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« "Neuroethics and the Scientific Revisions of Common Sense" | Main | PEBS Neuroethics Roundup (JHU) »

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Andrew (if I may),

Swinburne claims that homosexuality is a disability, but doesn't claim that homosexual sex is immoral because of it. Rather, he claims homosexual sex is immoral because God forbids it. He further claims that assuming that (contrary to his assessment) people aren't more likely to become homosexual because of what others do (i.e., social acceptability, etc.), then he's mistaken about God's reasons to ban homosexual sex, but it's still immoral because God bans it - and he believes his assessment that God bans it is proper. This is speculative, but I think he'd probably say that even granting homosexuality is not a disability, he has independent reasons to think God forbids homosexual sex; that would be in line with his assessment on the matter of the causes of homosexuality.

That aside, his claim that homosexuality is a disability is based on the claim that homosexual people "cannot beget children through a loving act with a person to whom they have a unique lifelong commitment."
The "loving act" here has to be a sexual act, ruling out other loving acts. It's a weird argument, but by "disability" he seems to mean something like "illness" (in his book "Revelation..." that's more clear), so someone might just say on intuitive grounds that it's an disease. That raises the issue: how does one go about telling whether something is an disease?

In any case, I think another reply to Swinburne is that even granting it's a disability/disease, his moral assessments based on that are unwarranted (leaving aside the God claims, he makes some moral assessments on the matter), and he has no good reason to think God forbids homosexual behavior (though of course Christians, Muslims, etc., won't be persuaded).

Thank you for your post Angra,

I completely agree. But my suspicion is that the moral claim is the motivation for the disability claim (even if he does not explicitly state that). We gays have always known that we cannot (yet) make children with our significant others, but we were only considered to be disabled when society was more homophobic.

That is to say, I think it is tricky to separate the moral claim from the disability claim.

You are definitely correct that there are other weak points in the argument. I tried not to really get into them because critiquing (say) moral realism is beyond the scope of this blog =). I would like to follow up on his essay in another venue. His argument is interesting and, in my opinion, definitely worth further engaging with.

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