Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"Dear 'The Pope', from Science" (No. 7)

Had to be done, really

Dear 'The Pope'

Is that accurate, calling you 'The Pope'? I think the word is Pontiff, but whenever I try to write that I keep saying 'Pointless', which I know would upset you, as you don't usually like it when I say things which are accurate.
It's me, the anthropomorphic personification of Science. I doubt you'll read this, you've never read any of my previous works. Even though we both have a tendency to use big Latin words in order to confuse people, I don't think we share similar reading preferences. My books tend to include figures and graphs, not so much stonings and miracles.

Also, I know I never said thanks for agreeing that the Big Bang theory is accurate, but having you agree with me actually undermines my argument more than anything, so would you mind just not getting involved from now on?
Actually, that was the last one wasn't it? Or was it several Popes ago? It's hard to keep track of you guys. Are you a Time Lord? Or is it one of those 'Dead Man's Shoes' situations? Or 'Dead Man's sacred ruby slippers', or whatever the hell those things are.

Anyway, to the point. You've been saying that having your people legally obliged to admit homosexuals violates 'natural law'? Say what now? What do you mean by 'natural law'? The laws of nature, which usually involves being killed and eaten by a superior physical specimen. I know some Gay people like to work out, but what do you think they'll do to you? Bring you down like a Gazelle and gnaw on your carcass? Although a potentially amusing scene, that's not what Gay people do. Any of them (despite your propaganda)

I ask because 'natural law' sounds like something that's under my jurisdiction, not yours. You take care of spirituality and all that, I'll take care of the laws of nature. And everything else of any use and importance.

I'm pretty sure you aren't talking about physics, I really can't see a law enforcing human rights violating the fundamental rules that govern space time. Are you suggesting that this policy disrupts biology? That the instinctive revulsion you feel towards homosexuality is natural, ergo attempting to suppress it is a violation of 'natural law'? Fair enough, so the suppression of natural inclinations is fundamentally wrong? Said the Pope? The POPE! A Catholic would be bad enough, but the POPE! From what I hear about what some of your lot get up to with the choirboys, they clearly agree with you.
I'm impressed in a way, you do set yourself some incredible challenges. I'm trying to save the planet, determine the fundamental structure of all reality and provide unlimited clean energy for all of mankind, but stopping teenage boys from masturbating? I know my limits.

Homosexuality is natural, by the way. This is true, because it exists. If it served no purpose, it wouldn't exist, it's not exactly a hereditary trait is it. If they were, as you say, 'not natural', evolution would have caused them to die out centuries ago. To say homosexuality is wrong is like say evolution doesn't occur!

Oh, wait.... Ah, I see what I did there.

Thing is though, you say evolution doesn't happen, and if evolution is summarised simply as organisms developing over time in order to ensure the survival of their genes, the homosexuality could be seen as counter evidence to this. So homosexuality must be an act of God. So which is it?

Or have I mixed you up with fundamentalists? I can never tell you lot apart. Either way, you're wrong. We all know it, stop trying to dress up your prejudice with nonsense terms you creepy old freak.

You need to relax mate. What you so worked up about? What would happen if you did allow homosexuals into the catholic church? You've been doing it for centuries. I know it sounds bad, the church would end up as some institution where women weren't allowed and all the men hung around together wearing elaborate clothes.

Yeah, sounds awful doesn't it.

Long story short, this anti-gay vitriol is a bit rich coming from a guy who (allegedly), to get his job, has to have his testicles squeezed by another man, in front of everyone.

It's not natural what you do. Ergo, by your logic, you shouldn't do it.

I know there hasn't been much in the way of scientific analysis in this letter, but that's usually a complete waste of time when I talk to you.

Stay out of my yard!

Science (BA hons)

P.S. If having an authority figure telling you what you can and can't do is so wrong, would it be OK if I got back to my stem cell work, and stuff like that? I'll just assume it is, shall I?

email: humourology (at) live.co.uk
Twitter: @garwboy



Earl Wajenberg said...

When The Pope uses the term "natural law," he is using it in a way centuries older than the way Science uses it. "Natural law,' along with "human law" and "divine law" was part of a threefold classification in Scholastic ethical theory, back when Science was still living at home with his mom, Philosophy, and using the family name, calling himself "Natural Philosophy."

