The difference between natural and medical is “survival of the fittest” vs. “survival of the most”

16D00FF8-AF28-46F3-B9AF-DA64784A4B55

The conventional wisdom among many laypeople is that natural is best.

Advertisers market it. Organic food purveyors rely on it. And it is obviously at the heart of natural childbirth advocacy and breastfeeding promotion. Women are supposedly designed to give birth vaginally and breastfeed. As a result, those who give birth vaginally and breastfeed are supposedly bestowing a gift of better health on their babies.

Survival of the fittest means a lot of babies naturally die.

But that, like nearly all of natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocacy, is nonsense that reflects a deep and abiding misunderstanding of evolution. In birth and breastfeeding the difference between natural and medical is NOT the difference between best and second best. It’s the difference between survival of the fittest and survival of the most.

Simply put, survival of the fittest means that by definition not everyone survives. Lots of people die. In the case of childbirth it means high levels of neonatal and maternal mortality. In the case of breastfeeding, it means high levels of insufficient breastmilk for mothers and dehydration, jaundice and failure to thrive by babies. And in contrast to the nattering of natural childbirth advocates and lactivists, high rates of offspring death are natural for the rest of the animal kingdom, too.

Modern medicine, in contrast, rests on the moral principle of survival of the most.

We don’t throw up our hands when a grown man breaks his leg; we don’t start planning the funeral for when he dies of starvation because he can’t hunt or is eaten by a predator because he can’t run away. Even in pre-history his group or tribe would have splinted the leg to promote proper healing and fed and protected him until he could once again hunt his food and protect himself. Moreover, we don’t pretend that a broken leg is a variation of normal that should be ignored or that, once healed, the man is somehow “lesser” than his peers.

Similarly, we shouldn’t throw up our hands when a baby is one of the 4% in the breech presentation and declare that such a baby is less fit and therefore not worthy of our concern. Even in prehistory, “wise women” trained each new generation to master special techniques to save babies from deadly breech complications. They didn’t pretend that breech was a variation of normal that should be ignored or that a baby delivered from the breech position was somehow “lesser” than her peers. Today was can improve further on the survival of breech babies by offering C-sections. We are always striving to save more babies.

Eyes are designed to see, but that doesn’t change the fact that 30% of the population will develop nearsightedness. Today, when a child or adult becomes nearsighted, we don’t throw up our hands and lament the fact that they aren’t the fittest and are henceforth less likely to survive. We provide vision correction in the form of glasses or contacts; we even the odds of survival; and we don’t deride the products and achievements of those wearing glasses as inferior to the products and achievements of those with 20/20 vision. We act to ensure excellent vision for the most, not acquiesce to it being the province of only the fittest.

Breasts are designed to breastfeed but that doesn’t change the fact that up to 15% of first time mothers will not produce sufficient breastmilk to fully nourish a baby, especially in the days immediately following birth. Contemporary lactivists have chosen to thrown up their hands in the face of insufficient breastmilk and declare that it doesn’t exist (“cluster feeding is a variation of normal”) and to fetishize exclusivity. They’d literally prefer to stick an IV in a baby’s head vein, or feed him dextrose gel for no better reason than to pretend that the baby was “exclusively” breastfed. There’s a much easier way to ensure survival of the most babies; supplement with formula.

The dirty little secret about breastfeeding is that formula saves more lives than breastfeeding ever could. Breastfeeding has a high failure rate (up to 15%) while formula has an exceedingly low failure rate. Yet lactivists still cling to their cherished belief that breastfeeding must be better than formula because natural is always best. Yet nature allows for survival of only the fittest while technological formula allows for survival of the most.

Is vaginal birth “best”? Is breastfeeding “best”? How can they be when they only ensure survival of the fittest? The best outcome is survival of the most.

  • demodocus

    We have the brains to observe, test, and remember the results. We have the brains to make tools to aid us. Hell, these aren’t even all that rare among our fellow animals. For us, our brains make the most difference in our species survival and formula is a sensible tool to aid us when we need the help. Human made things are natural for us.

  • IMO, it’s a form of cultic, and obsessive behavior, an attempt to exercise control over one’s external environment which is perceived as being uncontrollable, and based on fear of that “chaos”. I saw it in my daughter who became obsessed with rigid eating habits as her marriage deteriorated — at least she could control that aspect of her life (and yes, it involved lots f special and organic foods)

  • rational thinker

    I knew quite a few people who only ate organic. Every one of them had the same reaction when I told them I dont eat or buy anything organic. First they seemed surprised then it seemed like they felt sorry for me and my kids or something. These people were actually more my husbands friends than mine, but he liked them so I didnt say anything back to them about it.

    Until one day he invited a couple of them over for dinner. I spent half the damn day cooking that meal not to mention spent a lot of money on it too. When Mr. and Mrs. Asshole showed up at dinner time she asked me where the microwave was so she could heat up dinner for her and her husband. The she pulled out two plastic containers with her organic food in it. I was beyond pissed. Then during dinner she kept trying to get my son to try her organic food even after he told her “no thank you”.

    After dinner she did not seem to want to talk about anything else only organic food recipies. At this point I was really fed up so when she told me again about how I should really buy organic cause its so much better for kids I got a little snippy and said “its a moral issue for me about buying organic. when you buy that stuff you are helping to promote it and that means even more farmland will eventually be used for only organic food. That means less food will be produced. Gmo crops have been engineered to produce more food and its probably more nutritious too. Organic crops have more of a chance of causing an e coli breakout, or being destroyed by insects or drought. We dont make enough food to feed every person on this planet now and if more farmland gets used for organic crops people will die. Just because these people are in a third world country does not mean we should forget about them or how our actions effect them too.”

