Believing gay is natural is so not liberal

I have long believed that human beings have natural propensities, that a good deal of intelligence and even habits are partially heritable. This got me in trouble in college in the 1970s, a time when good academic opinion said that little or nothing in human nature was natural. In fact, the idea that there was a as human nature was rejected. Upbringing and environment were all important. This was behaviorism accepted by all good liberals. Anybody talking about natural traits, talents or propensities was anathematized by the establishment and called racist, sexist or just conservative*.

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors."

This was what most social science academics believed. Marxists believe it still, such as anybody still believes in Marxism. It is the basic belief of anybody who believes it is possible to "improve" humanity. Social engineering depends on it. After all, if human nature trumps social programs, what is a good social programmer to do? If people's ancient predilections influence their outcomes, we really cannot blame society for victimizing the poor or the downtrodden. There is only so much you can do with some people.

That is why the idea that a sophisticated behavior such as homosexuality can be inborn is so interesting. If such a trait can be natural, so can lots of other propensities, such as ambition, aggression, tolerance and maybe even laziness.

Of course, propensities are not destiny. Many - maybe most - humans have the propensity for violence, rape and deception. These traits would have been helpful to our savage ancestors facing a different sort of environment. They have less currency in a civilized world. and we strive to control them. But the savage beast lies below the surface and we can never achieve a perfect society.

Lots of science has been done since the 1970s and we learned that there is indeed a human nature. Many of our traits and habits are inherited from our ancestors. It is a complex relationship between nature and nurture, but people clearly are not blank slates. Not everyone can become a doctor, lawyer or artist and inequality is natural among humans. Not everyone is as likely to become a beggar-man or thief, either.

We can improve our society and we have. But we need to recognize the truth. We can and should treat people equally under the law, but we don't all start out equal and we cannot expect to end up that way.

Just as you cannot "train" a gay man to make him straight, you cannot train a dummy to be a doctor. Some people are better than others. It is just human nature.

* BTW - a good conservative believes in human nature. That is why we want to be careful changing long-established relationships; it is why we value experience over revolutionary schemes and why we revere history. We know that people in the past dressed funny and faced different challenges but were not really very different from us.

Posted by Christine & John at May 29, 2013 9:27 PM
Comment #366733

My attitude is to assign all responsibility on environmental factors/personal decisions. This is almost certainly “wrong”, but it serves as a “noble lie” as posited in Plato’s Republic. If one assigns one’s fortunes to the genetic fates rather than one’s own actions, then one is bound to lose control over one’s life, and I shudder to imagine what it would be to lose that sort of control.

Posted by: Warren Porter at May 30, 2013 12:42 AM
Comment #366756

Homosexuality ain’t natural. Folks choose to be that way. If it was natural God wouldn’t condemn it.
That’s not to say we need to abuse the homosexual.

Posted by: Arkie Redneck at May 30, 2013 9:50 AM
Comment #366758

Homosexuality itself is not political but has been politicized by people on both sides of the spectrum. Lately, the (D) has used it to promote diversity to get votes and the (R) has used it to GOTV of their bigot-wing. But in the end, people in the US who demonize gays do so primarily because of their so-called “religious values” and is another proof of why the separation of church and state is a critical defense against fascism. Even the debate of “human nature” was argument by the religious against ‘secular humanism’.

Posted by: Dave at May 30, 2013 10:30 AM
Comment #366760

Believing gay is natural, loving gay people, working with gay people- that’s the easy part. It’s when things move over into political space that there becomes a rub.

A couple of months ago I was called a bigot because I do not believe there is anything unconstitutional about a State’s particular marriage licensing requirements and that this issue should be left up to the State legislatures. Never mind our President has said the same thing in 2012: “I continue to believe,” he said, “that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level.”

And it is being worked out. 13 States have already accepted changes to their marital requirements and I’m sure others will follow. I firmly believe that DOMA will shortly be overturned and the Federal will recognize any marriage that a State may license as they should.

