Monday, August 2, 2010

Hepatitis C is natural.

One thing that continually bothers me are the sparkling connotations given to the word "natural." Organic too, to a lesser degree (more oriented at sales), but especially natural.
Have you ever heard someone talking about a natural birth? A water birth? Those are good, right? They must be- they're natural. They're better for the baby and the mother because they don't involve those unnatural doctors with their unnatural life-saving apparatuses (apparati?).
Death in childbirth is also death by natural causes.
Also, this definition of natural neatly sidesteps the whole problem of humans somehow being "Outside of Nature". Having a birth inside your air conditioned home, with your fluorescent lights buzzing, on a bed of polypropylene fibers, listening to an iPod playing soothing sounds of the beach on your $450 Sony Home Theatre System is about as natural as wearing clothes or cooking your food before you eat it. Of course, if you use natural to include everything we do, which it rightly should except in extreme cases, then I really don't have an argument. A human's natural environment is in the city, with ponchos and all the considerable delights of science and technology. That doesn't mean that all those delights are good for us, either- just natural.
For the rest of this post, I am going to kick humanity out of nature. I don't understand why, but generally when we say "natural" we really mean "we didn't do it."
Now, don't get me wrong- I'm a big fan of nature. I enjoy learning about minerals or metazoa or the milky way. I enjoy experiencing them, too- when I take my kids hiking or to watch the stars on a summer night. Nature is awesome- but it is something to be respected. If you've ever had the misfortune of staring into a hurricane, or lived through an earthquake, or seen a volcano erupt, it is breathtaking. Turn your attention down in scale, and you will find the world literally teeming with life- at every level!
Let me sum up with a list of things that are natural: Botulism, plague, Mt. Vesuvius, sociopaths, cancer, velociraptors, and salad. Unnatural: Pizza, refrigeration, the flush toilet, vaccines, clothing, farms, and Wall Street. The universe is truly amazing. Natural is a term that should inspire and imply awe, caution, or even fear. While nature is the mother of us all, she was also an abusive, neglectful monster by human standards. For no reason should we take comfort in the idea of some medicine or treatment being "natural."

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