Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others

Yale Univ. (Foundational Questions in Science). Jan. 2015. 192p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300189490. $27.50. SCI
Altruism's existence has been debated among academics for centuries. Evolutionary scholar Wilson (president, Evolutionary Inst.; Darwin's Cathedral) believes that the force indeed exists and presents a detailed theory of it using an evolutionary lens. To clearly understand altruism, the author says, one must go beyond the ideology of thoughts or feelings and consider the concept in terms of action and group-level functional organizations. The evolution of culture must be studied in order to understand selection mechanisms that transmit across generations. In the first half of the book, Wilson lays a theoretical foundation by exploring human and nonhuman group-level functionality. He then surveys how the humans and their altruism influence religion, economics, and everyday life. The final two chapters address the positive and negative aspects of altruism, reminding the reader that achievement at the planetary level requires humans to act consciously, encouraging steps that benefit the global community. Significant notes and works-cited sections will aid those who have questions or remains skeptical of Wilson's theory.
VERDICT This highly readable work is for anyone interested in the theory of altruism and how it functions in society today.

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