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Exploration and Discovery

What is Natural?

Date: 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT April 13, 2011 Location: Miller 105

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Miller 105

Exploration and Discovery Spring Colloquium Series 
Presented by:
Greta Binford, Biology
Arguably, since earth (minus solar energy) is a closed system, everything is natural. Life in all its various and bizarre forms is natural, humans emerged from the natural process of evolution, and the elements that humans use in myriad ways are natural.  So by extension, are all of the things created by humans using the elements from the earth natural? The term natural is, of course a human construct. In practice we refer to things in our world as “unnatural” when they have been changed by humans to a degree that they are substantially different from their natural origins. When does this transition represent a concern? Is our reference point for recognizing “unnatural” based on what other more “natural” species do? When we have modified the “natural” to such a degree that we pose harm to our otherwise natural existence? Are we, as products of nature, capable of recognizing this?

Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell, Psychology
Human beings, as social animals, are exquisitely susceptible to the power of the immediate social situation. It is natural, then, for humans to wield immense influence over one another. It is also natural for our behavior to be less under our own control than we would like to believe. Understanding this lesson demands us to accept the fact that it is equally natural for good people to commit atrocities as it is for sociopaths to commit acts of kindness. This beg the question: Are we wolves or sheep?

Reiko Hillyer, History
Is there such a thing as “natural world,” that is, a non-human wilderness that is distinct from the human world of culture? Is human behavior and are human relations natural? Do humans naturally have the propensity to enjoy private property or to categorize people by race? How have ideas about what is “natural” been used to justify social inequality?

This event is free and open to the Lewis & Clark Community.

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