Biologist called ‘Darwin’s heir’ to give conference keynote speech

Famed evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson will deliver the keynote address at the international Consilience Conference on April 26 at UMSL.

Famed evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson has been called “Darwin’s natural heir,” and he’s widely considered the father of the modern environmental movement. His work has garnered him two Pulitzer Prizes and inclusion on Time magazine’s list of “America’s 25 most influential people.”

Wilson will lead a group of 18 speakers, all top researchers in their fields, as the keynote speaker at the international Consilience Conference this spring at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The conference will explore evolution in biology, the human sciences and the humanities.

The title of his speech will be “The origin of the human condition.” The speech is based on his new book, “The Social Conquest of Earth,” which comes out in April.

“I will explore the three basic questions which are: Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? I’ll show that those questions could never be answered by religion or philosophy as it’s professionally practiced or by introspection,” Wilson told UMSL Daily. “And the only way to answer them, as they’ve never really been answered, is the hard way, through science, step-by-step.”

Wilson began his career in entomology, specifically studying ants, but his scope has expanded to include the study of the whole living planet.

“Wilson is a leading evolutionary biologist who has pioneered the integration of the impact of evolution into broader areas of study,” said Ron Yasbin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UMSL, who added that Wilson has been the leading voice for advancing the “epic of evolution.”

While Wilson’s name is tied to groundbreaking research, a National Geographic News article notes that he is no stranger to scientific controversy. His concept of sociobiology, which is the exploration of a biological basis of behavior, has been hotly debated, garnering both acclaim and criticism.

Wilson is the University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. His career has alternated between doing world-class work in specialized biological subjects and synthesizing ideas across the broadest spectrum of intellectual life.

Wilson’s written more than 25 books. His 1979 Pulitzer Prize–winning book “On Human Nature” made Time magazine’s list of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books written in English since 1923, the beginning of Time magazine.

The College of Arts and Sciences is sponsoring the international Consilience Conference, which will take place April 26-28 at the J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center on UMSL’s North Campus.

Interested attendees must register for the conference. The registration fee is $155 prior to April 1 and $165 after. Students may register for $75. There also will be a closing reception to further discuss the topics explored and network. The cost to attend this reception is $25.

To register to attend the conference, or for more information including speakers, area hotels and things to do in St. Louis, please visit the conference website.

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