The biological evolutionary perception of life and of human qualities is radically different from that of traditional religion, whether it's Southern Baptist or Islam or any religion that believes in a supernatural supervalance over humanity.
If those committed to the quest fail, they will be forgiven. When lost, they will find another way. The moral imperative of humanism is the endeavor alone, whether successful or not, provided the effort is honorable and failure memorable.
So in my freshman year at the University of Alabama, learning the literature on evolution, what was known about it biologically, just gradually transformed me by taking me out of literalism and increasingly into a more secular, scientific view of the world.
I'm very much a Christian in ideals and ethics, especially in terms of belief in fairness, a deep set obligation to others, and the virtues of charity, tolerance and generosity that we associate with traditional Christian teaching.
You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.
We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
The historical circumstance of interest is that the tropical rain forests have persisted over broad parts of the continents since their origins as stronghold of the flowering plants 150 million years ago.
It's obvious that the key problem facing humanity in the coming century is how to bring a better quality of life - for 8 billion or more people - without wrecking the environment entirely in the attempt.
The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
Real biologists who actually do the research will tell you that they almost never find a phenomenon, no matter how odd or irrelevant it looks when they first see it, that doesn't prove to serve a function. The outcome itself may be due to small accidents of evolution.
Companies that are willing to share, to withhold in order to further the growth of the company, willing to try to get a better atmosphere through a demonstration of democratic principles, fairness and cooperation, a better product, those will win in the end.
Somewhere close I knew spear-nosed bats flew through the tree crowns in search of fruit, palm vipers coiled in ambush in the roots of orchids, jaguars walked the river's edge; around them eight hundred species of trees stood, more than are native to all of North America; and a thousand species of butterflies, 6 percent of the entire world fauna, waited for the dawn.
An Armageddon is approaching at the beginning of the third millennium. But it is not the cosmic war and fiery collapse of mankind foretold in sacred scripture. It is the wreckage of the planet by an exuberantly plentiful and ingenious humanity.
Known as the biosphere to scientists and as the creation to theologians, all of life together consists of a membrane around earth so thin that it cannot be seen edgewise from a satellite yet so prodigiously diverse that only a tiny fraction of species have been discovered and named.
If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
People yearn to be in one of the best--a combat marine regiment, an elite college, the executive committee of a company, a religious sect, a fraternity, a garden club--any collectivity that can be compared favorably with other, competing groups.
The paradox is that, by children taking shortcuts through computer games, through fantasies, through movies that load on all the emotional stimulation of encountering life in a stylized way - all of this is the equivalent of mainlining of paleolithic emotions, emotions about combat, about personal success, about overcoming monsters, about making powerful friendships, about winning wars and entering new territory.
If insemination were the sole biological function of sex, it could be achieved far more economically in a few seconds of mounting and insertion. Indeed, the least social of mammals mate with scarcely more ceremony. The species that have evolved long-term bonds are also, by and large, the ones that rely on elaborate courtship rituals. . . . Love and sex do indeed go together.
Man's destiny is to know, if only because societies with knowledge culturally dominate societies that lack it. Luddites and anti-intellectuals do not master the differential equations of thermodynamics or the biochemical cures of illness. They stay in thatched huts and die young.
The essence of humanity's spiritual dilemma is that we evolved genetically to accept one truth and discovered another. Is there a way to erase the dilemma, to resolve the contradictions between the transcendentalist and the empiricist world views?
A very Faustian choice is upon us: whether to accept our corrosive and risky behavior as the unavoidable price of population and economic growth, or to take stock of ourselves and search for a new environmental ethic.
No statistical proofs exist that prayer reduces illness and mortality, except perhaps through a psychogenic enhancement of the immune system; if it were otherwise the whole world would pray continuously.
By any reasonable measure of achievement, the faith of the Enlightenment thinkers in science was justified. Today the greatest divide within humanity is not between races, or religions, or even, as is widely believed, between the literate and illiterate. It is the chasm that separates scientific from prescientific cultures.
We are compelled to drive toward total knowledge, right down to the levels of the neuron and the gene. When we have progressed enough to explain ourselves in these mechanistic terms...the result might be hard to accept.
Jungles and grasslands are the logical destinations, and towns and farmland the labyrinths that people have imposed between them sometime in the past. I cherish the green enclaves accidentally left behind.
Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend stretches of time just searching and dreaming.
Daily life is a comprimised blend of posturing for the sake of role-playing and of varying degrees of self-revelation. Under stressful conditions even the "true" self cannot be precisely defined, as Erving Goffman observes. ...Little wonder that the identity crisis is a major source of modern neuroticism , and that the urban middle class aches for a return to a simpler existence.
When you get into the whole field of exploring, probably 90 percent of the kinds of organisms, plants, animals and especially microorganisms and tiny invertebrate animals are unknown. Then you realize that we live on a relatively unexplored plan.
From the freedom to explore comes the joy of learning. From knowledge acquired by personal initiative arises the desire for more knowledge. And from mastery of the novel and beautiful world awaiting every child comes self-confidence.
In science, you really do need to have a purpose-driven life. You will succeed to the extent that you get the most out of your career so that you can give the most back. Try to be an addict, driven to achieve discoveries, learning new things, and then writing about them.
The time has come to link ecology to economic and human development. When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. What is happening to the rain forests of Madagascar and Brazil will affect us all.
Science needs the intuition and metaphorical power of the arts, and the arts need the fresh blood of science ... Interpretation is the logical channel of consilient explanation between science and the arts. The arts ... also nourish our craving for the mystical.
It often occurs to me that if, against all odds, there is a judgmental God and heaven, it will come to pass that when the pearly gates open, those who had the valor to think for themselves will be escorted to the head of the line, garlanded, and given their own personal audience.
I had in mind a message, although I hope it doesn't intrude too badly, persuading Americans, and especially Southerners, of the critical importance of land and our vanishing natural environment and wildlife.
We are not afraid of predators, we're transfixed by them, prone to weave stories and fables and chatter endlessly about them, because fascination creates preparedness, and preparedness, survival. In a deeply tribal way, we love our monsters...
Women are extraordinary in lacking the estrus, or period of heat. The females of most other primate species become sexually active, to the point of aggression, only at the time of ovulation. Why has sexual responsiveness become nearly continuous? Unusually frequent sexual activity between males and females served as the principle device for cementing the pair bond.
These slender little people (Homo Habilis), the size of modern 12 year olds, were devoid of fangs and claws and almost certainly slower on foot than the four legged animals around them. They could have succeeded in their new way of life only by relying on tools and sophisticated cooperative behavior
The newborn infant is now seen to be wired with awesome precision... This marvelous robot will be launched into the world under the care of its parents... But to what extent does the wiring of the neurons, so undeniably encoded in the genes, preordain the directions that social development will follow?
The toxic mix of religion and tribalism has become so dangerous as to justify taking seriously the alternative view, that humanism based on science is the effective antidote, the light and the way at last placed before us.
People must belong to a tribe; they yearn to have a purpose larger than themselves. We are obligated by the deepest drives of the human spirit to make ourselves more than animated dust, and we must have a story to tell about where we came from, and why we are here.
An individual ant, even though it has a brain about a millionth of a size of a human being's, can learn a maze; the kind we use is a simple rat maze in a laboratory. They can learn it about one-half as fast as a rat.
I've found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they're communicating but it tells you a great deal - by dialect and tone, content and circumstance - about the quality of the character.
In some ways, I had a traditional 'old South' upbringing, meaning that I spent some time in a military school, and acquired an inoculum of the military ethic that is still with me today: honor, duty, loyalty.