Natural & Unnatural
Artificial & Artifact
Most of us have a grand sense of adventure and a longing to discover a pot of gold or long lost treasure. Anthropology and archeology are a few of the many disciplines seeking out the distant past searching for artifacts.
What is Natural?
When one scratches the surface of the meaning of words, today and in the throughout history, it is provocative what you will discover. Words are especially critical to observe as we enter the Last Days of the Technospheric Holocaust.
For years now the word natural has been hammered by engineers twisting the word that you thought you new into glamorous image for the technological age.
Technology involves artifacts, both in its etymology, from the Greek tekhne, art or skill, and in its central idea, the body of knowledge available to a culture for fashioning and using implements. In the discipline of anthropology only humans have a technology. Human beings have created a dimension of culture that has coupling of science and industry. The question then begs to be asked, "Is technology natural?"
A parallel question is whether nature ends with technology, whether technology can and ought to bring God's nature to an end. Technology versus nature? That suggests a gladiatorial contest pitting God's Laws of Nature and natural world against technology. We might also ask in a technological world should nature as we have known it since the beginning remain or be replaced. Right now these questions are being addressed with environmental ethics when in fact they require ideological and philosophical analysis and evaluation.
The word artifact descriptively to refer to any product of culture, and especially to its technological products, contrasted with spontaneous natural processes and their products. Made into an adjective, however, artificial contains a judgmental factor, meaning not simply made by human craft (art), descriptively; but also is inferior or small in comparison with God's handiwork. An artificial leg is inferior to a natural leg, which has been lost in an accident.
While we prefer natural, earth-based items the truth is that increasingly we are making the natural artificial (participated) to suit our pleasure such as air conditioning, pesticides, and our cars.
Artifact becomes a non-normative adjective in artifacted, which, while an uncommon term, is useful as a merely descriptive one. This recalls the original meaning of manufactured, made by hand, although that term has now taken on an industrial sense, coming out of factory.
Synthetic has an interesting history because it usually meant of less quality but in recent decades that label has vanished. Today, the word synthetic is reversed and now means better than natural.
In a cosmological or metaphysical sense there is nothing unnatural for God created everything. But in axiological contexts, unnatural carries the meaning of a force of against nature. It would be similar to the word un-American means against America. One way of viewing this is that unnatural suggests violating God's natural goods and provision. This has deep implications of forces against God when one considers the fallen angels, rephaim, pharmakia, and even homosexuality. The human race would go extinct, if homosexuality were the norm and universally observed. The unnatural includes all the good things, as well as the bad ones, brought to humans in culture including technology and craftsmanship. But the overtones of the word unnatural are such that we will prefer to call these cultural goods rather than natural goods.
The acceleration and amplification of technology opens up the possibility that nature will be less and less constitutional, as it is more and more modified. The Laws of Nature will be forced to become increasingly plastic as technicians conjure anything they like from the molecular level upward from food, to cars, to weapons. Your choices are already being limited and outright changed from dependence upon God's natural products for more and more artifacted products such as vinyl, transgenic turkeys, fiberglass, or Teflon.
How far might this go?
- Engineers are hard at work on artificial photosynthesis.
- Biochemists have already made artificial blood, where the hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine atoms. Such blood is resistant to leukemia and to certain toxins. People might come to prefer it. Ethically, what would be wrong with people with artificial blood eating artificial food?
- Scientists are even so brazen they are creating frameworks to rebuild the planet (in their image).
This forces the question whether and how far we really do wish for nature to be replaced by technology.
Nature and everything
Nature is everything generated by or produced by God. Man will insist that natura or physis is the source from which all springs forth. So comprehensive a term becomes troublesome at once. John Stuart Mill writes: "Nature, then, in this its simplest acceptation, is a collective name for all facts, actual and possible, a collective name for everything which is". Used in a universal or cosmological sense, claiming that everything is natural is about as informative as insisting that everything that is, exists. Humans and all their activities will be included; humans are generated within nature and they break no natural laws. Everything technological will, on this meaning, be completely natural. Such scope is also problematic, however, because it prevents discriminating analysis of the differences between spontaneous nature and deliberated culture. We need to contrast through carefully analysis if humans are going to relate their cultures, including their technologies, to nature, asking about sustainable development or about nature conservation as goals.
Distinguishing Nature from Culture
According to John Stuart Mill Nature means, not everything which happens, but only what takes place without the agency, or without the voluntary and intentional agency, of man. ... Nature... is a term for everything which is of itself, from God, without voluntary human intervention
When you are hiking and you pass the rocks and trees, the birds and even their nests, these are natural. In contrast, when you come upon an abandoned boot, or a candy wrapper, these are artifacts, unnatural. Expanding into a metaphor, the whole of civilization produces artifacts in contrast to the products of wild spontaneous nature. Artifacts are the products of culture. Artifacts are nature cultured, and culture is something else from wild nature. Wild animals do not form cultures, not at least cumulative transmissible cultures .Humans are not just what they are by nature; humans come into the world quite unfinished and become what they become by God and/or culture.
