I grew up in a very conservative religious environment and “tolerance” was not a positive word. In fact, quite a few people in the churches I attended were proud to describe themselves as “intolerant” of what they perceived as wrong or evil. As I’ve spent more time in liberal circles I’ve become very interested in the concept of tolerance and I have a fundamental criticism of the basic idea. Should we be working on increasing tolerance or should we instead focus on increasing understanding?
Lets take homosexuality as our main example. It’s pretty clear at this point that the LGBT community has not been well tolerated by the rest of humanity throughout human history. But a lot of this intolerance has been the natural result of a misunderstanding of human and animal sexuality. We now know that homosexuality is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. It is perfectly natural for a small percentage of a species to be wired up for homosexual thoughts and behavior. But just because something is natural doesn’t make it good or right, if we make that move we are committing the naturalistic fallacy. We need to learn more about homosexuality before we make a judgment on it.
The American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations started seriously studying homosexuality in the 1960′s and 70′s. They eventually discovered that sexual orientation is not subjectively experienced as a choice in the vast majority of people. People do not choose their sexual orientation, it is something heavily influenced by the genes and the early experience of the fetus in the womb. Also for bisexuals and lesbians sexual orientation is often more fluid and may change over time. After decades of research it has become clear to the scientific community that LGBT orientations and experiences are a normal variation of human sexual orientation.
It is important to note that we could have discovered something completely different. LGBT attractions and behavior could have been proven to be a mental disorder. We could have lived in a world where James Dobson was right and sexual orientation could be heavily influenced by childhood experience. But we don’t live in that world. People are not blank slates and LGBT thoughts and behavior are a normal expression of the variety of human sexuality. The evidence is in, and according to the APA the evidence has been conclusive since at least 1973. Human sexuality is largely wired in and the vast majority of people do not experience attraction as a choice.
Imagine if people had actually sought out a proper understanding of the intricacies of human sexuality in only the past 2000 years. Imagine if the New Testament of the Bible had an entire chapter devoted to a deeper understanding of the complexity of sexual attraction. The Old Testament has a book called “Song of Solomon” which rather graphically describes the intricacies of heterosexual attraction, so a more open discussion of sexuality in the New Testament would not have been out of the question.
In the end, tolerance is not enough, our main goal should be understanding. Tolerance is a good start but we should proceed as soon as possible to a scientific understanding and once we have that understanding we ought to spread the word that the time for ignorance is over. It’s time to accept the overwhelming evidence, understand our LGBT brothers and sisters, and realize that human sexuality is a complicated phenomenon where people have a vanishingly small “choice” in their orientation and the expression and acceptance of that orientation is normal and healthy.
Image courtesy of highersights.
Hey there! It’s been far too long since I last posted to this blog. Things have been crazy at work lately and I’ve apparently fallen off of the blogging horse for a bit. I’ll be posting again soon, but in the meantime here’s an interesting clip I found after going on a short Mike Wallace TV clip binge. It’s a recap version of a TV special he hosted in 1967 about homosexuals. It was one of the first TV specials to ever seriously address the subject of homosexuality.
As far as social issues go, it often feels like this country is stuck in the past and our slow march toward a better connection to objective reality is agonizingly slow. But, after watching this clip you can see just how far this country has come in the past few decades. We still have a long way to go, but if you look at the long game, things are definitely moving in the right direction on many fronts.
With the "world's largest" gathering of atheists this weekend in Washington, D.C., the National Post's graphics department takes a look at how the world's religions break down.
I don’t normally blog about sports, but today is a special occasion. For those of us who live in the United States and enjoy the game of basketball the Final Four is upon us! For those outside the US, here in the states, college basketball teams have a huge end-of season tournament called March Madness where the best 64 teams (actually a few more if you count the ridiculous play-in games) compete in a single elimination tournament. We are now down to the final four teams in the tournament: Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, and Ohio State.
I lived in Kentucky for five years and I definitely caught the college basketball bug. Some people just don’t get it and I understand that the late game stoppages can be annoying, but in the more dramatic late-season games of the college basketball season I often find myself on the edge of my seat. There is always a chance to see some high-drama in these tournament games. Occasionally a small school like Lehigh takes down a behemoth like Duke, and oh did that put a smile on my face. This year’s tournament certainly did not disappoint and we’ll see if it has any surprises left in store.
I heard Jon Haidt recently say during a talk that “sports is to war as pornography is to sex. It gives us a chance to exercise some ancient urges.” I suppose that is true. It feels like you are going to war with the other team to a certain degree and I really enjoyed the competitive nature of athletics when I was in high school and college as a participant and an observer. In high school I actually got to play in a national tournament for small private school soccer teams. Definitely one of the best experiences of my life.
What sporting events really get your blood going? Please leave your comments below.
Oh yeah, and Go big blue!
I just listened to a great episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast where he interviews Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development and Larry Sanders fame. It was an interesting conversation and Jeff brought up one of my favorite episodes of the Larry Sanders Show, Hank’s Night in the Sun.
If you don’t know what the Larry Sanders Show is, basically it was a television show on HBO in the 90′s starring Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rip Torn. Garry Shandling plays Larry Sanders a cynical late-night talk show host with Jeff playing Hank Kingsley the pathetic talk-show sidekick and Rip playing Artie the aggressive and wise producer. The history surrounding the show is interesting because Garry actually turned down an offer to replace Letterman on his old late-night show on NBC to star in The Larry Sanders Show, a late-night talk show satire.
Anyways, it was a groundbreaking show and is still absolutely brilliant and spot-on in its humor and satire. I watched most of the episodes on Netflix streaming, now that the DVD’s of the show have finally been released after a long legal battle. If you like The Office or Arrested Development, you’ll definitely find The Larry Sanders Show enjoyable.
Marc Maron also has a great interview with Garry Shandling where they discuss the show in more detail.
But I digress, Hank’s Night in the Sun is one of my favorite episodes from the show and it showcases Hank’s pathos to perfection. Hank has always played second fiddle to Larry and when Larry comes down with a serious illness he gets the opportunity that he’s been waiting for. But after he fills in as host for a night, his ego balloons and he tries to secure a few more nights as host, until the whole thing comes crashing down. Jeffrey Tambor plays this role so well, it is uncanny.
Here are some great excerpts from the episode:
Hank gets the opportunity of a lifetime:
Hank’s success goes to his head:
Hank hosts a second time:
Below are some links to a really great series of videos from Sunday’s episode of UP, a show on MSNBC hosted by Chris Hayes. This is one of the most thoughtful discussions about the role of atheism in politics and public life that I have ever heard. There are some very intelligent and thoughtful people on the discussion panel including Steven Pinker and Robert Wright. I encourage you to watch as much of it as you can.
Richard Dawkins also joins in for a few of the segments. I have a real problem with his overall attitude and it was interesting to hear some of the reactions to his attitude from the panel. Some disagreeing strongly, others identifying with his more strident take on atheism. I’ve seen the damage that his attitude and incendiary comments have done and the ammunition it gives to conservative religious people, like my parents, so I have a real problem with him.
And also, in one of the later segments a pastor comes out of the closet as an atheist and engages in a fascinating discussion with the panel. I wish there were more thoughtful discussions like this on cable news!
The full show: Sunday’s Show: Atheism