Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Comments on My Essay on Homosexuality

These are two emails I received from Pouya who was kind enough to read my essay and write his comments about it, after receiving the first one, I asked him for some clarification on how I have done what he called sophistry , so he answered my email the same day and I publish both of them here, I will gradually write my views as I get the time.
( Pouye's First email)

Hi Farid / Iman,

Just visited your site today and read your essays on homosexuality and wanted to leave a longer piece of feedback than the site allowed. So here it is by mail.
I admire you for tackling the correctness of homosexuality in a logical manner and your acknowledgement of the weaknesses of the divine argument against it given the fallibility of other such "divine" judgements. Whilst have no criticism of your moral argument, based on the code you seem to subscribe to, I find your reasoning on the subject somewhat weak when it comes to justifying why you believe homosexuality is wrong. Your argument seems to be tied to a very narrow perception of the biological and social imperatives that contribute to a well-functioning society or species. I find that particularly flawed because this belief is not only unproven but there is some interesting philosophical arguments to disprove it.

For one thing, you assume that all activities must be suitable for everybody and then through some sophistry you then propose that the inverse is true. This is predicate logic of the worst sort. Just because an activity is not suitable for everybody to do doesn't make the activity wrong. It seems too simplistic an argument to make given every indicator of a well behaved social system suggests that in fact specialisation and diversity within these systems guarantees far better functioning societies.
The second questionable proposition you make is that by virtue of the biological imperative to reproduce, relationships which are not contributing to this drive are deterimental on a macro scale. There is much evidence to suggest that this is not the case. There is some scientific research which illustrate there are more important factors in the control of birth rates and there are some philosophical arguments to be made that homosexuality is a natural phenomona which has some merit in large natural groupings.
Homosexuals may be a necessary part of the diversity that enables human societies to manage themselves once they are past the point where essential survival is assured.
I think the assumption that every aspect of a society should be geared towards the same purpose is a misnomer that derives from taking a dogmatic approach to social and biological organisation. It is my biggest criticism of all religions that they apply such macros in its management of ethical and social issues without either the proper scientific evidence nor the necessary experience required to understand them. If it was God's intent to do this I see no reason why he also gifted us with a well-functioning brain and the instruments to understand the world around us better.
Whilst I find the acts of homosexuality foreign and not to my taste, I firmly believe this is a factor of social conditioning rather than a biological reaction. Whether homosexuality is itself a biological or social or psychological characteristic is beyond me and I have yet to see much evidence either way on the subject. However, the logical arguments you propose are contrary to the increased pools of knowledge that illustrate that as far as biological imperative or social organisation goes, Islam has very little to teach us anymore.

In the end, when reasoned properly it is evident that homosexuality is merely a social bond like any other and the acts of homosexuality are merely an expression of these bonds in both the physical and mental state. In the sense that one must be ultimately free to pursue a path of their own choosing providing their actions do not negatively impact on others it is unreasonable to criticise homosexuality. It is not a disease, it is not contagious and the openness of those who are homosexuals those not discourage others from pursuing their own biological imperatives. When disabused of these fallacies about the negative impact of homosexuality, it would seem we are left with a lot of evidence that homosexuals contribute greatly to society whether due to or despite of their sexual preferences. Think of the art, literature, science and more that homosexual individuals have contributed. It seems no handicap to their worth within a social context. I firmly believe that if we are to be free of the irrational prejudices against us we must examine our own and question them more thoroughly than I believe you have done.


Seyed Razavi

( Pouya's second email):


Sophistry means "A plausible but misleading or fallacious argument". In the context of my email, I was dismayed by your use of predicate logic in turning a statement into a priori of another. Here is a simple example of what I mean:
"It rained on Sunday. Today is Sunday. Therefore, it will rain."


"A man and a women are required to have children. Having children is a natural and a necessary function of human beings. Therefore, not having children is bad and relationships that are not a man with a women are bad."

The weakness in the argument is assuming that one set of facts (priori) can be inversed based on their combination with another set of facts.

The other criticisms I have of the essay are that:
a) You emphasise that the genetics and environmental factors are well understood. I believe they are not and the assumption that you can cite examples to the contrary as proof they are incomplete is flawed.
b) You note that some degenerative diseases are genetic and hence not all genetical traits are acceptable. I find that questionable reasoning because the sophistry here is that there is a connection between degenerative diseases and homosexuality, i.e. they are both potential genetic failings.
c) You view homosexuality as a problem but with the exception of your emphasis on natural imperatives such as breeding you don't clearly illustrate why homosexuality is a problem, which needs help. The comparisons with psychological and physical disorders are misleading.
d) You cite AIDS as indicative of the problems of homosexuality. For example, you cite the reduced life spans of homosexuals due to the virus. By that logic black Africans or Chinese are also a problem because they suffer from the virus (on a much larger scale one might add). Therefore, the allegation is flawed. You seem to be confusing poor hygiene control (which is fundamentally at the root of the spread of AIDS) and the emotional needs of individuals in same sex relationships.
e) You cite dubious references such as your comments on gay spirituality.
As an essay I would reject it completely because you offer numerous reasons but only back each one up with one secondary source (a secondary source being the books you cite as opposed to a primary source which is imperical or subjective evidence from a direct source, e.g. your experience with homosexuals or a scientific study). When presenting a case as sophisticated as yours you need to focus on fewer points with better / more evidence for each.
f) You don't acknowledge biases. Not just your own but also those of your sources. What was the motive of the writers of the books you cite? What was yours?

My previous email discussed in more detail what I believe may be philosophical arguments which counter your own. I haven't researched the imperical evidence you present but in the case you present I would expect you to take a more balanced and wider approach. It is telling you don't really acknowledge any positive benefits from homosexuals, for the individual or for society.
I have no idea what time or other limitations you had when writing your essay but I hope you find these comments helpful. I'm not criticizing you or your intelligence, just the methodology of the essay you wrote.


Seyed Razavi

(posted by Farid)

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