NY Times obituary
Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92. ...
At first, “Sociobiology” was showered with praise and attention. An article about it landed on the front page of The New York Times on May 28, 1975. In Scientific American, the Princeton biologist John Tyler Bonner called it “an extraordinary beginning.” Dr. Bonner wrote that Dr. Wilson “has identified and brought together in one tome all those elements that will be the ingredients of sociobiology in the future.”
Then, Dr. Wilson later recalled in his memoir, “Everything spun out of control.”
Dr. Wilson got in trouble for extending sociobiology to humans. He had invited his readers to consider how human nature might be shaped by evolutionary pressures. He warned them that this would not be easy: It would be hard to tease apart the effects of human culture from those of natural selection. Making matters worse, no one at the time had linked any genetic variant to any particular human behavior. “There is a need for a discipline of anthropological genetics,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, Dr. Wilson argued that our species had a propensity to behave in certain ways and form certain social structures. He called that propensity human nature.
Natural selection could help explain psychology, in other words. Human aggression, for example, may have been adaptive for early humans.
From this, he was maybe the most accomplished biologist alive. The strange thing is how he was hated by left-wing academics.
Not that he was a right-winger. He appears to be a typical academic liberal. He was hated for wanting to study human nature, and claiming that there was a human nature like plant and animal nature.
Yes, of course there is human nature. The leftist denial of human nature is striking.
Dr. Wilson’s critics ignored these caveats. In a letter to The New York Review of Books, some denounced sociobiology as an attempt to reinvigorate tired old theories of biological determinism — theories, they claimed, that “provided an important basis for the enactment of sterilization laws and restrictive immigration laws by the United States between 1910 and 1930 and also for the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany.”
In her book “Defenders of the Truth” (2000), Dr. Segerstrale wrote that Dr. Wilson’s critics had shown “an astounding disregard” for what he had written, arguing that they had used “Sociobiology” as an opportunity to promote their own agendas. When Dr. Wilson attended a 1978 debate about sociobiology, protesters rushed the stage shouting, “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” A woman dumped ice water on him, shouting, “Wilson, you are all wet!”
After drying himself off with paper towels, Dr. Wilson went ahead and gave his speech.
In that speech and elsewhere, Dr. Wilson declared that sociobiology offered no excuse for racism or sexism. He dismissed attacks against him as “self-righteous vigilantism.” And he went on to dig even deeper into the evolution of human behavior.
His main expertise was in ants, not humans.
I have seen the new Matrix movie, as everyone says it is disappointing. The original was partially an exploration of human nature. Neo had to take the red pill to see who he really was. People were programmed robots, blissfully unaware of their programming.
Scientific American magazine has a Black woman attacking Wilson:
Second, the application of the scientific method matters: what works for ants and other nonhuman species is not always relevant for health and/or human outcomes. For example, the associations of Black people with poor health outcomes, economic disadvantage and reduced life expectancy can be explained by structural racism, yet Blackness or Black culture is frequently cited as the driver of those health disparities. Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender. And the descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies is a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued. Context matters.
I really don't think Wilson's studies of ant colonies had anything to do with Black obesity rates.
Jerry Coyne adds:
Scientific American has hit rock bottom with this new op-ed that is nothing more than a hit piece on Ed Wilson, basically calling him a racist.
It is written by someone who apparently has no training in evolutionary biology, though she says she “intimately familiarized [herself] with Wilson’s work and his dangerous ideas on what factors influence human behavior.” I usually don’t question someone because of their credentials, but this piece is so stupid, so arrantly ignorant of Wilson’s work, that I can attribute its content only to a combination of ignorance (perhaps deliberate) or a woke desire to take down someone as a racist who wasn’t a racist. Or both.
In fact, the piece below could have been written by any social-justice ideologue, for its real aim is more than smearing Wilson; it;s also to change the nature of science.
Apparently woke racism has replaced science at what used to be the best science magazine.