Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Science Against Homosexuality?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
We all know that smoking is hazardous to one's health.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out data showing that when looking as smokers versus non-smokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of:
  • coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times,
  • stroke by 2 to 4 times,
  • men developing lung cancer by 23 times,
  •  women developing lung cancer by 13 times, and
  • dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.[1]
These are pretty compelling numbers and they are enough to cause the U.S. government to require warning labels on every pack of cigarettes sold, the state of California to spend taxpayer dollars on a long-running anti-smoking ad campaign, and folks like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to actively try and dissuade people from taking up smoking.

What if smoking didn't increase the risk of lung cancer by 23 times, but 150 times? Do you think that public health organizations would put forth even more effort to try and curtail the act of smoking? What if it wasn't smoking, but some other act? Would we react just as strongly?

Many people would immediately say either "Yes" or "some may not, but they should!"  After all, the science is on their side, right?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the pre-eminent health institutions of the world, and they are using the latest in scientific findings to try and promote healthier lifestyles for our citizens. Therefore, we should heed their findings. That's the theory in the abstract, but it doesn't work out that way when the activity under question is one that is politically popular to support.

MercatorNet  recently published an article (h/t WinteryKinght) where they culled several stats from the CDC on how susceptible people are to contracting HIV. The CDC reports that men who have sex with men (MSM as the CDC labels them) are 150 times more likely to contract HIV than the heterosexual male population at large. That means that MSM are engaging in a behavior that is astronomically more likely to cause HIV than smoking is to cause lung cancer, heart disease, or stroke. It's an incredibly serious find.

Do I think that because of the CDC finding that various federal and local governments will immediately generate campaigns and advertisements to dissuade people from even casual same sex intercourse?  Of course it won't, because such a statement is politically incorrect. Correcting the actions to lower the risk are a secondary concern to protecting their reputations as being tolerant of others' lifestyles. I guess tolerance takes on a different meaning when it's a smoker's activity that is being questioned.

I'm sure I will hear simple-minded rebuttals to this post such as "well, no one is born a smoker!" True, but so what? I'm talking about actions, not orientation. We can each control our actions. What about those who claim to be bisexual? Should we try to dissuade them? Should we try to dissuade heterosexual men who are just experimenting? If the answer is "no" then my question is "why not?"

It seems to me that quitting smoking is a very hard thing to do, especially if someone was raised in a household where smoking was ubiquitous, where all their peers expected them to smoke, and they have been smoking for some twenty years now.  We still ask them to quit, and we do so because of the science that shows the risks to themselves as well as the wider society. Why can't we say to the vast majority of men out there that the science shows having homosexual relations is in itself proven to be a high-risk behavior and it should be avoided if at all possible?

In my discussions with atheists, I have many encounters with those who wave the flag of "science ├╝ber alles!" They feel that science is the only way to the future and science is the only thing that is authoritative.  They claim it is only through science that we've left the superstitions of the past behind and we should follow its findings if we want to progress as a species. So here I want to challenge them.  If we should follow science wherever it leads, then let's discourage men having sex with men.  If there are factors other than just the science that mitigate this, then you must admit that and give up on the claim that science is the only guiding principle for the betterment of humanity. Which choice would you like to take?


[1] See "Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm Accessed 3/26/2013.


  1. In a recent blog comment exchange I was informed by Laurence A Moran, that "Science is a way of knowing with a proven history of success. You can apply it to all sorts of questions—there are no rules that say some questions are out-of-bounds." The bulk of the comments opposing my generically theistic comments proved him wrong. The question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" seems to be definitely out of bounds in mainstream blogosphere science* discussions.
    One thing we can all agree on is that up until the late part of the last century smoking was one of the leading causes of statistics.
    *I am hereby coining the phrase "blogosphere science" unless someone can PROVE they said it first.

  2. Thanks Rock. Yes, this is the distinction between science and scientism. We can use the former. The latter has some significant problems in placing too much stock n only one way of knowing.

  3. "Yes, this is the distinction between science and scientism. We can use the former. The latter has some significant problems in placing too much stock n only one way of knowing."

    Do you think that hearing voices in the head is a way of learning anything? How do you know if the voices are your imagination or god?