« If God Is Good | Main | Facing Suffering »

June 13, 2012

Comments

In the words of Feser (who may have been paraphrasing Aristotle or Aquinas), "A dog with three legs is still a dog. It is not somehow a different sort of thing because it is missing a leg." That is, the exception is does not make anything "natural."

First, the observation is flawed because it assumes that erotic behavior in other mammals is the same as homosexual desire in human beings.
And you're assuming the opposite. There are some individuals who, like the dog, will mate with both male and female (or a couch). What's unnatural about homosexuals, then, is not that they have homosexual relations but that they don't have heterosexual relations as well. To the extent you've shown that homosexuality is not natural you've shown that bisexuality is perfectly natural.
Secondly, the view asserts that simply because the condition “occurs in nature” it is “natural.”
I'm not sure that's what's being asserted. The goal is to show that there is "naturally occurring" homosexuality among species other than humans that are largely ruled by heredity and instinct as opposed to rational choice. If it's commonplace for some members of various animal species to be born with a predisposition toward homosexuality (i.e. the same-sex attraction is "naturally occurring") then why should we be surprised if the same were true for humans?
A natural sexual desire, then, is a desire that serves to accomplish a sexual goal in the primitive order of things.
The apologist for homosexuality would say instead that a natural sexual desire is one that occurs "naturally" in the wild without having been caused by any special circumstance (e.g. human intervention, trauma, chemical disruption, etc.) If it is the case that every 100th lion exhibits same-sex attraction then it would be reasonable to say homosexuality is "naturally occurring" among lions.

I spent a summer working with "male oriented rams" doing behavioral testing etc. http://www.biolreprod.org/content/55/1/120.long

You can put a ewe in estrus with these rams and they will not mount, but if another male is introduced, they will mount the other ram. This is found "naturally", but may be a result of our fallen and cursed world.
Female cows mount each other. The cow being mounted is in estrus and the cow who mounts her is usually about to be in estrus. Female cows mounting each other may help the bull identify females ready to breed in a large field or range situation.

The issue isn't if animals display homosexual behavior or not- they certainly do, but animals are amoral. They are also promiscuous and have sex before marriage.

Just because animals display a behavior does not mean it isn't sinful if people do the same behavior- that's the point... not that it isn't found naturally in the animal kingdom.

I agree that just because something is natural, does not make it right. Murder and infanticide are natural and ubiquitous in human cultures.

While dogs may or may not exhibit same gender eroticism, other animal species arguably do. Bonobos immediately come to mind.

If humans and other animals share a common ancestor (and the genetic and paleontological record overwhelming argue for this), then it makes sense that numerous natural animal behaviors might be found naturally among humans. The church father Gregory of Nissa in his treatise "On the Making of Man" makes a similar argument when he speculates that various sins originate in the natural actions of certain animals. The moral status of such actions is a different question.

"The primitive natural purpose of sex" is not limited to reproduction. Scientists have observed homosexuality and bisexuality among various animals species where the purpose seems to be social bonding/adjustment.

I am not arguing that homosexuality for humans is right. But I do assert that the argument against homosexuality being a natural phenomenon is a losing proposition. While I don't think it has been adequately demonstrated thus far, I would not be surprised if convincing evidence comes out later (pardon the pun) supporting homosexuality as a natural human behavior.

Good article! I was with you til the 2nd to last paragraph. You wrote, "Further, wouldn’t one consider it unnatural if someone had eyes, but couldn’t see, or ears and couldn’t hear?  Why is it then deemed natural to have male genitals, but be dispositionally incapable of using them to accomplish their reproductive purpose with the opposite sex?"

I might be wrong but this seems to open a very large proverbial "can of worms".

Nature does produce scenarios where eyes, ears, and other body parts are present but unable to function "properly". While such cases are not normative, they do exist and are therefore natural.

