NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

Why homosexuals should not be blamed for their sexual orientation

This article is dedicated to one of my ER patients who was DOA. As I inspected his body searching for a cause of death, I noticed cut marks at the base of his penis, which I surmise resulted from attempted amputation motivated by gender dysphoria.

This article is part of the
$100,000 Challenge Series

People often think they are enlightened even when they believe things that should have been left in the Dark Ages.

In this series, I will challenge conventional wisdom and explore some odd and unjustifiable beliefs that persist, offering $100,000 to the first person who can solve each challenge, proving me wrong. My opinions are bound to ruffle some feathers and make you think.

Would you blame someone for having blue eyes instead of green or brown? That seems impossible to justify, doesn't it? As a doctor, I will explain why it is just as inexcusable to blame people for their sexual orientation, which is shaped by factors they cannot control.

The less you understand homosexual orientation, the more tolerant you should be of it. As a heterosexual man, I cannot personally understand why a man would want to kiss another man. Kissing, hugging, and making love to women is enormously appealing to me, while the thought of becoming romantically involved with men is repugnant. My sexual preference is so immutable that I could not change it even if I were offered all the riches in the world. No matter how many trillions of dollars were deposited in my bank account as an inducement, I would still be drawn like a magnet to women. I crave women even more than I do pizza, cookies, cakes, tools, tractors, gizmos, and the countless other things I love.

Since my sexual preference for women is not under my control, anyone who blamed me for it is at least a busybody and possibly a hypocrite. When I think of the number of perfect people I've met—zero—I wonder if our time would be better spent if we focused more on imperfections in ourselves than in others.

I've met many people who seem to possess a visceral hatred for gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals, and transsexuals. I ask anyone who is similarly intolerant to follow my solution for overcoming racism: put yourself in their shoes. Once you do that, it manifests the iniquity of justifying hatred of others based on their sexual orientation. What if you or a sibling were homosexual? Would you still think that directing venom toward homosexuals or bisexuals serves any useful purpose? Is this world a better place when malicious moralizing takes the place of empathetic understanding?

Why you should tolerate homosexuality if you don't understand it

No one chooses their sexual orientation. The Wikipedia states:

“The current literature and most scholars in the field state that one's sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be heterosexual or homosexual. No simple, single cause for sexual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, but research suggests that it is by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences, with biological factors involving a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment.”

I agree. No one chooses their DNA. No one sets their hormonal levels the way they do their thermostat or TV volume. No one can control the dietary and environmental factors that shaped them before they were born or afterward—unless, as an adult, you voraciously read about this topic and careful monitor what you eat and drink, in addition to numerous other things. However, even if you do that as an adult, it's too late: your sexual orientation has already been set. So if a person does not choose his sexual orientation or can affect it in any feasible way, why blame him or her for it?

The Wikipedia adds:

“No major mental health professional organization has sanctioned efforts to change sexual orientation and virtually all of them have adopted policy statements cautioning the profession and the public about treatments that purport to change sexual orientation. These include the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, National Association of Social Workers in the USA, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the Australian Psychological Society. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. […] The apparent impossibility of getting someone to change their sexual orientation . . . is a major argument against the importance of the social environment in the emergence of homosexuality, as well as against the idea that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.”

If sexual orientation cannot be changed even with the assistance of a psychologist, why blame someone for it?

The chemical and processed food industries are filling us with countless substances that indisputably affect our minds and bodies. These chemicals contribute to the increasing incidence of obesity, and they probably are the primary factor for the reduced prevalence of heterosexuality by affecting our hormone levels and effects, and by various direct effects. If you've read my discussion of this topic in The Science of Sex, you can understand why I do not think it is reasonable to blame people for their sexual orientation.

If we're going to blame people for their preferences, why don't we blame them for liking ice cream more than milk, or pizza more than bland chicken? Or why don't we blame them for liking fun more than work?

Can homosexuality be a choice?

Yes. This may seem at odds with what I wrote above, but it isn't. While sexual preference is shaped by factors humans cannot feasibly control (thus, sexual preference is not a choice), some people can choose to be romantically involved with men, women, or both. Thus, those individuals can choose to engage in behavior that would be labeled heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Why might they make that choice?

