Monday, January 28, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Homosexual: OBJECTIONS (Born This Way)

First things first. The picture to the left, the Lady Gaga album cover, is absolutely hilarious. The first time I saw it, I think I was in a Starbucks, and I couldn't stop laughing to myself. Almost to the point of people looking at me. She's like, "Guyyyys, I'm a motorcycle, stop discriminating against me! I was born this way!" I still can't look at that picture without at least snickering. Anyway, this objection isn't really as much of an objection as it is its own (bad) argument, but because it runs directly contrary to most natural law principles and because it's so popular, it's worth addressing. Also, it's a place where I can address where I think homosexuality, as a condition, comes from.

The basic argument goes something like this. It says that because a person is born a certain way (born with certain characteristics), the choices he makes as a result of being born that way are morally justified. Leaving aside the problems in determining what counts as being "born," the force of the argument actually isn't in the logic itself; it's tied to something else. It's really, as I noted in the LGBT post, just appealing to X v. The World thing. It's really making the argument that because it's wrong to discriminate against someone based on something they have no control over (how they are born), it's also wrong to tell them what they do with their desires is wrong. Ultimately, it's equating status with action. It's saying that telling a person that their actions are wrong is really discriminating against them as people, because their actions necessarily follow from their status.

The argument is of course completely specious. Actions do not necessarily follow from status (at least not in this case). Or, a better way to put it is that morally relevant actions do not follow from status. I (as well as other people) am, perhaps, living proof of that. It is true that while I cannot control who or what I am attracted to (and some of the things are very depraved), I can absolutely control who I have sex with. And, of course it's easy to think of counter-examples. Imagining that pedophilia is genetic (or that pedophiles are "born" with orientations toward children that develop during puberty (which I think is actually true)), it would clearly be ridiculous to say that a pedophile's actions (in having sex with children) would be morally justified. Even if, through scientific discovery, we found that pedophiles actually have stronger sex drives toward children than homosexuals have toward people of the same sex, it would be irrelevant. How a person is born has no bearing whatsoever on the moral value of his actions. Assuming there is an element of rational choice involved anyway---you can think of a person who is so disabled that he is unable to make moral decisions; his actions, of course, would not be immoral. But a homosexual (and a pedophile) is in no way like a person who lacks rational choice. At all. (The usual disclaimers: I am not saying that homosexuals are pedophiles. If you jump to that ridiculous accusation, you're beyond missing the point.)

What the Born This Way argument does is actually attack the metaphysics of natural law. It effectively says that things (humans in this case) do not really have essences, so how a person is born really determines what that person should or should not do. In essence (pun?) it says that there are no such things as inherent goods, so there are no such things as "defects" or "disabilities." Natural law, of course, says the exact opposite. It says that a human male is aimed at certain ends. And a human male is healthy insofar as he is individually aimed at those ends. So, humans, by their essence, are aimed at seeing. If a particular human is blind, we would call his eyes (and him) defective or disabled because his eyes aren't and he isn't able to do what humans, by their essence, do.

This is where all our notions of "disability, etc." come from in medical science. Now, what's difficult is determining when something is a disability and when something is just a difference. Brown eyes and skin color really aren't disabilities in the relevant sense. But why? Why are brown eyes "different" than blue eyes, but blind eyes disabled in reference to seeing eyes? Why aren't they just different too? This, I think, is where the Born This Way argument gets a lot of its force. It plays on the fact that people don't have a strong sense of metaphysics. People will claim that homosexuality is just different than heterosexuality in the same way brown eyes are different than blue eyes. But the parallel is of course completely faulty. Brown eyes (and eye color in general) have nothing to do with a human's flourishing, whereas sexual orientation does. As I noted, human life is defined by two aspects: survival and reproduction. If it's healthy in regards to those two things it's flourishing. If it's not, it's disabled.

