Friday, May 05, 2006

Trent Lott's problem (one of them, at least)

Check out Gay Patriot West's hilarious skewering of Sen. Trent Lott. In a 1998 interview, Lott suggested that homosexuality is a disease akin to alcoholism or kleptomania:

And you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like, you know, my father had a problem, as I said, with alcoholism. Other people have sex addiction. Other people, you know, kleptomaniac.

Examining Lott's uncontrolled addiction to pork-barrel spending, Gay Patriot West comes to the tongue-in-cheek conclusion that the reference to kleptomania was Lott's desperate cry for help hinting at his own problems. Stop him before he spends again!

46 comments:

Revenant said...

Both homosexuality and heterosexuality are much like alcoholism, actually -- all three things appear to have a strong hereditary component and none of the three is really "curable" with treatment. All three represent strong urges that can either be denied or indulged, but never really gotten rid of.

That is one of the reasons why some social conservatives can acknowledge that homosexuals are "born that way" and still not support gay rights. They disagree with the idea that "I was born with these urges" equates to "there is nothing wrong with these urges".

mythago said...

The "I was born with these urges" argument was really meant to be a counterargument to the social conservatives' "they could stop if they want to, it's a choice." Waste of time, really.

If only Trent Lott had been introduced to bathhouses, he'd have kept his hands out of the cookie jar? Interesting theory, Cathy. ;)

Revenant said...

The "I was born with these urges" argument was really meant to be a counterargument to the social conservatives' "they could stop if they want to, it's a choice."

Not much of a counterargument. "I was born with these urges" doesn't refute the claim that a person "could stop if he wanted to" unless the person in question concedes that he lacks the moral fiber to choose not to give in to his urges.

The appopriate response to the claim "you could stop if you wanted to" is to say "I don't want to, and there's no reason why I should".

mythago said...

Not much of a counterargument.

I agree. It's not an argument worth taking seriously. "Being Christian is a choice" is one I find works fairly well. Nicer people might ask "When did you 'choose' to be heterosexual?"

GayPatriotWest said...

Thanks for the link -- and appreciating the tone of my post!

Lori Heine said...

Reducing homosexuality to being about "urges" and nothing more betrays an abysmal ignorance about the matter.

Even heterosexuals can have sex with others of the same sex. Homosexuality is about whom one falls in love with, not merely whom one has sex with.

I came out as a lesbian to marry for love, and to build a home with the person I love the most in all the world. If all I'd cared about was having sex, I could have stayed comfortably in the closet and snuck around like so many other people do.

Gay people can already have all the sex we can stand, and then some. That is not what issues like gay marriage, gay adoption or equality in the workplace are about.

There are homosexuals who are themselves celibate, and who nonetheless seek equal treatment under the law even for gays and lesbians who have sex.

In addition to being a homosexual, I am also a recovering alcoholic. To conflate my life-and-death struggle with the bottle with my desire to legally protect the most important relationship with another human being I will ever have in my life is typical of the sort of dehumanization to which gays are subjected on a daily basis.

When it comes to dealing with gay issues, many straight people have their brains stuck in their shorts. Trent Lott is certainly one of them.

Jim said...

"When it comes to dealing with gay issues, many straight people have their brains stuck in their shorts. Trent Lott is certainly one of them."

He's like that, Lori. He hasn't progressed much beyond praising Strom Thurmond for his last ditch defense of racial segration.

Revenant said...

Homosexuality is about whom one falls in love with, not merely whom one has sex with.

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is about whom one is sexually attracted to. Love has nothing to do with it, except inasmuch as people only fall in love with people they view as potential sex partners. A person can be homosexual or heterosexual without ever loving another human being.

And romantic love is just another urge anyway, so the point is moot.

Jim said...

"And romantic love is just another urge anyway, so the point is moot. "

Chemically, yes it is. However romantic is a a world-wide metaphor for a certain kind of spiritual experience. In India it forms the extensive and sophisticated Tantra tradition. It is fundamental to Christianity as well, in the for of Jesus' many referneces to himself as the Bridegroom (rather than just Husband or Master or whatever) Needless to say this is a part of Christinaity that has never the Church has never come to terms with - if the Pope(s) is only noe getting around to teaching that romantic love is a good and wholesome part of marriage(!), how long before you see it or any other branch of the church teaching men to say that Jesus is their Bridegroom?

Lori Heine said...

"Jesus is their bridegroom." I know, Jim. As they might say on South Park, "sounds kinda gay."

Actually, there are some pretty powerful homoerotic ideas in Christianity. It's enough to give somebody like Falwell an infarction just thinking about it.

Revenant, you poor, dear soul, if all love is to you is "an urge," I feel very sorry for your wife/girlfriend/whatever. Life's really a whole lot more fun than you're making it with all your "urges." I'll bet you believe that "it's all chemical."

Yes, it is chemistry. Zing! And with the right person, it can be wonderful.

