Books

The Creation by E.O. Wilson

Robert Roose, MD

Written as a long, personal letter to a fictionalized Southern Baptist pastor, The Creation is one scientist's way of reaching out.


The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
ISBN: 0393062171
Author: E.O. Wilson
Price: 21.95
Length: 160
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2006-09
UK publication date: 2006-09
Amazon
However science and religion wax and wane in the minds of men, there remains the earthborn, yet transcendental, obligation we are both morally bound to share.

-- E.O. Wilson, The Creation

To a true scientist, creationism is blasphemy. Not accepting evolution is a desecration of the scientific process and life itself. The so-called theory of Intelligent Design is not a hypothesis but a mockery of one (so goes the theory of Ignorant Design). The chasm between those who believe in evolution by natural selection and those who do not is wide and fierce. Nevertheless, with his latest book, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, renowned biologist, naturalist, and forthright believer, E. O. Wilson admirably tries to farm some common ground -- and it is with good reason.

In his words, the Creation is "living Nature" in its entirety, and it is in trouble. Life on Earth is destroying itself; or, to be more accurate, we as humans are destroying all life, including ourselves. It is estimated that if the current course of destruction does not change, the majority of species of plants and animals will be extinct in the next one hundred years. But we will not only lose "masterpieces" such as the wolverine and pitchfork ant. We are threatening our own survival by irreversibly erasing ecosystems, depleting natural resources, and spreading toxic chemicals worldwide. Wilson sternly warns that, regardless of your thoughts on its origin, we are rapidly destroying all that exists. So carrying both a sense of urgency and convincing love for biology, he makes a valiant, if at times desperate, plea to join forces to save the Creation.

Few writers attempt to unite science and religion, and fewer yet do it in such a novel way. Written as a long, personal letter to a fictionalized Southern Baptist pastor, The Creation is one scientist's way of reaching out, providing information, and offering solutions. It is neither an act of proselytism nor conciliation. His invocation of spiritual language is deliberate and altruistic; his choice of religious figure was due to personal familiarity; and his objective is undeniable. Wilson truly believes that if "the two most powerful forces in the world" can make a practical alliance to preserve life, the Creation can be saved.

And like any good diplomat, he starts out his letter with a level of finesse. While gracefully outlining their differences in perspective ("For you, the glory of an unseen divinity; for me, the glory of the universe revealed at last"), he also bends over backwards to acknowledge some mutual fallibility ("I may be wrong, you may be wrong. We may both be partly right"). He admits to his "friend" that he "would like to learn more" about the religious and theological arguments for environmentalism. There is no doubt that Richard Dawkins would be disappointed in these compromising gestures, but to Wilson it is merely a means to (the prevention of) the end. And this is where his eloquent prose clearly helps his cause. Because when Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, asks if we would be "willing to suppose that part of Eden was the rest of life as it was before humanity," it is hard not to want to read on.

As the book moves forward, through time and its argument, we are the ones who learn. Drawing from his experiences both as an inquisitive child and a Harvard-trained entomologist, he eruditely describes the decline of our current environment, what biology is, why it is important, and how to understand and teach it within our present-day context. His first-hand descriptions of observing the nature of a virgin forest off the Florida Keys and understanding the purposeful but bizarre anatomy of Thoumatomyrmex ants are enthralling. And the follow-up questions he poses are critical. Using examples from the insect world (or "the little things that run the world"), we are urged to understand the insidious costs of globalization (symbolized by the appearance of fire ants in America) and ponder our own existence ("People need insects to survive, but insects do not need us"). His ability to make biology as interesting and important to you as it is to him, at least for a moment, is what makes him such a great teacher -- and it shows.

Yet, despite all the wonderful stories, the construct can't help but seem a little forced. Each time you are reminded that you are reading a letter to a pastor, you are also reminded that you are not a pastor (unless of course you are one, and in that case, thank you for reading). And because of this, not all of The Creation will be as relevant. Even if the ultimate consilience -- the unity of science and religion -- happens, it is not transpiring on these pages. So in other words, if you already get it, there is less to be learned.

That does not mean The Creation is not to be enjoyed and admired. From the audacious title to his revelatory closing words, Wilson truly captures the spirit of both the scripture and Darwin, and reading such an elegant and honorable treatise on the greatest crisis to face mankind is a unique pleasure. Even if it was not addressed to you, it is an appeal for us all.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Film

Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?

Music

London Indie-Poppers the Motive Impress on "You" (premiere)

Southwest London's the Motive concoct catchy, indie-pop earworms with breezy melodies, jangly guitars, and hooky riffs, as on their latest single "You".

Books

Vigdis Hjorth's 'Long Live the Post Horn!' Breathes Life into Bureaucratic Anxiety

Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader.

Music

Konqistador and HanHan Team for Darkwave Hip-Hop on "Visaya"

Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit, Konqistador team with Toronto hip-hopper HanHan for "Visaya", a song that blends darkwave and rap into an incendiary combination.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.