Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

You probably heard that Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson is getting a lot of heat for his anti-gay remarks. His interpretation of the Bible is that gayness is a sin. As you might imagine, the gay community and its many supporters are not pleased with Phil.

Before I continue I should confess my biases. I'm pro-gay-marriage and pro-gay in general. I also like Duck Dynasty. And while I am not a believer in the supernatural, my observation is that religion is a good force in the world, give or take the occasional terrorist act, genocide, Spanish Inquisition, bigotry, and oppressive boot-on-the-throat of personal freedom. The bad stuff gets a lot of attention, and should, but for the average person experiencing an average day, I think religion has real-world benefits. That's my unscientific observation anyway.

Most well-educated adults in the year 2013 understand that sexual orientation is something you are born with. Society's sense of fairness demands that we not judge people for genetic differences. So it is easy to understand why folks become righteously indignant when one group criticizes the genetic composition of another. That's not a world we want to live in.

Unfortunately, I have a problem with the intellectual consistency of the folks on my side of this debate. And I hate when that happens.

It seems to me that Phil Robertson was born with the brain he has. He didn't have a choice in the matter. And science is starting to understand that religious folks have different brain structure than non-believers. So how is it fair to belittle Phil for acting in the only way he could, given the brain he has?

One might say Phil has free will and therefore he chooses to be an evil bigot. But as I have argued here before, free will is an illusion. Our brains are every bit as subject to cause and effect as your lawnmower. Your lawnmower can't choose to be a toaster any more than a guy with Phil's brain and Phil's experience can choose to not be Phil.

So here we have two camps accusing each other of the same crime against decency. Phil and his crowd believe gays can use their free will to become straight if they choose to do so. Gays and their supporters believe Phil can use his free will to be tolerant if he chooses. Both sides are wrong. People don't control brains; brains control people.

Having said all of that, for practical reasons I'm in favor of the public outcry against Phil's views, although I don't support personalizing it and making Phil the one scapegoat in a universe that has produced a few billion people like him. The intellectual dysfunction of targeting Phil for shame bothers me, but not as much as the prospect of living in a world dominated by Phil's anti-gay views. So I'm glad my side is fighting back, and nudging society toward enlightenment, but I'm not happy to be associated with defective thinking.

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Dec 23, 2013
I agree Scott, Phil Robertson has to play through life with the brain he was given. Where I find fault is with GQ. They don't have to print every comment that is made to them. It seems to me that if yelling "Fire" in a theater is unacceptable, then so is publishing comments such as Phil's. Phil is entitled to his opinions, but mayhaps right-thinking people shouldn't purchase GQ because they're the inexcusable problem here.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 23, 2013
Here's a close variant on the argument, millions of years of evolution configured organisms on this planet including mankind to mate male and female together to produce offspring and continue the species. So, you have two percent, plus or minus, of the population that is gay. That means ninety-eight percent of the population that is not, and they are asked to accept something that is contrary to millions of years of evolution. Some of them accept it just fine, in fact, but some do not. Do people deserve hate directed at them merely for following evolution?

Frankly, from what I've heard of Robertson's comments he went further than common decency suggests in opposing homosexuality. But I miss the days in this country when disagreeing with a man doesn't mean raising a mob to tar and feather him.
Dec 23, 2013
Moist robots receive programming in bigotry. We must provide the stimulus to keep other moist robots from accepting Phil's ignorance as acceptable.
Dec 23, 2013
So are you basically saying that none of us can help but doing whatever it is we do cause that's just the way we are, hardwired to think and act as we do? COOL!! So I should no longer feel bad about anything I may do or say? And someone that rapes babies is just doing what he's programmed to do by nature? Damn, that's quite some theory you have there. And why are you in favor of the public outcry against what Robertson says and believes, if none of us are capable of changing because of our hardwiring? Or am I missing something here?