Christianity is really a very earthy religion. One of the earliest heresies, gnosticism, taught that the body -- and everything physical -- was evil. The Pharisees called Jesus a drunk because he loved a good party. But the Christian faith believes that even the physical (and, yes, the chemical) can be holy.

I don't care whether people want to call it an "urge," a "sin" or whatever. Opinions are like...well, this is a family format, but you know the saying. God gets to decide things like that, and we can but speculate. We even get to speculate about God (or...not). Life is our oyster.

W.B. Reeves said...

And romantic love is just another urge anyway, so the point is moot.

Hmm. So what are we to make of people who remain in a state of romantic love from their twenties all the way into their seventies and eighties? Granted it's not necessarily the norm but it is frequent enough to question the notion that it is simply some sort of urge. Certainly such attachments exceed the limits of our prime reproductive years, so the whole "chemistry" argument, at least in its biological sense, seems insufficient as well.

This kind of argument assumes that individual humans are no more than the sum of their appetites. Par for the course in a consumption driven culture I suppose.

Revenant said...

Revenant, you poor, dear soul, if all love is to you is "an urge," I feel very sorry for your wife/girlfriend/whatever.

It amuses me that a person as hypersensitive to perceived slights as yourself is so quick to condescend to others. I can only imagine the complaints that would ensue if someone in these forums said something along the lines of "Lori, if you think that homosexual love is real love then I truly feel sorry for you, because you'll never know the real love that exists between a man and a woman".

All of our emotions and feelings are electrochemical in origin. That's a simple fact, and it simply doesn't matter to me at all if you believe it, just as it doesn't matter to me if people accept the theory of evolution or not -- the nice thing about reality, to paraphrase Philip Dick, is that it doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.

Maybe you think that knowing that my emotions are all biological makes my life a poorer place. Maybe my life would be richer if I believed that love had some mystical origin, or invisible spirits made the stars move in the sky, or that homosexuals were demon-possessed, or any of the other primitive superstitions our ancestors came to believe in in the absence of scientific knowledge. I doubt it, though; I know me a lot better than you do, and the me I know likes living in a rational universe.

You should also stop to consider that if homosexual feelings aren't an inborn urge, then they must therefore be a product either of choice or environment -- which would, ironically, mean that Jerry Falwell is entirely correct in claiming that homosexuals can choose to stop being gay, that promoting the "gay agenda" creates homosexuals, and that all those folks running around saying that homosexuality is curable are quite probably correct in saying so. Do you really believe that homosexuality is "curable" and that you chose to be gay? I certainly didn't choose to be heterosexual.

Lori Heine said...

"I certainly didn't choose to be heterosexual."

Revenant, thanks so much for the revelation.

What amuses me is the interesting assumptions you draw about people. Not just folks who are "hypersensitive to perceived slights," like me, but all of us.

Some Christians actually do believe in evolution. We don't all believe that the fairy people come out from under the rocks at night, or that every shooting star portends death.

"Do you really believe that homosexuality is 'curable' and that you chose to be gay?"

I'm not even sure where that came from. Just because I believe that love is more than just an urge, that hardly warrants the notion that one's propensity to love those of one gender or another is a result of their own volition.

What were we talking about here? Oh, yes...Trent Lott. If anybody doubted he was a silly, silly little man, I think the whole glowing-tribute-to Jesse Helms thing pretty much settled the issue.

One could make the argument that politicians in general are addicted to power. In which case, an A.A.-like organization for those who share Lott's affliction might do society a world of good.

Revenant said...

Hmm. So what are we to make of people who remain in a state of romantic love from their twenties all the way into their seventies and eighties?

I'm not sure I understand your question. Why do we need to make something of it? It isn't like that's the norm -- the median loving relationship ends after a few years, the median marriage ends in divorce. Couples who actually remain in love more or less continuously for sixty years are just outliers on the bell curve of love distribution, as it were.

There's also the question of whether it is still really romantic love after fifty years, or whether it has been replaced with something more like friendship and the kind of generalized love that goes with that. Everybody knows that newlyweds and old married couples have very different attitudes and feelings towards their partners, and research pretty much backs that up -- we're wired to fall head-over-heels long enough to get us to pump out some kids, after which biology doesn't much care what we do with each other anymore. Most people, statistics suggest, end up wishing they weren't with their partner anymore.

Certainly such attachments exceed the limits of our prime reproductive years, so the whole "chemistry" argument, at least in its biological sense, seems insufficient as well.

Biological urges and traits often manifest outside of the context they evolved for. For example, women can get physical pleasure from sex well after their child-bearing years, even though they only evolved the trait of feeling sexual pleasure in the first place in order to encourage them to have babies. Simply put, just because a trait exists for one purpose is no reason for that trait to vanish once that purpose is no longer relevant -- we would only expect that if the trait was, in the absence of that purpose, a net negative for the organism.

W.B. Reeves said...

I'm not sure I understand your question. Why do we need to make something of it? It isn't like that's the norm -- the median loving relationship ends after a few years, the median marriage ends in divorce. Couples who actually remain in love more or less continuously for sixty years are just outliers on the bell curve of love distribution, as it were.

