Cofty: have heard this argument frequently but I don't understand it. I even heard Laurence Krauss use it recently in a debate in Australia. What has animal behaviour go to do with human ethics? Animals do lots of stuff we would condemn among humans.
It is also misleading from a biological point of view. Many species will engage in same-sex copulation when females are unavailable - for example when an alpha male dominates breeding in a harem - but will always mate with a female at any opportunity. The only known exception is found among domesticated sheep.
Consenting adults should be free to have sex with other consenting adults of either sex. We don't need to use doubtful arguments to justify it.
Cofty - when you ask, "What has animal behaviour go to do with human ethics?" The answer is of course, nothing!
But you (for what ever reason) and possibly others who use the information now available, miss the point behind the information.
The Christian argument, as perhaps first posited by Paul in Romans 1:26.27, is that same sex sexual activities are, "contrary to nature." As a deductive argument is not sound if a supportive premise is not valid, then Paul's argument fails if same sex sexual activity can be found "in nature," if for no other reason than the Christian claim that God made all things.
If in "nature" made by God, "unreasoning" animals (2 Peter 2:12) who cannot (apparently, according to that text) make reasoned decisions, (and thus change from a natural use, to an unnatural use) are found to "naturally" have sexual activities with the same sex (either male or female) then Paul's statement is unsound.
When you say: "It is also misleading from a biological point of view. Many species will engage in same-sex copulation when females are unavailable - for example when an alpha male dominates breeding in a harem - but will always mate with a female at any opportunity. The only known exception is found among domesticated sheep."
I think you will agree that it is difficult to study the complete sexual activities of animals in the wild. And, in 'domesticated' situations (and, zoos) it can be claimed the animals 'natural' propensities are distorted by the unnatural environment. You mention domesticated male sheep as the 'one' example of known 'exclusively' homosexual behaviour.
How do we know whether or not there are male 'wild' sheep that only have sex with the males in their species?
Among wild examples of the Ovid genus, we find Ovis canadensis, known commonly as Bighorn sheep. Without going into all the details a zoologist describes the males as living in "homosexual societies," in which same sex courtship and activity are routine.
Yes, there is also heterosexual activity! Once a year the sex segregated groups intermingle and mate in what humans call 'promiscuous behaviour,' during the rutting season. But what we don't know Cofty is whether there are individual males who do not participate. It is difficult to observe individual behaviours. But observing zoologists believe that some males do not participate in heterosexual activities at all. Interestingly male to male activity actually increases during the rutting season.
You may interpret this example of 'wilderness' sheep behaviour as you wish, but clearly these animals are not domesticated.
May I also point out that there are many human males that while likely 'naturally' attracted to other males, may also have (for one reason or another) have sex with females. Many of them have posted here as they are former JWs, who for whatever reason bought into this Christian foolishness and tried to live as heterosexuals, with varying degrees of success. Often sadly, the sexual needs of their wives suffered, but can it be said that they were "exclusively homosexual?"
I believe from my studies that there are people that are 'naturally' attracted to the 'same sex.' You can spot them throughout history. But as a caveat, we must remember that so long as a male can get an erection, he can have sex with whoever he desires or finds it neccessary to engage in penetrative sex with.
All this complicates our understanding or what we see in human and animal sexual activity. One thing though, surely stands out. Paul's argument that sex with a member of your own sex cannot be regarded as 'contrary to nature.' And that's why 'natural' animal sexuality enters the picture in arguments about human sexuality.
There are many more examples in the wild of animals that seem to be 'exclusively homosexual,' I'll offer another post on the subject in a little while.