EO Wilson: RIP

Some tweets on E.O. Wilson, who died two days ago at the age of 92.

EOW’s Wiki article emphasizes the role of Gould and Lewontin in the hostility toward Sociobiology—a major inspiration for Chapter 2 in The Culture of Critique:

Sociobiology was initially met with substantial criticism. Several of Wilson’s colleagues at Harvard, such as Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, were strongly opposed to his ideas regarding sociobiology. Gould, Lewontin, and others from the Sociobiology Study Group from the Boston area wrote “Against ‘Sociobiology'” in an open letter criticizing Wilson’s “deterministic view of human society and human action.” Although attributed to members of the Sociobiology Study Group, it seems that Lewontin was the main author. In a 2011 interview, Wilson said, “I believe Gould was a charlatan. I believe that he was … seeking reputation and credibility as a scientist and writer, and he did it consistently by distorting what other scientists were saying and devising arguments based upon that distortion.”

Gould and Lewontin correctly realized that Wilson’s work was really an attempt to pull off a counter-revolution—to undo the work of Boas and the other Jewish anti-evolutionists from earlier in the century. They smeared it relentlessly.

After EO Wilson’s work, all aspects of human behavior were up for a fresh evolutionary understanding, including politics, the arts, ethnicity, morality, and yes, altruism, although EOW totally emphasized natural selection at the individual level. (Much later he accepted the importance of group selection.) Nevertheless, he put altruism at the absolute center of evolutionary thinking—the controversy continues to this day between people who emphasize groups as a unit of selection like me (cultural group selection) and people who view groups as just concatenations of individuals.

Finally, it’s noteworthy that Wilson wrote a positive blurb for Frank Salter’s On Genetic Interests, a book that validates the reality that individuals have a genetic interest in the fate of their ethnic groups in the same way that parents have a genetic interest in nurturing their children. Wilson: “[This] is a fresh and deep contribution to the sociobiology of humans, combining genetics and social science in original ways.”

5 replies
  1. James Bowery
    James Bowery says:

    I find it interesting that Gregory Cochran called E. O. Wilson “kind of dim” due, in large measured, to Wilson’s definition of “eusociality” as “reproductive specialization”. In what I consider to be E. O. Wilson’s magnum opus, “The Social Conquest of Earth“, Wilson went so far as to characterize the relationship between eusocial reproductive castes and sterile workers as parasitic castration rather than “altruism”, and applied it to human civilization. This is essentially the position I set forth in my “GOD Hypothesis” almost 15 years earlier. Devlin offer a critique here at TOO by attacking one conjecture — a weak one regarding the Y-Chromosome — omitting the stronger point I was making that Wilson eventually supported indirectly: That we are surrounded by what may be usefully thought of as “extended phenotypes” of more ecologically dominant genotypes that seek “inclusion” in our human ecologies for precisely the reason that they can turn vast numbers of us into their sterile workers. Henry Harpending found the GOD Hypothesis intriguing and not at all the nonsense Devlin implied by his attack-by-omission, and even accepted my invitation to be a co-blogger on the strength of an early essay I wrote there titled Removing Lewontin’s Fallacy from Hamilton’s Rule. Perhaps Cochran became so sensitive to Wilson’s “dimness” precisely because Harpending was so close to crossing the HBD Rubicon into the “parasitic castration” paradigm of eusociality. Certainly, Dawkins feared to cross that Rubicon despite having written the book “The Extended Phenotype” — and even went so far as to join many others in writing a jointly-signed letter attacking Wilson’s paper “The Evolution of Eusociality” which laid down the mathematics of parasitic castration of children by their mother (and siblings) to achieve “true” sociality.

    If anyone can look around at what is being done — especially young white men — nowadays and still regard the idea of parasitic castration as risible, the best I can say of them is that I regard them as extended pheonotypes, as I have Dawkins given his behavior subsequent to writing “The Extended Phenotype” and, in particular, in his attack on Wilson et al while suffering from functional amnesia about his own book which he, himself, described as the one book of his you should read if you read no other.

    To quote Dawkins’s ironically self-descriptive passage from “The Extended Phenotype”:

    “Do not expect to see animals always behaving in such a way as to maximize their own inclusive fitness. Losers in an arms race may behave in some very odd ways indeed. If they appear disoriented and unsure of their footing, this may be only the beginning.”

    That’s been increasing for a very long time until now it seems to be reaching a crescendo.

  2. Lucius Vanini
    Lucius Vanini says:

    “….the reality that individuals have an ethnic interest in the fate of their ethnic groups in the same way that parents have a genetic interest in nurturing their children.”

    Yes, though we have a genetic interest as well in the fate of our ethnic groups, particularly if we’re Europeans or Europe-descended, as the said share an unusually great degree of homogeneity…. As Coop et al, 2013 (“The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry Across Europe”) states:

    “….individuals from OPPOSITE ENDS of Europe can be expected to share MILLIONS of genealogical ancestors over the past 1000 years.” (Emphasis mine.)

