Monday, February 25, 2008

Is there a secular argument against homosexuality?

This is a redated post.

When people say "the purpose of X is Y," what do they mean? Well, if what we are talking about was created by a human being, then we are talking about the intended purpose for the object. The purpose of glasses is to help you see something, the purpose of a baseball is to be used the game of baseball, the purpose of a car is to impress girls, etc. But what if the object is a natural object. The purpose of your eye is to see, but what does that mean. If you believe that they eye was intelligently designed, then we have an intended purpose. But what if you don't believe that natural objects were intelligently designed. Well, there is Darwinian function. Something exists because its performing a certain function allowed the thing to be selected for by evolution. The purpose of your eye is to see because it is the seeing capacity of the eye that permitted critters with eyes to survive.

Aristotle seems to have a concept of purpose that is neither an intended purpose nor a Darwinian purpose. It is a natural tendency of something to reach a certain goal. The metaphor here is that of the acorn and the oak tree. The natural progression of the acorn is toward an oak tree, and not toward a tomato plant. But although Aristotle believes in an unmoved mover, the unmoved mover does not intend for the acorn to become an oak, because the UMM is pure thought thinking itself and it is not even aware of the acorn.

Is this concept of natural purpose plausible? Sometimes people argue against homosexuality in virtue of the fact that it conflcts with the procreative natural purpose of sexuality. If "purpose" is intended purpose, then we are going to need some information from the one who has a purpose for us in order to know if that claim is correct. That would, of course, make the argument a religious argument. The fact that homosexuality is a Darwinian liability isn't much of an argument. After all, we have no moral mandate to reproduce as much as possible. So maybe what people have in mind is an Aristotelian sense. But is Aristotelian purpose plausible in the absence of intended purpose? I don't think so.

20 comments:

Darek Barefoot said...

Victor

I agree with you partly. However, people who defend homosexuality from a naturalist perspective almost without exception also see nothing perverse about transsexulaity. That one is baffling. It is one thing to dislike some feature of one's body that falls short of a societal ideal. A person with an unusual nose may want a usual one. A shorter than average person may understandably wish they were taller. But for someone to feel that he or she has literally been "born into the wrong body," as transsexuals often put it, is naturalistically unfathomable. Perhaps a wasp has by mistake been born into the body of a mouse. Perhaps the tomato plant yearns in some inarticulate vegetative fashion to be an oak. Transexuality is literally a rebellion against nature, yet somehow it is included (commonly) with homosexuality. So perhaps the argument that homosexuality is just an expression of nature is called into question by the related phenomenon of transsexuality.

Grano1 said...

Victor: On the Touchstone magazine blog "Mere Comments" back in July, Anthony Esolen posted a series of non-religious arguments against homosexuality called "10 Arguments for Sanity." It's well worth a look.

Jim Lippard said...

I think that Darek Barefoot's analogies of tomato/oak and wasp/mouse are inapt--sexual differences within a species are commonly smaller than genetic and morphological differences across species. There are human individuals whose genetic makeup puts them into categories which are outside of or span the normal male/female boundaries. For example, those with XXY chromosomes may visibly appear to be male or female, and there are those who have both male and female genitalia. Further, there is far more variety to the sexes than mere duality within the animal kingdom. I recommend Olivia Judson's book, _Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation_ for an entertaining look at some of that variety.

Transsexuality, like homosexuality, is evidence against an oversimplified view of sex in nature, not against naturalism itself.

Jim Lippard said...

I was looking for but unable to find a set of online forum postings I came across a year or two ago from an intersexed individual who was a Christian, and honestly had no idea what was appropriate dating for her. I believe the church she was involved with took the position that she was not permitted to date or have sex with anyone. It seems to me that most Christians have a real problem with the existence of such individuals, and have a very poor record of inhumane response to them.

I did find this post from an individual raising the question of how religious views can make sense of such individuals. It's an excellent and interesting question. Here's a brief quote from that post (rest of this comment is quoted from it):

The english language has no gender terms we can use for intersex people, instead why try to force them into either female or male which may not be appropriate.

