Nature: friend or enemy of progress?

My dictionary gives several meanings for nature. Perhaps the deepest, and the one that concerns us here, is, "the essential character of a thing; quality or qualities that make something what it is." What essential quality could produce both a desire to kill and an unselfed mother love? What essential quality could be responsible for both a vista of scenic grandeur and a bitter famine?

If we are to call the hodgepodge of things that characterize human existence natural, in this basic sense, then we are faced with a choice. Either we must assume that there is no point in trying to progressively introduce order into the chaos of human affairs, because the characteristics of human existence will invariably reduce order to a hodgepodge. Or we must vigorously question the assumption that every destructive vagary of human sense, every uncontrollable whim of the elements, is as valid as the good in human experience and proceeds from essentially the same source.

Discovering the real earth
November 19, 1979

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