Dialectical Materialism (A. Spirkin)
Prev Chapter 5. On the Human Being and Being Human Next

Man in the Realm of Nature

The unity of man and nature. Human beings live in the realm of nature, they are constantly surrounded by it and interact with it. The most intimate part of nature in relation to man is the biosphere, the thin envelope embracing the earth, its soil cover, and everything else that is alive. Our environment, although outside us, has within us not only its image, as something both actually and imaginatively reflected, but also its material energy and information channels and processes. This presence of nature in an ideal, materialised, energy and information form in man's Self is so organic that when these external natural principles disappear, man himself disappears from life. If we lose nature's image, we lose our life.

Everything, from each separate cell of a living organism to the organism as a whole, generates bioenergy. Just as the bioenergy of the separate cell goes beyond its boundaries, so the bioenergy of the organs and the organism as a whole extends beyond their boundaries, forming a luminous aura. As the ancient acupuncture therapists intuitively established, bioenergy and bioinformation move along special channels (meridians) forming a complex structure, in which all the components of the living whole interact both with themselves and with the external world. Energy-information interactions are a vital dimension of any living system, including that of man as the highest stage in the hierarchy of the structures of existence known to science.

Man is constantly aware of the influence of nature in the form of the air he breathes, the water he drinks, the food he eats, and the flow of energy and information. And many of his troubles are a response to the natural processes and changes in the weather, intensified irradiation of cosmic energy, and the magnetic storms that rage around the earth. In short, we are connected with nature by "blood" ties and we cannot live outside nature. During their temporary departures from Earth spacemen take with them a bit of the biosphere. Nowhere does nature affect humanity in exactly the same way. Its influence varies. Depending on where human beings happen to be on the earth's surface, it assigns them varying quantities of light, warmth, water, precipitation, flora and fauna. Human history offers any number of examples of how environmental conditions and the relief of our planet have promoted or retarded human development.

At any given moment a person comes under the influence of both subterranean processes and the cosmic environment. In a very subtle way he reflects in himself, in his functions the slightest oscillations occurring in nature. Electromagnetic radiations alone from the sun and stars may be broken down into a large number of categories, which are distinguishable from one another by their wavelength, the quantity of energy they emit, their power of penetration, and the good or harm they may do us. During the periods of peak solar activity we observe a deterioration in the health of people suffering from high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis or infarction of the myocardium. Disturbances occur in the nervous system and the blood vessels are more liable to suffer from spasms. At such times the number of road accidents increases, and so on. It has been noted that there is a dependence between any weakening in the Earth's magnetic field and acceleration of growth, and vice versa, growth is retarded when the magnetic field becomes stronger. The corpuscular, radioactive irradiations, cosmic dust, and gas molecules which fill all universal space are also powerful creators and regulators of human existence in biological life. The universe is in a state of dynamic balance and is constantly receiving various forms of energy. Some forms are on the increase or decrease, while others experience periodic fluctuations. Each of us is a sensitive resonator, a kind of echo of the energy flows of the universe. So it would be quite wrong to regard only the energy of the sun as the source of life on earth and humanity as its highest manifestation. The energy of distant cosmic bodies, such as the stars and the nebulae, have a tremendous influence on the life of man as an organism. For this reason our organisms adjust their existence and development to these flows of external energy. The human organism has developed receptors that utilise this energy or protect themselves from it, if it is harmful. It may be said, if we think of human beings as a high-grade biological substance, that they are accumulators of intense energy drives of the whole universe. We are only a response to the vibrations of the elemental forces of outer space, which bring us into unity with their oscillations. Every beat of the organic pulse of our existence is coordinated with the pulse of the cosmic heart. Cosmic rhythms exert a substantial influence on the energy processes in the human organism, which also has its own rhythmic beat.

Man's influence on nature. Man is not only a dweller in nature, he also transforms it. From the very beginning of his existence, and with increasing intensity human society has adapted environing nature and made all kinds of incursions into it. An enormous amount of human labour has been spent on transforming nature. Humanity converts nature's wealth into the means of the cultural, historical life of society. Man has subdued and disciplined electricity and compelled it to serve the interests of society. Not only has man transferred various species of plants and animals to different climatic conditions; he has also changed the shape and climate of his habitation and transformed plants and animals. If we were to strip the geographical environment of the properties created by the labour of many generations, contemporary society would be unable to exist in such primeval conditions.

Man and nature interact dialectically in such a way that, as society develops, man tends to become less dependent on nature directly, while indirectly his dependence grows. This is understandable. While he is getting to know more and more about nature, and on this basis transforming it, man's power over nature progressively increases, but in the same process, man comes into more and more extensive and profound contact with nature, bringing into the sphere of his activity growing quantities of matter, energy and information.

