The universe, including the planet Earth, was established by means of natural evolution; the process and the result of the Big Bang activity. Usually, nature is understood as something that originated naturally, that is, the opposite to culture or just the opposite to spiritual culture (human mind, activities). The term nature sometimes comprises the whole objective reality, including human society (i.e., even the so-called second nature). As it is used today, the word nature is not only rather inexplicit but also rather inaccurate. Its content doesn’t imply that the Earth is connected with the universe; that humans, as a biologic species, are a part of the Earth environment; or that humans are organisms closely connected with the other live systems of the biosphere. It doesn’t also reflect the scientific knowledge that only biosphere, as a whole, is the smallest, comparatively autonomous system capable of a long-term progressive development in time. Humans and other organisms living in the biosphere, individuals, populations, and species are temporary and nonindependent, dependent on the structure, integrity, and prosperity of the planetary biotic whole. Therefore, integrity and prosperity of the biotic whole are also critical for the human culture.
Nature is one of the oldest philosophic terms. The Greek word physis was an everyday term designating those things that originated naturally, without the influence of human activity. The Latin word natura was understood similarly. The Middle Ages interpreted both humans and nature as created by God. The theoretical interest in humans and nature was revived in Renaissance thinking, but the term didn’t acquire any specific theoretical contents. Indeed, it has been disappearing from theoretical thinking since the end of the 17th century because of the high prestige of Newtonian physics. It seemed that it was finished as a term whose etymological root referred to birth and origination. It was also the influence of Descartes’s nature-human dualism that forced the idea that humans, who learn about nature and transform it, don’t belong in nature, that they are superior to it. Nature was understood as an expanse, as an indestructible substance and energy, as a substance where nothing new comes into existence ontically. The term nature was diluted in the ontologically more important term substance.
Development of the mechanical technology after the Industrial Revolution supported the idea that the character of natural events is best described by physics cooperating with mathematics. Yet even those categories of physics, such as body, force, distance, movement, acceleration, and so on, that were understandable to general thinking, reduced nature into bodies moving in space, into a mechanism without its own history, ontical creativity, and value. The emphasis upon the energy and mass conservation law, expressed by the well-known Einstein equation E = mc2,con-cealed the fact of the natural evolution of the universe, that is, the irreversibility of time and the temporary character of structures.
The needs of establishing an adequate anthropology and of dealing with the conflict between culture and nature make us define nature in an evolutionally ontological way, not only as an objectiveness independent from humans but also as a human-including procedure, as a natural evolution embodying the irreversible constitutive time. If there is any deep sense in natural evolution, it is the construction of the grand structure of the universe, the creation of its large-scale physical order, including also the complete terrestrial abiotic and biotic orders.
For the purpose of the theoretical and value rehabilitation of the currently ill-defined term nature, we will have to make a difference between its two content layers: nature in the general sense—the universe— and nature in the specific sense—the Earth. This differentiation then offers a new reply to the old antique and medieval question: What is the position of the Earth within the universe? It is possible to reply either from the traditional physical-mechanical viewpoint or from the new evolutional-ontological viewpoint.
The first reply, which surpasses the antique and medieval geocentric viewpoints and is still considered to be the top performance of scientific knowledge, can be summarized in the following way: The Earth is a planet of the sun, that is, of a second-generation star; it is not a fixed center of the solar system or the galaxy or the universe. In fact, it is not a spatially significant body within the universe at all. Even our sun is just a tiny and insignificant part of the universe, which, as a whole, in the large scale, is homogeneous and isotropic. It is the same in all directions, and it consists not only of hydrogen and helium, but also of a tiny amount of other elements that can be found even on the Earth. The surrounding universe is not animated; as far as we know, it lacks any signs of life.
The other, evolutional-ontological answer to the same question seemingly contradicts the above-mentioned physical-mechanical characteristics of the Earth. It seemingly brings to life the old geocentrism because it returns those characteristics to Earth nature that it was wrongly deprived of by Newtonian physics: exceptionality, creativeness, and solemnity. It characterizes the Earth as a highly organized system of animate and inanimate features and subsystems, as a structure compatible with humans and as the only possible home to humans and human culture. The spatially insignificant position of the Earth within the universe has been connected with the narrow range of conditions that permitted the origination of life and its long, never completely interrupted evolution. This evolution also depends on the reliable functioning of the not-so-distant thermonuclear reactor—the sun. Biosphere is an open, nonlinear system powered with the energy of the sun, a continuation of the development of the natural abiotic evolution of the universe. The organizational complexity of the biosphere has grown gradually, in steps that couldn’t possibly have been larger because they have been connected with both the more or less constant input of solar energy and the high degree of reliability of the genetic information transfer. Evolution also makes use of the nonreliability of the natural information transfer.
Current organisms are therefore the live historical memory of the long development of the biosphere. They seem to be concurrent bearers of its “spiritual and material cultures.” Evolutional conditions are not only encoded in their genomes, but also embodied in their body parts, tissues, and structures. This explains why there are serious informational reasons for the awakening of human responsibility for all culturally eradicated or endangered species, for a respectful approach of humans toward the Earth.
Life on Earth is the only large organism of which we are a part and whose health condition is rather critical because of our activities. Because we have destroyed most of the original ecosystems, we have seriously damaged not only the physical structure of life on Earth but also its memory, its informational structure. We have destroyed a part of the genetic information of the current biosphere, which is the only bearer of its inner constitutive information. We have damaged the precious memory of live nature, which had appeared and integrated life a long time before the origination of our biologic species. The genetic information of planetary life serves as a barrier against its disintegration, and therefore, we are currently facing the gravest danger in all of human history.
Natural information is absolutely superior both to human life and to human social-cultural information. In the world where an ontically creative evolution operates at the background of a generally destructive process, the biospheric memory (the natural information) is an indicator of the development of life: It automatically expands and contracts, a part of its structure can be destroyed by a natural disaster or culture, but as a whole, it is as immortal as life itself. Contrary to that, humans—items of life—are mortal not only as individuals but also as a species. Without humans, even human works are mortal. Life on Earth cannot use and develop any human artistic or technical works without humans. The disappearance of humans will cause entropy of the human culture, its natural destruction.
- Capra, F. (1996). The web of life: A new synthesis of mind and matter. New York: HarperCollins.
- Smajs, J. (1997). The threatened culture. Brno: Dobromysl & Slovacontact.
- Wilson, E. (1992). The diversity of life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.