Customer Reviews


17 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it, read it slowly and reflect upon his conclusions.
The latest book by Edward Osborne Wilson needs no grand introduction.The man is a legend in his field and seemingly more well read than many so-called experts of other fields. I first saw an interview with Wilson and what started me reading his stuff was his smile...sounds very flaky but true..he has a kind face ! Anyway buy it and let it sink in...its like a...
Published on 27 April 1999

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A great argument, though drily made.
The argument, that through consilience, all phenomena can ultimately be explained by cross-reference to other scientific disciplines, is a very important one, since it provides for a system that, in theory, allows for the empirical explanation of the world and its contents. However, I feel that this book might have been better if put forward in a more forceful...
Published 5 months ago by PeterCat


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it, read it slowly and reflect upon his conclusions., 27 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Consilience (Paperback)
The latest book by Edward Osborne Wilson needs no grand introduction.The man is a legend in his field and seemingly more well read than many so-called experts of other fields. I first saw an interview with Wilson and what started me reading his stuff was his smile...sounds very flaky but true..he has a kind face ! Anyway buy it and let it sink in...its like a majestic sunset in Big Sur or a the drone of a humminbirds wings..it speaks in a language of fierce intelligence,immense beauty and beyond incredible depth..the very profundity of what it is to be alive and aware of that fact..lets hope we realize this afore its too late..after all we'll be compost .
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A million years ahead of its time or impossible?, 21 Oct 2004
By 
Dennis Littrell (SoCal/NorCal/Maui) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
In this ambitious work, Edward O. Wilson, one of the most distinguished scientists of our times, and a man I greatly admire, goes perhaps a bit beyond his area of expertise as he envisions a project that is perhaps beyond even the dreams of science fiction. "...[A]ll tangible phenomena," he writes on page 266, "from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of physics."
This in a nutshell is his dream of "consilience." It is also the statement of a determinist. My problem with such a laudable endeavor (and with determinism in general) is this: even if he is right, that the arts and the humanities will ultimately yield to reduction, how do we, limited creatures that we are, do it? It seems to me that in the so-called soft sciences like sociology, economics, and psychology, for example, and even more so in the world of the humanities and the arts, reduction is so incredibly complex that such an attempt is comparable (in reverse order) of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. It's ironic that Wilson uses almost exactly this metaphor on page 296 to explain why once the rain forests are chopped down, they're gone forever. He notes, "Collect all the species...Maintain them in zoos, gardens, and laboratory cultures...Then bring the species back together and resynthesize the community on new ground." Will this work? Wilson's answer is no. He writes, "...biologists cannot accomplish such a task, not if thousands of them came with a billion-dollar budget. They cannot even imagine how to do it." He adds, still on page 296, that even if biologists could sort and preserve cultures of all the species, "they could not then put the community back together again. Such a task...is like unscrambling an egg with a pair of spoons."
This is exactly how I feel about the consilience of human knowledge. I cannot even imagine how reductionism could help us to understand a poem. There is a dictum among poets that "nothing defines the poem but the poem itself." No amount of reduction will allow us to understand what makes the poem tick. This is because the poem is an experience, a human emotional, intellectual, sensual experience dependent upon not only the literal meaning of the words, but on their connotations, their sounds, their rhythm, their relationships to one another, their syntax, their allusions, their history, their use by other poets, etc., and also what the individual reader of the poem brings to the experience. Reduce the poem and you do not have an understanding of the poem. At best you have an essay on the poem, at worst something alien to the esthetic experience. In essence, I should say that the problem with consilience is that our experience is not reducible.
I have read a lot of what Professor Wilson has written, including On Human Nature (1978), the charming memoir, Naturalist (1994), parts of The Ants (1990) and his controversial, but ground-breaking and highly influential, Sociobiology (1975). And I have read some of his critics, most recently essayist Wendell Berry's Life Is a Miracle (2000) and Charles Jenck's piece in Alas, Poor Darwin (2000). What has struck me in these readings is the disconnection between what Wilson has written and what some critics have criticized him for writing! For example it is thought that Wilson is a strict biological determinist when it comes to human behavior. But here he writes, very clearly on page 126, "We know that virtually all of human behavior is transmitted by culture." Wilson has had to weather more than his share of unfair criticism because, as the father of sociobiology, which some mistakenly see as a furtherance of a rationale for eugenics, he has been made the target of the misinformed. Additionally, Wilson is not the lovable sort of genius we adored in Einstein, nor the heroic scientist overcoming a terrible handicap as in the case of Stephen Hawking, but a slightly nerdish genius from Alabama who spent much of his life crawling around on the ground and in trees looking at ants. Some people make it clear that such a man should not presume to tell them anything about human beings and how we should conduct our lives or how we should view ourselves. But I think they are wrong. Wilson brings unique insights into the human condition, and he has the courage of his convictions. I think he is a man we should listen to regardless of whether we agree with him or not.

