by Melinda Welsh & r & & r & The Creation by E.O. Wilson & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & obody ever accused E.O. Wilson of mincing words. So the fact that his latest book arrives with a subtitle that constitutes a spectacularly bold plea to humankind -- The Creation: An Appeal To Save Life on Earth -- should come as no surprise.

Yes, the renowned biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner has returned in print to remind us that it's crossroads time. We need to wake up, get smart and save the planet now, or future generations will be diminished, he writes. To summarize: Wilson (our own age's Thoreau crossed with Einstein) believes the survival of life on Earth is more endangered than ever before: At least half the species of animals and plants on Earth face extinction by the end of our century.

Written as an impassioned letter to an imagined Southern Baptist pastor, The Creation builds a case for collaboration between the two great forces of religion and science, with the end goal of protecting life on Earth. Wilson repeatedly emphasizes how we humans have plundered the Earth, our only home. Saving the planet's "prodigious variety of life forms should be a common goal, regardless of differences in our metaphysical beliefs," he tells the pastor.

Raised as a Southern Baptist in Alabama, Wilson nonetheless makes clear in The Creation that he is a secular humanist: He doesn't believe in God, but he still maintains that existence is "what we make of it as individuals." Wilson argues that one needn't believe in a divine power to marvel at the Creation and its intricate design. Science and religion, he says, should not be divided and at war (as has often been the case); instead, they must be "partners in the salvation of the Creation."

An unapologetic and proudly geeky entomologist at heart, Wilson shines his beautiful, quirky light on the marvels of nature and the biosphere. He gives readers a kind of loving tour of the miracle of biodiversity and explains why protecting what remains is crucial to human survival.

Short for a book at just 175 pages (though admittedly long for a letter, even to a pastor), Wilson's new work is a gem. But conservative preachers may not yet be lining up to read it. Suggestion: After you've read The Creation, consider passing a copy along to your nearest member of the clergy. You never know -- the pastor might join in heeding Wilson's warning: "Those living today will either win the race against extinction or lose it, the latter for all time."

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