The two-time Pulitzer Prize winning scientist Edward Wilson will speak at Oberlin today and Saturday at both a Mead-Swing Lecture and a Friends of the Library dinner.
One of Wilson's most significant scientific discoveries was that ants communicate through the release of pheromones. His findings opened up a new field of study in biochemistry.
As a writer, Wilson is known for his nonfiction books On Human Nature, published in 1979, and The Ants in 1991, for which he received Pulitzer Prizes. Consilience, his most recent book, calls for an intellectual effort to prove the world is unified into a small number of fundamental natural laws.
In 1996, Time magazine named Wilson one of America's most influential people.
There has been controversy as a result of Wilson's work. On Human Nature and Sociobiology, published in 1975, argued that social behavior such as warfare or sexual relations are largely shaped by basic genetic characteristics, which can be explained by biochemistry, which in turn can be reduced to the laws of physics. Wilson argues that human life is a physical phenomenon, a result of the same principles which govern animal and plant life. In response, many social scientists felt that the importance of their fields was being trivialized in favor of physics and mathematics. Wilson's work is so controversial that when he tried to address a scientific conference in 1978, protesters doused him with ice water.
In a June 1998 Time magazine article, sociologist Allan Mazur of Syracuse University said "Social phenomena have properties of their own and do not simply arise out of the interactions of individuals, much less those individuals' neurons or genes. To even think that you could approach sociological issues - such as how to take the good life and spread it to the rest of the world - by analyzing individuals is ridiculous."
The Friends of the Library, the Mead-Swing Lectureship, the President's Office and the Biology Department are sponsoring Wilson's visit.
Wilson spoke at a lecture at noon today in Finney Chapel. There will be an informal discussion with faculty and students at 4:35 today in Kettering 11. Wilson will sign books at the Co-op Bookstore at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 and will give a slide talk in the Root Room at 8 p.m. the same day.
Edward Wilson: World famous scientist Edward Wilson will make several appearances this weekend, including a book signing Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. and a slide talk at 8 p.m. the same day. (photo courtesy College Relations)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
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