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Disturbingly Slender Waists

Miriam Rothschild, 25 October 1990

The Ants 
by Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson.
Springer, 732 pp., DM 198, March 1990, 3 540 52092 9
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... biochemistry, and a wealth of extraordinarily interesting detail. I have no doubt that E.O. Wilson is the most distinguished biologist of our times, but it is surprising, even so, that he not only combines profound knowledge of these ‘little creatures who run the world’ with considerable insight into the future trends of biological thought and ...

Human Nature

Stuart Hampshire, 25 October 1979

Beast and Man 
by Mary Midgley.
Harvester, 396 pp., £7.50
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... principally in the United States rather than in the land of Herbert Spencer, and Professor E.O. Wilson of Harvard, author of Sociobiology the New Synthesis, is now the leading figure in this new, or revived, philosophy of human nature. The founding father was Konrad Lorenz, who followed the vastly popular King Solomon’s Ring with the immensely influential ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Evolution versus Metamorphosis, 1 September 2005

... of essays which will be published later in the autumn, Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson are good enough to acknowledge this problem, and even admit that the essays collected in their book are likely to contain large errors. But they haven’t let this stand in their way. The Literary Animal is a founding text in the emerging school of ...


Jerry Fodor, 29 October 1998

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge 
by Edward O. Wilson.
Little, Brown, 374 pp., £18.99, September 1998, 0 316 64569 9
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... means to us if that turns out to be the sort of world we live in. The distinguished biologist E.O. Wilson has been thinking hard about this; which is a fine thing. But not to very great effect; which is too bad. The key issue is this: if physics fixes all the facts there are, does it follow that all the explanations that there are are physical ...

Consider Jack and Oskar

Michael Rossi: Twin Studies, 7 February 2013

Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study 
by Nancy Segal.
Harvard, 410 pp., £39.95, June 2012, 978 0 674 05546 9
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... in origin, it’s even more interesting to learn that there’s a psychological metric – the ‘Wilson Patterson Conservatism Scale’ – that Mistra researchers used to measure it. But what, precisely, is it that the conservatism scale measures, and why should we take Wilson and Patterson’s version of conservatism as ...

Why would Mother Nature bother?

Jerry Fodor, 6 March 2003

Freedom Evolves 
by Daniel Dennett.
Allen Lane, 347 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7139 9339 1
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... get into a deterministic world? The gist of the story is familiar from Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, earlier work of Dennett’s, and many other current sources. You can even read it in the New York Times, where Steven Pinker has recently urged teaching it to innocent children in grade school. O, brave new world! It’s a dubious brew of neo-Darwinism ...

What killed the Neanderthals?

Luke Mitchell, 8 May 2014

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History 
by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £12.99, February 2014, 978 1 4088 5122 7
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... all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles and a sixth of all birds are headed towards oblivion.’ E.O. Wilson calculated that the current rate of extinction for all animals was ten thousand times greater than the background rate, a loss of biodiversity that is helping to create what the nature writer David Quammen memorably described as a ‘planet of weeds’, a ...

Cleaning up

Simon Schaffer, 1 July 1982

Explaining the Unexplained: Mysteries of the Paranormal 
by Hans Eysenck and Carl Sargent.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 297 78068 9
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Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts 
by R.C. Finucane.
Junction, 292 pp., £13.50, May 1982, 0 86245 043 8
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Hauntings and Apparitions 
by Andrew Mackenzie.
Heinemann, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 44051 5
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Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences 
by Susan Blackmore.
Heinemann, 270 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 07470 5
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... race and sexuality, we can now make out a whole army of allies. Sociobiologists such as E.O. Wilson, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris or Richard Dawkins represent the more overtly reductionist end of this force. Eysenck is often ready to associate himself with such work: significantly, he often does so in precisely the publicist and popular contexts that ...

Incidence of Incest

Edmund Leach, 19 February 1981

The Red Lamp of Incest: A Study in the Origins of Mind and Society 
by Robin Fox.
Hutchinson, 271 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 09 144080 7
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Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation 
by Susan Forward and Craig Buck.
Penguin, 154 pp., £1.95, February 1981, 0 14 022287 1
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... human ethology. These authors include Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris and E.O. Wilson. The present work is dedicated to the memory of Robert Ardrey, so the reader should know what to expect. The radical difference between social anthropology and the kind of thing offered by Fox needs to be spelled out since Fox quotes extensively from the ...

A Duck Folded in Half

Armand Marie Leroi, 19 June 1997

Before the Backbone: Views on the Origins of the Vertebrates 
by Henry Gee.
Chapman and Hall, 346 pp., £35, August 1996, 0 412 48300 9
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... a paltry enough sample of the million or so described animal species. Little wonder that E.O. Wilson, a man deeply enamoured of the plenitude of organic life, called the coming of these scientists the ‘Molecular Wars’. The comparative anatomists and systematists retreated. The great research universities had little space for them; provincial ...

Plumage and Empire

Adam Phillips: This is an Ex-Parrot, 31 October 2002

Spix’s Macaw: The Race to Save the World’s Rarest Bird 
by Tony Juniper.
Fourth Estate, 296 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 1 84115 650 7
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... the things that seems to happen in nature – in the tropical rainforests alone, according to E.O. Wilson, the number of species doomed each year is 27,000; each day it is 74, and each hour three – but there are things that can be done to offset it. So what is it about us that would make us bother to do something, as opposed to what is it about us that makes ...

Don’t wear yum-yum yellow

Theo Tait: Shark Attack!, 2 August 2012

Demon Fish: Travels through the Hidden World of Sharks 
by Juliet Eilperin.
Duckworth, 295 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 0 7156 4291 7
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... The third best-protected species is the great white, described approvingly here by E.O. Wilson as ‘one of the four or five last great predators of humanity’. Eilperin, an environmental reporter for the Washington Post, has travelled the world trying to understand sharks and human interactions with them. She has swum with reef sharks in the ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin, 7 January 2010

... else in the 19th century before there was any genetics to get right – the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson will have none of that: ‘The man was always right.’ Uniquely among the sciences, evolutionary biology comes with a patronymic, and so another oddity is why – if we take some of the wilder rhetorical flourishes literally – evolutionary theory is ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: E.O. Wilson’s ‘novel’, 8 July 2010

... brain surgery, so it doesn’t really matter, in a life or death sense, that the entomologist E.O. Wilson’s recently published first novel, Anthill (Norton, £17.99), carries on its cover the words: ‘Winner of the Pulitzer Prize’. This is a true description of Wilson – he’s won two Pulitzers, in fact, in the ...

Crops, Towns, Government

James C. Scott: Ancestor Worship, 21 November 2013

The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? 
by Jared Diamond.
Penguin, 498 pp., £8.99, September 2013, 978 0 14 102448 6
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... the expansion of superior races. But instead, he takes up a position not unlike that held by E.O. Wilson on the disappearance of species. He argues that just as natural diversity is a treasury of variation and resilience, so linguistic diversity represents a cultural treasury of expression, thought-ways and cosmology that, once lost, is gone for ...

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