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Man, Nature and Convenience

  1. Mar 2, 2004 #1
    Man, Nature and "Convenience"

    Ignore the typos in this rant as it was written in a mad dash of typing, and I haven't gotten around to proof-reading it yet.

    what makes man truly human

    There is no distinction in classification of human vs animal.

    The only thing that makes human human is our uncanny ability to drastically alter our environment intentionally on a rapid and wide scale.
    I think that we have that ability because we evolved out of necessity to address our mulitude of vulnerabilities that became more of a detriment when we came down from the trees and out of our natural element.

    We do not have the ability to survive in a wide range of climates, so we had to make clothes and housing.
    We do not have an exoskeleton, natural camoflague, built-in weapons, exceptional speed and agility or any number of other traits that make good natural hunters.
    We can not survive in many enviroments that other animals can, and without our (whatever you want to call it; intelligence, cleverness, abstract thought, etc) we are a highly specialized species with severly limited adaptability.

    Our minds developed to counter all these limiting vulnerabilites intrinsic in being human.
    This allowed us to relocate, which caused us to develop further.
    The result is a species that is a parasite of nature herself, rather than a particular species or family.
    We, who were perhaps the weakest and least threatening animal of the animal kingdom have become the dominant species on earth and a threat to the very survival of nature herself.

    Agent Smith had it dead on.
    So, what is "Nature" as opposed to "Human"?
    I have heard the argument many times that humans are a part of nature, not seperate from it.
    Some people *gives a sideways glance in Erin's general direction* have even argued that there should not even be a distinction between "natural" and "man-made" since man is a part of nature.

    I wonder, though...
    Is man (modern man, that is) still a part of nature, or have we evolved to a point that we are no longer a part of nature?
    Many humans would argue that we aren't "animals" because we are above them.
    I don't know about above, but I certainly do lean towards seperate from.

    Look at who we are (again, modern man, not tribal cultures that have stood basically unchanged for centuries) and what we have become.
    How many people do you know that could truly survive in the wilderness for an extended period of time armed with nothing but their wits?
    How many people do you know that could survive for an extended period of time without the majority of modern "conveniences" that would have been viewed as superfluous at best a hundred years ago?
    What would you life be without: Hosptals, Medicine, Doctors, Telephones, the Internet, Electricity, Mass produced clothing, Laundry machines, Conveneince stores (stores at all, for that matter) etc etc?
    Could YOU survive as a "natural animal"?
    The more we indulge in man-made "conveniences" the more reliant we become on them.
    Eventually we depend on them on a regular basis, then we take them for granted, then we become addicted, in a sense, finally, we our lives become dependent upon what was once considered a luxury "convenience" and we can't live without it.
    We have central air conditioning, central heat, we close our windows, pave our streets and driveways, uproot nature and replace it with symetrical landscape art??
    Most people don't spend much more time outdoors than it takes to get from the building door to the car door (and maybe a few hours on the weekend).
    We are no longer a part of nature.
    We don't live in nature anymore, we live off of nature.

