Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Golden Rule of Reciprocity, Genetics, and the Homosexuality Debate

The following is an unpublished letter to the Straits Times, with minor changes for blog publication, of course.

People Like Us (PLU) should not use arguments like these

An ongoing debate in the Straits Times Forum concerns homosexuality and Section 377a of the Penal Code. In my perusal of the letters in the online forum, I have read various interesting arguments presented by those in favor of repealing S377a. Amongst the myriad of rationales put forth, I would like to point out two recurring arguments that gay rights activists should avoid using because of inherent fallacies.

Argumentum ad misericordiam ad nauseam – Gays must bear the burden of proof for genetic evidence

Firstly, by using an appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam), some writers have alleged that S377a is a repressive piece of legislation that discriminates against the private, consensual sexual activities between homosexuals. Their claim is that S377a criminalizes an individual for something that he could not help.

According to these writers, some men are purportedly born homosexuals. But by rephrasing their argument in the form of a deductive syllogism, it becomes apparent where the logical fallacy is.

Major Premise: All genetically determined conditions are amoral
Minor Premise: Homosexuality is a genetically determined condition
Conclusion: Therefore homosexuality is amoral

By implication, if homosexuality is genetically determined, one cannot choose whether he is born a homosexual or not. It then follows that homosexual activities are not matters of moral consideration, but matters of sexual orientation.

Such a conclusion cannot be valid because the minor premise of their syllogism cannot be established factually. Concerning the genetic basis of homosexuality, it is a well-known fact within the scientific community that empirical evidence is equivocal and inconclusive at best. It is therefore reasonable that gay rights activists should cease using medical genetics as a basis for their agenda.

Furthermore, as the pro-homosexual movement is pressing the government to change the status quo by repealing S377a, the onus is therefore on the gay rights lobbyists to provide conclusive, scientific evidence that homosexuality is indeed a genetic condition beyond reasonable doubt.

The Golden Rule of Reciprocity cannot apply

Another commonly encountered rationale from those who oppose the status quo is the Golden Rule of Reciprocity. Simply stated, this moral rule proclaims, “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you (Confucius’ Analects 15:23).” Christianity’s version of this rule is found in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

These pro-homosexual writers are essentially saying, “Be legally fair. Leave the homosexuals alone. They are having consensual intercourse in private, and are causing no harm to others. Likewise, heterosexuals are having consensual intercourse in private, and are causing no harm to others. Please do not criminalize private, consensual homosexual activities just as we do not want private, consensual heterosexual activities to be criminalized.”

Primarily, this line of reasoning begs the question of whether homosexual and heterosexual intercourse should both be classified under the same moral category. In other words, are both types of sexual intercourse morally acceptable according to Singapore’s moral framework?

I also submit to you that the Golden Rule is hereby misapplied. Rules, by their very nature, are meant to be applied to several cases. However, any rule is also bound to have a range of applications, and cases falling outside that range are not covered by the rule.

To avoid committing the logical fallacy of making a sweeping generalization (a Dicto simpliciter), the Golden Rule of Reciprocity must be cautiously applied to the homosexuality debate with certain qualifications and contextual considerations.

The first qualification is this: that which we desire that men would do to us must be morally acceptable. For instance, we cannot apply the Golden Rule to a suicidal teenage girl in the scenario where she is actively seeking death or suicide. Suicide is not morally acceptable. Since she desires to be killed, she may consider the killing of someone else as being morally correct according to the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By reductio ad absurdum, it is clear that the Golden Rule cannot be applied indiscriminately.

What about the statement by Confucius, “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you?” In order for the application of the Golden Rule to be viable, we must also examine the presupposition of that application. As an example, the taking of a life by the state executioner and a murderer may theoretically be performed under similar conditions and in the same manner, that is, by hanging. However, the murderer cannot point to the Golden Rule of Reciprocity and demand, “It is only fair for the law to leave me alone. Just as the taking of a life by the state executioner is not criminal, my taking of a life should not be criminalized as well. Why do you criminalize my act of taking a life? Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you.” The fallacy of the murderer’s argument is this: he has assumed a priori that the taking of another’s life is amoral, be it performed by the state executioner or by other citizens of Singapore. But the truth is, the executioner’s action is ordered by the state, while the murderer’s action is that of murder which is inherently immoral.

