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Jim Garlow: Sexual orientation is a “modern construct”, therefore a choice

Following the logic chain Garlow lays down here, apparently because “sexual orientation” wasn’t described in the Bible, us mere humans have invented the concept rather than describing something that previously existed. In the exact same way, I guess everyone just chose to stay anchored to the ground instead of floating away, until Isaac Newton invented the modern construct of gravity.



Yeah. This is one of those fractally wrong assertions, as though anyone was surprised. And it will take a bit to unpack.

Yes, “natural impulses” don’t make them “right”, because we humans also have natural impulses that range anywhere from protecting animals to murdering humans. The naturalistic fallacy is still a fallacy when trying to suggest that just because people are naturally gay, that makes it right.

But that doesn’t make it wrong either, just because more people are naturally straight(-ish) than are gay or anywhere else on the Kinsey scale. What makes something right or wrong is the objective levels of harm to society. And though they keep saying society will fall apart if gays are allowed to become functional family units with one another, I still don’t see a case for it.

Each person in society contributes to the society most optimally when they are healthy, happy and in a career well suited to them. Finding a loving consenting partner (or multiple, if polyamory is allowed for those that so choose) to support you and to provide comfort and yes, even consensual sexual relations, is a big factor in determining whether or not someone will be happy. So it is objectively better for society if people who are naturally gay have all the same recourses toward autonomy, toward self-directed pursuit of happiness as do straights and straight-enoughs.

But these people would never see that, because some bronze-age goat herders wove their homophobia into their Bible and said God wrote it.

Comments

  1. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    To some extent, orientation is a modern construct, though. Just not how he thinks. I mean, how orientation is performed is very much culturally, socially and time period relative. On the other hand, what we recognize as LGBTQ+ has always been around in some form or another in every culture. So he’s dumb.

  2. says

    Recognizing that society shapes orientation is important though — because it’s always done that, including the society that built the Bible he’s clinging to. So really he and other theists are just upset that their mode is being replaced.

  3. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Exactly, Jason. :)

    Also, umm, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, even their book has an awful lot of “modern constructs”.

  4. Alverant says

    Well the notion of species is relatively new. I guess all life was the same before then. The reclassification of planets is new too. I guess Pluto just popped into existence.

  5. Aratina Cage says

    The naturalistic fallacy is still a fallacy when trying to suggest that just because people are naturally gay, that makes it right.

    Hrm. Something isn’t right about that. I think it being natural isn’t meant to justify it as good but rather to point out that it isn’t fake. Yes, that’s it. The reason we say it is natural and found among many species is because it refutes the notion that it is an untrue state of being.

  6. says

    Aratina: fully agreed. It’s mostly the theists thinking that saying homosexuality is natural must needs mean society will fall apart because everyone will do it. It’s the “natural = good and should be pursued”, not “natural = real”, that makes it the fallacy.

  7. Aratina Cage says

    It’s mostly the theists thinking that saying homosexuality is natural must needs mean society will fall apart because everyone will do it.

    Ah, got it. Similar to the one about how gay sex is so pleasurable, like heroin, that straight men must not try it for fear of becoming hooked.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … because some bronze-age goat herders wove their homophobia into their Bible and said God wrote it.

    These semi-nomads/semi-hillbillies were desperately trying to maintain themselves as a tribe in a harshly competitive environment: keeping up the baby supply by all means available made the difference in group survival. We might value individual freedom above clan dynamics today, but that wasn’t how it worked in good ol’ Canaan. Personal sexuality was only one of the sacrifices everybody was obliged to make for The Family and the God’s Chosen People.

    Likewise the food taboos (pork, shellfish, etc): keep the kids away from the bright torches of those sinful cities ‘n’ seaports, or you’ll never see ‘em again.

    Obligatory male circumcision, an obsessive 7th-day ritual, & other quirks also served to reinforce an ethnic identity (compare with some modern gang initiations). Seriously crazy, but humans are so neurotic that it worked.

    How this particular set of memes persisted and occasionally thrived under the Egyptian/Assyrian/Hittite/Persian/Greek/Roman/etc empires brings up a lot of questions. (Their purely fortuitous combination with monotheism answers lots of those. Perhaps the One SuperGod idea also served as another group-bonding mechanism; a long history of priestly feuds complicates the story.)

    The survival of the memes, mostly by way of legacy code inherited & expanded by the Xian cults, calls out for evolutionary metaphors beyond my scope. Next time you hear creationists call for “living fossils” or “successful mutations”, refer them to their own doctrines.

    The goat herders’ mythos has memetically survived, flourished, and triumphed – despite that its specifics are consistently maladaptive, for individuals and arguably gene lines as well.

  9. JohnnieCanuck says

    There’s an analogy here to handedness and how once lefties were suspected of consorting with the Devil. There was a time when it was all it took to be labelled a witch.

    Would Garlow consider left handedness to be ‘natural’? How is it different from sexual orientation? Perhaps we need to reconsider whether southpaws should be allowed to marry each other or even righties, as that is miscegenation.

  10. left0ver1under says

    Two gendered species evolved out of single-gendered bisexual species. Why should it not surprise that:

    (a) homosexuality is a remnant of a bisexual stage of evolution, which is why it still occurs, and

    (b) those who deny evolution also deny naturally occuring homosexuality?

  11. Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant) says

    @JonnieCanuck, #12:

    Sorry, did you say something about us left handers? I couldn’t hear it over all the devil-consorting I do as a matter of course.

  12. dantalion says

    I think the main reason so much anti-gay rhetoric focuses on whether homosexuality is a choice is because it would feel less right to say being gay is a sin (even for people who believe in original sin) if people don’t choose to be gay.

    That people who naturally have gay inclinations did not choose to have them, is one more reason why the discrimination against them is unjust.

    But the more pressing problem with the unnatural argument is that regardless of whether it’s a choice, if someone wants to make the choice to have gay sex, they should be free to make that choice without interference.

  13. No Light says

    Things not mentioned in the Bahble that are, therefore, a choice:

    Heart attacks, male pattern baldness, unemployment, fatal car accidents, tuberculosis, burglary, Usher Syndrome…

    I could play this all day! Finally, fear fundies, the simplest violation of our “natural” state is clothes. So strip, or be struck down by FSM Baruch”hu.

  14. No Light says

    Aramaic? ARAMAIC?

    Jesus was from Minnesota (look at that blond hair, those blue eyes) and he spoke American!

    Foul blasphemer! Is the Bahble in Aramaic? No ma’am, it’s in American.

    Heck, you atheists know nothin’.

  15. smhll says

    Erectile dysfunction is a modern construct, therefore it is a choice.

    This logic works on more than one level, because of course there was erectile dysfunction in the time period of most Old Testament stories, but they didn’t want to mention it.

  16. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Two gendered species evolved out of single-gendered bisexual species. Why should it not surprise that:

    (a) homosexuality is a remnant of a bisexual stage of evolution, which is why it still occurs, and – left0ver1under

    [citation needed]

    There are species that reproduce sexually but are either hermaphroditic (all individuals can produce both eggs and sperm), or isogamous (there is no distinction between eggs and sperm), but the evolutionary relationships between these forms of sexual reproduction are not known, and even if dioecious anisogamy (as in humans) evolved from some other form of sexual reproduction, there is zero evidence this has anything to do with homosexuality. Also, what on earth does “single-gendered bisexual species” mean?

  17. Nepenthe says

    Also, what on earth does “single-gendered bisexual species” mean?

    I assume that this is layperson-speak for “hermaphroditic”.

  18. says

    I was with you up till you dragged in those rhetorical bronze-age goat-herders. It was iron-age urbanites who wrote the books that eventually were included in the Bible, even if they did look back nostalgically on a past in which their ancestors were supposedly bronze-age goat-herders.

    Also, the Bible was mostly written in Hebrew and Greek, though parts of Daniel and Ezra are in fact in Aramaic. (Also a few words in the New Testament are transliterated Aramaic–Talitha cumi, anybody?) Although I did hear of a college girl who insisted that English couldn’t have come from the Anglo-Saxon tongue because, forsooth, Adam and Eve were already speaking English in the Garden of Eden. And there was that TV evangelist who insisted that corn must have already been known in the old world in Jesus’ time because in Mark 2 Jesus’ followers were shucking it on the sabbath. Go figure.

  19. Corvus illustris says

    DBP@9 says

    Erectile dysfunction is a modern construct, therefore it is a choice.

    The English advertising phrase may be new, but impotentia coeundi has been around for a while. See J. N. Adams’ Latin Sexual Vocabulary for more loci classici concerning that condition than you can, er, shake a stick at. The Greeks and Romans also had a lot of words for activities that the Bible fails to discuss and might even be new to Garlow, if not to his coreligionists.

  20. otrame says

    I think sex, obviously necessary for reproduction, has been co-opted for many other purposes, especially social purposes among us apes, starting long before we separated from our chimp cousins. For this reason I think most people are potentially bisexual (ever heard the expression “a man is as straight as his options”?). There is probably a bell curve with purely straight and purely gay on the ends and most people in between.

    Social pressures, especially on men, mean that same sex attractions are ruthlessly suppressed unless they are so strong they can’t be. To that extent, there really is no choice to being gay. But without all those pressures, I suspect most of us would be a great deal more flexible in partner choices. Of course that is like saying “If we weren’t human…..”. Social pressure is part of what we are. But we’ve learned we can change those social pressures, to the betterment of us all. Well, except for those, like Garlow, who make a living from resisting that change.

  21. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There is probably a bell curve with purely straight and purely gay on the ends and most people in between. – otrame

    On what grounds do you make this claim? It simply doesn’t follow in any way at all from the fact that sex has functions other than reproduction. Why are there so few societies (actually, I know of none at all), where a majority are overtly homosexual? Why, if most people are bisexual, is it not those at both ends of the bell curve who are oppressed by the majority?

  22. Corvus illustris says

    @27 & 28: The fundamental problem in these discussions IMO goes back to the binary homo/hetero disjunction, with Kinsey’s one-dimensional sexuality scale interpolating between these making only a small improvement. (Sure, the probability density over Kinsey’s interval would probably be shaped convex-above, with a low spot at 100% bisexual–nothing like a bell curve–but that’s not the real issue.) This notion of two extremes has been seized upon for political purposes involving innate vs. voluntary behavior, both good (no criminalization of consenting adults’ behavior, marriage equality, etc.) and bad (see the video in the post). Literary evidence as far back as antiquity shows that the two-extremes model isn’t right. Scientifically (I’m a mathematician, not a psychologist–but Kinsey was an entomologist), it’s hard to see how a one-dimensional model could possibly be right: sexuality “ought” to be spread out over a higher-dimensional convex body, as color perception is in the CIE 1931 xy chromaticity diagram or in the more sophisticated color models. (A single expression of sexuality might then be seen to arise from disparate combinations of factors, just as perceived-yellow can arise from a pure yellow light source but also from combining red and green light sources.) Unfortunately, until the element of oppression of minority behavior is removed, reassessment of the binary model is unlikely to happen.

  23. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    it’s hard to see how a one-dimensional model could possibly be right: sexuality “ought” to be spread out over a higher-dimensional convex body – Corvus illustris

    It seems at least one other dimension is widely recognised: how “highly-sexed” one is.

  24. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Corvus, you keep your filthy, sinful, “higher-dimensional convex body” out of this! Umm, unless you can share the URL for a good website? So I can avoid it. Obviously.

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