In the case of same gender attraction, the reproductive organs continue to function "properly" but to no avail. Much like a key in the wrong lock, it's still a key but it is unable to complete its real job. However taking this road of logic, I'm left with two questions:

#1- What would the "natural" difference be in using any type of preventative method?
#2- Wouldn't using any form of birth control be considered "unnatural" and, therefore, equally as "unacceptable" as same gender attraction?

I apologize if my questions change the direction of your post but these are sincere concerns I'm having in trying to rightly understand same gender attraction.

Does the animal kingdom display this kind of same-gender eroticism? When a male dog mounts another male dog, is it because he’s attracted to the male gender of the other dog? I don’t think so. This same poor pooch will slavishly mount sofas or shrubs or anything else available, including the leg of your dinner guest. None of these things are the object of the canine’s sexual lust; they are merely the subject of it. The dog does not desire your unfortunate visitor. He simply desires to be stimulated. It doesn’t prove they have same-sex attraction that is in any way parallel with humans.

Greg, you're attacking a strawman.

Fortunately, we don't have to rely on anecdotes. We can rely on a mountain of scientific evidence, where variables have been carefully controlled. We know for a fact that in the animal kingdom same sex attraction happens, and it's linked directly to genetics.

Why not tackle that very real, very thorny, very difficult issue instead of creating your own strawman to knock over without any real effort?

I have to agree with Brgulker among others on here. Of Course homosexual behavior happens in nature, and as you are probably aware there are many people who will hump almost anything and do it often. I think the question should be if it happens in nature does this make it acceptable human behavior? I would think most people would say “no.”

A few examples:

If you have ever seen ducks mate it is not a pretty sight. They gang rape a very unwilling female, sometimes to the point of killing her. This happens in nature, so gang raping women should be an acceptable practice?

Caleb mentioned Bonobos. Bonobos don’t just have hetero and homosexual sex. They also have sex with their children and their siblings. Hey, it happens in nature; sex with kids and incest are now okay?

Other primates have been witnessed having sex with other species groups. And as Greg pointed out Dogs will have sex with pretty much anything. I guess this makes bestiality okay now as well?

Praying mantis or black widow spider, anyone? It happens in nature.

I think it should be more difficult of an argument for homosexuals if they say it happens in nature, because acceptable practices in nature have rarely been acceptable among humans.

As hung up on homosexuality as STR is, one would have thought that at least once they would have argued for their own position on the morality of the behavior. As far as I can tell, however, no such arguments have been given (is anyone aware of any?). Most of their discussion centers around same-sex marriage and responding to the most common (i.e., the dumbest) arguments one might hear in favor of the morality of homosexuality. It’s pretty clear that Koukl thinks that all homosexual sex is immoral. Furthermore, I’d bet that Koukl believes that human homosexual sex is something that could not have been anything but immoral. I doubt Koukl thinks that it just so happens to be immoral, but could have been perfectly fine from a moral perspective. In other words, I bet Koukl believes the following:

The Strong Homosexuality Proscription (SHP): Necessarily, all human homosexual sex is immoral.

This raises two questions. First, what reason does Koukl have for believing the SHP? Second, what is it about human homosexual sex that makes it in principle immoral?

Suppose Koukl defended the SHP on the grounds that God has forbidden humans from engaging in homosexual sex. This reply would be pretty unhelpful. It would fail to enlighten us as to what it is about homosexual sex that gave God reason to forbid it. What is it about two girls kissing each other and having sex that is so abhorrent to God? It is possible that Koukl would wish to say that what makes homosexual sex necessarily immoral is just that it is forbidden by God. But notice that this commits Koukl not only to the view that God has proscribed all human homosexual sex, but that in every possible world containing human homosexual sex God has proscribed that kind of sex. What reason does Koukl have to think that is true? That is a far stronger claim than the claim that as a matter of fact God has proscribed human homosexual sex. And what is it about human homosexual sex itself that gives God reason to proscribe it in every world in which it occurs? Finally, there is the fact that unless one is already prepared to take some highly disputable stance in favor of the status of some book as divine revelation, there is no good reason to believe that God has in fact issued such proscriptions.

