Genesis: On the Deep Origin of Societies, written by the internationally acclaimed scientist, as well as Pulitzer winner Edward O. Wilson. It is a synthesis and bold undertaking of Mr. Wilson on the explanation of origin and behaviour of several social species – including ultimately us, humans. Mr. Wilson carries a great amount of knowledge about biology and socio-biology, so we can expect the work of the senior scientist to be remarkable. He does not fail us with this precise read of about 140 pages.
This book – unfolding many scientific theories, including multilevel evolution of all species – dates back to Darwin’s theory. Natural selection is correctly recognized globally as the most comprehensive account explaining the origin of humankind through the process of evolution. The author spends more time defending this already proven theory than some of us might think necessary. However, let’s not forget that that educating the wider public is always beneficial, especially in our confused age of fake news and pseudoscience.
Thanks to many scientists like Mr. Wilson, now we know more on evolution than Darwin ever knew, e.g. being aware of its genetic roots. But we must also be aware of its more complex nature at various levels, including single genes, groups of genes or groups of individuals. Evolutionary processes are not simple ones, but sums of many smaller developments, parts and events. They all come together also in case of the evolution of humans.
Along with these lines of thinking, the author provides a deep look into eusociality and altruism. He discusses that material parts of evolution can work in the altruistic manner with more cooperation than competition within the gene pool or in groups.
Wilson, in several chapters, discusses various social species in detail, which he is an expert at. This contains most of the book, as there are such species among the vertebrates, mammals and insects. The author emphasizes that the history of nonhuman species needs to be studied deeply to comprehend human behaviour. He shows how insects exemplify eusociality, especially ants and termites. It is fascinating how much complexity can be found in the study of their evolution.
One of his most interesting findings is that only 17 such species reached that stage or point of evolution. Yet they are among the most successful biological creatures of Earth. But why don’t we see more eusociality? Mr. Wilson doesn’t let us down without answers. He provides us with the explanation of the ways to overcome the barrier of eusociality and the problem of the original genome. Regarding group selection Wilson took examples of genetic traits. He discusses how the selfish genes can beat and push back the altruism, whereas, the strength of the group of altruistic species can beat the selfish traits.
The concept of multi-level selection is dominant in this book. However, Mr. Wilson also refers to ecological factors in the explanation of the origin of complex societies.
Mr. Wilson discusses humans and human societies not in so much details as in case of insects. Nevertheless, it is not a surprise. Human societies are no so clear examples for eusociality as some of the insects. Regardless, if you want to have a quick read to know more about the origin of the human societies, this book is one of the best read, illustrated with a huge bank of knowledge in clear language.
Genesis is a deeply informative book and well organized book, recommended to different audiences like specialists (scientists, philosophers) as well as anybody interested in understanding the origin of humankind.