Why Do We Hate Nature?

Previously I’ve argued that we want a better version of nature, one that we can control, and that technology is the answer to the question of how we’re going to accomplish our goal.  But why would we want to control nature in the first place? The short answer is that we want to control nature because we hate it. After all, it’s fairly self evident that we have routinely raped and pillaged the earth for millennia already and that we are well aware of what we’re doing.  But this then begs the question, why do we hate nature? What would cause us to embark on this quest for domination? It's a fair question, and I should preface my explanation with a clear acknowledgement that what follows is highly speculative and hardly mainstream thought.  No one other than me is to blame.

It starts with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. Not by God but by our cousins, the chimpanzee.

The usual explanations for the split between humans and chimpanzees start from an anthropocentric view of our superiority. It was a human choice enabled by our mental or physical or technological prowess that caused us to leave the safety of the forest. But if we take a chimpanzee’s point of view, rather than our own, I think we might see an entirely different reason.

Prominent primatologists including Jane Goodall have observed two things about chimpanzee society that are particularly worth bearing in mind here.  Firstly “in chimpanzee society, it is the female, rather than the male, who may leave her natal group during adolescence and transfer, temporarily or permanently, into a neighboring community” (Social Rejection, Exclusion and Shunning Among the Gombe Chimpanzees, by Jane Goodall).  Secondly “It appears that the violence of the chimpanzee ‘warriors’ is especially severe towards old, lactating, and anestrous females, and considerably less severe towards females in estrus, i.e., those with high reproductive value. “ (Nonhuman Intergroup Agonistic Behavior and Warfare, by Johan M.G. van der Dennen)

 In other words, male chimpanzees are most likely to reject new females from their group who are lactating (swollen breasts) and/or are anestrous (not in heat, signified by lack of genital swelling).  And it turns out that Women are the only female primate among the great apes with persistently swollen breasts and conspicuously absent genital swelling, the two physical manifestations that the male chimpanzee finds most repellent among potential mates.

So my account of humanity starts with a female chimpanzee who, because of a hormonal imbalance that causes her to appear perpetually post-partum or anestrous, is rejected by chimpanzee society and is forced to create her own group, one that will forever be only too aware of the difference between them and their ancestors. Eve clothed herself not in shame of a hyper-sexualized body but rather the exact opposite, in shame of a body that repulsed the male.

From here we mark the divergence of humans from nature, from the expulsion and the self awareness of the difference that caused it.  This is the difference that we have grown to admire and to desire.  The typical male obsession with breasts comes not from a childish desire for his mother but from a human desire for a mate as unlike its cousins as possible.  To be more obviously anti-animal.  Why a desire for smooth, hairless bodies, especially in adult women?  Not because a hairless body reminds us of pre-adolescence but because it reminds us of anti-animals.  Why an obsession with adornment, why high heels?  Why make up? Why cosmetic surgery?  We have a notion of what human perfection looks like, and what it looks like is the antithesis of perfection among all other primates.

We were rejected by our ancestors and we in turn reject them. And our rejection of chimpanzees has spilled over to a rejection of the cradle they threw us out of.  All but a handful of us refuse to live in forests and we rejoice in tearing them down.   And our quest against nature will continue until we’ve finally mastered it and replaced it. It is, if you will, the ultimate revenge tragedy. And all because of a hormonal imbalance in a female chimpanzee some millions of years ago, a memory still fostered in myth and legend.