Why Does Unnatural = Bad?

black swans

These are gay swans

It’s a popular and easy argument. You deem a thing unnatural, and therefore bad. But why is unnatural bad? We do have at least a slight negative reaction to the word. Let’s analyze what it really means.

For something to be unnatural, it must go contrary to the ordinary course of nature. But what is nature? One meaning of nature is anything not human or created by humans. Thus we ourselves and everything we do is unnatural.

However, when speaking of human behavior, what is natural can’t be referring to things that aren’t human. In this case we are using a different definition, the basic inherent features of something. The things that characterize or define it.

This means that what is unnatural for people is subjective—we all have our own unique natures, different features that define us in different ways.

To do something unnatural is to go against the essence of yourself. If I am naturally a very calm person, and I get raging angry, I am acting against my nature.

If I am naturally attracted only to women, but I have sex with a man, I am acting against my nature.

If I am naturally attracted only to men, but I have sex with a woman, same story.

This is the problem with trying to tell other people what is natural for them and what isn’t. You are claiming that you know their nature, the very essence of what makes them who they are, better than they do.

People aren’t that simple. We have many similarities, yes, but who we are  is so much more than just basic human nature. Our minds are wired across a wide diversity of neurotypes. Experiences and beliefs shape our natures in constantly-shifting patterns of needs and desires and emotions.

When arguing that LGBT people are unnatural freaks, many people will say that it is obviously unnatural because same-gender sexual activity cannot produce a baby. While I covered some reasons this is a very flawed argument in my first post on this blog, the use of the term unnatural provides another angle to show why it’s wrong.

Considering the other meaning of nature, that is, things not human or created by humans, we find billions of animals acting according to the most basic, most natural form of being. Animals live by their nature—or instinct—so beyond the interference of humans, everything they do is natural in the second sense of the word.

So what do these natural creatures naturally do when it comes to sexuality? Not surprisingly, many species of animals are observed having plenty of sex with others of the same gender. Some are even totally gay—not the whole species but a small percent of them, just like humans.

If being gay is a choice to go against your nature, then why do so many members of nature do it naturally? Why aren’t beings that are naturally attracted to the same gender acting naturally if they act on their nature?

Now this is the point where a counter-argument is made, usually along the lines of are you suggesting that we live like animals?

Which is quite ridiculous, really, since that would be genuinely unnatural. The argument is not that we should let our morality be guided by animals, but rather that humans are totally not unique for a portion of their population being gay. It’s common among many creatures and quite natural.

The other common argument is that humans have a “sin nature”, thus what is natural for us, the most essential defining part of who we are, is evil. We must fight against this nature by doing what is unnatural—good things.

Then why did you say that LGBT people are unnatural to start with, in argument against them?

Honestly, unnatural things aren’t always good or always bad, in either sense of the word. Humans have created a lot of good things, and a lot of bad things. Our natures are a grayish mix of good and evil. How do you decide what is a good part of you, and what is bad? That’s up to you to decide, not anyone else.

But if you think that you are entitled to judge the natures of other people…I’m sorry, but you are wrong. You have no clue what it is to be someone else. You cannot know what their nature is.

My advice is to live according to your own nature while graciously allowing others to live according to theirs. You can disagree. In fact disagreement can lead to great learning opportunities for anyone involved. Just realize that often disagreement arises because people have different natures, not because you are right and they are wrong.

You can both be right when you’re talking about things that depend on the subjectivity of what is natural for you.

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