Saturday, January 27, 2007

Book Review: "The Creation"

As I said back in August when I reviewed his Nature Revealed, E.O. Wilson is one of the scientific writers whose works I enjoy most, and I've finally gotten to spend an afternoon with his most recent book: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (2006, W.W. Norton & Co.). Written in the form of an open letter to a (fictitious) southern Baptist minister, Wilson's appeal is a heartfelt and science-based call for a joining of the scientific and religious forces in cooperation to halt and reverse human-caused destruction of the planet's ecosystems.

Like Owen Gingerich in God's Universe (review), Wilson is able to make a coherent argument without resorting to personal assaults on those who view things differently. His premise - that all humans have an interest in preserving the Earth's diversity, and ought to work together to do so - is simple, and expressed here in clear, understandable language. Beyond this, Wilson revisits some of the points he makes more expansively in Consilience and other works regarding the apparent biological basis behind some elements of "human nature."

In several of the later chapters, Wilson suggests several ways in which education of biological sciences can be improved, and also offers some ideas about how to allow children to connect with nature (this section reminded me much of my own childhood). Finally, he argues that the time has come for human beings to make a fundamental decision: we will work together to stop the destruction of the planet, or will we continue along our present path? By overcoming what he calls "metaphysical differences," Wilson maintains, the former can be achieved.

Highly recommended for anyone whose interests run to the protection of biological diversity and those who can offer reasoned discussions on its behalf.