And years ago a poster here called me a bigot because I said I would not vote for gay marriage in my State even though I would support it in others. I also wouldn’t support legalizing gambling here although I love to go to Vegas, and I would not support legalizing pot here although, well anyway on that one. It’s all about my belief that we are 50 States and the individualism of each is precious. I love that Utah and Nevada can be Border States, and that Southern States tolerate religion in their schools and town squares. But can’t there be a separation between limited government conservative ideas and the recognition and understanding of gay people? Can I be against gay marriage based on political beliefs and not be bigoted? I hope so.

Posted by: George in SC at May 30, 2013 11:26 AM
Comment #366763

George asked “Can I be against gay marriage based on political beliefs and not be bigoted?”
My answer is a conditional “No.” There is no political basis to be against gay marriage, it is a so-called moral issue primarily based on religious beliefs. Having said that, simply saying ‘not in my backyard, but you can if you want’ doesn’t absolve you of supporting a system that is biased against a class of people. Since a system would act unconditionally on the behalf of your belief, your act is bigoted even if your professed acceptance of other states behaviour is otherwise.

Posted by: Dave at May 30, 2013 12:45 PM
Comment #366765

Yet another example of the hypocritical beliefs of the liberal religion.
Interesting post C&J.

George, no you are not a bigot for daring to hold your own beliefs.
The misuse of such negative words is nothing but propaganda meant to scare people into compliance and acceptance.

Posted by: kctim at May 30, 2013 1:04 PM
Comment #366766

I thnik the argument would be better framed if we looked at it through the eyes of behavior. It is within everyones rights to refrain from or have disdain for any given behavior. It is only when people find it necessary to share their dislike for certain behaviors with the rest of the world that these types of issues get political.

Condeming any sort of behavior is judgemental, but when it is a behavior that causes harm to others, like murder or theft, then it is perfectly reasonable to publicly speak out against this behavior and create laws to punish those that engage in it. However, when the behavior does not inflict harm to others, is done with consent of each adult participant, and done in the privacy of ones home, then speaking out publicly puts you in the sticking your nose in other peoples business catagory.

IMO, marriage is a religious ceremony. I know that there have been legal implications to marriage for centuries, but as I said, IMO, it is predominately a religious ceremony. Therefore the gov’t should have no part in it. There should be no tax breaks or or other special considerations for married people as opposed to those that are not married. The issue of child rights or property rights in the event of the death of one of the parties can easily been handeled outside the construct of marriage.

The personal bonds that people create with each other in their lifetimes should not be a concern of our gov’t. Anything other than that is an invasion of privacy. As Americans we have the right to life, liberty and the persuit of happiness and a right to privacy. Those rights are not reserved for a particular group of people. If being gay makes you happy, by all means live your life the way you want. If you want 3 wives and they’re willing to share you, who am I to deny that happiness to you.

On the other hand, some of these groups also feel compelled to promote their lifestyle onto others. This should not be tolerated. It is no better for a gay group to try and convince school kids about the viability of their behavior any more than it is for a straight group to denounce homosexuality. This rule should apply to every legal behavior. You may believe that drinking alcohol is a sin. You are free to attend a church that supports that position and you can tell your kids what you think, but when you start telling my kids or my neighbours that I am some kind of deviant because I like a beer now and then, you have crossed a line.

Live and let live people. Tell the gov’t to stop favoring one group over another. A tax break for straight married couples is no different than other forms of affirmative action. It favors one group over the other and therefore pits one group against the other. This is not the business of our gov’t.

Posted by: JWL at May 30, 2013 1:05 PM
Comment #366772

belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine

a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

kctim claims “Yet another example of the hypocritical beliefs of the liberal religion.”

I’d like to know how believing in Gay rights is hypocritical to that idealism, and how is the idealism (liberalism) a religion?

Posted by: Dave at May 30, 2013 3:46 PM
Comment #366773

That definition does not describe modern liberalism or its followers. Modern liberalism advocates for the desires of society, at the expense of the freedom of the individual. It is impossible for modern liberalism to guarantee individual rights and civil liberties when it promotes taking away the rights of one in order to reach the liberal goal for all.

