Friday, June 22, 2007
Over at Arts and Letters Daily is an article that does just about as good a job as possible of discussing potential biological causes of homosexuality in today's context of politicized science, legislated morality, and the left's co-option of the issue of sexual preference. I highly recommend the article as a very interesting read, regardless of your sexual orientation. It is that good.
I wish here to focus on one issue that appears twice in the article: Although the area of research described in this article is in its infancy, one clear implication is that science could discover a biological basis for homosexuality and invent a way to allow a couple to prevent their child from developing as a homosexual.
The topic interests me because I am considering having children. I would love my children no matter what sexual orientation they ended up with, but homosexuality is not something I would necessarily want for them. Because the science is young, it is academic to us whether my wife and I could do this, but if it were possible, I would seriously consider it.
Before I answer the obvious question the research brings up, which is, "Should a couple be allowed to implement such a medical technique?" I wish to consider two possible answers from the article. The first answer, which author David France and I both agree is completely unacceptable, is the one that certain religionists would give, namely that such a procedure would not only be acceptable, but should be required by law:
Some of this research may prove to be significant; some will ultimately get chalked up to coincidence. But the thrust of these developing findings puts activists in a bind and brings gay rights to a major crossroads, perhaps its most significant since the American Psychiatric Association voted to declassify homosexuality as a disease in 1973. If sexual orientation is biological, and we are learning to identify how it happens inside the uterus, doesn't it suggest a future in which gay people can be prevented? This spring, R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of a Southern Baptist theological seminary in Kentucky and one of the country’s leading Evangelical voices, advocated just that. "We want to understand why some persons will struggle with that particular sin," he explained. "If there is a way we can help with the struggle, we should certainly be open to it, the same way we would help alcoholics deal with their temptation."I do not regard homosexuality as a moral issue, and, of course, recognize that homosexuals, as human beings, possess the same individual rights as everyone else, and that these rights should be protected just as strongly as the rights of all others.
That in part is why gay people have not hungered for this breakthrough. Late last year, Martina Navratilova joined activists from PETA to speak out against an experiment that sought to intentionally turn sheep gay (it failed, but another experiment successfully turned ferrets into homosexuals, and the sexual orientations of fruit flies have been switched in laboratories). Some 20,000 angry e-mails clogged the researchers' inboxes, comparing the work to Nazi eugenics and arguing that it held no promise of any kind to gay people. "There are positives, but many negatives" to this kind of research, says Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "I will bet my life that if a quote-unquote cure was found, that the religious right would have no problem with genetic or other kind of prenatal manipulations. People who don't think that's a clear and present danger are simply not living in reality."
Having said that, what, exactly, is wrong with making all couples adopt measures to have children who will not develop into homosexuals? It is wrong to do this, but it isn't because this would somehow violate the rights of any homosexuals who are alive at the moment, which is how I see the political activist above interpreting such an idea. What is wrong with the idea is that it violates reproductive rights.
I will elaborate a bit more on that last sentence in a moment, but not before I consider the second answer to this question which appears in the article, and which makes the very same mistake, but with the opposite objective!
The rush to declare a biological mandate is motivated by a political agenda, says [feminist biologist [sic] Anne] Fausto-Sterling, the author of Sexing the Body, who is married to a woman after a marriage to a man. "For me and for any feminist, I think it’s a pretty fragile way to argue for human rights. I want to see the claims for gay rights made on moral, ethical, legal, and constitutional bases that don't rely on a particular scientific view of sexual development."The clear implication is that the likes of Fausto-Sterling would seek to ban any such measures -- violating the reproductive rights of a couple, and ironically enough, on the basis of a "scientific view of sexual development" that has been politicized.
Especially if that view invites the opponents of gay people to consider dramatic interventions meant to stop the development of homosexual orientation in a fetus. What if prenatal tests were able to show a predisposition to gayness? How long would it be before some pharmaceutical company develops a patch to regulate hormone flow and direct the baby’s orientation? [bold added]
To David France's great credit, he does quote someone else who does not make either error, but that person does not adequately explain his stand, only that "There's no reason to ban, or become hysterical about, selecting for heterosexuality," before making such a vague statement on the nature of parenting that I cannot express agreement or disagreement with it.
While I do not think a step that could affect the intellectual and psychological development of a child should be taken lightly, a woman has just as much right to determine the traits of a fetus she brings to term as she does to decide whether to complete her pregnancy. To require by law either that she prevent her future children from becoming homosexual -- or that she forgo an attempt to prevent them from becoming homosexual against her wishes -- is to make the same fundamental error as making abortion illegal, which is to violate the right of a woman to control her own body and thereby to exercise some rational control over the rest of her life post conception to the best of her ability and judgement.
Ayn Rand once said, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." I completely agree. If homosexuals wish to see their rights respected by society at large (and protected as they should be by the government), they must work for the protection of the rights of all individuals within that society, including the reproductive rights of heterosexuals.
Today: (1) Deleted the word "other" from last sentence. (2) Ergo also discusses this article.