How do you define nature

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boagie
 
Reply Mon 17 Nov, 2008 01:17 pm
@MJA,
Smile
Without self-control, it is obvious, there is no control. Excellent post MJA!!
 
lakeshoredrive
 
Reply Fri 12 Dec, 2008 02:57 pm
@zolasdisciple,
To me, nature is. And that is how I define it. Everything that is, is nature. Not only what is, but when, where, who, and especially how and why.

This often leads me to disagreements with well-intentioned people who use the term natural to describe things that have not been 'tainted' by mankind in processing plants and chemical factories.

Look at it this way: Animal A produces chemical B, because chemical B is required to help the animal grow in its specific environment. Animal C also requires chemical B for its development, so Animal C consumes animal A, and chemical B, with it. This is considered 'natural'.
If Animal C requires chemical B for its development, and instead of eating Animal A, uses tools (which are made from substances that occur naturally) to produce chemical B, why is that not also natural? Did not Animal A also use tools to produce Chemical B? Why are Animal A's tools considered more natural than Animal C's tools?

Although I was referring to humans with Animal C, this example could work with any set of animals and chemicals.

Sorry if that example was a little unclear, I can't quite put the idea I have into words all that well.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 08:45 pm
@zolasdisciple,
Understanding natural is made more difficult due what it means to us personally (like most subjects). A reasoning exercise I'd suggest to get around subjectivity and toward an objective meaning would be to inductively link "natural" to emergence.

Everything that exists, including us, came from prior conditions that were capable of causing a thing's emergence. In that case, the conditions that cause emergence are what we call the "nature" of the emerged thing.

If only it were that simple . . .

Why? Because things are built on top of other things, and that can create the appearance of multiple natures. What deserves to be called THE nature? Our answer (and objectivity) is affected by personal concerns, especially survival. A personal concern for us, for example, is what caused Earth's (and life's) emergent conditions.

So part of how one defines nature depends on how far back we go along the emergent trail. Many of us respect the pre-existent conditions that created us, and so see that as THE nature. But such reverence is motivated by self-interest and so does not produce a good definition for the ultimate meaning of "nature."

An objective definition might explain that the meaning of nature is tied to a perspective which observes how things emerge from prior emergent conditions, plus how emerged things' continue to be dependent on prior emergent conditions.
 
nameless
 
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 09:44 pm
@zolasdisciple,
Nature = existence
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 11:14 pm
@zolasdisciple,
nature = everything that is natural. For example, the toxic chemicals that were created by humans that kill living things are not nature.
 
lakeshoredrive
 
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2008 10:03 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
nature = everything that is natural. For example, the toxic chemicals that were created by humans that kill living things are not nature.



No! Those toxic chemicals are indeed natural.

Look at it this way: Hyoscyamus niger, or Henbane, produces the chemicals scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine in its leaves, stem and seeds. These chemicals are, indeed, toxic. Although, if you really think about it, everything in existence is toxic. Water, calcium, vitamin C, all of these natural chemicals are potentially toxic in the right dosage.

The point I'm trying to get at, though, is that we as humans need to stop looking at ourselves as detached from, and independent of, nature. If a simple human used stones to make a weapon, or a hammer, you would consider that natural, right? Stones are a composite of a number of different chemicals, possibly granite, or limestone. Where, then, is the line drawn between natural and artificial? It a human works to turn some granite slab into a tool, how is that essentially different from a human working to turn iron and steel into a machine (a tool, just like a hammer), or to turn sodium and chlorine into salt? Is artificial salt any different, in essence, from what you would call 'natural' salt? Regardless of who produced it, it is still sodium and chlorine molecules bonded together ionically. If I gave you a pile of natural NaCl and artificial NaCl, there would be no way to tell them apart.
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2008 11:36 am
@lakeshoredrive,
lakeshoredrive;38727 wrote:
No! Those toxic chemicals are indeed natural.


I'm going to challenge you a little bit because I don't think your description helps explain what nature is (the theme of this thread). You are right to say Theaetetus' definition doesn't contribute since he relies on the term "nature" for his explanation and then says what is not nature instead of what is. Likewise, Nameless says nature equals existence; but since everything we know exists, then everything is natural and so why have a term such as natural when the term existence should suffice?

