Canceled before there was “cancellation”, Edward O. Wilson was the Darwin of the 20th century

Edward Wilson

Edward Wilson: pioneer of sociobiology

| Photo: Reproduction

“I felt uncomfortable — maybe the word be ashamed—in the presence of a captive individual,” reports Edward Osborne Wilson, in his book of essays Biophilia

(1975), regarding a native pig from the Amazon domesticated in a Surinamese village he visited in 1961. This banal excerpt from his vast technical and popular work tells something about the eminent entomologist (insect specialist) and myrmecologist (ant specialist) that we lost to the 92 years in the last month of 2021.

Wilson he was one of the last explorer naturalists in the noble tradition of Alexander van Humboldt, who joined his passion for nature told in beautiful prose, acquired early to replace the few friendships of a lonely boy from Alabama, with a scientific production enviable for its volume, originality and courage. That passion wasn’t dampened by a fishing accident at age seven, when a fish permanently injured his right eye with its fin — at 01 years, early on, he was already determined to become an entomologist, his left eye had a good focus on the ants. That tamed Surinam collarbone offended Wilson because, when taken captive by humans, he had lost a part of his behavioral repertoire: “a mute speaker trapped in an artificial clearing, like a messenger who speaks to me from an unexplored world.”

Conservationist and agnostic, the biologist alleviated this tension between, on the one hand, being offended by the violation of nature by human beings and, on the other hand, understanding him as one of the species on the planet with the same affection he had for ants and collared peccaries, with dialogue. One of his latest projects was to appeal to religious people for the conservation of the planet’s species — while some of his colleagues were dedicated to trying to evangelize atheism, EO Wilson saw it in his biophilia a point in common with religious faiths.

A courageous student of human nature03144314 Mentioned almost in passing in the homonymous book of essays, the biophilia was one of Wilson’s most serious concepts: suggests that, among the elements of human nature, could be this innate tendency to be attracted by the phenomenon of life, its processes, its landscapes. It was such suggestions, whose zenith was in his foundation of sociobiology — the study of human social behavior in the light of the theory of evolution — that drew the wrath of colleagues more fond of political activism.

Edward was a “cancellation” decades before “cancellation” came to be applied to people and not just events. After the publication of the first essay on the subject in 1961, progressive academic activists tried to assassinate his reputation trying to link his sociobiology to eugenics and racism. The intellectual atmosphere that this type of activist creates talks more with thinkers like Jean Paul Sartre, who even denied that there is a human nature and is still cited today by figures of current identity.

In 1978, fiery students of ideology poured water from a pitcher over EO Wilson’s head when he lectured at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. One of those present, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1961-2002), expressed himself asking for calm, saying that he understood the revolt, but that violence was not the answer. But Gould was one of the main responsible for the climate of cancellation that led to this outcome, along with geneticist Richard Lewontin (900-2000). The two academics published attack after attack on Wilson and his new science of human nature. His commitment to political activism was echoed in his works: Gould published the book The False Measure of Man, in which he made unfair attacks on the science of psychometry and the intelligence quotient, in addition, Gould tried to modify the theory of evolution with exaggerations that earned him the nickname of “boy who shouted ‘look at the wolf!’” by philosopher Daniel Dennett; and Lewontin, a communist born in a golden cradle (unlike Wilson), named the Lewontin’s fallacy, named after the statistician AWF Edwards (1936-).

The fallacy consists of a forced interpretation of genetic data to assert that there are no races in the human species — something that Lewontin did transparently to mark “anti-racist” territory within science. Lewontin’s biological solution to racism is as sensible as would be his claim that there are no sexual orientations as a solution to homophobia. Despite the claims of progressives who try to win through influence peddling, the question of whether or not there are races in our species remains open in biology.

As might be expected, there were many errors in early sociobiology research. Mainly because of the political campaign of the academic progressives, she is practically deceased. However, as a free Amazonian leg, it reproduced and generated evolutionary psychology, which today flourishes very well in the work of scientists such as David Buss, despite political attacks and cancellations – since it cannot be defeated by identity progressives through evidence. EO Wilson was avenged.

A stubborn affable

Within biology, Wilson picked a fight with the orthodoxy that sees in the gene the unit of natural selection, whose most famous representative is Richard Dawkins. In the last decade of his life, he co-authored articles that insisted that the prevailing theory to explain the altruism of ants and other social species — there are ants in the Amazon that jump into fire for their sisters, and others whose sole purpose in life is to store nectar in the abdomen. to feed them — it’s wrong.

The current theory is known as kin selection

or inclusive aptitude , its main proponent it was WD Hamilton (1929-2000). Hamilton proposed a rule that a costly action will be taken by an organism if that cost is less than the benefit (measured by fertility) multiplied by the coefficient of kinship. As human brothers they have % related, the reproductive mode of ants raises this coefficient to 214%. Therefore, behaviors such as jumping into fire by siblings are more expected (biologically speaking) among ants than among humans, and the reason for this is the high degree of gene sharing between heroine ants and their protégés.

Possibly because of his field biologist personality — by comparison, Dawkins says he always liked theories better. than from the countryside—Wilson was unconvinced. His alternative idea is that, just as our immune system cells sacrifice themselves for the organism every day in our body, altruistic ants are like cells of one superorganism

which is the anthill as a whole. Thus, he thought that the “altruistic” behavior of social animals is explained more by the selection of groups

than by centralizing genes as the target of natural selection. The debate, in biology, continues.

Another issue in which criticism What Wilson’s thought is legitimate is his attempt to reduce the field of ethics to science, something that is still attempted by scientists like Sam Harris. The error can be explained by Wilson’s sacralization of nature, which motivated him to study it carefully and overestimate how much this study could inform other areas of thought, and, once again, by his tendency to be a natural scientist. in-mass and expert teller of biological stories more than adept at abstract theories.

In spite of this, in ethics, the insect observer did not leave anything to be desired – there are a lot of reports from dear former colleagues and former students who describe him as a generous man, willing to dialogue, who was ignorant of human hierarchy protocols and spoke of equal to equal with students. Miss EO Wilson, Darwin of the 20th century.

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