The Meaning of Human Existence

The Meaning of Human Existence

Book - 2014
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In The Meaning of Human Existence, his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called "the rainbow colors" around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey, in the process bridging science and philosophy to create a twenty-first-century treatise on human existence--from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends.Continuing his groundbreaking examination of our "Anthropocene Epoch," which he began with The Social Conquest of Earth, described by the New York Times as "a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere," here Wilson posits that we, as a species, now know enough about the universe and ourselves that we can begin to approach questions about our place in the cosmos and the meaning of intelligent life in a systematic, indeed, in a testable way.Once criticized for a purely mechanistic view of human life and an overreliance on genetic predetermination, Wilson presents in The Meaning of Human Existence his most expansive and advanced theories on the sovereignty of human life, recognizing that, even though the human and the spider evolved similarly, the poet's sonnet is wholly different from the spider's web. Whether attempting to explicate "The Riddle of the Human Species," "Free Will," or "Religion"; warning of "The Collapse of Biodiversity"; or even creating a plausible "Portrait of E.T.," Wilson does indeed believe that humanity holds a special position in the known universe.The human epoch that began in biological evolution and passed into pre-, then recorded, history is now more than ever before in our hands. Yet alarmed that we are about to abandon natural selection by redesigning biology and human nature as we wish them, Wilson soberly concludes that advances in science and technology bring us our greatest moral dilemma since God stayed the hand of Abraham.
Publisher: New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2014]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2014
ISBN: 9780871401007
0871401002
Characteristics: 207 pages

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brotagonist
Apr 13, 2017

No, this isn't just another book about Darwinian evolution and protection of biodiversity. Every grade schooler knows how it happened—as best as we can describe it at present. What I found interesting is the author's insistence that we take the entirelty of evolution, not just from the split to Homo erectus, into account. We are the culmination of a process that began long before our earliest similar ancestors. We are a mess of conflict—reason and emotion, science and the humanities—and this is the way it should be. His ideas about extra-terrestrial life are interesting. I hope he is right, that man will always remain biological and human, for to tread to the other side is, as Wilson indicates, the end of our species. What shocked me was the revelation that nearly 50% of Americans believe in Creationism! Where did they go to school? LOL I guess they never learned about metaphor, either. While the book will not tell you much you didn't already know or haven't already read elsewhere, the author has a unique slant on things and presents a fine summary.

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sess430
Aug 03, 2016

This book is listed on the fourteenth annual Freshman Reading Round-Up at the Univ. of Texas. Faculty members select books for summer reading and lead group discussions the day before classes begin. I've found several good books to read from the annual list.

m
mclarjh
Jun 23, 2015

Intelligent, if politically incorrect, analysis.

b
bookworm1387
Mar 01, 2015

From the perspective of its title, E. O. Wilson’s latest book was a letdown for me. However, from a biological perspective, it’s a fascinating read. Wilson drops a bombshell by rejecting the inclusive fitness theory as an evolutionary model for social behavioral traits. His description of the controversy provides a juicy story on the politics of science. Other strong points: an interesting synopsis of the evolution of the human mind, plus some informed speculations on the social behavior of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Disappointing aspects: Wilson is (rightly) against tampering with the human genome to “improve” human nature, but instead of using his scientific expertise to elaborate, he spends pages chastising religion and making condescending statements on the value of the humanities. In his mind, scientists are the true saviors of the world and scientists who fail to contribute to a more realistic world view are “intellectual dwarves content to stay within the narrow specialities for which they were trained”. Wilson is obviously not content to stay within his expertise. Instead of name-dropping theologians, Wilson might recognize his own messianic delusion by reading Niebuhr’s "Irony of American History". He might also learn how not to completely misinterpret Kierkegaard.

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magictouch
Dec 31, 2014

There is never an easy answer for the meaning of human existence either in the domain of religion or science...but with the insights of Edward O. Wilson, one may be given a few clues to approach this puzzling philosophical question and his standpoint of multilevel selection in the theory of inclusive fitness. Thought-provoking.

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