Likewise, gay rights activists have assumed a priori that homosexuality is morally correct.

The introduction of the rule of reciprocity into the homosexuality debate is ultimately a red herring. The rule detracts from the main question at hand, which has not been resolved, “Is homosexuality morally correct, or is it morally unacceptable?” To ignore the moral value system of Singaporeans is to ignore the country’s mores.

Philosopher Sir Karl Raimund Popper, in his “Liberal Principles,” warned that the moral framework of a society is its most important safeguard. He wrote, “Among the traditions we must count as the most important is what we may call the ‘moral framework’ (corresponding to the institutional ‘legal framework’) of a society. This incorporates the society’s traditional sense of justice or fairness, or the degree of moral sensitivity it has reached. This moral framework serves as the basis, which makes it possible to reach a fair or equitable compromise between conflicting interests where this is necessary. It is, of course, itself not unchangeable, but it changes comparatively slowly. Nothing is more dangerous than the destruction of this traditional framework. (Its destruction was consciously aimed at by Nazism.) In the end its destruction will lead to cynicism and nihilism, i.e. to the disregard and the dissolution of all human values.”

I conclude that the retention of S377a will rightly reflect the moral value system of Singapore’s essentially conservative society. It will also offer Singaporeans the confidence that the law will continue to protect their society from a gradual, albeit insidious, degeneration of its moral framework.

Note: There are Christians who may be uncomfortable with my previous proposal that the government should give due respect to the moral value system of Singaporeans. I have perceived that Singapore is generally conservative compared to many European nations. To my critics (now I understand why we have to fight the battle from both sides), do allow me to ask you a question, “In view of the secular government, what would you propose that we do? Tell the government to follow the Ten Commandments?” More importantly, “What have you or your church done to promote a godly agenda within Singapore’s society?” Silence is no longer golden.

I have also addressed the problem


sattvicwarrior said...

wow YOUR BLOG IS FANTASTIC. I have never read anything so absolute on anything the point it borders on the absurd….
the box that you "live in" or call your reality is the tightest i have ever seen . or maybe i should say it this way.
your blog reminds me of a poem i once read.
the title of the poem is
the poem.......
thanks for your unparalleled and absolute never to be challenged EVER [ even by god] ,...... precept, concepts and notions of “wisdom”.
the world should bow before your brilliance..
it must be REALLY lonely at the top!!!!!!!!!

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Warrior,

Thanks for dropping by.

BTW, that's an ad hominem argument.

I sympathize with thee.

Vincent the tortise (sic - tortoise) in the noon day sun. :)

ddd said...


I didn't know you would tolerate an ad-hominem comment on your blog. For me, that would be a violation of my blog rules, and out goes the comment (into the dustbin). Anyway, on a more serious note, if such is the best the homosexual bigots can come up with, then they have proved their moral and intellectual bankruptcy many times over.

Joining you in the non-day sun at the top =P,
Daniel Chew.

PS. This guy is seriously to be pitied. It must be a very tough job trying to suppress your conscience and turn yourself against the general revelation of God

Lee said...

brethrens, because of globalization, the trend that the world is heading is towards gobal diversity, diversity in not just accepting homosexuals practice as an alternate lifestyle, but we also see it in different religions coming together for world peace.

Joe Blackmon said...

I honestly think the majority of Christians lack the true compassion needed to really witness to homosexuals. We must realize that people who are in that lifestyle have an ache in their heart that they are trying to fill with something that is deadly. Often times, we treat them as lepers as if to say "Get yourself cleaned up before we'll have anything to do with you."

Great post, vincent. Thanks

Dave said...

Discussing emotive issues like homosexuality requires courage bcos once ur out there, u r bound to stigmatized publicly with labels like homophobic, heterosexist, bigot, hate monger...

This website has some good strategies to handle such verbal abuse:

And btw, I agree with the points u raised in this post and wonder, "If the state recognizes a civil union or domestic partnership for gay couples for purposes like tax waiver, insurance cover etc would sporean christians oppose that?"