Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Biology and “Real” Parents

One of the disturbing things to me about the current brouhaha over gay parents is the religious right’s elevation of biology over relationships. By this I mean that they act as though being a biological parent is infinitely more important than being a day to day parent, which is entirely contrary to reality. Here’s a perfect example in an email sent out by Stephen Bennett of Concerned Women for America:

Fact is Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s daughter – in one way or another – received a male’s sperm. She is the biological mother, parent number one, and some man, somewhere out there, is Samuel David’s real biological father, parent number two. ..

Heather Poe is Mary Cheney’s live-in lesbian lover. She may act like a parent, she may treat the baby as a parent, she may love this baby with all of her heart, but in this reality we all live in, Heather Poe is NOT the baby’s real parent. She has NO biological connection to the child whatsoever. Some man, the baby’s real Daddy, is the child’s other REAL parent.


But this is quite absurd. The fact that Heather Poe will have no “natural” – i.e. biological – relationship with the child is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether she will have a healthy parental relationship with the child. Mary and Heather have been together for 15 years, and in all likelihood will be together for the rest of their lives. Heather will be a parent to this child every bit as much as Mary will despite the lack of a biological relationship. The first rule of parenting is this: biology is irrelevant; only relationships matter.

Shaquille O’Neil was raised by a man named Phillip Harrison, who is legally his stepfather. Shaq says Phil is his real father, and he’s right. His biological father is a man named Joe Toney, who suddenly appeared in 1994, when Shaq was a budding NBA superstar. Shaq’s response was to do a rap song called Biological Didn’t Bother where he says that “Phil is my father…cuz my biological didn’t bother.” Shaq knows something that Bennett doesn’t, that parenthood has virtually nothing to do with biology and everything to do with relationships.

If my father called me tomorrow and told me that I was adopted, I wouldn’t even blink. I wouldn’t wonder about my “real” father because I know who my real father is. My real father is the man who raised me, the man who held me when I had bad dreams and spanked me when I was bad. The man who taught me the right way to treat other people and who taught me that when someone you care about needs help, you’re there for them, every time, without question. That’s my father. And if it turned out that he wasn’t the guy who supplied the sperm, that wouldn’t change one iota.

I would like to think that Heather Poe will be a parent to this child just as much as my father has been a parent to me. She’ll help her with her homework and help instill a sense of dignity in that child like all parents should. She’ll punish her when she deserves it and praise her even when she doesn’t. That’s what good parents do, and good parents are not determined by genetics but by love. If she does all those things that a good parent does, does Bennett really think that the child will care whether Heather is her biological mother or not? If so, he’s nuts. This attitude is an insult to the millions of adoptive parents and step parents who have forged real parental relationships with their children without any biological connection whatsoever.

Comments

  1. #1 Royale
    May 31, 2007

    Not that there is any coherence to Bennett’s argument, but that belief would completely undercut the status of adopted children. He’s basically saying that if you adopted a child, the child is not really yours and you can’t be the parent.

    Quel horreur.

    I would except more from the “Concerned Women for America”.

  2. #2 Dan
    May 31, 2007

    It’s a bullshit argument. I was adopted (as were both my siblings) at just a few weeks of age. My parents are two wonderful people named John and Nancy, the only two parents I’ve ever known. My biological parents contributed genetic material and nothing more. It really makes you wonder: do these morons even think (or have the capacity to think) about the implications of their arguments?

  3. #3 Russel
    May 31, 2007

    Royale writes:

    Not that there is any coherence to Bennett’s argument, but that belief would completely undercut the status of adopted children.

    Yep. And those of us who were adopted, or who have raised children who weren’t ours biologically, get a bit miffed when we read this kind of nonsense. The good news is that that includes a significant fraction of the population. This is a good issue to highlight, because the wingnuts are on the losing end of the stick when they try to alienate every parent and child who are not related by blood.

  4. #4 Matthew Young
    May 31, 2007

    This is a stupid argument. Where does that put my mother’s sister’s husband in terms of relationships? Is he my ‘real’ uncle? There’s no blood relationship there.