In confusing The Pope with the fundamentalists, Science is betraying a degree of ignorance that Theology would find laughable, rather the way Politics would feel about confusing American Democrats and British Tories.

But then, "natural law" is really a term in ethical theory, which is simply not Science's side of the street, even though it sounds like it would be. Science can discover that homosexuality arises from natural causes, but he can't declare it good or bad anymore than he can make such a declaration for motherhood, ritual cannibalism, fluffy bunnies, or liver flukes.

Dean Burnett, Neuroscientist said...

I can declare what I like, actually, it's my blog

But I see your point, isn't it really annoying when someone makes sweeping, ill-informed opinions about something they don't understand and isn't their business anyway?

Guess I've lost the potential theology readers now. Damn...

Earl Wajenberg said...

"I can declare what I like, actually, it's my blog"

Of course you can, Dr. Burnett. But Mr. Science, being concerned with empirical verification of fact, deals in "is," not "ought."

I wouldn't worry about losing the theology crowd. References to religion always draw attention. As you see.

Dean Burnett, Neuroscientist said...

Indeed. But Science doing/saying things it doesn't usually get to say is the whole point of doing this, so I'll just crack on.

Clare said...

Hi Science - first time visitor here via a poster's recommendation on Pharyngula. Your letter made me chuckle. I'm off to wander through your archives now :o)

medisin said...

If beinggay is so unnatural, how come there are at least 500 other species of animals that enjoy a bit of homosexuality?
Also natural doesn't always mean good! People keep telling me pregnancy and childbirth are the 'most natural things in the world'. But to me, there's nothing natural or good about growing another entity inside your body like a huge parasite (I've seen Alien...) then forcing it out of a hole considerably smaller than a baby. Ugh! And the pope actively encourages this!

These Interminable Creatures said...

I love the post. Very funny.. But your point that: "Homosexuality is natural, by the way. This is true, because it exists. If it served no purpose, it wouldn't exist,". Is a common misconception of evolutionary biology. As I understand it lecturers often refer to Voltaire to describe it as the Panglossian error. Where we believe that evolution leads to the best world in the best of all possible worlds (I've probably gotten the quote wrong).

Anyway this is second hand from conversations with evolutionary biologists but I'm pretty sure its correct. Essentially, without spending too much time on it, I don't think all natural variation is necessarily "useful". It is however completely natural.

I would also contend with the other commentators that that I'd rather base my ethics on scientific understanding than on a book written by superstitious old men 2000 years ago.

These Interminable Creatures said...

Having posted I asked my friends if I'd remembered correctly. I had..

The classic paper on it is Gould and Lewontin's Spandrels of San Marco paper. I think they are useless bits of a cathedral which you might imagine had use.

The reason for re-posting was that they told me that Gould used male nipples and the female orgasm as examples of useless phenomena which are linked to useful stuff and can't be selected out.

Gould wanted to publish some stuff under the title, "Clits and Tits" but was over ruled. I think that is a great loss to science and mankind.

Dean Burnett, Neuroscientist said...

I think your sources, although probably correct, focus on the biological elements of evolution in general, whereas (given my area of study) my experience deals more with the psychological aspects of evolution, which is logically quite human specific.
Homosexuality is believed to have an integral role in cementing bonds between same sex individuals in large groups (tribes) where the gender roles are clearly assigned, especially where the males tend to be aggressive and challenging. Sexual interaction would provide a positive reinforcement to cooperation, and the instinctive dislike of it many people demonstrate rises from it not being an obviously viable method of reproducing. Although indirectly it is. It's a social glue, arguably this is still the case.

Also, female orgasms, despite lacking a direct reproductive role, would make women enjoy sex more, thus they'd be more willing to do it. The relative difficulty or 'elusiveness' of the female orgasm would encourage more sex in an attempt to achieve it, thus raising the odds of reproducing. To say it's 'useless' is potentially dangerous, depending on the women you know.

Nipples on men? Yup, no idea what they're for.

These Interminable Creatures said...

Thanks Science. i never heard that explanation before. I like it.

I would never claim that any trait definitely had no use. I was just saying that there isn't necessarily a use.

I always assumed that the purpose of the female orgasm was to ensure that I might be ridiculed and made to feel insufficient. In this way I would remain cowed and afraid, stay with my abuser and help her to raise children rather than race through a field of women scattering my seed and ploughing them with my man love.

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