    Yes, I keep putting "convenience" in quotes because I disagree that they are convenient.
    In addition to making us less self-reliant, they actually make our lives much more complicated and difficult.
    Computers are an ideal example of this.
    People talk of the "conveniences" of communication, although, to be sure, they are a helluva lot more complicated, expensive, tempermental and time-consuming than telephones (which, of course, are less "convenient" than letters.
    Oh yeah, they are irreplaceable in medical science, right? Exactly! They are irreplaceable, indispensable even, although they were unheard of 50 years ago.
    And don't talk about the medical advancements made due to computers.
    Were things really THAT bad 50 years ago 100 years ago?
    Sure, people died more often of diseases, but, you know what? They are SUPPOSED TO. That is what diseases are for.
    Besides, I really don't think that quality of life has vastly improved over the past 50 years at all, let alone as a result of medical advancements.
    With all the stress and loss of personal/family time that inevitably comes along with unchecked industrial development and "progress" I think the quality of life has dropped.
    How many times have your heard, or said yourself, "It was a simpler time back then" and meant it as a compliment ot times gone by?
    I have heard it countless times from countless people, but people still embrace technology, progress and our seperation justifying it as "conveniences" to make life easier, when as more "conveniences" come out life invaraibly gets more complicated.
    I just don't get it.
    How many times have you fantasized about living in a "Gilligan's Island" type deserted island paradise far from modern "conveniences" and the stress of living in a modern society?
    Maybe you haven't, maybe I am just weird, but I have dreamed about a life like that for as long as I can remember.
    If I am not the exception, then why does everyone embrace modern technology like it is mother's tit?
    Why do people strive to create entirely new industries that have no real purpose other than its own survival?
    The industries we create are a lot like the human race itself, except we design them to feed on us.
    It boggles my mind, it really does.
    We create industries that survive by and have no purpose other than feeding off us.
    Then we create other entire industries that have no purpose other than feeding those OTHER industries!
    What the **** am I missing?
    Or is it that everyone else is missing something.

    The other excuse we tell ourselves is that we are working to make a difference.
    We take these jobs because society tells us that everyone has to do their noble part for society to make it productive and efficient.
    I don't buy it.
    I'd rather live in Walden Woods.

    Let me just ask one most important question that I constantly ask myself to keep myself in check.
    Would you rather live to 50 years old in a free state of living off the land and your own wits alone (like Gilligan's Island), or live to 70 or 80 in a modern society that is full of crime, danger, stress, false ideals, pollution etc and likely live the last 20 - 30 years of your life in poor health and dependent (to at least some level) on medical care?
    I think my answer is pretty clear by now.
    What's yours?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2004 #2
    That was an refreshing rant, I also dream of sneaking off to an island or 3ed world country with no trace as long as there are a few naked women there, but then women tend to like having lots of stuff, my mind was once blown thinking about garage doors and all the time and effort put into making them so that people can push a button and save a little time and energy to go in, but all that effort and energy would have been far better invested in barn doors that last the life of the house and seldom injury anyone, it makes sense mathematically to go with barn doors, or no garage just a stainless steel car that looks like a cardboard box or a widget with wheels and 4 sets of bicycle pedals but then I realized that it's just me and I'm the problem, most everyone else is happy fitting in a following along and I'm the one who causes problems because garage doors create jobs and someone or some people worked very hard to build up the illusion that this was a really good thing and very sophisticated looking and so spawned another industry with george jetson appeal, like most things it's for appearances. I try to think of it all as the often misguided evolution of capitalism, all of it is a reflection of what most people's desires are for and most of the time it's to look better than the other person or whatever, I like computers though with more advanced communication and games, but it's rare to see anyone voluntarily go for long walks probably because of cars and tv.
    I wouldn't go so far as to move into a cave and eat dirt although.
  4. Mar 3, 2004 #3
    I think that some people have problems with the semantics of it all.
    For example, the semantics revolving around the words "nature" and "natural".

    An ecosystem is defined as: An ecological community together with its environment, functioning as a unit.

    An ecospecies is defined as: A taxonomic species considered in terms of its ecological characteristics and usually including several interbreeding ecotypes.

    Maybe we can coin a new word...
    Perhaps mankind is a parasitic and scavenging global ecocommunity that feeds upon the natural ecosystems of earth?

    Man was once a member of the ecosystem, but one ecotype (Euroman) at some point, seceded from the global ecosystem and formed its own faction- an ecocommunity- that subsists by conquering and defeating different localized ecosystems and forcing the inhabitants to succumb and adapt, flee or die (fits neatly with other Euroman behavioral traits, doesn't it?).

