The Meaning of Human Existence

Finalist, National Book Awards 2014 for Nonfiction

Meaning of Human Existence
ISBN 9780871401007
Liveright Publishing Corporation/ W.W. Norton & Company
Edward O. Wilson

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How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? Where are we going, and perhaps, the most difficult question of all, “Why?” In The Meaning of Human Existence, biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called “the rainbow colors” around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey—from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends.

Wilson posits that we, as a species, now know enough about the universe and ourselves that we can begin to approach questions about our place in the cosmos and the meaning of intelligent life in a systematic, indeed, in a testable way and that humanity holds a special position in the known universe. The human epoch that began in biological evolution and passed into pre-, then recorded, history is now more than ever before in our hands. Yet alarmed that we are about to abandon natural selection by redesigning biology and human nature as we wish them, Wilson soberly concludes that advances in science and technology bring us our greatest moral dilemma since God stayed the hand of Abraham.

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The Meaning of Human Existence addresses the most pressing issues of the 21st century, as it gently suggests ways we might move forward without destroying ourselves and the planet. Whether contemplating how to preserve biodiversity, the potential human encounter with extraterrestrials or the existential problems posed by religious and political fanaticism, Wilson’s self-deprecating tone disguises a piercing, at times shocking argument that will spark productive dialogue among scientists and non-scientists, experts, and general readers alike.