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Encyclopedia > Nature


Nature (also called the material world, the material universe, the natural world, and the natural universe) is all matter and energy, especially in its essential form, unaffected by human influence. Nature is the subject of scientific study.

In scale, 'nature' includes everything from the universal to the subatomic. This includes all things animal, plant, and mineral; all natural resources and events (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes). It also includes the behaviour of living animals, and the processes associated with inanimate objects. A fundamental difference of view exists between those who include humans (both their consciousness and their activities) within nature, and those who do not.


Nature outside Earth and its atmosphere

Events and phenomena outside Earth and its atmosphere are in the natural science of astronomy.


Life, the characteristics and behaviors of organisms, how species and individuals come into existence, and the interactions they have with each other and with their environment are all in the natural science of biology.


The structure, properties, composition, and reactions of chemical elements and compounds are part of the natural science of chemistry.

Matter and force

The behaviour and interactions of matter and force are a part of the natural science of physics.


Everything relating to the planet Earth is a part of earth science.

The supernatural

Some people believe in the existence of a non-material world in a sense beyond that of just mental experience. They rather believe in supernatural beings and in a supernatural reality absolutely different in kind to that of the natural world. Even if such a reality exists, many scientists and other assert that it is beyond the reach of science. On the other hand science has been very successful in bringing apparently inexplicable and supposedly supernatural phenomena within its scope.


In philosophy, the view that the material world of atoms, animals, gravity, stars, wind, microbes, etc., actually exist independently of our observations of them is termed realism; the opposing view is called idealism.

The natural and the artificial

A distinction is often drawn between the "natural" and the "artificial" (="man-made"). Can such a distinction be justified? One approach is to exclude mind from the realm of the natural; another is to exclude not only mind, but also humans and their influence. In either case, the boundary between the natural and the artificial is a difficult one to draw (see mind-body problem). Some people believe that the problem is best avoided by saying that everything is natural, but that does little to clarify the concept of the "artificial". In any event, ambiguities about the distinction between the natural and the artificial animate much of art, literature and philosophy.

Related concepts

The term natural science is used in a variety of ways, primarily:

The term natural philosophy formerly named the scientific discipline now known as physics.

Natural theology straddles the disciplines of theology and philosophy of religion.

In education and related areas, the contrast "natural/artificial" can appear as " nature/nurture".

See also: praeternatural, unnatural and supernatural.


The word nature comes from the Latin word, natura, meaning birth or character (see nature (innate)). In English, its first recorded use in the sense of the material world was in 1662.

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • James Randi Educational Foundation (http://randi.org/) The JREF organization investigates claims that seem to contradict established science and attempts to verify them in controlled experimental conditions. There has been no success yet finding any evidence in these controlled conditions specified by the Foundation of anything not explainable by established science.
  • The Nature Conservancy (http://nature.org/) Charitable organization devoted to preserving natural diversity worldwide
  • English Nature (http://www.english-nature.org.uk/) UK government organization devoted to preserving natural diversity in the UK
  • Nature Detectives (http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk) An online research and education project for under 18s in the UK
  • Love for Nature (http://www.religiousbook.net/Books/Online_books/Ec/Ecology_11.html)
  • A Guide to Nature and Wildlife Conservation (http://www.takesomeaction.co.uk)



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