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March 08, 2012

Comments

I agree. Just because non-human animals often pick the weakest victim among the group to attack does not make it right.

You could shut down the argument with one awkward moment. When they say that some animals are homosexual you can then take it down the slippery slope by saying "Then you have no choice but to accept pedophilia since that is so common among animals with or without homosexual instincts." It should put them at a loss for words.

I believe that any time the word "crime against nature" is used I chuckle a little. That statement would infer that some are admitting there are laws for nature (or even man) that are set in place. And if there are laws then there must be a law giver (moral relativism). Naturalists have a way of proving Gods point for Him without ever knowing what they are doing. See Romans 1:20.

Cute use of supposed-irony there, Malebranche. Since Alan just eschewed the reasoning it doesn't land home though, does it?
But keep salivating to your Pavlovian bells.

The argument is that since animals engage in homosexual behavior that is instinctual, it must be natural for them and, consequently, natural and moral for humans since they are animals too.

I think the entire argument in the OP above is missing something critical. The appeal to "nature/natural law/etc/" has first been made by those who are opposed to homosexuality.

The appeal to nature by the pro-homosexual groups, then, is reactionary, not proactive.

So to your question, So?

If it is the opponents of homosexuality who argue against homosexuality by saying, "It is against nature/biology/natural law..." Then it's a perfectly fair rebuttal for those who affirm homosexuality as moral to say, "Well, wait a minute. If homosexuality is "unnatural," then why does it appear so frequently in nature?"

That is a very different approach then simply arguing, "It appears in nature; therefore, it is moral."

Mal,

While we have had our little chats about divine tolerance and all that, I would caution against that kind of reasoning. Gays are hardly the weakest members in the group, and even if they were, that doesn't mean their gay-ness deserves protection--just the individuals themselves. I mean, the KKK is a weak group in society, too, and heavily stigmatized, does that mean we should condone them? For that matter, Star Trek nerds (just to go with something less inflammatory) are often bullied in school. Does that mean anything about the whether Star Trek is good, bad, or indifferent?

Bennett,

Gays are hardly the weakest members in the group, and even if they were, that doesn't mean their gay-ness deserves protection--just the individuals themselves.

Oh well that's not what I was saying. I was making two points.

First, Alan is absolutely right that just because non-human animals do something, that does not make it right.

Second, the argument in favor of homosexuality that he has successfully attacked is one of the weakest arguments given for the morality of homosexuality and I know of no academic that takes it remotely seriously. Perhaps that's why Rosie O’Donnell and not Thomas Nagel or Martha Nussbaum made an appearance in the OP.

Wow - Malebranche agrees with the OPEN while successfully demeaning the OP at the same time. Great work Mal!

OPEN = OP (spell check)

brgulker has a good point. Personally, I'm a little reluctant to draw conclusions about what is moral and immoral based on what is natural and unnatural. I blogged on it.

Mal,

I think he's making a round robin of quite a few arguments vis a vis homosexuality. Sadly enough, this actually is one that you hear a lot on the street, especially in schools. It sounds 'weak' to you or me, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be dealt with (regardless of one's position on GBLT behavior/rights/etc., it's just a silly argument for *anything*).

@Clive.
Excellent.

Makebranche,
It seems you were really making the point that homosexuals are being attacked. In fact, that seems to have been our only point.
Since you disavow this and say you were actually making two other points I would urge you to seek to demonstrate clarity rather than smug disapproval of everything STR.

YOUR only point *

I second brgulkers opinion.

@ brgulker

I agree with your point, however, there are some in the pro-homosexual movement that use the proactive approach as well. I can't recall how many times I heard a liberal teacher tell us in class, "The Right says its 'unnatural' but homosexuality is present among all animals. So how it is unnatural?". Some even said, "homosexuality is found in all species. But homophobia in one", so this too is based off the proactive stance.

Referring to the animal kingdom for moral guidance just needs to end already.

First it is doubtful that 10% number is true as it would take not a whole lot of nonmating generations to devaste a given population. A repeated steady 10% reduction in reproducing population not to mention predation in the mating and non mating populations sounds like extinction in short order. Not to mention the obvious, namely we probably shouldn't be taking our cues from animals.

brgulker

"Then it's a perfectly fair rebuttal for those who affirm homosexuality as moral to say, "Well, wait a minute. If homosexuality is "unnatural," then why does it appear so frequently in nature?"

I think that it is a mistake to think that homosexuality is only a behavior. It is important to understand that it is also a desire that is directed toward same sex partners. As Alan points out, in the animal kingdom the behavior is not traced back to such a desire, but to other factors. Thus, it is not the very same thing that we observe in human homosexuality. Thus, your statement that we see it in nature is actually inaccurate if we homosexuality with all its characteristics is carefully examined. We have no good evidence that "it appears so frequently in nature" and we have good evidence that other factors are actually responsible for this behavior. So, why opt for acceptance of something without good evidence over something with good evidence?

