The Case for Heterosexuality

NailWrenchI’ve had a number of on-line debates on the issue of homosexuality.  Mostly, these amount to unpacking the defenses of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, or just dealing with the ad hominem attacks against us “bigots” who are “obsessed” with this issue.  However, I was recently challenged to make my own general argument against homosexuality, which I’d like to do now.  I don’t presume that I will change any minds, especially given how personally invested some are in this issue in a way that transcends reason, but I’d at least like to demonstrate the reasonability of believing heterosexuality to be the norm and design for human beings.

The argument is pretty simple and straightforward, and almost so obvious it hardly needs to be spelled out.  It’s why society has accepted it these long centuries, children intuitively understand it, and it takes a good dose of liberal reeducation to eclipse it.  I believe it to be the foundational point of departure in the justification of homosexuality as a normal, moral, socially acceptable lifestyle.

The argument

Observe the healthy male and female bodies.  Observe the intrinsic differences in the general form — size, proportions, musculature, etc.  Observe the specific differences in the genitalia and reproductive organs.  There are three important points that proceed from these observations.

First, physically speaking, there are two sexes.  It is a binary thing.  I know it has become fashionable to question this self-evident fact by appealing to psychological factors or congenital anomalies.  However, one’s feelings about physical reality do not alter the truth of that reality, and what is normal is not defined by what is broken.  It is simply data that nature has conspired to impart but two sexes to the human race.

Second, men and women are different.  They are not interchangeable sexes.  Two men, even on their best day, do not equal one woman.  Each sex has distinct, functionally meaningful parts that can only be superficially counterfeited with medical intervention.  Even so, the genetics remain and new reproductive capacity is not gained.

Third, these differences are complementary in nature.  Men and women are custom designed for each other.  Whatever other ad hoc and creative uses one may find for their sexual organs, their primary purposes involve the pairing of the two.  Not only are the male/female genitalia uniquely suited to each other, but the union can produce the thing which insures the very existence of humanity: offspring.  Even those who reject the opposite sex must avail themselves of them if they wish to have children of their own.

This complementarity and its necessity for reproduction are surely cues as to what nature expects for human relationships and the setting in which their offspring are to be raised.  If reproduction and child-rearing cannot be considered key factors in defining conjugal and domestic praxis, then it’s not clear to what objective guide we should appeal.

Given all these things, it seem reasonable to affirm as normative that men and women should pair in complementary relationships. It also seems reasonable to find curious those who do not.  Those who have not yet, cannot, or choose not to avail themselves of nature’s design are one thing, but those who entirely reject that design for another of their own making are on shaky ground in demanding the rest of society’s affirmation.

Taking the argument further depends largely upon one’s metaphysical presuppositions.  Since there are a variety of perspectives on the nature of man, morality, and the origin of sexual design, one must ultimately argue these things on an individual basis.  However, there are two major tracks to follow in this debate.  One is theistic and the other atheistic.

Arguing further with the atheist

If one is an atheist, then the “design” of the sexes is simply a byproduct of natural processes.  Some form of naturalistic evolution is the only option currently on the table for the atheist.  Given that evolution is our presumed maker, and all that it can be said to “care” about is reproduction and survival, then it stands to reason that mating with the opposite sex and the care of the resulting offspring should be considered the normal expression of what nature intended.  Those who reject this are living according to some program with which they have not been equipped by nature.

Atheists have one advantage in this debate, however.  Given that there is no Law-giver, or transcendent Designer, they are not subject to any principles or moral constraints that may be suggested by our natures.  Indeed, they are hard-pressed to make any meaningful sense of morality at all.  For this reason, even if it could be demonstrated that heterosexuality is the normal state of humans, and that homosexuality is a pathology, then they can still say, “Who cares?  Let people do whatever the heck they want to do.”

On the other hand, though, they cannot claim any moral status for those who reject nature’s designs or for those who criticize persons who do.  If following one’s own preferences is permitted to trump natural teleology, then it justifies the homosexual and the “homophobe” alike.  Once you cut yourself loose from the moral dock the entire ocean awaits.  You must navigate by charting your own arbitrary course, and the course of those seeking to comply with the reefs and currents of nature seems at least as reasonable as those plotting the course of sheer desire.

Arguing further with the theist

With the theist there is more to work with, and yet it also becomes more complicated.  This is because there are so many forms of theism.  Note that when I use the term “theism” here I’m using it more broadly than normal to include all those who believe that there is something more to us than our physical nature.  Whatever form of god or transcendent power that might be, it would entail the idea that there is meaning and purpose to nature and its designs.  This introduces an objective moral element — a justification for acting according to that design and not just doing our own thing.

Those not satisfied to live according to this sexual construct should be asked who has made the mistake:  God, who designed them for the opposite sex but now requires them to make due with ad hoc sexual and reproductive practices, or themselves, who have somehow acquired a desire to operate against their nature and think it healthy and normal to do so?  Given that a common theme found within all religions is the idea that we often have wrongful desires, it seems safe to consider that it is perhaps oneself that is in error.

Conclusion

Whether by blind nature or by god’s purposes our sexual design is still the same.  Is it really so unreasonable to believe that we should live in harmony with the way that we are physically made?  LGBT advocates would like us to believe that it is just as virtuous and reasonable to reject that design as to live according to it.

If someone wants to pound nails with wrenches and drive screws with butter knives, and then to prevail upon his neighbor and his tools when he needs serious work done, then shall we call him a carpenter on par with his neighbor?  Some seem to be answering “yes”; and they are not just asking that we should allow their personal eccentricities, they are insisting that they are legitimate and equivalent behaviors which should be celebrated as such.  They suggest that it is just as good to drive nails with wrenches as with hammers, that the rest of us should believe it as well, that we should insure that our children do not question it, and that anyone who thinks that hammers are made for nails is a wrenchophobe.

Really, who is imposing their values upon society?  Who is being unreasonable here?

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Posted on June 26, 2014, in Homosexuality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Again, undeniable. The obvious and reasonable are pesky things.

  2. eyeontheuniverse

    You seem to have conveniently convinced yourself that there are two options: ethics provided by god or no ethics at all. The fact that almost all non-theists ascribe to a system of ethics should at least give you pause to question this logic…and more importantly, the reason it is so important for you to believe this, despite the evidence to the contrary.

  3. eyeontheuniverse

    The problem is that the type of objective morality you are talking about is all made up if the stories aren’t true. So it really depends on your premise. If you do not first take the truth of the specific religion as premise, then you may as well adopt a system that at least is adaptable to different times and places rather than enforcing outdated codes on people. Again…depends on your starting assumption.

    • What you are talking about relates to the specifics of morality, i.e., what is good, what is bad, and the principles used to differentiate between the two. I’m talking about the grounding for the idea of a non-subjective morality in general. Objective morality entails the idea that some things are right or wrong (in their proper context) across both time and culture, regardless of what the current moral fashions happen to be. This implies that morality is something apart from the minds and preferences of individuals and groups. This kind of morality requires some kind of transcendent source, to which atheism is not entitled.

      You affirm exactly what I am saying when you suggest that morality ought to be “adaptable to different times and places.” Per my article, the acceptance of homosexuality is then only a modern moral trend as opposed to its non-acceptance in times past. An objective moral system is philosophically justified to say that one or the other attitude is “wrong,” both then and now. A subjective moral system can only say that it prefers the one over the other. It cannot say that modern sensibilities are “better,” only “different.”

      • eyeontheuniverse

        I’m pretty sure that you believe that ethics should be adaptable to different times and places as well. There is a reason that at one time death is a reasonable punishment for horse theft and not at another. Or if that one doesn’t work for you, there are times, cultures and places when allowing passing strangers into your home is the right thing to do, and others where it is not.

        I could go on with examples, but the reality is that everyone is a relativist on a variety of actions that range from things we consider common etiquette to when it is ethical to kill. I have never met anyone who was not in part a relativist.

        I have also met very few who are not at least in part absolutist in their ethics. However, certain systems, usually those with fewer rules, allow themselves to have a higher level of adaptability through time. For instance, if one’s ethical system proposes maximizing the greatest conscious well being of sentient entities, that belief may be absolute and unchanging. The ethical rules which fall under it, however, are quite free to grown and change as needed with changing culture, technology, and scientific awareness.

      • Being adapted for differing circumstances is a different thing than moral relativism. It is only relativism if, all things being equal, the moral status of something changes and we can say it was “right” both then and now.

        To take one of your examples, horse theft is not much of a problem now, nor is it as financially devastating a thing as it once was. The circumstances have changed, which factors in to the punishment for the crime. Even so, the objectivist could say that in the past they were wrong to apply the death penalty, or maybe they should still be doing it today. The relativist can only say, “that’s what they did in the past, but these days we prefer something else” — they are not entitled to make cross-cultural and historical judgments (even though they can’t help but do so).

        Also note that moral absolutism is a different thing than moral objectivism (also called “moral realism”). Absolutism implies that certain things are always and everywhere wrong. In a sense you could say they are the same thing, but absolutism implies unqualified pronouncements. The approach of most philosophically savvy moral realists is to insure that proper qualifications are made when discussing moral issues. For instance, one might say that it is wrong to keep people in cages. But one might ask, “what about serial killers, or what about if they are in danger of attack from others, or what if they *want* to be in the cage?” We might, then, be inclined to make an “absolute” statement that it is always and everywhere wrong to keep persons in a cage against their will who are neither a danger to society nor in danger from it. The relativist might agree with this, but it would only be based upon personal preference, and they could only call something like the imprisonment of females for sexual slavery “distasteful,” not “wicked.”

        Another distinction that should be made is the difference between moral law and social convention (e.g., etiquette). For instance, it is morally good to be safe and civil when travelling, but it is only a social convention that we stop on red lights. It’s not that it is objectively bad to drive through red lights (since we could have chosen green for stop and red for go); it’s bad to violate the conventions of safety and cooperation, whatever they happen to be.

        Of course, I’m presupposing that being a law-abiding citizen is an objectively “good” thing. Even while that seems intuitively obvious to most people, it still begs for justification in a purely material world where we biochemical freaks of nature are driven by nothing outside of our own enigmatic urges beyond random mutations and natural selection.

      • eyeontheuniverse

        ‘It is only relativism if, all things being equal, the moral status of something changes and we can say it was “right” both then and now.’

        Is this what you meant to say?

        ‘The relativist might agree with this, but it would only be based upon personal preference, and they could only call something like the imprisonment of females for sexual slavery “distasteful,” not “wicked.”’

        Here I think we are talking at odds. Putting aside the word ‘wicked’ (which I do not use…except for the most excellent musical) I would use the word ‘Evil’ here, because this meets the definition I of the word evil as I, and others who share my ethical system, use it.

      • Yes, I meant to say that, but perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I meant, for example, that if something was once approved or permissible in society that no longer is, and we say that both attitudes are “right” because they express the cultural convention (which is what defines morality), then that is moral relativism.

        Your disinclination to use a word like “wicked” beautifully illustrates my point, and I’m even surprised that you go so far as to use the word “evil.” Moral relativists cannot get away from making moral pronouncements. It is deeply ingrained in us all. They also still have a place for positive and negative categories, and need some sorts of words to describe those. Both sides use many of these words in common, like “good” and “evil,” but these words more accurately reflect the objectivist’s perspective. Words like “prefer” and “dislike” are more technically accurate for the moral relativist, but of course this doesn’t offer the same sense of gravity when one is advocating for one’s preferences, does it?

  4. To put it in very simple terms: theists believe that there must be a source of law or morality which defines what is “good’ or “evil”, and this source must be outside of those to whom it applies. We are accountable to a standard which we did not create, which comes from a Source outside of us who has proven His right to set the standard based on His innate goodness and justice.
    Atheists certainly aspire to contrive a system of morality but they have no objective source to go to to get one. Consensus is the best they can do. They must acknowledge that even their sense that there IS right, wrong, good, injustice, etc. is owed to the theist worldview, and a God who made a universe with justice and truth in its DNA.

    • Hey, well said! Two comments.

      If the source is a God who created and owns everything, then this God doesn’t even have to demonstrate goodness and justice in order to impose morality upon us. It is His prerogative no matter what.

      I don’t think that atheists *must* acknowledge their moral intuitions as a product of theism (though I think it is). They generally appeal to something like evolution for that, though I think it ultimately fails them. It certainly fails to make it objective.

  5. You are right on both counts. I should have said that they ought to acknowledge, but usually don’t. And I was blending two thoughts together: God sets the “rules” and that standard needs no qualification because He’s God; but that we often come to acknowledge that is so because of his kindness.

  6. It’s good to see you are blogging again. 🙂

    • Hey Sam, good to hear from you again!  I see you found me 🙂  If you want to know why I’m working here, then read the first post and the comments — it just kind evolved from needing a WordPress account to post comments.  Also, there’s things I like better about WordPress.  Been thinking about posting some of the better stuff from here back in the old blog and/or bringing some (more) old stuff over here.  Can’t decide whether to make a clean break or not.

  7. //This complementarity and its necessity for reproduction are surely cues as to what nature expects for human relationships and the setting in which their offspring are to be raised. If reproduction and child-rearing cannot be considered key factors in defining conjugal and domestic praxis, then it’s not clear to what objective guide we should appeal.//

    Your reasoning requires an acceptance of reductionism; that sex is for nothing more than the sum of its parts. This is not a reasonable understanding of sex. Why cannot the guide be empirical observations of the natural world? I am sure that you are aware of observations of human’s close relatives in the animal kingdom, things like Bonobos etc? This is strong evidence that in higher primates, sex is not about reproduction, any more than eating is for sustenance. By a process of exaptation, sex has changed into something engaged in for pleasure, for social cohesion, for dominance and subjugation. So, in a very real sense, rape is a natural function of sex in humans. Now, since I don’t derive my understanding of right and wrong from the natural function of the body, it does’t bother me one jot about this. But for someone such as yourself, who is seeking to derive an objective understanding of the function of sex, it is more troublesome. Now, you might say that humans shouldn’t just act like animals, and you would be entirely correct. But that objection, of itself, does not alter what the natural, biological and behavioral, function of sex is in humans.

    Your understanding also, obviously, does not take into account that many (most?) people in the West are Cartesian dualists (though they wouldn’t use that term). They act like the mind and will as distinct from the body; two separate, entities. It is an idea that comes from Plato (and, later, modified by Descartes). Hence why body alterations like piercing, tattoos, and other such things are accepted.

    Also, your understanding as laid out here would condemn male circumcision for Jews and Muslims, it being a surgical alteration of the body for personal religious satisfaction.

    Now, I understand you may have objections to the “monkey sex” argument above, so let me make a more general theistic argument, without regard for any particular religious tradition. It is not clear, from observation of the body’s of men and women, that sex between people of the same sex is not permissible. Yes, only fertile men and fertile woman can procreate, yet that doesn’t, of itself, make non-reproductive sex wrong. The question must be asked: what is it that prevents one concluding that god could not have made men and men, and women and women in such a way that they could have sex? Lack of procreation? But in order to accept that as your reason, you already have to accept that sex is for reproduction. Assume for a moment that god made men and women such that they could freely choose to have sex with the person of the same gender, and that this was to be good and pleasurable. Well then, does not our observations of the world confirm this? Men and women have sex with the same gender, and are reward with pleasure and satisfaction all the time. Our hypothesis about god’s intention for sex is confirmed by our observations of the world.

    Of course, one could say the same thing about any particular focus of sex. “God made dogs and humans such that they could have pleasurable sex, therefore it isn’t wrong”. Granted that observation would be true, but I would consider that more reason to assume that we weren’t crafted by god.

    • Sorry Tom, your comment seems to have gotten buried and missed in the various other forms of notifications I’ve gotten from WordPress. It wasn’t until I went into the Dashboard today that I noticed this one comment pending. In any case, thanks for your comment. I’ve been surprised at the small number of comments thus far on this post (given the high number of views), and pleased with the relative civility of those who have bothered to do so. Here’s my reply:

      You said: “Your reasoning requires an acceptance of reductionism; that sex is for nothing more than the sum of its parts.”

      It actually doesn’t require that sex is only for reproduction, but it certainly is what it is designed for and its primary purpose. Even putting conception aside, the penis and vagina are uniquely suited to each other, both anatomically and bio-chemically. I believe that the context of the primary purpose and design should be congruous with its secondary purposes. As I’ve said elsewhere:
      “The fruition of sex is conception. The highest pleasure of sex is to climax. The greatest expression of intimacy is to have sex. The best and safest context in which to have sex is in a committed, monogamous relationship. The best partner with which to share all these things is one of the opposite sex. The teleology of sex is a logical chain that connects reproduction at the one end to an intimate relationship between a man and woman at the other, and it does not preclude all the pleasures that are found in between.”

      You said: “This is not a reasonable understanding of sex. Why cannot the guide be empirical observations of the natural world? I am sure that you are aware of observations of human’s close relatives in the animal kingdom, things like bonobos etc?”

      I’m not entirely sure what criteria or boundaries you would apply for a “reasonable understanding of sex.” Given that your Twitter profile has you as a “radical sexual anarchist” I think those boundaries to be necessarily minimal, and I think preference is probably your chief qualifier. But you’ve mentioned “observations of the natural world,” so let’s look at that.

      The problem with the natural world is that you can find just about every behavior imaginable in it. Just observing bonobos alone we might conclude that female domination and violence toward males, exchanging sex for food, and sex with juveniles is a “reasonable understanding of sex.” And since humans are even genetically closer to humans than bonobos, then we should be able to say that whatever humans do is natural as well… and they do all kinds of objectionable things. All this says nothing about what is moral, healthy, and commendable behavior for us humans, who have a curious ability to rise above our carnal urges to make such moral assessments.

      You said: “sex is not about reproduction, any more than eating is for sustenance.”

      This is actually a good analogy. Eating actually is for sustenance, even while it may serve secondary social purposes. But no one would suggest we decouple the secondary purpose from the primary. If they did it would imply that shoving food into our anuses or consuming dirt clods, so long as it’s done in community, falls under the umbrella of “eating.”

      You said: “So, in a very real sense, rape is a natural function of sex in humans.”

      Which perfectly demonstrates the problem of defining your morality merely from human and animal behavior rather than design (and higher principles). The vagina is not designed for violence (even while it can take more abuse than the anus) and children are not psychologically equipped for absent or hostile fathers.

      You said: “Now, since I don’t derive my understanding of right and wrong from the natural function of the body, it doesn’t bother me one jot about this.”

      I gauge your criteria to be more along the lines of preference and libertarian freedom. I suspect that you fall into the non-theistic camp. As I said in the article, this argument has to take on a different flavor in your case: it would entail some consideration for evolutionary morality and the double-edged sword of moral relativism. The bottom line for you is that the anarchist is not in a position to say what other people’s view of sexuality ought to be. It is one thing to be liberal in one’s own sexuality; it is another thing to insist that all of society should think it a morally acceptable way to be and that we indoctrinate our children with that idea.

      You said: “But for someone such as yourself, who is seeking to derive an objective understanding of the function of sex, it is more troublesome. Now, you might say that humans shouldn’t just act like animals, and you would be entirely correct. But that objection, of itself, does not alter what the natural, biological and behavioral, function of sex is in humans.”

      I’m thinking that I’ve responded to this above, though it’s not entirely clear what you actually think “the natural, biological and behavioral function of sex is in humans,” since you’ve only really referenced behaviors in bonobos and you’ve admitted that taking our morality from animals may be a problem.

      You said: “Your understanding also, obviously, does not take into account that many (most?) people in the West are Cartesian dualists (though they wouldn’t use that term). They act like the mind and will as distinct from the body; two separate, entities. It is an idea that comes from Plato (and, later, modified by Descartes). Hence why body alterations like piercing, tattoos, and other such things are accepted.”

      It’s unclear to me how this fits in to the discussion. Perhaps you are implying that if we are only material creatures then there is no higher selves to curb our animal natures and act in some noble way according to design principles. Funny, then, that we do this all the time. Funny, also, that whenever evolutionists speak of morality they end up appealing to some higher principle to temper our inner beast, as when Richard Dawkins says that we should “try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.”

      You said: “Also, your understanding as laid out here would condemn male circumcision for Jews and Muslims, it being a surgical alteration of the body for personal religious satisfaction.”

      This is an interesting argument, but the most work it could do is to suggest that we ought not perform circumcisions. All things being equal, we probably shouldn’t. But the claim of Judaism and Islam is not that this is a matter of religious satisfaction (i.e., preference); they claim to do it because it was instituted by God — this being the same God who happened to design them with a bit of excess foreskin for the very purpose of this covenantal act. If they were cutting off ears and thumbs, I would find this more of a philosophical challenge. I should note that the Muslim practice of female circumcision does violate functional integrity, which is a strike against them, but I’m not here to defend Islam.

      You said: “Now, I understand you may have objections to the ‘monkey sex’ argument above, so let me make a more general theistic argument, without regard for any particular religious tradition. It is not clear, from observation of the body’s of men and women, that sex between people of the same sex is not permissible.”

      As I said, it’s not just procreation, it’s in the very design of the genitalia: they are ideally suited to each other (not to mention the psycho-social complementarity of the sexes). Sex between members of the same sex is ad hoc and involves health risks in many cases. Your point can only be made by defining “sex” to encompass those things which are in question here. I might equally say that it is not clear from the observation of women and zucchinis, or men and sheep, that “sex” between them is not permissible. The diversity of orifices and things to fill them does not negate the ideal of sexual design, it only offers meager substitutes.

      You said: “The question must be asked: what is it that prevents one concluding that god could not have made men and men, and women and women in such a way that they could have sex? Lack of procreation?”

      As I said, the ad hoc means required to have “sex.” If both men and women were equipped with both sets of genitalia, then I would have little to go on here.

      You said: “Assume for a moment that god made men and women such that they could freely choose to have sex with the person of the same gender, and that this was to be good and pleasurable. Well then, does not our observations of the world confirm this? Men and women have sex with the same gender, and are reward with pleasure and satisfaction all the time. Our hypothesis about god’s intention for sex is confirmed by our observations of the world.”

      Your argument seems to be this:
      1) God desires our physical pleasure and satisfaction
      2) Using our genitals in diverse ways causes such pleasure and satisfaction
      3) Therefore, each of the diverse ways that people find such pleasure and satisfaction must be acceptable to God

      Premise one is serious question begging. Premise two is problematic in that it could support pedophilia, bestiality, rape, incest, and any paraphilia that you could name. Furthermore, why just “sex” in this syllogism, why not drugs as well if God just cares about our “pleasure?”

      You said: “Of course, one could say the same thing about any particular focus of sex. ‘God made dogs and humans such that they could have pleasurable sex, therefore it isn’t wrong’. Granted that observation would be true, but I would consider that more reason to assume that we weren’t crafted by god.”

      I don’t follow. First you confirm my point above, but then somehow it becomes a proof that we aren’t designed. Because it’s possible to climax in very unorthodox ways, somehow this is proof of atheism? I can use a wrench to pound in small nails, but I still believe that Sears makes Craftsman hammers.

      • A short reply, as it is late.

        The problem is you haven’t identified a rational reason for thinking that the purpose of a thing is derivable from its physics make up. The fact is, the only “purpose” of a thing of which it is meaningful to speak is that to which it is put in nature. If I may say so, your musings on the alleged structural fitness of the vagina and penis for reproduction is as nothing to the simple empirical observations of the natural world. You are effectively saying that we ought to prefer your guesswork about the purpose of sex, rather than actually observing how it is used, and for what. My way is the more rigourously empirical. You are making a value judgement which is saying “the true function of sex is only that which I can ascertain by looking at the physical structure.”. I am saying, no that is a wrong way to look at it. It is rather like guessing what a fine piece of machinery is for, then being told what it is actually for by the craftsmen, disagreeing with them because you don’t like the answer!

        Here is a question then; is it your contention that apes are using sex in an unnatural way? And how is this possible of apes are entirely products of natural and mechanistic processes? Whence does this ability of entirely naturally produced entities to contravene nature, come from?

        //1) God desires our physical pleasure and satisfaction
        2) Using our genitals in diverse ways causes such pleasure and satisfaction
        3) Therefore, each of the diverse ways that people find such pleasure and satisfaction must be acceptable to God//

        Actually, 1 and 2 are the wrong way around.
        1) Using out genitals in diverse ways causes pleasure and satisfaction.
        2) God made us.
        3) therefore god made our genitals to be used in diversely pleasurable and satisfying ways.

        //But no one would suggest we decouple the secondary purpose from the primary//

        Actually, yes we do. No one eats sweets or goes wine tasting for sustenance. In wine tasting you even spit out the wine! You use your faculty of taste entirely in the service of pleasure!

        //As I said, it’s not just procreation, it’s in the very design of the genitalia: they are ideally suited to each other //

        They are only ideally suited to each other with regard to procreation (and even then only occasionally). My point is that sex is not for procreation. One may equally say that, because oral sex and mutual masturbation both have less risk of transmitting disease than vaginal intercourse, yet both give pleasure, that they are more natural.

        //we should be able to say that whatever humans do is natural as well… and they do all kinds of objectionable things. All this says nothing about what is moral, healthy, and commendable behavior for us humans, who have a curious ability to rise above our carnal urges to make such moral assessments.//

        That is more or less exactly what I am saying. That anything humans do is in accord with our nature.

        //The bottom line for you is that the anarchist is not in a position to say what other people’s view of sexuality ought to be. //

        Of course I can, provided I know the rules that they are playing by. You have chosen to try and justify your opposition to homosexual sexual activity by recourse to empiricism. I am saying you are using your empricisim only selectively to support your conclusion. You are choosing, without rational justification, to determine that the function of a thing is determined by its physical structure. I am saying that is incorrect.

      • Okay, I’m getting the gist of your argument. You believe that my view that the purpose of sexuality can be discerned from physical design is “guesswork,” but your view that the purpose of sex is defined by whatever pleasurable way that people happen to use their organs is “rigourously empirical.”

        Forgive me, but I find your view to be no less “guesswork,” and on top of that it seems entirely subjective. To say that a thing’s purpose includes however I like to use it seems more than a little self-serving. Also, when a thing’s purpose includes everything, it is the same as saying it has no purpose at all. I think this is probably your belief, but while atheism may afford you the liberty to reject all purposes, it does not give rational justification for insisting that nature has none.

        If evolution is your “designer” rather than God, then we can equally ask about the purpose that the genitals serve, just as we might ask about the pancreas, ears, and colon. Given that evolution purposes nothing more than growth, survival, and reproduction, I would think it not too difficult to deduce nature’s intention for sex. You would have it pertaining primarily to your personal pleasure, but nature cares not a whit about your pleasure beyond how it drives you to the tasks of survival and reproduction.

        You confuse nature’s incentive for nature’s ends. We might just as well say that the purpose of eating is to enjoy flavors. A culinary hedonist might be inclined to agree, but his health suffers to the degree that he ignores nature’s nutritional demands. Likewise, the sexual hedonist fails to propagate his genes as he goes off and entertains himself in sundry ways with the equipment which nature has endowed him to do so. You may think this no crime or loss, but Mother Nature is apathetic to your amusement. She doesn’t gift her children with idle toys.

        The genitals clearly have a purpose, you simply deny that we are bound by it. It seems entirely reasonable to derive that purpose from its physical makeup. In the case of atheism, it is the only thing we can do, since there is no sentient craftsman who can tell us his intentions. Even so, if the design of a system and its purpose were at odds I would question the sanity or competence of the craftsman.

        You seem to admit that procreation is at least a purpose by affirming that the genitalia are suited to each other for that end, though you then enigmatically say, “My point is that sex is not for procreation.” Indeed, according to your philosophy of purpose=”however it gets used” then it must necessarily be a purpose. The best you could do is say that it is only one of the purposes. But given that it is the only physically meaningful purpose (in a supposed purely material universe), then I think we are justified in weighting this purpose most heavily.

        I find it odd having to debate the primary purpose of sex. Most LGBT advocates simply concede its primary purpose and appeal to license in its secondary purposes. And it seems almost as though you reject a primary purpose in the machinery of eating as well. We certainly find ways to derive pleasure from our taste-buds, but this is an aside from the fact that the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestinal system are first and foremost for sustenance. We can certainly use them for pleasure, but again in a way consistent with their primary purpose. Your examples do not offer close parity to something like homosexuality. Mine were more analogous, i.e., trying to consume something that is entirely non-food (sweets are still categorically food that the body is equipped to process), or better yet, putting the food into a different orifice. So long as it gives one “pleasure,” by your measure of purpose, it could still be called “eating.”

        From a theistic perspective I don’t think your reworking of the syllogism plays. You still need a proposition to cover what we find pleasure in doing and what God’s intentions are for us. Without it you could equally say the feet are for kicking dogs and hands for strangling women, and God is well pleased when we do these things. Some have defined evil as the misuse of good things. You suggest that all uses are equally good, because God desires every logically possible use for each thing in the universe. That is a hulking presupposition.

        It is not my intent to deny secondary purposes, or that pleasure may itself be a purpose of some sort (though that seems to make sense only within a theistic model). We can certainly (rightly or wrongly) find creative uses for things that are designed for particular purposes, but my primary argument here is to point out the eccentricity of the idea that it is natural for one to wholly reject a primary purpose (and all things entailed by it) in favor of one of your own making. A philandering heterosexual is one thing, but a homosexual is quite another (with transgenderism involving even further issues). We would certainly find it odd if someone owned a hammer and chose to use it for everything except nails.

        The question of animal sexuality is more complex, given that animals are (I believe) a different order of creature than humans. Animals can act outside of the boundaries of their design for various reasons (e.g., a bird nesting a rock), but this does not negate that design. Simpler creatures are driven more by instinct alone and any non-heterosexual activity is likely due to unusual conditions or erroneous stimulus/response (e.g., mistaken identity). http://www.zmescience.com/research/insect-homosexuality-just-a-case-of-mistaken-identity/#!baUVMp

        Higher order creatures can bring subjective elements (similar to humans) into play by way of their intelligence. They can notice that the sex that they are normally inclined toward for mating can be generally pleasurable, and look to other times and ways to obtain that same pleasure (apes and dolphin offering prime examples). Again, this says nothing against the purpose of sex, nor does it imply that when they happen to involve others of the same sex that it means that they are homosexual. It no more means this than a dog humping your leg means that it has an orientation toward legs.

        You said: “One may equally say that, because oral sex and mutual masturbation both have less risk of transmitting disease than vaginal intercourse, yet both give pleasure, that they are more natural.”

        You are the one that defines “natural” as that which people do that brings them pleasure, not I. My definition pertains to design, and the health risks involved in some of the alternative activities is only one byproduct of failing to behave according to design. I would go further and suggest chastity and monogamy as a part of the broader design, which alleviates a whole host of physical, psychological, and social ills. My larger view of sex is the safest and least dramatic of all worlds, but that argument is beyond the scope of the modest point I’m attempting to make with this article.

      • A supplement to my earlier response:

        You say: //Perhaps you are implying that if we are only material creatures then there is no higher selves to curb our animal natures and act in some noble way according to design principles. //

        Actually my meaning is the exact opposite. That the “humanity” (that thing that makes us human) is immaterial. It constitutes the mind, the will, the conciousness etc. I am saying that for people like me, whatever “purpose” may exist for items of the physical world, it is perfectly acceptable for humans to manipulate and adapt them to suit out needs. This is what we do with animals, of course. We pervert their nature by killing and eating them; no-where in the biological design of animals is for them to be killed and eaten. Nor in trees to be cut down and turned into houses. The difference between you and me is that I extend that regard of the material world to cover the human body. The human body becomes just another part of the material universe to be shaped and formed according to human will and desire. This is also part of the drive behind the transhumanist movement. The stamping of human will and power onto the material, physical world, is an act of sheer humanity. So, when you say to someone like me that you think humans should live in accord with their biological design, you are effectively saying that human will and power over the material world should be limited to what is. I find that a rather pathetic and snivelling subordination of human will to the physical universe. It is one reason why I also support genetic manipulation and engineering of the human body; I take it you oppose such “meddling” (as you may perceive it)? This is also why I do not have a problem with transgenderism or cosmetic surgery; both are efforts of will in controlling and altering the material world. The problem with female genital mutilation is largely to do with the mechanism of its conduct; girls forced, against their will, to undergo this procedure, altering their bodies permanently. This represents a significant violation of the property rights of the girl’s over their own body. That is why, even were you to demonstrate that the natural function of sex is procreation (which I still contest) I would reject your conclusion. So, in answer to your question ” Is it really so unreasonable to believe that we should live in harmony with the way that we are physically made?” The answer, for me anyway, is a resounding, YES! Because to do so would be to abrogate one of the things that makes us human – the ability and degree to which we can alter and control the material world.

        //All this says nothing about what is moral, healthy, and commendable behavior for us humans, who have a curious ability to rise above our carnal urges to make such moral assessments.//

        You are exactly correct, but remember, we are not discussing the moral, healthy, or commendable act, we are discussing the function of sex, which is not a moral, health, or meritorious consideration, but rather one of empirical fact, which is discoverable through science. I am saying, science shows us that the function of sex in higher mammals is not intrinsically procreation, because sex is engaged in without a chance of procreation. You have chosen a thing called “design” to work out function in order to serve your moral ends.

      • If you don’t mind, please take your time and make only one response. My last reply was nearly done when this one came in, and it would have affected my approach.

        You said: [Our] “humanity” (that thing that makes us human) is immaterial. It constitutes the mind, the will, the consciousness, etc. I am saying that for people like me, whatever “purpose” may exist for items of the physical world, it is perfectly acceptable for humans to manipulate and adapt them to suit our needs.

        I’m confused. Are you a substance dualist yourself? Are you saying that we have an essence that transcends our physical selves and the biochemical programming of nature? I took you for a materialist.

        You said: We pervert [animal] nature by killing and eating them; no-where in the biological design of animals is for them to be killed and eaten. Nor in trees to be cut down and turned into houses.

        I’m talking about human design, not cross-species design. Beyond looking at ecosystems (like the panda and bamboo) or the suitability of things for particular uses (like wood for building and burning), I don’t think one could prove, without theistic presuppositions, that any two organisms had a purposeful relationship. We can, however, note that certain creatures seem themselves designed to eat other animals or to make use of wood (e.g., woodpeckers and termites). Human design is rather generic in regards to its relationship with nature (I think by design). I don’t think it is a “design” violation to eat cow or build with wood like it would be to eat dirt and build with asbestos.

        You said: So, when you say to someone like me that you think humans should live in accord with their biological design, you are effectively saying that human will and power over the material world should be limited to what is. I find that a rather pathetic and sniveling subordination of human will to the physical universe. It is one reason why I also support genetic manipulation and engineering of the human body; I take it you oppose such “meddling” (as you may perceive it)?

        As a Christian, I have a similar view that the creative use of nature is a part of the charter of humanity. The difference is that we are not to subjugate it to our selfish purposes, but to learn about its nature and purposes and avail ourselves of those. It is the difference between discovering an artisan’s workshop and learning about all the tools so that we might use them effectively, versus using them in whatever way seems most interesting to us (percussion instruments, decorations, weapons) without respect to their actual purposes.

        We use these tools with respect for the designer and humility in our ignorance of the full scope and purposes of their design. Meddling is not a problem, in principle, but it is imprudent when you do not understand the complexity and inter-dependencies of a thing, and you underestimate the wisdom of its current design. Given that materialist science is habitually non-teleological and pretentious in its view of human wisdom over nature’s designs, “meddling” seems a dangerous proposition (the pronouncement of the “non-coding” DNA as “junk” comes to mind). It is further problematic when the meddling involves the removal of restrictions that may be there for some transcendent reason. A dog may meddle with a fence in pursuit of his freedom, and find only deadly traffic on the other side.

        You said: even were you to demonstrate that the natural function of sex is procreation (which I still contest) I would reject your conclusion. So, in answer to your question ” Is it really so unreasonable to believe that we should live in harmony with the way that we are physically made?” The answer, for me anyway, is a resounding, YES! Because to do so would be to abrogate one of the things that makes us human – the ability and degree to which we can alter and control the material world.

        The problem here is in saying that it is both “unreasonable” and “for me anyway.” Even if there are designs and purposes in nature it is only your preference that we overlook or push past these. This is a personal perspective, which is subjective not just in itself, but in our goals as we exercise our will over nature.

        A perspective that exercises respect and humility toward nature’s design is not unreasonable. Indeed, it seems eminently safe and reasonable — especially so if one believes that there may be a personal designer in back of it all. You may not prefer it, but it deserves a place at the table every bit as much as your own view. To use your own argument (assuming the truth of it): whatever people do that they find satisfaction in must be natural. People find satisfaction in the respect of nature’s design. Therefore it is just as natural and reasonable as your own view.

      • // You believe that my view that the purpose of sexuality can be discerned from physical design is “guesswork,” but your view that the purpose of sex is defined by whatever pleasurable way that people happen to use their organs is “rigourously empirical.”//

        More precisely, I believe that purpose of sex is whatever it is used for in the natural world.

        //then we can equally ask about the purpose that the genitals serve, just as we might ask about the pancreas, ears, and colon.//

        But I would say that the purpose of those organs is only that for which they are used in nature. It does not rest upon analysis of their structure, but rather their use. However, sex is not reducible to the function of the body parts, as it is a behavior not an organ.

        //Given that evolution purposes nothing more than growth, survival, and reproduction, I would think it not too difficult to deduce nature’s intention for sex. You would have it pertaining primarily to your personal pleasure, but nature cares not a whit about your pleasure beyond how it drives you to the tasks of survival and reproduction.//

        I would say that, if we observe apes likes bonoboes engaging in non-procreative sex, we could say that such an adaptation serves some evolutionary function, whether it be group coherence or maintaining hierarchy in a group.

        //In the case of atheism, it is the only thing we can do, since there is no sentient craftsman who can tell us his intentions.//

        No, I have suggested an alternative – that of observing the natural world and assessing how sex is used and what for. Also, of course, there is the option of denying any objective function of things.

        //The genitals clearly have a purpose, you simply deny that we are bound by it. It seems entirely reasonable to derive that purpose from its physical makeup.//

        This is the problem, you keep on trying to reduce the “primary” purpose of sex to the genitals. They are not the same thing, nor is it strictly logical to say that the primary purpose of sex should be in accord with the genitals. Sex is a behavior, like eating. The function of it is not reducible to the physical components. But even were it, one could argue that the purpose of the genitals is to provide pleasure, which in apes generates a drive to assert dominance or encourage cohesion among social groups. I could also point out that the pleasure of sex also serves other material ends, like being relaxed by releasing endorphin’s etc. In a very real way, the function of “sex” is pleasure, as pleasure serves to act biochemically on the brain and body in such a way as to encourage bonding. Indeed, that is the way it is used in apes, as a way of alleviating social tension. And bonding is correlated to survival. So, I would say you are quite wrong to assert that the only physically meaningful purpose of sex is procreation.

