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June 18, 2008

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jnsm

According to you, Joseph, what's "good" science? NARTH? EXODUS? JONAH? Seems like you can't handle the likelihood that some people might be born with preference towards their own sex, rather than the opposite. Most modern studies suggest biology has something to do with it; the only ones claiming that it's entirely the product of environment or a choice have a religious bias (they are, after all, the same ones that deny evolution and believe everything in the Bible is historically accurate).

Ezam

@ Joseph

What proof do you have that homosexuality in not inborn?

moshe kaufman

i am openly bisexual frum and loving it!

Joseph

I don't mean to be rude, but the conclusion you've drawn on the example given is bad science. You need to learn the difference between a correlation and a causality. Just because you take a two samples and discover something in one group that is not in the other, does NOT establish causality.
For example, the difference in blood flow may be a result of years of homosexual behavior.
It may also be the result of a confounder, such as if all the gay members of the study were younger than the controls, or all suffering from HIV. One of the most cited studies on gay causality was LeVay's study of the hypothalamus in the brain in cadavers of gay and straight men. He said a region in the brain was bigger in gays. However, he tried to hide the fact that almost every gay man had died from HIV. He also let people assume correlation was causality. Oh yeah, LeVay was a gay man himself... not surprising.

The fact is, many many studies have been done looking for a gay gene or inborn cause. Most of this has even been done by biased gay researchers. Still, no definitive and repeatable scientific evidence has ever been established.

You are right that much of the gay agenda relies on convincing people first that homosexuality is inborn. They perpetuate this view, hiding from the evidence that it is not inborn. Sometimes deliberately; many of those who push this idea already know the science does not support inborn homosexuality. Shame on them. Still, they know this is the only way to push the agenda... one researcher L.M.Daimond said (paraphrasing) "if perpetuating the idea that a biological cause of homosexuality is the only way to accomplish the gay agenda (homosexual rights and marriage etc.) then is it really so wrong even if the notion is inaccurate?"

Shame on you who perpetuate the biological cause when they know the science is saying otherwise.

Shmarya

Speaking of herems imposed by beit dins, the "impartial" rabbi you wanted to use is, technically at least, in herem himself.

Shmarya

Your opinion might have validity, but it can't be heard in the strictest sense. Sort of like a non-citizen trying to vote in an election.

No halakhic support for that, I'm afraid.

Shmarya

In other words, you know you can't win., so you're chickening out.

Aryeh

I owe you an apology Shmarya.

I looked at the rest of your blog and noticed that you aren't on good terms with the Lubavich community, sorry about that.

More importantly though, it seems that you reject mesora. That kind of makes our discussion invalid since you have denied the sources to support or refute points we might touch on.

Your opinion might have validity, but it can't be heard in the strictest sense. Sort of like a non-citizen trying to vote in an election. Also, from what I read, you seem to have a difficult time with my community, so I am not sure that those I would propose to moderate would be acceptable to you, being that you disagree with the Syrian community in principal.

Lastly, from what I seem to see all over the Internet after I googled you, to publicly engage you would be against the herem that you seem to have imposed on you by a Beit Din.

I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to engage in this fascinating and very stimulating debate. Perhaps you will instead ask your readers to judge the winner of our debate in an informal way, but I am unable to continue without violating your herem.

I wish you all the best, with much success in your learning lishma. It is truly a shame that you can't be part of our community, the best minds...

Shmarya

Obviously not.

Aryeh

Is Rabbi Osdoba acceptable to you?

Shmarya

You really are a difficult person.

You have made no "arguments" that stand. You don't even begin to understand the legal process.

Let's be clear. My argument was that homosexuality was never punished with kipa (or, for that matter, with the death penalty).

I further argued that the only crimes ever punished with kipa were bein adam l'havero crimes like murder.

Not one part of your "argument" in any way refutes that.

As for a neutral moderator, I accept the challenge.


Aryeh

Again, you lower us both with your insults.

Negligent Homicide is not manslaughter.

Although I applaud your tenacity, I must point out that you failed to address the arguments I presented completely.

I am very much enjoying our debate though.

I propose that we select a neutral moderator to decide which of our cases has more merit in light of Halacha.

Do you accept the challenge?

Shmarya

Idiot.

Murder (and kidnapping) is like I explained above.

Accidental murder is punished by exile. The family of the victim can on its own kill the accidental murderer if it chooses. (There is no real evidence this was ever done.)

A false witness in a capital case could only be punished with death if the victim was to be killed based on their lies. there is no record of this ever happening. Further, it is subsumed under murder, just like kidnapping is.

Contempt of court? Yes, if a person refused to follow the direction of the Sanhedrin or a high court, that is correct. In the same way, a king could order anyone killed for disobeying him. These are crimes against the governing order and are not crimes against individuals.

The rest are all bein adam l'makom.

And, again: NONE of them was ever punished with kipa except murder.

Aryeh

Murder
Striking a Parent
Cursing a Parent
Degenerate Son
Kidnapping
Neglegent Homocide
Adultry
Incest
Marrying Your Wife's Mother
Contempt of Court
False Witnesses to Captial Cases
Betrothed Women
Homosexuality

Aryeh

Let's not forget the Midrash: Omar Rav Huna bshem Rav Yose-- The dor ha mabul was not destroyed until they institutionalized homosexual and bestial unions. That seems pretty dangerous to me, and quite serious indeed, but I won't drag you into an argument over midrash.


But, I do have one last point for you to tackle if you want to justify your position as stated above: homosexuality is yehareg ve'al ya'avor. How do you explain that away?

Shmarya

Sigh.

List all the supposed bein adam l' adam crimes punished by death. All 12 of them.

Aryeh

How do you darshan מוֹת יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

Their(pl) blood guilt shall be upon them(pl)?

