Friday, August 1, 2008

Born Gay? Tallman's Supposed Five Logical Errors Are Just More Straw

Those of us who support equal rights for homosexuals do so for a fairly straightforward set of reasons: They are a natural variant of the species norm, as evidenced by its existence throughout the animal kingdom (ask any rancher to tell you about freemartins), there is no inherent public danger to society from homosexuals, and what they are doing is highly private and as such doesn't fall into the domain of what government should be worrying about. They are no more a threat to anyone than are men who prefer blondes or women who are attracted to tall men.

Yet this simple position eludes people like Andrew Tallman, who goes on and on missing the point of the issue entirely, and attacking a series of simplistic straw men of the (I love this phrase) "pro-gay orthodoxy". It is illuminating to go through each of them. As is usual with this sort of rant, Tallman misrepresents the argument right off the bat with typical, simplistic, black/white social conservatism: either homosexuality is a choice as free as the brand of latte they drink, or it is set in concrete, inviolate by birth. The mainstream scientific notion that it could be like so many of our traits, a combination of nature and nurture, as is everything from our height to what foods we like to eat, is of course ignored:

Error 1: Sexual orientation cannot change

If present at birth, sexual orientation could come from either biology or psychology. If biological, then a medical procedure may be discovered to alter it...Similarly, if the issue is psychological, treatments may be possible. Many traits and behavioral patterns people believe ought or need to be changed can be adjusted by good counseling or psychopharmacology. Simple induction concludes that if medicine goes looking for a treatment for homosexuality, it might find one.

Many gays will be outraged at this line of reasoning. But why?"

Simple: because there is nothing wrong with them that needs to be changed. Surely Tallman would understand this if someone suggested that his red-headedness could be changed.

"We’ve been told that homosexuality can’t be a choice—apparently because so few would choose it. Clearly some gays would relish the power to turn their unwanted condition into an optional one."

This might be a logical argument except that the negatives associated with being gay are largely due to those who have Tallman's bigotry, but lack his (hopefully) civilized behavior. It is the discrimination against gays, potential ostracism from friends, work, and family, combined with the violence that often results, that is the unwanted aspect of being gay, not the orientation itself.

"Error 2: I have no choice about how I behave

There are two kinds of inborn behavioral tendencies: the resistible and the irresistible."

Again, we see the straw man built from a myopic, almost childish view of the world that divides everything into binary absolute choices. There is really no reason to delve too much into the details of Tallman's argument here, which follows a happy rabbit trail consisting of free will, determinism, and the capacity to resist carnal urges. The question is not "Can gay men abstain from sex?". The question is, why should they be asked to, any more than Tallman should?

"Error 3: If I was born gay, then acting upon it must be good"

This borders on a lie. I'd love to see Tallman or anyone else who shares his views show where anyone has ever made this argument. The real argument, as always, studiously avoided by homophobes, is that there is no evidence that gayness is any more or less something someone is born with than is straightness, nor is there any evidence that there is anything inherently wrong with being gay, so therefore acting upon it is just as good as acting upon being straight.

"Error 4: If I was born gay, then this is simply who I am In gay doctrine, being gay isn’t seen as an important part of one’s identity. It’s seen as the definitive center of it. But why should this be so?"

Again, this is nonsense. No one is claiming that being gay is any more nor less the definitive center of a person's identity than is being straight.

"Error 5: If I was born gay, God must have made me this way

Of all the untenable conclusions drawn from the born gay premise, this is the most scandalous."

This is beautiful, since the argument is logically rock solid. After all, since the Christian God is purported to be all-knowing and all-powerful, then everything must, by definition, be intended by Him. Tallman cannot attack this argument via logic, so he attempts to weasel out of it by that favorite of Religious Right tactics, baseless assertion:

"Whereas claiming that God has His hand in the creation of every child is uncontroversial, alleging that every element of that child’s physical, emotional and even sexual state at birth are all intended by God is quite another thing. If this pattern of inference were allowed, we would have to believe that God desires every birth defect, handicap, psychological disorder or behavioral tendency we can trace to early childhood. God may allow such things, but that is theological miles from saying that God wanted them."

Not when we are talking about an all-knowing, all-powerful being it isn't. If an adult watches a baby drown in a bathtub with full knowledge of what is happening and possessing the ability to stop it, do we not rightly conclude he wished the baby to die? Why the gods should get a pass for similar negligence is something people like Tallman have been struggling unsuccessfully to explain for eons. And yes, that pattern of inference DOES imply that God desires every birth defect, every handicap, and every other evil on the planet. To deny it is to deny His nature as YOU have defined it. One doesn't get to dismiss the results of logic merely because one finds it uncomfortable. Don't blame we silly atheists for holding your pious feet to your sloppy rhetorical fire.

Tallman's true assumptions about the matter come out eventually, showing that all this supposed reasoning is merely cover for sheer bigotry:

"Yet there is a much deeper blunder embedded in this particular claim. The idea that people have inappropriate inclinations from birth is not unique to the born-gay meme."

Whoa! Inappropriate inclinations? What's inappropriate about it, aside from the fact that it makes people like Tallman feel icky, and that his version of the inerrant word of the gods, as interpreted by his favorite dudes in dresses and silly hats, say so?
There isn't another one, which is why all of his arguments are so laughable.

"Although I have serious doubts about the claim that sexual orientation is determined at birth, the issue is largely academic since nothing important hangs on it."

I sure hope Tallman was watching tonight when the LA police chief commented that Lindsey Lohan had "turned gay", and gave him a call to explain the wrongness of his ways. Somehow I doubt that's what happened.

"Being born gay doesn’t prevent change, prohibit choice, justify behavior, form identity or implicate God."

No, nor does being born straight. The question remains for people like Tallman to explain, logically, considering all the facts, and without appeal to arbitrary religious authorities, why those who are born gay should be asked to do all these things when straight people are not.

"It just means that the moral challenges of the gay person are different from mine."

And in this case they are a good deal simpler, since the gay person doesn't have to deal with the moral challenge of being the ignorant bigot Tallman is. I know, picking on born again Christians is, as PJ O'Rourke put it, like hunting dairy cows with a rifle and scope. They just need to stop putting those targets of irrationality so prominently on their backs while they attack others. To have peace one must practice peace.

No comments: