Defining terms: Nature, Natural & Artificial

DSCF5637I was having a discussion with some friends on a matter of `Saving the planet for the sake of our (future) children’ ..  (Her’s was a well-written long post..but I can’t copy it here without permission..)

But here are some of my resulting thoughts…(thoughts in progress) 🙂   Note: Sections A, B & C are the 3 reply posts I made..  but of course there were interspaced with other people’s response too… Without those, this may seem a bit jumpy..  but these are all my thoughts…so these should flow..without too much jarring..  🙂

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A. So many thoughts come to mind… here are a few in no order..

1) To me, concrete & plastic are nature too.. all the components for them as well as the creatures who created them all came from Earth..

2) Mars, Venus, meteors and all the other planets…yeah… nature too..!!

3) People feel they need to justify reasons for wanting to `save’ the planet/ animals etc.. My view is `i want to save them…because I feel it’s important.. my inner self or intuition or something inside is telling me it;s important..and that’s good enough’ – But if this needs to be reduced to some logical argument….well, then I say, I am a product of nature..I want to save nature…because that;s just nature wanting to save itself.. Or put another way, my hands go forward to protect my head when I fall..

4) Ofcourse this same sword cuts both ways.. ie.. If a person says, `i want all the resources for myself.. I am nature…so nature decrees that just one part of it wants it all’ – In such a case, we need a new card/ control on the table.. For example.. `altruism’ ..ie good of all… for the good of the future…etc.. ..In this sort of manner…we become like dogs chasing their own tails…sadly..

5) Everything that’s happening on planet earth is 100% fine.. because it’s all part of the Earth,,all part of nature.. even the crazy matter of , `humans are part of nature…humans want to destroy trees/ hunt elephants down. ie.. nature wants to destroy itself..

6) Ultimate point- when we talk of nature, we are going to have to define a boundary..ie `just the planet earth’, just americas, just the solar system..etc. We are also going to have to define a particular set of boundary conditions…ie time frame… species.. …Its all just messy..messy messy..

7) There are 2 ways out of this logical loops/mess (that;s my scientific term )

7a) Mankind must consider itself to be superior to all else …as an end point to evolution (?) and so take some sort of `dictatorship/ right to use/ right to abuse all else’ position over all else.. or

7b) Mankind must assume that it has some divine advise/connection/ right…and thus can assume that superiority to own/ use/abuse all else..

B.  I wrangle with these on and on for years… and the final two points 7a) and 7b) are more of a despair…than any sort of inspiration There must be another idea/ thought/ point that must surely explain why we as part of the web of life should feel we want to save things…without necessary having to go down the track of ..it’s because humans is the ultimate.. I actually don’t believe we humans are.. It’s why I often refer to us humans as `the human animal’ to remind myself and others..that there is so much of the beast in us.. no matter what shinny suits we wear and what great skyscrapers we build to keep going up.

C.  To be honest, we have to go down the route of Einstein.. and define terms before we can go further.. as any discussion/ debate. argument can only be valid or meaningful within the context of a particular situation/ circumstance/ boundary.. So here goes my attempt.. Bear with me..

I have to start defining nature...and say that anything that exists naturally on planet Earth. But I run into the problem.. of now having to define what is mean by `naturally existing’ .. People tend to go for the idea that `anything that has not been tampered by humans’ is seen as `natural’ . But I have to argue against that.. If in a caveman situation, a caveman found a cave..picked up a stone nearby.. started hammering and carved out the cave a bit more clearly.. found fallen sticks..and put a front wall of sticks.. and made a home of it.. is that artificial or natural? That’s no different to the Beaver that builds a damn using sticks..

This leads me to key thoughts that we need to incorporate.. And that is one of `transformation’ ...`reversibility‘ and even `biodegradability’ ..

A substance that occurs and only changes state/shape/ configuration by elemental forces ..can then be called `natural’ . ie by winds, water, fire and earth. But if any living creature tampers with those substances ..and changes/ transforms the shape/state of the said substance..then it has to be considered `artificial’ .. This means the beaver’s dam and the modified cave of caveman are both artificial.. Now that is not satisfactory…we will agree (am sure)…but note that both can be reversed to some level.. Twigs can be dispersed.. Cave front can accumulate soil and dirt and solidify over time.. (reversibility).

So ..(big breath) we need something else.. and that brings me to tools.. & technology..

A stone or bone tied by sinew or vine to a twig becomes a low-tech axe. It’s a tool that can be reversed.. ie broken up back into component pieces..and then allowed for `nature’ to take its course..gradual degradation.. (this is where biodegradability comes in).  If a living creature uses an object that is not part of its living body at the time.. then it’s using a tool…and it’s using technology.. And the low tech tools are reversible in themselves..as well as the transformation they affect onto other substances…But hi-tech tools.. reversible or not.. can effect transformation of natural substances that can not revert back to original natural states.. NOW THAT is what I will call artificial

(These Definitions and related explanations are written on the cuff ..might have some gaps …but the core idea is here). As I said, `thoughts in Progress’

-Mani Navasothy

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