Man-made concepts like "nature" contribute nothing. And here's why.
I hate to rain on Mother Nature's parade ...
During a conversation about the fascinating habits of bees and some of the apparently inexplicable aspects of their behaviour, a friend recently suggested that "nature works in mysterious ways".
Borrowing from the expression "God moves in mysterious ways", this concerned me greatly, not just because I struggle with the concept of God, but more so because I struggle with the concept of nature.
Who or what is nature?
People often talk about nature as if it is a being, as reflected in phrases like "nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished". Very often people talk about nature almost as if it were a human being, referring to Mother Nature.
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They refer to nature as if it is a life force or superhuman force that determines what happens in the world, as reflected in phrases like "nature is the art of god".
There are so many phrases attributed to some of humanity's most famous names that humanise or super-humanise nature, presenting it as some form of life force.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson famously said: "Nature always wears the colours of the spirit". Albert Einstein said: "Joy is looking and comprehending nature’s most beautiful gifts". William Wordsworth wrote: "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her".
The facts are, that there is no being, or superbeing, to wear anything Mr Emmerson; there is nothing to offer gifts, Professor Einstein; and there's no ‘her’ to love, Mr Wordsworth.
Nature is not a being, or even a superbeing. Nature is not a life force, or a force of any kind. Nature is not a him, or her. Nature is not alive or dead. There is no such thing as nature.
Nature is a human construct developed to help explain what we humans struggle with. It is not dissimilar to the concept of a god and may well be an extension of that concept. Sir Thomas Browne even suggested that "nature is the art of god".
Contrary to what many suggest, nature did not create mankind (any more than God did). Mankind created the notion of nature. Nature was not responsible for natural selection. Natural selection just happened. Nature was no more responsible for some aspects of our planet working well (like symbiotic relationships) than it is for those aspects that do not work well (like worms that eat the eye from the inside out)
But why is this important? Why is it important that we jettison this concept of nature as a force?
Because the notion of nature as a force, being or even superbeing underpins the notion that some things are natural and other things are not. If there is no ‘nature’ then nothing can be natural and suggesting that some things are natural while other things are unnatural is unhelpful in the extreme.
Disasters are often described by human beings as an "act of nature". There are no acts of nature because there is no nature. There is no force or life force that causes these things to occur, they just occur – sometimes with human input and, sometimes, without.
Many people have suggested that homosexuality is not natural. The fact is, however, that it is neither natural or unnatural. There is no nature and, as such, nothing is natural or unnatural. Natural and unnatural are human constructs, just as nature is a human construct.
People talk fatalistically about the rich and poor in our community, describing the current situation as the "natural order of things". There is no natural order because there is no nature. In this regard, there is only what man creates.
All notions of fate, determinism and karma are predicated on a "natural order of things". But there is no nature and, as such, there is no natural order of things. There is no fate or karma – but that is a discussion for another day!
Nothing is natural, or unnatural – it just is!
This is the fifth in a series of missives addressing quotes relevant to all our lives in the 21st century.