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Natural Science - Simple point?


Jway
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Hey all. Been awhile since I posted on Hypography. Hope you are all doing well.

 

I, for some reason, am compelled to preface my topic, with some commentary. First, I came here tonight with this topic in mind, and felt Philosophy of Science was most appropriate place. In clicking on that subforum, I saw this thread. I read all 10 pages, checked out at least a paragraph from every post. It seems very much related to what I wish to present / discuss, but the more I read, the more it came off as (I think) making closer to the opposite of the point I am making. I then did a search on the term "natural" within this subforum, and while I saw topics that are tangentially related, I decided to look at thread titles after awhile and concluded that this idea hasn't been presented (recently). Personally, I believe (in my gut) that you all on this forum have gone through this topic before. If this has been beaten to death elsewhere on this site, then I do wish to apologize in advance, and would ask that this thread be merged into that one.

 

Here is the gist of my argument/proposition:

 

All things that are man made* are natural. I am unaware of any exception to this rule.

 

For me, there are a few stipulations/clarifications about that assertion that I am compelled to make. First, and foremost, by man made, I am referring to products/processes that manifest in the physical world. I think "physical" is crude way of getting across my point, but I think it, at least, partially accurate. I am, somewhat, looking to stay to layman terms of the topic I am presenting for discussion. I hope "physical" works for most who care to discuss, refute my assertion.

 

Secondly, let it be known that I am one who believes it what most here would call "supernatural constructs." I admit this as a bias I have entering this topic. But I ask that if you see me referencing or leading the discussion into that domain, to call me on it. For the point I am making (already stated), I strongly suggest that references to "supernatural" be disallowed. I'd also ask that references to "unnatural" be disallowed, but that is essentially the point I am arguing against, and so I guess we'll just have to see how that plays out in whatever discourse ensues.

 

Finally, I have thought long about this topic. This isn't first time I've presented it to someone for discussion. When I say I am unaware of an exception to my assertion, I currently stand by that, at the 100% level.

 

Part of what prompted me to come to this forum, tonight, to present this topic is watching yet another news story about global warming. Someone saying (which we've all heard), "we don't know if gw is result of natural causes or man made ones." And where I'm at now, is if it is man made actions, then it is (without a doubt) natural causes. But, I must also mention at this point that the topic of gw is not where I'm going with all this. If preferred, we can drop that topic from the discussion and select some other phenomenon / event where man made is part of the discussion.

 

There is a hope within me that everyone who enters this discussion will "enlighten" me in such a way that is akin to: "Dude, we've already discussed this several times on Hypography. Yes, all things that man is up to in the physical world, without exception, is part of the natural process. No one on this site, or very few, disagree with that point."

 

Finally, I would note that for me this is not (only) a semantical point I am making. If you can accept that all things that are man made are natural, then likely we won't have any disagreement with what I feel is a very basic point, one that I feel is near, or at, the core of "natural science." To me the semantical argument is along the lines of, "if it's all natural, then how do we distinguish between man made items and those that were previously attributed to natural causes?" And to me the answer seems as simple as: some things (actually most things) in the natural order are not man made, and some are. "Not man made" would be one, very accurate, way to distinguish. I'm guessing research scientists have several other terms that work for them. I'm just hoping that none of those are conceived of as "man vs. nature" constructs.

 

Thanks for reading,

J

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Thanks freeztar for the link to that thread. I read just about every post. I see it as tangential to the point for discussion that I am making. As noted in OP, I just assume forbid the word "supernatural" in this topic. In the other thread, I don't think I could count as many as five posts that don't contain that word. I see that thread making a related point, but I feel this one transcends (or bypasses) the theme of the other one.

 

I don't see it as 'necessary' that natural be a precise term for what I consider to be simple point. I understand that there are several (sub) versions of "natural" that I'm glad to entertain within this discussion, but am making broader point that all man made phenomenon is natural.

 

Perhaps, in lieu of the other thread, I am also asking, why/how would we assume that anything manifested in the collective physical, is not natural? It shows up to me as, obviously, illogical to view man's place as something other (especially if excluding) natural.

