July 17, 2008

E.O. Wilson on Group Selection [vindicates Kevin MacDonald]

Money quote: “Dr. Wilson, changing his mind because of new data about the genetics of ant colonies, now believes that natural selection operates at many levels, including at the level of a social group.”

Scientist at Work | Edward O. Wilson

Taking a Cue From Ants on Evolution of Humans
By NICHOLAS WADEPublished: NYTimes, Science Section, July 15, 2008 To reach Edward O. Wilson’s office on the Harvard campus, one must first push through a door with a sign warning the public not to enter. Then, enter a creaky old elevator and press two buttons simultaneously. This counterintuitive procedure transports one into a strange realm.

Rick Friedman for The New York Times
FIRST LOVE Edward O. Wilson studies the genetics of ant colonies.
LIFE’S WORK Edward O. Wilson is writing a book on the forces of social evolution, which is likely to apply to people the lessons evident in ant colonies.

It is a space that holds the world’s largest collection of ants, some 14,000 species. Curators are checking the drawers, dominated by the tall figure of Dr. Wilson, who is trying to contain his excitement: the 14,001st ant species has just been discovered in the soils of a Brazilian forest. He steamrolls any incipient skepticism about the ant’s uniqueness — the new species is a living coelacanth of ants, a primitive throwback to the first ant, a wasp that shed its wings and assigned all its descendants to live in earth, not their ancestral air. The new ant is so alien, Dr. Wilson explains, so unlike any known to earthlings, that it will be named as if it came from another planet.


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