Suppose Koukl defended the SHP on the grounds that homosexual sex is physically noisome. This would clearly be inadequate, since not all homosexual sex is physically noisome (let us not be sore tiresome as to forget that not all homosexual sex is between two males one of which is carrying an STD!), and since it is certainly not true that it is necessarily true that all homosexual sex is physically unhealthy. Furthermore, I doubt that other activities that are clearly physically harmful (e.g., boxing) would be regarded by Koukl as in principle immoral. As often as conservative evangelicals take refuge in concerns about health, it is clearly a mere distraction and smokescreen incapable of supporting the opinion they actually have on the issue. Even if through technological innovation all human homosexual sex were rendered as safe physically as it could be, conservative evangelicals would still think homosexual sex is immoral, because they believe that SHP is true.

Koukl might defend the SHP on the grounds that all human homosexual sex is psychologically harmful. If he wishes to go that route, it is reasonable of us to ask him what psychological harms are such that they are the necessary concomitants of all human homosexual sex. If the harms are not the necessary concomitants of this activity, but only happen to be contingently correlated with human homosexual sex, then we will still not know why homosexual sex is immoral in those possible worlds where the relevant psychological harms are not attendant to all human homosexual sex. Furthermore, this defense ignores the fact that for many people with a homosexual orientation, there may be serious and even worse psychological harms attendant to not pursuing a romantic homosexual relationship with another person. I think this is in fact the case, but even if there is some possible but non-actual world in which it is true, that is enough to pose trouble for this way of defending the SHP, since the SHP, if true, is true in all possible worlds containing human homosexual sex. In these cases, even if it is shown that psychological harms are attendant to human homosexual sex, that will not give us reason to think avoiding psychological harm is what makes the proscription against homosexual sex intelligible, since avoiding such activity in these cases actually results in more psychological harm. What reason do we have to think there could not possible be such cases?

What would be more interesting by far than a series engaging the dumbest arguments in favor of homosexuality is a series arguing for the truth of the SHP, since the SHP is what most conservative evangelicals actually believe and are almost entirely unable to adequately defend.

I believe part of Greg’s point is the distinction of what the nature of sexual attraction means as it relates to humans and animals. I don’t see how this point is overlooked so easily by some posters.

Since when do we consult animal behavior on anything as it relates to morality / societal benefits / acceptable behavior? Watch the National Geographic channel and pick out what you’d like to apply to your life. The unfortunate thing is that we’ll latch on to anything if we can justify some sort of behavior. People that rationalize behavior by referring to the animal kingdom just don’t understand what they’re doing.

Animals do so many things that are by definition natural simply because they do it. They hunt each other, they eat feces, and their instincts override most everything. So what?

The idea that we can cheer ourselves up because other animals do it is terribly misguided.


Just heard about another 'Christian' come out in support of same-sex marriage--Carrie Underwood. And I quote, "As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love, and want to marry," she said. "Above all, God wanted us to love others. It's not about setting rules, or [saying] 'everyone has to be like me.' No, we're all different. That's what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It's not up to me to judge anybody." It's so frustrating and sad that so many 'Christians' use these kinds of lines. Underwood said it was her 'Christian faith' that led her to support this issue. On one hand I"m frustrated, yet on another, I'm saddened at the lack of understanding so many 'Christians' have on this issue, and I'm emboldened to keep praying and utilizing ministries like STR to help spread the word. We are in a battle and our job is to be faithful!

KWM

"Animals do so many things that are by definition natural simply because they do it. They hunt each other, they eat feces, and their instincts override most everything. So what?

The idea that we can cheer ourselves up because other animals do it is terribly misguided."

Good points! I just think that someone would have to be awfully depressed to cheer himself up by thinking he is on the level of feces eating and cannibalism. Thinking like that is more likely to lead to depression and suicide, if he thinks that is the best he can do. Hey! Wait, isn't suicide rate high in the gay community? Well, now we know what kind of thinking leads to that. So, why should we encourage more of the same?

