Community Activism and Darwin

Thursday, August 25, 2011

David Sloan Wilson, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University discusses his new book,  The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time . He describes how he applies Darwin's evolutionary theory to community development in search of practical strategies.

What neighborhood projects are you involved with?


Professor David Sloan Wilson

Comments [18]

Joanne from Boonton

I'm a Binghamton native, and I find this study fascinating. It would have been nice to hear more detail. Guess I'll have to get the book.

Aug. 25 2011 12:10 PM
John A.

The sneaky message here might be that religion does not exist in opposition to evolution at all, it exists because of it. My church celebrates the best people have to offer the culture at large. It's about giving and not taking. "Greed is good" be gone, that's devolution.
Personal story: I learned how to stop working 85 hour weeks and started going back to church. No loss of IQ, maybe some blood pressure points.

Aug. 25 2011 11:49 AM

I want to give a shout out to Baba Brinkman's " A Rap Guide to Evolution ". A wonderful performance piece that among other things explores how the choices we make influences evolution. His parting piece is"Don't sleep with mean people". That's a good start.

Aug. 25 2011 11:46 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Of course, since half the population by definition is below average in IQ, those who exploit the stupid will financially do much better than those who want to protect the stupids from their own stupidity (e.g., the liberals).



Aug. 25 2011 11:45 AM
Amy from Manhattan

"How you structure your life"? But some people/groups have more power to determine the structure of their lives than others.

Aug. 25 2011 11:45 AM

The more I listen, the more this sounds like the sense of community that used to exist in our country 150 years ago because neighborhoods were tiny and people came together all the time. Perhaps we have just forgotten how to do that.

Aug. 25 2011 11:42 AM
Christopher from Brooklyn


How can classroom setting influence educational impact? Do plants make a difference? Art?

Aug. 25 2011 11:41 AM

Glad he looks to the example of bees - bring on the Matriarchy, then we'll see the honey!

Aug. 25 2011 11:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Matriarchal Bonobo society is often so admired by liberal groups, but the fact is that patriarchal regular chimpanzees have much larger territories, whereas Bonobos subsist in marginal territories that others don't want, because the matriarchal Bonobos are not capable of defending territory as are the more martial bands of regular chimpanzees.

So admire sexually promiscuous Bonobo matriarchies all you want, but regular chimps control much more territory and so there are many more of them!

Aug. 25 2011 11:40 AM
John A.

Full Support.

A low point in my development might have been to have to endure celebration of the fad "Darwin Awards" where observers basically demonstrated cruelty towards those facing difficulties. Hated that. Knowing how to show the 'good guys finish best' message in a cutthroat business environment; that was my challenge, and I somewhat failed at it.

Aug. 25 2011 11:40 AM
Jim Stubenrauch from Brooklyn

Evolution proceeds by natural selection; if you're guiding development, it's not natural selection and not evolutionary. The guest is indulging in evolutionism, the metaphoric use of Darwinian principles in fields where those principles don't literally apply. Isn't this controversial among biologists?

Aug. 25 2011 11:39 AM
Rachel from Jackson Heights

Hi, folks. I am so interested in this application of evolution! As a clergywoman, I also want to remind everyone that not all churches deny evolution -- many of us embrace it as one of the most amazing creations of our God. Please be careful when lumping all Christians into right-wing extremists like Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann.

Aug. 25 2011 11:39 AM
jmurphy from Long Island

Long Island is plagued by persisting residential segregation, which was purposely established nearly 70 years ago. Today, we seem to continue the pattern despite our "enlightenment" post civil rights. How might your theory help this issue?

Aug. 25 2011 11:37 AM
Dr. Dr. from Manhattan

Ever since I learned that whales came from cows, I became a little agnostic about evolutionary origins. Could the professor please explain how the ribosome or polymerase evolved to be encoded in DNA. there is a real chicken or egg dilemma there

Aug. 25 2011 11:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, cities and civilization evolved when the agricultural revolution enabled food surpluses, thereby making it possible for some people to do things other than just spending all of their time hunting, gathering and growing food. Some were even able to become priests and charlatans :)

And, so as in biological evolution, there are certain revolutionary leaps that occur that spur evolution, biologically and socioeconomically.

Aug. 25 2011 11:35 AM
The Truth from Becky

No sir, not in denial about evolution, I flat out don't believe it since we have not yet sprouted wings to fly nor the ability to breath under water, hell we still cannot leave the earth's atmosphere without assistance...Riddle me this, what is out beyond the sun anyways?

Aug. 25 2011 11:32 AM

Brian, You should tell the listeners that they will have to pay to park at Montclair.

Aug. 25 2011 11:31 AM
Denise Maher from Dumbo/Brooklyn Heights

I'm involved in trying to green communal spaces in the grounds of my large (6-building) coop. it's hard! I'm curious to hear how Darwinism might help my cause. So many green goals-- such as composting, bike lanes + cycling/energy conservation--seem to go against the grain, against the consumer culture, car culture, corporate or financial interests etc-- it's hard to believe environmentalism, will eventually rise to the top. Professor--show me the light!

We've been funded by the Citizens Committee for the City of New York, and I agree with their mission-- community members know best what residents need. And I like the "Change By Us" campaign to connect volunteer groups and share ideas...

i also do a CSA, Brooklyn Bridge CSA, which is amazing.

Aug. 25 2011 11:18 AM

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