Is man a part of nature?

I’m currently discussing the question, ‘Is man a part of Nature?’ in a class. It’s a forum, so i thought i would include the Dopers. So, is man part of nature? Is heshe higher than nature, as some religions might imply?

Did you mean to post this in the Pit? :confused:

You can e-mail a moderator and ask to have it moved to Great Debates, no problem. :slight_smile:

How could man not be a part of nature I think is the more appropriate question. Or perhaps, what exactly is nature that man could either be a part of it or not?

Some would say that man is above nature, that the world was made for ‘them’. This would make them above nature, and therefore able to exploit it for all it’s worth.

Well then, it would seem to me that “some” need to support their idea od a seperation. Until shown otherwise, the parsimonious approach is that there is no seperation.

I would also like an objective scale to show where “above”-ness begins in regards to nature, unless “some” are claiming that humans are supernatural…

I’d say we were part of nature therefore we are able to exploit it for all it’s worth.


“Maximum sustainable yield” is a better concept. It shows more responsible stewardship for future generations.

I’m still pissed that I missed Great Auks, Passenger Pigeons, and Eskimo Curlews. With proper management there would still be extant populations of these species, as well as so many others. I would not want to begrudge my grandchildren the chance to see manatees, giant pandas, or any of the less charismatic species we are abusing today.

We are in a position of stewardship on this world. Whether this is through our own efforts or the agency of a deity, it behooves us to not shit our bed. Sure, exploit it for all its worth, but be careful not to destroy it.


Yes, man is part of nature, and so is everything that man creates.

I find the argument that “man is part of nature” to be disingenuous at best, and foolish at worst. The world belongs to US!-not the whooping cranes, not the great apes, not the dolphins! We have the power to do great harm to our environment, but we also have the power to speed up evolution, and actually improve things!
People talk about the species that have gone extinct because of man-but do we really need the dodo bird? Or, would the world be a better place, had we not exterminated the polio and smallpox viruses?
I say, let’s get rid of the bad species, and keep the good ones. I don’t shed any tears over the demise of the tuberculosis bacterium, or the black wido spider!

As far as I know, my body is made up of mostly water and a few common substances. If there is a part of my body that is not natural, then I greatly desire to know what it is.

egkelly wrote:

I wouldn’t shed any tears either, but because of the delicately balanced nature of our ecosystem, and our lack of complete knowledge of this balance, the elimination of a certain harmful species may result in a worse condition than having that species.

Let’s agree to not do stuff unless we are sure of the consequences.

Also, for the OP.

We have no evidence for the existence of any realm outside of nature. There are certain phenomena that we do not fully understand yet, but I trust that they will fall in the realm of our nature. And if they don’t, well, that would be interesting. But until then, the question, “Is man a part of nature?” is moot.

find someone who has been bitten by a shark and ask him or her. i would suggest asking someone who has been eaten by a shark but their answer would be too predictable.

Dal Timgar

Is man part of nature?

Define nature.

I would say that if man is governed entirely by physical laws, then he is part of nature. However, if there is any portion of him which transcends the physical (e.g. a soul), then he is not entirely part of nature.

I also daresay that if man has free will, then his actions are not exclusively determined by scientific principles – and thus, he has a supernatural component (the aforementioned soul). In contrast, if all of man’s actions are determined exclusively by biochemical and mechanical reactions, then I think the concept of free will becomes meaningless.

I know that some of the atheist participants would disagree with this view, but to each his own. I’ll confess that I’m not particularly inclined to debate the existence of a soul right now. Suffice to say, however, that I think this makes more sense than the simplistic “Well, of COURSE man is a part of nature!” It does at least allow for the possibility of a non-physical component to man.

begin Hijack mode

Egkelly, here you are engaged in the classic logic fallacy “begging the question”. That means that you support your position by stating your position.

“Man is not a part of nature. Why? Because the world belongs to us.”

That is not supporting your position, it is restating your position.

“Get rid of the bad species.” Well, that assumes that you are knowledgeable enough to tell “good” species from “bad” species. 100 years ago, plenty of people were convinced that exterminating wolves, cougars, lions, sharks, ferrets, etc was a good idea. Now we protect them. Are you saying that it would be GOOD if wolves went extinct? And that in fact, it would be best if we actively caused there extinction? How would the world be improved by exterminating wolves? Or black widow spiders?

You feel the world would be better without them. I disagree, I feel the world is better of with them. Now the difference between my position and yours is that yours is irreversable. We can always exterminate black widow spiders later, but we can’t bring them back if we decide we’ve made a mistake.

