Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

ISBN: 0385340214
ISBN 13: 9780385340212
By: David Sloan Wilson

Check Price Now


Biology Currently Reading Evolution Favorites Non Fiction Nonfiction Partially Read Psychology Science To Read

About this book

What is the biological reason for gossip?For laughter? For the creation of art?Why do dogs have curly tails?What can microbes tell us about morality?These and many other questions are tackled by renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. With stories that entertain as much as they inform, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from the origin of life to the nature of religion. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent design to share Darwin’s panoramic view of animal and human life, seamlessly connected to each other.Evolution, as Wilson explains, is not just about dinosaurs and human origins, but about why all species behave as they do—from beetles that devour their own young, to bees that function as a collective brain, to dogs that are smarter in some respects than our closest ape relatives. And basic evolutionary principles are also the foundation for humanity’s capacity for symbolic thought, culture, and morality.In example after example, Wilson sheds new light on Darwin’s grand theory and how it can be applied to daily life. By turns thoughtful, provocative, and daringly funny, Evolution for Everyone addresses some of the deepest philosophical and social issues of this or any age. In helping us come to a deeper understanding of human beings and our place in the world, it might also help us to improve that world.

Reader's Thoughts

Fahy Bygate

Interesting little book about how to think like an evolutionist...how evolution is inherent in our every day life, etc.


The writing was a bit chunky (too much "I did This" for a science book...) but some of the info was well presented and useful.

Shawn Smith

"Evolution for Everyone" includes a fine enough and simple description of natural selection early in the book, but it becomes increasingly laden with ideology after the first few chapters. The author clearly has a socio-political point that he's trying to advance, which would be fine if he had openly disclosed that. As is, the title and description of the book are quite misleading. He should have titled it something like "How the Theory of Natural Selection Can Be Used to Advance My Ideology." He works so hard at it that his logic becomes rather muddled, and his data is selective to say the least.For example, he dismisses a lengthy and thorough body of research discrediting the group problem-solving process known as brainstorming by asserting that previous experiments have simply made the mistake of applying brainstorming to the wrong kinds of problems. He constructed his own experiments in support of brainstorming, in which he asked groups to recall previously-learned information. (Previous brainstorming experiments have ask groups to solve creative problems, not list-generating problems, because brainstorming was originally designed for creative problem-solving.) It seems “intuitively obvious,” as professors like to say, that groups will outperform individuals at generating laundry lists, but there is a great deal of research demonstrating that brainstorming fails miserably as a tool for creative problem-solving. In this book, Wilson does an end-run around that fact, essentially saying that existing research findings are wrong if you redact a lot of history. The book is peppered with similar problems in logic.As an author myself, it pains me to write a harsh book review (and in the interest of full disclosure, I only made it about halfway through before skimming the rest and putting it down), but writers need to tread very, very carefully when using science to advance ideology.On the plus side, the first few chapters offer a nice, simple overview of the theory of natural selection.


I was struck by the non-atomicity of organisms - how a single human's immune system, senses, emotions, reasoning ability, etc. overlap in space and time, but evolved piece-by-piece and capability-by-capability rather than being a top-down design with consciousness in control. Moreover, our life functions are integrated with processes that extend beyond our bodies. My "wow" was realizing the correlation between these overlapping life functions and the concepts of trans-human psychology and vital unconscious, with no mysticism required.

Janine Lund

This book is the best and most fun explanation of evolution and how the theory opens up new perspectives on a wide range of fields, such as psychology and morality and religion. It describes fascinating experiments and multiple resources. It is fun and I am reading it for a second time right now.


