Is Homosexuality Wrong? Is Homosexuality Wrong? II II
Timothy F. Murphy: “Homosexuality and Nature” Murphy’s Central Argument • Levin’s “Argument from Nature” fails as a general grounding for what should be considered “abnormal”. • Levin fails to show that departures from the “naturally adaptive order” are in any way threatening to the species as a whole. • Levin’s definition of homosexuality on behavioral grounds seems to go against standard use. • Levin’s evidence for homosexual unhappiness seems almost entirely anecdotal, and is easily undercut. • Levin’s argument for homosexual unhappiness is, in principle, unfalsifiable, and so should be rejected.
Timothy F. Murphy: “Homosexuality and Nature” Murphy’s Central Argument (cont’d) • Levin fails to imagine what a society would have to be like in order to eliminate the oppression that contributes to homosexual unhappiness. • There seems little reason to think Levin’s plan to eliminate homosexuality by legal measures would accomplish what he intends. • The legal measures Levin suggests seems to go against his apparent utilitarian preferences.
Levin’s Argument from Nature Recall Levin’s argument: • Homosexuality is abnormal because it involves a misuse of body parts. • Homosexual behavior is contrary to the evolutionary adaptive order. • Homosexual behavior is not the kind of behavior which brought us to be the kind of physically constituted persons we are today. • Persons who used their penises for anal (as opposed to vaginal) sex left no ancestors. • That there are penises and vaginas today is due to the fact that they were used for heterosexual intercourse, and so we can infer that heterosexual intercourse is what such organs are for. • Homosexual behavior is an abandonment of certain functions on which species survival has depended. • Abandoning these functions implies the loss of naturally-occurring rewards selected for adaptive success.
Faults in Levin’s Argument Adaptive Success and Abnormality • Levin believes we can show the abnormality of homosexuality without having to show that it violates some “cosmic principle”, but showing its inherent obstacles to adaptive success. • But because no cosmic principle is invoked, it seems adaptive success is no binding force. • “The only guide available for human beings in respect of their lives, sexuality, and future is their will and imagination.” (191) • There seems no clear reason why the entire population of the planet should not become homosexuals if, say, reproduction could be done with artificial insemination.
Faults in Levin’s Argument Adaptive Success and Abnormality (cont’d) • Levin ignores the prospects of beneficial departures from the “naturally adaptive order”. • Clearly, some departures from this order are possible which do not threaten species survival: “if a species can survive if only a majority of its members use their organs in a particular fashion, then it may enjoy a surplus of adaptive procreation even for those who act in wholly non-procreative fashion.” (191)
Faults in Levin’s Argument What do we Mean by Homosexuality? • Levin defines homosexuality behaviorally: as something one does with one’s body (specifically, one’s particular organs). • According to Levin, it is behavior that is said to be unnatural. • But given self-identified gay men and lesbians who have never had sexual encounters with either members of their own sex, or the other, a behavioral definition seems ill-advised. • If we can consider cases of heterosexual virgins, surely we can consider cases of homosexual virgins.
Faults in Levin’s Argument What do we Mean by Homosexuality? (cont’d) • What would it mean to be abnormal in these cases: is it their desires which are abnormal? • “I believe that homosexuality is better defined as primarily a psychic phenomenon and that specific homosexual behaviour is virtually epiphenomenal, merely a matter of what biology makes possible (this claim would also apply to heterosexuality).” (191) • If homosexuality is primarily a psychic phenomenon, and if we want to define abnormality along the lines that Levin does, it would seem that for homoeroticism to be abnormal, it must be a misuse of the brain – a hard thesis to establish.
