The Naturalizing Error

Douglas Allchin, Alexander J. Werth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    We describe an error type that we call the naturalizing error: an appeal to nature as a self-justified description dictating or limiting our choices in moral, economic, political, and other social contexts. Normative cultural perspectives may be subtly and subconsciously inscribed into purportedly objective descriptions of nature, often with the apparent warrant and authority of science, yet not be fully warranted by a systematic or complete consideration of the evidence. Cognitive processes may contribute further to a failure to notice the lapses in scientific reasoning and justificatory warrant. By articulating this error type at a general level, we hope to raise awareness of this pervasive error type and to facilitate critiques of claims that appeal to what is “natural” as inevitable or unchangeable.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)3-18
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal for General Philosophy of Science
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


    • Error types
    • Naturalistic fallacy
    • Naturalizing error
    • Public understanding of science
    • Social construction of science


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