Foley: Nature of man, man and nature.

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at
Sat Oct 14 03:34:22 EDT 2000

Dear Dr. Foley,

    In a recent post one of your sentences caught my attention. You said, "As an ecologist and evolutionist, I enjoy seeing the world work out its problems on its own, but I would like to see people have as much freedom as their sense of responsibility allows."
    My formal training is in dental and systematic theology. I retired from my dental business in 1984. My transition from theological systematics to systematic taxonomy seems natural. My main function in life however is dealing with people. Honest and dishonest people come in all genders, races, intellects. After 30 years of dealing with people (their problems) I have found that in all of us (including myself) our "sense of responsibility" has not evolved far beyond the entrance to our own cave. If the sense of responsibility could be easily measured like taste or sight most of us would rate as blind. The rest of us would be wearing think glasses and loading our food with salt. In other words the only sense of responsibility the vast majority of humanity has is to  -- my self, my family, my country, my race, my team, my view, my religion, and lastly my gun, which I will use to blow the head off of anybody who gets in MY way. (And, in lieu of a gun -- a chat line will do.)
    I am that rare fundamentalist that preaches that there is absolutely "that of God in every man." Man IS basically good. But It is not the god nature in us that concerns me, it is the human nature. This is why I am far from a human-ist, for I believe that without the rest of God in each of our lives we are bound by, ruled by, OUR "sense of responsibility." Which is nothing more than our self interests. I like science. It is a great pragmatic thing -- as long as we can keep human nature (prejudice) out of it.
    You were likely thinking about our sense of responsibility to the world around us. I am simply saying that it is the same "sense" and the same "responsibility" whether it is geared toward the environment, politics, people, sports, sex, marriage, whatever.  And it aint pretty.
    Now to the first part of your sentence. It never ceases to amaze me how easily the human species is divorced from the nature-working-out-its-problems-on-its-own reasoning. The human animal is as much a species and thus a part of the chaotic natural conflict as fire, Ice, floods, drought, and the ultimate chaos -- the explosion of the SUN. Everything else it seems should be allowed to run its own chaotic course. If a fire ignited by lightning causes the extinction of species X, well, it is just nature's way. But if a human camp fire accidentally ignites the fire that causes the extinction of something it is a crime. The hyper-environmentalists treat humans as aliens on this plant. If HIV killed every human and we became extinct are the apes to put aids in Jail for destroying their most advanced form? 
    All this is to say that as senseless and irresponsible as people are we are still part of the ecosystem. We're stuck with ourselves. I hope that is curtailing or stopping human function relative to the natural world, we are not actually preventing the very series of events that could lead to.... well who knows what good. Someone once said. "If what I know met what I don't know, what I know would be highly embarrassed."
    Rev. Ron
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