I received a very supportive email from a man who noted that I had called the writing an editorial, when it was an op-ed piece. I thanked him for his comments and the correction.
I noticed that the email was from Hungary. I guess what is said in Gregg County doesn’t stay in Gregg County.
Others, real biologists, have chimed in on the weakness — or should I say “wokeness” — of an “asinine hit job.” I don’t need to go there, but I would like to go back to Wilson.
In an interview, Wilson was asked about the people who felt strongly about his biological and scientific views, which can best be described as reductive materialism. In other words, he believed that matter and energy were all there were, that there was no supernatural stuff or activity, and that we can understand the world by reducing complex activity to simpler levels of explanation.
This seemed to work quite well with ants and termites. He often said that communism was a great idea — for ants. He also knew how very far we were from understanding human behavior, though he hoped for a “consilience” of science and the humanities.
He did not believe in God or a supernatural realm, but he wasn’t one of the “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens who have heaped scorn on religion.
In fact, Wilson gave credit to his Baptist upbringing for shaping some important and valuable things about his character — his independence of mind and his passion for learning the truth.
He said that despite their difference, he was happy to work with Christians to preserve the natural world, or “Creation” as he called it.
This wording struck me. I also call nature “Creation.” The religious overtones are intentional. Some of us have had experiences of life on this planet as a manifestation of something precious and sacred. Wilson wanted to work with anyone, including people of faith, who shared this reverence.
We can meet nature both in wild and in cultivated places — my brother does both. He lives in a rural area near Lufkin and is enthusiastic about his garden and about his harvest of fish and game from, as he sees it, God’s bounty.
As somebody who lives in a city and reads a lot, I need reminders to get out and about.
I start my days with poetry, and have been reading the verse of Wendell Berry. He writes simply, of the joys he gets from walking his fields and woods, watching the river flow from the windows of his house, feeling rooted in his land, in his marriage, and in his friendships.
I really ought to have a garden, but I don’t. What I do have is a greenbelt right out my back yard, with a three-and-a-quarter mile loop that my wife and I have been walking the whole time of our marriage.
So we went out again on a cool January day, walking familiar trails and seeing the creek and ponds, the live oak and mesquite, the greenery shriveled by our first hard freeze. We walked over rough ground, limestone that was once in caves, and past a little rise filled with fossil shells from when this area was underwater, 70 million years ago.
I always promise to keep my eyes open; inevitably I fall into reverie. I think of time, of change, and of Creation. E.O. Wilson would have nodded, searching for ants.