Mother Nature is amoral

January 6, 2008 | By | 5 Replies More

Best known for his attacks on Father Nature, Sam Harris is now warning us about Mother Nature:

Might we be better off just leaving things to the wisdom of Nature? I once believed this. But we know that Nature has no concern for individuals or for species. Those that survive do so despite Her indifference. While the process of natural selection has sculpted our genome to its present state, it has not acted to maximize human happiness; nor has it necessarily conferred any advantage upon us beyond the capacity raise the next generation to child-bearing age. In fact, there may be nothing about human life after the age of forty (the average lifespan until the 20th century) that has been selected by evolution at all. And with a few exceptions (e.g. the gene for lactose tolerance), we probably haven’t adapted to our environment much since the Pleistocene.

But our environment and our needs — to say nothing of our desires — have changed radically in the meantime. We are in many respects ill-suited to the task of building a global civilization. This is not a surprise. From the point of view of evolution, much of human culture, along with its cognitive and emotional underpinnings, must be epiphenomenal. Nature cannot “see” most of what we are doing, or hope to do, and has done nothing to prepare us for many of the challenges we now face. . .

Mother Nature is not now, nor has she ever been, looking out for us.

Full story here.


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Category: Evolution, Meaning of Life, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    Mother Nature is not even looking out for herself…..

  2. Pat Whalen says:

    This is one of the better worded attacks on the worship of "natural" or "the way Mother Nature intended".

    We have to break loose of the notion that we exist in some sort of near perfect balance and any change will imperil that balance is ways we can't imagine.

    Thats not to say our actions can't have unintended consequences and we shouldn't be cautious but the same can be said of our inactions.

  3. Alison says:

    Most creatures evolve in ways that allow them to survive in their environment. We, though, change the environment to suit ourselves. I don't think many of us would be happy to do without most of the things that make our lives comfortable, but we'd be happy to compromise to lessen our environmental impact. Unfortunately, there are so many people who can't or won't change that the corporations that are actually making the worst changes in the environment have little need to change.

    I hate seeing more and more environmental legislation being passed, partly because it is short-sighted and crafted by politicians who know more about their approval ratings than the science behind environmental preservation, but also because each new piece opens up more loophole possibilities for corporations to take advantage of.

    This makes it a little more disheartening to look at how little difference your personal changes make, but you just have to keep plugging at it.

  4. Why do religious people confuse evolution with morality? Evolution is nature and everyone knows that nature is amoral. Just because our early, more ape-like ancestors were subject to the ravages of Survival of the Fittest, it doesn't mean that we can conduct modern day society along those same cruel lines. THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW. Morality does not apply to nature. I thought that was understood. Morality only applies to present-day, more higher evolved human beings and how we conduct human society.

  5. James,

    Are you being ironic? It is very simple—humans who confuse the two have a worldview in which THEY ARE SPECIAL! To repeat, William Jennings Bryant (he of Monkey Trial fame) made it crystal clear. He said (I'm paraphrasing) that evolution is acceptable as long as we LEAVE HUMANS OUT OF IT. Why? Because to include us would make us ANIMALS. And it said in the Bible that Yawheh made man SPECIAL. The rest of nature is amoral. But this view says that Humans aren't part of THAT nature, ergo we are superior, blessed, privileged, and we have morality to prove it.

    Don't go looking at process or historical development of ethical systems, to these folks morality is something that exists a priori and comes from god and was only given to humans. Therefore….

    (Sorry for the sarcasm, but you offered a rational position in questioning a fundamentally irrational belief.)

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