It's amazing though how often the whole male dog thing will come up. My reply is given the opportunity my dogs eat their own poo - that usually ends that conversation.

In response to Jeff G, who posted the following:

"The Strong Homosexuality Proscription (SHP): Necessarily, all human homosexual sex is immoral."

"This raises two questions. First, what reason does Koukl have for believing the SHP? Second, what is it about human homosexual sex that makes it in principle immoral?"

The answer to these two questions is the same: God created humans male and female and His design purpose is for only a male and a female who are married to each other to have sex. Any exception to this standard is sin, that is it violates God's intended purpose for sex. That's the reason for believing the SHP.

God created humans male and female and His design purpose is for only a male and a female who are married to each other to have sex. Any exception to this standard is sin, that is it violates God's intended purpose for sex. That's the reason for believing the SHP.

Even if this bald assertion about God's design plan is true, SHP does not follow. From the mere fact that God had design plan D when creating humans it in no way follows that in all possible worlds where God creates humans, God has that design plan. At most what this would show is that, as a matter of fact, human homosexual sex is not in accord with God's design plan. But it does not yet follow that Necessarily, all human homosexual sex fails to accord with God's design plan. The gist of what I just stated was contained in my original comment.

It is also important to note that just because God designed something to perform some function F, it does not follow that it is immoral to use that thing to perform some other function. Our ears may be designed by God for hearing, but it is not immoral to use them for other purposes, like wiggling them in order to make children laugh. Our mouths may have been designed by God for speaking and eating/drinking, but it does not follow from this that it is immoral to use our mouths for other purposes (e.g., writing with a pen in your mouth because you have no arms). Similarly, even if human reproductive equipment was designed for heterosexual sex, it in no way follows from this that it is immoral to use reproductive organs in other ways. So, even if you showed that in every possible world God designs human reproductive equipment for heterosexual sex, it still does not follow that SHP is true.

It could be that what you are saying when talking about God's design is just that homosexual sex is contrary to God's moral will, a moral will that Golds in all possible worlds. But that is the very thing at issue, and merely finding circuitous ways of restating SHP in no way explains what it is that God finds morally abhorrent about homosexual sex. It can't just be that homosexual sex does not fulfill the function of the reproductive organs, for the reasons indicated in the previous paragraph.

So, quite apart from the highly dubious and wholly unsupported claims about God's design plan for human sex, your comments either fail to show that SHP is true or else merely restate SHP in other language and so provides no independent support for SHP.

Malebranche

"Our mouths may have been designed by God for speaking and eating/drinking, but it does not follow from this that it is immoral to use our mouths for other purposes (e.g., writing with a pen in your mouth because you have no arms). Similarly, even if human reproductive equipment was designed for heterosexual sex, it in no way follows from this that it is immoral to use reproductive organs in other ways. So, even if you showed that in every possible world God designs human reproductive equipment for heterosexual sex, it still does not follow that SHP is true."

It is a bit of a different thing when it comes to sex since God commanded that we be fruitful and multiply. When design is accompanied with a command on how that design must be used, a violation is a far more grave a thing. It is not a question of doing a multitude of good things with, say your mouth or ear example, but to do something that is in direct violation of a command from God takes it to a completely different moral level. Homosexuals are in direct, willful, and, arrogantly proud rebellion against this command to be fruitful and multiply. God does not tolerate rebellion in other areas, why should he in this?

By the way, I should have written, "Even if you show that in every possible world in which God designs human reproductive equipment, he designs it for heterosexual sex, it still does not follow that SHP is true."

Anyway, Louis has merely asserted that in addition to the divine design plan for human sexuality, God has commanded us to not have homosexual sex. But this yet again obviously fails to explain what God finds so morally abhorrent about homosexual sex. If God had created pencils in order that we would write with them, and in addition to this prohibited that we use pencils for any other purpose, merely saying "God has commanded us to use pencils only for writing" would in no way explain what God finds morally abhorrent about using pencils for other purposes. Similarly, merely repeating that God has proscribed homosexual sex does nothing at all to explain what it is that God finds so morally abhorrent about it.

