Ugly side of nature

the responses here kind of relate to one of the reasons I´ve been particularly interested in parasitic wasps and flies since I started exploring entomology…

my knee-jerk response to the notion of parasitism is that its abhorrent… that one creatures lays its babies inside another…and that their baby then eats said creature from the inside out while its still alive …is pretty hard to wrap your head around from a human perspective!

but that’s a really positive challenge to overcome IMO, to discard more traditional perceptions of these actions as good / evil …and see it as the cycle of life as those above mention

and more than that, to connect and in a sense, care for these creatures and value them as well! …is just absolutely fascinating to me. :)

its a powerful experience to gaze into the eyes of a parasitic bee-grabber when photographing it!

spending time with these creatures really shakes my world-view.


Though I am sorry for your distress, but, as the others have noted, there are no good or evil guys in nature. They’re all part of ecosystems and have their own functions. The only evil guy is us, humanity, who import invasive species by trying to beautify the nature or make it more useful for us, trying to eradicate “evil guys” (sparrows, wolves, insects, etc.). Even in your gosling story there is a human hand – it is letting their pet loose with the birds in the vicinity. As for nature – I have recently witnessed the cannibalism of a squirrel, when a male squirrel kills and eats young ones sired by another male. Yes, it’s cruel and seemingly unnecessary (not from the point of view of a killer squirrel, who later mates with a mother squirrel and will guard his offspring well), but this is nature, we have to accept it.


I’ve struggled with this, too. Nature doesn’t do good/evil. It doesn’t do pretty/ugly. It doesn’t salve the sting of death and it doesn’t believe in death with dignity - natural death is often horrible. It does do tenacity, and creativity, and diversity. It accepts and transforms everything.

The consolation is that we who sort things into good and evil and beautiful and ugly can feel and shape these things. We can choose where to cast our gaze and what to cultivate around us, and we can feel deeply the goodness and beauty and respect the harshness, pain and sorrow that brings it all into such sharp relief.

It’s not easy, but it is real. The only goodness and beauty that exists is the goodness and beauty we find and cherish. Good luck.


If you study Nature long enough and deeply enough, it will eventually show you everything that exists. This can be a tough learning process because you will get to see things you would rather not see, and learn things you would rather not learn.

But, as is true of life in general, we do need to know the whole picture, not just the pretty and uplifting parts. Life is not here to entertain us, and nature is not here to soothe us.

Even in the people we love the most and admire the most, we will sometimes see a glimpse of something repugnant or disappointing; that’s the way things are.

We are all under pressure right now with the pandemic rolling over us, and we wish there was something out there which was composed entirely of comforting loveliness.

But the truth is always your friend, so embrace it, don’t shy away from it. Try not to judge nature as “good” or “bad”, just observe it with an open mind.

Nature is the ultimate teacher. In fact nature is our original mother – we were born from her. There is an overall beauty and magnificence in nature, despite it being “red in tooth and claw”.

Nature is not something separate from us and different from us, it is what we are made of too. We have to come to terms with it, with all it, otherwise we won’t be able to come to terms with what it is to be human, what it is to be “me”.

I reckon you are feeling sad and a bit defeated, as I think we all do from time to time, especially during this pandemic. But if you do love nature, go back out there and keep looking. Look smaller, and look bigger too. Give nature a chance to show you how it all makes sense, and what you can do to make things better if there are issues for which humans are primarily responsible.


Welcome to the forum! Your mention of the gosling reminded me of this recent essay on the same topic which coincidentally features goslings:


I think one of our more insidious traits as humans is our tendency to anthropomorphize nature. Growing up in relative comfort, under the jurisdiction of laws and human rights, with abstract views on life and morality that are very foreign to this world (when compared to the rest of life on Earth), it’s easy to impress our human views upon nature and see things through our lens. And while it’s perfectly normal and natural to feel uncomfortable at the brutality nature has to offer, it shouldn’t taint your view of nature, because nature doesn’t give a damn about our human misconceptions.


Many of us here have asked the same question. Seeing all the compassionate and empathetic replies you’ve gotten shows another side of nature. We can choose to build rather than destroy. In Romans 8:22 The Apostle Paul made the same observation as you did “For we know the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” I feel sad with you and I feel some comfort too.


I see parasitic wasps as a mercy. Too many caterpillars can devastate crops leading to starvation.


“nature” is a human concept that doesn’t really exist out there. A goose isn’t “nature”, it is just a goose. And a goose, like a lot of different animals, IS able to feel pain and to suffer horribly. It DOES care that it is being attacked by an eagle and half of its intestines are currently hanging out of its body. That is absolutely NOT a misconception, it does not constitute “anthropomorphizing”, or “judging nature”, it is a real, objective, biological fact.

To reply more broadly (not just to Nick): if there is ANYTHING objective in the universe, it is that pain and suffering are inherently and objectively bad. That is true by definition. Even though sometimes they can be a part of something that is overall good that outweighs them (such as feeling some pain/suffering as a means to obtain a larger reward later on, or to achieve a goal), the feelings themselves ARE indeed bad. There’s no judgment or subjectivity involved in acknowledging that. As such, I think it is missing the point to say that we shouldn’t “judge nature”, “anthropomorphize”, or “look at nature through our human lenses”. While the good may outweigh the bad (let’s say the eagle in the scenario above is a beautiful endangered keystone species on which an entire ecosystem depends, and the goose belongs to an invasive species that is destroying that ecosystem), that fact doesn’t make the bad disappear. The gosling being ripped apart alive by an eagle is still suffering horribly. I think it’s a little flippant* to ignore this fact and pretend that it’s all just a matter of interpretation, that there is no objectively ugly side of nature.

