Untrue Things People Believe
This is the seventh article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.
Most people have never heard of the concept of 'natural law,' and are apt to confuse it with what are called 'the laws of nature.' The difference is very important.
The laws of nature are principles determined by the nature of reality itself and include all scientific principles, such as those of physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. They also include those principles that are determined by the nature of things such as life, consciousness, and the human mind. It is because these laws are determined by reality that I call them the laws of reality.
So-called natural law is actually a view of law which is used to justify man-made law.
The primary differences between the laws of reality and man-made law is that the laws of reality must be discovered, not created or dictated; are absolute, meaning no human desire, wish, or action can change them; and they are inviolable, meaning it is impossible defy a law of reality and get away with it.
Man-made laws, on the other hand, are all created and cannot be discovered (except by reading the law books), are never absolute and can be changed by men, and can be and usually are violated.
There is no such thing as natural law, but among academics, jurists, and politicians the concept is widely accepted as true and greatly influences how man-made laws are made and used. There are three versions of so-called natural law: Divine natural law, Secular natural law, Historic natural law.
So-called, "natural law," in any of its varieties, is always invoked when defending man-made laws, as though man-made laws were just recognizing something that already exists naturally. In any of its forms it is a kind of mysticism, a belief in some transcendent basis for man-made laws, when all man-made laws are nothing but the creations of human thinking and imagination, for which "natural law," is used as the cover.
Divine Natural Law
In the West, particularly in the United States, natural law means Divine natural law referring to the "laws of God" as set down in the Bible, but in general can be any so-called "revealed" laws from the Scriptures of any religion from the Koran to the sacred Vedas.
Since most people cling to some superstition or another, this brand of natural law is very influential. Most people believe that man-made laws based on "God's laws" are God's laws, and to obey those man-made laws is the equivalent to obeying God.
The fact that different Gods and Scriptures dictate different laws does not disturb those who believe in Divine natural law, because they simply dismiss the other religions as wrong—all religious do this and there is no arbitrator in this matter.
The one question that is never asked is, "if Divine natural law is actually God's law, why do men have to write laws mimicking them and why do men have to enforce them?" If these laws are the laws of God, and if God doesn't regard them highly enough to enforce them Himself, isn't it presumptuous of men to do what God refuses to do?
Secular Natural Law
So-called Secular natural law attempts to bypass the idea of laws being dictated by a supreme being but assuming laws are simply conforming to the requirements of nature. At first blush they seem similar to the laws of nature and no attempt is made to eliminate that confusion.
The usual example of a proponent of Secular natural law is John Locke wrote about man in a state of nature, before there was human government and man-made laws. Unfortunately, Locke was a theist and believed the laws of nature were themselves created by God so, at least for Locke, Secular natural law was just as much dictated by God as Divine natural law, except that they were not dictated in a Scripture, but in nature itself.
Historic Natural Law
Historic natural law is based on a kind of evolution of law, the belief that law must conform to tradition, established moral values, and customs developed over the course of civilized history. The fact that history is mostly a record of human decadence, the failures of most civilizations, and government atrocities, particularly during the bloodiest century in history so far, the twentieth century, using past moral failures in law as a basis for law in a the future is a certain recipe for disaster.
Real Law Versus Man-Made Law
Real law is determined by the nature of reality itself. The difference between real law and man-made law is so important I've decided to do a separate article on that subject alone. It will be the next one in this series.
For the remainder of this article I will point out the first four differences between real law and man-made law, which all so-called versions of natural law are.
1. Real law does not need to be enforced by any human action or agency because reality itself enforces its laws. Man-made laws can only be enforced by men and the usual agency of the enforcement is a government, although religious institutions and other gangs are sometimes the enforcement agencies.
2. Real law cannot be defied or ignored without consequence. Man-made laws are defied and ignored all the time without consequence.
3. Real law is identified in terms of principles by which right and wrong can be determined in every appropriate context. Man-made laws consist of specific prohibitions and obligations without regard to any context.
4. Real law must be discovered. Man-made law cannot be discovered because it is not based on any evidence that can be examined, but on the pronouncements of men.
True morality means living in conformance with real law. It is not obedience, the laws of reality are not commandments but the principles by which one directs their life in agreement with reality; it is in fact a life devoted to the truth.