By natural law, shouldn't graveyard shifts be immoral?


Natural law is often cited as the secular basis for preventing legal same-sex civil unions. Many concede that a secular basis is necessary for law because they acknowledge the separation of church and state.

But since man is by nature a diurnal creature, shouldn’t taking naps during the day or working during a graveyard shift also be immoral?

If not, please explain why.


Natural law is about man choosing to pursue his natural ends. Working the graveyard shift doesn’t interfere with that. This is similar to asking if wearing glasses is immoral. No, the natural end of an eye is to see. If the eye has a defect, using corrective lenses or surgery allows the eye to function better towards its natural end. And that doesn’t make wearing decorative glasses without any corrective lenses immoral. The only issue is when such natural ends are intentionally frustrated, or a oerson chooses to work against them.

It’s not so much about what’s in nature so much as it’s about working towards what we are directed towards. Are you familiar with final and formal causes? Talking about natural law without understanding it from this framework won’t help.


Is it not the case that one of a person’s natural ends is to sleep at night and be active during the day? One of the things we are directed towards, so to speak, which is frustrated when we work a graveyard shift?

if not, what is significantly different between my example and same sex unions?


Maybe looking at it this way will help. The natural end of eating is to provide us nutrition. When that is frustrated (either through bulimia or gluttony), that is sinful. Most everyone recognizes that a person who binges and then immediately goes to throw up the food is engaging in unhealthy behavior. This also goes for a morbidly obese person who continuously overindulges. In both instances, the food has become something other than it was designed to do- provide nutrition.

What you are proposing would be similar to saying “Humans naturally eat three meals a day: one in the morning, one at noon, and one in the evening. If a human were to decide to eat more or less than three meals a day, or choose to eat one in the middle of the night, he would be violating the natural end of food.”

Well, no, not necessarily. If he eats moderately, so that he gets adequate nutrition, and his eating doesn’t interfere with his sleeping and work habits, then eating at nonstandard times is perfectly fine.

The same goes for sleeping. Humans have a natural rhythm of sleep and consciousness. The goal is to keep those in balance. The goal is NOT to have those two needs met at a particular time. Otherwise, we’d all have to go to sleep and rise at the same time. A particular person’s needs vary widely.


I think you’re confusing “natural ends” with cultural constructs. The Spanish tradition of a siesta, for example, is hardly against the “natural law.” And I don’t see how sleep is a “natural end” at all - it’s something the need for which varies greatly from individual to individual, varies by chronological age. That humans have teeth adapted to biting as well as chewing doesn’t mean that a “natural end” of man is to eat meat. Safety and hospital workers are hardly “immoral” for working 3rd shift.


Before the advent of streetlighting people had two sleep periods, with an intervening time period between somewhere between a hour and two hours where they’d eat, talk, engage in sex, visit neighbors, as such, is it immoral according to natural law to sleep with one long period give such a high level of sleep disorders?


Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, road construction crews, stock assistants, some restaurant workers, etc. have to work graveyard shift. Thank God they are there for us.


I suggest the book 50 Questions on the Natural Law by Rice. Your example is not an example of natural law.


Even though we are a priori daylight beings, we still have to function at night, because our sleep cycle does not line up with that of of daylight. (We cannot sleep the length of a North American winter night, nor can most of us get by on the abbreviated sleep of the NA summer nights.)

So because we have to function at night, night-schools and graveyard shifts are in no way unnatural.



I agree with jaimeleglise – what would happen if a fire started during a graveyardshift and there were no firefighters working to take care of it – also police have to work graveyard shifts – my husband was a fireman and if his shift fell on a Sunday – a holiday – Christmas – New Year’s, etc. he worked it – it was an unwritten rule that you didn’t ask for a trade for those days.


Not for night owls.


Nor architecture students, seeing as I’m posting this at one in the morning.


Thanks, Barb3


No, the natural end of sleep is to refresh the body.

What you are describing as “natural” here just means “common” or “normal”. Sleeping ar night is how our bodies will normally function if we do not interfere, since we can’t see anything anyways. In the same way, it’s also “natural” to sleep lying down. It’s what humans will normally do, and it’s better for us to sleep that way. But sleeping in a chair is not a moral issue, and neither is sleeping during the day.

Why? Because natural law isn’t concerned with those details. It’s more fundamental than that. It deals with an action’s purpose, not when or how we usually go about doing it.

The difference between a nocturnal person and a same sex union is the person who sleeps in the day is not misusing the act of sleep for something other than it was meant for, which is what happens in same-sex unions. (And contraceptive opposite sex couples. We’re not just targeting gays.)

If there was some way to purposely engage in sleep without refreshing the body, then that would be a more accurate analogy. But right now what you are describing are two entirely different actions.


We are naturally drawn to the Earth by gravity due to our materiality. Is it immoral to jump?

Our tendency to sleep at certain times is typically beneficial to our health. The good obtained by dispensing with this can be greater than the good obtained by keeping it. In either case, we are not bound to either, unless we are failing in some duty, such as self-preservation.

IOW it is simply a condition that determines the usual good for us in some way, like gravity. It is not a itself a simple good to which we are bound except in cases where some other good is connected to it to which we are bound.

Put yet another way… Man was not made for the Sabbath.

SSM is, by shorthand, wrong because of the contradiction of the purposes of the sex organs, which God takes special interest in because they are the material means by which He chooses to bring new life into the world. They have their distinct purposes as beings (or principles, or parts) while the tendency to sleep during the night is just a tendency, not a purpose of the human body.

Also, what about traveling to different time zones? Living in the extreme North or South? Etc.


Natural Law is not a basis for preventing any law. It may form an element in reasoning about what is good or not good.

Did you actually want to make the case that SS sexual relations are good?


First, for at least most people, there are studies which show that working graveyard shift not only violates societal norms (like the three square meals a day example), but is actually bad for the person’s health (not significantly bad, but an effect is noticed) due to an absence in certain spectra of light from the sun which affects chemicals in our bodies. I can’t immediately cite a source, but I have heard it from multiple sources.

Doesn’t this show what is already evident from the way our eyes function? Namely, that human beings are ordered toward night sleep-- an order which is frustrated by taking the graveyard shift? night owls may have a desire to stay up late, but their eyes are ordered in the same way as the rest of us. Is this not similar to the disordered desire of people who suffer from same-sex attraction?

As far as consequences go, yes, graveyard shifts help society to function, which is ultimately a means to the end of greater human well-being. However, many could argue, and in fact have argued, that same sex unions also improve human well-being by allowing people who have SSA to live fulfilling lives with the ones they love.

Finally, I’m mainly looking for reasons to prevent legal same-sex civil unions. It seems that most people who believe in the separation of church and state cite natural law, so I’m trying to delve a little deeper into that basis.


Why “civil unions” specifically? Is not the objection to same sex civil union the same as the objection to SSM?


The key problem is this:

Namely, that human beings are ordered toward night sleep-- an order which is frustrated by taking the graveyard shift?

We are not ordered to night sleep. Night sleep is ordered to us. See my earlier post for more details.


Not quite. Often, marriage is seen as a religious or sacred act blessed by God, before it is seen as a societal/cultural/legal institution. “civil union” gets rid of the religious baggage around the word “marriage”. “civil union” is merely the word for the legal institution, without necessarily being sanctioned by God.

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