Monday, May 14, 2012

Natural genetics

Back to work today and for once it's raining on Monday rather than Sunday! Anyway here's a couple of biological (kinda) fallacies that I hear from time to time. The appeal to nature is one of my favourites, you can usually tell if someone has any kind of grounding in science or not if they use this one. I did have a friend try to convince me once that "natural drugs" were superior to "man-made drugs" because, being "natural" they are less harmful on your body. Even as a rule of thumb this definition doesn't work very well, it's trivial to think of many natural substances that have a devastating effect on the human body. Digitalis (Foxglove) for example can be lethal (even water in a vase containing foxgloves can be lethal!) however after a little "processing" by humans it yields a pretty useful heart drug.

GENETIC - Judging something good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it comes.

To appeal to prejudices surrounding something’s origin is another red herring fallacy. This fallacy has the same function as an ad hominem, but applies instead to perceptions surrounding something’s source or context. Accused on the 6 o’clock news of corruption and taking bribes, the senator said that we should all be very wary of the things we hear in the media, because we all know how very unreliable the media can be.

APPEAL TO NATURE - Making the argument that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, or ideal.

Just because something is natural doesn‘t mean it’s good. For instance murder is natural, but most of us agree that we don't think it's a very good thing to be doing, nor does its 'naturalness' constitute any kind of justification for it. The medicine man rolled into town on his bandwagon offering various natural remedies, such as very special plain water. He said that it was only natural that people should be wary of ‘artificial’ medicines such as antibiotics.

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