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Sociobiology: The New Synthesis by Edward O. Wilson

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Cambridge, Ma. : Harvard University Press, 1975. First edition. Hardcover. 697 pages ; illustrated ; 27 cm. In original dust jacket with a few small rips around the dust jacket edges. Otherwise a very good copy with unmarked pages and sound binding.

"When the same parameters and quantitative theory are used to analyze both termite colonies and troops of rhesus macaques, we will have a unified theory of sociobiology," wrote Edward O. Wilson at the end of The Insect Societies. "The formulation of a theory of sociobiology constitutes, in my opinion, one of the great manageable problems of biology for the next twenty or thirty years."

In Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Mr. Wilson sets forth the general biological principles that govern social behavior and social organization in all kinds of animals. He puts the facts of social evolution into the firm context of modern biological theory, provides a wealth of information about animal societies, and offers a new way to understand them.

The synthesis achieved in sociobiology depends upon a fusion of concepts and observations from many disciplines. A reader only little acquainted with the principles of evolutionary theory, population biology, ethology, or genetics will find lucid, understandable, and self-contained explanations of relevant findings from these fields. With this extensive background, the reader can follow Mr. Wilson as he explores the means by which self-sacrificing behavior, the binding force of animal societies, evolves through natural selection. The cornerstone of sociobiological theory is an understanding of such altruism. Upon this basis it becomes possible to analyze other important aspects of social organization, including group size, propagation of social groups, learning and imitation, and aggression.

For the first time the whole range of social creatures, from bacteria and colonial jellyfish to human beings, is described in depth and within the framework of modern biology. The author's descriptions and scientific discussions are infused with a warmth and subtle humor that make reading the book a pleasure. The text is accompanied by a series of drawings that illustrate prototypical animal societies in characteristic situations. These drawings, prepared by the noted scientific illustrator Sarah Landry, depict social groupings of various animals in correct numerical proportion and in an accurately represented ecological setting.

Mr. Wilson begins Sociobiology: The New Synthesis with a problem in ethical philosophy. Throughout the book he examines sociobiological problems with the acknowledged awareness that ethical applications are an especially important consequence of researches in this field. This book will be indiSpensable to anyone seeking to understand the human situation in the light of modern scientific thought.

Edward O. Wilson is Professor of Zoology and Curator in Entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.