I suggested we use emergent conditions as an objective standard for defining nature because we tend to self-centrically describe nature merely in relation to our own existence. But to be objective it seems we'd try to see what is it about reality that gives things what we humans term a "nature." I'll give examples of how to use emergence as the standard.

Emergence describes how things we know exist (we "know" because we can observe them) came from prior conditions. For instance, life showed up on Earth some 4 billion years ago. Before that we assume there was no life, so what conditions caused the first emergence of life? Before Earth came into existence, there were only conditions that would allow Earth to appear (i.e., emerge). What were those conditions? Before that the universe appeared, and before that the Big Bang occurred . . . what were the pre-existing conditions that caused each to emerge where they did not exist before?

Now, pre-existent emergent conditions are only part of the story for us ("us" meaning, users of the term "nature"). We also are concerned (especially recently) about how dependent we still are on emergent conditions. The Big Bang no longer is relevant to us, nor is what created Earth, because those emergent factors are beyond our influence. However, what caused life to emerge on Earth is very much subject to our influence, and because we are life (or are alive at least), now life's emergent conditions, and the degree we still are dependent on them, have become important to us.

You argued that we should accept "toxic chemicals are indeed natural" because:

lakeshoredrive;38727 wrote:
. . . we as humans need to stop looking at ourselves as detached from, and independent of, nature.


But if we look at it that way, we have eliminated any meaning for the term "nature." So if nature is to have a meaning, I suggest seeing nature as describing a situation where: the nature of a thing is the conditions which allow it to exist now, and that those conditions are inextricably tied to what caused it to emerge in the first place.
 
nameless
 
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2008 03:14 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;38688 wrote:
nature = everything that is natural. For example, the toxic chemicals that were created by humans that kill living things are not nature.

There is nothing 'created' by humans. We can push stuff around, together, add water, all 'natural' stuff, to get desired characteristics as the result; we don't 'essentially' create anything. We use what 'nature' provides, a 'natural' act. Other species do the same thing. No one would argue the 'naturalness' of that, why 'this'? We create no electrons, no photons, no particles.. we have learned to "float on our back with a flat stone balanced on our belly, to break clams open for dinner. Monkeys use tools. Many animals. We alone, perhaps, have the vanity to imagine ourselves 'creators'; another vain dividing line isolating 'us' from the rest of 'nature/existence/'the' universe.
 
William
 
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2008 05:24 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Smile
Nature is a complex condition, of which we are part. Should that complex condition change in any significant degree, it would still be nature, a complex condition, but, perhaps without us as part.


Let me throw in my two cents here. Yes, we are a part of nature, but we have a problem. There are close to 7 billion people on this planet that have their own nature. When we finally learn to allow each an every individual the freedom to express their nature we will arrive at that definition that will define ours as a whole. Then and only then will be learn what is "right" and what is "wrong" and how to utilize nature harmoniously.
For something to be "natural" you cannot tamper with it. When we "tamper" with it, we get false feedback. We get thrown "curve balls" and our reality is built on those curve balls.

Now as far as I am concerned, considering the minute time we have been making footprints 0n the granite planet and there was no set of instructions when we got here, it is understandable how we could get so out of whack. I think it had to be that way and was par for the course. Once we begin to truly understand what is to be humane as it relates to our fellow humans, then we will understand how we fit into this nature and align with it's inexplicable, unimaginable simplicity. It becomes horrifically complex when we tamper with it. We just didn't know any better.
So to answer your question, nature is "not" a complex condition, IMO. We are the ones who deem it complex. If we begin to alter that simplicity due to our confusion, it will no doubt eliminate that which disturbs that simplicity. Meaning us.
Thanks boagie for your post. Anyway this is what my tired noggin told me to say. Ha!Smile
William
 
Elmud
 
Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 01:33 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
... and that's one of the reasons my wife and I sold our house, quit our jobs and moved 1500 miles away into the sticks. I can look out my back door and see nothing that man's corrupted.