The myriad factors that influence sexual orientation don't always act in a quantal (all or nothing, on or off, black or white) way. Add a drop of black paint to a gallon of white paint, and it is still white; add a large barrel and it's black; add a gallon and it is gray, an intermediate color between white and black.

The factors that influence sexual preference don't always act in an all or nothing way. A baby might become a heterosexual if he or she had little or no factors pushing him or her toward a preference for same-sex partners, whereas exposure to several strong factors could shape a clear homosexual preference. However, just as people are not dumb or brilliant, tall or short, or one extreme or the other, they may not be fully heterosexual or homosexual because they were exposed to some factors that pushed them toward homosexuality, but not all of the way to it. Thus, while most people have a burning desire for the opposite sex, some folks end up somewhere in between the extremes. They can find both men and women appealing because they did not receive a full dose (so to speak) of the factors that can change sexual preference.

While those individuals can choose, blaming them for whatever choice they make is as senseless as blaming people with an eye color intermediate between bright blue and brown.

I am straight, but I have great empathy for those who are not. Life is tough enough without the added burdens of battling criticism, legal hurdles, and social ostracism. The world needs more kindness, not castigation.

The $100,000 challenge: Excoriating behavior that you disapprove of makes sense only if such denunciation might persuade someone to change. However, since sexual preference is not a choice, everyone should find something better to do than getting on one's high horse and condemning people for predispositions out of their control. I will give $100,000 to the first person who persuades me that kind, compassionate, empathetic intelligent people should stigmatize homosexuality as a moral failing. Please note that to succeed in this endeavor, you will need more than luck; you will need to invent a moral compass that cannot be reconciled, IMHO, with other valid ethical principles that form the basis of civil society.

Arthur H. R. Fairchild said:

“The most distinctive mark of a cultured mind is the ability to take another's point of view; to put one's self in another's place, and see life and its problems from a point of view different from one's own. To be willing to test a new idea; to be able to live on the edge of difference in all matters intellectually; to examine without heat the burning question of the day; to have imaginative sympathy, openness and flexibility of mind, steadiness and poise of feeling, cool calmness of judgment, is to have culture.”

Alan Turing, a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, was prosecuted by the United Kingdom for having a sexual relationship with a man. He “was given a choice between imprisonment or probation conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. He accepted chemical castration via estrogen hormone injections.” Turing's suicide at age 41 possibly stemmed from his inhumane prosecution and barbaric treatment at the hands of the illegitimate British government. Turing was one of the most brilliant humans in history and almost surely would have conceived new breakthroughs had he lived a normal lifespan. Judging by Mr. Fairchild's criteria above, the UK government was not cultured.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, quoting someone he termed an "unknown sage" in The Saturday Evening Post article "The World of the Uneducated" (November 28, 1959)

“A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.”
Eric Hoffer

“You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad.”
Adlai Stevenson II, a great American politician

“Small things affects small minds.”
Benjamin Disraeli

“I am a little to the right of Rush Limbaugh. I'm so conservative that I approve of San Francisco City Hall marriages, adoption by same-sex couples, and New Hampshire's recently ordained Episcopal bishop. Gays want to get married, have children, and go to church. Next they'll be advocating school vouchers, boycotting HBO, and voting Republican.”
P. J. O'Rourke

Great minds do not intrude into the private lives of others, but small minds love to pry into other people's business.

