Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge is a 1998 book by biologist E. O. Wilson. In this book, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences and might in the future unite them with the humanities. Wilson prefers and uses the term consilience to describe the synthesis of knowledge from different specialized fields of human endeavor.
Unity of purpose for Postmodernism and Science. Wilson argues that humanity is driven forward by the tension between those who upon viewing order create disorder and those who upon viewing disorder create order.
The Greek Atomists. Greeks such as Leucippus and Democritus are credited with the reductionistic idea that matter has fundamental components. Scientific investigation of this idea has resulted in unification across the natural sciences. Example: the molecular structure of DNA accounts for genetic storage in living cells.
Positivism. A method for comparing and unifying knowledge from different disciplines; gives priority to facts which are generated by experiment and objective observation rather than subjective speculations.
Pragmatism. A method for comparing and unifying knowledge from different disciplines; gives priority to methods and techniques that can be demonstrated to work and have pragmatic value.
Reduction vs. synthesis. Many examples comparing consilience by reduction (dissect a phenomenon into its components) and consilience by synthesis (predicting higher-order phenomena from more basic physical principles). One specific example is Wilson's own work on the chemical signals that regulate insect social behavior.
Consilience between biology disciplines. Discussion of successes (cells explained in terms of their chemical components, embryo development in terms of interactions between the cells of an embryo) but also points to the remaining problem of dealing with complex systems as in neuroscience and ecology.
Explaining consciousness and emotion in terms of brain activity. Wilson describes the neurobiological approach to accounting for consciousness and emotion in terms of brain physiology and how this effort is guided by collaboration between biologists, psychologists and philosophers.
Neurobiology of aesthetics. Wilson proposes that it will be possible to construct a neurobiological understanding of subjective experiences that are shared and explored by art. Common neural patterns of activity will be found to correspond to fundamental aesthetic experiences.
Artificial emotion. Wilson proposes that human-like artificial intelligence will require the engineering of a computational apparatus for processing an array of rich sensory inputs and the capacity to learn from those inputs in the way that children can learn. Requires consilience between biology, psychology and computer science.
The relationship between genes and culture. Wilson posits that the basic element of culture is the meme. When a meme exists in a brain it has the form of a neuronal network that allows the meme to function within semantic memory. The link from genes to culture is that our genes shape our brains (in cooperation with the environment) and our brains allow us to work with memes as the basic units of culture.