Friday, April 19, 2013

Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Argument from "Just Saying"

Vocab offered as part of this debate something I have heard from Christians and other theists before, the notion that if we know that certain life style choices (like homosexuality) are unhealthy they feel required to let those people know, because they care about people's well being.  This is an attempt to answer the charge that fundamentalists are either homophobic or bigoted towards homosexuals. To a certain extent I actually accept this argument. Of course to be clear I think there are quite a few people out there both Christian and not who are in fact bigoted towards gay people but I accept that many Christians like Vocab are in fact well meaning in their assessment even if their conclusions are not well supported by the science.

I do have several problems with this statement though. First, as I have shown, much of the information that fundamentalist Christians are providing are either outright wrong, subject to conformation bias, or presented in a such an obviously biased manner that no one really takes it seriously. Vocab, who is certainly one of the more knowledgeable believers I have debated this topic with, still falls prey to these same problems. The point is just to ask a simple question, would you rather get medical advice from a doctor or a theologian? Christians like Vocab want to give homosexuals medical advice but the advice is typically very bad and given by the single group that homosexuals are least likely to listen to anyway. It is like being told that eating red meat is dangerous to your health by a member of PETA. Even if they turn out to be right you know there are other motivations there at work besides your physical health.

The reality is that everything involves risk, it's not like heterosexual sex can't put you at a higher risk for some things as well. For this reason doctors and psychologists don't generally set out to control people's behavior, they simply offer people advice to avoid as much risk as possible and then let people make up their own minds. Yet, when I tried to Google search homosexual health risks while writing this I noticed that the entire first page of results were filled with sites from Christian groups most of whom included many factually incorrect claims and at best failed to correctly reference the studies they based their claims on, I had to go to the second search result page to get a legitimate medical website. Since people can easily find out what they are at risk for by consulting with a doctor, and that information is likely to be more reliable than the advice coming from religious groups, I might humbly suggest that fundamentalist Christian apologists might want to stay out of medicine. If their efforts have any effect at all it is probably to stymie access to real medical information.

I said at the beginning of the show that every time I dig into a new statistic that some religious groups has come up with on this topic I find out that the study was flawed in some serious way. Nothing in this discussion suggests I'm wrong about that estimation.

To wrap up this series of posts, during the debate vocab asked us what the government should encourage.  A good question, my answer is that we should encourage social justice and equality. We should create a society where people are allowed to marry the person they love. I can also tell you what I don't want to encourage. I don't want to encourage a society where people's rights are limited because of things like the shoddy ad-hoc pseudo-science that often seems to fly in fundamentalist circles.

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