E. O. Wilson Quotations

-Human nature is a hodgepodge of special genetic adaptations to an environment largely vanished, the world of the Ice-Age hunter gatherer.

-A very Faustian choice is upon us: whether to accept our corrosive and risky behavior as the unavoidable price of population and economic growth, or to take stock of ourselves and search for a new environmental ethic.

-Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition.

-By any reasonable measure of achievement, the faith of the Enlightenment thinkers in science was justified.

-Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth. The human species is, in a word, an environmental abnormality. Perhaps a law of evolution is that intelligence usually extinguishes itself.

-Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.

-Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.

-Even as empiricism is winning the mind, transcendentalism continues to win the heart.

-Every major religion today is a winner in the Darwinian struggle waged among cultures, and none ever flourished by tolerating its rivals.

-If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.

-If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth.

-If those committed to the quest fail, they will be forgiven. When lost, they will find another way. The moral imperative of humanism is the endeavor alone, whether successful or not, provided the effort is honorable and failure memorable.

-It’s like having astronomy without knowing where the stars are.

-It’s obvious that the key problem facing humanity in the coming century is how to bring a better quality of life – for 8 billion or more people – without wrecking the environment entirely in the attempt.

-Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.

-No statistical proofs exist that prayer reduces illness and mortality, except perhaps through a psychogenic enhancement of the immune system; if it were otherwise the whole world would pray continuously.

-Old beliefs die hard even when demonstrably false.

-People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized. They will find a way to keep ancestral spirits alive.

-Perhaps the time has come to cease calling it the “environmentalist” view, as though it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view.

-Political ideology can corrupt the mind, and science.

-Sometimes a concept is baffling not because it is profound but because it is wrong.

-The brain and its satellite glands have now been probed to the point where no particular site remains that can reasonably be supposed to harbor a nonphysical mind.

-The essence of humanity’s spiritual dilemma is that we evolved genetically to accept one truth and discovered another. Is there a way to erase the dilemma, to resolve the contradictions between the transcendentalist and the empiricist world views?

-The historical circumstance of interest is that the tropical rain forests have persisted over broad parts of the continents since their origins as stronghold of the flowering plants 150 million years ago.

-The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology.

-The larger the pie, the greater number of possible slices big enough to sustain the lives of individual species.

-The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

-The one process ongoing in the 1980s that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

-Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?

-There is no better high than discovery.

-To the extent that philosophical positions both confuse us and close doors to further inquiry, they are likely to be wrong.

-Today the greatest divide within humanity is not between races, or religions, or even, as is widely believed, between the literate and illiterate. It is the chasm that separates scientific from prescientific cultures.

-True character arises from a deeper well than religion.

-We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.

-We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.

-When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.

-Without a trace of irony I can say I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.

-You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.
E.O. Wilson