It's true. Think about it:
Face it, everything we do is part of nature's plan
. Your brain
evolved naturally, so every thought you have? Yup. As pure and natural as a mountain spring
. All of society
is just made up from the natural interactions of ordinary human beings - so political corruption
, mob mentality
, serial killers
, the Academy Awards
- 100% all natural
. All of modern science
evolved in a straight, simple little line from mud huts
and scratch agriculture
- it's no less natural than boiling roots
and picking berries
In fact, come to think of it, nothing is unnatural. Nothing at all.
All of this is just, of course, a rhetorical exercise, and an important one, because we, as humans, have, across a variety of disparate cultures, a specific and relatively coherent and uniform notion of "unnatural." As this demonstration is meant to reveal, the roots of that distinction are arbitrary, and it is interesting to examine their origins.
Let's investigate the other aspects of the word "natural" - a word with a four page Webster entry, comprised of over 10 different definitions.
"Natural" connotes a state of "unalteredness" or primality; for instance, hair has a natural color - Webster expands on this by saying "not artificial, foreign, assumed, put on, or acquired..."
The notion of artificiality or foreignness is particularly interesting in the context of the word's other meanings, especially its intimate connection to nature, or nature as we stereotype it - the green world, the unspoiled expanse of mountains and valleys, plains and oceans... Notice that in this case it is the presence or absence of people that is most operant on the notion - the country is natural, and the city is unnatural. The house in the country may be more natural than the coop on 5th avenue, but the house itself is unnatural, and is defined by its surroundings.
The dictionary goes on; something that is natural is "Conformed to truth or reality;" it is the original as opposed to the "imitation;" it is "not exceptional or violent; legitimate; normal; regular ... proper." This is an astonishing conflation, a kind of etymological optimism. This distinction gives our language a kind of mythic respect for the natural world - that is, the world excepting man. In nature is truth. Nature is the yardstick of the real. Upon this we place the conceits of our moral universe: that what is natural is regular, peaceful, "legitimate." Most of all, nature - and that is nature "unspoiled" by man - is what we consider "normal."
Also interesting is that naturality is a hinge upon which representation and reproduction turn. Here we begin to uncover what sets us apart from nature, what puts us outside it, above it. As thinkers, we are makers of images, symbols, and abstractions. There is no imitation in nature; it is man's invention, his language, his thought, that is the border between the natural world and the world of the imitation, the image. And then we have definition #8:
"Of or pertaining to the lower or animal nature, as contrasted with the higher or moral powers, or that which is spiritual, being in a state of nature; unregenerate.
The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. 1 Cor. ii. 14."
Interestingly, almost all human religions acknowledge a break with a divine creator or the primeval state of grace. The most familiar to the Western world will be the story in Genesis of Eden and the Fall. Eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and while you may comfort yourselves with metaphorical elevation, you have divorced yourselves from nature, offended God... you have taken on the burden of the supernatural.
Our language is at work every moment, silent or speaking. At the core of our culture remains the ancient belief that our consciousness and intelligence (practical, moral, or spiritual) separates us from nature, and is, at best, a mixed blessing. So by extension comes the deep-seated and firmly held conviction that our course through the world is ultimately a destructive one, and that man's works are somehow fundamentally evil, though the wellspring of this belief is nothing more than the unmitigatable offense of daring to judge the worth of any thing, act or idea, and to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of instinct - to create, to imagine, to think, actually, at all.