A Philosopher's Blog

Homosexuality, Choice & Engineering

Posted in Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on February 14, 2014
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In my previous essay I rambled a bit about homosexuality and choice. The main point of this was to set up this essay, which focuses on the ethics of engineering people to be straight.

In general terms, sexual orientation is either a choice or it is not (though choice can be a matter of degree). Currently, many of the people who are against homosexuality take the view that it is a matter of choice. This allows them to condemn homosexuality and to push for methods aimed at motivating people to choose to be straight. Many of those who are at least tolerant of homosexuality contend that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. They are, of course, careful to take the view that being homosexual is more like being left-handed than having an inherited disease. This view is taken as justification for at least tolerating homosexuality and as a reason to not allow attempts to push homosexuals in an impossible effort to get them to choose to be straight.

For the sake of this essay, let it be assumed that homosexuality is not a matter of choice—a person is either born with her orientation or it develops in a way that is beyond her choice. To blame or condemn the person would be on par with blaming a person for being born with blue eyes or to condemn a person for being left-handed. As such, if homosexuality is not a choice, then it would be unjust to condemn or blame a person for her sexual orientation. This seems reasonable.

Ironically, this line of reasoning might make it morally permissible to change a person’s orientation from gay to straight. The argument for this is as follows.

As has been supposed, a person’s sexual orientation is not a matter of choice: she is either born that way or becomes that way without being able to effect the result. The person is thus a “victim” of whatever forces made her that way. If these forces had been different in certain ways, then she would have had a different sexual orientation—either by chance or by the inexorable machinery of determinism. Given that the person is not making a choice either way, it would seem to be morally acceptable for these factors to be altered to ensure a specific orientation. To use an analogy, I did not choose my eye color and it would not matter, it would seem, whether this was due to a natural process or due to an intentional intervention on the part of others (by modifying me genetically). After all, the choice is not mine either way.

It could be replied that other people would not have the right to make the choice—that it should be left to blind chance (or blind determinism). This does have some merit—whatever they do to change a person, they would be morally accountable for. However, from the standpoint of the person, there would seem to be no difference: they do not get a choice either way. I ended up with blue eyes by chance, but if I was engineered to have green eyes, then the result would be the same: my eye color would not be my choice. I ended a heterosexual, but if I had been engineered to be a homosexual, I would have had no more or less choice.

Thus, robbing a person of choice would not be a moral concern here: if a person does not get a choice, she cannot be robbed of that choice. What is, however, of moral concern is the ethics of the choice being made to change (or not change) the person. If the change is beneficial, such as changing a person so that her heart develops properly rather than failing before she is born, then it would seem to be the right thing to do. If the change is harmful, such as altering the person’s brain so that he suffers from paranoia and psychosis, then it would seem to be the wrong thing to do.

In the matter at hand, the key concern would be whether making a person a heterosexual or a homosexual would be good or bad. As noted above, since it is assumed that sexual orientation is not a choice, engineering a person to be straight or gay would not be robbing them of a choice. Also, the change of orientation can be assumed to be thorough so that a person would be equally happy either way. In this case, the right choice would seem to be a matter of consequences: would a person be more or less likely to be happy straight or not? Given the hostility that still exists towards homosexuals, it would seem that engineering people to be straight would be the right choice.

This might strike some as horrifying and a form of orientation genocide (oriocide?) in which homosexuals are eliminated. Or, more accurately, homosexuality is eliminated. After all, the people who would have been homosexual (by change or by the mechanisms of determinism) would instead be straight, but they would still presumably be the same people they would be if they were gay (unless sexual orientation is an essential quality in Aristotle’s sense of the term). If orientation is not a choice, it would seem that this would not matter: no one is robbed of a choice because one cannot be robbed of what one never possessed.

A rather interesting question remains: if sexual orientation is not a choice, what harm would be done if everyone where engineered to be straight? Or gay?

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30 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on February 14, 2014 at 8:50 am

    “To blame or condemn the person would be on par with blaming a person for being born with blue eyes or to condemn a person for being left-handed.”

    What about alcoholism or obesity? Does someone choose to be an alcoholic or is she born that way? If someone is a born alcoholic, can we blame her for drinking?

    • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 9:00 am

      TJ,

      How would you reconcile natural selection and the “born that way” argument for homosexuality, especially considering the relatively high percentage of homosexuals that was found in the Kinsey study?

      Do you find it interesting that Americans believe there is an even higher percentage of homosexuals in the population than the questionable studies show? Why do you suppose this is?

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/6961/what-percentage-population-gay.aspx

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 14, 2014 at 9:31 am

        Very interesting. Must be the effect of cultural propaganda. Maybe 25% of the people you see on TV are gay?