On the plane of the historical development of man-nature relations we may define certain stages. The first is that of the complete dependence of man on nature. Our distant ancestors floundered amid the immensity of natural formations and lived in fear of nature's menacing and destructive forces. Very often they were unable to obtain the merest necessities of subsistence. However, despite their imperfect tools, they worked together stubbornly, collectively, and were able to attain results. This process of struggle between man and the elements was contradictory and frequently ended in tragedy. Nature also changed its face through interaction with man. Forests were destroyed and the area of arable land increased. Nature with its elemental forces was regarded as something hostile to man. The forest, for example, was something wild and menacing and people tried to force it to retreat. This was all done in the name of civilisation, which meant the places where man had made his home, where the earth was cultivated, where the forest had been cut down. But as time goes on the interaction between man and nature is characterised by accelerated subjugation of nature, the taming of its elemental forces . The subjugating power of the implements of labour begins to approach that of natural forces. Mankind becomes increasingly concerned with the question of where and how to obtain irreplaceable natural resources for the needs of production. Science and man's practical transforming activity have made humanity aware of the enormous geologic al role played by the industrial transformation of earth.

At present the interaction between man and nature is determined by the fact that in addition to the two factors of change in the biosphere that have been operating for millions of years—the biogenetic and the abiogenetic—there has been added yet another factor which is acquiring decisive significance—the technogenetic. As a result, the previous dynamic balance between man and nature and between nature and society as a whole, has shown ominous signs of breaking down. The problem of the so-called replaceable resources of the biosphere has become particularly acute. It is getting more and more difficult to satisfy the needs of human beings and society even for such a substance, for example, as fresh water. The problem of eliminating industrial waste is also becoming increasingly complex. The threat of a global ecological crisis hangs over humanity like the sword of Damocles. His keen awareness of this fact has led man to pose the question of switching from the irresponsible destructive and polluting subjugation of nature to a reasonable harmonious interaction in the "technology-man-biosphere" system. Whereas nature once frightened us and made us tremble with her mysterious vastness and the uncontrollable energy of its elemental forces, it now frightens us with its limitations and a new-found fragility, the delicacy of its plastic mechanisms. We are faced quite uncompromisingly with the problem of how to stop, or at least moderate, the destructive effect of technology on nature. In socialist societies the problem is being solved on a planned basis, but under capitalism spontaneous forces still operate that despoil nature's riches.

Unforeseen paradoxes have arisen in the man-nature relationship. One of them is the paradox of saturation. For millions of years the results of man's influence on nature were relatively insignificant. The biosphere loyally served man as a source of the means of subsistence and a reservoir for the products of his life activity. The contradiction between these vital principles was eliminated by the fact that the relatively modest scale of human productive activity allowed nature to assimilate the waste from labour processes. But as time went on, the growing volume of waste and its increasingly harmful properties destroyed this balance. The human feedback into nature became increasingly disharmonised. Human activity at various times has involved a good deal of irrational behaviour. Labour, which started as a specifically human means of rational survival in the environ ment, now damages the biosphere on an increasing scale and on the boomerang principle—affecting man himself, his bodily and mental organisation. Under the influence of uncoordinated production processes affecting the biosphere, the chemical properties of water, air, the soil, flora and fauna have acquired a negative shift. Experts maintain that 60 per cent of the pollution in the atmosphere, and the most toxic, comes from motor transport, 20 per cent from power stations, and 20 per cent from other types of industry.

It is possible that the changes in the chemical properties of the biosphere can be somehow buffered or even halted, but the changes in the basic physical parameters of the environ ment are even more dangerous and they may turn out to be uncontrollable. We know that man can exist only in a certain range of temperature and at a certain level of radiation and electromagnetic and sound-wave intensity, that is to say, amid the physical influences that come to us from the atmosphere, from outer space and from the depths of the earth, to which we have adapted in the course of the whole history of the development of human life. From the beginning man has existed in the biosphere, a complex system whose components are the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the phytosphere, the radiation sphere, the thermosphere, the phonosphere, and so on. All these spheres are and must remain in a natural state of balance. Any excessive upsetting of this balance must be to the detriment not only of normal existence but of any existence at all, even human vegetation. If humanity does not succeed in preventing damage to the biosphere, we run the risk of encountering the paradox of replacement, when the higher plants and animals may be ousted by the lower. As we know, many insects, bacteria, and lichens are, thanks to their relatively simple structure, extremely flexible in adapting to powerful chemical and even physical factors, such as radiation. Mutating under the influence of an unfavourable environment, they continue their modified existence. Man, on the other hand, "nature's crown", because of the exceptional complexity of his bodily and mental organisation and the miraculous subtlety and fragility of his genetic mechanism may, when faced with a relatively small change in the chemical and physical factors of the environment, either produce unviable progeny or even perish altogether.

Another possible result of harmful influences on the environment is that the productivity of the biosphere may substantially decline. Already we observe unfavourable shifts in the great system of the universe: Sun-plants-animals-plants. Much more carbon dioxide is being produced on earth than plants can assimilate. Various chemical preparations (herbicides, antibiotics, etc.) affect the intensity of photosynthesis, that most subtle mechanism for the accumulation of the vital energy required by the universal torch of life. Thus, not only progress but even human life itself depends on whether humanity can resolve the paradoxes in the ecological situation that have arisen today.

