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.