Sunday, June 14, 2009

My response to two arguments against homosexuality

In a comment to a previous blog post, Laughing Boy provided two reasons why secular society should reject homosexuality. First, that homosexuality is unnatural (as is doesn't allow for procreation); and second, that homosexuality is dangerous to society, because sexually transmitted diseases (SDTs) reduce the life-span of those involved in homosexual partnerships.

This got me thinking, and below is my response to these two arguments:

Homosexuality is unnatural
This argument wrongly assumes that if something is natural, then it is always beneficial or desirable. When it comes to human behavior, nature does not have to be prescriptive. If humans obeyed the 'natural order', we would have never been able to halt cancer with 'unnatural' chemotherapy, correct bad eyesight with 'unnatural' laser treatments, or develop 'unnatural' legal systems that discourage humans from using the type of violence we observe in the animal world. As humans, we owe much of our comfort and health to the 'unnatural'.

And the fact that nature is not prescriptive is also evident in human relationships: procreation, for many couples, is not the primary reason why they marry; they think outside the biological box and decide not to have children. Also, many heterosexual couples marry, despite the fact that they can't have children due to medical reasons. These couples choose not to adhere to the 'natural order'. Does it follow then that they should be banned from marrying in the first place?

And this whole argument is plagued by the question: how do we decide what is natural? One can easily argue that homosexuality is perfectly natural, because, by definition, humans are a part of nature, and thus everything we do must be natural. One can also argue that animals never sign marriage contracts, so marriage in itself is unnatural, and thus should be banned. Without a proper definition of 'natural', one can appeal to nature to argue against (or for) any kind of behavior.

Homosexuality is dangerous
HIV/AIDS and other STDs might be the cause of many deaths within the homosexual community, but does this make homosexuality dangerous? I would argue that it's not homosexuality that is the problem, but the sexual habits of homosexuals in general. Safe, responsible sex is an option that can significantly reduce the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. If all homosexual and heterosexual couples practiced safer sex, the harm to society would be reduced.

17 comments:

CyberKitten said...

The 'not natural' argument always gets me. Either we humans are part of the nutural order and therefore anything we do is natural or you have to admit that much of what we do is unnatural - including communicating with each other over international distances via this very medium.

Homosexuality exists in other creatures apart from ourselves and many people (of all genders) use sex for recreational purposes. Procreation is only one reason for sex and arguably not the most important one.

A comment from the film 'Milk' made me laugh when the main character was confronted with this argument. He asked if by unnatural they meant homosexual men couldn't have children. That's right, his opponent said. Milk replied that it was true - but it didn't stop them trying!

Simon said...

Hi Kevin. I agree with your comments but I'd like to add that sex is not and presumably never has been just for the sole purpose of having children. Most people have some kind of sexual desire and most respond to it in some way. But most people do not want to have children most of the time! Sex is fun, recreation, an expression of love, lots of things aside from procreation.

Secondly, lots of things are dangerous, driving cars, crossing roads, hunting animals, working in mines, etc. Most HIV in African countries is spread by heterosexual sex, which is another dangerous thing. It's true that people should be careful, but that applies to everyone equally.

It seems like people arguing against homosexuality think they have a better case when they use two fallacious arguments rather than one. They are wrong.
S

Denise said...

The not being able to procreate argument cracks me up. My parents have been married for over 40 years and have 4 children. I can assure that even though they haven't procreated in over 30 years that they still enjoy each other sexually. By the argument presented people who are past child bearing age or who can't have children shouldn't be allowed to get married or have sex, either.

The 2nd comment makes no sense whatsoever. The person obviously hasn't done their research on STD's.

Sarah said...

Good response to the homosexuality issue. Those have to be the weakest arguements against homosexuality. Although with the STD issue, it's debatable. Some believe that homosexual practices when monogamous breed STDs and most still believe it is solely where AIDS stemmed from. Some may also quote the "unnatural" sexual intercourse between the two and that their practices in almost all cases create painful bleeding and hemmorhoids in the penetration sight.

I think that Christians who wish to argue the homosexual issue is best to not try to push it into the secular society. You can hardly convert people by picking at their doctrines, you usually should start with the main issue: God, and work from there.

The best argument I have seen against homosexuality is a bilical argument such as the one by Webb "Women, Slaves, and Homosexuals." But even that has a VERY key flay that may shatter the Biblical world unless evidence supports itself to say otherwise.

One key and very curious question though, I've seen often this stated and supposed "fact" that animals engage in homosexual practices for recreational purposes. I have never seen sources and scientific studies on this. For one, it seems sex in itself is only done for two purposes: procreation and domination. Homoerotic practices only the later. I'm open to a different view of course, if it can be proved.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't consentual and emotionally equal love be the tie that binds, rather than the law's/church's certificates or society's expectations? If so, this kind of love crosses race, religion, family expectations, and gender. We should be estatic when people have this kind of connection and not get in its way!

There is the argument that love and sex are two different entities. Fully understandable. But what seperates human desire from animal desire is the ability to think ahead.
We are able to analyze psychological ramifications of irresponsible sex based on a long history of human behaviors, deducing that there should be restrictions on how we treat sex. (i.e., how to avoid STDs, pregnancy, emotional responsibility, etc...)
To tell an individual HOW to have sex is another story! With religion thrown into the mix which restricts sex to marriage, or solely between opposite genders, or race, just seems very unnatural.

And aren't we more like animals when we fight over sex and use it for power, to control or restrict others?
~Dar

desiderius said...

If you think a vagina and an anus are inter-changeable sex organs, good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Desiderius,
Think of sex like learning how to drive (no pun intended). You should know the rules of the road, how to read the signs, safety precautions, and how the vehicle operates. Basically, just be knowledgeable before you get on the road. Some people prefer driving big white pickup trucks versus little red sports cars, but it's all still driving...and we're all on the same road. Stay out of each other's lanes and you'll be fine.
~Dar

Laughing Boy said...

I had hoped that someone would engage me on my assertion that a gay person is not being denied any rights granted to a straight person. I guess everybody agrees. My 3 reasons were thrown in to address Kevin's question more directly and were not given much forethought. Nonetheless, I believe those reasons are valid and can be defended from the pea-shooter attacks to which they've been subjected.

:-)

As soon as I get the chance I'll respond.

desiderius said...

And driving on someone's tail can be dangerous.

desiderius said...

But seriously ...

When it comes to human behavior, nature does not have to be prescriptive. If humans obeyed the 'natural order', we would have never been able to halt cancer with 'unnatural' chemotherapy, correct bad eyesight with 'unnatural' laser treatments, or develop 'unnatural' legal systems that discourage humans from using the type of violence we observe in the animal world. As humans, we owe much of our comfort and health to the 'unnatural'.
In terms of Christian theology, death and disease are an intrusion into God's created order, as a result of sin, and therefore should be combatted, where posssible.

These couples choose not to adhere to the 'natural order'. Does it follow then that they should be banned from marrying in the first place?
What is at issue is not procreation, but the fact that God created two sexes only: male and female. As Jesus pointed out, marriage is a result of this fact; procreation is not the primarily reason.

And this whole argument is plagued by the question: how do we decide what is natural?
This is the key issue. If you work on a naturalistic presupposition, homosexuality is "natural". If you work on a Christian one, it is not. (Or perhaps I should say that a natural presupposition does not automatically result in homosexuality being viewed as natural, as many pre-Christian thinkers did not view homosexuality, as it is understood today, as natural.)

If all homosexual and heterosexual couples practiced safer sex, the harm to society would be reduced.
Monogamous heterosexual (ie, as God intended it, in marriage only) is not dangerous. Sex in any other context is invariably risky.

Sarah said...

LaughingBoy, you challenged others to read your initial post and combat it. You claim no one did anything more than a "pea-shooter"attempt, yet you did not combat the arguments provided by Kevin at all. By name-calling someone's argument, you very unfairly dismiss it.

However, I read your argument, and I do have things to say.

"In other words, why should we have civil laws that run counter to natural laws?"

Your assumption is that natural is better. Although Kevin combatted this nicely with the cancer dilemna, I'll further say that in a Christian perspective you need to ask yourself first "what is natural" and second "why isnatural preferrable?"

