Tag Archives: EO Wilson

We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions — E.O.Wilson

excerpt 1:Very few species, however, have made the leap from merely social to eusocial, “eu-” meaning true. To qualify as eusocial, in Wilson’s definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice “at least some of their personal interests to that of the group.” It’s tough to be a eusocialist. Wouldn’t you rather just grab, gulp and go? Yet the payoffs of sustained cooperation can be huge.

excerpt 2: Our hypersocial spirit is both a great blessing and a terrible curse. Experiments have shown that it is shockingly easy to elicit a sense of solidarity among a group of strangers. Just tell them they’ll be working together as a team, and they immediately start working together as a team, all the while attributing to each other a host of positive qualities like trustworthiness and competence—an instant five-star customer review.

Yet we are equally prepared to do battle against those who fall outside the fraternal frame. In experiments where psychologists divided people into groups of arbitrarily assigned traits—labeling one set the Blue team and another the Green, for example—the groups started sniping at each other and expressing strong prejudices toward their “opponents,” with the Greens insisting the Blues were untrustworthy and unfair. The “drive to form and take deep pleasure from in-group membership easily translates at a higher level into tribalism,” Wilson says, and can spark religious, ethnic and political conflicts of breathtaking brutality.

Wilson also traces what he considers the tragedy of the human condition to the private struggle of us versus me. He sees us as a kind of mixed economy, the complicated fruit of a sharply disputed process known as multilevel selection. By this reckoning, some of our impulses are the result of individual selection, the competition of you against everybody else for a share of life’s goodies. Other traits are under the sway of group selection, prompting us to behave altruistically for the sake of the team. It appears our individually selected traits are older and more primal, harder to constrain, the ones we traditionally label vices: greed, sloth and lust, the way we covet our neighbor’s life and paper over our failings with pride. Our eusocial inclinations are evolutionarily newer and more fragile and must be vociferously promoted by the group if the group is to survive. They are the stuff of religions and Ben Franklin homilies and represent the virtues we admire: to be generous, kind and levelheaded, to control our impulses, keep our promises and rise to the occasion even when we are scared or disheartened. “The human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolution processes that created us,” he writes. “The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be.”

E.O.Wilson’s New Take On Human Nature

rijksmuseum

rijksmuseum

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
And you in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
And one who can’t move.
But where are the clowns?

Just when I’d stopped
Opening doors,
Finally knowing
The one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again
With my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
Nobody there.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want –
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Send in the clowns – Stephen Sondheim

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