We have brains that are wired to respond emotionally to animals. Earlier this year, scientists reported that when people were shown pictures of animals, there was a large and immediate surge of activity in the pleasure/ pain, fear/reward part of their brains.
Why is this significant?
It supports the proposition that we have evolved to respond to other living things and to nature in general.
The eminent Harvard University biologist, Edward O. Wilson was the first to present this proposition in scientific terms. He believes we are programmed by evolution to be attracted to and interested in the natural world. He calls this attraction biophilia.
Not everything in the natural world appeals to us, of course. Wilson acknowledges this and suggests that our brains run another program – biophobia –
which helps us avoid aspects of nature that are unpleasant or harmful.
Biophilia is a precious legacy from our ancestors. Having brains that were primed to interact productively and creatively with the natural environments where they lived was a big advantage to them.
Many of us now live in cities but our brains are still shaped by the same ‘green genes’ that guided the behaviour of our ancestors. Our genes have not had
time to catch up with our radical change of address.
I believe biophilia is one of the most important scientific insights of the 20th century. So much about our identity, behaviour, wholeness and well-being can be traced to biophilia. Biophilia prompts us to connect with nature in ways that enrich our self-awareness, our sense of self, our relationships with others, our appreciation of beauty, our creativity, our spirituality and our physical and mental health.
And encouraging natural experiences for our children supports their optimal mental and physical development.
These are big claims but they are firmly grounded in science.
Please join me as I explore biophilia, and all it means, in the posts to come