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Back to Natural Law and One True Inherent Purpose:

A commenter on the Usage and Marriage thread perfectly illustrated what I see as the One True Inherent Meaning error as applied to sexual practices. Someone else had written, "I think that gay sex is in fact natural for gay people. Therefore, I think that gay sex, and gay marriage, would not violate natural law." The commenter responded, "You are simply wrong based on human biology. Tab P goes into slot V not slot B."

Well, tab P goes into slot V, except when it doesn't. My guess is that, as a purely descriptive matter, tab P goes into the P-owner's hand many more times, on average, than it goes into slot V. If the most common use (i.e., the norm) defines the One True Inherent Use, then any sex other than masturbation is unnatural.

Ah, the commenter might respond, but that's not the purpose of the penis. The purpose of the penis, either in the sense of what its biological function is, or in the sense of how God designed it (I don't know the commenter's philosophy, so I'm not sure which he'd focus on), is to be inserted into a vagina so as to procreate.

But biology doesn't have "purposes," except in a metaphorical sense. Biology has developed the penis into a multi-functioned organ — it can be used for urination, for sexual pleasure, for emotional bonding, and for reproduction (I list these in what I guess to be decreasing order of actual frequency of use). Likewise for the multi-functioned vagina, though replacing urination with delivery of babies. More broadly, the sexual act is likewise a multi-functioned act. Likewise, biology has developed the mouth into a stunningly multi-functioned organ: It can be used for (among other things) breathing, communicating, consuming sustenance-producing substances, tasting substances to see whether they are wholesome, expelling vomit, kissing, licking stamps, and at least four different kinds of production of pleasure in oneself and others — singing, eating tasty food, stimulating others' nongenital erogenous zones, and stimulating others' genitals.

The anus is a less multi-functioned organ. Still, it can be used not just for elimination of wastes, but also for prostate exams, for gynecological exams, for the administration of medicine to people (often babies) who can't easily keep it down when the medicine is administered orally, and for the relatively accurate determination of body temperature. The latter four functions are of course artifacts of modern medicine, but I doubt that any of us would condemn them as violations of natural law, especially since learning, thinking, and developing new processes is natural for humans. Likewise, the anus can be used for sexual pleasure, and has been used that way by humans for millennia (and is used that way by some animals). Why then treat the anus, the mouth, or the penis as having One True Inherent Purpose rather than recognizing that they can be used in multiple ways, each of which is fully consistent with our biology.

Likewise if one sees the human being as part of God's design, and tries to deduce proper conduct from such design. (I set aside the separate argument that proper conduct should be deduced from supposedly authoritative religious works, such as the Bible — that's not the argument I'm responding to here.) God seems to have designed the human body in such a way that the penis, the mouth, and the anus can be used in lots of different ways; why should we infer, simply from the fact that one use (penile-vaginal sex leading to reproduction) is so important, that it's the One True Proper Use of genitalia? Likewise, God has designed humans in a way that allows some of them to be attracted to members of their own sex; even if you believe that this preference isn't innate, but is caused in part by upbringing or by personal choice, it's clear that the possibility of this preference is indeed present in humans (and, as I said, other animals). This too casts doubt on the theory that penises or the sexual act have One True Inherent Purpose or One True Inherent Mode Of Employment.

Words can have many functions (in the sense of many meanings). Institutions, like marriage, can have many functions. Parts of the body can have many functions. Human practices can have many functions. One can certainly argue that some functions are beneficial and some are harmful. But I see little reason to assume that there can only be one true inherent metaphysical natural function, or to infer that just because one function is very important, all other possible functions are improper or violations of natural (or linguistic) law.

I also commented on the broader "unnaturalness" argument three years ago, here.

Luke:
"You are simply wrong" is a split infinitive. Poor form!
7.7.2006 2:46pm
Luke:
Whoops, no it isn't. I'm dumb
7.7.2006 2:47pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Luke, I took the first post as a multi-level joke -- not just an allusion to the split infinitive criticism, but as a deliberately incorrect one, to build on the inherent unsoundness of the "split infinitives are incorrect" criticism. And now you went and ruined it for me!
7.7.2006 2:54pm
Luke:
Well, now I'm dumb squared.
7.7.2006 2:58pm
Mattias Caro (mail) (www):
Of course, the interesting question for the philosopher is not what the penis is designed for but what is man made for. I hardly ever hear such a reductionist argument about hands when hands can be used for murdering by pulling the trigger on the weapon. Functionality does not indicate normativity and that's a common mistake taken by natural law theorists when they take natrual and biological to mean the same thing.
7.7.2006 3:02pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Great post, but I also don't understand why the apparent normalcy or high (or low) frequency of a particular biological act should compel a moral judgment of one kind or another. Suppose that the anus was not nearly as versatile as you gave it credit for above. Suppose it was used by all people to expel waste, and by .1% (not 5-10%) of people for sexual pleasure, and for no other reason by anyone. Should that change the way we view the "deviant" minority, in moral terms? I don't see why it should. A lower rate of occurrence for a particular activity speaks to the activity's popularity, but does not directly bear on whether it's moral, or even whether an objective moral norm can be derived from its infrequency.
7.7.2006 3:03pm
BobN (mail):
In the list of divinely provided purposes, you left out bookmark.
7.7.2006 3:13pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
This post makes sense, except when Eugene tries to correct and rationalize a theology for which he has no sympathy or belief. How can I say to someone:
I consider your belief in God to be silly, unfounded, and completely incoherent. Nonetheless, here are some logical inconsistencies in your beliefs.
If Eugene is going to question why God gives us pleasurable responses to things we shouldn't do, perhaps he should also discuss why God allows evil in the world, why bad things happen to good people, and all sorts of other issues that can only make sense to people who believe in this nonsense in the first place.
7.7.2006 3:18pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Well, tab P goes into slot V, except when it doesn't.

There it is. Invincible ignorance.
7.7.2006 3:19pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
IB Bill: I'm not sure quite what you mean. Could you elaborate, please?
7.7.2006 3:22pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Having never left this universe, I've never understood what unnatural means. But I suppose if I axiomatically assumed there was an intelligent design behind this instantiation, I would start looking for hints as to what that design would be were it revealed.

Besides believing that nature does not know good or evil, but merely existence and consequences, I also believe things ought to be testable and falsifiable. How often do people have their beliefs changed, rather than reinforced, about what's moral by biological functionality, especially once they get past that point during puberty when girls stop being yucky?
7.7.2006 3:24pm
BobN (mail):

I've never understood what unnatural means.


Unfortunately, in this context it means "that which was not observed by Thomas Aquinas" (a man who, apparently, never met a lesbian seagull).
7.7.2006 3:30pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
It is with great difficulty that I refrain from quoting the end of Team America: World Police at length.

The hand is even more problematic. What can we say about the "natural" uses of that? It makes such a nice fist.
7.7.2006 3:35pm
Steve P. (mail):
LTEC - Prof Volokh doesn't seem to be speaking to the issue of God, but rather of nature. Religious discussions on homosexuality are a potato of another breed, because it's very hard to get a normative baseline for logic in those discussions. This is simply about whether homosexuality is 'unnatural', based on common meanings of 'unnatural'. Basically, once you insert God into a conversation, things start getting hairy really fast.

Many firmly-held beliefs are illogical, like how I know that Browns fans commune with the devil, but that doesn't necessarily make them wrong. It's the contention that there is some logic to the 'homosexuality is unnatural' that is the point of the discussion, I believe.
7.7.2006 3:37pm
Taeyoung (mail):
I hardly ever hear such a reductionist argument about hands when hands can be used for murdering by pulling the trigger on the weapon.
I rather expect this is because the use of "Tab P" and "Slot V" (gah, that sounds so crude!) is put forth as a kind of shorthand for the human procreative faculty, rather than as an argument that Tab P is rightly useable only for insertion into Slot V. After all, I am fairly sure that all men, whether homosexual or heterosexual have at least one other salient use/purpose to which they put their Tabs P, one in full congruence with nature.
7.7.2006 3:41pm
Lewass (mail) (www):
"Words can have many functions (in the sense of many meanings)..."