The liberal hypocrisy with natural traits lies in the fact that they are unwilling to offer the same respect and understanding that they demand for homosexuality. They pick and choose when what applies where.

Modern liberalism is no different than a religion because its followers believe their way is the “one true way.” Its followers believe their goals justify the means, and while they will whine and complain non-stop about someone suggesting something in the name of God, they have no problem forcing their own liberal morals and beliefs onto others in the name of Government.

Posted by: kctim at May 30, 2013 4:59 PM
Comment #366774


Probably, like most things, it is a combination of environmental factors and inherited ones. It is more a limits idea and propensity.

For example, the greatest football player or physicist would not achieve eminence if he were born into a society that did not have physicists or football players. But it is also true that some people don’t have the genetic material to be either of those two things no matter what training they get.

You didn’t go to school during the reign of nurture. It was anathema in the 1960s & 1970s. I recall when a book called Sociobiology came out. It suggested that some traits were inborn. There were protests all over. Or remember a few years ago when Lawrence Summers suggested that some innate difference might explain why women did less well on math and science?

The left hates the idea that some things might be inborn or genetic. Stalin used to persecute scientists who suggested genetic traits might influence behavior or intelligence.

Posted by: CJ at May 30, 2013 7:29 PM
Comment #366776


I always think it is cute when people give dictionary definitions to define modern political movements. Liberalism once fit that description and it still sometimes does in other parts of the world, where liberals are associated with free markets. In the U.S. what we called neo-conservative policies were called neo-liberal in some other places.

But the answer your question - “I’d like to know how believing in Gay rights is hypocritical to that idealism, and how is the idealism (liberalism) a religion?”

We are using the words to describe what really happens. Being for gay rights is not the issue. Believing that gay behaviors are inborn is what we are talking about. As I explained in the original post, liberals tend NOT to accept that behaviors or traits are inborn. If someone says, ” some people just are smarter than others, which is why they do better in life.” would you consider this a conservative or liberal lean? But obviously, if a complex behavior such as sexual preference is inborn, certainly we can say that things like propensity for persistence, intelligence, math abilities etc are also partially inborn. Liberals, at least the ones I know, dislike these ideas or at least deny their manifestations.

Posted by: CJ at May 30, 2013 7:47 PM
Comment #366790

I agree with your regarding the genetic vs. environmental aspect of human nature. I agree with you about homosexuality. They do not have a choice in the matter. They are born this way. After all, who would willingly choose this lifestyle? And as far as I’m concerned, God makes NO mistakes in this world and He created homosexuals as well as the rest of this world. Including those of different religions.

Having had identical twins, I had the rare opportunity to see how two very genetically alike girls could grow up in the same basic environment, and turn out to be rather different from each other in many ways, and yet still the same in others. A contradiction.

Both girls are grown,early 30’s, living nearly 250 miles a part, both married. However one has been married 8 years, and the other 2. Happily, I think (Hope?)Both are reasonably healthy, one with children and one without and both with extremely different careers. Both have science Master Degrees. One is in medicine, the other a stay-at-home Mom to two special needs children. While they have pursued somewhat different paths to happiness, or perhaps I should say contentment, they have essentially reached the same goals. They share the same values, morays. Both attend church, both volunteer in their local communities. One volunteers with the March of Dimes, the other with the Rape\Crisis center.

What is interesting to me, is that on any given day they will wear the same identical outfit (including shoes), comb their hair the same way, have the same breakfast, lunch or dinner, read the same book at the same time, breaking it up at he same place, and so on.

I find it interesting how we can manage to start off in total agreement and end up with very different thinking processes. It frequently is amazing to me.

Now to where I totally disagree with you. Your statement:

Some people are better than others. It is just human nature.

totally infuriates me. How can any reasonable thinking person actually believe that one person is BETTER than another?

Not one person on this blog, in my town, in my state, in this country, or on this planet is BETTER than I AM. And I AM NOT BETTER than anyone else. If for no other reason than the simple fact that I am the only I in this world. I am grateful I can say that, because I know when I need the best plumber, the best landscaper, the best garbage collector, the best doctor, lawyer, judge, heck - the best Indian Chief around I can find them. And frequently they are BETTER PEOPLE than I could ever hope to be.

