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Gays, Relationships, & Society's Marriage Problem: Some First Principles

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My Sunday post re: Christians and gays, with links to Christian writings re: not abandoning one's moral beliefs but showing individual love and compassion, triggered an alternately heated and throughtful debate. Like Armed Liberal in "Why I Support Gay Marriage, and Why I Will Never Be Angry At Those Who Do Not," I see the issue of "Gay Marriange" as but a subset of a larger societal problem called "marriage is broken." Or, to put it more exactly a problem called "how we treat each other and fail in relationships, with too few countervailing voices to negative/enabling influences and very serious societal consequences."

I've ripped the inadequacies of proffered manifestos, but not offered one. Then, in debate with celebrim and Raymond, I noted that it would be useful to have some simple but explicitly moral guideposts for society's discussions about desirable relationships and legal recognition structures. So maybe we'll start there instead. How about:

Points we will legislate, always: Consensual.

Points we will legislate outright or slant legislation to promote (via benefits or conduct penalties) when recognizing of permanent relationships: Exclusive. Stable. Loving/kind. Interests of children over adults.

Points we will advocate strongly as key pillars of society, and judge others by: Exclusive. Interests of children over adults. Loving/kind. Stable. Responsible. Unselfish.

Some absolute results of this framework:

  • Animals and minors are off limits, period, under non-consent.
  • Polygamy is out, under the "exclusive" stipulation.

Other implications:

  • It argues for changing divorce legislation to favour stability more, under "stable" and "interests of children over adults".
  • It argues for having clear divorce options and stronger safeguards re: abusive relationships (restraining orders are a sick joke), and continuing to attack them socially.
  • It argues for penalties for morally egregious conduct. Cheating in a relationship ought to have real legal/financial consequences at divorce time.
  • Parental responsibility is a big deal and focus. Deadbeat dads are a legitimate target (once the kafkaesque elements of the current system are removed as fundamental breaches of justice - i.e. you have to actually be the dad). So are moms who interfere with legal visiting rights. Put both under violations of "unselfish, responsible, loving/kind, interests of children over adults."
  • Note that "perversion" isn't a criterion or interest except as it impinges on the key moral criteria.
  • It's possible to be gay and fit all of the above criteria, though the public image of male "gay culture" will come in for strong criticism on the basis of the "exclusive, stable, unselfish, responsible" criteria.
  • In this, they will be joined by some heterosexuals.
  • We probably end up substantially revising the foster child system. Who actually benefits from that mess, anyway?
  • If you want to adopt kids, you'd better show all of the desirable characteristics or we'll find someone who does - and political correctness will be fought as an impediment to the moral criteria, which take precedence.

Comment away...

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Tracked: June 22, 2005 2:25 PM
BLOG: Quick Links 6/22/05 from Baseball Crank
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76 Comments

I say with Hamlet that we shall have no more marriages - okay, that's going too far, but I'm more and more in favor of making it harder for anybody to get married.

We need to crack down on Big Weddings, first of all. These have turned into bigger spectacles than hangings used to be, and they do considerably more damage. Take a look at what's-her-face from Georgia, the woman with the eyes bulging out of her head. One minute you're agonizing over cocktail napkins and the next you're stark staring mad.

I've seen weddings that threatened to level entire towns, and a year and a half later they're divorced. I've seen people bawling their eyes out, not because they're happy but because the caterer screwed up. If gay people envy this situation, they're nuts. And as I've said before, if they want to go and do it I don't see who's stopping them. If they demand legal recognition for their marriage, by the time they get it they'll be ready to divorce, which will save them a lot of money and trouble.

So let's just define marriage as "the momentary union of two selfish carbon-based lifeforms who bitch at each other about their imaginary relationship while they both shop around for a better deal."

Since marriage is pretty much the same as the stock market - buy this one and dump that one - it could all be regulated by the SEC and they could decide who's allowed to do it.

I agree with each of your bullet points.

A few months ago as I enjoyed the offerings of a sidewalk cafe in nearby Lawrence, Kansas--a petting zoo of political correctness and 'alternate lifestyles'--I witness a genuinely tragic moment that crystallised my beliefs about marriage and its imitations.

A pair of lesbians wandered by with two unhappy little girls (about 5 and 8) in tow. The obvious 'butch' turned gruffly to the older girl and barked "Call me 'Daddy' or I won't pay any attention." The girl turned pleadingly to the other woman, who said something like "Yes, dear, Karen is your daddy."

As they continued past, the clearly dejected girl wimpered "...but I want a REAL daddy. I want my daddy."

Outside of militant feminism and academic la-la land most reasonable people understand that there are fundamental and profound differences between men and women, and that children do best in families built on a healthy, lifelong marriage between a man and a woman. There is substantial public interest in favouring such family arrangements over all others.

The most important aspect of this is indeed to bring about the most rapid possible end to "no-fault" divorce, as such divorces are widespread, depressingly common, and readily facilitate the sorts of unfortunate arrangements described above.

Though I most definitely oppose it, same-sex 'marriage' will not do much additional damage to real marriage as an institution, already long-since gravely wounded by a prevalent cultural attitude dismissive of any commitments, and in particular a 'consumer' approach to relationships as reflected in "no-fault" divorce.

When it is no longer credible for couples to use the threat of divorce in the midst of everyday disputes ... we will have made some real progress.

Lee Harris has some interesting ideas re this subject. He looks at what it is we want to accomplish transgenerationally. What do we leave behind? Though he doesn't mention Erikson, there is a stage of human development, Generativity, in which posterity becomes paramount. In simpler terms, people become grandparents and mentors. He says:

The ethical, as opposed to the merely biological, family is the site for the making of civilized human beings out of id-governed monsters. It turns manís purely animalist collection of impulses and urges into a vehicle for passing on not merely accidental memes, but deliberately engineered transformative customs across generations. It is, in a sense, a meta-custom ó the transformative custom that is responsible for the existence of all other transformative customs. You must first be trained to pass on the ethical family itself before you can hope to transmit what the ethical family finds so valuable, namely, the civilizing process by which men and women obtain self-mastery.

Seen from this perspective, marriage has nothing to do with biology: It is an elaborate social construction that has been erected against the anarchy of the human id, not merely to keep it from doing damage, but for the purpose of transforming the id nature into the highest ethical ideal ó the father who raises his son to be a good father, so that his grandson will have a life no worse than his own, and hopefully better. And the mother who does the same.

He also says somewhere that this project is teleological, and perhaps that is key. We have been reduced (ad absurdum)to a mechanistic view of ourselves and of our life span. And there goes meaning, the sense of ourselves and our own as a 'project' across time and transcending time. No wonder we have become unhappy hedonists as a result...

Is it so much the threat of divorce hurled at one another in the heat of the moment as it is the fear of being abandoned? That is the chasm into which we fall, children and adults alike. Being abandoned is unbearable, a cruel death without true absence. And aside from what any statutes provide, divorce is viscerally immoral for this reason: no one should walk about in the world knowing that much about us. Just because we survive such experience does not mean that we get over the shame.

The Future of Tradition

Very rational thesis and denouement, too bad that the institution of marriage shares none of that quality. And I do mean 'institution' as a past tense verb. Present debate does not lend itself to establishing a good solid framework. Maybe when we're past the hyperbole.

As to gay marriage, I love the freewheeling Texan who's announced for governor (can't remember his name) 'I'm for it, why shouldn't they be miserable like the rest of us?'

Bart,
Hear, hear. Although I would argue that legalizing a union that most Americans (rationally or not) see as a grotesque J. Fred Muggs parody of marriage certainly won't help people take marriage more seriously. If that's not a logical argument, all I can say is that Jonathan Swift was right; man is not animale rationale but only rationis capax. Not to take that into account is, well, irrational.

And the federalism argument in regards to gay "marriage" simply won't do. If some states pass laws legalizing it, the rest must recognize it as well. Otherwise you have all sorts of legal and practical problems. Todd "marries" Bruce in MA. Todd catches Bruce screwing around on him, divorces him but moves to MS which does not recognize gay marriage so he doesn't have to split his assets with Bruce. Or, Todd and Bruce adopt a child in San Francisco. Bruce catches Todd screwing around on him, divorces him and moves to AL which does not recognize gay marriage so he doesn't have to allow Todd visitation. The point is that if even one state legalizes gay marriage the only way to avoid situations like the above is to force recognition of gay marriage down the throats of the states that don't want it. So whatever we do about gay "marriage" must be done at the federal level.

Take a look at what's-her-face from Georgia, the woman with the eyes bulging out of her head.

I'm tired of the anti-heterosexual jabs -- that woman does not represent the true heterosexual lifestyle. ;)

Ruth this is the truth. The name is Kinky Friedman.
Joe K: Great post as it goes to the issues. So why are Republicans passing state Constitutional Amendments that forbid even the incidents of marriage and advocating it at the national level?

Fred, I don't think that it as strong an argument as you believe. There are already existing legal precedents that a state which didn't recognize a marriage of another state will nonetheless recognize the divorce judgment. I'd expect the original recognizing state to retain jurisdiction to enter an enforceable divorce decree.

Well, I agree with the intent, but I think you've gotten a few steps ahead of yourself.

If we are going to develop a set of moral and ethical principals regarding sexuality from whole cloth, will have to analyze each step a little more carefully than you've done here in order to be sure that we aren't letting ourselves be prejugdiced by existing sets of ethical and moral principals. There are a number of steps you jump over, and a number of unwarranted conclusions you draw which indicate that you have an end state in mind and are working backwards rather than beginning from first principles.

To start with, we need to form an unranked list of the attributes of a moral and ethical sexual relationship. For now, let's just assume that the following list we can both agree on as complete: "Consensual. Exclusive. Stable. Loving/kind. Interests of children over adults. Responsible. Unselfish." If someone wants to argue over that list, and claim that its not complete or that it wrongly includes something that it excludes, that would be interesting too, but since this is already going to be a long post I'm choosing not to.

The second thing we need to do is order the list so that the most important non-negotiable attributes are listed first. We both agree on 'consensual' as the most important attribute (I'm going to for now ignore why I consider it most important and assume that 'common sense' will inform most Americans that this is true. If you want to argue otherwise, again let's here it.) But after that, we immediately hit a big disagreement. Whereas, you list 'responcible' as one of the least important attributes, I rank it as the second most important. I consider 'responcible' sexual partnerships to be sexuality which at a minimum a) accepts the responciblity of the partners to jointly and mutually raise any offspring that the act produces as part of a life long commitment to the well being of the child and b) accepts the social responcibility to never spread a venereal disease. After concensuality, these are the second most important conditions for approvable sexuality. We'll leave off what the consequences of that condition are for a bit to move on in our rankings.

What I was somewhat suprised to see on your list was 'Exclusive'. I fully agree, but by the time we list 'consensual', 'responcible', and 'exclusive' we've got 90% of Judeo-Christian sexual morality right there. Not in particular that you rank 'exclusive' very highly - high enough to use it outlaw polygamy and presumably polyandrony. What's interesting about that is that if you are going to use the 'exclusivity' principal as the basis for outlawing 'polygamy', then by the very same argument we could make adultry and promiscuity illegal with the force of law. I would like to know why - if we are truly developing a set of moral principals from whole cloth - why it is a Libertarian like you is against polygamy and is willing to outlaw it with the force of law, and yet from the same principals I'll be willing to bet that you aren't willing to outlaw promiscuity and adultry with the force of law.

Note that for my part, 'Exclusivity' simply follows from the 'responcibility' principles I outlined, since monogamy is the only way to gaurantee both conditions are satisfied.

Likewise, 'Stable' also follows directly from the responcibility principal, because a lifelong relationship is the only way to gaurantee both conditions are satisfied.

'Interests of Children Over Adults' includes both part 'a' of the responcibility principal directly, and includes a larger set that assumes that sexuality will occur in the parental partnership in such a way that it provides a healthy environment, and proper instructive example to the children.

It's at this point that I think that homosexuality begins breaking down. Up until this point, we could argue that a lifelong monogomous relationship between two men (or women) is concensual, responcible, and exclusive - hense moral. But, here we first start getting shaky. If the relationship is monogamous and lifelong between two people of the same sex, clearly the adults have placed thier own interests over that of any possible children - first for the simple fact that there are no possible children. That in itself is not enough to condemn, because we wouldn't want to condemn a sterile couple obviously, but it does indicate that the relationship is a wee bit out of the norms we are assuming. But going further, assuming that for some reason the couple adopts, the same sex couple has two problems. First, that the couple will contain no partner who could provide to a child of the opposite sex a direct role-model, nor could the couple provide to a child of the same sex a close relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Both cases seem to me to be unhealthy, and so unless the homosexual couple foreswears the raising of a child I feel they are placing thier own sexuality on a higher level than the needs of a child. But, persume for a second that they do foreswear the raising of a child. Superficially, this may seem healthy, but the unhealthiness of it becomes clear when we realize that no society could approve of all of its members adopting such a lifestyle. It would be cultural and genetic suicide, and in places like France we are seeing the consequences of lifestyles that place ones own comfort and leisure ahead of the needs of children.

I'd also point out that the need to procreate is a pretty strong biological drive, and that for that reason a traditionally fairly large portion of homosexual relationship occur either as a sideline to a hetrosexual marriage, or make hetrosexuality a sideline to the homosexual relationship. This violates exclusion, responcibility, and unselfishness.

'Unselfish' and 'Loving' arrises from 'interests of children over adults', but also includes the larger principle that the relationship will be healthy and rewarding to both partners, both in its sexuality and in the larger relationship of intimacy that arises from it. Note that I don't find Polygamy to be wrong not so much because it violates the Exclusion principle, but rather because I think it violates the 'unselfish' principal (and one other principal that it's on your list that I haven't mentioned directly yet). I think that everyone deserves a fully giving and reciprocable sexual partnership, and there simply isn't any way that one person can give of himself fully and reciprocably to many people. As an obvious example, one only has a single set of genitils.

The one principal that I think you are leaving off your list is so basic that I don't think you are thinking about it, and that is 'appropriate to the biology of our species'. The really important reason why polygamy is immoral is that it isn't appropriate to the biology of our species. Female children and male children are born in equal numbers. In the peaceful, stable society we all desire, this implies that if we approve of polygamy, that some portion of men will be left without partners. This is actually a pretty big deal, and for a lot of subtle reasons that might not first occur to you. An example of this that is in the news quite abit now is the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints, in which we see fathers hating thier sons because thier sons are rivals for the sexual attentions of the women of the community. Hense to maintain a stable polygamous community, either the sons must die or else many of the sons must be cast out of the community as soon as they are sexually mature. This is clearly immoral.

This is already pretty long (but needs to be much longer before we come even close to covering it), but I'll leave you to chew on that for a while.

Respectfully, I find the points/moral guideposts to be constructed to reach the conclusion you desire.

