Research & Writing

The Biophilia Hypothesis

“If natural diversity is the wellspring of human intelligence, then the systematic destruction inherent in contemporary technology and economics is a war against the very sources of mind . . . It is impossible to unravel natural diversity without undermining human intelligence as well.” -E.O. Wilson

Articulations are powerful. Good articulations shape our thinking and actions. And many years ago, Erich Fromm made a great one: Biophilia: the love of life or living systems. He first used it to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.

Edward O. Wilson has been a prominent and inspiring voice for global biodiversity and an advocate for human’s intimate connection with the natural world. He resurrected the idea in the 1980’s and set it free into current Naturalistic thought with his 1984 book Biophilia. He cites it as the force behind human’s inherent affinity for living things. Furthermore, our natural love of life is the very thing that sustains it. It’s a product of our co-evolution with all of the species on Earth.

Biophilia. Do you not feel it as you’re lazily wandering a forest, intoxicated by the scent of conifer needles and cradled by the soft dirt? Or maybe as you’re petting the soft & buttery Calendula petals, or lovingly digging up yellow dock roots? Herbalism is biophilia in action. Herbalists are biophiles. Biophilia’s a lovely word and a terrific articulation of the basic need for humans to have relationships and connections with other life forms. 

And maybe our task as a race is to pursue these relationships further. Here’s Wilson on the future of humanity and biodiversity:

Humanity needs a vision of an expanding and unending future. This spiritual craving cannot be satisfied by the colonisation of space. The other planets are inhospitable and immensely expensive to reach. The nearest stars are so far away that voyagers would need thousands of years just to report back. The true frontier for humanity is life on earth, its exploration and the transport of knowledge about it into science, art and practical affairs. Life around us exceeds in complexity and beauty anything else humanity is ever likely to encounter.

A good articulation indeed.

About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.

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