Being Skeptical About Emotional Issues

When an issue strikes close to home it is difficult to be skeptical about it.

A few days ago my oldest son suggested that homosexuality is a genetic disorder. As a bisexual woman, my hackles automatically raised and I became highly offended. When I calmed down, I realized that because this is something that affects me personally, I was letting emotion get in the way of being a good skeptic. The post I wrote in response to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s comment that atheists “aren’t fully human” is a good example of that.

Now that I have calmed down, I have looked into it and here whataregd is the definition of a genetic disorder: A genetic disorder is a disease that is caused by an abnormality in an individual’s DNA. Abnormalities can range from a small mutation in a single gene to the addition or subtraction of an entire chromosome or set of chromosomes.

A disease has three definitions:

  1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
  2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.
  3. Obsolete. Lack of ease; trouble.

So by definition # 2 from, some people can define homosexuality/bisexuality as a genetic disorder because they regard it as “abnormal or harmful”. BUT, by definition one, he’s wrong.

His argument is that, within the parameters of mating, compared to almost every other species that mate to reproduce, that genetically it could be a disorder. Though he agrees that ‘aberration’ might be a better word. It was too funny. Hubby witnessed this yelling match that eventually degraded into “I’m more right than you are!”, followed by laughter.

I can see his point that, purely from a mammalian mating standpoint, homosexuality could be a harmful aberration. If homosexuality was the norm in non-human animal species, the population would drop significantly and many species would simply become extinct.

His entire point to the argument he posed was that, from an outside perspective, the genetic disorder idea is one possible theory. As skeptics we should be able to look at all points of view even when it hits close to home.

He’s right.


  1. Jason said,

    February 9, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Your son probably would have better meant to say a “hereditary” disorder rather than a genetic one.

    I have to wonder though, why did you get “offended” at the suggestion ?

    Surely it is only a question of evidence. The whole “offended” mentality is destructive to civil discourse.

    • Herbwoman said,

      February 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm


      As I mentioned in the post, I’m bisexual. That’s 50% gay 😀 Being told that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, which is how I interpreted his comment, was a real kick in the nethers. Perhaps offended is the wrong word. Angry, upset and hurt might be a better description. This post was more about dealing with emotional issues in a skeptical way. Since I’m still learning, it took me a while before i was able to have a rational discussion. I hope that answers your question 🙂

  2. Myk said,

    March 24, 2010 at 4:08 am

    I think your son may be unaware of the frequency of homosexual behaviour amongst other animals. It’s not a peculiarly human condition, and does in fact seem to have some strong advantages, especially for social animals such as primates. After all, siblings are equally closely related as children, so genes that predispose a creature to assist siblings and other closely related kin are likely to be selected for. Gay uncles and aunts are a clear survival benefit.

  3. Marz said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    What Myk said 🙂

    Also, a genetic basis does not necessarily mean it is a genetic ‘disorder’. I see it in a similar vein to genes that determine eye colour, height, hair colour etc, rather than a genetic flaw that causes a disorder.

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