Edward O. Wilson
One of the World’s Most Distinguished Biologists
Edward O. Wilson is widely considered the father of the modern environmental movement. Wilson’s latest book, Letters to a Young Scientist, offers advice and perspective from a lifetime of scientific work. It has been released to much fanfare, including this review from Bill Streever of The New York Times Book Review: “I want to express my gratitude. Thank you for reminding me and thousands of others why we became scientists.” Named one of America’s 25 Most Influential People by TIME magazine, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he has made a giant contribution to our understanding of the rich spectrum of Earth’s biodiversity. In his lectures, he makes a persuasive, eloquent plea to government, corporate, and religious leaders to address environmental destruction before it’s too late. His 31st book, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, is set for publication in 2016. It proposes an achievable plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature.
One of Wilson’s recent projects, The Encyclopedia of Life website, catalogs all key information about life on Earth—including data about every living species—and makes it accessible to everyone. Launched with money from his 2007 TED Prize, the EOL recently received an additional ten million dollars from The MacArthur Foundation. Wilson is also the recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize (a sister to the Nobel), and the Audubon Medal. He is the University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and continues to research at the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Recently, Wilson teamed with Harrison Ford to create a new PEN Literary award titled the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing.
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must race to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson. He argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the problem’s magnitude: dedicate half the surface of the Earth to nature.
If we are to undertake such an ambitious endeavor, we first must understand just what the biosphere is, why it’s essential to our survival, and the manifold threats now facing it. In this keynote, Wilson describes how our species, in a blink of geological time, became the architects and rulers of this epoch, and outlines how this will affect all of life far into the future. He provides an enormously moving portrait of just what is being lost, documenting ongoing extinctions and paying tribute to creatures great and small. He considers not only large animals and star species of plants but also the millions of invertebrate animals and microorganisms that, despite being overlooked, form the foundations of Earth’s ecosystems. And in stinging language, he avers that the biosphere does not belong to us, addressing many fallacious notions. This includes a critique of “anthropocenists,” a fashionable collection of revisionists who believe that the human species alone can be saved through engineering and technology.
Despite the Earth’s parlous condition, Wilson is no doomsayer, resigned to fatalism. Defying prevailing wisdom, he suggests that we still have time to put aside half the Earth and identifies actual spots where Earth’s biodiversity can still be reclaimed. Suffused with a profound Darwinian understanding of our planet’s fragility, Wilson’s keynote reverberates with urgency like few others, but still offers an attainable goal that we can strive for on behalf of all life.
From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin & the Future of Biology
In this lecture, E.O. Wilson guides you through Darwin’s four masterworks, including The Origin of Species, weaving together the thrilling story of Darwin’s groundbreaking discoveries, and placing his evolutionary concepts in the context of scientific and historical thought, from the nineteenth century to the present day.
Wilson also examines contemporary biological thought—how the state of evolution is faring in an era of religious resistance—and looks forward to the future of biology, a period that his own work, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning books to his Encyclopedia of Life website, has made immeasurably richer.
The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth
Edward O. Wilson brings elements from each of his books into his talks; think of his body of work as a continuous investigation into the wondrous nature of science, humanity, and our planet. In this hopeful speech, based on The Creation, he argues that science and religion must join forces: the earth’s destruction threatens us all—no matter what we believe about its origins.
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
Half-Earth proposes an achievable plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature.
In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature.
If we are to undertake such an ambitious endeavor, we first must understand just what the biosphere is, why it’s essential to our survival, and the manifold threats now facing it. In doing so, Wilson describes how our species, in only a mere blink of geological time, became the architects and rulers of this epoch and outlines the consequences of this that will affect all of life, both ours and the natural world, far into the future.
Half-Earth provides an enormously moving and naturalistic portrait of just what is being lost when we clip “twigs and eventually whole braches of life’s family tree.” In elegiac prose, Wilson documents the many ongoing extinctions that are imminent, paying tribute to creatures great and small, not the least of them the two Sumatran rhinos whom he encounters in captivity. Uniquely, Half-Earth considers not only the large animals and star species of plants but also the millions of invertebrate animals and microorganisms that, despite being overlooked, form the foundations of Earth’s ecosystems.
In stinging language, he avers that the biosphere does not belong to us and addresses many fallacious notions such as the idea that ongoing extinctions can be balanced out by the introduction of alien species into new ecosystems or that extinct species might be brought back through cloning. This includes a critique of “anthropocenists,” a fashionable collection of revisionist environmentalists who believe that the human species alone can be saved through engineering and technology.
Despite the Earth’s parlous condition, Wilson is no doomsayer, resigned to fatalism. Defying prevailing conventional wisdom, he suggests that we still have time to put aside half the Earth and identifies actual spots where Earth’s biodiversity can still be reclaimed. Suffused with a profound Darwinian understanding of our planet’s fragility, Half-Earth reverberates with an urgency like few other books, but it offers an attainable goal that we can strive for on behalf of all life.
