From The New York Times:
To the biologist Edward O. Wilson, the Metropolitan Museum of Art encapsulates some of the conflicting impulses natural selection has instilled in humans: the innate drive for expression that spurs some of us to make art, the selfishness that motivates others to earn the riches needed to collect it, and the altruism that compels the donation of collections for the public good — as long as the donors’ names are inscribed on the walls too. But asked to imagine the museum from the perspective of ants, whose intricate social world he has built a towering reputation by studying, Dr. Wilson painted a scene that was less a lesson in evolution than a chaotic free-for-all. “To them the crowds would just be a flank-to-flank herd of enormous elephants you have to dodge around,” he said with a boyish giggle from the museum’s teeming steps during a recent visit to New York to promote his 27th book, “The Social Conquest of Earth,” which is being published Monday by Liveright. “I don’t think ants would have any aesthetic or intellectual interest in the museum, though they would certainly find a happy home in Central Park.”
An ant’s-eye view of an art museum may seem odd. But Dr. Wilson, 82, has made a grand scientific and literary career by bringing Homo sapiens and the natural world we emerged from closer together, uniting phenomena great and small under the grand perspective of evolution. “Human history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology,” he said, echoing a line from the new book, which offers a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion.