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The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

Richard Dawkins's review of The Social Conquest of Earth, by Edward O Wilson (WW Norton, £18.99, May)


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JBS Haldane quipped that any Creator must have had “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” His insights prefigured modern genetic theory

When he received the manuscript of The Origin of Species, John Murray, the publisher, sent it to a referee who suggested that Darwin should jettison all that evolution stuff and concentrate on pigeons. It’s funny in the same way as the spoof review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which praised its interesting “passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways of controlling vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper” but added:

“Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion this book can not take the place of JR Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping.”

I am not being funny when I say of Edward Wilson’s latest book that there are interesting and informative chapters on human evolution, and on the ways of social insects (which he knows better than any man alive), and it was a good idea to write a book comparing these two pinnacles of social evolution, but unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of erroneous and downright perverse misunderstandings of evolutionary theory. In particular, Wilson now rejects “kin selection” (I shall explain this below) and replaces it with a revival of “group selection”—the poorly defined and incoherent view that evolution is driven by the differential survival of whole groups of organisms.

Nobody doubts that some groups survive better than others. What is controversial is the idea that differential group survival drives evolution, as differential individual survival does. The American grey squirrel is driving our native red squirrel to extinction, no doubt because it happens to have certain advantages. That’s differential group survival. But you’d never say of any part of a squirrel that it evolved to promote the welfare of the grey squirrel over the red. Wilson wouldn’t say anything so silly about squirrels. He doesn’t realise that what he does say, if you examine it carefully, is as implausible and as unsupported by evidence.

Read on

Staczanie się Edwarda Wilsona Richard

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

Kiedy wydawca John Murray otrzymał manuskrypt O powstawaniu gatunków, wysłał go do recenzenta, który zaproponował, by Darwin wyrzucił cały ten materiał o ewolucji, a skupił się na gołębiach. Jest to zabawne w ten sam sposób, jak parodia recenzji Kochanka Lady Chatterley, która wychwala książkę za jej „interesujące fragmenty o zatrzymywaniu kłusowników, sposobach kontrolowania szkodników i innych zadaniach i obowiązkach leśniczego", ale dodaje:
"Niestety, trzeba przebrnąć przez wiele stron nieistotnego materiału, żeby odkryć i smakować te przebłyski o zarządzaniu posiadłością myśliwską w Midland, i zdaniem tego recenzenta ta książka nie może zająć miejsca JR Millera Practical Gamekeeping."

Nie dowcipkuję, kiedy mówię o najnowszej książce Edwarda Wilsona, że są tam interesujące i pouczające rozdziały o ewolucji człowieka i o zachowaniach owadów społecznych (o których wie więcej niż ktokolwiek wśród żywych), i że było dobrym pomysłem napisanie książki porównującej te dwa szczyty ewolucji społecznej, ale niestety trzeba przebrnąć przez wiele stron błędnego i wręcz perwersyjnego niezrozumienia teorii ewolucji. W szczególności Wilson odrzuca teraz „dobór krewniaczy" (wyjaśnię to poniżej) i zastępuje go przywróceniem „doboru grupowego" — marnie zdefiniowanego i niespójnego poglądu, że ewolucja napędzana jest przez zróżnicowaną przeżywalność całych grup organizmów.
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TAGGED: BIOLOGY, BOOKS, EVOLUTION, RICHARD DAWKINS, SCIENCE


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Also in Polish

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