    As someone who was raised largely abroad I am far, far closer to some of the friends of the family whom I have known and been close to since the age of 5, than I am to members of my father’s Canadian family – my own flesh and blood, as it were – who I have barely spent more than a couple of months with, in total, since I was born.

    Hi argument is nonsense and it means nothing.

  5. #5 SLC
    May 31, 2007

    Re Mary Cheney

    It should be pointed out that, at this point, we don’t know who the gentleman was who donated the sperm. For all we know, it could be a relative of Ms. Poe, which would give her a biological link to the baby. There was a case in San Francisco some time ago in which the sperm was donated by the brother of the recipients’ female partner. What would Mr. Bennett have to say about that?

  6. #6 Royale
    May 31, 2007

    What makes this truly frightening is that adoption is promoted as an alternative to abortion.

    So if biology is so important to be a parent, then they should rethink if “Adoption is an option.”

  7. #7 Rev Justin D Spears
    May 31, 2007

    Stephen Bennett, a person who claims to be an ex-gay, is an individual that is clearly attempting to cash in on heartache, some of which he hopes to prepetrate himself. It is his duty, as he sees it as a Evangelical, to foster hatred and anger at all gays, be they male or female. If tolerance of gays/lesbians/bisexual/transgendered/intersexed becomes the rule then Stephen will have to find some other means to cash in on humen misery. The sad fact is that is the bases of his absurd comment and not fact. The birth of this child is a step in the direction of tolerance, for even the VP, a very strong conservative, embraces and accepts him.

  8. #8 Raging Bee
    May 31, 2007

    I remember a post on a pompous right-wing blog called “Right Reason” (perhaps a better title would have been “Fascist Fabrication,” but that’s another story), in which the author went through a lot of logical hoops and backflips to argue that every time a woman adopted a child, or had a kid using sperm from a man who would not be involved in the raising of the kid, she was “depriving the child of a father” — even when she had a husband who was there to function as the father! It was a lot of prim, purse-lipped, self-important logic from someone who clearly had no clue what any of it meant in the real world; and was obviously made up to rationalize his prejudice against all that newfangled family and IVF stuff.

    This nonsense about Cheney and Poe is in the same league, with a lot of ridiculous hate added to make everything even more insane. If they’re now throwing basic family responsibilities out the window in favor of “biology,” then they’ve gone way off the deep end.

    (PS: That thread on RR/FF ended when I debunked all of the carefully-crafted arguments, and I was later banned from that blog. I’ll start crying about “persecution” when I’m done laughing at them.)

  9. #9 kehrsam
    May 31, 2007

    Jesus did not have a biological father, either, and we all see how that played out. How does Mr. Bennet know this is not also an immaculate conceptions?

  10. #10 Elf Eye
    May 31, 2007

    My daughter and I became a family by adoption. One day we were discussing the circumstances surrounding her conception, and I shared some information about her biological father. As a result, she observed, “So he’s not _really_ my father, is he?” Her take on the situation was an interesting reversal of the common notion that a adoptive parent is not a ‘real’ parent. To my daughter, because the biological father had not been there for her or for her biological mother, he was NOT ‘really’ her father.

  11. #11 Reed A. Cartwright
    May 31, 2007

    You are correct Ed about how relationships matter.

    It is my understanding that studies exists that demonstrate that biological parents are more attentive on average than step parents. Similar studies demonstrate that grandmothers are on average more attentive to their daughters’ children than their sons’. There are evolutionary reasons for these observations (which is why I mention them here).

    Of course this doesn’t matter when judging whether an absent biological parent is better than a gay parent.

  12. #12 RickD
    May 31, 2007

    Kudos on bringing in Shaq. I have an adopted brother and always thought Shaq put it very well. I despise the trend in TV soaps and melodramas where the child discovers, after being ignored by a biological parent for 10-30+ years, that the relationship with the biological parent is just as important to him or her as it is to a child who was actually raised by his or her biological parents.

    (BTW – a dirty little secret: a lot of children of divorce feel the same way, depending on just how involved either parent was involved in raising the child.)

