Natural parenting and alternative health are based on a TV commercial for margarine

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In perhaps the ultimate irony, the contemporary natural parenting and alternative health movements are based on a TV commercial for margarine.

The tag line of the 1970’s commercial for Chiffon Margarine was “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

Mother Nature tastes the margarine and declares that it is her “sweet, creamy butter.” When apprised that it is margarine, a processed food, she reacts with anger, punishing people by sending natural disasters. Although natural parenting and alternative health advocates would deny it, it is this view of nature, basically benevolent unless tricked by artificial substitutes, that animates the current natural parenting and alternative health movements.

Belief in benevolent nature is nothing more than a cultural construct.

In other words, natural parenting and alternative health aren’t based on science; they’re based on a cultural construct lifted from a marketing campaign, a campaign that could only succeed among extraordinarily privileged people who have no knowledge of nature. Those who believe in them haven’t done their research; they’re just gullible.

Think about it:

The lactivist movement is absolutely certain that breastmilk is the perfect food because it is natural. Formula, a semi-artificial substitute, must be bad because it is an attempt to fool Mother Nature.

Natural childbirth advocates are sure that we should “trust birth” because it is natural. Interventions and C-sections are to be avoided and scorned because they are attempts to fool Mother Nature.

Anti-vaxxers are sure that vaccines must be harmful since they are so obviously attempts to fool Mother Nature. Natural immunity must be better.

Food-phobes are sure that the key to health is eating only food your grandmother would eat despite the fact that your grandmother’s generation had a shorter life expectancy and higher rates of death from cancers and disease than the current generation.

Only incredibly privileged people who have never been forced to rely on nature could actually believe such nonsense. In reality, “nature is red in tooth and claw.” Premature death — from starvation, predation, and violence —is a fundamental, ineradicable feature of the life all animals, and human beings are no exception.

Only the simple minded believe (consciously or unconsciously) that “fooling” Mother Nature with technological substitutes leads to natural calamities and that avoiding technology leads to health.

They prefer to ignore the fact that Nature is responsible for earthquakes, typhoons, snake bite and disease. They imagine Nature as a gentle breeze when it is in reality a heartless, selfish force, operating to the rhythm of its own rules and completely unconcerned with the wishes and hopes of human beings.

“Breast is best” is nothing more than a cultural construct, every bit as artificial as formula itself. The scientific truth is that breastmilk is NOT the perfect food for all human babies and even the most cursory knowledge of history makes that crystal clear. Breastmilk substitutes have been used since the beginning of recorded history and undoubtedly long before. If breastfeeding disappeared tomorrow, nearly every infant would survive in a world with easy access to formula. In contrast, if formula disappeared tomorrow literally millions of infants would sustain brain injuries and starve to death.

The injunction to “trust birth” is a cultural construct every bit as artificial as a C-section. The scientific truth is that childbirth is deadly for mothers and a 100X more deadly for babies. If starting tomorrow every baby were born by C-section and none by vaginal birth the rate of injury and death would be minuscule compared to the times and places when all babies were or are born vaginally.

The idea that “natural immunity” is superior to vaccine immunity is a cultural construct belied by the scientific and historical evidence. Natural immunity could not eradicate smallpox despite tens of thousands of years in the attempt. It only took the smallpox vaccine ten generations to wipe it from the face of the earth.

The belief that “natural” food is healthier than processed food ignores the fact that everything today, including our water, is processed to make sure it isn’t contaminated with deadly bacteria. It is the purity of food and water that ensures our health, not its resemblance to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors (many of whom, like the Neanderthals, actually died out).

Nature is not benevolent and it cannot be controlled to become benevolent. Technology, in contrast, can be controlled and optimized for human benefit. It is not an accident that those with the greatest access to technology in food and health live the longest and have the best health outcomes in human history. Nature is just as happy to kill us as to nurture us. There’s nothing inherently good about nature and nothing inherently bad about technological substitutes.

In short, life is not a margarine commercial, not matter how easily natural parenting and alternative health advocates have been fooled into believing it.

  • Amy

    I still enjoy the irony that so many of these natural purists enjoy “natural” foods (coconut flour, quinoa, açai berries) that don’t grow locally to them. And post about it on the internet, indoors, with indoor plumbing, while wearing glasses or contact lenses.

    • Who?

      I know, right.

      When you look at the countries/environments where those ‘superfoods’ are the staple diet, you don’t generally see a super race (who would be selling their superfood at a premium for their own benefit). You see poor people, often malnourished themselves, who disrupt their other food sources to grow more superfood, thus damaging their diet, and potentially their economy, further.

      And pity help them when the western fad diet train moves to the next station.

      Do not get me started on quinoa.

      • AnnaPDE

        “If you can’t pronounce it, it shouldn’t be in your diet.” — So long, quinoa, for like 99% of the population!

  • Tigger_the_Wing

    Mother Nature killed my paternal grandmother with TB. She then attempted to do the same to my father, but his life was saved by those ‘foolish’ antibiotics. By the time I was born, sixty years ago, there was a vaccine available and I have never even been at risk of contracting it. Since that time, doctors have been ‘fooling’ Mother Nature with surgeries and medications to keep all of us alive. My father – who should have died in his teens – lived to produce four children, survived blood cancer to see his thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren be born, and most of them are now either already adults, or will be in a couple of years. Who knows? He might even live long enough to see his first great-great grandchild. No thanks to nature.

  • oscar

    “if formula disappeared tomorrow literally millions of infants would sustain brain injuries and starve to death.”

    Yes, this. This is what has always appalled me about BFHI. Formula did not just get created because someone wanted to exploit people and make money. It was created because it was/is vitally necessary and we had the know-how to make it.

  • BeatriceC

    A friend of mine does kitten/cat rescue work. 8 months ago she took in a litter of four kittens that were more than likely feral, but at the very least dumped soon after birth. They were in pretty rough shape. Three of them died. A few weeks ago she was given another litter that were supposedly found in a garbage bin (they were way too familiar with humans to be feral, so either the person that “found” them was actually surrendering them and made up a story, or that person found them really quickly after being dumped by somebody else.). They all got coccidia. Two have died. And this was with prompt medical treatment. The two that died just didn’t respond to the medication the vet prescribed. If it weren’t for prompt medical attention, the whole litter would have likely been lost.

    Mother nature is a brutal, uncaring bitch.

    • Nick Sanders

      I’d upvote, but that’s just too damn depressing. Those poor kittens.

  • Kavin Senapathy

    What a fascinating analysis. Thanks, Amy!

  • MI Dawn

    I remember those commercials. And yeah, Mother Nature doesn’t give a flip if humans exist or not. In fact, she’s a cold-hearted person who doesn’t care about *anything*. If the sun exploded tomorrow and we all died off, she’d be OK with it.

    I’d rather fool her too. Better living through modern medicine, vaccines, housing, food, etc. It has given my dad an additional 21+ years of life, and he and my mom are looking forward to seeing their first great-grandchild soon (niece is due in February). If I’d let MN take control, my dad would have been dead for many years.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      My dad would’ve died some 35 years earlier, and probably wouldn’t have lived to see my sister be born, much less his grandsons. (he died in GirlBard’s first trimester.)

  • MaineJen

    Mother Nature seems to want a lot of us dead. I’m fine with fooling “her,” if it means I get to meet my grandchildren some day.