Sunday, April 08, 2007

E.O. Wilson accepts TED Award

Several years ago I read a book by the eminent Harvard mymerchologist and evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson titled Consilience. In it, Wilson made the case for combining the Natural Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geology, Astronomy, etc.) with the Humanities (Art, History, Politics, Psychology, Economics, etc.) by a process he refered to as "Conscilience" or a unity of the knowledge bases of the world. Wilson's contention is that what makes the sciences different from most of the humanities is that the disciplines of the natural sciences are based on 'foundational principles' which the humanities lack. For most people, the term foundational principle may not ring a bell. But, if I tell you that the basis of all chemistry is the idea of the atom, you'll probably go, "Oh, yeah, that's right - I remember that in chemistry." The same type of notions are found in Physics (the 4 fundamental fources), Biology (Evolution by Natural Selection), and Geology (Plate Techtonics) where as the same cannot be said of the humanities (I mean, what is the foundational principle of history?). This outlook changed radically the way that I instruct my students in science and why I agree with Wilson that new approaches to the humanities must be looked at so as to allow the humanities to be incorporated into the natural sciences with their foundational principles. I'll write more about Consilience later...
Just last month, E.O. Wilson was awarded a TED Award in Monterey, California. In his acceptance speech he outlines what he considers to be a most important goal for the survival of life on Earth: