Author: Phil Theofanos

Academia’s Consilience Crisis

The term ‘consilience’ has the enigmatic ring of some arcane secret quarantined in Ivory Towers, accessible only to the ghosts of wizened sages haunting cloistered halls. This is true in some sense – it was first conceptualized by the now-quite-dead William Whewell, a 19th-century natural philosopher, linguistic sorcerer, and polymath also credited with coining terms such as scientist and physicist, among other esoterica. Whewell made contributions to many budding fields of inquiry, a fact key to appreciating the definition of ‘consilience’ offered by gold-star biologist E. O. Wilson in his 1998 book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge: …literally a “jumping together” of knowledge by the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation. Consilience makes the case for epistemological inter-relation, put into practice by the congregation of diverse fields of inquiry; it seeks to complete a magnificent chimera composed of illuminating ideas, seamlessly woven together. Wilson’s definition speaks to the vision of thought-leaders who foresaw hubris in forbidding different streams of knowledge from intermingling in our reservoirs of truth and …