E. O. Wilson

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We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.

Edward Osborne Wilson (born 10 June 1929) is an entomologist and biologist known for his work on ecology, evolution, and sociobiology.


  • [Biology has] become the paramount science, exceeding other disciplines, including physics and chemistry at least, in the creative tumult of its disciplines and disputations. [...] I'll also be so bold at this point to suggest that we are now at the edge of establishing the two fundamental laws of biology: The first law is that all of the phenomena of biology, the entities and the processes, are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. Not immediately reducible to them, but ultimately consistent and in consilience with them, by a cause and effect explanation. The second law is that all biological phenomena, these entities and processes that define life itself, have arisen by evolution through natural selection.
    • Talk at the 50th anniversary of New Scientist magazine (2006)
  • Wonderful theory, wrong species. (On Marxism, which he considered more suited to ants than to humans.)

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998)

  • We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
    • p. v
  • True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others. It is not obedience to authority, and while it is often consistent with and reinforced by religious belief, it is not piety.
  • The most dangerous of devotions, in my opinion, is the one endemic to Christianity: I was not born to be of this world. With a second life waiting, suffering can be endured- especially in other people. The natural environment can be used up. Enemies of the faith can be savaged and suicidal martyrdom praised.
    • p. 245
  • Old beliefs die hard even when demonstrably false.
    • p. 256
  • If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth.
    • p. 262
  • The essence of humanity's spiritual dilemma is that we evolved genetically to accept one truth and discovered another.
    • p. 264
  • Few will doubt that humankind has created a planet-sized problem for itself. No one wished it so, but we are the first species to become a geophysical force, altering Earth's climate, a role previously reserved for tectonics, sun flares, and glacial cycles. We are also the greatest destroyer of life since the ten-kilometer-wide meteorite that landed near Yucatan and ended the Age of Reptiles sixty-five million years ago. Through overpopulation we have put ourselves in danger of running out of food and water. So a very Faustian choice is upon us: whether to accept our corrosive and risky behavior as the unavoidable price of population and economic growth, or to take stock of ourselves and search for a new environmental ethic.
    • p. 277-278

The Diversity of Life

  • Stable climates with muted seasons allow more kinds of organisms to specialize on narrower pieces of the environment, to outcompete the generalists around them, and so persist for longer periods of time. Species are packed more tightly. No niche, it seems goes unfilled. Specialization is likely to be pushed to bizarre, beautiful extremes.

Gaia Atlas of Planet Management

  • The worst thing that can happen during the 1980s is not energy depletion, economic collapse, limited nuclear war, or conquest by a totalitarian government. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process ongoing in the 1980s that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendents are least likely to forgive us.

Biophilia (1984)

  • The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes alone into the field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry.

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