E. O. Wilson

56

E. O. Wilson : biography

June 10, 1929 –

Cosmologist Brian Swimme concludes in a 1997 interview:

Naturalistic and liberal religious writers have picked up on Wilson’s term and have used it in a number of texts. These authors however have at times used other terms to refer to the idea: Universe Story (Brian Swimme, John F. Haught), Great Story (Connie Barlow, Michael Dowd), Everybody’s Story (Loyal Rue), New Story (Thomas Berry, Al Gore, Brian Swimme) and Cosmic Evolution (Eric Chaisson).Kaufman, Gordon. The Epic of Evolution as a Framework for Human Orientation, 1997

Sociobiology

Michael McGoodwin paraphrasing and quoting Wilson (pp. 16 and 222) on sociobiology:Edward O. Wilson: On Human Nature – Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1991

Although much human diversity in behavior is culturally influenced, some has been shown to be genetic – rapid acquisition of language, human unpredictability, hypertrophy (extreme growth of pre-existing social structures), altruism and religions. "Religious practices that consistently enhance survival and procreation of the practitioners will propagate the physiological controls that favor the acquisition of the practices during single lifetimes." Unthinking submission to the communal will promotes the fitness of the members of the tribe. Even submission to secular religions and cults involve willing subordination of the individual to the group. Religious practices confer biological advantages.

Wilson used sociobiology and evolutionary principles to explain the behavior of the social insects and then to understand the social behavior of other animals, including humans, thus established sociobiology as a new scientific field. He argued that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is the product of heredity, environmental stimuli, and past experiences, and that free will is an illusion. He has referred to the biological basis of behaviour as the "genetic leash."E. O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, New York, Knopf, 1998, pp. 127-128. The sociobiological view is that all animal social behavior is governed by epigenetic rules worked out by the laws of evolution. This theory and research proved to be seminal, controversial, and influential.Wolfe, Tom (1996). Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died. Vol. 158, Issue 13, pp.210ff. Forbes

The controversy of sociobiological research is in how it applies to humans. The theory established a scientific argument for rejecting the common doctrine of tabula rasa, which holds that human beings are born without any innate mental content and that culture functions to increase human knowledge and aid in survival and success. In the final chapter of the book Sociobiology and in the full text of his Pulitzer Prize-winning On Human Nature, Wilson argues that the human mind is shaped as much by genetic inheritance as it is by culture (if not more). There are limits on just how much influence social and environmental factors can have in altering human behavior.

Ants and social insects

The Ants

Edward O. Wilson, referring to ants, once said that "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species", meaning that while ants and other eusocial species appear to live in communist-like societies, they only do so because they are forced to do so from their basic biology, as they lack reproductive independence: worker ants, being sterile, need their ant-queen to survive as a colony and a species and individual ants cannot reproduce without a queen, thus being forced to live in centralised societies. Humans, however, do possess reproductive independence so they can give birth to offspring without the need of a "queen", and in fact humans enjoy their maximum level of Darwinian fitness only when they look after themselves and their offspring, while finding innovative ways to use the societies they live in for their own benefit.

Consilience

In his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences, and might be able to unite the sciences with the humanities. Wilson prefers and uses the term "consilience" to describe the synthesis of knowledge from different specialized fields of human endeavor. He defines human nature as a collection of epigenetic rules, the genetic patterns of mental development. He argues that culture and rituals are products, not parts, of human nature. He says art is not part of human nature, but our appreciation of art is. He argues that concepts such as art appreciation, fear of snakes, or the incest taboo (Westermarck effect) can be studied by scientific methods of the natural sciences. Previously, these phenomena were only part of psychological, sociological, or anthropological studies. Wilson proposes that they can be part of interdisciplinary research.