The Origins of Creativity

I’ve always seen creativity as the most valuable trait that humans possess. Unfortunately, biases led to a widening schism between sciences and humanities, which is also quite limiting when we subconsciously categorize humans and put labels on their personalities – more into sciences can’t get mixed with more into creative things. In “The Origins of Creativity” Edward O. Wilson is trying to show the deep connection between science and creativity, which – given his perspective – don’t only intertwine, but actually have the same roots, in our unlimited curiosity. And these origins are buried deep in our evolutionary path, the first evidence of creativity lasting from over one hundred thousand years ago.

The author defines the human conscience as combined – being able to understand both the outer world and the forces that govern the universe (this being the essence of sciences) and the inner reality, consisting of all things the human mind can imagine (meaning humanities). Even if he supports humanities and tries to interpret them using a scientific approach, Wilson states that they are not complete, limited to our human nature. True, but even if we were to expand this field to what all other species felt and experienced, they would still be limited. Some species have senses that we don’t, such as echolocation, infrared and ultraviolet vision or electric and magnetic sense. But even so, any kind of life that evolved in a certain environment (the earth, in this case) would have evolved with respect to that reference system, so we can’t talk about an objective experience.

Wilson sees creativity as a biological phenomenon, thus he treats it like one and takes into account the three levels of thinking: experience – interpretation – analyses. The questions posed for each of the levels are what, how and why respectively. The proximate causation consists of the answers to the first two questions, whereas the ultimate causation is the why. Sciences try solving both events, but humanities only stop at the proximate causation and tend to mix the ultimate causation with spirituality, giving it divine connotations, leaving the mystery unsolved. Therefore, sciences and humanities have a common staring point in their ways of presenting and analyzing the world.

Humans first started expressing themselves through language. Language was followed by music, then by visual arts. The human is one of the few animals on the planet that relies mostly on sight and hearing to find its way, the majority of the species being guided by smell. Wilson talks about a German term used in biology – Umwelt – that shows the part of our environment that we perceive only through the power of our bare senses. Our ancestors only needed to be aware of their Umwelt in order to survive. So, everything that is beyond Umwelt can be related to humanities, the artistic world with boundaries which we still don’t discern. “Science owns the warrant to explore everything deemed factual and possible, but the humanities, borne aloft by both fact and fantasy, have the power of everything not only possible but also conceivable.”

Unfortunately, humanities have been neglected in the academic environment, universities generally investing much more in sciences, even though people still appreciate and cherish art. It is hard to make connections between sciences and humanities using creative arts as a binder but, after all, arts are ones of the most intellectually advanced human activities. As Nietzsche said, they summon the colors at the end of the rainbow, the unknown. E. O. Wilson doesn’t come with a clear response about the origin of creativity, but he manages to find a common beginning for art and science and show how important they both are.

5 thoughts on “The Origins of Creativity”

  1. I wonder if you have read any of Jeffrey Kripal’s books? He shares the concern with the humanities getting shortchanged in academia. His books, especially, Authors of the Impossible, address these concerns along with the issues with science having adopted a strictly materialist paradigm.

    Lovely writing! I’m happy to have found your blog through your visit to my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation! I am curious about this subject. I’m not saying sciences should become an artistic process, but research actually implies creativity and materialism obscures creativity.

      Thanks again for the comment, it means a lot! And I’m really glad I came across your blog, you explore some really interesting themes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog and listening to me read. I’m enjoying finding your blog. What an interesting book! You remind me of when I realized that science was relevant to art. I had questions about weaving cotton and wool fibers, and discovered that chemistry and physics had the answers. I was so surprised!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really enjoy the books you choose to read and I bet it takes a lot of effort to make all those recordings. Thank you too, for your comment! Yeah, I guess there can be a scientific explanation for almost everything, even for arts, and it’s always surprising. Not just the explanation itself, but the realization that there’s so much more to discover about things like cotton and wool fibers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad that you enjoy the books that I choose to read! That’s great! Thanks for letting me know!

        Yes, making the recordings takes a lot of effort, but so do your blog posts. You and I found something that we enjoy doing, and every bit of effort is worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

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