A Meditation on Words: Natural Isn’t Always Good

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I want to bet all my money that you’ve encountered the argument of chemical versus natural before. Especially in the alternative medicine industry, where appeals to the naturalistic or genetic fallacy are commonplace. And anyone with a basic understanding of nature knows that “natural” isn’t always good, and “chemical” isn’t the bad word they’ll have you believe. 

“The naturalistic fallacy is an informal logical fallacy which argues that if something is ‘natural’ it must be good. It is closely related to the is/ought fallacy – when someone tries to infer what ‘ought’ to be done from what ‘is’.”


Remember that I want to bet all my money, and if money is the root of all evil, then my funds must be unlimited. 

But I digress.

As I’ve said before, words are the best way humans have to understand each other. And language is the only way. As any complex unit utilised by complex individuals, language lends itself to errors. Confusion, ambivalence, and equivocation are natural language and human thinking components.

The word “natural” has a positive, almost noble connotation, whilst “chemical” implies harmful, poisonous effects on the organism interacting with it. 

Again, the most superficial understanding of nature tells you that there are naturally occurring substances that you should avoid, and at all cost. 

I’d challenge any alternative medicine practitioner to put some cyanide in their tea or play with a piece of raw Uranium core whenever they need a distraction from reality. 

Alternatively, many prevalent chemicals are necessary for life to continue. A peculiar one should come to mind as you read this and think of molecules bonding together to form compounds. Some people call it water. 

And yes, water is by definition a chemical compound. 

There are many naturally occurring chemicals.

Natural isn't always good

But why does this confusion happen?

There are many reasons for this mess, but I want to touch on two. 

First, the complexity of language combined with human ignorance leads to the misuse of words and the adoption of misnomers and inaccurate terminology by the masses. Too often, linguistic labels intended to make thinking easier are reasons to bypass thinking altogether. 

Conventional wisdom is rife with these prepacked excuses. Think of the disgustingly unfavourable aphorism “Slow and steady wins the race,” which has led countless humans to believe that they never have to go fast. And while there might be a hint of consolation for the lazy amongst you in these old, worn-out maxims, they are harmful without painfully long explanations. 

This first problem may also have to do with human intellectual lassitude. Most people either have not the time or the desire to verify what they read and hear. People will accept what feels good to them regardless of the evidence against it. 

A Meditation on Words: Natural Isn't Always Good

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Second, and likely the more pervasive problem, is corruption. Many snake oil salespeople and con artists understand the first problem and are perfectly willing to use it to their advantage. 

Natural and chemical are loaded words that carry meaningful messages with them. These words have powerful emotional implications on human behaviour and often elicit reactions beyond their literal meaning. 

The best criminals I know, and I know many, are adept at using these rhetorical devices to get people to buy what they sell—social rules and conformity work similarly. 

These two problems are essential in spreading misinformation, and I guarantee they are not going away anytime soon. 

Surely, you can infer how the fear caused by this confusion leads to unhappiness.

On balance, natural isn’t always good; it may be as harmful to life as it is beneficial. And numerous chemical compounds are responsible for improved life expectancy in the modern world. 

The way you talk to yourself and each other could set the clock back on human progress. It can send you to a time when natural errors made life unbearable for many. 

As you go through your day, think about how your best thinkers made corrections to the natural order of things giving you a better world. Surely, you can infer how the fear caused by this confusion leads to unhappiness.

Thank you for reading.

— The Devil Unbound.

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