This one is easy. The short answer, just like the last question:
And due to the potentially offensive nature of the subject,
I guess I need some disclaimers, like -- I've never engaged in
gay sex, find the prospect of doing so abhorrent, and am not
really all that enamored with gay marriage either. But all
that is outside the scope of the question, yet you never know
who will be reading this who does not understand the point of
The question implies the existence a Christian-like God to judge
"right" and "wrong", which, as in the previous question, I find
no evidence of. Without such a judge, there can be no "wrong".
Therefore gay sex cannot be wrong. What others do with their
bodies, and the bodies of competent, consenting majors, is
their business. Just don't impose it on me.
Cast more abstractly, the question asks us to consider the question
of absolutes. Absolute truth, absolute morality, absolute
right and wrong. A more interesting wording of the question might
be, Is it a universal, absolute truth that gay sex is immoral?
I just prefer word it -- Are there absolutes?
I've actually spent a great deal of my earlier life thinking about
this question. It all started with a rock song, Just Like
Heaven, by The Cure.
But Just Like Heaven
The first time I heard that song, I felt it was one of the best
songs ever recorded. It just blows you away (and still does for
me, over 20 years later). I wondered, is there something
absolute that makes that song better than most others?
What if I played the album it is on for people who aren't really
familiar with that genre of music? Would most pick that song as
the best? If I played that song, and a really bad song, say
Bennie and the Jets, for African tribesmen who have had
no exposure to Western music at all, would most prefer
Just Like Heaven? Would such results suggest there was some
sort of absolute truth in the art of that song?
Who knows? My budget does not allow me to perform, at least,
the latter experiment. But there is a mountain of evidence
that suggests that that song is considered "better" than virtually
all of its peers. I didn't know this at the time, but I came to
learn that there wasn't a critic to be found who did not put that
as the best song, or near best, of the genre (pre-grunge alternative,
for anyone interested), as well as DJs, fans, countdown lists,
etc. It was a stunning result, for me at the time, and convinced
me that there was absolute truth in art, inasmuch as there is an
example of art that is independently considered by many to be
the best. It has even been reported that Robert Smith has said
that he thinks that it is his best song, and is the best responded to
by his audiences.
(As an aside, this song came to be bounced by Smells Like Teen
Spirit when the grunge era of alternative music arrived. There
is reason to be suspicious of this; in particular as that song was
out a good year with no critical or popular acclaim before it was
promoted, and its later acclaim is no doubt more a result of its
part in breaking Nirvana/grunge/alternative from the underground
to the mainstream, rather than its absolute artistic merit; it was
"in the right place at the right time" when it was time for something,
anything, to kill hair metal, and only arose when people became
so fed up with that form (its a good song, but its popularity stems
from its novelty)).
Given this observation, that there was widespread critical and
popular acceptance of the idea that Just Like Heaven was
"better" than pretty much all of its peers, and I, at least,
independently arrived at the same conclusion, it seemed reasonable
to conclude that there were absolutes in art. We all "know" that
some art is simply "better" than others. I'm not sure I'd
describe this as evidence of absolutes, but certainly it was
I came to believe that there were many such absolutes, such
that it was absolutely evil to commit murder, and absolutely
good to help an old lady across the street, despite having no
other axioms, such as lack of heavy faith in Christian-like
Gods. It all came down to evidence. Why couldn't a faith be
based on a list of universal absolutes, rather than a Western-style
God? At least there was a little evidence for the former, and at
least they were reasonable tenets to guide one's life. This would
cut across all cultures without the awkward problem of culture X
not believing in a Western-style God, yet still observing that
murder is bad. Such a notion appears to solve alot of problems
rather cleanly. If there was an absolute truth that gay sex was
wrong, there you have it. If there was no evidence of such an
absolute, well, that which is not explicitly prohibited is allowed.
Well, I don't intend to solve the question with that answer either.
It is sort of a "whatever" answer. Besides, its wrong (except for
the part that there is no evidence of an absolute prohibiting
Or Is It All Relative
The opposite of absolutism is relativism. What if there
is a relativistic way to explain the Just Like Heaven and
"murder is evil" observations without axioms, without absolutes?
What if there is evidence that a relativistic answer could
be right, or at least not absolutist answers that can explain things?
Turns out, I think there is. Relativism suggests that there are
no absolute rights and wrongs, no absolute truth in art, nothing,
really, when you get down to it.
So why does it work? Why do we have right and wrong, morality, etc.?
Why is murder bad? Why might gay sex be wrong?
Well, I don't think lions think murder (or at least infanticide), is
wrong. When a male lion takes over the pride, it kills the pride's
existing offspring. It doesn't go to jail or anything like that,
nor is it even socially ostracized. I doubt it goes to "hell" either.
So that's it, we're just beasts in the jungle, and nothing matters?
