Monday, September 19, 2011

Dancing With The Stars and The Natural Law


Leticia of My Daily Trek recently posted on Chastity-Chaz Bono, a transgender individual, who will be a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars". I don't usually watch "Dancing With The Stars" but Leticia emphasized that she was concerned that children who watch this show may be negatively influenced by seeing a transgender individual dancing with her/his partner while being portrayed as being "normal". Being either a pre-teen or a teenager with all the peer pressure can be very confusing as it is and when you throw into the mix seeing a transgender individual being portrayed as "normal" this may confuse them sexually even more. Dr. Keith Ablow reccommends to parents that their kids avoid watching the shows of Dancing With The Stars which have Chastity-Chaz Bono as a contestant on the show. I agree with him. A commenter on Leticia's article didn't know what natural law is and requested an explanation as to what natural law is so I said that I would do a post.


The natural law is a moral and legal theory. In its current form it dates back to St. Thomas Aquinas but its roots are in ancient Greece. Here are two definitions of natural law:

From The Free Dictionary - A law or body of laws that derives from nature and is believed to be binding upon human actions apart from or in conjunction with laws established by human authority.

From Wkipedia - A body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct.

We must begin with a certain premise that natural things, especially living things, are not mere random physical processes. The behavior of living matter is not random. Biological activity at every level is purposeful. Cells, organs, systems, and organisms all act for a purpose. Everything has a job. The heart pumps blood throughout our bodies, flowers grow from seeds, and babies develop from crawling to standing to walking. These are all acting towards an end rather than behaving randomly.

When antibodies kill viruses and bacteria they are doing their job, (fulfilling what is a good end. its proper end ) Because antibodies are fulfilling its natural job duties it achieves a good end which is consistent with the natural law. We can inherently know what end goes with this or that and what doesn't. Biological phenomena manifest teleological behavior, meaning everything that happens in living things happens for a purpose. Living matter grows, develops, and heals, i.e., it acts purposefully in accordance with its nature. Living organisms are like artifacts: they are made for a purpose. A book's proper use is to be read. That is in accordance with natural law. But if a person would burn a book that would not be in accordance with the natural law.

Rational beings can participate in their acting toward their natural end, or freely choose not to do that. That is the essence of moral choice.

God created human beings to procreate naturally. It is only possible for a man and woman to procreate naturally. God is omniscient and creates each man and woman in his own image and likeness so therefore it is impossible for God to make a mistake with regards to an individual's gender. When an infertile couple has trouble procreating that is because an impediment causes an interruption in the natural process. The fact that it is impossible for a homosexual couple to procreate naturally is natural or in accordance with the natural law. It is impossible for homosexuals and transgender individuals to achieve that good end.

Would you dispute that your mouth is for food? That to survive a person must eat? Why should your mouth and feeding yourself be considered according to natural law? A baby may put an object up to his/her mouth but it wouldn't be for his good for the baby to swallow that object. A male homosexual couple has two penises, right? Can a penis and penis come into union with one another and create a human life? If you look at this in a logical fashion it is obvious how this violates the natural law. It is not within the natural order for homosexuals and transgenders to take chemicals and mutilate their bodies to transform themselves in order to assume a sexual identity that is the polar opposite of the one with which they were created.

Cross-posted @ Catholibertarian 

15 comments:

Maggie@MaggiesNotebook said...

Teresa, this is a very thoughtful explanation of reason, and natural law. People today believe they are gods, themselves, and with each opportunity to snatch some kind of control, they give it a try, usually with disasterous consequences, even though we often never hear of them. Great post.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Chastity/Chaz Bono can call herself whatever she likes and she can have all the operations she wants and take all of the hormones she likes, she is still a female no matter what the law says. you cannot change your DNA. The surgeons may be able to alter your physical appearance, but not your DNA.

As Pope John-Paul II once said: "It is what it is."

Leticia said...

Teresa, BRAVO!! You are absolutely spot-on. And thank you for taking the time to post this information. I know it must have been time-consuming.

I hope, Jez, appreciates it.

Amusing Bunni said...

Bobo is a freak show. Just looking at the start of the show and the rehearsals, YUCK, that's an ugly man, woman or it.

