Wilson's discovery of ant pheromones in the 1960’s led him to start thinking about systems of communication in nature. He was one of the first to start thinking about ecosystems, still a revolutionary concept at the time, and the ways different species fit together inside them. His book, “Island Biogeography,” and the word “biodiversity,” which he coined in the 1980’s, have since become the cornerstones of conservation biology.
Wilson's groundbreaking work also led him to remarkable studies of advanced social behavior throughout the animal world. In 1975, he synthesized these studies in a revolutionary book called “Sociobiology.” He included humans in it, along with other advanced social species, which led to one of the great scientific controversies of our time.
His lectures at Harvard were picketed, and he was even physically attacked on stage at a scientific conference, all because he suggested that human nature could be studied scientifically. With the help of Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, and other prominent scientists, the film delves into this controversy and its resolution.
Sociobiology has become a well-established and accepted part of the humanities. But, that controversy had hardly died down when he became embroiled in yet another fierce debate with fellow biologists about the theory of evolution, which brought him into conflict with Richard Dawkins and many others who fiercely opposed his theory of “group selection.” That controversy rages to this day.
Above and beyond these scientific debates lies Wilson’s abiding passion for the natural world and its conservation. The film culminates in a rapturous finale about his work in the great national park of Mozambique, Gorongosa, now being restored to its former glory. It brings together the great themes of Wilson’s life and work: the wonder of nature, the evolution of humanity’s divided self, and our need to heal ourselves by coming to terms with our place in the natural world.