The Instigator
Smooosh
Pro (for)
The Contender
Surgeon
Con (against)

"Natural" is just a social construct.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/26/2018 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 533 times Debate No: 109760
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (0)

 

Smooosh

Pro

I question your concept of a natural order. I question your concept of synthesized.

Accept in the first round and get the final argument, or hit the ground running in the first round.
Surgeon

Con

I accept.

To clarify. Natural order is the moral foundation from which natural law derives its authority. Natural order is the natural emergent relationship of beings to one another. As the source of natural law, it is arguably (to some extent) the foundation of the legal system.

I will argue against a Social Constructionist view of natural order. I will argue that like much of these quasi-Marxist philosophies, Social Constructionism in all its guises is emperically false, and argued merely by assertion (supported by ad hominem attacks).

In this debate Pro has set himself a big task. He is making the claim that all that humanity regards as natural is a social construct not that it is mainly or partly a social construct. He is thus claiming that what we regard as natural varies independently of a natural order and that this in turn varies independently of nature (facts about ourselves). He must demonstrate (and evidence) that no part of the natural order emerges naturally and that removal of "social constructs" would lead to a "blank slate" society, in which we could arbitrarily re-write all natural order (social behaviour, human interactions, expectations etc) .

As Con, I have a lesser burden. I need only point to examples of where facts about ourselves, lead inexoribly to certain repeatable and predicatble patterns of natural order wrt human societies. As we are also members of the animal kingdom I will also draw on parallels in non-human societies for emphasis (ie ostensibley spontaneous, instinctual and natural societies). Thus my aim would be to defeat the views of Social Constructionism through the use of empiricism.

I leave it to Pro to make an opening argument, mine will start in R2.
Debate Round No. 1
Smooosh

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this challenge. I look forward to an interesting debate.

It is my belief that the idea that some things we do are not considered natural, is of an antiprogressive additude, not scientific logic. Not antiprogressive in a political manner, but in a unwillingness to, or denial of, change. If your of the opinion that anything that is "natural" means, not made or caused by humankind, then it would be logical to think that anything that humankind has ever done is "synthetic". If your belief is that humankind is not isolated from nature, therefore everything of this earth or even of this universe is natural, then it would be logical to think that everything that humankind has ever done is "natural". If you believe the earth and everything in existence was created by god, then you would logically assume that everything was created by god, therefore everything is natural, but somewhere along the line of human existence rose an idea that somethings we do or encounter are not natural or synthetic which seems to me to be a fallacy. The idea that something can be less natural or not natural as opposed to synthetic is just a traditional concept that has been misinterpreted for so long that we as a society just accept it as fact, when it may not necessarily be.

Social Constructionism!!!!!
Of course blueberries are blue, it even has the color they are in the name. It would be silly of me to claim otherwise, but blue is just the name that we as a society have accepted for that particular color. If everyone in society had decided to call that color weeb instead of blue then blueberries would've been weeberries. As long as we as a society accept it to be true, then it is true in a social context. If I considered the name weeberries to be stupid (which I do) and decided to be the only one to call them blueberries, then I would be wrong if the rest of society did consider them to be weeberries, but thankfully we don't. The only stable point in all of this is the color itself. The color in question falls between 450 to 495nm on the visible wavelength scale, but it would not be wrong of me to call that color blue, because that's what the accepted name for that color is. Much of social construction is based on language and accepted terms. Just because something is a social construct doesn't mean it's untrue necessarily, but some social constructs may only be true is a social context, but not true in a scientific manner.

This debate is not about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), but I will bring it up as an example. Some people believe GM crops are dangerous. Why? Because of a misunderstanding in what constitutes "natural" and "synthetic". The real fact of the matter is, even before GM crops were created, 90% of the produce that humans consumed were not "natural", they have been altered from their original form so drastically that they would be unrecognizable to our ancestors of 10,000 or more years ago. Even the basic process of farming is not natural. Early humankind has isolated the very best of the edible grasses, berries, and veggies and nuts and destroyed the rest so the next crop was only grown from what they considered the best. This process was repeated over tens of thousands of years, and now today, those crops are unrecognizable from their original form. That's why there's no such thing as wild corn. Some may consider that process to be synthetic, since we've altered the genes of those crops. Some may say it's totally natural since we as humans were made of this earth and naturally evolved just like the rest of the animal kingdom and our natural process of evolution has granted us the ability to grow crops, and GM crops are just a natural evolution to a natural process of crop production. Neither one of those viewpoints are wrong, but they are vastly different, even opposed to each other, but not wrong. In my point of view, the only one I would consider to be misguided is the idea that we can mix and match "natural" based on our additude. If farming is no less synthetic, or no more natural than GMOs are, then what's all the gripe about. In my opinion it's a firm rejection of change. Anti progressive!

