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There is a clearly defined boundary between "natural" and "artificial", Round Two!

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/14/2014 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,396 times Debate No: 49128
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
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RECAPITULATION: Last time I posted this debate, I was confronted with a certain Warren181. He accepted said debate in round 1 and went on to provide two rounds of utter bollocks followed by two rounds of forfeiting. I am now bringing back this debate, and here I quote my previous argument:

"Many people believe that artificial means human-made, and that natural means from nature. Let's take a look at those definitions: First, "artificial" meaning human-made. But then that must mean that any human is "artificial"? Many would disagree, and I have never met a person who agrees. So, if "natural" and "artificial" are mutually exclusive, and many people say they are, this means that humans are "natural". But if humans are "natural" and the things that they make "artificial" things out of are also "natural", does that mean anything "artificial" is made by "natural" processes from "natural" things? BUT if something comes from "natural" materials and "natural" processes, does that mean that it comes from nature and is therefore "natural"? Fundamentally speaking, humans are no different from the vulture that breaks an egg with a stone, or a chimpanzee that collects termites with sticks. Humans creating plastics out of petrochemicals is no more "artificial" from any animal creating waste out food, or descendants out of sperm and egg.

So I argue that "artificial" and "natural" are two terms that are too confusingly vague and poorly applied to be considered clearly separate concepts. I ask you to please see if you can give me the answers to my questions."

So, please don't be a Warren181: Debate for real!


I accept this debate. Here is my argument.

The word artificial as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is as follows:
"not natural or real : made, produced, or done to seem like something natural
not happening or existing naturally : created or caused by people"

The word natural as defined by the same dictionary is as follows:
"existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature
not having any extra substances or chemicals added : not containing anything artificial"

Clearly there is a defined difference between the terms. Language is basically our way of communicating practical boundaries, and it's important for practical intents and purposes to refer to things made by humans as different to things not made by humans. I can say, "everything is natural." But that's not really saying anything at all. There's nothing to compare it with. The only way I can walk is if I have a room to walk through. The only way I can communicate is if you are listening. The only way I can understand natural is if there is an artificial. Otherwise it becomes meaningless. Even the dictionary recognizes this by saying basically that artificial is not natural and natural is not artificial.

There is a clearly defined boundary between natural and artificial because everyone who speaks English defines it as such.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for responding. By the looks of your first argument, I expect this will be a worthwhile debate.

As you have said, natural and artificial must be mutually exclusive. And yet, it is impossible to separate "human-made" and "from nature" to a point where they often will overlap. As I explained in my previous argument, humans are both human-made and from nature. The distinction is vague at best.

But what does "from nature" mean? What is nature? If that question were to be solved, it would likely make it easier to understand what natural means, and hence its separation from artificial. According to Oxford, nature is "The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.", which I consider to be self-contradictory in that humans are animals as any other animal is, and human creations are always natural resources made into certain forms via human processing, and hence no less natural than anything else.


Your basic argument seems to be that the terms are vague therefore we should just throw them both away, but hold on. Let's say I was walking through the woods and I happened to stumble upon a pair of pliers. Among all the things in the forest, it would be the pliers that stand out as obviously different. There has to be terms that highlight these obvious distinctions that we all make or else we wouldn't be able to define or communicate anything at all.

I think it would be beneficial to delve into quantum mechanics a bit to help illustrate my argument. As many of us have learned, light was once thought to be a wave because of the double slit experiment. (If you are not familiar then just search Youtube for a video.) This was well and good until scientists tried to find evidence of what light was waving. A wave cannot exist unless it is waving particles with mass. The problem at the time was that there was absolutely no evidence of what was then called the luminiferous aether. (basically an omnipresent ocean that only light could make waves in) Because there was absolutely no evidence for it, quantum mechanics - the idea that light had properties of waves and particles - was conceived. Essentially the most fundamental particles in all the universe have a weird quirkiness to them. Sometimes they act as particles, and sometimes they act as waves. It just depends on what they happen to be doing at the time.

Even though the objective state of all quantum waves and particles is unknown, they cannot logically be defined as being both waves and particles at the same time. They can only be defined as either waves or particles which depends on how they happen to be observed at any given time.

This debate is about definitions, and the only reason we have definitions is to aid in our communication about things that go on in this grand universe. Words like natural or artificial and their definitions are not infinite terms or divinely inspired. They are tools we humans have made. Like a wrench or pliers they are only useful in certain circumstances. And in the circumstance of clearly defining a boundary, we can be sure that they do their job well.
Debate Round No. 2


Frankly, my point has nothing to do with practicality. For all practical and everyday purposes, natural and artificial are perfectly good words for concepts that you can, if you look hard enough and forget the practical aspect, find fault and weakness in. This is what I have done with my arguments.