WOW! You nailed it.

Yes, great post. Normalcy or deviant behavior, call it what you like. Genetically predisposed or whatever, the behavior remains a choice. We know about freedom to choose.

"Multifunctioned." Very, very good.

Biology may have "developed" these organs into "multifunctioned" units, but people have developed more functions for body organs than biology, with regard to sexual pleasure.

Feeling the need for disclosure: I'm not against same sex marriage. I'm against using the term marriage. We need more creativity and innovativeness, rather than expediency.

LAS
7.7.2006 3:43pm
Luke:
Having read IB Bill's blog, he clearly means that you are ignorant because you cannot divine the true purpose of tab P and slot V - which only for the one to stick into the other. Anything else is against "traditional values" which of course need protection through the coercive power of the state. Like all strong, vibrant cultures, IB Bill's requires legal protections from the assault of the terrible, icky, homos and liberals and libertines.
7.7.2006 3:51pm
Still Learning:
While all people should be free to use their Tab P for masturbation, procreation or deviation, the question relating to same sex marriage is whether society should encourage or sanction uses other than procreation. For prison populations, perhaps, but in Western societies today, with procreation below their replacement rate, probably not. The societies with the most same sex marriage will eventually not exist and the ones with the least, like the Taliban will populate the Earth...
7.7.2006 3:52pm
Luke:
Still Learning, has a single homosexual converted to heterosexuality because gay marriage is not allowed?

Is there a stampede of heterosexuals who are marrying and breeding, but in reality are just waiting to abandon their children so they can get into a state-sanctioned relationship with a member of the same sex?

Are you fucking kidding me with that logic? Grow up.
7.7.2006 3:57pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Luke, first of all, I hope you are near your medicine cabinet, you know just in case. Second, we can (and I do) support the right of gays to marry, but that doesn't change the fact that everything else being equal, a society with a higher percentage of heterosexuals will outbreed a society with a lower rate, a fact with some significant ramifications. Society does have a legitimate interest to encourage heterosexuality, and Still Learning is onto something, even if the sentence to which you so arduously object is an exaggeration.

And seriously dude, calm down.
7.7.2006 4:03pm
Boonton (mail) (www):

While all people should be free to use their Tab P for masturbation, procreation or deviation, the question relating to same sex marriage is whether society should encourage or sanction uses other than procreation. For prison populations, perhaps, but in Western societies today, with procreation below their replacement rate, probably not. The societies with the most same sex marriage will eventually not exist and the ones with the least, like the Taliban will populate the Earth...



This might be a concern if humans had sexual activity, say, once every year or two. On average, though, humans have many, many, many, many more instances of sexual activity than reproduction...even for the champion 'old world' couples that pumped out 10-20 kids in a lifetime.

The quantity argument (more babies is always better) runs into the problem that if this was the case then the Earth would be ruled by third world nations rather than the US and developed nations which hold a small portion of the population but know how to consume and produce most of the resources. If quantity was the key to success India and China would have long been economic powerhouses instead of sitting as 'potential powerhouses' for decades and even centuries.

In short, I don't think you can argue that we are suffering any shortage of babies because we are wasting so much energy on masturbation, sodomy and other forms of non-reproductive sex that we are just too tired for old fashioned sex.
7.7.2006 4:05pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Unfortunately, in this context it means "that which was not observed by Thomas Aquinas" (a man who, apparently, never met a lesbian seagull).
I don't think this really engages with the issue. Let's give it a whirl:

I think that if we are going in and looking at bits of the human body and ascribing purpose to them, and matching that up with assessments of "natural" and "unnatural," then the first step is that we notice that man, as "ideally" constituted (i.e. excluding defects like a man born with no eyes or no legs, or a man who has lost his eyeballs, or lost his legs) has a procreative faculty, in the sense that his body produces working sperm. In a 100% homosexual man, this faculty is rendered largely vestigial, because in the ordinary progress of his life -- that is, the pursuit and satisfaction of his desires -- he will not exercise it at all. This is not to say he cannot use it, e.g. for artificial insemination, or in sex he does not enjoy, because he wants a child. Merely that he does not experience desires the satisfaction of which exercise that procreative faculty. (Yes, this echoes the "Every Sperm is Sacred" song.) In that sense, the contours of his existence diverge from human wholeness (in the exercise of all faculties available to a whole man), and are therefore properly described as "unnatural." We could say the same of the man who refuses to think, for example (it is "unnatural" that he experience no desire to exercise his faculty of thought), and so on.

Now, against this, one could point to, say, the appendix, which is vestigial, but which appears in nature in pretty much all of us, excepting those who have had it taken out and mutants. One could point out that gay men can exercise their procreative function, and just because it doesn't fit together with the pattern of his sexual desire the way it does in most human beings doesn't mean that it's "vestigial" at all -- it satisfies different desires. One could also attack at the very start, and maintain that God caused a man born with no eyes to be born with no eyes (or somesuch), and therefore he is not "incomplete" in any meaningful sense of the word. You could also dispute the validity of any kind of purposive interpretation of any bit of the human body or human existence, and maintain that when you get right down to it, everything is chemicals, and the confluences we see as functional and purposive are merely incidental higher order patterns emergent from the real chemical interactions at root, and thus morally irrelevant. There are all kinds of nits to pick with the "purpose" argument. But I am not sure that they are particularly persuasive.

Just to give out where I'm coming from -- my own view is that I'm mildly in favour of gay marriage (because I see it as pretty much costless), and do not much care about the matter, until I sit down and read the kinds of arguments people put forth for it (e.g. here on Volokh.com), at which point I find my support for gay marriage flatlining, so unpersuasive do I find the profferred rationales. Then I stop thinking about it, stop caring about it, and all is well again.
7.7.2006 4:06pm
Volvodriver (mail):
Still learning-

You seem to assume that allowing-- which you define as encouraging-- same sex marriage, "society" would be decreasing the birth rate that it would otherwise have.

Is it your assumption that a gay person without the ability to marry another gay person will instead choose to marry a person of the opposite sex, and then procreate?

How is this assumption even close to justifiable?
7.7.2006 4:09pm
Taeyoung (mail):
then the Earth would be ruled by third world nations
Shockingly enough, most of the world is, and most of the human race to boot.
7.7.2006 4:09pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Is it your assumption that a gay person without the ability to marry another gay person will instead choose to marry a person of the opposite sex, and then procreate?

How is this assumption even close to justifiable?
Uh, because it used to happen all the time? I mean, there's a strong argument to be made that nowadays, since homosexuality can be open and accepted, it's no longer going to be the case. But it's not open-and-shut like that.
7.7.2006 4:11pm
Shangui (mail):
a society with a higher percentage of heterosexuals will outbreed a society with a lower rate

Not necessarily. A lot depends on the number of children each breeding person has. The question of infant mortality, etc. also makes a big difference.

I think it's generally true that societies that are strongly biased against homosexuality will have more gay men and women who marry members of the opposite sex and reproduce as they have no other socially acceptably choice (unless they have an appropriate form of religious priesthood). Of course if homosexuality is genetically determined, this could also mean that the number homosexuals in that society will eventually go up...
7.7.2006 4:14pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
Well, now I'm dumb squared.

Actually, Luke, you are ten times less dumb.
7.7.2006 4:15pm
Luke:
Ok, I'm calm, Mike. You are still making the same crazy logical leap:

1. There are X homosexuals (who don't breed)
2. Society allows gay marriage
3. ???
4. Birth rates go down, scary Arabs take over!

For this to happen, 3 must be either:
- heterosexuals convert to homosexuals and stop breeding, they were just waiting for gay marriage to be legalized
OR
- homosexuals INCREASE in numbers thanks to gay marriage, since gay couples magically create gay children.

