15+ quotes from On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson

Quotes from On Human Nature

Edward O. Wilson ·  288 pages

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“Human beings appear to be sufficiently selfish and calculating to be capable of indefinitely greater harmony and social homeostasis. This statement is not self-contradictory. True selfishness, if obedient to the other constraints of mammalian biology, is the key to a more nearly perfect social contract. - pg. 157”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“innate censors and motivators exist in the brain that deeply and unconsciously affect our ethical premises; from these roots, morality evolved as instinct. If that perception is correct, science may soon be in a position to investigate the very origin and meaning of human values, from which all ethical pronouncements and much of political practice flow.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“The earlier Aryan invaders of the Gangetic Plain presided over feasts of cattle, horses, goats, buffalo, and sheep. By later Vedic and early Hindu times, during the first millenium B.C., the feasts came to be managed by the priestly caste of Brahmans, who erected rituals of sacrifice around the killing of animals and distributed the meat in the name of the Aryan chiefs and war lords. After 600 B.C., when populations grew denser and domestic animals became proportionately scarcer, the eating of meat was progressively restricted until it became a monopoly of the Brahmans and their sponsors. Ordinary people struggled to conserve enough livestock to meet their own desperate requirements for milk, dung used as fuel, and transport. During this period of crisis, reformist religions arose, most prominently Buddhism and Jainism, that attempted to abolish castes and hereditary priesthoods and to outlaw the killing of animals. The masses embraced the new sects, and in the end their powerful support reclassified the cow into a sacred animal. So it appears that some of the most baffling of religious practices in history might have an ancestry passing in a straight line back to the ancient carnivorous habits of humankind. Cultural anthropologists like to stress that the evolution of religion proceeds down multiple, branching pathways. But these pathways are not infinite in number; they may not even be very numerous. It is even possible that with a more secure knowledge of human nature and ecology, the pathways can be enumerated and the directions of religious evolution in individual cultures explained with a high level of confidence.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“Like most other mammals, human beings display a behavioral scale, a spectrum of responses that appear or disappear according to particular circumstances.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“The ultimate cause suggested by the biological hypothesis is the loss of genetic fitness that results from incest. It is a fact that incestuously produced children leave fewer descendants. The biological hypothesis states that individuals with a genetic predisposition for bond exclusion and incest avoidance contribute more genes to the next generation. Natural selection has probably ground away along these lines for thousands of generations, and for that reason human beings intuitively avoid incest through the simple, automatic rule of bond exclusion. To put the idea in its starkest form, one that acknowledges but temporarily bypasses the intervening developmental process, human beings are guided by an instinct based on genes. Such a process is indicated in the case of brother-sister intercourse, and it is a strong possibility in the other categories of incest taboo.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“Traditional religious beliefs have been eroded, not so much by humiliating disproofs of their mythologies as by the growing awareness that beliefs are really enabling mechanisms for survival. Religions,”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“the ape dreads death and will deal with this knowledge as bizarrely as we have? . . . The desired objective would be not only to communicate the knowledge of death but, more important, to find a way of making sure the apes’ response would not be that of dread, which, in the human case, has led to the invention of ritual, myth, and religion. Until I can suggest concrete steps in teaching the concept of death without fear, I have no intention of imparting the knowledge of mortality to the ape.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“if our genes are inherited and our environment is a train of physical events set in motion before we were born, how can there be a truly independent agent within the brain? The agent itself is created by the interaction of the genes and the environment.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“Out of the warlike peoples arose civilization, while the peaceful collectors and hunters were driven to the ends of the earth, where they are gradually being exterminated or absorbed, with only the dubious satisfaction of observing the nations which had wielded war so effectively to destroy them and to become great, now victimized by their own instrument.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“if our conception of human nature is to be altered, it must be by means of truths conforming to the canons of scientific evidence and not a new dogma however devoutly wished for.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“no species, ours included, possesses a purpose beyond the imperatives created by its genetic history. Species may have vast potential for material and mental progress but they lack any immanent purpose or guidance from agents beyond their immediate environment or even an evolutionary goal toward which their molecular architecture automatically steers them.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“We are a biological species arising from Earth’s biosphere as one adapted species among many; and however splendid our languages and cultures, however rich and subtle our minds, however vast our creative powers, the mental process is the product of a brain shaped by the hammer of natural selection upon the anvil of nature.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“primary mental abilities and perceptual and motor skills are the most influenced by heredity, while personality traits are the least influenced. If”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“Some psychiatrists even see a kind of twisted rationale in the mind of the schizophrenic: the individual tries to escape from his intolerable social environment by creating a private inner world. But the fact remains that certain genes predispose individuals toward schizophrenia. Individuals possessing them can develop the pathology while growing up in the midst of normal, supportive families.”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


“pseudospeciation, the reduction of alien societies to the status of inferior species, not fully human, who can be degraded without conscience. Even”
― Edward O. Wilson, quote from On Human Nature


About the author

Edward O. Wilson
Born place: in Birmingham, Alabama, The United States
Born date June 10, 1929
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