All of which led Wilson to some rather grim conclusions.
"The origin of modern humanity was a stroke of luck – good for our species for a while, bad for most of the rest of life forever," he writes.
Despite the knowledge he has gained over his 83 years, Wilson remains mystified over part of what we have become. As a biologist, he is alarmed by the impact we are having on the planet. No other animal has attained the capability of destroying the world that allowed him to evolve to such a lofty height.
With each disappearing species, we grow poorer, he maintains. In us, alone, may well lie the future of life on earth.
But in the end, he can't resist optimism. He has written more than 25 books, including two that won Pulitzers, and he ends this one with a ray of hope:
"So, now I will confess my own blind faith. Earth, by the 22nd century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise for human beings, or at least the strong beginnings of one. We will do a lot more damage to ourselves and the rest of life along the way, but out of an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are, our dreams will finally come home to stay."