Is Man Part of Nature

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Andreas
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Post by Andreas » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:26 am

Right... where to begin?
If that is your definition fair enough. But by my definition of "natural" putting any prefix on natural makes it an oxymoron.


It also makes it convenient too? What about right and wrong can we put any prefix on those?
Can I recommend "Survival of the Sickest" by Dr Sharon Moalem. He gives a slightly different view of a tleast health. But then some would argue a dualist point of view is ultimately unhealthy even from a psychological point of view.
Thanks for the book but no thanks. I don't argue that a dualistic point of view is unhealthy but I am against the people who will use it for their own domination over the world, that is unhealthy at least for the rest of us. it is ok we all wanna give purpose to our existence when there is none.

For all practical purpose I'll behave as though I have free will and bear the resultant cause and effect. But I won't (as I have for fifty odd years) dismiss the possibility of the lack of free will. It leads to some very interesting perspectives, not just nihilism.

Also there are arguments that are not deterministic at the core, but lead to the conclusion to a lack of free will.

Here's a nice one by Galen Strawson in an interview.
Convenient again, next thing you know we are all lab rats. After all materialism and no moral scientific objectivity are serving those in power.. Granted we dont have control over our lives and there is no morality in the world what I consider moral is not moral for you and vice versa. What we can do then when the unpredictable event comes into our lives to act according to our humanity or to what is our best interest. I think it is a matter of courage.

You know my stepfather is eighty years old and a surgeon and he says ofcrouse there is moral responsibility in science. Feel free to indulge me on those interesting perspectives.


Evinnra, this is the second time you misunderstand my post.
- is it the destruction that is unnatural,
- is it the fact that sentient beings have fears and desires that is unnatural,
- is it the affirmation of life by sentient beings that is unnatural,
Allow me to rephrase. If you affirm life for what it is you don't feel compelled to be superior(desire) or inferior(fear) or to be part of any institution then you don't look to dominate but work together in harmony, that is at least the observation i make.

Nature is what it is. It is when people with the knowledge of what is right and wrong that choose to act according to their best interests no matter the cost that I consider unnatural. Maybe though we should have another word for unnatural? You know though you cant beat common sense.

At the end I am happy that the most influential artists and scientists and spiritual people seem to grasp this simple realization that valuing life is much more important than what we want to prove.
“To live is enough.” ― Shunryu Suzuki
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Post by Evinnra » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:31 am

Hi Roman,

Like you I was going to ask this question again, how do we define natural, but the last time I asked this question the topic was abandoned. My own working definition for the moment is that natural are all those things against which we do NOT develop (or initially feel) resentment. Not a very well thought through definition though, since I eat some food which I originally disliked. Yet, considering that our metabolism changes as we mature, would it not be unnatural if we only ate baby food and breast milk now :?
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Post by Evinnra » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:05 pm

Andreas wrote:
Evinnra, this is the second time you misunderstand my post.
- is it the destruction that is unnatural,
- is it the fact that sentient beings have fears and desires that is unnatural,
- is it the affirmation of life by sentient beings that is unnatural,
Allow me to rephrase. If you affirm life for what it is you don't feel compelled to be superior(desire) or inferior(fear) or to be part of any institution then you don't look to dominate but work together in harmony, that is at least the observation i make.

Nature is what it is. It is when people with the knowledge of what is right and wrong that choose to act according to their best interests no matter the cost that I consider unnatural. Maybe though we should have another word for unnatural? You know though you cant beat common sense.

At the end I am happy that the most influential artists and scientists and spiritual people seem to grasp this simple realization that valuing life is much more important than what we want to prove.
Sorry Andreas, please allow me to make a correction here, I did not missundertand your post, I simply did not understand.

Have to agree with you on all of the above, it is probably more fruitful to look for a definition of natural that does not include learned skills yet does not exclude the ability to learn. The skills that we learn are not part of nature but the act of learning it self is part of our nature ?
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Post by jonsjourney » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:18 pm