    That shut her up and they ended up leaving 20 min later. I hope I gave her something to think about,

    I think the whole organic thing is actually a status symbol. It says I have a lot of money so I can waste it on stuff like this. Its kind of like coach purses, its about bragging rights and nothing more.

    • StephanieJR

      Wtf?! She fucking brought her own dinner without talking to you first – that’s incredibly rude, even before all the other stuff (I’m a noted fussy eater, so under some circumstances I can understand bringing your own food, but you talk to your hosts first to make sure it’s okay). The entitlement of this woman is beyond belief.

      It’s privilege/virtue signaling – ‘look at me, I have lots of money, so unlike poor people, I can choose to eat healthy instead of going to McDonald’s, and that makes me better than you’.

      • rational thinker

        She did it just to be a bitch and show off. If I have someone over for dinner who is say a vegetarian I will absolutely make sure any meat items I am serving are kept separate from non meat items, but the organic thing I have no patience for.

        • mabelcruet

          I had a similar experience with a friend who has coeliac disease. Its actually quite common where I live (Ireland) and my brother-in-law has it, so I’m well used to cooking gluten-free and being very careful about ingredients. I have a woo-infested friend I’ve mentioned before-he had medically confirmed coeliac disease, but still went to a kinesiologist who tested him with her gadget thing and told him he was allergic to all sorts of food (I tried to explain that there is absolutely no science behind it, but he was ‘but how did she know I was allergic to wheat then?? Because you told her, you moron, when you told her you had coeliac disease). Anyway, before he turned woo-y, but after his diagnosis, I had a few friends round for dinner and had planned a completely gluten free meal. I told him it would be entirely safe, and he still brought his own. Mine looked far more appetising. He now is drinking his own urine, allegedly that strengthens your immune system by challenging your body, kind of homeopathic type ‘treat like with like’, except more flavourful than sugar pills.

          • rational thinker

            “but how did she know I was allergic to wheat then?? Because you told her, you moron,”- LOL

            Did his woo doctor tell him to start drinking the urine?

          • mabelcruet

            It was a different one. He went to a ‘clinic’ in Prague and stayed a week, spending an absolute fortune. It was like a health spa with woo peddlers instead of beauticians and personal trainers. From the sound of it he was living off green tea only and fasting, and getting daily colonic washouts and high heat saunas to flush out impurities and toxins. They said his liver was only working at 5% capacity and the toxins were building up. And that he had to change to a raw diet because he had kilograms of undigested meat lodged in his colon that had been there for years (they showed him pictures of the effluent from the washouts as ‘proof’). I tried to explain how that simply isn’t possible, but he was well embedded in the whole wellness mentality by then. The drinking the urine thing-it only needs to be a small amount and he can dilute it in spring water if he wants, his immune system just needs to be triggered by exposure to the toxins in tiny amounts. It’s sort of homeopathy based I think. I said that if that was true, faeces would also contain toxins that could trigger his immune system, so why weren’t they recommending he eats that as well? They already had an answer prepared for that-apparently, the aforementioned kilos of undigested food in his colon (in all our colons!) would interfere with the absorption of the toxins.

            My personal philosophy is that if there is any mention anyway in their adverts about ‘toxins’, whether for health care, skin care or food, you know it’s a scam.

          • rational thinker

            Medically speaking there is only one meaning of detox and that usually involves a drug addict or an alcoholic getting clean. Any other kind of detox is simply bullshit.

            Its sad that these clinics take advantage of people with existing mental issues and exploit them for money. I have people suggest some kind of detox thing to me all the time for my autistic daughter. Then when I say im not interested they try to shame me for not wanting to “cure” my daughter.

            I worry about the children whose parents who do fall for all the detox crap to cure autism, their children then become guinea pigs and that never ends well.

    • mabelcruet

      I agree-eating organic is wasteful, it’s a way of boasting and showing off by saying ‘look how wealthy I am’. And bringing your own food to a dinner party is beyond rude.

      And as for the furore over GMO food, calling it Frankenstein food and all that, its utter nonsense-humans have genetically manipulated animals and crops since we changed from hunter-gatherers to settling as farmers. We bred and cross bred animals, choosing different breeds and selecting for better yields of meat, milk, wool and eggs, rotating crop planting, working out what grows best where. Just because it was done by farmers in the field over many generations and not by a scientist in the lab, doesn’t mean it’s not genetic manipulation.

      • rational thinker

        I had a co-worker years ago who would always say stupid crap like “two thousand years ago we did not have all these obesity related problems and the food was all natural and organic it was a much healthier time to be alive”.
        Yeah what a great time that was! Famine, disease, and an average life expectancy of 35-40 years. Yup such a wonderful time to be alive!

        She had the most warped sense of entitlement out of anyone I have ever met.

        • Sarah

          We also had fewer deaths from allergic reactions to general anaesthetic back then, but I still know which state of affairs I prefer.

    • FormerPhysicist

      Plus, she wanted to heat her precious organic chemical-free food on plastic in the microwave?!! Sigh.

      • rational thinker

        It was probably BPA free plastic. Lol

    • RMY

      WTF?! I never every bring food with me, if I felt that a family wasn’t going to be willing or able to accommodate my dietary preferences (no gluten, no dairy, they cause digestive upset), I would just not agree to a meal hosted by then and suggest another type of gathering where food isn’t the centerpiece.

    • Who?

      I agree, and also refuse to buy organic.

      When quinoa became a thing-probably 10 years ago now- I refused to participate because we were exploiting poor people to pander to the wealthiest, most spoilt people on the planet.