Friday, October 9, 2015

My New Hero: E. O. Wilson

I have a Pavolovian response to any image
of Professor Wilson. Men are not made wiser.

I love the passion I develop for my heroes. Edward Osbourne Wilson is my latest. He has come to me at a perfect time compensating me for the recent loss of one of the biggest stars in my personal aurora: Oliver Sacks. Now E. O. Wilson shines supreme.

Last night I watched the wonderful documentary: E. O. Wilson: Of Mice and Men without any knowledge of who he is or what it was about but I have always loved biology, even sticking with it in university. I taped the doc only because of the word ants in the title.

Professor Wilson is an Emeritus professor at Harvard. He is also the Honorary Curator of Entomology there as well and as such, he oversees one of the world’s largest collections of insects.

He has twice won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing. He “invented” the science of sociobiology and coined the term “biodiversity.”  Wikipedia can tell you about his many accomplishments; I am not going to do it here.

Instead, I will tell you the sentence that was my eureka moment: “The problem of humanity is that we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God-like technology.

When I heard him say that in the doc, I was hooked. Later he said this: “In a group, the selfish individual wins. In a society full of groups, however, the group of selfish individuals loses and the group of altruists wins.” Does insight get any better than that?

Dr. Wilson’s peers vilified him following the publication of his sociobiological discoveries. Many scholastic luminaries including his colleagues at Harvard and Richard Dawkins published shaming contradictions to his theories.

What does E. O. Wilson have to say about his critics? “Without a trace of irony I can say I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.” How can you not fall under the spell of such a man?

Here’s more: “If those committed to the quest fail, they will be forgiven. When lost, they will find another way. The moral imperative of humanism is the endeavor alone, whether successful or not, provided the effort is honorable and failure memorable.

And finally, as someone increasingly interested in the comfort of an association with the concept of God, E. O. Wilson cemented his place in my heart by saying this: “Science and religion are two of the most potent forces on Earth and they should come together to save the creation."

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