This is the exact reason blind eyes are a disability, as sight is required for the survival and flourishing of the human. Eye color isn't. This is also the reason homosexuality would count as a defect, as the ability to reproduce is vital to the flourishing of the human. Humans, and all life, is aimed at reproduction. One that can reproduce is counted as a good example of that species, while one that can't is a bad example. (Note that I said can and not does.) Physically, if a man were unable to get erect because he couldn't get blood flow to his penis, we would clearly say that he has a disability. Similarly, if a man's brain doesn't work in such a way that he can't get erect to have sex with a woman in order to reproduce, we should clearly say that he has a disability. And why "with a woman in order to reproduce?" Because, as I've noted, sexuality is aimed, by its very essence, at reproduction. I once heard of a man who could only get aroused when looking at fire. He was obsessed with fire. He would burn buildings down to masturbate to the flames. Outside of fire, he had serious trouble becoming aroused, and from what I understand, he could not reach climax without a fire. He was eventually arrested for burning down (uninhabited) buildings in a neighborhood to get off. This person would clearly count as disabled because he isn't oriented toward the natural good end of human sexuality. And the natural, good end of human sexuality is reproduction and protection of one's young.

Philippa Foot talked about this a great deal. She writes, when discussing "Aristotelian Categoricals"  (which can be understood, loosely, as "essences"):
Consider, for instance, a sentence such as "The blue tit has a round patch on its head." This is superficially like "The male peacock has a brightly coloured tail," but in a way of course it is not. For, on the assumption that colour of head plays no part in the life of the blue tit, it is in this respect quite unlike the colour of the male peacock's tail: there would be nothing wrong with the blue tit in my garden in that it had a drab-coloured head; and the peculiarity might or might not accompany a defect.
All she is saying is that the color of a male peacock's tail has a lot to do with it flourishing. It would not be able to reproduce, a crucial aspect of life, without it. While the color of a blue tit (a bird)'s head has nothing to do with its flourishing. It carries no weight in its survival or reproduction (assuming it doesn't of course), so it has nothing to do with its flourishing. As such, a male peacock with badly-colored feathers would not be flourishing as a peacock (in that it can't reproduce as easily), while the blue tit may be flourishing despite his head color. Taking the homosexual, having an orientation toward one's own sex would clearly have a detrimental effect on the human male's ability to reproduce (and probably do other things). As such, it would clearly count as a defect, and it would likewise be "bad"---or someone with that characteristic would represent a bad example of a human.

What the modern world has done, I think, is replaced this metaphysical, objective sense of flourishing with some vague sense of "happiness." A homosexual is "happier" when he has sex with other men, so this counts as his sort of flourishing, so he should have sex with other men. They wouldn't take this to its logical extreme, of course. They wouldn't say a pedophile is happiest having sex with children, so he should have sex with children. They would then bring in an arbitrary standard that you shouldn't "hurt anyone else," but then some other argument is doing the real work. And they probably wouldn't even agree with it in principle if pressed. An alcoholic (which is probably a genetic disposition) may be happier when he's drop-dead drunk all the time (he's miserable when he's not drinking), but it would clearly be perverse to say that it's "healthy" and "good" for him to feed his habit. His flourishing is outside of himself. It is simply an objective question. Just like children may not be happy eating their vegetables (and I imagine there is a genetic predisposition for children to dislike vegetables and like sweets), it is still objectively good for them to do so.

Now, the general principle that you shouldn't resent or treat hurtfully someone solely on the way they were born, whether it be born a homosexual, a pedophile, with down syndrome, or a motorcycle, is a fine position. And I don't think anyone in the natural law tradition would really advocate such things. But I am actually of the position that the only way you can really have compassion for someone is to see the problems they do have. It's hard to have compassion for someone who "doesn't have anything wrong" and is "just as good as anyone else." For example, I have incredible compassion for pedophiles. I feel terrible for them. I can't even imagine being attracted to children. Now, this in no way means I think their actions are alright (assuming they do act on their desires); I just mean because I can separate their actions from their desires, I can more easily have compassion for them. And the pedophile who doesn't act on his desires is, to me, a kind of hero. If one is reading this, keep it up, your reward will be great.