As such, I do not believe such guideposts will stand the test of time. Moral guideposts should come from basic principles rather than desired outcomes.

Personally, if gay marriage is allowed, I see no rational basis to disallow polygamy. If John can marry Bill, whay cannot John mary both Bill and Susan?

I have not decided whether I support gay unions, but if I decide to support them, I will also decide to support polygamy.

Ugh. Looking back, I apologize for all the spelling errors in that.

Celebrim, note the implications. Adultery would not be illegal, which is why it's one step below "consensual," a value at the heart of much present criminal law from assault on up. But it would affect legal judgments like divorce, which is significant.

I'll add that since "exclusive" applies to permanent legal statuses, promiscuity can't be legislated against because there is no permanent relationship to begin with. But if the values above were prmulgated consistently, societal disapproval of such conduct would follow on several grounds. Using people rather than loving them and acting in a responsible way would be called by its true name more often. Which would be progress.

"What's interesting about that is that if you are going to use the 'exclusivity' principal as the basis for outlawing 'polygamy', then by the very same argument we could make adultry and promiscuity illegal with the force of law."

"So let's just define marriage as "the momentary union of two selfish carbon-based lifeforms who bitch at each other about their imaginary relationship while they both shop around for a better deal.""

My marriage isn't like that. And let's NOT define marriage like that, because the consequences of defining it like that have been horrific. My wife comes from a broken home. She's an adult, and even so the train wreck of divorse still hits her in the guy whenever she thinks about it.

Robin,

How can a state recognize a divorce of what it doesn't recognize as a marriage? I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm just saying it doesn't make much sense. If I'm a gay guy divorced from my "spouse" and a state which doesn't recognize gay "marriage" tries to enforce the divorce decree, it seems to me a smart lawyer would have no problem arguing that in that state no marriage existed, hence no divorce exists. But even if you're right, it doesn't solve the "J. Fred Muggs" problem.

Joe,

Unlike you, I oppose gay "marriage," but I completely agree with you on "no-fault" divorce. And I agree even more about putting the needs of children ahead of the needs of adults. This issue hits home hard for me. My ex-wife abandoned me and our child because she was "not happy." Her brother abandoned his wife of 18 years and their three children because he was "tired of living for other people" (as though he ever lived a second for anyone but himself). But as I said in my first comment, I'm unalterably convinced that legalizing gay marriage will make that sort of thing more common, not less, by continuing and accelerating the reduction of the seriousness of marriage that has been going on for the last 35 years or so.

Robert M:

So why are Republicans passing state Constitutional Amendments that forbid even the incidents of marriage

a) because we can, and with votes on such amendments consistently in the 70-75% range even in lib-nests such as Hawai'i it is obviously not just Republicans who are passing them.

b) to prevent any more out-of-control judges (eg Masschusetts) from imposing their personal viewpoints on the people of a state in the name of 'constitutionality.'

c) there is ample reason to distrust the courts, absent a constitutional approach.

Even now you get absolutely bizarre rulings--such as the recent one in Nebraska--stating that definition of marriage in state constitutions is unconstitional at the federal level because they some how prevent activists from over-riding the will of the people: "directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people and is intended to prohibit their political ability to effectuate changes opposed by the majority." to quote the decision. Volokh comments here

My grandfather practised law for 66 years, 28 of them as a judge. What passes for jurisprudence these days is rapidly engendering a deep disrepect for the entire judicial system. I doubt most people understand what a looming crisis it really is.

The US courts have been bleeding legitimacy out their side for reasons entirely unrelated to gay marriage. Take the citation of foreign (read: European) court documents in Supreme Court opinions, for instance. Believe me, anybody now clamoring for judicial activism on their pet issue would be screaming from the top of their lungs on the subject if things were going the other way.

You can take either side in the issue of gay marriage (not the manner in which it is either advanced or done away with, which is a different matter altogether) and still be extremely wary of judicial activism.

Human beings are notoriously bad at legislating morality. The law of unintended consequences is strongly at work. More importantly, there is a problem of intellectual honesty and taking the argument to its logical conclusion. If hetero-marriage and children are society's highest priority (any good libertarian is already narrowing his or her eyes) logically there is no end to the laws to be passed to defend that lifestyle. I know the arguments well, and they all reduce to either religious imperatives or biological drives. As Americans, are we really comfortable with this? Many of us are, and I respect that, but many of us are very leery about where that can take us. Religion cant be argued with, of course. If you believe gay marriage, or divorce, or contraception is morally wrong because God said so, well thats that. The biological argument, on the other hand, is weak. Yes the human species is driven to reproduce and sustain itself, but NO government should not be in the business of tailoring life to natural law. Were that the case there are plenty of biological drives we could legislate. If polygamy was shown to have evolutionary advantage, how could we then ban it, for instance?

Sidenote, blatent plug: i put up a blog, its no great shakes but if anyone wants to check it out:
http://pharsalia.blogspot.com/
Im not totally off topic of this thread, I fisked Andrew Sullivans support of Dick Durbin. Was it insensitive to put his quotes in pink? (All in good fun.)

Polygamy: A marriage is a contract between two people in which promises are exchanged. We can disagree as to what those promises are, but a marriage with an additional person, either expressly or implicitly revokes the first contract. Did I promise to share everything I earn with you? Too bad, now Wife B gets a cut. Did I promise to love, honor and cherish you, foresaking all others? Things change. Polygamy is essentially an ongoing series of divorces and renogotiations of the original marriage contract. Wife A gets to choose whether to leave or accept 50% of the original promise. IMHO, polygamy can only thrive in an inherently coercive social environment in which the notion of consent is questionable.

Fred, there is a strong preference in the law ( that dates back to before our Supreme Court got quite so goofy ... ) for finality. As a result, a court judgment is enforced by other states with no inquiry into the merits of the action. So a court in a state without gay marriage would enforce the court judgment of a decree of dissolution from a state that did recognize gay marriage to support that finality.

Just as a court would enforce another state's court's judgment in a contract case that was based on another state's laws even if the first state didn't have the exact same law.

All that is being enforced is the final judgment itself.

Gays and Kids: Whatever you think about the Massachusetts court decision legalizing gay marriage, its important to recognize that the key point was that Mass. authorized gay couples to adopt kids. Having made that policy decision, it made no rational sense to deny gay couples all of the benefits of legalized marriage which were intended to aid in the raising of kids.

We have a number of archaic tax and property laws that are built on the presumption that marriage equals nuclear family. Stated another way, how come my married friends who have decided never to have kids get all the benefits and the gay couple that wants to adopt a kid get squat?

"Human beings are notoriously bad at legislating morality."

Straw man. Human beings are notoriously bad at living together peacefully, but that doesn't mean we should try. Furthermore, arguably whatever society endorses in its legislation or forbids in its legislation says something about what it believes about morality. So, its impossible to avoid legislating morality.

"The law of unintended consequences is strongly at work."

Straw man. The law of unintended consequences is strongly at work whether or not we choose to legislate morality. Beyond that, the law of unintended consequences is one of the bits of supporting evidence that whatever you legislate effects what is percieved as moral.

"More importantly, there is a problem of intellectual honesty and taking the argument to its logical conclusion."

Straw man and ad hominem. What makes you think that I'm intellectually dishonest and unwilling to take the argument to its logical conclusion?

"If hetero-marriage and children are society's highest priority..."

Straw man. I never said that hetero-marriage or children are a societies highest priority, and I don't think anyone did. Among societies highest priorities, to be sure, but not a priority that needs to be persued to the exclusion of all others.

"(any good libertarian is already narrowing his or her eyes)"

Any good logician is already narrowing his or her eyes.

"logically there is no end to the laws to be passed to defend that lifestyle."

Logically? Logically? How does that follow? Another straw man. Even if we grant children and marriage the highest priority - and we haven't - that's like saying that because keeping the patient alive is the highest priority of medicine, that there is no end to the medicines and treatments which can be applied to the patient. At some point, the medicines and treatments themselves become a threat to the life of the patient. In the same fashion, 'no end' of burdensome laws would very likely end up threatening the health and welfare of families and children since it would exgerate every problem within a family to a level that required community action. But not only does this violate many other high principles of our society, but by preventing the family from working out problems on its own its threatening the health of the thing that it ostencibly protects.

"I know the arguments well, and they all reduce to either religious imperatives or biological drives."

Argument from authority, and you are wrong. Some arguments come down to social imperatives or cultural norms. You are blinded by your own culture. In Japan for example, neither religious imperatives or biological drives are primarily driving the debate on sexuality.

"As Americans, are we really comfortable with this?"

Begging the question.

"Many of us are, and I respect that, but many of us are very leery about where that can take us."

Straw man. Slippery slope. Many of us are very leery about where not addressing this can take us.

"Religion cant be argued with, of course."

Straw man. Of course religion can be argued with. Like every philosophy is it subject to rational criticism. My religion even encourages such introspection.

"If you believe gay marriage, or divorce, or contraception is morally wrong because God said so, well thats that."

Sure, but very few people are satisfied with that sort of unquestioning faith.

"The biological argument, on the other hand, is weak."

Ok, provide your evidence.

"Yes the human species is driven to reproduce and sustain itself, but NO government should not be in the business of tailoring life to natural law."

Where is your evidence???

"Were that the case there are plenty of biological drives we could legislate. If polygamy was shown to have evolutionary advantage, how could we then ban it, for instance?"

Straw man. I've provided alot of reasons why we could still ban it, unless you have a Sith or Shadow like view or morality that the ends always justify the means and that the highest expression of morality is 'survival of the fittest'. And you accuse us of not being intellectually honest? But if polygamy was shown to be socially healthy and appropriate to our biology, how would we then ban it - especially we hold ourselves to Libertarian principles? But I have shown several reasons why polygamy is NOT socially healthy and appropriate to our biology.

"What makes you think that I'm intellectually dishonest and unwilling to take the argument to its logical conclusion? "

I wasnt talking about you specifically, but I think the vast majority of Americans would rebel at outlawing of divorce except in extreme cases of abuse in order to keep the nuclear family intact. That is the logical conclusion of the defense of family argument. If you dont balk at that, good for you. Go out and spread the good word.

"IMHO, polygamy can only thrive in an inherently coercive social environment in which the notion of consent is questionable."

I quibble with quite a few of your points, but rather than starting an argument, I'll limit myself to enlarging this point.

Polygamy can only thrive in an inherently violent social enviroment in which a large percentage of the young men die in warfare, leaving large numbers of unattached young women. When the violence goes on and on for generations, polygamy is probably the lesser of several possible social ills, but the real cure is of course ending the violence.

Where the real corrupting effect of polygamy can be felt though is when the society tries to end the violence. At this point, suddenly you probably are faced with large numbers of unattached young men competing for women who are attached to older more financially secure men with higher social status. Unable to effectively enter into the society in large numbers, the unattached men do what frustrated men do - and fight. Hense, a social tradition which arose to deal with the tragedy of tribal violence becomes something which perpetuates that violence. And worse yet, if the society does manage to overcome that violent past and achieve some manner of stability, then the only way to maintain the polygamy social order is - as you say - through cohersion, both because young men and young women would all things being equal prefer each other as sexual partners, and because polygamy is an ego driven institution.

"Unable to effectively enter into the society in large numbers, the unattached men do what frustrated men do - and fight"

Any evidence that this isnt a positive evolutionary process?

"Any evidence that this isnt a positive evolutionary process?"

No. Is there any evidence that it is? Maybe its survival of the fittest. Maybe because humans are social animals, highly violent societies lose out communally to less violent societies resulting in all members of the community passing on fewer of thier genes. I don't know, and history is rather inconclusive on this.

But does it really matter? Do we really accept like B5's Shadows, that the be all end of all of morality is whether it produces a genetically superior next generation? We can if you want go all the way back to the first principles of a morality, and discuss what it means to be moral in general before applying those definitions to sexuality specifically, but at that point we'll just end up wasting our time arguing over definitions. I don't think that consitutes nearly as mature of debate as post-modern philosophers seem to think, so why don't we start from the assumption that most of us share conscious and unconscious understandings of what is moral and 'good' which agree more than they disagree.

"No. Is there any evidence that it is? Maybe its survival of the fittest."

Dont know. But arent you the one basing this particular argument on polygamy being a biological negative? If you cant prove that to be the case, whats your point? You are making a an argument you claim is based on science but at its core is necesarilly judgement laden. Whats good for the human species on the cosmic scale likely has little to do with what is good for society in a given period of time. So if you want to argue biology, you are going to make qualitative judgements of what being 'good' for humanity means. On an evolutionary scale, whether or not it is healthy for humans to go to fight over women with each other is problematic at best. Whether adultery is healthy for the gene pool is equally problematic. So even if adultery is a favorable evolutionary impulse (which is appears it is), that certainly doesnt make it coincide with being healthy for a given society. The bottom line is we do not order our society via natural law, not least of which because even trying to do so you must establish arbitrary goals for what a healthy species is. Goals almost certain to bear little resemblence to reality.

"But arent you the one basing this particular argument on polygamy being a biological negative?"

Err, no. Whether or not its a biological negative is of rather lesser importance to me. It might be more appropriate to summarize what I said as, "Moral standards which defy our basic biology will often be unsustainable and will usually produce culturally undesirable consequences." Now of course, you may argue that widespread violence and high rates of death by violence are in fact culturally desirable, but in that case are basic definitions of morality are so far apart that my assumption that we agree on more things than we disagree is probably false.

"If you cant prove that to be the case, whats your point?"

I have a single point? What point would you like?

How about a new one; Humans are biological creatures which pass on our genes to each new generation, but we are also unique in the degree to which we are cultural creatures which pass on our traditions to each new generation. We can differ over the degree to which genes and culture are important for shaping behavior, but whether we think it is 1/3rd genes and 2/3rds environment, or vica versa it remains true that culture is hugely important in determining the success of both individuals and communities. So, its not enough to suggest that for humans that they improve thier genes by some process of survival of the fittest, because if you do this to the exclusion of passing on the right memes, you still won't be producing healthy offspring.

"You are making a an argument you claim is based on science but at its core is necesarilly judgement laden."

Of course it is. I don't see the contridiction. Deciding that 'good' is a social goal or even an individual goal requires a judgment - and one that at some level cannot be conclusively proven through logic. But that doesn't mean that I can't employ science and logic to obtain at least a partial justification for my reasoning, and in fact I would argue that if you can't through science and logic obtain at least a partial justification for your morality then its likely not to be very well thought out morality. But, if we want to be completely fair, even the assumption that reason and science are useful for informing such a discussion requires a value judgement - "'reason' and 'science' are good and useful things" - that not everyone is going to agree with.

