E. O. Wilson article

John E. Rylander (rylander@prolexia.com)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 21:02:30 -0500

Here's an interesting article about E. O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology
and grandfather of its children, in today's Washington Post.





of modern evolutionary theory, took on the social behavior of other animals,
from jellyfish and elephants to man. That led to "Sociobiology," whose
critics charged that Wilson might know a lot about animals but not much
about humans.

Whereupon he immersed himself in the literature of psychology, sociology and
anthropology to produce "On Human Nature" (1978), for which he won the first
of his two Pulitzers. "Consilience" is the next step in his four-book
argument that the implications of neo-Darwinist theory the so-called
Modern Synthesis have made all human knowledge essentially branches of
biology. The argument, according to Wilson:

Man does what he does, paints the pictures that he does, writes the books
that he does, fights the wars that he does, thinks the thoughts that he
does, primarily in an effort to achieve an evolutionary advantage that will
allow his genes to live on in the future.

The dominating influence that spawned the arts was the need to impose order
on the confusion caused by intelligence. . . . Early humans invented them in
an attempt to express and control through magic the . . . forces in their
lives that mattered most to survival and reproduction.

"From "Consilience"

Wilson's roots in Southern Baptist creationism long ago surrendered to the
"overwhelming" scientific evidence that life on Earth has been
"self-assembled" in the messy but elegant aftermath of the "Big Bang" origin
of the universe. He remains a "provisional deist," he says, because he has
no explanation for the Big Bang itself other than God. But at the same time,
his "naturalistic" view of how biodiversity came to be leads him to believe
that the "sheer complexity and majesty of it is in my eyes more awesome than
the traditional creation story."

Wilson glimpses divinity in all life. He sees the overarching purpose of
human existence as stewardship of our earthly environment in such a way as
to maximize the biodiversity that sends evolution on its way.

If the point of man is to aid evolution, then the purpose of the unity of
all knowledge, he says, is to better understand and husband the unity of all
life. And given man's depredation of the natural environment that makes
biodiversity possible, there is clearly a major resuscitation to do.