Sunday, February 08, 2004

Love Is Everywhere

The argument that something is right or wrong because it is "natural" or "unnatural" holds little to no currency. But to those who still hold onto the claim that homosexuality is "unnatural," Dinitia Smith provides ample evidence to the contrary in yesterday's NYT article"Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name." Here she describes homosexuality among chinstrap penguins, as well as bottlenose dolphins, bonobo apes and "some 450 species."

Marlene Zuk is a professor of biology at the University of California at Riverside. Smith quotes her:
What the animal studies do show, Ms. Zuk observed, is that "sexuality is a lot broader term than people want to think."

"You have this idea that the animal kingdom is strict, old-fashioned Roman Catholic," she said, "that they have sex just to procreate."

In bonobos, she noted, "you see expressions of sex outside the period when females are fertile. Suddenly you are beginning to see that sex is not necessarily about reproduction."

"Sexual expression means more than making babies," Ms. Zuk said. "Why are we surprised? People are animals."
As Paul L. Vasey, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge in Canada, points out in the article, we can't determine something to be "good" simply because it occurs in nature either:
"For some people, what animals do is a yardstick of what is and isn't natural," Mr. Vasey said. "They make a leap from saying if it's natural, it's morally and ethically desirable."

But he added: "Infanticide is widespread in the animal kingdom. To jump from that to say it is desirable makes no sense. We shouldn't be using animals to craft moral and social policies for the kinds of human societies we want to live in. Animals don't take care of the elderly. I don't particularly think that should be a platform for closing down nursing homes."
True. And you also have numerous creature's in God's lovely kingdom which eat both their spouses and their young. So let's not emulate their behavior either.

What we humans do have to do is decide for ourselves what's right and what's wrong--not by relying on questionable opinions of what's "natural" or "unnatural" nor by relying on out-moded traditions or religious beliefs. No, we have to thoughtfully consider what the impacts of our actions are, how they affect (help or harm) us as individuals and societies, agree as what seems morally acceptable, and, then, most importantly, be willing to change those beliefs if they're challenged by advancements in science and contemporary thinking.

Some people, understandably, aren't happy with the idea that concepts of what's moral and immoral can change over time. They want these issues to be clear, black and white. Well, here's an issue which has become increasingly clear: the argument that homosexuality is wrong because it doesn't appear in nature is patently wrong.

No comments: