Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Jon Rowe has an interesting post about the question of whether homosexuality has genetic origins, and whether it matters. I’ve always been of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I think the evidence is clear that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, like any number of other traits, most of the time. On the other hand, I don’t really care. Even if it’s not genetic and is entirely a matter of personal choice, it is no less deserving of equal protection under the law.

Comments

  1. #1 Ginger Yellow
    June 23, 2005

    While I agree with you entirely, it does matter to the religious bigots, and those who think we should accomodate their bigotry in our legislation. If homosexuality remains a ‘choice’ (which for the moment I’ll take to include unconscious but environmental rather than genetic factors) the religious right can pretend that it’s “unnatural” and a “sinful lifestyle” and not a sexual orientation. If it’s genetic, they have to fall back on the “temptation that gay people must rise above” argument, which doesn’t wash with many people.

  2. #2 Jillian
    June 23, 2005

    And I agree with both of you: It couldn’t matter less to me why people are gay if you paid me for it to matter less. But the genetic argument doesn’t necessarily work any better with the bigots. They’re just as likely to say sometbing to the effect of “Alcoholism is also genetically determined, but that doesn’t make it any less an illness”. I love the logic of that statement – it’s got so many factual errors and logical fallacies packed within it that I”m not even sure where to begin unravelling it.

    The fact is that people opposed to equal rights for gays are bigots, plain and simple, and appeals to logic are useless to those blinded by irrational hatred.

  3. #3 CPT_Doom
    June 23, 2005

    The Catholic Church has already accepted that homosexuality is “perceived as a given” in gay and lesbian people, but we are still expected to maintain lifetime celibacy. Clearly the notion that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon is not going to sway the fundamentalists, of any stripe.

    But it does have a huge impact on people whose ideas about homosexuality are open to being swayed. That is why I think it is important to defend the biological nature of homosexuality.

  4. #4 Zed
    June 24, 2005

    For adults, I agree, nature vs nurture really doesn’t change all that much of anything. I think it matter when talking about the development of sexuality in teenagers, though. The claim that homosexuality is a developmental disorder legitimises efforts to forcibly try and “fix” children and teenagers before the supposedly learned homosexuality gets too heavily implanted. I can’t support that.

  5. #5 raj
    June 24, 2005

    Zed, they don’t “fix” children, they neuter them. No sex. No love. It’s sad.

    We discuss this at length over at ex-gay watch dot com. http://www.exgaywatch.com/blog/

    What I have never been able to understand is the following. Anti-gay people have latched onto the idea that people become gay because of bad parenting. But, if that’s the case, they should be vilifying the parents. Not the gay people.

    But, I’ll let you know, I hate that. I’m gay. My parents loved me, difficult though I was while growing up. I hate the fact that some people are villifying my parents. I really do. My dad was so proud of me when I was a boy scout and an explorer scout, and we were the first troop to earn merit badges in metallurgy. This was in 1965. Yes we did, and he still has the newspaper reports from the time.

    The RCC don’t try to “fix” the gay kids. They try to neuter them.

  6. #6 Raging Bee
    June 24, 2005

    I’m very leery of the whole “gay gene” line of reasoning. Some people think that recognizing homosexuality is genetically determined will force the bigots to accept it as natural and unchangeable. I suspect that the bigots will merely say “See, it’s not a valid lifestyle, it’s a GENETIC DEFECT! They’re BORN DIFFERENT, therefore we can’t treat them as equals!” (Except, of course, when their own kids turn out gay, in which case they’ll say “It’s not his fault! How dare you persecute him?”) As Mad magazine said, you never can win with a bigot!

    Besides, if we look for a genetic cause of homosexuality, shouldn’t we also be looking for a genetic cause of any other variation in sexual tastes? How about a genetic cause for a desire for partners of different race? A desire for tall or fat women? A desire to dominate or be dominated?

    I suspect that like most of our tastes, turn-ons and turn-offs, the cause is neither genes nor “choice.” Can you choose, say, your taste in music? Your liking for salty foods, or dislike of fish? Of course not — they’re formed (and continually evolving) as a result of a lifetime’s experience, perceptions and associations. Trying to find genetic causes for the tastes and desires that drive us and make us unique, without looking at environmental factors and influences, is simpleminded and kind of dehumanizing.

    PS: How strong IS that link between genes and sexual orientation, anyway?

  7. #7 Raging Bee
    June 24, 2005

    Another point: however you try to “explain” sexual orientation, why should anyone be wasting any effort trying to explain his/her sexual desires to strangers who have no business demanding such explanations in the first place?

  8. #8 raj
    June 24, 2005

    Raging Bee, I have no idea, but you might find

    Human Sexual Orientation: “The Black Box”

    interesting.