While I agree that it may not be all that helpful, I think that in a sense the definition that romansh is offering above is probably best. Why? well...
–adjective
1. existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial ): a natural bridge.
2. based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural process.
3. of or pertaining to nature or the universe: natural beauty.
4. of, pertaining to, or occupied with the study of natural science: conducting natural experiments.
5. in a state of nature; uncultivated, as land.
6. growing spontaneously, without being planted or tended by human hand, as vegetation.
7. having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives: natural food; natural ingredients. Compare organic (def. 11).
8. having a real or physical existence, as opposed to one that is spiritual, intellectual, fictitious, etc.
9. of, pertaining to, or proper to the nature or essential constitution: natural ability.
10. proper to the circumstances of the case: a natural result of his greed.
11. free from affectation or constraint: a natural manner.
12. arising easily or spontaneously: a natural courtesy to strangers.
13. consonant with the nature or character of.
14. in accordance with the nature of things: It was natural that he should hit back.
15. based upon the innate moral feeling of humankind: natural justice.
16. in conformity with the ordinary course of nature; not unusual or exceptional.
17. happening in the ordinary or usual course of things, without the intervention of accident, violence, etc.
18. related only by birth; of no legal relationship; illegitimate: a natural son.
19. related by blood rather than by adoption.
20. based on what is learned from nature rather than on revelation.
21. true to or closely imitating nature: a natural representation.
22. unenlightened or unregenerate: the natural man.
23. being such by nature; born such: a natural fool.
24. Music.
a. neither sharp nor flat.
b. changed in pitch by the sign ♮.
25. not treated, tanned, refined, etc.; in its original or raw state: natural wood; natural cowhide.
26. (of a horn or trumpet) having neither side holes nor valves.
27. not tinted or colored; undyed.
28. having a pale tannish or grayish-yellow color, as many woods and untreated animal skins.
29. Cards.
a. being a card other than a wild card or joker.
b. (of a set or sequence of cards) containing no wild cards.
30. having or showing feelings, as affection, gratitude, or kindness, considered part of basic human nature.
What a mess!

So where can we agree here? Perhaps if we who are involved in this conversation could agree on a working definition, we can proceed...

Can we agree that it appears the universe began at the big bang? If so, can we also agree that everything that is in the universe of our knowledge came from this singularity? This is probably a good starting point, no?
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Post by Cindy B. » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:08 pm

Uh, good luck with that, Jon, that is, trying to get folks to agree on working definitions in this thread. :wink:

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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:58 pm

Andreas wrote: Right... where to begin?
It also makes it convenient too? What about right and wrong can we put any prefix on those?
Andreas :)
I'm not sure what you mean by "convenient". I understand the word, but not necessarily your intent.

We can put prefixes on these words but the effect might be familiar?
newright, oldwrong, double-evil

Of course words with Latin and Greek roots lend themselves to prefixes more easily:
correct and incorrect, moral, amoral and immoral.
But, again I'not really sure what is your intention. :)
Andreas wrote:Thanks for the book but no thanks. I don't argue that a dualistic point of view is unhealthy but I am against the people who will use it for their own domination over the world, that is unhealthy at least for the rest of us. it is ok we all wanna give purpose to our existence when there is none.
Andreas I never said that you thought dualism was unhealthy, (actually my impression was quite the opposite. :))

My fear is that people use dualism (in all its forms)for domination of the self.
Andreas wrote: Convenient again, next thing you know we are all lab rats. After all materialism and no moral scientific objectivity are serving those in power.. Granted we dont have control over our lives and there is no morality in the world what I consider moral is not moral for you and vice versa. What we can do then when the unpredictable event comes into our lives to act according to our humanity or to what is our best interest. I think it is a matter of courage.
The things you describe here morality, humanity, courage are (I would argue) human constructs. Which is OK. But these are made up of a myriad interconnected actions and reactions. Of course when discussing the behaviour of a small part of that myriad, then we use words like 'humanity' (in both it's senses) ... which is OK. And for the most part it can be a good approximation. But that is all it is an approximation.
Andreas wrote:You know my stepfather is eighty years old and a surgeon and he says ofcrouse there is moral responsibility in science. Feel free to indulge me on those interesting perspectives.

That's cool. Please ask your stepdad, does he believe in free will? And if he does, then ask where does free will reside in the brain and how does it manipulate our precious potassium and calcium ions? How does our free will strengthen certain neural pathways, and how do these affect our free will?

If he does not believe in free will then he and are are either one or very close on morality and ethics. :)

I'm trying to plaster my post with smilies. Mainly because I sense a frustration in your posts.
Last edited by romansh on Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:16 pm

Evinnra wrote: Hi Roman,
My own working definition for the moment is that natural are all those things against which we do NOT develop (or initially feel) resentment.
Cyb-Sis ;)
So I might feel resentful against a doctor who gave me a serious misdiagnosis. I have seen it happen. Would that be classed as unnatural?
Evinnra wrote: Not a very well thought through definition though, since I eat some food which I originally disliked. Yet, considering that our metabolism changes as we mature, would it not be unnatural if we only ate baby food and breast milk now :?
I'm not sure about baby milk example. Reminds me of the Last Emperor ...
So if you grew up in a society where it was common to be fed breast milk well into adolescence, would you feel resentful if you were the odd one out?

