Nature Is Mostly Nurture

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Mark Lundegren

As my title suggests, I am going to wade into the ceaseless nature versus nurture debate, but gently and only briefly.

Nevertheless, the point I want to make is important. It offers a new, more unified, and perhaps more helpful way to think about living nature overall, and the process of natural evolution or advancement in all its forms.

In a few words, and again in keeping with my title, the idea I want to introduce is this: nature, and living nature especially, is mostly nurture or cultivation. By this, I mean that little and perhaps nothing is fixed, given, or wrought whole or without iteration in this world. Instead, almost everything appears to be actively nurtured or propagated, by one method or another, up to and potentially including the universe as a whole.

Separating Nature From Nurture, We May Miss The Nurture Of Nature

To quickly understand this idea and some of its key implications, consider the following natural processes and essential aspects of evolving life: 1) star development and the formation of complex elements, 2) abiogenesis or the formation of pre-living organic molecules and aiding structures, 3) the favorable selection of basic attributes and then instructive genes in early living organisms, 4) the emergence of sexual and social life, and the cooperative or contributing relationships each naturally entails, and 5) human culturelearning, scholarship, and science.

As you may know already or sense immediately, these seemingly disparate processes share a number of common characteristics. First, all are natural processes, or ones that occur in nature and, in all but the last set, undirectedly. They also are all transformative processes, meaning ones acting on initial conditions and altering them in some way. Third, the various alterations of these processes are all subject to basic differences in persistence, durability, survivability, accuracy, or what I have described elsewhere as health. And owing simply to the operation of complex nature or natural complexity, in non-living and living conditions alike, all of these processes contain a natural preference or selection for alternatives that are stronger, more persistent, more resilient, or more predictive – that is, they all naturally cultivate and tend to promote the dominance of healthier alternatives when they can.

Thus, in an important sense and as I trust you can see, nurture is widespread and integral throughout and across nature, especially in its living or otherwise evolving domains. Nurture, or the discovery and increasing of favorable or healthy qualities, is how and (at least proximately) why our universe is ordered the way it is on cosmic terms. It is how life emerged and developed, even in its most seemingly brute and neglectful forms. It is, and far more clearly so, how advanced, sentient, and cooperative life evolved and developed in time. And nurture is undoubtedly an essential explanation of modern life, including the reasons why you can read these words and I can write them, and perhaps why we are doing so in both cases.

Overall, these ideas suggest that we live in a natural world rich in and even naturally dependent on nurture, even if this process is hard and demanding at times. But the ideas also suggest that, like evolving nature and life itself, nurture too can evolve, can become more express and expressly supportive, and can become more subtle, powerful, enduring, and resonant too – as it naturally and progressively ascends in richness and complexity with the evolution of life.

In the spirit of this proposal, I would encourage you to look for nurture in nature around you, and to consider the idea that nature is mostly or perhaps only nurture and becoming at an essential level. I would also enjoy hearing your comments about this idea overall, and how it might lead you to new approaches in the ways you live, work, engage with others, and understand the natural and social worlds in which we all enduringly and together live.

Health & best wishes,

Mark

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