On the other hand, I consider the value of reason and science to be somewhat self-evident and don't feel the need to defend them. I bet that is something you didn't expect to hear from the guy a few posts back talking about his personal relationship with his Savior. ;)

"Whats good for the human species on the cosmic scale likely has little to do with what is good for society in a given period of time."

I'm not sure that that follows. What is good for the human species on the cosmic scale is an incremental series of societies following one after the other. If those societies make bad choices, then humanity will certainly suffer for it. For example, from a purely materialistic perspective, if humanity doesn't produce a series of societies which prosper sufficiently, humanity will never get off the rock, and if humanity never gets off the rock, the probablity of human extinction in a relatively short period of cosmic time is 100%. I have no reason to suppose that anything but a highly advanced society will get off the rock, and no reason to suppose that a highly advanced society is sustainable unless the overwhelming majority of its members are moral and content.

In fact, terrorism is a case in point. As technology progresses, the ammount of society a single discontent person can destroy increases. Eventually, there is an equilibrium point between the ability to make further techonological progress and the degree of dysfunctionality in the society.

I don't know if that clarifies anything or not. Perhaps if you could clearly state your thesis, I might know better how to address it. I really however am at a loss to understand exactly what you are arguing against, since it was you that first brought up biological evolution. It's not at all central to my argument, and in fact, I'll come right out and say that I will argue for things which are downright evolutionarily bad in the short term - such as curing people with genetic diseases.

PD shaw: you are describing serial monagamy, not polygamy--

celebrim: i am still working on a modest literature survey for you--think i'll mail it ;)

And, (as an interesting sideline)here is some data on competitiveness in polygamous societies
polygamy may work in some societies, but it would be illegal here because of bigamy laws. your argument has no legs.

consider the XX/XY ratio trend in Chinese society--elementary grades tend to be 3/5 to 3/4 male.
perhaps the Chinese will have to institute line marriages or polyandry in response to that societal trend--would that be immoral?

and celebrim,
So, its not enough to suggest that for humans that they improve their genes by some process of survival of the fittest, because if you do this to the exclusion of passing on the right memes, you still won't be producing healthy offspring.

the basic fallacy in your argument is that genomes and memomes are both subject to a powerful inexorable force--evolution. It is memetic evolution that prevents the RCC from burning scientists at the stake as they were wont to do. ;)

"you are describing serial monagamy, not polygamy."

No, I am breaking down polygamy into its discrete, temporal portions. I am not aware of any polygamous relationships in which the husband marries all of the wives he will ever have at one discrete instance. He adds wives over times. My point is that adding wives is a modification of the earlier agreement(s), comparable to a divorce, followed by an an entirely new agreement.

There is a moral hazard associated with renogiating an agreement after it has gone into effect. Once one of the parties has changed positions in reliance upon the earlier agreement, that party may be compelled to accept unfavorable terms because the alternative is worse. Wife A may agree to the introduction of Wife B because Wife A wants her newborn son to have a father.

My point here is that polygamous relationships, unlike exclusive relationships, raise issues of coersion and thus consent. Historically, consent has not always been important though. It is to me.

jinnderella: I'm really beginning to feel as if you are spending more time flailing around for things to disagree with than you are thinking about the things you are disagreeing with.

First, you accused me of being 'smug'. When I asked what I had said that you found 'smug', you quoted something that I said after you had accused me of smugness. That does not clarify.

Then you accused me of not having read the literature and put 'scientist' in scare quotes, even though I had already acknowledged that we had found a coorelation between certain genetic and mophological characteristics and homosexuality. But fine, I'll be happy to read your literature. Just don't be surprised if I don't think the data supports the conclusions. Likewise, don't be surprised if I don't think genetic characteristics justify the moral conclusion you think they justify.

"And, (as an interesting sideline)here is some data on competitiveness in polygamous societies"

You'll find I mentioned that back in post #10.

"polygamy may work in some societies"

I agree. You'll find I mentioned that back in post #24.

"but it would be illegal here because of bigamy laws."

For what I think are some very good reasons, as the link you provided I think demonstrates.

"your argument has no legs."

What argument? How do you arrive at that conclusion? You haven't even specified what you are arguing against, much less provided counter-argument. If my argument has no legs, yours would appear to have no body.

"consider the XX/XY ratio trend in Chinese society--elementary grades tend to be 3/5 to 3/4 male."

OK, I'll consider that. First, let's note that that ratio was achieved through an unnatural process that most of us here would find immoral - namely murdering (and/or selectively aborting) baby girls. Second, let's note that everyone - including the otherwise often morally reprehensible Chinese government - agrees that this is a bad thing.

"perhaps the Chinese will have to institute line marriages or polyandry in response to that societal trend"

Perhaps. I'm not exactly sure how they should deal with that social ill, but of the many things that they could do polyandry is among the least offensive.

"would that be immoral?"

Somewhat, but I wouldn't stand in too much judgment except of the travesty (millions and millions of murders) which put the society in that position. You should not be surprised to learn that the Judeo-Christian position has generally been that polygamy is not Holy or within God's plan for mankind, but like many things which are somewhat wrong allowances have been made by God which take into account mankind's frailty. Polygamy was a legal Jewish institution under the old convenent, and was not abolished in my belief line until the Christ convenent was established. Hense, while polygamy is not something I condone, neither is it something I strongly condemn. You may be surprised to know that it is possible to be a polygamist and a Christian, if you come from a polymagist background (say Islam) and convert to Christianity, Christian faiths almost universially recognize the validity of those pre-conversion marriages and do not attempt to sunder them. In that case, the polygamous marriage is 'moral' in the since that breaking it up is the worse crime. On the other hand, with the exception of a few Christian cults, Christian faiths almost universially recognize that Christians are not to take each other in polygamous relationships and do not recognize such as valid.

"the basic fallacy in your argument is that genomes and memomes are both subject to a powerful inexorable force--evolution."

Err... I don't see how this impacts my argument in any fashion. I completely accept your point. It doesn't harm mine in any fashion. In fact, memetic cultural evolution forms the core of one of the stronger arguments in favor of conservativism.

"It is memetic evolution that prevents the RCC from burning scientists at the stake as they were wont to do."

I don't think I need to dignify that with a responce.

Polygamy is very bad for society. In all instances. It mitigates against a middle class, and produces a few very rich older males with a vast subservient female harem.

Look at Utah where the polygamists essentially dumped the teen boys out on the road outside the community to keep the girls for themselves (50 year old men marrying 15 year old girls).

The single family structure, with one or two children having a lot of love, resources, time, education invested by parents to become productive and valuable members of society is the best way of producing wealthy and happy societies. Which leads to ever increasing generational wealth creation and advancement.

Polygamy produces vast teeming sets of children with little connection/bonds to their parents and not much invested in them. It's not suprising that Polygamous societies are essentially parasitic on wealthier monogamous societies; their culture pretty much mandates eternal banditry which is a recipe for well ... Africa in all it's misery, poverty, and violence.

Polygamy is as bad in it's own way as blood feuds and the government has a duty to stop both.

#19 P.D. Shaw

A marriage is a contract between two people in which promises are exchanged. We can disagree as to what those promises are, but a marriage with an additional person, either expressly or implicitly revokes the first contract.

In particular it would seem that you would disagree if one of those promises would be to expand participation in that contract. Furthermore, a triad which evolves prior to marriage by any of the members, which is then formalized by contract, would negate the rest of the argument.

If some states pass laws legalizing it, the rest must recognize it as well. Otherwise you have all sorts of legal and practical problems.

This has been written about in various law blogs. IANAL, but the jist of the posts (i.e. on the Volokh blog) is that marriage is not required to be recognized by all states unless they pass a local law recognizing it. The full faith and credit clause doesn't apply to marriage, since it is non-judicial.

Todd "marries" Bruce in MA. Todd catches Bruce screwing around on him, divorces him but moves to MS which does not recognize gay marriage so he doesn't have to split his assets with Bruce. Or, Todd and Bruce adopt a child in San Francisco. Bruce catches Todd screwing around on him, divorces him and moves to AL which does not recognize gay marriage so he doesn't have to allow Todd visitation.

In this case, the divorce judgements may well be enforced, since they are "judicial acts". It is true that if Todd and Bruce to to MS and are in a car wreck, the hospital doesn't have to allow Todd to control Bruce's medical care.

Again, IANAL.

In particular it would seem that you would disagree if one of those promises would be to expand participation in that contract.

I knew someone would raise that issue.

Wife A may have agreed in principle to polygamy, but she still faces the problem of accepting her husband's new wife or leaving. When Wife A agreed to polygamy, she didn't know (a) whether there would actually be additional wives, (b) the number of additional wives, © the character or identify of the future wives, (d) the role she would be expected to play in the enlarged household or (e) the financial resources available for the enlarged family.

In my stilted moral universe, one should not be able to consent in advance of optimal knowledge. Wife A should not be able to agree to unknown Wife Z twenty years down the road, anymore than I should agree to marry my friend's baby daughter upon reaching majority.

Furthermore, a triad which evolves prior to marriage by any of the members, which is then formalized by contract, would negate the rest of the argument.

Agreed. But does the situation truly exist?

Gosh, I hate to get into this discussion. There doesn't seem to be any way of putting things without sticking your finger in someone's eye. But, since there's a point that hasn't been made and I think needs to be made and I'm foolhardy by nature, here goes.

Relationships have been studied rigorously over a long period of time. In particular, I want to draw your attention to the researches of John Gottman. See here, here, and here. Gottman's researches have suggested that same sex relationships tend to be stronger than different sex relationships:
"Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in
trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in
a relationship than straight couples," said John Gottman, a University of
Washington emeritus professor of psychology who directed the research along
with Robert Levenson, a University of California, Berkeley, psychology
professor.

"I think that in 200 years heterosexual relationships will be where
gay and lesbian relationships are today," said Gottman, who now heads the
Relationship Research Institute in Seattle.

In the first of two papers published this month in the Journal of
Homosexuality, the researchers explored the conflict interaction of
homosexual and heterosexual couples using mathematical modeling techniques.
In the second study, they looked at factors influencing gay and lesbian
couples' relationship satisfaction and dissolution.

"In the modeling paper we looked at processes, and they look so
different you could draw a picture," said Gottman. "Straight couples start
a conflict discussion in a much more negative place than do gays and lesbian
couples. Homosexuals start the same kind of discussions with more humor and
affection, are less domineering and show considerably more positive emotions
than heterosexual couples.
This may appear to be an argument in favor of homogamy but I think that, in fact, it's quite the opposite.

Let's put aside ethical/moral considerations and consider only the societal implications of marriage. The question is does society have an interest in strengthening heterosexual relationships? The research suggests that heterosexual relationships are harder than homosexual relationships and, consequently, require more support. Traditionally, we have called the system of sanctions, subsidies, and supports for these relationships “marriage”.

" "Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in
trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in
a relationship than straight couples," said John Gottman, a University of
Washington emeritus professor of psychology who directed the research along
with Robert Levenson, a University of California, Berkeley, psychology
professor."

Erm. I've read in more than one place that there is a significantly higher rate of domestic abuse in gay relationships than in straight ones. Was that false? Hmmm... whose propaganda to believe?

Was that false? Hmmm... whose propaganda to believe?
That's not propaganda, lindsey, that's testimony and data. Gottman is not a kook or an advocate—he's a serious scholar who uses a rigorous methodology.

Celebrim:
First, you accused me of being 'smug'. When I asked what I had said that you found 'smug', you quoted something that I said after you had accused me of smugness. That does not clarify.
You said-- Well, speaking as a scientist I think that that is rather highly unlikely that we will find a biological basis for homosexuality per se,
given that you admit to not having read the literature, i do find that rather smug.

Then you accused me of not having read the literature and put 'scientist' in scare quotes, even though I had already acknowledged that we had found a coorelation between certain genetic and mophological characteristics and homosexuality. But fine, I'll be happy to read your literature. Just don't be surprised if I don't think the data supports the conclusions. Likewise, don't be surprised if I don't think genetic characteristics justify the moral conclusion you think they justify.
Can i argue here that you you seem to have preformed your conclusions? Alas, where is cerebrim's scientific method?

"but it would be illegal here because of bigamy laws."

For what I think are some very good reasons, as the link you provided I think demonstrates.

"your argument has no legs."

What argument? How do you arrive at that conclusion? You haven't even specified what you are arguing against, much less provided counter-argument. If my argument has no legs, yours would appear to have no body.
I thought you were arguing that legalizing gay marriage would open the door for legalization of polygamy. Oops, my bad. ;)

"It is memetic evolution that prevents the RCC from burning scientists at the stake as they were wont to do."

I don't think I need to dignify that with a responce.

Celebrim, real scientists can't operate with bias. All religions are Evolutionarily Stable Systems that have evolved particular strategy sets. Burning heretics was a strategy that worked for the RCC in the 14th century. It wouldn't work now.

At the risk of thread-jacking, BTW, jinnderella, you might be a little more careful about your examples. The Inquisition burned Bruno (presumably the example you were thinking of) more than 400 years ago. Scientists have tortured Jews and conducted lengthy unethical experiments on African American men within living memory. Does that mean that scientists are all unethical? Or memetically unevolved? I'm not so sure that “memetic evolution” explains much. Or even have a referent? But that there are nutcases of every religion in every country at every time I have no doubt.

Dave, burning heretics was religious policy for the RCC, like excommunication. This is an example of extreme punishment for defectors. The same sort of strategy exists today in ESS:Islam. Haad beheadings for blasphemy in Saud, for example.

I'm not putting any sort of morality reading on this--i try hard to be a scientist, unlike some others i could mention.

"given that you admit to not having read the literature, i do find that rather smug."

Which I point out doesn't address my complaint. Moreover, you are wrong. I did not admit to not having read the literature. I admitted to not having read your literature, the nature of which I don't know, because I haven't seen it. But, seeing as I mentioned that I'd seen certain papers claiming to show that certain characteristics (like the ratio of finger links) were more pronounced or common in homosexuals than hetrosexuals even before you piped up on the thread, I dare say that yes I've read the literature. In fact, I have the 10th June Edition of Science spread out on my desk right now, and was just reading an article on Preeclampsia before I responded to you. But please, go ahead and keep putting scare quotes around "scientist" and claiming that I'm smug.

"Can i argue here that you you seem to have preformed your conclusions?"

You certainly may. You may argue anything that you wish, it's just going to be subject to peer review and criticism.

"Alas, where is cerebrim's scientific method?"

Cerebrim? I'm not sure who you are talking to here, but as for my scientific method what makes you think that it isn't my scientific method and powers of observation that leads me to holding certain conclusions. Of course I preformed my conclusions before holding this discussion. But that doesn't mean at some point in the past those conclusions weren't drawn from testing. If you even understood my argument at all, and its clear you don't, then you'd understand that its not important to me whether homosexuality has a genetic basis or not. It's not my field of study, and it doesn't effect my theology. Moreover, as I said before, that gays think 'being made this' way is some sort of defence only shows thier theological illiteracy. Under most doctrinal traditions, it doesn't matter. As a scientific statement made to an atheist, it really doesn't and in fact undermines thier right to choose that lifestyle.