End of the day the resentful definition of natural is based on intuition. Which is OK. But then although I am comfortable with intuition, I know it is just a quick approximation that I use to get by.
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:27 pm

jonsjourney wrote:While I agree that it may not be all that helpful, I think that in a sense the definition that romansh is offering above is probably best. Why? well...

What a mess!

So where can we agree here? Perhaps if we who are involved in this conversation could agree on a working definition, we can proceed...

Can we agree that it appears the universe began at the big bang? If so, can we also agree that everything that is in the universe of our knowledge came from this singularity? This is probably a good starting point, no?
Hi Jon ... a common theme seems to be if it is man made it's not natural. We can include women in this, but I suspect some might claim women are a bit more natural. :roll:
Either way that excludes eating and such.

Another trend is if its 'organic' it might be more natural? But that would exclude the moon and the sun?

I could go on with different definitions of natural and find something that is obviously natural excluded.
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Post by Evinnra » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:56 am

romansh wrote:
Evinnra wrote: Hi Roman,
My own working definition for the moment is that natural are all those things against which we do NOT develop (or initially feel) resentment.
Cyb-Sis ;)
So I might feel resentful against a doctor who gave me a serious misdiagnosis. I have seen it happen. Would that be classed as unnatural?
I don't know Cyb-Bro, are you saying that one can naturally develop resentment against someone who harms one? Perhaps it goes without saying that people do develop resentment against people and things who harm them. You turn to the doctor to do his/her job and either by carelessness or by no fault of his/her own s/he harms you. It seems perfectly natural to feel resentment in a case like this. What is not natural is to be vengeful IF the harm was done unintentionally. This leads us back to the importance of personal intentions when it comes to assigning moral responsibility. The greatest problem - as I see it - with stating that inteligent people do not believe in free will is that this claim assumes that intelligent people will have no accountability for their intentions. I have read the full interview, which you recommended to Cindy on the previous page of this topic. The interview was very clear and persuasive and on the end it was admitted that human life is rather bleak without free will. We can not develop meaningful relationships with each other if we could not take it for granted that people love/like us by their own choice . (Well, this is very simply put, the argument is really worth reading!)
Evinnra wrote: Not a very well thought through definition though, since I eat some food which I originally disliked. Yet, considering that our metabolism changes as we mature, would it not be unnatural if we only ate baby food and breast milk now :?
I'm not sure about baby milk example. Reminds me of the Last Emperor ...
So if you grew up in a society where it was common to be fed breast milk well into adolescence, would you feel resentful if you were the odd one out?

End of the day the resentful definition of natural is based on intuition. Which is OK. But then although I am comfortable with intuition, I know it is just a quick approximation that I use to get by.
Perhaps we are onto something here, if we agree that our intuitions are not baseless - i.e. subconsciously we do have data to support our intuitions - and if we take into consideration that learning also sharpens intuition? The good thing about a definition of 'natural' that relies on intuitively felt likes and dislikes is that having intuitions comes naturally even to new-born babies. (As far as I can remember .... :lol: )
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Post by noman » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:46 am

This is a long thread. Thought I'd throw in my spare change. But don't let me derail the conversation. What follows might be water under the bridge. (Natural water; artificial bridge 8) )


JJ’s list of definitions is a good meditation on the uses of the word ‘natural’. Any word with thirty definitions is probably an overused word. But the first definition gives it’s opposite artificial: (from L. artificium "making by art, craft,") The Taj Mahal, the Mona Lisa, the Internet, trans fat, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the hydrogen bomb are artificial. Opium, humming birds, and asteroids are natural.

One of the confusing aspects, I think, is that the status a thing, whether natural or artificial, can’t always be determined without knowing its history. A diamond could be found in a Kimberlite mine. It is natural. It could also be made in a laboratory. It is artificial. The expert takes an eyepiece to a cut diamond and says that it can’t be natural because it is too perfect. Then he changes his mind. There is a small flaw he hadn’t noticed. It must be a natural diamond.

