(un)natural: Ideas about naturalness in public and political debates about science, technology and medicine

Report

Published 30/11/2015

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The diverse values and beliefs associated with naturalness may mean that people are talking at cross-purposes when discussing science, technology and medicine.

It is important that policy makers understand these values and beliefs if they are genuinely to take account of the views of the public when developing policies for science, technology and medicine.

The use of the terms natural, unnatural and nature to express values and beliefs, for example in the media and in advertising, can be ambiguous and potentially confusing.

For individuals

To avoid us speaking at cross-purposes, we should all be aware that people can use the terms natural, unnatural and nature as placeholders for a range of different important values or beliefs in relation to science, technology and medicine.

For organisations representing scientists and other sectors of society

  • Organisations that contribute to public and political debates about science, technology and medicine should avoid using the terms natural, unnatural and nature without conveying the values or beliefs that underlie them.
  • Such organisations should explore and engage with the values and beliefs underlying use of the terms natural, unnatural and nature in debates about science, technology and medicine to ensure the views of different people are fully understood, debated and taken into account.

For policy makers

  • Policy makers, including Parliamentarians, should avoid using the terms natural, unnatural and nature when talking about science, medicine and technology without conveying the values or beliefs that underlie them.
  • Policy makers should explore fully what people mean when they use the terms natural, unnatural and nature when engaging with the general public to inform the development of science or health policy.

For journalists

Journalists should avoid using the terms natural, unnatural and nature when talking about science, medicine and technology without conveying the values or beliefs that underlie them.

For manufacturers and advertisers

Manufacturers and advertisers of, for example, food, cosmetics and health products should be cautious about describing a product as natural given the ambiguity of this term and that it is unlawful to mislead consumers, and should follow relevant guidance on advertising and labelling.

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