"I thought you were arguing that legalizing gay marriage would open the door for legalization of polygamy. Oops, my bad."

Yes, indeed. You've thought alot of things about me that only show you've been reflexively making statements and not stopping to think. I most certainly was not making that argument. Now, I should point out that some people have, but culturally we are a whole lot closer to accepting homosexuality than polygamy at the momment and I don't personally see one as the gateway to the other. For one thing, the arguments to be made against polygamy are less subtle and rely much more on 'common sense' than the arguments against homosexuality.

"Celebrim, real scientists can't operate with bias."

That's the 'no true Scotsman' falacy, but more importantly its the kind of statement that lets me no you don't work in science. Everyone has bias. It's impossible to not have bias. Scientists have bias. Historians have bias. Engineers have bias. People have bias. Bias is part of being human. The scientific method helps us transcend our bias, and a good scientist is capable of swallowing his pride and letting the data speak for itself even when its says something he didn't want it to say because he's spent the prior 20 years of his career arguing that the theory that it proves is wrong and now he's finally forced to admit that his rival was right. If you actually were working in science, you'd seen so many petty political spats in academic departments, petty jealousies, bitter lab rivalries, rebuttals in journals, and general people acting like people that you'd never make a ludicrous claim like 'real scientists operate with bias'. One of the really annoying things about being in science is that close-minded arrogant SOB who thinks that he's the only one who has got it right, often turns out to be the only one who has got it right.

"All religions are Evolutionarily Stable Systems that have evolved particular strategy sets."

And you've just thrown your theologian credentials out the window too. I could list several major revolutions in the Protestant form of worship just since the 18th century and just in America, to say nothing of the major changes in the practice of the Christian faith since the time of the early church.

"Burning heretics was a strategy that worked for the RCC in the 14th century. It wouldn't work now."

Look if you want to put your ignorance on display here, I can't stop you. But as some friendly advice, I would be careful about harping on that. I'm not even Catholic; I'm a *Protest*ant - and I've got a few beefs with the Catholic Church myself, but even I'm well aware that you're grossly simplifying the role of the Catholic Church in science if you are going to confine yourself to the post-modern populist narrative about the Catholics being the oppressors of science and learning.

I agree with Fred.

We should "legalize the grotesque".

Then we should proclaim it beautiful.

Nat:
Thats exactly what has happened ...
.
.
Celebrim, with your permission, perhaps Joe could pass me your email for a slow paced exchange.

What has happened, is that a major plank of my Freedomist principle has been destroyed. and that Perhaps the more Authoritarin position in some respects has put its merits on display.

This was totaly unexpected, and im not happy at all with the results, but I cant argue with the virdict. I can replay the arguments, including those not yet made, I hear them already.

In effect, if we accept my opponents position, that includes Joe, then the proabition of Adult Child sex cannot be defended, Or polygamy or anything else.

Does a food animal give his concent when it leaves the feed lot to its doom ?

In early America kids got married at age 11 or 12, and often years before puberty, the age of puberty has declined along with nutition, and growth hormones in beef causeing early onset, in the early days of america and in civilisation in general, it might not come untill skeletal growth had completed, thats not the case today.

As adults devolve into children until there is little difference, and lust and desire is the only thing that matters

There are already elaborate essays and thought about ageism et all and the only thing blocking them is a moral standard ... but from what authority comes any moral standard.

Remove God, and there are no moral standards, and the normalisation of perversity is simply an endless march with its speed therof the only variable.

We are set adrift, the anchors are pulled up, and morals are meaningless, they are only a rough celestial fix on your current position in the sea today, a measure of the drift since yesterday, and a rough guess where you will be tomorrow.

Joes position, along with the positions of participants of both sides in these two threads establishes that beyond refute.

If Joe is right, then man is incompetent with his freedom. and eventually, we are all slaves.
.
Thats only a slight scratch on the epiphany, but the virdict is as strong as it is distastefull.

It appears some central supports of my Liberatarian position has been blasted assunder.
.

There's a lot to comment on this, and not much time on my break to do it in, but this from Raymond pretty much takes the cake:

In effect, if we accept my opponents position, that includes Joe, then the proabition of Adult Child sex cannot be defended, Or polygamy or anything else.

Does a food animal give his concent when it leaves the feed lot to its doom ?

That proposition only makes sense if you already consider a child and a food animal as morally equivalent. That's a position Peter Singer would advocate, but it doesn't follow from the proposition JK advances.

We don't ask a food animal for its consent because it's a lower form of life. It is not, and will never, be the moral equivalent of a human being. Cows, chickens, and other non-human animals are, in their natural states, incapable of intellectual or moral activity.

Cows can't consent, and we don't care because they are incapable of becoming moral agents. Children can't consent, but we do care because children are, or are capable of becoming, moral agents.

None of this relies on a belief in, or the presence of, God. A rational person with a moral center of their own will understand, while a person who isn't rational and lacks moral understanding might follow the reasoning you outlined. If a person needs God to tell him the moral difference between forcing yourself on a child and eating a chicken then that person has much larger problems than gay marriage.

In effect, if we accept my opponents position, that includes Joe, then the proabition of Adult Child sex cannot be defended, Or polygamy or anything else.

Consent is the first principle -- it is a classical liberal principle. The need for consent justifies age limitations or other restrictions where mental capacity is not fully functioning or developed. As stated above, I also believe that non-simultaneous polygamy is inherently coercive so as to justify its restriction on the basis of consent alone.

Remove God, and there are no moral standards, and the normalisation of perversity is simply an endless march with its speed therof the only variable.

God has nothing to do with it. Marriage is a social construct that both religion and government have enveloped with their own mores. China removed God, yet retained traditional notions of marriage.

celebrim:
I dare say that yes I've read the literature.
Good! then how do you explain morphological and functional differences in brain tissue between straight men and women and homosexuals, with homosexuals falling in between the two? How do you explain, not just digit lengths but significant differences in olefactory capability? What do you think of the theory that homosexuality might be caused by an interuterine virus?

You are just throwing chaff about the scientific method. Overcoming bias is built into it.

i make no claims to be a theologian. You seem to belive in a superiority of christian ethics and their universal applicability to all moral dilemmas. you and Raymond.

The RCC had a whole bunch of strategies to promote membership and prevent defection. One of them was extreme punishment for heresy. Your indignation does not impress me.

And here's my final word on gay marriage...
Against Gay Marriage?
Don't have one.

I have to agree with Raymond on one thing. As both the atheist Nietzche and the Christian Dostoevsky maintained, if there is no God then all is permitted. Nietzche was right on target with his criticism of the "English flatheads" who maintained you could have the Christian morality without the Christian God.

fred, you and Raymond are just wrong. I know many atheists that are good moral people. And i know some "Christians" that are depraved slimeballs.

"Good! then how do you explain morphological and functional differences in brain tissue between straight men and women and homosexuals, with homosexuals falling in between the two?"

I've already answered that question. Showing that there are morphological differences between homosexuals and hetrosexuals in no way proves that anyone was made gay, any more than showing that there is a corellation between the sales of ice cream and the drowning shows that more people drown because they eat ice cream.

"How do you explain, not just digit lengths but significant differences in olefactory capability?"

Like I said, get the papers out, quote them (and not media articles about them) and stop talking in vague terms. It's worth noting that the group of papers that you are citing have all found morphological differences, but they are also finding contridictions. On the one hand, some papers are finding that characteristics in homosexual men tend to be hyper-male (as opposed to feminine) and on the other hand they are finding in some papers characteristics that they claim are feminized. This is not leading toward a coherent explanation.

Moreover, none the papers you are talking about are claiming to find characteristics (to say nothing of genetic markers) which are exclusive to homosexuals and universal to homosexuals. Until you find something both exclusive and universal, you've found nothing. What we are finding are finding that the average characteristic in homosexuals is different than the average characteristic in heterosexuals. This is hardly surprising. But once we are talking about averages, this is a very different claim than talking about markers because it implies that there are people who manifest these characteristics but who are not homosexual and homosexuals who don't manifest these characteristics. Finding some marker that indicates a propensity for something is not the same as finding a marker for homosexuality.

For example, if we note that on average homosexuals release more testosterone that hetrosexuals, what have we really shown? All we've shown is that some characteristic (hypermaleness) is found more often in homosexual men, but this characteristic is not in and of itself homosexuality. Instead, even found something that likely influences things like sexual placticity (the ability to become sexually aroused from a broader range of inputs) and strength of sexual responce - both of which are the sort of things we'd expect to find more often in people who have a sexuality which is out side the cultural norms.

Likewise, when we find morphological and functional characteristics in the brain, what have we really shown? The answer is, we don't really know what we have shown. We don't know whether or not we are looking at environmental influence or genetic influence. For example, we know that London cabbies develop enlarged hypothalamuses possibly as a responce to maintaining in thier heads a detailed mental map. So, when we are looking at the brains of a homosexual, are we looking at something that caused the homosexual behavior, or are we looking at something that is the result of the homosexual behavior? We don't know. Likewise, if we are looking at only a propensity, we have the same problem as any other morphological characteristic. If not everyone with the characteristic becomes 'gay', and not every 'gay' person has the characteristic, but rather this characteristic only occurs on average the all we've shown is that we've found something which might make it easier or more likely for someone to be gay - and not something that makes one gay.

Moreover, we don't know if we've found something which makes people attracted to members of the same sex, or whether we've found something that makes people more likely to enter social groups where attraction to the same sex is more common. Consider what would happen if we examined the brains of 50 hair dressers, 50 professional atheletes, and 50 engineers. Very likely we would find average characteristics that differed between these individuals. Unless we control the experiment for that sort of background/cultural sampling bias, how do we know that what we are seeing isn't a result of picking homosexuals who are more willing to 'come out of the closet' and indentify themselves as homosexuals.

Read critically.

"What do you think of the theory that homosexuality might be caused by an interuterine virus?"

I think that suggesting to me that homosexuality might be the result of a disease is not something which supports the position that homosexuality needs to be a protected form of behavior, but that said I also think that it is a pretty silly idea.

All that was complex. Let's simplify. One of the earliest studies on morphological/functional differences between gay men and hetrosexual men noted that gay men were about 50% more likely to be left handed than hetrosexual men.

Does this mean that left handed men are gay? No.
Does this mean that gay men are left handed? No.

What does it mean?

The answer is we don't know. It could mean alot of things. It could mean that people who are left handed are more likely to break social norms. It could mean that people who are left handed have some particular power of the imagination which makes it easier for them to remap thier sexuality to a new partner. It could mean that left handed people are more likely to become social outcasts, and thus would more readily embrace acceptance in a social subculture.

All of those hypothesis are inferred from behavioral and function propensities we already know about left-handedness. But does that mean that all left-handers are social outcasts, artistic, suffer from manic depression, and are going to die young? Of course not. It just indicates a propensity to these behaviors.

(You can always tell when I'm annoyed, because I refuse to shut up.)

Let's look at another number frequently cited as proof that gays are 'made that way'. Studies have shown that in the case of identical twins, if one twin is gay then it is 50% likely that the other is gay, whereas with fraternal twins its only about 25% likely that the other is gay.

On the one hand, since only about 3% of the population is gay, we can look at this and find clear evidence that there is some biological basis for homosexuality. But on the other hand, we can look at this and say that even when two people have identical genetic makeup and indentical upbringing, there is no more than a 50% chance that they will both be gay. This implies that there is in fact a great degree of 'randomness' or choice in whether or not a person will become gay. In to people 'made' in an indentical fashion, only one became gay. It seems to me then other ridiculous to suppose that some degree of choice or environmental factor (unique circumstances in one particular persons life) doesn't play a role in whether or not you are gay.

A propensity for a behavior is not the same as there being a one to one and onto relationship between your genetic code and your sexual responce. Hense, finding propensities may well find biological basis for behavior, but from another prespective it also more or less proves to me that some degree of 'choice' (and no I don't want to try to scientifically define 'choice' or 'free will') is involved.

And even within for example the Levay study, we've got serious problems. If gays are 'made that way', why did the brain tissue of 68% of the gays fall within the range of morphological characteristics found in the hetrosexual sample?

celebrim, people with a lot more creds than you and i are duking it out in the journals even now. i can't convince you that homosexuality is organic--i don't even want to--but given the body of evidence i think the trend is obvious. and i think you cannot say that all the organic differences are caused by hidden variables.
Greg Cochran on the possibility of a Gay Virus
Greg is a pretty fearless guy and a forward thinker-- he coauthored (with Dr. Harpending) the current paper on Why Ashkenazi Jews have a full std of higher IQ.

I also think that it is a pretty silly idea.
Well, William Hamilton and Robert Trivers, two of the most revered geneticists of my experience, do not think so. see--

Natural Selection and Social Theory by Trivers

The Narrow Roads of Geneland: Vol.II The Evolution of Sex by Hamilton (my all time favorite genetics text)

BTW, Cochran uses the twin study to support the gay virus theory.

celebrim, arguing with you is like pushing my head around in a bowl of mush.
we can look at this and find clear evidence that there is some biological basis for homosexuality.
isn't that what i am saying?

""we can look at this and find clear evidence that there is some biological basis for homosexuality."
isn't that what i am saying?"

I'm not sure. There are either two possibilities. Either you didn't understand what I was saying and have spent alot of time arguing against something that you agreed with, or else this isn't what you are saying.

I have never once claimed that there was not some biological basis for homosexuality.

But that is not the extent of my claims. I claimed that there was no pure biological basis for homosexuality, hense, that homosexual behavior was governed in large part by the choice of the individual. You found that claim 'smug' and have been arguing against me ever since, so I can only speculate that what you are really saying is:

"There is a purely biological basis for homosexuality and hense homosexuals do not choose to be homosexual"

Is that what you are saying?

"people with a lot more creds than you and i are duking it out in the journals even now."

Argument from authority. Also, I would note that this implies that at least some 'authorities' probably agree with me - not that that matters.

"i can't convince you that homosexuality is organic--i don't even want to--but given the body of evidence i think the trend is obvious."

You would. We won't derail this thread any further by going off on a tangent, but there is alot of questionable science and analysis going on out there right no that falls apart on further study, but which people defend with common sense statements like 'the trend is obvious'.

In fact, the trend is not obvious. I think that geneticists are coming to realize that they won't find some inheritable trait which defines homosexuality. I think the trend in science is against that explanation because the sort of evidence needed to support that theory just isn't turning up, and there are some serious questions about how such a trait could survive evolutionarily. But since you don't want to listen to me, I'll let your own expert speak for me. In his interview, Cochran states in responce to this question:

"Isn't it the current expectation among scientists that we will eventually find some sort of "gay gene" that codes for homosexuality?