 

And by 'man' I mean human, man is much easier....to type.

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If that's the definition you wish to assign to the word "natural", then so be it. But please realize that "natural" (one of the many definitions) is part of a dichotomy, man vs. nature. So, in that sense at least, the proposition is self-defeating.

 

Then there's the moral issue. For example, Is homosexuality natural? etc...

 

It's not a good word for describing things precisely. For example: Which is more precise? That dam is natural -or- that dam is man made.

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If that's the definition you wish to assign to the word "natural", then so be it. But please realize that "natural" (one of the many definitions) is part of a dichotomy, man vs. nature. So, in that sense at least, the proposition is self-defeating.

 

In some discussions? Sure.

Show me this dichotomy of which you speak. May I observe it?

 

Then there's the moral issue. For example, Is homosexuality natural? etc...

 

I like that.

Can we have that discussion after this one? :turtle:

 

It's not a good word for describing things precisely. For example: Which is more precise? That dam is natural -or- that dam is man made.

 

Show me the dam and I'll try to provide you a precise explanation.

If the dam is man made, it is also natural.

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If the dam is man made, it is also natural.

Sorry if I've missed it, but what is your definition of "natural"?

 

How can you say what is, or isn't, natural if you have not defined the term to start with?

 

It seems that you distinguish between "products of nature" and "products of man", and I would assert that the difference betwen them lies in intent. Products of man are, generally, intentionally dsigned for a purpose. Products of nature are not intentionally designed, as far as we can tell.

 

So what do you mean when you claim "All things that are man made are natural"?

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I agree that defining things is important to discussion.

 

Natural, imo, is everything that is within nature. Supernatural is that which is outside of nature; it only exists as natural absurdity.

 

Within the laws of physics is that which we know of nature; it is a subset of natural. Therefore, that which is within the laws of physics is always natural, but does not necessarily encompass all of natural. But natural always encompasses laws of physics.

 

Now comes the kicker--logical or rational.

 

Logical, rational, imo, is always natural. Not logical is always supernatural.

 

So imo, natural wholly consists of logical (rational) and laws of physics. Anything, neither logical nor within laws of physics, is supernatural and therefore absurd.

 

Man-made can be classified as either natural or supernatural, because man can make in nature and in his/her irrational mind.

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There's really no need to go re-inventing definitions.

 

Natural - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Main Entry: 1nat·u·ral

Pronunciation: ˈna-chə-rəl, ˈnach-rəl

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French naturel, from Latin naturalis of nature, from natura nature

Date: 14th century

 

1 : based on an inherent sense of right and wrong <natural justice>

2 a : being in accordance with or determined by nature b : having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature

3 a (1) : begotten as distinguished from adopted; also : legitimate (2) : being a relation by actual consanguinity as distinguished from adoption <natural parents> b : illegitimate <a natural child>

4 : having an essential relation with someone or something : following from the nature of the one in question <his guilt is a natural deduction from the evidence>

5 : implanted or being as if implanted by nature : seemingly inborn <a natural talent for art>

6 : of or relating to nature as an object of study and research

7 : having a specified character by nature <a natural athlete>

8 a : occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature : not marvelous or supernatural <natural causes> b : formulated by human reason alone rather than revelation <natural religion> <natural rights> c : having a normal or usual character <events followed their natural course>

9 : possessing or exhibiting the higher qualities (as kindliness and affection) of human nature <a noble…brother…ever most kind and natural — Shakespeare>

10 a : growing without human care; also : not cultivated <natural prairie unbroken by the plow> b : existing in or produced by nature : not artificial <natural turf> <natural curiosities> c : relating to or being natural food

11 a : being in a state of nature without spiritual enlightenment : unregenerate <natural man> b : living in or as if in a state of nature untouched by the influences of civilization and society

12 a : having a physical or real existence as contrasted with one that is spiritual, intellectual, or fictitious <a corporation is a legal but not a natural person> b : of, relating to, or operating in the physical as opposed to the spiritual world <natural laws describe phenomena of the physical universe>

13 a : closely resembling an original : true to nature b : marked by easy simplicity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or constraint c : having a form or appearance found in nature

14 a : having neither flats nor sharps <the natural scale of C major> b : being neither sharp nor flat c : having the pitch modified by the natural sign

15 : of an off-white or beige color

 

You are simply confusing two different concepts that are labeled with the same word in English, namely definition 8a and 10a.