Modern technology is distinguished by an ever increasing abundance of produced and used synthetic goods. Hundreds of thousands of synthetic materials are being made. People increasingly cover their bodies from head to foot in nylon, capron and other synthetic, glittering fabrics that are obvious ly not good for them. Young people may hardly feel this and pay more attention to appearance than to health. But they become more aware of this harmful influence as they grow older. As time goes on the synthetic output of production turns into waste, and then substances that in their original form were not very toxic are transformed in the cycle of natural processes into aggressive agents. One gets the impression that human beings are working harder and harder to organise bits of synthetic reality by disorganising the systems evolved by nature. Emphasising man's hostility to nature—a hostility armed with the vast achievements of modern technology—both natural scientists and philosophers are today asking themselves the pessimistic question: Is it not the fatal mission of man to be for nature what cancer is for man himself? Perhaps man's destruction of the biosphere is inevitable?

One would like to think that the limited capacities of nature do not signify a fatal limitation of civilisation itself. The irrational principle, which once permeated human nature, still exists in human behavioural mechanisms, as can be seen, for instance, in the unpredictable consequences of their individual and concerted efforts. Much in human activity goes beyond the limits of the predictable, even when it is humanely oriented.

The man-nature relation, the crisis of the ecological situation is a global problem. Its solution lies in the plane of rational and humane, that is to say, wise organisation, both of production itself and care for mother nature, not just by individuals, enterprises or countries, but by all humanity, linked with a clear awareness of our planetary responsibility for the ecological consequences of a civilisation that has reached a state of crisis. One of the ways to deal with the crisis situation in the "man-nature" system is to use such resources as solar energy, the power of winds, the riches of the seas and oceans and other, as yet unknown natural forces of the universe. At one time in his evolution man was a gatherer. He used the ready-made gifts of nature. This was how human existence began. Perhaps even today it would be wise to resort to this method, but on a quite different level, of course. The human being cannot restrict himself to gathering, any more than he could in primitive times. But such a shift in attitude could at least abate the destructive and polluting principle in civilisation.

As cybernetic methods and principles in the various fields of knowledge and practice develop, control theory has been widely applied in many spheres. Its aim is to ensure the optimal function of a system. A humanely oriented mind should be able to transfer the idea of optimality and harmony to ecological phenomena.

In their production activity people are mastering more and more new materials and learning to replace one with another. In the long term this could lead, as the alchemists once believed, to production on the principle of everything out of everything. Moreover, our planet has an active balance—it loses less substance in the upper layers of the atmosphere than it receives from outer space. It would therefore appear that the amount of substance available as a whole will not place any radical limitation on material production.

Life, including human life, is not only metabolism; it is also a form of energy transformation and movement developed to degrees of subtlety that are as yet beyond our comprehension. Every cell, every organ and organism as a whole is a crucial arena of the struggle between entropic (dispersing) and anti-entropic processes, and the biosphere represents the constant victory of life, the triumph of the anti-entropic principle in the existence of the living.

Losses of living energy from our organism are constantly compensated by various forms of energy flowing from the vast expanses of the universe. We need not simply energy, such as electromagnetic radiation or heat, but radiant energy of the finest quality. The struggle for the existence of living creatures, including man, is a struggle not so much for the elements that compose his organism—they are abundantly available in the air, water and underground—not for solar energy in its direct, electromagnetic radiation, but for the energy that is captured by the mechanisms of photosynthesis and exists in the form of organic, particularly plant structures. When we consume vegetable food, we take the energy of nature, particularly that of the sun, at first hand, so to speak. But plants are also the food of herbivorous animals, and when we eat meat, we take this energy at second hand.

So the biosphere is not a chaotic conglomeration of natural phenomena and formations. By a seemingly objective logic everything is taken into account and everything mutually adapts with the same obedience to proportion and harmony that we discern in the harmonious motion of the heavenly bodies or the integral paintings of the great masters. With a sense of wonder we see revealed before us a picture of the magnificent universe, a universe whose separate parts are interconnected by the most subtle threads of kinship, forming the harmonious whole which the ancient philosophers surmised when they viewed the world with their integrating, intuitively perceptive gaze. We are part of the ecological environment and it is a part of the universe. It contains myriads of stars and the nearest of them is the Sun. The Sun is the master of Earth. We are, in a certain sense, its children. Not for nothing did the rich imagination on whose wings mankind flies ever further and higher in the orbit of civilisation portray the Sun in ancient legends as the highest deity.

But to return to our theme, the bitter truth is that those human actions which violate the laws of nature, the harmony of the biosphere, threaten to bring disaster and this disaster may turn out to be universal. How apt then are the words of ancient Oriental wisdom: live closer to nature, my friends, and its eternal laws will protect you!

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