The appeal to nature fallacy rests on the easily disprovable assumption that nature is necessarily good. It comes in forms such as, “I use herbal medicine because it’s what nature intended,” or “I won’t vaccinate because natures knows best.”
This assumption relies on nature being conscious and benevolent. Of course, nature is not conscious and, while human interaction with it may be good, bad, or neutral, it’s all by coincidence, and comes with no intent on nature’s part.
Berries that grow wild do so because the soil, conditions, and weather are conducive to that happening, not because nature wants to bestow upon us a free source of Vitamin C. Plants that excrete chemicals which lead to medicine don’t have our inflammation reduction in mind. It’s the result of natural selection and climate. Canada geese fly in formation for means of transportation and migration, not for our esthetic enjoyment.
What’s more, those who appeal to nature don’t realize many of their examples of it are actually unnatural. The banana, for instance, is synonymous with potassium and is one of the healthier foods available. But the one we eat is not natural. It has been modified over thousands of years, from a tiny, green fruit full of large, hard seeds, to today’s easily-peeled, delectable Corn Flakes accompaniment. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, and kohlrabi are all modified versions of brassica olearacea. This plant can usually only grow near limestone sea cliffs, but thanks to unnatural modifications, we have an abundance of leafy greens to eat. A diet high in these unnatural vegetables goes a long way toward reducing one’s chance of experiencing natural cancer.
Probably the best way to cure someone of their naturalistic fallacy is with a trip to the Australian Outback. If the sun, wind, and other natural elements don’t do them in, there are scorpions, taipans, and even a venomous snail. The flora can be deadly as well. One mushroom indigenous to the Outback will, if consumed, produce two days of anguish and pained vomiting, followed by death unless a liver transplant can be effected. Then there is the Stinging Brush, whose tiny hairs have been responsible for at least one human fatality. Another victim who survived the plant described his encounter with nature thusly: “For three days, the pain was almost unbearable. I couldn’t work or sleep. The stinging persisted for two years and recurred every time I had a cold shower. It’s ten times worse than anything else.”
Leaving Australia for Africa, lions may seem majestic when they roam across the savannah with their manes waving. But the lion ripping a zebra’s back open with its claws and gashing its jugular vein with knife-like canines is also nature in action. Nature is what the Discovery Channel aired during its glory days. It is not represented by the adorable, chirping, cooperative gang of anthropomorphic animals in Disney movies. Examples of nature include poison oak, tapeworms, smallpox, earthquakes, hungry polar bears, and mercury poisoning.
Some people prefer to double dip their naturalistic fallacy and add the appeal to antiquity. They may say, “That’s the way people did it for thousands of years.” And in this naturopathic Shangri-La without gluten, vaccines, antibodies, or GMOs, and where food was grown locally and the medical treatment was herbs delivered by shamans, the average lifespan was one-fourth of what it is today. Since 1900 alone, the average lifespan has risen 50 percent, owing mostly to vaccines and antibiotics.
Some who appeal to nature claim that sanitation is the real reason for this, which is kind of strange since plumbing, sewers, and solid waste disposal are unnatural. But hypocrisy aside, the claim is only partly accurate. Sanitation was a major plus for public health, but sanitation standards in the developed world have changed little since being introduced. Meanwhile, lifespans keep increasing even though sanitation standards have been steady.
Another argument from the naturalistic crowd is that without vaccines and antibiotics, homo sapiens would evolve resistance to disease and, eventually, nature would act to our benefit. While this might be possible, the idea that this could happen a million years from now is a lousy reason to let your child die from polio today.
Besides, pathogens evolve just like humans do so natural selection might work against immunity. Whenever a new mutation arises, the pathogen may evolve a response to it and this could lead to an even more lethal disease.
Truth is, those who live this fallacy already realize how unnatural products improve their lives. They learn of all-natural shampoos on an unnatural blog; they live somewhere other than a cave; their organic squash in kept fresh using an unnatural storage method; and the hybrid that gets them to their anti-GMO protest is a Prius, not a mule.