At the Oklo mine in Gabon West Africa uranium was unearthed that looked as though it had undergone fission. The French launched an investigation. Nuclear material that has undergone fission has to be accounted for. But earth scientists explained the phenomenon. The earth had achieved nuclear fission two billion years ago. It was naturally occurring spent uranium.

The worst use of the word ‘natural’ is in the advertising of food products. ‘Natural’ does not have a legal definition. (Not in America anyway.) Tobacco is all natural. So is alcohol. So is hemlock. So is saturated fat. There are plenty of so-called ‘natural’ foods that aren’t good for a body. People like to be reassured that what they are eating was originally made by mother earth and not by the DuPont Corporation. But it doesn’t make sense to buy a packaged product that says ‘all natural’. It was put together by a group of human beings, artificers of the products that make up our diet.

I suppose, if one took a hard stance, one could say that since we are part of nature, then everything we do or make is ‘natural’, and nothing is artificial. But I don’t like that perspective. Nature is rarely kind, and mostly indifferent. And we have the rare gift of human consciousness - whatever that is. I prefer to see us as part animal / part angel.
“Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put on this earth to rise above.”

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Post by Andreas » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:53 am

Hey,
That's cool. Please ask your stepdad, does he believe in free will? And if he does, then ask where does free will reside in the brain and how does it manipulate our precious potassium and calcium ions? How does our free will strengthen certain neural pathways, and how do these affect our free will?
Romansh my frustration comes from these kind of questions for some reason :). Getting emotional is part of the process. Mainly it comes because somehow it just doesn't seem right to explain scientifically free will. I know that we cannot discover it so does my stepdad (I am guessing) but honestly because I am curious I will ask him.

Something else that comes to mind is that if you have no desire then you don't need free will so it all boils down there again, for me. And how easy this can be done in the world we have created? So in my mind there is still a choice, to resist or to submit.

There is no doubt that someday someone will discover the gene of courage or whatever but if we reject ethics then we give way to exploitation. The discovery of America was a big discovery and it was something that would have happened anyway what happened afterward though was not so superior in fact we have just proved that discovering gunpowder doesn't make you more intelligent. When someone considers himself superior without any sense of responsibility or morality, well we know what happens then and that makes it convenient don't you think? Maybe I am misunderstanding something here, I don't know.

When you think about nature. You think of a rose that looks up in the sun and there is this synergy that exists there or like you would say an exchange of information however for me is this is divine, when I look someone at the eyes or communicate with him there is this sense of awe about that energy that exists which is way beyond any scientific explanation in my opinion. Responsibility and morality are humans constructs but at the same time they are the affirmation of the divine in all things? Maybe we should stop and think for a while before we discover anything else?

Again I cannot help it but see the practical application all these concepts have in real life.

Anyway I want to apologize to you and Evinnra if I was a bit frustrated :).
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Post by jonsjourney » Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:04 pm

For what it is worth, I believe that science will locate a part of the brain responsible for not only "freewill", but religion and god, as well.

All represent cognitive efforts to reconcile our self-knowledge of mortality.
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Post by Evinnra » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:18 pm

Andreas, no need to apologise, what you posted was not offensive. Getting frustrated and a bit emotional is perfectly understandable. We are not machines 8)
noman wrote:
I suppose, if one took a hard stance, one could say that since we are part of nature, then everything we do or make is ‘natural’, and nothing is artificial. But I don’t like that perspective. Nature is rarely kind, and mostly indifferent. And we have the rare gift of human consciousness - whatever that is. I prefer to see us as part animal / part angel.
“Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put on this earth to rise above.”

- Katherine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, 1951
- NoMan
:) Hi NoMan,

If we are part of nature then everything we do is natural seems a bit too inclusive a definition to me. Let me illustrate what I mean with an example. Whenenver I do some serious work my female cat Tiggy comes and joins me like if she wanted to be part of the action. If I think very hard while writing something or take down the christmas tree she seems to 'think' that I am in strife and her presence is required to show sympathy. This is the very same cat that was marching up and down in front of my bedroom door when I had to lie in bed with incapacitating backpain. Is it natural for cats to act this way? Probably not, because my other cat will not give a toss what is happening as long as he is fed alright. Now, I didn't train Tiggy to perform this task and cats not supposed to have a soul like we humans do to feel sympathy. Yet she does have a peculiar skill that no other cats have that I know. What this example aims to illustrate is that even if we do not go so far as to say our human soul has moral intuitions and free will, we can still argue that individual living entities do have peculiarities that are not explainable by anything other than their particularity.

