Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Creation by E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson is an evolutionary biologist and avid conservationist, and writes this book in the form of a letter to a Southern Baptist pastor (the demographic, that is, not an actual pastor). Through detailed examples of the beauty of the natural world, and a history of the goals, failures and successes of the conservation movement, he aims to bridge the gap between scientific and religious perspectives of the environment in order to raise support for his cause, and, in that, he is very likely to fail.

Wilson maintains a polite and respectful tone throughout the entire book (full title: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth), constantly drawing comparisons between his own beliefs and that of the Southern Baptist pastor in the first few chapters, using his Alabama childhood as a sort of common ground. But, as his letter continues, he delves deeper into esoteric specifics of evolutionary biology that most BIO 101 students would find terribly boring, let alone a deeply religious minister who probably has little education in such a specialized subfield of science. When reading this book, it becomes increasingly obvious that Wilson wrote The Creation for a very particular audience, which, unfortunately, was not his target one.

That being said, for me, the book was wonderful. It was full of exactly the kind of case studies of evolution and conservation that get me giddy enough to bother anyone around me to read a page or two. For instance: did you know that our bodies contain more bacterial cells than human cells? I would have to read this book again to absorb all the little factoids it contains, and I likely will some time soon. In the end, Wilson didn't make any new allies, or win converts to his movement, but wrote a book full to bursting of fascinating information on organisms, species and ecosystems that I, and fellow environmentalists, evolution enthusiasts and biology majors, will undoubtedly love.

No comments: