Thursday, March 25, 2010

I won't lecture you on theology if you don't lecture me on science

Now that the TEC Bishops' Super Secret Theology committee has released its report(or rather, its two competing reports), I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion.

I have read through the conservative's arguments against acceptance of GLBT people and my blood pressure is skyrocketing over the same old tired flat earth arguments.

I will leave it to others to dissect their theological aspect (Tobias Haller comes to mind) but I will point out one direct quote that I find breathtakingly outrageous.
...we are left with three fallacies that need correction: (1) that current science points to sexual orientation as basically innate; (2) that the attempt to change orientation is bound to cause harm; and (3) if homosexuality is something “given,” it cannot be considered in the category of “unnatural.” The rest of this section on scientific evidence will counter the first two points, and the section on natural law that follows will clarify what a theological notion of “unnatural” implies, and why this still applies.
Their discussion of genetics (a field I know a little something about) shows a complete failure to understand basic principles--what it means to say something is innate, and the fallacy of a single gene theory. They embarrass themselves. And rather than take your time here with lecture, I will refer you to Gay Married Californian, where tomorrow I will begin a series on Genetics. (This will also be permanently housed on its own page).

And meanwhile, they also justify "reparative therapy" thus flying into the face of the medical profession. Their citations are to religious texts and summaries, not to primary literature.

Basically their argument against recognition of GLBT people is the defect argument: it may be natural, but even if it is, it's sick, a pathology, like a birth defect. And of course, it interferes with good man on woman fertility since REALLY it's all about procreation.
A strictly Darwinian point of view would reduce the purposes of sex to the preservation and betterment of the species. To the reductionist social biologist, all the psychological and romantic aspects of courtship and....There is one procreative “purpose” to sexual relations, and all the romantic and pleasurable aspects are useful concomitants.
It's clear to modern scholars that Darwinian ideas of sexual selection acting on the level of the individual are insufficient to explain the behaviors of socially complex species, in which selection is rather more likely to work at the level of community or population which does not require that all individual reproduce. I will expand on this in later posts; meanwhile good sources for information are the books Biological Exuberance, by Bruce Baghemihl, and Evolution's Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden.
[T]he inherent procreative purpose of sexual relationships must be respected and embodied in Christian marriage. This does not require the unnecessarily stringent requirement of respect for procreation in every sexual act (as implied in Humanae Vitae), nor does it imply that a marriage foreseen to be childless (e.g. when the parties to the marriage are beyond normal child-rearing age); but it does, at the very least, imply a marital partnership of a man and a woman.
BABIES! But only if you engage in man-woman sex, and want them? Am I the only one who finds this an inconsistency? Babies are the reason for marriage....unless you don't want them. And divorce is fine...regardless of the Bible....because we recognize a cultural need for it.
Traditionalists understand homosexual attraction as not following the intended order of creation.
Because they don't like it.

So what's a poor homo to do? What they suggest is complete sexual abstinence. But it's not so bad,
After all, learning to refuse to indulge sexual urges is part of the general spiritual discipline that needs to be developed in many other areas of life and is part of the way of the cross. This aspect of Christian discipleship applies, of course, not just to the homosexually inclined, but to all those not in a marital relationship: we think of the widowed and divorced, college students and other youth before marriage, and those whose circumstances involve long periods of separation from spouses.
And reparative therapy
.... a minority who experience unwanted same-sex attractions and might benefit from a course of counseling or treatment aimed at developing heterosexual inclinations.
And their final point against blessing of same sex unions? it isn't fair to celibate GLBT people if some of us can have sex "legitimately". Seriously. They make that argument.
The starkness of the conservative position is tempered by the reminder that it is our eroticized and materialist culture that creates the framework so inimical to chastity and self-control. ....We have the teaching of Jesus about the disappearance of marriage and family relationships in the kingdom of heaven, and we have the examples and teaching of both Jesus and Paul, who made clear that physical sexual needs, expressions, and relationships are temporary and secondary compared to our destiny as co-heirs with Christ.
In other words, so sorry about that cross you have to bear, homos. Really. Such a bummer, like being born with one leg, or missing your sight. Tough luck that you're defective.

I remind you of a post I wrote a while ago, called Curing the Variant. In it, I argued that it is not possible to find a compromise with people who consider me to be a pathology. There isn't a middle ground: either I'm a normal variant like left-handedness, or I have a congenital birth defect.

This argument will not change any minds. It will simply offer justification to the continued ignorance and bias against GLBT people. It solidifies their fear of sex. They are standing on the beach holding their hands up to stop the tide.


Unknown said...

