Column on Paradoxes about Intruding on “nature”

Paradoxes about Intruding on "Nature"

 

Tibor R. Machan

 

Whether this is deliberate I don’t know, but many movies made for children these days have strong moralistic messages that say: We human beings are the scourge of the universe! The recently very popular production of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park onto the big screen is no exception even though the late author ended his life very skeptical about, for example, global warming alarmism. Steven Spielberg was, of course, the right candidate for bring off the earlier morality tale to screen–wasn’t his ET, for example, another case of finger wagging at ordinary people for being so heartless and cruel as to want to study the creature from outer space rather than, well, cuddle it with no questions asked?

 

In the middle of Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum’s character, a mathematician, delivers the movie’s moral message, just in case the action didn’t manage to speak for itself: Any interference with the course of nature by human agency is mostly going to do harm to all concerned, so stop it, stupid! (How is it, by the way, that human nature isn’t part of nature? Last I looked we were smack in the middle of it all, governed by the laws of nature to boot!) Thus when a wealthy Scott sets up the awesome park near Costa Rica featuring cloned prehistoric dinosaurs, all hell breaks loose. Never mind that there is really no reason given why this should have occurred, other than the idiocy and recklessness of one employee who seems to have been allowed to control the entire park without the slightest supervision. The lesson that we should have been given is: Don’t allow loose cannons into your operations, they will muck things up.

 

Why is the intended message a silly one, despite how so many environmentalists mouth it regularly? Indeed, quite a few of them take part in efforts to save endangered species, ones that by the laws of nature, it would appear, are headed for extinction! The main reason is that human beings are themselves, of course, part of nature and what they can and will do can itself be evaluated as either healthful or harmful. Just because human beings interfere with nature via, say, antibiotics or pain killers or transplant operations, that itself does not show what they do to be all good or all bad. Each interference must itself be considered as either helpful or harmful. Just interference isn’t the issue–after all, animals throughout the globe interfere with nature every time they devour one another, build a dam, pollinate, or reproduce.

 

Consider a quite recent discovery near the Great Lakes that if a good number of a parasite that has been killing other sea life there is sterilized by human beings, by way of injecting it with certain chemicals, the parasite will eventually be eradicated and the rest of the life in the lakes will begin to flourish again. Or consider, simply, Novocain or artificial limbs. All these and similar cases testify to the point that human interference with nature is often enough benign and should be encouraged.

 

No doubt human behavior is different from that of other living things because we have the unique attribute of free will and can act rightly and wrongly, with no guarantee against small or large mistakes. (Oddly a lot of scientists who worry about our interference in the wilds seem to think we do not have free will at all!) Thus for us it takes more than mere instincts to conduct ourselves successfully. But that is itself something in nature, the environmentalists’ suggestion to the contrary notwithstanding. The idea that human beings are some sort of fungus or oddity in nature is wholly arbitrary and ignores the existence of enormous diversity throughout nature quite apart from us.

 

What I find of some concern is that so many adults keep trying to tell our children to distrust the only source of hope for the future, namely, sound human judgment. By preaching the doctrine of the innate evil of human nature as against the peaceful, benign nature of everything else, what is being encouraged is a persistence lack of self-confidence, a sense of hopelessness, an attitude that either we ourselves forgo a decent and exciting life or we pursue it at the expanse of nature’s great harmony. This message is wrong and needs to be countered with some moderation about both the bad influence of human interference and the naivete that nature is always kind and gentle.

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