Why naturalness is a misleading value

A lot of people have a preference for naturalness. They prefer natural disease prevention instead of vaccines, natural foods instead of foods containing GMOs, chemical additives and vitamin supplements, clothes with natural fibers instead of synthetic fibers, animal meat instead of lab-grown clean meat, and so on. As argued before, this naturalness preference can sometimes be very harmful or dangerous.

Here I will explain why naturalness is becoming a very misleading value. During our long evolutionary history, we were basically confronted with only natural processes and products. In fact, naturalness can be defined by our evolutionary history: if our ancestors were confronted with it, it is natural. It is much easier to harm someone than to benefit someone, and that is why most of those natural processes and products are harmful (toxic, dangerous to eat,…). In our very long evolutionary history, we learned to avoid those dangerous natural things. As a result, we became very familiar with the good natural processes and products. We focus on the good natural things. Most of those good processes and products are a little bit good, a minority are very good. So when we think about naturalness, we tend to think about those good natural processes and products that we started to trust a long time ago.

But in recent decades (and centuries), scientists were able to invent a lot of new, unnatural things. These things are unnatural in the sense that they are recently invented and hence were not available to our ancestors. We did not have much time to trust those things. The only way we can trust them, is through science, but most people are unfamiliar with the scientific method and do not see the strength of scientific research and evidence.

Naturalness space

The important fact is that the ‘space of all unnatural processes and products’ is much larger than the space of all natural things. This space of unnatural things is the set of all the things that we can ever invent or that are possible according to the laws of nature but do not (yet) exist in nature. This is much larger than all the natural things that life on earth offered us so far.

This space of all unnatural things can also be divided in bad things, good things and very good things. As with the natural processes and products, most unnatural things are bad (dangerous, unhealthy or not useful to our survival and well-being). Only a minority is good. However, because this space is so big, the number of good unnatural things is also probably very big. And more: the space of all very good unnatural things can even be bigger than the space of merely good natural things.

The more good and very good unnatural things we invent, the more harmful it becomes to stick to the natural things. The very good unnatural things might be more safe, healthy or useful than the merely good natural things. Eating natural fruits and vegetables is good, because it helps in the prevention of diseases, but adding unnatural vaccines might be better still. It would be bad to avoid the unnatural vaccines and stick to the natural things. The same goes for GMOs, clean meat, synthetic pesticides and fibers,…

In the past, sticking to the trusted good natural processes and products was the most rational thing to do. But with technological and scientific development, we evolve to a society where good and very good unnatural things can strongly increase our health and well-being. Then it becomes irrational to avoid those unnatural things. The reason why people tend to stick to the natural things and want to avoid unnatural things, is because they underestimate the size of the space of unnatural things, and in particular the space of the very good unnatural things.

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