Well said, IT! It's an absurd argument. Their views on human development are embarrassingly naive and dangerous given their public position of the "moral high ground". These people should be required to take some biology and psychology courses (and maybe even some courses in advanced Bible studies...).


Brilliant. Brava. Alleluia. Amen. (And putting my keyboard where my superlatives are, I just "Facebooked" and "Tweeted" the link to this post ...)

The Werewolf Prophet said...

Folks, every bit of their ignorant blather about "science" can be dismissed by referring to footnote 41 at the bottom of page 26 (Emphasis added) : "The main studies have been by Nicolosi et al. (2000), Spitzer (2003), and Jones and Yarhouse (2007) and are reviewed by Glynn Harrison, “Unwanted Same-sex Attractions: Can Pastoral and Counseling interventions Help People to Change?” in Groves (ed.), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, 293-332."

Nicolosi is the founder of NARTH & a pseudoscientific fraud, while Spitzer has publicly rebuked conservatives for misrepresenting his work.

IT, you wrote that they are " ... standing on the beach holding their hands up to stop the tide." I propose that they're drowning in the seas of change, clutching at straws like Nicolosi.

The Werewolf Prophet said...

Pea Ess

I read the following on some Episcopal blog somewhere, sorry about not remembering the source, but the author said that at least now, the conservatives can never, ever again say we must "do the theology."

Frair John said...

You have given one of the chief reasons why some theologians, like Karl barth, rejected "Natural theology" as a tertiary and questionable enterprise. Since, as I understand it, almost all science is provisional it's not a great thing to try and hang a theological hat on.

Frair John said...

(I hit "publish" instead of "preview")

There is an intersection between the two disciplines, but neither is well served by cherry picking and dependance upon arguments from ignorance. The Report is full of bad theology propped up bad really bad science, at least according to the Biologist I showed it to this AM and you. then again, it's not a shock to me that they are linked, since both Bad Science and Bad theology require a similar mindset.

I would say that one can discuss "natural" in a way that doesn't touch upon the hard sciences. But even on that account they trot out really tired old metaphysics that I'm not sure they buy into, but it "works" for them so they quote it.

IT said...

I should add that I am qualified to discuss this as I am a geneticist by profession (although my research area is not sexual orientation). Still I am quite confident that my knowledge of THIS subject exceeds that of all four theologians put together.

dr.primrose said...

There's a long comment on Episcopal Cafe by a neurologist that's well worth looking at, which you can see here. He finds the "science" of the "conservatives" to be "so simplistic as to be laughable."

He also comments that: "as the 'cause' of heterosexual orientation is also not conclusively understood, perhaps all arguments about sexual morality as involving the intent of a divine creator should be put off until we have conclusive proof. We might consider, perhaps, a universal celibacy to be the appropriate response until all the data are in. In that case, perhaps all of the Prayerbook Rites for opposite sex marriage should be placed in suspension until this issue can be settled."

Leonard said...

Thank you, IT!


Paul said...

Thank you, IT!

When I read comments like this, I stop reading. If they can't deal with reality in regard to the science, what hope is there that I can rely on their theology? I think they undercut their argument by including drivel like this.

By the way, the neurologist in question has added an additional contribution. Well worth reading.

IT, I am looking forward to your series on genetics.

Paul M

Mary Clara said...

Great stuff, IT! Forge ahead!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Dearest IT, this morning I found you referred to on HOB/D, and all I can say is that you ROCK!!!
It's good to have you around ;=) and as a very dear friend!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks IT for exposing some of the truly weak "argumentation" in the essay. The circular reasoning and re-assertion-as-argument is so tiresome. The paragraph you cite above:

[T]he inherent procreative purpose of sexual relationships must be respected and embodied in Christian marriage. This does not require the unnecessarily stringent requirement of respect for procreation in every sexual act (as implied in Humanae Vitae), nor does it imply that a marriage foreseen to be childless (e.g. when the parties to the marriage are beyond normal child-rearing age); but it does, at the very least, imply a marital partnership of a man and a woman.

is a perfect example that doesn't seem to be aware of how little sense it makes.

I studied Narratology as an undergraduate, and learned how helpful it is in unpacking arguments to reduce them to symbolic statements, then compare the symbols to see the structure. In this case such algebra should not be necessary, as the first and last clauses of the paragraph are essentially the same: "inherent" is assumed at the outset, and so it must "at the very least imply" at the end. QED. Not!!!

As to addressing some of the other arguments, particularly complementarity (on which they rely so much), see Reasonable and Holy -- already available. The most serious problem is the failure to see how the complementarity argument undercuts orthodoxy -- which by the admission of the opening (and presumably agreed upon) essay should indicate that argument cannot be employed!

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Brilliant, IT.

And now I have to go look up "narratology"....