An important new work by one of our most prominent scientists, re-examining the evolution of the very few eusocial animals that have ever appeared on earth, human beings and our closest relatives, plus the ants, termites and bees. The eusocial animals live in groups containing multiple generations and are prone to perform "altruistic" acts as part of the division of labor.
If you haven't had a chance to read it before the Book Club meeting, the Book Editor will be briefly summarizing it. The book is available both in print and digitally so you can download it instantly to your computer or tablet.
Most members of some eusocial insect communities are actually clones with varying expression of the genes which affect their body forms and behavioral traits.
Human beings are the product of gene-culture evolution on the individual and group levels. Because we live in groups, humans evolved important characteristics that advanced group success. Groups evolved in competition and battle with each other. Group cohesiveness was critical and individual characteristics that supported it were selected for during our evolution. Consequently, he says, comfort with those similar to us is an inborn tendency and hostility toward non-members is also a fundamental, permanent predisposition. Religion played a similar role: the thousands of religions in history each bound individuals to their own groups, explaining their existence and purpose in life and promising support in their collective ventures. This doesn't give delusion and massacres an ethical value, but it does give them an objective status as an integral and inevitable part of human life. He goes on to describe "honor, virtue and duty" as the products of group selection, and "selfishness, cowardice and hypocrisy" as characteristics evolved through individual selection.
Wilson describes his own scientific evolution from enthusiastic support of the inclusive fitness theory of kin selection, currently the reigning paradigm of genetic social evolution, to the conclusion that it has not held up to extensive empirical study or mathematical analysis. This is becoming an important issue of scientific debate today.