Homosexuality is Unnatural

“Homosexuality is unnatural” is the first line of defense of gay marriage opponents.  I used to think so too, just because I’m straight. But what does “unnatural” mean?  “Unnatural” is the opposite of “natural”.  Depending on the context, “natural” can mean a number of things.

“Natural” can refer to something occurring in nature, without human participation.  “Unnatural” in this context means something man-made, something that can be seen only when humans are involved, something that would never develop without human participation.  If homosexuality is unnatural in this context, one would not observe it in wild animals.  A simple search on Wikipedia on “homosexual behavior in animals” reveals this.  Oh, My God!  Just a short list of “homosexual offenders” in the animal world:

Not the bed bugs! I was particularly impressed by the documented case of homosexual necrophilia in mallards.  Here is the link to the original paper PDF.  The author, Kees Moeliker, also made a TED talk about this interesting case with a few additional details, such as an example of a frog engaging in an oral sex with a live goldfish.  This paper and this video come to my mind each time someone uses the word “unnatural”.

Bed bugs, dragonflies, and lizards having homosexual affairs also destroy the myth that homosexual behavior is a choice unless we want to claim that dragonflies have consciousness and can choose what they do.  If God created dragonflies, he must have created homosexuality too.  Can dragonflies sin?

This video in Russian called “Homo sapiens – homosexuality in humans and animals” (you can turn on English subtitles) mentions that homosexual behavior is observed in over 1500 species!  It also shows many interesting examples of the contexts and reasons of it showing that the function of sex is not only reproduction, even in the animal world.

So, it’s not just a “fluke” of nature.  A random event with a negligible probability of observing.  Homosexuality in nature is very common. So, one cannot use “not observed in nature” definition to claim that homosexuality is unnatural.

But there are other meanings of “natural” and “unnatural”.  For example, people may say that “it is natural for the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening”.  This simply means something commonly observed.   It’s a synonym of “normal”.  So, something not commonly observed or regularly done is identified as “unnatural” or “abnormal”.  “It is unnatural for me to wake up at 3 am” simply means that I normally do not do it. Perhaps, this is what most straight people mean when they say that homosexuality is unnatural.  First of all, other people can regularly do things that I would never do and it would be natural for them.  What is commonly observed in one area or culture can be very uncommon in another.  Even the sun does not rise and set every day in summer or in winter in areas close to the poles.  “Water boils at 100C” is only true at the sea level and on Earth.  On Mars, water does not normally boil at all.  It’s too cold.  This means, we only call homosexuality “unnatural” or “abnormal” because we don’t observe it too often.  But is it a good reason to oppose homosexual marriages?  We don’t see redheads too often as well.  Shall we call red hair a “genetic abnormality” and ban them from marriage also?  Claiming that homosexuality is “abnormal”, that it’s a “genetic deviation”, a “disease” of some sort, seems bogus.  When “unnatural” is used in the sense of an uncommon behavior, opposition to gay marriage is based in mere tradition.  “It has always been this way” (followed by the quotes from Genesis).

Sometimes, “unnatural” means “immoral”.  E.g. “It is unnatural to steal and kill.”  But declaring homosexuality unnatural because it is immoral and immoral because it is unnatural does not make a lot of sense.  One of the two has to be defined using different terms to avoid circular reasoning.

Sometimes, “unnatural” means “disgusting” or “repulsive”.  In this sense, “unnatural” means something a person would not normally do (see notes about “normal” – “abnormal” above).

Bottom line.  Some definitions of “unnatural” do not hold water with respect to homosexuality.  Others lead to circular reasoning.  Those that cannot be refuted, are reduced to 1) physical disgust or 2) tradition, often based in religion.

What other meanings of “natural” and “unnatural” have you seen?  My advice: avoid using words “natural” and “unnatural” in any debates.  In my experience, the most common source of misunderstanding in discussions comes from using different, unclear, or too broad contexts for common words.  Some people claim all we see around us is nature, therefore everything is natural.  Some people believe in supernatural.  If the supernatural is not natural, i.e. unnatural, then God is unnatural too.  “Careful the things you say, children will listen.

