PEACEABLE NATURE: An Optimistic View of Life on Earth by Stephan Lackner

PEACEABLE NATURE: An Optimistic View of Life on Earth

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A ""biosophical"" manifesto arguing with some eloquence that there's more cooperation than conflict in nature--and since culture and nature are organically linked, we have grounds for hope in humanity's future. Lackner, a ""natural philosopher"" and eclectic writer (Max Beckmann), shows a Koestlerian flair for popularization of complex biological questions through striking examples and appeals to common sense. But the real guiding figure here is Montaigne: deliberately or otherwise, Lackner echoes many of the Essais in urging that life should be lived for its own sake, not in the name of some overriding, ""transcendent"" ideology; that we must see ourselves as part of nature, not superior to it; that there is an instinctive wisdom at work in our bodies and minds--if only our bloodthirsty machismo, hubris, and tribal passions will leave it alone. Lackner even makes an ironic plea, à la Montaigne, for cannibalism as opposed to ""civilized"" warfare. Lackner's most striking point may be his attack on Neo-Darwinism for overstressing the violence in natural selection. He makes an interesting case for ""survival of the fanciest,"" i.e., the many instances in evolution--beautiful birdsong, butterfly wing patterns--where nature seems to have chosen loveliness for its own sake. Lackner similarly proposes that the role of carnivores is much less crucial, and the incidence of violent death much less frequent, than is generally believed. He has few statistics to offer, and those few are mostly intuitive; his graphic instances of animal behavior are casually chosen and anecdotal. Still, an appealing piece of tender-minded secular humanism.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row