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On Justifying Homosexuality Via Nature

thg
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7/5/2013 6:04:25 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I am frustrated by what appears to me to be a stubborn use of arguments "from nature" to justify or condemn homosexual behavior. The anti-gay contingent insists homosexual behavior is "unnatural", and, therefore, should be condemned. The pro-gay side commonly counters this by asserting that instances of homosexuality can be found in nature, and that many, if not all, homosexuals are born that way...and, therefore, homosexual behavior should be morally acceptable.

I believe nature is a mixed bag. Some things are good, some bad, and most things are neither. So I don't believe a behavior can be justified or condemned due to its "naturalness" or "unnaturalness". Other factors certainly are included in the ongoing debate on homosexuality, but these arguments "from nature" are seriously flawed and used far too much, and we would be better off discarding them and proceeding on to more persuasive arguments.

I'm interested to know if anyone else agrees with my premise. I've tried issuing a couple of debate challenges, only to have my opponents disengage after the first round. I'd be very interested in debating this topic formally (and to the finish!). Please let me know in this forum or on my profile page if you'd like to accept a formal challenge.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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7/5/2013 6:10:53 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
The anti-gay side initiates the naturalistic fallacy, and the pro-gay side demonstrates that even under their own arbitrary valuation of nature their condemnation of homosexuality still wouldn't follow. It isn't possible to extrapolate morality from any fact about the universe, but it's more persuasive to defeat an opponent's argument within his own framework than to get him to abandon the framework because it's logically unfounded.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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7/5/2013 6:14:41 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 6:04:25 AM, thg wrote:
I am frustrated by what appears to me to be a stubborn use of arguments "from nature" to justify or condemn homosexual behavior. The anti-gay contingent insists homosexual behavior is "unnatural", and, therefore, should be condemned. The pro-gay side commonly counters this by asserting that instances of homosexuality can be found in nature, and that many, if not all, homosexuals are born that way...and, therefore, homosexual behavior should be morally acceptable.

I believe nature is a mixed bag. Some things are good, some bad, and most things are neither. So I don't believe a behavior can be justified or condemned due to its "naturalness" or "unnaturalness". Other factors certainly are included in the ongoing debate on homosexuality, but these arguments "from nature" are seriously flawed and used far too much, and we would be better off discarding them and proceeding on to more persuasive arguments.

I'm interested to know if anyone else agrees with my premise. I've tried issuing a couple of debate challenges, only to have my opponents disengage after the first round. I'd be very interested in debating this topic formally (and to the finish!). Please let me know in this forum or on my profile page if you'd like to accept a formal challenge.

Most people who aren't defending the "gays are unnatural therefore bad" hypothesis would agree with you.

But there's some value in pointing out "Look, even if we accept your premise that Natural = moral, YOU'RE STILL WRONG".

It's sort of like how if someone said "That guy over there? He's a jerk, because everybody who wears blue hats is a jerk". If the guy's wearing a red hat, it's perfectly valid to point out that the color of the hat has nothing to do with whether he's a jerk or not...but it's also worth pointing out "His hat's not even blue!"

It would be better to discard the arguments completely, but the "nature=moral" folks won't do that.

Part of the problem, too, is that the people using the "natural" argument who aren't utter simpletons are actually using a very specific technical definition of "natural" that isn't whta most people think of when they use that word. It's an utterly unsupportable definition. but it causes a lot of "talking past" each other, as, under that technical definition, all the gay sex that happens in nature is "unnatural", because the definition requires a telelogical view of function which says "Sex is ONLY for procreation". It's, again, unsupported both in its presumption of a "plan" and its leap from that to morality.
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thg
Posts: 520
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7/5/2013 6:20:59 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I understand countering the anti-gay stance with examples to show that "nature", per se, is a mixed bag. But it sounds like earlier posters above agree with me that JUSTIFYING homosexuality "from nature" is no more sound than condemning it. I figure then, my premise still holds: it would be better if BOTH sides dropped this line of reasoning.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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7/5/2013 6:25:30 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 6:20:59 AM, thg wrote:
I understand countering the anti-gay stance with examples to show that "nature", per se, is a mixed bag. But it sounds like earlier posters above agree with me that JUSTIFYING homosexuality "from nature" is no more sound than condemning it. I figure then, my premise still holds: it would be better if BOTH sides dropped this line of reasoning.

