Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reader's questions

I had a reader send me the following email:

"hey I found your blog like a week ago and I truly like it.

I would like to see your views about homosexuality and homosexual couples adopting children.
And your views about jesus.
on school there were teachers with arguments like: "could an entire town lie about what jesus did?" I thought "ofcourse they could, probablly only 10 of them ever saw jesus." ofcourse I couldn't tell her or they would of kicked me out of school.

excuse me if you don't understand me but I'm from Chile.

thank you for your time, I hope you talk about the things I said :)"

I don't think I've posted anything on homosexuality in the past, so this is a good chance for me to discuss it a little. First, I don't mind gay people. I can hang around with them, even when they're with their partners. I can shake their hands, laugh with them, or discuss their relationships. However, I'm not going to say, "Oh yeah, I could picture myself being gay." I don't find the lifestyle appealing, and it grosses me out a bit.

I think homosexuality is a natural thing, yet not ideal. Homosexuality has been observed in hundreds of animal species, notably one of our closest relatives, the bonobo. It's difficult to argue from the biblical perspective that homosexuality is a choice, when the animals were not supposed to have been given free will. That would mean that they were created gay. Back to reality, it is not ideal because any animal which is homosexual would not typically be able to pass on its genes, which is not evolutionarily helpful to the species. On that level, I would consider homosexuality to be a 'bug' in the genetic programming. But is it any more of a bug than my own desire to not have children? Most men my age have children or are planning to, but I don't want them. My genes will not be passed on (at least, I hope not).

Now what about homosexual couples adopting children, which was the reader's question? On the surface, I think it's odd and unnatural. Two men or two women are not supposed to be having children, so it violates a basic principle of nature. However, on the issue of adoption, is it really any different than if a mother died and the father's brother stepped in to help the father take care of the child? Certainly, that would happen in many societies in which families are more tightly-knit than in Western countries.

And what is the alternative to homosexual couples adopting children? If we were absolutely overflowing with traditional, financially stable, heterosexual couples who wanted to adopt children, and no child was going without parents, then perhaps we could exclude homosexual couples from adopting. But that is not the case. There seems to be more need for adoption than there are couples like this, and so the alternative is to let a child go unwanted and unloved. That doesn't seem right, does it? I think if you gave a child the option to be part of a family with gay parents, or to live in an orphanage until they're grown-up, they'd take the adoption.

As for my thoughts on Jesus, I think he may or may not have been a real person. I have no real reason to think that he was not real, although I haven't been shown enough evidence to say for sure. Let's say that I accept he was real, but wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if he wasn't. However, there is a big difference between the man being real, and the stories of miracles and divine birth being true. I think that's just bullshit, plain and simple. I KNOW that there's no good evidence of any of that happening. If there were, the Christian apologists wouldn't have to rely on trying to convince us that eye-witness testimony, passed orally, is reliable. It's a weak argument, and if they could do better, they would.

I hope that answers your questions! If you have more questions, you know where to find me!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say, as an atheist, I've enjoyed your site for a while now. However, as a gay man, I'm fairly disappointed by what I've read here. I'll skip what you said about being grossed out by the lifestyle. I'm grossed out by female genitalia myself. No one is expecting you to prove your support of gays by becoming one. As long as you're not out promoting legislation against the "gay lifestyle", you're free to experience your Ick Factor.

However, some of the following things you said really bothered me. You said "Any animal which is homosexual would not typically be able to pass on its genes, which is not evolutionarily helpful to the species. On that level, I would consider homosexuality to be a 'bug' in the genetic programming."

Why is not passing on your genes evolutionarily not helpful to the species? For all we know, homosexuality is nature's anti-overpopulation gene. It's not evolutionarily helpful for a species to run rampant and consume its resources at breakneck speed, which is what humans are doing now. Describing homosexuality as a "bug" in the programming is not only bad science, it doesn't help our attempt to de-stigmatize homosexuality as "wrong" or "evil". Painting us as "broken" only furthers the demonization efforts pushed by many theists.

Further, you said "Two men or two women are not supposed to be having children, so it violates a basic principle of nature." This is theistic thinking if I've ever seen it. Why are we not "supposed to"? Who is setting these rules? You? Nature? Don't make me bring out the penguins. ANYONE can "be having" children, their inability to be the actual birthgivers (only applicable in a male-male relationship) says nothing about their ability to raise these children into loving, compassionate, intelligent adults.

Your entire post seems to display an attitude that it's ok for gays to adopt children, as long as it's as a LAST RESORT. Certainly you would not disagree that many heterosexual couples are incompetent at raising even THEIR OWN children, let alone adopting. This should show that, when considering placement for adoptive children, it is the quality of the home life that must be considered first, and not the gender of the parents. The theists have long been griping that allowing gays to raise children will cause them irreparable damage, but many such children are coming to adulthood now, and are openly testifying to the falsity of such claims.

