Build a solid foundation in science, formulation and product development—find out more!
Most Popular in:
Naturals: The New Cosmetic Religion
By: Johann W. Wiechers, PhD, JW Solutions
Posted: December 7, 2010
A little while ago, I was involved in a public debate on the strenuous relationship between science and religion. Scientists often have difficulty accepting religion, as they find little evidence for the existence of a god. Oftentimes, people draw strength and comfort from their religion, especially in times of distress. Does this mean that belief in fiction, i.e. something for which there is no objective evidence, can lead to fact, i.e., strength and comfort—things that can be objectively measured?
Religious individuals see measurable facts as evidence of the truth of their faith, whereas scientists often argue that possible consequences cannot be taken as evidence for a fact. In the aforementioned debate, I was playing the role of the atheistic scientist, whereas my vicar was playing the role of the theologian. Not a completely fair debate, I argued, as I am a scientist but not an atheist, whereas my vicar was truly a professional theologian. Preparation for this challenging debate was made by reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to find arguments for the non-existence of God and the unscientific nature of (the Christian) faith. Dawkins provided logical reasoning that kept my thoughts positive for the following debate.
On the night of the debate, the vicar opened with, “Johann, you simply cannot prove religion. That is why it is called believing. If you prove it, there is nothing left to believe.” And with that remark, he killed the whole debate even before it had begun. Religion does not have to be proven by facts; believing is enough for those that believe. If you prove religion, it becomes science and is no longer a faith. Whether a scientist can accept to live with unproven beliefs is another issue altogether that will not be discussed here.
There is a connection with this religion discussion and cosmetics, and that connection is naturals. Naturals are the new (cosmetic) religion. There is no evidence for the superiority of anything natural, yet many consumers believe that natural products are better.
At a presentation in South Africa a couple of years ago, a presenter sang the praises of his natural glycerin. It was purportedly significantly better than synthetic glycerin to the extent that words were insufficient to describe its benefits. And of course it was derived from plants, since many natural product companies suggest that animal-derived ingredients are bad for humans. During question time, I asked him what experiment I should perform to distinguish a sample of his natural glycerin from my sample of synthetic glycerin. There was no reply. The body does not differentiate between plant-derived CH2OH-CHOH-CH2OH and animal-derived CH2OH-CHOH-CH2OH because both are the same. The body also does not differentiate between botanical plant-derived glycerin and chemical plant-derived glycerin. The source of the molecules is not remembered and therefore not important.