[Levinovitz's] book feels like a series of essays — thoughtful, engaging forays into realms where the idea of the natural is most abused. It is remarkably wide-ranging. Levinovitz considers childbirth, hunter-gatherer societies, bears and wolves in Yellowstone Park, alternative medicine, 'wellness' brands such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, nature-based metaphors for economic systems, and doping and sex segregation in elite sport ... What knits all this together is his insight, as an American scholar of ethics and religion, that our faith in the power of nature is exactly that: a faith. ... but the book does much more than sneer and scoff — and this is what makes it interesting. Levinovitz is a convert; not to the cult of nature, but at least to respecting its value as a sort of religion ... It is a nuanced conclusion typical of a subtle and serious book.
Levinovitz cautions against pursuing moral answers in nature’s mirror ... Levinovitz gallops through many examples of the natural-equals-goodness association, from bitcoin enthusiasts to bodybuilders. His concluding call is to embrace an idea of nature that is less steadfast and monotheistic – one founded on the admission of 'philosophical confusion', where the criteria for goodness depends on context. This is a useful corrective to lazy thinking.
...a concise and imaginative exploration of the ways that people use and abuse the idea of the natural: sometimes sensibly, to be sure, but more often sloppily or even cynically in order to feel better about themselves, justify their actions and beliefs, or make a quick buck ... One wishes that Mr. Levinovitz had applied his ample learning a bit more systematically to the thorny question of when we’re most justified—health care, perhaps?—in resorting to what is natural as a guide to living. As it is, he provides a reasonable generic answer, which is that there are no hard and fast rules—that living in proper relation to what is natural involves endless compromise, ambiguity and paradox. And what, after all, could be more natural than that?