How many false beliefs do people have about natural and artificial?

That’s a good question: How many false beliefs do people have about natural and artificial? So many, as far as I know.

Working in the food industry for over 30 years, I am frequently asked, “What are natural foods?” or “What exactly is a natural fruit or vegetable?”
Others make assertions such as, “I only eat organic fruits and vegetables because they are more natural,” or “I would never eat anything produced in a laboratory!”

Well, I have bad news for you!

First and foremost, most fruits and vegetables we consume are the consequence of human selection. Bananas, oranges, cabbages, and many other fruits and vegetables did not exist and are man-made hybrids.

The same is true for the meat we eat; by crossing species, humans have created food. Farmed animals are very distant from what their ancestors were “in the wild.” Over the centuries we have refined these practices up to modern zootechnics, in fact.

However, I do not want to discuss GMOs here; rather, I want to illustrate the huge confusion that exists between natural and artificial, and hence between chemical and natural, because people have entirely incorrect views.

These misconceptions are fueled by marketing and self-proclaimed specialists who lack credentials and scientific knowledge, yet they permeate the media and deceive an excessive number of individuals.

Misconceptions can arise when discussing the concepts of “natural” and “artificial.

Here are a few common misconceptions associated with these terms:

Natural is always good, artificial is always bad

This misconception assumes that anything natural is inherently beneficial, while anything artificial is harmful or inferior. In reality, the categorization of natural and artificial does not determine the quality or value of something. There are natural substances that can be harmful (e.g., poisonous plants), and artificial creations that can be beneficial (e.g., medications).

Natural means untouched or unaltered

Some people believe that natural things are completely untouched by human intervention, while artificial things are entirely human-made. However, human activities have shaped and altered many natural things over time. For example, agriculture involves modifying natural environments to grow crops, and selective breeding has resulted in numerous domesticated plants and animals.

Artificial is always a copy of something natural

It is commonly assumed that anything artificial is a mere imitation or replica of something found in nature. While some artificial creations are inspired by natural designs, many innovations are entirely novel and not directly based on natural counterparts. For instance, advanced technologies like smartphones or computers have no direct parallels in the natural world.

Natural is always safe, artificial is always unsafe

This misconception suggests that natural products are inherently safe, while artificial products are risky or dangerous. However, both natural and artificial substances can have varying degrees of safety or potential hazards. Natural substances can contain toxins or allergens, while artificial ones can undergo rigorous testing and regulations to ensure safety.

Natural is morally superior to artificial

Some people hold the belief that using natural products or engaging in natural activities is morally superior, while using artificial products or engaging in artificial activities is morally inferior. However, morality is a subjective concept, and assigning moral value based solely on the natural or artificial status of something is an oversimplification. Ethical considerations should involve a broader analysis of various factors, including human well-being, environmental impact, and social implications.

It is essential to critically evaluate these misconceptions and recognize that the natural-artificial dichotomy is often more complex than simplistic generalizations suggest. Both natural and artificial elements contribute to the world we inhabit, and their value and impact can vary depending on the context and specific circumstances.

Chemical Vs Natural: Common Misconceptions

Here are some common misconceptions associated with this comparison.

Chemicals are always harmful, while natural substances are always safe

This misconception assumes that chemicals are inherently dangerous or toxic, while natural substances are always safe for use. In reality, everything is made up of chemicals, including natural substances. The safety or toxicity of a substance depends on its specific chemical composition, concentration, and how it is used. Both natural and synthetic chemicals can have beneficial or harmful effects.

Natural substances are always better or more effective than synthetic ones

This misconception suggests that natural substances are inherently superior to synthetic counterparts in terms of effectiveness or quality. While natural substances have provided valuable medicines and remedies throughout history, synthetic compounds can often be designed with precision to achieve specific properties or target certain conditions. The efficacy and safety of a substance should be evaluated based on scientific evidence, rather than assuming natural is always better. Natural is better is untrue, see above!

Chemicals are artificial, while natural substances are chemical-free

This misconception assumes that natural substances are devoid of chemicals, while chemicals are exclusively associated with artificial or synthetic products. In reality, everything in the natural world, including plants, animals, and even our bodies, is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are simply substances with a specific chemical composition, regardless of their origin. Chemistry is everywhere

Natural substances are always environmentally friendly, while chemicals are harmful to the environment

This misconception assumes that natural substances have minimal environmental impact, while chemicals are always detrimental to ecosystems. However, the environmental impact of a substance is not solely determined by its origin but rather by how it is produced, used, and disposed of. Some natural substances can have negative environmental consequences, such as when their extraction or production leads to habitat destruction or pollution. Petroleum is an excellent illustration because it is 100% organic!!

Natural substances are universally compatible with the human body, while chemicals are not

This misconception suggests that natural substances are perfectly compatible with our bodies, while synthetic chemicals may cause harm or adverse reactions. However, many natural substances can also be allergenic, toxic, or interact negatively with our bodies. On the other hand, synthetic chemicals undergo rigorous testing and evaluation for safety and compatibility before being approved for use. If it were as claimed by those obsessed with natural substances, then we could not use soaps or even synthetic medicines, which instead have lengthened our lives and saved us from dangerous diseases.

It is important to approach the comparison between “chemical” and “natural” substances with a balanced and evidence-based perspective. Rather than making sweeping generalizations, it is crucial to consider factors such as the specific properties, uses, risks, and benefits of each substance, as well as the context in which they are utilized. Scientific research and regulatory evaluations provide valuable insights into the safety, effectiveness, and environmental impact of both natural and synthetic substances.

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Bob Mazzei
Bob Mazzei

AI Consultant, IT Engineer

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