Even if its central thesis is wrong, Consilience is nonetheless an exciting book, full of information and ideas, elegantly written, dense, at times brilliant, a book that cannot be ignored and should be read by anyone interested in the human condition regardless of their field of expertise.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of synthesis!, 24 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Consilience (Paperback)
Clearly one of the best books of the decade. Edward O. Wilson has one of the finest scientific minds of the twentieth century. "Consilience" is a beautifully written, sweeping synthesis of science and the arts. Wilson writes, "The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science." Wilson, like all of us, appears to fall short of his objective at times, but what an effort! Where are the books from his critics? None of the negative reviews I've read of "Consilience" rise to the intellectual level of the work itself. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From fundamental physics to art, in one easy paradigm, 11 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
In some sense, Wilson's book is trivial -- it is the job of science to identify relationships between phenomena. If it is possible to generate chains of reasoning, cause and effect allowing a seamless transition from pure physics to pure art, then one might anticipate that science will eventually forge such a chain, and scientists may well view this as their greatest triumph. This idea is not new. The real success of Consilience is in elucidating a view of how such a chain might appear and giving some hint of how close we are to completing it. Again, this is not new, but Wilson presents a readable and thought-provoking version that I would happily recommend.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars A great argument, though drily made., 6 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
The argument, that through consilience, all phenomena can ultimately be explained by cross-reference to other scientific disciplines, is a very important one, since it provides for a system that, in theory, allows for the empirical explanation of the world and its contents. However, I feel that this book might have been better if put forward in a more forceful manifesto-like style - his point could have been put a lot more concisely, but instead it rambles on for quite a bit - you have to wade through a lot of dry passages of text to find some excellent insights and arguments. Positivism needs a great defence for the 21st century, but this isn't quite it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book, 2 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
This book is the first stop on the humanist journey. It is complex, but engaging and a must read for anybody contemplating their place on our earth.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2.0 out of 5 stars Dry philosophy, 6 Aug 2013
By 
Alan Davies (Aberdare. Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
I've read Edward Wilson's book on evolutionary biology, The Future Of Life, and was very taken with it, but this book I'm afraid left me rather cold. It's dry and rambling in places, not very easy to follow, and my interest soon waned. A man of his stature should have been able to write about this subject in a much more lucid and interesting way. Reminded me a bit of another American commentator on biology and evolution, Daniel Dennett, who I also found to be too ready to use jargon and obscure, flowery language that detracts from what he is trying to put over. There are few really good science writers around who can put into lucid terms the inner workings of their subject. I've read many of them, like Carl Sagan for instance; a joy to read, but I'm afraid that as much as I admire Edward O. Wilson and his enthusiasm for his subject, I found this book really hard going.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific philosophy, 18 Dec 2012
By 
S. Hasan "book work" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Paperback)
A rare combination of modern science and clssical philosophy.The theory of Consilience conceived by Professor Edward Wilson is a new thought experiment wonderfully presented.Combining mathematics,Physics,chemistry and evolution with social science, humanities and metaphysics, to find a theory of everything in knowledge going along with the hunt for theory of everything in science is a unique human endeavour breaking new grounds weather it succeeds or not.The book reflects deep knowledge of science and humanities by the author.Well done professor.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Unity, 19 May 2010
By 
N. Marik "Neelesh" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Wilson begins by professing his fantasy of The Ionian Enchantment, a belief in the unity of all knowledge. In that sense, science is religion liberated and writ large, which aims to save the spirit not by surrender but by the liberation of the human mind. Consilience is the key to the unification agenda of all knowledge. Most of the issues that vex humanity daily - ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, environmental damage, endemic poverty - cannot be solved without integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that of the social sciences and the humanities.

