Have any of you read E.O Wilson's books "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis" and "On Human Nature?"


I just ordered these books, and am about to start reading them. In the description of “On Human Nature” on the internet, it says that Wilson argues that discriminating against homosexuals, people of color, and women is wrong on biological grounds. Where in the book does he do this? Does he discuss homosexuality, race or Feminism at all in “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis”

(Christy Hemphill) #2

Never read the books. Though I am aware that what Wilson claimed in the “Man” chapter of Sociobiology was received very critically by sociologists (my field is linguistics and anthropology, not biology and I have done a good deal of reading on societal constructions of race and gender).

I find the whole premise that you can move from biology (evolutionary or otherwise) to ethics pretty suspect. When people start trying to say evolutionary biology opens up all these windows of insight into psychology or sociology, I think they are overreaching and usually just seeing what they are inclined to see. Genetics, natural selection, and competition explain a lot of things in nature. But culture and socialization are often a better key for understanding complex human social behavior.

(Albert Leo) #3

Precisely! Wilson’s books expanded on both Darwin’s original thesis that insect and animal societies were formed as survival promoters and then on Dawkin’s theme of the Selfish Gene. In my view, both of Wilson’s books were unconvincing in arguing that human ethics & morals had any real roots in evolutionary development. Judged by human standards, Nature is simply amoral. However, this thread has induced me to dust off my copies and re-read them–at least the dog-eared pages.

Somewhat beside the point: Did you happen to see the TV show on ‘Australian Dingos’ on the Nature channel last night? One disturbing scene showed two parent dingos, after running down a young kangaroo, lolling comfortably nearby while their offspring were learning the taste and smell of the kind of prey they would be hunting. The kangaroo was still alive, and one could see it wince in pain as one of the dingo pups chewed on its ear and another on its genitals.

Question: Does God wince in pain as he sees one of his creatures inflicting pain on another? We believe that both predator & prey, were the product of His method of creation: Evolution. Did He confer the gift of Mind and Conscience on a particular primate so that qualities like true empathy, love, & justice could at least be an important factor in life’s struggle? Are we humans asked to improve on His Creation? Heresy? Wishful thinking? Polyanna? Perhaps. But it’s a belief that helps one lead a happier purposeful life.
Al Leo


Have read both. Not sure homosexuality, race or feminism are priority BioLogos concerns. Should they be?

You may be interested that BioLogos has flirted with promoting some strangely Christianized version of evolutionary psychology. They even awarded Templeton-BioLogos money for a project on evolutionary psychology. It does not seem they have succeeded at all in this task or that they have made a report about it anywhere available.

“I think they are overreaching and usually just seeing what they are inclined to see.”

Yes, that may have happened at BioLogos with regard to its earlier evolutionary psychology flirtations. They may have changed their mind about it & just didn’t tell anyone publically about it.

One of the columnists even tried to pin evolutionary psychology on St. Thomas Aquinas! = ( Obviously Christy disagrees with more than a few BioLogos leaders on what they consider “pretty suspect”, since they are promoting that at BioLogos with their various non-biological uses of evolution.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

BioLogos hosts conversations on a variety of topics related to the intersection of faith and science. You will often find two articles that give completely contradictory and mutually exclusive views on some questions. I could point to several that I wholeheartedly disagree with on a number of points. There is no one monolithic “BioLogos” view that everyone signs on to in order to participate in the conversation. The organization’s core beliefs are here: http://biologos.org/about-us/our-mission/

Beyond that, things are up for discussion. Different contributors’ reflections are going to show the influence of the faith traditions they come from, their areas of academic expertise, and their personal experiences on the quest for meaning and truth. They are necessarily going to present a diverse picture, not a set of right answers.


I would not be surprised if 90%+ of BioLogos people (& 99% of evangelical Christians) had NOT read E.O. Wilson (or D.S. Wilson). It’s such people that surprisingly (and rather disappointingly) have zero idea of the problematic when evolutionism is dumped right on their toes. They seem to welcome (because they self-label as ‘evolutionists’) the exaggeration of evolutionary theories … to any field they can find, even the study of literature (“literary Darwinism” http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/the-literary-darwinists.html). And then they deny the exaggeration, repeatedly, by those like the Wilsons who at the end of the day often use answers that disguise as “naturalism conquers theism.”

The ones who don’t know the Wilsons on the topic of evolution are like the people who embrace memetics, not knowing it is now a dead ideology. Yet there are people (sadly a few Christians too) who continue to call themselves an “evolutionist” and promote sociobiological ideas, sometimes (oftentimes) without knowing the history or implications of those ideas. I do hope that will not continue as BioLogos’ legacy.

It’s a typical creationist blind spot - ignorance of the Wilsons, i.e. haven’t read the literature - that could be corrected here at BioLogos. The rejection of evolutionary psychology & sociobiology (despite what people here like to say so glowingly about biology, while nevertheless exaggerating ‘evolution’ beyond biology, e.g. to linguistics) is a crucial plank in its evangelical mission that is pushing back against BioLogos from within.

Will there be a short update report forthcoming on the little BioLogos evolutionary psychology project?

Do languages really "evolve"?
(Christy Hemphill) #7

A post was merged into an existing topic: Do languages really “evolve”?

(Christy Hemphill) #8

BioLogos has not generally published updates about grant projects. If you are interested, you can check out the project from its own page: http://thethrivecenter.org/research/research-projects/evolutionary-psychology-and-christian-views-on-human-thriving/

(Christy Hemphill) #9

4 posts were split to a new topic: Do languages really “evolve”?

Do languages really "evolve"?
Do languages really "evolve"?