I listened to a lecture given by E.O. Wilson at the Harvard Divinity School a couple of weeks ago. I guess I’m spoiled by the slick documentaries on the Discovery Channel, and by the internet. For me, listening to a professor give a lecture is like watching grass grow. It was at a lecture just like this one that a self-righteous young college student, swayed by the arguments of her professor, once poured ice water on Wilson’s head for what she thought were the racist and sexist ideas embodied in sociobiology.

Anyway, he is getting positive feedback from the religious folks on his creation care idea. It is disheartening to consider that for a paltry 50 billion dollars we could protect most of the biodiversity of an entire planet and get on with the development of biofuels in the areas between those protected ecosystems, yet here we are blogging away, watching it die.

In the lecture he mentioned that there are only about 5,000 members of secular humanist organizations (you can hear what sounds suspiciously like a religionist tee-heeing in the background when he says this) but about 30 million fundamentalist Christians. Luckily, that still leaves about 270 million other Americans unaccounted for. In a sense, he is doing what Bush did for his father to gain the nomination for president. I’m game. His cause is also my cause. I have always thought that room has to be made for religion in the struggle to protect biodiversity. I envisioned a whole new sect of religion, not the persuasion of an existing one. But in reality, maybe that is just what Wilson is creating. The splintering off from other groups with subtly different interpretations of Biblical texts is exactly how new sects form.

He has spent his entire life in academia. Academic infighting is notoriously nasty. There are a lot of poindexters out there stealing each other’s ideas, competing with each other for status and tenure. Wilson has risen above it all, becoming king of the hill with two Pulitzers and more accolades than you can count. At the end of this lecture, he took a few questions (fast forward to 55 minutes into the lecture to hear them). It was the best part of the lecture. The $50 billion question was rife with potential controversy and dealt with priorities. He handled it deftly.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.