Prologue for the Twelfth Anniversary Edition

This 19-part essay was written as a series of blogs during 2009-2010. The very phenomenon of blogging was only a few years old. The Huffington Post and ScienceBlogs, where I started my blogging career, were founded in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

As a scientist who comes from a journalistic and novelistic background1, I relished the opportunity that blogging afforded. Compared to my other writing outlets, a blog was instant gratification! However, I retained a strong sense of scholarly responsibility. I couldn’t say anything that came into my head. My journalistic beat was to write about science and the culture of science for the general public.

It was in this spirit that I tackled the subject of group selection, a theory that began with Darwin, was famously rejected during the 1960’s, and now had become respectable again, due in part to my efforts. My challenge was to explain not only the theory in a way that anyone could understand, but also the history of its origin, rejection, and rebirth. It would be a case study of scientific inquiry as actually practiced by flesh-and-blood people, rather than the idealized version of hypothesis formation and falsification that is so often presented in textbooks. In the tradition of serialized stories, I made each installment short, ending in a way that leaves the reader curious about what comes next.

While the series was in progress, I co-founded a nonprofit organization called the Evolution Institute and its online magazine This View of Life (TVOL), which reports “anything and everything from an evolutionary perspective."2 TVOL became my new writing outlet and has outlasted both the blog section of HuffPost and ScienceBlogs.3 Well over 1000 articles have been published on TVOL and because of its scholarly standards, the articles have the same longevity as the science that they report on.

That also goes for my “Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection” series, which remains the most accessible introduction to group selection that I have written. In this 12th anniversary edition, I provide an update in an epilogue but have left the original intact.

I think that most people—from those newly encountering the subject of group selection to those who are steeped in it, can benefit from the account that I have provided.


[1] My father, Sloan Wilson, was a newspaper reporter before gaining fame as a novelist with books such as The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and A Summer Place.

[2] TVOL was the brainchild of Robert Kadar, my graduate student at the time, who served as managing editor for several years before founding his own online magazine

[3] TVOL is now the magazine of ProSocial World, a new nonprofit that spun off from the Evolution Institute in 2020.