Monday, June 29, 2015

The All Boy's League

I was once arguing with someone about science vs religion and he said the current system, where scientific evidence is required for something to be considered “proven” was an unfair system. He compared it to an all boys basketball league. The rules of that league said girls could participate but, to prove that girls were acceptable, an all girls’ team would have to win in some sort of tournament. He left some detail out. The point was, it was unfair to expect the girls to win at that level without some experience of playing on the boy’s teams or being coached by experienced coaches. He compared this to the rules of science, requiring evidence of natural phenomena.

I couldn’t get him to see that the old system, where if you questioned Catholicism, you were tortured, is exactly the old boy’s system. But that aside, he also couldn’t see that science is precisely designed to be fair. That’s a little harder to see. He pointed out that if something supernatural did occur, science would approach it as a natural event and try to find a natural explanation. That’s what science does. If there is not a natural explanation it is considered a mystery to science.

Without going into the philosophical details of this, I want to apply this to Friday’s Supreme Court decision to make marriage available to any two consenting adults. The reason it happened is that for about 100 years, we have been determining what it means when people say they feel attracted to the same sex in the way most people are attracted to the opposite sex. In a fair system, it’s not enough to simply say you feel that way. If that were true, then those who say they feel oppressed or offended by this new law would have to be given equal consideration. There is no way to justify the law one way or another if we simply go by what people say they feel.

A big part of determining what is actually true about our biology based on what people were reporting came to us via psychology and psychiatry. That system had a lot of flaws and was essentially a boy’s basketball league 100 years ago. It took years of lobbying to change the manual from saying homosexuality was a disease that needed a cure. Hopefully we have learned from the errors made during that process and improved our methods.

Another big factor has simply been getting to know the people that are willing to let us know they feel differently. In the “boy’s league” days, you were shunned or banished for openly expressing those feelings. Many still are. It’s hard to understand someone who has an attraction to something that you are repulsed by. But it’s not impossible, as we have seen millions of minds changed over the last few decades.

The Supreme Court simply put a stamp on what most of us have already figured out. But it also made it official that the boy’s league has to change  it’s name. Not everyone was ready for that, and they are now experiencing the same feelings that everyone who wasn’t invited to play used to feel. If we forget that, then we’ve made no progress at all. If we forget that, then we’re just a majority rule society and not much better than “might makes right”.

Getting back to science, if you remember what it was like to be treated unfairly, or see your friends being treated unfairly, then also remember what it took to get to where we are now. The colorful parades were fun, but there was more than that. There were logical arguments being made and long discussions between psychologists and pastors. If you missed those, get to know them before you thumb your nose at the losers in this debate. Someone listened to the queer kids in class when others were making fun of them, now it’s your turn to make that choice.

If someone mentions the Dred Scott decision and you don’t get the analogy, look it up. If someone says marriage is about children being raised by their biological offspring, look at how adopted kids do in healthy homes. If someone says gay marriage is an abomination, find out what they mean by “abomination”. If Scalia's dissent doesn't make sense, find someone who can help you make sense of it. It’s okay to say you don’t know or hadn’t thought about it. If someone thinks it makes them the “winner” because they thought of something you didn’t, that’s their problem.

The LGBTQ movement was and is an incredibly successful one. It is especially notable for its lack of violence. I’m not ignoring the horrid violence perpetrated against them, but pointing out that there was never a gay terrorist group or band of gay freedom fighters hiding in a mountainous region somewhere. This is what we need to see more of in our revolutions in the modern world. That is, we need to see less violence and more peaceful resolutions to our differences.

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