As for the following quote - I can only pray to God that you are not truly so ignorant as to believe it. Because if you do, you fall in line with one of the world’s worst, if not the worst dictator. If we have gained nothing else from history, hopefully, we have learned that unless we learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them. After all, as the current definition of INSANITY states repeating the same actions, and expecting a different outcome,is insane. (and then wondering why nothing changes).

And again I thank God that our forefathers understood why this statement is not always correct.

the we value experience over revolutionary schemes
* BTW - a good conservative believes in human nature. That is why we want to be careful changing long-established relationships; it is why we value experience over revolutionary schemes and why we revere history. We know that people in the past dressed funny and faced different challenges but were not really very different from us.
Posted by: Highlandangel1 at May 31, 2013 12:54 AM
Comment #366815

Your not a bigot. You have your opinions and other folks have theirs. It’s the folks that that believe that everyone’s opinions should line up with theirs that are the bigots. they refuse to except that someone can have a valid opinion other than them.

Posted by: Arkie Redneck at May 31, 2013 5:13 PM
Comment #366827


“totally infuriates me. How can any reasonable thinking person actually believe that one person is BETTER than another?”

Of course, I phrase it this way precisely to be provocative, but I do believe in the general concept. We are not judgmental enough in our modern society. If you work hard, don’t lie, cheat or steal, are you not better than one who does?

I try to make myself better everyday. I try to learn new things and understand more everyday. Do you not think it is possible to do that? And if you or I can become better than we were, it means we are better than we were and better than we would have been had we not improved. It means that if we did something to improve and others who were at the same level did not, we are better than we were and better than they are.

We should not be afraid of that judgement. You mention the worst dictators. Are you not better than they are/were.

We also need to take into account genetic propensities, however. No amount of training will make me an NFL quarterback and no amount of schooling will win me a Nobel Prize in physics. I do not have the physical power in the former case or the intellectual heft in the latter. You are right that being really good at either of those things would not make me a better person in the great scheme of things.

Since I believe in redemption, the other person may improve but until and unless he does, you remain better.

When we refuse to make value judgments, we deny people the chance to improve. Let’s take the simple idea of education. Presumably, you are better AFTER your education than you were before. If you are not, or if you are just different, it would be a big waste of time and effort to study or learn anything.

Re twins – you might be interested in this article from NPR - It is interesting how little differences can grow into big ones. Nature and nurture are intertwined, with nature providing some propensities and nurture developing them. It may be true that w/o environmental triggers a person would not develop into a doctor. He might also not become gay, despite the propensity.

Posted by: CJ at May 31, 2013 6:46 PM
Comment #366867

Personally, I believe it is the very act being judgmental that has lead us into a world that has caused most of our problems. Countries judge other countries by their governments, and wars start. One’s religious beliefs must be better than another’s, - so we end up in an almost Godless society. Political parties judge other political party and there is grid-lick. And on , and on, and on again. Hitler judged all those not gentiles to be bad. Thus we had the Holocaust, and millions died.

I realize and understand where you are coming from regarding the notion of ‘better’, however my point that in your article, you imply that any one not meeting your exact specifications of better must be worst - i.e. lower educational background, less money, less up-to-date on world matters, less intelligent. To me, EVERYONE has the potential to be better than anyone else at any given time.

Even the crook, or murderer has at sometime done something better than me, maybe they are a better parent than me, or their off-spring may turn out better than than mine,- of course, it may be something I would never want to do, or think of doing, or just plain do.

I believe we are basically born with a blank sheet that our lifetime experiences tend to write on. However, what color that paper is, it’s thickness, it’s length, it’s general make-up, are all genetic.

Therefore to my way of thinking there is no one better or worst than me. Only different. With different opinions, ideas, methods of obtaining their goals in life,hopefully with better solutions to the problems we have all incurred, etc

I tried your site, it wouldn’t come up - do you have a better suggestion on how to find it? I may have already seen it - the title sounds familiar, but since I’m not sure, please try to find it for me, if you have time.