*that’s not exactly the word I’d like to use, it’s a bit too strong/negative, but I can’t think of a better word


Domestic dogs are not part of nature, so there should be a long tlk with those owners about how to walk with a dog.
All situation is not evin ugly, it’s the actual side of the life, you too kill thousands of creatures every day and don’t even notice it, to live an organism has to kill something or find something dead, as eucariots are not bacterias and can’t survive without it. And I’m glad that dead gooseling is what broght you those thoughts, there’re far more brutal things happening.


A glance to the question from the other side: how many ecosystems were erased, plant communities damaged, wildlife killed or drawn to starvation and died by creating crop fields? There is no correct answer to the good and the bad nature even from an anthropomorphic point of view.


Goslings have been getting ripped apart by eagles long before humans came around, long before even an inkling towards the concept of “ugliness” was a thing. I’m not denying that animals feel pain and suffer and would prefer not to experience those things, but if you’re going to frame pain and suffering as “objectively bad” then that opens the door to a whole landscape’s worth of implications that don’t need to be examined. Example: a gosling getting torn apart by an eagle obviously elicits more immediate feelings than an anteater pillaging an anthill. Both involve suffering and death; if you want to rally up the numbers and overall effect, the destruction of an ant colony is more impactful than a single dead gosling. But 99 out of 100 of us would squirm at a dismembered gosling and not even bat an eye at an anteater raiding an anthill. Why? Because we as humans have invested emotional energy into things we deem as “cute” or “innocent,” and we react more viscerally when those things are mangled, as most of the time the effects are visible and graphic. Yes, it’s ugly, but it’s also arbitrary, and we should take more care to ensure our standards are consistent across the board, as to not draw conflicting conceptions.


People who let their dog savage nature, are indeed the ugly side of nature.


I don’t think so. There are good reasons to believe that insects don’t experience pain/suffering… but that’s not really my point though.

There’s a difference between our perceptions of reality and reality itself. Whether humans recognize another organism’s feelings, or whether they care or not, is completely irrelevant. The act of suffering itself is an objectively bad experience for the organism itself, and that’s what really matters. The idea of objectivity doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on something, it just means that it is an external fact that can be examined and verified by outside observers. For example, let’s say a human is being tortured (they are awake and are able to feel). It is an objective biological fact that they are suffering and in pain. You can look at their behavior, their physiology, their brain state, and other external facts to verify this fact, so it is objective. In addition, pain is, by definition, a bad experience. The “badness” of pain is an inherent, inseparable characteristic of pain. If you say that something is in pain, then you are saying that they are experiencing something which they perceive as bad. Whether another person cares or not (if they’re a sadist psychopath, they might even enjoy it), whether the person suffering “deserves” it or not, or whether any good can come out of the experience is irrelevant. All of those things can ADD additional layers (of good or bad) to the whole situation, but they cannot take away the objective fact that the person being tortured is experiencing something bad.

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I think we both hold the same point of view on this whole debate, I understand and agree with everything you said in that post regarding objectivity. I, however, do not feel anything beyond shallow, visceral discomfort when I see brutality in nature, that I would normally reserve for my fellow man. I believe it’s important that we respect and appreciate nature, but also that we don’t hold it to the same standards that we do towards each other. Not lesser standards, just different standards. Unless, of course, that animal suffering is a direct result of human intervention.


Thank you for this excellent and concise summary of human misconception of nature. In my opinion, this misconception does much damage – more than we sometimes think. Human attraction to fluffy things, soulful eyes, smart feathers and flashy flowers makes it very difficult to persuade society that less endearing or even “ugly” things also require and are worthy protection and conservation status. For example, in Europe there is Bird Directive and birds are usually primary protection object in many countries. There are lots of initiatives for protecting orchids. But have you ever heard of official directives/global initiatives/mass public outcries for protection of fungi, lichens, mosses, reptiles, beetles, amphibians?


This is also all very correct. No sane person will enjoy view of killing one animal by another. But you cannot tell lynx, eagle, wolf or lion – please, do it in the least painful way. They just kill – for food, for education of the young ones or for eradication of the genes that are not theirs. And they do it the way they do it.


Good stewardship should encompass the whole of creation. However, most of us start with the “obvious” attractive things. I appreciated flowers first, but moss, lichens, ferns, and fungi were not far behind. I like fuzzy puppies, but also fuzzy bumblebees. Now I add numerous other critters including spiders to my favorites list. Those who care for birds and orchids will also be more likely to care for reptiles and lichens.


There’s a little difference, most people don’t care about wild beauty, they just look at it and have short-lasting feelings, but inside they don’t care much about it. And there’s a smaller group of those who appreciate it and then discovers more.


I think it’s an individual endeavor, and that the anguish results from a disconnect between the person’s thoughts as to how the world should work and how it actually does. For me, it wasn’t enough to just know there was a disconnect, and it wasn’t enough to read more about the science (although that helped). The disconnect was still there, and still too painful. I didn’t change any of my core beliefs or understanding of science. The anguish was relieved only by journaling about my mind’s insistence that there should not be a disconnect until it wasn’t so insistent any more. Not everyone’s solution, by any means, but it worked for me.