Tonight I went to listen to E.O. Wilson talk about ÄùDarwin and the Future of BiologyÄù. Biology is most definitely not a strong interest of mine, but it was cool. It also reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read his book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.
He opened with what seemed like an elementary review of Darwin, his books, his journeys, and his influence; then on to biology as it is today and the two major approaches to biology: functional versus evolutionary, the how versus the why, the lab versus the field, the problem solvers versus the naturalists. (He wasn’t trying to paint them as warring factions, just equally valid methods that serve scientists with different interests and temperaments.) He also talked a bit about intelligent design and made the most basic, pragmatic, friendly critique I’ve heard yet: we just don’t need it. It’s a solution in search of a problem. He also did a good job of saying there’s no point in antagonizing or mounting a heavy offense against ID advocates.
Lastly, the dreaded Q&A afterwards. This one wasn’t too painful, but I recommend this as general advice: if you’re going to quote the speaker, at least *listen* and quote the speaker accurately. There is such a thing as a stupid question. I suppose when you get to be as old and wise as Wilson, you learn to be as generous and polite as he was tonight.