…to wake us up to reality.
The growing awareness of the wisdom of nature– from the architectonics of ant towers to the elegant precision of bird nests to the incomparable power and efficiency of spider webs to the role of astrocytes in augmenting neural ‘fidelity’– is but a return to classical Aristotelian wisdom. Biomimicry is a burgeoning field, and is really just a fancy word for the Aristotelian maxim that “art imitates nature”.
Note how in Physics II,8 Aristotle cites animals’ ingenuity as a manifestation of causal order in nature, not as some shocking aberration, which would allegedly show us “humans are not so unique after all”. Of course not! The strongest argument against Aristotelianism, in fact, would be that humans are univocally unique compared to the operations of nature at large. Rather, Aristotelianism insists that we are embedded in an analogical hierarchy of agents and patients, causes and effects, powers and potentialities, and it is only in conjunction with this ontological web– this ontic ecosystem– that we can know ourselves at all. For, as Aristotle says elsewhere**, nature knows itself in man’s knowledge of nature. So it is that man knows himself in a realist knowledge of nature.
This is why, far from radically undermining Aristotelian metaphysics, as is often claimed, Darwinism has actually awoken the world to a worldview that was too long stifled by an Ockhamist-nominalist construal of nature as an arbitrary assemblage of utterly distinct monads, known of course by clear and distinct ideas, rather than by a grasp of causes as powers of analogously ordered entities. Darwinism, as Gilson shows in From Aristotle to Darwin, is rife with teleological notions and inescapably fixates on substantial entities as its proper objects of study. Even in the nineteenth century, many a divine and biologist was aware of how, far from evicting the Creator, Darwinism actually amplified the radical unity and harmony of nature. Even the strife involved in natural selection— a Spencerian excess that is rapidly falling by the wayside as biology shows more and more how crucial altruism and symbiosis are– is at least still the strife iof substantial organisms acting for certain ends, and nothing is more Aristotelian than actions being ordered to the ends of a substance.