There are those – Richard Dawkins among them – who consider certain aspects of human behaviour to be contrary to nature, “unnatural.” Quite frankly, I don’t understand what this means. How could such a thing even be possible? What is there that is beyond nature?
With all this talk of what is “natural” and “unnatural” in recent posts we might do well to look at how these words are defined. The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary lists sixteen distinct definitions of the word “natural” with various sub-definitions employed as well. Foremost amongst these oft conflicting definitions, and most relevant to our topic, “natural” is defined as “existing in or caused by nature; not artificial”. Whereas “unnatural”, which lists only four definitions, is first defined as “contrary to nature or the usual course of nature”.
If humans are to exist at all they must do so “in nature” for we encounter them regularly in the here and now (let’s leave the “mystical planes” out for now). The “artificial” bit might give pause as humans have a penchant for creating machines, which on the surface may seem “unnatural”, but by the same logic we ought to consider the spider’s web an “unnatural” creation along with the beaver’s dam. It’s not terribly meaningful to call these things unnatural, but if you’d like to make a case for it I’d love to hear it. Continue reading