The Biophilia Hypothesis

In 1984, Edward O. Wilson proposed a hypothesis in his book Biophila. The hypothesis stated that Humans have an innate tendency to affiliate with other forms of life. This is not only limited to animals, but can extend to plants and natural landscapes. Even phobias such as Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) still foster an affiliation with nature and is thus considered to be s subset of biophilia.

From a social aspect, many religions feature naturalistic symbols from all around the world. The most popular example is probably the cow in Hindiusm. The cow is a symbol of food and life because it gives so much to humans (food in the form of milk and fertile soil in the form of dung) and require very little in return. Another popular example would be the buffalo in the Native American animism (the world oldest religion). The Natives respect the buffalo by using all its parts and not wasting anything. Many mythologies feature Gods and creatures that are anthromorphic such as Medusa and Centaur.

Animals have adaptations and features that equip them to live in certain environments and humans are adapted to live in the plains and up in trees. Therefore, many people find places like the woods and mountains because it is where humans were evolutionarily meant to be. The most pleasure inducing scenic views include a source of water (a river or lake), some trees that look like they can be climbed and some indication of wildlife (perhaps birds) along with a trail which one can naturally follow. This is because trees and mountains provide an aerial view where people can look for prey and predators and the water prevents you from getting thirsty. It seems like the type of place people would want to live in. Even if people do not prefer the woods, most people like some form of the outdoors such as the beach, desert, tropical forests, and savannahs.

We see biophilia everywhere. When we go to a doctor’s office we might see a tank. Many humans keep pets. Even the golf courses we play on mimic savannahs-where humans first came from. Historical figures such as the Buddha have found enlightenment in nature. People grow flowers simply to marvel or for pleasure. Humans have loved living organisms and it’s anecdotally hard to deny this. However, the Biophilia Hypothesis is not something that can be scientifically proved (or disproved) and thus does not hold much merit in the scientific community. It is rather an interesting observation at best. This garnered my attention because I love nature. I enjoy watching nature documentaries because they provide a glimpse into what feels like a fascinating foreign world that I could explore for forever.