Question: Is the following a good summation of the argument used, starting decades ago, to normalize homosexuality?
“Many researchers [are] taking a different view of homosexuality,” a newspaper wrote late last century. “Homosexuality once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a deep-rooted predisposition that does not change.” These “experts view it as a sexual orientation as immutable as heterosexuality…,” the periodical later added.
You may recognize this as the foundation of the “born that way” argument, with such claims regularly used to promote the idea that if something is innate, questioning it smacks of bigotry. But I have a confession to make: I told a little fib (for effect). The above quotation is not from decades ago but from the Los Angeles Times on January 14, 2013 — and the subject wasn’t “homosexuality.” I’d inserted that term in place of another: pedophilia.
The passage originally read:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, huh?
This comes to mind, again, because the born-that-way argument is now also used to justify MUSSes (Made-up Sexual Statuses, aka “transgender” ones). But its use to whitewash pedophilia is illustrative: If the principle is valid, then anything — from the good to the bad to the ugly — is morally licit if it’s inborn. That way lies madness and civilizational death.
Note here that “experts” have also told us that psychopathy is inborn and that, similarly, genes may cause alcoholism. (We’re all just organic robots, some pounds of chemicals and water, whose behavior is explainable via hardware and software, don’t you know?) Does this mean that if someone is born with homicidal instincts, it’s okay for him to commit murder? Should we endorse a person’s liter-a-day gin habit if his urge to drink like a fish is innate?
This can be analogized to physicality. We know man can manifest a multitude of physical abnormalities; e.g., spina bifida, cleft palate, heart defects, microcephaly, cystic fibrosis. We recognize that they are in fact abnormalities and undesirable states of being, however, and correct or at least mitigate them when possible. Why, someone I know well was born with one foot turned inwards 90 degrees. But his physician father, understanding the malleability of babies’ bones, gradually corrected the problem by taping the foot appropriately. Should he have left it as it was because the kid was “born that way”?
The point is, again, that something’s status as inborn has no bearing whatsoever on whether it’s good from a human-health standpoint or, in behaviors’ case, its morality. As to the latter, the lesson here could be said to be that genetics doesn’t determine morality; however, espousing the born-that-way argument is, in fact, to act as if morality doesn’t even exist and replace it with biological determinism. And, once more, this principle could justify anything — as long as it’s considered innate.
Some may now say, referencing pedophilia and the homicidal instincts example, “But, wait, they’re not like ‘transgenderism.’ Those things are wrong!” Congratulations. By citing their “wrongness,” you’re instinctively recognizing the Truth: Morality exists and is above those supposedly biologically induced feelings (and corresponding behaviors) — for if it can be used as a yardstick with which to judge them, it is above them.
This said, even the Bible alludes to genetically influenced misdeeds; e.g., “The sins of the father will be visited upon the child.” There’s no question people are born with different characteristic weaknesses and temptation tendencies; one person may have a greater urge to drink heavily while another may be more inclined toward lust. This doesn’t mean they should give their darker urges free rein, however, but that they should cultivate the virtue (good moral habits) that can preclude their acting upon them.
If anyone still disagrees, note that many scientists now say we’re born “racist.” So if “born that way”=behavior a-okay, it must be bigoted to pejoratively call someone racist. Just pass out the white KKK hoods and New Black Panther party berets, and shut the heck up.
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.