Whenever we speak of ‘natural’ things there will always be someone who will comment – quite justly, I must add – that everything that exist in nature is ‘natural’, and that, since the concept of ‘nature’ encompasses everything, then everything is natural that exists in this world.
I may be shooting at a red herring here, or maybe it’s just a common fish, blushing. I may not have phrased the argument I am arguing against very precisely, but you will forgive me for it because you like me, and because you know I will be back, one day, to fix it.
But let me propose an alternative definition for ‘natural’ – natural is all things common to the biosphere in which we have evolved, or to similar biospheres, on the same planet. There.
This includes all proteins, enzymes, toxins – some of which will kill you, but they will decompose naturally after that, since the biosphere is familiar with them, and there are creatures feeding on it or using it in other ways, maybe as fertilizer, or any other thing. You know that corny phrase nothing is wasted, in nature? Well, it’s true.
So, plutonium is actually natural – it even occurs, naturally, in minute quantities, in uranium deposits. Nuclear reactors are also natural – one had existed in Africa, built by God, if you please, millions of years ago (I guess he built it ‘fore he wrote that book of his). But they are not common to any biosphere – all life will shrivel around them and die. All those factory produced chemicals are also not natural according to this definition, and neither is plastic, though I feel it will fit in nicely – some microbes already exist that eat plastic. Make enough of it, and evolution will step in and make it natural (and I guess the same goes for everything else, including the things we would define as unnatural, according to my exclusive definition, at the moment).
Another issue is behavior. What is ‘natural’ behavior? What’s unnatural? Natural behavior is the one we have in our animal state. Animals have only this one state, whereas we have the option to strain our minds to the limits of their capabilities, create civilization, and a new definition for ‘unnatural’.
It still falls within the original definition: ….all things common to a biosphere in which we have evolved…. this includes behavior, and the social structures that effect it, too.
Unnatural, in the narrow sense of the word (ie – my definition), is adapting to an environment to which you may have the ability to adapt, mentally, but which is in contradiction with the conditions in which you have genetically evolved to live. So it is unnatural for memes to evolve…. beyond a certain point. But until we reach that point, when we are still only making slight ideological adjustments to a very simple, primordial, belief system (I am talking about animism) – to adjust to a different climate, for instance, to learn to make clothes and stone tools, to create the idea of a tribe, which is several groups of hunter gatherers that occasionally collaborate (for hunting, other things) – we’re still being ‘natural’, leading a ‘natural’ way of life.
I think we can still feel the tug of that point of equilibrium we have abandoned many millennia ago – our natural state, living by our urges and the desire to go back to a primordial existence. Not all are aware of it, feel it, feel comfortable with it…. but I think we may be coming close to a point of saturation, when our minds will no longer be able to handle the pressure created by the distance we have traveled from our natural state. All the cultural baggage, all the adjustments we need to make to a society that’s becoming more and more complicated, more and more demanding, emotionally, more and more stressful, are already beginning to show.
What will happen then? Makes you wanna wish you could live a thousand years…. will we evolve, genetically, somehow, to adjust to life in a high-pressure, densely populated, world? I guess my money’s on that. But I’d also put some on extinction, just to be safe.
This is a fact that requires checking, but I’ve been hearing that diseases like schizophrenia and cancer are becoming more common, and those result mostly from stress and from repression (usually from a combination of both), I believe, two factors that increase as civilization progresses.
But now I realize I’m stepping on the toes of other article – written and unwritten – so it’s time to wrap this one up. You might wanna have a look at a related article – An Hour at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.