22 thoughts on “Homosexuality is Unnatural

  1. i really like this sentiment and what your opinions provide here but i disagree on your prescription if you clearly define what natural means to you, i feel you can adequately defend whatever position you may hold on homosexuality.Personally i feel the nature of humans is where this argument truly begins and ends how then can we exclude the term?
    The introduction of animals though bearing similitude in some of our bodily operations i feel was an unnecessary inclusion here because the ‘naturalness’ many speak of in this argument refers to the specific nature of man that we do not share with other animals.

    • That’s the point – it is very unclear what “natural” means. You say, what determines the nature of humans is what makes us different from animals. Then what determines the nature of homosexuals is what makes them different from other people. Hence, homosexuality IS natural for them. And if ones defends his position on homosexuality based on his definition of the word “natural” then one can simply define homosexuality immoral, period. And that’s, pretty much, what these arguments come down to.

      • why do you speak of what is natural to homosexuals as different from what is natural to heterosexuals?After all aren’t we all endowed with sexuality and aren’t we all humans?the naturalness i speak of is not of the physical world it is the one universal to all humans shared in all our common acts and we do not create it we discover it.
        when i said what is natural to animals is different from that which is natural to us (humans)i said that because first of all we are of different species of course what persists in us doesn’t persist in them.Even when a bull mates with a bull its never the same as homosexuality.The two are incomparable like i said they mate humans have sex and we even have a sexual identity outside of the very act itself because saying your straight has more to do with the entire features that make up the opposite sex not just the sexual ones and your preference of them, then again we have choice something animals do not have in mating.
        Even when you said animals have occurrences of homosexuality, pardon me but i feel that was entirely erroneous.
        Homosexuality is not a term for animals, it never was and never will be and animals aren’t at all sexual they are just governed by instinct .Only humans are sexual and can thus be homosexuals or heterosexuals with the word sexual implies choice not instinct and humans are not governed by any instinct that must be fulfilled, there is always a choice at least let’s own up to that.
        Of this choice, is what the naturalness i talked about earlier prescribes, note i said prescribe not force.And this follows because sexuality is something we all share albeit individually we all have to make a certain choice on it so why is it so crazy that there could be or there is a universal law that governs the making of it?
        And if this law is to be found why shouldn’t it be referred to?

        • and the term natural in this context isn’t at all unclear or relative as you seem to imply it is universal and if you are willing to confront it very clear indeed.Calling the term unclear is like saying gravity is an unclear concept to fathom which couldn’t be further from the truth.

          • and the term natural in this context isn’t at all unclear or relative as you seem to imply it is universal and if you are willing to confront it very clear indeed.Calling the term unclear is like saying gravity is an unclear concept to fathom which couldn’t be further from the truth.

            Gravity can be defined and physically detected as the force of attraction between two massive objects. Can you define “natural” or “unnatural” with the same clarity and propose a test, physical or logical, to tell one from another?

            You reject my analogy with animals and I agree. We cannot define what is “natural” based on that, otherwise we will have to accept homosexual necrophilia as “natural”. But what is your definition of “natural”?

          • Wow okay to begin with the clarity that the physical sciences provide is different from that of the metaphysical world but clarity is clarity nonetheless unless i am talking to an empiricist or a materialist whom i would advise to stop here because according to them the rest might as well be sophistry.
            I impose no authority on my definition of the word and forgive me if i do not provide any test logical or otherwise but i do feel that it is a self-evident truth. What is ‘natural’ to the human form is that which aligns itself with all their physical endowments as well as their spiritual ones(nothing religious i just mean things like the mind,free will to choose ,that which isn’t physical) in order for the achievement of happiness of one and of all.Notice i speak of happiness and not pleasure therefore even something displeasing but good for happiness is encompassed in this such as the rejection of disorderly passions whose existence is not in itself bad but the choice to promote them is.For example if i am a pedophile and that is just what i am i must reject it to be happy and for the happiness of others because if i am to promote this passion in me i dare not discuss the chaos that is to ensue and please myself that act/choice is ‘unnatural’.The former of rejecting it is what i would term as ‘natural.’
            And this definition of ‘natural’ also imputes a responsibility to others and their happiness it is not at all a definition in the vacuum of self.

          • I agree that for any given individual, it is fairly clear what “natural” is just as for any given individual there is no ambiguity whatsoever regarding where is “left” and where is “right”. But ask two different people to look to the right and they might face in opposite directions. Besides, there is no way to define “left”.