        //We certainly find ways to derive pleasure from our taste-buds, but this is an aside from the fact that the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestinal system are first and foremost for sustenance.//

        All those observations about what the stomach etc do, does not amount to evidence about what “eating” is for. With regard to my example of sweets, there is no functional difference between eating sweets that have no nutritional value, purely for pleasure, and eating sterilized dirt. Indeed, we then have to have a discussion about what we mean when we say “food”. You seem to think that “food” must be inherently nutritious or sustaining. I deny that. In what sense is clean dirt not food, but nutritionless sweets are food? They both provided no sustenance to the body. Is it your opinion that eating tasty material that provides no sustenance, is immoral? In which case, how is clean earth different from eating sweets with no nutrition? Indeed, do you consider it immoral to eat material that has deleterious effects on health, for example junk food? Or swallowing chewing gum?

        Eating is like sex, in that it is a behavior that has undergone exaptation as a result of evolution; the purpose of it is entirely how it is used, and it is now used for functions other, or additional to, procreation. Like I said above, the pleasure of eating is its own purpose, as it causes the release of pleasure chemicals etc. The reason people eat together socially is not as an exercise in sustenance, but an exercise in social bonding, driven partly by the biochemical reactions causes by the ingestion of pleasurable material. In that respect, the “primary” purpose of eating is pleasure, sustenance is “secondary”, but in each particular act of eating, the focus will vary. I do not consider it immoral to eat only for sustenance (to the exclusion of pleasure) when starving, nor only for pleasure (to the exclusion of sustenance) when not.

        (Also, the esophagus is not “for sustenance”, any more than a fuel pipe to an engine is “for making the vehicle move”. One could equally argue that the legs are “for sustenance” as they are used to walk to the shops to buy food).

        //but my primary argument here is to point out the eccentricity of the idea that it is natural for one to wholly reject a primary purpose//

        But it isn’t unnatural, as it exists in nature. Also, if intelligence and will are products of nature, then the outcomes of those faculties must also be natural, even if they result in the “unnatural” or unintended use of physical faculties. It is clearly a natural phenomenon for animals to use their bodies in contravention of any alleged purpose.

        //From a theistic perspective I don’t think your reworking of the syllogism plays. You still need a proposition to cover what we find pleasure in doing and what God’s intentions are for us. Without it you could equally say the feet are for kicking dogs and hands for strangling women, and God is well pleased when we do these things. Some have defined evil as the misuse of good things. You suggest that all uses are equally good, because God desires every logically possible use for each thing in the universe. That is a hulking presupposition.//

        I would say of sex that if god had truly wanted only procreative sex to be pleasurable he would have made it so no other form or variation was pleasurable. It is surely not beyond the wit or intelligence of such a being to make it so? And, given the aptness for purely pleasurable sex that the human body exhibits, I would say it was obvious that god did not intend sex primarily for procreation. The genitals are wonderfully designed for giving pleasure outside of procreative sex. Indeed, I could hardly design anything better myself. Why do you think that the primary purpose of the genitals is not pleasure? I agree that they are used for procreation by some people, some of the time, but I see no evidence in their design that means that they are not a form of godly recreation system.

        And, the feet are for kicking, and the hands are for gripping. There is nothing of a structural or observable nature that can tells us they are not for strangling or kicking dogs. That doing so may pervert the alleged “design” of another entity is not more troublesome than observing that by killing and eating animals we pervert their nature.

        //Are you a substance dualist yourself?//

        Yes.

        //The difference is that we are not to subjugate it to our selfish purposes, but to learn about its nature and purposes and avail ourselves of those. It is the difference between discovering an artisan’s workshop and learning about all the tools so that we might use them effectively, versus using them in whatever way seems most interesting to us (percussion instruments, decorations, weapons) without respect to their actual purposes.//

        And in what respect is killing and eating animals for pleasure not selfish, or cutting down trees not self serving? Are you going to argue that it is in the nature and purpose of a tree or animal to be cut down or killed? I am unaware of an animal that collapses into steaks and cooks itself, but perhaps I am wrong? Also, the fact that humans have and do manipulate and alter animals and plants precisely to serve our ends rather shows that we do manipulate the world to our “selfish” purposes. Everything from orchids to rice to dogs have been altered. To continue your analogy, we have broken into the artisan’s workshop, found the tools and machinery there do not match our will, and have proceeded to break, turn, bend, scrape, melt, and cast them to match what we wish them to. We have taken that craft hammer and twisted it to make a lovely decorative ornament.

        //Even if there are designs and purposes in nature it is only your preference that we overlook or push past these. This is a personal perspective, which is subjective not just in itself, but in our goals as we exercise our will over nature.//

        And it is only your preference that we live according to our alleged “design”. There is no objective reason to desire that.

        //We can, however, note that certain creatures seem themselves designed to eat other animals or to make use of wood (e.g., woodpeckers and termites)//

        You agree then that contravening the design of elements of the material world is not inherently immoral. I would ask, therefore, why it is so with regard to our bodies (even assuming it is against the design). If our behavior is a product of the natural world, then why is it wrong to act in accordance with that behavior in using the body out of accord with its alleged design. The design of the behavior is as equal to the design to the body parts; why do you place value over one than the other?

        //We would certainly find it odd if someone owned a hammer and chose to use it for everything except nails.//

        I wouldn’t. Hammers make excellent door stops.

      • Hey Tom,

        I’ve got family in town, so my reply may have to wait. In the meantime, could I get some info from you so I know where you are coming from?

        You say you are a substance dualist. Could you explain your view on the non-material self, e.g., what is it, where does it come from, can it live apart from the body, etc. Also, does this mean that you believe in any purely non-physical entities? Perhaps a god? If so, do you believe that this being was involved in (dare I say) the design of life? If not, do you believe that we are the result of purely random physical processes?

        Thanks!

      • To be honest, I am not really interested in a having a debate here about the deeper relationship between the mind and body, I only mentioned it as one response that would deny your conclusion about the nature and morality of same-sex (and more broadly, non-procreative) sexual activity.

        With regard to your other questions, they are largely irrelevant. My point is that, excluding explicitly theological teachings (Koran, Bible, Torah, etc) there is no solid rational basis for considering non-procreative sex wrong. Even if you assume the world was entirely created by a manufacturer god (I see you are a proponent of ID), it is not a reasonable conclusion that sex is primarily for procreation in humans. And, if you are a materialist and evolutionist, there is even less reason to believe that, due to observations of the natural material world and the “primary” function that sex serves in social communities.

        In short I am saying that, excluding the specific teachings of religious doctrine, there is little ground on which it can be argued convincingly that non-procreative sex is wrong (or “unnatural”), any more than non-sustaining eating is wrong (or “unnatural”). Maybe, possibly, a form of advanced reductionism (which you here are suggesting). But then I would simply argue that that reductionism is itself irrational (as I have done).

      • The reason why I asked about your own position was not so that I could attack it, but so that I knew which path to take in dialog with you.  It makes a difference, for example, to what it means for something to have a “purpose” and what relationship we have to that purpose.  I’m not even sure it’s possible to make a comprehensive defense for anything that covers the unique concerns of all philosophical perspectives.  I’ll do what I can, but I’m going to assume for now that your “designer” is simply evolution, as characterized by the philosophical naturalists.

        In the interest of not inflating the dialog further I’ve picked out some of your main themes that I think most important to the debate.

        “The purpose of sex is whatever it is used for”
        “the purpose of those organs is only that for which they are used in nature.”
        “But it isn’t unnatural, as it exists in nature. Also, if intelligence and will are products of nature, then the outcomes of those faculties must also be natural, even if they result in the ‘unnatural’ or unintended use of physical faculties.”

        It seems to me that you must necessarily believe that there is no such thing as purpose (as I said, if the purpose is everything, then it is the same as saying it is nothing).  This seems problematic and rejects the long philosophically tradition of the word.  I think this is as much a personal presupposition as anything else, and I don’t feel the burden of proof to defend against the word’s banishment from our vocabulary.

        The other problem is that your view leaves moral equations (assuming you care about these) completely decoupled from nature.  Using the penis for rape, a hammer to murder, or your intelligence and will to plot larceny are equally “natural” because they “exist in nature.”  By your own definition of “natural” that may be true, but it is completely irrelevant to the question of ethics in the material world, and what nature (or God) intended we do with it.  Your observation is a Pyrrhic victory.  It is at the very point where you say “even if they result in the ‘unnatural’ or unintended use of physical faculties” that my argument begins.  The exception that you awkwardly label is the very thing I’m talking about.

        If there is anything in nature to give us pause or to factor in to our moral equations, then these are the design candidates to which I refer.  Sexual design is one of the most obvious such things, and has been taken as such for most of human history.

        “Sex is a behavior not an organ”
        “The function of it is not reducible to the physical components”

        But it is a behavior using particular organs.  The whole point of it relates to the organs attached to the reproductive system.  If this were not so, then we could say that petting one’s dog or chewing gum is “sex.”  

        “the esophagus is not ‘for sustenance’, any more than a fuel pipe to an engine is ‘for making the vehicle move’. One could equally argue that the legs are “for sustenance” as they are used to walk to the shops to buy food”

        I wonder which of the organs of the digestive system, if any, you would say was actually “for sustenance.”  Given that they all work together to that end we might say each one individually does as well, even while we could say that they are also each “for” their own sub-task in the larger design.  The legs are not directly and necessarily for sustenance given that a paraplegic could still process food just fine.  Though in the evolutionary grand scheme of things, one might say they are “for” both sustenance and reproduction, since they are aids to that end and since that’s about all that mindless nature “cares” about anyway.

        The main purpose of the organs can be found in tracing through the entire system of the organs, and is actualized when the entire system is engaged.  So, one may say that the primary purpose of eating is not realized unless one consumes something of value and lets it pass through the digestive system (rather than vomiting it up).  If there is a purpose to a thing it is surely related to any use that takes advantage of the comprehensive whole (or the largest part of it).  If someone buys a corvette and chooses to use it only for the radio we would surely think he’s missed the point of the machine.

        “and it is now used for functions other, or additional to, procreation.”
        “In a very real way, the function of ‘sex’ is pleasure, as pleasure serves to act biochemically on the brain and body in such a way as to encourage bonding.”
        “the ‘primary’ purpose of eating is pleasure, sustenance is ‘secondary’, but in each particular act of eating, the focus will vary.”

        You are not effectively arguing against procreation being the primary function of sex and sustenance being the primary function of eating.  You are simply saying that the pleasures that accompany these are often pursued for their own sake.  Funny thing, if we did not have procreative sex then we would probably not have sexual organs that gave us pleasure when we used them in other ways.  I doubt that the orgasm came first, and then conception came along as an afterthought.

        Reproduction and nutrition are nature’s prime directives (if you will) and the pleasurable incentives that come with those are only incidental.  You seem to be suggesting that the reverse is true, or that whatever we do most often with a thing defines its purpose.  If this were the case, then we could say that a penis’ primary purpose is to fill out your underwear and a hammer’s primary purpose is to sit on the workbench..

        “I would say of sex that if god had truly wanted only procreative sex to be pleasurable he would have made it so no other form or variation was pleasurable.”
         
        This seems an adolescent argument to me.  We could equally have such an expectation for everything else we aren’t supposed to do.  Imagine living in this magical world, where fists are mysteriously barred from beating wives and mouths from consuming poison and veins from being injected with heroin and minds from lusting after children and hands from stealing.  We wouldn’t be complaining about the problem of evil, but instead, the problem of good.  Whatever God you are proposing, it is not the same one Christians think of, who permits (for a season) the choice of good and evil, and who isn’t in the business of making square circles.

        “And it is only your preference that we live according to our alleged ‘design’. There is no objective reason to desire that.”
         
        “Objective” and “desire.”  There’s your problem.  Even if I failed to argue that we would do well (both pragmatically and morally) to respect nature’s cues, this would still amount to nothing more than your subjective desires against mine.  That leaves no rational grounds for demonizing those who “desire” something different than yourself.

        //[I said] We can, however, note that certain creatures seem themselves designed to eat other animals or to make use of wood (e.g., woodpeckers and termites)//
        “You agree then that contravening the design of elements of the material world is not inherently immoral”

        But it is the design of nature that animals get eaten (it is a necessary design of many creatures, e.g., lions, unlike the incidental behavior of sexual play), and we are designed to require and digest meat, particularly cooked meat.  This cross-species relationship is a different thing from the question of what each’s own operational design happens to be. Assertions of value equivalence across the animal world (like PETA advocates) is also a separate issue, which I believe to be grounded in incoherent presuppositions (http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2005/08/petas-cognitive-dissonance.html).
         
        “Hammers make excellent door stops.”

        Door stops make even better ones, and hammers are great for nails.  To my point, if we knew someone who was using a hammer for this purpose we would probably think it odd… and we’d probably buy them a real door stop for Christmas (or at least a second hammer).

        Once again, I’m not arguing against non-procreative sex, though I think that sex should be socially consistent with it’s reproductive design.  The designer I have in mind intends our pleasure, but that pleasure is not exclusively physical and it is also only fully realized by living according to His intentions.  His intentions can be best known from Special Revelation, but if we can not look to Natural Revelation then we have no tangible means to confirm the truth of it.

      • //I wonder which of the organs of the digestive system, if any, you would say was actually “for sustenance.” //

        Well, those actually that digest, such as the stomach and intestines, or even the teeth, since these parts actually digest food (stomach dissolving food, teeth breaking it down and increasing its surface area). The esophagus is not directly related in the same way; it is a conduit to supply the food bolus, not directly digestive of itself. Like I say, it is like saying that the pipe that carries the fuel from the reservoir to the cylinder is part of the locomotive system. It isn’t even though it is important for that function to occur.

        // If someone buys a corvette and chooses to use it only for the radio we would surely think he’s missed the point of the machine.//

        Hmm, would you also consider that the same for someone who buys a corvette and only uses the car to appreciate it for its beauty?

        //Funny thing, if we did not have procreative sex then we would probably not have sexual organs that gave us pleasure when we used them in other ways. I doubt that the orgasm came first, and then conception came along as an afterthought.//

        Erm, I do understand that. Sex evolved for reproduction initially, but has undergone exaptation in higher mammals to serve other purposes. My point is that the function of sex in higher mammals like humans is not primarily reproduction. That does not preclude it being used for procreation, nor deny that procreation is the reason why we have that faculty. But saying that sex is primarily for procreation in humans is to treat humans like beetles, which only have sex for procreation.

        //If this were the case, then we could say that a penis’ primary purpose is to fill out your underwear and a hammer’s primary purpose is to sit on the workbench..//

        A very interesting analogy. Imagine that women preferred men who look like they have well filled underwear. This would lead to sex selection of men who have well filled underwear, thus through natural selection favoring men who have penises that fill underwear more fully. Much like the peacock’s tail was initially for the function of balance in flight etc, but has been exaptated by sex selection into a display and fitness device. Indeed, there may be some existing degree to which selection for large sex organs has already occurred. Compared to other primates, the average human penis is far larger, and for no obvious biological purpose. I would hypothesize that part of this is perhaps due to sex selection (only a hypothesis mind you). So, to a certain extent, a penis may very well be for filling out underwear (to the extent that it signifies a large penis as underwear is a fairly new human garment). And, like the peacock example, the “secondary” function of the tail (display etc) can supersede the “primary” function (balance etc).

        //This seems an adolescent argument to me. We could equally have such an expectation for everything else we aren’t supposed to do. Imagine living in this magical world, where fists are mysteriously barred from beating wives and mouths from consuming poison and veins from being injected with heroin and minds from lusting after children and hands from stealing. We wouldn’t be complaining about the problem of evil, but instead, the problem of good. Whatever God you are proposing, it is not the same one Christians think of, who permits (for a season) the choice of good and evil, and who isn’t in the business of making square circles.//

        As I said earlier, I am not talking about the Christian god, I am talking about a proposed “Intelligent Designer” god, absent any specific religious teachings. And, as I said earlier, my observations of the physical design of the world would lead me to the conclusion that either there is no god, or that humans are not that important to him.

        Let us not forget that observation of the physical world so obviously confirms that it is not “designed” for human life, or is designed highly inadequately for that purpose, that the Abrahamic religions have to invent the device of the Fall in order to explain its short comings in the multiple areas in which they exist. Absent the Fall, the physical world brings one to the conclusion that god doesn’t cares for humans, or didn’t intend the world to be fit for them.

        Your objections to god imposed limitations are rather weak. Do you consider it a curtailment of human free will and agency that god did not design us with wings or gills, which prior to the modern day limited our activity to ascend in the sky, or descend into the oceans? Does it limit our freedom that we are unable to without aid go into space? Or, even more damning, the lack of humans ability to regenerate limbs like the salamander (personally, I find this short coming alone to be certain evidence that the intelligent designer is unworthy of reverence).The fact that a design would limit our ability to do something does not mean that we would not have free will, so there is no reason to believe that designing humans without the ability to get sexual pleasure from non-procreative sex would have been a restriction on free will, any more than the other physical restrictions we experience. Also, I am not talking about god interceding directly to shield a housewife from a punch, I am talking about god making fists too fragile to strike a jaw, or biochemistry different enough to prevent heroin having an effect. Obviously, there are certain difficulties with making a fist that fragile, because it would mean that the hand would be too delicate for many other legitimate activities. However, there is no such obvious conflict with regard to making sex only pleasurable in a procreative context. Were it the intelligent designer’s sincere wish to prevent eg rape, drug abuse, non-procreative sex, then it could have designed humans as such. That it did not, and absent any other indicators, I take as evidence as either it wishes us to do those things, doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist.

        //I doubt that the orgasm came first, and then conception came along as an afterthought.//

        Well, we cannot establish that by looking at the physical world with an eye to understanding an intelligent designer. I could very well design a machine to get pleasure a particular way, think “actually, wouldn’t it be great if they could also use this to produce other machines” and effect that change. My original design and intent would be for that act to be pleasurable, but I have made it so that it can also be used for making other machines. Now, a machine may look at its design and conclude that I intended the function to be for reproduction, but it would be wrong.

        //particularly cooked meat. //

        Interesting. Apparently your proposed intelligent designer made humans so well for eating meat that they need to alter it heavily before they can safely consume it. I would say that a lion is better designed for eating meat than a human, and a vulture is better designed even than a lion. Or are you now saying that god designed humans to be intelligent enough to prepare meat for eating to overcome the short comings that god designed into the human digestive system? (Of course, there are certain Christian sects who maintain that there was no death before the Fall, so in point of fact God did not design animals for eating, that is a post-Fall development, in which case, every act of eating an animal is a violation of Creation, but this is straying into Christian theology).

        //If there is anything in nature to give us pause or to factor in to our moral equations, then these are the design candidates to which I refer. //

        Curious, so, let us imagine that human made a sentient extermination camp. It is perfectly designed to kill humans. Instead, it decides to use its chemical production facilities to produce medicine to save humans. According to you, that would be morally wrong?

        Anyway, I have now written over 1000 words in this reply (and still failed to address several of your points), and many others in previous replies. If nothing else, I think I have established that the situation is not as clear cut as you imply in your article. I don’t really wish to spend another week debating this topic, but I thank you for being a gracious host and I leave you to have the final word.

      • Tom (assuming you return to read this),
         
        Thank you for the dialog and I can appreciate your desire not to drag this out forever.  I’ll not think badly of your for bowing out, as you’ve demonstrated your willingness and ability to articulate a contrary view.  I do think it is problematic in its own right, and you’ve left some of my most important points un-addressed in favor of secondary points and the minutia of the analogies.

