Sunday, February 22, 2009

A matter of consent

I have no clue of how I came across this blogpost (I tend to click on a number of links while surfing), but I came across a repulsive blogpost today, that I felt I had to comment on.

A consideration on the moral permissability[sic] of homosexual behavior

I guess that people can guess by the title alone, that the poster thinks that homosexual behavior is not morally permissible, which I guess is his prerogative. The argumentation for this stance, however, is so repulsive that I had to speak out against it.

First the post start out by stating that homosexuality is not by choice, and is natural. So far so good. Then comes the bad part, where he starts off by presenting an argument for homosexuality being morally permissible.

- Well, if homosexual inclinations are natural, then acting upon them must be morally permissible.

If someone makes that claim, they are not particularly bright. There are many things that comes naturally to people, but which isn't morally permissible. Also, the simple fact whether homosexuality is natural, has little bearing upon whether it's morally permissible. It's natural for people to die from diseases, yet we would not consider it morally permissible for us to let people die, if we could save them with medicine. On the other hand, medicine is not particularly natural, but it's certainly morally permissible to both make and use it.

Now, I could take issue with the logic of the following discussion (in short, this is a false dilemma; not to mention the fact that some of the above-mentioned claims are ambiguous and beg for clarification), but I want to offer a response to this particular line of argumentation because I think it is very popular and very convincing.

When you put words into the mouth of others, it's fairly simple to make counter arguments. Still, let's take a look at Harold's counter argument, shall we?

Pedophilia has been studied quite a bit recently, and this is largely because of the 2002 sexual abuse scandal in the priesthood. Some of the findings concerning its causes and treatment are, I think, relevant to this discussion. It is associated with prenatal hormonal exposure (like homosexual attraction), other hormonal irregularities (like homosexual attraction), abnormal brain function, and various psycho-social irregularities (also, like homosexual attraction) ( This means that pedophilia is, in every relevant sense of the word, "natural". So this begs the question: does the "natural-ness" of pedophilia render pedophilia-related behavior moral permissible?

It would have been nice if Harold of the blogpost had actually included some references other than a link to a Wikipedia article. I hate to break it to Harold, but Wikipedia is not a reliable source. The truth is, that the cause of pedophilia has not yet been found - something which the Wikipedia article actually makes clear - so why he thinks he is able to tell what causes pedophilia is anyone's guess.

What's more. Notice how he links the (presumed) causes of pedophilia to the causes of homosexuality? Well, if something causes one to become either homosexual or heterosexual (ignoring bi-sexuality for the moment), then the cause for homosexuality could also be said to be the case for heterosexuality. So, to use Harold's line of argumentation, pedophilia is caused by the same mechanisms which causes heterosexuality.

The obvious answer should be a resounding "no"! The fact that pedophilia (as an inclination) is natural in no way entails that it is morally permissible to act on that inclination. In fact, it's cause or origin is largely irrelevant to the question of its morality.

In this we agree. We all feel murderous rage on occasion, yet we don't find it morally permissible to act upon such.

No one is seriously proposing this as a justification for pedophilia, but if someone were seriously proposed this argument as a justification for pedophilia, we might well respond that even if pedophilia is natural, there are antecedent considerations as to why it should not be allowed, namely, its immorality (which would probably be the fact that a child doesn't have the capacity to consent to sex).

Yes, that's true. Funny how the same argument can't be used against homosexuality, isn't it? Homosexuality happens between two consenting adults, so why shouldn't it be morally permissible?

Now, regardless of the reason, the logic of the response is that there are antecedent moral considerations as to why this type of behavior is immoral, which is what the "anti-homosexual" folks have been saying all along in regards to homosexuality.

No. There are religious reasons why homosexuality is considered immoral by certain groups, but that doesn't mean that there are "antecedent moral considerations". Just because your religion doesn't approve of something, doesn't make it immoral. Would you argue that eating shellfish is immoral? No, probably not. Yet, at least one major religion prohibits its adherents from eating shellfish. For something to be considered immoral, it requires something more than religious disapproval. No one has been able to present any non-religious arguments against homosexuality, and that's simply because there isn't any to present. It's something which involves two consenting adults, and which doesn't affect anyone else - so why should there be any moral problems with homosexuality?

This consideration, therefore, cuts through the above-mentioned line of reasoning, which is a complete non sequitur, and gets to the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is, do homosexual unions (whether homosexual attraction is natural or not) violate some basic moral principle? I would, of course, say yes, but irrelevant to my answer is the fact that the common consideration of homosexuality's immoral nature, is irrelevant to its origin.

The only reason why someone would bring up the naturalness of homosexuality is because the people who want to deny homosexuals equal rights always claim that it's "unnatural". Since this is obviously not the case, that argument is easily dismissed.

Anyway, let's get back to my major point here. The difference between homosexuality and the example of pedophilia is the matter of consent. This is why one of them is morally permissible, while the other isn't. It's that simple. And anyone who tries to equal the two things is not only an ignorant moron, but also morally repugnant.

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Anonymous Bryan Lower said...

It's amazing that someone is trying to make an intellectual argument against homosexuality. I've seen lots of religious arguments, but it's a hard (impossible?) case to make outside of religion.

I think your response is spot on.

February 24, 2009 5:02 PM  

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