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Gay Rights and Some Logical Fallacies 12 June 2006

Posted by Todd in Democratic Theory, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, Inequality & Stratification, Philosophy & Social Theory.
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[A further refinement of my argument about the biological origins of homosexuality and their relationship to our current arguments about equality and freedom for gay men and women in the United States:]

Natural = Moral

This is called, loosely, the “naturalistic fallacy” (philosophers have tighter definitions of this fallacy, but this will do for my purposes). The naturalistic fallacy argues that something that is natural is necessarily moral. The fallacy does not mean that things which are natural aren't moral, just that they aren't necessarily so. There is also an inverse fallacy, the "moralistic fallacy," which is that the current moral construction of something in society is natural. Anti-gay forces make this moralistic fallacy in their assumption that their construction of morality (i.e., monogamous, sexually excluse, heterosexual, nuclear family unit) is necessarily natural. The naturalistic fallacy is made by the pro-gay advocates in defending themselves in the public sphere.

It is important to point out that in fact as the dominant cultural force and defenders of status quo, the anti-gay forces are the ones in the position to define the terms of the argument, and they have defined it around naturalness. Because they don't have scientific backing on their argument, for the past 10 years they've been trying to move away from it, but it is still at the core of their rationale for disallowing homosexuality and institutionalizing second-class citizenship.

The key problem with this whole line of reasoning and the whole question of morality in the public sphere is that democracies were set up on the principle that moral debates were private. The public sphere functions on determining harm and foreclosing or denying rights only when harm is the result. Harm in democracies has the narrowest of definitions, and means only the infringement of another individual's rights. This switch away from morality and religion, toward rational weighing of individual rights was a brilliant move which aimed to stop incredible amounts of violence which had been wracking Europe for a few hundred years at the time. One of the biggest problems with American democracy is that we've never fully enacted disestablishmentarianism (i.e., get the church the fuck out of my democracy).

In any case, although I think homosexuality is completely natural (that is, it's a biological part of the human phenotypic diversity), I think people should start screaming loud and long about the democratic harm principle. I challenge anyone to think of a rational reason why homosexuality should be in any way restricted (other than the ways that we would likewise restrict heterosexuality) and why homosexual persons should not receive equal treatment under the law, including all the same rights and privileges as hets. I have never heard a single compelling argument based in the democratic harm principle.

Anti-gay forces have three arguments: 1) it has ever been thus (revealing their utter ignorance of history and anthropology), an argument that is neither here nor there, as tradition is never an acceptable end-in-itself in a democracy; or 2) it's unnatural (revealing their utter ignorance of biology, genetics, evolution, anthropology) and therefore immoral, the naturalistic fallacy that is neither here nor there in democracy; or 3) god says so, but god has no place or power in a democratic public sphere. None of these goes to the harm principle, therefore none of them is acceptable reasons for the abridging of rights in a democracy.

[posted with ecto]

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Comments

1. mark - 12 June 2006

Your argument is interesting. However, I would like to challenge one of your basic assumptions. You say that democracies are founded on the harm principle. Is that really the only basis upon which a democracy can be built? Could you not also argue that democracy is based on the concept of collective self-government, i.e. we do what the majority (however that is qualified) wills that we do. The word “democracy” in its Greek original means “rule by the people”. That doesn’t sound to me like the harm principle. In fact, could you not apply the harm principle perfectly well in non-democratic systems of government? If a monarch acted on the harm prinicple, and made laws strictly on that basis, would that make a democracy?

On the other hand, maybe I’m out to lunch, because as I work through this reasoning I find myself ending up at arguments that sound a lot like the harm principle, for example, I wanted to suggest that you look at it on the basis of an exchange of individual rights versus collective interest, but this leads to a weighing of harm (is greater harm caused to me or to society by allowing me this type of sexual expression?)

I guess the harm principle makes me uncomfortable because I tend to the view that democratic societies should be allowed to make mistakes and to make choices that are not necessarily harm based since (1) I think that societal progress comes best through trial and error and the resultant experience; (2) the best calculation of harm is inevitably limited by our individual and collective imperfection, i.e. we aren’t gods with the benefit of omniscience, we make decisions with less than perfect data or perfect understanding of the data we do have.

2. J. Todd Ormsbee - 12 June 2006

Mark,
See my new post, where I address some of your great ideas.
Todd

3. nicolaepadigone - 14 June 2006

Todd,

I am curious what your thoughts are on Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s talk on Same Gender Attraction.