The show is actually pretty good, some people so far.
Watching on and off. With any luck "it" will get voted off tomorrow.

If I had kids, I would change the channel when this nut comes on, I wonder if I'll be able to stomach it.

jez said...

Hi!
I very much appreciate the time and attention you've paid this problem. I thank you, sincerely.

Honestly, I don't think the idea is fully worked out here.

For examples:
"When antibodies kill viruses and bacteria they are doing their job, (fulfilling what is a good end. its proper end )"
What is the job of the virus or bacterium that the antibody is killing?

"Living matter grows, develops, and heals, i.e., it acts purposefully in accordance with its nature."
It also, without fail, dies. Often through disease. I can't tell immediately whether this is in accordance with natural law or not.

"it is impossible for God to make a mistake with regards to an individual's gender."
Sometimes, babies are born with handicaps. I'm not interested in deciding whether they count as God's mistakes or not, but is it wrong to try to correct them or compensate for them?

"God created human beings to procreate"
Procreation is not the only important thing in our lives; it's not even the only important thing about sex. Are you saying that every adult who remains childless is in violation of natural law?

"Would you dispute that your mouth is for food?"
I won't dispute that we die without food, and the mouth is by far the most convenient route for food to reach us.
But I would dispute that its *only* purpose is for food. It's also important for eg. speech. Is it a violation of natural law to use the mouth for non-food purposes?

Similarly, I won't dispute that a species dies out without procreation, and that sex is by far the most convenient means of achieving that. But I will dispute that sex has no purpose other than procreation. It is not, I hope, a violation of natural law to have sex even when you aren't explicitly trying to get pregnant.



By the way, although I don't mind entertaining it to get the hang of what you mean by "natural law," I should disclose that I don't accept your first premise:
"We must begin with a certain premise that natural things, especially living things, are not mere random physical processes ... Cells, organs, systems, and organisms all act for a purpose."

I agree they are not random, but that does not imply that they are guided or purposeful. It is easy to come up with an example of an unguided and non-random process: the orbit of the moon, the creation of the snowflake etc. Also, it is easy to find examples of useless or counter-productive bits of human anatomy: wisdom teeth, and various vestigial muscles.

Teresa said...

Jez, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to respond.

"What is the job of the virus or bacterium that the antibody is killing?"

Their job is to propagate. I would call them invaders of our bodily systems since they cause us to be ill. The virus or bacterium becomes recognized so we (antibodies) can fight them off.


"Living matter grows, develops, and heals, i.e., it acts purposefully in accordance with its nature."
'It also, without fail, dies. Often through disease. I can't tell immediately whether this is in accordance with natural law or not.'

It is not in the nature of living matter to live forever.


"Sometimes, babies are born with handicaps. I'm not interested in deciding whether they count as God's mistakes or not, but is it wrong to try to correct them or compensate for them?"

A handicap is not a mistake. It isn't wrong to correct or compensate for handicaps as long as it fits into the natural law.

"Procreation is not the only important thing in our lives; it's not even the only important thing about sex. Are you saying that every adult who remains childless is in violation of natural law?"

No. I pointed this out in my post -"When an infertile couple has trouble procreating that is because an impediment causes an interruption in the natural process." The couple is open to procreating naturally whereas it is impossible for a homosexual couple to be open to procreating naturally, in accordance with the natural law.

"But I would dispute that its *only* purpose is for food. It's also important for eg. speech. Is it a violation of natural law to use the mouth for non-food purposes?"

No. Eating and drinking is for our sustenance without which we can't survive. Speech is a natural purpose also.

"Similarly, I won't dispute that a species dies out without procreation, and that sex is by far the most convenient means of achieving that. But I will dispute that sex has no purpose other than procreation. It is not, I hope, a violation of natural law to have sex even when you aren't explicitly trying to get pregnant."

No. Even though the couple may not be explicitly trying to get pregnant the man and woman are still open to achieving pregnancy. The purpose of sex per se is procreation whether the intent is to procreate or not. That is its biological purpose.

