This book provides
a general and monumental introduction to Sociobiology, the discipline that
studies the biological basis of social behavior.
Wilson thinks that evolutionary theory can illuminate the social behavior of animals and humans. Apparently altruism is detrimental to personal fitness, but it evolved by natural selection for a utilitaristic reason: altruism helps genes as a global pool, even if at the expense of the survival of a specific individual. Altruism is just another step, beyond personal survival and reproduction, in the program to proliferate maximally the genes of an organism.
An organism is a mere gene-transporting device: its primary function is not even to reproduce itself, but to reproduce genes. The mind itself is engineered to perpetuate DNA. The brain is a machine whose goal is to maximize fitness in its environment.
All aspects of social behavior are defined formally. For example, Wilson interprets communication as the process that makes it possible for the behavior of an animal to influence the behavior of another animal. The biological functions and the origins (in ritualization) of communication are discussed at length. Causes and effects of changes in social behavior are analyzed drawing from a multitude of examples.
The ultimate determinants of social organization are phylogenetic inertia (the set of properties shared by a population that fix the extent to which its evolution can be deflected in another direction and the amount by which its evolution rate can be altered) and ecological pressure (the set of all environmental factors that operate on the population).
A central tenet of sociobiology is that all aspects of human culture and behavior are coded in the genes and have been molded by natural selection. Wilson is after a biological explanation for everything: religion, ethics, and ultimately for the history of mankind. His program is to identify universals in human societies, e.g. define human nature; the assume that the universals are coded in the human genotype; and that universals have been selected by evolution.