The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

Why did humanity exist? What is the meaning of our personal lives? This book will explore how we originated. It will also give direction on where we are going and why. Maybe poets and scientists will go beyond knowledge and imagination to discover the truth. People think that both humanity and individuals have a meaning. It all started out with sensory and nervous systems of early organisms and eventually developing to intention. Most decisions we make have meaning. We have the capacity to imagine different futures. At this stage, we can dream of having longer lives, having superior athletic ability etc. Why were we given 2 hands and 10 fingers? We are only answerable to ourselves. Self-understanding is the key.

Humanities, can to a great extent, explain our existence. We need to understand the entire biological and cultural evolution. What must science give to humanities? Complex societies have risen from ‘meaning’ and social condition. In the animal kingdom, some species rear the young in a way that ensures reproductive success. This is known as eusociality. There are not many species that practice this. The 19 known species that achieved it dominate the land. In order to practice eusociality, there needs to be someone to protect the nest and that to oversee the raising of additional generations. Early hunter-gatherers faced issues like competition vs co-operation. We needed to understand the intentions of others in order to survive. Our memories have improved and we can interpret many things, even humanities. The human brain has expanded in size over time. Survival and reproduction of the individual is known as inclusive fitness. Multi-level selection is also in play. We have to select within our same group and within other groups. We genuinely feel the need to belong to groups and define our personal identities with them. However, competition has been ever-present in societies. Humans are capable of greater imagination. However, we are bound by history and emotion. There is no pre-destination in life. Independence of thought is the key for survival.

Are we intrinsically good or bad? Or can be corrected so as to fall on the other side? Research show that we are both and are inherently conflicted. We are so because of biological evolution. Humans do have instincts which we can’t ignore. History comprises of the biological and cultural. In natural selection, the traits are prescribed in genes. Natural selection is present in all organisms. Multi-level selection has forged advanced social behavior in men. Research has shown that humans are very good at reading intentions of others. Another trait we have is to belong to groups. It confers a sense of superiority. People like to hang out with others to be similar to themselves. However, this leads to racism and religious bigotry. 3 million years ago, the first Homo sapiens appeared. The early humans were all vegetarians. ‘Individual selection promoted selfishness while group selection promoted virtue’. Hence, we are constantly conflicted.

Science and humanities have both risen from creative though. In the early 1600s, philosophy was the marrying of arts and the sciences. Science could not keep us with the Enlightenment thinkers. Science was in conflict with arts at that time. For a long time, science and humanities went in opposite ways. Enlightenment was stalled for about 200 years. Yes, it is necessary to unite the two again now. Scientists usually avoid words that sound emotional in nature. Their language use must be restrained. The artists uses metaphors, abstractions, distortion etc. We are a very curious species. Humans are anthropocentric, meaning that they we are fascinated about ourselves. We love stories, novels, gossip etc. Science is committed without the presence of religion. Science introduces the concept of continuum. There are many lone planets out in the Universe. Earth is not in the center of Universe. A continuum is the diversity of life in Earth. There are 300,000 species of plants on Earth. There are many other microorganisms that have yet to be discovered. Many types of waves are not visible to humans. We can only detect 20 to 2000 Hz of sound. We have a poor sense of smell. Humans are unconscious to certain kinds of stimuli. Humans are capable and we have tried to understand the unified theory of physics. Our aim is to continue understanding the Universe. Now, modern exploration is lot more challenging. We have to realize the dreams of the Enlightenment.

Earth relates to the Universe as the second segment of the left antenna of an aphid sitting on a flower petal in a garden in Teaneck, New Jersey, for a few hours this afternoon. – Edward O. Wilson

Humanities help to define our human condition. Scientific inventions are only 5 centuries old. Language, religious beliefs, cultures have all arose before that. Many languages are already on their way to extinction. Humanities are not hindered by life cycles. Greater investment on technology needs to be conducted for scientific research to accelerate. However, the humanities will continue to evolve. We have been trying to correct mutant alleles that cause hereditary disease. Genetic variation of our species is increasing. With more robots, what can humans do? We have to preserve our human nature. That is what makes us human.

Instinctive social behavior is very important. There will be co-operation and altruism every society. There are also favorable mutant genes. Natural selection in individuals and groups are in opposition. ‘Selfish members win within groups, but groups of altruists’ best groups of selfish members.’ Inclusive fitness treats the individual group as the unit of selection. However, the effects of inclusive fitness has not been measured. However, it might explain the differences in ant sizes. Males die after insemination. Hamilton created an inequality. ‘It said that a gene prescribing altruism, such as that of the heroic brother, will increase if the benefit in number of offspring to the recipient exceeds the cost in offspring to the altruist.’ However, they need to be closely related. Close kinship is very important. Kin selection is an important part of advanced social behavior. In 2010, I analyzed inclusive fitness and the concept failed to hold. Richard Dawkins was not happy with my work. Social intelligence plus group selection make us who were are.

