Thursday, January 15, 2009



Civilization spawns and perpetuates absurd untruths. It even manufactures evidence and anecdotal “stories” to sustain them. Sadly, it takes centuries to eradicate these misleading shams and even longer to reverse the misunderstandings they leave in men’s minds. Sexual untruths are especially wrongheaded. Some simply sound ridiculous to a rational mind, like the old yarn that “masturbation will cause hair to grow on the palms of your hands.” Others are not just ridiculous, but also unfounded in reason, like the claim that homosexuality is “against nature.” See Romans Ch. 1:16-18; Genesis Ch. 18-19 (“The outcry against Sodom and Gamorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious.”) Id. at Ch. 18:20. “Morality” perpetuates these pernicious falsehoods, ignoring verifiable scientific evidence that contradicts them.

I am not a scientist. Nor do I believe that science can answer every question on earth. But I do trust science where it is valid: In the realm of human sense and observation. If phenomena can be observed through the senses, then science can provide convincing explanations for them. If we use our eyes to see snow on the ground in the morning, we can infer the fact that the snow fell from the sky during the night, even if we did not see it falling. That is reasonable deduction. That is what scientists do: They observe, catalogue and make reasonable conclusions warranted by objective sensory observation. Human reason depends on human sense. Humans can find “truth” for themselves if they base it on sense. They can even make theories consistent with their senses. If sensory observation lends objective credibility to a theory, reasonable people will accept it. After all, good scientific theories make sense because they appeal to our senses. The scientist shows us what he saw; then he makes a reasonable conclusion on that basis. In this light, science represents the pinnacle of rational, reasonable human thought. Where human reason is valid, so is science.

I recently found scientific studies that unequivocally demonstrate that animals engage in same-sex sexual activity. One researcher (Bruce Bagemihl) observed and photographically catalogued “homosexual” contact in 1500 species, including lions, dolphins, common domestic dogs, giraffes, orangutans, penguins, sheep and even beetles. I put the adjective “homosexual” in quotation marks, because the subject animals also engaged in “heterosexual” contact with opposite-sex partners. In a true sense, then, all these creatures are “bisexual.” They do not limit their sexual affections to members of the opposite sex, nor is the purpose of their sexual activity “purely procreative.” Indeed, there is photographic evidence to show that male dolphins use their penises to penetrate the blowholes of other male dolphins, and there is photographic evidence to show that male giraffes engage in anal intercourse. One researcher even observed female orangutans sexually stimulating one another with wooden tools from the forest floor.

This will likely arouse some uneasiness in a “moralistic” reader. But that is precisely why this subject has not received the attention it deserves. These are observations. Human sense perceived these things. They are not speculative. They tend to demonstrate that animals do not have sex merely to reproduce, nor do they shy away from sexual encounters with members of their own gender. More importantly, they squarely contradict the assertion that “homosexuality is unnatural.” If homosexuality is “unnatural,” why does it routinely manifest itself in nature? If anything, homosexuality appears perfectly natural among the species in which it has been observed. And these species do not ridicule, ostracize, castigate or kill individual animals that engage in same-sex activity. The “moral teaching” that “homosexuality is unnatural” thus shows itself to be patent untruth.

Sigmund Freud knew almost a century ago that man exhibited the same bisexual characteristics as animals. In Civilization and its Discontents, he wrote: “Man is an animal organism with (like others) an unmistakably bisexual disposition…We are accustomed to say that every human being displays both male and female instinctual impulses, needs and attributes; but though anatomy, it is true, can point out the characteristic of maleness and femaleness, psychology cannot. For psychology, the contrast between the sexes fades away into one between activity and passivity, in which we far too readily identify activity with maleness and passivity with femaleness, a fact which is by no means universally confirmed in the animal kingdom.” Civilization and its Discontents, pp. 61-62, fn7. Freud knew that man was an “animal organism.” As such, the “animal kingdom” provided convincing objective evidence to support his assertion that humans, like animals, display bisexual inclinations.

