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Why do so many human endeavors get labeled "unnatural"?


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Virtually anything any other species does is considered to be natural, part of nature. But for some reason, many humans consider some of the things we're capable of to be unnatural, or "not as nature intended" (we've had some discussion in other threads about this, but not in a thread primarily about it).

 

They claim that by extending our lives through medicine, we're doing something nature didn't intend us to do. Childbirth through C-section is considered unnatural, even though it accounts for almost one birth out of three in the US. We can modify the plants we grow for greater yields, disease resistance, and other benefits, but this practice is now being considered unnatural (even though we're almost the only animal that farms for sustenance to begin with - why isn't farming itself considered unnatural?).

 

Why do they assume there's a "normal" process in nature, one that we can violate with our meddling into things other species can't meddle with? Aren't they simply judging nature as it is without us, and then trying to claim we don't fit in? Isn't this what "living off the land" or "getting back to nature" means, doing things as much as possible like other, less intelligent species would do them?

 

I don't understand why other animals get ripping claws and huge tearing teeth and warm fur and extraordinary strength and agile flippers and keen senses, but when we use our greatest ability, our high intelligence, to figure out how to adapt better to our environment, it's viewed as being outside nature. I think it may seem unfair to many people, like our intelligence gives us too much of an advantage over other species, but it's one of the attributes we got from evolution, and it seems wrong to me to feel guilty about it. When you add it to our opposable thumbs, tool-use, cooperation, and communication skills, it's observably impressive, but is it unnatural?

 

If this sentiment is somehow guilt driven, it seems to me that it would be smarter to embrace our intelligence and understand our impact on nature as an integral part of it, rather than as outside of it. If we can use our intelligence more wisely, can we also agree that our intelligence is one attribute that distinguishes us in nature, just as the shark's teeth, the bird's wings, the bear's claws, all give them advantages in their environments and distinguishes them in nature?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Btw, I put this in Other Sciences because I didn't want to restrict responses to just political or psychological considerations.

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I think quite a few now think that we are no longer puppets with our instincts our main masters and so are concerned about unduly and irreversibly altering the interconnected natural phenomena around them,which keeps this big machine called Earth going.

 

It's called "unnatural" because we can pro-actively alter that which is natural to an irreversible degree. It's an artificial distinction but that is a good thing because it shows that we are collectively aware of the consequences of our actions on our environment and co-inhabitants.

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I want to alter my genome, sync my mind with a supercomputer and travel the galaxy at the speed of light (or through wormholes). These people are not going to tell me this is unnatural. I won't have it.

 

 

Only traditional, religious and other dogmatic people that have these types of views. The thoughtful will always challenge their ideas in society. We know that evolution is random process that created imperfect humans. Thus, we must use our minds to fix our imperfections and further improve ourselves.

 

People contradict themselves on this point. They want to be considered outside of the animal Kingdom, yet they want to be more animalistic.

 

Side Note:

I wish I knew some of the people on this forum ,because you "guys" are very thoughtful, always challenging the conventional

Edited by Vexen
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It's called "unnatural" because we can pro-actively alter that which is natural to an irreversible degree.

 

With the phrase "that which is natural", aren't you Begging the Question that there is an optimal state of nature that simply doesn't include us? And that the definition of unnatural, in this case, is simply "something bad a human can do that no other species can"?

 

I understand the irreversible degree of alteration argument. Does that mean this problem is scalable, that there is a point where what we're altering or how we're altering it can be considered as natural as a pack of wolves hunting out all the available prey in an area? Or are we taking some of our worst fears, like we're going to somehow alter ocean currents or or irradiate the planet or muck up the atmosphere to the point of devastation for many species, and applying that concern to lesser instances of alteration?

Only traditional, religious and other dogmatic people that have these types of views.

 

I'm not sure about this.