If I was a little upset it's because you and Still Learning keep arguing 1, 2, 4, without explaining the crazy logical leap in 3. I'm listening...
7.7.2006 4:19pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Luke, I wasn't saying that legalizing gay marriage will cause birth-rates to go down. I think the confusion arose because of the manner in which I suggested that some people who support gay marriage fear, like the plague, any criticism of homosexuality as a trend. So just to be clear: I don't think that allowing gays to marry will cause rates to go down - precisely for the reasons stated by Shangui. But. To the extent that a society is capable of limiting growth of the gay population, (which assumes a substantial environmental element to homosexuality), that society may properly seek to do so.

Having said that, there are literally dozens of individual rights that I value above society's right to control itself by hetero-normalizing, but there it is anyway.
7.7.2006 4:27pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
It's possible allowing same-sex marriage will lead to a lower birth rate. The theory goes like this:

People are not binarily gay or not-gay, everyone is on some sort of spectrum (or, if you don't buy the spectrum analysis, some people are bi-sexual -- if you don't buy that either, the rest of this argument won't work for you).

People will, consciously or unconsciously, weigh advantages and disadvantages when making decisions. If someone is right in the middle of the gay / not-gay spectrum (or is bisexual), and gay marriage is not allowed or acceptable, he or she might teeter into heterosexual relations. If gay marriage IS allowed or accepted, then they might teeter into homosexual relations.

Of course, the NUMBER of these people I would guess to be insignificant in terms of us getting taken over by Arabs. But one could make the argument that a FEW people might be swayed.

There's also the argument that some homosexuals will repress their nature and try to fit in (think of all the parents who later discovered they were gay) if homosexuality is shamed.

Not advocating any of this, just pointing out that this is the logical argument.
7.7.2006 4:28pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Luke:
1. There are X homosexuals (who don't breed)
Your problem is that you're assuming something here that is not necessarily true. It might be true. Or, as I and Shangui suggest, it might not.

Put differently:
heterosexuals convert to homosexuals and stop breeding, they were just waiting for gay marriage to be legalized

is not quite right -- rather, we have closeted homosexuals converting to open homosexuals and ceasing to breed.

There is also the issue of bisexuals on the margin. Supposing that state recognised "marriage" has real value to an evenly bisexual person, he may be attracted to a man, or to a woman, and derive equal satisfaction from the relationship itself either way, but to maximise his return, he'll structure his dating and relationships strategy around pursuing the ones he can actually marry (women). When the finger is taken off the scales, and gay marriage is permitted, then that calculus shifts back to neutrality, and some number of bisexuals who would otherwise have pursued heterosexual relationships will pursue homosexual relationships.

Now, I don't think that the overall effect is significant -- the homosexual population is already pretty negligible, anyhow, and any effect is dwarfed by other trends in procreation among full heterosexuals (e.g. delay kids so late you never have any, have fewer kids because college is expensive, etc.). But I do think your counterargument is full of holes.
7.7.2006 4:29pm
Luke:
You still didn't address my question - how will allowing gay marriage cause the number of homosexuals to go up? What is the causal mechanism?
7.7.2006 4:31pm
Luke:
I am not making a counterargument, I am asking a question. Read post above this one please.
7.7.2006 4:32pm
SeaLawyer:
Why then treat the anus, the mouth, or the penis as having One True Inherent Purpose rather than recognizing that they can be used in multiple ways, each of which is fully consistent with our biology.


Just because a body part can be used in multiple ways does not mean it does not or cannot have one inherent purpose. Sex is instinctual, the reason is such a pleasurable experience is to promote procreation.
7.7.2006 4:33pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

Sex is instinctual, the reason is such a pleasurable experience is to promote procreation.

The word in there I disagree with is "reason." Sex is a pleasurable experience because those who find it pleasurable do it more than those that don't, which taken over hte course of evolution has resulted in the former generally outbreeding the latter.

Put another way, your use of the word "reason" suggests that sex was designed to be pleasurable, intelligently designed, if you must. I don't think it was. I think a bizillion things didn't work, and this is the mutation that did. That takes me back to EV's conclusion that there is no one true purpose. You may disagree, but your disagreement is not on terms purely biological.
7.7.2006 4:39pm
Tom Anger (mail) (www):
Back to Eugene's explication of "purpose": It's true that any part of the human body can be used for whatever it can be used for. It's not true that the parts of the human body evolved to their present forms because of every possible use to which they can be put. It is therefore correct (in a strict sense) to say that anal intercourse is "unnatural," that is, not a use of the penis and anus that has anything to do with the evolution of those parts of the body to their present forms. But saying that has no bearing on whether anal intercourse is morally wrong. That is an entirely different question, one which is not illuminated by the fact that anal intercourse is possible.

By the way, the sense in which I use "unnatural" above doesn't seem to be included in Eugene's earlier post.
7.7.2006 4:45pm
SeaLawyer:
Mike BUSL07,
You can use design or evolved, it is still biology. I think your 1st paragraph argues my point for me.
7.7.2006 4:49pm
Shangui (mail):
Thank you, Mike BUSL07. It's nice to see that some people out there actually understand that evolution is not teleologically guided. The way that so many people use the active voice in discussions of evolution (X cleverly adapted to..., Y evolved a...) gives the impression that adaptations are some sort of conscious response to circumstances with an end in mind. As you point out, they are not. Some organisms pass on more offspring than others because of a happy intersection of some of their traits and the environment they face. That's all. It's not a plan.
7.7.2006 4:49pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Luke:
You still didn't address my question - how will allowing gay marriage cause the number of homosexuals to go up? What is the causal mechanism?
Oh, that's the issue? I thought you were concerned about the ???? you had filled in at "3." before this:
4. Birth rates go down, scary Arabs take over!
7.7.2006 4:49pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
This is as good a time as any to tout my college bible: "Moral Animal" by Robert Wright.
7.7.2006 4:53pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
And Shangui, thanks for your kind words.
7.7.2006 4:54pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Professor Volokh: With all due respect to Prof. Carpenter, my point is Dale is intentionally missing the point, something I find characteristic of his thinking.

There is a categorical difference between putting Tab P into Slot V to the soft mellow sounds of Marvin Gaye, and rubbing Tab P up against the furniture to the shrieky tunes of Pere Ubu. What's "possible between Tap P and Slot V" is not what is meant by the person making the natural-law argument; we are talking about design functions. Carpenter is confounding the argument, and IMHO, purposely so.
7.7.2006 4:55pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Luke: Homosexuality is a spiritual disease that usually makes a greater appearance in the end game of a civilization. A same-sex marriage debate may be intellectually fun, but a serious public-policy debate about changing the definition of marriage is very dangerous, and a very bad sign. It's not that homosexuality causes problems that we later face; homosexuality is an effect of cultural and spiritual problems we've already failed to address.

I'm not trying to offend homosexuals; indeed, there is no such thing as a "homosexual," just a man with a disordered attraction toward other men. The self-identification is part of the problem. Compounding that problem by rewriting our marriage laws to accommodate it is astonishingly bad public policy -- it literally writes sterility and absurdity into laws that are designed to encourage fertility and stability.

Jacques Barzun once defined decadence as a technical term for when futility and absurdity become commonplace; same sex "marriage" is both absurd and futile. I'm sorry if that offends anyone.
7.7.2006 5:09pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Well, I think I know what Clayton Cramer's new handle on this site is.
7.7.2006 5:13pm
JDNYU:
IB Bill: then I assume you agree that it's bad public policy to allow steralization (e.g. vasectomies)?
7.7.2006 5:22pm
Joel B. (mail):
A couple thoughts, the description of things as having "one true inherent purpose," is not really the point. Very few things have one true inherent purpose, I can use a hammer to both build a break, I can use a chainsaw to beautify or to make ugly. I can use a gun to murder or to save lives. What then is the "one inherent true purpose" of any of these things is a misleading question.

