powerfully guided by the in_born biases of human nature. This view was encapsulated in the new discipline of sociobiology, which in its human applications was later re-christened evolutionary psychology (but remains sociobiology nonetheless).
from: Edward O. Wilsonin detailsee also: Sociobiology XlnkS6C4 XlnkC192E

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