In On Human Nature (1978), E. O. Wilson describes human nature as follows:

`The elements of human nature are the learning rules, emotional reinforcers, and hormonal feedback loops that guide the development of social behaviour into certain channels as opposed to others… Human nature is, moreover, a hodgepodge of special genetic adaptations to an environment largely vanished, the world of the Ice-Age hunter-gatherer.’

(Edward O. Wilson, 1978, p. 196).

This description above is a great starting point, as a definition of Human Nature. (Human Nature is complex. See: Evolutionary Psychology.)

I also like this quote below, from EO Wilson from a chapter in Evolution, Literature, Film: A Reader (2010).

But first a joke:

Aggression in monkeys: "Getcha filthy hands off my nuts."

Aggression in monkeys: Little Elvis says – `Getcha filthy hands off-of my nuts.’

Okay – now back to the serious stuff.

E O Wilson writes:

`Monkeys and apes utilize behavioural scaling to adjust aggressive and sexual interactions; in man the scales have become multidimensional, culturally adjustable, and almost endlessly subtle.

Bonding and the practices of reciprocal altruism are rudimentary on other primates; man has expanded them into great networks where individuals consciously alter roles from hour to hour as if changing masks.

It is the task of comparative sociobiology to trace these are other human qualities as closely as possible back through time. Besides adding perspective and perhaps offering some sense of philosophical ease, the exercise will help to identify the behaviours and rules by which individual human beings increase their Darwinian fitness through the manipulation of society.

In a phrase, we are searching for the human biogram (Count; Tiger and Fox).

One of the key questions, never far from the thinking of anthropologists and biologists who pursue real theory, is to what extent the biogram represents an adaptation to modern cultural life and to what extent it is a phylogenetic vestige.

Our civilizations were jerrybuilt around the biogram. How have they been influenced by it? Conversely, how much flexibility is there in the biogram, and in which parameters exactly?

Experience with other animals indicates that when organs are hypertrophied, phylogeny is hard to reconstruct. This is the crux of the problem of the evolutionary analysis of human behaviour.’

(Wilson in Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, pp. 81-2)

And for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Comments, always welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Wilson, E. O. (1978). On Human Nature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

E O Wilson, reprinted in Boyd, B., Carroll, J., & Gottschall, J. (2010). Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

2 thoughts on “StoryAlity #80 – Our civilizations were jerrybuilt around the biogram (EO Wilson)

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity #87 – `Does Beauty Build Adapted Minds?’ (Tooby & Cosmides) | StoryAlity

  2. Pingback: StoryAlity#137 – Culturology & the CES (Cultural Evolution Society) | StoryAlity

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