A tool's usage is predicated on what it was designed to do. A hammer can pound nails and press wood together, but if I use a hammer to hit wood pieces together I am a fool, I should be using a mallet, because otherwise I leave that which I am created marred by circles of where the hammer hit. If we want to build beautiful cabinetry I am careful to use the proper tool at the right times. Perhaps the better question is what tool belongs where and why and can we deduce a reason for such a thing.

If I use a pick mattock to break concrete when I should be using a sledge hammer I will ruin both the tool, and the item I am applying the tool against, now will the concrete get broken up? Yes but it will be inefficient, slow, and damage the tool in the long term. Why we should thing our parts should work differently is unexplained to me. We could walk on our hands, but we don't because that's foolishness, just because something can do something doesn't mean it does that thing well.

I understand you are not addressing the Bible here, so I will not bring up points so related at this time. But deducing alone from "nature" or "design" is itself dangerous, because the Bible's claim would be that the world is corrupted and therefore "natural" is not the same thing as conforming to God's design. "All nature groans under sin" as it were.
7.7.2006 5:25pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
It's not that homosexuality causes problems that we later face; homosexuality is an effect of cultural and spiritual problems we've already failed to address.

Can you point to a civilization in history where this has occurred? What civilization had anything resembling our modern conception of homosexuality?

What are those "spiritual and cultural problems" we're not addressing? We got rid of slavery and Jim Crow; we have arguably more freedom than any other civilization that has ever existed; our advanced technology allows instantaneous communication around the globe; our leaders, for all their many problems, are less corrupt than even past Presidents.

Some people who claim to speak for God dislike our culture, but they have been around since before Socrates and won't like anything we do. Unless we're trying to impress the Taliban, who cares what they think?

I'm not trying to offend homosexuals

Calling them "disordered" is surely the best way to do that, eh? If you're concerned about fertility, why not restrict marriage only to those who can procreate?
7.7.2006 5:25pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Nope, I'm not M. Cramer. I usually argue a bit, but not a long time because there really isn't much to discuss. I understand where the pro-SSMers are coming from.

The argument is pretty much: Homosexuality is either perfectly normal or a personal preference that's none of your damned business and doesn't hurt anyone, anyway. Some homosexuals pair off and make commitments to each other. Simple justice requires that society support these unions as we would any other union of two loving folk.

To which I reply: Why two? Why loving? And why do we as a society have any interest in regulating the sexual conduct of homosexuals?

We as a society have a good reason to support heterosexual couples -- it's a way of regulating sexual intercourse, which tends to lead to children, which half the time means male children, which, if not raised properly, leads to marauding gangs of aggressive males in our streets in 15 years making our neighborhoods a living hell. We as a society have no reason to regulate the sexual conduct of male or female homosexuals. We as a society have little to no interest in their fidelity or the stability of their relationships.

Homosexualist activists seem fixated on the benefits of marriage -- they ignore the purpose of marriage, which is irrelevant to their cases. Why do I as a member of the community care whether or not the homosexual couple down the street remains faithful? That's the reason for the civil nature of marriage.

The religious reasons is another story ...
7.7.2006 5:29pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
JDNYU: IB Bill: then I assume you agree that it's bad public policy to allow steralization (e.g. vasectomies)?

Those couples who've chosen to self-regulate their reproduction should be applauded. If they already have children, we have an interest in supporting their relationship. If not, we have less of an interest, but since the form is the same, politeness requires we don't inquire too deeply. BTW, if only one party is sterilized, then yes, the state has an interest in regulating their sexual conduct.
7.7.2006 5:37pm
Shangui (mail):
Homosexuality is a spiritual disease that usually makes a greater appearance in the end game of a civilization.

Care to give some examples? I'm not even sure how "a civilization" would be defined in such a way that it really had an "end game." Homosexuality made its appearance in China in the written record in about 500 BC or earlier and was pretty popular until the Maoist period when a strict sexual morality ruled the day. That's only one counter example but is it a good portion of the world's people.
7.7.2006 5:39pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Bill, allowing homosexuals to marry goes hand in hand with letting them adopt children. If you want to decrease the marauding gangs comprised of youths neglectfully reared, then look to the married homosexuals as another stablizing force - adopting kids who would otherwise be criminals.

(The intelligence/genetics link to criminality is another story of course)
7.7.2006 5:40pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Why do I as a member of the community care whether or not the homosexual couple down the street remains faithful?


If you are going to argue for the systematic exclusion of gay men from all social institutions designed to tame the male libido, then you have no grounds for complaining when gay men act like males with untamed libidos.
7.7.2006 5:47pm
Dan Hamilton:
Homosexuality is not natural. If it were natural gays would not have a much shorter life span then hetrosexuals. Also homosexuality is not natural in that it clearly functions against the survival of the species.

How can it be natural when it shortens life and threatens the survival of the species?

Since it does both it cannot be natural.
7.7.2006 5:52pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

If it were natural gays would not have a much shorter life span then hetrosexuals.


Gays don't have much shorter lifespans than heterosexuals, or if they do, there certainly are no valid current studies done which prove the point.
7.7.2006 5:57pm
Shangui (mail):
If it were natural gays would not have a much shorter life span then hetrosexuals. Also homosexuality is not natural in that it clearly functions against the survival of the species. How can it be natural when it shortens life and threatens the survival of the species? Since it does both it cannot be natural.

Dan,

Why would gays have a shorter life span if homosexuality were "natural"?

How does homosexuality "function against" the survival of the species? Gay men and women do, in fact, reproduce through artificial insemination, surrogate parents, etc., so they can still contribute to the raw reproductive numbers of the human race. Moreover, there is obviously more to the survival of the species than simple reproductive numbers. There are numerous other roles subjects can play in helping a species survive (cf. bees and ants). Finally, financial prosperity, advanced medical care, and a market economy tend to lower birthrates. Should these thus be condemned as unnatural?

On a more basic level, where does your implied definition of "natural" as "lengthens life and does not threaten the survival of the species" come from? I've never heard such a definition and it is certainly different from the standard meanings of the world in English. Cancer and heart attacks shorten life spans yet clearly they are "natural." Artificial hearts and in vitro fertilization are seen by many as "unnatural" yet they lengthen live and perpetuate the species.
7.7.2006 6:06pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Bill, allowing homosexuals to marry goes hand in hand with letting them adopt children. If you want to decrease the marauding gangs comprised of youths neglectfully reared, then look to the married homosexuals as another stablizing force - adopting kids who would otherwise be criminals.

(The intelligence/genetics link to criminality is another story of course)


This is one of the stronger arguments for "same-sex" marriage, and one that I've pondered for a while. The problem is it's little like making an agreement with the fox to watch the henhouse because he promises to be "really really good" and besides, no one else wants the job. And then you do it, and lo and behold, the fox eats the chickens.

I haven't heard homosexuals making this argument -- that they want to adopt society's unwanted children. But if that's the agreement with society, that homosexuals may marry if they each agree to adopt two children no one else wants under the pain of public castration if they sexually abuse either of them, then, possibly I'd be on board.

But I suspect this is not what we're talking about.

Adoption is a red herring because it's a function of irresponsible heterosexual conduct, not homosexual conduct. Asking homosexuals to clean up for heterosexual irresponsibility seems off the point to me.

BTW, is there another platonist in the house? Chime in anytime.
7.7.2006 6:07pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
If you are going to argue for the systematic exclusion of gay men from all social institutions designed to tame the male libido, then you have no grounds for complaining when gay men act like males with untamed libidos.

Okay, and when I complain about that, please remind me :)
7.7.2006 6:08pm
anonyomousss (mail):
people here seem to have a funny definition of "natural." lots of stuff that shortens lifespan, like disease, is eminently natural. long lifespans are artificially produced.

childbirth probably shortens women's lifespans too. does that make childbirth any less natural?
7.7.2006 6:13pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
And then you do it, and lo and behold, the fox eats the chickens.

