STARRED REVIEW
October 03, 2017

Where stories and science meet

By Edward O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson’s rich and provocative The Origins of Creativity singles out creativity—expressed in the stories we tell, the movies we watch, the books we write—as humanity’s defining trait; its “ultimate goal,” he points out, is “self-understanding.”

Share this Article:

Almost 20 years ago, in his book Consilience, the prize-winning biologist E.O. Wilson argued for the unity of all human knowledge. In between writing about ants and island biogeography, Wilson has turned out eloquent and forceful works that compel us to reconsider the origins of human nature, the place of humans in the biosphere and the role of humans in preserving biodiversity in our world.

E.O. Wilson’s rich and provocative The Origins of Creativity singles out creativity—expressed in the stories we tell, the movies we watch, the books we write—as humanity’s defining trait. He locates the origins of creativity in hunter-gatherer societies 1,000 millennia ago when individuals would gather around the campfire to tell stories to entertain themselves or to forge bonds with others in the circle. Focusing on innovation, language, metaphors and irony, Wilson traces the ways that creativity serves as common ground for science and the humanities. The two modes of inquiry still have work to do, for the humanities must still strive to understand the deep genetic origins of consciousness, and science must continue its quest to understand the ancient values and feelings that make us human. He urges a “third enlightenment” in which we recognize that science and the humanities permeate each other. “The act of discovery,” he writes, “is completely a human story and scientific knowledge is the absolutely humanistic product of the human brain.”

Regaling us with stories of his meetings with Nabokov, his encounters with movies that illustrate deep human archetypes (the hero, the quest), and his preferences for the beauty of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby over the social gossip of Jonathan Franzen’s novels, Wilson movingly illustrates the dynamic character and the depths of the creative process.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

The Origins of Creativity

The Origins of Creativity

By Edward O. Wilson
Norton
ISBN 9781631493188

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.