    As the Euroman ecocommunity spread and gained footholds within different localized ecosystems, its strength grew in pockets.
    When those pockets learned to effectively communicate with each other, they came to the realization that with their power united, they are a much more formidable force and can further ensure the ecocommunity's survival (fitting in with Darwinian survival of the species instinct) by joining forces.
    Once joined, these different factions became a single global ecocommunity.
    As an attempt to further its reach and solidify its footing, this global ecocommunity attempts to persuade and sucker other human ecotypes (Asiaman, Afriman, Latinoman etc) to join their global ecocommunity offering them promises of a life of greater security, ease and, of course, "convenience".
    The stronger the ecocommunity (slowly beginning to encompass all of mankind) grows, the more it destroys the ecosystem it seceded from due to insecurity because of cultural memes (borne of knowledge of its own adaptabilty limitations and vulnerabilities) which act as a collective instinct to conquer and destroy all else.
    This collective instinct overrides the individual instinct to live in harmony with nature in the weak, stupid, lazy, megalomaniacal, warriors and those that get suckered by shiny things (I got suckered by shiny things).
    This global ecocommunity can now be referred to as "Mankind".
    The humans that do not agree with the common goal of the Mankind ecocommunity must either be assimilated (which most of us have been already) or join together to form their own ecocommunity (Naturman) and fight alongside the global and localized ecosystems in an effort to overthrow the Mankind ecocommunity, or else the individual rebel ecotypes will suffer the same fate as the rest of the ecotypes in the ecosystem... Be destroyed or tamed, controlled and domesticated by Mankind.
    Mankind may have the sheer numbers, but I am willing to bet that Naturman will be made up of the best and brightest that humankind has to offer.
    Besides, Naturman will, by definition, be much more adaptable and resilient.

    Who wants to be a member of Naturman?
    First we destroy Mankind.
    Then we live like the Cherokees!

    Let's see a show of hands.

  5. Mar 3, 2004 #4
    I have been running this debate on another forum I go to.
    I made some points there that I would like to convey here and see what you think.
    The quotes are from one of the people in that debate, not from this site.
    I left them in because it makes more sense to read my comments in context.


    As usual, Ishtara, we basically agree on the overall concept, but widely differ on a few fundamental points.

    See, I don't see that as a "boon".
    I see it as irresponsible and short sighted.
    I am not about to jump up to a microphone and start condoning the sterilization or slaughter of people who are retarted, infirmed, diseased or otherwise unfit to prosper on their own.
    Believe it or not, even a misnthrope like me DOES have compassion... Especially for those suffering.
    Regardless, the fact remains, that by "helping unfit people to survive" and breed we are weakening the gene pool, making future generations less fit and more suseptible to disease and genetic affliction.
    We are irresponsibly attempting to circumvent the basic fundamental object of natural selection in evolution.
    In the "natural" world, weak animals will die.
    Stronger, faster, smarter, more adaptable ones will survive and pass those positive genes down to their offspring, thereby ensuring the future survival and prosperity of the species.
    You seem to see this as the responsibility of a compassionate human.
    A compassionate being will work to ensure the survival and happiness of each member of the species.
    I think that is an aspect of the comassionate, yet short-sighted being.
    Ensuring the fitness of the species as a whole (rather than focusing on the individuals) is an act of compassion with foresight.

    As far as I believe (and the majority of biologists, psychologists and animal behaviorists I have read and spoken to agree with me) every living organism has two core basic instincts in common.