Related topics

Gay marriage is a matter of civil rights


  1. Brain's 'gender' may be quite flexible: Mechanism that plays key role in sexual differentiation of brain described
  2. New conservative lobbying push for gay marriage
  3. No Scientific Basis for Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage, Key Associations Argue
  4. Do Children Need Both a Mother and a Father?
  5. Children Of Lesbian Couples Are Doing Well, Study Finds
  6. Teenagers in Lesbian Families: Healthy and Happy based on US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents
  7. My Three Daddies: California Eyes Multiple Parenting Law
    Excerpt: “California … is now considering [a] law that would allow children to be legally granted more than two parents. The bill … would apply equally to men and women, and to homosexual or heterosexual relationships.”
    Comment: Excellent idea. Based on my professional experience as a doctor treating many thousands of children, I know their parents are often frazzled by the never-ending demands of raising kids. Shared parenting can ease that burden and spread the joy of childrearing. In retrospect, I participated in such an arrangement without formalizing it or planning it; it just evolved from my friendship with a family with five children whose father was too busy (as many fathers are) to give his kids all of the time they wanted, so I did many things with them: go boating and swimming, riding my Sea-doo and the motorized toboggan I made, snowmobiling, bike riding, playing baseball, walking, baking cookies, eating pizza, watching movies, babysitting, taking them shopping or out to eat at a restaurant, picking them up after sports practice, helping them with their computer or with homework, taking care of them when they were sick or recovering from surgery, and so on. I've also “adopted” other neighbor's children in the past and helped pay for one's education.
  8. New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents*
    Comment: These studies (see below) suggest that earlier ones were overly positive in assessing the effects of gay or lesbian parenting. However, we frequently see this in science: Study A says one thing, Study B says another and suggests that Study A is wrong. Laymen often assume the latest study is the correct one, but this isn't necessarily true. Even if it were true in this case, it can't be used as an excuse to oppose gay or lesbian parenting (and, by extension, marriage) because population groups don't raise kids, individual families do, and some of those families, even if they are gay or lesbian, do a remarkably better job than many heterosexual couples. I lived for years with a lesbian relative who was a much better parent than my heterosexual father. Many heterosexual couples are poorly qualified to be good parents, but they have children anyway. They may be irresponsible, perpetually unemployed, unloving, immature, boozers or drug addicts, ignorant and/or stupid, but our society doesn't stand in the way of them raising children. We often oppose gay or lesbian parenting even when the adults are responsible, stably employed, loving, mature, emotionally healthy, nonaddicted, educated, and intelligent. That makes no sense; it is mindless discrimination.
    *Based on: (1) What can we learn from studies of children raised by gay or lesbian parents? (2) Further comments on the papers by Marks and Regnerus (3) The well-being of children with gay and lesbian parents (4) Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting (5) How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study
  9. Foster Kids Do Equally Well When Adopted by Gay, Lesbian or Heterosexual Parents, Study Suggests based on Can Gay and Lesbian Parents Promote Healthy Development in High-Risk Children Adopted From Foster Care?
  10. Negative findings for children of gay parents don't hold up to scrutiny
  11. Genetics Has A Role In Determining Sexual Orientation In Men
  12. Epigenetics May Be a Critical Factor Contributing to Homosexuality, Study Suggests and Epigenetics May Underlie Homosexuality, Study Finds, both based on Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development
  13. Window into women's sexuality: New research explores complex relationship between sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual arousal
  14. Tycoon Offers $65M to Man Who Woos Gay Daughter
  15. Victimization For Sexual Orientation Increases Suicidal Behavior In College Students
  16. Youth Who Self-Identify as Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual at Higher Suicide Risk, Say Researchers
  17. Physiological Impacts of Homophobia
  18. Sexual Minority Youth Bullied More Than Heterosexual Youth
  19. It's Not Easy Being Gay
  20. Kelly McGillis on coming out
  21. Scientists discover moral compass in the brain which can be controlled by magnets
  22. Homosexual Behavior Largely Shaped By Genetics And Random Environmental Factors
  23. Quote (source): “Our results suggest that being gender nonconforming and lesbian comes from 'within'.” Genetic and Environmental Influences on Female Sexual Orientation, Childhood Gender Typicality and Adult Gender Identity
  24. Symmetry Of Homosexual Brain Resembles That Of Opposite Sex, Swedish Study Finds
  25. GLAAD Fires Back After 'Growing Pains' Star Kirk Cameron Calls Homosexuality 'Unnatural'
  26. Bisphenol A Exposure In Pregnant Mice Permanently Changes DNA Of Offspring
  27. Why BPA Leached from 'Safe' Plastics May Damage Health of Female Offspring based on Bisphenol-A exposure in utero leads to epigenetic alterations in the developmental programming of uterine estrogen response
  28. Soy-Based Formula? Neonatal Plant Estrogen Exposure Leads to Adult Infertility in Female Mice based on Neonatal Phytoestrogen Exposure Alters Oviduct Mucosal Immune Response to Pregnancy and Affects Preimplantation Embryo Development in the Mouse
  29. Early-Life Exposure to BPA May Affect Testis Function in Adulthood
  30. Widespread Exposure to BPA Substitute Is Occurring from Cash Register Receipts, Other Paper based on Bisphenol S, a New Bisphenol Analogue, in Paper Products and Currency Bills and Its Association with Bisphenol A Residues
  31. Hormone-Mimicking Chemicals Cause Inter-Species Mating: Bisphenol A Breaks Down Fish Species Barriers based on Exposure to an environmental estrogen breaks down sexual isolation between native and invasive species
  32. 'Gender-Bending' Chemicals Affect Reproduction in Fish, Research Shows based on The Consequences of Feminization in Breeding Groups of Wild Fish
  33. Sexual Orientation Fluctuation Correlated to Alcohol Misuse based on Patterns of Alcohol Use and Consequences Among Empirically Derived Sexual Minority Subgroups
  34. From 1871 until 1969, Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code prohibited homosexual sex, which seemingly led Rudi Wittgenstein to commit suicide in a Berlin bar. He was the brother of the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and a member of one of Europe's wealthiest families.
  35. The Negative Results of Concealing Who You Really Are On the Job
  36. Chick-fil-A president slams gay marriage
    Comment #1: I've had my fill of their moralizing. Ever notice how so much of it comes from people who know so little science?
    Comment #2: Before eating a Chick-fil-A® chicken sandwich, it is wise to read its ingredients. Wise people will then not eat it. If the Chick-fil-A president knew what he should know, he wouldn't need to feed his customers such atrocious ingredients to satisfy their taste buds.
  37. Jim Henson Company breaks ties with Chick-fil-A over gay marriage stance
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Comments (5)