'By the way, although I don't mind entertaining it to get the hang of what you mean by "natural law," I should disclose that I don't accept your first premise:
"We must begin with a certain premise that natural things, especially living things, are not mere random physical processes ... Cells, organs, systems, and organisms all act for a purpose." '

"I agree they are not random, but that does not imply that they are guided or purposeful. It is easy to come up with an example of an unguided and non-random process: the orbit of the moon, the creation of the snowflake etc. Also, it is easy to find examples of useless or counter-productive bits of human anatomy: wisdom teeth, and various vestigial muscles."

Since you agreed that these natural things and their physical processes are not random how could they not be purposeful? I don't agree with your premise that they are useless. Tonsils were once considered to be useless, but that has changed.

I give you props for engaging the issue.

We will just have to agree to disagree.

Teresa said...

Thank you Maggie. You are exactly right about people today believing that they are gods instead of following the right or moral way of life.

Teresa said...

Bishop Gregori,


You're right. Changing one's physical appearance doesn't change who you are or your DNA.

Teresa said...

My pleasure, Leticia. While doing research I was able to learn more in the process too.

Teresa said...

Bunni,

The few times that I have watched the show I have enjoyed it. I hope people with kids do change the channel when Chaz dances.

jez said...

"A handicap is not a mistake. It isn't wrong to correct or compensate for handicaps as long as it fits into the natural law."

I'm still not sure how "natural law" is not arbitrary. Maybe a few examples would help. Is it ok to
1) fix a cleft palate
2) fit a cochlea implant
3) separate conjoined twins
4) staple a stomach
5) reduce excessively large breasts?

"Even though the couple may not be explicitly trying to get pregnant the man and woman are still open to achieving pregnancy."

What about those who remain single, or couples where the man has a vasectomy?
Is homosexuality less acceptable than heterosexuality following a vasectomy? What is the difference?
Is lesbianism acceptable following the menopause?

"Since you agreed that these natural things and their physical processes are not random how could they not be purposeful?"

I provided 2 examples of non-random yet clearly unguided processes. Nothing purposeful is happening as a snowflake is built, and IMO nothing purposeful is happening when eg. a ribosome builds a protein. Useful is not the same as purposeful.

I'm happy to disagree with you; I simply don't think that a muscle attached to eg. the human ear but incapable of moving the human ear is anything but a vestige of a once-effective muscle which improved our distant ancestors' hearing by allowing them to direct their ear towards interesting sounds.
What useful purpose could such a muscle be put to? Or the wisdom teeth, which are surely now more a pain than anything else?

Kevin T. Rice said...

Jez,

This reply is very long , so it will have to be posted in installments. This one is the first of three. I will not apologize for the length of this three part reply. You had a chance to simply "agree to disagree", but you wanted to keep going. This is where it went.

My wife Teresa isn't feeling well today, and since your continued correspondence requires more care and attentive focus than someone ill and fighting fever can muster, I volunteered to reply to your comment. I assure you, she and I are sufficiently in agreement for my reply to be relevant, even though you were asking her the questions.

I'm still not sure how "natural law" is not arbitrary. Maybe a few examples would help. Is it ok to
1) fix a cleft palate


Of course. Anything that aids nature in producing a natural effect is, as you put it, ok. An intact palate is the natural tendency. As a morphogenetic event, the development of the palate is complex and open to environmental and genetic events which could change the outcome. But nature here is not aiming at the cleft palate, but at the intact palate. It is therefore natural to correct for the event that caused the defect. It would be unnatural and wrong to surgically cut the palates of normal babies. The latter point should be intuitively obvious. If it is obvious to you, then the difference between surgery to correct a cleft palate and deforming surgery to conform normal palates to cleft ones is not an arbitrary cosmetic one. One is in comformity with the law of nature whose experiential facticity you can feel in you heart every time you confront a moral situation and judge the rightness or wrongness of it. The other is contrary to that law.

2) fit a cochlea implant

Fine for roughly the same reasons as given above.

end of 1 of 3, continued below in 2.

Kevin T. Rice said...