  13. #13 Djinna
    May 31, 2007

    So, what kind of hissy fit do you think they’d be throwing in cases where one partner carries the pregnancy, but the other partner provides the egg? If biology is so damn important, which part of the biological process? The ovulation, or the gestation? If the spurting in a cup by an anonymous sperm donor is more important than raising the kid day in, day out, then the ovulation part would be the part to fetishize. Which doesn’t mesh well with the worshipping of pregnancy by so many of their fellow wingers.

    I know hating on the gays is vitally important to them and all, but you’d think that they would take a page from the creationists and realize that there’s some arguments that they should not use, because they’re so patently absurd. Alienating the “adoption not abortion!” part of their base is dumb. And really, is there ANYONE left who doesn’t personally know (and love) a family where the children are not biologically related to both parents, either due to adoption or step-parenting? Pam had a good link recently on how knowing openly gay people is correlated with tolerance:
    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/485/friends-who-are-gay

    Piss off everyone who is a member of, or close to, a family with adopted or step-kids, and they’re not going to have many allies left.

  14. #14 Djinna
    May 31, 2007

    Oh, and what does this say about cases of paternity discrepancy, which presumably have happened throughout all of human history? Especially considering that until very recently, there’s been very little certainty as to whether a given man actually is the biological father of his children? Not that I’m giving credence to the argument from tradition, but the uber-focus on genetics as to what makes a parent has only beceome possible with the development of modern genetics.

  15. #15 Rufus
    May 31, 2007

    The first rule of parenting is this: biology is irrelevant

    Biology is obviously relevant. If it weren’t why would Cheney and so many others go through the very invasive IVF treatment when they could just adopt?

  16. #16 Phil
    May 31, 2007

    What about sperm harvesting by the female half of a pair? I would guess there are many males acting as bio-daddy to offspring not sharing their DNA. Am I oversimple?

  17. #17 Djinna
    May 31, 2007

    Biology is obviously relevant. If it weren’t why would Cheney and so many others go through the very invasive IVF treatment when they could just adopt?

    Well, the same could be said about going through the very invasive process of pregnancy in general. How about, biology is relevant, but not everything, and not even really the most important thing?

  18. #18 Royale
    May 31, 2007

    I forget the society, but in one of those indigenous tribes in the Amazon or Indonesia, male parentage goes to the uncle and not the biological father. In other words, the biological father does not raise the child, but the duty goes to mother’s brother who forms a parent-child bond.

  19. #19 ColoRambler
    May 31, 2007

    Yipes. This hits home, because I have adopted two girls: the older one is only biologically related to my wife, and the younger one isn’t biologically related to either of us.

    The oldest’s “biological didn’t bother” much more than Shaq’s. My wife divorced him almost 8 years ago, and he saw his daughter only intermittently from then on. After we completed the adoption about 2 years ago, he’s called about once every several months, and has seen his biological daughter perhaps once a year.

  20. #20 Gork
    May 31, 2007

    About one person in 10 is not the genetic offspring of the man Mom was married to at the time of conception, and about one person in 25 was intentionally switched at birth because Mom thought — in horror — that her newborn looked just like its father.

    Roughly a tenth of the population, these people who grow up related only to Mom, or to neither Mom or Dad, should infuriate the religious wackjobs, yet I never hear them raging (or raving) about the matter. Perhaps they secretly condone what they claim they revile.

  21. #21 jba
    May 31, 2007

    Gork:

    Any sources on that?

  22. #22 Gork (again)
    May 31, 2007

    I was raised by TV, comic books, and sci-fi paperbacks. I’m sure I’m not biologically related to any of them. Will the religious right claim I wasn’t properly parented?

  23. #23 Royale
    May 31, 2007

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention this already….

    But anyone else remember Michael H. v. Gerald D. from family law? 491 U.S. 110 (1989). In that case, a California law presumed that children born to a married woman are irrebutably presumed to be the children of her husband. Well, man who knocked up a married woman in an extra-marital affair sued to have parental rights.