Here is a run down of only some intersex conditions:

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
XX (female) fetus ovaries produce a masculising hormone that results in ambigious external genitals . normally the ovaries do not produce hormones as the female is the default sex, none are needed to create a female fetus. the addition of the masculising hormone therefor creates a female with some male charactistics

Testosterone Biosynthetic Defects
an XY(male) fetus does not produce testosterone, therefor,as female is the `default setting` it is born with full female parts, or parts rudimentary malformed female parts, despite being genetically male.

Androgen sensivity syndrome
Testes in the abdomen, external female parts.
they also grow brests but do not have cycles (note: im trying to avoid using catch words here, as im not sure what is allowed and what isnt!)
Klinefelter Syndrome
Genically 47 chromosomes XXY and classed as men. They are males with a female chromosome attatched, small male parts, my develop female characteristics in teenage years.

Turner Syndrome
45 chromosomes, XO. Turner women have female external parts but illformed ovaries and no estrogen.

"Hermaphroditism"
can be EXACTLY one ovary, one teste a small penis AND a female genitalia. Their genetic makeup can be a mosaic of XY and XX genes, they truly are not male or female, but both.

Roughly one in a thousand births is an intersex child. so it isnt that rare.

The issue this presents to religion is that here we have a group of people who are neither here nor there and will grow up with issues to do with their sexual aurientation. What is the view of religions on say an XXY male, who looks mostly male but wishes to date other men? What is the view on a XY female who feels she is a lesbian (after all she is genitcally male) These are issues many people with intersex come up agaisnt. often their parents assign them a gender at birth and corrective surgery is given to `make` them into a gender (usually female) This quite often results in the girl growing up feeling male and later on reqesting a sex change.

Its a tricky issue. Many Intersex people wish they had not been assigned a gender and feel their body is their right and they should have been left to choose a gender when they were older.

But anyway, To me,(I am theist, not religious and very firmly rooted in science) it shows how our gentically evolved bodies can and do go wrong, for a religious person I think it presents an issue worth thinking about. I dont know of any biblical reference to intersex, nor what the christian take is on people who are not male or female but are a bit of this a bit of that, netiehr here nor there or exactly half of each gender. What is their take on how these people should "morally" behave?
Heres what I think it boils down to.

1 God doesnt exist
2 God exists but is fallable and makes mistakes
3 god exists and does not make mistakes, therefor, he wishes intersex conditions to exist , but condemns them to hell if they choose the wrong aurientation later in life to what they look like externally
4. He wishes intersex to exist, either because he has no issues with gender and sexuality .

....feel free to add more...

J. Clark said...

Jim, (just some musings)

I would only add a bit here...intersex identity issues are not connected to spiritual identities. One may be confused about their sex but do not have to be confused about their relationship with the Living God. Love your neighbor and love God do not require clarity in gender identity. Even as such, the solution may be to cast your crisis upon Him and he will give you rest. I don't think there is an easy answer to the solving the crisis. There is nothing wrong with remaining celibate and giving your energies over to God and a life work. But our society will hardly consider this a solution but as a Christian, I do.
I am afraid that waiting for complete maturity of the body and mind would be the best foundation to build upon. It does seem that many parents have made this decision too soon and hurt many a child. And of course the social persecution for this physical problem is universal amongst all walks of life. The Christian should lead out in accepting and aiding in problem solving and healing. (but most do not)
Their moral obligation is the same as the rest of humanity so that is not an issue: love God, love your neighbor, be kind, serve others, refuse self-pity, be patient, work hard, encourage others, be authentic, be at peace w/everyone the best you can, speak truth, be in control of your body and mind, give away your money and resources, stand up for the fringe and oppressed, imitate and follow Jesus etc. This is the normal way of those who are Christ-ones and it would ease much anxiety and fears. It has done so in the life given to me.

I think your ending propositions will not take into account the Christian theology of sin. Being born "intersex" is not nearly as devastating as the humiliation of being nailed to wood as the supposed son of God. Jesus purposely lost his identity that he might bring others identity. And here lies our solution. That in Jesus' death there is redemption for the broken hearted in the now and it will continue until the day of completion where the body will also be redeemed and share in Jesus resurrection.

