Good Ideology; Wrong Species

Edward O. Wilson? Bert Hölldobler? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Social insects are famous for exhibiting a division of labor and a willingness to act for the overall good of the colony. The preeminent biologist Edward O. Wilson whose specialty is the study of ants was once asked about human politics, and he replied with a comment similar to the following regarding socialism:

Wonderful idea. Wrong species.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In October 1994 the “Los Angeles Times” published a profile of Edward O. Wilson which included an interview. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

On another morning, he compares human beings to ants. Consider man’s selfishness and ambition versus the insects’ drive to help their community. They’ll sacrifice their lives for the common good, if need be.

Biology doesn’t get more basic than this, and Wilson ends the lesson amid gales of laughter by raising the subject of Marxism. Why did it fail?

“Good ideology,” he says dryly. “Wrong species.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1994 October 21, Los Angeles Times, Natural Wonder At heart, Edward Wilson’s an ant man. But it’s his theories on human behavior that stir up trouble by Josh Getlin, Quote Page 1, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)