I prefaced my comment by stating that such was not the norm. Perhaps you missed it.

If you are going to argue that all human emotions are mere biochemical reactions for biologically determined ends, you are obliged to account for all such emotions, not just the ones that fit neatly into your schematic. If Romantic Love is merely chemistry in the service of reproduction, how is it that Laurie fell in love with another woman? How is it that men and women fall in love with no intention of procreating? Calling the millions of people who have had nonreproductive relationships "outliers" is simply a way of saying that you have no explanation and have no intention of looking for one.

Biological urges and traits often manifest outside of the context they evolved for. For example, women can get physical pleasure from sex well after their child-bearing years, even though they only evolved the trait of feeling sexual pleasure in the first place in order to encourage them to have babies. Simply put, just because a trait exists for one purpose is no reason for that trait to vanish once that purpose is no longer relevant -- we would only expect that if the trait was, in the absence of that purpose, a net negative for the organism

There is no proof whatever for the contention that sexual pleasure is necessary for reproduction. It cannot be ascertained with any certainty that any species other than homo sapiens possesses this trait. Yet other species somehow manage. Anyone who has observed the mating behavior of cats, for example, would be hard pressed to describe it as pleasure motivated.

So why is it that out of the vast panopoly of biological life on this planet, only humans require the pleasure principal for procreation? And why, if this is so, would it necessarily require a conception of romantic love?

Indeed, if all we are is the sum of our biochemical reactions, it's difficult to see why we ever advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage.

Lori Heine said...

Whenever I see two cats in courtship mode, I think of that old song, "Love Hurts."

They certainly don't look as though they're having a very good time.

But when my one un-spayed female cat goes into heat, who does she flirt with? The dog. If they ever manage to procreate, I will be a very wealthy woman.

W.B. Reeves said...

Lori,

My dog Elvis and my cat Simba have a very sympatico relationship, complete with mutual grooming. A lovely pair, those boys. Anyone observing the mating habits of male dogs will note their indifference to gender, species or even sentience when selecting the objects of their intentions.

Apologies for misspelling your name.

Revenant said...

I prefaced my comment by stating that such was not the norm. Perhaps you missed it.

I'm aware that you stated it, I was simply saying that it was unnecessary to offer special theories to account for boundary conditions. Your question was akin to asking "if human height is determined by biology, how do you explain why some people are seven feet tall". It doesn't make much sense -- we expect biological traits to vary around a norm. Some people fall in love for days, some for decades, and most for a few years.

If you are going to argue that all human emotions are mere biochemical reactions for biologically determined ends

I said that all human emotions are biological. I did not say that all human emotions serve a biological end. Depression, for example, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, yet serves no apparent purpose at all. It is most likely simply a side effect of biochemical processes that evolved for other purposes -- serotonin, for example, has a complex and widespread role in the brain.

If Romantic Love is merely chemistry in the service of reproduction, how is it that Laurie fell in love with another woman?

That's like asking "if pigmentation is merely chemistry in the service of skin protection, how is it that some people are born albino?". You've fallen victim to the Creationist trope that "human biology is determined by evolution" means "every bit of every human being must serve an evolutionary purpose". The answer to your question is that the human reproductive process doesn't yield perfectly efficient human beings -- genetic or congenital defects crop up from time to time. From an evolutionary standpoint, Lori's genes had the "misfortune" of either having a genetic defect or suffering from a developmental error in the womb, with the end result that her genes are now a lot less likely to be passed to a new generation.

Calling the millions of people who have had nonreproductive relationships "outliers"

First of all I called people who remained continuously in love for half a century "statistical outliers", not all nonreproductive couples. Secondly, that "millions of people" do something doesn't refute the idea that those people are statistical outliers -- there are around 300 million people in America and 6 billion people in the world at large. There are millions of adult men in America who are under 5'3", for example, but that doesn't change the fact that they're in the lowest 1% of men for height distribution, nor does it require that I offer a special explanation for why they're so darn short compared to normal people. Two people in love for 60 years needn't require a different biochemical explanation from two people in love for 6 months, even though the former is much more unusual. I offered an explanation in my previous post for how the same trait could account for both phenomena.

There is no proof whatever for the contention that sexual pleasure is necessary for reproduction

*sigh*

I said sexual pleasure encouraged reproduction, not that sexual pleasure was necessary for reproduction. So who cares if there's proof for a claim I never made?

Let me walk you through the easy-to-follow logic here:

If humans enjoy sex, humans will have more sex. If humans have more sex, humans will have more babies. Ergo if humans enjoy sex, humans will have more babies. If X then Y, if Y then Z, ergo if X then Z. This does not imply the claim, as you seem to believe it does, "Z if and only if X". Obviously your ancestors COULD have boinked even if they got no pleasure from sex. They just would have been a lot less likely to, and your existance would have been correspondingly less likely as well. You exist because your ancestors liked having sex -- sometimes with love, sometimes without, sometimes forced, sometimes consentual, but always involving at least one orgasm for at least one of the participants.

