Gene Expression

Scientist Laureate? E.O. Wilson

This week’s Ask a ScienceBlogger:

Who would you nominate for Scientist Laureate, if such a position existed?…

E.O. Wilson. Wilson combines the skills of a serious researcher with literary grace and social/political prominence. With the passing from the scene of Carl Sagan I can’t think of any other great scientist who can compare. Yes, there are greater stars in the heavens such as Edward Witten, but none who burn so brightly for the delicate eyes of the common man.


  1. #1 Oran Kelley
    November 18, 2006

    But isn’t Wilson a bit too much of the arrogant scientific know-it-all?

    Stuff like Consilience–trying to explain stuff he barely understands (literature, cultural phenomena in general) by claiming explanatory priority for things he does understand (evolutionary biology) is precisely the sort of thing that (rightfully, imo) pisses people off about science.

  2. #2 razib
    November 18, 2006

    got a better candidate?

  3. #3 John Emerson
    November 18, 2006

    I would have nominated Wilson and Gould together, but Gould died.

  4. #4 dougjnn
    November 19, 2006

    Gould was in areas of thought that intersected with social policy, a Marxist ideologue, who picked selectively from scientific facts to support his preconceived human social verities — e.g. that “human equality is the contingent fact of history”.

    The reality of course is that human biologic equality either between individuals or between geographically long seperated groups is a myth with no basis in scientific fact. (Though humans are equal enough and we are easily interdependent enough that preferring a social rule that we should all be treated equally before the law for example makes plenty of sense.)

    Gould looked for facts that could be selectively used to support his basic world view, which he wasn’t remotely prepared to allow to fundamentally change. Hence in Mismeasure of Man he issues a wholly distorted and sometimes actually dishonest account of IQ testing based upon it’s early crudities, and ignores that most areas of science are repleat with early crude mistakes.

    E.O. Wilson in contrast was first and foremost an empiricist. His conclusions grew out of his own researches first of all, and then his immersion in those of others.

    Gould is an embodiment of what is wrong with social policy thought in the elite American academy today. Honest empiricism in things related to social policy takes a distinct backseat to their secular religion of radical egalitarianism, parsimony in this area of science be damned.

  5. #5 dougjnn
    November 19, 2006

    Razib said
    got a better candidate?

    No. EO Wilson’s an excellent choice.

    Though I think Steven Pinker has future potential.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.