Monday, December 11, 2023

Consilience, Edward O, Wilson

 Books & Authors - The Atlantic

I blogged on this book in 2007, the linked article is from 1998. The Internet allows us to do in minutes what authors in even the 1990s would have taken days, weeks, assistants, etc. to dig up. It is a tool that gives us leverage to give the "appearance of knowledge", which at our time, with its left-brain culture so biased that it can't understand the danger of knowledge without wisdom, this book at least starts to realize part of the problem. 

 Edward O. Wilson is the author of two Pulitzer Prize winning books; "On Human Nature", and "The Ants". The term "consilience" refers to the "unity of knowledge", how discoveries in one field can be critical to others. One can view the physical world as a layered architecture where physics is the "base", with chemistry and biology on top, followed by all the social sciences, politics, the arts, religion, etc.

Wilson has the vision that we COULD link it all together so that we would truly "understand" our universe. He strongly laments the post-modernist view that all points of view are equally vali.  He seems much more willing to entertain the potential for divinity than many scientists, even though for himself, he is a materialist. He DOES seem to realize at least part of the horror of a universe where there is no transcendence, but he sees the risks of transcendence as too high -- mostly on the environmental front (man has "dominion"). He sums up the materialist vs transcendent views as "The uncomfortable truth is the two beliefs are not factually compatible. As a result, those who hunger for both intellectual and religious truth will never acquire both in full measure".

That is an interesting statement in that I would question whether any human will acquire a "full measure" of EITHER of those areas separately either, this side of Heaven.  However, to come to a conclusion of what that which completely transcends the physical can do, seems a bit presumptuous. Man is so quick to set limits on what it is that God can do, it is good God has us around to lock those limits in on infinite power since we are so "intelligent" (just ask us). While we seem good at providing limits for the infinite, it is strange that we seem less inclined to limit ourselves.

He makes a good comment on the state of knowledge and information in the world; "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". I think he is right on that at some level, and he also points out in the book how important it is to place the information into context with other knowledge, and even make it into a "story". He does seem to have some real insight into the limitation of the left-brained only view. 

He waits until the very end of the book to get into environmental doom and gloom. He sees us as rushing headlong to destruction of the planet and has decided that "somehow" man needs to "morally" pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and put vast control on development of technology as "the only moral thing to do.

A neat trick for a strict materialist to come up with, apparently a new form of human brain will somehow "evolve" and suddenly operate with this "environmental moral imperative" in the next few decades? It seems unlikely to me that randomness should have bequeathed us with this function, and in a materialist universe we are just going to have to wait around for a few million years of "survival of the fittest" and hope that the right kind of "morals" for environmentalism randomly fall out the back end of the random process. 

If such doesn't happen, that must mean that "the right kind of morals" just didn't randomly arise at "the right time" and the great roulette wheel of randomness will just keep spinning along without us. Small loss in a cold godless universe!

It is nice to see that even strict materialists have "hope" -- I'm thinking that he may want to invest more in lottery tickets with his faith in the great god of the dice. It seems so strange that a random process would generate a brain that questions the outcome of the random process (the existing state of the world), yet somehow believes that one of the outputs of that random process (us) is somehow responsible -- and soon to be "morally mandated" to "fix it".

No comments:

Post a Comment