Furthermore, we still have no reason to believe that SHP is true. Louis says that God has prohibited homosexual sex. Let us suppose that this is true, and let us suppose that this is what makes homosexual sex wrong. It still does not follow that in every possible world in which there is homosexual sex, that sex is wrong. This does not follow because we have been given no reason to think that in every possible world in which there is the capacity for homosexual sex, God has prohibited homosexual sex. Nothing Louis says entails that this is the case.

Finally, Louis says that God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. Louis says that homosexuals do not obey this command. But do Catholic priests obey this command? Is everyone on earth morally obligated to try to have children? Were Paul and Jesus obligated to have children? If the reply is, "No, but we are morally obligated to not have sex in ways that aren't conducive to reproduction," then I would wonder if Louis would also think that all oral sex between married couples is morally abhorrent. Is there any danger of STR or the conservative evangelical community going on a moral crusade against oral sex? I doubt it. But unlike homosexuality, oral sex (like condom use) is by now also a conservative evangelical phenomenon, so this is not very surprising. Homosexuality is threatening to conservative evangelicals because its acceptance is a sign of their decreasing cultural influence. Prevalent condom use, however, threatens them in no such way.

It sure is strange that when talking about cutting a woman's hand off as punishment for trying to protect her husband (Dt. 25:11-12), conservative evangelicals see nothing morally atrocious about doing this so long as one is an ancient Israelite of a certain sort and in a certain context; but when it comes to two women having sex non-violent, consentual sex, they get quite morally indignant about it. That's a sure sign that all moral sense has been sacrificed in order to defend silly dogmas.

"When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11, 12 ESV)

Oh yes, Dt. 25:11-12.
I remember when Malebranche first discovered that passage.

I offered him this reading at the time. He didn't bother himself with it.

http://jss.oxfordjournals.org/content/49/1/47.abstract

Calling homosexuality "natural" is like an audio engineer trying to connect two male-tipped XLR audio cables together and expect to get sound. Not gonna happen. You must have a female-tipped cable to make the connection and transmit the signal. That's the only way it's designed,

I like when naturalists use the 'only natural' argument. Everything is natural according to their worldview - murder, lying, oh, and intolerance.

The only reason Carrie Underwood supports same-sex marriage is so she won't lose any royalties. If she were to come out and condemn same-sex marriage, not only would her CD sales drop, but her reputation would suffer as well.

Malebranch

"But this yet again obviously fails to explain what God finds so morally abhorrent about homosexual sex."

I guess I will have to spell it out. Would you consider it a good thing to do if you bought a brand new car for your son and he refused to drive it or wold you consider it an insult? What if he decided to use it to ram it into your car in a fit of rage? Would you find it morally abhorrent or would you just pat him on the back and say "Nice job son...you did good." Well?

Malebranche

Just in case my explanation is not clear enough, I will explain its point. It is that the intentional and willful misuse or refusal to actually use it in the way it was intended, but to use it in a way that will intentionally insult, the giver of the gift is like pissing on the gift you were given. Why would anyone consider that kind of behavior in response to a gift anything but an evil act?

I believe it's called anthropomorphism however its one thing to put human attributes to animals like calling them gay, its another thing altogether to use certain animal behaviours as moral guidelines for humans.

Two things:

1. Malebranch stated: "But this yet again obviously fails to explain what God finds so morally abhorrent about homosexual sex."

It would appear that he is trying to invoke Euthyphro's Dilemma in a roundabout way. Understand the response to this (particularly Greg's) and you understand that this part of MB's argument falls flat.