Anyway, I may have hinted at what I think the genesis of homosexual attraction is, but it's just a guess, and I'm no scientist. There is this enormous debate over whether people are "born gay" or are "made gay." Almost to the point of absurdity. As I've been trying to point out, it's irrelevant to the moral discussion, but it is perhaps important to the question of how we should raise our children, what kind of compassion we should show, etc. I am of the belief that sexual orientation (or sexual attraction in general) is pretty primordial stuff. It's definitely something far outside of our control, and if I had to make a wager, I'd say it's determined very early in human development (probably at conception or in the womb). Now, it's difficult to determine, I think, the effect a culture or an upbringing has on a child. For me, I did look at gay porn at a very young age. Did that change me? No idea. I do know, though, that I doubt I would have even wanted to look at gay porn if I first weren't drawn to it beforehand. It's not like I was a blank slate that ran across gay porn accidentally and it just stuck. I also know that even before porn, I was a strange kid. I never liked what other guys liked, I was overemotional, and I was interested in things other boys would hate.

There are some studies on the issue, but I have not spent enough time studying it to have any sort of real scientific opinion. If I were really pushed on it today, I would probably say that it's not entirely genetic, and that hormones in the womb have an enormous affect on the brain development of the child. And I really think it's a matter of brain development. Once the science gets decent enough (which might not ever because the brain is an impossible subject), I'd imagine that you would notice that homosexual male brains are a little different than heterosexual ones. In the same way that other disabled brains are. Again, this has no effect whatsoever on the moral choices the homosexual makes (at least the ones he has control over), but it is interesting and perhaps important for other reasons.

Anyway, the point of this post is this: if you are a half-motorcycle person, you need to see a doctor immediately.

33 comments:

  1. Anyway, the point of this post is this: if you are a half-motorcycle person, you need to see a doctor immediately.

    :D

    A few questions.

    Regarding the homosexual/heterosexual genetic bases, etc - what about bisexuals? And a related question - have you ever gotten the impression that bisexuals, despite being the B in LGBT (and, last I checked, more sizable in population than exclusive homosexuals), are kind of a wrench in the whole discussion? It seems like whenever these topics come up, bisexuals are treated as non-existent, and I wonder if it's because they complicate the narrative. (I wonder, for example, how the arguments against outfits like Exodus International - who I really don't know all that much about, for all I know they're crappy - would go if bisexuals were included in their mission list.)

    Second - I of course agree with your views on this front, regarding disability, etc. What I've done lately when discussing this issue is ask the following: is Doug Thomas broken? Should we regard him as needing help, having a disability, etc? (Yeah, link's a bit graphic, but it's also very funny. Convenient for these discussions too.)

    That, I think, goes a long way: establish whether a person thinks some/any sexual inclination, even if it 'doesn't physically harm others', can rightly be called a disability, or a broken behavior, or wrong, or.. etc. If someone tries to go the distance and say no, Doug Thomas is not disabled or in need of help, any sexual preference that doesn't harm others cannot be wrong, then the problem being faced in that discussion is in stark relief. But if someone says, yes, Doug Thomas is disabled, he does need help, his sexuality is broken - well, then you at least have the recognition that some sexual urges are in fact indicative of disability, and the discussion is more likely to proceed positively when on the subject of natural law.

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    1. From my experience, bisexuals are pretty disliked in the gay community (which I think is kind of ironic). There's kind of a "we're a special group too!" thing to them. They complain all the time for not being respected within "the community," I believe. I've seen it a lot anyway. But I think they're harder to take seriously. I think people recognize that a bisexual person could just go off and have a nice, straight life if he wanted to, while a real homosexual couldn't, a real homosexual "is" stuck in his situation. There's some resentment there, I think. Every gay people has wished, at least once in his life (and probably more often than that), that he could just turn it off and be attracted to women. Bisexuals sort of have that special power, so no one likes them.

      I actually am really confused by bisexuals. I know they exist; I'm just skeptical as to how genuine they are. I think a lot of people have this skepticism, and I think it's why a lot of people don't like them. It just doesn't add up to most people. Sexual attraction is supposed to be this force that takes over your whole body. How could it be activated Anyone? It seems like they're just having a good time, and it's less of an Identity. I don't necessarily subscribe to this; I just get why people think it. Also, I've noticed a lot more bisexual Women than men, and I think this weighs heavily into the issue. Perhaps more on this in a later post, but in general, I think people treat female sexuality a little differently. They, to put it bluntly, take it a lot less seriously.

