Just Read: The Meaning of Human Existence

Exalted we are, risen to be the mind of the biosphere without a doubt, our spirits uniquely capable of awe and ever more breathtaking leaps of imagination. But we are still part of Earth’s fauna and flora, bound to it by emotion, physiology, and, not least, deep history. It is folly to think of this planet as a way station to a better world.

Picking up where The Social Conquest of Earth left off, EO Wilson continues to tell the story of humanity in The Meaning of Human Existence. With such a suggestive title, this book could very be about humanity’s destiny, and while there is certainly some discussion of that, of our potential as a species, this book feels to me largely concerned with what it means to be human from a variety of perspectives.

Although you may not come away with a sense of what our purpose is, reading this book is tremendously worthwhile, even (or especially?) if you’ve read The Social Conquest. The multifaceted narrative in The Meaning of Human Existence recalls and resonates strongly with Carl Sagan’s insightful views.

We are hampered by the Paleolithic Curse: genetic adaptations that worked very well for millions of years of hunter-gatherer existence but are increasingly a hinderance in a globally urban and technoscientific society. We seem unable to stabilize either economic policies or the means of governance higher than the level of a village.

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