Many interesting research examples and a wide array of topics are discussed in this book to give an overview of how wide ranging and useful evolutionary principles are to humans and society. Unfortunately I was very disappointed with how one sided many of the topics where presented.Wilson claims that because a relation can be seen between economic inequality and crime all you have to do is eliminate economic differences and you will not see substantial differences in crime between groups or populations. This is pure Marxism and implicitly denies evolution.If different environments cause different evolutionary pressures then populations that has evolved in different areas have to have different traits developed in different ways otherwise evolution does not work, ie to deny differences between populations is to deny evolution.I agree with Wilson that there is no genetic determinism for crime but the reality of human differences caused by evolution, demands different ways to address problems in society for different groups. There are reasons for success in a certain environment or society that goes beyond simplistic notions of wealth, luck or discrimination that make proposed solutions that solely take PC approved explanations into consideration completely useless. That is why all these efforts taken in western society have failed so miserably the last 60 years. It’s the emotional conviction about human uniformity coupled with a search for one mold fits all solutions that is leading to disaster.For more on this read the book Race, Evolution, and Behavior by Philippe Rushton.The chapter on intelligence and oral vs literate culture is using the old theory of cultural bias, all be it in a new way, to criticize the validity of intelligence as a concept and IQ tests as a tool and implicitly denies that it can measure ability or predict any type of performance. This have been shown time and time again to be a false notion and that certain people from oral cultures do very well on tests and others do not in comparison to literate groups and that the results of a well constructed test that is given in the correct way is an excellent way to predict performance. (See the research of Arthur R. Jensen) It have also been shown that intelligence is selected for by evolutionary pressures just like any other trait. This is very eloquently explained by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending in the book The 10,000 Year Explosion using Jews as an example. Another point is that the traits needed for success in society should correspond to the traits tested for in order to predict success. If we have a literate society the traits needed for success should be what is tested for, which indeed it is.For more on this read The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray.When Wilson use tribes and pre-civilized groups as an example he neglects to tell you that much of the decision making is ruled by culture/tradition/religion/superstition/magic and not open to individual choice. Also most naturalist groups (all I know of) have a leadership hierarchy, usually with “elders” at the top and children at the bottom, similar to the chimpanzee example but (usually) based on merit and trust between the members as opposed to brute force of the chimpanzees.I have personally taken part in experiments on leadership and effective teams and find the section on groupthink very simplistic and misleading. Groups CAN function very well and outperform nominal groups but not so much depending on the task at hand but much more relating to group structure, leadership, communication, participation, decision making and mostly what type of group dynamic (strategy or technique) is created within the group in relation to the psychological profiles of the individuals comprising of the group. This makes groups a double edged sword that are much more difficult to manage and function satisfactory.You can consult pretty much any textbook on leadership and group dynamics for more on this.I really wanted to like this book but in my opinion Wilson is misrepresenting the science discussed in this book to fit his own personal convictions.


Amazing book, chock-full of fascinating information! It was so good I devoured it, and then as soon as I was done, I went back and read it all the way through again. Excellent and highly reccommended!

Bookmarks Magazine

Evolution for Everyone is David Sloan Wilson's fifth book on the subject (including Darwin's Cathedral and The Literary Animal) and the most reader-friendly. Critics favorably compare the effort to Steven J. Levitt's and Stephen J. Dubner's runaway best seller Freakonomics. They claim that Wilson, professor of biology and anthropology at Britain's Binghamton University, does for evolution what those two authors did for economics__that is, draw interesting and unexpected connections between musty theory and its practical applications in our everyday lives. Although most of his observations are right on the mark, Wilson's desire to connect evolution and religion may strike some as overreaching or preachy.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.


I am always hungry for anything involving evolution and this book sated the hunger. It is an easy read but full of great information.


Took me longer than a thought to get through, but I think worth it in the end. Some fascinating concepts that were new to me, but I wanted more. I think this book has inspired me to look into some other areas of life and how they relate to evolution. It was meant to target a non-scientific audience and I think he did a decent job. He had a habit of throwing out terms that he didn't define and that made it a little difficult to read at times. Sometimes it was over my head.

Seth Wilpan

Evolution provides a framework for thinking about all aspects of the human condition. A significant teaching for me is the distinction between the proximate and ultimate cause of an adaptive change. The proximate cause is an immediate response to something in the environment that turns out to be useful for survival. Kids may gather to play because it's fun (the proximate cause), but it makes them safer to be in a group, so the behavior is reinforced (the ultimate cause).It was surprising to find out how limited the application of evolutionary principles are in academia. Surprising that each discipline is so cloistered that it is not even aware of such principles and scholars in different disciplines are parochially resistant to even considering the application of evolutionary thought to their studies.Most thought provoking are the application of evolutionary thinking to the study of culture.


I read this a few years ago while traveling to Ecuador and Galapagos. The author did a good job of making some of Darwin's most famous observations relevant to modern life and used terms the average high school student could understand. A nice fluffy way to freshen up on evolution, a little bit bland for daily entertainment reading.


An absolutely fantastic book great for anyone interested in evolution. I'm particularly interested in the evolution of cooperative behavior, and this book is the best explanation I've seen. Though I enjoy reading Dawkins, his selfish gene hypothesis has given too much support to those who believe that people are driven only by self interest. Wilson has a far more sophisticated analysis with enormous implications for the design of economic systems that will be able to confront the biophysical crisis faced by society.

LaMar Parkin

A fascinating book! Helps you realize that evolutionary principles are more appicable to issues outside of hard-core biology than you think.Very Readable. Many of the insights are unique and incredible.A great read for anyone.


good for general audience. theres some interesting takes on academic strategies for teaching evolution. DS Wilson runs the EvoS program at Binghamton. If i was in HS right now i would definitely apply there.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *