The premise of this post has been on my mind for some time, as I have thinking about how to frame the ideas I’m about to set out there for all to read. A number of different ideas have resided in my mind, but none have appeared to offer the desired frame. Even this one may seem a stretch, but I’d rather start my dialogue on it, than continue the inner discussion within my mind. A letter to the editor and book review are linked below, that I believe spell out “the case” superbly. So, I wish to label them as exhibit A, B, and C, and request you read them before continuing. Since you may not, these excerpts may help set the stage:
Exhibit A, Book Review by Nicolas Wade:
Dawkins invites the reader to share the frustration of an imaginary history teacher, some of whose students refuse to accept that the Roman Empire ever existed, or that Latin is the mother tongue from which the Romance languages evolved. Instead of concentrating on how Western culture emerged from the institutions of the Roman state, the teacher must spend time combating a school board that insists he give equal time to their alternative view that French has been spoken from time immemorial and that Caesar never came or saw or conquered. This is exactly analogous to the plight of the biology teacher trying to acquaint students with the richness of modern biology in states where fundamentalist opponents of evolution hold sway.
From exhibit B, letter by Daniel Dennett:
What is going on at The New York Times? Why is it so bizarrely respectful of those who doubt evolution? In recent years The Times has published three preposterous Op-Ed articles by evolution-doubters (Cardinal Christoph SchÃ¶nborn, Michael J. Behe and Senator Sam Brownback). These no more deserved space in The Times than the opinions of flat-earthers or trance- channelers. In the wake of Judge John E. Jones IIIâ€™s decision in the Dover, Pa., case that intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that may not be taught in public schools, one would think The Times would finally recognize that the intelligent design campaign is a hoax and dishonest to the core, and stop giving it respectability in its pages.
from Exhibit C, Letter by Alex Rosenberg:
Evolution is a fact, natural selection is a process and Darwinâ€™s theory is that the fact is explained by the process. The facts of evolution are as evident as any facts about the past can be. So is the fact that blind variation and natural selection can produce a lot of adaptational change. Darwinâ€™s theory about how it does so is indeed a work in progress, but one whose basic correctness is no more open to doubt that General Relativity.Â In â€œThe Greatest Show on Earth,â€ and in a couple of other books, including â€œThe Ancestorâ€™s Taleâ€ and â€œThe Blind Watchmaker,â€ Dawkins has shown us how this process, which is entirely free from purpose, goal, intention or design, results in the overwhelming appearance of all four. Processes, of course, are facts. No twist in Dawkinsâ€™s knickers.
from Exhibit C, Letter by Eric Delson:
In his otherwise excellent review, Nicholas Wade draws a distinction among theory, law and fact in science. He notes that Dawkins, in reaction to â€œcreationists, who like to dismiss evolution as â€˜just a theory,â€™ â€ insists that evolution is a fact. Wade correctly recognizes that in science a theory is more than a supposition, as does Dawkins, but while criticizing Dawkins for calling evolution a fact, Wade falls back on using the term â€œtheory,â€ which surely connotes uncertainty to the nonscientist. Both authors ignore the third option, to refer to evolution as a â€œlawâ€ in the same sense that most people speak of the â€œlaw of gravity.â€
Yes, this may appear to be simply all about evolution and creationism, but my purposes are different, so bear with me. This debate about evolution, is simply an illustration of the line drawn in the sand. And, if I’m honest from the start, my premise and ideas have nothing to do with God, except I thought the title sounded catchy. God is not gasping for air, or dying, or fading from relevancy. However, I believe it true to say that those humans who refuse to accept Science and the fact of Evolution are afraid that this is the case. To them, Science is an attempt to kill God. Their insistence to hold so tightly to a disproved myth, and develop ideas like Intelligent Design, at all costs, suggests that without it, they have no ability to believe in God.
How else can you explain the construction of a Museum of Creationism, where robotronic dinosaurs frolic with humans, in a way that scientifically could never exist, but must be constructed and sold as undeniably true so that the myth of the great flood can be aligned with scientific fact? Why else work so hard to hold the Bible as ultimate history, except that without it, they are afraid that God will cease to exist, or more accurately, never had existed in the first place. Personally, I don’t think the existence of God is up for grabs, and any discussion of it, is a red herring, designed to shift focus away from the bigger question: what is the validity of Religion, or more specifically- what is the validity of seeing a Judeo-Christian perspective as the only accurate and true expression of Religion. The Christian religion (lower-case “r”) is what is at stake of being disproved.
My intentional splitting of Christianity from the whole Judeo-Christian branch of history should not be minimized. Philosophers and theologians within the Hebrew tradition have, since the dawn of their faith tradition and ancestral beginnings, seen the value of interpretation. Volumes upon volumes exist as different individuals have chosen to explore sometimes subtle, and sometimes drastic explanations for scripture, practice, and belief. It has only been the comparatively recent Christians who seek to mold an understanding of fact into something that might fit within their locked-down scriptural words. In other words, only the Christian Church works so to declare the fact of the Holy Bible as more important and above all other fact, and even above the importance of Faith.
So, what the heck does this have to do with anything Queer, or Gay, or whatever words you choose? Can you believe I just wrote 1000 words as a set up to what I really want to say? Yes, I guess I did.
Virtually all of the backlash and opposition to full equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgenders, is rooted in a religious objection to homosexuality. While Christianity isn’t the only faith tradition to oppose homosexuality, it does hold a singular spot as the predominant religion of the advanced Western Culture. The attack on homosexuality from the Christian extremists is completely an effort to support their fallacy of the Holy Bible as Fact, and plays the same role in the perpetuation of this fallacious fact, as the attack on evolution. While in practical terms, the opposition to full equality for LGBT’s is the oppression of actual people, the goal of any of the Christian Far Right isn’t to harm people, but rather to defend their stronghold on the Fact of the Holy Bible, and thus, their own sole connection to God. This is partly how these Christians can claim to love the sinner but hate the sin, because to them, it isn’t about real people, but about actions and behaviors. They don’t set out to cause harm, even if for them, the ends justify the means. Not all Christians operate that way. Even some denominations articulate that Faith and Experience play key roles in understanding God’s plan. But in moments of fear, even the most moderate Christians can fall into the trap of the Bible as Fact.
The issues of the Fact of Evolution and the Fact of Homosexuality are both, at the core, issues of biology and science. The war raging between the Christian extremists and Science concerning evolution has been going on for some time, so it is easier to see and analyze a history for that struggle. It follows other similar battles with Science such as the struggle of the Church to condemn Galileo because his astrologic observations did not match their literal Biblical reading. The Battle against the science of homosexuality is relatively new. Previously the Church used only a moral argument against homosexuality, but in reality, it didn’t care if homosexuality was going on, as long as it was secret and hidden. However, as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people have become more visible, and want the rights that everyone else has, as out visible and happy people, this acceptance of secrets no longer functions, and the Church has lost most if not all of it’s moral authority.
So, The Christian extremists have nowhere else to turn except to their Holy Bible as fact.
The Holy Bible’s Last Gasps for Air
Therefore, the battle against Homosexuality is really the battle to save the authority of the Holy Bible. If they give in on this one, they have nothing left that they can see to justify the need for their religion. The rest of the things that they could possibly grab hold of as justification for Christianity have long since passed away. Greed and Coveting rule- look at how the Banking industry or the Health Care industry work to shore up their profits over the well being of our society as a whole. Gambling is everywhere; Divorce is prevalent; Lying almost the default behavior. The Golden Rule is tarnished and appears to look more like plastic that a precious gem.
Unlike the fact of evolution, the Science of Homosexuality isn’t as well understood. Not yet. Still so much that we don’t understand about genes, and proteins and hormones, and all of the various things that play into the biology of it. And we understand far more of the Biology, than we do of the sociology of Homosexuality- how culture and environment affect the Biology as well. In time these too will be well understood. But for now, we must accept that there is still much that we do not yet know as fact in the same way as we know about the fact of evolution. Â This isn’t really any different than the process by which the fact of Astronomy and the solar system came about. It just takes time.
If I am right however, that this is the last big stand that the Far Right Christians have to support their Holy Bible as fact, then, the fact of homosexuality is likely to be even more dismissed than the fact of evolution. This last attack on the fallacy will be fought with greater blindness and zeal. So we have a real battle to look forward to.
Letters – The Fact of Evolution – NYTimes.com.