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Comment #167 by Tryanmax • Website:
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May 17 2011 05:21:42 PM

Resisting innate desires is possible . . . but is it desirable?

I'm not certain that I am too smart. In fact, I recognize my intellectual shortcomings all too painfully. I've allowed some assumptions to be made about my personal philosophy which aren't true. I believe no philosophy can be accurately translated into words. That said, my philosophy understands the golden rule as permissive and self-correcting. I extend "live and let live" to include "help live." I see a difference between fair and equal and that most people don't like it. I acknowledge that there is a time for everything (turn, turn, turn). And in the face of adversity, my motto is "So what?"

It is not my suggestion that resisting an innate desire is preferable to giving into it. If I am not mistaken, as a habit, that has severe psychological consequences. All I sought to point out was that the resisting of innate desires is possible. Therefore, desire does not dictate decision. Most systems of morality are based on the discernment between which innate desires are acceptable and which are not. So, when making an argument on what may be a moral matter, to simply say that something is innate is not an argument at all. (Thank you, by the way, for bringing me to the point of actually putting this into words. I will reference this in the future.)

Rhetorically, I like your addition. It strikes directly at pathos and that's really where this debate lies for most people. That is to say, most people really haven't thought about this very much. The anecdotes you just presented do more of the same. There is a great difference between a thoughtful argument and an effective argument. That fascinates me.

You confess not understanding why people give more attention to this matter over other, more reprehensible behaviors. I would suggest that understanding is needed for this debate. (Know thy enemy.) Of course, it is perfectly plausible that there is nothing to understand. But I think the answer has more to do with the fact that it is far easier to accept someone who demands little and affects no change.

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: While I agree that resisting innate desires is possible, I don't understand why it is preferable to repress desires that don't hurt others. Furthermore, I object when homosexuals are discriminated against or disparaged, such as when they are called “queer,” “bugger,” “faggot,” and dozens of other pejorative terms.

I am not homosexual, so why does that bother me? I don't like to see anyone mistreated. Think of my nice neighbor that I mentioned in my last comment (#166). I can't think of any justifiable reason why anyone should verbally abuse him or other homosexuals because of their sexual orientation. Such words can obviously be very hurtful. I don't fully understand the motivation that compels some people to use such language, but I suspect it might result from satisfaction resulting from a sense of moral superiority or perhaps the all-too-common desire to tear others down to make oneself seem better in comparison.