Just to be clear, calling something a social construct isn't a flat out denial of facts about us, but an acceptance that somethings we consider to be indisputable MAY be more variable or relative then we realize. Just to further clarify, I'm a firm believer in Ayn Rand and her argument for objective reason, so you would be hard pressed to get any "quasicommunist" sentiments out of me!

Thank you for reading!
Surgeon

Con

Thank you to Pro for his opening. I will of course offer my arguments in this round, but first would like to briefly comment on Pros opening.

In short, the reason why these arguments do not work is that they require us to draw on a theory of meaning, language and referencing that is itself inconsistent with constructionism. Substantive conclusions derived from constructionist premises require a reference theory (descriptivism) that implies at least the potential for (if not outright) realism w.r.t. the natural order, and a strong coupling between linguistic descriptions and the real properties of the entities. In order to attack the concepts integrated or differentiated from reality which form part of what we consider the natural order, one must first use those concepts, thereby committing the fallacy of the stolen concept. For example if the Social Constructionist argues that property is a social construct and that therefore "all property is theft", they must use faulty reasoning to get there.

In turn I argue that specific evidence demonstrates that what humans regard as Natural, in at least some cases, is truly Natural because it is based on a natural order and the concomitant facts about reality, ie that Natural is NOT just a social construct.

It is generally accepted that amongst the human natural order there are 2 genders: males and females (an ostensibly bi-modal distribution with few exceptions (eg intersex conditions (caused by chemical and embryonic development issues))). Social constructionists argue that this is false and that there are more than 2 genders (varying independently of sex), and that men and women are essentially the same (ie men and women are socially constructed).

It has been shown that whilst all foetus' start in the womb as a female prototype, the introduction of pre-natal testosterone alters the structures of the brain and sex organs to a male pattern type. Scientists generally study four primary areas of difference in male and female brains: processing, chemistry, structure, and activity. The differences between male and female brains in these areas show up all over the world. The altered brain structures switches the male pattern to a preference towards non-emotive thinking and expression rather than emotive, object rather than people orientation, high single task focus rather than multi-tasking.

These are facts about ourselves creating an emergent natural order. Individual preferences for women, mean that from a societal perspective, women tend not to specialise in high focus, analytical, object oriented studies or jobs (STEM fields such as software engineering). Whilst Men do. However, vice-versa women dominate in humanities, arts and the caring professions. This is an expected Natural result of natural order from facts about reality and ourselves.

Social constructionists are forced to deny any such link, instead blaming some invisible forces (without evidence) that implicitly or explicitly prevent equal participation in Academia or the job market. However, when we put this to empirical studies and look at societies where most environmental factors (creating differences between the sexes) have been eliminated (such as in Scandanavia), we find that the biological differences maximise (get worse from the constructionists perspective). In other words left freely to choose men and women (in a population) follow different aspirations (are different) and this is expected because of the natural order. Therefore the claims of social construction are false, at least in this one example.

It seems to me that Pro is arguing a different topic and not the one presented in his title or opening:

- His first argument w.r.t. to the word "Blue" and its use in Blueberries is an argument that: "Words" are just a social construct. Not that Natural is just a social construct.
- His second argument is an equivocation fallacy on the word "Natural" as he uses in a colloquial sense. Humans use the word Natural in several different contexts (as the word "Light" is used differently either in the context of weight or colour). Pros opening clearly states his purpose is to demonstrate that the term "Natural" applies to the "natural order", not in a colloquial usage of the term, applying to say GM foods. His argument therefore makes as much sense as saying 1) Dark is not light, 2) All feathers are light, 3) Therefore, there are no dark feathers.

