E .O. Wilson, the great evolutionary biologist, was in conversation with Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific’ (a little gem of a series)
He discussed his early years (from age 8!), discoveries, and his ideas on how Darwinian natural selection works in creative tension between individual selection (the self gene variety) and group selection (which many biologists dispute). Fascinating stuff.
In reference to Darwin, he said …
“the man was impossible, he was always right”.
HUMANITY & BIODIVERSITY
In the latter part of this wonderful programme, Jim Al-Khalili steered the conversation to Ed Wilson’s concerns about biodiversity and the impact that humanity is having on it.
For those of you who may be unable to access the BBC iPlayer or a download of the programme, I wanted to share his words, which were so powerful and insightful I felt compelled to transcribe them (my punctuation, because this was a mesmerising stream of thought):
”Humanity has palaeolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like power … now that’s an extremely dangerous combination” …
“We are by instinct related closely to the survival of our distant ancestors by a driving need to strike nature as hard as we could and to draw as much as we could from it, and we haven’t lost that at all;
And we now come to a higher level recognition that we struck too hard and too far and we are threatening the world that we first entered so aggressively and so successfully in Africa;
And we’ve somehow got to pull back our instincts to exploit and subordinate and convert to our immediate welfare because if we take too much more of the Earth’s biodiversity we render the biosphere unstable;
We could in the worst circumstances reach a tipping point in which the whole thing collapses, and we with it.”
Humbling and thought provoking. Nothing to add.