        I read an article the other day arguing that we should be teaching statistics in high school instead of other math. I am inclined to agree.

        • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 9:35 am

          Can you link to that article?

        • WTP said, on February 14, 2014 at 10:33 am

          Took statistics in college. The professor, a man with a doctorate mind you, did not understand the Monty Hall problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem). Given that I have seen many a high school math teacher who does not understand the PEMDAS acronym properly, to the point that many adult, educated people have it wrong, I’m not encouraged at the thought.

          What we really need are more adults who are capable of critical thinking. How can we possibly get there when many of our college professors lack the fundamental skills yet at the same time claim to be knowledgeable on the subject? Cut the problem off at the source by eliminating/marginalizing the sophists.

          • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

            Ok, so let me see if I understand the Monty Hall Problem. It’s interesting and telling that some of the best statisticians in the world did not understand it, despite it being non-complex.

            Here goes:
            1) Monty Hall always opens a door behind which he knows there are goats.
            2) Monty Hall never initially opens the door which the contestant chooses.
            3) Since two doors are automatically exempt from being initially revealed by Monty Hall, (car and the contestant’s initial choice), the chance that the one remaining door contains the car is higher, and the contestant should switch his or her choice.

            Right?

            • WTP said, on February 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

              Yes, this is correct.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm

              If Paul Erdos was confused, I think we can forgive your high school math teacher, WTP ;-)

              Many readers of vos Savant’s column refused to believe switching is beneficial despite her explanation. After the problem appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers, including nearly 1,000 with PhDs, wrote to the magazine, most of them claiming vos Savant was wrong (Tierney 1991). Even when given explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still do not accept that switching is the best strategy (vos Savant 1991a). Paul Erdős, one of the most prolific mathematicians in history, remained unconvinced until he was shown a computer simulation confirming the predicted result (Vazsonyi 1999).

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

              Sneak in, switch the car and the goats before the show. Brainwash the goats to attack the other contestants when the door is opened. Pick the goat door. Victory is assured.

            • WTP said, on February 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

              Mike doesn’t understand it, so out comes the clown nose.

              This story best illustrates the problem with the ivory tower types. It was not my HS math teacher but my college statistics professor who was the problem. My HS math teachers were not that egotistical. In fact, my professor was quoted in Ms. Savant’s book (McClure or some such was his name) as being most obstinate. Consequently, some of those professors’ best students are most fun to argue with. It’s quite the tell. You can spot the ones who really think vs. the ones who simply accept and regurgitate what they’re told. I’ve come quite close to making some money on this with some of such people. After I tire of arguing and simply say, let’s make a bet. Ms. Savant describes such a scenario in her book (without the betting part) by imagining a deck of cards with one joker vs. simply three doors.

            • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

              I admit it made my head hurt a bit, and that I have the advantage of reading the wiki entry beforehand.

              On the other hand I have an associate’s degree from a community college in Maine and no training in advanced math.

            • WTP said, on February 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

              Oh, initially I was guilty of not understanding it either. Mostly because I had (implicit) faith that my professor knew his sh*t. That, and the fact that you HAD to put the wrong answer on the test. And it was math, so what were the odds of the professor being wrong (heh)? Perhaps a graduate student in statistics could do a study on that. But upon the opportunity of hearing the other side of the issue, or more accurately knowing there was another (educated) side to the issue, it made sense. Mostly due to Ms. vos Savant’s description of the answer. But if you think about expanding the problem from finding a non-goat behind 3 doors to finding the Ace of Spades in 52 cards, it becomes rather clear. Thus the opportunity to make some serious coin off people who have no idea how smart they really are.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      An excellent question. I’ve written other posts on these matters, such as the extent of free choice and blaming people when they cannot do otherwise.

      Quickly, I’d say this: behavior that is not within a person’s control would seem to free them from blame or praise. We don’t blame people for inherited diseases or for getting hit by a falling chunk of a building. So, the key question is how much of alcoholism and obesity is choice and how much is beyond the person’s control? Since I buy into free will because of my pragmatic argument, I think that people do have a choice to drink or eat-although we face different factors.

      To use an analogy to running, people have different abilities and hence it is easier or harder for a person to run faster or overcome challenges. However, within these limits, a person makes decisions. Like in my half marathon-I could have stopped, but I decided not to. Since I’m a trained athlete with decades of experience, this was much easier for me than it would be for some person hitting the starting line for the first time. Likewise, someone who is predisposed to alcoholism or obesity has it harder-so they are to be condemned less for failure and praised more for success.