Comment #166 by Tryanmax • Website:
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May 16 2011 12:52:23 PM

Nerding out on rhetoric

I know I said I'd leave the modes of persuasion out of it, but assuming you know them, naming them will improve the brevity of my response.

I'll begin with the problem of kairos. To openly wonder whether time would be better spent looking inward seems especially trite at present. Morality without a standard bearer is no morality at all. If the issue at hand were not currently the subject of policy debate at the highest levels, such a musing would seem satisfactorily neutral. As things are really, a call to ignore the matter clearly poses a benefit to one side of the debate over the other.

This, in turn, troubles your ethos when you fail to acknowledge a distinction important to your audience. Assuming this sermon is not for the choir, the distinction to be made is between "blame" and "hate." Your intended audience is especially sensitive to this distinction. Here, "blame" indicates responsibility which is a logical construct. On the other hand, "hate" is a purely emotional word. You totter back and forth between the terms, giving the sense that you equate them. In light of your other writing, I doubt this to be true. But navigating this distinction is key to maintaining your ethos with this audience.

The way you use the word "blame" also troubles your logos. Logically, one can only blame one's own preferences for anything, and that is regarded as childish. Of course, that is also wholly different from "blaming" someone else for their preferences. It makes no sense; it is simply not possible. Blame in this sense must be attached to something manifest. Thus, I cannot "blame" anyone for preferring to play than work. However, I can blame someone for goofing off instead of working. The blame is for giving into the preference rather than resisting it.

The last remaining mode is pathos. This is the hardest mode to critique because it relies most heavily on the skills of the persuader. You use guilt. Guilt works. Ask any mother. But pathos is no trump card. It is more like the ace in the hole. So there you have a bit of the over-analysis I previously alluded to. Ain't I a nerd?

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: Yes, you are a nerd. In my professional opinion, you are very smart—perhaps too smart. Incidentally, I am developing the next generation of cognitive testing that will give psychologists, physicians, and educators powerful new ways to assess intelligence and other facets of brain function that have great diagnostic and therapeutic utility, so I'd love to eventually test you.

Back to the matter at hand. You suggested that resisting an innate desire is preferable to giving in to it. That has clear benefits if we're talking about working (and therefore contributing to society) rather than choosing to sit on one's butt, but the benefits are difficult to fathom if you are suggesting that there is a benefit to resisting homosexual desires. What homosexual people do is none of my business.

Let me inject some pragmatic concerns into this discussion. I've treated many rape victims in the ER, none of whom were raped by homosexuals. The world is beset with an overpopulation problem that will only get worse. I don't think that homosexuals need to cite benefits to justify why people should stop disparaging them, but if one wanted to do that, the fact that they help mitigate this problem and its repercussions (such as overpopulation contributing to pollution and depletion of our natural resources) is undeniable.

After my heterosexual mother divorced, she later remarried a man. However, what if she were bisexual and instead chose a female partner? I am smart enough to develop the next generation of cognitive tests, but not smart enough to understand how that might have hurt me or anyone else. Why are you not content to live and let live?

In my mind, the issue is one of acceptance, not approval. Frankly, who am I—or you—to approve or disapprove? With a grand total of zero perfect human beings on Earth, the failure of someone to be perfect in the eyes of others does not necessarily mean that one cannot be a good person.

In junior high school, a classmate rudely asked me why I often spoke on the school bus to one of my neighbors, who he termed a “faggot.” That annoyed me because the cretin who said it was seemingly suggesting that heterosexuals like me shouldn't associate with homosexuals like my neighbor. Uh, why? My neighbor was intelligent, interesting, nice, and a good conversationalist. So why wouldn't I want to speak to him?

With just 24 hours per day and never enough time to do even half of what we want to do, I cannot understand why people give little or no attention to truly reprehensible behavior (such as that perpetrated by Emperor Hirohito of Japan, who killed even more than Stalin and considerably more than Hitler, as I discussed in articles discussing some of the mind-boggling war crimes during World War 2). Assuming you haven't recently eaten or have a very strong stomach, read Hirohito: the war criminal who got off scot-free and my other article on Japanese war crimes.

