Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies

Liveright: Norton. Mar. 2019. 224p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781631495540. $23.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631495557. SCI
Eminent biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson (emeritus, Harvard Univ.; Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life) revisits a subject he's been studying for decades: the biological origin and evolution of social behavior. Focusing here on eusociality (the ultracooperative and altruistic form of social organization found in ant, bee, wasp, and termite colonies), the author describes the physical and behavioral adaptations that enabled individual organisms to form a eusocial colony and explains why only a few species among the millions on Earth have achieved it. Arguing that humans are eusocial as well, Wilson offers a scenario for how eusociality might have evolved among small groups of early humans "nesting" around a campsite. Wilson is widely recognized as an expert on insect societies, but some of his ideas are controversial and have raised the hackles of evolutionary and population biologists. Surprisingly, he makes scant reference to his critics.
VERDICT A challenging read best suited for specialists in the fields of evolutionary biology and sociobiology. Popular science readers should turn to the author's more accessible work on the same topic: The Social Conquest of Earth.

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