Tell me you’ve seen the Neature Walk YouTube video! It’s so dumb but so funny. Yes, it’s a joke but there’s some truth there, nature is neat. It’s cool, it’s exciting, it’ll give you the feels. A good nature show can take you through the full range of emotions. Think about planet earth and the Life series, that stuff will blow your mind, you can’t help but say “WOW!” But why is that? Well, I’d argue that nature is neat because it was made by an awesome God who actually meant it to be awesome and represent Him. On top of that, This God made us in His image to represent Him and be amazed by the nature He created. Maybe that sounds far fetched, maybe that sounds like a quaint fairly tale, but if so then why do we think nature is neat? If there is no God, no Creator who is self-sufficient and separate from the creation, yet able to interact with it, why would we look at the Grand Canyon in amazement. Would we even be justified in saying wow? If the God of the Bible isn’t responsible for the amazing things this world has to offer, let alone the entire universe, then why should we use words like beautiful, enchanting, glorious, spectacular, wonderful and other words that express our awe. Could we ever make any value judgements at all?
Take a look outside at a tree. Trees are nuts! They heal themselves, they use photosynthesis to convert photons from the sun into the energy they need to survive. They are organic air filters for the earth. They use this molecule chain thing to draw water up through their “tree veins” and release water molecules one by one back into the atmosphere. Many of them have roots that go down as deep as their branches and trunk go up, to act as a counter balance as well as to search for water and nutrients from the soil. They are like living statues, living monuments testifying to the brilliance of their design. But when we see how beautiful and brilliant trees are we shouldn’t let that adoration terminate on the trees. Trees aren’t brilliant. They aren’t sentient beings, they have no ability to reason, they can’t engage in metacognition or consider their “tree-ness” and what it means to be a tree existentially. They didn’t make or design themselves. It’s just a tree. So when we talk about how cool trees are either we are being silly by complimenting random chance and time acting on matter or we are justified in our astonishment because someone (God) made them to show off His brilliance and creativity and made us to enjoy them and take care of them.
Take a second to think about that. If there is no reason behind the universe, if there is no purpose for you and I being here, if there is no transcendent God who created this world, why would we say anything is wonderful or awesome? It would just be. There’s no reason to be amazed when we see an imposing African Elephant at the zoo, it just is. When we look up at a majestic Eagle or Hawk in mid flight, it’s just doing what chance does to matter over time. It just is. When we look at an Alligator Snapping Turtle wiggle it’s tiny worm-like tongue to lure a fish into it’ smooth, that’s not clever or spectacular, that is just that. How about a chameleon shooting it’s tongue across the jungle to nail a praying mantis right in the head and pull it back into it’s mouth. Why would we be amazed by nature? If it’s not trying to tell us something why would we keep trying to listen?
When we see a mother lion chasing down dinner for her cubs we can feel a wide range of emotions, from sorrow to relief. One the one hand we recognize that the wildebeest that the lioness caught was probably the weakest of the herd, might have even had a limp from twisting it’s ankle the last time it had to run for it’s life. That’s genuinely sad, we feel for that poor little beast. On the more pragmatic side, that weak wildebeest was slowing down the herd and even bringing unwanted attention. When the lions pick off the weak and sickly they are actually helping the herd and keeping the best genes in the gene pool by eating the rest. And then on the happy side, we see the lion cubs getting a full belly and we think back to our childhood memories of watching The Lion King and maybe even to the Simba toy we had.
We all have these kinds of feelings when we look out at nature, my point is not just to make a teleological argument but to ask, are we justified in thinking nature is neat if we don’t believe in the God of the Bible? If there is no one who made us and gifted us with the ability to think logically and use our senses to discover more about this world and this universe we inhabit, are we justified in doing science at all? If we don’t believe what God says in the Bible about continuing the seasons and holding all things together by the word of His power, are we justified in believing that the future will be like the past at all? Can we believe in the uniformity of nature if there isn’t someone who made it to be uniform? Wouldn’t all of our scientific studies be begging the question? In fact, wouldn’t every step we take in this world be a blind step of faith in nothing? sure we have observed that Gravity has held us down in the past but we’ve never observed the future so if we don’t believe in God what are we trusting in to make the future like the past. why would we believe that nature in the next 30 minutes will be uniform like the past 30 minutes?
If we believe that nature is neat and that there is no purpose behind it could we even trust the senses we use to perceive nature? One of my favorite philosophers, Ronald Nash, really helped me understand this idea with an analogy, i’ll change it a bit. If we are flying in a plane and look out our window and see a bunch of large white rocks on a hill spelling out “Welcome to Ohio”, we would have two options to consider how they got there. One option is that someone put them there for a reason, namely to welcome you to Ohio. The second reason is that they got there by chance. It could happen I suppose, crazy things do happen. Maybe a truck crashed and spilled those rocks down the hill and they randomly spelled out “Welcome to Ohio”, it’s not likely but it’s possible. If the former scenario happened then we would be justified in reading the message spelled out by the white rocks, we could consider it’s truth because it was written with a purpose. If the latter scenario is the case then we would be fools to read those rocks as if they had any purpose at all. It was an accident, and they coincidentally spelled welcome to Ohio, but that doesn’t mean we are flying over Ohio and if we thought we were actually over Ohio based on random chance and an accident we would be foolish. The same can be said of our reasoning faculties and senses. If they are the result of a cosmic accident and random chance acting on matter we would all be unwise for using our reasoning faculties and sense perception as if they were designed with a purpose and could actually yield truth. In short, I don’t think we would be justified in saying that nature is neat.
My point is to examine the underlying presuppositions behind us saying that “nature is neat”. “Well Park, you’re the one who wrote this blog and you’re the one who took the joke video and had to make it all serious!” Yeah, that’s true, but am I wrong? I think nature is neat, like unbelievably neat, I still catch turtles and frogs and snakes and lizards. I still get all geeked out to go visit the zoo and even those smelly petting zoos. I love a good hike and I’m crazy about fishing. I love the ocean and dunes and camping and all sorts of nature activities. I’ve spent thousands of dollars at Cabela’s, Dick’s sporting goods, Bass Pro Shops and REI. I’ve spent hours and hours watching nature shows. If you do any of that, if you think nature is even the slightest bit “neat”, I want you to think about why. Why is nature neat? Does your worldview allow you to be justified in such a simple expression or are you experiencing some cognitive dissonance?
It’s my contention that nature is neat because the Trinitarian God of the Bible made this universe in an orderly fashion which allows us to study it. He holds it all together so we are justified in doing science and planning for future events and even putting our feet on the ground when we get out of bed in the morning. God made nature out of love and in love and for love. So if you love nature that’s a good thing, but if you’re not giving honor and thanks to the one who made it and who made you, then that’s a bad thing. Just something to think on.