Appeal to Number of Ingredients/Compounds

The number of ingredients a product contains does not tell us about its healthfulness. For example, I can serve you raw chicken. It’s only one ingredient. But it’s probably not healthier than a 21-ingredient recipe for paella. Similarly, I can give you a single chemical compound that is poisonous and I can also give you a product made up of many chemical compounds (e.g., corn, scallops, eggs, rice) and it’s going to be better for your health than the single poisonous chemical compound. In short, we cannot infer a product’s healthfulness based only on the number of ingredients or chemical compounds it contains.

The usual reply to this is to conjoin a fear of synthetic or lab-created compounds with the naturalistic fallacy. This is also a poor argument. The fact that a chemical compound is found in nature does not on its own tell me about its healthful properties. The most potent poisons are found in ‘natural’ plants just as many beneficial compounds are found in ‘natural’ plants. Merely knowing that something is natural doesn’t tell me whether it’s going to be good for my health.

The inverse is also true. Some of the greatest boons to human health have come from the science lab…as have some of the most toxic compounds. So again, merely knowing that something was created in a lab does not on its own tell us anything about its possible effects on my health. That question is settled independently of the compound’s natural/synthetic origin.

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