It cannot be ascertained with any certainty that any species other than homo sapiens possesses this trait.

Only in the sense that we can't ask them "so, how'd that feel? That lady chimp is pretty hot, huh?". But by that standard, we don't "know with any certainty" that anyone other than humans feels pain, either. But by the standard of "their nerve wiring indicates that they would feel it, their brain responds like they feel it, and they act like they feel it" -- i.e., by the same standard we use when deciding if animals feel pain -- we do indeed know, with certainty, that there are nonhuman species that receive physical pleasure from sex. There are other species which appear to feel love, too, and engage in pair-bonding and out-of-season sex.

Anyone who has observed the mating behavior of cats, for example, would be hard pressed to describe it as pleasure motivated.

It is hardly surprising that humans and cats differ radically in their evolved sexual behavior, given that our most recent common ancestor was some rodent-like creature that lived about 100 million years ago. Even within much more closely related species, evolutionary selection can lead to radicially different reproductive or survival strategies.

Indeed, if all we are is the sum of our biochemical reactions, it's difficult to see why we ever advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage

As a species we *haven't* advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage -- there are hunter-gatherer societies on Earth, and they're biologically pretty much the same as the rest of humanity. What distinguishes an American from a hunter-gatherer is our accumlated knowledge. Our ancestors figured out stuff that theirs didn't, and it snowballed from there. Biologically, however, we're pretty much still hunter-gatherers.

The real accomplishment in human evolution was getting to the point where that accumulation of knowledge could start. After that our species took off like a rocket -- we went from illiterate cave-dwellers to walking on the moon in less than 1% of the time since our last common ancestor with another primate species.

Revenant said...

Some Christians actually do believe in evolution.

I don't recally saying otherwise.

That said, even those Christians who generally believe in the theory of evolution -- most of you, to a greater or lesser extent -- only believe in it up to a point. All of you believe that there was a point where, all euphemisms aside, magic happened and humans (and possibly other species as well) were granted special qualities unattributable to evolution -- specifically, a soul. So you're all Creationists; you differ only in which parts of the human you think got Created.

We don't all believe that the fairy people come out from under the rocks at night, or that every shooting star portends death.

Well, sure, one could make a long list of all the ancient superstitions Christians don't believe in. But it is the ones you do believe in that are relevant to my point. My parents are Christians, and I attended church for many years; I'm intimately familiar with the fact that Christians see a distinction between believing in fairy people and believing in God. And when I went to college, I met neopagans who were convinced of the exact same distinction, going the other way around. :)

Just because I believe that love is more than just an urge

You keep conflating "homosexuality" with "love" despite the fact that the two words have nothing to do with one another. Yes, I know you feel the two go hand in hand, but you're wrong. You can be homosexual with or without loving, and you can love with or without being homosexual. Even if falling in love with another person is the product of some not-rationally-chosen-yet-mysteriously-undeserving-of-the-word-'urge' impulse, the sexual attraction you feel for them -- the thing that makes you "heterosexual" or "homosexual" -- is solidly within urge territory.

Lori Heine said...

"From an evolutionary standpoint, Lori's genes had the 'misfortune' of either having a genetic defect or suffering from a developmental error in the womb, with the end result that her genes are now a lot less likely to be passed to a new generation."

Revenant and Dr. Laura. Two peas in a pod. The latter believes God makes mistakes and the former doesn't believe in God, but other than that they have some traits in common.

Okay, kids, so we all know you don't have to be religious to be arrogant and condescending toward gay people. "Doctor" Schlessinger calls us "biological errors" and doesn't understand why we think she's a bitch. Revenant believes us to be generally inferior specimens but at least he isn't a big enough hypocrite to call himself religious, yet claim that God makes "biological errors." If they were competitors in an obnoxiousness pageant, she would win the tiara.

We can console ourselves that at 43, I am unlikely to pass my dreaded homo genes on to the next generation.

If medical science can find a way to isolate the gene for arrogance and condescension, maybe they can find a way to improve the human strain. Eugenics is our friend.

Revenant said...

Revenant and Dr. Laura. Two peas in a pod.

Your response is what is known as the "ad hominem" fallacy.

We can console ourselves that at 43, I am unlikely to pass my dreaded homo genes on to the next generation

It must be heavy to always lug that cross around so you can nail yourself to it on a moment's notice.

Sexuality is, so far as we can determine, an inborn trait, which means that it is either the product of genes or of conditions in the womb. It is also a defect, because it makes it much less likely that your genes will be passed on to the next generation. That isn't a moral judgement, it is just an objective fact. I suggest you go back and read Cathy's earlier post about members of the deaf community feeling that deafness isn't a defect; it might give you some perspective.

Lori Heine said...

"It must be heavy to always lug that cross around so you can nail yourself to it on a moment's notice."

As usual, Revenant, you seem to feel the need to launch a personal attack to defend yourself. It says more about you than it does about me.