What, aside from your own animus towards those you feel are "disordered," makes you think that gays are more likely to abuse their adopted children?

Your public castration comment is truly disgusting. I note that you propose no similar ideas about what to do with hetero child abusers--they aren't as bad as those disordered gays, are they?
7.7.2006 6:15pm
Joel B. (mail):
Natural is a red herring I think. Natural can mean one of a lot of things, and natural is not inherently good or bad. Instead, we must recognize we live in a world of scarcity, especially scarcity of time. The relevant question then is not, is what I'm doing natural, but instead is what I'm doing the best use of my time. That's a far more philosophical question, but ultimately the far more relevant one.
7.7.2006 6:18pm
Elais:
IB Bill,

Just how is adoption a 'function' of irresponsible heterosexual conduct? Can you specify exactly what you consider to be 'irresponsible' about adoption?
7.7.2006 6:25pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
What, aside from your own animus towards those you feel are "disordered," makes you think that gays are more likely to abuse their adopted children?

Lemme guess. You're gay, aren't you? Well, I mean you no harm, nor harbor any animus toward you. It's behavior that's the issue.

And, while I have no studies to show it, IMHO homosexual men are far more attracted and more likely to sexually abuse boys than heterosexual men. I mean, it sort of follows, doesn't it? If you note in the example in my reply to Mike BUSL07, we're discussing gay adoption to assist in the gainful rearing of abandoned, at-risk boys.

I confess that I've placed Mike BUSL07 in a Catch-22, and that's only because I appreciate the strength of his argument.

I note that you propose no similar ideas about what to do with hetero child abusers--they aren't as bad as those disordered gays, are they?

I have not discussed heterosexual child abusers, nor compared the crimes. I'm sorry you find the concept of public castration of child molesters offensive; would the chemical castration of child molesters be preferable? Or do you defend child molesters merely because they're homosexual?
7.7.2006 6:27pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Elais:
IB Bill,

Just how is adoption a 'function' of irresponsible heterosexual conduct? Can you specify exactly what you consider to be 'irresponsible' about adoption?


What I've written is poorly articulated. What I meant is that children always come from a father and a mother, almost always from sexual intercourse. In other words, heterosexuals have produced children that they are incapable of, or unwilling to, rear. And someone else has to rear them.
7.7.2006 6:33pm
anonyomousss (mail):
is there any evidence that male child molesters who abuse boys are homosexual in the sense of being attracted to adult males rather than adult females?
7.7.2006 6:33pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Elais: To finish the point, thus, I don't consider anything irresponsible about adoption. I just really botched the sentence.
7.7.2006 6:34pm
SeaLawyer:
One of the main reasons that I used the "Tab P goes into slot V not slot B" was to strip away a number of things away from the debate and liken it to an instruction manual. One of the biggest things I wished to strip away was in fact morality. Although most people still assumed I was against homosexuality on a moral basis and not looking at from a strictly physical aspect.

Right now the main argument I am hearing is that because the penis can be and is used for oral and anal sex that its intended purpose is not for procreational (not sure if that is a word) vaginal sex. Or in other words anything that can be used for more than one thing, i.e. multifunctional, has no sole purpose. I have really have a hard time buying that argument. To use one more example I can use an ax to drive a nail, but that still does not change the fact that the inherent purpose of an ax is to chop wood. To even take this a step further at least in the example I was able to drive a nail with the ax, in the case of anal sex no children are going to be born because of it.

The questions I have for everyone:
1. What is the primary purpose of sex: Pleasure or Procreation?
2. Do you really believe that the penis is not made/designed/evolved etc for vaginal intercourse?
3. Why exactly is it that if something can do more than one thing it can't have an inherent purpose?
7.7.2006 6:37pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Shangui: Care to give some examples? I'm not even sure how "a civilization" would be defined in such a way that it really had an "end game."

Agreed, it would be difficult to define them. I suppose when you suffer conquest, whether Huns, Mongols, Communist, Islamic, Roman and the like, you've suffered a destruction of a civilization. I suppose when you go from republic to empire. It's an interesting question and a big debate. When I wrote that sentence, I was thinking about Rome, Greece, Byzantium, Persia, the Ottomans, not to mention the pagan cultures conquered by the Israelites in the Old Testament.

Again, homosexuality doesn't cause ... it's an effect.
7.7.2006 6:42pm
Nathan Jones:

Volvodriver:
Is it your assumption that a gay person without the ability to marry another gay person will instead choose to marry a person of the opposite sex, and then procreate?

How is this assumption even close to justifiable?


Still Learning's assumption that laws affect behavior (even sexual behavior) is absolutely justifiable.

Consider the example of history: many famous gays and lesbians who lived in more intolerant times actually had (heterosexual) spouses and children because the cost of being openly gay was too high. If you think Shakespeare or Alexander the Great were gay -- they both had wives and fathered children. Tchaikovsky was married, Lord Byron was married, heck, even Elton John was married to a woman for a while! Pick your favorite famous pre-20th century gay or lesbian person and the odds are that they were probably married.

Why is this the case? Because these people lived in times and places where being openly homosexual was very costly, so they altered some of their behavior and married people of the opposite sex and even had children. Laws or norms that regulate a form of behavior (ANY form of behavior) raise the cost of that behavior. As the cost of an particular act rises, more and more people will choose to forego that act.

I don't think this means we should uphold or strengthen laws against gays and lesbians. I do, however, think Still Learning's assumption that such bans would "work" in the sense of discouraging some homosexual behavior is correct as a point of fact. Indeed this is the very reason you should want to get rid of those laws: they make something (sexuality) costly that should not be so. They force gays and lesbians to live lives that they would not, in a state of liberty, otherwise lead. Some of them have even been "forced" to get married and have kids.
7.7.2006 6:45pm
assembler (mail):
SeaLawyer:

'Intended purpose.' Whose intention? How does one know?
7.7.2006 6:46pm
JDNYU:

And, while I have no studies to show it, IMHO homosexual men are far more attracted and more likely to sexually abuse boys than heterosexual men. I mean, it sort of follows, doesn't it?


So let the gay men adopt girls and the lesbians adopt boys? According to your logic that arrangement would result in less aggregate child sexual abuse than would occur households headed by heterosexual couples.
7.7.2006 6:47pm
Tinmanic (mail):
SeaLawyer asks:

1. What is the primary purpose of sex: Pleasure or Procreation?

You can't accurately speak about purpose unless you're talking about something that was consciously designed.

For some people, the primary purpose of sex is pleasure; for others, procreation.

2. Do you really believe that the penis is not made/designed/evolved etc for vaginal intercourse?

This represents a misunderstanding of evolution. Things don't evolve with an end result in mind - they don't involve toward a particular purpose. Things evolve randomly due to genetic mutation.
7.7.2006 6:49pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

And, while I have no studies to show it, IMHO homosexual men are far more attracted and more likely to sexually abuse boys than heterosexual men.


I've studied the issue in detail and can assure you that this isn't the case.

Some studies show that 1/3 of the victims of molestations are same-sex in nature. The logic then goes, if gays are only 3% of the population then they are X times more likely to molest. So I guess we should expect 97% of molestations to be heterosexual in their nature?

A few problems with the methodology:

1) Pedophilia and Ephebophilia have different etiologies. If we are talking about men who molest pre-pubescent male children, then chances are we are dealing with a man who has no adult attraction to other men, doesn't identify as "gay or bi," is likely married to a woman, and has no otherwise connection to the gay community.

2) If we are talking about a man having criminal relations with a post-pubescent but underaged teen, then we are probably talking about someone with a normal adult orientation towards men.

And any study that conflates the two mixes apples and oranges together and invariably poisons the well.

If you want to argue that self-identified gay men -- with full attraction to other male adults -- are more likely to molest, go ahead. But there are no such credible studies that prove this.