[You are missing quite a bit, apparently. -- Scott]
Dec 23, 2013
There's plenty of evidence that shows that there can be many reasons why people have a gay orientation. One of the things that hurts the whole debate the most is the way it's portrayed as a simple thing. Sure, many (maybe most) gay people were born that way, but there's plenty of people who started out hetero and then became more and more attracted to their own gender as time went by, as well as people who started out gay and then became straight. I know some people like this personally.

Also, there have been bigots who have become tolerant people. So your finality on both sides isn't really scientifically warranted.
Dec 23, 2013
I'm not quite sure how coming down on both sides of this issue adds anything to the discussion.

One area of non-scientific assumption in your piece: that gays are somehow genetically predisposed to be gay. As far as I am aware, no scientist has managed to isolate the 'gay gene,' so stating this as fact is erroneous.

Another assumption you state as fact: your "Most well-educated adults" paragraph more than implies that almost all people who disagree with you are ill-educated. I am sure you are aware, and were when you wrote this piece, that that is entirely untrue. Yet you state it as fact. Why?

You also seem to imply, although I may be reading something incorrectly, that one must be a bigot to disagree with a certain sexual lifestyle choice. Even assuming your earlier point (gay gene) was correct, homosexual inclinations are not the same as homosexual acts. And there's the other part of what Phil Robertson said that has been mostly ignored.

Not to bore you with Christian theology, but the simplified version of what Mr. Robertson said is, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." Christ's message was one of love, not of anger and retribution. The Biblical story contained in the Gospel of St. John, to wit John 8:7, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." The 'her' being an alduterous woman. But it just as easily could have been a gay man.

The real point I'm trying to make is how worlds apart your view is from the views of the religious. You, IMHO, are unaware of what educated religious people (which to you is an oxymoron) believe. You don't understand how believers see the world and the universe. You don't understand the concept of good and evil and how it relates to free will. You think you do, but you don't. You left-handedly condemn Phil Robertson's beliefs without understanding them at all.

When you say something like, ". . .but not as much as the prospect of living in a world dominated by Phil's anti-gay views. So I'm glad my side is fighting back, and nudging society toward enlightenment, . . .", all you are doing is demonstrating that you have solely determined what enlightenment is. You are deciding that hubris and pride is a good thing without understanding why religious people consider it to be a sin.

I know you don't believe in God, Scott, but at the very least, it might be helpful to consider that you aren't God, either. Enlightenment may come in many forms, but it doesn't arrive by one man defining it personally.
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 23, 2013
Captain Obvious here would like to point out that whether or not sexual preference is hard-wired or not is not the point. The point is it is not anyone else's business who a person prefers to be intimate with as long as the involved parties are able to consent. When someone makes it their business they should not be surprised when others make it their own business to react to that opinion. The religious like to claim moral high ground by declaring that they have specific guidelines on proper behavior from an over-arching authority but fail in every instance to offer legitimate evidence of this authority. They are easily refuted by both those with their own interpretation of these "guidelines", and those who attempt to establish guidelines using logic and reason.
Dec 23, 2013
I agree with Robertson. I don't hate gays, but I also don't think they should be getting married either. I don't really care how you were born, I only care about what you make of yourself and the decisions you make.

Then again, I believe there is some free will that people have should they choose to use it.

I do have one problem with the issue (to which Robertson isn't a part based on his comments). I think the problem is that the bible has been turned into anti-gay only. It isn't. Homosexuality is just one of many sexual sins. Divorce, adultery, premarital sex, prostitution, !$%*!$%*!$%* !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ they are all wrong in the Christian view. But some how people (including too many Christians) are only picking and choosing a few sexual sins to harp about.

To be honest, I think the divorce rate and the number of divorcees getting remarried (and possibly redivorced) is a bigger problem than homosexuality. I really wish more Christians and more of the clergy would remember that and try to make that more of an issue. If you are doing things to drive your spouse away, even if change is difficult, you are being a bad Christian. If you are not trying to forgive and live with your spouse, even if it is difficult, you are being a bad Christian. I realize there are a few cases in which a marriage can be annulled or ended, but those should be the exceptions.