The usual "natural order" that Christians fall on is the creation. We assume that since God created "good" nothing can be "great." This poorly limits God. It's basically saying that the best God could do, He did in Creation and nothing better can be accomplished in this world. This is poor assumption, and is surely never said in the Bible.

Furthermore, if Creation is the perfect example of how life should be lived, than you are saying that all that was in Creation is transcultural. I'll give examples of issues addressed in the Creation order that we certainly do not consider transcultural and "perfect". My resource is "Slaves, Woman, and Homosexuals" by William J. Webb, a Christian author who is against homosexuality yet deals with the issue very well. Specific pages: 123-125

1. Singleness. Since Eden protrays a marriage situation, one can very easily assume that it is God's will for every man and woman to be married to a single partner. To be single is therefore outside of God's will.

2. Farming as an occupation. Eden portrays an agricultral reality, and Adam was commanded to till the ground and eat it's produce.

3. Vegatiran diet. Although one can say that just because the scripture do not say they ate meat, it doesn't mean they did not, it seems that they only ate plant material. God gave the plants for them to eat, and did not give animals officially until later.

4.Sabaath. The 10 Commandments appeal to Creation for the sabaath rule. The Sabaath of course being Sunday and with no work at all to be done.

I could keep going, but the point is clear.

"The state should be interested in discouraging behavior that cuts 30-40 years off the life span of it's male population."

There are many things that cut life span. But we're human, and we have a choice. We do many unwise things every day. Do you know how much McDonald's cuts your lifespan? Surely you don't wish to know, but I would say nation should greatly discourage eating there! Having children is extremely dangerous to women, so we should discourage this too.

Just becase something is dangerous, does not mean we should not do it. It may be unwise, as is sky diving, but hey, we're human and sky diving can be fun for some of us. It's what makes us marvelously curious humans.

"Homosexuality is a sin."

As is having sex while the woman is menstruating. Although the bible says neither is a sin. The Bible calls homosexuality an abomination, a word usually given for idol worship (which raises and connects it to the issue I stated in a previous post, please read) and gives it the punishment of death. However, the death penalty is also given to children who back-mouth their parents. Many children would be dead today if we still followed this law, now we understand that children will be children and grow out of it. I cursed my parents many times, if they killed me then, they wouldn't be able to enjoy the very loving, mature, adult woman that I am to them now. =)

Your statement on gay people not being denied rights is not completely true yet in the United States. Some states do not allow marriages yet, nor marital rights. Our president is apparently working on that though. But the homosexual issue is debated still because of people's religious beliefs and wishes to revoke the laws giving rights to homosexuals to marry.

Laughing Boy said...

Sarah: LaughingBoy, you challenged others to read your initial post and combat it. You claim no one did anything more than a "pea-shooter"attempt, yet you did not combat the arguments provided by Kevin at all.

First, I put a smiley face after my pea-shooter comment, which means I was at least half-joking. Second, I said I'd reply when I got the chance. Third, thanks for taking up the rights issue. Here's my reply to you on that point. Is it true that a gay person is denied the right to marry in the US? No. Am I as a heterosexual allowed to marry someone of my sex? No. The same rules apply to all. Please point out which right is being denied the gay person in particular.

Now, I'll reply to Kevin. If I get the chance I'll reply to your outstandingly solid arguments.

:-)

Kevin:
In your reply to my first point, you take the position that homosexuality is unnatural, but point out that, even so, it does not follow from that that homosexuality is wrong. Chemotherapy and laser eye surgery are offered as examples of unnatural things that benefit society, i.e. are good. A couple questions come to mind.

1) In what sense are chemotherapy and laser eye surgery unnatural? What types medical intervention would be natural? The sense in which I used the term natural was that of "intended purpose". In this sense chemotherapy and laser eye surgery are natural. In the same sense of the term, homosexual acts are not natural. Even if we agree that reproduction is not the only purpose of sex, it remains, arguably, the primary purpose, one that homosexual sex is incapable of fulfilling.

