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Naturalist Wilson, Edward O.; [Gould, Stephen Jay] Nature,Science,Signed

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First edition, first printing. Bound in publisher's brown cloth with spine lettered in gilt. Fine in a Near Fine unclipped dust jacket with light shelf wear. A superb association copy, signed and inscribed by Edward O. Wilson, "For Steve Gould, Evolutionary biology's DiMaggio with warm regards and thanks / Ed." An inscription full of praise and admiration, yet one might think surprisingly warm given the two biologist's past history. While colleagues at Harvard, working in the same building nonetheless, Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould engaged in a notorious academic feud, exposing fault lines in politics, science, and the politics of science. Wilson studied ants, his primary interest, before turning his attention to humans. He has been credited with establishing the field of sociobiology, which aims to explain behavior in terms of evolution. Though the term was coined in the 1940s, it did not gain wide recognition until 1970 when Wilson published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. In which, he argues that some behaviors (such as female coyness, altruism, fear of snakes, fear of strangers, tensions and hostilities in large populations, the aversion to incest, warfare, competition, homosexuality, a feeling for the sacred, and a susceptibility to indoctrination) are at least partly shaped by evolution just as physical traits are, and therefore affected and honed by natural selection. Wilson's ideas swiftly became a flashpoint, with Gould a leading voice among those expressing criticism. Gould, a Marxist, argued that while genes play a role, behavior was explained by social environment rather than biology. According to a 1986 article in The New York Times, "What bothered Mr. Wilson's critics was his plan to extend the field of evolutionary theory into the realm of human social behavior and to discover the origins of ostensibly cultural traits in the genetic history of Homo sapiens. The whole program, his critics charged, was speculative, wrongheaded and menacingly reminiscent of the most notorious political theories of the biological superiority and inferiority of human groups." Though Gould and Wilson had a cult of personality, The New York Times notes the stark difference between the two: "Harvard's Confi Guide, a student-produced handbook on the university's courses that is often scathingly critical of professors, calls Mr. Wilson's 'Evolutionary Biology' course 'a gem' given by 'a gentle and often charming lecturer'; it terms Mr. Gould's course, 'The History of the Earth and of Life,' 'an awesome class' given by 'a shining star in a stellar galaxy." Wilson was viewed as a conservative, and following this rift his lectures often attracted leftist demonstrators, who went so far at a 1978 event as to pour water over his head, accusing him of sexism and racism. Eventually, the protests died down, and both men went on to have illustrious careers, to say the least. Wilson continued his work on social insects, and was considered the world's leading authority on ants. Shortly after their feud, in 1972 Gould and Niles Eldredge published their evolutionary theory on punctuated equilibrium, and with that, much like Joe DiMaggio, completely hit it out of the park. That Wilson would acknowledge this (in this inscribed copy), after such a tumultuous past, shows just how far they had come.
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