Another failure in his opening to this debate topic is that his topic asserts that what we consider to be "Natural" (as a consequence of the natural order defined in R1), is in no way a result of any part of the natural order (ie that it is JUST a social construct). Even if he did stay on topic and did not equivocate, he has a big BoP. Merely citing a few examples would not prove his thesis. Whereas I can just cite an example to defeat the thesis (see above).

Lastly I will turn my attention to the Randian view Metaphysics/Epistemology. Pro claims to be an adherent (strong or weak, not sure?) of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I find it odd that anyone claiming to be in this camp would have any sympathy with Social Constructionism. Such the I am aware of the Randian view, she was explicitly a Realist in terms of metaphysics given the Axioms of Existence, Consciousness and Identity. This immediately would block any highly skeptical approach to Reality and Nature. Furthermore her Theory of Concepts (the centerpiece of her epistemology) would require that concepts forged and formed from reality, referenced reality itself (ie precepts becoming concepts through a precise reasoning strategy). All this is exactly contrary to social constructionism.

Social constructionism is indeed a quasi-Marxist philosophy based on Post-Modernist views of society. Hacking has commented that, "the label 'social constructionism' is more code than description of every Leftist, Marxist, Freudian, and Feminist Post-Modernist to call into question every moral, sex, gender, power, and deviant claim as just another essentialist claim including the claim that members of the male and female sex are inherently different, rather than historically and socially constructed."

Whilst Rand turned most of her ire towards Kantian (and Platonic) traditions, somewhat unfairly in the case of Kant, she would have been implacably opposed to Post-Modernism and Social Constructionism especially w.r.t the natural order.

Finally I would like to thank Pro for starting a debate on an interesting topic, and for his polite discourse.
Debate Round No. 2
Smooosh

Pro

I am in no way calling into question the differences between men and women. I do question my opponents belief that outside of the scientific proof of said difference, the social additudes and expectations toward each gender are not manifestation of society. My opponent seems to know the work of Ayn Rand well, so he should appreciate that we are individuals with individual social concepts. Ayn Rand denied their was any such thing as a "universal mind". My opponents social views (at least from what can gather from this debate) seem to be claiming that social attitudes are a naturally occurring situation, but that (in my opinion) leaves no room for changes in additudes, as if to say that social attitudes stem from a fixed point and any additudes that don't correlate with common additudes would have to be considered "deviant". Take for instance, homosexuality. Seventy five years ago, that was considered evil, and the majority of society didn't seperate homosexuality from pedophilia, it was considered just as sickening, it was sexual deviance. Today, homosexuality is becoming increasingly mainstream and exepted in society. In Greek and Roman society, the only sexual taboo was when a peasant had sex with a person of stature. Social additudes are a fluid situation, and that tells me that social attitudes did not derive from some transient cosmic force, it is not set to a fixed point, it is relative.

What I was trying to convey in the GMO segment was that neither genetically engineered farming nor traditional farming are synthetic, or from a different perspective, neither is natural, but the additude that one is natural as opposed to the other is fallacious. If we were to have a debate on "natural vs synthetic", all we would really need to do is replace the word "natural" with "old way" and replace the word "synthetic" with "new way", and the abstract nuance of the meanings would not be affected, it would all mean the same thing.

Unfortunately, my time is like a teenaged boy who just got a new car, it's gone!!!

I thank my opponent for this debate, it's been nothing short of delightful.
Surgeon

Con

Thank you for the rejoinder Pro.

"I do question my opponents belief that outside of the scientific proof of said difference, the social additudes and expectations toward each gender are not manifestation of society"

This is not a claim I made. I merely made the claim was that it was at least in some part due to nature, ie that it was perfectly "natural" to adopt those attitudes and expectations and that this is based upon facts about ourselves. In other words those attitudes and expectations do not vary independently of nature, they are at least to some extent (and I would argue a large extent) a product of nature. This is a defeater to the claim "Natural is JUST a social construct", not a claim that "Natural is JUST a product of the natural order". The latter was not my burden of proof.

