What is ‘natural’? Even philosophers and chemists can’t agree

| | May 9, 2016
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Americans have until May 10th to help the FDA with one of philosophy’s greatest riddles: What is the meaning of “natural”?

Given our current attitudes, the riddle might be better described as religious. . . . Natural has become the non-denominational version of kosher, and orthodoxy is on the rise.

The religiosity is apparent in the 4,863 public comments that have already been submitted to the FDA online. Natural and unnatural read like Manichean synonyms for good and evil. Some comments are explicitly theological . . . . Behind virtually all of them pulses an intense desire for salvation from modernity’s perceived sins: GMOspesticideschemicalsartificialitysynthetics. . . .

. . . .

Philosophers warn of the “appeal to nature” fallacy, in which good is equated with natural. In addition, there seem to be nearly insurmountable difficulties with defining the term in the first place. . . .

. . . .

I interviewed philosophers and chemists to see if there was some kind of consensus on the matter. It turns out that those who think professionally about the issue are no less confused or divided than the rest of us.

. . . .

Nor is the lack of consensus limited to the safety of natural food. Scientists also disagree on whether it makes sense to distinguish natural from synthetic products at all. . . .

. . . .

. . .[T]he issues surrounding “natural” do not admit of easy answers. . . .

. . . .

. . .[W]e should applaud the FDA’s current project. . . All of us would do well to browse the submissions, either to increase our understanding of faith that differs from our own, or to reflect on the faith that we already hold. . . .[W]e will muddle onward in humanity’s long journey towards unraveling the riddle of “natural.”

Read full, original post: What Is ‘Natural’ Food? A Riddle Wrapped In Notions Of Good And Evil

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