This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution

David Sloan Wilson. Pantheon, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-87020-4

Wilson (Darwin’s Cathedral), a Binghamton University biology and anthropology professor, makes a careful, step-by-step argument for adopting an “evolutionary worldview” for understanding social and cultural development, and for using this understanding to guide public policy. Grounding his discussion in Nobel Prize–winning ethologist Niko Tinbergen’s four questions to ask about a product of evolution—about its function, history, mechanism, and development­—Wilson proposes evolution as a multilevel process, stretching “from genes to the planet.” He focuses on the level of small groups of people, stating that the central driver of evolution in this context is social interaction. For evidence, he brings in a wide array of case studies, from immune reactions to factory assembly lines, arguing that at every level, a balance between addressing individual needs and the common good is ultimately adaptive. Wilson thus rejects both laissez-faire and centralized control-and-command policies in favor of a more inclusive decision-making process throughout society in which people “function in two capacities: as designers of social systems and as participants in the social systems that we design.” Readers who take Wilson’s bold and clever concept to heart may well be able to apply it to their own families, schools, cities, and communities. [em](Mar.) [/em]