L.A. Hall

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Everything is natural.

Everything is natural. That's right, you heard me – everything. The clouds of black, billowing smoke that pour out of paper mills. The mountains of garbage and filth that envelop a landfill. every coal mine and D-cell battery; every Hummer H3 and disposable cup; all the food colorings and pesticides you've ever eaten, and the plastic forks and knives you've used to eat them, are all one-hundred percent natural.

About now, my more socially conscious readers are probably a bit enraged, frustrated, fed up, that anyone, let alone a nineteen year-old liberal college kid, could claim that a plastic cup full of BP oil-spill water sitting in the carbon-fiber cup-holder of a Bugatti Veyron is 'natural', but bear with me.

There's this notion in our society that says for something to be 'natural', it must be virtually untouched by humanity. The less human hands or god-forbid, machines, touch a food or substance or whatever, the more 'natural' it is. This, my friends, is complete hogwash.

We humans, we're just another animal. Somehow, we think our behaviors – the houses we build, the rivers we pollute – are not the behaviors of animals, but something else. the reality is, we're just another piece of the puzzle, not the ones putting it together. We are natural animals, and thus, everything we create is natural. Look no farther than beaver dams. I doubt anyone would argue that a beaver dam is unnatural, but what about a house? No? What's the difference? We're just taking what's available and doing what we can with it. I doubt many people out there, even homeowners, consider their suburb McMansion 'natural', but it is. Nobody ever said natural was good. Well, they did – but they were wrong.

We are natural animals, and everything we make is natural. If you can see that we humans are just another beast on this earth, brethren to snakes and pigs and lizards on all continents, you will begin to see the true beauty in what we have accomplished as a race.

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      Mar 6 2012: I do not think you can say that the laws we create have any objective bearing on our enviornment
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    Mar 4 2012: You actually trying to drive deep into the heart of semantics. When we use the word "natural" we are probably really meaning "healthy" or at the very least "non poisonous".

    Yes, the carbon monoxide spewed out of a billion tailpipes can be considered natural because both carbon and oxygen are elements found in nature. But it is how we as humans have produced this recombination to reshape the world into a place that is detrimental to our ability to breathe that is really the point behind the terminology.

    In short, we are reshaping a nature that sustains us into a nature that kills us. The use (or misuse) of the word "nature" is an attempt to illustrate that nature unsullied will sustain life, but nature sullied will not. But calling it natural is the easiest way to communicate the idea.
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      Mar 10 2012: Fair enough, but I believe we must find a different word to describe that idea. Mutating our conception of what natural is just to communicate an idea that has no other word has the potential to lead us astray.
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    Mar 3 2012: What I am saying, G M, is that people are wrong is using the word natural in that way. I agree with Frans Kellner's point that people see nature as the result of an evolutionary process. What I don't agree with, is that language and learning are not 'the result of an evolutionary process.' Language, and learning by implication, are evolutions of communication – something that clearly and emphatically exists in the natural world. Our adaptability is a product of evolution as well, and is also the reason we have risen to the position of dominant species on this planet.

    The reason people are hesitant to entertain this notion is because the word natural and the word good are too connected. People hate the idea that the logging of the rainforests, and the rainforests themselves, can both be defined as natural. I think we are arrogant to separate ourselves from nature with a meaningless word like 'culture.'
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    Feb 27 2012: I get your point.
    We are animals that evolved via natural processes
    Everything we do is the act of a naturally evolved animal.
    It's just more complex and significant than any other animals.
    In this sense everything is natural.
    If there is a real supernatural - this is also natural. Just the imaginary supernatural is supernatural
    Perhaps the word loses meaning.

    Perhaps it semantics but many see human activity as different to non human natural processes.
    Which is fair enough. People use the word natural to describe this.
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    Feb 27 2012: Maybe your concept of natural is a bit unnatural.
    Nature as most people understand it is the result of an evolutionary process.
    Human beings developed the ability of language and learning and became by this independent from nature.
    If the climate got colder they didn't need to migrate or grow fur not to perish but used animal hides and fire to address their needs.
    From this start onward we were able to bend nature to our will and started to domesticate plants and animals and at last our own selves as well.
    As a result we destroyed the natural world to an ever larger extend. This we call culture. Culture is the huminal counterpart of nature.
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    Feb 27 2012: Is the supernatural natural?
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      Mar 3 2012: As a creation of a natural being's mind, I believe it is.
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        Mar 3 2012: Good answer, Mr. Hall, but I persist:
        If the supernatural is natural then there should be no such word, but there is, why?
        Anything not explainable by the known forces or laws of nature is Webster's definition of supernatural. The origin of the complex unit of life, the cell,is not explainable by known forces or laws of nature, yet, obviously, living things exist. The best, in fact only, existing explanation of abiogenesis is God's Word, the Holy Bible. God is supernatural, not a creation of a natural being's mind. Is God natural? Thanks.
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          Mar 3 2012: I believe 'supernatural' is nothing more than a type of thought. The supernatural are thoughts that cannot, and conceivably will not ever, be explained by science. I like your cell example, but I think the difference is that, based on what science knows, we can assume that the knowledge of a cell's origin is rooted in what we already know. There is a scientific basis that we believe will someday lead us to that answer. In other words, we believe that answer is there.

          The supernatural are thoughts that are not reinforced by any quantifiable evidence, and thoughts where there is no quantifiable evidence that there is even evidence at all.
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        Mar 4 2012: Thanks for your response. I agree, Mr. Hall, that many things which were once considered supernatural have now been explained by known forces and laws of nature. However, not everything has been exlained naturally. Maybe the Theory of Everything will be proven, and Higgs boson will be observed someday, and like Mr. Hawking says there will be no more need for God. Until then those remaining unexplained causes should properly be thought of as being supernatural. Do you agree?