Re: What is "natural" anyway?

From: Tim Ikeda (
Date: Wed May 15 2002 - 09:50:39 EDT

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    Kamilla writes:
    > Nice try, Tim. But pregnancy isn't inherently risky - it may well
    > be for some but clearly is not so for all.

    If something is risky for some people and if we have no definitive way
    of identifying all individuals at risk, then the condition is still
    *inherently* risky. Similarly, many people fully recovery from
    surgery, but surgery is still inherently risky.

    And indeed, pregnancy *is* inherently risky: Witness the amount of
    prenatal testing currently performed and the death rates for women
    giving birth before the 1900's and in underdeveloped countries
    today. The expansion of medical monitoring was not simply driven by
    malpractice lawsuits. "Natural" does not mean "inherently safe".
    Women have died and suffered grave complications as the result
    of perfectly "natural" pregnancies (It is "natural" to die during

    > It also confers certain protections, especially if a woman has
    > her first child before the age of 30.

    There is no Biblical verse that requires a woman to give birth before
    age 30. If giving birth before a certain age reduces risks for
    women, why isn't it a moral law? If circumcision improves one's
    hygiene and reduces the incidence of certain cancers, why is it no
    longer required of Christians today?

    I can see no clear level of physical "risk" that triggers the specific
    imposition of a moral law by God (Though I know that Attorney General
    Ashcroft would find such guidelines helpful).

    > Sodomy, on the other hand, is inherently damaging to the lower
    > bowel (whether or not a condom is used, by the way).

    A couple things:
    1) Definitions: Let's be specific in our use of terms - "Sodomy" is
    not "inherently damaging to the lower bowel" because it may not involve
    anal insertion. Most heterosexual and lesbian couples practice "sodomy"
    with absolutely no ill effects (with or without sheep). "Anal
    intercourse" may be damaging and indeed, many couples (hetero- and homo-
    sexual) use it sparingly and exercise some care. Even if anal intercourse
    is damaging, it may not be to the extent that it requires extensive
    medical treatment or involves a significant loss in the quality of life
    (The latter decision is solely for the individual to decide). The
    concept that the only satisfactory coupling in relationships requires
    a receptive partner for an insertion event anywhere between the legs is
    also a bit narrow and parochial, IMHO.

    2) That a condition - pregnancy, homosexual contact, or whatever - may
    not be dangerous to all is irrelevant. Also, the fact that these are
    extremely dangerous to some is likewise irrelevant. My point is that
    "natural law" arguments such as those based on statistical medical
    probabilities have a difficult time connecting to divinely-based, moral
    codes. It is clear that the Bible was not written in a way that balances
    physical risks to specific proscriptions of certain behaviors or to levels
    of punishment. While 'one size does not fit all in "nature"', many moral
    codes permit no such distinctions.

    There may be legitimate, physical reasons to enact a *manmade* law. But
    don't confuse these with laws imposed by a divine agent. These two
    systems may be enacted for entirely different purposes and whether the
    laws overlap may often be entirely coincidental. Basically, I would not
    look too hard for scientific affirmation of Biblical laws. The ambiguity
    often is too great. There is *absolutely* no requirement that Biblical
    laws must make sense to us.

    Similarly, I feel that the ideal of a particular, optimal and guiding
    concept of a "natural state" is likewise naive and generally fraught
    with too many exceptions to provide anything but the sketchiest outlines
    for moral codes.

    If one is going to argue about a Biblically-described moral edict then
    one should stick to discussing the actual text. What actually occurs
    in nature is of little help in such discussions and provides little
    support for arguments that are otherwise weakly or ambiguously supported
    by the text.

    Tim Ikeda

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