Information in God's Laws of Nature travels intergenerationally on genes. This is why we see the words: "throughout your generations," so often in Scripture. God places great emphasis on the generations for blessing to a thousand generations for those who love Him and cutting short evil generations to the third or fourth generation.
Information in culture travels neurally as persons are educated into transmissible cultures. This is why there is a massive amount of funds and research targeting the brain and cognition.
Without some concept of teaching, of ideas moving from mind to mind, from parent to child, from teacher to pupil, a cumulative transmissible culture is impossible.
The view that high technology is more emergent from nature than were indigenous technologies ought not to overlook the fact that classical technologies were quite sufficient to separate humans from nature. The separation begins as soon as any culture begins to rebuild nature and becomes self-consciously reflective about this. The critical factor is the deliberated or intentional modification that separates humans in their cultures from wild nature.
Freya Mathews espouses that, 'It is no longer controversial to state that a human individual is essentially a cultural being and that culture is an emanation of Nature". Culture is an emergent from nature. Nature evolved into culture; culture evolved out of nature, but it did evolve out of it. Emanation is too weak a word. Over the millennia in their cultures, humans make an increasing exodus from nature.
The Second Exodus: Humans Leaving God and His Creation
God's natural world is the milieu of culture. Using a metaphor, nature is the womb of culture, a womb that you never entirely leave. The natural world can do much without culture. No culture can ever be independent of God and His nature until society learns to produce matter ex nihilo. Culture will always have to be constructed out of and superposed onto God's natural world.
Today we are witnessing something never before seen in history the exodus of humans from God and His creation. They are leaving behind the pinnacle of God being made male or female created in the Divine Image of God; forsaking human hearts and livers; and open to synthetic blood in their veins; abandoning walking on two feet for a virtual world; and spurning eating food energies provided by God.
Our culture remains tethered to the God's biosystem with no release from nature, which remains as a life-support system. You depend on air flow, water cycles, sunshine, nitrogen-fixation, decomposition bacteria, fungi, the ozone layer, food chains, insect pollination, soils, earthworms, climates, oceans, and genetic materials. Ecology always lies in the background of culture which is why this New World is creating a Synthetic Ecology. Even the most sophisticated high-tech culture must include environmental fitness, although what that means varies depending upon what ideology you embrace.
God's created world is foundational to our existence. Landscapes are never completely cultural artifacts; they result from culture(s) interacting with nature. No sooner do humans begin to stir about in their cultures than do they modify their environmental nature. These ancient peoples as well as ourselves leave footprints in the sand that inevitably lead back to God. This is why the Smithsonian is obsessed with controlling the ancient narrative from giants to America's secret Egyptian heritage.
Animals and plants naturally reshape their environment with no cumulative transmissible culture. Rodents burrow into the ground, insects kill trees, leaves decay making humus which the plants uptake. Plants and animals adapt to their environment in genetic, behavioral, morphological, and physiological ways. It is a most beautiful dance of life.
In stark contrast, culture makes possible the deliberate and cumulative, and therefore the extensive, rebuilding of nature. Researchers, scientists, engineers, governments, academia, and even you to some degree, have united to reshape our environment rather than allowing God to subtly influence and change our most inward parts that need His precise and loving attention.
Each one of us has indelibly influenced creation. There are some who say there is no unmodified nature. No creature, humans included, can live without impacting the world. We will never be able fully manage God's creation.
The Planetary Managers
We have reached the Tipping Point of forcing God from our lives and He has turned us over to our reprobate minds. Culture is a rapidly becoming the principal determinant for Earth's future. The new novelty of the millennium is managing planet earth. What kind of planet will we get with the fruit of our labors?
Once again we return to the imagery of gladiatorial ring survival with microtechnology realized in computing and genetics and nanotechnology ascending. While the U.S. Federal Weather Modification Advisory Board, established under the National Weather Modification Act of 1976 funded and seized total weather modification and made it a reality in 1996. Control rainfall in the Midwest, the amount of snow in the Rockies, the velocity of hurricanes on the Plains, each weather event has its controllers. You wonder why the weather is squirrelly and yet you want to place your brain in these same actors' hands?
Henri Bergson, writing early in this century, was prophetic. With the coming of the industrial age- science joined with technology, we crossed the threshold of a new epoch.
Whether you embrace or entertain technology, the fact of the matter is that we are in the transition from muscle and blood, whether of humans or of animal to virtual and augmented beings. In several hundred years of history we will go from books to electronic communication to telepathy.
The new millennium indeed did launch a new epoch. Will it be a post natural world?
God's creation will be increasingly be technocratically domesticated.
