Heard on Campus: E.O. Wilson at the 2012 Colloquium on the Environment

“What is the meaning of life? Most of the history of philosophy is strewn with the wreckage of theories of the conscious mind. By default, therefore, the solution to the great riddle, if it has an answer, has been left to science. What science has already defined in part is the following. There is a real creation story, and it is not a myth. People are innately conflicted because they have to deal with the products of both individual level selection learning toward selfishness and the product of group selection leaning toward yielding for the group and sacrificing for the group. In a way, it’s an oversimplification, individual level selection tends to produce sin and group level selection tends to produce virtue. So in the end, you can say we are a conflicted species, we know we are a conflicted species. And it’s a terrible mess, and yet we cannot, it’s unstable. We move back and forth between the impulses of these two opposing forces. And we try to adapt ourselves according, and we will never go into the extremes.”

-- Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino Research Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard, speaking to a capacity crowd April 16 on Penn State's University Park campus as part of the eighth annual Colloquium on the Environment Speaker Series. Wilson is one of the world’s leading voices for conservation of global biodiversity and one of the most influential and accomplished biologists of the last half-century. A recording of talk is available online at http://www.psiee.psu.edu/news/colloquium/wilson.asp.

Last Updated April 18, 2012