Biophilia

One of the most intriguing and intellectually satisfying philosophies regarding our stewardship responsibilities comes to us from myrmecologist and world renown ecologist and writer E.O. Wilson and social ecologist, Stephen Kellert. Biophilia literally means, affinity for life, or as Wilson puts it, the “innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.” Wilson did not coin the term, but he asked important questions, most notably, why do we (humans) exhibit this trait? His answer depends heavily on the premise that we are the products of a long evolutionary process. For the Christian, the answer is much simpler and more satisfying than relying on the speculation that biophilic tendencies could increase the possibility of survival. Christian biophilia or Creational biophilia means that we are designed to have affinity for other living things. This is both logical and beautiful. As Proverbs 25:2 states, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but it is the glory of kings to search out a matter.”

Kellert took Wilson’s strong inference and developed the hypothesis, quite broadly. This idea has since been incorporated most successfully into the field of landscape architecture; the idea being, if we use those aspects of nature that are attractive or nourishing or refreshing to people, we can create outdoor and indoor spaces that will serve multiple benefits, most importantly increasing a sense of well-being. This short vid explains the concept. 

A landscape architect friend of mine turned me on to this publication by Terrapin Bright Green, a company dedicated to incorporating biophilic principles and other sustainable practices into their design work. As they state in this document, ” the intent of this paper is to articulate the relationships between nature, science, and the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications. The paper presents a framework for biophilic design that is reflective of the nature-health relationships most important in the built environment – those that are known to enhance our lives through a connection with nature.”

So, what does the reformed environmentalist care about landscape architecture and the built environment? It’s part of the grand synthesis, the fully integrated biological and ecological system that we are a part of.  The good Lord designed us. He designed us to be designers. Building with an eye toward His Creation and with an eye to improving quality of life in the workplace is one arena where we can actively pursue the dominion mandate.  The biophilia hypothesis provides a philosophically coherent framework for doing science, for building, for extracting energy, for dealing with our waste. We can and should derive our interactions with the landscape and other species, and ecological processes through a Creational biophilic lens. 

It’s all about design . . .