I agree with you, but I'm making a distinction between what's cogent and what's exigent. The pro-gay side is not committing the naturalistic fallacy - it is only answering under the fallacy already initiated by the anti-gay side for the sake of effective argumentation. So your OP boils down to, the anti-gay side needs to stop committing the naturalistic fallacy, and I'm not sure how that will fair on the public stage... where pretty much everyone equates natural with good and believes in moral realism.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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7/5/2013 6:27:20 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 6:20:59 AM, thg wrote:
I understand countering the anti-gay stance with examples to show that "nature", per se, is a mixed bag. But it sounds like earlier posters above agree with me that JUSTIFYING homosexuality "from nature" is no more sound than condemning it. I figure then, my premise still holds: it would be better if BOTH sides dropped this line of reasoning.

But the ones responding are the ones responding. I've never heard someone in support of homosexuality be the one to make the natural=moral argument, themselves, and go on to justify homosexuality with it.

So I would argue that the onus is on the anti-homosexual crowd to stop using the argument, and they will stop getting the response to the argument.

(To return to my hats example, I'll stop telling you that his hat's not even red, so clearly he's not a jerk, when you stop arguing that people in blue hats are jerks in the first place)
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thg
Posts: 520
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7/5/2013 11:45:54 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I guess I would have to disagree that the pro-gay side does not commit its own version of the philosophical error we are discussing. It's fine for the pro-gay side to counter the anti-gay argument with "but homosexuality is just as natural a bunch of other things..." This is a good corrective. But then the pro-gay side proceeds to rely heavily upon its own brand of the "from nature" argument, by asserting that homosexuality is OK because it is natural. This is not just some retort to the anti-gay side. This assertion is a major plank in the pro-gay platform: that, since we see instances of homosexuality in nature, and since most gays are born that way, and since most gays can't change, we should accept homosexual behavior as OK. But the same arguments could apply to say, someone who is born with a propensity toward violence or overeating (or pedophilia). This entire line of reason falls short, in my opinion.

The pro-gay contingent often then claims that homosexuality shouldn't be put in the same basket along with these negative traits. That may be true, but asserting the "naturalness" of homosexuality doesn't speak to this issue. If homosexuality is different from these things, then we should proceed to talk about how it's different instead of doggedly insisting that it is "natural" or "unchangeable".

Debunking the anti-gay argument "from nature" is one thing. Establishing the pro-gay platform is quite another.
toolpot462
Posts: 289
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7/5/2013 8:43:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 11:45:54 AM, thg wrote:
I guess I would have to disagree that the pro-gay side does not commit its own version of the philosophical error we are discussing. It's fine for the pro-gay side to counter the anti-gay argument with "but homosexuality is just as natural a bunch of other things..." This is a good corrective. But then the pro-gay side proceeds to rely heavily upon its own brand of the "from nature" argument, by asserting that homosexuality is OK because it is natural. This is not just some retort to the anti-gay side. This assertion is a major plank in the pro-gay platform: that, since we see instances of homosexuality in nature, and since most gays are born that way, and since most gays can't change, we should accept homosexual behavior as OK. But the same arguments could apply to say, someone who is born with a propensity toward violence or overeating (or pedophilia). This entire line of reason falls short, in my opinion.

The pro-gay contingent often then claims that homosexuality shouldn't be put in the same basket along with these negative traits. That may be true, but asserting the "naturalness" of homosexuality doesn't speak to this issue. If homosexuality is different from these things, then we should proceed to talk about how it's different instead of doggedly insisting that it is "natural" or "unchangeable".

Debunking the anti-gay argument "from nature" is one thing. Establishing the pro-gay platform is quite another.

You're missing the point of the pro-gay "from nature" argument being a response. See, gay people don't need to justify being gay - it's the anti-gay people that need to justify their position.
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I'll be the one to protect you from
A will to survive and a voice of reason.
I'll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and your choices, son.
thg
Posts: 520
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7/5/2013 9:10:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 8:43:47 PM, toolpot462 wrote:
At 7/5/2013 11:45:54 AM, thg wrote:
I guess I would have to disagree that the pro-gay side does not commit its own version of the philosophical error we are discussing. It's fine for the pro-gay side to counter the anti-gay argument with "but homosexuality is just as natural a bunch of other things..." This is a good corrective. But then the pro-gay side proceeds to rely heavily upon its own brand of the "from nature" argument, by asserting that homosexuality is OK because it is natural. This is not just some retort to the anti-gay side. This assertion is a major plank in the pro-gay platform: that, since we see instances of homosexuality in nature, and since most gays are born that way, and since most gays can't change, we should accept homosexual behavior as OK. But the same arguments could apply to say, someone who is born with a propensity toward violence or overeating (or pedophilia). This entire line of reason falls short, in my opinion.