    The Supreme Court affirmed the California law, in essence agreeing with Shaq that biology means nothing.

    I believe that at the time, many social conservatives praised the decision, because they didn’t want to reward the man for cheating with another man’s wife.

    The case, should you want to read it

    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/michaelh.html

  24. #24 DuWayne
    May 31, 2007

    I would laugh my ass off at the bullshit, if it weren’t so sad.

    Having been raised by the same dad that Ed was, who adopted me when he married my mom, there is absolutely no question in my mind who my dad is. Having met the complete and utter ass that contributed the sperm that led to my existence, when I was eighteen, there is no question in my mind that I am a much better person because he wasn’t a part of my life. He wouldn’t have taken even a small percentage of the interest in me, that my dad did and does. He wouldn’t have been there for me as a young child, much less now that I am in my thirties. Contrast that to my dad, who was always happy to answer every question I ever had or help me find the answer. Who kicked my ass when I needed it and hugged me when I needed it. Who found time to work, pay attention to his other kid and pay attention to me. Who is still available to talk, most any time I have the urge to call him.

    Anyone who wants to claim that biology trumps a damned thing is just a complete and utter shit. I would love to see him try to make this claim in front of my friend Mike, an extremely conservative, evangelical Christian from my church, and adoptive father of five. Mikes not generally prone to violence, but I could see him making an exception in this case. I know his adopted kids, most of whom were born with drug addictions, are a lot better off with Mike and his wife, than they were with their natural parents. The two that were not born addicted to drugs, were the victims of extreme physical abuse. Yeah, Bennet, their “real” parents would be so preferable to their adopted family.

  25. #25 ZacharySmith
    May 31, 2007

    The religious right’s take on biology in these kinds of cases is most interesting.

    Evolution reduces humans to animals, creatures of mere biology. Yet when it comes to families and parenting, biology is apparently supreme.

    Seems they want it both ways, whichever spin happens fit the politcal agenda at the moment.

  26. #26 yoshi
    May 31, 2007

    I’ve seen bennett interviewed (interestedly o’reilly took him down a notch or two) and speak at least a dozen times. His story hasn’t changed one word since he came on the scene. What I find sad ’bout him (according to his story) is that he was in a loving relationship with a man, found god, and promptly dumped the guy. The guy has no idea who he is and has no comprehension of others feelings. He is as superficial as the gay stereotypes he exploits during his talks.

  27. #27 raj
    May 31, 2007

    I guess Stevie didn’t get the word from Dr. Laura. Last time I heard her, a few years ago, she was preaching that a child’s parents are the person or persons who raise him or her, not the donors of the egg and sperm.

  28. #28 Trinary_Code
    May 31, 2007

    It is true that, as a number of those commenting here have said, the human quality of the relationship between the child and the care-giving parent (adoptive or biological) is far more important than the existence or non-existence of abiological relationship, but I believe I have heard of evidence that adoptive children do often struggle with issues of identity rooted in such things as a sense of alienation from a parent who their moral instinct says should have been committed to them their love and care, and a part of whose very self they even carry within themselves genetically (how much more intimate and innately motivating a bond can one imagine than that?), a sense of abandonment, etc., and I have had some experience, although I don’t claim that its extensive, of working with children at risk whose troubles are rooted in those very issues.

    I find what DuWayne said above significant in relation to this:

    “Having met the complete and utter ass that contributed the sperm that led to my existence, when I was eighteen, there is no question in my mind that I am a much better person because he wasn’t a part of my life. He wouldn’t have taken even a small percentage of the interest in me, that my dad did and does. He wouldn’t have been there for me as a young child, much less now that I am in my thirties”

    I think we should be asking ourselves what it is in our culture that allows that type of moral pathology to occur in a person allowing him to callously disregard what he owes to his own child. A man who is capable of simply “contributing his sperm” – an act that he no doubt derived an experience of real pleasure from in the moment, perhaps on a variety of levels – without a corresponding sense of obligation to the child and its mother, is truly abraded and I’d say we are better off discovering the causes of that type of pschopathy, routing it out and helping the biological family succeed as the moral unit one would rightly expect, rather than in making exceptions the norm. In short, although adoption is sometimes necesary, such as in the death of the biological parents and other hardship scenarios, and it’s usually commendable as a great act of love, it is not as good an option as the salvaging, retention and strengthening – wherever all this can be achieved – of the biological relationship.

    That’s why I continue to resist the newer trends toward “alternative” family arrangements. It would be better to concentrate society’s resources more on tackling the causes of family breakdown, and first do everything possible to support the more “traditional” types of family structures, holding alternatives like adoption in reserve for those cases where the recovery or rehabilitation of the traditional family setting is reasonably seen to be unlikely or impossible.

    Incidentally, I hasten to add that because the adoption by gay couples is new it should be approached with great caution and provided only with an understanding that it is experimental and subject to restrictions whose loosening depends on clear evidence of favorable outcomes based on extensive research in the field. We are still in the early stages of this social experiment and I’d say that caution is what a realistic policy demands. If its going to be granted, let it be done only in the most favourable circumstances at first until we have a wide body of experience and clear statistical evidence that suggests it clearly serves the best interest of the child. It seems to me that it is still much too early to say that we yet have this kind of evidence and to conclude from it that this should be a normal policy in law and social practice.

  29. #29 jufulu,FCD
    May 31, 2007

    It’s not only biological parents that have gotten rights, it grandparents as well. So not only bio-Dad (or mom) can show up at any time, so can bio-Grandma.

  30. #30 Ed Brayton
    May 31, 2007

    Trinary_Code wrote:

    Incidentally, I hasten to add that because the adoption by gay couples is new it should be approached with great caution and provided only with an understanding that it is experimental and subject to restrictions whose loosening depends on clear evidence of favorable outcomes based on extensive research in the field. We are still in the early stages of this social experiment and I’d say that caution is what a realistic policy demands. If its going to be granted, let it be done only in the most favourable circumstances at first until we have a wide body of experience and clear statistical evidence that suggests it clearly serves the best interest of the child. It seems to me that it is still much too early to say that we yet have this kind of evidence and to conclude from it that this should be a normal policy in law and social practice.

    I completely disagree, for this reason: this is a question of basic rights. A gay person should have precisely the same rights as a straight person and that includes the right to adopt children. The mere fact that they are gay has no bearing at all on their ability to be a good parent, as dozens of studies have already shown. But if those studies showed, for example, that the children of gay parents were 10 or 15% more likely to have some bad outcome – a criminal future, school problems, etc – I absolutely disagree that this should be the basis of any policy proposal to prevent gays from adopting. We already know that children from two parents families are statistically better off than children of single parents, but we do not ban single parenthood nor do we prevent single people from adopting children. We also know that the children of higher income people are statistically better off than children of lower income people, but we do not prohibit the poor from having children. We even know, statistically, that the children of black parents are more likely to have bad outcomes than the children of white parents, but again we do not prohibit black people from having children. This is so for numerous reasons, the most obvious of which is that there is no way to establish causation in terms of which factors are the actual cause of the problems. Those factors are quite complex and the mere fact that someone is poor, or black, or gay, or a single parent, is not a predictor of whether their children will turn out well. There are good single parents and bad ones, good gay parents and bad ones, good poor parents and bad ones, and so forth. We simply do not make public policy decisions on the basis of such statistical tendencies, nor should we.

  31. #31 windy
    May 31, 2007

    Shaq knows something that Bennett doesn’t, that parenthood has virtually nothing to do with biology and everything to do with relationships.

    There is no need to concede biology to the “anti-adoptionists”. Relationships are based on biology too, but more in terms of neurobiology than genetics. The emotional bond between parents and children (adoptive or not) is no less natural than the genetic bond.