Genetics influences everything but I don't know of any prominent population geneticists or evolutionary geneticists who expect to find a 'gay gene'. Dean Hamer made a claim some time ago but it doesn't seem to have gone anywhere. Actually, we can be pretty sure that there is no gene that codes for male homosexuality: not one that accounts for much of the story, anyhow."

There. That is the claim I've been making all along. When I make it, you consider it smug and evidence that I'm not really a scientist. When Cochran makes it, is it evidence that he's smug and not a scientist?

Reading further along we see Cochran pretty much refute that there is any possibility that a homosexual gene could have evolved. I agree. Note as an aside, that this means that if there was a 'gay gene', that it would literally mean that gays were 'made that way'.

Once you have to remove genetics as the fundamental basis of the story, you are left with one of two possibilities.

1) Fundamentally, homosexuality is a choice - a lifestyle decision.
2) Homosexuality arises as a result of a yet undiscovered but universally present pathogen which very likely causes no other damage to a person accept to selectively damage things that regulate the complex mechanism of human arrousal resulting in attraction to the same sex.

Actually, there is a third possible explanation, 'God did it', but this is not a scientificly acceptable explanation. Of the two remaining possible answers, you don't have to be much of a scientist to see which of those answers is more plausible. The second answer is in fact silly. But, for now let's just keep an open mind and see if the proponent of this theory has some evidence. We read:

"Is there positive evidence for your theory?

There is no positive evidence. There is no positive evidence for any explanation, really. The high discordance in identical twins says that for sure, some environmental agent is important. People have approached this in a silly way since time immemorial: Freudian explanations were among the silliest."

Oh, so your 'authority' has absolutely no evidence for his theory at all. In fact, if you go back and read this previous question, 'Why is a virus a good candidate', the answer completely dodges the question. Might I suggest that this implies a little bias? Let's ask a different question, "Why would people be tempted to look for a silly explanation for homosexuality when in fact a perfectly acceptable and straight forward answer is staring them right in the face?" Could it possibly be that homosexuality is such an emotionally charged issue that they are willing to invent silly answers in order to explain away or justify the behavior?

Jinnderella, No, I don't think Raymond and I are wrong. The fact that some atheists behave in a way that has traditionally been considered moral and some Christians have not doesn't really mean anything. If a German joined the Nazi party in 1936 because he was forced to or because at the time, he believed it to be the best thing for Germany but he behaved morally otherwise, or if a non-Nazi killed innocent Jews because they were Jews it does not follow that Nazism isn't evil. The atheist who behaves morally may choose to do so, but his morality is either inertia (see Nietzche's "last man"), a choice made in a vacuum and pure personal preference, hence only skin deep, or a well-thought out choice to live that way even though there's no real reason to do so (see Nietzche's ubermensch). In all those cases the moral behavior depends only on a meaningless choice made in a vacuum and that could just as easily be otherwise. The Christian who behaves immorally at least has a meaningful morality, which s/he has broken and s/he is aware of having violated a law above and beyond his or her own personal choice. As I said, if God doesn't exist then all is permitted.

Well, actually Dostoevsky said it, but I agree.

So, let's take this abit farther, beyond clear fact into a bit of a speculative realm.

Why would Cochran - having admitted that some environmental factor must play a big role - go looking for a virus? Is his viral hypothesis in any way convincing? Or in other words, asking the question that the interviewer should have, "Why makes a virus an especially unlikely candidate as the cause of homosexuality?"

First of all, homosexuality is pervasive. This implies a virus that is highly common and either highly persistant in the environment or highly contagious.

But, the virus can't be too contagious, otherwise we'd expect that almost all twins would pass it on to each other. And the virus can't be highly persistant in the environment, or very likely we would have noticed it by now.

On the other hand, maybe the virus is a known viral pathogen, and we simply haven't recognized it yet, for example: "Something like herpes I, or Epstein Barr, or chickenpox, or RSV, human herpesvirus six, human herpesvirus seven, or any one of hundreds of rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. Really, hard to guess." The problem with that theory is that its almost certain that the positive coorelation between having the disease and turning gay would have been noticed by now. Moreover, in some cases we've already got vaccines against these viruses, so we should have noticed a preciptous drop in homosexuality after the vaccine was introduced. We'd also accept that modern hygene would have some profound influence on the spread of homosexuality - positive or negative - in the same way that for example modern hygene influenced the distribution of polio.

Moreover, for any possible disease candidate above we'd have the problem of people who did catch the 'gay bug' but weren't homosexual, and I'd guess almost certainly some that were homosexual but never had any particular disease we could name.

Plus this disease would have to be very selectively disabling. On the one hand, this is a disease detructive enough to cause major brain damage or possibly endocrine damage, and yet its so selective that it doesn't leave gay men crippled with various other recognizable problems.

Equally strange, if the evidence on homosexuality in the animal kingdom is to be believe (and often it isn't) then this is a virus which would have to effect a very wide variaty of vertebrates or at least have an almost identical virus for many vertebrate groups.

Lastly, although the 'gay bug' doesn't kill its host, it has a major Darwinian impact because it effectively sterilizes a good portion of the people that get it. Gay men are presumably far less likely to pass on offspring. Considering how early the disease strikes, how prevalent it is (3% of the population), and the drop in fitness (in a Darwinian since) that results from it, the 'gay bug' might well have the single largest impact on human evolution of any pathogen. Where is the evolved resistance? Why don't indentical twins usually confer thier shared resistance on thier siblings?

Why are we going to all this trouble to speculate about something for which we don't have any evidence whatsoever, when occum's razor suggests a far simplier explanation?

celebrim, is diabetes genetic? it is a threshold trait.
Dean Hamer is is a populist, not a scientist. i didn't much care for The God Gene either.
You are still arguing that homosexuality is a choice. Perhaps. Like being a white man was a choice for Michael Jackson. He could change his phenotype but not his genotype.
The mechanisms of inheritance are complex. I don't think homosexuality is a choice per se. That is where we differ. And i see no recconciliation in sight.
merci pour l'argument.

Celebrim,
Have any gay friends ever told you about their life and about this 'choice' you're developing as the only logical conclusion. The folks I've know have always indicated that this 'choice' was thrust on them. (I know, I know: hearsay)
From a social darwinistic viewpoint, what are the benefits of being homosexual in our society?

"celebrim, is diabetes genetic? it is a threshold trait."

Red herring on at least two counts. First, diabetes isn't what is being talked about right now. However a discussion on diabetes turned out, it wouldn't effect or discussion of homosexuality. You have absolutely no evidence that homosexuality is relatable to diabetes in any fashion. Second, diabetes is a rather well understood trait, which can be genetically screened for. Every evidence we have is that homosexuality is not such a trait, and quoting Cochran again, how much clearer can you get than, "...we can be pretty sure that there is no gene that codes for male homosexuality: not one that accounts for much of the story, anyhow." Lastly, even if we admitted diabetes as evidence - which I won't without better cause - the comparison wouldn't demonstrate what you are trying to get it to demonstrate because we know that the incidence of diabetes is strongly linked to ones lifestyle decisions. This would mean that the vast majority of homosexuals would have choosen to be homosexual and could conversely choose not to be.

"You are still arguing that homosexuality is a choice."

Indeed I am. But I'm not just arguing it. I'm present evidence that it is a choice. I have asked you to present evidence that it isn't a choice, and the interview you presented turned out not to defend your position but rather defended mine.

"Perhaps. Like being a white man was a choice for Michael Jackson. He could change his phenotype but not his genotype."

Straw man. By bringing Michael Jackson into this you are trying to imply that for a gay man to choose not to be gay is in some fashion grotesque and unhealty. You could have just as easily used diabetes as your example here. Do you consider it grotesque for a person prone to diabetes to control thier diet? Do you consider it grotesque for a person who is diabetic to take insulin?

Moreover, this is also something of a red herring in the same way that bring up diabetes was because the genotype/phenotype of 'black' and 'white' is nothing like the proposed phenotypes that anyone has ever shown for homosexuality. If I could point out that 68% of all 'whites' had a color which lay within the norm for 'blacks', would you consider black and white to be reasonably good descriptions of the phenotype? Moreover, the mechanisms of inheritance in skin color are reasonably well understood. Homosexuality has defied any such characterization. Moreover, I can put a one to one relationship between phenotype and genotype on skin color. Having a genetic marker for high ammounts of pigment means you are black, not that you have a 'propensity for being black'. Having a genetic marker for low ammounts of pigment means you are white, not that you have a 'propensity for being white'. Skin color is in no fashion equivalent to sexual orientation.

Moreover, didn't you just present to me an interview which suggested that in fact everyone was born with a hetrosexual genotype, but damage from a pathogen caused some people to express a 'gay phenotype'? So, which do you actually believe? Is 'gayness' fundamentally connected to ones genotype or is it fundamentally connnected to ones phenotype? Are you going to defend a position or not?

"The mechanisms of inheritance are complex."

Mechanisms of inheritance??? Didn't you just present to me an interview that argued persuasively that thier was no likely mechanism of inheritance that could explain homosexuality? Stop dancing around and tell me what you actually believe. Is it genetic or not? Or is it simply that you will tentatively accept any explanation which allows you to believe that it isn't a choice, even if that means accepting contridictory things? Does the cognitive dissonance ever get to you?

"I don't think homosexuality is a choice per se. That is where we differ. And i see no recconciliation in sight."

I don't either, because you are unwilling to enter into a rational debate.

"Celebrim, Have any gay friends ever told you about their life and about this 'choice' you're developing as the only logical conclusion."

Well, if I develop it as the only logical conclusion, would the answer to this question really matter? ;)

No, most of them adopt the stance that they were born that way. However, if you go back a few decades and read the gay literature of that time, you'll see that this emphasis on 'being made that way' is a fairly modern development. I'd be willing to bet that if you went back to the '70's or something you'd get alot of gay people telling you that this was "thier choice" and therefore they had a "right" to live that way. Only when libertarianism failed to secure them the approval that they wanted did the gay community turn to the 'victim' approach to secure the political rights that they desired.

Besides, although I've not personally been close to many gays, I've heard gays say before that they felt it was a choice. I've also heard several former gays (these do exist) say that they now realize that it was a choice that they made.

"The folks I've know have always indicated that this 'choice' was thrust on them. (I know, I know: hearsay)"

Don't dismiss ancedotal evidence. I certainly don't. Ancedotal evidence is often truths that science hasn't yet caught up to. However, in this case - in addition to the cultural trend I mentioned - we've a pretty good reason to suspect that these people are good self-critics, and that's the unaccepted nature of homosexuality in society that you mention. Because of the fact that homosexuality is not considered a positive social factor, practioners of homosexuality have a very strong motivation to justify thier behavior to themselves and to their social peers. What better justification than, "This isn't my fault. I was made this way." Considering how pervasive this excuse of non-accountablility is in our society - and amongst liberals in particular - is it any wonder that we hear homosexuals and particularly liberal leaning homosexuals offering this justification?

"From a social darwinistic viewpoint, what are the benefits of being homosexual in our society?"

Well, first of all, I'm not a social Darwinist and I don't think its a particularly useful pardigm for discussing this. First of all, social Darwinism presumes that people are in some sense rational actors looking out for thier own long term social interests. On some counts that may be true enough, but we are talking about the subject of sexual arrosal and attraction. If thier is anything which by definition is not rational it's sexual arrosal. In other words, in the modern venacular, 'sex makes you stupid'.

I don't really want to get into a detailed discussion of how homosexual behavior arrises at this time because my suspicion is that like almost any human behavior it has multiple causes. In fact, the reasons why a particular person 'chooses' (which isn't a very accurate word I admit, because it implies more rationality than is necessarily their) are probably as individual as individuals. I have a large body of theories, but no single theory explains everything - nor would I expect it to. I do agree that thier are certain attributes that would make one more prone to making those choices (or if you prefer to being influenced by the environment in those directions), but I do not think there is anything like a one to one correspondance between a particular genotype and being gay.

Celebrim, what twin study are you looking at? Twin studies usually want to look at twins raised separately for studying issues like homosexuality. That way you hold genetic makeup constant and have a varying environment. Looking at twins raised together doesn't allow any determination of the involvement of genetic/developmental factors versus environmental factors.

So, I'd really like to know what study this is and whether they studied separated twins or not. Because, to be honest, if they studied separated twins, this is incredibly strong evidence that genetic or developmental factors are the primary agents of determining sexual orientation.

bq.Let's look at another number frequently cited as proof that gays are 'made that way'. Studies have shown that in the case of identical twins, if one twin is gay then it is 50% likely that the other is gay, whereas with fraternal twins its only about 25% likely that the other is gay.

And here's why. Your figure for the prevalence of homosexuality in the population at large is 3% (I usually hear 2%, but it doesn't make an order of magnitude difference, so let's use your figure.)So what's the chance of 2 randomly selected people both being gay? Well, 3% times 3% or .09%

In the quote above, you say that the study found that identical twins were 50% likely to share homosexual orientation, 555 times more likely than two people from the general population. Fraternal twins would be 275 times more likely to both be gay than the general population.

If the twins in the study were separated, then your argument that choice plays a significant role in sexual orientation is dead. Period. The finding that fraternal twins are also much more likely to both be gay, but only half as likely as identical twins reinforces the conclusion that sexual orientation is not a choice. They share the same environment, but are only half as likely to share sexual orientation. Of course, one could make the argument that the difference between the two types of twins comes from parents more strongly enforcing identical environments for identical twins, but that does nothing to weaken the argument from identical twins.

On the other hand, if the twins in the study were not separated, the study says a lot less. The split between the types of twins remains interesting, but inconclusive for the same reason I mentioned above. It still wouldn't support a pro-choice argument, but it wouldn't support a no-choice argument either. Having information for non-twin siblings would help clear things up in this case.

Actually, non-twin siblings would make an interesting test case. Did they study them? If the twins (and non-twins) were separated, I'd predict that the non-twin sets would share sexual orientation significantly less than either set of twins, but still at a much higher rate than the general population, probably in the neighborhood of 5% and no more than 10%.

So, in summary, I disagree with you that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. The evidence that you've presented doesn't support your conclusion. Your figure of 68% of homosexual brains fall within heterosexual morphological range is meaningless unless we know what the standard deviation of that range is. If homosexual brains cluster outside of the standard deviation, we have a significant difference.

Once you have to remove genetics as the fundamental basis of the story, you are left with one of two possibilities.

1) Fundamentally, homosexuality is a choice - a lifestyle decision.

2) Homosexuality arises as a result of a yet undiscovered but universally present pathogen which very likely causes no other damage to a person accept to selectively damage things that regulate the complex mechanism of human arrousal resulting in attraction to the same sex.