 

The "natural" in natural science is the concept in definition 8a, while the "natural" in natural (not man-made) is the concept in definition 10a.

 

Thus a dam is both natural(8a), and unnatural(10a). Or if made by a beaver, it could be natural(8a) and natural(10a).

 

Language is funny that way. It's a delicate balance between brevity and clarity. But this is also what makes language so powerful as a creative and abstract tool.

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It's not a good word for describing things precisely. For example: Which is more precise? That dam is natural -or- that dam is man made.

 

Does it matter if the dam were made by beavers instead of humans? Essentially, is a dam made by beavers more natural than a dam made by humans?

 

Here's another one. Pick a natural item out of the following list:

 

1. Bird's Nest

2. Igloo

3. Pre-fabricated Modular Home

 

If your tendency is to pick *Bird's Nest* is it really accurate to say that bird's nests occur in nature, or are a product of nature? Well, yes and no. Yes because I can go to a completely natural environment and find bird's nests, and no because bird's nests are mearly a construct of birds that wouldn't exists naturally where there are no birds to build them. I think it could be argued either way.

 

For human kind, I think the rules are the same. While I completely understand what you are getting at, Jway, the difference is in our need to understand the affect we are having, or maybe more importantly the control we are having on nature. To simply consider everything we do to be natural doesn't allow us the need we have to recognize that distinction.

 

 

EDIT: Sorry if I reiterated anything. I got sidetracked while I was writing this.

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There's really no need to go re-inventing definitions.

 

The "natural" in natural science is the concept in definition 8a, while the "natural" in natural (not man-made) is the concept in definition 10a.

 

Thus a dam is both natural(8a), and unnatural(10a). Or if made by a beaver, it could be natural(8a) and natural(10a).

I agree. Thanks for putting the definition issue so succinctly. Without an explicit definition it is very easy to slide from one definition of a word to another, making it appear that there is a problem that really does not exist. That's what I was hoping we'd get to when I asked what definition Jway was using.

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Sorry if I've missed it, but what is your definition of "natural"?

 

No problem. Thanks for asking. I can understand reason to have as much clarification on this term as possible. I felt I spoke to it in OP, though admittedly rather indirectly. When I said, I just assume we forbid "supernatural" from this topic, I thought that would help (greatly) narrow the focus down.

 

I also think me dropping mention of "physical world" and "collective physical" are me hinting at definition. Again, this is indirect, and so I just assume go with what Wikipedia has to say. I can't say that the dictionary definition works for me. Partially cause it's not providing just one definition, and partially because I am openly challenging the logic cited in such definitions as "growing without human care; also : not cultivated." If dictionary writers or supporters of that definition wish to back that up logically, I feel very open to that. So here is Wikipedia on Nature/Natural:

 

in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic.

 

I am choosing "broadest sense," because I am choosing to keep the point as simple as possible. I truly am. I feel willing to understand subset definitions of natural within this discussion, and have my own desires to go beyond "broadest sense" of the term, but not here (in this thread) and not now.

 

So "phenomena of the physical world" is the simple definition, I am operating from. If you feel (within construct of natural science) that this excludes/precludes something (concept) that you normally use when referring to nature, I welcome that. I would like to add that to the discussion and discuss it rationally/logically.

 

It seems that you distinguish between "products of nature" and "products of man", and I would assert that the difference betwen them lies in intent. Products of man are, generally, intentionally dsigned for a purpose. Products of nature are not intentionally designed, as far as we can tell.

