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Nature: A poor starting point for any belief

September 29, 2014

Nature is a fickle one. As I type, great queues of people have gathered around her throne to politely ask her why she invented homosexuality, since it is so obviously an evolutionary failure. Alas, she does not answer. She merely smiles imperiously, a smile that asks them why on earth they care so much. You might well ask why she invented hunger, since this also leads people to not breed, wherever it gets quite severe. I think the simplest answer is that she isn’t a she, or a he or even an it. Just a lazy way of describing more or less everything under the sun, and a way for marketing companies to sell you flavoured water and claim it gives you superpowers.

Yet, it is with the justification of nature that I hear as many things defended as dismissed. Whatever is unnatural, like haircuts, is bad. Whatever is natural, like earthquakes, is good. It’s a fairly biblical way of looking at things, or rather, that way of looking at things shaped the bible and no one’s thought to go back and check it since. To start with, what’s counted as “natural” in the biblical sense is arbitrary. Rather than nature being something which describes simply what is, it seems to have become a tool for intolerant people to declare what should be.

Then there is the other view, which observes what is, and takes this as affirmation of the way things should be. The higher power, the one who dictates the way things must be. We have built gods from nature, no doubt; but we should not forget that we did so out of ignorance. Now knowing that the sun is a star and it doesn’t reside within Earth at all, we needn’t think of it as a god, or any of its earthly companions, such as wind, rain or trees.

Unlike us, nature has no will, evil or good. Nature is known for roundly messing things up on occasion, not out of malice, but because the chaotic universe and chance tend to work that way. I can understand the reticence about messing with nature, since this too has tended to render negative effects.

However, we should bear in mind that we are, already, well out of the equation. We built tools and houses and weapons. We killed threats before they could get close enough to make us part of the food chain. We do not bargain with nature. We bend it to our will, instead. Our most destructive tendency by far is a need to dominate – we dominate lesser species, perceived lesser peoples and nature itself, which is the most satisfying to dominate because it is the hardest to tame.

I often wonder why we defend meat. Even scientists, who can see the problem with it, seem to hold onto this notion that because we technically can eat meat, we should consider ourselves permitted to. But, this template relies on the idea that we are still living within nature’s confines, that our actions have measured consequences that nature can take. Yet, these same scientists know this is not the case. Our ability to destroy, and wish to continue as we are regardless of that destruction, have devastating effects.

I would not be surprised if our dependence on technology as a save-all, and our wish to change and dominate all that threatens us – rather than accept, avoid and work around them – makes us determined to continue on our path of destruction. Only after everything is destroyed or changed immeasurably can human beings be said to have conquered the Earth. That day will, ironically, also be the end of mankind.

Any human who can reasonably expect to be eaten by an animal in the wild can reasonably eat wild animals. They are part of nature, part of the food chain. The trade off for their protein boost is a threat to their life, the promise that they very well could be food for something else. Any firearm owner, any civilisations that use advanced chemicals or tools for protection, any humans that have systematically killed off all their other-species competitors and threats, cannot be said to be living in nature. The nature argument for eating meat is a false bargaining chip, a cheap justification used by people for whom it least applies.

Just because we have not stopped earthquakes or volcanoes or tsunamis, we should not imagine that nature has an unbeatable hold on us, that nothing we do can change, disrupt or even permanently damage the world. We can make more frequent instances of extreme weather and we can completely wipe out all the trees that provide most of our oxygen.

We may kill ourselves off long before we have the chance to kill off everything else; my question is why anthropocentric people, who believe in our human right to do exactly as we please, would consider this a sound justification to continue damaging the planet. By all accounts, these individuals should be most against it. For it would be the one animal that they value that would feel the worst effects. Cockroaches may live in the dust and debris after we pass on; that doesn’t help the preservation of our species.

It is often said that veganism is a human-hating, blind and stupid love of all the fluffy little animals. But to be an omnivore, at this moment in time, is hardly a humanitarian stand, nor is it forward thinking for those of us who would like the human race to exist as long as possible, who like to imagine its growth, who are fascinated by its potential for technological advances our particular generation(s) will never see. But, if technology is the new God to replace nature, no one well ever see this world. Gods, infallible, never grow or change, never learn from mistakes. Only we can do that.

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From → Animal Rights

One Comment
  1. This is a very thoughtful argument. About your point: “We do not bargain with nature. We bend it to our will, instead.” I wonder if perhaps what we do at base is react to nature. Certainly humans are extremely creative in mining from the planet all manner of inventions, while simultaneously being destructive. But perhaps our will is born out of a fear response. What is human will but the idea/thought of what we want, or want to do. My will comes either from my desire or my fear, both connected to the powerful instinct for survival. Survival can be a challenge given that ‘nature’ is apathetic to human need. Only, nature is now reacting to us in the Newtonian sense of equal and opposite reaction. For our survival, we need a new way to react in and to nature. This brings to mind the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6: 9-13), specifically,’Thy will (not mine) be done on Earth.’ Somewhere else in religious teachings is the information that we must die in order to gain the life we would truly have. That death is not in the literal sense as we commonly define it, but rather to release our will –our habitual desire-fear mind pattern– and become available to ‘Thy Will’. That is no easy adjustment since Ego is also a powerful and coercive aspect of the human psyche, also, I imagine, rooted in in the fear/survival dynamic. Here, then, is the simple solution to what ails mankind as we face off with nature: Let go and let God. Or if you prefer: Be with It, rather than be at It.

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