Silly arguments: the law of reproduction

Homosexuality is a hot button issue particularly among religious believers. However, despite some perceptions that atheists and homosexuals are somehow in league in a global conspiracy of some sort, many atheists also take issue with homosexuality.  And when you really examine their arguments it only further proves that being an atheist doesn’t make you rational. One of the silliest arguments is the argument that homosexuality isn’t natural. The first problem is that folks who use the word natural are using it to apply a value judgment but natural has nothing to do with value. We have to rely on other methods of determining value particularly whether something has moral value (but that we’ll leave for another discussion). Natural is just a word that describes things which pertain to nature or the physical world. And that said homosexuality is quite natural. More than 1500 species engage in homosexual sex acts according to published observations. Our closest cousins the bonobos use sex in several ways to communicate with one another, settle disputes, etc. There is no reason to believe that human beings, being animals and therefore, a part of nature, are any different in the range of sexual behaviors they engage in. But this is insufficient for some people, like those of the Black Atheists of Atlanta. These tofu dashikiists have promoted an unscientific idea they refer to as the “law of reproduction”. So what is the “law of reproduction”? It’s basically the idea that all life desires or seeks to reproduce itself and this means that sex particularly for mammals that does not or cannot lead to procreation violates said law.

Same here...

First, I should probably describe what a law in science is:

Scientific Law, in science, principles that are taken to be universally applicable. Laws (for instance, Boyle’s law and Newton’s laws of motion) form the basic theoretical structure of the physical sciences, so that the rejection of a law by the scientific community is an extremely rare event. On occasion a law may be modified, as was the case when Albert Einstein showed that Newton’s laws of motion do not apply to objects traveling at speeds close to that of light. (From Encarta, additional definitions can be found here)

I’m not sure where these individuals got the idea that scientific law is also somehow also a prescription for human behavior, unless they think  that nature is intelligent and cares about our existence. Because if nature is intelligent and created the law of reproduction, it like other deities I could name seems to contradict itself. I mean there are sexually transmitted diseases capable of killing or even sterilizing you. Then there is the fact that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, or that according to a report from the march of dimes, about 8 million children are born with serious birth defects annually. And if that’s not enough to tell you that the universe is indifferent to human existence:

Thanks modern medicine! 🙂 (Courtesy of Google)

Anyway, scientific laws are generally invariable, meaning they aren’t subject to change. Animal sexual behavior is highly variable. There is no universal constant even in terms of reproduction. In fact from evolutionary perspective its guaranteed not every member of a species will reproduce, because not every member of species will be “fit”, meaning adapted enough to its environment to make it successful enough to procreate. But not all sex is for procreation. Many animal species engage in sex acts that are not for the purposes of sexual reproduction. If perhaps there was a physical barrier or an inability to resist the urge to procreate perhaps I could agree that such a law exists-maybe. Big maybe.
The notion that sex is for procreation is primarily a religious one. The most notable religion that promotes this idea is the judeo-christian tradition, in the commandment from Genesis 1:28, with variations on the theme in chapters 9 and 35, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (That last part has been extremely problematic). However, it’s not entirely a religious notion. The advent of agriculture in the development of human civilization increased the demand for labor and the cheapest labor came from your loins. It is therefore, no wonder that emphasizing procreation and controlling sexuality became important. However, as time changes so does understanding and circumstance. We no longer live in a world where our prosperity is tied to the number of offspring we can produce. We understand now that sex is for more than procreation. So the idea that sex is or should only be for procreation can now only find support in religion, which again further supports the notion that tofu dashikiists, like the Black atheists of Atlanta, share more in common with conservative christians and white supremacists than they care to acknowledge. But getting back to history… The Black Atheists of Atlanta seem to think that homosexual activity was only practiced by  Europeans… but

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. Illustration from ...

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, friends.

it existed elsewhere too, including ancient Egypt, where we find this lovely couple, Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. Well in truth, it’s not known whether these two had a sexual relationship but the closeness of the embrace depicted here as well in at least one other scene, seems to suggest an intimate relationship. Similar suggestions about the relationship between Amenhotep and Smenkhare also exist. There is also a tale of the god Seth seducing Horus, there are actually two versions but the original version dates back to the Middle Kingdom. One story that was written in the later part of the New Kingdom about King Neferkare and General Sanset is actually attributed by many to  King Pepi II of the 6th dynasty. But according to these tofu dashikiists homosexuality was not practiced or permitted in Egypt because a reference made to one of the 42 negative confessions in the Ma’at, “I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.” Of course as we all know, once you write something down governing human behavior, we are unable to behave otherwise ((eyeroll)). In the book, “Boy Wives and Female Husbands” the author, Will Roscoe, discusses homosexuality in some cultures in Africa and how many had a tolerant  attitude towards homosexuality.  For example, among the Bafia:

