Thoughts of Man vs. Nature on Darwin’s Theories

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During the lecture there was a section on natural theology of the 19th century, which was the culture Darwin was raised in. It was interesting to know the decline in Darwin’s faith in it as he went on with his research, proposing ideas far removed from the theology, like Natural Selection. Then, to what extent does the idea of natural selection affect one’s understanding of religion? Though it may argue against the belief that nature is governed directly by a divine creator, it allows enough room for people of faith to hear it without abandoning their religion. Science and religion are not exactly married, but that doesn’t mean it has to be mutually exclusive either.  The Tree of Life doesn’t disprove god, as one can still ask, who planted the tree?

Another question that came to mind while reading “On the Origin of Species” was this: would nature’s products be better than a Man’s for individuals in modern society? Why or why not? Darwin mentions that though man can and has produced many great things, it can’t really compete with nature. However, one of his arguments is that while “man selects only for his own good” (Darwin 177), nature does so only for the good of the being tended to. Then with that logic, shouldn’t it be, in the perspective of Men, that men’s selections are better than nature’s own for the men? Darwin also adds in that because of our short life spans, our views on natural selection will be imperfect as we see only the incomplete stage of development. With that, it is assumed that nothing of nature has yet come to the perfection it has striven for for all of the ages. Then, what good is that to a society with such short time? Men are impatient enough to try to recreate and reform the works of nature, and seek for immediate benefit. We are also selfish enough to destroy those natural works. However, if we are to talk as individuals, a man-made product may be of more use than a natural kind. (As a side note, I am talking about nature vs man in terms of banana production and domestic breeding, not arguing for deforestation or burning fossil fuels. I am considering the literal products of nature and man.)

Though religion and inventions are usually separated, they can both be found questioned in his writings. His enthusiasm and reverence of nature are quite interesting to read, but they bring me to think of a rather dangerous idea: would it be possible for mankind to ever overcome nature?

One thought on “Thoughts of Man vs. Nature on Darwin’s Theories

  1. I think both of your questions are thought-provoking, but I find the second one especially so. I think if we were to look at organisms just from the perspective of our own use, then yes, probably our own creations are more beneficial to us. I like your point about how natural selection takes very long time, and individual humans don’t live that long (nor may we live long enough as a species to see certain organisms reach “perfection”). Of course, even if they did reach that it would be perfection in terms of how they fit with their own environment and their interactions with other organisms. So it makes sense to me to say that if we’re considering what would be most beneficial to us, then it would be those organisms that we shape through what he sometimes calls “artificial selection.”

    I also think talk of organisms moving towards “perfection” is a little strange, even though Darwin himself does so. My question that, since environments and relations with other organisms are constantly changing, does it make sense to say that organisms are progressing towards better and better forms, or that they could be good for one set of circumstances, and have to change when circumstances change? Maybe if one looked at population numbers and life expectancies one could say that, e.g., lions today are somehow more “perfect” than their earlier ancestors. But it could also just be that their ancestors fit their circumstances, and lions today fit theirs.

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