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Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Every now and then, various groups come up with a catch phrase or quote that they start using because it wittily portrays their own position in a positive light while demonising those who hold opposing positions in a few, easy to remember words.

Unfortunately - for them - what they've really done is revealed their own intellectual shortcomings, or at least highlights their willingness to suspend logical thought in favour of emotionalism.

There's a couple of those being gleefully passed around right now, but here's one I've seen a often enough to comment on.  It's a simple text graphic.  There's some sort of tumblr url on the bottom I can't read, but no accreditation, so I have no idea where it came from or who came up with it.  The text reads:

Homosexuality is found in over 450 species.
Homophobia is found in only one.
Which one seems unnatural now?

Wow.  Really?  Do you really want to be saying this in support of your position?

Right off the top, I see one, two part problem, and it centres around the word "species."  Humans, we are to assume, are the "only one."  In other words, humans and animals are placed on the same level.  Now, this is the standard position of atheists/materialists, so that should be no surprise, but some of the people sharing this are either not atheists, or not materialists.  I'll explore that later, but first I'll address the equivalency problem.

There's two ways one can view the equivalency problem.  Either it raises animals up to the level of humans (as some animal rights groups believe), or it reduces humans to the level of animals (as materialists believe).

Let's examine the first position.  In this case, animals are basically anthropomorphic.  They think and behave on the same intellectual level as humans.  In other words, animals can think through various possible courses of actions, are capable of understanding the consequences of those actions, then choose one course of action over another.  This, of course, is completely untrue.  Animals can do some pretty amazing things, but there is no evidence that they are able to think like humans and can thereby willingly control their own behaviour through the choices they make.  Animals may be intelligent, but you're not going to see lions and hyenas engaging in peace talks to end millenia of killing. 

On the flip side, humans are reduced to animals.  In other words, our ability to think through and choose our actions is an illusion.  We are really base creatures, ruled by our hormones and physical desires. We don't really control ourselves.  We just think we do.  Thereby, not acting on our physical desires or instinctual behaviour is what is unnatural.

Which leads me to the next problem with this statement - the use of the word, "unnatural."  Basically, it's animals do it, it's natural, therefore it is acceptable and it's okay for us to be doing it, too.

Again, there are two problems with this.  Actually, three problems.  First, that because animals do it, thus making it "natural," this means it's somehow normal.  The other is that, because animals do it, that means it's okay for humans to do it.  And finally, there is the implication that because something is "natural" it is also "good" in some way.

Let's start with the first two parts. 

You know what?  Animals engage in a lot of behaviours that are perfectly "natural" for them to do.  How does that have anything to do with humans?  Dogs eat their feces and vomit.  If a human starts doing that, are we to say it's okay because dogs do it, making it "natural?"  Or do we say that this person has an illness?  Animals also kill and eat their own young, kill their own mates, kill the young of their own and other species, rape, and engage in the animal equivalent of mass murder - killing just for killings sake.  Animal parents reject their young, abuse their young and sometimes allows them to starve in favour of keeping themselves (or leaders of their pack/pride/etc.) fed. 

We all love to see animals engaged in behaviour we approve of. Mothers caring for their young, the young playing with each other, or animals engaging in co-operative behaviour.  We also love our animal hero stories, where animals risk their own lives to help others.  We aren't so keen on stories about baboons stealing and eating human babies, or a pack of hyenas eating a water buffalo trapped in the mud, yet very much alive while they eat it. 

Then we get to the third part of this problem; the idea that something being "natural," either in the human world or the animal world, in any way makes it good or acceptable.  As I've mentioned in a previous post, humans choose our behaviours.  We are capable of examining the consequences of our actions, then choosing to either act on them anyway, or not to act on them at all.  Animals have no way of knowing, understanding or even caring that their actions have consequences; that their behaviour injures others, or that it spreads illness and disease, or any sort of long term consequence.  Just because it is "natural" for animals to engage in certain actions, that doesn't mean those actions are not ultimately harmful.  It's perfectly natural for animals to do all sorts of things that, were humans to engage in them, would lead to anarchy.  Instead, when humans behave like animals, we use the term as a derogatory way to describe those actions.  A man who rapes a woman isn't just asserting his dominance; he is a beast who commits a crime.  A woman who kills her own infant isn't preserving her own survival; she is ill and needs to be medicated (we'll not go into the double standards in these examples).

I could go on, but there are so many directions I could go to describe how illogical the statement is, I'm actually having troubles focusing on just a few.  Instead, I'll move on to a final point.

The use of the word "homophobia."

Now, a phobia is an irrational fear.  Most importantly, it is a fear of something that is not really a danger.  Phobias can range from the mildly annoying to completely debilitating.  Though it is difficult, phobias are treatable and curable.

I have no doubt that there really are homophobes out there.  Heck, my husband served with a couple while in the navy (and being the mature sorts that they were, he and others had no end of fun driving one guy in particular out of the room by "acting gay"). 

This is not, however, how the term is used or meant.  It's meant to imply, not fear, but hate.  Anyone who in any way disagrees or disapproves of homosexuality or anything that gay activists want is painted as a homophobe.  They don't just disapprove of an action nor do they just have a mental disorder.  They are painted as haters.

What this trite little phrase does is not only try to portray homosexual activity as "natural" because all these different types of animals go it, but that disagreeing with it is "unnatural" hatred.  On the one hand, the statement puts humans and animals on the same level by using the term "species," then on the other it differentiates humans as being separate, due to our "unnatural" homophobia.

This puts humans into one of two camps.  On the one side, we have animals and humans who engage in homosexual behaviour, and this is "natural."  On the other, we have humans who are homophobes (haters), and this is "unnatural."

What this also does is shut down debate completely.  It is not possible to have a logical conversation with a side that dismisses the opposition so completely.  I find it interesting that the side that latches so firmly onto notions such as "equality" and "tolerance" is also the most adamantly intolerant of anyone who dares question their position.

This pithy little catch phrase that is being passed around by so many to demonise those who disagree with them, instead reveals themselves to be the illogical, irrational and intolerant bigots they claim to oppose.

1 comment:

  1. This is a nice thorough post. Sexual desires are so important to some people that they are willing to make irrational arguments which inevitably turn out to be absurd -- only to make special exceptions for their case.

    Like you pointed out, many animals cannibalize, force copulation, forcibly take items that aren't theirs, etc. Why are these behaviors not acceptable if they are indeed "natural"?


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