Written, directed and produced by David Dugan and narrated by Harrison Ford, Lord of the Ants profiles E.O. Wilson, an emeritus professor at Harvard still going through his “little savage” phase of boyhood exploration of the natural world. This soft-spoken Southerner is an acclaimed advocate for ants, biological diversity and the controversial extension of Darwinian ideas to human society.
A gray-haired, crinkle-smiled 78-year-old who looks a pinch like a less irascible Ralph Nader, Wilson is renowned for two seemingly unrelated roles. First, as the “ant man,” his infectious enthusiasm for his scientific specialty has encouraged many house dwellers to reach for a magnifying glass instead of ant traps when faced with these tiny invaders. (One gets the feeling that David Lynch is especially a fan, for those who recall his experiment with a small head fashioned out of cheese and turkey.) Secondly, as a lightning rod in academic circles for his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Wilson put forth the notion that evolutionary principles could explain large swatches of social behavior throughout the animal kingdom — including in humans, an idea that many detractors found uncomfortably similar to those that fueled the eugenics movement.
Yet these two elements of Wilson’s work, ants and sociobiology, are intimately connected, as this engrossing, hour-long NOVA title ably showcases, since it was Wilson’s understanding of the social nature of ant society that gave rise to his ideas of sociobiology. An engaging portrait of a ceaselessly active scientist and eloquent writer who’s accumulated two Pulitzer Prizes among his many other honors, Lord of the Ants but skims the surface of its subject, it’s fairly true, but it does leave one with some interesting questions to ponder on their own time.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, Lord of the Ants is presented in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen. Apart from closed captions and video descriptions for the visually impaired, the only special feature is a small bundle of downloadable materials for educators. To order this title or any DVD or VHS release from distributor WGBH Boston Video, including A Walk to Beautiful, The Secret Law of Attraction or Cracking the Maya Code, phone (800) 949-8670 or click here. B (Movie) C- (Disc)