The Big Questions Small Creatures Provoke

The life’s work of biologist Edward O. Wilson leads even the most solipsistic among us to a deeper curiosity about — if not religious faith in — our interdependence.

Wilson was among the first biologists of the 20th century to propel the scientific community forward by illuminating the interdependent systems of the smallest yet most profound creatures around us. All along, he’s brought the rest of us scientifically-challenged beings with him by carefully, elegantly deciphering central human truths and helping us understand the large (and small) scale implications.

For example, if we were to vacuum up all the bugs in the world that annoy us, guess how long the human species would have left on earth? Months.

At’s second annual TRANS4M conference, yesterday, President Clinton shared with a group of us how Wilson’s teachings have inspired perspectives on the world’s greatest challenges that enabled him to imagine new solutions and act on them.

On their own, Wilson’s books (and I’m barely an inch through his vast oeuvre) gift us dramatic narratives, the kind that have made Discovery Channel so successful. Like watching a show on Discovery, it’s our innate ability to extrapolate what we learn from a mind like Wilson’s and apply it to our unique areas of focus that make it all matter more and mean something, personally.

So I’m diving in here — already learning from the ants, the worms, the bees.  It is fun but it makes it hard to shut off your mind and pretend to not want to grapple with the big questions small creatures provoke…





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