As a recipient of many fellowships, awards and honours (including two Pulitzer prizes), and as an American entomologist, biologist, naturalist and writer who has specialized for many decades in ecology, evolution and sociobiology, who has been known as the father of “sociobiology” and “biodiversity”, and who coined the term “biophilia”, Edward Osborne Wilson summed up during a public discussion between himself and James Dewey Watson (an American molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist) moderated by NPR correspondent Robert Krulwich on 9 September 2009 in a sold-out event at Sanders Theatre of the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the following sobering words to serve as a stark warning for humanity still entrenched in and enslaved by the primitive nature and shackling influence of emotions, the vulnerability of which has been rendered even more acute by the ascents of institutional power and technological prowess that are contributing to worsening existential crisis, unless successfully (re)mediated by philosophical reflections of and rational inquiries into the origin, identity and destination of humankind:
Will we solve the crises of next hundred years? asked Krulwich. “Yes, if we are honest and smart,” said Wilson. “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.” Until we understand ourselves, concluded the Pulitzer-prize winning author of On Human Nature, “until we answer those huge questions of philosophy that the philosophers abandoned a couple of generations ago—Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?—rationally,” we’re on very thin ground.
When carefully understood and appreciated, the messages conveyed in Wilson’s concluding statements can indeed be simultaneously pessimistic, prophetic, profound and poignant. There are serious reasons and implications for their being construed by the most thoughtful and perceptive amongst our fellow human beings as such, at least to the extent that emotion, the most intimate aspect about human existence, has been brought to deep reckoning by the unflattering realization or blunt revelation that although emotions and heuristics have facilitated adaptive responses to environmental challenges and provided advantageous solutions to ancient and recurring problems facing our ancestors living in prehistory, they can readily become overwhelmed by and ill-suited to the hectic pace, facile trend, incessant change, fast consumption, vast complexity and heightened interconnectedness of modern life coupled with its global nature and ecological impact.