      Never seen that video. I'm a big John C. Reilly fan though, so thanks. I think some people are willing to bite the bullet when it comes to sexual perversion. It's a pretty small percentage of people, but they certainly exist. A lot of people will say, "but this is about LOVE, so it's different," (even when it's obviously not always about love, unless a bottle of lube and porn counts as an expression of love too) something I will address in a later post. They normally don't have a justification for Why that's the standard at all (it's usually just this arbitrary a priori rule), but yeah, it's the usual parry.

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    2. From my experience, bisexuals are pretty disliked in the gay community (which I think is kind of ironic). There's kind of a "we're a special group too!" thing to them. They complain all the time for not being respected within "the community," I believe. I've seen it a lot anyway.

      Alright, this is actually backing up a suspicion I've had for the longest time. I find the whole LGBT thing fascinating, because to me it's some kind of very, very modern anomaly and kind of nexus point for a lot of various issues. And I finally started to notice at one point that even though bisexuals are on the list... it just really seems like they're a third wheel to the culture.

      Also, I've noticed a lot more bisexual Women than men, and I think this weighs heavily into the issue. Perhaps more on this in a later post, but in general, I think people treat female sexuality a little differently. They, to put it bluntly, take it a lot less seriously.

      I think the bisexuals open up a whole can of worms too, so maybe it goes beyond mere resentment? Like you said, 'having a good time' may be a factor, cultural issues may be a factor. But that runs against the 'born that way' narrative. Even if it's only partial - 'some people are born this way, for others not so much' - I can see that, from the LGBT activist perspective, being something you'd want to bury because it's going to complicate everything.

      Never seen that video. I'm a big John C. Reilly fan though, so thanks.

      Are you familiar with Dr Steve Brule? That's where I really got introduced to him, and loved his style.

      I think some people are willing to bite the bullet when it comes to sexual perversion.

      I agree, some do. I think many of the people who do that, however, are getting into the territory of 'well, this is absurd, but if I'm going to be consistent this is what I have to do'. From there it's kind of a short hop to admitting that, say, whether a person is healthy or not, period, is entirely relative to culture or subjective views.

      A lot of people will say, "but this is about LOVE, so it's different," (even when it's obviously not always about love, unless a bottle of lube and porn counts as an expression of love too) something I will address in a later post.

      The love thing is definitely one common reply, but I also think it sometimes functions as a feint, and is pretty easily gotten around. If you just ask 'Okay, so when love is not involved, is X wrong or ...' - even though tackling the love issue is important - it helps out. Largely because that goes back to this idea that where sexual acts == 'making love' or 'expression of love' as a default, which I think is just self-evidently absurd.

      This is part of what I mean about the importance of speaking bluntly, at least in my experience. I think one problem is that the 'love' card gets played, and to really dispute that you have to get somewhat graphic and start talking about the actual sexual acts, etc, and begin asking 'Is this a proper expression of love?' or even 'What does love have to do with this?', and you can't really deal with the core issues properly by talking in polite, abstract terms. It makes the whole conversation sound like 'the Catholic War on holding hands'.

      Either way, I'm just relating my own experiences as someone who has talked about this for a while, if from a far less personal/knowledgeable vantage point. It's also one of the reasons I find it all interesting, since it highlights some existing taboos in public conversation.

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    3. Am I familiar with Dr. Steve Brule? I make "Put some fruit juice in there!" jokes on a regular basis!

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  2. I very much agree with your analysis. I suspect it can't be entirely genetic or there wouldn't be indentical twins with different sexual orientations. But if the 'switch' isn't switched by choice then 'being' homosexual can't a moral issue.

    One of the most curious traits to me is the strong propensity among many lesbian couples to enact traditional gender roles within their same sex relationship. There is so often one partner who looks and acts masculine and the other has more traditionally feminine qualities - often to the point of being the one to carry a pregnancy. It seems like that points to a real mix up of brain chemistry (sexual attraction) and socialization/environment.

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    1. I forgot to add this question to my post above. How do you answer those who claim they can't control their sexual urges and therefore must be allowed to express whatever their particular orientation is?

      This is certainly not just a SS issue and there are plenty of heterosexuals, especially men, who claim that celibacy or continency are unnatural and an impossible expectation for every healthy person. Even St. Paul suggested it might be too much to expect for some. Unfortunately, marriage wasn't and isn't an outlet for SSA persons.

