Of all species that have ever existed on earth, only one has reached human levels of intelligence and social organisation: us. Why? In Genesis, celebrated biologist Edward O. Wilson traces the great transitions of evolution, from the origin of life to the invention of sexual reproduction to the development of language itself.
The only way for us to fully understand human behaviour, Wilson argues, is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species. Of these, he demonstrates that at least seventeen - from the African naked mole rat and the sponge-dwelling shrimp to one of the oldest species on earth, the termite - have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism, cooperation and the division of labour. These rare eusocial species form the prehistory to our human social patterns, even, according to Wilson, suggesting the possible biological benefits of homosexuality and elderly grandmothers.
Whether writing about midges who dance about like acrobats, schools of anchovies who protectively huddle to appear like a gigantic fish or well-organised flocks becoming potentially immortal, Genesis is a pathbreaking work of evolutionary theory filled with lyrical observations. It will make us rethink how we became who we are.
A magisterial history of social evolution... A lucid, concise overview of human evolution that focuses on the true source of our pre-eminence: the ability to work together (Kirkus)
Engaging . . . Wilson inspires awe with narratives about evolution and animal societies. (Nature)
In his characteristically clear, succinct and elegant prose, one of our grand masters of synthesis, E. O. Wilson, here explains no less than the origin of human society. (Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb')
Genesis is a beautifully clear account of a question that has lain unsolved at the core of biology ever since Darwin: how can natural selection produce individuals so altruistic that, rather than breeding themselves, they help others to do so? In elegant, simple language Edward O. Wilson distills a magisterial knowledge of animal diversity into an unambiguous argument that the solution is group selection. Rich in accounts of extraordinary societies, Genesis is the ideal introduction to a problem of enduring fascination. (Richard Wrangham, author of 'The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution')
Endlessly fascinating, Edward O. Wilson-in the tradition of Darwin-plumbs the depths of human evolution in a most readable fashion without sacrificing scholarly rigor. (Michael Ruse, author of 'A Meaning of Life')
About the Author
Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world's pre-eminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than thirty books, including Consilience, The Diversity of Life, The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.