The Last Frontier of Nature

Oliver O’Donovan, writing in 1984 about our society’s impulse towards the attempted mastery of every nook and cranny of the natural world via technology:

“The relation of human beings to their own bodies, we might say, is the last frontier of nature. However much we may surround ourselves with our artifacts, banish every bird from the sky and every fish from the river, tidy every blade of grass into a park with  concrete paths and iron railings, however blind we may become to the givenness of the natural order on which our culture is erected, nevertheless, when we take off our clothes to have a bath, we confront something as natural, as given, as completely non-artifactual as anything in the universe: we confront our own bodily existence. And we learn there, if nowhere else, that to enjoy any freedom of spirit, to realize our possibilities for action of any kind, we must cherish nature in this place where we encounter it, we must defer to its immanent laws, and we must plan our activities in cooperation with them.”   

Fast forward 33 years, and here is Adam Piore speaking about the new frontier that is the engineering of the human body:

The last generation, the unknown was in the outside world; we used our engineering prowess to send a man to the moon, we built bridges and skyscrapers and cars and planes. And now, in this generation, the unknown and the frontier is really the human body and mind; and decoding it and understanding it down to the molecular level. And some of the most talented engineers of our generation are now pointing their sights inward to do that.”



It would appear that Mr. O’Donovan was on to something. It can only be hoped that these very engineers will keep his warnings at the forefront of their minds, and recall the “givenness” of the minds and bodies they are trying to “decode.” Otherwise, as he warns: “If by refusing its laws and imposing our freedom wantonly upon it, we cause it to break down, our freedom breaks down with it.”

2 thoughts on “The Last Frontier of Nature

  1. Just as truly as we must defer to the immanent laws of the natural order, as O’Donovan spoke, we too must defer to the immanent laws of the supernatural order…like it or not, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God. Yet presently, as indicated through the potential engineering of our own bodies, we go to such lengths to master our own destiny, to avoid the bending of our knees to the One and Only Sovereign….


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