Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - David Sloan Wilson: Evolving the City

Cool video - David Sloan Wilson: Evolving the City

Distinguished New York biologist and anthropologist, Professor David Sloan Wilson, has founded the world's first evolutionary think tank, the Evolution Institute. It uses evolutionary theory to address policy issues such as childhood education, risky adolescent behaviour, and the regulation of large-scale human social interactions.

"The most distressing fact about public awareness of evolution," Professor Wilson says, "is not that roughly 50 percent of Americans don't believe the theory but that nearly 100 percent of people worldwide don't appreciate its tremendous relevance to human affairs."

He wants to show how evolutionary theory can help to solve the problems of everyday life, from the quality of life in our cities to rethinking the fundamentals of economic theory and policy. This can be done by incorporating the most accurate conception of human nature possible based on current scientific knowledge.

And, unlike many American evolutionists, Wilson doesn't see evolution and religion at loggerheads. He suggests religion is itself a product of evolution acting at group-level. It's part of his "multi-level selection theory", which argues that natural selection can act on groups as well as individuals.

~ David Sloan Wilson uses evolutionary theory to explain all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, as he recounts for a general audience in Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Bantam 2007). He is a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York.

He publishes in anthropology, psychology, and philosophy journals in addition to his mainstream biological research. His academic books include Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (with Elliott Sober, Harvard 1998), Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Chicago, 2002), and The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (co-edited with Jonathan Gottschall, Northwestern 2005). Wilson also directs EvoS, a campus-wide program that uses evolutionary theory as a common language for the unification of knowledge.
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