Thank you.

Posted by: Highlandagnel1 at June 1, 2013 11:32 PM
Comment #366875

I can’t believe I forgot to bring this up earlier:

Malcom Gladwell posits that 10,000 hours of practice is all that one needs to become an expert in anything. If true, this would undermine C&J’s proposition of genetic destiny. I’m just curious if you have any thought on this.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 2, 2013 8:38 AM
Comment #366876


I think you are conflating judgement with oppression of an extreme kind.

The ability to make reasonable distinction is the basis of intelligence. If we are constantly trying to improve ourselves and our systems, we must be constantly judging.

I also make a distinction between status and behavior. This is actually the big debate of the 20th Century. Nazis and communists judged by status. This was the basis of their great evil. You were born a Jew or a Kulak or anything else. The Nazis and Marxists put you into that group and treated you accordingly, not matter what you did. This is what killed all those people in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Communist China. It was indeed evil to judge by status.

We should judge by behavior, which it mutable AND can be shared. If you are doing something better than I am, I can learn from you, copy and maybe improve. BUT if I refuse to judge, I can go nowhere.

Re a crook doing something better - we also should not bundle all traits. Indeed, a crook may do something good and better. Again, it has to do with status and not behavior. In my work I have dealt with very nasty people. I have worked constructively with people who probably tried to kill me shortly before. I judge the trying to kill me part very harshly, but when they stopped I worked with them in ways we both found useful.

Re “I believe we are basically born with a blank sheet that our lifetime experiences tend to write on. However, what color that paper is, it’s thickness, it’s length, it’s general make-up, are all genetic.”

Modern science has found that lots of behaviors are genetically influenced. This is the big change from the 1960s, when such science was not yet available. There is a very good book re called “The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker.

I wrote a post re nature and nurture. It is mostly about trees, but I think it shows how important heritable traits.

Re the link. I think that my link included a period by mistake. Try again here and maybe cut and past the link rather than click on it. If this doesn’t work, it is NPR from May 9. You can search.

Posted by: CJ at June 2, 2013 8:52 AM
Comment #366877


I read Gladwell’s books. The Tipping Point is good, although not as original as people think. We were doing that connector thing back in the 1980s.

Re Outliers - I think he is right in some ways, but confusing cause and effect. Experience shows some people learn faster and some don’t learn at all. You know that it is possible to spend an hour actually concentrating and one not paying attention. Hours spent are not equal.

Perhaps spending 10,000 CONCENTRATING hours would work. BUT only the competent people can do that. It is like saying that if I can bench 300 lbs I am strong and if I notice people who do that work out 10,000 hours. Yes. But not everyone can do that.

Certainly he is wrong re athletic ability. No amount of training will make me an NFL quarterback.

Gladwell is not a scientist. As I wrote to Highlandangel, I suggest you read Steven Pinker re nature and nurture. They are connected, but Gladwell’s embrace of the blank slate is so 1960.

Posted by: CJ at June 2, 2013 9:01 AM
Comment #366886

Good points. I guess the magic may lie not in innate abilities, but innate propensities to invest the time and effort to cultivate such abilities. 10,000 hours is an awfully long period of time. At 90 minutes of practice a day, it comes to almost 20 years. Maybe you and I could be NFL quarterbacks if we actually invested the time, but our genetic predispositions make us disinterested in doing so, whereas Tom Brady had a natural inclination to stick with his practice regimen through the bitter end.

Conversely, it may be that the 10,000 hour rule is necessary, but not sufficient. 10,000 hours might put someone’s quarterbacking skills in the top 1% of all American men, but top 1% isn’t good enough to play in the NFL. To be an NFL quarterback, you literally need to be in top 100 out of perhaps a 100 million men.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 2, 2013 11:19 AM
Comment #366894


I am not strong or fast enough and I don’t have good enough vision. There are limits.