2. Malebranch's use of Deut 25:11-12 as an argument against anything we might learn from the Levitical law: J. Warner Wallace had a pretty good response to this a couple weeks ago. All punishments stated in the law are null and void now, but when God stated something is wrong, then it is wrong (it went something like that). Cutting a hand off clearly falls under the former and homosexuality falls under the latter (I don't think anybody would have a problem with equivocating something being called an abomination with calling it wrong).

Some penguins practice homosexual behavior. It's natural for them. They also practice necrophilia (they have sex with the dead penguins), they also practice pedophilia (they have sex with their own young), they also practice rape, all this comes natural to them. Should we suppose that since the animal kingdom practices a certain sexual behavior that humans should be free to practice the same? I think not!
citation for the penquin behavior- http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/11/penguins-explicit-sex-acts-shocked-polar-explorer/

Well, all the talk of the sex act is one thing, but it ignores the deeper issue of relationship. Heterosexual promiscuity is equally damaging to relationship as homosexual promiscuity. Saying that nature exibits homosexualality is entirely false, if it did, those species would not survive the lack of reproduction.

Homosexual proponents in modern day argue for respect based on stability, beneficial behavior, fulfilling emotionally/physically/physiologically, none of which has ever been demonstrated nor will ever be because it is contra human nature. It is a expression of less than, not equality. The fact that the hererosexual community has sorely failed to hold marraige in high regard doesn't give brownie points to imposter relationships.

Again, discussing this as though it were merely a physical act misses the deeper issues around the fullest expression of humanness [especially as God has revealed it to be in His use of the act of marraige].

I don't think gay advocacy groups argue that what is natural is moral. What they are doing is countering the Christian argument that homosexuality is immoral because it is unnatural. Since it is absolutely not unnatural the Christian argument doesn't follow. Greg just takes that and turns it into a straw man. He pretends they are arguing that natural=moral. Not true. It's only that your argument that it is immoral is unsound.

So why think homosexuality is immoral? Doesn't hurt others. Brings pleasure. Brings familial stability. There's only one reason to think it's wrong. A bronze age holy book full of errors says it is. This reasoning is not going to stand the test of time.

Jon,

You mentioned familial stability being attributed to same sex relationships. Could you explain this for me?

Also you said, "There's only one reason to think it's wrong. A bronze age holy book full of errors says it is. This reasoning is not going to stand the test of time."

1. Is Christianity the only religion/culture that rejects homosexuality as normal?

2. What errors are you refering to?

3. "Standing the test of time", are you assuming this is a new issue?

Sure. Two parents makes parenting easier.

1-No, but for most people that think it's wrong posting here it's due to this bronze age holy book.

2-Too many to list.

3-No.

You didn't address my point though. Greg is presenting a straw man.

Jon

"So why think homosexuality is immoral? Doesn't hurt others."

It does hurt others. It hurt those who died of aids and that is both homosexuals and those who were not. It continues today. It does hurt people. In addition, it is like you giving me a birthday present of the most expensive china in the world and I use it to go to toilet on it. That kind of misuse of a gift is morally reprehensible and is analogous of misuse of the gift of sexuality god gave us. Of course cheating on your spouse is just as bad.

Does that take out the mystery of why it is dead wrong? Not only wrong, but disgustingly ugly.

Is it not obvious that homosexuality occurs in nature? Ask them.

Second, the defense that I have heard given by a friend of mine is that homosexuality is natural and therefore God approved. Because God designed the human body. Of course, we can get into how some are born with defects and certain attractions. Which may or may not be in line with God's original plan.

All that, though, seems secondary to the simple fact that God prohibits premarital sex and that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I don't see the point in discussing the equal merits of hetero and homo sexual relations. Yes! They both are very pleasurable. I am sure. And yes, they both happen in contemporary nature. BUT God would rather us all control our passions and live for Him, unmarried. 1 Cor. 7:7

If you do not hold that Christ rose from the dead then it seems to me that there is no reason why anyone should prohibit any same sex unions of any kind. If you do, however, scripture seems very clear.

The comments to this entry are closed.