            Let’s accept your definition of “natural”. I like this definition. I’m OK with any definition of a word as long as the meaning is clear. Using your definition, a person who is attracted to people of the same sex may feel unhappy in a heterosexual relationship. So it would be “unnatural” for that person to be in a heterosexual marriage. If the relationship is based on mutual consent and does not hurt anyone, gay marriage seems to fall under your definition of “natural” very well as in “it is natural for a person to marry a loved one”.

            Note that we have to agree on the definition. If I define “natural” as “customary”, then the statement will turn out to be false — customs have little to do with happiness.

          • ok let me tread carefully because i think you misunderstood me,
            “a person who is attracted to people of the same sex may feel unhappy in a heterosexual relationship”
            Ok here i really don’t think happiness has anything to do with feelings like i said feelings are involuntary happiness is very much a choice and a voluntary trait.And in my definition of natural i made a specific referral that it is a universal thing or rather it should touch on that aspect that is common to all of us, and it is not an aspect of involuntariness like feelings it is a matter of choice.Just like you and i know that it is wrong to kill this is a natural thing to us humans notice it has nothing to do with feelings because i might feel like avenging but that doesn’t change the fact.And right will always be right regardless who you are, where you stand ,how you grew up.This is what i said is natural.
            And say homosexuality falls in the category of ‘unnatural’ according to what i have said there is no imposition to be in a heterosexual marriage, being single is all right although it is not unnatural to do be in a heterosexual marriage.If my definition holds there is no such thing as your right is my left, my definition would put what is ‘natural’ under the category of self evident truths, truth is truth wherever, whenever,however.

            And also on this,

            ” If the relationship is based on mutual consent and does not hurt anyone”
            i have heard a lot of this as long as it based on mutual consent it is ok but is that really true.For example if i consent with my mother to kill her does it make what we did less of killing or did we take less of her life?
            And i would really like to hear your definition of hurting others, i think something can harm you even without it physically hurting you right?
            And everything we do even for ourselves if it isn’t good it hurts those around us.Like if my husband and i make a porno and my child gets a hold of it and shows it to her friend don’t you think we have harmed the conception of sex ,its role and its meaning for these children without physically harming them.Anything we do either helps or harms everyone else around us there is nothing like neutrality or my business when as humans we are constantly looking up to one another.

          • Just like you and i know that it is wrong to kill this is a natural thing to us humans notice it has nothing to do with feelings because i might feel like avenging but that doesn’t change the fact.

            Is it wrong to kill the enemy on the battlefield to defend you country and whatever it stands for? Or is it a duty?

            For example if i consent with my mother to kill her does it make what we did less of killing or did we take less of her life?

            Is it still wrong if the mother suffers from a terminal disease and suffers an unbearable pain every minute of her life? I’m not a fan of euthanasia, but, on the other hand, I don’t have close relatives in such situation who would beg me to kill them because life is too painful for them and there is no hope. I don’t feel that I’m in any position to impose my opinions on others in this matter. Is euthanasia hurting or helping people?

            In many cases, it’s obvious what is harmful – things causing unnecessary pain, suffering (moral suffering as defined by the suffering person included), damage to property, etc. In these cases, we can take a firm position and enforce our moral standards.

            In other cases (like euthanasia), things are a bit more fuzzy and that’s when convictions and faith help to decide. But, imo, convictions and faith are irrational. I can use them to make my own decisions, but I cannot impose them on others. Sometimes, upholding those moral standards means causing harm to others.

          • ok convictions can be rational in fact i don’t advise anyone to go by an irrational conviction or faith.You can always try to live by reason and rationality even in your faith, i personally can’t say i fully subscribe to any faith really but i do listen and pick a lot of what i do from different scriptures and i must say its not at all irrational in fact it bears a lot of rationality.
            And like you said you cannot impose them on anyone that’s why there is free will right?It is a personal choice.
            But this doesn’t make true moral convictions non-existent just because you cannot impose them. Discover and cross-examine the correct convictions then live by them that is all you have to do, teach those that you can teach by method of monologue or example but of course you can never force anyone to do anything even that which is good for them. Take the cow to the river and try to convince it to thirst for the water because we all know feeding it the water is out of the question totally that’s all i am saying.

