Fear of Morality?  

Posted by Brock Booher

I read something going around in social media the other day that certainly started more than one argument. “The human species is the only species that displays homophobia.”

I found the statement most interesting because of what it tried to accomplish even before the real debate even began. It labels anyone who disagrees with a moral stance as having a phobia. For me, the statement was a “non starter” because I won’t engage anyone in social media once they revert to name-calling, but I did spend some time thinking about the real argument over what is considered morally acceptable, or legally acceptable, when it comes to sexual behavior, or perhaps the deeper notion that we as a species have a moral code at all.

Nietzsche said, “Fear is the mother of morality.” I’m afraid I don’t agree with him.

First, the idea that if you disagree with the behavior of another person on moral grounds that you must therefore have a phobia is ludicrous and disingenuous. If I disagree with the behavior of a thief does that mean I am a cleptophobe? What if I disagree with a buddy of mine cheating on his wife? Does that make me a malaxaphobe? If I have objections to someone setting buildings on fire, does that mean I suffer from arsonphobia? Maybe I shouldn’t be writing about this because I am a catagelophobe, who knows?

One thing we know for sure is that the human species is the only species with a codified moral code. Every law that exists on the books is based on a moral judgment of some sort. We judge that public nudity is inappropriate and we therefore pass a law. We judge that taking property that does not belong to you is morally wrong and we pass laws against stealing in various forms. We consider it morally wrong to take the life of another human being and codify a multitude of laws against the act ranging from negligent manslaughter to first-degree murder. As a species we have passed moral judgment on a variety of behaviors. That is what makes us different than the rest of the animal kingdom.

It is true that other species display various types of moral behaviors such as caring for their young, or division of duties, but we can also find a variety of other accepted animal behaviors that we consider morally wrong. These are included but not limited to – eating your young offspring, killing and eating your mate after sex, pecking the weakest member of the group until it is dead, beating or killing your rival because you want to be in charge, bludgeoning your sexual rival and taking their mate as your own. All of these behaviors are perfectly accepted among animals, but we humans frown on them and even enforce laws against such behaviors because of our moral code.

We have set ourselves apart in the animal kingdom, not because of our phobias, but because we have dared to set a moral standard and even codify it with laws. Fear will not bring us to higher moral ground, and name-calling will not win an argument. If we want to rise above the behavior of animals, we must engage in legitimate moral debate, because after all, deciding individually or collectively if a sexual practice is acceptable is a moral judgment, not a phobia.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 10, 2011 at Monday, October 10, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Well said, and thought-provoking! Another moral behavior we've tried to embrace that sets us apart from many animals is allowing a member of our group to remain a part of the group even if they are different in some way. I suspect that at least some of the anger and fear which drives the name-calling on the side of homo-supporters is fear that this moral choice is in jeopardy. Fear cuts both ways, but rarely does it conclude in a rational discussion!

October 11, 2011 at 5:09 AM

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