Jim Lippard said...

J. Clark:

The Christian intersex individual I was referring to was a fully mature adult. Your response--celibacy is the only option--was pretty much what her church told her. Sorry, no dating, no marriage, no life partner for you is morally acceptable.

Frankly, I think that could result in long-term psychological suffering worse than some short-term physical torture.

J. Clark said...

hey Jim,
I was not taking a stance for the "church"(local)nor did I say, "celibacy is the only option." I meant for the individual to make a decision of celibacy on their own. I think that would be best but I do not mean it would be easy. Though, I would not be opposed to marriage or the such but there are as many(if not more) destructive psyhcological issues here also and it would be subjective to the individual's disposition. i.e social and cultural, familial, children?, work place, etc. Not that these are necessarily justified but they will be there.(and they may be justified)
If a person who is confused lays their life down unto God then there is a promise of relief and rest.(this is a lifetime commitment) Do you think that a person can be fulfilled without ever having sex or having a partner? The perfecter of our faith was celibate and single as well as Paul and others in history: Mother Teresa, St. Francis, etc.
It does sound from your tone that your friend was hurt and maybe felt condemned and I also believe this is unacceptable. But I also don't think that there should be a license to do anything. If someone claims they are of Christ then if they follow him with their whole being they will find rest and some answers. (we are given few answers, just enough to live bravely!)
The pain of your friend is real and I am sorry if I belittled it in any way. My pain is real also as well as everyone else's. My comparison was to God (creator and all powerful) and how he emptied his rights and became a man so that we may be connected to God. Whatever mortals can give up cannot compare with what God can give up.

Blue Devil Knight said...

But for someone to feel that he or she has literally been "born into the wrong body," as transsexuals often put it, is naturalistically unfathomable. Perhaps a wasp has by mistake been born into the body of a mouse. Perhaps the tomato plant yearns in some inarticulate vegetative fashion to be an oak. Transexuality is literally a rebellion against nature, yet somehow it is included (commonly) with homosexuality.

Jim gave some excellent data to this ignorant opinion.

I have a friend who was born female, but was very masculine, and she was very comfortable with this. Her mother and doctor forced her to take female hormones when she started to enter puberty, so that she would develop the "right" sexual traits. Now that she is an adult she is off the drugs, an extremely happy and well-adjusted transgendered man (without the sex change operation: it is harder to make a pole than a hole). Sexually, he prefers other transgendered men (born female). Does that make him gay? I don't know or care, but I am happy that he is finally comfortable in his own skin, comfortable enough and courageous enough to be himself in this intolerant and ignorant culture.

Blue Devil Knight said...

By the way, the person I was talking about has entered a ministerial position. Somehow all this has brought him toward God (I find this odd, frankly, but maybe because I'm an atheist).

Gynesis said...

Celibacy as the only option to live a sinless life.

To me, that's a sad comment. It makes a judgement without merit on the will of the entity that created the individual.

It reinforces the points made earlier, that absent any significant direction proffered, that religions, in general, seem to do their best to marginalize these people who, for all that they know, were put here for the express purpose of showing them how narrow a view that is.

There is nothing perverse about transsexuality. It a well documented medical condition with a cure.

I don't feel I was born into the wrong body. I feel that the body I was born into developed wrongly, and I'm attending to it.

Naturalistically, t isn't unfathomable, if one has a rudimentary understanding of the forces that are involved in shaping humans -- some of which were already addressed.

Nor is it a yearning -- the parallels offered fail at that point. The only yearning involved is to be treated *accordingly*. I knew I was one gender as a child. I distinctly recall the knowledge at 6, and its been described as a behavioral pattern for me since the age of 4.

The world around me percieved things significantly differently, and acted in a fashion that, ultimately, caused signficant harm through well meaning actions and intents.

It isn't a rebellion against nature, either -- simply having the condition doesn't mean that one simply must transition, alhtough all evidence points to it being the best, wisest, and most medically sane action. And the degree to which one transitions as well is highly subjective -- particularly for older transitoners who have signficant limitations to overcome in the process.

As for why it is so frequetly assciated with homosexuality (and therefore gains an incorrect attendant association with sexual orientation) is far more simple:

The statistical prevalence of TS folk is, even under some of the most liberal estimates, not much greater than 1:50. Personally, I suspect its about 1:750.

As such, the ability of a group of people with non-heteronormative natures to effectively lobby on their own behalf for social and legal protections is pretty seriously limited when they are only that small a group.

However, the concerns they have in those areas tend to be significantly parallel with those of homosexuals. They are, to some degree, complimentary in terms of the way that they can be presented n society (many TS folk are able to blend in invisibly and are often heterosexual -- that is, liking the opposite gender). They are, typically, reasonably well spoken and have a peculiar viewpoint that crosses many boundaries that are outside the gender expereince of most people, and can have strong compassion and sympathies for homosexuals.

So it is, essentially, a union of convenience. Combined, they make a much larger force than separated., This is why GLBT groups also include those who are Bisexal and Asexual in orientation, since those groups, as well, share common aspects and misunderstandings - and yet, they aren't homosexual or heterosexual.

They are different. Normal, common, and nothing new -- in all cases, all of them have been around for as long as there have been humans. They may not be socially normative, but they are certainly not worthy of social outcasting, either.

Darek Barefoot said...

Jim

I should have been more specific in my original post. I was NOT referring to persons with deformities either physical or chromosomal. That is a different issue. Nor am I talking about persecuting anybody, but about a philosophical problem.

There are, I believe, people who are by all objective physical and genetic standards either male or female who nevertheless believe that they should have been born in a different body.

Suppose that a person were to say that some other part of their physical makeup (something nonsexual) was inappropriate even though by all objective biological standards it was entirely normal and healthy. Could it be a case that nature "got it wrong" in terms of endowing this person with the traits at issue? In other words, does an objectively healthy physical condition become a deformity if the person who has it perceives it to be such? This still strikes me as naturalistically problematic.

Jim Lippard said...

"Suppose that a person were to say that some other part of their physical makeup (something nonsexual) was inappropriate even though by all objective biological standards it was entirely normal and healthy. Could it be a case that nature "got it wrong" in terms of endowing this person with the traits at issue?"

There are real such cases (people with body integrity identity disorder), but I don't see that they provide any evidence against naturalism. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe there are natural causes--in this case, where nature "got it wrong" is not in the body part but in the brain.

Darek Barefoot said...

Jim

Exactly my point. In the case of transsexuality, proponents of naturalism are NOT prepared to lay the blame on abnormal psychology. Instead, they say the body is wrong. This is blatantly inconsistent.

Jim Lippard said...

What exactly is the inconsistency? In any case, the naturalist points to a natural feature, whether that's genetic, a physical condition of the body, or a physical condition of the brain (a natural part of the body), as the explanation. It may be difficult to identify the cause, and there may not be an objective distinction between "dysfunctional" and merely "different." But what's the inconsistency?

Anonymous said...

All Christians should look closely to the impetus for and behind comments judging others born differently. All are born in Gods image, no? Does confusion lie in the individual born differently or in others who idolize their own image over that of the minority born "differently"? Sometimes differences breeds fear, fear of rejection, failure, pain, or death.

Unfortunately, there is a horrific truth about the path of hateful intersexphobic and transphobic and behavior leads: the documented mass abortion of babies following prenatal detection of Intersex conditions through abnormal ultrasound findings, amniocentesis, or Chrionic Villus Sampling. I believe that similar prenatal testing for other different conditions is not be far behind. This is where hate leads, to the dehumanizing of the human condition. What is charitable in these acts? Where is charity! Have you ever seen a media quote by a Christian speaking for charity as a weapon against abortion?

Charity is the grace that proves the Christian to be mature in his faith and practice.

Charity is the epitome of perfection in the Christian life. It is the “greatest” of the three abiding virtues (1Corinthians 13:13). It is the “bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14) and the “end of the commandment” (1Timothy 1:5). Charity specifically refers to the love that we have toward other men. Paul stresses that we are to walk “charitably” toward our weaker brothers (Romans 14:13-15). He praised the Thessalonians because “the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2Thessalonians 1:3). In 1Peter 4:8-9, Peter told the believers, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”

The Bible speaks of charity to point us to a specific kind of love. Charity is the love toward others that suffers long with them and is kind (1Corinthians 13:4), that does not behave unseemly, seek to get its own way, or is easily provoked (1Corinthians 13:5); that rejoices not in the iniquity of others (1Corinthians 13:6); that bears, believes, hopes, and endures (1Corinthians 13:7).