"My opponents social views (at least from what can gather from this debate) seem to be claiming that social attitudes are a naturally occurring situation, but that (in my opinion) leaves no room for changes in additudes, as if to say that social attitudes stem from a fixed point and any additudes that don't correlate with common additudes would have to be considered "deviant""

Again you are straw-manning my position. I maintain that the claims of Social Constructionism are false, w.r.t. facts about us and at least some (maybe most) concomitant emergent attitudes. I agree that there are only individual minds, but that given facts about us are common to our species, certain tropes repeat themselves as societal norms (and are thus re-enforced). Social Constructionism denies any aspect of nature down to its core, claiming most if not all societal outcomes are a result of social nurture. It does this to maintain a Marxist agenda, for its real aim of creating equal outcomes amongst the designated groups it has identified as especially deserving (Women, Black, Muslim etc). This is what is so troubling (at least to me) about the debate topic and the R1 opening as presented. The claim of this topic is a Social Constructionist claim.

"Take for instance, homosexuality. Seventy five years ago, that was considered evil, and the majority of society didn't separate homosexuality from pedophilia, it was considered just as sickening, it was sexual deviance. Today, homosexuality is becoming increasingly mainstream and excepted in society. In Greek and Roman society, the only sexual taboo was when a peasant had sex with a person of stature. Social additudes are a fluid situation, and that tells me that social attitudes did not derive from some transient cosmic force, it is not set to a fixed point, it is relative."

But again this is not the argument you presented. It is an argument that some taboos are socially constructed (which I agree with), not that "natural" as emergent from the "natural order" is. Homosexuality is part of the "natural order", the claims that the religious make about it being a lifestyle choice are as ludicrous as stating that the genders are socially constructed. Both ignore facts about reality and I would attack both points of view as largely unevidenced assertions, not based on reality. In other words if someone claimed that Homosexuality was "unnatural", they are making a mistake and would be making a false claim, and not making an equally valid contention based on reality. Equally if someone claimed that the reason why there are less women in Software Engineering is because of discrimination, they would also be making a false claim for the same reasons.

"What I was trying to convey in the GMO segment was that neither genetically engineered farming nor traditional farming are synthetic, or from a different perspective, neither is natural, but the additude that one is natural as opposed to the other is fallacious."

In this example the question really is what is the definition of Natural and Synthetic. Thus it is a question of semantics (important nonetheless), but not of ontology nor epistemology as in your debate topic. But Let me briefly digress.

One could argue that anything man-made is synthetic, but then that would also apply to babies and bananas and thus that definition lacks utility. The test of whether a product is natural or not is: whether natural creatures, using processes occuring in nature, on naturally occurring products, create new products that also have a relationship to something pre-existing in nature. On that basis GMO products would fail the test of being natural because natural processes were not used in their creation (ie gene sequences were inserted where no natural hybridisation process would of acted in that way (that is there is no evolutionary process that could facilitate species A to species B whole gene sequence insertion)). Hybridisation of bananas from plantains is however natural by this same test.

I think what you wanted to debate was that "what some people consider to be "Natural" (with no reference to a natural order) may infact mainly be a social construct". As a debate topic this seems to be trivially true and at least semantically easy to agree with. However the topic as presented as far bigger a set of claims.

In terms of Ayn Rand, yes I know something of her work and have a admiration of it, and sympathy with it. She should be praised for putting forward a coherent agenda (philosophy) for Atheism, Libertarianism and Capitalism. She was also brave and fiercely consistent against a tide of the leftist infected Academy. She does however make a couple of leaps in her thought processes that I still cannot get my head around and is overly strident on certain hobby horses she had. Because Objectivism (at least in the Randian sense) is a closed loop after her death, it has become ironically something of a religious revelation, as opposed to being open to extension. Thus I think David Kelly et al have more to offer, than say Peikoff. However from the perspective of political philosophy, I would like to offer a shout out for Robert Nozick here, who I thought decimated the Rawlsian perspective.

I have enjoyed the discussion so far. Thanks and good luck in the final round.
Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Smooosh 3 years ago
Smooosh
My apologies to Surgeon. I couldn't get on this site for some reason, so I couldn't post my last argument. If you'd like to revisit this one or any other one you'd like, just let me know!
Posted by Smooosh 3 years ago
Smooosh
Good point. I find it hard to word it though. I would consider the way things should be as ethics. I thought the phrase "natural order" might help, but I do worry that my debate could easily be hijacked. Might you have any suggestions?
Posted by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
I think you should define "natural" because it is used in at least two different ways. When some people say "natural," they mean it happens in nature. When other people say "natural," they mean it's the way things should be.
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