The efforts during the Enlightenment of historical champions of consilience such as Marquis de Condorcet, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes etc have eventually been diluted by the unfortunate side effects of fragmentation and professional atomization: `....It is therefore not surprising to find physicists who do not know what a gene is, and biologists who guess that string theory has something to do with violins.'

Post-modernism differs from the Enlightenment as: Enlightenment thinkers believe we can know everything, and radical post-modernists believe we can know nothing. The latter propose that reality is a state constructed by the mind, not perceived by it.

Reductionism is easier than predictive synthesis, or holism, the greatest obstacle to which is the exponential increase in complexity encountered during the upward progress through levels of organization, in sciences except perhaps physics. And hence the emergence of the field of complexity theory, fractal geometry and the like - though they seem to be still hampered by lack of empirical, factual information, and also a natural language such as mathematics which has worked so well for physics.

Linking the natural sciences, specifically biology, to the social sciences and humanities, is the process space of gene-culture co-evolution, and sociobiology. Genes prescribe epigenetic rules which are the regularities of sensory perception and mental development that animate and channel the acquisition of culture. Culture helps to determine which of the prescribing genes survive and multiple from one generation to the next. Successful new genes alter the epigenetic rules of populations. The altered rules then change the direction and effectiveness of the channels of cultural acquisition. Genes and culture are therefore inseverably linked, human nature being the cusp - though the linkage is flexible, mostly unmeasured and tortuous, and even circular. The genetic fitness hypothesis - that the most widely distributed traits of culture confer Darwinian advantage on the genes that predispose them- has been reasonably borne out by evidence, the most compelling of which is incest avoidance (the Westermarck effect).

One of the reasons social sciences do not have the predictive, and hence curative capacity of say, medical sciences, is the absence of consilience. Social scientists by and large spurn the idea of hierarchical ordering of knowledge that unites and drives the natural sciences. Instead, biology is a science that traces causation across many levels of organization, from brain and ecosystem down to atom. The enterprise within the social sciences best poised to bridge the gap to natural sciences, is economics. Only if they do away with their hermetic nature - sealed off from the complexities of human nature and the constraints imposed by the environment.

The most interesting challenge to consilient explanation is the transit from science to the arts, and from ethics to religion. Which worldview prevails, religious transcendentalism or scientific empiricism, will make a great difference in the way humanity claims the future. However the process plays out, it demands open discussion and unwavering intellectual rigour in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

`Let us see how high we can fly before the sun melts the wax in our wings' - Sir Arthur Eddington.

This book is a brave attempt to integrate many walks of human thought and endeavour. Though there aren't too many answers, yet, the author raises the right questions and sows the seeds of a big, big quest.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and good science, 26 Oct 1998
By A Customer
A superb book, reaffirming Wilson's belief that economics is based on biology like biology is based on physics. Very entertaining to read, with some intriguing new ideas: how will we choose to use our newfound power over our own evolution? But, like Dawkins and so many other great popularisers of science, Wilson has been banging the same drum since before I was born. Move on, guys - anyone who doesn't understand it yet isn't worth bothering with.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Professor Edward O. Wilson (Paperback - 4 Nov 1999)
£12.99
Usually dispatched within 9 to 12 days
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews