Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is 'natural'?

This piece was written by Notre Dame junior Stephen Hawn for Common Sense.

Throughout my conversations with some of the more conservative students in Notre Dame’s community, I so often hear them claim that being gay is unnatural. I hear students claim that being gay defies the natural order of nature, and that it is somehow contrary to our natural purpose as human beings.

This sort of argument is often used to claim that, even without god, homosexuality should still be considered immoral. The problem is that, even though this argument is trying to examine the issue without god, the biases of a religious viewpoint are still present. 

From a nonreligious perspective, the purpose of animals (humans included) is not to survive and reproduce. Animals and humans have no purpose. We are the accidental products of the inherently random process of evolution.

An accidental process, by its very nature, cannot have a purpose. It simply happens, lacking even a basic plan. The fact that we can explain and predict evolution does not justify anthropomorphizing evolution into having a purpose.

A slightly different argument states that since evolution (or nature) selects against homosexuality, homosexuality must be wrong. This argument also fails for two majors reasons.

First, I would question whether nature really selects against homosexuality. Homosexual behavior has been well documented in over 500 animal species.

For example, sheep exhibit homosexuality at about the same rate as humans. One could make a strong argument that nature is actually selecting for homosexual behavior.

The second problem with the argument is that it assumes that what nature does is somehow inherently good. This simply isn’t true.

Nature is neither good nor evil. Nature is without order or purpose and there is nothing morally righteous about nature. The fact that rape is common in so many animal species, including humans, indicates that nature is selecting for rape to some extent.

This makes evolutionary sense, as rape is an effective (although morally terrible) way of passing on your genes. If nature is selecting for rapists, you can be assured that we should not automatically consider the “natural” way of things to be morally righteous.

I hope that the above points have shown that one cannot cite the natural order of the world as an argument against homosexuality. Instead, we must use reason, love and compassion to discover the morals of our world.

I firmly believe that, using such tools, we will inevitably come to the conclusion that gay people have just as much right as heterosexuals to love who they want to love, marry who they want to marry, and have sex with who they want to have sex with. And they are just as morally justified as heterosexuals in doing so.

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