The pro-gay contingent often then claims that homosexuality shouldn't be put in the same basket along with these negative traits. That may be true, but asserting the "naturalness" of homosexuality doesn't speak to this issue. If homosexuality is different from these things, then we should proceed to talk about how it's different instead of doggedly insisting that it is "natural" or "unchangeable".

Debunking the anti-gay argument "from nature" is one thing. Establishing the pro-gay platform is quite another.

You're missing the point of the pro-gay "from nature" argument being a response. See, gay people don't need to justify being gay - it's the anti-gay people that need to justify their position.

Hmmm. Your comment sounds provocative, but I'm not sure you're correct. Every time I listen in to a discussion about whether homosexuality is morally acceptable or not, I hear the pro-gay contingent strongly defending its position: that being gay should be morally acceptable because gay-ness is seen in nature and is based on DNA, etc. You're correct that in today's political climate, the anti-gay crowd needs to come up with better arguments. But the pro-gay side still insists on arguing "from nature", and I believe this line is doomed. While my following comment is more or less anecdotal, I must add that I have heard this sentiment (against the argument "from nature") expressed more often (and in print) by pro-gay folks who acknowledge that this line of reasoning is inadequate. Indeed, I believe this is not a matter of supporting anti- or pro-gay sensibilities, but more a matter of basic logic.
Drayson
Posts: 288
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7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think the argument should be completely retired, because any time it comes up, the speaker never defines what is meant by "natural" and "unnatural", nor do they offer an explanation why phenomena that is unnatural (under their definition) is "bad".

Basically, there's an underlying, unsubstantiated assumption to the argument, making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.
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thg
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7/11/2013 12:33:40 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM, Drayson wrote:
I think the argument should be completely retired, because any time it comes up, the speaker never defines what is meant by "natural" and "unnatural", nor do they offer an explanation why phenomena that is unnatural (under their definition) is "bad".

Basically, there's an underlying, unsubstantiated assumption to the argument, making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.

I agree that the argument "from nature" should be completely retired, and I believe I agree with the force of your sentiment, but I think I would word it somewhat differently. I believe often (though not often enough?) the proponents do, in fact, try to elucidate what they mean by "natural" and "unnatural", but I believe the arguments are flawed nonetheless. I think you are correct that a lot of folks simply parrot the politically correct or popular rhetoric within their social milieu, but some do try to elucidate and substantiate their claims. Some proponents, in fact, are quite erudite and articulate. Most discussions I hear, even on the part of very educated folks, often include this argument "from nature", and often the pro-gay side, especially, is quite passionate about justifying homosexual behavior BECAUSE of genetic determination (often quoting studies, etc.). My point is that I believe the argument, whether rhetorical or quite erudite, still is flawed, and we'd be better off discarding it altogether.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
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7/11/2013 2:34:44 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/5/2013 6:14:41 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 7/5/2013 6:04:25 AM, thg wrote:
I am frustrated by what appears to me to be a stubborn use of arguments "from nature" to justify or condemn homosexual behavior. The anti-gay contingent insists homosexual behavior is "unnatural", and, therefore, should be condemned. The pro-gay side commonly counters this by asserting that instances of homosexuality can be found in nature, and that many, if not all, homosexuals are born that way...and, therefore, homosexual behavior should be morally acceptable.

I believe nature is a mixed bag. Some things are good, some bad, and most things are neither. So I don't believe a behavior can be justified or condemned due to its "naturalness" or "unnaturalness". Other factors certainly are included in the ongoing debate on homosexuality, but these arguments "from nature" are seriously flawed and used far too much, and we would be better off discarding them and proceeding on to more persuasive arguments.

I'm interested to know if anyone else agrees with my premise. I've tried issuing a couple of debate challenges, only to have my opponents disengage after the first round. I'd be very interested in debating this topic formally (and to the finish!). Please let me know in this forum or on my profile page if you'd like to accept a formal challenge.

Most people who aren't defending the "gays are unnatural therefore bad" hypothesis would agree with you.

But there's some value in pointing out "Look, even if we accept your premise that Natural = moral, YOU'RE STILL WRONG".

