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Appeal to Nature Fallacy

“Your tea has artificial flavorings so my drink is healthier than yours,” says Bob as he drinks a glass of maple syrup.

You commit the appeal to nature fallacy when you assume something is better because it is natural, or worse because it is unnatural. This fallacy is often committed on pseudo-scientific health-related social media posts, such as when people argue that natural treatments are better than unnatural ones, or that you shouldn’t eat a certain food because they are full of chemicals.

There are several problems with these claims. First of all, many natural things are harmful, such as poisonous mushrooms and berries. There also many “unnatural” things that are important for your health, such as antibiotics. I put unnatural in quotes here, because whether antibiotics are “unnatural” is up for debate. This brings me to the second issue:

What is “natural”, anyway? Everything is made of chemicals, and everything, ultimately, comes from nature. Sometimes people use how easy it is to pronounce ingredients as a guideline: “If you can’t pronounce a food’s ingredients, you shouldn’t eat it.” However, many things are difficult to pronounce if we use their scientific names. For example, it is a bit tricky to say “ascorbic acid,” but this is just vitamin C.

Advertisers are very aware of this fallacy and often write things like “Natural Choice” on the packaging. Because there is no clear definition of “natural”, this can mean anything. Consumers should not be afraid of ingredients that sound “unnatural” and should not be swayed to buy something just because the word “natural” is on the packaging. The appeal to nature fallacy can be dangerous if people choose less effective but more “natural” treatment options for illnesses.

One of the reasons we commit the appeal to nature fallacy because it is a way of simplifying decision-making. However, we should consider all the information available when choosing foods, treatments, etc. and not jump to conclusions based on how “natural” something seems.

Back to the Logical Fallacy Handbook


Courses

Fallacy Detectors Part 1

Develop the skills to tackle logical fallacies through a series of 10 science-fiction videos with activities. Recommended for ages 8-12.

US$15

Symbolic Logic for Teens Part 1

Learn how to make sense of complicated arguments with 14 video lessons and activities. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

US$15

Worksheets

Symbolic Logic Worksheets icon

Symbolic Logic Worksheets

Worksheets covering the basics of symbolic logic for children ages 12 and up.

US$5

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 2-5 about superstitions, different perspectives, facts and opinions, the false dilemma fallacy, and probability.

US$10

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 5-8 about false memories, confirmation bias, Occam's razor, the strawman fallacy, and pareidolia.

US$10

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 8-12 about critical thinking, the appeal to nature fallacy, correlation versus causation, the placebo effect, and weasel words.

US$10

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 9 and up the statistical principles they need to analyze data rationally.

US$10