Sam

"brgulker has a good point. Personally, I'm a little reluctant to draw conclusions about what is moral and immoral based on what is natural and unnatural. I blogged on it."

If God is the creator of all things, then all are his possessions. If he created something to be used in a certain appropriate way, and we are that thing that he created, are we not morally obligated to use US in a manner that he intended since we owe him our very existence? Since it is clear from our physical makeup that our sexuality follows a certain natural teleology that God intended, then to rebel against that design seems to be spitting into God's face and in a way saying that, he who knows all, didn't know what he was doing when he made us. That is an insult to God and I think that homosexuality is just that. It is spitting in god's face and insulting him. How dare we?

Louis,

Have a care not to assume too much about what we're capable of or allowed to do, on account of our apparent teleology. Clearly our anatomies allow for sexual relations with the same gender--and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to line the bits up.

For that matter, even those bonded in holy matrimony certainly have more options available to them than missionary with the lights out. We're limited more by our imaginations and levels of physical conditioning than by teleology. (In fact, Jewish tradition held that between a man and his wife, pretty much anything they do is fair game.)

I'd tend to go more on God's explicit directions vis a vis sex, of which there are very few beyond keeping it within a marriage, rather than reading our schematics and trying to reverse-engineer what we're 'designed for'. No need for such guessing, when we have revealed divine instruction.

I think the whole blog just takes so long to get to the point... The argument can be summed up completely like this ... animals, I.e. dogs and cats both go to the bathroom on my front lawn if I were to try it I would most likely be arrested... so the whole argument of what's natural and or civilized is reduced quickly to the absurd, also who cares if it's natural or not, I'll bet there are genes for being gay or an alcoholic, it's not about what's natural it's about what God says is wrong and he said it both testaments, I've heard Christian converts talk on Christian talk shows most luckily do have or develop an attraction for the opposite sex, the ones that don't say that they know they are simply called to celibacy ... end of discussion!

Bennett

Thanks for a reasonable response.

"Clearly our anatomies allow for sexual relations with the same gender--and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to line the bits up."

I can see how you could argue this, but the full potential of the design can only be realized between a man and a woman. That is to say...pregnancy. It is because of this that lining up the bits is not the only consideration in view. God wants what is best for us and that means attaining our full potential and I think you now understand what I think that full potential is when it comes to human sexuality.

"(In fact, Jewish tradition held that between a man and his wife, pretty much anything they do is fair game.)"

Considering the direction the Israelites were going in at the time Jesus walked among them, it is no wonder he have them sound and well deserved tongue lashings. Just because the Jews did things traditionally, doesn't mean that Jesus approved and I think he was pretty clear about that on more than one occasion.


"I'd tend to go more on God's explicit directions vis a vis sex, of which there are very few beyond keeping it within a marriage, rather than reading our schematics and trying to reverse-engineer what we're 'designed for'. No need for such guessing, when we have revealed divine instruction."

I take it then that you don't think that god is speaking through the design in nature and do not hold to natural revelation? Or am I wrong to assume such a thing?

Louis,

"Just because the Jews did things traditionally, doesn't mean that Jesus approved and I think he was pretty clear about that on more than one occasion."

I can't think of any scriptural references where Jesus corrected that particular teaching. I'm also not familiar with what every Protestant sect teaches (some of the Presbyterians I know are nearly phobic of sex, even for procreation), but my understanding of Catholic social teaching is that, so long as you aren't using contraception, you can pretty much hang from chandeliers if that's what you and the wife find engaging (with the caveat that 'unconventional' forms of stimulation are foreplay, rather than the, ah, main course).

But there is a baseline agreement that sex is purposive--to bond spouses emotionally, to offer sensual pleasure, to produce life, and so on. All of that stuff is expected to be in play, but sometimes the bonding or the pleasure might be more emphasized. I don't see any issue with that. Eating meals together has many purposes, too, and many are exactly the same--pleasure, family bonding, nutrition, etc. Sometimes we just eat because we're hungry though, and sometimes it's a special occasion. But a regular habit of non-nutritious eating, performed for base sensual pleasure (i.e., gluttony), will quickly deprive the organism of health. On the other hand, obsession with nutrition at the expense of taste, or the experience, or conversation, can lead to other tensions. What's the point of just existing on tofu and bean sprouts?

So I don't think there's a problem with a man and woman engaging in sex that's more fun than just trying to make another, so long as their marriage is fruitful, and they remember that fun is only *part* of what sex exists. Those who think it's the only purpose are the ones who think "Well, my Tab A and his slot B line up, so it's all good, right?" is a good argument. I merely cited it to point out that not everyone finds teleology an obvious or persuasive argument, because there's a value difference as far as what sex is for. Just like some folks have no qualms about a diet focused on junk food and sweets, because they only focus on what food tastes like, not its other purposes.

"I take it then that you don't think that [G]od is speaking through the design in nature and do not hold to natural revelation? Or am I wrong to assume such a thing?

