Edward Osborne Wilson:
"The Origins of Creativity" (Liveright, 2017)


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Edward Wilson keeps disappointing. I would love to read a biologist's view on "The Origins of Creativity", but this is certainly not it. The title of the book is completely misleading. The book says nothing about the origins of creativity, and nothing in general about creativity. If you take Wilson literally, this book actually says that creativity does not exist: we are just programs executing a code. But the book is so devoid of any scientific proof that it is hard to say what it talks about. Mostly, i perceive it as an attack on the humanities, whom Wilson accuses of not being scientific enough. In other words, stop writing poetry and start studying some Einstein. The humanities, according to him, are "rootless in their explanations of causation and they exist within a bubble of sensory experience." And "they remain largely unaware and uncaring about the evolutionary events of prehistory that created the human mind, which after all created the history on which the humanities focus." One problem is that he shows very little knowledge of the humanities, which is a giant field. For example, when he discusses cinema, he picks two Indiana Jones films that don't make my top 500 list of best films of all times. It's like someone drawing conclusions on science after reading a medieval alchemist. The other problem is that he has nothing to blame on the sciences, only on the humanities, hence he misses the whole point of why people like C.P. Snow worried about the "two cultures". (For the record, i have been organizing art/science events all my life, such as the LASER series and the LAST festival). Pretty much the only thing i liked about this book is his definition of "creativity": "the innate quest for originality". Unfortunately, he does little to elaborate on this definition. You can find my own takes on this in my numerous essays. The book ends on an optimistic note that is not justified by what preceded it and that it is very puzzling for those of us who work in this field. Quote: "the blending of scientific and humanistic thought is increasing with time... the synergy between them is accelerating". No evidence is presented about this. I haven't seen Leonardos popping up everywhere, but maybe he has. I am not sure what exactly Wilson wants the humanities to do, but i fear that he simply wants them to disappear, to merge with the sciences, and accept the only form of creativity is the one that comes from academic careers like his.

See also:
Wilson, Edward Osborne: SOCIOBIOLOGY (Belknap, 1975)
Wilson Edward Osborne: THE DIVERSITY OF LIFE (Harvard University Press, 1992)
Wilson Edward Osborne: GENES, MIND AND CULTURE (Harvard Univ Press, 1981)
Wilson Edward-Osborne: CONSILIENCE (Knopf, 1998)
Wilson Edward-Osborne: "The Social Conquest of Earth" (Liveright, 2012)

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