Ten years ago, I read an interview with Moby in the New York Times Magazine. In response to a question about the blending of spirituality and technology on his record Play, he made a point that stuck with me:
[A] violin is just as artificial as a synthesizer. They’re both machines.
I think he was saying that there’s nothing more organic about old spirituals than there is about synth music; songs, no matter what they’re played on, are artifices. Never thought much about the distinction between natural and artificial before I read that, but I was forced to agree.
But there’s an even better point to be made: the alleged moral distinction between natural and artificial is totally artificial. Tee hee.
We live in buildings, wear clothes, and eat plants that have been selectively bred for thousands of years. It’s all artificial and a hell of a lot less dangerous than, say, the billions of all-natural bacteria that are constantly trying to kill us. You know what’s natural? Pain. When given the choice on Monday, I happily gulped a manufactured Imitrex rather than riding out my all-natural migraine unaided. Nature provides us with cavities, we shut nature the fuck up with dental floss.
Later, I came to understand this better through the man-made lens of David Hume’s is-ought guillotine. Put very, very simply: if something is a certain way (in this case, “natural”), that’s no reason to assert that this is how it ought to be.
The following links bring you to gorgeous photographs of natural things.
If you only click on one link, make it this one.
If you only click on two links, make them that one and this one.
If you only click on three links, make them that one, the other one and this one.