Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Naturalness Argument: Skin Cells To Heart Cells


The most common argument against homsexuality, endorsed by the Catholic church, for example, is the naturalness argument, aka the unnaturalness argument.

The principle that drives the argument: if x is unnatural, then x is morally wrong.

That principle is wrong for a million reasons. And here's another: there is nothing morally wrong about modifying skin cells so that they can function as heart cells. Yet that shit is as unnatural as you can get.

Also: yeah, science!

Or, rather: yeah, technology!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alternatively you might point to evidence of the "naturalness" of homosexuality, or at the very least, of homosexual behavior. See, e.g.


NB: I have no evidence of authority for this source, but it cites a lot of footnotes, some of which I tracked down.

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Anon's above point is very pertinent. For though I realize that this version of the 'naturalness' argument is ridiculous, there are other times in which it might not be so clear that it is. Thus, in order to keep from tossing the baby out with the bath water, perhaps the best counter is to simply point out that there is almost nothing more natural than homosexuality. After all - without being too much of a luddite - aren't there times when technology goes too far, as does its handmaiden 'science?' An example that tugs at your heart strings might be life-span extension. It will soon be possible to radically extend the average human life span by toying with genes, e.g. getting rid of outdated ones that are now - in effect - dragging us down. That this is unnatural seems like a truism. But more to the point, that also seems to be what is objectionable about it. Nature - though awfully resilient and self-correcting - still operates on certain things being in balance. As we start to throw off those natural balances through our unnatural behavior however, it seems that one might have a case that this behavior is wrong precisely because of said unnaturalness, as it is straying from what nature 'intended' in this case that is causing so many problems, but I digress...

10:03 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Absolutely right. The other way to defend against the naturalness argument is to deny the premise ("homosexuality is unnatural.") The premise is false, too, as you note. I was just interested in the other premise ("Whatever is unnatural is immoral.")

I do agree that we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss all versions of the naturalness argument... If we can get a respectable notion of teleology going, it wouldn't be astonishing if that has some moral implications. But I tend not to think such "natural balance" arguments work, because I think that the moral implications of "throwing off the natural balance" always have to come from somewhere else. That is, if by throwing off the natural balance, we cause pain and suffering, it's the pain and suffering that are morally important. If by doing so we destroy species, and if that's bad, then it's the destruction of species that are bad. But if, say, we "throw off the natural balance" by saving some species that would naturally have gone extinct, and that has no other bad consequences, I don't see how we can judge that to be wrong.

My $0.02.

10:17 AM  

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