Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ten animals Ed Brayton would like to ignore

The only thing sillier than some of Christine O'Donnell's statements during her campaign for U. S. Senate in Delaware is some of the responses to her.

Ed Brayton, for example, seems to think it a highly damning critique to lampoon O'Donnell's remarks on certain sexual practices by pointing to the animal kingdom, where those same sexual practices occur, as if the reader is supposed to conclude that this is somehow morally instructive for humans.

I have dealt with this whole line of argument before in "Gay Penguins and the Inductive Argument from Hell": that if we can find animals that do something, we must therefore conclude it's okay for humans. Start down that road and it's interesting what you end up committing yourself to.

Here are ten animals we do not want to emulate:
  • Komodo dragons, polar bears, crocodiles, etc. (eat their young)
  • Fishing spiders (eat potential mates)
  • Bachelor biting midge, female redback spider (eats opposite sex after mating)
  • Spotted hyena, seabirds (murders siblings)
  • Ichneumon wasp (tortures others insects)
  • Hippopotamus (attracts mate by urinating & defecating)
Coming soon: secular rationalists commending cannibalism, fratricide, and torture--along with some fairly exotic dating techniques.

I would also mention the female giant green anaconda, which mates with multiple males at one time, but you never can be sure what interesting inference from their own reasoning these people may already accepted. So why bother. These are people who are pretty far gone, morally speaking, so its getting harder and harder to find something that's outrageous according to their morality (and I use that term loosely)

By the way, why is it always some debased behavior we're supposed to mimic in nature? When was the last time you heard these people pigeons who mate for life, or dogs for their loyalty or bees for their industriousness and arguing that we should emulate them. Why is vice, rather than virtue, the only thing we can learn from nature?


KyCobb said...


It is a sad testament to how badly a Catholic education has warped your values that you think cannibalism, murder and torture are the activities which make the most apt comparison to masturbation, a perfectly normal and harmless activity if not engaged in in excess (which is true of most activities). Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church has had so much difficulty with its Priests when it expects them to spend a lifetime without any sexual release whatsoever?

Martin Cothran said...


I don't know where you got the idea that I got a Catholic education, unless you are referring to what I have read as an adult. I was actually educated in Lutheran schools. And I don't know where you got the idea that I was "comparing" sexual self-gratification with murder and torture.

In many of my posts you seem to simply misunderstand my arguments. Every time I use a reductio ad absurdum--in which the idea is to take someone else's reasoning process and show that it leads to an absurd conclusion, you automatically assume I agree with the reasoning process. But the whole point of this kind of argument is to argue against that reasoning.

So it's hard to have a discussion when you don't even understand the intended logical force of my argument.

In this post I was using the logic of people like Brayton to show how ridiculous their logic is. You look at the argument and somehow conclude this is my logic. It's not my logic: its the logic of the people who make these kinds of arguments. It has absolutely nothing to do with comparing sexual self-gratification with murder and torture.

If you really want to have a productive discussion, you need to at least try to understand the argument being made.

And, pray tell, exactly how much difficulty has the Catholic Church had with its priests in sexual matters? If you have some evidence that it is worse than, say, public school teachers, I'd like to see what that is. Any such abuse is bad, but its not honest or accurate to portray it as somehow unique to the Catholic Church.

People seem to think that celibacy somehow leads to more of this kind of behavior. Have you seen the statistics on Protestant clergy--most of whom are married?

KyCobb said...


I have to agree that looking at the behavior of other species to support the appropriateness of human behavior isn't very useful. Even our closest living relatives are separated from us by millions of years, and species evolve behaviors which are useful for them in their own context. Human sexual behavior should be analyzed on its own merits within the context of human culture and human evolution.

Sorry about assuming you were raised Catholic. And I haven't seen the statistics on sexual abuse by Protestant clergy, is it about the same as priests?

Lee said...

Can we blame Rousseau for this? That is, the notion that nature is somehow the arbiter of all that is good, and that man's best moral option is to throw off his "chains" (i.e., the Church) and embrace his natural self?