It was Heraclitus who first articulated the idea in western culture that behind the apparent strife and chaos of Nature lies a divine order, which he called the Logos, which means the Word, or the Law.
Plato and the Stoics developed it: the universe was a beautiful and perfectly symmetrical order, guided by a divine intelligence. Nature was ordered, just and benevolent. Everything was perfectly designed, and designed for man’s happiness.
Almost as soon as this idea was invented, it was challenged, by the likes of Callicles, a character in one of Plato’s dialogues, who argues there is no higher law in nature than ‘might is right’, that the strong will always take advantage of the weak, and any appeals to ‘cosmic justice’ or ‘natural law’ is either wishful thinking, or something invented by the strong in order to take advantage of the weak.
The great critic of this Stoic-Platonic view of Nature, in the modern age, is the film director Werner Herzog. So many of his films, and his later wildlife documentaries, are really challenges to the view that Nature is ordered, morally just, and benevolent towards human endeavour.
In his work, Nature is amoral, obscene, brutal, and unremittingly hostile towards human endeavour or human pretensions to moral dignity. Against its savage backdrop, civilization appears more and more an insane pantomime.
In his documentary Grizzly Man, he profiles a self-appointed ‘bear-whisperer’, a man who claimed to have a deep affinity with grizzly bears, and Herzog shows how insane it is to anthropomorphize nature, to think that savage creatures like bears give a damn about us or have any sort of moral affinity with us. Of course, the man is eaten by a bear at the end of the documentary. As Herzog puts it in the film: ‘I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder.’
Here is he is talking about the jungle, during the shooting of Fitzcorraldo: