Thursday, March 10, 2011

A dose of E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson’s final words in his book Consilience are these: “To the extent that we depend on prosthetic devices to keep ourselves and the biosphere alive, we will render everything fragile.  To the extent that we banish the rest of life, we will impoverish our own species for all time. And if we should surrender our genetic nature to machine-aided ratiocination, and our ethics and art and our very meaning to a habit of careless discursion in the name of progress, imagining ourselves godlike and absolved from our ancient heritage, we will become nothing.”

Wonderful words, indeed.  An echo of Daniel Quinn, John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, and Ted Kaczynski. 

There are two layers of irony here.  The first is that these well-crafted words come at the end of a rambling—at times bordering on incoherent—monograph with a thesis that is more or less a modern-day reworking of the Newtonian/Enlightenment principle of explanatory universality: Wilson argues that a handful of natural laws and principles can serve as the foundation for a grand unification of knowledge in all fields of inquiry in both the sciences and the humanities.  The second layer of irony is that these words come after a long-winded attempt to convince readers that the solution to our perilous situation here on the brink of self-annihilation, a situation that has been actively aided and abetted by science from the beginning, is to push the scientific agenda even more deeply into all areas of life and society.  The cure for the deadly results of our application of scientific knowledge is to acquire more scientific knowledge.  Our problems stem from the fact that we just don’t have a big enough picture—hence the need for consilience, the need for a yet unknown theory that unites and explains all that we are capable of knowing.

Sounds familiar.  The solution to a drug’s unwanted side effects is another drug.  The solution to waning resources is accelerated resource extraction.  The solution to the destructive impact of technology is more technology.  Once again, a more potent form of the poison that is killing us is being offered as the most obvious antidote. 

No comments:

Post a Comment