33 pages 1 hour read

Edward O. Wilson

On Human Nature

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1978

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Chapter 2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis: “Heredity”

The synthetic nature of the sociobiological approach comprises ethology, ecology, and genetics. Sociobiology determines “how social groups adapt to the environment by evolution” (17). In other words, it studies how biology—one’s genetics—determines culture, behavior, ethics, and habits. While biology is the study of living organisms—and thus is excused for drawing conclusions at a microscopic level—sociobiology aims to situate humans in a wider net of living organisms, thus taking a macroscopic view of the issue at hand.

Edward O. Wilson declares that the social scientists who remain convinced that “social behavior can be shaped into virtually any form” (18) are misinformed, and that nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that culture is a determining factor in the development of human behavior, a person is not a blank slate upon which everything can be inscribed. Social behavior is largely genetically determined. This genetic determinism is highlighted when the human animal is compared to “lower” species of the animal kingdom. The higher up a species is in the chain of the animal kingdom—from insects, to small mammals, to birds, and eventually apes and monkeys—the closer they resemble human behavior, society, and relational structure.