We take walks way out into the country; down trails to the river's edge (Missouri River) amass twisted vines, deer running about, ad-hoc creeks here and there... where trees die, fall and there lay still. There are places one can sit on a hill and just watch the wind blow; no horns, no thumpa-thumpa cars, no gun shots, no jets or planes, no jesus freaks knocking at the door and no barrage of horn-honks in the morning.

Yea, we've sacrificed a lot to get here (wanna see my budget?!) but I'll trade that piece-of-crap, 6-figure income job any day for what I have now - and I'd recommend it to everyone.

They call Arkansas the Natural State. I lived in Northern Arkansas for awhile. I liked to go to the river and fish. There was this place, you had to walk down a trail that was canopied with trees. About a quarter mile or so. I liked that walk.When you got to the river, you had to walk another trail to get to the good fishing spot. When you got to the good fishing spot, you noticed bait containers, pop cans, papers strewn about. What seemed to be a natural "state", did not seem natural anymore. Maybe nature is a natural "state", and humans compromise the naturalness of nature. Anyway, if ya see trash on the river bank, pick it up so no one else has to see it. That could help. Seems like that would be a natural thing to do.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 02:39 pm
@Elmud,
Elmud wrote:
... Maybe nature is a natural "state", and humans compromise the naturalness of nature. Anyway, if ya see trash on the river bank, pick it up so no one else has to see it. That could help. Seems like that would be a natural thing to do.


Yea, I think so. Nice description by the way.

When I refer to Nature in this context; I refer to it as being that condition that exists absent of human kind's conscious alteration of what existed beforehand. We might gaze on a beaver damn and say "aww.. how natural!". But Mr Beaver, if he could talk, might refer to that place he wants to soon build on as now 'natural'. He hasn't interfered with it by his alterations.

I also think it can be referred to by degrees. All excuses aside, if I picture my dream cabin on a hillside I can only partly call that nature (since I have interfered with what was there before my conscious alteration). If I picture the home I live in now, I can't say it's really "natural" at all since so many elements of human-alteration have taken place. If I look at downtown LA, Detroit or New York I wanna puke at the infestation: That's not 'natural' at all. So yea, you nailed it.

This isn't just self-defining either. To much chagrin, this term has taken on a myriad of definitions (Merriam Webster's definitions: Natural, Nature). And while what we're talking about here does indeed fit, so do many other contexts.

Thanks
 
Elmud
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 04:52 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
If I look at downtown LA, Detroit or New York I wanna puke at the infestation:



Thanks

Yeah. I've been to LA too. Nasty place. New Orleans was probably the smelliest place I've been to. Smelled like a big ole fart. One time, I was heading into Phoenix on I-17. There were actually appliances strewn along side the highway. I never liked the desert anyway but, even the desert use to be natural. Infestation is a good word.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 21 Mar, 2009 05:58 am
@Elmud,
Elmud wrote:
Yeah. I've been to LA too. Nasty place. New Orleans was probably the smelliest place I've been to. Smelled like a big ole fart. One time, I was heading into Phoenix on I-17. There were actually appliances strewn along side the highway. I never liked the desert anyway but, even the desert use to be natural. Infestation is a good word.


Thanks.

Yea, I fully expected for someone to blow a gasket at my use of that term to describe the 'big city'. I do so simply to express my disgust at the level of 'denaturalization' that's taken place in these areas.

I'm still stuck on this whole notion earlier in this thread that essentially said: Man is doing what man does; congregating, building, changing, developing and using tools. This is no more unnatural than the wasp building his nest or the cow releasing his bowels - these are what those particular creatures do and is therefore their 'natural' state.

I don't think the word was intended to mean that; quite the contrary, I think it's counter-intuitive (and even counter-productive) to ascribe to that definition.
 
Elmud
 
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 04:39 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
Thanks.

Yea, I fully expected for someone to blow a gasket at my use of that term to describe the 'big city'. I do so simply to express my disgust at the level of 'denaturalization' that's taken place in these areas.

I'm still stuck on this whole notion earlier in this thread that essentially said: Man is doing what man does; congregating, building, changing, developing and using tools. This is no more unnatural than the wasp building his nest or the cow releasing his bowels - these are what those particular creatures do and is therefore their 'natural' state.

