Gifted hands but little else
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”— Galileo
Republican presidential hopeful and the GOP’s Great Black Hope, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, told CNN Wednesday that being gay is “absolutely” a choice. He continued, “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
The fact that an educated man thinks that’s a winning argument is disturbing. Didn’t he at least remember Tony Soprano schooling Dr. Melfi on prison sex: “Well, you get a pass for that…Well, what are ya gonna do? There’s no women there. Y-y-you’re there five, ten years.”
Or try this, Ben: If you’re a meat-eater and you found yourself on an island starving with no protein sources and you satisfy your hunger with pineapples, bananas and root vegetables does that mean you’re a vegetarian? No, it means you adapted to fulfill a need. Likewise men in prison for years, away from women, will find whatever way they can to satisfy their sexual urge. But most of those men come out of prison and go back to their wives and/or girlfriends.
Carson, who in the past has likened gay sex to bestiality, is confusing sex acts with sexual orientation.
And then there’s the obvious fact that much sex in prison is rape, not consensual at all. Also, often straight men will provide sexual favors to more powerful inmates for protection. Those men aren’t gay and may even hold anti-gay views. But in a hate factory like prison, it’s survival of the fittest and they’re trying to survive.
Though Carson may disbelieve it, there has been research showing a genetic component to sexual orientation. Geneticist Dean Hamer, scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health, conducted a study printed in the November 18 Psychological Medicine journal that confirmed earlier research that found some genetic basis for homosexuality. And early last year researchers at Northwestern University found that genes play about 40% of the role in determining sexual orientation. Most scientists believe nature and nurture combine to determine whether someone is straight, gay or bisexual.
Why would someone simply choose to be gay? Just think about what being gay has meant throughout history. The Nazis rounded up homosexuals and sent them to Auschwitz and other hellholes. Alan Turing, the brilliant professor that helped crack the Germans’ Enigma code during World War II and the father of computing, committed suicide after being arrested for homosexuality and forced to take female hormones. Being gay has meant losing one’s family and friends, losing your job and public ridicule. The anxiety has driven many to suicide. Being openly gay has sometimes meant being assaulted and murdered. Why would someone make a choice that could so negatively impact his or her life?
If Ben Carson were a white man living in Virginia in 1775, would he have chosen to become black if he could’ve? Who would’ve done that? Find a black person who would love to time travel back to the pre-Civil War south. No one would’ve chosen that. So why would someone choose to be gay and subject themselves to hate and discrimination?
Think how hard it would be for you to change things that are clearly choices. If you are a San Francisco 49er fan, how easy would it be for you to switch to the Seattle Seahawks? If you’re a vegetarian, how easy would it be to switch to eating meat tonight? If you’re a conservative, could you imagine changing all of your views and becoming liberal? If you like country music, could you instantly change to listening to gangsta rap instead?
These are things we’ve chosen to like. But think how hard it would be to change these things and now think of something as important and deep-seated as your sexuality? If it were simply a choice, as a heterosexual, how easy would it be for you to have gay sex tonight?
The idea of whether sexual identity is genetic or not or a combination of nature and nurture, to me, is a waste. There are many in the gay community who believe their gayness is 100% genetic and they won’t be told otherwise. I can understand their rationale that if gayness is something purely genetic like race or gender, they feel society will have a harder time discriminating against them. I get that. But the state of the research now shows sexual orientation is complex, with genetic and environmental factors. Science isn’t about what you believe, but what can be proven. Thinking of sexuality as either-or is silly because bisexuals exist. Asexual people exist. Transgender people with varying sexual orientations exist.
Carson mentioning whether homosexuality is chosen or genetic is all about marriage equality, which he opposes. He has stated that he’s for all of the same legal benefits of marriage for gay people but they just can’t call it marriage. As a Seventh Day Adventist, he believes in traditional marriage and has said gays can’t “redefine marriage.”
Redefine marriage? Some Native American tribes practiced polygamy. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and some European immigrants practiced polygamy in the United States. It was illegal for slaves to marry. And interracial marriage wasn’t struck down in the U.S. until 1969. So traditional marriage in the U.S. involves bigamy, polygamy and a ban on slaves marrying as well as prohibitions against races intermarrying. It sounds like “traditional marriage” has been redefined in America many times.
What is so difficult about government treating consenting adults with the dignity and respect of permitting them to love and marry whomever they want? No one’s religious beliefs are stymied. People like Ben Carson are still free to think it’s wrong. But the Seventh Day Adventist church or any other church or its representatives don’t get to make policy for the nation based on their beliefs.
As a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson may indeed have gifted hands, but so far his ideas about science, gays and governance don’t argue for a gifted intellect.