Written by Mirjam Mögele, Sociology Student in Masterlevel
Observing the development of “culture” is putting into question, if we can really speak of a dichotomy between nature and human culture and society. In the following paper, I want to discuss different view points, showing arguments of anthropology, sociology and biology. By comparing certain phenomena that we can similarly find in both “worlds” are we able to get deeper understanding of a broader connection between them (cloning, stealing, migration, landscape deformation). This brings us to the question if humans can really differentiate themselves from nature through emphasis on “culture”. I want to state the point, that everything goes back to the evolutionary theory and that no distinction is possible to make between “the human” and “the natural world”. It will explain that there is no such thing as “inhuman” like Soper (1995) puts it. Human beings are equally part of nature as other beings, material things and bacteria. As such, animals are equally part of “man made” environments. Nature is something inherent in everything - it is a circle that cannot at one time be broken by saying “this is not nature any more”. And no matter how human beings behave in the future with their environment, there are always reciprocal processes that naturally will create the balance in nature.
First of all - what is environment? If we look at certain terms, it is clear, that they have been invented by human beings. They never asked a tree, if he/she/it likes to be called “oak tree” or if a huge amount of salt water wants to be called “Atlantic”. We can see, human beings create the meaning of their environment. But they also use their environment for their survival; they create tools of stones, metal and wood. Since ancient times, they reproduce this meaning by painting on stone walls, by giving knowledge to their offspring and creating more professional and complex forms of communication, exchange and political system. Like in the human body a whole evolution process can be discovered (reptile in the eye), also in today’s society, we can find many forms of living together, of sharing knowledge and culture. We can find forms of “primitive”, indigenous culture and the IT-society. What we do not find any more, we can read in history books. Human beings, their body and mind, developed out of a long process of evolution. Or does the mind and soul come from a different sphere, which is being connected to the body of a monkey once - and then we speak of “human”? And what about people in a vegetative state like a coma? Are they “human” or already on the stage to “animal”, just because they react differently from normal?
Where is the proof? Well, we already found proofs for the evolutionary theory looking at animals that find themselves “in between” two evolutionary stages. For example the “duckbill platypus” (Ornithorhynchus Platypus), an animal from Australia, that is reproducing through eggs like a reptile, but is itself mammalian. Males for example have a poison sting to protect themselves and their family.
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Tab 1: Duckbill Platypus1
Two worlds - same behaviour patterns to profit from
Similarly, we can look at development of behaviour in nature and human world, in order to find proofs for the evolution of social and technical behaviour and that it is not so different from animals. I will therefore go from the easier phenomena to the more difficult. In fact, nothing is really difficult to understand, once you understand the mechanism and dynamics of evolution.
1) Landscape deformation as survival method
Since the discovery, that it is possible to create higher amounts of food by eroding forests or burning down grassland to gain better soil, human beings actively exert influence on their natural surroundings. In order to make electricity, man is deforming whole mountainous regions creating storage lakes for watercraft. It is a totally human-natural procedure, but there is also one other animal, that is taking influence on his environs in this extent. The beaver (Castoridae) is flooding whole grasslands by first of all cutting down huge parts of a forest with its own teeth for creating an embankment. This is necessary in order to build a pond with constant water level. In the middle is the “fortress” surrounded by water. At the same time the beaver is reinforcing the upgrowth of water plants that serve it as nutrition. It can also be compared to the cultivation of rice fields in Asiatic countries of the earth.
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Tab.2: Vision of a hydro electric power plant http://www.energie- v]isions.de/wasserkraft.html [16.02.2010]
1 http://www.teachersparadise.eom/ency/de/media/f/f2/platypus.jpg [16.02.2010]