Re: What Is Natural?

Gerald Gleason (
Fri, 27 Jan 1995 19:04:31 GMT

> I'll take responsibility for that post. Yes, culture *began* as a
> natural adaptation to the environment (as Service and Sahlins point out
> and expound on in _Evolution and Culture_) but it has, IMHO, developed
> into something far more complex and "unnatural." Because of culture
> humans have ceased to _evolve_ biologically as a result of
> *environmental conditions* [in large measure--I'm sure there are minor
> characteristics, such as the brain and cognitive capacities, that are
> still evolving--but you get my drift]. In fact, Philip Tobias claims
> that the brain has become the central focus of further evolution in homo
> sapiens. Good news for psychological anthropology!

A lot of net-noise can be saved if people are carful about interpreting
words like 'natural' consistent with the context. The question that began
this thread did not make any clear distinctions as to what was meant by
natural. Clearly it can be interpreted as Nathaniel did as applying to
everything that is in the universe, but it can also be apposed to
"artificial" and have a clear technical meaning in some contexts.

The right kind of question to ask with respect to the driving of ecosystem
wide effects with human activities is whether it is healthy or not.
Although this is a very complex problem, I would claim that Gaia is
showing some definite symptoms of ill-health. The argument is only about
how bad it is and whether it is terminal or not.

Gerry Gleason