And given that straight men have been boffing (and, let us not forget, marrying) post-pubescent but underaged teen females since time immemorial, such that conservative web sites have noted the "epidemic" of underaged girls impregnated by adult men having abortions, you'll have a hard time convincing me that a homosexual male is more likely to pursue an underaged teen than a heterosexual male.
7.7.2006 6:49pm
SeaLawyer:
This represents a misunderstanding of evolution. Things don't evolve with an end result in mind - they don't involve toward a particular purpose. Things evolve randomly due to genetic mutation.


Are you sure you understand evolution? Evolution is a series of adaptions and natural selection for a species to be successful in its environment.
7.7.2006 6:55pm
Tinmanic (mail) (www):
IB Bill writes:

And, while I have no studies to show it, IMHO homosexual men are far more attracted and more likely to sexually abuse boys than heterosexual men. I mean, it sort of follows, doesn't it?

The problem with your reasoning is that it says nothing about concrete numbers. It says nothing about what percentage of heterosexual men or what percentage of homosexual men might sexually abuse a child. One might be larger than the other, but they could still be infinitesimal (unless you think that homosexuality per se leads to a greater propensity to commit sexual abuse, something that is completely unproven, and I don't know if that's an underlying assumption in your mind or not).

In any event, in adoption proceedings, couples don't simply walk into Wal-Mart and pick up a child. Couples, gay or straight, are scrutinized in great detail before they're permitted to adopted children.
7.7.2006 6:56pm
JDNYU:

I don't think this means we should uphold or strengthen laws against gays and lesbians. I do, however, think Still Learning's assumption that such bans would "work" in the sense of discouraging some homosexual behavior is correct as a point of fact. Indeed this is the very reason you should want to get rid of those laws: they make something (sexuality) costly that should not be so. They force gays and lesbians to live lives that they would not, in a state of liberty, otherwise lead. Some of them have even been "forced" to get married and have kids.


And frankly, if 1) you believe the (clear) evidence of a strong biological basis for sexual preference, and 2) oppose homosexuality, then you ought to be in favor of laws that lessen the odds of homosexuals from reproducing.
7.7.2006 6:57pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
So let the gay men adopt girls and the lesbians adopt boys?

Except that boys and girls need a same-sex role model in the house, particularly boys. A lesbian raising a boy won't do the job, a boy needs a father to become a man.
7.7.2006 6:57pm
Tinmanic (mail) (www):
Are you sure you understand evolution? Evolution is a series of adaptions and natural selection for a species to be successful in its environment.

With all due respect, SeaLawyer, evolution occurs as a result of genetic mutation. Randomly. On the DNA level. Genetic mutation doesn't care about the external environment. Some mutations turn out to be better at propagating the species, perhaps by making creatures better able to defend themselves from predators or to reproduce at a higher rate or what have you. And a mutation can also happen to have some other purpose.

But evolution does not occur in order to reach some result.
7.7.2006 7:02pm
Tinmanic (mail) (www):
A lesbian raising a boy won't do the job, a boy needs a father to become a man.

Actually, a boy becomes a man by going through puberty and getting taller and older. Are you perhaps referring to something else?
7.7.2006 7:04pm
Tinmanic (mail) (www):
In other words, how are you defining "a man"?
7.7.2006 7:05pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Lemme guess. You're gay, aren't you? Well, I mean you no harm, nor harbor any animus toward you. It's behavior that's the issue.

No, I'm not, though let's say I was. You've just said that I'm more likely to abuse children; that any children I adopt will be under penalty of castration (with nothing said about hetero adoption); and that I'm "disordered." Doesn't sound like animus to me!

And, while I have no studies to show it, IMHO homosexual men are far more attracted and more likely to sexually abuse boys than heterosexual men. I mean, it sort of follows, doesn't it?

Since when does attraction to any sex imply attraction to children? I assume you are a straight male; are you attracted to underage girls?

I have not discussed heterosexual child abusers, nor compared the crimes.

So you would have no problem forcing anyone, gay or straight, to adopt under penalty of castration? You omitted this idea in your previous post, and you still do not declare it here.

I'm sorry you find the concept of public castration of child molesters offensive

Actually, I find your statements about gays offensive, but I think just about everyone finds public castration, of child molesters or anyone, offensive. You don't?

would the chemical castration of child molesters be preferable? Or do you defend child molesters merely because they're homosexual?

Who is defending child molesters?
7.7.2006 7:07pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
JDNYU: Three percent of the population is doing one-third of the molestations. So homosexuals are 16 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals. At least they are 16 times more likely to be child molesters. That's pretty strong evidence there's a problem that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.

Now, turning to your definitions, I suspect any such study based on them would be scrutinized severely and subject to methodological criticism regardless of the outcome.
7.7.2006 7:08pm
assembler (mail):
Folks, if the troll is fed any more he will burst.
7.7.2006 7:10pm
Tinmanic (mail) (www):
Well, Bill completely ignored the rest of JDNYU's post stating that such studies are flawed.
7.7.2006 7:11pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Ship Erect:

We've already established, thanks to JDNYU, that homosexual men are 16 times more likely to abuse children than heterosexual men. The rest of your discussion sort of fails right there.
7.7.2006 7:13pm
JDNYU:
assembler: hear, hear. No more from me. Have a good weekend, whether you're natural or unnatural, saved or damned, intrinsically disordered or intrinsically ordered.
7.7.2006 7:15pm
JDNYU:
Sorry, one final note: I think John Rowe made the post you guys are attributing to me.
7.7.2006 7:17pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Oh c'mon. I'm not trolling. I've got legitimate links to an email account and a blog, and I'm discussing a series of points with people. It's difficult to try to get to it all at once.

I didn't ignore the methodologies ... I only said they are likely any such studies are going to be highly contentious and politicized. That is, I'm not accepting JDNYU's changed definitions quite as easy as he is.

If I'm irritating folks, I'll leave. Best of luck. Have a good weekend. If you have more to discuss, feel free to email me. You can find the info on my blog. Peace out.
7.7.2006 7:18pm
BobN (mail):
>>Asking homosexuals to clean up for heterosexual irresponsibility seems off the point to me. <<

Someone didn't read the NY decision...
7.7.2006 7:22pm
Michael Hall:
Well, I don't agree with much of what IB Bill wrote, but in my opinion he was anything but a troll. It seems that if you go to a blog -- whether left, right, or in between -- and post a comment that runs against the general sentiment there, someone will inevitably call you a "troll."
7.7.2006 7:26pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Ditto Michael Hall. Bill, whatever else he is, is an articulate enough guy with a very popular view - a view that those of us who consider ourselves liberal, (in whatever sense), should be able to address.
7.7.2006 8:01pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Three percent of the population is doing one-third of the molestations.


You make the exact error which I discussed in my post. Many if not most of those doing the molesting are NOT part of that 3% of the population who are the self-identified gay community.
7.7.2006 8:12pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
You also have to consider that legally and socially the same CONSENSUAL homosexual "act" is more likely to be considered "abuse" than a heterosexual act.

Consider, the recent Limon case, and other similar state laws. The age of consent for heterosexual relations is let's say 15, but for homosexual, it's 18. Thus a consensual homosexual act with a 16 year old is "criminal" or "abuse" when homosexual, but legal behavior, when heterosexual.

Consider all of the marriages and relations that have gone on between adult men and underaged girls but are considered "normal" (like Jerry Lee Lewis or Loretta Lynn, both of whom were involved in marriages where one party was a 13-year-old girl and the other an adult male). Now consider an adult homosexual who wants to marry his 13-year-old "boyfriend."

Is society likely to treat both circumstances the same, both as "molestations?" I don't think so.

Sorry, none of the professional organizations believe that self-identified gay men are more likely to molest. And virtually all of them recognize the difference between a "pedophile" who likes little boys or little children only and a "homosexual."