2) Even if we agree that certain medical treatments are unnatural, but good, it doesn't follow that unnatural sex is good. It is a strange good that, if practiced by all members of a society, would lead to its complete demise in little more than one generation. Nor is homosexual sex good when viewed from the state's perspective. The state has an interest in encouraging and maintaining productive and cohesive family units, not romantic love or sexual fulfillment. Why should the state confer the costly benefits of marriage on a union that returns to it no benefits? But, you might say, shouldn't marriage be denied any couple that knowingly enters marriage without the intention or possibility of having children? Well, yes, that would be consistent, and probably not a bad idea in a way. The Pope would back it.

In your reply to my second argument you take issue with the dangers inherent in homosexual sex, saying, "it's not homosexuality that is the problem, but the sexual habits of homosexuals in general." First, of course homosexuality per se poses no inherent danger, but homosexual sex most certainly does. I won't elaborate. Second, perhaps the spread of STD's can theoretically be overcome by various means of artificial protection, but the sad truth is that a significant portion of the gay community seems hell-bent on unsafe sex despite the vast resources spent on education and medical research. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unprotected sex is on the rise, especially among younger people. But the dangers go beyond the wide variety of STD's. Gay men and women are more prone than the general population to many other types of serious disease (e.g., cancers, hepetitis, etc.), substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and other psychological disorders.

Gays are free to love, have sex, co-habitate, share property, etc. with anybody of their choosing, subject to the same limitations as everybody else. However, the state has no good reason to "bless" a same-sex union, and it's hard to think of any reason gays should seek such a blessing, except one—to force an unwilling society to pretend to accept their lifestyle choices. This seems like a fool's errand to me.

Laughing Boy said...

Reply to Sarah:
The idea that Eden provides a snapshot of God intentions for human life is an interesting one and it has some validity. However, I disagree with the premise that Eden provides the perfect example for how life should be lived with any level of detail. Most of what we can draw from Genesis 2 about life, pre-Fall, is speculative. If we had to rely soley on that portion of scripture, we'd have precious little detail about how to live perfectly given that the narrative of Eden fills only one chapter. Is there nothing to be learned from the other 1,188?

To be single is therefore outside of God's will.
Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." [Matthew 22:29-30] Here Jesus seems to contradict Webb. Also, wasn't Jesus single? Was the Second Person of the Trinity, outside of God's will? If so, then we can all skip church this Sunday.

Farming as an occupation.
God called the men of the tribe of Levi to be priests, not farmers. Did He break His own will in doing so?

God gave the plants for them to eat, and did not give animals officially until later.
So God, again, against His own will, allowed animals to be eaten? God is confusing me.

The Sabaath of course being Sunday and with no work at all to be done.
And?

I could keep going, but the point is clear.
Unless the point is that Mr. Webb can set forth remarkably unconvincing arguments, I must admit it isn't clear to me.

I'll respond some of your other comments later.

desiderius said...

Assumptions are the playgrounds of fools.

Unless the Bible records that something as a commmand, it is not. Cultists and scriptural illiterates love to read things into the text.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi LB

Very good responses to my argument. I work through your comments and if I have any thoughts in response I will post them up.

By the way, I visited your blog recently and noticed you haven't been posting that much. Other things on your plate?

Laughing Boy said...

Yes, I do, thanks for asking. Blogging is too time-intensive for me as a rule. However, I am thinking of adding another posting just to keep it semi-current. You always have such interesting posts, though, it's just as well to let you do the heavy lifting.

Laughing Boy said...

One last reason secular society has no compelling reason to sanction gay marriage has to do with the plain fact that men and women are different emotionally as well as physically. Their complementary physical differences are required to "produce" children, and their complementary emotional differences are required to properly raise children and the build a strong family, which is the core institution of the larger society. A man and a woman, when each functioning within and fulfilling their role are therefore the ideal foundation for society. This is true today and it has been true since the dawn of the human race (regardless of one's view of how the human race developed).

With x years (replace 'x' with however long the human race has existed) of precedent for a man and woman constituting this core, added to the clear implication of each gender's complementary physiological and psychological differences, the burden is on the gay community to give a compelling reason why society should change the status quo. The reasons the gay community most often present are purely ego-centric: "We want 'equal' rights", "We're in love", and "We want our lifestyle to be sanctioned". None of these lines of reasoning has the potential to overturn the traditional understanding of marriage and family nor have they any bearing on the state's interest in the marriage business.