 

My response to this is whether intent is observable in phenomena of the physical world? If we are (seriously) entertaining whether intent is observable/detectable, I honestly believe we are entering into domain that is outside the simple point, I am putting forth. But I welcome further discussion on that as desired.

 

Logical, rational, imo, is always natural. Not logical is always supernatural.

 

This would be example of the simplicity in the point I am making.

 

Man-made can be classified as either natural or supernatural, because man can make in nature and in his/her irrational mind.

 

Again, I am asking about phenomena (observable) in the physical world. If man's "irrational mind" is observable, in your estimation, in said physical world, then I ask for that to be shown.

 

I hope this helps clarify the definition that I am working from.

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T

Thus a dam is both natural(8a), and unnatural(10a). Or if made by a beaver, it could be natural(8a) and natural(10a).

 

From the definition I am working from, I am unaware of any dam (found in the physical world) that is unnatural.

 

Here's another one. Pick a natural item out of the following list:

1. Bird's Nest

2. Igloo

3. Pre-fabricated Modular Home

 

All items on this list, I conclude, are natural. I feel around 100% certain in my conclusion.

 

While I completely understand what you are getting at, Jway, the difference is in our need to understand the affect we are having, or maybe more importantly the control we are having on nature.

 

"Our need to understand the affect" is a) philosophically debatable (I tend to agree with this 'need'/desire), and :naughty: am not able to observe this need in the physical. Thus, it enters into a domain not found (observable) in the simplicity of the point I am making.

 

To simply consider everything we do to be natural doesn't allow us the need we have to recognize that distinction.

 

I disagree that "everything is natural" doesn't ALLOW for recognizable distinctions. I spoke to this in OP. There are items that are natural, that are man made, and there are items that are natural that are not man made. "Not man made" seems to me, to allow for recognizable distinctions within the natural order.

 

For me, this is what is at heart of this topic. When REASON speaks of bird nests in relation to nature, I find myself routinely bringing that point up for discussion, the one that says: "bird's nests are mearly a construct of birds that wouldn't exists naturally where there are no birds to build them."

 

We might say, in observing physical phenomena of a environment, this is "bird made" to help distinguish from other properties within that environment. But we don't say (I don't think) that "bird made" is unnatural. While I do think it appears to us that birds demonstrate intention in building nests. Perhaps, it is not 'intention' that is building a bird's nest. Admittedly, we don't know, can't ask birds. But for sake of this discussion, to put it bluntly, I don't care if birds make their nests intentionally or not. I'm dealing with whether or not birds do make them, and are they observable in the physical world? Can we rationally explain the (physical) process that is observed?

 

And where I have used the word "bird" in above paragraph, I feel it could (easily) be replaced with "man" and the logic stands.

 

Really, this is a simple point.

 

Thanks for the thoughtful contribution to this thread.

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Does it matter if the dam were made by beavers instead of humans? Essentially, is a dam made by beavers more natural than a dam made by humans?

Good point. Humans are not the only sentient beings.

 

I would suggest that if the beaver is following innate behaviour in building a dam, the dam is natural. But if it is learned, intended, behaviour, then the dam is unnatural. That is why it can be simpler to focus on man-made artifacts, as we, generally, know whether they are intentionally designed for a purpose.

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I would suggest that if the beaver is following innate behaviour in building a dam, the dam is natural. But if it is learned, intended, behaviour, then the dam is unnatural. That is why it can be simpler to focus on man-made artifacts, as we, generally, know whether they are intentionally designed for a purpose.

 

If admittedly we don't know why beavers build dams (from beaver perspective), then I think that presumes something in this discussion which is sidetracking.

 

I'm also curious why learned/intended behaviors that result in observable physical phenomena are automatically unnatural for you? This is entering, I believe, side discussion, but if the 'behavior' is deal breaker for you on consideration for 'what is natural,' then I am compelled to challenge the logic. Hoping that you keep things simple. It seems to me that learning and intention are innate behaviors of humans.