I hope that you can agree with me on some of my points here, and open your mind to the value that gay people can have in society, not only as loving, caring parents (not to mention as population control-for all the good it's doing), but also as a touchstone for tolerance and understanding in our society.

Thanks for letting me rant. I have nothing to say about the Jesus part of your post.

Admin said...

"I have to say, as an atheist, I've enjoyed your site for a while now."

Thanks.

"However, as a gay man, I'm fairly disappointed by what I've read here."

Oopsie, can't please everybody all the time.

"I'm grossed out by female genitalia myself."

That's fine. We're all entitled to be grossed-out by whatever happens to gross us out.

"Why is not passing on your genes evolutionarily not helpful to the species? For all we know, homosexuality is nature's anti-overpopulation gene."

Well, what other genetic 'conditions' could prevent people from passing on genes? Would you say that a severe disease such as cystic fibrosis, which shortens lives and usually causes infertility, is nature's way of population control, and is therefore not a bug in the programming? That seems like an odd approach to take.

Nature has other ways to balance population, and I don't think it's a good argument that infertility in individuals (either because they can't have children, are homosexual, or just don't want kids), can't be considered useful. You might not like it, as a gay man, but I stand by my statement that it is a bug in the programming. I'll perhaps change my mind if another argument is presented, such as if it could be shown that homosexuality is often associated with other genes which would be considered undesirable to a population, and by not reproducing, they are removing those genes from the pool. But I don't know of any research to suggest that is the case.

"Describing homosexuality as a "bug" in the programming is not only bad science..."

Mostly because I don't believe it's even been shown yet that homosexuality is not at least partially choice-driven. I believe it will be shown to be almost entirely genetic or biochemical, but that hasn't happened yet.

Admin said...

"Two men or two women are not supposed to be having children, so it violates a basic principle of nature. This is theistic thinking if I've ever seen it. Why are we not supposed to? Who is setting these rules? You? Nature? Don't make me bring out the penguins. ANYONE can be having children...."

No, it's not theistic thinking. Nature made it. Sperm+egg=baby. Sperm+sperm=no baby. Egg+egg=no baby. Did the penguins make that baby themselves? No. So don't take the wrong interpretation of my point. As offended as you might be about it, nature did not intend for 2 males to make a baby. Anyone can not have children. Anyone can take care of children, is your point. I don't argue that.

"Certainly you would not disagree that many heterosexual couples are incompetent at raising even THEIR OWN children, let alone adopting."

Yep, I agree.

"Your entire post seems to display an attitude that it's ok for gays to adopt children, as long as it's as a LAST RESORT."

That's not really what I meant. I wrote that if we had a glut of stable heterosexual couples who wanted children, then perhaps we could limit adoption to heterosexuals, but we don't have that situation. This was an attempt for me to convince people who are on the fence, or who don't realise that we're not at all in a position to even be having this debate. If we had the glut of hetero couples wanting to adopt, then they could force the issue out of the public spotlight, but we don't, so they can't.

I read your points, and I hear them, but I'm a little disappointed that you didn't give me much credit for my openness and tolerance of homosexual people. I'm certainly above the average at this time in history. I approve of and support gay marriage, I believe it's not 'wrong' because you didn't choose it for yourself, I think it's OK for them to adopt children, etc. But you then complained about WHY I think it's OK for them to adopt children. So we disagree on reasons, big deal. We're on the same side. Aren't there bigger fish to fry?

Admin said...

"I believe it's not 'wrong' because you didn't choose it for yourself"

Oops, this should read more like this:

I believe it CAN'T be considered wrong in any way, because you didn't choose it. That would be like arguing that it's wrong to have brown hair.

Anonymous said...

We absolutely are on the same side, and I'm glad of that. There are certainly bigger fish to fry, but, as the person who prompted your posting said, it seemed that you hadn't posted anywhere previously about homosexuality, so the venue seemed appropriate.

A last few points from me, you said you were disappointed that I didn't credit your openness and tolerance of homosexual people. Your original posting to that effect was "I don't mind gay people. I can hang around with them, even when they're with their partners." I know this isn't what you meant, but it almost leaves me with a feeling of "well, gee, thanks a LOT for not minding us, EVEN when we're with our partners, hope we mind our manners and don't bug you TOO much." Again, I'm certain this was not your message, but it's the message of many people who like to call themselves tolerant, when really they're just abiding.

You also said "if we had a glut of stable heterosexual couples who wanted children, then perhaps we could limit adoption to heterosexuals" My response to that is Why? Why would we? Why SHOULD we? As I said earlier, the quality of the home life is the important issue. Even if there were more people wanting to adopt than there were children waiting to be adopted, it would be a tragedy if gay people were pushed to the end of the list just because they're gay.

