What is "Natural?"

Following on from Roselle's post yesterday, here's a little lightweight Friday philosophy for you: Technology Versus Nature: What is Natural? It's an interesting piece and worth reading as a backdrop to many of the debates over scientific advances.

Very little of the world we live in is natural in the strict sense of the word, and our lives would be short, brutish and ugly if we relinquished the "unnatural" fruits of human ingenuity - such as houses, clothes, medicine and tools. Almost all people who campaign against therapeutic cloning, gene engineering and other progress towards better medicine and longer, healthier lives seem to be perfectly happy with equally complex and unnatural portions of their day to day experiences.

Personally, I think these sorts of arguments stem from partially from fear of change and partially from a fear of the unknown, of the other. People should be free to live their lives as they choose and relinquish the use of new technology if they so desire ... but they should not force their ways on others. The Amish, for example, are respected for their stance on modern technology. Imagine, for a moment, a missionary Amish, complete with aggressive fund raisers and lobbyists, turning the US into an agrarian nation at the expense of millions who have worked hard to attain far more than that. Not a pleasant thought, right?

There is nothing wrong with an individual choosing not to participate in the future, but there is everything wrong with trying to close the door for everyone else. Our health and longevity depend on the future of medical research; we cannot afford to let that be taken away, suppressed or criminalized.

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