Monday, October 30, 2006

Mastering Nature:

Fascinating discussion by Richard Samuelson over at Claremont. It references an LA Times article about gay men having biological children with surrogates. Samuelson's discussion notices that it's only with the marvel of Western science that gay men have these choices.

He asks very apt questions:

A few further thoughts: What would someone (almost anyone) have said about a story like this 100 years ago? That gay couples existed out in the open would shock them....What will they say 100 years from now? Societies with open homosexuality are rare in history, and no previous society has tried to treat homosexual couples the same as heterosexual couples. It is an experiment. Will it work? In a century, we might have some answers.

The same questions could have been asked when America was founded between 1776 and 1787. Our "Novus Ordo Seclorum" was a "great experiment" -- something never done before and whose outcome was uncertain -- which radically broke with tradition.

The attitude toward nature is fascinating here. On one hand, nature gives the couple its moral bearings. That they are attracted to men and not women dictates how they lead their lives. On the other hand, they use technology to overcome nature. It allows them to become, in a sense, joint fathers. What is the connection between these two attitudes toward nature?

Again, the same perplexing attitude toward nature was evident in America's Founding. On the one hand, we appealed to "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" to found our nation. Yet, according to the East Coast Straussians, Locke's teachings dictate that "[m]an, if he is sensible, separates himself from nature and becomes its master and conqueror. This was and still is the prevailing belief of liberal democracies, with their peace, gentleness, prosperity, productivity and applied science, particularly medical science." Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 171.

Keeping this in mind, Samuelson asks: "Finally, how does all that fit it with treating the human body as a commodity to be used according to basic instinct, and also to be rented out for hire."

And indeed it was Locke who first posited that man owns himself. If I own my body, I can rent it out for hire!

Samuelson's final question: "What would the founders think? Is this the liberty for which they fought and died?" Whether they realized it or not, arguably yes. Even though I often disagree with Paul Cella, he wrote a great article entitled "Locke Box", where he noted "[i]f the[ Founders] were indeed Lockeans, and Locke was indeed a profound innovator, even a revolutionary, then America was indeed the vanguard of political modernity." Arguably, it's because of our founding principles that we read the story about gay men having biological children through surrogacy.


The Gay Species said...

". . . nature gives the couple its moral bearings." How? Ethics and morality are human values. Nature has no "values," only "facts." Humans are integral to nature, and act teleologically (for a purpose, even a final end), where nature does neither. This fact/value dichotomy is no longer doubted, and any confusion between the dichotomy commits the naturalistic fallacy. On its face, the proposition is incoherent and a false claim.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If you accept Strauss' interpretation of Locke, he was a hedonist. If you don't, then he believed in the Bible more than the framers.

Jonathan said...

Great point Tom. My opinion is we shouldn't necessarily be so concerned with trying to find out what Locke really secretly believed intended: Was he an atheist hedonist, or a laditudinarian Christianity operating out of a Biblical worldview? It wasn't Locke, but how our FOUNDERS understood Locke and dealt with his ideas, which are key to understanding America's ideological origins.