“young women were strictly segregated to avoid unplanned pregnancies; at this stage, they were known as “ngon”, or sexually inactive virgins. Young men usually engaged solely in homosexuality during this stage and were known as “kiembe”, youths who don’t yet sexually associate with females. Many young men would develop a boyfriend type of relationship with a special lexan or “bosom buddy”. (taken from Wikipedia)

Ultimately, what one learns. from studying many cultures, including Native American, Asian, and cultures in the South Pacific,  is that homosexuality was in fact, tolerated. Some cultures even held that homosexuals and transgendered people had special powers or gifts. What changed primarily was the spread of Christianity through European Colonialism. It is after this period that you find legal prohibitions and extreme homophobia becoming the norm particularly in Africa. So not only does this notion of the law of reproduction fail as a scientific law but it fails in light of historic evidence as well. Homosexuality is not a social custom and it is not unnatural. And whether its a choice or not, it’s just one part of the spectrum of sexuality which has multiple dimensions. Human sexuality is more than homosexuality and heterosexuality its bisexual, asexual, etc (I’m not sure what else I missed but just in case…) and that is what makes it so fascinating.

So is homosexuality immoral? Well if you define morality as a set of prescribed behaviors given by a supposedly divine authority- then moral behavior is simply doing what you are told. But if you are a thinking individual, which I like to think most human beings are, then morality  constitutes a set of behaviors, intentions, or attitudes, that seek to promote the greatest good. For example, most of us don’t need to be told that killing people is immoral, because we generally can put ourselves in other people’s shoes (i.e. empathy). Most of us don’t want to be killed so we can understand why others wouldn’t want to be and therefore, we generally see murder as immoral. But sex, regardless of “type”, is not immoral provided it is consensual, because sex is pleasurable, it makes people happy, it can cements bonds, etc. Who really wants to argue against that? Oh right… (expletive of choice here)!

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17 thoughts on “Silly arguments: the law of reproduction

  1. Blog says:

    Great article! Simple, to the point without a bunch of high intellectual sounding jargon. And plus…what it says is TRUE. 🙂

  2. James says:

    Good Job! Very well done Raina! Look forward to more blogs…

  3. Shoeresh Coppage says:

    Awesome, Raina. Another one that needed to be said.

  4. You did a excellent job dismantling some of the most commonly held arguments against homosexuality. Slow clap, Raina!

  5. Danile says:

    Yaaaay Reason!

  6. Great commentary! As usual, you did a wonderful job.

  7. AK Lazarus says:

    Interesting article. A lot of inconsistencies, though. Too many opinions mixed with controversial “facts”. On quick statement and a question…There is a stark difference between homosexual “practice” and homosexual “lifestyle”. One is ambiguous, the other isn’t. If sexual intercourse is not primarily 4 procreation, why does the male produce sperm?

    • What specifically do you find to be inconsistent? What facts are you disputing? What is a homosexual lifestyle? I may be wrong but I think there aren’t many differences between a heterosexual and a homosexual lifestyle. I mean homosexuals work, buy groceries, commute, have families, etc . These are all things heterosexual people do. Homosexuals and heterosexuals engage in the same sexual activities that heterosexuals engage the only difference is their partners have similar genitalia. I didn’t say that sex had nothing to do with procreation I said its not just for procreation. Using a silly invention like “the law of reproduction” to argue against homosexuality is ridiculous. What about heterosexuals that choose not to procreate or can’t due to infertility? What about homosexual couples that actually choose to procreate with the assistance of surrogates or modern science?

    • Yes, I’d love more details about this difference between a ‘practice’ and a ‘lifestyle’.

      And if intercourse is primarily for procreation, why the healthy business in products that specifically inhibit ‘procreation’?

      If you’re going to get into some sort of biological reductionism, you’d be hard pressed to justify anything that doesn’t have a direct relationship to the survival of the species (art, music, work, ipads,etc)

  8. Thanks everyone! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Tiffany Kelley says:

    Raina, this is awesome. A lot of what you posted I knew & agreed with but there were also quite a few things I have learned. As I often do when reading your posts.

    You’re AWESOME!

  10. D Frederick Sparks says:

    Great job Raina! How anyone can read the post and still bring up the ludicrous comment about sperm production….SMDH.

  11. Rahk_Starr says:

    Hey,
    Great post I really enjoyed it. It is amazing that people are even concerned about the behavior of others that does not affect them. It is as if they need to have their “Give a Damn” switch calibrated. Meanwhile they ignore the fact that homosexuality is prevalent in nature, the social bonding factors, and that it is part of even Africa’s history. They suspend their logic to hold on to a remnant of their Judeo- Christian-Islamic past, similar to the idea that the pig is full of evil spirits.

  12. chris says:

    very intellectually put together , well done Raina

  13. […] of the Black Atheists of Atlanta, a tofu-dashikiist group and the main subject of my blog entitled “Silly Arguments: The Law of Reproduction”. Despite the popularity of Camara’s “Slave Sermons” both then and now I always […]

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