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The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

What a gem of a book. Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University entomologist, writer, and philosopher of nature in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, delivers an impassioned plea for life on earth, this time in the form of a letter to a pastor (and to religious leaders everywhere).
 
Wilson writes as a scientist, and as a secular humanist with boyhood roots in Baptist Alabama. The creator of the fields of island biogeography and sociobiology argues that since science and religion are the two great moving forces of the (human) world, they must “be united on the common ground of biological conservation.” Wilson’s book is written as an extended letter, beginning “Dear Pastor: … I write to you now for your counsel and help.” Though his tone is gentle, there is steel in it, the determination of a bulldog who will alternately cajole and nip to get his way, but whose efforts will never flag: “We have a long way to go to make peace with this planet…”

Wilson says that religion and science can agree to disagree about life’s origins, but must find common ground on the need to save “the Creation,” if for no other reason than that human life on earth depends on it. There are three books within this short volume: one describes the current status of biology and the direction Wilson believes it will be taking; the second serves as a manual for how to raise a new generation of naturalists, people Wilson calls “citizen scientists;” and the third addresses the religious community specifically, asking for its assistance in preserving the amazing complexity and specificity of life.

Wilson celebrates the nexus between nature and the human psyche, and deplores the fact that so many modern humans have lost touch with the natural world from which they came. He argues cogently that the belief that Homo sapiens will be able to overcome all damage inflicted to the planet is a fantasy. But though Wilson argues that the hour is late, and that species and habitat loss must be stemmed immediately, in an interview about this latest book he refuses to despair. Protecting the living planet, he says, “… is a higher mountain to climb than we estimated when we saw it on the horizon (years ago).

But I’m an optimist. Life is all about struggling and overcoming. In this case it’s not an enemy to defeat; it’s people to persuade. The goal is transcendent. and worth all the effort. I think we’ll do it.

Reviewed by Jennifer Scarlott 
By Edward O. Wilson, Published by: Published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, Hardcover; Price $21.95
 
 
 

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