    The first one is hardly contested and many people (mistakenly, in my opinion) assume that it is the root instinct.
    Survival of the individual.
    It is easy to make that assumption, just watching any animal (including humans) it is pretty clear that we are driven by a desire to survive and prosper.
    However, that instinct of personal preservation derrives from the true base instinct.
    It is created by, driven by and controlled by the greater instinct.
    Survival of the species.
    You can see this in all species.
    Animals routinely sacrifice their own lives for the betterment of the pack/colony/family/species.
    Even humans do this.
    The big difference between Mankind and the rest of nature is that humans, due to their highly developed brains (again, this being a resut of our evolution and the survival necessity to adapt our environments rather than adapting to our environments) and the resulting ability of reason and creative abstract thought, they have developed an exaggerated sense of self-importance and an ego that has over-developed to the point of being a detriment to the species.
    We reason that if survival and personal protection is so important to US, it must be just as important to other individuals and in order to live in a properly functioning communal unit, we must be compassionate and place others' needs and desires at the same equal level of our own.
    What we can't conceive is the concept that compassion for others includes the "others" that have not come yet, and, in fact, the needs of those that have not come yet are actually MORE important than our own.
    "What is it about our egos that does not allow us to see that the lives and survivability of future generations is more important than our own?"?
    I think it is two things.
    Our ego and exaagerated sense of self fights to not accept the notion that the individual is of little importance and significance, as a result we have little to no concept of what of true selflessness is.
    The knowledge of our own mortality and realization that we really ARE insignificant in the grand scheme of things triggers a desperate desire for immortality and forces us to reason that the individual and current generation is more important than it actually is.

    Yes, I absolutley would.
    As I said earlier in the thread, I think it is the lesser of two evils.
    What I really think this all comes down to is this:
    An unnatural and selfish fear of death.
    Is the death of an individual such a horrible thing that should be fought off and defeated at all cost?
    Even at the cost of the survival of the species??
    I don't think it is.
    And I don't think it is very selfless or compassionate either.
  6. Mar 23, 2004 #5
    Re: Man, Nature and "Convenience"

    it is a rant - but a very relevant one, imho.
    i said in our other thread that i would read this more carefully and i am glad i did!
    i can't find much to disagree with, but your idea of humans acting rather like a virus was most descriptive/y enlightening!

    this and your subsequent posts reminded me of a scenario depicted by faulkner (i think it may have been) in which an ant comes out of a human skull long after the extinction of the latter and states, "an amaziing brain, indeed! a marvellous experiment of nature this species called man. pity it never understood the business of survival."

    however, i happen to think there is more symbiosis in nature than she is usually given credit for (along the lines of herbert shelton).

    also, there may exist a kindness in her that often gives species a 'second' chance.

    perhaps, if we recognize some of our past atrocities and attempt to alter our ways, we may be the beneficiaries of one of these 'chances' and be allowed to continue our evolution.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2004
  7. Mar 23, 2004 #6
    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
    A large number of animals alter their environment, beavers being to most obvious mammal. Ants, termites, bees are other examples and Lovelock of Gia fame would say all of life alters and maintains its environment. Herding and grazing animals migrate with the seasons and as the quantity and quality of food diminishes and keep the trees from overgrowing their pastures. Virtually every form of life undergoes local population explosions and devour everything and pollute their environment as yeast in grape juice or beer.
    We too easily forget and ignore that we are an integral and inseparable part of nature and a natural product of nature doing what all of nature does naturally.
    We will of course suffer a drastic reduction in population once we use up all available resources and pollute our environment beyond its capacity to cope just as happens with every and all population explosions. The only difference is that we can be aware of all of this and supposedly do something about it before its too late.
    Maybe this is the goal of life and nature, to develop a living being that can control itself, its environment and its resources and wastes to the point that all of life can live long and prosper on this earth.
  8. Mar 23, 2004 #7


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    It would be an interesting exercise to come up with the job that puts one the furthest from any sort of obviously useful or 'natural' activity. The best I can come up with on the spur of the moment is the job of arbitraging junk bonds.
  9. Mar 23, 2004 #8
    what can i say to your entire post but that i think you are

    Right! Right! Right!

    Since you so eloquently use that Vulcan phrase, permit me to match it with another:

    "The glory of creation lies in its infinite diversity and the way our differences combine to make meaning and beauty."

    If we are astute enough to combine our differences, then the living being of which you speak may indeed come into existence.
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