  32. #32 CPT_Doom
    May 31, 2007

    Trinary_Code, adoption by gay people cannot be thought of as an “experiment” any more than blended families, families headed by grandparents or aunts/uncles (married or otherwise) or adoption by strangers can. That is because gay people have existed throughout time, and have clearly been adopting children all that time, even if it has not been recorded. In fact, one of the strongest evolutionary arguments for homosexuality is to create a pool of adoptive parents and therefore maximize the survivability of the tribe or the extended family.

    We have 5,000 years of recorded history to tell us that no family structure is perfect, and no family structure is always negative – every single type of family has produced strong and productive citizens, and every single family type has managed to produce monsters. There is no reason to think that gay or lesbian couples (single parents, for that matter), on average, would be any different.

  33. #33 CPT_Doom
    May 31, 2007

    Trinary_Code, adoption by gay people cannot be thought of as an “experiment” any more than blended families, families headed by grandparents or aunts/uncles (married or otherwise) or adoption by strangers can. That is because gay people have existed throughout time, and have clearly been adopting children all that time, even if it has not been recorded. In fact, one of the strongest evolutionary arguments for homosexuality is to create a pool of adoptive parents and therefore maximize the survivability of the tribe or the extended family.

    We have 5,000 years of recorded history to tell us that no family structure is perfect, and no family structure is always negative – every single type of family has produced strong and productive citizens, and every single family type has managed to produce monsters. There is no reason to think that gay or lesbian couples (single parents, for that matter), on average, would be any different.

  34. #34 Vic Vanity
    May 31, 2007

    i might actually buy this shit, if the religous right actually cared about fathers at any other time other than when it is to take away the rights of homosexuals

  35. #35 jhay
    May 31, 2007

    There was this question asked to Neo in the Matrix Revolutions; “What is love?” Neo gave the ‘wrong’ answer and he was told by that Indian character that love is just a word, that describes a connection shared between two individuals.

  36. #36 Coin
    May 31, 2007
  37. #37 c.tower
    May 31, 2007

    Gork: A few years back, I found a wallet with a large amount of cash in it. When I returned it to the owner, they kept asking me if I was a “religous man”,finding it hard to believe that a non-Christian would be “moral” enough to do the “right thing”. I got to thinking about it, and realised that MY moral code came from those comic books and horror movies we both grew up on…the very thing the censorious types think are “corrupting” our youth.

  38. #38 Asa L
    June 1, 2007

    In Sweden’s largest national morning paper today, several conservative/christian right elected politicians published a debate article on how gay marriage should be banned since marriage is an institution biologically meant to aid and protect children.
    This is another instance of how politically influential people can write ignorant and inflammatory texts without any basis in the science they pretend to lean on. Any historian/anthropologist/primatologist could inform them that marriage as an institution is constructed differently in every culture and has changed over time just in Europe so profoundly that they would not recognize did they travel back in time 2000 years.

    Most importantly, marriage has never really been about the renewal of the human race, it is about society’s control over its members and their reproduction – most especially about control over inheritance and alliances between families and kin-groups. Suggesting that a nuclear family of mommy, daddy, child is the biological standard has no basis in biology, primatology och history.

  39. #39 Alison
    June 1, 2007

    I think it has ceased to amaze me that fundies make these “rational” arguments against things they find morally repugnant but never once think of the additional ramifications of what they say. Nor does it surprise me when the response to these arguments with examples of why they are wrong as blanket statements is never, ever an apology or admission of mistake. Stephen Bennet will undoubtedly come up with some equally “rational” explanation of how this applies only to gay couples, and in no way endorses the end of adoption, remarriage by single or widowed or divorced parents, or taking children away from dangerous parents and placing them in foster care, with other relatives, or into the adoption system. It will similarly be presented as a rational argument supported by scientific fact. When it, too, is shown to be more malleable than he intended, further, more convoluted explanations will follow. It’s a typical pattern, and often ends with the fundies throwing up their hands and complaining that their detractors clearly don’t understand and/or have no moral compass.

    My thought. . .a child raised in a loving home of any configuration is better than a child in an unhappy home or no home at all. If all the children languishing in the foster care and adoption system were united with loving parents of any stripe tomorrow, the world would be a better place. Better still, if nobody who didn’t want, couldn’t care for, or was somehow not fit, ever had children, then they’d all start off life with loving homes. Neither of these things is ever going to happen, but if we take small steps, it’s still better than arbitrarily denying homes to children based on religious prohibitions.

