The Anthropocene Bookshelf – Wilson Has a Point

Anchorage 4/20/16 – It appears that sometimes I am unable to do a daily post because I get stalled. I start a good rant and then I wonder if I’m on solid ground. Whatever triggers that doubt is pretty reliable, and once I work my way through the idea I was trying to get across morphs into something else, undoubtedly better.

So it was when I found myself agreeing with E.O. Wilson about technocrats and launched into my own attack. They’re such easy targets these days when we all know better than to leave things to the experts. My basic point was that the remains of technocracy are still very much a part of current scientific culture. I decided it wasn’t that simple and the post never got finished. I’ll get back to it at some point with less of a broad brush.

Now I have reached past the halfway point of Wilson’s “Half-Earth” and I understand that it is more hubris than technocracy that he is attacking – the hubris that thinks it understands ecosystems that it basically knows little about. To Wilson it’s obvious. He knows how little we know better than most. He’s a specialist in insects, little known enough as they are, but he’s gone ahead and learned a lot about microbes, which are barely known at all, and genetics, which turn out to be a whole other story, with genes and viruses hopping back and forth among species. And even when it comes to microbes, there is this whole other category of living organism known as archaea that probably existed before the cells we have been thinking of as animals. All this wonder and so little understanding. It is little wonder that Wilson concludes that the best thing is for us to just leave as much as we can alone until we understand enough to not destroy it as we try to study it. I’m at Chapter 15 of 21, so there’s plenty more to go.


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