A single body is the gold standard for a well-functioning human society, as English words such as “corporation” that are derived from the Latin word for “body” (corpus) attest. Human societies have been metaphorically compared to single bodies since antiquity, from Aristotle’s Politics to Hobbes’s Leviathan, but only now has it become possible to place the metaphor on a firm scientific foundation. The first step toward viewing the whole planet as a single organism is to challenge the current orthodoxy and to adopt the right theory.

David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan Wilson is an American evolutionary biologist and a Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He is a son of the author Sloan Wilson and co-founder of the Evolution Institute.

Wilson is a prominent proponent of the concept of group selection in evolution (also known as multi-level selection). He and Elliott Sober proposed a framework called multilevel selection theory, which incorporates the more orthodox approach of gene-level selection and individual selection, in their book Unto Others. This framework argues that while genes serve as the means by which organisms' designs are transmitted across generations, individuals and groups are vehicles for those genes and both are arenas for genes to act on. Indeed, genes themselves can be affected by selection, not just because of their effects on the design of their vehicle (the organism) but also because of their effect on the functioning of the DNA on which they reside. Hence the notion of multilevel selection. Wilson has also coined the concept of a trait-group, a group of organisms linked not permanently as a group but having a shared fate due to their interactions with each other.

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