Saturday, July 2, 2011

Overheard at a Denny's - III

Again I apologize for inflicting an experiment in place of my usual ponderous, obfuscating commentary. But today got away from me completely — no time to recuperate, too many things to do around here! And besides, I had a lot of fun writing these dialogues. Hmm, maybe I can build a book out of these ….

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“So tell me something, Derek: What is it with the Catholic Church and gay people?

“Aw, Mark! I don’t have another job lined up, so I gotta keep the one I got!”

“Hey, come on, we’re buds! You know I don’t get all scream-y like some gay guys do! … Hey, I tell ‘fag’ jokes, for Pete’s sake!”

“Yeah, I know, and I always flinch and look for the PC Patrol to come frog-march us off to HR.”

“Derek — look, it’s me.”

Sigh. “Yeah, yeah … all right. But like you said, it’s me. Look, you come from a Baptist background, right?”

“Southern Baptist, baby, tent revivals and all.”

“Okay, so do you know any Southern Baptists who really, really hate Catholics?”

“Oh, no. We love you; that’s why we’re trying to save all you fish-eating papists.”

“So okay. I know you’ve been around enough to know that not everything Baptists believe about Catholics is correct. So, taking this as an example, you probably figure the Church’s position is based on ignorance and misunderstanding right? We don’t hate you; we just don’t know any better, right?”

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

“So what do you need me to explain? You know we don’t hate you, but as far as you’re concerned our teachings are flat-earth wrong, so what can I do except give you a map of the flat earth?”

Laugh. “Okay, I see your point.”

“Okay, but it goes further. See, the map is of a round earth; the argument is that you guys have the continents all wrong. And you can argue the APA and all the studies that back your side, and I can argue the studies that refute those studies, and we can sit here saying ‘My scientists can beat up your scientists’ all day long without moving the ball in either direction.”

More laughter. “Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. But I’m gay, and I can give some testimony from the inside.”

“No offense, Mark, I know you’re an honest and bright guy, but personal testimony about psychological matters is a two-edged sword. From a forensic viewpoint, you’ve got a dog in the fight, so your witness can’t be considered impartial. Okay, maybe you were gay all your life … but then again, maybe — just maybe — you’re projecting adult needs and thoughts back into five-year-old Mark’s memories. Not out of an intent to lie to me or to yourself; it’s just that the mind has a curious tendency to ‘forget’ inconvenient truths that don’t fit our self-conceptions, or ‘re-write’ memories that don’t fit the story.”

“Oh, great. Science is at an impasse; personal testimony can’t be trusted; what can we use?”

“Science isn’t completely at an impasse. For most of the early years of the social sciences, the pioneers were in conflict over whether human behavior was genetically programmed or socially taught. Well, back in 1928, Margaret Mead wrote a study, Coming of Age in Samoa, which seemed to settle the ‘nature versus nurture’ argument in favor of ‘nurture’. Since then, the work has been criticized, and social scientists have recognized a genetic component to human behavior … but it’s not the determining factor, nor even the most important factor.”

“So what about the ‘gay gene’?”

“The study that was supposed to have found it has been criticized, but even the scientist who carried it out admitted that he wasn’t looking for a completely genetic explanation. Point is, okay, maybe some people are born gay — maybe thirty-five percent, maybe seventy-five percent; we don’t know. But just as there are people who come out of the closet after two kids — and every time I’ve heard of this, it was after two kids! — there are also people who lose their homosexuality. In fact, so far as there’s any general trend, it’s towards heterosexuality.”

“We were talking about religion, weren’t we?”

“Yeah.” Chuckle. “Okay. I’ve been talking the science because a lot of things our society takes for granted about sex are based on ideas and theories that are now fifty years old or older, which were based on incomplete or questionable studies, much of which more up-to-date, more rigorous studies have either not confirmed or have undermined. Now, you would think that if the research didn’t back the theories, they’d be abandoned, right?”

“No. Scientists get emotionally invested in their theories. Like Joseph Priestley and phlegethon. That’s why you have atheists insisting that DNA formed out of pools of amino acids, even though they’ve never been able to take the process beyond the first step of forming the simplest acids, and nobody has yet found any traces of the amino pool that would have been needed.”

“But, moreover, there are social and political goals involved, and not all social scientists are above fudging their studies to support their ideologies.”

“Right, right! Like that study last year that ‘proved’ that two women are better parents than two men or a straight couple! Talk about proving too much!”

“Right. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that no scientist has ever fudged a study in support of heterosexuality or heteronormativity. But when science and politics fight, politics usually wins.”

“Okay, okay, I see where you’re coming from.”

“Do you? … I gotta get home; my wife is waiting for me. I know; I still haven’t really answered your question. So let me be Irish and answer it with another question: Given all that, how can you be sure the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality is based on ignorance and misunderstanding? How can you be sure the shoe’s not on the other foot?”

“Good point. … We bowling next week?”

“Actually …,” snicker, “… actually, I think we’ve got a ‘bye’.”

Exeunt ambos, ridentis.