From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Natural and organic: Double jeopardy?

'Natural' Beaver Dam  (Photo by Burtonpe) 
In answer to a Jeopardy-style question "What is natural and/or organic?” - the correct response might indeed be “Everything on Earth.”

In her io9 article titled “10 Scientific Ideas that Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing,” Annalee Newitz quotes entomologist Gwen Pearson concerning the misuse of the term “organic”: …food is all organic, because it contains
carbon, etc. 

Pearson then reminds us that not all “natural and organic” substances are healthful to humans, just as not all synthetic and manufactured ones are toxic.

Although the term “natural” is often juxtaposed with the term “organic,” synthetic biologist Terry Johnson points out the vagueness of such usage.  “Natural” technically entails the distinguishing of “phenomena that exist only because of
humankind from phenomena that don’t…”

Unfortunately, this definition of “natural” implies that humans are distinct from nature, and that what they produce (as opposed to, say, what a cow produces) is somehow “un- or non-natural.”

Both Pearson and Johnson suggest that terms such as “natural” and “organic” have become so catch-all as to now be practically meaningless.


Copyright June 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment