Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science

Alan Levinovitz. Beacon, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1087-7
Levinovitz, professor of religion at James Madison University, makes a nuanced plea for a more informed relationship with the natural world in this evocative, convincing work. Arguing that “natural goodness” often serves as “a mercenary ethic that anyone can hire to fight for their cause,” he asks readers to stop idolizing what’s “natural,” so as to take better care of nature and society’s neediest. Levinovitz believes a balance needs to be struck between awe of the natural world and its preservation, and is critical of appeals that defend socioeconomic disparity (such as the virtue of “natural” products with exorbitant price tags), eschew modern medicine (as with vaccine refusal), or reduce wildness to human terms (hunters “giving animals ‘a sporting chance’ ”). Rich with interviews, anecdotes, and citations, Levinovitz’s work makes a strong case for the wisdom of compromise and humility. While Levinovitz is more articulate about what he’s against than what he’s for, he argues that “passionate activism is completely compatible with acknowledging complexity and ambiguity.” It may seem paradoxical indeed, but this argument for removing “natural” from the altar of absolute good will certainly start conversations, particularly among naturalists and environmentalists. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/08/2020
Release date: 04/07/2020
Genre: Religion
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