[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
October 13, 1978

On Human Nature

JAMA. 1978;240(16):1779. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290160097043

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Much controversy followed the 1975 publication of Wilson's Sociobiology. Most reviewers ignored the fascinating description of the social habits of various life forms and their evolutionary development. Instead, they argued about the final chapter in which Wilson discussed human social behavior and asserted that it is, in part, determined by genetic evolution. Now, Wilson has published a new book, On Human Nature, in which he expands and clarifies the ideas of that last chapter.

He asserts that humankind has evolved by natural selection, that the mind can be explained as the summed activity of chemical and electric reactions, and that, therefore, human nature can be an object of empirical research. However, he insists that biology can serve liberal education and thereby enrich rather than diminish our self-conception. He notes that this biologic interpretation of human nature leads to two difficulties, which he calls spiritual dilemmas. The first is that our