 

There are lots of issues where it's not just a conservative minority that hold these views. GMOs are pretty controversial. Many educated people feel we're thwarting "survival of the fittest" by keeping alive those who would've been too weak to survive in the wild. Many folks have no problem with using fossil fuels but consider nuclear power unnatural. We're allowed to treat an infant for certain maladies once they're born, but it's considered unnatural in many cases to intervene while it's still in the womb. Leaving the planet is also considered by many to be unnatural, even if they don't oppose efforts to do so. It seems like the concept affects folks on lots of intellectual levels.

 

Perhaps it's partly the tool-use capability. An automobile is a tool for travel like a house is a tool for shelter or a coat is a tool for warmth, but when compared to a horse, the car becomes unnatural, and so do the house when compared to a cave and the coat when compared to fur. Are tools by definition unnatural? Is a knife less unnatural than a rifle? Is a knife made of wood or bone more natural than one made of steel?

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With the phrase "that which is natural", aren't you Begging the Question that there is an optimal state of nature that simply doesn't include us? And that the definition of unnatural, in this case, is simply "something bad a human can do that no other species can"?

I think that which is ‘natural’ is that which is unaffected by human intervention. I think using that word that way is our way of distinguishing two different lines of evolutionary progression; evolutionary in a general sense.

 

 

I understand the irreversible degree of alteration argument. Does that mean this problem is scalable, that there is a point where what we're altering or how we're altering it can be considered as natural as a pack of wolves hunting out all the available prey in an area? Or are we taking some of our worst fears, like we're going to somehow alter ocean currents or or irradiate the planet or muck up the atmosphere to the point of devastation for many species, and applying that concern to lesser instances of alteration?

Yeah, I think there's just too many of us now to think that we can assert our individual desires on our immediate environments and expect nature to absorb it and recycle our efforts when we are done.

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Yeah, I think there's just too many of us now to think that we can assert our individual desires on our immediate environments and expect nature to absorb it and recycle our efforts when we are done.

Exactly

 

But why should we care about nature. It is completely indifferent to our existence. Let's acknowledged nature, that's all.

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Exactly

 

But why should we care about nature. It is completely indifferent to our existence. Let's acknowledged nature, that's all.

Our own continued existence as a species is why. We are becoming too big for the pond and the more there is of us the more we need to tiptoe carefully.

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Our own continued existence as a species is why. We are becoming too big for the pond and the more there is of us the more we need to tiptoe carefully.

I don't know about you, but I live in a universe that is billions of light years in size. Let's terraform Mars or some other planet. I just finished playing mass effect, it's completely possibility. We could build a citadel like the Protheans.

Edited by Vexen
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I don't know about you, but I live in a universe that is billions of light years in size. Let's terraform Mars or some other planet. I just finished playing mass effect, it's completely possibility. We could build a citadel like the Protheans.

 

Um, you played a computer game, i.e. a water-ed down simulation, so that makes it a complete possibility? Really?

I agree with the point that many humans consider themselves outside the group known as animals (for some that's because religion has deemed us special); anything that we do that is not replicated elsewhere in nature is a candidate for this. There also seems to be a divide roughly along the lines drawn by the industrial revolution. Farming, in general, is natural because we did it before, but the use of modern technology seems to be a divide.

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Virtually anything any other species does is considered to be natural, part of nature. But for some reason, many humans consider some of the things we're capable of to be unnatural, or "not as nature intended" (we've had some discussion in other threads about this, but not in a thread primarily about it).

...

If this sentiment is somehow guilt driven, it seems to me that it would be smarter to embrace our intelligence and understand our impact on nature as an integral part of it, rather than as outside of it. ...

Seems like a form of cognitive dissonance to me. Damn aggravating whatever the reason. Here's something that may bear on the brush. :P

The Good Old Days Were Awful

... Why do people think life was better in the past?

 

Because your brain focuses on what you lack, and takes for granted what you have. If you feel you lack leisurely dinners with friends, and you imagine people having them in the past, then the past seems better regardless of the facts.