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    2. This is certainly not just a SS issue and there are plenty of heterosexuals, especially men, who claim that celibacy or continency are unnatural and an impossible expectation for every healthy person.

      I'd be curious if any of the ones who say that think it should be a mitigating factor in a rape defense.

      Someone who claims that they truly are unable to control their sexual urges and absolutely must have sex when the mood strikes seem like a group for whom the answer isn't understanding, but chemical castration.

      I really wonder if there's not a sizable difference between lesbian females and gay males in terms of culture and genetic bases. What friends I have who were in those cultures attest that there's quite a lot of women for whom lesbianism really is a phase or something political/psychology rather than 'well they just like women and not men sexually'.

      To use one example - I noticed how, in all the coverage of this case, no one ever said the obvious: she's an ex-lesbian.

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    3. Just to clarify, I wasn't including rape in the question. I was referring to those people who think it is impossible to abstain from masturbation and/or consentual sex on a lifelong basis.

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    4. No, I know you weren't. But I think that's relevant.

      I think it's going to really be hard to argue that, say... 'it is impossible for me to abstain from sex. But only consensual sex. I mean, you know, if that wasn't available for me, I could abstain. But I cannot abstain if it's available.'

      At that point it starts to sound more like, they really do not like to abstain, they would prefer not to, and they probably will not if left to their own devices. But I think there's a sizable gulf between that and "it is impossible for me to abstain".

      I can understand, by the way, someone screwing up. Especially from a Catholic point of view, it happens. A problem is that this starts to sound like "I'm going to screw up, so you can't set this for me as a standard. Standards only apply if I can easily meet them."

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    5. Anon,

      I may have just implied it, and I'm sure you know, but for any other readers, for the reasons spelled out above, homosexuality as a condition is Not considered immoral. ONLY the actions are. That is, there's nothing immoral about Being homosexual. Condemning a homosexual solely for Being homosexual would be like condemning a kid for being born with scoliosis.

      You bring up a very big issue, though. First off, I don't think there is such a person who "can't control his sexual urges." So long as he has rational choice, he can control his sexual urges. Now, it is ENORMOUSLY difficult to control those urges, but unless the person has a serious mental disability, he is able to control them. The virtues are incredible things when employed properly. I want to get a lot of philosophy stuff out of the way before I really tackle sexual addiction and controlling such urges.

      Now, what you say about Paul and homosexuals is actually really interesting, and I plan to devote a pretty lengthy discussion to the topic. That is, as I've hinted at, when people compare homosexual celibacy to priestly celibacy, I get a little annoyed. The Same virtue helps both people control their sexuality, no doubt about it, but the starting point is very different. A priest has an option, a choice. More importantly Not Everyone Is Cut Out To Be A Priest (any good priest will tell you this), but many people expect homosexuals to Act Like Priests. There's clearly a problem here that deserves some resolution.

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    6. I understand your wanting to postpone the discussion on this. But something to consider on the issue of addiction (speaking as one) - we acknowledge that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When something reaches the level of an addiction (and that's not what I have been asking about btw) we talk about surrender, not control.

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  3. I'm looking at it as a matter of the power of the drive for sexual release. The strength of that drive varies greatly among individuals. Some very good and moral men I have talked to claim their drive for sexual release can become uncontrollable. If there is no moral outlet for it through a marital relationship then they claim it would be physically impossible for them not to masturbate. I have to take their word for it since I can't know what they feel. I assume it is the same for some people with SSA.

    I wonder what there is, if anything, in understanding/accepting natural law that can help someone like that who is told there can never be any proper sexual release - ever.

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    1. Like Crude and Joe K, I'm skeptical. For instance, let's say that the man in question had to live in public every second of the next year--no privacy at all. Is his sexual drive so strong that he would be willing to masturbate in public in such a situation? Probably not. Some taboos are strong enough to overcome even very powerful urges.

      I think it has less to do with the strength of the drive than it does with the weakness of the will in certain tempting situations.

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    2. I'm not denying, flat out, that such individuals exist. I think they are remarkably fewer, and that a lot of this is really just 'people who have an urge and don't want to deny it, or who think they will screw up and don't want culpability'.