Letters to a Young Scientist
Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson imparts the wisdom of his storied career to the next generation.
Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Edward O. Wilson has distilled sixty years of teaching into a book for students, young and old. Reflecting on his coming-of-age in the South as a Boy Scout and a lover of ants and butterflies, Wilson threads these twenty-one letters, each richly illustrated, with autobiographical anecdotes that illuminate his career—both his successes and his failures—and his motivations for becoming a biologist. At a time in human history when our survival is more than ever linked to our understanding of science, Wilson insists that success in the sciences does not depend on mathematical skill, but rather a passion for finding a problem and solving it. From the collapse of stars to the exploration of rain forests and the oceans’ depths, Wilson instills a love of the innate creativity of science and a respect for the human being’s modest place in the planet’s ecosystem in his readers.
The Meaning of Human Existence
How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? Where are we going, and perhaps, the most difficult question of all, "Why?"
In The Meaning of Human Existence, his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called "the rainbow colors" around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey, in the process bridging science and philosophy to create a twenty-first-century treatise on human existence—from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends.
The Social Conquest of Earth
Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while"overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first" (Discover magazine). Refashioning the story of human evolution in a work that is certain to generate headlines, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to show that group selection, not kin selection, is the primary driving force of human evolution. He proves that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology. Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth's biosphere.
Anthill: A Novel
"What the hell do you want?" snarled Frogman at Raff Cody, as the boy stepped innocently onto the reputed murderer's property. Fifteen years old, Raff, along with his older cousin, Junior, had only wanted to catch a glimpse of Frogman's 1000-pound alligator.
Thus, begins the saga of Anthill, which follows the thrilling adventures of a modern-day Huck Finn, whose improbable love of the "strange, beautiful, and elegant" world of ants ends up transforming his own life and the citizens of Nokobee County. Battling both snakes bites and cynical relatives who just don't understand his consuming fascination with the outdoors, Raff explores the pristine beauty of the Nokobee wildland. And in doing so, he witnesses the remarkable creation and destruction of four separate ant colonies ("The Anthill Chronicles"), whose histories are epics that unfold on picnic grounds, becoming a young naturalist in the process.
An extraordinary undergraduate at Florida State University, Raff, despite his scientific promise, opts for Harvard Law School, believing that the environmental fight must be waged in the courtroom as well as the lab. Returning home a legal gladiator, Raff grows increasingly alarmed by rapacious condo developers who are eager to pave and subdivide the wildlands surrounding the Chicobee River. But one last battle awaits him in his epic struggle. In a shattering ending that no reader will forget, Raff suddenly encounters the angry and corrupt ghosts of an old South he thought had all but disappeared, and learns that "war is a genetic imperative" not only for ants but for men as well.
Part thriller, part parable, Anthill will not only transfix readers with its stunning twists and startling revelations, but will provide readers with new insights into the meaning of survival in our rapidly changing world.
The Future of Life
One of the world's most important scientists, Edward O. Wilson is also an abundantly talented writer who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize. In this, his most personal and timely book to date, he assesses the precarious state of our environment, examining the mass extinctions occurring in our time and the natural treasures we are about to lose forever. Yet, rather than eschewing doomsday prophesies, he spells out a specific plan to save our world while there is still time. His vision is a hopeful one, as economically sound as it is environmentally necessary. Eloquent, practical and wise, this book should be read and studied by anyone concerned with the fate of the natural world.
On Human Nature
No one who cares about the human future can afford to ignore Edward O. Wilson's book. On Human Nature begins a new phase in the most important intellectual controversy of this generation: Is human behavior controlled by the species' biological heritage? Does this heritage limit human destiny?
With characteristic pungency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate. He shows how...evolution has left its traces on the most distinctively human activities, how patterns of generosity, self-sacrifice, and worship, as well as sexuality and aggression, reveal their deep roots in the life histories of primate bands that hunted big game in the last Ice Age. His goal is nothing less than the completion of the Darwinian revolution by bringing biological thought into the center of the social sciences and the humanities.
Wilson presents a philosophy that cuts across the usual categories of conservative, liberal, or radical thought. In systematically applying the modern theory of natural selection to human society, he arrives at conclusions far removed from the social Darwinist legacy of the last century. Sociobiological theory, he shows, is compatible with a broadly humane and egalitarian outlook. Human diversity is to be treasured, not merely tolerated, he argues. Discrimination against ethnic groups, homosexuals, and women is based on a complete misunderstanding of biological fact.
But biological facts can never take the place of ethical choices. Once we understand our human nature, we must choose how "human" in the fullest, biological sense, we wish to remain. We cannot make this choice with the aid of external guides or absolute ethical principles because our very concept of right and wrong is wholly rooted in our own biological past. This paradox is fundamental to the evolution of consciousness in any species; there is no formula for escaping it. To understand its essence is to grasp the full predicament of the human condition.