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W.D. Hamilton's theory of inclusive fitness saw the evolution of altruism from the point of view of the gene. It was at heart a theory of limits, redefining altruistic behaviours as ultimately selfish. This theory inspired two controversial texts published almost in tandem, E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) and Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene (1976). When Wilson and Dawkins were attacked for their evolutionary interpretations of human societies, they claimed a distinction between reporting what is and declaring what ought to be. Can the history of sociobiological theories be so easily separated from its sociopolitical context? This paper draws upon unpublished materials from the 1960s and early 1970s and documents some of the ways in which Hamilton saw his research as contributing to contemporary concerns. It pays special attention to the 1969 Man and Beast Smithsonian Institution symposium in order to explore the extent to which Hamilton intended his theory to be merely descriptive versus prescriptive. From this, we may see that Hamilton was deeply concerned about the political chaos he perceived in the world around him, and hoped to arrive at a level of self-understanding through science that could inform a new social order.
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