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The Origins of Creativity

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  762 ratings  ·  123 reviews
In this profound and lyrical book, one of our most celebrated biologists offers a sweeping examination of the relationship between the humanities and the sciences: what they offer to each other, how they can be united, and where they still fall short. Both endeavours, Edward O. Wilson reveals, have their roots in human creativity—the defining trait of our species.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Liveright (first published October 2017)
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Tonstant Weader
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have argued more than once that the advice to “write what you know” is not very sound. After all, where would science fiction be if everyone followed that rule? When it comes to nonfiction, though, I think it applies. Edward O. Wilson is an esteemed scientist and deservedly so. He has written over thirty books and hundreds of papers and he knows a lot, but nonetheless, in The Origins of Creativity he clearly wanders far past his expertise and it shows in the somewhat shambolic organization and ...more
mara deen
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve always seen creativity as the most valuable trait that humans possess. Unfortunately, biases led to a widening schism between sciences and humanities, which is also quite limiting when we subconsciously categorize humans and put labels on their personalities – more into sciences can’t get mixed with more into creative things. In “The Origins of Creativity” Edward O. Wilson is trying to show the deep connection between science and creativity, which – given his perspective – don’t only intert ...more
Ramnath Iyer
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Struggling to stay on message

This is a curious book. It is titled “The Origins of Creativity” - a hefty topic. It is also, at 250 odd pages, not a weighty book, and therefore it doesn’t come as a surprise that the author appears to dive right into why humans are unique, and why that makes them uniquely creative.
But somewhere soon after setting off on this path, he takes turn into a by lane and from there on just wanders along. What starts out as history then becomes a series of comments express
Gary Moreau
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, a well-known and respected naturalist, evolutionary biologist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and former Harvard professor, after noting that science has come to greatly exceed the humanities in popular interest and funding, argues that the two disciplines should be combined. That, he argues, would extend the reach of science and correct the alleged myopia of the humanities.

The book is skillfully written and Wilson is obviously well qualified to discuss both fields of study. And while the co
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
If I may, 2.5 stars.

While I have no doubt that the brilliant founder of sociobiology, is indeed a profound thinker with a wide grasp of knowledge on a great variety of issues, in this particular text he trailed on presenting the reader with the ramblings of a well-educated scientist rather than of a first-rate composer of complex ideas. I know for a fact that in his prime E.O Wilson started both the scientific world and some of the humanities with the contention that a set of behaviors, like an
Steve Wiggins
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rare is the scientist who writes as well as Edward O. Wilson. As I mention on my blog post on the book (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World) Wilson strangely calls out creation myths as the problem with religion. Otherwise the book is a strong argument that sciences and humanities are both necessary to save our world. Yes, there is an apocalyptic urgency to this. Let me back up a moment.

Wilson is a biologist. He believes science explains our world but the humanities give it value. Creativity
May 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Stven by: library
I disagree with the author's premises, so I'm going to present my argument.

"Creativity is the unique and defining trait of our species..." No, it's not. We have observed creativity many times in other species. Tool-making monkeys and apes. Song-making birds and whales. Evasive tactics by insects. Fight and flight tactics by hunter and prey.

"...and its ultimate goal, self-understanding." This is so obviously speculation that no counterargument is called for. It shouldn't be asserted as fact.

Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Five discs worth of pablum read by an insipid reader. I did learn a few things but paid a heavy price for expanding my knowledge. What ever there was of interest was left crammed into my cortices by a pummeling of pusillanimous repetition of vague opinions masquerading as sagacity and irretrievably inaccessible beneath layers of the author's self invested aggrandizement.

I am glad he had a life time of fun looking for new ants but the pursuit of these colonizing wonders seems to have only pointe
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I am always curious to see what Dr. Wilson has to say in his increasingly ambitious discussions of science and society. By looking at the tiny world of ants, he has been reflecting on our place in the planet and, sadly, considering if we’re going to have any future as species. He is one of the most intelligent writers out there, and he doesn’t disappoint, although perhaps he takes off in a few wild tangents here and there.