For a very brief time activities on the planet will center on humans. Dominate is a somewhat disliked word, since it has echoes of the abuse of power but people willingly comply to management. With audacity we will impose our technological prowess on God's creation. Remaking the earth to a few vision of utopia, not in the stewardship role given to us by God, but of foreign and raw untamed power. Planetary managers already at work so one does need to ask whether nature is already at an end.
Nature at an end?
"Man is by nature a political animal," said Aristotle. We humans are labeled as an animal, but the human different in essence for we build a polis, a town. The human habitat is village, town, city, which is another way of saying that human life is political, social, or, as we have been saying, cultural and technological.
The question whether technology has ended nature is one of degree. Certainly, nature now bears the marks of human influence more widely than ever before. In one survey, using three categories, researchers find the proportions of Earth's terrestrial surface altered, factoring out the ice, rock, and barren land, which supports little human or other life, the percentages become:
- Little disturbed 27.0%.
- Partially disturbed 36.7%,
- Human dominated 36.3%.
Most terrestrial nature is dominated or partially disturbed (73.0%). Still, nature that is little or only partially disturbed remains 63.7% of the habitable Earth. Also, there is the sea, less affected than the land; and the oceans cover most of the Earth.
Nature is mixing with human labor or industry and technology. A revealing word is resource.
Where there is a natural source that has been or can be redirected by deliberated technology into channels of technocracy, nature is redone, re-sourced, re-purposed, and made over into an artifact that we can use. To use a more philosophical word, nature is transformed. To use a scientific-engineering word, human values are synthetic.
God's nature has not been brought to an end, not yet at least. But we do have to face that possibility in the future. Daniel Botkin agrees: "Nature in the twenty-first century will be a nature that we make.''"We have the power to mold nature into what we want it to be. Of course he, like everybody else, urges us "to manage nature wisely and prudently," and, to that end, ecology can be the "dashboard of the biosphere". That sounds like high-tech engineering which brings wild nature under our control, remolding it into a vehicle that we fly where we please. If this is not pride and arrogance, I do not know what would be.
Edward Yoxen says: "This is not just a change of technique; it is a new way of seeing. ... The limitations of species can be transcended by splicing organisms, combining functions, dovetailing abilities and linking together chains of properties. The living world can now be viewed as a vast organic Lego kit inviting combination, hybridization, and continual rebuilding. Life is manipulability. ... Thus our image of nature is coming more and more to emphasize human intervention through a process of design". The technicians can transfer genetic material between plants and animals, or between diverse animal lines, or between animals and humans. Or make clones of species that naturally reproduce only sexually, or send genetic information on fiber optic transmission lines, or make new ammo acids, beyond the twenty naturally occurring ones, and incorporate them into proteins.
You no any longer have anything like an natural relationship to any local ecosystem that has a local niche. You eat bananas from Central America; the average bite of food eaten in the United States has traveled 1,200 miles. Even the food we eat from closer to home has been grown in radically transformed ecosystems. We have re-engineered our ecosystems.
Michael Soulé faces this prospect:
By 2100, entire biotas will have been assembled from:
- Remnant and reintroduced natives,
- Partly or completely engineered species, and
- Introduced (exotic) species.
The term natural will disappear from our working vocabulary.
The term is already meaningless in most parts of the world because technology has been changing the physical and biological environment for centuries.
You have always had to rest your culture upon a natural life support system. In the past a technosphere was constructed inside the biosphere but soon the technosphere could supersede the biosphere. The focus of science would no longer be the laws of nature and how we can use them. Traditional science has been grouped into the natural and the social sciences, depending on the object of study, nature or culture, but today we have a new domain of science: the sciences of the artificial. Computer science is a science of artifacts. Other scientists study Teflon, or the transuranic, superheavy elements, or the envisioned engineered biotas. These sciences do not violate any laws of nature, neither those of physics or chemistry; thermodynamics and gravity still reign. But they do bring into play forces hitherto unknown in nature; their constructions are not natural kinds, but artifacts. The processes that govern such artifacts are not those of wild nature, but those that scientists have elected to create. Scientists will need new laws which did not operate and were only potentially there in old nature. So it does seem possible to end nature by transforming it into something that is foreign to God and an abomination. Over vast stretches of Earth, wild nature has been already diminished in favor of civilization. Is this inevitable, culture coupled with technology replacing God's creation? God in His benevolence deemed culture to exist and He regulated it. Man has subsequently usurped that regulation substantially modifying the landscape.
Where does that leave you and me in the grand scheme of things? While God's natural world is vanishing before our eyes we have faith and trust in the Word that says God will create a new heaven and new earth. He will dominate, evil will be vanquished and we will, at long last, dwell and live in peace.
