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Sociobiology (evolutionary psychology)

From Edward O. Wilson's On Human Nature (pp. 32-33):

The heart of the genetic hypothesis is the proposition, derived in a straight line from neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, that the traits of human nature were adaptive during the time that the human species evolved and that genes consequently spread through the population that predisposed their carriers to develop those traits. Adaptiveness means simply that if an individual displayed the traits he stood a greater chance of having his genes represented in the next generation than if he did not display the traits. The differential advantage among individuals in this strictest sense is called genetic fitness. There are three basic components of genetic fitness: increased personal survival, increased personal reproduction, and the enhanced survival and reproduction of close relatives who share the same genes by common descent. An improvement in any one of the factors or in any combination of them results in greater genetic fitness. The process, which Darwin called natural selection describes a tight circle of causation. If the possession of certain genes predisposes individuals toward a particular trait, say a certain kind of social response, and the trait in turn conveys superior fitness, the genes will gain an increased representation in the next generation. If natural selection is continued over many generations, the favored genes will spread throughout the population, and the trait will become characteristic of the species. In this way human nature is postulated by many sociobiologists, anthropologists, and others to have been shaped by natural selection.


Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978.



  • Darwin's Progress - National Review - Britannica.com

    Wilson's orthodox Darwinian sociobiology made countless enemies in academia. Centrist anthropologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides accordingly relaunched sociobiology under the neutral name of "evolutionary psychology." Pronouncing themselves the truest True Believers in equality, Tooby and Cosmides portrayed human nature as almost monolithically uniform and proclaimed that evolutionary psychology should study only human similarities.

    But while egalitarianism served as a useful cover for infiltrating neo-Darwinism into academia, it proved a largely useless methodology for learning about humanity. Why? Because knowledge consists of contrasts. To learn much about human nature, we need to look for patterns of similarities and differences among humans.





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