False choice. I can think of two additional possibilities off the top of my head:
3) Homosexuality arises from developmental issues pre-birth. Hormonal concentrations, oxygen levels being higher or lower, virtually any fluctuation in the womb. Virtually any personality feature might have an explanation here. Note that some of these issues might be coded for in the mother's genes, but not in the offsprings, while others might not be genetic at all.

4) Homosexuality arises from post-birth environmental influences. Insert your favorite distant father/too much love/not enough love/exotic becomes erotic theory here.

And, as a bonus,
5) Homosexuality arises from some combination of the above, probably in a manner that depends on the individual. A fetus with a certain gene complex gets a certain dose of a particular hormone and ends up gay. Another child has no genetic factors, but gets a heavy testosterone wash as his brain is developing and is raised around girls exclusively to age 5, and ends up attracted to men.

Personally, I think genetic factors are insufficient to explain homosexuality and other "sexual minorities." However, studies like the twin studies point to a genetic component or something heritable.

The "Gay Germ" strikes me as needlessly complex, and not particularly good at modeling what we see. Also, I think far too many of its supporters have connections with what remains of the eugenics movement for me to be comfortable accepting it.

Developmental issues probably play a role. Milton Diamond's studies convince me that sexuality and gender identity are largely fixed by birth and resistant to change thereafter. I largely reject post-birth environmental influences as dominant, but I wouldn't be surprised if they play some part in at least some people.

What I don't see much of a role for is choice, in the sense that Celebrim is advocating. Ex-gay programs would have high success rates, instead of 0%. I know you claimed ex-gays exist, and I'd love to see some evidence that the programs actually change the sexual orientation of subjects.

sigh
celebrim, you completely missed the bus on the diabetes analogy. Diabetes is a threshold trait, meaning expression is controlled by environment.
i am interested in all sorts of hypothesis- but my underlying belief is that there is a biological basis for homosexuality.
The gay virus theory is just that. One of many competing theories.

"Celebrim, what twin study are you looking at?"

The most commonly cited study is the one by Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard. In it, the twins in the study were not raised separately. As you point out, this seriously impacts the quality of the data. Although I haven't yet got a copy of the paper, just from what I've read, there some precievable problems with possible sampling error in the paper - for example they advertised nationally for 'gay twins' to take part in the study which means it is not a truly random sample of the population, and they relied solely on the testimony of the 'gay twin' instead of colaborating this testimony with the resport of the other twin which makes it impossible to correct for reporting errors (up or down).

As best as I can tell, a study of indentical twins raised separately has never been done. A slightly better study in Australia of 14000 randomly selected twin pairs that lacked the reporting problems I mentioned with the Bailey/Pillard study found that if one indentical twin was gay, there was a 38% chance that the other was gay. This is a bit of a descrepensy with the Bailey/Pillard study, and I've seen some evidence (which I won't quote here because I don't trust the source) that these sort of twin studies have returned numbers that are literally all over the board. Maybe if jinnderrella could send me the papers she finds so conclusive, I'd have a better feel for this.

Nonetheless, I find this statement rather bizarre:

"In the quote above, you say that the study found that identical twins were 50% likely to share homosexual orientation, 555 times more likely than two people from the general population. Fraternal twins would be 275 times more likely to both be gay than the general population.

If the twins in the study were separated, then your argument that choice plays a significant role in sexual orientation is dead. Period."

Even if we found a factor that made someone 555 times more likely to be gay, the fact of the matter is that if it only gave you a 50/50 chance to be gay, the idea that that factor would rule out anything else as playing a significant role in sexual orientation is ridiculous. At most, this factor would be only half the story - how can you possibly claim then that you've ruled out anything else - choice or otherwise - from playing a significant role?

"Actually, non-twin siblings would make an interesting test case. Did they study them?"

Yes, and you are correct in your guess. The study indicated that 10% reported that thier sibling was gay. However, since this is a study of siblings raised together, this number actually doesn't prove much anything one way or the other. Either nuture or genetics - or as I think more likely some combination of the too - still could play a role.

"So, in summary, I disagree with you that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. The evidence that you've presented doesn't support your conclusion."

The evidence I've presented does not indicated that sexual orientation is a matter of 'choice'. But then, that was never my thesis. I believe that the evidence I've presented indicates that sexual orientation is not only a matter of choice, but conversely neither is it only a matter of genetics. That is my thesis. If you jump back a decade ago when these studies were first being performed, the people performing the studies trumpeted them as proof of a 'gay gene' - and those public pronouncements now carry the weight of common sense for much of the public. But such a claim was premature, was not supported by the data then, and is not supported by the follow up data since then - as people like Dean Hamer have been forced to admit.

"False choice. I can think of two additional possibilities off the top of my head:"

"3) Homosexuality arises from developmental issues pre-birth. Hormonal concentrations, oxygen levels being higher or lower, virtually any fluctuation in the womb. Virtually any personality feature might have an explanation here. Note that some of these issues might be coded for in the mother's genes, but not in the offsprings, while others might not be genetic at all."

Ok, I'll accept that as a third possibility. It's certainly more likely than the pathogen thesis, and it overcomes the problem that the genetic thesis has run into while still explaining the observable link in behavior between siblings/morphology, etc. It's also pretty vague. Essentially you've said 'something is possible, but it could be virtually anything'. Where would you begin to test this thesis?

"4) Homosexuality arises from post-birth environmental influences. Insert your favorite distant father/too much love/not enough love/exotic becomes erotic theory here."

As I said earlier, my use of the word 'choice' here was not ideal, because it implied a greater degree of rationality than I actually think exists. When I use 'choice', I include any subconscious choice or any other explanation which is primarily pyschological in nature. I did not mean to imply that homosexual attraction was the result of a conscious act of will to be attracted to people of the same sex. I actually do not believe that anyone has limitless powers of violition, and in fact much of Christianity is based on that assumption.

As such, your #4 is in my theory simply a restatement of #1. As a conservative, 'societies fault' and 'parents fault' arguments, although they have some validity, are never the end all of the story. Without speaking of homosexuality specifically, I feel that if anyone can overcome thier background without assistance, then it implies to me that with proper assistance some additional percentage of people could overcome thier environment. At some point, the individual decisions of people play a role, and even if the obstacles are real ultimately people are accountable for what the choose to do.

"Personally, I think genetic factors are insufficient to explain homosexuality and other "sexual minorities." However, studies like the twin studies point to a genetic component or something heritable."

Then we are rather much in agreement.

"Also, I think far too many of its supporters have connections with what remains of the eugenics movement for me to be comfortable accepting it."

I haven't made this point yet, but I feel very much the same about the 'gay gene' argument. I personally feel that it is very very dangerous for gays to go around claiming that fundamentally 'they were made this way' and 'can never change'. If I were gay, I'd definately not want to make that claim. It sounds far too much like the justification the Nazi's used for herding them on to boxcars.

"What I don't see much of a role for is choice, in the sense that Celebrim is advocating. Ex-gay programs would have high success rates, instead of 0%."

Whoa? Zero percent? That is a very very strong claim. Do ex-gay programs really have a 0% success rate? What is your evidence for that?

I should be terribly surprised indeed if the success rate of ex-gay programs was higher than the success rate for drug addiction programs. I'm very very skeptical of the self-reporting claims made by various chemical addiction rehabilitation progams, which always report numbers in the 70-85% success range, but which independent studies usually find to be in the 5-10% success range. Reporting errors turn out to be large in these kinds of support programs, because people don't want to report thier failures to thier friends. Given the nature of human sexuality, I should be terribly surprised if ex-gay programs were more successful than that.

But '0%' is a very strong claim, and I'd be very very surprised if that was the case. Of course, my suspicion is that if we discussed this, we'd both accuse the other one of continually moving the goal posts.

"I know you claimed ex-gays exist, and I'd love to see some evidence that the programs actually change the sexual orientation of subjects."

This would be a classic example. What do you mean by 'sexual orientation'? If you define sexual orientation behaviorly, in that ex-gays cease to engage in homosexual contact then I'd say that they ceased to be gay. But if you define 'sexual orientation' as 'attracted to members of the same sex', then I'd be very surprised indeed if anyone who had ever engaged in homosexual contact ceased to be sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Put it this way, I define 'success' in an achohol addiction recovery program (most of which have a success rate of under 10%), if the person ceases to drink. But if you define success as the person ceases to be an alchoholic (that is there is something in their chemical makeup with predisposes them to being addicted to alchohol), then obviously the success rate of achohol addiction recovery programs is 0%. And if you define success as the person ceases to desire alchohol at any future point, obviously you are going to have a success rate that nears 0%. But is that a real measure of success? Alchoholism runs in my family. With some of my family, success can be defined as they go from a state of near continual intoxication to only relapsing every half-decade or so.

Success will I think turn out to be a very hard thing to define. To yank this back onto subject at least briefly, under Joe's first principals of moral sexuality, success could be defined as simply reducing the ammount of promiscuity in the relationship. As long as we are talking about succcess rates, what percentage of people with promiscious lifestyles 'successfully' give up that lifestyle would you think? Given the prevelance of promiscuity in homosexual culture, it could well be that in looking at the failure of ex-gay programs, we are looking at not merely a failure to change sexual oreintation, but a failure which would be found across the board (hetrosexual and homosexual) with people who had serial sexual partners over a long period.

Apologies for the length of this post, I've broken it up to be a bit more understandable.

I want to point out that while I support marriage, or a close equivalent, for gays, I'm not claiming that you must. However, I do think the available science is much less kind to your position than you might think.

The most commonly cited study is the one by Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard.

Pillard I'm not familiar with, but Bailey recently resigned from his chair at Northwestern, due to a scandal involving him using human test subjects without notification, having sex with those unwitting subjects, and, in his book The Man who would be Queen, claiming to have done research that he never actually did. I'd be really cautious about that study, but if the data is real and accurate, I'd stand by what I wrote earlier.

A slightly better study in Australia of 14000 randomly selected twin pairs that lacked the reporting problems I mentioned with the Bailey/Pillard study found that if one indentical twin was gay, there was a 38% chance that the other was gay.

Assuming that Australia has a similar percentage of gays, that's pretty significant.

Nonetheless, I find this statement rather bizarre:
"In the quote above, you say that the study found that identical twins were 50% likely to share homosexual orientation, 555 times more likely than two people from the general population. Fraternal twins would be 275 times more likely to both be gay than the general population.

You shouldn't. We're dealing with elementary statistics here. If gays are 3 +-2% of the population, we'd expect two randomly selected people to both be gay between .001% and .025% of the time. If identical twins are both gay 38% of the time, that's a huge difference. In the Australian study, you said the twins were randomly selected, so there is little concern about environment, i.e. There's no reason to assume that a randomly selected group of twins would be more likely to be raised in a gay-inducing environment than randomly selected people. The only factor we're varying here is relatedness. That factor must account for the increase in likelihood, around 390 times in this study.
Choice is excluded from being a cause by randomness, unless you can think of a non-genetic, non-developmental, non-enviromental reason why identical twins are more likely to both choose homosexuality.
bq. Even if we found a factor that made someone 555 times more likely to be gay, the fact of the matter is that if it only gave you a 50/50 chance to be gay, the idea that that factor would rule out anything else as playing a significant role in sexual orientation is ridiculous.

Good thing that's not my argument. I said that in a study that holds all factors except relatedness constant relative to a random sample, which is exactly what a study involving twins raised separately would be doing, the results you posted earlier would eliminate choice as a significant factor given results similar to the study you presented yesterday. The australian study uses a random sample of twins, but doesn't utilize twins raised separately. This means we can't eliminate shared environmental factors, but we still have no support for choice, in its common meaning. Also, you're assuming that there is a factor, or combination of factors, that makes it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual. That's unwarranted and, in my opinion, unlikely.
bq. The evidence I've presented does not indicated that sexual orientation is a matter of 'choice'. But then, that was never my thesis. I believe that the evidence I've presented indicates that sexual orientation is not only a matter of choice, but conversely neither is it only a matter of genetics. That is my thesis.

If you're willing to state that conscious decision-making processes play no significant role in sexual orientation, and that your statement in #57 that "homosexuality is a choice- a lifestyle decision" is erroneous, then you've eliminated most of the disagreement that I have with what you've written. I would note that your thesis needs to be reworded. The word "choice" has a meaning in common usage that doesn't fit with how you're using it.

When I use 'choice', I include any subconscious choice or any other explanation which is primarily pyschological in nature. I did not mean to imply that homosexual attraction was the result of a conscious act of will to be attracted to people of the same sex.

Couple problems. That's not what the word "choice" means. Psychology would be a much better word for what you're saying you mean. Saying choice isn't just not ideal, it's misleading and wrong, according to what your stated meaning.
Secondly, you didn't just imply homosexuality was a decision, you said it was:

1) Fundamentally, homosexuality is a choice - a lifestyle decision.

That's pretty unambiguous. So is homosexuality a lifestyle decision or not the result of conscious acts of will?

Oops. I messed up a block quote in the last post.

Ok, I'll accept that as a third possibility. It's certainly more likely than the pathogen thesis, and it overcomes the problem that the genetic thesis has run into while still explaining the observable link in behavior between siblings/morphology, etc. It's also pretty vague. Essentially you've said 'something is possible, but it could be virtually anything'. Where would you begin to test this thesis?

It's not my thesis. It's a demonstration that you were presenting a fallacy by saying that you were left with one of two possibilities. There are other possibilities that you didn't eliminate, so an "if not a, then b" formulation is inappropriate.

As such, your #4 is in my theory simply a restatement of #1.

In no way can any of the examples I listed in #4 be considered lifestyle decisions, so it is indeed distinct.

"Also, I think far too many of its supporters have connections with what remains of the eugenics movement for me to be comfortable accepting it."
I haven't made this point yet, but I feel very much the same about the 'gay gene' argument.

Not to be argumentative, but note that the reason I reject the argument is that it is not a fit for what we see. If it did fit reality better, then I'd have to accept it, at least on a provisional basis. I wouldn't like the eugenics association, but the theory that fits best is the one we have to use, even if it has unpleasant connotations. That's why I accept that gays are indeed "made that way," to a reasonable approximation. It currently explains reality much better than decision-based theories.

Whoa? Zero percent? That is a very very strong claim. Do ex-gay programs really have a 0% success rate? What is your evidence for that?

Schroeder & Shidlo, the only study with an attempt at adhering to scientific methodology, found that 7 out of 7 ex-gay councilors reported some shift in sexual orientation, while 195 out of 195 of their patients reported none. They also found that councilors engaged in unethical behavior, while patients reported they were pressured into lying about their successes. That's a zero success rate, and abuse to boot.

