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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson

Visionary, Idealist, Ideologue

(p.238) 15 David Sloan Wilson
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences

Mark E. Borrello

University of Chicago Press

When Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene in 1976 he opined “Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism because we are born selfish.” This solidified the prevailing view of a Darwinian nature as deeply individualistic and competitive. There were, however, alternative perspectives. David Sloan Wilson began developing mathematical models of altruistic populations as a graduate student at Michigan State University in 1975. Over the succeeding four decades, against the current and with a tenacity that can only belong to a true dreamer, Wilson has continued the development of these models and expanded his thinking into the evolution of human societies and the application of evolutionary models to solve contemporary issues like urban racial segregation and income inequality. What began as a theoretical challenge to a specific theory has morphed into a complete rethinking of the foundations of evolutionary biology, and an expansion of the ambit of Darwin’s theory to current human problems. This chapter examines the long road of an evolutionary visionary whose life-long dream continues to be controversial today.

Keywords:   David Sloan Wilson, altruism, altruistic populations, evolution of human societies, racial segregation, income inequality, evolutionary models

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