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Biophilia Paperback – January 31, 1986


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Biophilia + The Biophilia Hypothesis (Shearwater Book) + Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (January 31, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674074424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674074422
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A fine memoir by one of America's foremost evolutionary biologists. E. O. Wilson defines biophilia as 'the innate tendency [in human beings] to focus on life and lifelike process. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hopes rise on its currents.' Scientifically demonstrating this human propensity would be a task beyond the scope of today's biology, and Wilson wisely eschews that course. Instead, he relies on his own experiences and feelings as a field biologist, cleverly interweaving them with the facts, history, and philosophy of evolutionary biology and an eclectic set of cultural observations. (Paul R. Ehrlich Natural History)

There's more to this unbuttoned and intellectually playful book than its plea for a conservation of ethic and the preservation of animal species in all their diversity. We get, for example, several autobiographical glimpses into the background of Professor Wilson...We see Professor Wilson as a boy growing up in the Florida panhandle...Elsewhere he astonishes us with a description of the mating dance of the male Emperor of Germany bird of paradise, and the degree of genetic congruity between pygmy chimpanzees and Homo Sapiens. (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt New York Times)

E. O. Wilson is the entomologist Curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. His science writing for the general public has won him the Pulitzer Prize and his scientific publications have won him the highest honors American science can bestow. He is well equipped to engage a subject dear to nature-lovers which until now has not been identified as a species trait--biophilia. The freshness of Wilson's approach lies in its freedom from the obsessions of the environmentalist movement...While he shares the conservationist ethic of environmentalists, and seeks to impart its practical imperatives, he eschews cultism...Let this highly readable book then be commended to all biophiliacs and technocrats. (Hiram Caton Times Literary Supplement)

The book consists of a set of nine essays. Although they are masterpieces of prose style, they more effectively illustrate Wilson's own biophilia than his contention that biophilia exists as a general human trait...Wilson moves fluidly among minute observations of life forms ranging from leaf-cutter ants to birds of paradise, artfully pausing for a philosophical reflection here and a folksy anecdote there. (John Wilkes Los Angeles Times)

A fine memoir by one of America's foremost evolutionary biologists...erudite, elegant, and poetic (Natural History)

Biophilia is an immensely readable book. Wilson is a master storyteller, skillful at evoking exotic scenes. (Washington Post Book World)

Wilson's own empathy with things illuminates these essays with fresh perceptions of everyday matters...They are masterpieces of prose style. (Los Angeles Times)

About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hölldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

More About the Author

Regarded as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson grew up in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where he spent his boyhood exploring the region's forests and swamps, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants--the latter to become his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Ants" and "The Naturalist" as well as his first novel "Anthill," Wilson, a professor at Harvard, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

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The writing is lyrical.
Rajiv Chopra
The book has excellent illustrative text that brings a unique vividness to the author's excellent writing.
Joe Zika
It's actually fun to read.
Daniel Lee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Zach Hoy on February 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
- Eden Phillpotts
Wilson crafted this book about the "love of life" for a wide-ranging audience. Biophilia begins in journalistic style recounting Wilson's various expeditions to the Amazon river basin in search of elusive species of ants. He describes the scenes in the forest with appeal to all five senses, making it easy to mentally accompany with Wilson upon his tropical trips. The adventurous feel in the opening chapters allows Wilson to demonstrate biophilia instead of describing it. It becomes obvious that biophilia is a major force affecting the way humans react to living organisms. Wilson describes biophilia as the "innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes."

In the middle of Biophilia, Wilson sorts out different time divisions, arguing that the way you organize time creates biases. Wilson holds that most humans divided time according to their own evolution. Humans are not the only species that matter. Bacteria, fungi, protoctists, and plants have been around far longer than Homo sapiens, and humans depend on these other kingdoms for survival. This argument allows Wilson to build a platform from which to apply his notion of biophilia.

Wilson alludes to a "conservation ethic" throughout the first half of the book of which he makes his readers aware in later chapters of Biophilia. Wilson's term "conservation ethic" describes what humans need to do because of biophilia. Clear evidence shows that humans depend on other living organisms for survival. Wilson argues that humans need to care for natural resources if we want to remain alive.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Lee on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Edward Wilson is an entomologist. He studies insects. It's significant that he can write a book that can appeal to so many readers, given the obscure public perception of insects and arthropods.
I expected this book to be an onslaught of scientific explanations and studies, but this was clearly not the case. Wilson writes about his worldly field biology travels with such rich, sensory language. It's actually fun to read.
In no section of the book does he thoroughly or methodically explain the construct of biophilia in a textbook fashion. Instead, he writes his very personal memoirs and takes us through rain forests and other areas teeming with tropical life. For readers familiar with Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Wilson writes as if "Biophilia" were one of the Endless, who are anthropomorphic personifications of ideas and states of human consciousness. In biophilia, Wilson writes a story (his own) that is INTENSELY biophilia THEMED, while not necessarily about biophilia explicitly.
Edward Wilson is a two time pulitzer prize winner, and a great writer at that. You'll be surprised how readable yet informative and entertaining this book is.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Joe Zika TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Biophilia written by Edward O. Wilson is a book about the conserative ethic and moral reasoning, bringing a new perspective on mans place within the richness of species diversity. Biophilia as defined by the author as the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes. Arguing that the essence of our humanity... the expansive freedom the mind seeks... is inextricably linked with the green enclaves of this planet.
This book covers a wide expanse in both time and scope, from the microscopic and across time... exploring life's varying time scales. I found this book to be wriiten on a personal level bringing the reader into confidence and like a father or grandfather showing us the marvels of nature first hand. I'm sure that was his intent, to reawaken us, to show how man is intergrated and plays an intergral part in the natural affinity of life on the planet, explaining that biophilia is central to the evolution of the human mind.
We go from rain forests in Brazil, to handfulls of soil, explore the bird of paradise, and study the Huron Peninsula of New Guinea. Through all of this we acquire a greater appreciation for life and the intricate symbiosis that interplays on our human equilibrium.
The book has excellent illustrative text that brings a unique vividness to the author's excellent writing. This is a book that takes the reader on a rich educational look... a serious look... at nature and all of the intergral parts as interplayed in life. Man whether he likes it or not, is tied to this planet and its life force.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LeeHoFooks on May 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Biophilia" is a rather thin book, and it isn't the scientific treatise on the biophilia hypothesis that I thought it was going to be. (The biophilia hypothesis being the idea that humans have an innate bond with other living beings, and that coexistence is necessary for the human psyche.) Instead, "Biophilia" is more of a mini-memoir by one of the world's leading naturalists.

Wilson is an entymologist - specifically a myrmecologist (an expert on ants). Though it sounds like a narrow, obscure field, studying the diversity of ant species and habitats has taken Wilson all over the globe and given him a broad perspective that has allowed him to make valuable contributions to science. In "Biophilia," we wander with Wilson from jungle to jungle, and back to Wilson's boyhood in the rural South - revelling in the beauty and wonder of the natural world all the while.

Ever the scientist (and a Harvard-educated one at that), Wilson does make a rational appeal for the protection of the environment - citing, for example, the potential for undiscovered sources of food and medicine in the planet's (as of now) rich botanical diversity. But it's through his excellent, almost poetic prose that Wilson's love of the biosphere, concern for the planet, and enthusiasm for the diversity of life are made contagious.
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