It's sort of like how if someone said "That guy over there? He's a jerk, because everybody who wears blue hats is a jerk". If the guy's wearing a red hat, it's perfectly valid to point out that the color of the hat has nothing to do with whether he's a jerk or not...but it's also worth pointing out "His hat's not even blue!"

It would be better to discard the arguments completely, but the "nature=moral" folks won't do that.

Part of the problem, too, is that the people using the "natural" argument who aren't utter simpletons are actually using a very specific technical definition of "natural" that isn't whta most people think of when they use that word. It's an utterly unsupportable definition. but it causes a lot of "talking past" each other, as, under that technical definition, all the gay sex that happens in nature is "unnatural", because the definition requires a telelogical view of function which says "Sex is ONLY for procreation". It's, again, unsupported both in its presumption of a "plan" and its leap from that to morality.

Great post.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
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7/11/2013 2:38:19 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM, Drayson wrote:
I think the argument should be completely retired, because ...
... making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.

But that's all they've got. If they abandon rhetoric, they abandon the field entirely.
Drayson
Posts: 288
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7/11/2013 4:30:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/11/2013 12:33:40 AM, thg wrote:
At 7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM, Drayson wrote:
I think the argument should be completely retired, because any time it comes up, the speaker never defines what is meant by "natural" and "unnatural", nor do they offer an explanation why phenomena that is unnatural (under their definition) is "bad".

Basically, there's an underlying, unsubstantiated assumption to the argument, making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.

I agree that the argument "from nature" should be completely retired, and I believe I agree with the force of your sentiment, but I think I would word it somewhat differently. I believe often (though not often enough?) the proponents do, in fact, try to elucidate what they mean by "natural" and "unnatural", but I believe the arguments are flawed nonetheless. I think you are correct that a lot of folks simply parrot the politically correct or popular rhetoric within their social milieu, but some do try to elucidate and substantiate their claims. Some proponents, in fact, are quite erudite and articulate. Most discussions I hear, even on the part of very educated folks, often include this argument "from nature", and often the pro-gay side, especially, is quite passionate about justifying homosexual behavior BECAUSE of genetic determination (often quoting studies, etc.). My point is that I believe the argument, whether rhetorical or quite erudite, still is flawed, and we'd be better off discarding it altogether.

Alright, I can see where you're coming from there. Perhaps the concepts of "natural" and "unnatural" are in fact defined by many of those who employ this argument. I guess I was more concerned with the connection that is made between "x is unnatural" and "x is bad".

I'd go so far as to say that the argument from nature is nothing more than a religious justification in disguise. I wonder if there's any real difference between "it goes against nature" and "it goes against God".
"I'm not saying I don't trust you...and I'm not saying I do. But I don't"

-Topper Harley
Drayson
Posts: 288
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7/11/2013 4:33:33 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/11/2013 2:38:19 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM, Drayson wrote:
I think the argument should be completely retired, because ...
... making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.

But that's all they've got. If they abandon rhetoric, they abandon the field entirely.

Well, that's true too I suppose :P
I'd like, just once, to see someone who opposes homosexuality and homosexual rights, defend their position without relying on scripture, personal feelings, or rhetoric. Or any logical fallacy for that matter.
I think they'd have a lot of trouble :)
"I'm not saying I don't trust you...and I'm not saying I do. But I don't"

-Topper Harley
thg
Posts: 520
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7/11/2013 5:46:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/11/2013 4:33:33 PM, Drayson wrote:
At 7/11/2013 2:38:19 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 7/10/2013 7:26:04 PM, Drayson wrote:
I think the argument should be completely retired, because ...
... making it nothing more than a rhetorical appeal.

But that's all they've got. If they abandon rhetoric, they abandon the field entirely.

Well, that's true too I suppose :P
I'd like, just once, to see someone who opposes homosexuality and homosexual rights, defend their position without relying on scripture, personal feelings, or rhetoric. Or any logical fallacy for that matter.
I think they'd have a lot of trouble :)

Now we're getting somewhere! I agree with both of you! But I would say, in our milieu of sexual ambiguity, it's at least as difficult to justify something as to condemn it. Yes, I definitely agree that the argument "from nature" often is a cover for argument "from God". My contention, however, is not that the argument from God is invalid, but may have merit. I just wish that the anti-gay side would get to that (and do more than quote a couple of scriptures!), and then we might have something to really debate.