      But I do think, if someone is literally incapable of that kind of self-control, where monogamy doesn't work or, etc, etc, then A) I'm going to be supremely skeptical if they tell me that it's only where consensual women are concerned, or discrete masturbation in private, and B) I think at that point we shouldn't be looking at this as a natural, healthy state of being, but something along the lines of suicidal depression - a person being broken and who needs intervention and treatment, ideally.

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    3. You may be right. As I said, I can't know what they feel. But I got the distinct impression it was akin to an overwhelming physical urge to ejaculate that could not be suppressed and that was not particularly associated with sexual DESIRE. More like a pressure cooker that needed to be cracked before it exploded :)

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    4. "More like a pressure cooker that needed to be cracked before it exploded :)"

      Not sure if you're a man or a woman, so I may be telling you something you already know, but I think every man has felt that many times in his life, heh. Truth is, though, you usually only feel like that once you've Started, if you know what I'm getting at, or you're in a lifestyle where you feel like you need/get sexual release every single day. And seeing as how almost every man in the country is addicted to pornography, I imagine many men feel like it would be a physical impossibility to never intentionally ejaculate again.

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  4. Hi Joe K,

    You might find the following article interesting: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/same-sex-science

    This actually brings to mind Ginsburg's decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, where they were debating whether a school's all-comers policy violated a group's 1st Amendment rights by forcing a Christian club to accept a practicing gay member. Ginsburg, writing for the 5-4 majority, explicitly rejects the distinction "between status and conduct" and says "A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews."

    To me, it seems that Ginsburg does not carry her reasoning all the way out: if there is no distinction between status and conduct, then we are morally absolved of anything that we have a predisposition towards. What is really at issue is whether having gay sex and wearing a yarmulke are morally equivalent, not a distinction between status and conduct.

    Thoughts?

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    1. Most cases I read by Ginsburg I dislike. (I'm a law student if anyone might be wondering why I read cases by Ginsburg all the time.) Now, I think free exercise is actually an interesting area of law, and she May not be going as far as to saying that Every status is the same as action, but that religious status necessarily involves action that the government must accommodate for.

      For example, if the government banned churches, Catholics would say the government has effectively attacked Them because they Have to go to Church. The government couldn't come back and say, "Calm down, calm down, we're really only trying to get rid of churches, not you." Most people wouldn't really buy the distinction in a religious context as religion imposes a sense of requirement and duty. You could definitely make the argument, though, that there is no Duty for homosexuals to have homosexual sex. They/we mostly just Want to.

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  5. If I were really pushed on it today, I would probably say that it's not entirely genetic, and that hormones in the womb have an enormous affect on the brain development of the child. And I really think it's a matter of brain development. Once the science gets decent enough (which might not ever because the brain is an impossible subject), I'd imagine that you would notice that homosexual male brains are a little different than heterosexual ones

    And you would be correct on all these fronts. There is empirical evidence that, on average, gay men's brains (in particular the hypothalmus) are different. And on the "brain development" thing, prenatal hormones are a big factor. A biologist friend of mine told me about graduate level research he was involved in: there's a part of brain formation that happens in humans in utero, but the same phase in gerbils happens shortly after birth (making the gerbils easy to tinker with in a lab). What they found was that, consistently, they could create gay gerbils by manipulating the hormone levels of the gerbils during this crucial period of development.

    That said, my own view is that there are likely still many other factors involved, so each individual case is different. But you're on the right track to be locating one of the major causes to be biological.

    Also, Joe- I haven't weighed in yet but thank you for sharing your story on this blog! (I followed you over here from your plug on Ed Feser's blog) You have a unique viewpoint and it clearly enriches the discussion on this issue.

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    1. Gerbils are already pretty gay if you ask me. Just kidding, just kidding. No, but I have sort of moved into the prenatal hormones camp as of late. What's interesting is this: if prenatal hormones end up being The cause, would one still say that a person is Born gay or that he Becomes gay? Is it a pro-life/pro-choice issue at that point? That is, is it a matter of gay at Conception or gay at Birth? Heh, what a world.

