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The annual John M. Prather Lectures in Biology presented by Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino Research Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard, and one of the world’s leading voices for conservation of global biodiversity, on April 5, 6, and 7, 2010.
Organized by the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology & the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.


Biodiversity and the Future of Biology
Global biodiversity is richer than thought even 20 years ago, but it and the ecosystems supporting it are disappearing at an accelerating rate--to the great and enduring loss to future humanity. Science is not well prepared to handle this issue. We live on a poorly explored planet: only a tiny fraction, probably fewer than ten percent, of species are known to science, when microorganisms are included; and of these, only a minute fraction have been studied at any depth. There are remedies to this ignorance, and when they are applied, a major new front of biology will open, equal and complementary to molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.


The Superorganism
The study of insect societies is today one of the fastest growing major branches of evolutionary biology. It has revealed a great deal about the general principles of the origin and evolution of advanced social behavior, and has shed light on the enormous ecological success of the social insects (with ants and termites making up over half of the insect biomass around the world). The evolution from organism to superorganism has been the major transition between levels of biological organization, easiest to penetrate and understand.

 

Consilience
The boundary between science on one side and the humanities and humanistic social sciences on the other is not an intrinsic epistemological divide but a broad borderland of previously poorly understood causal relationships. The borderland is now being explored, and offers increasing opportunities for collaboration across three great branches of learning. A definition of human nature will be offered and examples from the borderland will be used to illustrate it.

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