Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge Paperback – 4 Nov 1999
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The biologist Edward O. Wilson is a rare scientist: over a long career he has not only made signal contributions to population genetics, evolutionary biology, entomology and ethology, but also steeped himself in philosophy, the humanities and the social sciences. The result of his lifelong, wide-ranging investigations is Consilience (the word means "a jumping together", in this case of the many branches of human knowledge), a wonderfully broad study that encourages scholars to bridge the many gaps that yawn between and within the cultures of science and the arts. No such gaps should exist, Wilson maintains, for the sciences, humanities and arts have a common goal: to give understanding a purpose, to lend to us all "a conviction, far deeper than a mere working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws." In making his synthetic argument, Wilson examines the ways (rightly and wrongly) in which science is done, puzzles over the postmodernist debates now sweeping academia, and proposes thought-provoking ideas about religion and human nature. He turns to the great evolutionary biologists and the scholars of the Enlightenment for case studies of science properly conducted, considers the life cycles of ants and mountain lions, and presses, again and again, for rigour and vigour to be brought to bear on our search for meaning. The time is right, he suggests, for us to understand more fully that quest for knowledge, for "Homo sapiens, the first truly free species, is about to decommission natural selection, the force that made us .... Soon we must look deep within ourselves and decide what we wish to become." Wilson's wisdom, eloquently expressed in the pages of this grand and lively summing-up, will be of much help in that search. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The first great ecologist, a pioneer in sociobiology and biodiversity...a giant among popularisers of science (Bryan Appleyard, INDEPENDENT)
There's a new Darwin. His name is Edward O. Wilson. (Tom Wolfe)
Edward O. Wilson seems to me the most important active naturalist we still have with us. It's not for nothing that he is a world expert on both ants and evolution. We really cannot do withou such intelligences as his. He makes one proud to be the same species. (John Fowles)
You can't fault his prose... This is science written with the passion of a zealot. (THE TIMES)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
On the other hand, and (as far as I can tell) without intending the irony with which the statement overflows, not long afterwards he says, "People are innate romantics, they desperately need myth and dogma."
None more so, it would seem, that philosophising evolutionary biologists. Wilson's Consilience is a long essay on objective truth that - per the above quotation, gratuitously misunderstands what epistemology even is, whilst at the same time failing to mention (except in passing) any of its most important contributors - the likes of Wittgenstein, Kuhn, Quine, Rorty or even dear old Popper.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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... Read morePublished on 6 Jun. 2014 by PeterCat
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.Published on 2 April 2014 by Jimbi
A rare combination of modern science and clssical philosophy.The theory of Consilience conceived by Professor Edward Wilson is a new thought experiment wonderfully... Read morePublished on 18 Dec. 2012 by Shabeeh H
Wilson begins by professing his fantasy of The Ionian Enchantment, a belief in the unity of all knowledge. Read morePublished on 19 May 2010 by N. Marik
If science is in need of a father figure, Ed Wilson is clearly the man best suited to the task. He has demonstrated his leading role in many works, but none reached the heights... Read morePublished on 11 Aug. 2005 by Stephen A. Haines
"Consilience" is a book that is written with a confidence speaking of a mind at the height of its powers, yet it is a confidence that is misplaced and echoes the spirit of the 19th... Read morePublished on 17 Nov. 1999