          • ‘But ask two different people to look to the right and they might face in opposite directions. Besides, there is no way to define “left”.’
            This is true of opinion but not of truth or true knowledge that is standard for example if i ever said it is ok to kill children and you opposed me .It doesn’t mean that killing of children could be right or wrong all that it means is that there is a fundamental confusion in me about whether killing of children is wrong.If you know what truth is then you know that it stands devoid of whether there are alternative responses to it or the number of people against it, like i said truth is truth regardless of the human take on it.It is up to each one to discover and follow it or not.

          • If you know what truth is then you know that it stands devoid of whether there are alternative responses to it or the number of people against it, like i said truth is truth regardless of the human take on it.It is up to each one to discover and follow it or not.

            You talk about moral convictions. I’m all for having moral convictions and standing up for them in the face of adversity. For example, one may believe in human rights and be willing to die for the ideal like MLK did. Another person may believe in a samurai code of honor and be willing to commit a suicide if required by that code. But different people may live by different codes. Do you think that a father must kill his daughter guilty of adultery to save the honor of the family? Hope not. But in some societies such duty is not questioned. It is the absolute truth for those people, believe it or not.

            In some societies or groups, loyalty to the group or a leader is valued more than a life of an individual. Sometimes, people choose harm as a moral criterion, sometimes purity. Often the same act can be considered a duty in one system and a crime or a disgrace in another.

            Jonathan Haidt describes it well: http://righteousmind.com/

            Most of the moral arguments exist because people argue from different moral frameworks. In each framework, however, it is quite clear what is right or wrong. Each framework is legitimate and has merit, but there are place and time for each. E.g. in times of war, loyalty usually overrides harm and individual rights.

          • I think our definitions and contexts of the words ‘truth’ and ‘moral code’ are totally different and without that we really can’t ever agree, of that i am fairly certain.When you speak of a moral code i believe you are talking about a moral code in regards to culture and tradition.I’m afraid i am not talking about those cultural ‘moral codes’ which as you said are very different and vary in great detail.
            I’ll again get back to my definition of ‘natural’ like i said it subsists in the acts and decisions that are universal and common to all of us, these are things that are universal and intrinsic to all of us, All of these ‘natural’ things or rather expectations of us form the ‘moral code’ that i am talking about .It is above all of the ‘moral codes’ based on religion, culture,tradition even geographical positioning in fact these other diminutive moral codes are merely imperfect instances of it with mistakes and misconceptions many at times.This code is one based on basic reason and humanity which in my perspective we are all predisposed to regardless of our feelings and with even a modicum of reason we can fully and truly comprehend its telos at least i have.
            And lastly i get hints of relativism in you which again puts me on the opposite side of this discussion.Of the moral code i speak of there are no colors its black or its white.Whether it is an adulterous daughter ,a relative in pain ,a terrorist gunman in the trenches ,killing them will always be wrong and we all know it .Theirs is life and no we have no right to ever take it regardless of the circumstances in fact i would expect everyone to try their best and safeguard human life at all costs even accidental killing is still a killing and we should try to avoid it always, preservation of human life isn’t just a mantra for doctors it is for all of us, we who possess humanity.
            Obviously how one is punished in whichever country i don’t know about yours but in mine its based on positive law doesn’t change the damage or the intrinsic evil in the act.The act of killing should always be abhorred.Circumstances only change the moral responsibility of the doer like if i killed a person who was going to sexually assault me in self defense i am not as guilty as in a planned murder but the act of killing that very person can never be elevated to being a good or even desirable thing.In fact in future as per that experience people should develop ways that can be used to defend oneself without being lethally injurious to the perpetrator callousness is not the way of the human.
            Unless you can take half a life or just a quarter then maybe its not killing but if you are planning to take one’s life that will never be a good thing and this is not an opinion it is a truth.
            The moral framework i have laid out before as i have laid it and i have no claim over it, is the only one with any true merit.And when you say that each moral code, the cultural ones i mean, all have merit and are legitimate i will agree and disagree because in the instances that they agree with the universal moral framework i spoke of they are completely legit but when they disobey it they lose all merit .
            Let me analogize this say there’s a math problem and you are the teacher and math is universal right? And so is its logic but there are different ways of getting to the answer but the exact answer is one ,universal if i may say so although from experience i know this depends on the clarity of the problem’s demands but indulge me and let’s assume it is indeed clear.Many students all with different methods some may use calculus others trig, others will even use programming to get the answer yes?Different methods but same answer,and when the answer is fixed it is still correct but not the method and obviously if the method was erroneous for the particular question to begin with then the method is all wrong as well as the wrong answer it culminates.
            So are these moral codes coming in different shapes and sizes because as humans we are unique but not in our essential bits even though our interpretation of them is affected by our uniqueness.Different moral codes in different ways can achieve the same result, the correct result and these should be exalted but sometimes we make mistakes as a people and when we veer from the ultimate moral code in our own moral code then it loses all merit not to mention we also get the wrong answer to the math problem.And its a matter of discovery a discovery that i think no culture or person should stop, the problem comes in when ethnocentrism steps in and a wrong culture continues following an erroneous moral code and just because they’ve done it for years it has legitimacy, no way it doesn’t work like that.
            Africans were slaves for i think a century or more(I’m not the best historian even of my own culture forgive any inaccuracy in the aforementioned statistic) and it became common place to see a naked African being sold and this was a deep set tradition even in Africa amongst ourselves we had slavery and this has been done and even continues to be done even now.At times hopefully only historically it was a lawful practice but has the act of slavery ever had merit?
            Never, not then and not now.i don’t have the gift of divination if that kind of thing can even be relied upon but i know for sure that even in the future whatever it holds slavery will never have merit.
            Whatever makes it always wrong and never right regardless of the circumstance ,time, law or whatever if you agree with me is what i call ‘the moral code.’And it lives on even if only in one man’s mind this is what i think the modern world and the scientific process is all about, uncovering the truths that anchor themselves regardless of the seas or the tempests ahead.
            This i think is the problem of relativism, for sure you do not know everything and the process of learning continues but when you become lax even the few rigid truths that you do know slowly become slippery and elusive until you start thinking that maybe killing has its place, and why stop there maybe even rape has its place and throw in all the other things why don’t you.
            You can’t afford to be careless when you talk about truth it has devastatingly catastrophic consequences , a hard lesson to learn by experience, trust me.