 

When you feel you lack something, your brain rings the alarm that says your survival is threatened. Obviously, lacking friendly dinners is not life-threatening, but if it's the biggest lack on your mind, your brain processes it with equipment that evolved to confront survival challenges. Your present lacks feel urgent while the lacks of the past are just historical abstractions. ...

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I think that which is ‘natural’ is that which is unaffected by human intervention. I think using that word that way is our way of distinguishing two different lines of evolutionary progression; evolutionary in a general sense.

 

This is part of what I'm arguing against, this idea that we should define "natural" as "unaffected by human intervention". I think this definition encourages us to ignore our responsibilities as part of this world, to consider ourselves above nature or the masters of it and that it's our right to do with it what we please.

 

If anything, I believe we should consider ourselves nature's greatest custodians, more responsible because we know better. But I don't think we'll ever embrace this until we consider ourselves more part of the world.

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This is part of what I'm arguing against, this idea that we should define "natural" as "unaffected by human intervention". I think this definition encourages us to ignore our responsibilities as part of this world, to consider ourselves above nature or the masters of it and that it's our right to do with it what we please..

I'm not seeing it that way. If we regarded everything we do as natural, with no distinction between our behaviours and that of other organisms, we are more likely to be indiscriminate and not caring about the footprints we make because it's "natural".

 

 

If anything, I believe we should consider ourselves nature's greatest custodians, more responsible because we know better. But I don't think we'll ever embrace this until we consider ourselves more part of the world

On a personal level I empathise with your view but collectively I think it's a pipe dream. Here's an apt example of pipe dream I found:

 

World peace and human equality are examples of pipe dreams because humans are more naturally inclined to kill off their competition than to cooperate.

Edited by StringJunky
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Unnatural is in the eye of the beholder. The steam engine, automobile and the airplane were all greeted with this sentiment by a sizable portion of their time period's populations. It is at its most basic a fear of the unknown. When the indigenous Inhabitants of the Americas saw the first iron suited man growing out of the back of a horse they undoubtedly viewed this as an unnatural aberration.

 

It is a common sentiment by many to think everything that was before the beginning of the modern industrial era was greeted in a rather practical "it will be good" attitude. But would we assume that the archers centuries ago didn't view the crossbow as an unnatural contraption, and then in true order, the crossbowmen felt the same when that unsportsmanlike gunpowder arrived and made body armor for centuries after useless. All so unnatural . . . for the time period. I'm sure the first chariots that thousands of years before had cut through the opposition's lines of foot solders were considered in the same vein.

 

The printing press' sudden replacement of the laboriously slow process of making manuscripts by hand would have undoubtedly been viewed as the most literal (pun intended) example of an unnatural, and to the older scribes, unholy change to the natural order of things. I remember when older office workers were totally overwhelmed by these newfangled computers that all their younger coworkers were off and running with.

 

People fear the unknown and its most common derivative; change as an often unwelcome and perceived unnatural occurrence. And it is change that science and technology has consistently delivered in great measure over these last couple of centuries that we modern consumers have delineated as the before and the after - of the invention of the idea - of an unnatural state of human existence.

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People fear the unknown and its most common derivative; change as an often unwelcome and perceived unnatural occurrence

Right

 

These people are unnatural. The natural progression of the human species is towards the singularity.

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I'm not seeing it that way. If we regarded everything we do as natural, with no distinction between our behaviours and that of other organisms, we are more likely to be indiscriminate and not caring about the footprints we make because it's "natural".

I see your point. But isn't it quite a bit like that now, with humans viewed as unnatural on their own world? The majority of us have adopted processes that have proven harmful to the environment, and I wonder if part of the cause isn't this attitude that we're a contaminant by default.

 

On a personal level I empathise with your view but collectively I think it's a pipe dream. Here's an apt example of pipe dream I found:

 

World peace and human equality are examples of pipe dreams because humans are more naturally inclined to kill off their competition than to cooperate.