      Also, I appreciate the encouragement! I've enjoyed it so far, but everyone has been really nice. What I think I'm learning is that my story might be helpful for people who aren't gay. I am thankful for that. I want to start advertising the blog a little bit more, but I also don't want to have 8 hour combox fights with posters if they end up being real jerks. I'm thinking maybe I'll just focus on getting everything I need to say out there before I try to make it visited too much. Although, honestly, I'm encouraged by the number of visitors I do get. To those who don't say anything in the comments, Hello from me! I really appreciate your visiting!

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    2. What I think I'm learning is that my story might be helpful for people who aren't gay.

      Oh, absolutely. You're offering a truly unique view, a well-read/researched one. I think you've got something to offer intellectually to people with SSA, as well as people who don't have it but want to understand more about the culture, the approaches, and more. Frankly a lot of what you say and consider has tremendous application for non-gays as well.

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  6. @ Joe K

    Another article you might find interesting--scroll down until you see "The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy" by Richard John Neuhaus. He has the same thoughts about conflating truth and identity.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/under-the-shadow-23

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  7. Dropping by from Ed Feser's blog to show my support for this excellent site. I've been visiting regularly for several weeks now, and I must say that I'm impressed. As was the case with your posts on other sites, your take on homosexuality here is kind of unprecedented. It's like you've taken pre-modern morality but subtracted the intolerance and even violence that were associated with it, replacing them with a more modern (and more Christian) stance on diagnosing and healing problems. I can't think of another time I've heard this position taken. Even Feser himself occasionally lapses into spitting anger and borderline hate in the direction of the homosexual community, which is a big reason why I don't recommend The Last Superstition very often: I don't want to endorse that view. It confuses conservative politics with Christianity.

    Anyway, what you're doing is, I think, exactly the Christian perspective that could reach out to homosexuals of your generation. Incredible stuff--possibly revolutionary. Consider me a dedicated reader.

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    1. Rank,

      You're one of my favorite commenters over at Feser's blog, so your support means a lot. Thank you for all the enormously kind words.

      I think there's this sort of gap in traditional conservative thought, where the great conservative thinkers can accurately and brilliantly identify a bad, like homosexuality, but often have trouble explaining what that means For the homosexual, where it leaves him as he approaches every day. I think this is why so many homosexuals are turned off to the entire traditional paradigm. I'm hoping that I'll be able to bridge some of that gap.

      All that said, I owe a lot to Professor Feser, and I'm incredibly thankful for his works. He helped to answer so many difficult questions in my life, and there are so many more things I have left to learn. And he's a philosopher; I don't think he's ever set out to do anything like this, so I think it's an area of thought that needs to be explored.

      Again, thank you. It means a lot.

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    2. @Rank,

      I just wanted to say, I read Feser's The Last Superstition, twice, and I didn't find it offensive or objectionable in any way (I am homosexual myself). It's a good book, and even fun to read. Perhaps it could be perceived as offensive by aggressive LGBT activists, but not by gay people who can distinguish truth from their own disordered passions.

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    3. Dino,

      I'm much more in your camp. TLS, for me, was enjoyable and mostly funny, and I think a lot of the hate toward it (and I don't think this is Rank) exists because people on the other side of it don't want to really face it head on. They'd rather throw up dirt and say it's mean. But me, I like things that come off as a little snarky; it feels more real. I also don't think there's anything particularly un-Christian about it. But there's, I guess, two things that could be seen as bad about it.

      One, nothing he says in the book is hateful (as in, used solely to just hurt another person's feelings), and the only way it can come off as offensive is if you lack a grasp of the underlying philosophy. Unfortunately, the book itself is what's trying to explain that underlying philosophy. So, if you go into it without realizing it's doing some heavy philosophical work, you're going to think it's just another book without any substance that makes fun of liberals. This is of course completely unwarranted, but that's what what people will think. I gave it to a very liberal friend to read. He never got past the first chapter. This annoyed me because, one, it's really lazy, and two, because he was unwilling to take a step back and actually try to understand what was being said. He'd, I'd imagine, expect me to give the benefit of the doubt for any exceptionally liberal book he'd want Me to read, no matter how wild a claims his books might make, but yeah. I think liberal-minded ideas are necessarily given the benefit of the doubt because they're "progressive" (which society sort of thinks is synonymous with good) and when a conservative book comes out, people are gonna be like, "SEEEEEE they really are hateful homophobes!" without giving the work any real attention.