@Jez 2 of 3


3) separate conjoined twins

If it can be done without intentionally killing one of them, obviously ok. The obvious tendency of nature is to produce bodily separate individuals, so surgery that corrects for some aberrant event that prevents nature from developing the natural outcome is licit, whether it means mending a cleft palate or separating conjoined twins. The underlying principle is the natural outcome, not whether you are cutting or sewing.

4) staple a stomach

Bariatric restrictive surgery is a very invasive, highly questionable case for those whose moral reasoning consciously takes explicit account of Natural Law. I daresay you could find Natural Law ethicists who would flatly deny the liceity of such surgery, prescribing instead a restrictive diet without the artificial surgical aid of a smaller stomach. But I tend to think that if the stomach is unnaturally large due to longstanding gluttony (which is contrary to Natural Law), even an artifical surgical aid might be called for. It is noteworthy that, like sex reassignment surgery, bariatric restriction, whether through staples or a band, is not done merely at the request of the patient, but is subject to strict conditions. The patient must have been obese for several years and must be neither depressed nor an alcoholic. I suspect they are weeding out those with eating disorders who would misuse the surgery and make it a part of their disorder.

By the way, the whole idea of an "eating disorder" implies a norm which is based implicitly on natural law.

5) reduce excessively large breasts?

Depending on why, I don't see a problem. If it is because they don't like men and don't want to attract men, and they think C cup is excessivley large, preferring double A, I submit that such a use of that surgery would NOT be ok. But if it is because of chronic back aches due to the constant weight of triple D village feeders, then that would be ok.

What about those who remain single?

I have to assume that you are talking about premarital sex. If they engage in the sexual act they are taking a serious risk in performing the act that naturally leads to children if they do not want children. Natural Law confirms traditional morality here as to the immorality of fornication.

or couples where the man has a vasectomy?

Totally contrary to the Natural Law. All artificial contraception is contrary to Natural Law as classically understood. This was also a point of broad agreement amongst the major religions and secular moral philosophies across the ages, and certainly all mainstream Christian ecclesial communities before the Anglican Lambeth conference of 1930. People of all faiths and philosophies understood the moral disorder of contraception before the sexual revolution distorted people's judgement.

I provided 2 examples of non-random yet clearly unguided processes. Nothing purposeful is happening as a snowflake is built, and IMO nothing purposeful is happening when eg. a ribosome builds a protein. Useful is not the same as purposeful.

Not knowing enough about how snowflakes are formed to comment intelligently, I must therefore risk this less than intelligent reply, so please excuse it -- I suspect that snowflake morphogenesis is limited by chemical laws related to the molecular structure of crystallized H20, and thus the hexagonic similarity of all snowflakes restricts all possible physical variety into the various symmetical pips, cracks, fissures, holes, notches and other such things that form, though these differences seem random to me. The non-random appearance of order in the snowflake seems qualitatively different from the self-evident presence of teleological processes in biological activity. The further up the chain you go, from protein building in the example you offered to RNA and DNA formation, to the vast complexity of the cell, and upward to organs, systems, and organisms, the more obvious the presence of teleology becomes.

Kevin T. Rice said...

@ Jez 3 of 3


Biological activity is replete with purpose. The examples you gave above in your questions shows you are aware of purpose and design in nature as well as Teresa and I. The palate is not meant to be cleft. That is contrary to its purpose. The twins are not meant to be conjoined. We would certainly disagree along ideological lines (due to incompatible fundamental premises) about how such problems occur in the first place in nature and what their existence implies. But what we have in common is an intuition about human nature which an intact palate conforms to, and a cleft palate does not. Here is the punchline, bringing this whole thing back to the original point: being born a certain natural sex is not a birth defect like a cleft palate. It is not a disease requiring surgical correction. Surgical genital mutilation is not a therapeutic aid to the fulfillment of a natural tendency, but an insult to the natural order on both a physical and metaphysical grounds. Thus it is a violation of Natural Law. Holding this up as normal and natural is a further insult to the social order, one from which responsible parents with traditional moral common sense ought to protect their children.

jez said...

Fantastic, thanks Kevin! would love to respond at some point, but I guess by the time I'm able to this post would be considered archived. So I'll just say thanks for all the detail, definitely given me a couple of new avenues to research.

Teresa, thanks too and hope your feeling much better.