The Sacred Depths Of Nature Essay

The Sacred Depths Of Nature Essay

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he concept of nature is elusive, and humans have never had a positive and unified way to name and interact with it. Since the colonizing of America, many leaders have had different definitions of nature, and have held different views on humans’ relationship with nature. These views have often led to destruction masked as “progress” (Marx 14). But not all definitions of nature are so destructive. Ursula Goodenough, a biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote The Sacred Depths of Nature to create a new religion based in the physical, chemical, and biological laws that govern the universe (Department of Biology). Goodenough’s treatment of “nature” illustrates her unique interpretation of the word. Goodenough understands the word nature to mean life, and life means biology. She uses this definition to inspire humans to care for the world we live in. And while she recognizes that humans can be separate, she also shows how much a part of nature we truly are. Recently, a proposition has been made to define First Nature as biophysical and Second Nature as the artificial (Marx 20). These new definitions easily illustrate Goodenough’s views on humans in nature, and reveal how Goodenough’s religious naturalism can work towards constructive “progress” for both First and Second Nature.
First Nature and Second Nature are useful concepts through which to view humans relationship with nature. First Nature is defined as “the biophysical world that existed before the evolution of Homo sapiens [italics original]” (Marx 20-21). This means that any conversation about things like plants, animals, the stars, or the Earth is a conversation about First Nature. Second Nature is defined as “the artificial - material and cultural - env...

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...e’s no difference between nature and humans. Although this theory was at first only applied to biological evolution, it was soon turned into Social Darwinism by Herbert Spencer (Marx 14). Under this idea, the phrase “survival of the fittest” was popularized (Marx 14). But “survival of the fittest” was only another name for Manifest Destiny, both of which contributed to massive westward expansion (Marx 15). Marx writes that, “After comparing America’s treatment of nature with that of other nations of the ages, one historian concluded that ‘the story of … [the United States] as regards to the use of forests, grasslands, wildlife, and water sources is the most violent and most destructive in the long history of civilization’” (Marx 15). American’s idea of nature has led to incredible ruin, racism, and war, whether Americans believe humans are separate from Nature or not.

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