And no, I would not consider diseases like cystic fibrosis to be nature's way of population control. Conditions such as this are crippling, debilitating disorders that seriously affect the quality of life of those who suffer them. Homosexuality is NOT in that category. It is directly related to and causal of sex and reproduction, where cystic fibrosis is not. Should it be proven that homosexuality is entirely genetic or biochemical in nature (as I suspect it is), it may also be found that it is not a "bug", and any attempts to tamper with or remove the culprit genes may have serious implications, quite possibly negative. No one should just be assuming that it is a bug. There may be very good reasons for the existence of homosexuality, and I would hope that openminded, intelligent people would remain agnostic on the subject until science can draw a conclusion.

I stand by my challenge that saying gay people aren't supposed to be having children is theistic thinking. The only rule that nature has made is the one you illustrated, Sperm+egg=baby. Sperm+sperm=no baby. Egg+egg=no baby. This only says that two people of the same gender aren't ABLE to produce offspring, it says nothing as to whether they are SUPPOSED to HAVE children, as in have them in their family. To say that someone is not SUPPOSED TO do something is to assume there is some authority decreeing it so.

Anyway, I appreciate the debate, and hope that you don't feel that we're at odds on the subject, or that I've "gone away angry". Your prompt, intelligent reply has been pleasant and refreshing. I look forward to reading more posts from you.

One last quote of yours, you said "realise". Are you British? If so, your coolness points just rose a bit.

Admin said...

"Are you British?"

That's one of my citizenships, but not my primary. I have a UK passport, and have used it in my travels, but I have never been there.

"Your original posting to that effect was 'I don't mind gay people. I can hang around with them, even when they're with their partners.' I know this isn't what you meant, but it almost leaves me with a feeling of well, gee, thanks a LOT for not minding us, EVEN when we're with our partners, hope we mind our manners and don't bug you TOO much."

You have to realise who the potential audience for this post is. Some of them would not be tolerant of your lifestyle, so I write that I can tolerate it EVEN if such and such, as a way of rubbing in the point. They might ask, "But surely you can't talk about their gayness with them!" And I reply, "Yes, I can EVEN do that."

"To say that someone is not SUPPOSED TO do something is to assume there is some authority decreeing it so."

OK, point to you. But I think we're arguing slightly different things here.

"Conditions such as (cystic fibrosis) are crippling, debilitating disorders that seriously affect the quality of life of those who suffer them. Homosexuality is NOT in that category."

Yes, that's true, but only in certain contexts. If the context is quality of life for the individual, then CF and homosexuality are worlds apart.

But in the context of evolution, that's a different story. We both seem to be arguing from the point of view that evolution is cold and heartless, and that the only goal is to pass your genes by reproducing. In that context, the guy who can't talk, hear, see, smell or taste anything is equivalent to the person whose senses function fully, as long as they both have the same number of children who survive to reproduce. In the context of heartless evolution, it doesn't matter one little bit what your quality of life is. In the context of cold evolution, anything which prevents or impairs reproduction is equivalent, and if you want to argue that homosexuality could be a sort of helpful population control, then its equivalents should also be considered in the same way.

"... it may also be found that it is not a 'bug', and any attempts to tamper with or remove the culprit genes may have serious implications, quite possibly negative."

THAT would change my mind, but I think it's unlikely to be true. I'm not even sure we could do the experiment on humans without some serious ethical issues preventing it from being tested.

"No one should just be assuming that it is a bug. There may be very good reasons for the existence of homosexuality and I would hope that openminded, intelligent people would remain agnostic on the subject until science can draw a conclusion."

If there are no good reasons, we'll never be able to form a full conclusion, and we'll have to remain agnostic forever. We could never prove that there are an absence of good biological reasons for homosexuality (negative proofs are not possible). So for now, I'll assume that there aren't any, until somebody comes up with one. This is exactly the same as my argument about theists having to prove the divine before I'll believe. I don't call myself an agnostic in absence of final proof either way.

On the gay adoption issue, I think you're still misunderstanding me. I don't even think the topic is worthy of debate, because it is absolutely critical that we find good families for these kids. I don't want this to even be an issue. It is important that we get it pushed through the legislation stage. What I'm trying to do is convince people that we are not in a position to be having this debate right now. That was why I strategically used the word 'perhaps' in my original post. Maybe they do have reasons, but in the absence of an alternative, I don't really care to hear them.

Anonymous said...

You know, I read your original post when you put it up in August, and I guess I've had a response formulating itself in my brain since then, I've just been working up the effort to actually post something coherent. I think I just wanted to vent (things are tough for us gays right now), and mostly I just wanted a sympathetic ear. Better to talk, sometimes, with someone that agrees with you than with someone who is going to oppose you vehemently. I think I pretty much agree with all of your points as you stated them in your last response. Thanks for the healthy debate, I'm sure I'll be back for more, and maybe I'll even figure out how to create some kind of "identity" here so I'm not always creepily anonymous. Keep not believing!