          • hmm Jonathan Haidt does describe it well but i sort of disagree morality binds yes but it doesn’t blind if it is truly understood.You don’t just huddle around a holy object and chant ,understand why or why not to chant as well as the chants themselves and this for me sounds like enlightenment.In fact i’d argue that morality enlightens.
            I love the talk of asteroids and how war can reduce polarization and enhance interaction between a bi-partisan community.But i would hate to think misfortune and misery are the only ways in which people can unite.His method is faulty in that it has limited application can’t we unite even in good times?
            Nonetheless a well spent 20 minutes the man is brilliant i think i’ll have to read the book.Thank you for the enlightenment.

          • Ok Jonathan hit it right on the money on getting to know the moral psychology of people before claiming righteousness and use those traits to enhance our commitment to the truth and to healing the world.I shall certainly cultivate more of moral humility, thanks for the recommendation.A truly great talk that was.

        • I completely agree that humans shouldn’t do whatever animals do simply because it’s “natural”. Pooping wherever we feel like it is, perhaps, very “natural” – children do that, dogs and cats do that. This just reinforces my point that using the word “natural” in this context as an argument for or against gay marriage is nonsense.

  2. Isn’t it interesting that in all of his recorded sayings, Jesus never once says a bad word about homosexuals. He was incredibly tolerant of groups that the establishment persecuted in his time. For example, he associated with Jews who collected taxes for their Roman overlords, who were among the most hated. He famously defended a prostitute from being stoned to death for her “crime”. His two commandments are “love god” and “love your neighbors as much as you love yourself”. It’s entirely possible to be homosexual and to fully live by these commandments, but it is not possible if you hate homosexuals. A lot of Christian anti-homosexual apologists will point out that Paul (AKA Saul of Tarsus) condemns homosexuality in his letters. Paul was a former Pharisee (fundamentalist Jew) who was dealing with early Christian congregations who were largely Jewish as well. I think its entirely reasonable to doubt the validity of Paul’s statements as Christian principles. Rather, I would classify them as early Christian practices.

    • Yes. I thought about it as well. Homosexuality is not mentioned in the Gospels at all. Even in Paul’s writings he condemns the sexual immorality and lust in general rather than homosexuality per se, if I remember the text right.

      • Paul does condemn homosexuals, in Corinthians 6:9–10: “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God … nor homosexuals”. Paul was a man of his time. Would Jesus have agreed with him? I personally don’t believe so.

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