    It’s at http://members.aol.com/GAYGENE/pages/blackbox.htm

  9. #9 John
    June 24, 2005

    As Bee said.

    “why should anyone be wasting any effort trying to explain his/her sexual desires to strangers who have no business demanding such explanations in the first place?”

    About time someones says this. Right on Bee!

  10. #10 passing by
    June 25, 2005

    Gays have equal protection. I don’t consider marriage a “right”. The state is in its right to promote marriage as a monogamous heterosexual institution because most monogamous heterosexual relationships involve procreation and that binds parents to their children which is important for everyone. a person can do all kinds of kinky crap in the privacy of their own home and not be bothered but I can’t see how marriage is a civil right. Technically speaking, gay people can marry members of the opposite sex, they obviously just don’t want to. Nothing stops them from protecting eachother and providing for eachother legally, the state is not obliged, morally or as a state interest to put their stamp of approval on these unions. the state doesnt sanction polygamy but that doesn’t stop threesomes from cohabitating and behaving like married couples, the state, with good reason, simply chooses not to endorse that type of setup because it isnt in the best interest of children who, last I heard, come from one man and one woman. as far as whether or not homosexuality is genetic, there is no compelling evidence that it is entirely genetic and there is some evidence that it is partially genetic. Religious people are entitled to believe as they will, same as secular people are. I imagine that if religious people find homosexuality sinful, it might ease their views if it were discovered that a strong biological component were involved. Then again, while most homosexuals are probably strongly compelled by instincts, there are still some people who enjoy experimenting. Some people dont think there’s anything wrong with it, others do.

  11. #11 passing by
    June 25, 2005

    in response to raging bee, I wonder if you think people with any kind of sexual preferences shouldnt bother to explain them to anyone else. I never thought of anyone demanding an explanation for sexual orientation. but clearly most people here think the desire to have sex with a child is deviant, while NAMBLA clearly does not. I see the narrow mindedness on both sides. I don’t think homosexuality is sinful but I also think religious people are well in their right to privately believe it is, and to vocalize their opinions as such.

  12. #12 Jillian
    June 25, 2005

    Why is it that no matter how many times we refute those tired, limp strawmen that passingby just treated us to, they won’t die the death they deserve?

    And as for why we investigate it – Bee’s right. Such investigations have no normative weight whatsoever – they don’t, and will never, tell us anything about whether homsexuality is “right” or “wrong”. Such explanations are never sought in an attempt to justify homosexuality. Thinking that a biological explanation can provide a normative justification is a version of the naturalistic fallacy, because it’s an attempt to get from what “is” (the biological reality) to what “ought to be” (the “right or wrong” of homosexuality).

    Look at it this way: there are some researchers who have suggested that there may be a biological basis for an impulse toward rape. Now, I am absolutely not prepared to weigh in on whether there’s any substance to that claim, but even if there is, it doesn’t make rape any less wrong. Rape causes harm to one of the individuals involved. Consensual gay sex does not.

    But none of that really addresses why we biologicallly investigate sexual orientation. We do it because it’s interesting. We do it because we want to learn as much as possible about humanity and all the interesting variations we come in. We do it because every thing we learn about human biology, no matter how insignificant, adds to our overall understanding of what makes the human organism work.

    As long as we remember that while an understanding of biology may help to give us a solid normative grounding, it can never be the final arbiter of right and wrong, then there’s really no harm in investigating such things, either. It’s when we get into the realm of thinking things like because the primary biological purpose of sex is reproduction, then the only morally acceptable purpose of sex is reproduction that we have problems.

  13. #13 raj
    June 25, 2005

    Jillian, it’s all about–money. The pseudo-christian wackos make money by bashing gay people. It’s only a money issue, and the sooner that people recognize that, the sooner it might stop.

    One reason why the right wing christian operations such as Dobson’s Focus on (some peoples’) Family, Jerry Foulwell, the American Family Assassination, and so forth, beat on homos is that that is the primary source of their revenue.

  14. #14 John
    June 25, 2005

    Passerby,

    You might not consider marriage a right; that is your perrogative. But you are swimmoing against the tide. The “right to marry” has always been considered fundamental to liberty.

  15. #15 SharonB
    June 25, 2005

    If I am not mistaken, did not the Loving case opinion establish that the right to marriage ~is~ a fundamental right? The legal scholars may want to comment, if this is not too OT.

  16. #16 John
    June 25, 2005

    Sharon,

    I’m no legal scholar. But Loving did recognize the right to marry, but I don’t think Loving “esablished” it as much as simply acknowledge the obvious. The right to marriage is fundamendal.

  17. #17 Eric Scheie
    June 26, 2005

    I tend to agree with Raging Bee. I also think it’s entirely possible that SOME homosexuality is organic, while some is chosen. The issue (which is sexual freedom) shouldn’t depend on genes.

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