Posted by: henrymcghie | May 1, 2014

Nature, not just ‘red in tooth and claw’

We have an exhibition, ‘From the War of Nature’ that revisits the idea of a ‘struggle for existence’, a very widely misunderstood and misapplied phrase. The exhibition links to the WW1 centenary, and explores whether nature is cruel, nice or anything else. The answer is that it’s not one thing- it’s lots of things. Sometimes animals co-operate, collaborate or divide resources up between them. The old idea of nature red in tooth and claw is a very misleading one- and does a real disservice to the complexity of nature. The exhibition runs until September. It was very rewarding to work on.

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Responses

  1. I think you may be misunderstanding the phrase obviously not every animal is a predator but every animal including the human is out to survive. In modern term to spread its genes. The phrase is often used by the hunting fraternity who excuse their blood thirsty tendances by claiming to be natural. They
    would do better to openly admit they like killing, after all we have been killing each other since the year dot. Nature cannot be cruel since it has no morals only man can be cruel and he often is very cruel indeed.

    • Hello- one of the main points of the exhibition is exactly this- nature isn’t kind, cruel or anything else- nature doesn’t operate by morals, and people shouldn’t select bits of nature to justify human actions as being somehow ‘natural’. The quote comes from a poem by Tennyson. It was written at a time when the view of nature as a kind of nice, perfect balance was being replaced by a vision of a competitive, grasping nature (and society).

  2. Thanks I did not know that. Thinking about it I’m not at all sure what the word natural means but we certainly use it for all sorts of things. I agree we see things through human eyes and often distort them.

  3. […] Nature, not just ‘red in tooth and claw’ […]


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