"I've watched people I love age and die, and it wasn't "beautiful and natural." It sucked. Aging is a disease. Cataracts and liver spots don't bring moral enlightenment or spiritual transcendence. Death may be natural -- but so are smallpox, rape, and athlete's foot. "Natural" isn't the same as "good." - Glenn Reynolds
I often find myself arguing against versions of the basic concept that there is a moral weight to being 'natural'. Stoners use it as an excuse to view their drug addiction as somehow better than other forms of drug use, Greens use it justify impractical and short term solutions to environmental problems and preservation initiatives, and religious lunatics use it as a form of hatred against gays.
After a volatile argument with a friend about whether or not humans are a part of the 'natural' order of the planet or merely parasitical irritants that will destroy everything, I posted this wonderful excerpt about parasites. The word 'parasite' is even more loaded than the word 'natural', making the idea that parasites can be healthy parts of a thriving ecosystem very provocative.
By creating a false relationship between things which are 'natural' and things which are 'good', with 'unnatural' being associated with things that are inherently 'bad', you run the risk of championing bad natural things. It's rhetorical sleight of hand that is used by all manner of people with a political agenda. The best way to short circuit this fallacy is to realize that the term 'natural' is one of the most elastic concepts in the English language. If it exists in nature, or was constructed out of the raw elements of nature by human beings (which exist in nature), then it is, strictly speaking, natural. That would cover just about everything. Of course, depending on your particular agenda, this concept will strike you with varying degrees of absurdity. If, for instance, you believe that only things that grow in the ground without fertilizer or hormones can be considered natural, then the idea that everything can be called natural will seem offensive. Yet most of us eat genetically modified foods, hybrids and pasteurized products every day and don't consider it a form of synthetic deviance.
I will most likely be accused of championing synthetic or man-made things with this line of reasoning. On the contrary, I simply believe that things should be judged on the weight of their actual merits, and that being natural simply isn't a reliable or even consistent quality to use in these judgments.