The Meaning of Human Existence Summary and Reviews

The Meaning of Human Existence

by Edward O. Wilson

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson X
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In his typically elegant style, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilson... cannily and candidly probes the nature of human existence." - Publishers Weekly

"A little book with a big message, bound to produce discussion among scientists and discomfort in devout churchgoers." - Kirkus

"Already the world's most distinguished evolutionary biologist, Wilson has transcended disciplinary boundaries with this book to create an invaluable analysis of who we are and the choices we now confront; it is a must-read for all." - Vice President Al Gore

"This compact volume packs a great punch - particularly in its new compelling argument that it would be the gravest of mistakes to reengineer our minds to make ourselves supermen... and with this 'existential conservatism' gives us new reason to celebrate the wonder that is us." - Bill McKibben, author of Enough

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Author Information

Edward O. Wilson Author Biography

One of the world's most distinguished scientists, E.O. Wilson is a professor and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard. In 1975, he published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, a work that described social behavior, from ants to humans.

Drawing from his deep knowledge of the Earth's "little creatures" and his sense that their contribution to the planet's ecology is underappreciated, he produced what may be his most important book, The Diversity of Life. In it he describes how an intricately interconnected natural system is threatened by man's encroachment, in a crisis he calls the "sixth extinction" (the fifth one wiped out the dinosaurs).

With his most recent book, The Creation, he wants to put the differences of science and faith aside. A recent documentary called Behold the Earth ...

... Full Biography
Link to Edward O. Wilson's Website

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