In the end, what salvages the “case” that this volume seeks to advance is the final chapter by editor Niels Gregersen. By tacitly adopting a more sophisticated and balanced understanding of evolutionary biology, Gregersen deftly transcends the shortcomings and misconceptions (and even some internal contradictions) that might otherwise have undermined the organizers’ basic objective.
Somit and Peterson’s “predictably unpopular thesis” is that humankind has a predisposition, “a genetic bias” for hierarchically structured social and political systems. The book is significant both for what it says and fails to say about both human nature and democracy.
This unpretentious book — plainly written, packaged with a straight-forward descriptive title and published by Stanford University Press with little fanfare — should be required reading for every college student — and their professors.
To our preliterate ancestors, untutored in academic economics but well-attuned to the vicissitudes of living in the late Pleistocene, the basic problem that they confronted — along with all other living things — was survival and reproduction. Earning a living in the “economy of nature” was a relentless, inescapable and somewhat unpredictable imperative.
Robert Reid’s provocative book is perverse; he uses a semantic sleight of hand to claim credit for a non-Darwinian theory of emergent evolution. Not so.
Biologist David Sloan Wilson’s acclaimed book, Darwin’s Cathedral, advances the thesis that organized religion is not for the most part an irrational, or exploitative phenomenon, much less a non-functional cultural “spandrel”. He makes a compelling case.
Schneider and Sagan claim that energy flows “generate, perpetuate, elaborate,” biological complexity. They claim too much for thermodynamics and slight the functional, economic drivers – the costs and benefits in a given environment and natural selection.