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Quotes on the human attempt to dominate nature

Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan:

Human beings are not particularly special, apart, or alone. A biological extension of the Copernican view that we are not at the center of the universe deprives us also of our place as the dominant form of life on the planet. It may be a blow to our collective ego, but we are not masters of life perched on the final rung of an evolutionary ladder. Ours is a permutation of the wisdom of the biosphere. We did not invent genetic engineering, we insinuated ourselves into the life cycles of bacteria, which have been directly trading and copying genes on their own for quite some time now. We did not "invent" agriculture or locomotion on horseback, we became involved in the life cycles of plants and animals, whose numbers increased in tandem with ours. ... The reality and recurrence of symbiosis in evolution suggests that we are still in an invasive, "parasitic" stage and that we must slow down, share, and reunite ourselves with other beings if we are to achieve evolutionary longevity.

R. W. Fevre:

"The real truth is that, not only has man failed to overcome nature in any sphere whatsoever but that at best he has merely succeeded in getting hold of and lifting a tiny corner of the enormous veil which she has spread over her eternal mysteries and secret. He never creates anything. All he can do is discover something. He does not master nature but has only come to be the master of those living things who have not gained the knowledge he has arrived at by penetrating into some of nature's laws and mysteries. Apart from all this, an idea can never subject to its own sway those conditions which are neessary for the existence and development of mankind; for the idea itself has come only from man. Without man there would be no human idea in this world. The idea as such is therefore always dependent on the existence of man and consequently is dependent on those laws which furnish the conditions of his existence.

George Alfred Wilkens:

"All nature stands on a par with man. I do not take too kindly to that portion of the first chapter of Genesis which puts into the mouth of God the injunction for man to subdue the earth and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over everything that moveth above the earth. ... However, my quarrel is not really with Genesis and that it has God give to man dominion over all the earth, as it is with the implication that because of dominion we are 'better.' Whether one's lot is dominion or subjection doesn't really matter.

Mary Oliver:

" the wheel that drives our world; those who ride it willingly might yet catch a glimpse of a dazzling, even a spiritual restfulness, while those who ... insist that the world must be piloted by man for his own benefit will be gathering dust but no joy.


Alan Watts:

"The rush of waterfalls and the babbling of streams are not loved for their resemblance to speech; the irregularly scattered stars do not excite us because of the formal constellations which have been traced out between them; and it is for no symmetry or suggestion of pictures that we delight in the patterns of foam, of the veins in rock, or of the black branches of trees in wintertime.



Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos. California: University of California Press, 1986, 1997. pp. 195-196

R. W. Fevre. The Demoralization of Western Culture: Social Theory and the Dilemmas of Modern Living. London: Continuum, 2000. p 28.

George Alfred Wilkens. Justice of the Universe: A Philosophy in Accord with Science. Boston: Christopher Publishing House, 1957. p 131-132.

Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman, New York: Vintage Books, 1991 (Copyright 1958). p 124.


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