        Rather than respond to the last reply I’d like to summarize (at least for my readers) what I see as some of the biggest shortcomings of Tom’s line of reasoning.

        1. Denial of purpose

        The concept of objective design and purpose is essentially being rejected, and not just for sex.  The only exception to this is the idea that our use of a thing dictates its purpose, but this makes it a purely subjective affair: what we want a thing for is what it is for.  Since people can have competing desires and different “uses,” then any presumed purpose is in conflict with all others.  But if every purpose is valid, then there is no real purpose at all.  If we may call anything we like “blue,” then blue really isn’t a meaningful word.

        2. Preeminence of pleasure

        The denial of design seems to be done primarily for the sake of maximizing human pleasure.  While it is certainly understandable that one would put a high value on pleasure, it seems the most subjective way imaginable to define objective truth.  It also seems at odds with the only standard available (to Tom) for even theoretically identifying design and biological priorities: naturalistic evolution.  Elevating personal pleasure above any survival and reproductive considerations is an odd metaphysical break with nature.  How the human machine has risen above its programming to assert its contrary will is a mystery not addressed here, though it is hinted at in Tom’s claim to be a dualist.

        3. Moral bankruptcy

        Tom takes everything done in nature to be “natural,” including those things we would normally consider intolerable.  If there are any behaviors to be considered immoral, then this implies that some acts (or “uses” of things in nature) are out of bounds whether people find pleasure in them or not.  While he did not indicate any alternative basis for morality, I would imagine he finds certain things immoral nonetheless (perhaps things like meddlesome Christians).  But without being able to appeal to the physical nature of things and the effects of certain behaviors upon them it’s unclear to what moral grounding he would appeal.  I suspect it would have something to do with pleasure and the freedom to it, so long as you are not “hurting” anyone (though this may be un-pleasurable for only half of the parties).  

        4. Competing preferences

        The whole system becomes one person’s purpose against another, and one person’s pleasure against another.  It is ultimately grounded upon personal preference, and one person’s preference is as good as any other.  Tom thinks his own preference is the rational one, but preference is feeling, and feelings are irrational by definition.  One cannot simply define one’s own preferences as “rational” and then claim victory.  I may find lima beans distasteful, but I do not consider those who eat them irrational.  Likewise, Tom has no grounds for condemning those who look to their physical gender to define their sexuality and domestic arrangements as irrational.  He may prefer that they keep their opinions to themselves, but that is just his preference in a world of opinions (presumably all of which are “natural,” because they exist in nature).

        5. Presumptions about God

        Tom included various assertions about the nature of God, if there is such a thing.  For instance, god must be primarily concerned with pleasure, because he made certain things to be pleasurable; if god didn’t want us to do certain things he would have made it impossible to do them; if god really cared about us he would have made the world differently, because it doesn’t suit humans (i.e., “it’s not the way I would have made it”). For god to be any other way would be “unworthy of reverence.”  But these are all conclusions that are unique — not shared by all skeptics.  Tom uses his own ideas about what god must be like to both affirm his moral values and to prove this particular god cannot exist.  Because it is a fictional god, not proposed by any religion, he manages only to disprove his own personal caricature of god, but not everyone else’s.

         

      • I am compelled to reply as I think you grossly mischaracterise some of my positions in your summary:

        1 & 2:

        I am not so much denying the existence of purpose, so much as saying that “purpose” or function must be considered to be how a thing is used in nature, how it has developed, and for what reason. Now, in that respect I am not an essentialist with regard to purpose, as I see essentialism to be utterly incompatible with naturalistic evolution . You more or less summed up my problem with it when you attempted to argue that what apes and higher mammals do with sex can be “unnatural”. We have animals in their natural environment acting as they have for hundreds of thousands of years (millions?) and yet because they are using sex in a way that contravenes your narrow definition of natural design, you call it unnatural. I also stated that behaviours and actions are a product of natural design.

        The most egregious accusation in your summary is saying that my conclusions are at odds with naturalistic evolution. I at length explained how non-procreative sex (sex engaged in purely for pleasure) conferred an evolutionary advantage for animals like bonoboes, due to its capacity to reduce group tension and increase social cohesion. I explicitly stated that this increased survival chances of the animal social group. This is entirely absent from your summary. I believe that such behaviours are the result of naturalistic evolution. Indeed, in order to deny the validity of these observations, you grant apes and other mammals more agency than I do! You attempt to excuse their behaviour by saying they are merely acting as humans do. I am saying, no this is a behaviour produced by natural selection as it has positive survival outcomes. This also stands in direct contradiction to your assertion that purely pleasurable sex has no physical benefit. You chose to prioritise physical design over behavioural design because physical design suits your own ends, and you find behavioural design repulsive. One wonders on what basis I should not just borrow your indifference to behavioural design and extend it to physical design? You reject behavioural design because it leads to things you find unpleasant (rape, murder etc). On the same basis I could reject physical design because it leads to things I don’t like (condemnation of homosexual activity). It just so happens that I think physical design also confirms that sex is for pleasure, since sex is pleasurable, and pleasure is physical (brains states, hormones etc).

        3. You were earlier correct; I am a libertarian. My ethical system is more or less entirely divorced from physical nature, and is grounded in a system of property rights, which humans have as a result of mental capacity, not physical exertions. A cow may do the physical work of plowing a field, but it is its owner that owns the field. I see an interesting conflict hinted at in an earlier reply of yours, when you stated (more or less) that rape was wrong because the vagina was damaged during it,implying you think rape that physically injures the vagina is more wrong than rape that doesn’t? I would have to ask then, if rape (non-consensual sex) had positive health benefits, whether you would think it moral. Also, I think punching a man in the street is wrong, but not punching a man in a boxing ring, yet both may result in identical damage to the face. Under your system, boxing is to some degree wrong, as it damages the body as certainly as rape does to the vagina. I think consent is perhaps the only good foundation of political ethics. There are things I think are wrong, for example racism, that are not necessarily violent, but they again relate to mental, not physical considerations.

        4. From one perspective, everything humans do is “natural” as they are a product of nature. In common parlance we refer to the natural and human world. Sex is used for purely for pleasure in all worlds, natural, human, material, emotional etc.

        5. My presumptions about god were about a proposed intelligent designer, not any specific god. You started out wanting to play a game of what we could assume the intent was of god by looking at the natural world. Absent divine revelation, I think my conclusions are as reasonable as yours. I explained my objection to believing in a benevolent or competent god by referencing the obvious presense of hardship in the world, a problem the Abrahamic religions explain away by invention of the Fall. The Fall, of course, is not an element of “Natural religion” – it is not derivable from observations of the world, as it requires the prerequisite assumption that god cares about humans. It requires far less of a jump to say that either god doesn’t care or doesn’t exist. I have to say, and I don’t really want to start another massive dialogue but am curious, can you defend your idea of a benevolent god who designed the universe and the world for humans, without reference to divine revelation, or the Fall? Using only observations of the natural world, with its plentiful examples of not being particularly suited to human life?

        I appear fixated on secondary issues, because they are significant when seen in context. I pursue them because how you answer depends on whether you are being consistent. If we reduce your method to the absurd, it becomes more obviously false. For example, i see no reason why eating a sweet with no sustaining properties would not be morally identical to beastiality for you (eating purely for pleasure vs sex entirely for pleasure). That they clearly are so different reduces your ideology to the absurd. Indeed, the moral statues of chewing gum becomes a significant question!

      • Hi Tom. Somehow I knew you couldn’t resist another response 🙂

        In this latest response I see you adding additional nuance when you say, “I am not so much denying the existence of purpose, so much as saying that ‘purpose’ or function must be considered to be how a thing is used in nature, how it has developed, and for what reason.”

        Even though I think your view of “purpose” becomes a tautological concept in practice, when you say “for what reason” you leave the door open to objective design.  You point to the social and pleasurable aspects of sex as candidate purposes, but do not make an effective case for denying reproduction as the primary purpose.  Indeed, you earlier suggest it is by saying that its social use is an exaptation of it.

        The act of leveraging reproductive sex’s byproducts (pleasure and endorphins), which likely preceded its social use, is certainly no denial of it’s primary design and purpose.  This is especially true given that these secondary uses are entirely unnecessary where evolution is concerned.  Reproduction is a necessity, while these alternative uses are observed in only certain species (e.g, bonobos may fit your category, but others may use it secondarily, if at all, only to express dominance).

        All this to say that evolution, your “designer,” is entirely apathetic to your use or lack of use of sex for pleasure; but the rejection of sex for reproduction, and by extension the rejection of the opposite sex, is both a rejection of its primary purpose and a departure from nature’s main concern.  Again, I do not advocate that sex serves only a narrow reproductive purpose, but the scope of those purposes cannot be debated apart from a metaphysical context not here established.  All I can argue with you is in relation to the peculiar idea that the rejection of its primary use (and the necessitated relationship with the opposite sex) is an unremarkable thing in a supposed world whose main driver is reproduction.

        I didn’t mean to imply that rape was wrong merely because of the potential for physical harm.  I don’t believe that morality is defined exclusively by physical design factors, only that they are of consideration.  So far, I have not even argued for a comprehensive moral grounding.  I have been assuming the reality of objective morality, but I’ve only so far suggested (where not arguing on purely evolutionary grounds) that design factors can be pointers to the specifics of that morality.

        The point is that your support for the idea that “purpose,” or what is “natural,” is defined by whatever we find in nature (e.g., whatever humans do) leaves no justification for saying that any act is immoral on material grounds.  This leaves only an appeal to morality on some metaphysical grounds, which you seem to affirm.  Aside from the question of how the mental capacities of evolved material can escape material considerations for morality, your problem is that you are pulling moral criteria out of a subjective grab-bag.  You offer some ideas about the criteria we might use to establish morality, but these are ultimately personal measures that can only be judged superior to mine by way of your own preferences.  I could point out logistical problem with your criteria (one of which you note for yourself), but those are of secondary concern to the deeper problems of moral relativism.

