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The Origins of Creativity

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,300 ratings  ·  167 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.


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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Liveright (first published October 2017)
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Joy D
Entomologist Edward O. Wilson examines the relationship between the humanities and the sciences. He traces the origins of human creativity, which he defines as “the innate quest for originality,” back one hundred thousand years. Wilson proposes that humankind needs “a third enlightenment,” a new philosophy that unites arts and sciences to achieve a more meaningful existence. The book begins with history – the development of language, abstract thinking, intelligence, and cooperation. He explains ...more
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
Julian Worker
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the relationship between the humanities and the sciences and their roots in human creativity and what it means to be human. When did humans start being creative, well the answer is a lot longer ago than you think. The fields under investigation include palaeontology, anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology.

The book ends on such a positive note about scientists and scholars in the humanities serving as the leaders of a new philosophy which will become
...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
...more
Mara Dinu
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
Helio
Apr 19, 2021 rated it liked it
This was a quick read. I didn't get much out of it:
· !Kung Bushmen (the Ju/'hoansi) have marked differences in their daytime and firelight talk: daytime is focused on travel and search for food and water; in the evening it is storytelling, singing and dancing [is that so different from us?]
·lthe missing link between ancestral wasps and modern ants had wasp mandibles, an ant waist and antennae intermdiate (Sphecomyra)
· over 98% of species that ever lived have vanished
· a Great Dane has a life spa
...more
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
...more
Stven
May 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
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.

"What
...more
J.D.
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
...more
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
...more
Jake
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
...more
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
Don
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
...more
Alina Lucia
Jul 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
So far I haven't found a writer that blends scientific content and, at times, lyrical prose like Wilson does. Beautiful little book about the need for merging the scientific disclipines and the humanities, if we wish to seriously adress where we've come from, who we are and where we're going. Profoundly inspiring. ...more
Thomas
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. ...more
Kunal Sen
Jul 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
If I have to pick a single area of thought that have intrigued me the most, through my entire life, it is the apparent gap between humanities and the sciences. From my high school days I tried to find a bridge between the two, and I naturally gravitated towards anything that hinted at making such a connection. I always had a deep conviction that they are not two separate worlds, but manifestations of something this is common to them both, and I suspected that it could be the human propensity to ...more
Mark
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
...more
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
...more
Phee
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fireworks, flowers, and the star
David Kubánek
I expected an evolutionary basis for creativity. I got a proposition that to further understand human nature, the sciences and the humanities must combine efforts and find a meeting point of symbiosis to link humanity to its prehistoric roots: the third Enlightenment. Some points were good and sparked thought. Every organism has its own personal Umwelt - a unique perspective of the surroundings based on its slice of the sensory world and machinery to generate experience - and to understand an or ...more
Annabel
Aug 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is more of a cluster of in-depth thoughts and ideas, rather than a book explaining "the origins of creativity". However, I must say, that cluster of ideas is rather intriguing, interesting and thought-provoking. Some passages are so complex, you'll have to read over them multiple times in order to get even the slightest grasp of them. Got me thinking (according to this book, exactly (with language) what sets us apart from other species).

"Whales grow to great size by seining tiny crustacean
...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
Nick
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
...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."
...more
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
Annie
Mar 29, 2022 rated it it was ok
I would never have gotten through this if it wasn’t an audiobook. There’s some interesting bits of information in here that expand on what I’ve learned about the origins of humanity, and also some interesting questions to ponder. But I’m left feeling as though there’s been no real clear point made. What are the origins of creativity? I’d like to know. I’d be more interested to see this topic tackled by an artist or art historian because much is left to be desired. There are fleeting mentions of ...more
Alex
Mar 25, 2022 rated it liked it
Interesting and through provoking, but dry. Final argument feels not as well supported as it could be.
Dylan George
Jul 21, 2022 rated it liked it
This book was fine. I definitely don't agree with all the points in this book, but surely the main point, that we should support the humanities, is valid. There is a large portion near the end where he just talks about movies he likes? It ties in with how we express ourselves as humans, but I really could've done without that part. ...more
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
 Dr G Bhas
Oct 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A must read for everyone. The insights in this brilliant book inspire us to think and appreciate the creative unity of science and humanity . An exploration of what it means to be illuminated by 'The Third Enlightenment' . ...more
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Edward Osborne Wilson, sometimes credited as E. O. Wilson, was 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 m ...more

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