Faults in Levin’s Argument Intuitions and Homosexuality • Levin claims that it is hard to believe the reported levels of promiscuity among homosexual men, and asks readers to compare these reports with their own experience, expecting they will find the notion repulsive. • Levin expects that his readers will find the imagined image of mutual fellation as inherently degrading. • Levin believes the contention that homosexuality is abnormal is an intuitive one. He says that such an intuition “remains vital.” • Levin assumes that his readers already have this intuition. • The problem with this claim is how one who does not share this intuition could come to have it: “[A]rguments from intuition are like issues said to be self-evident: precious little can be said on their behalf, they are either seen or not.” (192)
Faults in Levin’s Argument Homosexuality and Happiness • Levin argues that homosexuality leads to unhappiness because “it leaves unfulfilled an innate and innately rewarding desire” – something ingrained through evolutionary selection. • Levin believes that “rare” instances of happy homosexuals do not hinder his argument – their lives, he claims, will be inherently less rewarding than their heterosexual counterparts. • Levin argues that the unhappiness of homosexuality is compounded both by social disapproval and by the promiscuous activities of homosexuals.
Faults in Levin’s Argument Homosexuality and Happiness (cont’d) • Levin’s argument, however, fails to allow for falsification – as Levin describes it, the situation could not be otherwise. • “By definition there is nothing which could falsify this proposition, not even the self-asserted happiness of each and every homosexual person.” (193) • As an untestable hypothesis, it ought to be rejected rather than accepted by definition.
Faults in Levin’s Argument Homosexuality and Happiness (cont’d) • Levin’s evidence for the unhappiness of homosexuals is “altogether anecdotal and trivial.” (193). • Why couldn’t one use similar evidence against the happiness of heterosexuals? • Other anecdotal evidence seems to indicate an increase in homosexual happiness (e.g. a rise in participants in Boston’s gay pride parade from 50 in 1970 to 25,000-30,000 in 1986).
Social Reconstruction Experiment • Levin fails to imagine what a society would have to be like in order to eliminate the oppression that contributes to homosexual unhappiness. • In order to see the extent to which homosexual unhappiness is caused by social repressions, and to what extent it is intrinsic, society would have to be free at every significant level of bias against homosexuals: Phase I • Elimination of assumption of heterosexuality in education, politics, advertising, etc. • Educational measures to reduce anti-homosexuality in same ways that racism is educated against. • Elimination of rights entitled to heterosexuals not provided to homosexuals.
Social Reconstruction Experiment (cont’d) Phase II • Protection for homosexuals above and beyond that provided for heterosexuals. • Legally mandated minority hiring quotas. • Any residual unhappiness surviving Phases I and II “would still be no evidence against homosexuality.” (194)
Homosexuality and the Law • Levin claims that the abnormality of homosexuality and its ensuing unhappiness are warrant enough to ground legal enactments against homosexuality: this is a matter of protecting citizens from lives impoverished by the loss of heterosexual rewards. • Levin is unspecific regarding what enactments should be made, but one presumes he means denying homosexuals protection in jobs, housing, foster-parenting, and so on. • The law would have to serve to render homosexuality entirely invisible so as to eliminate any prompting to others that homosexuality is acceptable. • Levin argues that such a scenario would not place any undue burden on any actual homosexual, as homosexuals can always stay in the closet while applying for jobs, etc.
Homosexuality and the Law (cont’d) • To give homosexuals protections that they don’t really need is to legitimize homosexuality, which, itself, may cause production of more homosexuals. • Levin seems to hold (without explanation) a developmental theory of homosexuality, that homosexuality is the result of some developmental variance, that homosexuals are made, not born. • A developmental theory may be correct, but it competes with metaphysical, genetic, and, most numerously, psychosocial theories. • As such, it seems wrong-headed to establish legal policy on the basis of one theory among many. • Even if the law diligently erased all evidence of homosexual behavior from public view, one should not thereby assume that no independent instances of homosexuality will arise.
Homosexuality and the Law (cont’d) • If the reason that homosexuals are unhappy is because of the existence of certain legally-permissible discriminations (or fear of such), it seems to make more sense to enact laws that protect and enlarge the happiness of homosexuals. • They ought to be afforded the same protections under the law as heterosexuals: freedom from persecution for their private, consensual behavior, etc. • That homosexuality might lead to a certain amount of unhappiness does not thereby overthrow the dignity of homosexual persons. • “Therefore, lest society be a political enforcer of sexual ideology, homosexuals ought to be afforded equal standing and protections under the law, and this in the name of serving human happiness.” (196)