I agree whole heartedly with the usefulness of terms such as wave, particle, natural and artificial. I however do not think that they are clear enough to have a solid boundary, and my argument is no more than that. I urge you to explain with more clarity the exact difference between those two concepts which I find to be entangled and vaguely defined, or concede.


I'm glad that we can find agreement in my arguments surrounding the idea that the words natural and artificial are definable concepts that we can use as tools to communicate ideas and expressions.

Seeing as the debate we are having currently is about definitions, and as we both agreed, definitions are practical tools, therefore you cannot then begin to say 'I do not believe that natural and artificial can be defined.'

It is clearly defined. We all agree to the meanings of the words and that the meanings of words can change. No one here is suggesting that these words possess some kind of divine inspiration that surpasses everything. Words change definitions throughout time depending on the people and culture using them. The words 'clearly' 'defined' and 'boundary' are all things we can understand within context. I illustrated an example of this context in the last round as finding a pair of pliers in the middle of the woods. If you find some pliers in the woods, then you know with little doubt that a human who bought them or made them has been in the area previously.

The air around me can be thought of as an extension of myself. My skin is a bridge not a barrier. Yet it is a barrier. It can be thought of as either depending on the context. Light can be a wave or a particle depending on the context. A pair of pliers can be thought of as natural or artificial depending on the context. There are boundaries in life, but they are all arbitrary. Does that mean there are no boundaries? No, I just said that there are boundaries. The boundaries are arbitrary, but there are boundaries. The word artifical isn't a statement about ultimate reality. Its a tool that we humans use to communicate and express things to other humans. Can you see how these things have clear definitions and boundaries? It depends on what you want to communicate to me.
Debate Round No. 3


I am pleased to see that we can see eye-to-eye in this situation. However, there was no time when I said that natural and artificial cannot be defined. I acknowledge that they can be defined, and I presented definitions of each concept from the Oxford Dictionary. My argument is that there is no clear boundary between the two words, and that their definitions overlap even though they also mutually contradict.

As I have previously shown, the terms especially overlap in areas such as natural things humans do, or things that happen in nature yet are created by animals in much the way that we craft "artificial" things; both of which, mind you, are crafted from natural materials. I do not in any way deny the presence or practicality of these words, but I simply expose their weakness and vague quality. I hope that you understand my stance on this, and if you can give me clear defintions then by god I'll take them.

You have the floor.


So you concede that there is a boundary. Your only consolation is that the boundary isn't clear. Well what exactly is the difference between clear and vague?

A white cloud can seem sharply divided from the blue sky from our perspective here on the ground, yet if we were to zoom up to the cloud and try to establish where the boundary between the cloud and sky actually lies, we would not be able to do it. The seemingly sharp boundary would give way to a fuzzy and vague continuum in which the cloud gradually thins out. Even the densest pieces of matter lack clear-cut edges when viewed from the molecular or sub-atomic perspective. This illustrates the more general truth that the boundaries and contrasts we perceive directly in the world are appearances only. They are entities which only exist to an observer with a particular kind of perspective.

From one kind of perspective, there is a clear defined boundary between natural and artificial. From another perspective, there is not. This is the utility of language and the essence of the human experience. You are wrong to decide that there is absolutely no perspective that can be taken where a person would see a definite boundary between artificial and natural. I gave an example of finding pliers in the woods. Another example would be a painting of a mountain and the mountain itself. The painting is artificial (art) and the mountain is natural. When you take a different perspective then sure you can see that the painting and the human is a part of nature too, but this does not nullify the existence of the other perspective.
Debate Round No. 4


You say that different perspectives can change whether or not the boundary between natural and artificial. However, the fact remains that many terms, such as those terms that I have already described, can be sorted into one group or another. The only variation in perspective is that from different perspectives, things such as plastics or human children can be classified as either aritificial or natural. No difference in perspective can change the fact that these things are too ambiguous to be classified into only one of these categories which, though their definitions exclude one another, stil overlap to the point of completely blurring the boundary between them. Can something be both natural and artificial? The definitions of both terms say no, but from different perspectives, one can classify the same thing into both categories.


"The definitions of both terms say no, but from different perspectives, one can classify the same thing into both categories."

Yes you can classify the same thing into both categories, but not with the same perspective. That's the crux of the issue. You are arguing that it is impossible for there to be a clear defined boundary between artificial and natural. My whole debate is that it is possible to see a clear defined boundary depending on your perspective. I'm glad you concede your point on the issue and I urge anyone voting to read through all of the previous submissions and arguments in order to realize this.

Thanks for debating with me SoloNo1! :)
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by simpleguy 6 years ago
Send me a message if no one accepts in a few days - may be interested.
Posted by wwwwh 6 years ago
Sorry i agreed with you before I read your argument.
Posted by lit.wakefield 6 years ago
I will consider taking this.
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