Friday, January 14, 2011

Um, doesn't Nature also make...copperheads?

Another dim-witted instance of simplistic sloganeering re the "natural" craze:

I'm watching the 6 o'clock network news (yes, I'm the one) and there's an ad for V8's VFusion + Tea. Amid a scene of birds chirping and leaves gently cascading down into a verdant meadow, there's the following voiceover:

"Funny how Nature just knows how to make things that are good for us."
I guess that's supposed to pass for an inspirational, deeply philosophical line, a line that's sure to resonate among the target audience. (One faintly hears a chorus of weepy Wows from natural-food nuts coast to coast.) Of course, you get the same basic line of argument from the CAM crowd: We should use herbs and micronutrients because, well, that's what Nature gave us to work with. "Everything we need to keep us healthy is in Nature."

Is that so? Hmm. Last time I looked, spinal meningitis was "in Nature," no? And anthrax? And TB? And cancer? In fact, isn't it largely because we've taken up arms against Nature, with the likes of radiation and chemotherapy, that we're even able to manage some of the post-diagnosis survival gains that we see among today's patients, modest though such gains are? For that matter, did Nature give us hospitals? And Harvard Medical School? And Blue Cross?

I dunno. Maybe it's me.

15 comments:

a/good/lysstener said...

Oh, it's you, Steve. It's always you. :-)

Steven Sashen said...

In a related note, I was thinking about how some mummies have been found to have cancer... long before the creation of all the processed foods and pesticides that we KNOW cause cancer. You would think that eating all that natural food would have kept the Egyptians cancer free but... oh, wait, I just realized they probably didn't have Acai or Goji berries. Never mind.

SustainableFamilies said...

Yes nature made poison ivy... and cow poop, cactus needles. And mercury. And fire.

Should we consume all of those things? NATURAL! Which technically means nothing. Because snakes make snake skin and shed it, does that mean snake skin natural or unnatural because it was made by snakes? And aren't humans natural? So if I mix up some cane sugar and whole wheat flour, that's natural.

But it was then technically MADE by a human, so is it REALLY natural? Because "man made" isn't natural.

And if I boil sugar to make candy that's natural. Even though chemically I'm changing it.

........

Look I think a lot of food additives are toxic and I'm as much of a hippy nut as a lot of them, but really, truly, natural is NOT a reason to put something in your body.

Steve Salerno said...

SusFam: You hint at an argument that I made a long time ago (and was laughed out of philosophy class): If we go on the (circular) premise that "Nature produces everything in Nature," then don't we have to consider as natural all things that are produced by man (who is, of course, natural)--including the likes of cars, iPods, AK-47s, etc? But no matter how you slice it, the natural/unnatural dichotomy doesn't hold up.

Another one of my fave labels: "organic." As you point out, cow flop is organic. So is the aforementioned copperhead. So is, presumably, liver cancer. I think most of us would rather for breakfast a nice bowl of cold cereal with some food additives in it than have a nice, piping-hot bowl of liver cancer...

(Although, having never actually tasted liver cancer, maybe I speak too soon?)

Mike Cane said...

The Back to Nature movement would never move to Let Nature Take Its Course. No vaccinations? No neonatal care for premature births? No surgery for clogged arteries? Putting the elderly into the woods to fed for themselves instead of a nursing home?

SustainableFamilies said...

Steven- interestingly a lot of compounds known to cause cancer are "natural" i.e. found in nature. MSG is "natural"... toxic metals are "natural".

It's all a bunch of silliness. While I would prefer a bowl of organic mixed greens to a bowl of yellow number 5 cereal, you'd be a lot safer with the cereal than a bowl of cancer cells. Or a bowl of cow poop. Wahahahah

Dimension Skipper said...

I've been saying much the same for years, even pre-SHAMblog. It just seems like such a natural argument to make against "natural."

On the other hand, we see stuff like this really short piece re real doctors/real medicine and I then begin to understand why some folks can be a little leery of mainstream medicine and so-called "big pharma." I wonder how different some doctors are from the snake-oil salesmen. At least the snake-oil guys are more easily spotted.

The article is not the best ever done on the matter and it has some obvious issues, but the whole idea of "off-label" use of meds does trouble me. Without getting into any specifics, I saw it done fairly often with my Mother and frankly I never saw any real benefit from any of it. But once a drug is approved by the FDA for one specific use, apparently that deems it as "safe" for whatever else the doctors may want to try it for, often without any real evidence or even hints of evidence that it may be in any way effective.

It's easy to point at the alt-med crowd and alternately chuckle and shake our heads at the ludicrousness of the treatments out there (or the "out there" treatments), but again lines blur and it can become difficult at times to tell where real medicine leaves off and the quack nostrums begin, especially if the guy dispensing it is wearing a white coat with a prop stethoscope around his neck.

Cosmic Connie said...

I believe this calls for a hymn.

http://tinyurl.com/dmubbd

To be sung, of course, to the tune of "All Things Bright and Beautiful"

Steve Salerno said...

Con: I don't know why, but somehow I'm reminded of my college days, in feminism's early, over-the-top era, when campus radicals no doubt would've insisted on replacing the word "hymn" with the word "hern," or at least something more neutral-sounding.

Cosmic Connie said...

And instead of Amen, it was, "Aperson," I suppose...

Steve Salerno said...

Don't get me wrong, I understood a fair amount of it. Even though it's idiomatic English, I can see where it might be annoying to be a woman and constantly have to read the word "he" used as a pronoun of indefinite reference. ("If a person is uncertain where to mail his forms, he should...") But I'm not exaggerating about some of the lengths to which they went.

One is reminded of the blacks who objected to the word "niggardly"...and the liberal-guilt-type whites who went along.

I guess I should lobby for the banning of the word "swap," since it contains a form of "wop," huh?

a/good/lysstener said...

I had a professor who was INSANELY sensitive about that kind of thing. If you handed in a paper that had "he" as a pronoun you had to make sure you also had a "she" somewhere. She would even count up the total number of references in the paper and make a note or even penalize you if you didn't have the right balance of he's and she's! She seemed to do this especially with the male students. I used to think, aren't there more important things to worry about?

Steve Salerno said...

Well, I can only fall back on that old expression: If you can't stand the sheat, get out of the kitchen.

Steve Salerno said...

Excuse me: Kitcshen.

Jim said...

Steve, I thought you would find this amusing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0