Thursday, March 1, 2012

Naturally Stupid - Arguments against the appeal to nature (often called the naturallistic fallacy)

When it comes to fallacies, one of the most commonly abused is the appeal to nature.  The fallacy is often used to claim that something is "good" or "safe" simply because it is "natural" - you'll see it repeated, almost ad nauseam, in product and business advertisements.

Someone simply making the appeal to nature may not be wrong about a product being "good" or "better" but the idea that something is "good" because it is natural is wrong.

I was, very recently, offered a can of Jamba Juice energy drink with the claim that it is "all natural".  I asked him what it contained that made it "all natural" and he told me that it included green tea and other natural ingredients with "no chemicals added".

Ignoring that it is comprised of nothing BUT chemicals (everything is), the suggestion that he was attempting to make is that simply because it isn't "naturally occurring" it can be assumed to have risks while "natural" is safe/good for you.  "Natural" stuff (like anthrax, carbon monoxide, lightning, poop and even the stuff you think is healthful) is not risk free - the toxin is in the dose.  Too much water can kill you.  Too much vitamin D will kill you (ask Gary Null - that nut-job "health guru"). 

So the next time someone suggests that something is all-natural, simply ask "natural? Just like anthrax, asbestos, lead, mercury, faeces, influenza, measles and ebola?".  So any product that contains "all natural" ingredients might include any of those items and still be true to their claim.  Mmmmmmmm... appetizing.

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