Saturday, October 14, 2006

Science in the Service of Agitprop

Mark Shea and pals have a lively discussion on whether "naturalness" is a valid basis for arguing whether things like homosexuality in humans are good or bad or not.

In short, it's not a valid basis.

Before we can go that far, we need to understand that "natural" gets used in different ways. To quote Brendon, "the term "nature" speaks of a thing's formal and final cause, insofar as the form of a thing is the principle that moves the thing towards its proper end," when used in Catholic and philosophical circles. It's about the essence and purpose of an entity (and not just what feels correct to that entity). In common parlance, "nature" refers to the physical world, particularly the parts of it that are not altered or damaged by man.

So the "homosexuality is natural because we see it so much in nature" argument is based on the fact that it's observed in so many different species...albeit without great frequency in these other species, and mainly in situations where a population is under great stress (which in some species, like certain frogs, will induce a change in sex in some of the individual organisms).

So what? Some species eat their own poop, eat their own young, kill the young of competing groups. Is anyone going to argue in favor of coprophagia? People sometimes argue that infanticide of one sort or another is necessary, but I've yet to see anyone argue that it's fundamentally natural.

"Mating pairs often go their separate ways after having offspring, and sometimes are not loyal during the mating season." Yeah, and some, like certain swans, mate for life.

Don't swans count as natural?

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