Age of the Technosphere
We are allowing our culture with its science and technology to blend with the natural. This is a perversion. What we are creating is a homogenized, technologically controlled nature, shore to shore, ocean to ocean, pole to pole. A word to the wise…there is a great emphasis on making robots and AI human-like such as with human features and emotions. Humanizing it all does not make us a part of it until we take the mark, and then we form an unbreakable union that opposes God. We take on the form of otherness rather than the apple of God's eye, His beloved am segulah, treasure.
YOU are soon going to see that you need to be embedded in. Failure to do this means you are living a fantasy (calling the kettle black) under an inadequate mythology called the Bible. You will be told that to flourish and be innovative (survive) you need to convert to the religion of technology.
Management does require techno-humanization of the landscapes on which we reside. The future will be a synthetic world. The Hegelian dialectic may be useful.
- Nature is the thesis,
- Culture the antithesis, and
- Cultures harmonized with nature the synthesis.
The word dialectic, used in the Greek sense, is better illustrated with the twin foci of a geometrical ellipse and with the double arrows of a state of chemical equilibrium. A complimentary relationship.
Some events are generated under the control of a focus that we label culture; such events are in the urban zone, where urban marks those achievements of man that overcome Gods Laws of Nature. This is the political zone, recalling how political is derived from the Greek polis, town. This is the artifact, the technological domain.
Is this resonating with your Spirit?
At the other end of the spectrum we have God in all of His glory generating the bloom of a single flower, loons crying upon the water, and the thunderstorms that break the cedars.
A domain of hybrid or synthetic events is generated under the simultaneous control of both foci, a resultant of integrated influences from Laws of Nature and culture, at least for a time, sway variously of more or less nature and culture. Nature is re-directed into cultural channels, pulled into the cultural orbit. This happens when the craft puts natural properties to use in culture, mixing the two in adverse effect in agricultural, industrial, scientific, medical, and technological applications.
What we are witnessing is a construct of cumulative transmissible knowledge which we know little to nothing about. It portrays itself as the ethical, moral, and axiological (having value) position and yet with the technology part, at least, we are required to value-add to what God has created, in essence saying God did not do a good enough job and we know better.
Thankfully, despite our primitive technology God's Laws of Nature can act as a generator or an accelerator of events constraining what can be constructed, such as types of computers, or in nature the types of theories submitted for review. Each of the foci critiques the other; the realities of Laws of Nature test the wisdom of any culture.
Symbiosis is a parallel biological word, akin to synthetic or hybrid. René Dubos claimed:
The symbiotic interplay between man and nature can generate ecosystems more diversified and more interesting than those occurring in the state of wilderness. ... By using scientific knowledge and ecological wisdom we can manage the earth so as to create environments which are ecologically stable, economically profitable, and favorable to the continued growth of civilization.
Nature as it once was, nature as an end in itself, is no longer the whole story. Nature as contrasted with culture is not the whole story either. Management will culture gardens nature. Nature is no longer wild. In essence, God will be tamed by man but we know that will never happen.
In conclusion, we should end with a sense in which God's Laws of Nature has not ended and never will.
Generally thermodynamically, the struggle for life is in countercurrent to entropy; metabolism directs the synthesis and repair of the highly ordered protein structures that compose the organs of the body. At death, the forces of entropy take over and the body decays. If the organism that dies happens to be a human, who also has made extrasomatic artifacts, not only does the body decay but the artifacts too begin to decay, once they are longer maintained extrasomatically by the care of the embodied person. But in Jesus, your Spirit lives! In time, entropy wipes out the remnants of culture, as it does the corpse of the body. This Law of Nature is indifferent to whether these were constructed by genetic information or by cultural information, even that of high technology.
Nor is it just the entropic forces of nature that return. The self-organizing forces reappear as well. I recall well when I flew with my father into the crater of Mt. St. Helen's not long after its eruption. If you wonder have the Laws of Nature ended, I can attest that pools on Mt. St. Helen's had already begun to spring forth with life indicated by the different colored pools contrasting the gray terrain covered in ash. Somewhat later brush emerged and flowers. God was restoring His creation. The sad tragedy of it all was that you were required to bear the precursor of the mark to witness this tale of life or God in action.
In that sense, Mt. St Helen's, which might have seemed to be a place where nature has quite ended, is, if watched a little longer, became a place that testifies eloquently to how God's Laws of Nature does not and cannot end.
Celeste has worked as a contractor for Homeland Security and FEMA. Her training and activation's include the infamous day of 911, flood and earthquake operations, mass casualty exercises, and numerous other operations. Celeste is FEMA certified and has completed the Professional Development Emergency Management Series.
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Celeste grew up in a military & governmental home with her father working for the Naval Warfare Center, and later as Assistant Director for Public Lands and Natural Resources, in both Washington State and California.
Celeste also has training and expertise in small agricultural lobbying, Integrative/Functional Medicine, asymmetrical and symmetrical warfare, and Organic Farming.
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