      • WTP said, on February 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm

        Like in my half marathon-I could have stopped, but I decided not to. Since I’m a trained athlete with decades of experience, this was much easier for me than it would be for some person hitting the starting line for the first time.

        You will notice how Mike can pick up on this little factoid of expertise, yet feel completely justified in telling insurance companies that their policies are “not up to spec”, how McDonald’s should pay its employees, and other such utterances concerning economics, of which he knows next to nothing.

  2. magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Sometimes I think you view the world as Manichean: Evil corporatists and christian zealots on one side, gays and intellectuals on the other.

    It seems to me that the percentage of people trying to convert gays to straightness is infinitesimally small. No one obsesses about homosexuality as much as homosexuals and Yahoo News. As a matter of fact, I think there’s more attempts to convert straights to gay than the other way around. And because they are so busy, they seem to have unusual political power. This should concern anyone who supports democracy. But undeserved political power only concerns those on Mike’s side when it comes to corporate lobbyists.

    What bothers those on my side of the political spectrum is the social engineering occurring through carefully crafted language and illogical and unsupported arguments, as well as marination in constant propaganda and social media that plainly is attempting to change the way we think.

    So I ask all the enlightened individuals out there: Do you want your children o be gay? Do you honestly have “no preference”?

    I also ask Mike, if indeed there is social engineering going on (not the security social engineering, but engineering of people’s thoughts, PSYOPS in military parlance), why are you not offended that this may take away a portion of a person’s choice? Do people in North Korea have a choice to disagree with Marxism? I mean, if they’re marinated in the ideology, how much choice can they really have?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Not at all. That implies an organized world, which goes against the evidence.

      I don’t have children, but if I did, I don’t think I’d love them any less if they were gay or any more if they were straight.

      I am against robbing people of choice. I am against the dictatorship in North Korea. However, there is significant difference between biological determinism and living in a dictatorship. Note: I am not claiming that biological determinism is true.

      • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm

        “I don’t think I’d love them any less if they were gay or any more if they were straight.”

        Neither would I, but this isn’t what I asked.

      • magus71 said, on February 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

        And you are not addressing my assertion that there is a significant amount of pro-gay messages in the media, which may be affecting the way people behave.

        • ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

          Mike seems to be ignoring the sociological aspects altogether.

          And it’s more than just pro-gay messages in the media… it’s been a long term plan to invert Christian moral standards by those who hate Christ.

          What we have seen, for many years, is the engineering of our society away from Christian influence and toward an inverted, anti-moral, anti-christ society.

          Sade, Nietzsche, and Foucault are the anti-philosophers of our anti-christian, anti-moral era.

          Theirs is a simple philosophy: Good is evil and evil is good.

          Gay is not just okay, we are told, it’s better than being straight.

          Jung told us bisexuality was ideal… the goal we should seek after in order to attain psychological health.

          Sexual orientation is the same as eye color?

          What about Sadian incest, rape, murder, and necrophilia? Sade’s sexual orientation?

          Who, today, could dare tell Sade that he couldn’t do whatever he chose to do sexually? And praise him for his choices?

          What possible moral and philosophical ground could one use to tell him incest, rape, murder, and necrophilia were evil, immoral, and illegal?

          I’m afraid Professor Mike, who works for the politically correct social engineering system, is invoking a completely arbitrary and bogus moral standard and is doing his part to creating a social system wherein morality is frowned upon and immorality is lauded.

          It seems to me nothing is considered immoral today except Christian moral standards.

          Intolerance will not be tolerated and Christian moral standards are immoral is the mantra of our day.

          Being a libertine is politically correct. Being a Christian is not.

          I’m waiting now for the post concerning homo/hetero/bi sexually programed sexbots, freedom, and choice.

          The sexbots’ choice and freedom…. not ours. Apparently we have none :P

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm

            Incest, murder, rape and necrophilia are wrong. However, being a rapist is rather different from being gay. One key distinction is the matter of consent: part of what makes rape wrong is that the victim is just that, a victim and not a consenting partner. I do believe there are limits to consent, of course. So, easy enough to tell Sade he is wrong.

            Also, incest, murder, rape and so on clearly create harm to the victims. Being gay does not seem to create such harm. As such, a person being gay is not my business-it does not hurt me or others. A murderer, however, makes it my business by harming others.

            I suspect that sexual orientation is not a choice, but I do hold that sexual behavior is a choice. As such, people can be judged for what they do-but not simply for what they must be (that is, when there is no choice).

            Suppose a gay person only has consensual sex with one partner she marries, treats her with love and compassion, and sticks with her until death does them part. No affairs, no cruelty, no abuse, no rape. Where lies the evil of her sexual orientation and behavior? Is it “just wrong”?