4. J. Todd Ormsbee - 14 June 2006

Hi again, Nic. And again, thanks for taking the time to post. You’ll excuse me for being short with you, as I don’t like having to defend against homophobia in my personal time. In short, I think Oaks’ talk is among the handful of deeply damaging views on homosexuality circulating in mormondom. Oaks reveals an ignorance of scientific data, and a moral conclusion based on a priori assumptions about the nature of the world as he sees it from his religious perspective. While it is true that a gay person can choose to be celibate and can choose to try to marry, Oaks ignores the deep damage that such actions can cause for a gay person and for their loved ones. At best, Oaks is ignorant; at worse his is deeply irresponsible in his views.

For me, any moral position must be backed with reasons and evidence. And so I would ask Oaks, why? Why shouldn’t I be gay? And his only answer is that because the way he views god and the afterlife don’t fit if there are gay people. That is, to say the least, an unsatisfactory argument.

Being gay is perfectly natural, but even if it was something I chose to be, I see no compelling reason why I shouldn’t have sex with men or have a relationship with a man.

5. nicolaepadigone - 14 June 2006

thanks for answering Todd, but I would appreciate one thing from you. Please stop calling me homophobic when I’ve not even once derided homosexuals for their activity, called them sinners and said they would burn in hell. It would be better for you if you were not so defensive when someone comes to your blog whose views are different than yours.

I am assuming you won’t respond again to me, as apparently I’m not up to your level. That’s fine. Enjoy your blog.

6. J. Todd Ormsbee - 14 June 2006

It is often difficult for people to hear the effect that their beliefs have on other people. Your arguments are homophobic on their face: the presume that homosexuality is immoral and they take the position that the rights of homosexuals are legitimately foreclosed in the public sphere.

I do not think I’m better than you, but I will defend myself against false religious beliefs that directly affect my life. You cannot enter a debate/dialogue and then be offended when people call ‘bullshit’ on your argument–that is the nature of debating.

You’re beliefs are homophobic. My grandmother is deeply racist; I love her and know that she is a good person, but she is nonetheless a racist. You may be in all other ways a good human being, love your family, don’t kick sick dogs, etc. But as someone whose life is directly harmed by you and your church’s beliefs, you must confront the reality of your homophobia as evidenced in your evaluation and public actions regarding your fellow citizens.

Take a breath, and argue back. If you do not think your ideas are homophobic, make your argument. If you would not characterize calling homosexuality immoral and ungodly and then fighting to prevent me from being an equal citizne homophobic, then what would you call it? And give reasons why I or anyone should accept your understanding of homophobia over the generally accepted definition of the word.

I understand if you want to withdraw. Sometimes arguments aren’t worth having. But since this is my space, I’ll be sticking around.

Cheers

Todd

7. J. Todd Ormsbee - 14 June 2006

P.S. I notice that you didn’t even engage my argument, but just were uncomfortable reading that yours (and Oaks) beliefs are homophobic. When you can, take a look at my (admittedly brief) argument as to why they are homophobic and give your arguments, reasons, evidence back.

8. Mike - 18 September 2006

Hi Todd,
I enjoyed your argument quite a bit. I am currently a student and am studying critical thinking and writing an argument essay of my own about gays in the military. I agree that #3 of your anti-gay forces arguments being “God said so” is completely wrong. To claim that being gay is wrong supported only by [becasue]”God said so” is a fallacy. The existence of God is itself questionable therefore using God as support for the claim is inadequate.

Thanks for the blog….keep it coming.

9. Todd - 18 September 2006

Hey Mike,

Glad you found the blog helpful and thanks for your clarifying comments.

todd

10. Anthony - 28 September 2006

Hey Todd

Those are definitely some interesting and certainly very well thought out views; It is obvious to me that I am not going to be able to sway you in the slightest yet somehow cant seem to stop myself from trying.

Anyway let me say that while I am a Christian I realise that alot of the things we are told by the church in general is utter crap.

I am in complete agreement with the fallacies you have set out, although will disagree with you on the nature of a democracy, yet that doesn’t form part of my argument so I won’t attempt to breach it(currently half one in the morning here and I still have to finish a paper for the morning).

The crux of the matter lies in the defining of morality; as I see it we have several models for what constitutes moral behaviour: nature, society and religion.

