E.O. Wilson, the biologist, theorist, and sometimes-novelist, has pioneered entire fields of study in his six-decade career. At the age of 82, Wilson has just published his 27th book, and the octogenarian doesn't shy away from controversy.
Back in 1975, Wilson popularized the theory of sociobiology: the idea that evolution and genetics shape human behavior. The theory set off a firestorm of criticism. In a letter to the editor of The New York Review of Books, a group of leading scientists and physicians wrote that, Wilson's book "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis," was a "genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race or sex." Yet Wilson prevailed, and it is now common knowledge that genetics and environment – nature and nurture – shape behavior.
Wilson’s new book, "The Social Conquest of Earth," tackles this subject and through one simple question: how did altruism evolve in species like human and ants, when so few species are altruistic?