The Death of Nature

As anyone who has read my blog probably knows, a pet peeve of mine is pseudo-biology explaining developments that are actually culture. While coming across a New York Magazine article about anatomical differences between gay and straight people, I had the following thought:

Half a century ago, academics and news media were talking about the “death of God” (funny I bring this up now, because Neitzche first discussed that idea in a book called “The Gay Science”). Science has largely usurped religion’s former role of prescribing social roles for people and determining what their destinies are (i.e., by proclaiming what is innate or natural). So, could the “death of nature” be approaching?

I hope so. The nature/nurture dichotomy has so many problems. First of all, nurture is natural. It is impossible for anyone to develop a nature, in the sense of a way of behaving that comes effortlessly, without socialization. Secondly, nature is a social construct (different cultures think of nature differently; not all belief systems even contain a concept of human nature or nature as earth-spanning environment). I believe, as has been argued, that the concept of nature is a vestige of the essentialism rooted in religion and dualistic philosophies of mind. Once people realize that the mind/soul is the brain and not a supernatural essence, and, relatedly, that genes are not chemically encoded fates, they will begin to understand how our upbringing influences our biology. Of course, genes have a huge influence, but such a process should not be considered teleological. Just my opinion.

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