    “Opposite ends”…. Ireland (or Iceland) and Russia…. Well, no surprise, given the almost constant intracontinental migration in both prehistoric and historical periods.

    And going farther back is the common general origin on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, the Indo-European urheimat.

    A conscious linking of members of one’s nuclear family with one’s ethnicity or race, makes sense. How can one have special feelings about one’s parents, siblings and children and not have special feelings about the ethnicity or race of which they’re members, unless one has become or has been made to be alienated from it, unhealthily and contrary to one’s interests?

    Since they know only hate, the true bigots (almost all of them on the Left) do think in-group preference by Whites is all about hate. But it’s similar to what one feels for fellow nuclear-family members–indeed it too is family-feeling, based on nearness of relation and featuring some of the special loyalty and partisanship existing between members of a nuclear family.

    Nor has it any necessary connection with ideas of superiority. Neither my father nor my mother became renowned for anything; I don’t regard them as having been superior to anybody: but Dad shall remain the number-one guy in my life till I die, and Mom was in her way the greatest lady in my life; and the reason is that they were MINE–they were MY Dad and MY Mom. No one could take their place. If through magic it could be arranged that instead of them I could have world leaders or great geniuses for parents, I wouldn’t go for it. This is a kind of instinctive self-honoring.

    Similarly, it’s not because I think it superior that I prefer my extended family, my ethnic/genetic mega-cluster, but because it’s MINE; it’s the one to which I, my parents and the other people biologically nearest me belong.

    Cf. “Relating Ethnic Affinity/Allegiance to Anthropological Distance”:

    The “me and mine” are central to my instinctive loyalty and partisanship. I can’t imagine that the same doesn’t go for anyone else with a strong attachment to his ethnicity or race; nor have I observed anything suggesting it doesn’t. That’s why, if we desire racial self-preservation, we need to avoid, abandon and/or combat any influences, including if not especially religious ones, which antagonize egoism and prescribe altruism (what we do for others if they’re “our own” is NOT unselfish, but wonderfully and healthily selfish), which criminalize self-love.

    By the way, racial self-love is much better ground whereon to defend White Nationalism than is the notion that Whites are superior. That anybody is intrinsically better than anyone else–i.e., bears more intrinsic value as a human creature–seems impossible to establish as fact, owing to the relativism of value judgments. But love of one’s nearer relations is viewed as self-validating. If parents or siblings were asked why they love their children or their brothers or sisters, the answer “Because they’re my children” or “Because they’re my brothers and sisters” would suffice–such attachment being reflexively accepted as healthy and “natural.” Moreover, justifying racial partisanship as familial attachment undercuts our enemies’ portrayal of us as arrogant and “supremacist.”

    • moneytalks
      moneytalks says:

      ” That anybody is intrinsically better than anyone else–i.e., bears more intrinsic value as a human creature–seems impossible to establish as fact “…

      No doubt the political zeitgeist here in the USA makes it virtually impossible to establish one person being better than another person . However , the question can be effectively engaged by simply asking “Who is better at what than another person ?” ; since most reasonable people know that inequality between any two persons is a basis for presuming one is better than another at some specified thing .

      • Lucius Vanini
        Lucius Vanini says:

        Oh, do you believe that blacks are better than us because they run faster and play basketball and American football better? Or are Asian-Americans better than Euroamericans because able to have a higher income on average, outperform in scholastic achievement and IQ tests, and live longer?

        Owing to the relativism of value judgments, Whites will remain better FOR ME, and be the group I prefer. That’s not what they are intrinsically. Vanilla ice cream is not intrinsically better than chocolate ice cream, only relatively to those with such palates as find vanilla more agreeable.

        In a world where winning is prized, are winners more valuable than losers? How, if in order for someone to win, someone must lose?

        Blacks are fools to think that because Whites have done this or that, they aren’t as “good” (not identical with “able”) as Whites. And to those who find blacks “better,” who prefer blacks to Whites, I say “More power to you! There’s no way I can prove that my value judgment is better than yours!” All the same, I regard blacks as a monstrous threat and would like to see them all aborted. And why? Not because I think my group is intrinsically better, but because I prefer my group; and because blacks are ever a physical threat to that group (1480 to 1800 violent attacks PER DAY in the Jewnited States)–and their friendly proximity an even greater threat, they being the natural and necessary enemies of our kind, biologically and cognitively….

        Where race is concerned, get off the stressing of intrinsic value. Prefer your own like you do your nearest and dearest–or rather see that your race is your extended family and, relatively to the other human groups, ALSO your nearest and dearest.

  3. Terry
    Terry says:

    EOW was one of the great scientific minds of my lifetime. Through his many books, he had a major influence on my own thinking about human nature, animal behavior, and life in general. At this sad time, The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant comes to mind. To his memory.

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