            • apollonian said, on February 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

              Mike: if u were a genuine, serious student of philosophy, u’d understand it’s HUGE error to take things out of context. Homosexuality is irrationalism, psychosis, product of a psychotic, degenerate society–it’s TOTALLY impossible and absurd for gays to treat w. “love and compassion sticks with her until death does them part. No affairs, no cruelty, no abuse, no rape.”

              Homosexuality is mere irrationalist, obsessive indulgence. Yes, heterosexuality can be such indulgence too, but it doesn’t change the psychotic nature of homosexuality. Homosexuality is also anti-social, OBVIOUSLY.

              Thus the rational society encourages the raising of rational children for social-security and the sustaining of the culture, etc. Homosexuality is the mark of a degenerate, corrupt, irrationalist, over-populated society in “Decline of the West,” by Oswald Spengler.

              It goes to show how utterly out of reality ur abstraction takes u for ur desperate contrivances to push politically-correct, big-brother thought-control u so cheerily work for.

            • magus71 said, on February 15, 2014 at 8:48 am

              So all of ancient Greece had a genetic predisposition for homosexuality or bisexuality?

              Homosexuality is a culture. It’s obvious to me. The more pop-culture advocates homosexuality, the larger the homosexual culture will and has become.

              It is not a choice in the classic sense, anymore than acting like an American after being born in America is a choice. Though of course, a person can consciously make the effort to change.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

              I think there is plenty of evidence that in places like jail ordinarily hetero men will engage in homosexual behavior. This was probably the case in the armies of ancient times as well.

            • WTP said, on February 15, 2014 at 7:31 pm

              Magus if this is important to you you really should try to make a genuine effort to get to know some gay people. There’s also this tendency to see one outcome as being derived from one cause. Similar to how you discuss evolution. Gotta run or I’d say this more tactfully.

            • magus71 said, on February 16, 2014 at 8:59 am

              I’m concerned because this agenda is going the same way feminism did. Lies, distortions, power grabs, full media and intellectual buy-in.

              I don’t at all view this as having one cause. It’s far too complex for that, as are almost all human interactions. This is a core belief of real conservative thought. It’s the libs that think it has one cause: A mysterious gene no one can find.

            • wtp said, on February 16, 2014 at 9:39 pm

              I’m concerned because this agenda is going the same way feminism did.
              Well, understandably so. Yet feminism did have some points early on. It’s just gotten out of control. Camille Paglia, as you’ve referenced, speaks of this and some of the excesses of the gay activist agenda. But there being an agenda of a small segment of gays is not a reflection of all or even most gays, AFAICT. Nor does it have bearing on the nature/nurture factor. The greater threat, and you’ll find gays who agree with this if you dig a little, is the wussification of our culture. Yes, the gay activists bear some responsibility for this but again, not all gays agree. And really, who is responsible? The ones raising the issue, or those who are not gay who go along with it, endorse it, and even celebrate it? And who are these people?

  3. apollonian said, on February 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    It’s Simply Hubris (Madness) To Seriously Entertain Human Engineering

    In Mike’s second sentence he asks about “engineering” people, BEGGING THE QUESTION as to the ethics of “engineering people” in the first place, for any reason whatever–and it’s not like it hasn’t actually already happened in history.

    Comrades, this is the VERY PICTURE of HUBRIS, by definition–pretending to being God-like for “engineering” human beings.

    So Mike, would u accept anyone “engineering” u?

    I guess it’s much like Mike’s hero, Plato, (and modern statists too) who advocated kid-napping the kids and “educating” them in way to serve the state–but really, of course, for practical purposes, serving the rulers.

    Thus the Ottoman Turks literally kid-napped Christian children at young age, brought them up as Muzlims, and made them those fearsome troops known to history as the “Janissaries.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary

    So when u start “engineering” crap, why not bind the feet of the female infants, like the Chinese aristocrats of yore did?

    Thank goodness for our Christian culture which abhors this sort of corruption and madness which entertains such “engineering” of humanity.

  4. magus71 said, on February 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

    What was the empirical evidence presented that caused homosexuality to be classified as a mental disorder prior to 1973, but then removed from the diagnostic statistical manual of psychological disorders after this?

    Was there a major scientific breakthrough? A meeting between hundreds of geneticists and psychologists?

    Jung, Freud and Adler, the fathers of modern psychology all agreed it was a disorder. Politics changed that, not science.

    • apollonian said, on February 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Homosexuality is surely obsessive, addictive sort of behavior–though so can be heterosexual activity in certain forms.

      Heterosexuality however has a positive function–whereas homosexuality doesn’t, except in a degenerate society as we have now, in Spenglerian “Decline of the West,” as I noted.


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