Trans* and Intersex Christians, like all children of God, are God’s creation for which all should be thankful. However, these gifts from God suffer when other Christians do not treat them charitably. Indeed, all Christians then suffer with them (1Corinthians 12:26).

Ironically, Trans* and Intersex Christians, through their own faith and suffering bring about hope in God and, through endurance, salvation. Their’s is a witness to the greatest gift available to mankind: God’s gift of eternal life. These Christians make God’s gift visible to all other Christians and non-Christians alike. In this way too their life narrative is a gift for which others should be thankful.

(****) (a) “In our study population, the overall rate of termination was 81%”
“Variation in the decision to terminate pregnancy in the setting of fetal aneuploidy.”, Prenat Diagn. 2006 Aug;26(8):667-71.

(****) (a) “In all cases with a fetal abnormality seen on ultrasound, pregnancy was terminated.”
“Parental decisions following the prenatal diagnosis of sex chromosome abnormalities.”, Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2004 Sep 10;116(1):58-62.

(****) (a) “Forty-nine of 89 pregnancies with sex chromosome aneuploidy were terminated.”
“Factors influencing parental decision making in prenatal diagnosis of sex chromosome aneuploidy.”, Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Jul;104(1):94-101.

(****) (a) See for yourself by executing a search at the National Institutes for Health Website http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed and enter any one or more keywords such as “sex chromosome aneuploidy parental decision abortion”

(****) (a) Prenatal testing for the hormonal or genetic predisposition for transsexualism cannot be far behind. Collective violence enabled by society against such embryos could result. Watch a free video on the latest knowledge in biology of sex and gender, on the recent findings which have challenged previous beliefs about the roles of anatomy, environment, and genetics in the determination of gender, and the evolution of sexual determination at http://www.learner.org/resources/series187.html#program_descriptions goto session 11 Biology of Sex and Gender.

Anesha said...

Hi Nice Blog . I don't really know a lot about Human Anatomy study or art, but that's just my 2 cents. Really great job though, Krudman! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

You might want to add the Bible's rather obvious explanation to your list:

1 God doesnt exist
2 God exists but is fallable and makes mistakes
3 god exists and does not make mistakes, therefor, he wishes intersex conditions to exist , but condemns them to hell if they choose the wrong aurientation later in life to what they look like externally
4. He wishes intersex to exist, either because he has no issues with gender and sexuality .
5. Mankind is in a fallen state and therefore problems exist physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Warrior said...

You might want to add the Bible's rather obvious explanation to your list:

1 God doesnt exist
2 God exists but is fallable and makes mistakes
3 god exists and does not make mistakes, therefor, he wishes intersex conditions to exist , but condemns them to hell if they choose the wrong aurientation later in life to what they look like externally
4. He wishes intersex to exist, either because he has no issues with gender and sexuality .
5. Mankind is in a fallen state and therefore problems exist physically, mentally, and spiritually.
6. Humans are created to have all sorts of hardship to test their faith, amongst them those who have intersex, born blind, born with chronic conditions. It's the human sacrifice of his/her soul for God. All at the end is going to be redeemed in accrodance with their deeds.

JaredMithrandir said...

And it's attempt to come up wiht Secular reasons to oppose homosexuality that the Darwinist origin of Homophobia becomes apparent. Which I've also blogged on.

JaredMithrandir said...

And with anything other then Sex do we try to deem it morally wrong to use something for something other then it's original created "purpose"?

Not really. The Purpose of a Newspaper is not to discipline dogs. The Purpose of tin cans isn't to be used as target practice. The Purpose of Tolite paper isn't to be used in homemade Mummy costumes.

As long as your not harming anyone else, using something in a way that doesn't match it's "Purpose" is perfectly fine.