Belief “natural is always good” isn’t always true


In a popular pro-gay marriage song, Macklemore says, “The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision and you can be cured with some treatment and religion man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition.” Macklemore is expressing a common progressive argument for the moral permissibility of homosexuality: sexual orientation is innate, hardwired and immutable.

A common response from Christian conservatives is that homosexuality is an unnatural personal choice. However, both of these arguments are irrelevant to the question of whether homosexuality is immoral. Why do progressives insist that it must be innate? Since when does something need to be innate in order to be morally acceptable? Do most progressives really think they would start believing homosexuality is immoral if they found out that it really was a choice? I can’t imagine why they would. Just because something isn’t genetically hardwired doesn’t mean that it is immoral. Interracial relationships aren’t genetically predestined – it’s obviously a choice to date outside one’s race – but that doesn’t seem like any sort of a reason to say that those relationships are immoral. Why would it be wrong to make such a choice? By the same logic, why couldn’t people simply make the choice to engage in a romantic relationship with the same sex, regardless of their genetic predispositions?

Christians are also wasting their time with their side of the argument. Why do they insist that homosexuality cannot be innate? Would its innateness make it any less likely to be a sin? Not according to the standard biblical doctrine of Original Sin which has always taught that all men are born with an evil sinful nature. Many scientists, such as Simon Baron-Cohen in “The Science of Evil,” Barbara Oakley in “Evil Genes,” and Steven Pinker in “The Blank Slate,” have presented strong evidence that many people have innate dispositions to lust, seek vengeance, discriminate against “out-groups,” not love their neighbors and do many other things which the traditional Christian doctrine condemns as evil.

Scientific evidence for the innateness of evil shouldn’t convince Christians that these actions ought to now be accepted as morally good merely because people have a genetic disposition to commit them. To the contrary, the Bible predicts this type of genetic predisposition to sin. It teaches not only that the human heart is evil – “the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” and “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” – but also that this is how humans are born – “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” David also confirms in Psalm 51:5 the genetic predisposition to sin when he says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

Obviously, proving that homosexuality is innate wouldn’t influence the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin. It could be innate and be a sin or it could be innate and not be a sin. And it could be a choice and not be a sin or it could be a choice and be a sin.

Both sides need to stop appealing to the naturalistic fallacy – the idea that what is natural is always good – in their arguments. It does nothing to help either position. For example, progressives don’t think that the desires of sociopaths or pedophiles are morally acceptable just because there is a genetic component to their condition. While some progressives may think that these people should be treated as victims because of the genetic predisposition, they would still certainly promote sociopaths and pedophiles attempting to change their desires if possible.

Neither side consistently applies this “natural equals good” reasoning to the rest of their positions, so why is it the focus when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation? In order to make a case for or against the morality of homosexuality both sides need to start focusing on arguments that establish its benefits or harms and stop wasting time arguing about whether it’s genetic.

Andrew Rogers is a junior in philosophy. Please comments to