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The Big Answer


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Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

a book by Edward O. Wilson

(our site's book review)

Consilience means the unity of knowledge. It strives, as do some generalist synthesists like the Tofflers, for holistic, ecological, systems knowledge of the world.

One subject touched on is Freud’s Oedipal complex. New evidence strongly favors dumping Oedipal theory and adopting the ideas of Westermarck instead. The Westermarck effect says that the human brain is programmed by heredity to have no sexual interest in those whom you knew intimately during the earliest years of your life. It’s why mother-son incest is so rare and kibbutz peers don’t have sex with one another. A great deal of anecdotal evidence from other cultures also supports his idea. On the other hand, Freud’s best support for his Oedipal theory is the amount of incest that actually occurs in this world. But since the vast majority don’t do it and instead obey the dictates of the Westermarck effect, the latter is now a more credible theory.

Maslow disparaged fundamentalists’ ideas about original sin and mankind born sinful and evil
Maslow disparaged fundamentalists’ ideas about original sin and mankind born sinful and evil


The fundamentalists’ ideas about original sin and mankind born sinful are unadulterated poppycock
The fundamentalists’ ideas about original sin and mankind born sinful are unadulterated poppycock

Freud’s theory has always supported the fundamentalists’ ideas about original sin and mankind born sinful—at least in their minds. Maslow rightly found such an idea silly at best, and Freud had little time for religion of any kind, but the Westermarck effect undermines the idea of anyone being born in sin. In fact, if anything, it’s the opposite, since the theory supports humans being born with an innate incest prevention mechanism. Wilson also sees social taboos in effect that reinforce the hereditary programming.

Freud’s Oedipal complex should be dumped in favor of the Westermarck effect
Freud’s Oedipal complex should be dumped in favor of the Westermarck effect

He discusses the disunity and failure of vision experienced by social scientists. And he looks at the way social engineering in general and Social Darwinism specifically—courtesy of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and other such jerks—was endorsed by misguided social scientists.

He bewails cultural relativism, which leads to political multiculturalism, identity politics, and—worst of all—political correctness. No culture, idea, artifact, cultural practice or child-raising tactic is better than any other; they’re all simply different from each other, say the relativists. (See A No-Fault Holocaust.) Whether one concurs with such foolish naïveté or not, one thing is positive: some cultural practices are more effective, humane and in harmony with human nature than others. Some are more ecologically sound.

“The main thrust of the consilience worldview . . . is that culture and hence the unique qualities of the human species will make complete sense only when linked in causal explanation to the natural sciences.” Carl Sagan dovetailed with this approach in his Cosmos series and his book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom,” says Wilson. We need synthesists desperately. Wilson is such a natural scientist. And the Tofflers are such social scientists/futurists. We like to think our website is holistic, synthesistic, and wise. Judge for yourself.

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom
We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom


Population growth can justly be called the monster on the land
Population growth can justly be called the monster on the land


The Pope needs to rethink the idea that covering the earth with a layer of squirming humanity twenty feet deep will demonstrate the 'glory of God' (rather than the stupidity of humans)!
The Pope needs to rethink the idea that covering the earth with a layer of squirming humanity twenty feet deep will demonstrate the 'glory of God' (rather than the stupidity of humans)!

Population growth can justly be called the monster on the land. . . . The common aim must be to expand resources and improve the quality of life for as many people as heedless population growth forces upon Earth . . .” He discusses the Rwanda catastrophe—war, starvation, displacement, disease, etc. It happened because of overpopulation, and that in turn happened because of better health care and improved food supply. Women were averaging eight children apiece. This type of irresponsible carelessness often exacts a price on those who engage in it. If cultures cannot manifest the slightest shred of ecological wisdom, they will—and do—pay. The reductionistic approach of curing Rwandan diseases and increasing their food supply without any concomitant sociocultural or political measures, systems perspective, or ecological awareness illustrates the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm gone mad. And: “Rwanda is a microcosm of the world.”

“We are entering a new era of existentialism . . . [in which] only unified learning, universally shared, makes accurate foresight and wise choice possible.” This is Third Wave, Tofflerian futurist-think as well as common sense.