A couple of posts ago, I wrote about the relevance of choice in morality. I argued that morality requires determinism because it is ultimately about using social forces such as praise and condemnation to promote some desires and inhibit others.
I applied this to smoking and obesity to outline criteria where, in a determined world, people can be held morally responsible for these actions and obligated to pay their own costs.
These points are also relevant to the issue of homosexuality. In this issue, we frequently encounter the claim that homosexuality ought not to be condemned because it is not a choice, "Do not blame me, I did not choose to be gay."
Recently, when people are confronted with the opinion that homosexuality is a choice, will make the retort, "When did you choose to become straight?"
It is a clearly flawed response that suggests that the speaker is clutching at straws in a desperate attempt to defend a strongly desired conclusion, without regard to the reasonableness of the response.
Critics can instantly see the flaws – particularly given the fact that people are far better at seeing the mistakes that others make than they are at seeing their own mistakes. This argument gets cheered, but the cheers generally come from people displaying the same desperation to ignore the flaws in an argument that supports a desired conclusion.
To prove how poor this response is, simply note that a pedophile can give the same response. "Do not blame me. I did not choose to become a pedophile. When did you choose not to become attracted to children?"
How many nanoseconds did it take you to see the flaw in thus argument.
"Perhaps you did not choose to be a pedophile, but you do choose whether or not to act on those desires. And the choice of whether to not to act on those desires is very much under the influence of social forces such as praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment. So, it is very much a legitimate object of moral concern. Perhaps it makes no sense for me to condemn you for having the desire, but I can certainly have a lot of very strong reasons to condemn you for acting on them. And that is the choice I am talking about when I condemn you and people like you."
At this point, the gay rights activist will shout, "How dare you compare homosexuality to child abuse!!"
Thus proving just how effective emotional rationalization can be at missing the point. This response does not compare homosexuality to child abuse. It compares an argument offered in defense of homosexuality to a potential argument in defense of having sex with children. In doing so, it shows that the argument is unsound. However, proving that an argument is unsound does not prove that the conclusion is false.
There is no moral case to be made against homosexual acts among consenting adults. The gender of one's sexual partner relative to oneself is entirely morally irrelevant – whereas, for many reasons, the age and mental capacity of one's sex partner is highly relevant.
The amount of choice one has in acquiring the desire is equally irrelevant. It is the choice one exercises in acting on the desire that we are looking at in making moral evaluations.
The fact is, the decision of whether, when, how, and with whom one will have sex can be influenced by social forces. There may be limits, but there is also some flexibility. We see this in the different sexual norms of sexual cultures – differences more easily explained by the applications of social forces than by the presence of genes.
Homosexual acts are not like child abuse. We have many and strong reasons to use social forces to promote an aversion to having sex with children. We have no reason to promote an aversion to having sex with somebody of the same gender.
Many of us have such an aversion. But many of us also have an aversion to eating raw fish. Having such an aversion does not justify the condemnation of those who are different from us. It does not justify condemning those who do not have the same aversion.
Homosexual acts are not immoral. Or, I should say, the factors that determine their morality - coercion, honesty, the safety of one's partner - are the same for heterosexual and homosexual acts. Gender partner relative to oneself is not on the list of factors.
However, grasping at straws in defense of a desired conclusion is immoral. We have way too much of that going on the world, and we are made worse off as a result. This is something that we have reason to condemn. And this applies to the way that the defenders of gay rights use the "choice" argument. In the moral sense, homosexual acts are a choice.
Besides, why choose an option that makes you look desperate and rationally blinded by a need to defend a desired conclusion when you don’t have to.