The issue of human creativity, and furthermore—or further away—the confro
Kent Winward
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Two major things struck me from this book. First the concept that at some point, there is a tipping point in evolution between what might misleadingly be called "group selection" and "individual selection." As I understand it, the process of natural selection is going to favor replication and survival and depending on the extent of sociality in the species, genetic changes and natural selection will favor either the group or the individual. Humans are paradoxically and maddeningly somewhere in t ...more
Patchogue-Medford Library
Jeffrey Bairstow once said that good writing is clear thinking made visible. Edward O. Wilson’s The Origins of Creativity is full of compelling jewels and gems of wisdom. Dr. Wilson is clearly the polymath, pulling examples from everywhere from film and pop culture, to biology, earth and social sciences, as well as his specialty of entomology. His ideas are brilliant. The problem is making them clear and visible. I can easily imagine that a respected Harvard scientist is fully capable of clear t ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
I read this as an ARC.
Parts of this book would have been worth a fourth star, but it simply rambles too much. Rather than focus on the theme of the title, this is more of a set of vaguely related essays on a wide variety of topics related to human culture and its development. In addition, Wilson sometimes feels like he's editorializing on odd points, without quite explaining his viewpoints. Nothing horrible, just odd when it happens.
It's a quick read, and the individual chapters were very intere
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one will require a few re-reads. It's mostly a bit of philosophical meandering, but there is a binding thread. It's a quick read and worth a weekend of contemplation. Enjoy where it leads you.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-nonfiction
If the “cake” of Edward O. Wilson’s books is that they are a guaranteed pleasure to read, then the “icing” is undoubtedly the thought-provoking education they will provide along the way. His work is so crammed full of known facts and profound insights, that even his short books (less than 250 pages) are weighty with scientific fact, intelligent reasoning, and always-timely messages.

In The Origins of Creativity, Wilson takes on the relationship between the sciences and the humanities. Though he o
Nacho Gonzalez
This is a good and very enjoyable book. The problem is that it does not quite tackle the matter expressed in its title. The book does not truly answers the question of where exactly human creativity comes from? Or, how does the creative process takes place phenomenologically, neurologically or otherwise. Indeed, one quickly realizes that tapping deeply into those questions is not, and never was, the aim of this work. However, Wilson does offer some insights into the phenomenon of creativity itse ...more
Mark Fallon
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Plato extolled the "philosopher king". In today's world, what's more important is the "poet scientist" - and Edward O. Wilson has stepped up to claim that role.

In this book, Wilson explains how science and the humanities opposites sides on the coin of understanding human nature. This is even more important as we learn more about our beginnings - and shape our future. "Science and the humanities may still remain apart, but they are ever more closely bonded in many ways."
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I guess once you've been a famous Harvard professor for a half-century you can just write whatever and get it published. But this booklet mostly put me in mind of when some of my uncles decide to randomly spitball random thoughts about things they may or may not be well-informed on but are deciding to front strong opinions about.

While in theory there is some vague theme about explaining the impulse to be creative and how that will require a synthesis of the humanities and sciences, "vague" real
Rob Saunders
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every Edward O. Wilson book I've ever read has been astonishing, revelatory, influential, and memorable. The Origins of Creativity (2017) - a lovely, well-written treatise - is no different. Dr. Wilson lays out an adventuresome landscape of reason and discovery that invites the reader to consider causes and happenstance of the interrelationships between Humanities and Science.

I highly recommend this short, brilliant book. It should definitely be on your bookshelf for reference. Though this was
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, but this felt more like an extended essay than a complete work. Wilson uses examples from within his own sphere of knowledge that are interesting and illuminating but you cannot help feel that this needs to be taken out wider, and well out of his own comfort zone.

Wilson argues that the humanities need to develop further and therefore link more with science, but this book argues as to why this is important (I too think it is), but falls somewhat short on the how.

Overall a lit
Lee Barry
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: culture, creativity
If you have never read Wilson before, and are interested in the book based on the title alone, definitely read the final chapter "The Third Enlightenment". Otherwise, most other parts of the book are less interesting.

