Seminars and Panels

The Origin of Social Impulse:
E.O. Wilson’s Recent and Controversial Rejection of Kin Selection in Historical Context

Professor Abraham H. Gibson

Dec 4 2015
11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

E.O. Wilson’s recent decision to reject kin selection has sent shockwaves throughout the biological sciences. Over the past five years, more than a hundred researchers have signed letters protesting the Harvard biologist’s dramatic reversal. The skirmish has inspired heated debate among colleagues and has generated headlines in many of the world’s major newspapers. Making sense of Wilson’s decision and the controversy it has spawned requires familiarity with the historical record. This entails not only examining the conditions under which kin selection theory first emerged, but also the organicist tradition against which it rebelled. In similar fashion, one must not only examine Wilson’s long career, but also those thinkers who influenced him most, especially his intellectual grandfather, William Morton Wheeler (1865–1937). Drawing inspiration (and sometimes ideas) from his intellectual forebears, Wilson is confident that he has finally identified the origin of the social impulse.

About Professor Abraham H. Gibson

Abraham H. Gibson is currently an Instructor in the Department of History at Virginia Tech. His first book, Feral Animals in the American South, is under contract with Cambridge University Press and will be published in August, 2016. He has published extensively on a variety of topics related to the history of the biological sciences, and he has previously held fellowships with the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.