E. O. Wilson to save humanity from extinction, get rid of religion

[ Below is an excerpt, out of order, from New Scientist’s 21 Jan 2015 interview with E.O. Wilson “Religious faith is dragging us down“. The extinctions we cause will kill us too, says the sociobiology pioneer – the best thing would be to eliminate religions]

Why is biodiversity loss suicidal for humans?

The major theme of my upcoming book will be that we are destroying Earth in a way that people haven’t appreciated enough, and that we are eroding away the biosphere through species extinction, like the death of a thousand cuts.

I want to examine the new ideology of the anthropocene – namely those who believe that the fight for biodiversity is pretty much lost and we should just go on humanizing Earth until it is peopled from pole to pole; a planet by, of and for humanity. It sounds good, but it’s suicidal.

The biosphere is an extremely complex system, and razor thin: if you look at it from the side, from orbit, you can’t even see it with unaided vision. That’s where we live, and that’s what produced us, plastered on the surface of our planet. We were not just created separately in some manner and then lowered into the biosphere. Everything about us – our minds, our bodies – is conditioned to exist in those exact conditions created by our biosphere.

The beautiful equilibrium of the living world is a result of all the species, plants, animals and microorganisms around us. As it is eroded away, the living world is almost certainly going to reach a tipping point where its equilibrium is going to decay and unravel. And when that happens, the whole thing collapses – and we collapse with it.

JG: Why does our species seem to ignore scientific warnings about Earth’s future?

WILSON: I think primarily it’s our tribal structure. All the ideologies and religions have their own answers for the big questions, but these are usually bound as a dogma to some kind of tribe. Religions in particular feature supernatural elements that other tribes – other faiths – cannot accept. In the US, for example, if you’re going to succeed in politics, it’s a prerequisite to declare you have a faith, even if some of these faiths are rather bizarre. And what they’re saying is “I have a tribe”. And every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes. What’s dragging us down is religious faith.

The important thing is that it appears that humans, as a species, share a religious impulse. You can call it theological, you can call it spiritual, but humans everywhere have a strong tendency to wonder about whether they’re being looked over by a god or not. Practically every person ponders whether they’re going to have another life. These are the things that unite humanity.

[Our built-in] transcendent searching has been hijacked by the tribal religions. So I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths. But certainly not eliminating the natural yearnings of our species or the asking of these great questions.

The question I most want answered now is whether or not there’s life on other planets. I’ve just got to know!

Jason Grow (JG): Your new book, The Meaning of Human Existence, addresses a huge question. What inspired you to tackle it?
Wilson: I think it’s time to be audacious. The central questions of religion and philosophy are three in number: where do we come from, what are we and where are we going? We now have a pretty good picture of how humanity arose in Africa, what intermediate forms existed, the rate at which these forms evolved and the circumstances in which they evolved. So of those three great questions, we have most of the answer for where we come from. And in this book I take up the question: what are we? We’re starting to close in on that one. We need to know where we came from and what we are to have the self-understanding to sensibly plan where we’re going.

JG:  So will you examine humanity’s future next?

Wilson: I’m writing a trilogy. The first was The Social Conquest of Earth, which dealt with where we come from. The Meaning of Human Existence deals with what we are. And the final part, The End of the Anthropocene, will look at where we are going.

[ Religion is the main reason birth control and abortion are illegal or hard to get. Obviously one child per woman would be the most humane solution to declining energy and natural resources (see posts on population). Overpopulation has led to massive pollution of land, air, and water, the destruction of (rain)forests, biodiversity, fisheries, topsoil, clean water, and every other problem facing us.

What little control women have had over their lives and fates during this brief age of oil is likely to vanish after civilization collapses and  energy slaves are replaced with human slaves. Although many Hindu, Muslim, and other conservative religious women aren’t considered “slaves”, they often have no control over who they marry, family planning, careers, ability to travel, the chance to become educated.  Which is damn close to being slavery.  Getting rid of religion will never happen, we’re hardwired for it, and consequently the Biblical phrase “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” has the potential to drive us and most other species extinct.    Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  ]

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3 Responses to E. O. Wilson to save humanity from extinction, get rid of religion

  1. Constant Walker says:

    Humanity, as such, is a component of Earth’s immune system. “Civilization” presents in Earth’s Whole Living Arrangement as a Planet-wasting disease. It is the ‘process’ of invasive retro-viral tormenting entities by which the myriad physical expressions of Earth’s Natural Vitality are systematically degraded into the various sorts of degenerate “energy” upon which these entities subsist, and of which they consist….since everything that ‘eats’ is, of-necessity, what it eats.