There's also the cynic in me who doesn't like homosexuality. The people in power don't really want it, it's sort of a means to an end. The only reason Obama became fully pro-gay marriage was for gay money... they weren't donating as much as the dems thought that they should.

I also think that the progressive leadership in this country sees religion as an enemy, and a threat to progressive control. This isn't about the issues more or less (once you have complete control, you can change your opinions on those at will) it's about being in control for these people. If you can make people hate religion and turn to you, that's more power (and money) for you.

[Your arguments would be more persuasive if they didn't start with, in effect, "Assume magic is real." -- Scott]
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 23, 2013
I am also pro-gay and pro-gay marriage, and have never seen Duck Dynasty so have no preconceived notions about the gentleman concerned.

But it seems to me, in a free country, that he is and should be allowed to think and say whatever he likes, and we can agree or disagree with him as much as we like. I thought that was kinda the whole idea of free speech - there is absolutely no point in defending the free speech of someone who agree with, only of someone who you believe is mistaken, bigoted or just plain wrong.

Having said that, I do not want religion (in the widest sense, to include many political and social ideologies as well) to determine what is or should be the law. So, I think abortion should be available, but not compulsory. Ditto contraception, and assisted dying for those that want it.

As someone who believes in a secular society, I also defend the right of people to practice their religion in peace and free from discrimination - right up to the point where they try to take freedoms from the rest of us in its name.
Dec 23, 2013
I have a hard time seeing why you agree with the public outcry about what Phil said. He said he was against gay marriage, and he felt it was a sin. The bible says all kinds of things are sins, including pre-marital sex and stealing. I figure most Americans have fudged their taxes or had sex before walking up the aisle. So we're all sinners. What's the big deal?

I think the media took it out of the context of his life and didn't match the audience to the context. Just like they do to some outspoken cartoonists.

Can't someone have an opinion? He didn't say all gays should be lined up and shot, or even fired from their jobs. BUT, it appears he can be fired for having an unpopular opinion.

I think he got screwed on the deal. He voiced an opinion, he is on a TV show that professes to be very conservative, so what's the problem?

By the way, I don't agree with any of what he said, but I do believe we all have a right to an opinion, and we should be free to speak it and discuss it.
Dec 23, 2013
and my hard wired programming makes it impossible not to wish that both sides of this issue would shut the F up and quit trying to draw attention to themselves.
Dec 23, 2013
A person's hard-wired programming can't be divorced from the environment in which he lives. People with anti-gay beliefs would be more inclined to vocalize them and act on them if there were no public pressure not to (also a result of the hard-wired programming of the gay-tolerant folks). It's the same reason we need laws and punishment even though criminals don't really have freewill. Their choices are a product of their programming plus their environment, including the possibility of punishment. Similarly, A&E has the right to fire the guy based on his public conduct if it's in the corporate best interest to do so whether he has freewill or not. Do corporations have freewill?

[I think that's what I said. -- Scott]
Dec 23, 2013
Nice work, Scott, that was a well-written and fair article that will no doubt get you in trouble with some news organization out there. Also, nice catch, Bixby.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 23, 2013
The difficulty with your argument (and this has come up many times before) is that if you really believe that we don't have free will, and that Phil is simply hard-wired to spout the erroneous views he has, then it must be equally true that lots of us are hard-wired to condemn his remarks. You seem to be saying that we should choose to cut Phil some slack because he can't help what he says, but if you're right then we can't help being hard on him.

[I try to avoid "should" because it is hard to define. What is unambiguously true is that my blog post is now part of the environment, and people are influenced by environment. So I'm not saying what people "should" believe; I'm influencing belief, albeit in a minor way. Because I am hardwired to do so. -- Scott]
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