Nicely expressed:

"Meanwhile, because humanity is still swept along by animal passions in a digitalized global world, and because we are conflicted between what we are and what we wish to become, and because we are drowning in information and starved for wisdom, it would seem appropr
Phee Bee
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fireworks, flowers, and the star
Joe Pitkin
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Edward O. Wilson's latest book, The Origins of Creativity, is a return to the trails Wilson explored almost 20 years ago in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. In both books, Wilson attempts to bridge the gulf between the sciences and the humanities which has opened over the last century or more. Wilson makes a heroic effort in The Origins of Creativity (touchingly so, given that the great scientist is nearly ninety years old and has given the book some of the touches of a final work). In the e ...more
Nathan Albright
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book is a short one but a surprisingly complex one in terms of its subject.  For one, the book's contents on the origins of creativity are mostly not-very-creative evolutionary just-so stories that are filled with speculation as to human evolution in the mists of prehistory.  There are at least a few occasions where the author manages to show some creativity, most notably in the way that he manages to bring his own research interests into various prehistoric groups as well as travel and the ...more
Peter A
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This extended essay argues for tighter relationship between the sciences and the humanities. In fact, our fate on this planet may depend on those linkages. In the essay Wilson introduces notions from the sciences, in particular biology, as well as humanities. He explains natural selection working on the individual and on the group levels – the latter one that brings about altruism and cooperation. He talks about the biological – cultural changes that happened in our transition from primate ances ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Russell Woolgar
The Origins of Creativity is a book exploring big ideas surrounding the need to explore how our evolutionary past has made us who we are today, and that our limited sensory ability to experience the world has not limited our quest for originality/ creativity.

My understanding of Wilson’s writing is that our evolutionary history (genetic, biological and culture) has influenced how humans have been able survive as long as we have. And how this rich history has enabled us to understand and explain
David Agranoff
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I tend to not review the non-fiction books I read because I skip around, sometimes I don't finish them, or they are for research for my own books. I decided to give this one a review because I read cover to cover. It will be a short review however. The odd thing was I grabbed it off the new release shelf at the library with out really realizing that it was very connected to the novel I would end up reading next. (Well I finished The God Gene first)

So what interested me in this book. Edward O. Wi
Paul Manytravels
As with other Wilson contributions, this was a good book, a thought provoking exposition in the need for the Humanities.
The last couple of decades have seen a major shift in the regard people hold for Science and Technology. Booth together and individually, they command the lion’s share of grant funding and of university budgets (of course, athletics get a lot of money, too). The Humanities see budget cuts, dwindling university interest and even elimination from university course offerings. Wil
Gary Parker
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The author's essential premise - that science and the humanities should look to one another for inspiration, and even truth - is a worthy one, and should be seriously considered. But the tale the author tells to make this point is thin, and the book sometimes reads more like a rambling midnight thought, a kernel of a good idea still yet to be fleshed out. This may have been purposeful, given the point the author is making, but it feels unfinished, shallow, and vague. Further, the book is littere ...more
Rhonda Sue
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was not what I expected per the title, however, I plugged along to try and learn something new. Creativity is the 'unique and defining trait of our species.' We look for originality and innovation. He goes back thousands of years ago and attempts to give an overview of where we came from, etc. I have to say I've read a number of books on this and it's impossible to prove much.

Here are some takeaways. Language is the highest form of communication. The author who is a biologist, studied
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Edward Osborne Wilson, sometimes credited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical ma ...more

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51 likes · 12 comments
“The main shortcoming of humanistic scholarship is its extreme anthropocentrism. Nothing, it seems, matters in the creative arts and critical humanistic analyses except as it can be expressed as a perspective of present-day literate culture. Everything tends to be weighed by its immediate impact on people. Meaning is drawn from that which is valued exclusively in human terms. The most important consequence is that we are left with very little to compare with the rest of life. The deficit shrinks the ground on which we can understand and judge ourselves.” 1 likes
“Like the sunlight and the firelight that guided our birth, we need a unified humanities and science to construct a full and honest picture of what we truly are and what we can become.” 1 likes
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