Appeal to Nature Fallacy | Definition & Examples

Reasoning updated on  February 26, 2024 4 min read

The appeal to nature fallacy occurs when an argument assumes that whatever is deemed natural is inherently superior to whatever is considered unnatural. The claim that an idea or practice is natural is used as a replacement for a logical, evidence-based argument.

Arguments that commit this fallacy typically claim that something is safe, healthy, practical, or morally good solely because it is natural.

Appeal to nature fallacy example in health
“Herbal supplements are derived from plants, so they’re safer than prescription drugs.”

This claim exemplifies the appeal to nature fallacy because it relies entirely on the fact that herbal supplements are “natural” to argue their safety. The argument fails to consider the importance of scientific evidence. In reality, some herbal supplements can have detrimental effects, and in many countries they aren’t required to be tested for safety like pharmaceuticals are.

The appeal to nature fallacy can be found in debates about food, lifestyle, health, and environmental policy among other subjects.

What is the appeal to nature fallacy?

The appeal to nature fallacy occurs when something is assumed to be good simply because it is natural or bad solely because it is unnatural.

Appeals to nature oversimplify complex issues by equating what is “natural” with positive qualities, while disregarding the potential benefits of alternatives.

The appeal to nature fallacy is an informal logical fallacy, which means that it involves weak reasoning rather than a structural flaw. It is an unsound form of argumentation because it overlooks complexities.

The appeal to nature fallacy is also a fallacy of relevance, a category of errors that occur when the premises of an argument are considered irrelevant or barely relevant to the conclusion.

The appeal to nature fallacy is often effective at persuading an audience because it appeals to certain cognitive biases, or innate tendencies toward flawed patterns of reasoning:

  • Naturalness bias: Preference for natural or familiar things over artificial or unfamiliar ones
  • Ambiguity effect: Avoidance of options that are unclear or ambiguous in favor of those with a known outcome

Appeal to nature fallacy examples

Examples of the appeal to nature fallacy can be found in many domains, including health and medicine, environmental and public policy, diet and nutrition, beauty and personal care, agriculture and farming, technology and innovation, child rearing, and lifestyle choices.

Appeal to nature fallacy example in politics
A politician argues, “As your elected representative, I must emphasize the dangers of vaccination. They contain synthetic substances, which interfere with the natural balance of our immune systems. Our ancestors relied on a natural lifestyle to stay healthy, not vaccines.”

The vaccination claim is an appeal to nature fallacy because it assumes vaccines are harmful purely because they are “unnatural,” ignoring their proven benefits in disease prevention.

In media and advertising contexts, the appeal to nature fallacy can take the form of biased reporting and advertising, which may portray natural products as inherently superior without evidence.

Commentators may advocate for “natural” practices as inherently superior without acknowledging evidence to the contrary. This can reinforce biases and misinform audiences about the complexities of health, environmental, or societal issues.

Appeal to nature fallacy example in media
A podcaster argues, “The problem with today’s children is social media. Children should play outside instead of looking at a screen. It’s the way humans have always experienced childhood, surrounded by nature.”

This claim exemplifies the appeal to nature fallacy because it assumes that social media is without any benefit solely because it is not considered “natural.”

Why is the appeal to nature fallacy a problem?

The appeal to nature fallacy is illogical because it oversimplifies complex issues. There are several problems with equating naturalness with inherent superiority or goodness:

  • Reductive: It oversimplifies complex issues.
  • Unscientific: It involves disregarding evidence and critical thinking.
  • Detrimental to decision-making: It can lead to harmful or suboptimal decisions and actions.

How can you avoid the appeal to nature fallacy?

To avoid the appeal to nature fallacy, it’s important to critically evaluate claims and understand that “natural” isn’t always good and what’s “unnatural” isn’t always bad.

  • Acknowledge complexity: Recognize that something can be natural or unnatural and still have benefits and drawbacks.
  • Seek scientific evidence: Look for empirical research and data to support claims about safety, efficacy, and benefits.
  • Avoid simplistic dichotomies: Understand that categorizing something as purely natural or unnatural often oversimplifies complex issues.

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Common mistakes

Commonly confused words

Rhetoric

Whoa or woah

Advisor vs adviser

Metonymy

Theirs or their's

Accept vs except

Synecdoche

Ours or our's

Affect vs effect

Verbal irony

Forty or fourty

Among vs between

Irony

Sence or sense

Anymore vs any more

Grawlix


Frequently asked questions about appeal to nature fallacy

When is an appeal to nature a fallacy?

A non-fallacious argument can include the idea of what is “natural” or “unnatural” along with specific, evidence-based reasons.

However, an appeal to nature fallacy claims that something is good because it’s natural, or bad because it’s unnatural, without any justification.

What fallacies are related to the appeal to nature fallacy?

Several fallacies could be considered similar to the appeal to nature fallacy:

  • Naturalistic fallacy: Confuses what is natural with what is good, but in a strictly ethical sense
  • Moralistic fallacy: Assumes that whatever is deemed moral must be natural or true
  • False dilemma fallacy: Presents an oversimplified choice between two opposite extremes (e.g., “natural” and “unnatural”)

What is the opposite of the appeal to nature fallacy?

The appeal to novelty fallacy and the appeal to modernity fallacy are near opposites of the appeal to nature fallacy. Both contrast with the appeal to nature fallacy because they value newness for its own sake:

  • Appeal to novelty fallacy: Assumes that new ideas and practices are inherently superior
  • Appeal to modernity fallacy: Values modern approaches as opposed to traditional, historical, or natural approaches
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Magedah Shabo

Magedah is an author, editor, and educator who has empowered thousands of students to become better writers.

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