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Jway, are you being intentionally obtuse?

 

If it is your desire to understand "natural"(8a) science, then your insistence that all man-made things are "natural"(8a) when others describe them as unnatural (10a) is irrelevant.

 

It is sometimes useful to draw a distinction between that which is man-made and that which is not. This does not change the other distinction that can be made between that which is natural (8a) and included in natural science, and that which is not.

 

Here is the gist of my argument/proposition:

 

All things that are man made* are natural. I am unaware of any exception to this rule.

 

Obviously, in the 8a definition, you are correct. Why would you think there would even be a debate?

 

Part of what prompted me to come to this forum, tonight, to present this topic is watching yet another news story about global warming. Someone saying (which we've all heard), "we don't know if gw is result of natural causes or man made ones." And where I'm at now, is if it is man made actions, then it is (without a doubt) natural causes. But, I must also mention at this point that the topic of gw is not where I'm going with all this. If preferred, we can drop that topic from the discussion and select some other phenomenon / event where man made is part of the discussion.

 

"Natural" in this case is clearly the 10a definition. You are intentionally confusing two different concepts simply because they are labeled by the same word in English.

 

Finally, I would note that for me this is not (only) a semantical point I am making. If you can accept that all things that are man made are natural, then likely we won't have any disagreement with what I feel is a very basic point, one that I feel is near, or at, the core of "natural science." To me the semantical argument is along the lines of, "if it's all natural, then how do we distinguish between man made items and those that were previously attributed to natural causes?" And to me the answer seems as simple as: some things (actually most things) in the natural order are not man made, and some are. "Not man made" would be one, very accurate, way to distinguish. I'm guessing research scientists have several other terms that work for them. I'm just hoping that none of those are conceived of as "man vs. nature" constructs.

 

What are you trying to get at?

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So here is Wikipedia on Nature/Natural:

"in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic."

I agree that, if you define "natural" this way, then it includes man-made artifacts. But what purpose does such a definition achieve? It is just a play on words. It does not mean that man-made artifacts are "natural" in the sense given later in the same article:

 

For, example, manufactured objects and human interaction are generally not considered part of nature, unless qualified as, for example, "human nature" or "the whole of nature". This more traditional concept of "nature" implies a distinction between natural and artificial elements of the Earth, with the artificial as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind.

What term would you use to mean this type of "natural" as opposed to "artificial" element?

 

My response to this is whether intent is observable in phenomena of the physical world? If we are (seriously) entertaining whether intent is observable/detectable, I honestly believe we are entering into domain that is outside the simple point, I am putting forth. But I welcome further discussion on that as desired.

Do you think that a nuclear power station exhibits intent? How about the computer I'm writing this on? Would such devices exist without intent? I think not. So I suggest that intent is observable in, at least some, artifacts.

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Jway, are you being intentionally obtuse?

 

No

 

If it is your desire to understand "natural"(8a) science, then your insistence that all man-made things are "natural"(8a) when others describe them as unnatural (10a) is irrelevant.

 

Not if I am the one speaking accurately. I am challenging the logic of man made things as unnatural.

 

It is sometimes useful to draw a distinction between that which is man-made and that which is not. This does not change the other distinction that can be made between that which is natural (8a) and included in natural science, and that which is not.

 

What is example of that which is not?

 

Obviously, in the 8a definition, you are correct. Why would you think there would even be a debate?

 

Because my experience with this topic has shown me that people wish to debate / discuss the idea that some/all man made things are unnatural. Thus, I am also challenging certain definitions. One's that show up to me as illogical.

 

"Natural" in this case is clearly the 10a definition. You are intentionally confusing two different concepts simply because they are labeled by the same word in English.

 

No, I feel I am intentionally challenging definition of natural that excludes human actions. The confusion, as I observe it, is on those who attempt to remove man's actions from what is observable/logical within collective physical environment. I don't feel even a little bit confused on this.

 

What are you trying to get at?

 

The simple point: All man made phenomena is natural. I am unaware of any exceptions.

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