No (but wouldn't an absolute apply to a lion?) The evidence suggests
that morality is an evolved behavior. The short version
is that the evidence suggests that humans evolved as highly social
creatures where cooperation was a life or death matter, and immoral
actions, or non-cooperative actions against other individuals could
compromise the survival of the entire group, thus members of the
society evolved procedures to detect and remediate immorality or
anti-social behavior, as well as evolved morality so as not to be
subject to such remediation, as being so is surely the death knell
of you and your genes. As in classical evolutionary theory, those
groups that had members who evolved cooperative and moral group
behavior had a competitive advantage over those who did not, and
thus moral traits evolved in humans. Bottom line, moral creatures
had a better survival rate, thus moral creatures evolved and
propagated, at the expense of immoral ones (this is an
over-simplification, and I wasn't all that careful on the genotype/
phenotype thing, but that stuff doesn't really matter at this level).
(It would be way, way, too many pages to present the evidence here.
Some of the books at the end so much better than I could attempt
to anyway. My reading is that this theory, which I call the "evolution
of virtue", is a touch more controversial than the basic theory of
evolution. There are alot of mainstream evolutionary biologists
and cognitive psychologists on board with this, tho it is not
without its serious detractors. Like evolution, I personally believe
it is right, and it is how I rationalize relativism, and come up
with a definitive answer to this chapter's question).
Common Evolved Morality (Illusionary Absolutism)
So, what we end up with is a morality that has evolved in our genotype,
and presents in most of us (certain pathologies seem to compromise it
or prevent it from presenting in everyone). It appears as an absolute
as it presents pretty much the same in every human in every culture,
because there is very little variation between humans, regardless of
culture. Absolutism looks right on several questions, such as those
of morality, because we are all the same person really, but that is
an illusion, as a relativistic explanation also exists, and there is
biological and sociological evidence for the latter.
We don't need to appeal to absolutism to explain our
thoughts on morality. We are moral not because it is the right
thing to do in the eyes of God or some other absolute that must be
taken on faith, but because it is the right thing to do in society.
I'll admit I'm a bit uncomfortable with social relativism. I like
the comfort of a list of absolutes to live by, and some judge punishing
the transgressors 100% effectively. But there is no evidence for
such a construct. There is evidence for the evolution of morality
in the explanation I have presented above, and thus Occam's Razor
demands it be accepted, as unpalatable as that seems, until different
or contrary evidence or thought trumps it.
(Just a note on the Just Like Heaven example. That was my
way of thinking about absolutism, and trying to conclude if it was
right. The relativistic explanation would be along these lines --
It has been demonstrated that most humans, regardless of culture,
when shown landscape pictures, prefer those of rolling grassy plains
with sparse trees to most other landscape pictures. That would appear
as an absolute preference in art, but as humans evolved on the
savanna of Africa as opposed to other landscapes, they have evolved
to take comfort in that scenery. I don't know what components
of Just Like Heaven humans may have evolved to respond to
as opposed to other songs, but it is likely that similar explanations
underly many responses to art without needing to resort to absolutism.
(There is a little fancy footwork here, in that if there is an
absolute, it would be mathematics (this concept is at least as old
as Plato), and music and alot of other art is a manifestation of
math, but I'm handwaving over that here, as the construct was set
up only as a way to think about absolutism and relativism,
and I'm not convinced that the mathematics, but other factors, underlie
the appeal of Just Like Heaven).
So, I find gay sex to be governed by social relativism, and not God
or any other absolute, and thus not "wrong", although it may be
contrary to the mores of the local society (it is against the law
in parts of the United States, and it is punished by society
(outside the law) in other parts). It may appear wrong in
a society where so few practice it, and that society may make claims
that it is wrong, even to construct theology to that effect to scare
the living bejeezus out of its practicioners, or justify the earthly
punishment of same. It may also appear as an absolute if
so few engage in it openly.
Gay Planets and Uncles
Imagine the planet Yag, who, because of extreme population
constraints, has evolved such that only 10% of the population
reproduces and engages in heterosexual sex, while the other 90%
engages in gay sex. Would gay sex be "wrong" there? That planet
is in our universe; do we have the same God? Doesn't seem fair
to them, does it? On Yag, gay sex is perfectly within the mores
of their society, and no, no one is going to hell for it.
I do not even find homosexuality a universal social more on the this
planet. Due to population constraints in certain environments, present
and historical, there is evidence that it is an accepted social more in
some of these.
One final point. What if there a survival advantage to having gay
siblings? I call this the "gay uncle" postulate. It has been
suggested that the biochemistry of the womb makes it more likely
that the third brother in a set of brothers from the same womb will
be gay (in short, this science suggests that for every older brother,
a man's probability of being gay increases by one-third). Some
of this is speculative, but the theory holds that the progeny of
brothers with a gay uncle will be better off than the progeny
of three heterosexual brothers. The gay uncle will commit
resources to the survival of his nephews and nieces, while
a third straight brother will commit his resources to his
own progeny first. In a resource-thin environment,
the progeny with the gay uncle will have more resources at their
disposal on average than the progeny of the three straight brothers,
and thus will have a competitive advantage. Since their genes are
shared with the mother who had this womb with this biochemistry,
this syndrome will be passed along, and could be selected for.
Speculative, true, but possible. If so, it would be an evil God
indeed who sent the gay uncle to hell for being part of a more
Well, time to see how the Prof thinks. I wasn't too bad on
the previous question. Give myself a B- on the philosophy, and a
C on the writing.