Comment #164 by Tryanmax • Website:
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May 15 2011 10:02:38 PM

Moral Magnets

That ("Moral Magnets") is a crappy title, to be sure.

Frankly, I'm surprised it takes as much as powerful magnets to change one from a deontologist to a utilitarianist. It shouldn't take more than a few carefully selected words from an accomplished and admired speaker in my view. But that would be my view, wouldn't it? I'd be interested in a study that observes the magnetic properties of the brain before and after listening to some persuasive oratory.

I agree completely that moral judgments are suspiciously tenuous as you put it. (Just look at the preceding.) That is the simplest explanation for the innumerable factions within every philosophy. Not to mention that some moral systems actually do permit murder, rape, robbery, etc. under certain conditions. It seems no morality is beyond question—that is unless some Accountability exists beyond what we know. Perhaps that is why the Bible instructs, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

I'm not sure if my opinion is apparent, so I will state it. I am in agreement with your opinion. I just have misgivings about how you present it. However, this is not math class, so that satisfies me.

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: Can you suggest a better way to present it? I thought of one, which I'll add to the article.

Comment #163 by Tryanmax • Website:
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May 15 2011 04:10:16 PM

I shouldn't have mentioned body odor

Unfortunately, I make this mistake from time to time: wrongly assuming the reader understands where I am coming from. It was not your position on the issue I was getting at; it was the rhetoric you used to support it. I could get into logos vs. ethos vs. pathos, but that is overanalyzing it (which I have already done). Put simply, you confront a moral issue with science. Thanks to our society having decided that, in most cases, science and religion are at odds with one another, you can guess what happens to your argument by the time it reaches those it was directed at.

I wouldn't claim to be a rhetorician, except that I clearly am. Marketing is my career. No worries, my toes are fine. I'm always amused at how it is the "marketers" that are seen as desperate for the buck while it is the creators of the useless products that inundate modern life who reap the actual profits. Marketing is a service. (Almost anyone can unclog a drain, yet those evil plumbers keep getting hired for the job.) Frankly, if all there were to be sold were food, water, clothing, and shelter, the marketers would still make their buck and be no more or less desperate for it.

Now I've gone off on a tangent when I set out to halt another one. I probably shouldn't have even brought body odor into it for two reasons: 1) In retrospect, it was not nearly as illustrative as I thought it to be. 2) It provided a platform to launch the conversation on a tangent. The latter resulted in you reaching beyond the bounds of my argument, that body odor is offensive in OUR culture.

Let me get back to the subject by putting my words into context. If your arguments fell for me as they do on this subject routinely, I would not be making these comments. In fact, I would not be reading your blog. By offering my critique, I am merely saying that your thoughts on this subject require more polish and possibly a different approach.

As an underline to this thought, I will explain how something not subject to choice is a moral failing. Every belief system that acknowledges in any way the concept of sin regards it as both something innate within the soul and something to be overcome or purged. In other words, all are sinful although no one chooses to be so, and something must be done about it. It follows logic completely at odds with the logic you present.

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: Read the article I linked to in the Related articles section: Scientists discover moral compass in the brain which can be controlled by magnets, or at least this quote from it: “The study highlights how our sense of right and wrong isn't just based on upbringing, religion or philosophy—but by the biology of our brains.”

The fact that a magnet can change how people think (in this and other ways) suggests to me that moral judgments of others are suspiciously tenuous. While there are indeed unquestionably immoral behaviors (murder, rape, robbery, etc.), I think the fact that reasonable minds can disagree on this issue suggests that we should leave this matter to a higher power. If you believe that God exists, and if you read the science I mentioned in the article, for Him to penalize homosexuals makes as much sense as Microsoft blaming customers for software bugs: for something THEY did! Human sexuality in terms of partner preference is shaped before birth—before we can consciously think. Thus, it seems needlessly cruel to blame people for desires they have no control over.

If you don't believe in God, why is it justifiable to pass judgment on (and implicitly stigmatize) homosexuals or bisexuals?

BTW, I wasn't trying to disparage all marketing professionals, some of whom are admirably intelligent, ethical, and clever.

