06 December 2007

Gays and Sloppy Thinkers

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 14, 2007

In the last couple years, there have been a slew of laws banning gay marriage or hindering interstate recognition of it. Same-sex marriage is recognized only in Massachusetts. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (passed in 1996) no state need recognize another state’s marriage of a same-sex couple and the federal government is banned from recognizing it. The motivation for these laws is that gay sexuality is wrong or bad. There are three main arguments for this claim: it is unnatural, harmful, or God prohibits it. These arguments fail and this failure speaks volumes about the irrationality of far too many Americans.

An act is wrong only when it wrongs someone or causes great harm. One person wrongs a second only if he violates the second person’s right or exploits her. If a lesbian couple has gay sex, no one’s right is violated because both participants voluntarily consent. Nor does it involve exploitation. Exploitation occurs when one person uses his superior position to get another person to agree to a terrible deal. For example, if during a winter storm tow truck operators charged $1,000 per tow to desperate and freezing motorists, the operators would exploit the motorists. Nothing like that is true of gay sex. And ordinarily such sex doesn’t cause great harm. I haven’t asked them, but I’m guessing that the gay students and faculty would probably claim that it’s more fun than reading my columns.

One argument against gay sexuality is that it is wrong because it’s unnatural. This is usually followed up with the claim that sex is natural only if it’s for the purpose of reproduction in the context of heterosexual marriage. Now this obviously takes the fun away from infertile couples or couples in which the wife is already pregnant. This is ridiculous.

Furthermore, when we ask what makes an act natural, we shouldn’t be surprised if the critics of gay sex sweat as much as the ladies in Richard Simmons’s videos. By “natural,” they can’t mean what’s morally right since this is what’s at issue. Nor do they mean that natural acts are statistically common ones because some rare acts (for example, acts of battlefield courage) are clearly permissible. By “natural,” the critics probably don’t mean that it was widespread during most of the time in which human beings evolved. This is because there is a good chance that human evolution took place in the context of polygamy and I doubt the critics believe that monogamy is unnatural. Opponents of gay sex might think that natural acts are ones that are in line with human beings’ purpose, although they then have the daunting task of identifying what that purpose is. If you think that human beings came about via evolution, and you should, they don’t have a purpose.

It’s not even clear why unnatural activities are wrong. It’s not clear to me that doing chemistry experiments, running ultra-marathons (some are 50 or 100 miles long), or performing ballet is natural. We certainly didn’t evolve to do them, nor are they closely tied to our special purpose.

A second argument against it is that it’s wrong because it’s bad for the participants. A critic of gay sex might claim that it leads to sexually transmitted diseases or makes participants less eligible for marriage and parenthood. Now it’s not obvious that acts that hinder the agent’s interest are wrong. Tailgating and watching the Bills might also make a person less eligible for marriage in so far as it makes him fat and bitter, but that doesn’t make it wrong. In any case, the critic must provide data in support of the claim that gay sex makes gays’ lives go worse than they otherwise would have gone. I haven’t seen any such data. Perhaps I missed it.

Religious folk often claim that homosexuality is wrong because God prohibits it. In some cases, this is linked to the Divine Command Theory. This theory says that some acts are morally obligatory because God commands that we do them; others are wrong because he forbids them. This is silly. If it were true, then God would have no reason for forbidding certain acts (for example, rape and battery) rather than requiring them. If God has an independent reason for forbidding such acts, then it must be because they are wrong independent of what he commands. Hence, Divine Command Theory isn’t much help here.

Alternatively, the critics might claim that God has clearly told us that it’s wrong and so we need not reason for ourselves on this question. Here are some quotes that support this claim.
· “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Leviticus 18:22.
· “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:27.

However, using the Bible as the sole guide to morality leads to absurdity. Consider the following helpful pieces of advice.
· Pig Eating: “[Swine] shall be even an abomination of you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.” Leviticus 11:7-8
· Money Lending: Anyone who engages in money-lending “he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:13.
· Slave Owning: “[Y]ou may acquire male and female slaves … You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” Leviticus 25:44-46.

These examples show that we should not use the Bible as a substitute for independent thought.

I've never understood why various groups are opposed to the activities of our gay brethren. Regardless of the explanation, it’s time for them to drop their anti-gay claims and laws and think like adults.


The Objectivist said...

Note a critic might argue that homosexuality is intrinsically wrong, much like bestiality. The problem with this is that the following principle is very plausible.

(1) An act is wrong only if it wrongs someone.

Hence, it's unlikely that there are intrinsically wrong acts. Even if there are, it's hard to see intuitively how adults with gay desires who act on them to give themselves pleasure and help to feel close to others act wrong.

Note Romney is once again hiding behind the marriage issue to cover his obvious flip-flops and lack of principle.

The Objectivist said...

The arguments against gay marriage are interesting. Here is some of them.

(P1)If gay marriage is permissible, then so is incestuous marriage.
(P2) Incestuous marriage is not permissible.
(C1) Hence, gay marriage is not permissible.

The idea behind (P1) is that both involve voluntary, committed, and loving relations between individuals.

(P1) If gay marriage is permissible, then so is polygamy.
(P2)Polygamy is not permissible.
(C1)Hence, gay marriage is not permissible.

The Objectivist said...

Why would anyone hold the Bible as literally true given the above examples? Once you move away from the Bible being literally true, we need to use moral reasoning. I defy anyone to give me an argument for the impermissibility of gay sex.

Anonymous said...
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The Constructivist said...

Speaking of which...