This blog was inspired by the new E.O. Wilson book by the same name
What is the meaning of life? How many times have we heard that question? And how many answers are there? At least one for every sect, cult and/or religion in the entire world. Every organized group of humans has their own version of why we are here and this paragraph from the first chapter gives you an idea concerning Dr. Wilson’s point of view.
A majority of people prefer to interpret history as the unfolding of a supernatural design, to whose author we owe obeisance. But that comforting interpretation has grown less supportable as knowledge of the real world has expanded. Scientific knowledge in particular, measured by numbers of scientists and scientific journals, has been doubling every ten to twenty years for over a century. In traditional explanations of the past, religious creation stories have been blended with the humanities to attribute meaning to our species’ existence. The time has come to consider what science might give to the humanities and the humanities to science in a common search for a more solidly grounded answer than before to the great riddle of our existence.
To clarify, the purpose of this blogpost is not to stir up controversy among the various religious organizations. My purpose is to help us all focus on where we are right now and what we must do to survive as a species, regardless of how we got here in the first place.
I first learned about Wilson’s new book from perusing the Sunday Magazine in the New York Times last week. And already being a big fan of his, I decided to order the book from Amazon, where they also threw in a free audio version when I purchased the Kindle format. Here is Wilson’s statement in the Times article (about old masters) that caught my attention:
…When I began reading and thinking more broadly about the questions of what are we, where did we come from and where are we going, I was astonished at how little this was being done. I’ve come to appreciate that we’re wrecking the planet, especially in the living part of the planet. The public response and the intellectual response to that particular crisis have just been unacceptably weak.
Like Wilson, I too have been astonished at how little is being written about our grossly unsustainable lifestyle, particularly the way we feed ourselves. While he mentions that “we’re especially wrecking the living part of the planet,” I was a little disappointed that he never mentioned exactly what we must do to stop wrecking it.
Like so many other scholars, educators, scientists and leaders, he never mentions what I consider to be the elephant in the room—“We’re eating the wrong food!” That may be because, like almost everyone else, perhaps he truly believes that we actually “need” to eat some animal protein to be healthy.
But, considering his “big picture” view of the world and his love for the environment, I imagine that he would be open to the premise that our only chance for saving our civilization and our species is to make some radical changes in the way we feed ourselves. Why do I think that?
In August of 2012, I featured Wilson and fellow philosopher Wendell Berry in my blog entitled “Harmony” for the ages—from E. O. Wilson and Wendell Berry Here are a few Wilson quotes from that article:
On the importance of humans. 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.
Appreciating biodiversity. We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity. 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.
Back to Wilson’s book. The first paragraph of his last chapter (Alone and Free in the Universe), he summarizes his understanding of the “big picture” thusly:
What does the story of our species tell us? By this I mean the narrative made visible by science, not the archaic version soaked in religion and ideology. I believe the evidence is massive enough and clear enough to tell us this much: We were created not by a supernatural intelligence but by chance and necessity as one species out of millions of species in Earth’s biosphere. Hope and wish for otherwise as we will, there is no evidence of an external grace shining down upon us, no demonstrable destiny or purpose assigned us, no second life vouchsafed us for the end of the present one. We are, it seems, completely alone. And that in my opinion is a very good thing. It means we are completely free. As a result we can more easily diagnose the etiology of the irrational beliefs that so unjustifiably divide us. Laid before us are new options scarcely dreamed of in earlier ages. They empower us to address with more confidence the greatest goal of all time, the unity of the human race.
The Bottom Line. Regardless of your beliefs about how we got here, surely we must all agree with his final sentence regarding the greatest goal of all time. But my question is this, “How are we going to buy enough time to work on such an all-encompassing effort to unite the human race?” Yes, it needs to be done, but at our current rate of global depletion, we simply don’t have time to undertake, or to benefit from, such a complicated and controversial process.
As Dr. Stephen Emmott pointed out in TEN BILLION, we’re rapidly heading toward the collapse of our civilization well before the end of this century. But I still believe we have time to get it right and avoid that collapse—but ONLY if we immediately begin making radical changes in what we’re eating. That single step can buy us the time we need to address more complicated issues like overpopulation, the global economy based on maximizing the consumption of stuff and our dependence on finite fossil fuels that is driven by the first two.
- Purchase The Meaning of Human Existence on Amazon.
- Source article in the New York Times, Old Masters at the top of their game.
- My 1-17-15 post. Racing past environmental “tipping points” in 2015
- My 1-25-14 post. NOTHING is more Important than Sustainability!
- My 8-4-14 post. The ONLY viable pathway to SUSTAINABILITY
The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.
Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
- What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
- A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
- Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander.
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes. eCornell is now using our survey in their plant-based nutrition course. Check it out on your smartphone at eCornell.com/4Leaf-Survey.
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The best example where science and ‘religion’ meet, in my experience, is the view of a cell, one among 10-100 trillion of them, each doing their special thing. The complexity is infinite—in relative space, time and mass—yet is managed to be virtually. Even when things go wrong, there are mechanisms and response that correct.
Once we become conscious of this reality, we can either have faith that it will work right in the next instant or describe it best as we can by scientific language. But either way, we don’t need to invoke an anthropomorphic director to explain all this. We can never prove its existence. We can only observe this incredible handiwork, marvel at it and not disturb it any more than we have to at times. The default belief is simply observe it, marvel at it and wonder.
Here is a list of 82 athletes who have made changes. How many of them have you heard of, or their abilities? There are many current and older individuals that are not on the list–Venus and Serena Williams, and Martina Navratilova, tennis champions, and Murray Rose, Olympian swimmer, just to name a few. Their efforts show that it is possible to live in a more sustainable manner and still excel in various physical endeavors. It will take time to go through the list but may prove to be worth the effort. Save it and share it with others. http://www.greatveganathletes.com/
“If all mankind were to disappear . . .
What a f . . . d up world we live in. War, hunger, poverty, disease and Apple comes out with a $10,000 computer watch.
“If all mankind were to disappear . . . the quicker the better so that mother earth can begin to heal itself.
The only way change can happen is if calamity befalls mankind. And I’m sure the animals are rooting for calamity.
Wow. What a thought-provoking blog. Perhaps a healthy spirituality must evolve and harmonize with science. At the same time, we can look back to tradition – the original story of two stewards of a beautiful garden and its many living inhabitants. The danger is a certain fundamentalist fatalism. Underlying this literalism is the idea that it doesn’t matter how we treat the planet, because it’s all set in stone how the apocalyptic conclusion will come. Subdue the earth as it’s all going to pot anyway. It’s interesting that many people describe a certain spiritual boost with the decision to go plant-based. Perhaps it’s just the rush of having more energy and less sickness. But it would make sense that becoming a better steward and more compassionate would set us on the right path. There is such an awesome unity in the fact that a simple choice is healthy (really transformative) for humans, our world and other living things. Is that science or religion or does it even matter?