I knew it would eventually happen . . . the word "natural" taken to its extreme absurdity. The pendulum of every philosophical movement, inevitable, moves the absurd, then the counter swing always moves to the absurd in the opposite direction.
This kicker was a commercial on TV for a "totally natural" and quick facelift. They don't explain that the way this quick and "natural" facelift is done is by cutting a small hole beneath one ear, tying a string to a muscle, treading the string through the subcutaneous fat layer to the other ear, pulling the string tight and then anchoring it there. It is quick, easy (from a surgical standpoint), reasonable priced for the patient (while the plastic surgeon still earns about $2,000/hour for doing it) and really does make most people look 10 years younger because it gets rid of the sag beneath the jaw. So how in the hell is this natural?
The next question you may ask, why am I even talking about this on this quasi-Christian blog? The reason I'm writing about this or anything here illustrates the fundamental point I hope to make with this blog. If Christianity is true, and I think it is, then EVERYTHING is part of Christianity, meaning all parts of reality (you can argue the metaphysical point if acts of evil are "part" of Christianity or not but that isn't what I'm talking about). So, when I talk about the Mars Rover, I'm discussing Christianity. When I write about emotional pain or elation of the snow-packed mountains in the spring time, I'm talking Christianly. There is no line of demarcation, as I was taught during my evangelical days, that divides the spiritual (meaning good Christian) and the "worldly" (meaning the vast network of other things that were not blatantly Christian). In this example, I want to talk metaphysically and look at philosophical history as it applies to this topic of natural vs unnatural.
But the other thing I want to illustrate is that we humans do not live in an intellectual vacuum. There is a convoluted flow in human history of "styles of thinking." While it is not simple, like one flowing creek, it is nonetheless real. Thoughts can have thousands of starting points and merge and interact in the most complex of ways, before shaping a culture's belief system. Evangelical Christians, like most people, see themselves immune from this river of human thought. But they are not. An Evangelical Christian in America thinks radically differently from a Greek convert to Christianity living in Asia Minor in the first century. We modern folks read our thinking into scripture and we assume they thought just like we do. But we have absorbed two thousand years of human history, which shapes our thinking, just at that Greek person had two thousand years of thinking before them.
Now back to my topic. The first time I remember hearing the term "natural" was when my Navigator leader was selling Shaklee Vitamins to supplement his income. There was nothing inherently wrong with a MLM scheme in this case. But he told me that Shaklee vitamins were better than other vitamins because they came from a natural source. I was studying medicine at the time and my background had been in the natural sciences, so this didn't make sense to me. I remember saying to him, "So, ascorbic acid is ascorbic acid and it doesn't matter if it was created in a test tube by combining carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in the right order of C6H8O6, or if it were made by an orange in Florida."
He chuckled and looked over his reading glasses . . . "There is a huge difference where it comes from. We are natural so we should take from nature not from chemicals. Natural is much better for us than chemicals."
I continued to argue, "But C6H8O6 is the exactly the same no matter if it came into the lab as a bottle of pure oxygen, a cake of pure carbon and a bottle of pure hydrogen and then mixed under the eye of a skilled chemist or, if those same elements are mixed inside the cell of an orange tree. They are exactly the same."
He seemed a little puzzled that I was continuing this argument as no one else in his years of selling the stuff had made such an argument. Secondly he was surprised, I believe, because we were taught never, ever to question the knowledge or authority of our spiritual leader. Then he decided to rest his case by saying, "Well the real difference are the trace compounds that come with natural sourced vitamin C than that made by a man. These are the essentials of good health."
Now I was perplexed. "What trace compounds?"
He smiled and answered, "They have no names because they haven't been labeled or discovered yet, but we know they are there and they come along with vitamins from natural sources and are essential for good health."
Then it finally dawned on me what he was really talking about . . . Pixie Dust! But I too rested my case because the last thing I ever wanted to do was to disappoint my spiritual leader by being a trouble maker.
But the terms "natural" "supernatural" and "chemical" are philosophical terms and have absolutely no base in science or reality. The term "natural" is the number one handle on Madison Ave. for selling products with the second most seducing word is "thin" and the third is "young" and fourth "sex." These are emotional terms built on a long course of philosophical evolution.
I'm running out of time and space but I will try to put some origins on this. But it is hard to nail it down, about as hard as trying to nail down the exact starting point of the Mississippi. I know people in Minnesota who claim they have . . . but there are people near the continental divide in Montana that would disagree. But I will go back to these roots with my next post and trace them down to the present.
I will close this opening thought with the notion that sooner or later Christianity will merge with "natural" philosophy. Christianity always merges with other philosophies even though the New Testament extorted Christians not to. But there will be a Natural Christianity. My Evangelical friends on Facebook already argue that eating organic, natural foods is God's will for everyone. So the thoughts of my Nav leader 30 years ago is still mainstream.