Social Question

ubersiren's avatar

Do you consider humans part of "nature?"?

Asked by ubersiren (15046 points ) February 17th, 2011

I don’t have a solid stance on this; I’d really just like to see a discussion with a limit on religious interlude. Some believe that since we were once creatures of the Earth that whatever we evolve (biologically or socially) into will be “natural” no matter what. Others believe that since we are such an intelligent, dominant, and evolved species that we are separate from the rest of nature.

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40 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Absolutely.

perspicacious's avatar

I do. We may be highly evolved, but we are still part of nature.

Bellatrix's avatar

Absolutely. We are animals. Everything we do in some way impacts on the planet.

everephebe's avatar

We are pieces of this universe, the dust of stars. We are nature.

DominicX's avatar

Yes, I believe we are. I don’t think evolution can take away “natural” status.

But how do you differentiate between natural material and unnatural material? All the dangerous polluting chemicals we work with originally came from the earth, came from nature. Does manipulation by humans no longer make materials and chemicals “natural”?

faye's avatar

Yes, I do, though I think we don’t honour it as we should.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

As a species, we may be intelligent, dominant, and evolved, but as individuals we are not. The human race may have invented telephones and plumbing, but the average individual doesn’t have that kind of intelligence, or at least has not bothered to cultivate it. Most people can use a faucet or a phone, but forget inventing them, or even repairing them in some cases. So I have never felt like there’s much of an argument for the intelligence of the human race as a whole. A “caveman” could use a faucet, if you showed him.

We aren’t separate from the rest of nature, but acting like we are causes any number of problems for people.

Bellatrix's avatar

@hobbitsubculture We aren’t separate from the rest of nature, but acting like we are causes any number of problems for people

And other species we share the planet with.

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auntydeb's avatar

What else could we be? There are definitions of the word that make a separation, but I fear that is simply from intellectual arrogance and elitism. Evolution is just a name coined by humans to describe the selection of species over time. We happen to be here now.

We weren’t around for the dinosaurs, we shan’t be around for the dying of the sun. The materials we use to corrupt and pollute the world perceived as ‘natural’ are simply processed with conscious effect. Imagine some future creature, coming to this earth in, say, ten million years; whatever the climate (if there is indeed an atmosphere) we shall not be here, nor will there be any evidence of us except fossils. We will have returned to ‘nature’ in the simplest sense.

And, (echoing @everephebe slightly) our best guess yet still says ‘we are stardust…’

hmmm hmm golden, and we’ve hhmmm hmmm mmm da da da garden…ooooooh…

markferg's avatar

We are the Übermensch, transcendent over nature. Although I’d disagree with Nietzsche on the attractiveness of moustaches. Even on men.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Everything’s nature, even the stuff we create, I would think, since it came from some substance already in the universe.

12Oaks's avatar

I am, and all I do are, a part of nature. So, yes.

starsofeight's avatar

If you consider nature to be a sentient being, man is the self-aware part.

auntydeb's avatar

Ooh, lots of answers, more people joining in, there may be discourse… but it’s bedtime in blighty… nighty nighty! x

Ladymia69's avatar

Yes, but we have the capacity to become nature’s worst enemy.

wilma's avatar

Yes, very much so.

ubersiren's avatar

Okay. Is there such thing as unnatural at all, then? If everything in the universe, whether created by the Earth, the gods, or man, exists, then it’s part of nature. So why, I wonder, do we even make use of the word nature? If something is unnatural, we wouldn’t know about it. The moment we learn of its existence, it becomes part of nature. Maybe the term unnatural should be used for forces (even man-made) that defy the principles of nature? An anti-gravity machine or something?

For the most part I agree with everyone, just to let you know.

@hobbitsubculture I understand what you’re saying but a caveman (Neanderthal, or whichever step you’re referring to) is/was still human, or, you know, evolved into human. He have the capability to learn to do what we do because he has. Whereas, other species (such as wolves, cobras, turkeys, and trout) have not yet. There’s a very real possibility that those species could potentially evolve to have intelligence similar to humans’ but they have not yet. There’s also a very real possibility that they could go in a completely different and unknown path. But my very long winded point is that I’m not sure you can compare a “caveman” to other species of animal because even homo erectus was cooking meat and beginning many of the attributes that define us.

YARNLADY's avatar

Humans are part of nature and the environment. It’s too bad more people aren’t educated about the interactions we are a part of.

mrentropy's avatar

“You cannot go against nature
Because when you do
Go against nature
It’s part of nature, too”

- Love & Rockets, “No New Tales To Tell”

So, my answer is yes.

DancingMind's avatar

I had a poetry teacher than put it this way once:
That we can’t excape nature, although we try to pretend we already have. So much so, we make private rituals out of a lot of our natural necessities—namely the ones requiring that wonderous porcelain seat—that remind us just how much we’re nature.
Of course, he’s a kind of funny poetry teacher, because he said it much more explicitly.
What @everephebe said was much more poetic… hah

josie's avatar

Of course. To those who doubt, our mortality proves the point

everephebe's avatar

@DancingMind All explanations scatological, render themselves, less than poetic.

