Monday, 24 January 2011

Homosexuality: is it natural?

By definition, homosexuality is natural, especially if you're homosexual.
Let's replace the word "homosexuality" with the word "racism" and the word "homosexual" with the word "racist", and read the sentence again. In terms of logic, the sentence has exactly the same structure. But it isn't as plausible is it? The logic (or lack of logic) of the sentence structure is the same, but the conclusion does not meet with contemporary approbation. Whatever one's views about homosexuality, this sentence cannot be used to justify anything.
So, the first point to make when this question rears its head is that for gay men and lesbians, being attracted to the same sex is just the way they are. It feels as natural to them as being attracted to the opposite sex does for heterosexuals... It's just a fact of life ...

An extension of the fact that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon (what else could it possible be?) is the evidence of 'gay behaviour' in animals.... Same-sex activity has been reported in countless animal species, and is well documented in many of them, although the real extent is still to be properly researched. So, the short answer to the question 'is being gay natural?' is obviously, yes.
Well, fair enough. Sexual attraction to others does feel quite natural. It is a "natural phenomenon" in the sense that it is something that can be observed in the world around us, though the extent of same sex activity among animal species seems to me much exaggerated. But that is not the real question. The real question is whether or not the human person, gifted with intellect and free will, should follow their feeling, be that homosexual in nature or heterosexual in nature, without a further step of ethical judgement. What we might feel does not justify what we might do. There are lots of things that are "just a fact of life", that could meet the same description of being a "natural phenomenon", but whose behaviours we do not actively promote and, indeed, might seek to prevent. might want to try a discussion of how science sometimes clashes with social mores - Galileo was criticised for saying that the earth went round the sun, and Darwin's theory of evolution caused heated debate.
Odd comparisons. I hadn't noticed that the debate between geocentrism and heliocentrism was one about human behaviour; and, as a theory of science, neither is the debate about Darwinism.

Even if we grant the "natural phenomenon" argument in the sense that Stonewall's propaganda (quotes above are from a leaflet they have produced for science teachers in secondary schools) suggests, we still need to challenge their assumption that "natural" in terms of feeling or attraction is the same as "morally just" in terms of action. This is how Pope Benedict XVI expresses it in his book Light of the World pp.151-152:
Respect for man is absolutely fundamental and decisive.

At the same time though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual. We could say, if we wanted to put it like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of reproducing the species... The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future. This is the determination internal to the essence of sexuality. Everything else is against sexuality's intrinsic meaning and direction. This is a point we need to hold firm, even if it is not pleasing to our age.
H/T to Laurence England


Francis said...

This reminds me of what I believe is called the 'naturalistic fallacy'. This is frequetly used by those who oppose homsexuality: It's not natural therefore it is not right.

This is a fallacy, as I understand it, because not being natural does not mean something is wrong. Here it seems to be used in a reverse way: the assumption is that because something is natural it is therefore right.

Joe said...

Nice comment, Francis!

Sometimes the phrase "it's not natural" really stands in for the process of discerning that something is against the "intrinsic meaning and direction" of something, to use Pope Benedict's term. There is a step to be taken between the judgement of naturalness (or otherwise) and the ethical judgement of right (or wrong).

But just talking in terms of "is it natural?" or "is it un-natural?" does miss that step.

Anonymous said...

Saying it's natural is used to mean that it's genetic, there's nothing anyone an do. It's 'part of who I am' and even 'God made me this way'. They arguement is used to highlight that no homosexual person chose to be homosexual.

However, I believe that some do choose to be homosexual, as a means of finding belonging to a group, and having some sort of meaningful relationship. This might be more true of women too. Just as the claim goes that there are homosexual men pretending to me straight.

Also, I am not aware of any evidence that there is a genetic root for homosexuality. Studies have been on on monozygotic and dizigotic twins too, which have no proved a link.

Also, one can argue that a person has not chosen to be homosexual, but it is not genetic and an intergral part of the person. We could say that it has more to do with development and relationships, therefore not genetic but not chosen.