The other studies used samples provided by conversion supporters. Exodus International was able to find 3 of their 800 members who had "exclusively" heterosexual behavior, when they submitted them to outside psychiatrists. If you accept that refraining from homosexual behavior is success, then they showed a 0.4% success rate, which most sociologists report is a lower rate of nonhomosexual behavior than gays will achieve on their own.
Spitzer also used subjects provided by conversion supporters, and he has publicly disavowed the notion that his study shows that homosexual men can become straight.
Ex-gay groups fall into the same category as Scientology. There is no evidence that either can work, no theoretical framework to explain why it might work, and evidence that its promoters are engaging in unethical behavior.

This would be a classic example. What do you mean by 'sexual orientation'?

Like the word "choice," the phrase "sexual orientation" has a common meaning. I'm using it in that sense.

Put it this way, I define 'success' in an achohol addiction recovery program (most of which have a success rate of under 10%), if the person ceases to drink. But if you define success as the person ceases to be an alchoholic (that is there is something in their chemical makeup with predisposes them to being addicted to alchohol), then obviously the success rate of achohol addiction recovery programs is 0%. And if you define success as the person ceases to desire alchohol at any future point, obviously you are going to have a success rate that nears 0%.

Red Herring. Alcoholics recovery programs don't claim to cure alcoholics, or convert them into non-alcoholics. In fact, the programs I'm familiar with disclaim that notion. Ex-gay programs claim to cure gays or produce heterosexuals. See Exodus International There is no evidence to indicate that this has occurred.

Further, alcoholic recovery programs keep records, conduct follow-ups and use accepted methods to allow them to determine if their program is safe and effective. Conversion programs don't do these things. EI wasn't keeping records that would allow outside researchers to study their success rate 21 years after the study I mentioned above. Without the feedback from examination of records, ex-gay programs have no idea which, if any, of their methods are effective. Further, they have no idea what methods they use are harmful.

Would it be more acceptable if, instead of merely saying that ex-gay programs have a zero success rate I said the following?

Ex-gay programs that claim to change sexual orientation, "cure" gayness, or convert gays into straights show no evidence that they have done so, or that they are capable of doing so. Ex-gay programs that claim to be able to supress homosexual urges offer no evidence that they can do so at a greater rate than individuals can do so without conversion therapy.

Reducing promiscuity is certainly a worthy goal, but it is a completely different goal from the stated goal of these programs.

We might note that marriage has successfully reduced promiscuity among married couples. Might it not also do so for gay couples? Limited information from civil unions suggest that it might.

"You shouldn't. We're dealing with elementary statistics here. If gays are 3 +-2% of the population, we'd expect two randomly selected people to both be gay between .001% and .025% of the time. If identical twins are both gay 38% of the time, that's a huge difference."

Yes, it is a huge difference, one which is statistically significant and somewhat compelling. But not nearly so compelling as you make it precisely because we aren't dealing with a true twin study with twins raised separately. We aren't actually controlling for the environment.

"In the Australian study, you said the twins were randomly selected, so there is little concern about environment, i.e. There's no reason to assume that a randomly selected group of twins would be more likely to be raised in a gay-inducing environment than randomly selected people."

No, there isn't. But do you see the flaw in that logic? We aren't studying whether or not twins are more likely to be gay than non-twins. We aren't comparing between environments. We have simply said that if two siblings are raised in approximately the same environment, they are more likely to both end up gay than if they were neither siblings nor raised in the same environment. The separate numbers for fraternal and indentical twins seem to indicate (but do not prove) that there is a genetic or physiological component to this, but we have no way of indentifying exactly what portion is environment and what portion is genetic.

Beyond that, even if this had have been a study in which the twins were raised separately - proving conclusively that some genetic/developmental component was at play - still all we have shown is that genetics play at most 50% of the determination (and perhaps only 38% of the determination) in whether or not you will be gay. Something else out there plays at least the other 50% of the determination, whether it be random chance or something psychological or something else. This would still show to me pretty conclusively that though people might have a propensity to be 'gay', nothing out there 'makes' anyone gay.

'Choice' is a very slippery word in a scientific context. Science likes mechanistic explanations for what it observes. The problem with mechanistic explanations is that they tend to minimize the role of human free will to the point which we quickly get into a place where no one is responcible for anything that they do.

"This means we can't eliminate shared environmental factors, but we still have no support for choice, in its common meaning. Also, you're assuming that there is a factor, or combination of factors, that makes it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual. That's unwarranted and, in my opinion, unlikely."

No, no, no, no. I'm not at all assuming that there is a factor or combination of factors that makes it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual. In fact, that is exactly the opposite of my position. If there was any mechanistic explanation which made it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual, then there would be absolutely no room for choice. But, if there are no combination of factors that makes it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual, then that unaccounted for factor that lives in the margin (however big it turns out to be) is what I'm calling 'a person's choice'. Since it is to me likely given the evidence that no combination of mechanistic factors will make it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual, then it is to me unlikely that choice does not play a significant role in the outcome.

I don't think that I'm abusing the common sense definition of choice nearly as much as you claim. I think that choice is just a more complex issue than most people consider. For example, you might make the argument that a person from an abusive home, with a learning disability, who grew up in an impoverished minority community that suffered from widespread violence was 50 times as likely to drop out of high school as a person without any of those obstacles to overcome. Does that mean that there is no choice involved? Despite the obstacles, might not the person have made different choices?

Or suppose someone says, "I was seduced." What does that mean anyway? Do you mean that you were given no choice, or do you merely mean that one choice was made so highly appealing to you that it didn't seem like you could resist? Or what if someone sticks a gun to your head, and you say, "I had no choice but to cooperate." Sure you did. You could have chosen to take a bullet through the head. All that happened is someone made the choice to not cooperate so unappealing that you didn't want to consider it - for reasons that are very understandable.

At the heart of this, I think we are going to run into an argument over the nature of free will. In the case of the highly disadvantaged high school drop out, probably at no point in his early life did he ever make the conscious decision, "I'm going to drop out of school." It's quite possible in fact that he at no point made that conscious decision. At some point his failing grades, disruptiveness in the environment, and advancing age is going to cause the principal to say to him, "I'm sorry but there is no place for you here any more." At that point, the disadvantaged youth probably could say to himself, "I never meant to be a high school drop out, it just happened."

Note, lest you think I'm trying to draw a general analogy between homosexuality and something negative, I could make the same argument in a positive way too. A person could probably say, "I never decided to win the Noble prize, it just happened."

But the distance between that person's conscious decisions and the place were he finds his life isn't as great as I think you are trying to make it. No one is 'made' a Nobel scientist, and no one is 'made' a high school dropout. People make decisions, usually decisions about things of immediate consequence in responce to external - sometimes compelling - stimuli. The cummulative result may not be anything that they would have ever intended, and those decisions might well be ones we can sympathize with given that person's circumstances once we 'take a walk in that person's moccasins', but that doesn't mean that the choices aren't there.

Let me talk for a momment as a person, and not so much of a theorist. I'm not presenting a theory, just telling a story. I've known (as opposed to known of) about 8 homosexual men. Of those, I've been close enough to six of those men to know abit about the circumstances that they grew up in (in two cases I watched them grow up, in the other four I was either confided in directly, or told by someone close who they had confided in). In all six of those cases I know that that person was sexually or physically abused as a child. Now, that is of course just ancedotal evidence. I'm not presenting a theory. As I said, I don't think there is any one factor or combination of factors which gives people a 100% chance of becoming homosexual. It's just a story, helping to tell you were I'm coming from. I don't know what role factors like that play in the development of homosexuality, and I'm not going to speculate. What I do know is that of all the possible factors, there are only some factors which it is politically correct to scientifically investigate. If I were to do sloppy research which suggested that people who were sexually abused were several times more likely to become homosexual than those that weren't, I think it would recieve alot more scrutiny and derision than some of the sloppy research I see which make different more politically correct claims.

I think that people (likely me included, everyone has biases) have already made up thier mind about what the answer should be, and they don't want to look at evidence to the contrary. Consider the evidence we have before us. Aside from a paper with sloppy methodology coauthored by a scientist with known ethical issues, we have evidence that two people with the same genes raised in the same environment will both end up gay around 40% of the time. And yet, you are willing to tell me that you have from that conclusive evidence that no choice is involved. Why? Isn't the answer probably tied to your own ancedotal story of what you've experienced and want to believe?

I guess you could point to me as a conservative and say, "Well, of course he believes in personal responcibility. What else is a conservative going to believe?" You would probably be right. If you are not a conservative, then we'll probably end up disagreeing not over the science - which we don't seem to disagree over - but over whether or not 'choice' lies in that unexplainable margin between the mechanistic factors and the certainty of the outcome or whether it is just 'randomness'. If you are a conservative, and tend to believe on the whole in things like personal accountability, blah, blah, blah, why is it in this one area you apply the more 'liberal' standard and assume that on the whole every circumstance is societies fault, or a result of a person's upbring, or education, or social circumstance, or genes, or whatever?

Re: Ex-Gay's

:D

Like I said, if we get into this it is almost absolutely certain that both sides will feel the other is moving the goalposts. In this case, I feel you've focused your attention entirely on whether or not ex-gay programs are appropriate theraphy and not on whether ex-gays exist. For example:

"If you accept that refraining from homosexual behavior is success, then they showed a 0.4% success rate, which most sociologists report is a lower rate of nonhomosexual behavior than gays will achieve on their own."

Is an admission that at least some people choose nonhomosexual behavior, hense, not zero percent.

"Further, alcoholic recovery programs keep records, conduct follow-ups and use accepted methods to allow them to determine if their program is safe and effective. Conversion programs don't do these things."

Which is simply an argument that existing theraphy programs are of poor quality. It doesn't mean that people can't choose not to be gay. For the record, I readily admit that most existing ex-gay programs are poorly designed. To a large extent, they seem to me like having an alchoholics anonymous meeting in a bar during happy hour. What would you expect to happen in such a situation? I'd be greatly suprised if a significant number of ex-gays came out of the ex-gay programs that have recieved the most attention. But in any event, few is not the same as none.

"Would it be more acceptable if, instead of merely saying that ex-gay programs have a zero success rate I said the following?..."

Yes, it would. In the first case, you appear to be saying something broadly about whether or not ex-gay's exist. In the second, you are saying something not about ex-gays specifically but about ex-gay programs.

But not nearly so compelling as you make it precisely because we aren't dealing with a true twin study with twins raised separately. We aren't actually controlling for the environment.

Ok, my argument has been solely that choice, defined as conscious decision making, plays no significant role in the development of a homosexual orientation. Here's what I said about the role of environment:
Milton Diamond's studies convince me that sexuality and gender identity are largely fixed by birth and resistant to change thereafter. I largely reject post-birth environmental influences as dominant, but I wouldn't be surprised if they play some part in at least some people.
So, no, I don' think that environmental issues can be excluded from playing a role. But choice, conscious decision making, is not an environmental issue.

still all we have shown is that genetics play at most 50% of the determination (and perhaps only 38% of the determination) in whether or not you will be gay.

You're misusing that number. What we found was that 38% of twins were likely to share homosexual orientation. It does not follow that the factor (or factors) involved give a given person a 38% chance of being gay. That's mathematically, statistically, and biologically incoherent.

We don't know if the factor(s) identified in the twin study tell the whole story or not. However, we can look at the data we have and determine if it is consistent with a cause or not. A strong environmental component would work in fairly equal strengths on identical and fraternal twins, non-twin siblings, and adopted children, all of which should show strong deviation from a random sample of the population.


No, no, no, no. I'm not at all assuming that there is a factor or combination of factors that makes it 100% likely that a person will be homosexual. In fact, that is exactly the opposite of my position.

That statement contradicts this one:

Something else out there plays at least the other 50% of the determination

Although, as I stated above, the second statement is incoherent. In order to do what you're doing, we'd have to know that whatever factor(s) was present in all of the shared-gay twins was present in 100% of the twins. We'd then know that that factor would have about a 38% (or 50%) chance of resulting in gay twins. Otherwise, you can't simply subtract the percentage from 100 to get "the rest of the story."

Choice' is a very slippery word in a scientific context.

Then let's stop using it. Can we agree to use the word decision to represent conscious decisions, and non-conscious process to denote activites that occur inside of a person's head that they do not deliberate on, and environment to denote things that occur outside of a person not in direct response to their actions?

I don't think that I'm abusing the common sense definition of choice nearly as much as you claim.

When you defined choice above, you defined something that was almost exactly unlike choice. One doesn't choose to get a headache, be intelligent, or be schizophrenic. All of these could be included in your definition of choice. Choice is misleading word to be used in the fashion that you used it.

Note, lest you think I'm trying to draw a general analogy between homosexuality and something negative, I could make the same argument in a positive way too. A person could probably say, "I never decided to win the Noble prize, it just happened."

Surely, you could speak to the prize winner and point out to him the decisions that he made to win a Nobel prize. The research, studying, publishing, surely he'd recognize that these decisions that he made are the causes of his Nobel. Same with the dropout. Now, what is the line of decisions that leads one to be attracted primarily to the same sex? What are the decisions that lead to high intelligence? (Not being educated, but being intelligent) What about becoming schizophrenic?

What do intelligence, schizophrenia and homosexuality have in common that dropouts and Nobel winners don't? All more strongly correlate with genetic and developmental traits than they do environmental or conscious factors.

At the heart of this, I think we are going to run into an argument over the nature of free will.

Acknowledging that homosexuality is not a lifestyle decision does not require rejecting free will. Free will is perfectly compatible with the viewpoint that much of our mental makeup is determined by forces outside our control. Christian Scientists consider disease to be a sign of disobedience to God. It is perfectly possible to support the germ theory of illness without rejecting free will. Free will is irrelevant to this discussion.

If I were to do sloppy research which suggested that people who were sexually abused were several times more likely to become homosexual than those that weren't, I think it would recieve alot more scrutiny and derision than some of the sloppy research I see which make different more politically correct claims.

Liberals scream when you say something negative about homosexuals, supported or not. Conservatives scream when you say something positive about them, supported or not. We should scream about sloppy research, whether it supports are views or not. None of this makes much difference in the question at hand. We have good evidence that sexual orientation is not a product of decision-making. We have no evidence that conscious decisions play a significant role in sexual orientation.

I guess you could point to me as a conservative and say, "Well, of course he believes in personal responcibility.

Well, if you want to claim victim status, you certainly may. I don't really care whether you support gay marriage or not. What I do care about is when you claim to have scientific support for a position that science does not support. There is no scientific support for the idea that homosexuality is a lifestyle decision.

I believe in personal responsibility but I believe we can only be responsible for our decisions and their consequences. We cannot be held responsible for attributes of your person outside your control. We don't hold a person responsible for being born to abusive parents, but we will hold him responsible for abusing his own children, even if he believes his parents abuse is the reason he abuses. We cannot, however, censure him simply because of his background, even if we show that he's more likely to abuse his children. No punishment without a crime is a cornerstone of western civilization.

