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The Origins of Creativity Paperback – Nov. 27 2018
In a stirring exploration of human nature recalling his foundational work Consilience, Edward O. Wilson offers a “luminous” (Kirkus Reviews) reflection on the humanities and their integral relationship to science. Both endeavors, Wilson argues, have their roots in human creativity—the defining trait of our species. By studying fields as diverse as paleontology, evolution, and neurobiology, Wilson demonstrates that creative expression began not 10,000 years ago, as we have long assumed, but more than 100,000 years ago in the Paleolithic Age. A provocative investigation into what it means to be human, The Origins of Creativity reveals how the humanities have played an unexamined role in defining our species. With the eloquence, optimism, and pioneering inquiry we have come to expect from our leading biologist, Wilson proposes a transformational “Third Enlightenment” in which the blending of science and humanities will enable a deeper understanding of our human condition, and how it ultimately originated.
As always, Wilson tosses off astonishing insights with charming ease (he’s a master of the lyrically short sentence). These profoundly humane meditations on nature, creativity, and our primal yearnings will delight his longtime fans and provide newcomers with the perfect introduction to the career and ideas of one of our most distinguished living scientists—whose high school nickname, I was enchanted to learn, was 'Snake Wilson.'—Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?
From our senior statesman of science comes this fascinating, eloquent, and important reflection on the vital kinship between the humanities and the sciences, the well of creativity fueling them both, and our need as a species to combine their truths to deal with today’s demanding problems. It’s a message that couldn’t be more timely.—Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper’s Wife
Professor Wilson has managed to stay interesting and provocative decade after decade, and this latest volume is no exception. It will make you think long and hard and fruitfully!—Bill McKibben, author Radio Free Vermont
Within The Origins of Creativity, E.O. Wilson returns to his most fertile—and most controversial—ideas: the role of biology within human behavior. Always forging ahead, he considers our most abstract behaviors: the apprehension of beauty and our yearning to recreate it. The grand result is a wholly new take on how even our most monumental ideas trace their origins to the organic expression of our human biology. —Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl
With his trademark boundless intellect and elegant writing, Wilson argues that we need both the sciences and the humanities in order to understand the deep origins of what makes us human.—Alan Lightman, physicist, novelist, and professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT
Wilson makes a case for blending an understanding of the sciences into the humanities in his latest work, raising provocative questions in the process.—Publisher's Weekly
Luminous. . . . A concise, thoughtful exploration of how human understanding will be enhanced by ‘a humanistic science and a scientific humanities.'—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : Liveright; Reprint edition (Nov. 27 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1631494856
- ISBN-13 : 978-1631494857
- Item weight : 200 g
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.63 x 20.96 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #583,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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But Wilson is now ancient, nearly 90, and his ferocious grasp on his subject is beginning to get a bit repetitive and rambling. This is really a longish essay, not a proper Wilson book, but it does succeed in summing up his basic thinking. You can only understand human beings if you understand that we are clever monkeys who have evolved from more primitive ancestors. As the humanities studies the why of humanity without understanding the what that science provides, they fall disastrously short. The need to integrate humanities (the why) with science (the what when and how) is pressing and beginning to take shape. The fact that so many people are unaware of this, and prefer the absurdity of religion vexes the great man. Wilson doesn't mind spiritual religion but he rejects specialist creation theories which mean only one is right. He is the apostle of reason in every sense, with a twinkly humanity to everything he touches.
So this is not the place to start reading Wilson - Sociobiology and Consilience are. Try Origins, another excellent late Wilson book. He is one of our greatest thinkers and he will be missed. But he has left a legacy of discover and insight almost unmatched among public intellectuals and hard scientists.
About halfway through, though, I realised that I had misinterpreted the title of the book. This is a book about biology, what it means to be human and human evolution. It is a book that a biologist would write about creativity. Which really shouldn't be a surprise.
Wilson meanders somewhat through his subject matter - although the book is very short I think it could have benefited from a more rigorous edit, perhaps just to give it a bit more structure.
And in my view the author overreaches in his argument. His central thesis is that the humanities take too little account of human evolution in searching for the origins of creativity. He argues that it is only by combining science and the humanities in a 'third enlightenment' that we can properly account for the biological foundations of creative sparks in the humanities.
Yet such synthesis already occurs, particularly in the fields of neuroscience, philosophy of mind, social psychology and related areas. In my view Wilson's proposal isn't as radical and groundbreaking as he thinks it is.
Ultimately, though, this is still worth a read. For me, he is one of the most lucid writers alive on the nature and workings of evolution by natural selection. Where he links this to our seemingly innate desires for certain landscapes, visual art, music and stories, he brings real insight.
So the caveat here is that 'The Origins Of Creativity' isn't really much about the origins of creativity,( that probably being the most catchy title that they could come up with) It does start off discussing that idea, but develops into a somewhat discursive manifesto for a greater synthesis of the humanities and sciences, not really a new idea, of course. I do hesitate to disagree with someone who's about a thousand times smarter than I am, but one could argue that,rather than in the abstruse fields of endeavour Mr Wilson sees a a need of that synthesis - evolutionary biology, fr'instance - we could look at something like computer game design as an advanced form of humanities/science synthesis. There's a lot of that ivory tower thinking here, like his argument that all the money spent on religious worship should be diverted to enhancing creative progress. How would that work, then?
However, having said all that it's a book brimming with original ideas and curious facts about nature, and while it's somewhat rambling and inconclusive, it is indeed Surprisingly Readable.