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When Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species" he declared it to be "one long argument". Today, less than 150 years later, Edward O. Wilson explains that the one species omitted [except for one sentence] from the "argument" is devastating the life of the planet. In one long appeal to a fictional Baptist pastor, Wilson describes what is clear to all but a few dedicated die-hards - life on this planet is in deep trouble. The die-hards are firmly identified in the opening passages; Christians in the US who regard themselves as "biblical literalists". Such folk expect the Apocalypse soon and saving the environment is of little concern.

Wilson clearly knows his potential audience and addresses it. He understands the opinions his readers hold and addresses them in language familiar to them. "Biology" he contends, "now leads in reconstructing the human self-image". That means that biology can explain what is happening to the life around us and how we are dealing with it. He carefully allows the potential for a deity to have a role, but it isn't one dealing with the current situation. Because it is humanity stripping the rainforests, causing the oceans to warm and destroying life in them, or filling the atmosphere with chemicals it cannot absorb, it is up to people to take the steps necessary to halt these degradations.

In showing his "pastor" the interconnectivity of all life, the author utilises clear, undemanding prose. Whether one believes a god plays a role in this network is immaterial. People and their actions are unweaving that network. Species extinction is forever, and whatever biology can explain, it hasn't had the time or opportunity to assess the impact of what is occurring. The job, he says, is clearly too vast, and the relationships are too intricate. That, however, doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Nor does it mean that lack of knowledge renders the problem something we can dismiss. We ignore the result of our actions at our peril.

Going a step further in his analysis, Wilson notes the planet's rash of environmental "hotspots" that need immediate solutions addressed to them. He's even able to put a price on healing the afflicted areas. He proposes forms of "protective umbrellas" that can be applied to areas like the Amazon and Congolian basins and others. These saving mechanisms would require "one payment of about US$30 billion". That's about 15 weeks of current expenditure on Iraq's occupation at the latest rates. He further shows how the subsidies given the fishing industry in the US alone, if redirected to a programme of oceanic reserves, would allow fish stocks to recover. To ensure the survival of countless threatened species, it's a minimal expence. If humans can set themselves up as gods in destroying the environment, they can act creatively to preserve it.

Wilson's "letter" may seem a bit lengthy at 170 pages, but as "one long appeal" to his audience, it's not overmuch to take up. Take it up and read it. Then have your children read it - they are the ones confronting the future Wilson describes. The offer it to the pastor nearest you. Religious leaders have whole flocks who should hear what Wilson has to say. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 4 May 2017
a bit stodgy in parts but a good try using scientific argument to convince american christian pastors to ponder life out side the book some very interesting bits about biodiversity,the example of mealybugs imported on plantains in 1516 led to plagues of vicious fire ants devastating regions
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on 2 March 2008
Written to a hypothetical Southern Baptist pastor, The Creation is effectively an open letter to American evangelicals. Locked in its defense of a literal view of the Genesis creation, the church has made science an enemy. The tragedy, says Wilson, is that there is plenty of common ground, and that a global crisis is being ignored while we squabble over matters of origin.

More than that though, this is a loosely themed book that lets one of the world's best biologists ramble about what he's most passionate about. He talks about ants, birds and plants, describing each species as "a masterpiece of biology". He laments the destructiveness of mankind, a species that is altering the climate, "all by our bipedal, wobbly-headed selves." He estimates that we may only know as little as one millionth of what biology will eventually know. He calls for better, more hands-on teaching of science. It's a little fragmented, but overall the book adds up to a celebration of biodiversity, of the infinite complexity and beauty of nature, something that we must be able to appreciate regardless of how we believe it came into existence.

As a Christian who shares many of Wilson's frustrations, it's great to see an attempt at a rapprochement between science and faith coming from the atheist side. I don't know if it'll work, but I hope we might have the humility to reciprocate.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 November 2006
This is an interesting book, as all of Wilson's books are interesting. I like the story about the fire ants that plagued the islands in the Caribbean some centuries ago and the paleoforensics employed to figure out what happened; in fact I like all of Wilson's stories about ants. Ants are fascinating, and ants will be here long after we are gone.

I also like the idea of trying to preserve as much biodiversity as possible. Save the rain forests, by all means. Save the tigers and the gorillas, the elephants and the snow leopard.

But it's not going to happen. Wilson is in prayerful mode. You can tell that by the very fact that he addresses this plea to a protestant clergyman as an author's conceit (partly in remembrance of his Baptist childhood). His tone, try as he might, will be taken by some as condescending, which it unavoidably is. Wilson is sensitive to the criticism he has gotten over the years, especially from those who think his sociobiology is a blueprint for a return to eugenics. So he is overly polite, overly indulgent with all the references to the Bible, to what he and the clergyman have in common. He is bending over backwards.

