Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Not that there's anything wrong with it ...

Far be it from me to say that homosexuality isn't natural, that it isn't in the "blood." But I don't know how comfortable anyone should get arguing the other way around either; that is to say, that it is "natural," that it is as a consequence of genetic predisposition. It's a topic that I prefer to stay away from as a rule, not because of its controversy, but for the reason that it's not something (if we are to be honest) that can be argued decisively either way. The problem isn't that the science tells us things we don't want to hear so much as it is that the science, on this particular subject, is non-existent.

Jonathan Kay supplies us with a good example of the risks we run when we undertake to do so anyway. In a column he wrote for today's Post, entitled Gay or straight, sexual orientation is in your blood, he concludes:
I do find [the] line of free-will argumentation slightly embarrassing. It furthers the unfortunate stereotype of conservatives as being out-of-touch with anyone outside society's mainstream (narrowly defined). It also bespeaks a mindset that privileges dogma above empirical observation, an accusation usually reserved for the left.
Which would all be fine and well except for what Mr. Kay has given us as the empirical trump cards to the social conservative's blind adherence to "dogma."

The first:
Secular conservatives, who have no spiritually felt need to read free will into sexual orientation, can rely on direct human observation -- or as many of us call it, gaydar.
Gaydar, eh Jon? Is that what the eggheads are calling it these days? A God vs. Gaydar debate, is it? Hmm.

The second (quoted from the American Psychological Association):
"Most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors."
What, you mean like eating disorders? Various psychoses? Well, then why do we try to cure those?

... I should say that my inclination is to agree with Mr. Kay's sentiment here. What troubles me about the piece is that it is trying to dress that sentiment up in demonstrable fact. The result, I can't help thinking, is that we're presented with the uncomfortable spectacle of dull old, mundane and establishment "empiricism" kitted-out in drag.

Neither "gaydar" nor a formal admission of ignorance constitute facts, Jon. And any adherence to them as authoritative is no less dogmatic than a Christian's or a Jew's adherence to the revealed Word.

By all means, let science demonstrate absolutely that homosexuality is not a matter of choice but of genetic makeup. Until it does, of course, we are obliged to cease from politicizing the matter any further with our feelings of how things ought to be. (Obliged, I say, because far from merely offending religious convictions, doing so destroys the single claim that science has over religion: objective detachment.)

That, or just admit that this is a matter of belief. Of dogmatic belief, that is ... And don't be so distressed by that word dogma. Without it, poor old science should be lost for all time in the chaos that has to follow from a society that refuses to commit itself to certain standards without any absolute proof of their value.

Just one caution though: it's tremendously convenient for us that mankind should have been made in God's image, and not the other way around; because he (I should say He), then, has to take the heat when things go wrong. Are you quite sure that you'll be up to the task when it's remade in yours?