Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour
Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Synopsis

    No matter what we do, however kind or generous our deeds may seem, a hidden motive of selfishness lurks - or so science has claimed for years. This book tells readers differently. The authors demonstrate that unselfish behaviour is in fact an important feature of both biological and human nature. Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout the animal kingdom – from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for selflessness – even as it explains the evolutionary sense of such behaviour. Explaining how altruistic behaviour can evolve by natural selection, this book gives credence to the idea of group selection that was originally proposed by Darwin but denounced as heretical in the 1960s. It takes an evolutionary approach in explaining the ultimate psychological motives behind unselfish human behaviour. Developing a theory of the proximate mechanisms that most likely evolved to motivate adaptive helping behaviour, the authors show how people and perhaps other species evolved the capacity to care for others as a goal in itself.
Author's guide to reviews of Unto Others

In the interest of objectivity, excerpts of all1 published reviews are provided, including some that are highly critical. The polarized nature of the reviews suggest that fundamental issues are at stake.
  1. "This book should come with a health warning. Read critically, it will stimulate thought about important questions. Swallowed whole, its effects would be disastrous."
    … John Maynard Smith, Nature, June 18
  2. "Unto Others is one of the most important books of the decade. It simply cannot be ignored, as it is the most comprehensive treatment of the whole levels-of-selection debate, including its history, so far. Unto Others will inspire a flood of new studies, invite debate and be at the center of intellectual discourse for the next decade. We live in an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the process from this 'must' of a synthesizing book."
    … Iver Mysterud, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, November 11
  3. "This book is more focused on debate than science ... Anyone looking for novel scientific insight will be sadly disappointed."
    … Len Nunney, Science, September 11
  4. "Intellectual work is supposed to be a combination of originality and hard thinking. Unfortunately, there is some contradiction between these, at least in evolutionary theory. Careers are often made either from an ambitious but poorly thought out originality, or a skillful but mechanical analysis of a well-worn theme. Unto Others is precisely that combination of radical re-examination of a system of explanation, an examination from the roots, with a rigorous technical analysis of both biological and epistemological questions that we are all supposed to engage in."
    … Richard Lewontin, New York Review of Books, October 22
  5. "For one thing, Sober and Wilson's language is a recipe for confusion ... The present linguistic concentration on individual-level selection has created a scientific culture in which it is normal to hypothesize about how various features of organisms (eyes, wings and so on) might be "good for the organism". Sober and Wilson wish to create a culture in which it is normal to hypothesize about how features might be "good for the group".”
    … Laurence Hurst, New Scientist, September 12
  6. ”For two decades, Sober, an internationally prominent philosopher of biology, has provided welcome clarification of the concept of natural selection, while, for an even longer period, Wilson, a well-known theoretical biologist, has campaigned to rehabilitate one of the most vilified views about the nature of selection ... Defenders of psychological altruism can no longer be indicted on the grounds of wishful thinking.”
    … Philip Kitcher, London Review of Books, October 15
  7. "This stylishly written and thoughtful book seeks to answer two large questions: How can altruism be compatible with evolution? To what extent are people genuinely altruistic?...I recommend this book strongly to those who appreciate that we need to understand what evolution has made of human nature before we can learn to harness our capacity for unselfish behavior on the large scale necessary in a modern industrial society. In spite of its occasional failure to turn the other cheek, I think it may well sound the final knell of the group selection controversy."
    … Kenneth Binmore, Managerial and Decision Economics, in press
  8. ”Among many evolutionary biologists, it is a matter of faith that group selection, while theoretically possible, in fact is so improbable as to not be worth mentioning. This book is a challenge to that belief. To economists interested in evolution, the book is essential ... The issues raised are of profound importance for economists interested in behavior of humans in group settings, which is where all economic behavior occurs.“
    … Paul Rubin, Bioeconomics, in press



In-Page Footnotes ("Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour")

Footnote 1: Presumably from 1999.


BOOK COMMENT:

Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, third printing, 2000



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Unto Others - Introduction: Bentham's Corpse"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Introduction



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Altruism as a Biological Concept"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 1



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - A Unified Evolutionary Theory fo Social Behavior"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 2



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Adaptation and Multilevel Selection"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 3



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Group Selection and Human Behavior"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 4



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Human Groups as Adaptive Units"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 5



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Motives as Proximate Mechanisms"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 6



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Three Theories of Motivation"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 7



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Psychological Evidence"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 8



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Philosophical Arguments"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 9



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - The Evolution of Psychological Altruism"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Chapter 10



"Sober (Elliott) & Wilson (David) - Unto Others - Conclusion: Pluralism"

Source: Sober & Wilson - Unto Others - The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behaviour, 1998, Conclusion



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