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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at… (edition 2011)

by David Sloan Wilson

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6013197,694 (3.53)2
Member:HapaxLegomenon
Title:The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time
Authors:David Sloan Wilson
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
Tags:earlyreviewer

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The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time by David Sloan Wilson

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was excited about this book; it seemed like the kind of social science/social engineering commentary on urban design I could really geek out over. But this reads more like a rambling semi-memoir. I found myself utterly uninvolved and uninterested in the book. The evolution of neighborhoods is a fascinating idea, but the author never delivers on his promises. "Had he written the book he claimed he would, I would've loved it; as is, don't bother."
  yggdrasil | Jun 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Wilson does a good job combining applications of evolutionary theory with a readable and entertaining narrative about his own development as an evolutionary theorist. The most valuable quality of this book is its ability to spur you to see problems differently as well as to potentially draw from the well of evolutionary thought in analyzing problems and developing solutions. ( )
  kbondelli | May 19, 2013 |
This was a recommended book from the bibliography and notes in the back of _No Impact Man_. Although at times the writing got a bit bogged down, there were many more interesting parts that held my attention. I enjoyed the chapters on the water striders and wasps, and how his team designed the different data surveys for the Binghamton Project. I also liked how he gave a mini-bio on each person that plays a role in the Project.
My least favorite chapter was about the relating of evolution to religion - it got confusing at times for me, and I wasn't inspired to go back more than once and figure my way through. [Which I was surprised by, seeing as how I've taught religion and been closely related to religion and education for a number of years.]
Overall, I liked the book, - impressive enough to rack up a whole week's worth of overdue fines... [bad me]. ( )
  sriemann | Mar 30, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really like this book. As other reviewers have said, it does go on a few tangents and is less practical than the title suggests but it was enjoyable to read about the various trials and tribulations the author went through to get his various projects completed. If you enjoy sciencey biographical books (like Feynman's "Surely You're Joking..." ( http://www.librarything.com/work/5655 ) then you'll enjoy this one. ( )
  mmzthomas | Mar 6, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
To paraphrase my review that was deleted: I wanted to like this book so much more than I did! It's a fascinating concept, the evolution of neighborhoods, but the author overpromised and underdelivered. Had he written the book he claimed he would, I would've loved it; as is, don't bother. ( )
  HapaxLegomenon | Nov 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I applaud Wilson’s aspiration to improve his town and his world, but the evolution-centered approach is rife with problems. How much of “human nature” comes from evolution, and how much from culture? For many behaviors, like religion and criminality, we simply have no idea. Nor does it matter when it comes to solving most problems. Maybe we long for green spaces because our ancestors evolved in those environments, or maybe not, but all we need to know is that we like them. We might have learned hunting and speech from free-form “education” on the savanna, but it’s hard to see how reading, engineering and mathematics can be acquired in the same way. Our world is no longer the one in which we evolved.

Wilson further undermines his case by repeatedly counting as “evolutionary” any human activity involving “variation and selection,” including committees that have to decide between alternative plans and children who learn to discard those behaviors that don’t bring them rewards. But these issues have nothing to do with biological evolution; they are superficial and meaningless parallels with natural selection’s winnowing of genetic variation.

By far the best parts of the book are the short chapters, called “parables,” that Wilson interpolates as lessons we should learn from other species (wasps, for example, teach us about conflict versus cooperation, crows about culture in other species). These show his superb ability to communicate a deep love of biology. But these parables have little to do with the Neighborhood Project.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316037672, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:03 -0400)

An evolutionary biologist applies the ideas of evolutionary science to his post-industrial hometown and uses the "traits" he discovers, including what bullying feeds on and how neighborhood quality affects test scores, to improve the lives of his fellow citizens.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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