Friday, July 09, 2004

All Natural?

My friends Chris and Erin just had a baby delivered via c-section last week. Chris mentioned that they had hoped to have a "natural" home birth. Naturally, this triggered my thoughts on the issue of man versus nature. I mentioned to him that c-sections were a form of natural child-birth and he vehemently disagreed, as though the mere fact of human intervention itself were somehow outside the realm of nature.

Birds build nests, beavers build dams, ants build tunnels, bees build hives and humans build houses, office buildings, shopping centers, airports, etc. In my view it is a common mistake to understand man-made things as being somehow "unnatural". Also, it seems to me, that there is a strong value-judgment implicit in this view. The idea that what non-human beings do is harmonious, in-tune with and aligned with nature and that this is a good thing. While conversely, some (I guess it must be some, but not all) human activities are unharmonious, out-of-tune and mis-aligned and therefore they are unnatural and bad.

Are we somehow NOT a part of nature? Are we and our activities somehow opposed to nature? I think not (Au contraire, mon frer). We are very much a part of nature and as such ALL that we think and do (and everything under the sun, as they sing in the song) is and are 100% natural. How could it be otherwise? This does not mean that everything we do is good (whatever good means). Is everything a bird or bee does good? If a bee stings me, I can assure you that I think it is bad, but not unnatural. What could Chris and others mean by "nature" if it excludes humans and the products of their activities?

Chris says that nests and dams and ant tunnels and bee-hives don't have the same deleterious impact that many seemingly analogous human products have and that makes us and our products different and in some sense unnatural. Hogwash I say!

Just because human activities have a somehow less harmonious relationship with and impact on our environment does not mean that they are any less natural. That is unless Chris and others mean something different than what I take to be meant by the word nature.

More on this issue soon...

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