One of the most popular attempts at a non-religious argument against homosexuality is the Appeal to Nature, or the Naturalistic Fallacy. It’s one of those arguments that make me roll my eyes and shake my head. I try, most of the time, not to judge any of the people who argue against the gay community, be it on the basis of marriage or just in general, because they genuinely believe that they are right. People hold their opinions for a reason, be it religious or logical (at least to them), so when I come across Tweets like this:
It is easy to reply with something like “homosexuality occurs in nature, therefore is “natural”. You’re welcome.” By the time I find these Tweets someone else has usually got in there before me with some variation of the rebuttal, like pointing out how many different species engage in homosexual acts in the natural world. From the point of view of the liberal, equal opportunities Tweeter this is the end of the argument. Someone has made a statement, and that statement has been shown to be incorrect. How can the argument continue?
Oh, how naive of us to believe that this is the case. The individual making the statement can simply ignore the facts and just keep repeating the claim, even when you pull up links to scientific papers on the subject or the actual definition of “natural”, which can be beyond frustrating. In these cases there really is no point in continuing with the conversation. If someone refuses to concede to a scientifically proven fact then there’s not really anywhere you can go.
The alternate route will quickly transform the argument from the appeal to nature to the religious argument, which is much more interesting but harder to keep on track. That’s something that I will cover at another time, because there is something that is frequently missed when it comes to the “it just ain’t natural” claim.
When the wingnuts use the word “natural” they’re not using it in the way that we are. It’s the homophobic version of “evolution is just a theory” that my esteemed colleagues @TakeThatDarwin and @TheoryFail have to deal with. Those people are using “theory” to mean “guess” or “idea” or “hunch”, rather than the actual context in which it is meant; that of a scientific theory (which I’m not going to cover because that’s best left to people who know what they’re talking about).
What the homophobe is doing in this situation is making a moral judgement about what the word means, and they’re getting it wrong. What they’re doing here is equating “natural” with “good” or “right”. They don’t like the idea of homosexuality. Most of the wingnuts on Twitter that I find have a particular vehemence towards man on man action. They find it disgusting and can’t get their brains around why any real man would want to do that sort of thing with another male. It makes them uncomfortable to see same sex affection, they don’t like seeing gay characters on the television or in the movies and it makes them feel icky. This is because it is outside of their normal experience. Twenty years ago the same could be said of mixed race relationships. They weren’t exposed to such relationships and therefore judged them as unnatural, or bad, or wrong.
In the minds of these people good equals natural, so because homosexuality is not good then it must be unnatural. How could it be anything else? This is the root of their argument in most cases. When someone uses the “homosexuality is not natural” argument they are begging the question, because they are already putting their conclusion in their premise.
Nature, however, doesn’t make implicit value judgements. There is no “good” or “bad” or “sin” in nature, there is just “nature”. To assert that natural equates good means that accepting rape is good. Rape occurs in the natural world, therefore rape is good. A lion taking down a gazelle is natural, therefore murder is good. Cancer is natural, therefore disease is good.
This is the true meaning of what they think “natural” means. As usual it is religious indoctrination that leads to this conclusion. Homosexuality is going against the plan of God, and therefore not natural. The fact that it is present in thousands of species is irrelevant to them. It’s nothing more than an attempt to frame their religious world view in a secular standpoint.
When you hear the argument that homosexuality is not natural perhaps it might be an idea to find out what they think “natural” means, because if you leap into a defence of what you think they mean you may be coming at it from the wrong angle.
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