As a doctrinal point, I'm somewhat ambivalent towards natural theology. I do accept that, in broad strokes, "The heavens speak to the glory of God", and I also find things like the Cosmological Argument or Fine Tuning to have some use in apologetics (albeit as supplements to a presuppositional or cumulative style of argument, not free-standing proofs unto themselves). That being said, if there are 66 books of Scripture and only one book of Nature, I'd expect Scripture to be more immediately accessible.

God spoke to us through inspired writers and his Son, so that we wouldn't have to go around trying to guess his designs in some sort of reverse-engineering process. We've also got the witness of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts, and the inspired traditions of the Church (if you hold to such things). I look to those things before I try to rely on natural theology, although I do not go so far as some church fathers in dismissing it--some note that it's very easy to get into circular logic and borderline pantheism, from that starting point. Either we mystify Nature (and start spelling it with a capital N, like the Romantics, who were notorious for anthropomorphizing 'Her' to boot) or we build our own assumptions (whether prudish or profligate) about how things work (or are supposed to work) into the conclusions we draw from their apparent functions. I consider that much less reliable than God's explicit instructions--which I boil down to "Marry a woman, love her as Christ loved the church--faithfully and totally, be fruitful and multiply, and bring joy to one another's hearts." Nothing in there about what positions are okay to try out on odd-numbered Tuesdays, and I might even argue that getting hung up on those things (whether for or against) is more problematic than considering them a non-issue in comparison to the higher imperatives. Build up the right attitude and understanding, and the actions will tend to follow suit.

In response to the original question: Yes.

It's natural. Why is this still a question? It is found constantly in nature, and as such, is natural. Now, if you want to use a different word to describe it, (I'd suggest "wrong" or "immoral", since that's what most Christians mean,) you're still wrong, but at least you're not objectively wrong.

NZO,

If not objectively wrong, then how wrong?

Just as wrong as a gay calling heterosexual intercourse "wrong" or "immoral".

Bennet,

Thank you, just, thank you.

I'm still trying to see the logic in people lowering their standards to that of animals in the comparison of homosexual behavior. That would mean that we could unequivocally consign homosexual behaviour to that of animals which live in the Wild. That would mean that homosexuals would naturally have to belong in the Wild, and would naturally have to be TAMED like any other wild animals like a dog,tiger,or tameable animal in order to live among humans. Don't misunderstand me: I'm not calling homosexuals inhuman,but people like,as pointed out,Rosie O'Donnell,seemed to give that impression and interpretation in the justification of human homosexuality in conjunction with that of animals. I don't know if anybody undertsands,but I'll explain it. Most animals NATURALLY behave dangerously in certain and violent ways due to instinct or whatever. So to make them live among us to have as pets,they must be tamed or trained to behave in a certain civilized way to prove less dangerous to humans. So,are we to believe that homosexuality in ANIMALS is outright justification for human gay behaviour to be accepted as natural or moral? Okay,Rosie,if you want us to go that route,then that means as with every other animal living among humans as pets,that people who are homosexuals NATURALLY will need to be TAMED like any other animal. Any animal that has to be trained or tamed means that their NATURAL behaviour is dangerous and unacceptable--in human terms,also morally unacceptable. Hmmm..That logically means that NATURAL homosexual behavior would prove by this very similar comparison to animals that it's a behaviour which calls for complete help,therapy rehabilitation and restoration to civilized normal,unfeared human behaviour. You see where this comparison puts people like Rosie? They end up with their foot in their mouth.

The reductio ad absurdiam argument to cannibalism is what is absurd here. Cannibalism is a practice which can be shown to be immoral without appealing to supernatural sources. There is a high risk of disease transmission when dealing with meat that is of the same species as the consumer. The first HIV infections in Humans, in fact, have been traced to cross-species mutations from gorillas to humans who were hunting the gorillas for meat. In a social society where we also live close together, the regular practice of cannibalism would therefore lead to rampant disease and misery.

Incidentally, you cannot argue that cannibalism is always immoral. There are multiple documented cases in the 20th century of humans engaging in cannibalism because it was required for survival. Under these circumstances, cannibalism could be considered both moral and good because it saved lives.

Even if cannibalism could be considered always immoral, you still must establish that homosexuality and cannibalism are similar moral questions. You haven't done that; You can't claim reductio.

I suspect that the intent is, at least partially, to smear homosexuals by appealing to revulsion that is associated with the practice of cannibalism.

Then what is wrong is not homosexuality, it's the whole idea of deriving a supposedly "natural" law.

If animals (which can't do anything but natural things) do things some of us abhor due to our particularities as humans (specially us westerners lol)

We cannot engage in cherry picking. Being sincere we must accept that there are animals that engage in activities we don't like.

That animals have no elaborate culture (until disproven).

And because of that if animals do something it is natural. ANd that doing something natural is not enough for it to be moral.

Therefore there is no such thing as a teleological sense in the universe accesible to us humans through reason which is the basis for natural law ethical theory.

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