It's "Natural" therefore it's "good". It's "Artificial" therefore it's "bad".

I hear it all of the time. "I don't want to take that medicine because it's not natural". "This food is not natural". "I choose to live this way because it's natural". "This is good because it's natural". "This is bad because it's artificial".

Actually, we live in a world that is not "natural". It's difficult to define "natural" but many people seem to think that it's how were "intended" to be. The "artificial" character of medicine, vaccine, and food processing somehow indicates that these are harmful. The fact that we evolved in a world that wasn't human-made, somehow indicates that we are not "designed" for the modern world.

Think of dogs. Chihuahuas would not survive in the wild that their ancestors occupied. Neither would poodles. Neither would most domestic animals. Neither would we. "Natural" is not an option.

Actually, benefit and harm are both independent of "natural" vs. "artificial", and there is almost nothing left that is not modified already by human activity. The climate, CO2 content of the air, earth's temperature, the substances that waft about in the air and water, and permeate our bodies, have all been created or modified by human activity. Our brains and our relationships have been modified by human activity. All ecosystems have been significantly impacted by human activity, with intended and unintended consequences, beneficial and harmful depending on your perspective. So have our bodies. Our predecessors and ancestors had much smaller build. They were shorter and slimmer. Obesity either did not exist, or was rare, in ancient times. Lives were also shorter - much shorter. Life was also brutal. Ancient diseases are now almost forgotten in Western society - polio, leprosy, cholera, bubonic plague, tetanus, smallpox, typhoid fever, gangrene. Many aspects of life are immeasurably better, and it's not "natural."

Exercise is good for us, but not because ancient people had to work hard. Lack of dietary excess is good for us, but not because ancient people were thin. Sanitation is good for us, and ancient people who had sanitary systems likely benefited as well, but humans evolved in a presanitation world.

Humans by Era Average Lifespan at Birth (wikipedia)
(years) Comment
Upper Paleolithic 33 At age 15: 39 (to age 54)
Neolithic 20
Bronze Age 18
Bronze age, Sweden40-60
Classical Greece 20-30
Classical Rome 20-30
Pre-Columbian North America 25-30
Medieval Islamic Caliphate 35+ The average lifespans of the elite class were 59–84.3 years in the Middle East and 69–75 in Islamic Spain.
Medieval Britain 20-30
Early 20th Century 30-45
Current world average 66.57 2009 est.

There is no evidence that any "natural" activity of ancient times was beneficial to quality or quantity of life, because they simply did not live that long. Not their food, not their farming methods, not their medical technology, including Indian and Chinese herbal remedies.

So we are unnatural creatures in an unnatural world. That doesn't mean that pesticides are good (or bad) or fertilizers are good (or bad) or medicines are good (or bad) or SUVs are good (or bad) or processed food is good (or bad) or vegetarianism/omnivory is good (or bad). The utility, benefit / cost of these substances and activity is independent of their "naturalness", and depends on how they are used, in what circumstances, and to what degree, and their interrelation to the rest of their world, local and global. I think that many of the excesses of modern industrialized, commercial life are very harmful, but it's not because they are unnatural.

Sometimes, when people tell me "I don't want to take this cholesterol pill. It's not natural" I tell them "Neither is living past 30. If nature was all that we had to go by, you would be dead already, and so would your kids."

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Replies to This Discussion

You beat me to it. "Strong work!"
When I can keep people teetering between "Eww Yuck" and "Wow...Interesting" I know that my mission in life is accomplished. :-)
Score another point for Illinois.
Regardless, it meant a lot coming from "The Nerd". It COULD have been a blog post, but blog posts dissappear quickly from areas that are accessible for general consumption, whereas group discussions seem to last longer. With lots of notable exceptions both ways, of course.

By the way, yeast fermentations are totally "natural".
Oh, no no no no no! Beer, wine, spirits - all from yeast fermentations! Bread, too, for that matter. I'm out of the loop of "yeasty feminists"! :-)
I've been a strong proponent of human parthenogenesis for some time now. And not the weird virgin birth kind--the zipper down the middle kind. It would solve so many problems. Gain too much weight and, zzzziiiiiipppp! A whole new you! Plus the old one, but both would be svelte and ready for action, without all the pain of adolescence. Alternate days at work with your new clone, and you can both live a more relaxed life. No more wasted time looking for mister or miss right, no more obesity epidemic, and no childbirth complications (well, unless the zipper gets stuck or you end up in a good-Kirk/bad-Kirk scenario). It's a win-win.
I don't think I could live with myself, she is a bit much at times and we would both have to be right.
Igloos are a known natural way to prevent tornados. But the fools never listen and keep setting up trailer parks.
Well, plus, igloos seem to be magnets for blizzards and a diet of seal fat.

And actually, Jacqueline, with all the PhotoShopping going on, for all we know those are exactly the kinda gals doing Playboy spreads now. Hell, Hef himself could be the model in every shot.
You protest a lot about everything Ms. Homan and especially your perceptions regarding men, which seem to creep into every discussion, germane or not. Your stereotypes are usually as immature as your observations. They tend to identify people that never post at Atheist Nexus.

Not to say that you don't speak of interesting things, but I can see that you have a "library of rants" that have a firm grip, dominating and controlling your mind and often pulling you away from your more astute observations. These you cut-and-paste repeatedly which waters down anything that might have been entertaining.

You have to remember that fanatics are not social animals nor do they possess much of a sense of humor.

The worst enemy of agile anticipation is our human propensity for self delusion.

It is most important to accept the truth about yourself in order to receive the truth.



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