osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Distracting myself with a hypothetical ethics question

To calm down after a particular annoyance, I will distract myself with a question of ethics likely to occur in the near future.

Last night, one of my local stations apparently ran one of these "is sexual orientation nature or nurture" pieces (I'm judging by the adverts). Personally, I find the argument interesting from a scientific perspective but idiotic in its usual political context. Whatever determines sexual orientation, and how malleable it is over time, it seems to me that basing civil rights or status as a consequence is both wrong headed and self-defeating. I prefer a more libertarian argument based on the rights of individuals rather than one based on biological determinism.

Which brings me to my ethics problem. Let us assume that sexual orientation is determined while a fetus is gestating (we'll duck whether this is environmental or genetic). Scientists have now discovered that a particular course of treatment by mothers during pregnancy will determine sexual orientation. It is possible, therefore, to "set" the sexual orientation people irrevocably before they are born.

Which of the following is ethical?

1) Is it ethical for a mother to predetermine the sexual orientation of her child. NB: for purposes of this problem, assume you can "fix" sexual orientation for either same sex or opposite sex (but not bi). Is it ethical for a mother to decide she wants only "straight" babies? For same sex couples to want children "just like them?" Why or why not?

2) Is it ethical for the STATE to determine sexual orientation? (I recommend reading Joe Halderman's Forever War for a future in which the government makes life simpler by controlling reproduction and setting everyone's sexual orientation as same sex.) Why or why not?

3) Based on your answers to either (1) or (2) above, should the "nature v. nurture" argument or the changability of sexual orientation over a person's lifetime be relevant in determining the legal status of same sex marriage?

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