  40. #40 Trinary_Code
    June 2, 2007

    ” … adoption by gay people cannot be thought of as an “experiment” any more than blended families, families headed by grandparents or aunts/uncles (married or otherwise) or adoption by strangers can. That is because gay people have existed throughout time, and have clearly been adopting children all that time, even if it has not been recorded”

    Posted by CPT_Doom

    I think adoption of children by gay couples is still something new, though, in one sense: throughout most of human history, even taking account the classical reality of “Greek love” – which, if I understand it correctly at any rate, was not altogether regarded in a favourable light even in ancient Greek society, and would be categorized as criminal today – there would likely not have been the same openness and social legitimization about the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents, and we should ask whether this might conceivably change the dynamics of the adoptive relationship, its circumstances, or its outcome in any way. In other words, because the gay reality was probably a great deal more closeted, this might have contained any damage that it would other wise have caused to the children involved.

    Of course, without allowing at least some of these adoptions to occur we can not undertake the analysis of their results that I’ve called for here, so I’m not saying that I’m opposed to every such adoption as a matter of general principle. Just that, as with homosexual issues in general, there is still a great deal we don’t know, and we shouldn’t get on this bandwagon too enthusiastically. I think it possible that in twenty, thirty or fifty years, society might have, for very good reasons, a very different view than what it’s more liberal wing assumes today. There may be a downside to these changes that we don’t yet foresee. In that case, we may presently be moving too quickly into territory that in the long run we, or our descendents, will realize we should not have gone into at all in the first place, or at least not with the blundering and arrogant certainty that we are.

    “In fact, one of the strongest evolutionary arguments for homosexuality is to create a pool of adoptive parents and therefore maximize the survivability of the tribe or the extended family”

    I’ve heard this before, and I must admit, I do find it intriguing. But I hesitate to draw easy conclusions on the basis of analogies between the human species and phenomena in the animal kingdom. The latter can also produce examples of murder, child abandonment, infanticide and war as commonplace behaviours and we can discern various evolutionary advantages to the species in which they occur arising from many of these behaviours. But few of us, gay, straight or otherwise oriented, would want to extrapolate these advantages to humans. What may be an evolutionary advantage in one species, may be less advantageous, or disadvantageous in another, not to say morally appaling.

    Finally, Alison and other in this thread assume that it is religious prejudice (alone, I assume) that accounts for resistance to gay adoption (and, I presume, other assumptions about gay rights). I think this only works if one assumes that religion was always successful in imposing its will on society. I don’t think this has been the case as much as modern liberal thought assumes. Many of the more insightful commentators on religious matters on this site argue that historically, Christianity (possibly other faiths as well, they might say) has been subverted by the state. I would agree, at least in very great measure. But that having been said, it should be noted that early Christianity, as an apocalyptic movement, was extremely standoffish toward civil society and its demands (this, more than any strict pacifist ethos, was why early Christians tended to resist military service). One way or another, civil society won out and imposed its will in these matters on the church (hence is why the close collaboration of church and state in medieval Europe, with all its appaling consequences for religiously sanctioned violence).

    Given that reality, why do we assume that Christianity or any other religion, is so intrinsically wed to anti-gay policies that religion itself has to constantly be knocked for this, and conversely, that all resistance to social change favouring gay rights and the like is assumed to be religious? Perhaps the negative evaluation of homosexuality has origins in civil society as well. (Its worth remembering that among the most virulently anti-gay regimes have been those, such as Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and other totalitarian states whose official policies rejected or marginalized organized religion, and today there are many rednecks in the U.S. and other western societies who are downright homophobic but who are not religious at all). If so, we should search for insight into the nature of these realities rather than assume that we are only dealing with religious prejudice. I would think that this would help to better resolve these issues to the benefit of the gay community as well as the rest of society if we can grapple with these issues as well.

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