    The immune-suppression regime of the “civilization” disease infects susceptible members of the Human component of Earth’s immune system with a “self,” a micro-copy of the tormenting entities’ own macro “Self.” This “self” displaces the Natural Person Humans are by-nature, isolating and alienating them from ‘the rest’ of Earth’s Living Arrangement….including the ‘others’ of their own virtual ‘kind.’ Thus “individual”-ized, the constituents of the virtual sub-species homo domesticus are easily turned against everything not their own too-precious “self.” Then, utterly dependent as they’ve become on degenerate “energy” for their own ‘survival,’ they serve the needs of the tormenting entities by systematically destroying the Living Arrangement in the vain pursuit of that toxic, corrosive, and addictive ‘stuff’ in all its ultimately lethal permutations.

    The current outbreak of the wasting disease began here around 12,000 Winters ago. It is now deep into its own terminal stage, in which the co-opted and corrupted Human components of Earth’s immune system, who so slap-happily enabled its ‘progress,’ are themselves now ‘redundant’….and doomed to much-sooner-than-later extinction….’death-row’ “prisoners of (their) own device,” with those in the “Hotel California” ‘cellblock’ in the vanguard….as they have so often been.

    Only a recovery, by our tame Human Sisters and Brothers, of sufficient Organic Integrity to begin fulfilling our given Function, has any chance at-all of altering the otherwise inevitable outcome of the wasting disease process here. The first step toward that must be getting over their own ‘case’ of the “self” sickness. Only then might those who do be able to coalesce naturally and spontaneously into the Free Wild Natural “Communities” (for lack of any better word in the co-opted and corrupted English language) of Free Wild Natural Persons that are our Natural Organic Form….and wherein alone resides the integrity essential to fulfillment of our Function.

    From here in Indian Country, the chances of that happening look like slim-to-none, though, to us surviving Free Wild Peoples of All Kinds. Most of our 7+ billion domesticated Human Relations virtually worship the wasting disease called “civilization”….even as its ‘process’ destroys them, along with ‘the rest’ of Earth’s Living Arrangement. E.O. Wilson is certainly correct in saying that a ‘pole-to-pole’ population of nothing but domesticated Humans just ain’t gonna happen.

    The “civilization

  2. Reg Morrison says:

    The factors that dictate our species’ evolutionary future are not cultural. They are exclusively thermodynamic.

    All of Earth’s life is constructed from Earthly molecules that have become semi-detached from the planet’s crust and are temporarily embedded in billions of biological forms that ebb and flow about the crust on tides of energy that gradually dissipate into the surrounding matrix of space.

    As a byproduct of this vast entropic system, any species that increases its energy intake will automatically increase its reproduction rate in order to dissipate that additional energy. Should that additional energy become ‘normal’ and consistent, the species will then multiply exponentially, resulting in a ‘plague’ of that species. However, since all plague growth is inherently exponential, plagues don’t last long and collapse quite automatically, thereby saving the planet’s biota from too much damage.

    This standard ‘boom-bust’ pattern is most evident in the rodent, rabbit and locust plagues that ‘irrupt’ when green feed abounds after good rains. Inevitably, those same ‘boom-bust’ evolutionary rules apply to all species, including ours.

    Our species irrupted into a global plague during the 19th and 20th centuries when we developed a vast array of complex machinery to multiply our muscle power. Fueled by fossil hydrocarbons, our growing technoculture launched a surge in food production that inevitably triggered a similar surge in human reproduction.

    This reproductive surge inflated our global population from less than 1 billion to more than 7 billion in just two centuries, with most of that explosive growth occurring during the last 100 years. In combination with our growing per capita consumption we became globally unsustainable as a species roughly 30 years ago when there were only about 4 billion of us on the planet.

    Thanks to our enlarged brains, nimble fingers and spectacular technology we have become the most biologically destructive plague that this planet’s biota has ever had to face.

    Not only does our population graph fit, with alarming precision, the standard profile of a mammal plague, there seems to be no ‘Special-Case’ escape clause in our evolutionary contract. Thermodynamics calls the evolutionary tune as usual, and our species dances to it via our consumptive cultures and our mystically based tribal belief systems.

    Our gross unsustainability is signalled most clearly by the biota’s accelerating extinction rate, the onset of anthropogenic global warming, and the acidification of our planet’s impoverished and rising seas, it hardly matters what we do now at a social or a cultural level. It seems certain that our goose is already well cooked.

    CONCLUSION: a swift extinction for our species would not only seem to be imminent and appropriate in an evolutionary sense, it would also appear to be thermodynamically unavoidable.

  3. Mark says:


    I concur that humans seem to be hard wired for spirituality, which usually ends up being expressed (make that controlled) via hierarchically organized religions.

    My wife gave me a book she thought I’d find of interest earlier this week: “From Dawn to Decadence 1500 to the Present, 500 years of Western Cultural Life” by Jacques Barzun. I am only on page 16, but so far the religious revolution theme seems to match the religion course I had way back when.