I stand by everything I said. It was, in a rather backhanded way, a sort of compliment. It is rather refreshing, for a change, to read the opinions of someone who doesn't try to hide his bigotry behind religion. Too bad it won't make many gay teens turn away from atheism in disgust.

What's almost never mentioned, about that handy pinata for the anti-religious, William Jennings Bryan, is that what he feared the most about biological Darwinism is that it would turn into social Darwinism. Mencken, a firm believer in the idea that some folks were simply too moronic or imperfect to deserve to live, savaged Bryan in print as he did precisely because the old man (an early proponent of crazy notions like womens' suffrage) was a critic of his pet theories.

It is not likely that Revenant believes that imperfect people like me should be killed for our imperfections. A few years before Hitler, most folks in Germany would have considered the idea distasteful, too.

I was about to say that it was a good thing ninety percent of Americans believe in God, and that therefore such a thing would be unthinkable here. Then I remembered some of the things I've heard Bush's "Christian" devotees say, and I can't be so sure about that.

Lori Heine said...

And a P.S. here.

Good for Mary Cheney for not letting Diane Sawyer speak to her as if she were some specimen in a scientific study.

That gay and lesbian people are getting sick of being spoken to like that will, by the Revenants of this world, no doubt be put down as "political correctness."

Was I "born this way?" I have no idea, though I would tend to suspect so. Do I regard the fact that I love in an unconventional way as being a handicap comparable to deafness? Not in the least.

People will go right on making condescending speculations about gays right in our very presence, and expecting us to just sit there and be good sports about it. When we get "uppity" about it, we can expect personal attacks.

Freedom of speech includes not only the freedom to be boorish but also the freedom to be uppity.

mythago said...

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is about whom one is sexually attracted to.

You misstated lori's post. She said that sexual orientation is about love, not just about who you sleep with. You restated her comment to refer to sexual attraction--which is not the same thing as having sex.

A 100% straight woman could have sex with another woman for pay. That doesn't make her a lesbian. A gay man could find other men romantically and/or sexually attractive, but remain a virgin all his life. That doesn't change the fact that he's gay.

It's also flat-out false that we have a definite and scientific answer to the origins of sexual orientation. Especially since the 'inborn and that's all' model doesn't account for situational sexuality, sexual experimentation, different sexual orientation at different stages or situations in life, and so on. We can be pretty sure that people don't just decide to be gay in order to make Jesus cry, but beyond that the question is not settled.

Revenant said...

You misstated lori's post. She said that sexual orientation is about love, not just about who you sleep with. You restated her comment to refer to sexual attraction--which is not the same thing as having sex

I read Lori's claim as saying "homosexuality is about who you love, not who you want to have sex with". Maybe you're right, and she was saying "homosexuality is about who you love and who you are sexually attracted to, not who you have sex with". Both claims are wrong, as homosexuality (like heterosexuality) is exclusively about who one is sexually attracted to, and has nothing to do with who one loves, and anyone who feels otherwise is cordially invited to learn to read a dictionary.

It's also flat-out false that we have a definite and scientific answer to the origins of sexual orientation.

I never said we did -- that's why I said that it was either genetic OR congenital. But we do know that it isn't an acquired trait and that it is a disadvantage for reproduction.

Especially since the 'inborn and that's all' model doesn't account for situational sexuality, sexual experimentation, different sexual orientation at different stages or situations in life, and so on.

As you yourself just got done reiterating, having sex with people of your gender doesn't make you gay and having sex with the opposite gender doesn't make you straight. So the fact that a man has had sex with women doesn't refute the idea that he was born homosexual.

As for the issue of different sexual orientations at different stages of life, all human beings have that -- most of us go from "none" to "heterosexual", sometimes returning to "none" later in life. There are perfectly valid biological explanations for that. Now, I'm sure you meant to refer specifically to the idea of people going from "attracted exclusively to men" to "attracted exclusively to women", perhaps switching back and forth a few times. There's no solid evidence that that actually happens.

Revenant said...

As usual, Revenant, you seem to feel the need to launch a personal attack to defend yourself.

Well, thanks for my first big laugh of the afternoon. :)

You say you pity my loved ones, that I'm virtually identical to Laura Schlessinger, that I'm an obnoxious hypocrite, and suggest the human race would be improved if traits you think I possess were removed by eugenics, hinted that I favor social Darwinism and proto-Hitlerian genetic cleansing... and now are complaining that I made "personal attacks". I can only applaud your audacity; lesser trolls wouldn't think to take that last step.

My earlier remarks regarding the inevitable result of offending your hypersensitivity have certainly been bourne out by what followed, though. You've taken my simple observation that homosexuality is an inborn biological flaw and concocted this elaborate fantasy world -- with, as always, yourself cast in the starring role as The Terribly Wronged Victim -- where I favor elimination of the "genetically inferior". Yep, saw that one coming.

Do I regard the fact that I love in an unconventional way as being a handicap comparable to deafness? Not in the least.

I didn't say homosexuality was a handicap, I said it was a defect. I have a birthmark on my arm; that's a defect too. Oh, and be careful -- somewhere out there is Deaf Lori, ready to crawl up your ass for implying she's handicapped. :)

Anonymous said...

revenant,

I think Lori probably should have chosen the words gay or lesbian for clarity. Although current dictionary definitions don't back it up, most people, including myself, do associate the terms homosexual and heterosexual partly with the sex (or gender?) one tends to fall in love with, as well as have sexual feelings for. It is not unheard of for the same word to have slightly different meanings, based on context, even if I agree there is a strong correlation between the two. So I think dictionaries should be updated to reflect that usage. Are there people who habitually fall in love with one gender, but feel sexual attraction to the other? If so, it is not obvious to me how they should be labeled, based on common usage (regardless of what the dictionary says). I recall having a deep crush on a girl in fourth grade, but don't recall it being sexual at all. Sexual feelings came much later for me. Maybe it was coincidence that my boyhood crushes were on girls (and I was deeply ashamed to have them, so I don't think it was caused by society encouring them) but I suspect not.

Marlin

Anonymous said...

revenant,

Put another way:

Person x says: I always fall in love with people of the sex group to which I belong, and I prefer to have sex with people I fall in love with.

Person x is a ________ ?

x is expressing a quality or a trait known as _________ ?

Marlin

Anonymous said...

*Fweeeet!*

Ten-yard penalty on both of you for continuing to argue after Godwin's Law has been invoked.

By long-standing Internet convention, revenant wins.

DogRiverDan

W.B. Reeves said...

Your response is what is known as the "ad hominem" fallacy.

Actually, no it isn't. The ad hominem fallacy consists of arguing that a particular view is invalid based on who is proposing it. To whit: a person's view on abortion is invalid because they're a Catholic, or, a person's view of a political issue is invalid because they're liberal/conservative, black/white, Jewish/Gentile, etc. What Lori did was compare you to someone else who holds similar views while taking care to note that your opinions were not entirely identical. You may object to the comparison but it is not ad hominem.

I'll have to come back to your other points but for the moment, riddle me this. If homosexuality is genetic and if it constitutes a "biological mistake" whereby the individual fails to reproduce their genetic legacy, how is it that we go on producing homosexual individuals generation after generation?

Anonymous said...

The very first comment claimed that "some social conservatives can acknowledge that homosexuals are 'born that way' and still not support gay rights."

I have never heard of a social conservative who believed homosexuals are "born that way." It seems to be a contradiction in terms--like saying some social conservatives approve of contraception, the welfare state, and clemency for illegal immigrants. To hold that position is not the conservative viewpoint, at least, not in America. It kind of automatically makes you at least a moderate, if not a liberal.

TTT

Anonymous said...

Well, okay, Dick Cheney. But he's done nothing to show he cares about the distinction.

Lori Heine said...

"If homosexuality is genetic and if it constitutes a 'biological mistake' whereby the individual fails to reproduce their genetic legacy, how is it that we go on producing homosexual individuals generation after generation?"

W.B., that is a very good question. I suspect, from the recurrent nastiness in Revenant's comments, that it isn't one he would be interested in answering.

Contemporary research is showing that ALL SORTS OF THINGS might be genetically-influenced: why some people gravitate to certain sorts of occupations, for example, or even why some have a greater tendency to be religious than others. Might we stop to consider whether a particularly arrogant individual was "born that way," and whether it was a "genetic mistake?"

I suppose what I am getting to is the tendency, currently so strong in much of our culture, to speak of gay and lesbian people as Revenant does -- as if we were specimens in a petri dish, instead of human beings. It is hard to get used to having people look past you as if you are not even there, and asking "hmmm...d'you think she was born that way?"

When I lied about who I was, and everyone thought I was straight, that never happened. I've been out for almost ten years, but it still seems bizarre to me. A lot of people noticed how obnoxious it was when Trent Lott did it, because a lot of people dislike Trent Lott.

Although President Bush has never been one of my favorite people, I notice he has a definite lack of inclination to speak of gays that way. It may be that he's simply afraid of screaming-loony Leftist outrage, but as that doesn't seem to bother him on most other issues, it's more likely he has the "good breeding" not to speak about other human beings in such a dehumanizing manner (especially not when a million of these particular human beings voted for him in each presidential election).

"Breeding!" Social mores are indeed an odd thing! My grandmother would have called anyone who suggested a particular individual was genetically flawed "very ill-bred" -- even if the target were not her relative. Today, that comment smacks of insensitivity to the humanity of the "ill-bred" party.

I'm glad political correctness is no longer universally observed, but at some point just plain old-fashioned good manners ought to be reconsidered.

Revenant said...

What Lori did was compare you to someone else who holds similar views while taking care to note that your opinions were not entirely identical. You may object to the comparison but it is not ad hominem.

Responding to an argument by comparing the person to a hated figure without explaining why the hated figure is wrong is considered a form of ad hominem fallacy. For example, if you say "Communism is bad for the people of this country because it does harm to the economy" and I reply by saying "You sound a lot like Hitler, he disliked Communists too", I have committed the same ad hominem fallacy that Lori did.