We are a bizarre species. Our traits are narrow compared to the entire biodiversity. We won the grand lottery of human evolution. Humans are chemosensory poor. A lot of other animals use pheromones to communicate. Many animals have a range above our hearing and we can’t hear them. Many frogs are brightly colored to warn predators off them. However, we are unable to see ultraviolet light. Pheromones are released to only selected targets. It is extremely powerful and accurate. There is a need to make fine discriminations. Guard ants release alarm substances to warn to potential attacks to the nest. Ants are perhaps the most advanced pheromonal creatures. Their receptors are the most accurate. Pheromones can be discharged together to create signals. Some plants also release pheromones. Humans are too big to understand how insects work. Almost 99% of the species are too small to receive our attention. Pheromones would have been too slow for us.

No one dares to approach angry ants. Each one of them will bite and sting. There are no clear leaders among the ants. Ants are universal predators. The driver ant colony is a typical super organism. It looks like an amoeba from far. All the ants are altruistic to one another. The scouts can leave an odor trail for food. All working ants are female. The job of the male is just to reproduce. Some ants eat their dead and the injured ones. When ants rescue another injured one, they are planning to eat it. Older ants will be the first one to attack a predator and form the first line of defense. Ants that are infected by parasites will not encourage others near it. Many ants have achieved a great deal despite having so small brains. Ants really dazzle us with their complexity. Insects work on instinct while humans transmit culture. We revolt against slavery.

It is possible that there is life elsewhere. Microbes were born very early after the creation of the Earth. Some of the other planets are of a good distance from their star to support possible life. Life will always consist of microbes. Some of these microbes can withstand extreme temperatures and PH. Humans should probe Jupiter and Mars to find out more. Liquid organisms might be there. Humans long for adventure. Kepler telescope has the ability to detect light. If we happen to detect life, we would want to read their genetic codes. Some bacteria can travel through space without dying.

By examining organisms on Earth, we can predict the behavior of intelligent extraterrestrial organisms. A lot of organisms didn’t have the required brain power to evolve high intelligence. Humans were indeed very lucky. However, the vast expanse of the Universe suggests that it is possible to find intelligent E.T. The author predicts that they will be land and not aquatic dwellers and will be large in size. They will also be biologically audiovisual. Their heads will be big and distinct. They would have jaws and teeth. There is also a chance that they would have multiple legs. Morality will exist in their community. Humans will not let robots completely take over us.

Humans need to try and preserve biodiversity as much as possible. Biodiversity can be measured by the number of species. There are still many undiscovered microorganisms. We are too slow to detect new species. Many think that taxonomy is outdated. Knowing the species is important as biodiversity is dynamic. Many species go extinct without being discovered. Fungi is important for the production of antibiotics. Habitat loss is the leading agent of destruction. Hawaii is a capital where biodiversity has declined rapidly. Pollution also destroys species and population growth also can damage species. Over-harvesting is also a big threat to biodiversity. Humans need to do a lot more to preserve biodiversity.

How might the mystery of human existence be solved? Humans rely on emotion and logic for survival. Our self-image has been distorted by biases, misconceptions and superstitions. Human behavior was thought to be entirely cultural in nature. Now, scientists believe human behavior has to do with genetics. This is the nature vs nurture concept. We are guided by stimuli and instinct. Some humans have in-born phobia. People develop phobias from bad experiences. Phobias take a long time to be removed. Phobias are an example of prepared learning and remains part of human instinct. In general, humans love to gossip. Humans were also made for music. Research revealed that people enjoy living near savannahs and water bodies.

Rapture can be achieved by music, religion and hallucinogenic drugs. There is an intimate relationship between music and religion. Research reveals that a religious instinct might exist. Religion largely stems from philosophy. Spirituality can bridge the real and supernatural. Deities are almighty and can perform miracles. We like to attribute certain events to God. Religion teaches men to be righteous. Tribalism leads to people doing bad things. Tribalism results when people think their religion is superior to others. Having faith can confer psychological benefits. It provides a sense of identity within the religious community. Seneca felt that religion is regarded by ordinary people as true, by the wise as false and by rulers as useful. Religion has also led to tribalism and the struggles between the Shiites and Sunnis, for instance. It is not okay to question the creation myth of another’s religion. Humans need to escape from demons and tribal gods in order to thrive.

Most humans leave the concept of free will to philosophers. Conscious thought is the key for success. They have made little headway in the analysis of consciousness. Neuroscientists and philosophers are always in conflict. Scientists are currently trying to map activity of every genome in real time. This will have implications for medicine. Consciousness increased during the process of evolution. The free will is closely linked with the self and is difficult to separate from consciousness of the mind. Does free will exist?

We are completely alone in the universe and we are free. Human existence is largely explained by humanities and science. We are innately dysfunctional. Now, our hunter-gatherer existence might hinder us. Now, we tear down our natural environment and affect biodiversity. Sometimes, it’s hard to care for other species or people in other groups. Humans are always internally conflict. Some very religious people are ignorant to how evolution came about. Scientific research will decline over time. Humanities define the soul of humans. Science and the arts are complementary.



One thought on “The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

  1. Reason , purpose and answering such why questions like: why have we got ten fingers is not the realm of science. These are human thoughts conceived in the human mind.
    The laws of physics have no purpose or any moral consciousness. l
    Likewise natural selection ,which is the explanation of organic complexity, has no purpose or end in view. Richard Dawkins calls selection the blind watchmaker an apt name for this natural process
    Humanity exists in its own moral sphere in a hostile amoral universe.

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