It amazes me that scientists have not intensely studied these phenomena until recently. The fact that they have not investigated them until recently testifies to the weighty, stultifying force of “traditional morality” on human beings, even those dedicated to discovering natural truths. Writing in the 19th Century, Charles Darwin posited that sexual behavior was “purely procreative.” He never mentioned that it could have played other roles in animal life. But it is significant that Darwin was writing from Victorian England, a society that imposed an excruciatingly narrow view of human sexuality on everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest man. Although a scientist, Darwin could not escape his own cultural heritage. He simply could not countenance the possibility that homosexual contact did indeed exist in nature. After all, his society criminalized and socially condemned it. I would venture that Darwin must have observed homosexual contact among the animals he catalogued; he simply wrote it off as “an abomination.” This is disturbing because scientists cannot reveal the truth about nature if they do not honestly record the things they see. Who knows how many other scientists throughout history did not fully reveal their observations under the weight of “social propriety” at the time they wrote?

Yet this again testifies to the resilient strength of persistent social untruths. In my eyes, it is untenable to argue that “homosexuality is unnatural,” or that “homosexuality does not exist in nature.” Even if there were no scientific studies, our own perceptions would give us pause when we confront this argument. Have you ever seen two male dogs “humping?” It happens all the time. In fact, such things revolt “moral people” when they see them. I even saw a woman break up two “naughty” male dogs because she thought such contact was “inappropriate.” What the hell do dogs know about “inappropriateness?” All they want to do is have an orgasm; it is a matter of complete biological indifference with whom they have it. Nonetheless, entrenched moral systems insist that “these things do not happen in nature.” How can you believe that assertion when you see the opposite with your own eyes? It is almost as absurd as saying that “fresh snow is not white.”

Morality wields a suffocating influence on the intellect and human reason. Simply put, “morality” refers to a society’s intuitive, collective sense about what is “right” or “wrong,” without strict regard to reasonable principles. Morality may formulate rules, doctrines and principles, but they are not based in reason. Rather, morality draws its strength from visceral, emotional reactions passed down over generations. Morality is backward-looking. It looks to see what behaviors and phenomena historically generated “disgust” in an average person, then uses that historical “disgust” to make judgments about behavior and phenomena today. Like a gnarled, ancient oak, morality has grown far beyond its original bounds. It has amassed tremendous historical inertia, influencing everyone in the society where it prevails. Why is homosexuality wrong? Well, says the moralist, it involves the anus, and the anus is “disgusting” to an average person because it excretes. Because average people originally deemed it “disgusting,” it became “immoral” and “deviant.” Civilization perpetuated these judgments, resorting to facetious arguments to justify them, such as: “Homosexuality is not just disgusting; it is also against nature. Animals do not do it. Therefore, we shouldn’t.”

But science contradicts these flawed, syllogistic moral pronouncements. Moralists may think that “tradition” provides support for their ghost story that homosexuality is unnatural. Indeed, barely 20 years ago, even the United States Supreme Court invoked “millennia of moral teaching” to voice its view that American States had the right to criminalize human homosexual contact. See Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 197 (1986)(Burger, C.J., concurring). Human moral teaching has nothing to do with nature. Still, human moral teaching attempts to label homosexuality “unnatural,” even though observation convincingly shows the opposite. Nature does not care about what human beings think. It follows its own trajectory; we can merely watch. Nature does not judge, either. Morality, on the other hand, judges all the time. And it invents the most implausible arguments to sustain the unsustainable.

Consider this moral argument: “The fact that scientists have observed homosexual contact in the animal kingdom does not validate homosexuality among humans because it is illogical to use animal behavior to determine whether something is moral.” What the hell? Does “human morality” have some special, exalted place in the universe, divorced from all other considerations? Do we make moral determinations in an ethereal vacuum, without regard to our natural environment or our heritage? It borders on the ridiculous to say that we cannot learn about ourselves by studying animals. Although “morality” may have evolved into an abstract lexicon over the centuries, that does not change the basic fact that human beings are mammals. Just because we can invent facetious moral codes does not change the fact that we have warm blood, body hair, a circulatory system, bad breath and eyes that look quite like any other mammal’s eyes.

Human beings share far more similarities with animals than a moralist would like to admit. We have hands and feet, just like a monkey. We have hearts and lungs, just like an eagle. We have red blood, just like a horse. We have nostrils and teeth, just like a tiger. We have mouths and jaws, just like a turtle. We give birth to live young after sexual intercourse, just like an elephant. And we even have vocal chords, just like a dog. Moreover, we all die and our bodies decay into dust. We share all these characteristics with animals. We come from the same biological tree. How can we not learn about ourselves by studying our animal ancestors?

I have a message for the moralists: Homosexuality exists in nature; it is not “wrong” and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’d better get used to the idea. You might think human beings are in their own elite “category,” but you are gravely mistaken. We are in the same category as orangutans, horses, giraffes and bulls. Those creatures display bisexual tendencies. So do humans. To suggest, therefore, that the same “natural” activity is “unnatural” for humans disregards sensory evidence. The fact that humans have larger brains and invented a “moral code” during their comparatively brief stay on this planet does not vault them onto a higher plateau than their forebears. So would you do me a favor? Stop passing judgment on people for being gay. They are simply acting naturally, no matter what your book says. You say that animals provide no guidance for making “moral determinations.” That may be so, but I say that you are just a mammal with a book in your hand. You can invent any idea you want. But you can’t escape biology.

Face it: You are an animal. Don’t be ashamed: Learn from your brothers. You may not be gay, but it should not surprise you that some members of your species are. Just look to nature and you will see that it is perfectly natural. Would you judge nature?

1 comment:

SteveW said...

I disfavor nature-based arguments for a couple of reasons.

First (and least important), the science of support for animal homosexuality is easily attacked on at least two grounds. The first ground is that animals do not generally show themselves to be "sexually oriented" at all. As you indicate, they show a wide variety of sexual behavior, including sex with objects, people, and other species. The vast majority of sexual "hit counts" will be normal-ish sexual encounters between members of the opposite sex (my Dad had a very confused male rabbit that mounted the female about 20 times from various angles and made quite a mess out of her, but they never had baby rabbits, I guess that's normal-ish). So you are open to a fuzzy squishy debate about what percentage of encounters are homosexual before homosexuality is "natural". Also, then you have to decide whether inter-species contact is therefore "natural" if you use animal observation as your standard (or mounting bushes, fence posts, etc.) The second ground is that it is also open to the old "we're not animals" argument which you mention. It's fine to call that line of reasoning weak, but you're not going to win a debate arguing it. For example, animals kill other animals and we decide that's not acceptable among humans. I can find many other contexts where we reject animal behavior as acceptable, and now you are back to the soft squishy debate about which contexts are legitimate.

The second (and most important) problem I have with the homosexuality is natural argument is that it legitimizes the debate itself. Rather than letting a religious person define the terms of the debate by getting into whether it is natural - it would be better to say "why the hell does it matter." Arguments based on liberty are stronger. Let's say a guy wins the "nature" debate, and in fact let's say through some triumph of science somebody discovers a characteristic in animals and humans (say, enlarged hypothalamus, although this is not it despite hype about it), and can demonstrate that those with the characteristic are naturally homosexual. Rather than a triumph for homosexual rights, this will be their devastation. There will be all sorts of nonsense from this - development of drugs or surgery to "cure" people, testing of whether people are "legitimate" homosexuals or false homosexuals, and of course some people will still find it to be unacceptable regardless of its "natural" status. They won't understand why God cursed that person, but it still doesn't make it right, etc. etc.

The best treatment of this issue is to make a liberty based argument that no one should care about homosexual activity between consenting adults (or any other sexual activity for that matter). That is the only argument that, if it wins, is unassailable. Be careful what you wish for - if you win your argument and still lose, then you may be arguing up the wrong tree.