I have a friend who proposed that, maybe we were mother natures way to make plastic, and he did so in a highly articulate manor. His full argument was that everything was and is nature. And he’s correct while it may be a hard pill to swallow. We occurred in nature, we are a part of nature, we are nature. Not apart from it. Wow. Weird. But if you watch animal planet, there are some funky animals out there, we’re just the funkiest. Arguably the dumbest animal on the planet. I like being human, it’s fun. But if there’s reincarnation, I want to be a fruit bat. What’s better karmicly then shiting future fruit trees? To go full circle there.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I believe we are more a part of nature than most people think. Think about it. we came from nature and now we have the power to destroy it or save it. That is a big part of nature.

everephebe's avatar

@Russell_D_SpacePoet (& others) I really disagree with the notion that we are so powerful we can destroy nature. No we can’t. Let say we collapse the food chain, and chop down all the trees. What happens? We die. 50 years later, the planet starts bouncing back. Time only means something to mortals. We’re just a blip on the big picture, which is a total ego check. Nature wins, always. Even if the solar system blows up, hundreds of millions of years later, or perhaps billions of years later, new planets, new possibilities for life. I think we have to be selfish. Let’s stop destroying our food sources, polluting our planet, because the species that will end up paying for that destruction is gonna be us. Mass extinctions happen, nature moves on, new life flourishes. Let’s be pragmatic with “our” planet, you know, “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch my back.”

We’re nature, let’s start by saving our own asses. And by saving ourselves, we’ll be saving much of the current flora and fauna, and saving the planet time to regenerate.

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ucme's avatar

We’re all mother nature’s offspring are we not? Goodness she’s been busy, she should have a lie down, put her feet up. I mean, all those kids to bring up….& don’t get started on the breast feeding. Toughens the nipples don’t it? :¬)

ubersiren's avatar

What’s an example of something that is unnatural? Perhaps this is what I don’t understand.

mattbrowne's avatar

We are part of all kinds of ecosystems.

auntydeb's avatar

@everephebe I think the words we are using are the problem. ‘Unnatural’ is used daily, to describe things that, in particular, humans have affected or changed. So, ‘plastics’ can be regarded as unnatural, but the products made from them are formed from something that is of nature so ‘natural’; oil is made from ancient forests and so on.

The way the word gets used, which means something to me, relates to activities, rather than things. So, it is actually ‘unnatural’ to bottle feed a baby, but can be convenient, or necessary; we, as clever tool using creatures can effectively create artificial breasts. It is ‘unnatural’ to change how the human body looks, by surgical intervention; but many people feel better for their nose or boob jobs! These practices are entirely human. No other Mammal actively seeks artificial or fabricated solutions to bodily needs. We have the advantage here, although not always the greatest wisdom in applying our intelligence!

My premise is simply, that if nature includes all of creation or the universe, then nothing unnatural can exist as an object, since it is formed from the material of nature anyway. But, there are unnatural practices, or ways of attending to our needs (that come from our artifice and imagination), which in no way essential. It may be satisfying (to some) to have bigger boobs, but it really is not necessary, or ‘natural’.

Having said that, I understand that if we are ‘of’ nature, then our machinations and activities are also in their own ways ‘natural’. So, our evolution includes how we alter the world… Hmmm.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@everephebe Sorry. With all the worlds nukes and biological weapons, we definitely could, for the most part, end nature. At least animals and fish anyway.

Leanne1986's avatar

I really don’t know. Truth is, I’ve never really thought about it GQ for that. I want to say yes but, if I am honest, when I think of nature, I don’t think of humans.

We are natural beings but we often detach ourselves from nature.

DancingMind's avatar

I think the problem is we have too many definitions of nature:
(dictionary . com)
na·ture  [ney-cher] –noun
1. the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.
2. the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.
3. the elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.
4. natural scenery.
5. the universe, with all its phenomena.
6. the sum total of the forces at work throughout the universe.
7. reality, as distinguished from any effect of art: a portrait true to nature.
8. the particular combination of qualities belonging to a person, animal, thing, or class by birth, origin, or constitution; native or inherent character: human nature.
9. the instincts or inherent tendencies directing conduct: a man of good nature.
10. character, kind, or sort: two books of the same nature.
11. characteristic disposition; temperament: a self-willed nature; an evil nature.
12. the original, natural, uncivilized condition of humankind.
13. the biological functions or the urges to satisfy their requirements.
14. a primitive, wild condition; an uncultivated state.
15. a simple, uncluttered mode of life without the conveniences or distractions of civilization: a return to nature.
16. ( initial capital letter, italics ) a prose work (1836), by Ralph Waldo Emerson, expounding transcendentalism.
17. Theology . the moral state as unaffected by grace.
—Idioms
18. by nature, as a result of inborn or inherent qualities; innately: She is by nature a kindhearted person.
19. in a state of nature, a. in an uncivilized or uncultured condition. b. without clothes; nude; naked.
20. of / in the nature of, having the character or qualities of: in the nature of an apology.
————————————————————————————————————————
Origin:
1200–50; Middle English natur ( e ) < Old French < Latin nātūra conditions of birth, quality, character, natural order, world, equivalent to nāt ( us ) (past participle of nāscī to be born) + -ūra -ure

[Personally, I’m going by #5]

everephebe's avatar

@DancingMind #5 is the way to go! :D #6 & #7 aren’t bad either.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

My gut feeling has always been that we as humans seem to not belong here. You know, like the Sesame Street song, “one of these things is not like the others.” I’m not saying we are unnatural, but we sure stick out like a sore thumb on this earth.

mrentropy's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I always thought it was insects (and bugs and stuff) that didn’t belong here.

faye's avatar

I think spiders are unnatural.

_zen_'s avatar

Yes, but more like a virus or germ or plague. But a natural one which will ultimately destroy itself and the planet, taking many species along with it to hell.

I’m not in a pleasant mood. Ask me again tomorrow.

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