I don't think the word was intended to mean that; quite the contrary, I think it's counter-intuitive (and even counter-productive) to ascribe to that definition.
We have close to six billion on our planet these days. The natural state of things is quickly becoming a thing of the past. You can try and run and hide in places like, the Ozarks or elsewhere, but it will eventually catch up to you. Over population. Nothing can be done about it. Sad thing is, future generations will have to learn about nature only in books.
 
Caroline
 
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 04:48 pm
@lakeshoredrive,
lakeshoredrive wrote:
No! Those toxic chemicals are indeed natural.

Look at it this way: Hyoscyamus niger, or Henbane, produces the chemicals scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine in its leaves, stem and seeds. These chemicals are, indeed, toxic. Although, if you really think about it, everything in existence is toxic. Water, calcium, vitamin C, all of these natural chemicals are potentially toxic in the right dosage.

The point I'm trying to get at, though, is that we as humans need to stop looking at ourselves as detached from, and independent of, nature. If a simple human used stones to make a weapon, or a hammer, you would consider that natural, right? Stones are a composite of a number of different chemicals, possibly granite, or limestone. Where, then, is the line drawn between natural and artificial? It a human works to turn some granite slab into a tool, how is that essentially different from a human working to turn iron and steel into a machine (a tool, just like a hammer), or to turn sodium and chlorine into salt? Is artificial salt any different, in essence, from what you would call 'natural' salt? Regardless of who produced it, it is still sodium and chlorine molecules bonded together ionically. If I gave you a pile of natural NaCl and artificial NaCl, there would be no way to tell them apart.

Toxic chemicals are not nature as nature does not produce them naturally in toxic form/compsoite/different arragement of atoms whatever, we have the choice to 'mess' with nature not her nature itself,they are synthesised, ("false"), by man thus created by man, just because nature produced man does not mean she produced toxic waste through man, it is created in a lab besides it's not logical to produce somthing that will destroy you unless you want to die which is stupid! We are not merely vessels that nature carries her work out, we make the choice and to some toxic waste isn't natural,(not if you want to dump it and kill youselves), nor is it nature, some would like to be around to appreciate it.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 10:09 pm
@zolasdisciple,
I think part of the problem with nature is that the city is often defined outside of it. Until cities are considered a part of nature, humans will generally conceptualize themselves outside of nature.
 
memester
 
Reply Mon 8 Jun, 2009 12:05 am
@Theaetetus,
Nature is "all", including man and everything he makes.
I'm always curious as to why people tend to exclude man's endeavors and creations from nature, or the universe.As in "artificial selection" not being part of natural selection.
It seems a remnant from the Romantic period, where Nature was substituted for "God", but the religious idea - that man was separate and not under natural laws of the universe - seemed to remain.
 
memester
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 05:26 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;33081 wrote:

A word's meaning is determined by the person using it at any given time. Whatever a particular sound is said to represent by that person, is what it represents in the context of what that person is saying. No words is destined by God or any other imagined supreme power to represent a certain thing. The fact that Merriam Webster has decided that a certain sound has a certain meaning is of no consequence. Anyone could make a dictionairy defining things in another way; which would be right? Neither; words are arbitrary. As I understand, Mr. Carroll thinks the same thing...that is the point being expressed by Humpty Dumtpy. Language is absurd and not rational.
I understand that one of the earliest of dictionaries of English defined "retreat" as what the French Navy does when faced with Her Majesty's Navy.

Naturally Smile
I saw that on a video lecture by an etymologist
 
nameless
 
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2009 01:01 am
@zolasdisciple,
zolasdisciple;29242 wrote:
How do you define nature?

Nature is Existence aka the Universe. All that exists is a feature of (the Universe) nature.
All (other) 'distinctions' violate Occam's Razor in modeling additional complexity with no gain.
 
danmilburn
 
Reply Sat 13 Apr, 2013 08:54 pm
What is nature? It's a word. " Nature" as we have come to know it is basically the same as "envirenment". It's kinda like trying to date or label the big bang. Is it the "beginning"? Beginning of what?
 
 

 
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