The Paradox

By Chanel Dehond. M.Arch. B.A.S.

Figure 1. Still from “The God’s Must Be Crazy”

The discovery of a paradox happened into existence whilst beginning to define my thesis argument. The natural — as defined by The Oxford English Dictionary — is existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind and, the artificial is made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural. These definitions unveiled an existential conundrum; if we, as humans, were derived from humans, then mankind would be defined as artificial. How then can we differentiate between the two? Where would the metaphorical line be drawn? Before I could begin to defend my thesis, I needed to re-conceive of The Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of natural and artificial.

My first attempt formulated the statement that the artificial required “intent” or “design”. The discrepancy in this argument was that natural matter could come into existence through “intent” or “design”. With the presence of birth control, a couple could have intercourse with the intent of producing a baby. As well, if a human picked berries and mint leaves and mixed them together into a salad of sorts, then this form of nourishment — designed by the human — would technically be artificial. This was true for primitive huts, igloos and dens also. This trial did not satisfy my comprehension of the natural.

Another iteration suggested that the artificial was something that had been manipulated in a way that nature could not have concocted. I detected that this was closer, but the act of digging to create shelter, for example, mimicked that of an animal or insect, claiming it as natural in my understanding.

My final appraisal has not yet been disproved (under countless attempts). Ipso facto, my definitions are now the following; natural — existing in or caused by nature; not made or derived using tools external to that of the given biological construct, and artificial — made or produced through the use of tools rather than occurring naturally or being produced through biological processes. These definitions clarified the paradoxical questions that arose earlier. If we as humans were derived from humans — through coitus — then mankind remained natural. The boundary between the natural and artificial is drawn at the introduction of the “tool”. Any task that mankind performs within their biological construct is considered natural. The construction of primitive huts, igloos and dens — dependent on the sole use of the human body to tear, pack and dig — remains natural. The revised definitions also begin to look at the artificial as achievable by animals. The ape could create a tool out of a sharpened stick, in order to ensnare ants more effectively. A hierarchy could now be observed between animals that appear closer in lineage to humans.

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