In Search of Nature [NOOK Book]


Perhaps more than any other scientist of our century, Edward O. Wilson has scrutinized animals in their natural settings, tweezing out the dynamics of their social organization, their relationship with their environments, and their behavior, not only for what it tells us about the animals themselves, but for what it can tell us about human nature. He has brought the fascinating and sometimes surprising results of these studies to general readers through a remarkable collection of books, including The Diversity of...
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In Search of Nature

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Perhaps more than any other scientist of our century, Edward O. Wilson has scrutinized animals in their natural settings, tweezing out the dynamics of their social organization, their relationship with their environments, and their behavior, not only for what it tells us about the animals themselves, but for what it can tell us about human nature. He has brought the fascinating and sometimes surprising results of these studies to general readers through a remarkable collection of books, including The Diversity of Life, The Ants, On Human Nature, and Sociobiology. The grace and precision with which he writes of seemingly complex topics has earned him two Pulitzer prizes, and the admiration of scientists and general readers around the world.

In Search of Nature presents for the first time a collection of Edward O. Wilson’s seminal short writings, addressing in brief and eminently readable form the themes that have actively engaged this remarkable intellect throughout his career. The essays’ central theme is that wild nature and human nature are closely interwoven, and, not without optimism, Wilson concludes that we are smart enough and have time enough to avoid an environmental catastrophe of civilization-threatening dimensions if we are willing both to redirect our science and technology, and reconsider our self-image as a species.

From "the little things that run the world"-- invertebrate species that make life possible for everyone and everything -- to many scientists’ emergent belief in the human species' innate affinity for other living things, known as biophilia, Wilson sets forth clear and compelling reasons why humans should concern themselves with species loss.In Search of Nature is a lively and accessible introduction to the writings of one of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century. Imaginatively illustrated by noted artist Laura Southworth, it is a book all readers will treasure.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this collection of essays, which reprises the themes of his scientific career, Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson (The Ants and On Human Nature) contrasts wild nature with human nature as two similar products of evolution, focusing on both genetic and cultural change over an immense period of time. The first section explores various species' success at adapting, including a discussion of how the universal aversion to snakes might have evolved in primates and a look at ants' remarkable social systems. In the second section, Wilson, entomology curator of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, deals with altruism and aggression, introducing the concept of sociobiology. He argues that culture is created and shaped by biological processes that may be altered in response to cultural change. In the final section, he explores biodiversity's fundamental importance to the continued existence of humanity. Challenging and provocative, these essays have been published previously in popular and scientific journals. 10,000 first printing. (Sept.)
Library Journal
A compilation of a dozen journal articles and book chapters published between 1975 and 1993, this collection is grouped into three thematic sections dealing with the importance of the preservation of biodiversity to our physical and emotional well-being, the deep-seated interconnectedness of animal nature and human nature (one essay deals with why humans display a universal fear of snakes), and the underlying genetic basis of human social behavior. The writing of this Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard zoologist (The Diversity of Life, LJ 11/1/92) is exquisite, crystalline, precise, and eminently readable; this is nature writing at its best. A caveat: a note in the acknowledgments indicates that the essays have been brought up-to-date, but glaring anachronismse.g., "The conservation of shark species hasn't begun"could mislead the lay reader. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville
Reprints of essays on classical ecology first published from 1975 through 1993 in sources as diverse as Biophilia (1984), Discover Magazine, NY Times Magazine, Tanner Lectures, 1980. Contains crisp, spare, compelling drawings by Laura Southworth. It's a pretty, little (5x8") book that deserves (& lacks) the respect of Smythe sewing. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
A dozen essays on familiar Wilson themes: social species, biodiversity, sociobiology, along with personal reflections and thoughts for the future.

Readers familiar with Wilson's autobiographical writings (Naturalist, 1994) will find him once more revisiting his Florida youth and fascination with snakes. Indeed the first set of essays on snakes, sharks, and ants have the kind of creepy-crawly appeal Natalie Angier capitalized on in Loathsome Creatures. In contrast to Angier, Wilson truly respects and admires the critters. Of course, being the quintessential ant man, Wilson is particularly absorbing in describing the enormous variety, antiquity, and success of these social insects, largely based on intricate divisions of labor and cooperative sharing. Behavioral themes continue to dominate the essays, as Wilson describes courting behavior among birds of paradise, a view of nature as seen by termite society, and the respective roles of altruism and aggression in primates. The latter leads to a discussion of kin selection and the possible role of homosexuals in human society, as well as other sociobiological ideas. Wilson is anxious to correct what he sees as "the dangerous trap" of sociobiology, namely, the naturalistic fallacy which asserts that what is (in any given society), is what should be. Later, Wilson will amplify this theme in a discussion of gene-culture interaction, emphasizing the diversity possible within the boundaries set by the human genome. The concluding essays celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of species and the dangers evident in human domination and worldwide loss of habitat. Having sounded the warning, Wilson is also hopeful that the role of naturalists will grow in importance to complement the powerful contributions of cell and molecular biologists.

For those new to Wilson, a good gloss on his work and thought. For the rest, really only a reprise.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597269179
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 492,115
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor and curator of entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Animal Nature, Human Nature
The Serpent 3
In Praise of Sharks 31
In the Company of Ants 45
Ants and Cooperation 61
The Patterns of Nature
Altruism and Aggression 73
Humanity Seen from a Distance 95
Culture as a Biological Product 105
The Bird of Paradise: The Hunter and the Poet 127
Nature's Abundance
The Little Things That Run the World 139
Systematics Ascending 147
Biophilia and the Environmental Ethic 153
Is Humanity Suicidal? 181
Acknowledgment of Sources 201
Index 203
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2000

    Interesting & good read

    Good read and overview of many of Wilson's essays. Enjoyed it very much.

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