Monday, February 25, 2008

What is "natural"?

I was so pleased to read this article on virgin birth in the New York Times. It tells of a single female komodo dragon at the Kansas zoo who just had baby komodos without being in contact with a male komodo for the last decade. The birth is a fantastic occasion which points to the wonderment of nature, but the article uses it as an illustration of how little we know (and assume) about nature.

I am annoyed and frustrated by numerous individuals to justify their beliefs and their morals based on what is "natural." On the left, people are quick to scorn herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified foods because they are "unnatural". On the right I've people decry homosexual marriage, in-vitro fertilization and both therapeutic and whole cloning because it is "unnatural". Specifically in the realm of vegetarianism, I've heard the argument used by both sides: vegans claiming that it isn't "natural" for humans to drink cow milk, and meat-eaters claim that eating meat is healthy and "natural" for humans.

It joys me to find that "natural" is not such an easy concept to triangulate. Nature is better at doing its job than we are to understanding it.

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