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David Sloan Wilson
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Entries by David Sloan Wilson

Ayn Rand and Modern Politics

(94) Comments | Posted September 6, 2012 | 6:39 PM

Years ago, I conducted an analysis of Ayn Rand's thought that can help explain why it exerts such influence over politicians such as Paul Ryan. I didn't start out studying Rand. I was exploring how people use words such as "selfish" and "altruistic," which refer to the effects of actions...

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Clash of Paradigms

(22) Comments | Posted July 15, 2012 | 9:42 PM

This essay continues a dialogue that started with Steve Pinker's essay titled "The False Allure of Group Selection" published on All readers are invited to comment at the end of this essay. In addition, professional evolutionists are invited to provide more extensive comments on the...

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The Nature of Regulation II: Regulate or Die

(0) Comments | Posted July 5, 2012 | 2:44 PM

Consider the humble thermostat. It regulates the temperature of your house through the simple device of a metal coil that contracts and expands with temperature, making and breaking an electrical connection to your furnace. You would not die without your thermostat, but your life would be less convenient and comfortable....

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The Nature of Regulation I: Breaking Out of Our Narrative Prisons

(1) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 11:14 AM

Regulation is one of the most charged words in politics. If you're a conservative, then you're likely to think that regulation is a bad thing that erodes personal responsibility and prevents the free enterprise system from working its magic. If you're a liberal, then you're likely to think that regulation...

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Farewell, Lin Ostrom

(2) Comments | Posted June 13, 2012 | 9:00 AM

The world lost a great human being in the passing of Elinor Ostrom. It was part of her humanity to prefer the informal "Lin" as her name. I was privileged to work with her during the last few years to integrate the body of her work, which originated within the...

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Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, and the Consensus of the Many

(6) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 10:25 PM

Richard Dawkins (1) begins his review of E.O. Wilson's (2) new book The Social Conquest of Earth with an appeal to authority--namely the 137 evolutionists who co-authored a reply (3) to an article by Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita and Wilson in Nature magazine (4). Appealing to authority is...

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PZ Myers: Not Functioning as a Scientist on the Subject of Religion

(127) Comments | Posted May 30, 2012 | 8:32 AM

In the spirit of science as a process of constructive disagreement, Evolution: This View of Life is pleased to feature a critique of my previous article "The New Atheism and Evolutionary Religious Studies: Clarifying Their Relationship" by evolutionist and prolific blogger PZ Myers, titled "

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The New Atheism and Evolutionary Religious Studies: Clarifying Their Relationship

(281) Comments | Posted May 17, 2012 | 6:50 PM

Atheism is a disbelief in Gods. "The New Atheism" refers to an exceptionally active group of atheists centered around the work of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens. All four are distinguished intellectuals and scientists. Dawkins and Dennett are especially known as interpreters of...

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Proof That Policies Informed by Evolution Can Succeed Where Other Perspectives Have Failed

(7) Comments | Posted November 29, 2011 | 11:34 AM

Evolution, the theory that has already proven itself for understanding the rest of life, is equally relevant for understanding the human condition. With understanding comes the capacity for improvement. Thus, evolutionary theory can be used to improve the quality of human life in a practical sense.

I have dedicated the...

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Evolution Begins to Occupy Center Stage in Economic Debates

(70) Comments | Posted September 30, 2011 | 2:00 PM


A flurry of recent activity indicates that evolution is beginning to occupy center stage in economic debates--and not a moment too soon.

Recently published books include Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good (in which he predicts...

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From Lecture Halls to City Streets: Putting Evolution to Work

(66) Comments | Posted August 29, 2011 | 12:31 PM

America famously leads the world in its denial of evolution and politicians tremble at the word for fear of losing the vote. Even those who accept evolution typically associate it with fossils, dinosaurs, and nature documentaries. Here's an idea that's new for almost everyone -- using Darwin's theory as a...

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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XV: Group Selection in the Wild

(9) Comments | Posted September 18, 2009 | 10:12 PM

In T&R XIV I showed that prejudice against group selection is impervious to evidence from laboratory experiments. It is also impervious to evidence from the wild.

I will focus on one of many examples that can be provided. In 1995, Robert Heinsohn and Craig Packer published an...

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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XIV: Group Selection in the Laboratory

(15) Comments | Posted August 23, 2009 | 5:16 AM

In the storybook portrayal of science, theories are tested by experiments, which are conducted in laboratories so that the conditions can be rigorously controlled.

How would group selection be tested in the laboratory? Let's begin with the thousands of selection experiments that have already been conducted in the laboratory...

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Evolution and War: Basic and Advanced

(33) Comments | Posted August 17, 2009 | 1:24 PM

John Horgan, whose article on evolution and war was the subject of my last blog, has written a blog in reply and informed me of a second article that he has written on the subject. Since I accused him of flunking Evolution 101, I shouldn't be...

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Evolution and War: Back to Basics

(19) Comments | Posted August 12, 2009 | 10:27 AM

War has been part of the human condition throughout recorded and archeological history. Violent between-group conflict is also part of nature, from epic battles between ant colonies, to the territorial conflicts of lion prides, to the raiding parties of chimps.

Is war part of our nature? That question has...

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Evolutionary Psychology and the Public Media: Rekindling the Romance

(5) Comments | Posted June 25, 2009 | 12:13 AM

Evolutionary psychology, once the darling of the public media, has been dumped in a recent Newsweek article by journalist Sharon Begley. Return accusations are beginning to fly from evolutionary psychologists, who accuse Begley of willful distortions and scientific incompetence (e.g., 1,2).

As usual for romantic quarrels,...

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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XIII: Hamilton Speaks

(12) Comments | Posted May 21, 2009 | 9:59 AM

Pity people who become icons. Once they represent an important idea in the minds of others, they can't change their iconic status, even when they change their own minds.

Such was the fate of William D. Hamilton, the legendary founder of inclusive fitness theory, which was dubbed kin...

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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XII: Multilevel Selection Theory, Salsa Style

(6) Comments | Posted May 13, 2009 | 1:38 AM

Meet Athena Aktipis--evolutionist, mother of two, and salsa dance instructor in her spare time. Perhaps it was the dancer in Athena that caused her to teach multilevel selection by having the students get up and move.

Each student is given a wooden stick with an A (for Altruistic)...

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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XI: Dawkins Protests (Too Much)

(20) Comments | Posted April 22, 2009 | 11:17 AM

Richard Dawkins did not invent naïve gene selectionism (see T&R X) but he spread it far and wide with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Let's follow his logic, beginning on page 6 of the 1989 paperback edition:

This book will show how both individual selfishness and individual...
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Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection X: Naïve Gene Selectionism

(7) Comments | Posted April 19, 2009 | 11:36 AM

Naïve group selectionism (see T&R III) is the unquestioning belief that adaptations can evolve at all levels of the biological hierarchy--for the good of individuals, groups, species and even ecosystems--without requiring special conditions. Many people are prone to naïve group selectionism, today no less than in the past. That...

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