Your definitions lumping men who molest little boys in with the gay population are the ones that get torn to shreds by the professional organizations.
7.7.2006 8:21pm
Jam (mail):
Does anybody in here does not agree with these:

1) Biologically speaking, the penis and the vagina are the complementary sexual organs.

2) In sexual reproduction, whether by design or evolution, occurs only when an egg (in the female) is fertilized by a sperm (from the male) through (excluding artificial means) by inserting P into V.

3) Natural cannot be defined without using words that imply purpose or design.
7.7.2006 8:24pm
SeaLawyer:
With all due respect, SeaLawyer, evolution occurs as a result of genetic mutation. Randomly. On the DNA level. Genetic mutation doesn't care about the external environment. Some mutations turn out to be better at propagating the species, perhaps by making creatures better able to defend themselves from predators or to reproduce at a higher rate or what have you. And a mutation can also happen to have some other purpose.


I guess this is getting off subject, but studying the animal world I would say that genetic adaptation is a much better usage (throwing that term to make seem more on topic) then mutation. So I will most definitely say that genetic adaptation is linked to the external environment.
I guess we will just have to disagree on this.
7.7.2006 8:32pm
Michael Hall:
Oh geez, I really don't want to be drawn into this, but all right. I disagree with number 3. I disagree that "Natural cannot be defined without using words that imply purpose or design." The first (of 38) definitions listed by my dictionary (Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1996) for the word "natural" is "existing in or formed by nature." Furthermore, it states that with regard to the order of definitions, "the most frequently encountered meanings generally come before less common ones."

It is therefore perfectly clear that the word "natural" can be, and in fact is, literally defined without using words that imply purpose or design. Inasmuch as I believe that people are born with their sexual preferences (I am a straight male and I cannot choose to be attracted to men), I do believe that homosexuality is indeed "natural."

I also think that number 1 depends upon the meaning of "complementary," which in essence is what EV's whole point is.
7.7.2006 8:42pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
1) Biologically speaking, the penis and the vagina are the complementary sexual organs.

"Biologically" here seems to mean purely for the function of reproduction, but other organs used for sex are still complementary biologically. P fits in an A and an M, after all.

#2 seems to be a restatement the definition of sexual reproduction, so no disagreement there.

3) Natural cannot be defined without using words that imply purpose or design.

If one is attempting to use nature as a reason for or against something, then I would agree, but "natural" simply is a description of existence.
7.7.2006 9:03pm
SeaLawyer:
"Biologically" here seems to mean purely for the function of reproduction, but other organs used for sex are still complementary biologically. P fits in an A and an M, after all.


Just because something fits doesn't mean it is complementary.
7.7.2006 9:15pm
Public_Defender (mail):
1) Biologically speaking, the penis and the vagina are the complementary sexual organs.
Not quite. I'd say:

Biologically speaking, the penis and the vagina are complementary sexual organs, but there are others.

3) Natural cannot be defined without using words that imply purpose or design.

I'd say the opposite. "Natural" implies a lack of design.
7.7.2006 9:22pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Just because something fits doesn't mean it is complementary.

But considering the amount of pleasure received and given, that they "fit" makes other organs as complementary as the P and V combination.
7.7.2006 10:52pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
[b]1. What is the primary purpose of sex: Pleasure or Procreation? [/b]

Neither, it has no 'primary' purpose. It leads to children, it leads to increased socialization, it leads to better health for the participants (in a monogamous relationships). All of these features are 'primary' because we evolved with all of them - thinking any of them is less important than the other is extremely presumptuous.

[b]2. Do you really believe that the penis is not made/designed/evolved etc for vaginal intercourse? [/b]

Actually the male prostate is placed exactly where it should be to be stimulated by a penis for maximum erotic stimulation - seems that the penis might have more 'purposes' than a simplistic breeding only viewpoint considers. It is an important part of male sexuality and also a very convenient apparatus to urinate through. I think most parts of the body have many 'purposes' - which one is most important is in the eye of the beholder.

[b]3. Why exactly is it that if something can do more than one thing it can't have an inherent purpose?[/b]

Because all 'purposes' are mental projections on our part - those who would see only one 'inherent' purpose and ignore all the other obvious 'inherent' purposes are agenda driven to the conclusion they want to reach. If we only had sex to breed it might be we wouldn't have been able to get along well enough to form societies and civilization. Sexual networking leads to social networking, sexual intercourse makes us more tolerant and trusting of others in general.

Anyone who says that sex is for procreation and has had it a significant times more than the number of children they have produced would seem to be a bit hypocritical.
7.7.2006 11:11pm
Truth Seeker:
Luke said:
You still didn't address my question - how will allowing gay marriage cause the number of homosexuals to go up? What is the causal mechanism?
Luke, did you miss that class in the required freshman Gay and Lesbian Intro course? There are no longer two genders, there is a whole range of sexuality, including bisexuals, transgendered, queer, etc. So the causal mechanism is if there is only male/female marriage, many of those in the middle ranges will gravitate to it, but if you have gay marriage, some will gravitate to the other side. Thus more homosexuality and less children.

JDNYU said:

And frankly, if 1) you believe the (clear) evidence of a strong biological basis for sexual preference, and 2) oppose homosexuality, then you ought to be in favor of laws that lessen the odds of homosexuals from reproducing.

But a biological basis is not necessarity a genetic basis. The biological basis could be a wrong timing of testosterone in the womb. So homosexuals would be no more likely to have homosexual children than anyone else. Might be caused by stress on the mother.
7.8.2006 12:22am
randal (mail):
Doesn't anyone think it's weird/illustrative at all that the A is also perfectly suited to accomodate a P, and that doing so provides sexual pleasure to both parties, especially to the A if it's male, and even if the male A is heterosexual?

It's as though everyone thinks it's just some weird accident that homosexual sex works at all.
7.8.2006 3:10am
John Herbison (mail):
Do those, who regard homosexual acts as "unnatural", regard an act of heterosexual fellatio as natural or as unnatural? If the latter, should heterosexuals who practice fellatio be forbidden by law to marry?
7.8.2006 5:50am
Medis:
I just want to briefly pitch again the pagan/Stoic/early-modern/Jeffersonian/[utilitarian] sense of "natural law", to which I referred in the other thread, and which I used to support the quote in Professor Volokh's blog post above (for what it is worth).

The basic starting premise of this conception of natural law is that the nature of human beings does matter. But people who think of human beings as simply a collection of body parts functioning in a mechanical way are mischaracterizing the nature of human beings. Fundamentally, our nature is that we are RATIONAL beings. And what that means is that for humans, what is natural is what is rational. More specifically, human actions rationally related to the pursuit of true happiness are natural.

Potentially, this insight can help resolve some of the questions above. For example, it is fine to say that in this sense, "natural" is being used in an inherently teleological, rather than merely descriptive, sense. But the telos is not being dicated by biology, natural selection, or anything like that. Again, because we are rational beings, the ultimate telos is true happiness, and for any subsidiary issue, the question is simply whether the proposed activity is rationally related to this telos.

So, from this perspective Professor Volokh is necessarily correct. If we ask "what is the purpose of this human body part?", the answer for humans is: "its purpose is to be used however humans can use it insofar as that use is rationally related to true happiness." This answer simply cannot be trumped or limited by any considerations involving biology, natural selection, and so on. And again, that is because the nature of human beings is that we are RATIONAL beings.

Finally, it might be worth briefly considering the idea of a "one, true, inherent purpose" of things. From the above perspective, we can already strike "inherent" from this list when it comes to human beings. The purpose of things from a human perspective is not inherent in them--rather, their purpose is dependent on how they can be used to rationally pursue true happiness. "True" is perhaps fine, as long as one understands that the relevant "truth condition" is whether the use of a thing is rationally related to true happiness.

That leaves "one", and here it is fairly obvious that in many cases, things will not in fact have just "one" purpose. The background reason for this is expedience: there is an inherent tradeoff between specialization and expedience, and multi-use things strike this balance.

