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In this groundbreaking new book, one of the world's greatest living scientists argues for the fundamental unity of all knowledge and the need to search for what he calls consilience, the composition of the principles governing every branch of learning. Edward O Wilson, the pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, once again breaks out of the conventions of current thinking. He shows how our explosive rise in intellectual mastery of the truths of our universe has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos. It is a vision that found its apogee in the Age of Enlightenment, then gradually was lost in the increasing fragmentation and specialisation of knowledge in the last two centuries. Professor Wilson shows why the goals of the original Enlightenment are surging back to life, why they are reappearing on the very frontiers of science and human scholarship, and how they are beginning to sketch themselves as the blueprint of our world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349111124
ISBN-10: 034911112X
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 127mm x 25mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 4-Nov-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » The title of this book is Wilson's term for the idea that all aspects of learning are underpinned by a small number of natural laws. This is a breathtaking attempt to explain all of human learning in one package, presented with the clarity to be expected of a double Pulitzer Prize winner. A superb harbinger for the 21st century. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A tour de force from a scholar for whom such tours are par for the course. Wilson, who sowed the seeds of sociobiology decades ago, expands his agenda to the whole of human learning and behavior. All, in both the realms of art and science, can be reduced to a common set of unifying principles, or consilience. All can be subsumed under the basic laws of physics and their offspring in chemistry and biology. For instance, the reductionist new genetics and molecular biology have revolutionized our understanding of biology in terms of evolution, human development, and the brain as the vehicle of human behavior. Further, Wilson restates his notion of the co-evolution of genes and culture, but it is here that his argument is weakest, based on the premise that we are genetically programmed toward certain archetypal forms and themes which he finds in primitive and ancient art but which are dubiously applicable in the modern world. Wilson's arguments on achieving consilience in the humanities will no doubt rile many of the faithful in these fields. For example, he rails against economists for their arid mathematical models that pay no heed to the irrational ways humans behave and he pretty well damns anyone who espouses cultural relativism; and he has very little good to say about philosophers in general. On the other hand, he writes knowledgeably about mind, making it clear that emotion is inextricably tied to reason, and his distinction between religion and ethics is well argued. In the end, Wilson invites scholars to explore the gaps in knowledge, as well as move toward synthesis: "We are drowning in information," he says, "while starving for wisdom." He also pulls out all the stops on the future of the biosphere, noting the potential for changing our genetic make-up. No doubt many scholars will accuse Wilson of simplistic arguments, errors, and distortions. But how many have the guts to venture beyond the boundaries of their specialty to make a case for unity? For that mason alone, Wilson's proposal merits the attention and debate of the broad community of scholars. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Edward O. Wilson

Edward O Wilson is Curator in Entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard with which he has been connected since 1953. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for ON HUMAN NATURE and THE ANTS.

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