Thursday, February 1, 2018

Natural Selection and Creativity

More on Wilson's Creativity

In his interesting presentation of how the human brain and many aspects of social biology came about Wilson contends that "Natural selection as grand master of evolution means that humanity was not planned by any super-intelligence, nor was it guided by any destiny beyond the consequences of our own actions." [page 103 of E. O. Wilson, 2017, The Origins of Creativity, Liveright, New York.]

On page 6, he had said "Scientific explanations of organic life, including human life, routinely entail both proximate and ultimate causes."  He contrasts that to the humanities attempting only proximate explanations and leaving ultimate cause to various entities, without much attention to the why of our existance.

 On page 100 he says "Because of group selection, and its obvious consequences in the evolution of human social behavior, there is reason to suppose that the better angels of our nature need not be drilled into us under the threat of divine retribution, but are instead biologically inherited."  He goes on to further recognize our amazing place in nature.

What Wilson Misses

God, as the Ultimate Cause, can take the chance events of natural selection, that we see as the operative principle of evolution, and use them to produce the remarkable human species.  There are obvious bits and pieces of our evolutionary development based on various pre-human ancestors.  But our disproportionately large brain has the capacity for performance well beyond what most of us achieve.

Wilson sees the humanities, language, and presumably the cumulative written record, as part of the cause of the gulf between us and the rest of the natural living world.  He sees the good that results.  I hope he comes to see that the good is God's results.

It is very difficult, for finite beings such as ourselves, not to underestimate the power, love, and majesty of the one infinite being, God.  It is very much worth the effort to try to know God better.  God already knows and loves each of us more than we do ourselves.  It is awesome to consider the immensity of the universe and amazing diversity of life in a drop of pond water.  I don't think God needs our input on how the world should be run.  But we should make more effort for properly caring for our planet.

Joe Engemann      Kalamazoo, Michigan          February 1, 2017

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Evolution of Creativity


Wilson is a remarkably productive biologist.  His intensive early studies of ants helped him found the biological subdiscipline we call “sociobiology” with a 1975 book by that name.  But the social behavior of ants is hard-wired into their small brains and not a particularly good model for social behavior of humans.  In searching for the evolutionary roots of social behavior, ants and humans diverged from their most recent common ancestor in the Pre-Cambrian, so answers to our creativity are limited to very fundamental aspects.  His book is fascinating and worth reading for the spectacular grasp of related facts and opinions, especially the role of language in creativity.

[Wilson, Edward O.  2017.  The Origins of Creativity.  Liveright Publishing Corporation.  New York – London.  A division of W.W. Norton & Co., New York.  243 pp.]

On page 68 Wilson describes his brief brush with Christianity and baptism.  Creativity seems to be tied to the humanities, especially language.  On pages 75-77 he expresses concern that organized religion siphons off funds that would be better spent supporting the humanities.  On page 194 he notes that “it needs to be recognized, and talked about more frankly, that for philosophy the elephant in the kitchen is organized religion.”  -because “the understanding of the human condition often foretold by the blending of science and religion is inhibited by the intervention of supernatural creation stories” of the separate tribes.

Dr. Wilson doesn’t have too many years left to get back to that old-time religion that inspired him as a fourteen-year-old about seventy-five years ago.  Perhaps this time he can apply his appreciation for the humanities to extract the good from the stories and traditions of the monotheistic religions.  It is not too late to develop a warm relationship with Jesus.

Joe Engemann      Kalamazoo, Michigan     January 24, 2018