So, we should not be surprised when it turns out that something like a body part--which is effectively like a tool that we are always carrying around with us--has many uses. That is simply expedient. Indeed, imagine how many more body parts we would need, and how inefficient it would be, if each body part only had one use--the human penis alone would have to look like a Swiss Army knife.

And again, the "true" uses of our body parts are not dictated by biology or natural selection--they are dicated by what is rationally related to the pursuit of true happiness. So, it is also not surprising that as we develop new practices, technologies, and so on, we also add uses to our body parts (as suggested before, my favorite example is using one's nose to hold up glasses, although I like the suppository example too). The same logic holds--if it is expedient to use our body parts in this way, then it is natural for human beings (e.g., since our noses are sitting right there, it is natural for us to use them to hold up our glasses).

So, I think we can strike "one" from the list as well. Again, with humans, the only requirement is that a use of a thing be rationally related to the pursuit of true happiness, and if that means a body part is being used in multiple ways, and even in new ways unrelated to mere biology or natural selection, that is nonetheless still perfectly natural for human beings.
7.8.2006 8:54am
Jam (mail):
I do not hold the utilitarian view of life.

Just because an action can be rationalized it does not mean that ... fill in the blank.

It seems that some are arguing against the concept that the penis and the vagina are/developed as complimentary organs in a sexual reproductive system.

Well, heck. If it fits put it there is reason enough, should we begin to worry about having to protect automotive tailpipes? We already have laws to protect animals.

Those who do not accept a teleological understanding of nature think of us who do as irrational.

Those of us who are, at least, theistic in our view, view the ohers as irrational.

Let's just admit it. We cannot talk to each other. We have no basis for communications.

We have no basis for judging the actions of others.
7.8.2006 11:08am
SeaLawyer:
Medis,
Good post! I understand the point of view that you are coming from. Yes I have never disagreed that body parts cannot be used different ways. Just because you can use something a certain way does not mean you are using it correctly. I understand that your view that the correct use is whatever brings happiness, I disagree. I know you don't what to break humans down mechanically but you have to do that when looking at usage of a part. When looking at any animal species survival of the species is the goal, not happiness. Procreation is a big part of survival and you need to use certain parts correctly to procreate.

What I am not saying is that using parts incorrectly mean that you are immoral or any other negative connotation, all I am saying is that there are correct and incorrect ways to use certain things and just because you can use something incorrectly does not make it correct.

I am off for a short vacation thank you all for the debate.
7.8.2006 11:09am
Jam (mail):
If an alien from another galaxy would to study humans:

1) What would the biologist look at and conclude? Will the alien conclude that the P is to be put in A?

2) What would the sociologist/anthropologist look at and conclude? What portion of the human population must engage in certain activitie before it can be taken out of the abnormal/aberrant group?

BTW, Medis, I my posted my previous comment before I read yours.
7.8.2006 11:40am
Medis:
Jam,

No problem. But I would note that I am indeed suggesting that one can both approach this question from a teleological perspective AND also think of it in terms of rationalism/utilitarianism . To condense my prior post to its essence, the connection is provided by identifying humans as rational beings, and determining that the telos for humans is true happiness.

Of course, I suspect that you might not agree on this being the human telos. In general, by pointing to this particular tradition in natural law philosophy (the pagan/Stoic/early-modern/Jeffersonian/[utilitarian] tradition), I'm not trying to claim that there are not other natural law traditions.

For example, broadly speaking, in the Aquinas/Christian tradition, one might suggest that rather than "true happiness", the telos for humans is "salvation". And once you start with that very different telos, many other differences may arise.

And I'm pretty sure that we aren't going to be able to resolve that debate (over the proper telos of human beings) here. So I will just suggest my own conclusions with trying to argue for it. My best guess (or what I take on faith, if you will) is that if a benevolent God exists (which is a conditional for me), God wouldn't want us to be doing anything else but rationally pursuing true happiness. So, in my view there is a convergence between God's will (if a benevolent God exists) and this other tradition of natural law. And again, I am fine with calling that an article of my faith.

Incidentally, on your specific questions:

(1) We already somewhat know the answer to this question. Biologists have observed homosexual behavior in a number of animal species. The obvious conclusion is that such homosexual behavior is a natural variant (see below) for those species. And at least by hypothesis, the existence of this variant may serve some function.

(2) I think they would first observe that infrequent and "abnormal" are not the same thing. Rather, "normal" can include a wide range of attributes, and the frequency of any particular attribute within that range may be small, but it can remain within the "normal" range. So, the number of people who are exactly 5'9.9999+/-.0001" is presumably quite small in percentage terms. But all of those people are a "normal" height. Or the percentage of United States citizens who attend the Third Presbytarian Church on the corner of Oak and Elm in Smallville, USA, may be quite small, but their church attendance is still "normal". To put this point another way, there can be "variations" within "normal" without the "variants" being "abnormal".

Therefore, the question is not exactly how many people are gay, or have gay sex. Rather, the question is whether these people are merely normal variants, or whether such sex is merely a normal variant. And that can be true (that these are normal variants) even if the frequency is quite small. And I think looking across cultures and times, these hypothetical sociologists/anthropologists would indeed conclude that homosexuality is a normal variant for humans (as it appears to be for many other species).

SeaLawyer,

As I also suggested to Jam, I would say that you and I have a different definition of the human telos. For you it seems to be "survival of the species". As an aside, I would note that in another thread, there are a lot of possible explanations for how gay people (limited to a certain percentage) could in fact contribute to reproductive success for humans.

But here, I will just note that I think you have made a mistake in treating human beings just like all other living species, thus ignoring the fact that we are rational beings. In my view, the fact that we are rational means that we are no longer subject to the whims of natural selection. We can, for example, choose to moderate our numbers as a species, or dramatically increase them, or even diminish them until we die out. And in my view, none of that would be "unnatural" for humans, precisely because we are rational beings.
7.8.2006 1:16pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Lemme guess. You're gay, aren't you?"

Bill, this probably reveals more about your thinking than any argument you could make to the contrary.
7.8.2006 3:23pm
Jam (mail):
Medis. No, no. If the alien biologist had female and male bodies (presumably at different stages of development) to study would the biologist-alien conclude that P-to-V or P-to-A?

Observation of behavior falls within (2)
7.8.2006 5:27pm
Medis:
Jam,

Do you mean as in dead bodies?

I think that if you have to frame the question that way, it shows you how much of what it means to be human you have to ignore in order to make this argument.

Anyway, I doubt that they would see it as an either/or question. They might be able to figure out that stimulation of those parts could trigger
particular sensations, and, in males, ejaculation. But presumably they would also figure out that the necessary stimulation could be done in any number of ways.
7.8.2006 7:33pm
Jam (mail):
Yes. Cold, calculated science. Like collecting bugs and then dissecting. The aliens I am talking about are not nice, from our perspective.
7.9.2006 9:34am
Medis:
Jam,

But it isn't a question of niceness--it is a question of gathering useful information. Entomologists, for example, don't limit themselves to studying dead insects. They also study live insects, preferably in their native habitat. And that isn't a question of ethics--it is a question of getting the best information about insects that they can.

So, even from the standpoint of "cold, calculated science", it makes little sense to ask what an alien "humanologist" would think with only dead human bodies to work with. And that is because for purely scientific reasons, such alien humanologists would want to study live versions of us, preferably in "the wild".

To put the same point another way, human sexuality is not just the mechanical functioning of body parts. It also requires the live functioning of our brains. So, any study of human sexuality, by us or aliens, which doesn't include our live brains is grossly incomplete from a purely scientific standpoint.
7.9.2006 10:27am
Another Anonymous Coward (mail):
A team of medical researchers is convened to answer the question: Is the One True Purpose of the head of the penis to give the man more pleasure or to give the woman more pleasure. After much discussion and research they announce their findings: The One True Purpose of the head of the penis is to keep your hand from slipping off.
7.11.2006 9:08am