Natural : How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science

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Illuminates the far-reaching consequences the myth of "natural" has over our lives, from misinformation about health choices to mistaken justifications of sexism, racism, and flawed economic policies.

Modern nature worship shares key elements with most religions: mythology, rituals, and laws. At the center of it all is a god: Nature, with a capital N.

Academic and journalist Alan Levinovitz's exploration of this faith takes readers deep into Peruvian jungle, on a tour of a high-tech Dutch greenhouse, wolf-watching in Yellowstone National Park, and into a controversial "natural" healing retreat. His interdisciplinary approach yields a uniquely comprehensive picture of nature worship, hidden in plain sight: in refrigerators and hospitals, in sports arenas and economic theories. Natural is the first holistic analysis of Nature's influence, along with a reckoning of the sacrifices made in its name--the lives lost, the guilt suffered, the facts distorted. Although natural has become a synonym for holy, the reality is that the so-called "appeal to nature" fallacy can be extremely dangerous. Far from being a path to earthly paradise, Nature's supposed laws have routinely stood in the way of genuine progress. "Unnatural" sexual activity is tabooed; the goodness of "natural markets" is used to rationalize the elimination of government regulations. Thankfully, there's a solution. Abandoning the equation between nature and God allows the real natural world to comes into focus: a place where perfection, purity, and simplicity are in shorter supply than we tell ourselves in stories, yet human goodness and ingenuity are empowered to take their place. Nature has immense value, and acting naturally is often a good thing. But, as Levinovitz shows, humans are unnatural animals, and they shouldn't be afraid to embrace our dual nature. Only when we stop worshipping nature can we learn to love what's natural--and stop hating ourselves in the process.