People have different levels of intelligence and abilities. I am lucky in that I can figure out most things very quickly. The advice I have to give people re success is just “be smart”. But I have bumped up against my natural limits on many occasions. I know there are some things I cannot reasonably master. It is great to be proactive; but some things don’t work.

Gladwell is just full of shit on this. Generally speaking, his first book “Tipping Point” is good but not profound. His other attempts are just not consistent. Think of “Blink”. He says you can just know stuff. In the same book he says that our preconceptions make this impossible and then in his other book he claims you need 10,000 hours. As I said, he is not a scientist.

Your observation about being in the top 1% is true. To be successful in most fields, you have to be better than the top 1% of the general population, most of whom are not involved in your business.

Posted by: CJ at June 2, 2013 2:10 PM
Comment #366924

It’s been too long since my first post last week to really enter into this thread, but I’d like to make two points:
- It’s been said people are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. That’s true for the definitions of words as well. It is not valid to arbitrarily redefine a word to suit the purposes of an argument. It simply makes that argument invalid.
- Also, I’m glad people can find it cute when someone shows that they can use a dictionary and act within the confines of the actual language. It’s better than my typical reaction to those who can’t, or won’t.
I hope to have the opportunity to follow up in other threads.

Posted by: Dave at June 3, 2013 9:41 AM
Comment #366947


It is simply true that the word “liberal” does not properly describe the current political movement in the U.S. You can give the definition, but it doesn’t define.

An American liberal would be anathema to a classical liberal. They are more like social democrats in Europe.

The term “liberal” in your definition fits someone like Newt Gingrich, who is not called a liberal in the U.S.

Your comment did, however, inspire my post a little farther up.

Posted by: CJ at June 3, 2013 7:46 PM
Comment #367025

I see these threads have a long life, good.

I disagree even with the basis for your premise. Gingrich in no way, shape or form approximates anything approaching liberal idealism. Neither does your definition of an American liberal. Unfortunately, the greatest problem this country faces, IMHO, is that each side has zero understanding of the other’s positions.
For example, what KT’s describes as what he believes is “modern liberalism” is actually the opposite of my community of modern liberals believes in. Basically, take what he wrote, make each phrase the opposite, then you have a close estimate.

The liberal hypocrisy with natural traits lies in the fact that they are is not unwilling to offer the same respect and understanding that they demand for homosexuality. They do notpick and choose when what applies where.

Modern liberalism is no different than a religion because its followers believe their is noway is the “one true way.” Its followers do not believe their goals justify the means, and while they will whine and complain non-stop about someone suggesting something in the name of God, they also would never forcehave no problem forcing their own liberal morals and beliefs onto others in the name of Government nor allow others do the same to them.

Posted by: Dave at June 5, 2013 1:01 PM
Comment #367029


Gingrich believes in progress and change. He is not particularly tied to traditions that no longer function. He advocates scientific advancement and seems to have little use for hereditary privilege. He not only believes in, but he was an active participant in the non-violent change of government and he is a strong proponent of individual liberty.

The free market is the most liberal thing there is. It is constantly changing; it is based on free exchange and it doesn’t discriminate against anybody who want to and has the means to buy stuff.

But check out my post above.

Posted by: CJ at June 5, 2013 8:31 PM
Comment #367092

I’m not really sure which ones of your posts you’re specifically referring to but there’s too much to address one-by-one. Anycase,
- No way is Gingrich a liberal. “Progress and change” is not the same as a “regressive return to rose-color glasses glory days” I haven’t gotten to it yet but the title of Colbert’s “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” seems on par with my thinking on this point.
- I am an American moderate-liberal; socially liberal, fiscally conservative. What kc described is not liberalism but a projection by conservatives on what they think liberals are. Being just to the left of current american politics puts someone slightly right of center of the entire spectrum.
- You should read Nixon’s 1972 platform to get a perspective on how things have changed.
- To discuss economic systems from a common threshold I’d recommend we study up on Free-market capitalism vs. Anarcho-syndicalism vs. corporate capitalism Where do you really stand in this schema?

Posted by: Dave at June 7, 2013 1:11 PM
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