The Neighborhood Project
- Publication Year: 2011
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
WINNER OF THE 2012 BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE GREEN AWARD
After decades studying creatures great and small, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson had an epiphany: Darwin’s theory won’t fully prove itself until it improves the quality of human life in a practical sense. And what better place to begin than his hometown of Binghamton, New York? Making a difference in his own city would provide a model for cities everywhere, which have become the habitat for over half of the people on earth.
Inspired to become an agent of change, Wilson descended on Binghamton with a scientist’s eye and looked at its toughest questions, such as how to empower neighborhoods and how best to teach our children. He combined the latest research methods from experimental economics with studies of holiday decorations and garage sales. Drawing upon examples from nature as diverse as water striders, wasps, and crows, Wilson’s scientific odyssey took him around the world, from a cave in southern Africa that preserved the dawn of human culture to the Vatican in Rome. Along the way, he spoke with dozens of fellow scientists, whose stories he relates along with his own.
Wilson’s remarkable findings help us to understand how we must become wise managers of evolutionary processes to accomplish positive change at all scales, from effective therapies for individuals, to empowering neighborhoods, to regulating the worldwide economy.
With an ambitious scope that spans biology, sociology, religion, and economics, The Neighborhood Project is a memoir, a practical handbook for improving the quality of life, and an exploration of the big questions long pondered by religious sages, philosophers, and storytellers. Approaching the same questions from an evolutionary perspective shows, as never before, how places define us.
"Just as Charles Darwin had his finches and Jane Goodall her chimps, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has his city as a subject of study in what has to be one of the most unique projects ever undertaken in the history of science. Through the lens of evolutionary theory we see not just Wilson's city of Binghamton, New York in a new light, we view all of humanity and civilization from a perspective unique in the annals of research, and written in an engaging style that carries the reader from one chapter to the next. A compelling read. An important book."
- Michael Shermer , is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University, and the author of Why Darwin Matters and The Mind of the Market
"Once again David Sloan Wilson reminds us that wherever we look, whether deep in a forest, in our backyards, or in urban classrooms, evolutionary processes -- biological, psychological, or cultural-are at work and understanding these processes can not only deepen our sense of place but also improve the way we lead our lives."
- Sarah Blaffer Hrdy , author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding
"An evolutionary biologist applies his science to making the city of Binghamton, NY a better place to live, and in the telling, illuminates evolution and spells out his efforts to increase understanding of it....The side trips are...pleasurable, informative, and worthwhile."
"The Neighborhood Project, an organization Wilson founded to rejuvenate his hometown of Binghamton, NY...uses evolutionary theories to analyze behavioral data and improve quality of life...pleasurable...provide[s]...evidence for how lives, like ideas, intersect in fascinating ways."
- Publisher's Weekly
"Imagine combining a moving autobiography, dozens of moving mini-biographies, accidental and intentional experiments in raising and educating children and planning cities, and explanations of what biology and religion are really about. Out of that mix comes this unique, beautifully written, wide-ranging book that will delight a universe of readers."
- Jared Diamond , Professor of Geography at UCLA, and Pulitzer-prize-winning author of books including Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse