The Biologist Argument for Homophobia

Homophobes come in two main categories—theologians and biologists. The first group says that contempt for gay people is God’s will; the latter group says contempt for gay people is natural. Of course, the Catholic Church and others mix the two with their ideas of natural law, but nature is also used by atheist homophobes. I found a blunt example today, written by Swedish atheist activist Eric Wadenius. In my translation, it reads:

I experience a sense of disgust when I see two men kiss. Because this feeling has decreased and become less intense over the years, I definitely think it is largely due to social conditioning, but it would not be strange if I felt this way for natural reasons (male individuals who experience repulsion by sex with other men are more likely to pass on their genes).*

There you have the biologist argument for homophobia. This argument is not new. Thomas Aquinas held the same opinion, and it has ever since been very popular. Many men have used it to defend their violent hate crimes. However, it’s completely irrational and illogical. If passing on one’s genes is the goal, nothing could be better for heterosexual males than a society full of gay men.

Wadenius also writes about gay friends’ reaction to his feelings of contempt. He seems surprised by their chock and anger, and he thinks this is due to their mistake of confusing emotion with morality.

Now, imagine that Wadenius had told a black man that he finds black people disgusting. I don’t think anyone would be surprised by an angry and hurt reaction. So why is it still acceptable to treat gay people with such disrespect? The answer is that homophobia is still culturally acceptable, even in atheist organisations that profit on their opposition to religious bigotry.

Read the original text in Swedish at Humanistbloggen.

Update: Niclas Berggren has written about the emotional origin of homophobia here.

I disagree with his assumption that negative attitudes towards homosexuality have to do with biology. As is the case with racism and sexism, homophobic attitudes are purely cultural. However, Dr Berggren is right when he distinguishes between “mere attitudes” and action. The problem is that the biological excuse for these attitudes legitimises homophobia, as it historically has legitimised racism and sexism. The popularity of an attitude doesn’t make it natural.

* Wadenius’s text in Swedish: Jag upplever också en känsla av ”äckel” i magen när jag ser två män kyssas. Eftersom jag upplever att denna känslan har blivit mindre och mindre intensiv med åren så tror jag definitivt att det finns en stor andel betingning i den, men samtidigt så är det inte så konstigt heller ifall jag skulle ha den av ”naturliga” skäl (manliga individer som upplever äckel av sex med andra män har större sannolikhet att föra sina gener vidare).