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Why does humankind insist on trying to "improve" Nature?

9 Answers
Surely, we've all heard about "GMOs" (Genetically Modified Organisms), which are scientifically engineered for a particular trait or characteristic that we want to do something about. They put a specific gene from one kind of organism into the cell structure of another organism, so the 'new' organism will grow with an added (or, in some cases, a deleted) characteristic. The issue that many become concerned about is that nobody really knows much of what other kinds of impact might be taking place 'behind the scenes'...that is, in Nature itself...when our newly designed organisms become intermingled with natural ones. What do YOU think? Do we have enough "wisdom" to mess with Nature?
M

This is not a new thing.

We have been trying to improve nature for thousands of years. The first way this was done was by selective breeding. For example as you know the domestic dog of today looks nothing like the wolf from which it descended.
Wooly sheep do not look much like the wild sheep they were bred from and so on.
We try to improve nature mostly for our own selfish benefits.

In fact if you look around we have altered many species simply through domestication and breeding practices and selective procedures. We have even tried to improve nature by trying to wipe some species off the face of the earth (some projects are underway to try to wipe out certain species of mosquito).

Oddly the human species is the one we don't seem to tamper with too much, while some places have dabbled in eugenics, it is no longer considered "proper", while at one time it was suggested we do not allow humans with weak genes to breed, pretty much anyone can have kids now.

To get back to your question, all this selective breeding simply opened the door for worse things, such as GMO's and intentionally producing Chimera organisms; sheep growing human organs.
Yes we have done to far -as for "WHY" - the answer is because we seem to think we have the right to use and abuse anything on this planet for our own purposes, some even offer the Bible as an excuse, saying "God" put these things here for us to use and rule over.

Basically because we are too stupid to see where we are going with it.

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F

The reason mankind wants to mess with nature is because nature isn't always very nice. For example eradicating smallpox, was messing with nature. If we accept the argument of some people that an omniscient, all-powerful God, made 'Nature' and we shouldn't mess with it, then God made smallpox and eradicating it was a bad thing. Nature also designed things so that it was pretty natural for people to die in their 20s and 30s, that if you were wounded, you had a high chance of getting gangrene or tetanus, if you were bitten by an animal, there was a chance you would get rabies etc. etc. Also as pointed out in answers above, very little of the food we eat today is really 'natural'. Wheat is not natural, grasses are natural and man messed with them to produce once that had super big grains which are high in starch, etc.
GMO food are just a more technical extension of this. For example Nature made rice to be poor in vitamin A. This might not matter very much to us but its a real bummer for poor poeple in certain coutnries were rice is a staple food, and they don't really get to eat much except for rice and go blind because of the lack of vitamin A. So if scientist could make GM rice that was rich in vitamin A, that might prevent a lot of people going blind. Or they are trying to make GM plants that are resistent ot pests so you have to use less pesticides.
Of-course there is a risk associated with everything, which is why there is a lot of testing before anything developed in a laboratory gets used in the real world.
Now I don't think everything with GMO is ideal. I think the big problem is the involvement of big money corporations in the business. On the one hand, the research needs funding, on the other hand, the big corporations want to see a return on their investment. The problem is that GM research gets focused on developing profitable things, rather than things that could really make life better for people, in putting GM organisms in rich Western countries, rather than developing poor countries, where the need for better crops is way more important. Also when big money is involved, I worry about how good the safeguards are, whether they will try to cut corners with the testing part. That is a problem.
But to answer the question of why Man wants to mess with Nature, is because in many ways Nature is quite horrible, I really don't believe that you would want to live out your life in a Natural way.

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D

Man Has been doing genetic modification since the domestication of plants and animals although in a primitive form.He would choose the best and biggest looking seeds from edible wild grasses in the hope that these seeds would grow and produce seeds that were as big as the original if not bigger.When such continuous selection was done,the 'bad' genes that would lead to small grain formation were lost while those for large grain formation were favoured and they established themselves .Maize,wheat and barley all became major food crops that could feed large populations this way.The original,small grained wild maize grass is extinct today.Man has also done the same to animals.Today,such selections are done with scientific information at hand and as long as the genetic information of the plant or animal is not distorted ,then genetic modification is helping us feed our expanding population.However some scientists are playing God with genetic modification by completely distorting the genetic make-up of plants and animals.We now have lemon flavoured tomatoes,cabbages that mature in 2 weeks and animals with no nerves so that they dont feel pain when slaughtered.That is crossing the line!

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S

Hi all.and thanks for your great answers here! As many of you have mentioned, it seems like we've been attempting to "improve" on Nature for some time.through hybrids, and even through simple things like just using the best seeds going forward. Clearly, that's indisputable, because we know that many plants (flowers, vegetables, fruits, etc.) we know today are 'hybrids' that humans have created.

My main concern with things like Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is that we are now getting so much deeper into HOW we're 'hybridizing' things. Science now might take a gene from a spider or a shrimp, and place it into corn, or broccoli, or other plant. I guess if it "works" (i.e., if it produces expected results), then one could say it is still "natural", since Nature didn't completely reject it. But, somehow, I'm just not sure about that depth of modification. Maybe I'm "old fashioned", but I think Mother Nature does a much better job of evolution than we can do in the laboratory.even if it takes a lot longer to accomplish.
Thanks again for the thought-provoking and interesting responses.

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F

Humankind has been improving upon nature since the first fire was built to cook foods and keep warm. That artificial fire created by early humans allow us naked apes to move out of the tropics and then on to conquer the world. Just think of what kind of changes that simple campfire brought about and how it affected the different ecosystems of the world as man was able to move into them.

Genetic manipulations have been going on since life sprung up with infectious microorganisms engulfing bits of genetic material from one species and moving it to others. Mankind has just recently figured out how the process works and is now trying to use it for his benefit. Yes there are dangers involved, but the cat is out of the bag. We cannot unlearn something. The best that we can hope for is that the new knowledge is used wisely and that God still wants us around from a while longer.
I, myself, am not afraid of genetically modified organisms or foods, anymore than I am afraid of being killed by an atomic bomb. It is simply not worth the worry lines.

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P

Messing with nature will always have risks attached to it, but you'll never know unless you try. I think it's good to mess with nature. We are a part of nature and us messing with it is in our nature, so it's all natural when you think about it.

We are part of the universe and anything we do will be completely natural. If we don't try to do things with nature we may end up losing out on something big. We can't afford to take that risk. We are curious by nature and it is that curiosity that leads us into groundbreaking discoveries.

I wouldn't worry about it, humans are very smart creatures. Whatever we do to nature, I'm sure that we can handle it just fine.

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A

If mankind didn't breed faster than bunnies, we might not need to improve Nature nearly as much. (OK, so we don't breed as fast as bunnies, but we have a higher survival rate and longer lifespan.)

With billions of people and untold numbers of animals and insects all trying to eat from the same food sources, we have to do something to improve the crop yields.

If we make enough mistakes, or big enough mistakes, Nature will smack us down. I have a lot of faith in that!

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T

I don't think we do, we should play God. example the whole chupacabra species. People saw them we heard about them. Thought another UFO, supernatural freak of nature that no one really knows or can be proved.
Except the Chupacabra creature has been proved as a mix between coyote and wolf. I think this is one of those scientist experiments. Someone playing GOD.
Do we have the right to play God?
No we don't nature evoles all by itself, we are eveolving we have evolved.

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E

Well, I assume that you feel that people shouldn't "mess" with nature. This would, of course, mean that you disapprove of the apple, tomato, onion, olive, peach, pear, and almost every other fruit and vegetable that one can think of since the current fruits and vegetables are the result of someone changing them from their natural state.

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