Revenant said...

I have never heard of a social conservative who believed homosexuals are "born that way."

Well, that's the position of the Roman Catholic Church, just for starters. The catechism holds that homosexuals don't choose to be gay, and are "called to chastity". Other prominent "just born that way" social conservatives are John Derbyshire and, as noted earlier, Dr. Laura.

It seems to be a contradiction in terms--like saying some social conservatives approve of contraception, the welfare state, and clemency for illegal immigrants.

None of those are contradictions in terms either. Heck, plenty of illegal immigrants ARE social conservatives -- they are mostly poor Hispanic Catholics, and tend to be anti-gay-rights and anti-abortion. As for the welfare state, many socially conservative demographic groups, such as poor southern whites and churchgoing blacks, tend to support liberal economic policies and conservative social policies. A lot of rural areas have plenty of people on the dole who pulled the lever for Bush.

Lori Heine said...

So I am subjecting Revenant to "ad hominem" attacks! Now who's nailing himself to a cross?

Again, any number of character traits might be the product of genetics. And it is perfectly fair to ask what those in positions of political power might choose to do with the information, should science ever prove it.

If those in power determine that people like myself are a detriment to society -- since we may be less likely to reproduce, may pass on "bad" genes or simply (and more likely) be of no carnal use to them -- it is fair to ask what they might decide to do about it.

The concept of basic, intrinsic human value is that upon which American society -- and all of Western Civilization -- was founded. Is it a good idea to simply toss it aside in favor of the "human being as lab rat" mode of thought? I don't happen to think so. Were he the subject of such a cold-blooded study, I doubt if Revenant would either.

It is interesting to speculate what the Trent Lotts of this world would do if they had no need to account for the power they wield. As a recovering alcoholic, even if I were heterosexual I would still have reason to wonder.

Depending upon what other traits might be considered -- by the powers-that-be -- undesirable, and which may prove to be genetically determined, I am a long way from being the only person with cause to be concerned about this.

Revenant said...

So I am subjecting Revenant to "ad hominem" attacks!

Ad hominem *fallacy*, not ad hominem attacks. The latter is the act of attacking a person verbally or in print, the former is countering an argument by attacking the person making it. The former is merely impolite, and I certainly admit to that flaw; the latter is both impolite and irrational, and it is that flaw which I observe in you.

Now who's nailing himself to a cross

That would be you. :)

When you see me start drawing parallels between your attitude towards atheism and the murder of atheists by medieval Christians, then maybe you can make snarky remarks about how I'm falsely playing the martyr. But for now, I'm simply pointing out that you're using fallacious reasoning.

Again, any number of character traits might be the product of genetics. And it is perfectly fair to ask what those in positions of political power might choose to do with the information, should science ever prove it

Sure. But you're arguing against the truth of a belief by invoking fears of what might happen if the belief were true. That's irrational. "Governments might persecute 'defective' homosexuals" isn't an argument against the statement "homosexuality is a defect". The Nazis murdered people for epilepsy, but epilepsy's still a defect.

The concept of basic, intrinsic human value is that upon which American society -- and all of Western Civilization -- was founded. Is it a good idea to simply toss it aside in favor of the "human being as lab rat" mode of thought?

I find it strange that you claim to believe that all humans have intrinsic value, yet immediately leapt to the baseless assumption that my claim that homosexuality was a defect was a claim that homosexuals were of lesser worth. Why would you assume that, unless you yourself believed, unconsciously perhaps, that people with genetic or congenital defects aren't as valuable as "normal" people?

Were he the subject of such a cold-blooded study, I doubt if Revenant would either.

Um, I *have* been the subject of scientific and rational -- "cold-blooded", to use your term -- studies that determined I suffered from genetic and congenital defects, both mental and physical. My reaction upon learning this was generally to think "ah, that explains it, then" -- not "how DARE you call me inferior, sir".

Lori Heine said...

"Why would you assume that, unless you yourself believed, unconsciously perhaps, that people with genetic or congenital defects aren't as valuable as 'normal' people?"

Revenant, you are the one who seems to presuppose that being gay is a defect. You cannot honestly tell me that if sexual orientation turns out to be a genetically-determined characteristic, it is as likely the information will be used against straights as it would be against gays. It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out why someone like me might be concerned about that. While it is not a defect, in many lands homosexuality -- once discovered -- can be a death sentence.

As a matter of fact, I do not believe that homosexuality is a defective condition. This is precisely why I chafe at the whole under-the-microscope, "was-she-born-that-way" mode of thinking. If there's nothing wrong with being gay, then why the hell should anybody care whether we were "born that way?"

The appeal, for most heterosexual people, of obsessing over homosexuality is that it distracts everybody from their own behavior and allows them to keep the spotlight on that of others.

