E O Wilson on the need for art-humanities science collaboration


There is an interesting interview with E O Wilson on NPR radio where at length he discusses rationales for cross coupling the arts/humanities and sciences


He has also written more on the topic on his new book: Letters to a Young Scientist (which I am about to read)


I found his argumentation in the interview much more interesting and nuanced that the arguments that he advanced in his book Consilience:


I found the argumentation in that book somewhat problematical- some of the discussion leans into ‘third culture’ advocacy that I think are

misguided. There are good reasons we have disciplines and we have people who focus and drill deep- but there are also good reasons we

need mechanisms – some of these are trans-disciplinary ones ( eg the excitement right now in applying the science of complex networks not

only to science and engineering but art and design and humanities  – see the leonardo ebook:


Other arguments are feed by the community that has been working on integrative and interdisciplinary studies methodologies ( eg Allen Repko and William

Newell Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice:


In our SEAD White Papers report:  Stepsto an Ecology of  Networked Knowledge and Innovation Enabling new forms of collaboration among  sciences, engineering, arts, and design


The 200 participants in the SEAD white papers frequently made recommendations on the need to need to develop methodologies not to

fuse the arts and sciences but to find innovative and rigorous methods for creating the conditions for collaboration between individuals and partnering between

organisations that bridge the sciences/engineering to the arts/design/humanities, while strengthening the disciplines themselves.
Wilson in the interview criticises the recent report Heart of the Matter:

The Humanities and Social Sciences
for a vibrant, competitive, and secure nation “ by the Academy of Arts and Sciences


For not taking on the challenge of integrating the humanities and sciences

Any way I highly recommend EO Wilson’s interview-

I havent read the book yet here is the interview


Roger Malina





One Comment

  1. I apologize if this is not strictly to the point of Wilson’s writing, but the issue of coupling of art/humanities and science/math/technology leads, I think, to the following question.

    First, there is no denying such coupling exists. Over the last hundred years much of avant garde art was often inspired by technology. There are many famous examples, including Duchamp, Kepes, Moholy-Nagy, Leger, Richter, LeWitt, Jaeger, to name just a random few. However, the coupling was mainly high art-technology, rather than a deep coupling high art-high science or high art-high math. The question is: is such coupling even possible? Can deep coupling between art and math lead to mathematical breakthroughs and, at the same time, to high art that could find an appreciative, even if rather small, audience? Are there scientists and mathematicians today, capable of deep insights in both domains, like Heisenberg and Weyl? Or, is the coupling destined to largely remain the domain of scientific or artistic dilettantes?