      Two, and this isn't really a problem with the book at all, but he makes some strong claims and identifies a lot of really serious social problems. What's great about the work is that he's able to tie these social problems to underlying Philosophical problems. People try to do it all the time, but I think they mostly fail. This work is really quite brilliant in this way. But what you could say about it is that it's not particularly pastoral, or whatever. That's all I meant by gaps. As I said, he wasn't aiming to accomplish anything pastoral, so it's not an actual fault, but sometimes strict philosophy confuses and intimidates someone who would necessarily be changed by that philosophy. When you show to someone that all they do and all the believe in is Immoral, they're going to feel angry and confused. If they aren't given an alternative, or if the alternative is what they've been avoiding their entire life (that which gives them the most meaning in life), they're going to get angrier and more confused. In a lot of ways, the more convincing the argument is, the more angry that person is going to get.

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    4. I think that the polemical nature of The Last Superstition, and polemical writing more generally, has its pros and its cons. Probably its biggest advantage is one that Feser offers: that people are often convinced by New Atheists not because of their strong arguments, but because of their intellectual self-assurance. Polemical writing from the traditional/Christian standpoint can serve to counteract that.

      On the other hand, a lot of times people are just looking for an explanation of the position, and all that invective tends to turn people off or obscure the position itself. Or it makes them afraid to recommend the book to a skeptical reader.

      I personally enjoy Feser's blog posts more than either of his books. I think his blog posts are great, especially his ones about the cosmological argument and classical theism.

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  8. First, I completely agree that the origin of homosexual desire is irrelevant to the moral status of homosexual action.

    Still, as a person with homosexual attraction, I don't really think I was born this way. In fact I can totally recognize myself in some standard psychological theories that attempt to explain homosexuality (i.e. problematic relationship with father and peers of the same sex in the early childhood).

    Yes, just like you, I was also "a strange kid" in my early childhood. But, in my case anyway, I am not sure was the cause, and what was effect. That is, was I already homosexual from my birth and became "strange kid" because of that? Or was I "strange" for other reasons (and there are some candidates), which caused me to distance myself from other male kids (or be rejected by them), which in turn caused homosexual attraction in me?

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    1. As I said, I really don't know the genesis, and I wouldn't really go to the mat on any theory. I am just always taken back by how out of one's control a sexual drive is. Things that are that ingrained, to me, usually indicate something much more genetic or biological.

      I also think it's important to be open to the idea that it really may be genetic or biological and completely out of one's own control. In a certain way, this allows one to approach the whole issue a little more honestly. I think this inability to accept the fact that it may be far beyond one's own control has led to a lot of strange conversion therapy (which I plan to write a post about) stuff. I usually see it Sort of like color blindness. No matter how much a color blind person tries, he's not going to see the right colors; his eyes just don't work right. If it Really is like color blindness, a lot of the conversion therapies are probably pretty bad ideas.

      As I said though, I don't Necessarily endorse any of the positions. I'd certainly love for there to be some fix (which I also plan to write about), but it's okay if there's not. Whatever it is, what we have is what we have, and that's what we have to deal with. Thanks for the comment, Dino.

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    2. I think you are right that it is probably some mixture of genetics, hormones, maybe early childhood experiences, etc. that are beyond someone's control. But conversely, it is very important that people not rule out, in a knee-jerk way (not saying you are), any serious research into conversion therapy. Many are doing that. If we don't know the cause, we can't rule out any therapies.

      One of the areas that I think bears looking into is the kind of sexual desensitization/re sensitization therapy that deals with phobias, anxiety and performance. Exposing someone with SSA to an admittedly uncomfortable opposite sex sexual experience and leading them through it in a slow, graduated, therapeutic manner with the help of a trained therapist might have some interesting outcomes.

      The person would need to be very motivated for sure. But if it can be done successfully and long-term it would tend to change the narrative of 'born this way' and that's what a lot of people don't even want discussed. Frankly, if sexuality is somewhat fluid then it might work for heterosexual change as well. Perhaps many people are unwittingly doing this kind of 'therapy' on their own when they adopt bi-sexuality or change their preference later in life.

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  9. OT: This popped up on my radar today, thought you might be interested: http://anenglishgaycatholic.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks, Kiel, I am. Appreciate it.

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