Many gay Christians are interested in moving the moral debate away from things that people cannot help (i.e. sexual orientation) and toward standards that treat everybody the same. I haven't noticed too many heterosexual Christians who seem very anxious to move in that direction. Most of those who like to speak of "homosexuality" in detached and clinical tones indeed seem more comfortable talking about other people's morality than they do their own.

When Trent Lott mentioned kleptomania -- that failing so noticeable in himself and many other politicians -- it was an interesting slip. Again, Americans never talk about their own moral failings if they can possibly help it.

Revenant said...

You cannot honestly tell me that if sexual orientation turns out to be a genetically-determined characteristic, it is as likely the information will be used against straights as it would be against gays. It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out why someone like me might be concerned about that.

There are all sorts of things that are true that I wish weren't, and all sorts of areas in which I think the world would be a happier, better and safer place for me if only nature wasn't the way it is. But like I said, arguing against an idea on the grounds that it might be bad if it was true isn't rational.

But as for whether I think the notion of genetic sexuality is more likely to be used against gays than straights, well, *any* belief about the origins of sexuality is more likely to be used against gays, whether you think sexuality is inborn, chosen, or a product of environment, simply because heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by about 40:1 and humans are predisposed to dislike that which is different from themselves. But I find it curious that most gay rights organizations vigorously promote the "we're born this way" idea if the concept of genetic homosexuality is so very dangerous for homosexuals.

While it is not a defect, in many lands homosexuality -- once discovered -- can be a death sentence.

All of whom, to my knowledge, have dominant cultures which believe homosexuality is chosen out of wickedness. In the western world acceptance of homosexuality has correlated pretty strongly with acceptance of the belief that gays are "just born that way".

If there's nothing wrong with being gay, then why the hell should anybody care whether we were "born that way?"

Because we're curious about human nature, of course.

The appeal, for most heterosexual people, of obsessing over homosexuality is that it distracts everybody from their own behavior and allows them to keep the spotlight on that of others

Whatever that means.

Humans obsess over sex in general; it is probably the single biggest influence in all of our cultures and certainly the most important aspect of our biology. Homosexuals are radically different from the vast majority of humans in a key aspect of that oh-so-influential activity. Small wonder that that arouses endless speculation. If that speculation bothers you, you should hope for a definitive answer to the question. People used to speculate a lot about what the stars were, where plagues came from, and what the shape of the world was; they don't anymore, because now we know.

Most of those who like to speak of "homosexuality" in detached and clinical tones indeed seem more comfortable talking about other people's morality than they do their own.

Finding fault in others is a universal human habit -- of which you yourself are very fond, might I point out. Certainly your posts to this forum show that you're more comfortable talking about the moral failings of conservative Christians than you are talking about your own moral failings. But wait, let me guess -- you think their moral failings are worse? Interestingly enough, they feel the same way about homosexuals.

Lori Heine said...

"But wait, let me guess -- you think their moral failings are worse? Interestingly enough, they feel the same way about homosexuals."

Well, gee...d'ya think? And who WOULDA thunk it! Revenant, your childish compulsion to get the last word is really making you look silly. Can't imagine how I could have survived all this time without somehow...uh...finding out how straight people feel about homosexuals (it certainly couldn't be because they don't tell us every chance they get). I wonder what I'll find out tomorrow that you think will be news to me -- perhaps that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West?

As usual, every post upon which you issue comments eventually becomes about Revenant and how much smarter he is than everybody else who ventures an opinion. I wonder how many people used to comment here who no longer bother.

Like many people, I happen to read Reason, admire Cathy's writing and like her blog. She seems to be pretty savvy about understanding gay rights, and that many gays lean Libertarian -- which is why I began commenting on this blog. Believe it or not, I don't particularly care what Revenant's opinion is on every single subject under the sun. I am not accustomed to irrationally angry, F-minus-in-kindergarten- citizenship attacks on my character every time I issue a comment. And I do not intend to become accustomed to it.

Revenant, maybe the reason you know less than you think you do is that every time someone offers a perspective on life that's different from your own, all your resentments (overly religious upbringing? girls who won't go out with you? sand kicked in your face by muscle-boys who think you're a geek? the list could be endless) come welling up and get in the way.

May you always date Playboy calendar girls. May you decisively prove that there is no God and win a Nobel prize for it. May you treat every homosexual in the world like garbage so you can feel like a real man. And finally, may you get a blog of your own so you can be a star.

Yeesh! Enough of this...

Revenant said...

I wonder what I'll find out tomorrow that you think will be news to me -- perhaps that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West?

First you say that critics of homosexuality are only trying to deflect attention away from their own misdeeds. Now you say that it is as obvious as the sun rising in the East that those people really do believe your moral failings are worse than theirs. I have to wonder why you think their motivations are selfish and dishonest, then, and why they can't just be motivated by a desire to confront the greater moral failing before focusing on the lesser, in much the same way that I worry about other people's thieving more than I worry about my own failure to obey the speed limit.

I am not accustomed to irrationally angry, F-minus-in-kindergarten- citizenship attacks on my character every time I issue a comment.

Well, I've certainly grown accustomed to receiving them from you. :)

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