And when you say we don’t “need” the dodo bird. Well, that is correct, as long as we define “need”. You don’t “need” a girlfriend, you don’t “need” a trip to disneyland, you don’t “need” a computer, you don’t “need” a new Brittney Spears CD, you don’t “need” a car. Etc, etc. I don’t think anyone will die because of the lack of a dodo. But for some of us, our lives are slightly diminished because dodos are gone. Just like our lives would be diminished if elephants go extinct, or dolphins, or platypuses, or alligators. Some of us feel we need dodos because they were beautiful and unique creatures. I’m sorry you don’t feel the same way, I’m actually sorry for you that you can’t feel the same emotions.

Why are you so shortsighted? Can’t you see where your lack of thought will lead us?


Of course, if you postulate that there is some extra-material component to human consciousness, that does not mean that said component is not present in other “natural” things.

Let’s say humans have souls. Well, then perhaps dogs, dolphins, mice, beetles, trees, mushrooms, bacteria, or rocks have something like a soul as well. So, the mere existance of a soul is not enough to definatively set us off from nature…you would also have to show that other living things lack a soul. If other living things had souls, then the presence of a soul in humans would not differentiate us from nature.

Of course, since there is no evidence of such an entity as the soul, it isn’t very productive to speculate about its hypothetical properties…

-ypu are incorrect. Implicit in my argument is the fact that we are NOT slaves to the natural world-we can do things that no other species can do. You are indulging in “pick and choose” logic-I notice you did not mention the tuberculosis bacterium-would you REALLY like to play host to this organism?


I’m assuming you meant to talk to me. Yes, it is implicit in your argument that humans are special, there are things we can do that no other species can do. However, there are things that a platypus can do that no other species can do. EVERY species is unique. So, how does that make us outside the natural order, since we are unique just like every other species?

I never said that you should be forced to play host to tuberculosis bacteria. Um, but don’t you see that there’s a slight difference between not wanting to be sick and exterminating dodo birds? How did dodo birds ever harm you? They did not harm you, and even if they did that wouldn’t be an argument for exterminating them. Humans kill lots of humans…do you want to exterminate humans? Do dodos and black widow spiders or rattlesnakes or wolves make the biosphere “sick”? Would eliminating them make our lives easier and better?

Obviously no. You might feel better knowing that wolves are extinct, most people would not. And even if the majority felt like exterminating wolves, the majority does not always get it’s way. The decision is irreversable. What if we changed our minds? It is wrong for one generation to make irreversable decisions for the next generation. “We think the Mona Lisa is obscene. Burn it. We think the library of Alexandria is irreligious. Burn it.” That’s how people like you think, I guess…

Which ones would those be? Answer - no one knows. We need a healthy ecosystem for our own survival and we don’t know which parts are superfluous.

The world belongs to us? Says who, us? We’re certainly a major species on it at the moment, but any claim on it is in our own minds. It has existed long before we were here and will exist long after we’re gone.

And there are species that can do things we cannot.
We do have great control over our environment, but we’re also incredibly dependent upon it for our survival (breathable air, clean water, food sources, energy sources, nice climates, etc.).

Of course! We evolved here through natural processes like every other species. We remain in constant interaction with our environment as I indicated above.

Even if we were divinely created, we would still be part of nature for the reasons I noted above (we rely on it for our survival, we affect it through our actions, and we are subject to its natural laws like gravity, etc.).

Defining “nature” would help. Do you mean the ecosystem of the planet or the fabric of spacetime itself and the associated natural laws of the universe?

This seems to be a rhetoric question, but perhaps it’s a good thought exercise.

I disagree, that would not automatically disprove the super-natural component of man. It could simply mean that we should re-think whether those other things should be called “natural.” If dogs genuinely have free will (which I don’t believe to be true), then we could just as easily argue that they’re not entirely part of nature either!

Besides which, I think there’s a clear qualitative difference between man and other “things.” More on that below.

Perhaps, but there is far less reason to believe that these things have souls. Few, if any, serious scientists or philosophers would argue that mice, beetles, etc. have free will. NO serious scholar would claim that mushrooms, bacteria or rocks have the same. There is reason to believe that human beings have it, though.

One could argue that some of the higher primates have free will, although I would personally contest this. Ditto for dogs and dolphins. Either way, the qualitative difference between them and other “things” is tremendous.

You would only need to “show” that if you want absolute proof. Since this is something which is inherently unprovable, we should thus seel the most plausible conclusion.

Why should the burden of proof be on one side, to prove that other living things lack a soul (or alternately, free will)? Why not ask the others to prove that they do? After all, that’s the more extraordinary claim. Virtually everyone believes that humans have free will. Virtually noone believes that lower organisms have free will… and no sane individual would believe that rocks and mushrooms do!

There’s no PROOF of the existence of a soul. That’s not the same as saying there’s no evidence. Our own apparent free will (i.e. actions which are not dictated by deterministic physical processes) would suggest that a soul exists.

Besides, is it really reasonable to demand absolute proof of something before you speculate on it? If so, then we should throw the original question away. After all, if man is governed purely by nature (i.e. the laws of physics, chemistry, etc), then every single thought we have on this subject is purely the result of nature.