Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pride weekend

This weekend was Pride in San Francisco. In the morning Dan Choi gave a stirring speech (the three words that got him kicked out of the military, he said, were not "I am gay," but "I love you").

Watching the parade I started thinking about the way that "natural" has been used as a rhetorical bludgeon to fight the sort of celebration of difference that I was seeing. Now that we know there are gay dolphins and gay seagulls we should hear a change of tune from the people who argued that homosexuality was bad because it wasn't natural. But of course we won't. In cases like this the natural claim gets grafted on to support the belief - if something is bad it's unnatural.

Often, I think what we are really saying if we say something is unnatural is that it is foreign to our system of beliefs.


  1. As a biologist I seethe whenever I hear something disparaged as "unnatural." Lots of things happen in nature that are abhorrent to our social code: infanticide (common in lions), rape as a reproductive strategy (ducks), etc.

    Nature is a product of evolution, it has no bearing on our human morality. Your redefinition of "unnatural" in a social context as "foreign to a system of beliefs" is more accurate.

    (a friend of your brother-in-law)

  2. Thanks for engaging in my nascent blog Conor. In San Francisco at least most people have figured out that natural morality isn't necessarily good. But natural is still pretty synonymous with good when it comes to food an wellness. I wonder why there is that split?