But it will never work. Biodiversity means little to the average clergyman. Saving the planet and its resources may mean a little more since even though evangelical Christians are certain that the rapture is coming, they are uncertain as to when. It could be tomorrow; it could be a few years away. So let's not dirty up the waters too much, let's not kill all the honeybees, let's scrub the coal smokestacks; in short let's not allow an environmental holocaust, at least not yet.

This is a short book, the kind of book that eminent persons are allowed to write and see published near the end of their lives, the kind of book that speaks of public service, that adds some further meaning to the author's existence. In a way this is similar to Consilience (1998) in which Wilson called for a meeting of the minds between the hard sciences and the soft ones, between those in the humanities and those in the labs, for reductionism to embrace poetry or vice-versa. The same idea applies here: people of faith should join people of science and work together to preserve the biosphere.

However, instead of addressing clergymen I think it would have been better and more natural for Wilson to address heads of state and chief executive officers of giant corporations since they are the ones most directly responsible for the ecological disaster staring us in the face, and they are the ones who can do something about it. Wilson writes, "Humanity doesn't need a moon base or a manned trip to Mars. We need an expedition to planet Earth...." Clearly such a statement would be better aimed at the Congress of the United States than at its clergymen. Wilson indicates in this book that he is not much for genetic engineering or for saving humanity by moving into outer space. He writes, "...human biology and emotions will stay the same far into the future, because our immensely complicated cerebral cortex can tolerate little tinkering..." (p. 28)

I also think it is unfortunate and even obsequious that Wilson calls what he wants saved "The Creation" when it is obvious that he does not consider life on earth a creation at all and in fact states directly that life on earth evolved from nonliving matter and energy. This sop to the creationists and Intelligent Designers is somewhat offset by his argument against Intelligent Design in the last chapter.

This book could also have been addressed to young students and teachers of biology, which in fact is what he effectively does in chapters 12-15 which are titled, "The Fundamental Laws of Biology," "Exploration of a Little-Known Planet," "How to Learn Biology and How to Teach It," and "How to Raise a Naturalist."

Putting aside the artificial spin that Wilson employs, this book is really about "three problems that affect everyone: the decline of the living environment, the inadequacy of scientific education, and the moral confusions caused by the exponential growth of biology." (p. 165) Wilson addresses the Christian clergy because "In order to solve these problems...it will be necessary to find common ground on which the powerful forces of religion and science can be joined." (p. 165)

More in keeping with the Wilson I know and greatly admire, typified in his book On Human Nature (1978) which won the Pulitzer Prize, is this from page 28: "There are still some thinkers around the world...who wish to base moral law on the sacred scripture of Iron Age desert kingdoms while using technology to conduct tribal wars--of course with the presumed blessing of their respective tribal gods."

I think the average clergyman, here and elsewhere, is still in the thrall of his tribal god, and not likely to listen to Professor Wilson, regardless of how politely and diplomatically he presents his case. Too bad.

This is clearly not one of Wilson's better books. I might even say that he has lost his intellectual compass. I hope he finds it.
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on 5 June 2009
Anything by E O Wilson is worth reading, particularly in areas of controversy such as creationism and the life of the planet.
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on 23 April 2015
With the current environmental crises. I thought first of all this book was a must read,
especially for myself, as I am passionate advocate for saving our environment and wildlife.
This is why I bought it. I give talks on Brown Bears and the environment to schools.
And I thought it might be helpful in putting across the seriousness of our environmental situation to
classes. However this book is about mr Wilson's letters to some Pastor making an appeal to him.
What the point of writing to a pastor about the wonders of science and biology is suppose to achieve
I do not know. It goes too much into biology can work with religion if you ask me. And he talks like he trying to persuade the
pastor to focus on environmental issues, like that would ever work. I mean mr Wilson maybe a great
biologist but his idea that he can change the thinking of a Pastor through scientific facts is BS.
And because its written to the Pastor he writes the book like he is teaching a kid basic biology lessons haha.
Its not really what I was looking for. A book more for the passionate about nature lovers would have
probably been written better and would have not had to use such silly arguments, such as pastor
we both agree that creation is a wonderful thing blah blah blah, booooring!!!!
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on 29 February 2012
The science in this book is solid and not difficult to appreciate. This book is however patronising, forcing the issue of evolution over creation, rather than necessarily stressing the importance of defending life on earth. By the end, this is more a sort of political manifesto with lots of unrealistic aspirations, a scientific wish list without an analysis of how these wishes may be fulfilled by broad appeal to the people capable of improving the situation.

Laudable as much of the message is, I found it stifling, over scientific, patronising and not giving non-human life forms the recognition they deserve. Perhaps an appeal to the sacred rather than "science" alone and emphasising compassion more would have enlivened the book and granted its message the importance it deserves.

At a time when biodiversity studies are in decline along with Natural History Museums and nature reserves ... I think a warmer manifesto is sorely needed and this book is only part of that.
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