Comment #162 by Tryanmax • Website:
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May 13 2011 11:19:15 PM

Thoughts on Sexual Orientation

First of all, your offer of $100,000 is so heavily qualified, I wonder if anyone could ever claim it. No matter how honest you intend to be, an offer of this nature is inherently subject to caprice. But that is a digression. The person who casts a stigma on others is not too likely to be described as "kind, compassionate, empathetic". But even if such a person were described thus, it would only be under a social paradigm different from the one you would seem to be under. You are well insulated, my friend.

But to the matter at hand. I do not claim to be an expert in much, let alone as many fields as you claim. And yet I wonder--and I pose this sincerely--how a different case than this is made for the destructive sociopath, the serial criminal, the substance abuser, and all other manner of social miscreant whom the sciences have taught us are merely the end result of genetic and environmental happenstance.

One might make an argument reflecting on the impact an individual makes upon society, but I would find that to be hollow. After all, that is not the sole reason for treating a disorder. An argument for well-being may also be made, but I think you will find many mentally ill people perfectly happy in their diseased state.

Let's dispense with proper segues and talk about body odor. This is determined by almost all of the same things that purportedly determine sexual orientation. Offensive body odor is almost universally stigmatized in our culture. An entire industry exists to combat this stigma. As a whole, we seem to see nothing wrong with casting this stigma, and for the most part, "kind, compassionate, empathetic" people would not be regarded less so for joining in.

I might expect an argument focusing on matters degree. But since this discussion de facto entertains morality, such an argument falls flat. Almost every system of morality regards a little sin as equal to a lot of sin.

So all that remains is to decide whether homosexuality is moral or not, and that pretty much gets us back to where we started.

That said, I was never vying for $100,000 because my Christian faith teaches me to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic, and that that means not stigmatizing moral failings.

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: How can something not subject to choice be a "moral failing"? Law and reasonable codes of conduct make clear distinctions between actions that result from choice and those that result from something not under one's control.

Our culture seems normal and acceptable only because we've been immersed in its indefensible quirks that are starkly at odds with what plenty of other perfectly normal and reasonable people in other countries/cultures, and at other times, have deemed perfectly fine—even desirable. When Napoleon Bonaparte sent an urgent missive to his wife Josephine, telling her that he would be home in three days and imploring her not to wash, the tactic message was that something in her bodily secretions would spike his libido and hence enhance the passion of their imminent reunion. The fact that he didn't explain why she shouldn't wash is evidence that she (and almost certainly others in their culture) knew the effects of those secretions.

Scientists now realize that animals, including humans, release a variety of chemicals that amplify sexual desire and, certainly in humans, heighten sexual pleasure, transforming it from ho-hum levels (that often leads pleasure-starved people to have affairs, assuming the grass might be greener on the other side of the hill) to sensations that are indescribably intense and capable of strengthening the bond between a man and a woman for a lifetime of commitment, as I described in The Science of Sex.

Part of the chemistry that exists between men and women is simply chemistry. We wash off and otherwise suppress some of the natural attractants because we've fallen for the marketing messages from the Madison Avenue mavens who've instilled the idea that their synthetic and sometimes dangerous chemicals are preferable to those designed by God (or Mother Nature, depending on the reader's point of view).

The more you know about science, the more humbled you are by how even simple organisms can do things (such as make complex chemicals with wonderful effects) that cannot be replicated by Nobel Prize-winning chemists. Since God/Mother Nature/natural selection is a light-year ahead of even the best scientists, it is reasonable to question whether God/Mother Nature/natural selection would be stupid enough to make chemicals that are perceived by the opposite sex as being offensively repulsive. The answer is a resounding no! Instead, God/Mother Nature/natural selection has done everything possible to heighten the mutual attraction between men and women. Would it make sense to add offensive repellents eons before soap and deodorants were available? Does. Not. Compute.

Marketers desperate to make a buck will do anything they can to persuade consumers to buy their products. Those marketers know that marketing through fear is a potent tool to convince people they must have whatever the hucksters are selling. Now something to think about: if natural odors were inherently as repulsive as you seem to presume, why are they deemed normal, acceptable, and even desirable to people with little or no exposure to American marketing messages? Could it be that those messages were successful in defining natural odors as offensive?

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