All I asked for was improvement, not some ideal state. I don't think it's a pipe dream to want our species to feel more connected to the world around us. And as this world's arguably most intelligent species, I think we'll make wiser decisions if we consider ourselves part of the natural order on Earth.

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I believe it is simply a matter of ego. Humans seek individual credit and respect for things. To call something natural from an ill informed perspective is to call it normal. People want to be greater than normal. To be beyond usual, average, or what is natural. It is a distortion of the word brought partly about by ignorance of science.

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I believe it is simply a matter of ego. Humans seek individual credit and respect for things. To call something natural from an ill informed perspective is to call it normal. People want to be greater than normal. To be beyond usual, average, or what is natural. It is a distortion of the word brought partly about by ignorance of science.

 

 

So, a corruption of definition for emotional satisfaction? We certainly see a lot of that between science and the rest of the world. "Theory" and "logic" have been mangled to the point of uselessness when trying to talk to someone not aware of their more precise meanings. The average person will defend their "theories" and their "logic", and I get the impression it's often because they want to thumb their noses at the geeks who got better grades in school.

 

There are also lots of attempts in the advertising we're blasted with to equate "natural" with "the way things should be", so they can point out that you aren't doing it right. Advertisers like to blur the definitions of words to favor their clients, so we end up believing that their butter is somehow "natural", chemicals are bad, and people would like you more if your house smelled like a pine tree.

 

Perhaps I'm the one corrupting the definition of natural. It does seem to be a word we invented to draw a distinction between what we can make or affect and what just happens anyway within our ecosystems. I'm concerned though that this perspective has fostered an us vs them mentality, that we're at odds with nature/the elements/whatever you choose to call the real world we don't seem to consider ourselves part of.

 

Nature on one side, anything related to humans on the other. How does this help us?

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There are also lots of attempts in the advertising we're blasted with to equate "natural" with "the way things should be", so they can point out that you aren't doing it right. Advertisers like to blur the definitions of words to favor their clients, so we end up believing that their butter is somehow "natural", chemicals are bad, and people would like you more if your house smelled like a pine tree.

 

Good point. Not only do people willfully confuse the meaning of natural but many purposefully attempt to contain its meaning to reflect their own preferences.
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  • 1 year later...

The real fact is that nothing is unnatural, but there are indeed things that are against nature: bad bacteria are natural, but at enmity with life. Viruses, death, disease, these are natural, but at enmity with life.

Edited by B. John Jones
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The real fact is that nothing is unnatural, but there are indeed things that are against nature: bad bacteria are natural, but at enmity with life. Viruses, death, disease, these are natural, but at enmity with life.

 

 

You make a good point, where I live I see animals altering "nature" to further their own goals quite often. I can't see how changing the environment to suit us is any different that a beaver building a dam or an alligator building a nest. The Idea of natural is rather dependant on the point of view of the observer. I'd be willing to bet a beaver looks at a road that interrupts it's dam as unnatural. If a beaver has thoughts of course and that would be a different conversation...

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You make a good point, where I live I see animals altering "nature" to further their own goals quite often. I can't see how changing the environment to suit us is any different that a beaver building a dam or an alligator building a nest. The Idea of natural is rather dependant on the point of view of the observer. I'd be willing to bet a beaver looks at a road that interrupts it's dam as unnatural. If a beaver has thoughts of course and that would be a different conversation...

 

Yeah. I would say roads are natural, and air transport, and even spacecraft. What's against nature is society's obsessions.

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Yeah. I would say roads are natural, and air transport, and even spacecraft. What's against nature is society's obsessions.

Oh, you mean like some people's obsessive insistence and expectation that everyone else needs to live by their narrow self-righteous standards?

Edited by arc
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The real fact is that nothing is unnatural, but there are indeed things that are against nature: bad bacteria are natural, but at enmity with life. Viruses, death, disease, these are natural, but at enmity with life.

 

I wonder why such things exist?

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