        I agree that we weren’t speaking of any particular God, but in the absence of this you filled in the blanks of what such a designer’s obligations and larger intentions must be from your own imagination — for instance, that if one is to design a thing then it must not contain anything dangerous or permit misuse.  You are importing assumptions about a generic god’s power, moral nature and long-term objectives, along with the current status of the designed thing.  Assuming that we are each just making guesses, the best you can achieve is, as you said, that “my conclusions are as reasonable as yours.”

        While my minimal point is a case for equality for us complementarians on relativistic grounds, I do believe that the complementary nature of the sexes is more than a subtle hint at any designer’s intentions.  And, in fact, if I were to observe the physical advantages of living a chaste life before marriage, and engaging in monogamous, permanent relationships, then I might conclude very many more things.  You seem to be focusing the discussion on the permissive uses of sex, but this does nothing to justify the idea of homosexuality as either nature’s or God’s intention.  That seems an even less reasonable conclusion.

        The Fall is as much about human evil (which is the cause of most of the inhospitability of the world and which itself begs explanation) as it is about a hostile world.  But it’s funny that you reference the unsuitability of the world for humans given that we exist in it, dominate it, and uniquely apprehend it.  It’s also interesting that the most common reason given for belief in God (in my experience) by the average theist relates to the wonder, beauty, and joy that they find in the world.  This is hardly a reaction to a hostile universe.  I do not deny that there are dangerous and annoying things in the cosmos, but for the most part they are manageable by cooperative human ingenuity (which is also part of the design).  

        Do I wonder why, for example, God would make mosquitoes?  Certainly, but such things do not negate the vast array of evidences I see for design and the suitability of the entire cosmos for creatures just like us.  In fact, it was the very issue of anthropic coincidences that finally brought me home to theism and, ultimately, Christianity.  So, again, it is a subjective judgment upon which your rejection of a designer depends.

        For your reference, here are a couple things that include my thoughts in some of these areas:
        http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2009/05/question-of-order.html
        And maybe part 4 of this old series: http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2006/08/heavens-declare-his-glory-part-4.html
        Maybe this qualifies: http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2005/10/abiogenesis-problem-of-origins-part-1.html
        I would also appeal to metaphysical things, like morality, the mind, religious experience, and anthropology.

        The problem with the food analogy is that it does limited work in relation to sex, because it doesn’t involve complementarity, except maybe with the food and the digestive system.  But “food” itself is a less concrete thing than the sexual parts we are discussing.  As I’ve said, the closest analog to homosexuality might be to suggest that shoving food into one’s anus also qualified as “eating.”  Even so, I understand your point that if we are simply looking at the purpose and design of eating we might wonder about any moral conclusions that could be derived from it.  From that perspective I would have to agree that a moral case could be made against certain things.  While the body is certainly equipped to digest things like sweets and fats (indeed, we are powered by glucose and have need of some fats), intentional abuses, excesses, or deprivations are unhealthy (e.g., junk food addicts, gluttons, anorexics).  I do not think it a stretch to say that we not only have a moral obligation not to impair the health of others but to preserve our own.  Many are willing to say that we “should not” eat too many sweets.  I think it is a short trip from there to a moral case.

        Of course, chewing gum is more complex, but there are still health reasons (for many types of gum) that cause people to discourage it.  But your question is more to the idea of doing something that doesn’t involve ingestion, i.e., for pure oral pleasure.  Remember, I’ve not ruled out secondary purposes or latitude in usage, but those ought to be in line with the primary design.  Being a limited analogy to sex, it’s hard to define how this might apply here.  Using your mouth for things not intrinsically unhealthy is at least a use of the system (or subsystem) as it was designed, just as heterosexual vaginal sex, even if reproduction is not intended, is a use that is consistent with its design.  And given that foreplay could be said to be a part of that overall design, I could say that even non-vaginal sex might be part of that overall system.  In the food world this could find paralleled in smelling and tasting.  Even while the acts of “foreplay” in both cases might be done without full consummation of the design, there is continuity between these acts and the overall design.  It is a break in continuity to perform (nay, prefer) any of these acts with either animals or the same gender, much like it would be to chew gum with your sphincter.

  8. One of the best things I have read on the subject. I am continually perplexed by the fact that the argument of nature eludes the majority of the conversation about this subject.

    • It surprises me, too, that it’s not referenced more often. Perhaps it is just so obvious that people assume that the debate is somewhere beyond it, but I think any debate should start at this point. Seldom have I heard an attempt to answer it in a way deeper than an appeal to tolerance (“we’re not hurting you,” “consenting adults should be allowed to do these things,” etc.). These are hardly moral affirmations. If all they are arguing for is tolerance, like cigarette smokers, then that debate can be had, but they are arguing for something far more than that, aren’t they?

  9. I find it interesting that the word love is not used in this. You are focusing on sex and reproduction. Straight people have sex all the time with no intention of having a baby. Straight people also have sexual contact (oral, anal) that can’t produce a baby. What it comes down to is love, which you ignore. If two people love each other they should have the right to be together, whether it is a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man. You can argue that two people of the same sex being together is not natural, and I agree that it is not natural if you are strictly looking at it from a reproductive standpoint, but is love not one of the truly most natural and powerful feelings in the world? I myself am a straight Christian, but I have two friends, who are men, that have been together 20 years. They have two children, 12 and 10, and they are in church every Sunday, are active along with their children in every church activity possible, and are raising them as well as anyone could hope. Furthermore, they LOVE each other and their children more than anything else. They LOVE God and that love has been shown to their children who now also LOVE God. It’s a stable family despite all of the adversity they have been through. For me, what it comes down to is if two people truly love each other and can make a commitment to be loyal to each other for the rest of their lives while living good, honest lives, how can I possibly judge them when I myself have my own faults?

    • Mike,

      Thanks for your civil response. As I said, this argument should be the point of departure from which all justifications are made. You’ve offered several that attempt to go beyond this. I’ll try to respond to those now.

      You said: “I find it interesting that the word love is not used in this. You are focusing on sex and reproduction.”

      I’m focusing on the physical design of the sexes (of which reproduction is the consummate expression), regardless of how we feel about these things or about each other. If a truck and a trailer could have feelings and did not have affections for one another, then it would make no difference to the fact that they are designed for one another. Indeed, we should think it odd if their feelings did not align with their designs.

      You said: “Straight people have sex all the time with no intention of having a baby.”

      The moral status of recreational sex or promiscuity is a separate debate, but doing so with the opposite sex is at least consistent with our design. Sex can surely have secondary purposes (e.g., intimacy and pleasure), but it is reasonable to presume that there be some continuity between its primary and secondary purposes.

      You said: “Straight people also have sexual contact (oral, anal) that can’t produce a baby.”

      True, but you either simply presume that these are justified as well or presume that I find them acceptable. Both my argument and certain known (and suspected) health risks could inveigh against these.

      You said: “What it comes down to is love, which you ignore. If two people love each other they should have the right to be together, whether it is a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.”

      If it is only “love” that matters, then why just two? Why just people? Why adults? For that matter, why even “love” and your own definition of it? You presume many things here and have your own set of constraints, I’m sure. We both have limits to what we think natural and moral, we’re just arguing over the details.

      You said: “You can argue that two people of the same sex being together is not natural, and I agree that it is not natural if you are strictly looking at it from a reproductive standpoint, but is love not one of the truly most natural and powerful feelings in the world?

      Love is certainly natural, but as I said above, you presume many things about love, in this case, that love for someone of the same sex requires sexual contact and the abandonment of the opposite sex. You beg the question by assuming that the kind of love that homosexuals express or feel is itself morally and psychologically healthy, and then you simply presume that if they have such feelings then their abandonment of their sexual nature must then be okay. One might use the same argument to justify sex between an adult and child merely because they “love” one another.

      I take the kind of love that expresses itself sexually and domestically to be the natural domain of two committed adults of the opposite sex.

      You said: “I myself am a straight Christian, but I have two friends, who are men, that have been together 20 years. They have two children, 12 and 10, and they are in church every Sunday, are active along with their children in every church activity possible, and are raising them as well as anyone could hope. Furthermore, they LOVE each other and their children more than anything else. They LOVE God and that love has been shown to their children who now also LOVE God. It’s a stable family despite all of the adversity they have been through.”

      I cannot exegete your experience, I can only exegete Natural and Special Revelation, neither of which suggest same-sex relationships and parenting as God’s (or nature’s) design. It makes no difference how nice or loving someone is to questions of health and morality. There are many nice and loving smokers and alcoholics, and there are many same-sex relationships that have not turned out so rosy (for either the partners or the children).

      I would also be very interested in exactly what God it is that you claim to be loving in common with them. You cannot impress me with their affections for a god who simply affirms their own lifestyle — that is circular. This attitude essentially defines most of the spiritual world. Whether Christianity affirms homosexuality is a different argument (https://pspruett.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/jesus-never-said-anything-against-homosexuality/), but even if it did happen to be true it would still contradict the fact that the sexes are designed for one another.

      You said: “For me, what it comes down to is if two people truly love each other and can make a commitment to be loyal to each other for the rest of their lives while living good, honest lives, how can I possibly judge them when I myself have my own faults?”

      Many of these points are covered above, but why even mention judging if there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality? It is a tactic of defense, which might be used by someone seeking tolerance for their own indiscretions given that we all have our own, which I’m sure is not what you are suggesting. Even so, things can be, at least as a matter of discernment, identified as good or bad no matter how much of a scoundrel we are, personally. Advocates of homosexuality are not willing to tolerate the idea that there is anything at all to judge, even by someone of flawless character.

  10. Hello again! I’d be honored to hear your comments on my similar-themed post, if you should feel so inclined. Thanks!
    http://madelynlang469.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/manifesto-the-primal-creation/

  1. Pingback: The Case for Heterosexuality

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