If conforming to a natural model, we can be expected to behave as any animals would; animals draw no distinction between hetero and homo-sexual acts and by this code, neither should we.

The Societal model is at war; different factions expound different views, I agree with you in that tradition can not be used as a validating argument.

Religion declares that homosexuality is wrong, and however you may claim that the existence of God has not been proven, the existence of Christ has been proven (or at least to a similar extent as evolution has), and the only remaining points of contention there are whether he is God made manifest and whether he said exactly what is recorded (you probably disagree with that last, but live with it, its true) thus ‘because God said so’ cannot be ruled out as a validating argument.

Now I have no doubt whatsoever that we are at our core, animals. Hell, I’m not even sure what my thoughts are on evolution (no, proving it does not disprove religion, and I know that may seem like we’re picking and choosing what in the bible to take literally, but thats another debate and not relevant here). But at the end of the day we have either a naturally evolved sense of society or a divine superiority that elevates us above the level of all the other animals. Animals do not conduct themselves by any standard of morality, they merely act on instincts and animal urges.

The very fact that we have a concept of morality; a desire to rationally determine the right thing to do, indicates that we are above the level of animal.

Crap I realise im rambling, let me try to summarise this quickly.

Society may offer rules on how to live, often backed up by laws decreeing it; yet these change depending purely on current views, Im sure you agree that common consensus is not a fit way to determine morality. Thus we are left with the natural and religious model.

Animals may participate in homosexual sex, yet this is always the result of .

Fuck it, ley me just say that I believe that humans, as animals at our cores, have sexual urges for both male and female bodies naturally; science has yet to find genetic predisposition for homosexuality, and nor will they. Homosexuality is not a natural inclination but a societally inferred condition. It is our restraint, in this as much as in restraining ourselves from shooting the man who steals our food, or sleeps with our partner, that sets us above the animals that we may revert to. In addition to this, even animals never develop monogamous homosexual relationships: That at least is unnatural.

Whether or not you believe the religious argument, submission to homosexual urges is yet another step toward a society ruled by impulse and passion.

Your declaration that moving away from religious morality was a brilliant move that stopped decades of violence is not true in that true religious morality was not being preached at the time; the catholics back then were a seriously corrupt bunch of bastards.

In essence if you want to be animals then submit to homosexuality: it is not a preborn inclination it is a natural urge such as urinating; animals urinate whenever they feel the need, so long as it doesn’t disturb their lair/nest wherever(just an example, don’t throw marking your territory back at me) and have sex whenever they feel the urge: You don’t give in to the urge to urinate in your neighbours office cubicle: dont submit and sleep with him either.

Sorry that was so fragmented, I doubt you got much out of that at all. Its currently 02:16 and the coffee is leaving my system.

Speaking of urinating…

11. Todd - 30 September 2006

Anthony,
I’m not in the habit of squelching speech, so I will let your post stand as it is. A word of advice for future adult interaction: You may want to avoid telling the people whom you are trying to convince of the validity of your argument that they are “animals” and that their lives and loves are like “urinating.”
If I have time at some point, I’ll try to post a detailed response later this week.

12. molik jain - 19 May 2010

We offer a variety of religious idols like ganesha’s playing different instruments, Lakshmi, etc in different sizes, colours and textures. These are ideal as indoor decorative pieces, gifts and garden centre pieces. Religious idol is considered as a substitute or symbol. The statues of God and Goddess are precious for the devotees as they bear the mark of his Lord. The devotee feels the presence of Lord in the image and it represents holiness and eternal blessings.

13. linda - 9 August 2010

Were do you people come up with this garbage ? Those of you who don”t agree with homo life, stop trying to represent Christians by attacking them. I believe it’s wrong too, but God will deal with it. We look ignorant claiming to act like Christ but not being Christ like. Just hate the sin but love the sinner, and by the way we are not perfect. To the homo, you speak of rights. Stop forcing your life style down our throats, your messing with my rights. I don”t have to welcome your life style. The same way you monitor what your small children watch on TV, I have the right to protect my children from any outside influence I don’t agree with. I have the right to teach my children that God hates this behavior. And just so you know, no matter what you say or do, EVERY ONE will serve God one way or another. Also, (I don’t believe In God) won’t cut it, It is a fact, some things are true whether you believe it or not !


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