We humans have many similarities to other creatures on the planet. Among them are some hardwired characteristics that we refer to as instincts. In humans these instincts are mediated by the prefrontal cortex. Training the young to have self-control over instinctual drives is demanded by cultures across the world. The prefrontal cortex is where conscious and logical thinking occur and where incidental experience or deliberate training is processed. The cortex is where codes of conduct, moral training and societal norms combine to form one’s attitudes and beliefs. This socialization process requires effort without which a person cannot gain competence to thrive in society. Intelligence alone is not sufficient; without training and effort, intelligence is wasted.
Instinctual drives tend to act independently from our conscious sense of who we are and can surprise us, sometimes in embarrassing ways. All men and women can recall being embarrassed by the unanticipated effects of puberty. Puberty is the time we are easily sexually aroused in proximity to others. All societies socialize young boys into heterosexuality at puberty. This has traditionally been called the “natural” course of things. But the meaning of the word “natural” depends on your point-of-view. For many people today, doing what comes naturally means letting our hindbrain impulses dominate our actions without enough awareness (or prefrontal mediation) to avoid even dire consequences.
On the other hand, to a person using the phrase “natural law,” the word natural has a different meaning. According to Merriam-Webster, natural law is “a body of law or a specific principle held to be derived from nature and binding upon human society in the absence of or in addition to positive law.” Two things considered natural under this definition would be heterosexuality and male and female genders. Western culture has deviated from this version of natural in favor of a version that equates freedom with sexual behavior unmediated by social constraints or rational thought processes.
Civilization moves large numbers of people away from the constant vigilance needed to prevent individual harm and community disaster. It also has the effect of avoiding conditions that, according to natural law, once seemed...well…lawful. In other words, what is obviously necessary (or lawful) for community survival in a tribal society where privation is just around the corner is less obvious in a more advanced society that can distance itself from immediate disaster even as more of its citizens engage in behavior, once considered lawless, that may wind up ultimately destroying that society.
To explain the importance of training children to follow time-tested natural laws in ways that perpetuate a culture, it will be useful to compare the effects of critical periods of human development, puberty onset in this case, with imprinting in duck and sea turtle hatchlings. This will help us to understand some human behavior at the subcortical level.
As I said earlier, we share similarities with other species. Our Master Builder has created us and other creatures to live in a material world that requires us to survive physically. But, more importantly, God created our prefrontal cortex, which is uniquely designed to thrive when in relationship with Him.
Scientists studying duck hatchlings discovered that, shortly after hatching, ducklings fixated on their mothers or, in the absence of a mother, on anything that first got their attention. Scientists call this imprinting. Under most conditions, the most likely object moving around near a hatchling would be its mother. The odds of a hatchling surviving without this natural occurrence would be zero. But now enter those pesky scientists. Scientists discovered that if you introduced a black dot on a stick to these hatchlings at a critical moment after hatching, they would follow the dot anywhere.
Much like newly hatched ducklings, sea turtle hatchlings are programmed to move in the direction of light. Until humans lit up the coastlands, the brightest area was the ocean because of its reflectivity, and, for millennia, the ocean has been their destination. But these days sea turtles die because lights on the coastline draw the turtle hatchlings away from the ocean, making them more vulnerable to dehydration and predation. This is similar to hatchling imprinting in ducks, making both species vulnerable to either scientific shenanigans or to porch lights.
The instinctual foundation of humans is similar to these creatures. During times of sexual hormone flooding—adolescence, for example—humans sexually imprint on whatever stimulus is the closest or most noticeable. If we introduce some object other than the “natural” stimulus, that once neutral object becomes the focus and object of desire. Because of this, first sexual experiences are critical. Any further repetition will cement one’s perceptions, beliefs, sexual orientation and gender identity, perhaps permanently.
If birds and sea turtles had larger brains, we can imagine they’d be thinking “mommy” or “home” as they mistakenly follow a dot back to their cages or crawl toward a porch light and to their deaths. Similarly, young boys’ and girls’ sexual orientations and gender identities may be imprinted at critical periods, probably at the onset of puberty, but possibly earlier. Thus, the object of their desire is imposed largely by circumstance at critical moments when arousal seeks an object of desire.
The object of our desire is imposed by happenstance or by deliberate socialization. At least in this respect, humans are similar to duck or sea turtle hatchlings. At critical periods in our development we are susceptible to fixating on the closest object near us. Natural law would say that the object of our desire would under ideal conditions be someone of the opposite sex. An unnatural stimulus would be anyone or anything else.
For many thousands of years humans have been training their offspring into heterosexuality and marriage between male and female. This should be evidence enough that human survival has depended upon the socialization of children into two genders and marriage between male and female.
Every civilization collapses when its people deviate from the age-old, tried-and-true practices and traditions that support and enforce the biological realities of male and female reproductive practices.
As we distance ourselves from the awareness of necessity and focus more on our wants than on our needs, we also tend to minimize the importance of the underlying structures and traditions in place that have led to our material success. Thus, the very thing that led to our success as a community or a nation is ignored or denigrated.
Progressives view the Judeo-Christian foundations propping up our institutions as an impediment to further growth. Just the opposite is true. The progressives lead the charge towards black dots and porch lights, insisting they are right. No, they are wrong. Dead wrong.