Would it not make the word' natural' useless if absolutely everything we do could be termed natural? :?
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Post by jonsjourney » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:21 pm

Was watching Power of Myth last night and thought I would toss this into the mix, for what it is worth...
Joe says...

"...Now, the biblical tradition is a socially oriented mythology. Nature is condemned. In the nineteenth century, scholars thought of mythology and ritual as an attempt to control nature. But that is magic, not mythology or religion. Nature religions are not attempts to control nature but to help you put yourself in accord with it. But when nature is thought of as evil, you don't put yourself in accord with it, you control it, or try to, and hence the tension, the anxiety, the cutting down of forests, the annihilation of native people. And the accent here separates us from nature."

From my 1988 book version of Power Of Myth, page 23-24.
I think that if Joe was asked directly is man a part of nature or is there anything we can do that is separate from nature (?), he would have probably said that since we come from nature, that which we extend from this assumption is natural. Of course this is my take, or perhaps a projection, but I have yet to find Joe claiming an "external force" controlling our universe. I think he makes this pretty clear in the Masks of Eternity chapter, where we seem to see his own philosophy come through at its greatest development, just a few months before he passed away.

The above quote helps to illustrate why we seem to attempt to separate what we perceive to be unnatural from ourselves. Just as we seem to need to cognitively create an afterlife that will receive our immaterial soul after we perish, we also seem to need to remove ourselves cognitively from the scars we inflict upon our environment. This coping mechanism has been reinforced through the dominant religious systems for a very long time now and has allowed the rationalization of the specific acts mentioned in Joe's above quote, as well as many other dissociations we experience. This separation of ourselves from our acts seems to be a coping mechanism that allows us to rationalize our acts. My initial position on this argument is a perfect example. I chose to separate myself from the acts of humans, but this is simply a defense mechanism that helped me sleep at night. Jung would say that eventually, this disconnect would manifest itself in symbolic dreams meant to awaken me to the greater truth. As it happens, I was able to meditate on the idea, after having my position challenged, and come to my own conclusion without my unconscious needing to act.

When we can point to an external authority, like a religious text, as justifying our actions, the blame shifts away to this external authority and we get a decent nights sleep. We can talk all day about ideas such as freewill putting the authority back on us, but if the text says "X", in the end, someone who puts the value of the text as being a greater authority than the judgment of the individual acting in the environment, "X" can be justified as divinely valid.

Later on Joe says...
Bill Moyers: "So when we say, 'Save the earth,' we are talking about saving ourselves."

Joseph Campbell: "Yes. All this hope for something happening in society has to wait for something in the human psyche, a whole new way of experiencing a society. And the crucial question here, as I see it, is simply: With what society, what social group, do you identify yourself with? Is it going to be with the people of the planet, or is it going to be with your own particular in-group? This is the question, essentially, that was in the minds of the founders of our nation when the people of the thirteen states began thinking of themselves as of one nation, yet without losing consideration for the special interests of each of the several states. Why can't something of that kind take place in the world right now?"

Power of Myth, page 182
If we could answer his inquiry at the end of that quote, we would be getting somewhere! Thanks to romansh for the challenge to rethink this. It led me to contemplate my own beliefs and to seek the counsel of Joseph Campbell's work as an aid in this inquiry, which led me to spending a nice afternoon with Joe watching Power of Myth.

I would argue that the Masks of Eternity chapter (P.O.M. video and book) along with The Inner Reaches of Outer Space represent Joe's most fully synthesized views on human beliefs and their origins. Not a bad way to spend the day, even if Moyer's constant biblical references get a bit tiresome after a while!
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Post by S_Watson » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:06 pm

JJ wrote:
even if Moyer's constant biblical references get a bit tiresome after a while!
But Campbell didn't tire of them at all. Campbell never found the Bible "tiresome"; he regarded it as one of the inexhaustible treasuries of renewable myths.

The only thing "tiresome" about ANY myth is when it's used in stale, literal ways. But Campbell said the same thing about using any other myths in stale ways, whether the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita or, um, or even the movie Avatar for that matter. (Avatar is not yet stale, but to paraphrase Yoda, "It will be! It WILL be!")

Furthermore, as Moyers' conversations with Campbell were intended first and foremost for an American audience steeped principally in the Bible, didn't it simply make practical sense for them to discuss the Bible considerably more than other mythical traditions? Because the Bible is the main body of myth that most of the intended audience knew more about in the first place.
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