BOOK REVIEW – The Future of Life

I wanted to bring to your attention one of my favorite books. Even though it was published some time ago, if anything, it is more relevant today.

Edward O. Wilson
Vintage Books, March 2003
ISBN: 0-679-76811-4

This book is very important and this is why you should read it:

First, this is a delightful book, written by one of the most important scientists alive today. He is also one of my favorite authors. Dr. Wilson spent his academic career at Harvard and it is THE world expert in ants. That said, besides being a top-notch scientist, he is an accomplished writer too. In addition of authoring more than 400 technical papers, he has written about 25 books, and he has even won two Pulitzer prizes for nonfiction, the first one for “On Human Nature” and the second one for “The Ants”, coauthored with Dr. Bert Holldobler.

The book makes a series of very important points. One of them is that even if we do not realize it, we are closely connected to all other forms of life on earth. In The Future of Life, Dr. Wilson further argues for the conservation and protection of our environment. You’d expect that from a biologist after all, but he goes beyond the “save the earth” frame of mind. He presents in a very articulate way a series of arguments that explain why it is a good idea for us to do so.

Life is a precious phenomenon, which is highly mysterious even to trained biologists. The loss of biodiversity is tragic in itself, but Dr. Wilson makes also a very logical case for the actual economic sense of conservation in the sense that nature is still a rather underused resource of potential pharmaceutical products. This argument is very close to me as a research pharmacologist, and I have written some of my thoughts on the topic here, here  and here.

I strongly believe that one of the most promising sources of new medications is still nature itself, simply because nature has had literally millions of years of practice. I am very happy to report that Dr. Wilson thinks so too. In his own words (Page 120):

“Revolutionary new drugs have rarely been developed by the pure insights of molecular and cellular biology… Rather, the pathway of discovery has usually been the reverse: the presence of the drug is first detected in whole organisms, and the nature of its activity is subsequently tracked down to the molecular and cellular levels. Then the basic research begins.”

Read this book; you will not regret it!

You may want to take a look at my About page and of course, please feel free to check out my previous posts… Tell me what you think!

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