Although the renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson affirms in The Meaning of Human Existence that humanity is “completely alone” in the universe—there is no God, no heaven—he writes in a religious manner. Indeed, in a 2014 radio interview about the book, Wilson classified himself as a “provisional atheist,” leaving open the possibility that a supernatural power might exist.

In seeking existential meaning, the book involves the part of our psyche that is focused on religion, ritual, ethics, morals, immortality, and the yearning for the transcendent. Neuroscience suggests “strongly that a religious instinct does indeed exist,” Wilson himself observes.

Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and an entomologist who has identified over 400 species of ants, Wilson sums up the meaning of our existence as the “epic of the species, begun in biological evolution and prehistory, passed into recorded history, and urgently now, day by day, faster and faster into the indefinite future, it is also what we will choose to become.” Wilson doesn’t speculate on the origins of the universe. Instead, he compactly reviews the sweep of our species’ history in terms of evolutionary theory and the humanities. No matter what their background, readers who are people of faith will find here a brilliant summary of the scientific outlook on the world from one of our era’s leading scientific thinkers.