E.O. Wilson’s Forthcoming Book, “Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies,” Called a “magisterial history of social evolution”

Book cover of Genesis The Deep Origins of Societies by E.O. Wilson. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Forming a twenty-first-century statement on Darwinian evolution, one shorn of “religious and political dogma,” Edward O. Wilson offers a bold work of scientific thought and synthesis in his new book, Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies. The book will be available in March 2019 from Liveright/Norton.

Asserting that religious creeds and philosophical questions can be reduced to purely genetic and evolutionary components, and that the human body and mind have a physical base obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry, Genesis demonstrates that the only way for us to fully understand human behavior is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species. Of these, Wilson demonstrates that at least seventeen—among them the African naked mole rat and the sponge- dwelling shrimp—have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism and cooperation.

Whether writing about midges who “dance about like acrobats” or schools of anchovies who protectively huddle “to appear like a gigantic fish,” or proposing that human society owes a debt of gratitude to “postmenopausal grandmothers” and “childless homosexuals,” Genesis is a pithy yet path-breaking work of evolutionary theory, braiding twenty-first-century scientific theory with the lyrical biological and humanistic observations for which Wilson is known.


“In his characteristically clear, succinct and elegant prose, one of our grand masters of synthesis, E. O. Wilson, here explains no less than the origin of human society.”—Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Genesis is a beautifully clear account of a question that has lain unsolved at the core of biology ever since Darwin: how can natural selection produce individuals so altruistic that, rather than breeding themselves, they help others to do so? In elegant, simple language Edward O. Wilson distills a magisterial knowledge of animal diversity into an unambiguous argument that the solution is group selection. Rich in accounts of extraordinary societies, Genesis is the ideal introduction to a problem of enduring fascination.”—Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution.

A magisterial history of social evolution, from clouds of midges or sparrows to the grotesqueries of ant colonies to the perhaps parallel features of human society in which childless elements (grandparents, maiden aunts, young siblings, priests, nuns, etc.) seem to participate in nurturing the next generation. “—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Endlessly fascinating, Edward O. Wilson—in the tradition of Darwin—plumbs the depths of human evolution in a most readable fashion without sacrificing scholarly rigor.”—Michael Ruse, author of A Meaning of Life


The New York Times Book Review. “The Benevolent Power of Other People.” By Aarathi Prasad. May 10, 2019.

Nature. “Evolving Society: Why Humanity Coheres.” By Agustín Fuentes. March 19, 2019.

Kirkus Reviews [starred review]. “Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies.” November 26, 2018.

Publishers Weekly. “Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies.” November 12, 2018.

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