Homosexual orientation, in and of itself, is outside of a person's control and has no harmful effect on that person or society. It is thus ethically neutral. Homosexual behavior, in an consensual, exclusive relationship, is within a person's control, but has no harmful effect on anyone. It is therefore ethically neutral. Promiscuity, either hetero- or homosexual, has negative effects, and can therefore be denied recognition.

I'm not seeing a reason to deny a homosexual couple marriage under the formulation Joe has above. Your objection about potential children is weak, because first, they're potential, and secondly because you'd need to apply it much more broadly than you do. Isn't a fertile woman who marries a sterile man just as disrespectful to her potential children? Why not? Can a man who has a vasectomy marry? He put his own interests ahead of any children he might of potentially had.

I'd like to reply on the ex-gay issue, but internet access will be intermittent for the rest of the weekend.

We seem to suddenly not be communicating.

"Although, as I stated above, the second statement is incoherent. In order to do what you're doing, we'd have to know that whatever factor(s) was present in all of the shared-gay twins was present in 100% of the twins."

That would seem to lessen your argument rather than strengthen it. We know that the same genes were present in 100% of the identical twins. We know that a similar environment was present in most. What other factors are involved?

"But choice, conscious decision making, is not an environmental issue."

I disagree. Choice is the fundamental environmental issue. We have to live in our own minds. By the time we get to be adults, no one has had a bigger role in shaping that residence than ourselves.

"That statement contradicts this one:..."

No it doesn't. The two statements are not contridictory, provided you assume that the 'something' is not mechanistic - which was my point all along. Choice (if it exists, and that's another topic) is not deterministic if anything is not deterministic.

"When you defined choice above, you defined something that was almost exactly unlike choice. One doesn't choose to get a headache, be intelligent, or be schizophrenic. All of these could be included in your definition of choice."

No, I didn't, and no they can't. And there is no point in bring insanity into the argument because by definition insanity is assumed to involve a reduction in violition. I don't really think you want to go there, because if homosexual behavior really did involve no choice it would be alot easier to suggest it was a form of insanity.

"Surely, you could speak to the prize winner and point out to him the decisions that he made to win a Nobel prize. The research, studying, publishing, surely he'd recognize that these decisions that he made are the causes of his Nobel. Same with the dropout."

Right.

"What are the decisions that lead to high intelligence? What about becoming schizophrenic? "

You are off on a tangent here and I'm not sure where it comes from, or where you are trying to go. High intelligence might give one a propensity for earning to noble prize, but it doesn't cause one to earn the noble prize.

"Now, what is the line of decisions that leads one to be attracted primarily to the same sex?"

If I knew the answer to that, I would have already told you, but certainly I hinted at it when I said that homosexuality was probably a product of as many different circumstances as there are individuals.

My suspicion is that it begins in the fashion that alot of behavior begins. I suspect that certain fantasies when stumbled upon provide a certain emotional satisfaction - perhaps initially not clearly related to the initial reason for adopting the fantasy - and that these fantasies are toyed with even when they produce contridictory feelings, and that in some cases gradually these feelings become sexual - consciously or unconsciously - until the point that the mind associate the fantasy action with the possiblity of sex and then responds with arrosal. The arrosal is itself reinforcing, leading people to choose the arrosal even when at some level there conscious desires have started warring with each other. When this happens, typically there is a big emotional release to giving into the attraction and the person continues to give into the behavior even if they consciously believe it is wrong. This kind of cognitive dissonance is hard to keep up, and it strongly encourages one to justify the behavior to yourself, and even to go back and rewrite the script of your memories to make them a stronger narrative for your ultimately. This is a distinctly human kind of behavior that I imagine we all engage in over one sort of thing or the other, and as much as we would like to pretend that it doesn't involve choices - it does.

We could just as easily ask these questions about any kind of sexual behavior. What train of thought leads one to get sexually attracted to a particular animal? What train of thought leads one to get sexually attracted to blonds? What train of thought leads one to get sexually arroused by latex? What train of thought leads one to get sexually arroused by sneazing? What train of thought leads one to get sexually arroused by children? What train of thought leads a person to be unable to achieve sexual fulfillment unless pain or bondage is involved?

I don't know, but I find it really hard to imagine that every single fetish out there is created by a genetic or physiological factor. In fact in some cases I'm skeptical that there is even a genetic or developmental component to the specific attraction. And yet, remapping ones sexual arrousal from adult women to adult men requires a much smaller leap of the imagination than any of the above cases. So many of the visual recognition devices (say human flesh tones, back musculuture, promenent buttocks, curve of the calf, or whatever) which may be inherited work equally well whether you are looking at a man or a women.

The really bizarre thing I find in your argument, is that its not really that hard of a thing to take any given object of sexual arrousal and imagine how you might become sexually arroused off of it. Do you really think that it would be impossible for you to 'get off' to any given fetish, or do you think it bizarre to suggest that once that sexual climax had been repeated in association with that object a few times that you'd probably feel arrousal in its presence?

Maybe some of us could make those choices easier than others, but are you really saying that you couldn't possibly make those choices?

"Free will is irrelevant to this discussion."

I don't see how that follows. You are essentially claiming that a certain behavior that people engage in involves no 'choice'.

"Homosexual orientation, in and of itself, is outside of a person's control and has no harmful effect on that person or society."

You are making that a given. You don't have any evidence of it, or if you do have it, you aren't presenting it.

"There is no scientific support for the idea that homosexuality is a lifestyle decision."

It's increasingly obvious to me that there isn't alot of scientific support for the fact that it is not a lifestyle decision. Look at it this way, suppose we noticed that 100% of all Nobel prize winners in science had 140 IQ or greater. We could then assert quite confidently that high intelligence was a necessary factor in winning the Nobel prize in science. But, so long as we note that not every person with high intelligence wins the Nobel prize, we don't have much of the story. But we have found no such necessary factor with regard to sexual oreintation. If we noted that only 50% of all Nobel prize winners had 140 IQ or greater, then we can assert that winning the nobel prize is linked to high intelligence, but that high intelligence neither gaurantees you win the Nobel prize nor does winning the Nobel prize gaurantee that you are a genious. So we wouldn't have found out very much of the story at all, and that's exactly where the state of the research is now. It's ridiculous to assert that choice or anything else has been ruled out as being a significant causitive factor.

"I'm not seeing a reason to deny a homosexual couple marriage under the formulation Joe has above."

Of course not. It was designed to produce that result.

Like I said, if we get into this it is almost absolutely certain that both sides will feel the other is moving the goalposts.

The cool thing about a thread like this is that if I accuse you of changing your argument, anyone can read the thread, see where you made your argument, and find out for themselves whether you've changed. In other words, they can see every post hole we've dug, and find out whether the goal posts are still in them.

Let's try this. Go to the top of the thread, and search for the word "ex-gay." I think the first hit is in my post (#65): Ex-gay programs would have high success rates, instead of 0%. I know you claimed ex-gays exist, and I'd love to see some evidence that the programs actually change the sexual orientation of subjects.

You challenged that in post 67:

Whoa? Zero percent? That is a very very strong claim. Do ex-gay programs really have a 0% success rate? What is your evidence for that?

And I provided evidence in #70, which I won't quote here because of length. Now, can you honestly accuse me of moving goal posts?

Is an admission that at least some people choose nonhomosexual behavior, hense, not zero percent.

Ok, the standard I'm using is change in sexual orientation. Why am I using that? Because that's what ex-gay organizations use. In #70, I provided a link to Exodus International's FAQ page. Here's one from "NARTH": http://www.narth.com/docs/breiner.html the only secular organization I know of. Love in Action's director John Smid claimed in 1997 to be able to "cure" pedophiles based on his success with homosexuals. This claim was made in the context of Smid petitioning a court to release a pedophile into his essentially unsupervised care. It is worth noting that while Love in Action still claims to produce heterosexuals, they now admit that the person will continue to be attracted to others of the same sex. That's at least a step towards truth.

Now, if we apply the standard that these groups apply, then we can confidently say that they have a zero percent success rate at changing sexual orientation or producing heterosexuals from homosexuals.

If we apply the weaker standard you're using, then the most positive statement that we can make is that ex-gay programs are not completely successful at discouraging gays from becoming celibate for an unknown period of time.

But in any event, few is not the same as none.

No change in orientation. No evidence of permanent or lasting change in behavior.

In this case, I feel you've focused your attention entirely on whether or not ex-gay programs are appropriate theraphy and not on whether ex-gays exist.

Well, yeah. I can't say whether ex-gays exist because I don't know what that word means. If you're using it the sense of a person who used to be gay, but no longer is, then I'd say that ex-gays do not exist. There is no evidence that a gay person has ceased to be gay, and no evidence that such is even possible.

If you're using the term ex-gay to mean a non-sexually active homosexual, then sure, they exist, just as ex-straights do. However, at this level, the existence of ex-gays says nothing about whether homosexuality involves conscious choice.

I'm using a system that involves three categories: Gays, Bisexuals and Straights. Gays are people who's sexual orientation is primarily towards people of the same sex. Straights are those oriented towards the opposite sex primarily. Bisexuals are those with mixed orientations. Any of these categories can contain sexually active or sexually inactive people.

How do we fit people into these categories? Well, we have to ask them. Don't they lie? They sure do. Isn't that a problem? It sure is. That's why we use control groups, error bars, and only accept conclusions that are reproducible. Wouldn't it be easier to just spy on them? Maybe. Why don't we do that? Because it's unethical. Human test subjects must always give their consent. The ones who lie hide the behavior they would have lied about. Getting people into a controlled environment to study sexuality is hard, expensive, has safety issues, and is sure to draw fire from whatever group doesn't like your results. To boot it's nearly impossible to do so for a long enough period to create more accurate results than we can get just by asking.

I suspect you're using a system similar to the following:

There are two primary categories. Gays are those who choose to have sex with members of the same sex, while straights choose to have sex with members of the opposite sex. Most of the times I've seen this system laid out, bisexuals were placed within the gay group, but there's really no problem placing them anywhere you like.

People who have never had sex don't really fit into this system. They have no sexual behavior to categorize. They're usually placed in with straights. I think they deserve their own category, but one could argue they fit into whichever category they end up fitting into.

Ex-gays would be people who previously had sex with same sex partners, but now choose to be celibate or have sex with opposite sex partners. Logically, ex-straights are people who previously chose opposite sex partners and now choose celibacy or same sex partners.

So, as above, how do we fit people into these behavior-based categories? We ask them. Don't they lie? They sure do. Isn't that a problem? It sure is. However, no attempt at scientific methodology has been used in any of the studies. They don't use control groups, they don't follow behavior for any length of time. They don't keep records that would allow third parties to reproduce their results. Wouldn't it be easier to just spy on them? Maybe. Why don't we do that? Well, all of the reasons above apply, plus every-time it's been tried, it's turned into an orgy.

So, a behavior based system suffers from the same self-reporting problem that an orientation based system does. The orientation system describes reality with 3 terms, the behavior requires at least 4, 6 if bisexuals are their own category. Somebody said not to multiply entities unnecessarily. Maybe I'll remember who when I go shave.

We seem to suddenly not be communicating.

Well, I'm testing out of a few pre-pharmacy classes this Friday, so I'm going to keep this short (heh)

That would seem to lessen your argument rather than strengthen it. We know that the same genes were present in 100% of the identical twins. We know that a similar environment was present in most. What other factors are involved?

Development is a non-deterministic process. Even in organisms like identical twins or clones, genes activate and deactivate at different times during development. We would not expect identical twins raised together to be exact copies. This is the first reason you can't conclude what you want to.

The second reason is the following statement: The sum of the probability that an event will occur and the probability that an event will not occur equal one. If you understand that statement, you understand why you can't conclude what you're trying to.

But not nearly so compelling as you make it precisely because we aren't dealing with a true twin study with twins raised separately. We aren't actually controlling for the environment.

Do you understand why I initially asked if the twins were raised separately? Are you aware that if all of the twins are raised separately you have the exact same ability to draw conclusions as if none of them are? My initial query on this was poorly worded, and have drawn the conclusion that having all twins separately raised would be an improvement, but that's not the case. Having a subgroup that was raised separately would be a help, but it's not a requirement.

Do you understand why we don't want to control for the environment? When we do a study, we have a control group. This group is drawn from the population under study. It must be randomly composed and large enough so that it does differ from the parent population in any statistically significant way.

Then we have our test group. It differs from the control group in precisely one way. In a twin study that way is relatedness. In all other ways, they must be selected randomly. We may look at subgroups, like twins raised separately vs those raised together, but our main group must hold only one variable constant. For a twin study, that is relatedness.

We may have multiple test groups, and multiple controls, but if you understand the above, you understand why you can't make the environmental argument you're trying to make.

I disagree. Choice is the fundamental environmental issue.

Environment from an Online Medical Dictionary

And from dictionary.com

Words have meanings. Argument by redefinition is underhanded.

No it doesn't. The two statements are not contridictory, provided you assume that the 'something' is not mechanistic - which was my point all along. Choice (if it exists, and that's another topic) is not deterministic if anything is not deterministic.

And

'Choice' is a very slippery word in a scientific context. Science likes mechanistic explanations for what it observes. The problem with mechanistic explanations is that they tend to minimize the role of human free will to the point which we quickly get into a place where no one is responcible for anything that they do.

Whoever told you this lied to you. Science does not prefer mechanistic explanations. Science seeks naturalistic explanations. Hopefully, you know why that is a good thing. You are aware that many biological processes are non-determininstic, yes?

Choice and free will are hard to deal with on a individual level, but for large groups, the issue is largely irrelevant. Choices tend to even out as group size increases. Michael Dell and Sam Walton built their fortunes knowing what you want before you want it. The just-in-time inventory systems both companies use to dominate their markets work because aggregate choices are highly predictable. All you really need is good sampling. Which also explains why political polls fail so often.

My suspicion is that it begins in the fashion that alot of behavior begins.

You've described the standard script for a paraphilia. A google search for that word and homosexuality might be a good place to start to find some of the decades of research that show why homosexuality is not a paraphilia. I'd give some links, but my internet connection lasts less than a minute at a time right now. Cable modem on monday.

It's increasingly obvious to me that there isn't alot of scientific support for the fact that it is not a lifestyle decision. Look at it this way, suppose we noticed that 100% of all Nobel prize winners in science had 140 IQ or greater.

You are aware that this scenario is not equivalent to what the twin studies show aren't you?

Celebrim, you're obviously a thoughtful and intelligent person. I'm not asking you to reconsider your theology, but I am asking you to stop misrepresenting science as supporting your theology. You may very well say that, since your theology is correct, that better data will support it. But, right now, today, it simply doesn't.

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