: Use, Concepts and Implications of the word 'Natural'
A while back we had a discussion (perhaps it was a discussion-within-a-discussion) about the concept of "Natural". I poked around for the thread but couldn't find it. In any case, that discussion keeps sticking in my head badly, like a pebble in my shoe that I can't quite get relief from. The conventional image of "Natural" depicts elements untainted/not drastically altered by the hand of man, yet the discussion I recall moved to a very different consensus. Here's what I remember that general consensus being:[INDENT]That all things are natural
since: 1) No element was 'created' by human action, only perhaps changed in overall form -and
- 2) Human behavior is part of 'nature' and therefore what is done by humans is a part of what is "Natural" too.
[/INDENT]I should like to address this
because I believe that it is not only absurd, but counterproductive as well.
IT IS CONCEDED
TO THE POINT
- Yes, the logic I referenced above (and as I recall it) I recognize as relatively salient; even if it leads to what I see as a false conclusion. Was it a fallacy? I think so.
- Yes, humans are a part of "Nature"
- Yes, what elements that are a part of nature do can usually be called "Natural" (e.g., What a bear does in the woods).
- Correct, we don't "create materials" that weren't already in existence, we simply alter their form at the macro level
: When we speak about what is "natural", we're not referring to the "naturalness" of its base elements, we're speaking to the extent to which it has been altered from its pre-human-intervention state.
: Place a picture of a Tree and another of a Nuclear reactor side-by-side and I'll bet the vast
majority of those questioned will pick the Tree
when asked, "Which of these is Natural?". Other questions such as "Is your hair color natural?", "Can we get a room with a good Nature-view?" also illustrate the point.
[/INDENT][INDENT]Concept -vs- Definition
: Merriam Webster's entry
lists 15 major variant definitions to this word. If not by the definition of "untouched by human hands", how otherwise might we discern what's "natural" in the stated context. This is a conceptual definition that's needed for any discussion on the extent to which <X> has been modified by human action
: If we look at 'damage' wrought by the human animal upon this planet, might it be easy to adhere to the deception that, "Oh, yea that's us; but it's ok because we're 'natural'"?
[/INDENT][INDENT]Dillution of Implication
: Instead of saying "No, that's not natural because it's a mess human beings made", would it be ok to say "Of course that dumpsite is natural"; I say of course not. On a very generalized level, we esteem what is natural. I believe where we have radically changed the form of components in anything, such things need to be called "unnatural" since it recognizes our ability to vastly-alter and in so doing injects a measure of responsibility for such conditions.
[/INDENT]So no, I wouldn't characterize downtown Los Angeles, a nuclear dumpsite or that old Ford sitting in Bill's Yard as "Natural". Nor do I think it's responsible to do so. To further illustrate the context I'm trying to show, recall Agent Smith's words (from the Movie The Matrix):
[INDENT]"Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a 'plague'...
[/INDENT]When we observe our impact on this planet I think it important we not delude ourselves into a false sense of comfort by creatively-altering established use and definitions to suit our comfort.
This is an unnatural infestation of a species over-stepping its natural order to the detriment of the terrain, ecology, resources and other forms of life:
As I re-read this post, I see that I'm hitting several interrelated concepts at once; I apologize for any confusion and any axe-grinding. Still, I think it relevant to recognize what is unnatural as well as the implications that come with large-scale 'modifications' towards unnatural-ness
. How shall we frame our impact?