I’ve been seeing a common pattern amongst my friends where they’ll bring up certain fringe views they believe in and try to argue them as being more natural than the more popular ones. “Natural” meaning closer to our biological human instinct rather than something culturally derived.
While I admire their acknowledgment of cultural impact on social norms, I typically disagree with the beliefs they end up championing. In fact, I’d like to argue that their usage of the word “natural” is typically self-serving and misguided.
It’s misguided because rather than “natural” just being a word describing the processes that humans are scientifically proven to be susceptible to, it’s instead used as a term to denote something as “better” than whatever is deemed “unnatural”. Meanwhile there are many instances where doing the unnatural thing is better than what the natural thing to do is. Of course to use words like “better” we need a measurable metric, so let’s say “better” is being applied to physical and mental health.
Examples where the “natural” thing to do can lead to worse outcomes than the “unnatural” thing are plentiful. Someone would be hard pressed proving the majority of learned (and therefore “unnatural”) behaviors deriving from years of human experience are all worse than what’s “natural” . Examples of “unnatural” behaviors range from hygiene-related things like brushing one’s teeth to the adherence of laws directing people not to murder each other.
Not everything “unnatural” is good of course, but I just wanted to point out that natural and unnatural things both come in flavors of good and bad.
Keep in mind this is all in-line with *my* definition of natural. Maybe there’s a definition of natural we could all agree with that could provide a better argument for all natural things being good. I just can’t pin one down.
When there’s no universal definition of “natural” within people’s minds, it becomes a proxy for people’s personal values. Whatever is “natural” is just what a person thinks is “good”. In this case their value judgment is guiding their definition of the word.
My main problem with people using the “natural” argument is when they use it to attack what they think is unnatural and the people who undergo these “unnatural” behaviors. I’ve heard the “natural” argument used to attack things like abortion, gay marriage, and even monogamy.
Personally I believe that the basis of ones moral system shouldn’t be based off some perceived will of the universe manifested as a definition of “nature” that can’t fit human ingenuity into its definition. When people use this higher power/grand design argument, they’re copping out of thinking for themselves. These people would rather hide behind the argument of intelligent design than acknowledge the reality that they might just be uncomfortable with the unknown and the different.
Another potential reason for championing ideas as natural might stem from an inability to fit in or succeed in a world where the ideas opposite to theirs are the norm. I’ve seen this exemplified in people who say working is not normal because they can’t find a job, or that monogamy is unnatural because they can’t remain loyal to one person in a romantic relationship.
In these cases I think the derision for the “unnatural” is a defense mechanism for those individuals and is a desperate attempt to make themselves “normal” or “natural”. I can relate to this as I’ve almost definitely done this myself. The logic behind it is “I’m not the odd one out, everyone else shared the same values but were conditioned to believe in something else I was too smart to fall subject to.” In this way I could dismiss my inability to appropriate to society and not feel as lonely in my views.
To wrap this up, I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with aspiring for a workless society, nor is there anything wrong with practicing polyamory. I just don’t believe in actively fighting against the opposites of those (or any) beliefs unless they fundamentally go against one’s core values. Everyone needs to find out what those core values are for themselves and why they hold them as well. I personally believe that the right values to hold are those that you cannot be happy without upholding, not those that stem from trying to escape the discomfort of not being able to understand other views.
Maybe one day we can all work towards a world where we can come closer to understanding each other and no one has to feel left out or ostracized because of differences in beliefs. A world where ideas are respected and discourse can exist between both different-minded and like-minded individuals alike. Despite the current cultural landscape I believe we’ve been able to make great strides towards this goal and desperately hope we can continue in this direction for the sake of a brighter future.