Hall Center For The Humanities


E.O. Wilson
Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Future of Life; Environmentalist, biologist, entomologist

"The Future of Life"
Humanities Lecture Series

Thu., Apr. 15, 2004, 7:00pm
Location: Lied Center
Pulitzer Prize winning author and scientist Edward O. Wilson will speak on ?The Future of Life.? Wilson?s research spans the disciplines of biology, ecology, and sociology. His writings combine knowledge from all three fields and form a conservationist philosophy, the aim of which is to create a sustainable future for both human and animal life. Wilson?s lecture and colloquium will draw on his latest book, also called The Future of Life, which proposes that humanity has reached a ?bottleneck? in its history. In the book, Wilson says that people must make drastic changes to the way they live and how they use the earth if humanity is going to survive past this point.

?Science and technology, combined with a lack of self-understanding and a Paleolithic obstinacy, brought us to where we are today. Now science and technology, combined with foresight and moral courage, must see us through the bottleneck and out,? he says in the book.

The connection between different branches of learning is a favorite subject of Wilson?s and the topic of his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998). In Consilience, Wilson encourages a return to Enlightenment ideals and proposes the synthesis of all knowledge into four, interdependent and interconnected fields of learning: physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts.

Wilson?s interest in learning dates back to his early interest in ants, at 13 he discovered the first known colony of fire ants in the U.S. This interest later led to a Ph.D. in biology and to studies of ants, for which he won the National Medal of Science in 1977. Through his studies Wilson proved that scent-based chemicals called pheromones control ant behavior. His work with ant societies and their use of pheromones led to his second Pulitzer Prize for The Ants (1991), which he wrote with fellow scientist Bert H?lldobler. Wilson won his first Pulitzer for On Human Nature in 1978.

Throughout his long career Wilson has been a controversial figure. His theories in Consilience were criticized for placing science on a higher footing than the humanities, but it is his work with sociobiology that has brought him the most critics. Sociobiology is a scientific theory introduced by Wilson in his 1975 book of the same name. In it he studied the similarities and differences between insect, animal and human societies and argued that genetics largely determine human behavior.

The year after he published Sociobiology, the American Anthropological Association attempted to pass a resolution condemning Wilson?s theories as ?an attempt to justify genetically the sexist, racist and elitist status quo in human society.? Among other criticism Wilson received for the book was a pitcher of ice water dumped on his head by an irate colleague at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1978.

As progress has been made in the field of gene identification, Wilson?s theories have found some supporters. Although he still has many critics today, he has won fans through his writings on environmental policy and he is hailed as one of America?s most eminent biologists.

Partial funding for the Humanities Lecture Series is provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities' 2000 Challenge Grant.

This event is free and open to the public.

April 15, 2004
7:00 p.m.
Lied Center

Other related events:

Colloquium - "Consilience: or the Unity of Knowledge"
Wk Su M T W Th F Sa

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