Natural does not equal good

In a recent editorial on CNN.com, Psychologist Christopher Ryan argues that monogamy isn’t natural. Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/07/27/ryan.promiscuity.normal/index.html?hpt=P1&iref=NS1

This article implies that “natural” is the same thing as “good” or at least “acceptable.” The basic argument that natural equals good or acceptable is constantly repeated in debates about legalizing marijuana, supporting organic produce, lbgt rights, environmentalism, self-interest, and many more. Most of the time people don’t stop to think, “Is natural the same thing as good or desireable?”

Well, it’s not. Whether something is natural or artificial has nothing to do with something’s goodness or badness. Think of unnatural things we do all the time that are usually considered good things: brushing your teeth, paying your taxes, donating to charity, obeying traffic laws, etc. Conversely, think of all the natural things that are usually considered bad (by natural I mean that other primates or animals do it): infanticide, killing sexual rivals, cannibalism, defecating outside, etc.

So, the next time you hear a pothead tell you that marijuana is natural or some soda company claim that it only uses “all-natural” ingredients, remember that natural does not equal good. And, for the sake of intelligent public discourse, please don’t equate naturalness or artificialness with goodness or badness.

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