In all other cases of bein adam l'makom, we see the singular usage. This is the double plural usage. Also double is the condemnation to death: They shall be put to death, their death shall be upon them.

Don't you suppose that the Torah is trying to get a clear, permanant message across about two things: the sin is in the plural, meaning bein adam l'adam, and the penalty is death, meaning that their continued living presents a clear and present danger to others, including themselves?

Aryeh

Actually 12 of the 22 capital crimes were bein adam l'adam.

13, if we include homosexuality.

All of the others were indirectly bein adam l'adam, but firstly bein adam l'makom.

BTW, who gave you smicha?

Shmarya

No.

Again, there are many crimes punishable by death according to the Torah. All except murder are bein adam l'makom sins.

Only murder (and kidnapping, which was equated with murder) was ever so punished by a beit din.

And only murderers were ever put in kipa.

Aryeh

All you have proved in your last post is that some dangerous criminals were not subject to the death penalty.

How much more so that homosexuals are subject to the death penalty! Does that, coupled with the right to extrajudicial killing, not suggest that homosexuality is in fact bein adam l'adam?

Aryeh

That is only the case when the rape is male-female. Homosexual rape allows for extrajudicial killing. Heterosexual rape has no such provision. You are simply reinforcing my argument, and undermining your own premise by opening that topic.

Shmarya

So as long as you agree that rapists pose a danger to others, you must by extension agree that SOME dangerous criminals were NOT confined to kipa.

Therefore you cannot argue that homosexuals do not represent a danger to others on the grounds that they were not confined to kipa.

NO.

The punishment for rape was NOT death – it was financial restitution.

Aryeh

Okay.

So as long as you agree that rapists pose a danger to others, you must by extension agree that SOME dangerous criminals were NOT confined to kipa.

Therefore you cannot argue that homosexuals do not represent a danger to others on the grounds that they were not confined to kipa.

Hence, your support for the argument that the crime of homosexuality is bein adam l'makom is invalid and thus any ruling contrary to the Shulchan Aruch does not work since homosexuality was, is and remains absolutely bein adam l'adam. Sela.

Shmarya

What about rapists? Were they put in kipa?

No.

Aryeh

Sir,

Perhaps you might reinforce your argument by countering intelligently, and not degrade your credibility with insults and dismissal.

What about rapists? Were they put in kipa?

Again, your logic is not sound and you have not addressed my logical construct so I might assume that you cede defeat or are unfamiliar with the rules of logic.

I don't expect a reply post; please accept my sincere apology if my tone somehow came across as hateful or mentally ill, as that was not my intent. I enjoy the honest, uncensored exchange and mean no offence.

Shalom U'Meberaha

Shmarya

You have not rebutted anything.

Again, only criminals who were deemed a danger to others were put in kipa and starved to death.

Murderers were put in kipa.

Homosexuals were not.

Take your hatred and your insanity elsewhere, please.

Aryeh

I see that this argument has no end, no matter the evidence cited:

Tzalofhad Ben Hefer.

No doubt, you will stand by your incorrect position that only murderers were executed by Chazal, and that they were therefore the only capital criminals deemed a danger to others as evidenced by the institution of kipa.

Even if I show the flawed logic of your argument:

Some murderers incurred kipa
All murderers are a danger to others
Homosexuals may not have incurred kipa
Therefore:
Homosexuals are not a danger to others.

FALSE

And the soundness of my rebuttal:

All recipients of capital punishment are a danger to others
Shabat desecrators incurred capital punishment
Therefore:
Shabat desecrators are a danger to others
AND:
Homosexuality is a capital offense
Therefore:
Homosexuals are a danger to others.

TRUE

I know that you may not like that, but it is clear logical evidence that you are incorrect.

As an aside, the absence of enforcement is merely evidence of the untenable corruption of the society in which we live, not proof that homosexuality is kosher or benign. Take the halacha of egla arufa, for example, or hilchot sota as an analogy: the crime still carries capital punishment, but the administration of justice simply shifts away from the public eye when such a deterrent fails to achieve its ends.

Shmarya

So is the violation of Shabat not an obvious physical danger, yet Chazal did execute the decorators of Shabat. Your argument is, for lack of a better word, fallacious.

No, they did not.

Again, any capital crime carried the POTENTIAL for execution.

But Chazal made the application of the death penalty next to impossible.

Then, to protect the public, the instituted kipa, placing the criminal in a cell and starving him to death (as I explained above).

This was only done for criminals thought to be a danger to others.

Murderers were starved to death.

Homosexuals were not.

Technically, your argument is post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc. I apologize for the pun.

So is the violation of Shabat not an obvious physical danger, yet Chazal did execute the decorators of Shabat. Your argument is, for lack of a better word, fallacious.

Shmarya

Actually, a homosexual is a danger to others.

The "danger" you cite is SPIRITUAL, something that is by halakhic definition bein adam l'makom.

Anyway, the point is Chazal never starved someone to death (or stoned someone to death) for homosexuality.

But Chazal did starve murderers to death (and they even stoned a few). The halakhic logic is as I stated above: murder is a sin between man and man, it is a crime with a real victim.

That logic was never applied to homosexuality.

Actually, a homosexual is a danger to others. Let's limit our debate to men for the sake of convenience, as homosexual females are not chayev skila.

Surely you must hold that in agreement with science, not all homosexuals have biological markers that identify them as such.

Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that not all homosexuals are "biological" homosexuals, perhaps their condition is psychological, cultural etc. The point is that in either case, they have the potential to influence someone else to participate in Sodomy and are thereby a danger to others who (even under your scientific premise) are not predisposed to being homosexual.

Homosexuality requires sexuality to become actualized and incur capital penalties under Halacha. The beginning of any act is its contemplation, and that is why it is just to include even biological homosexuals under the ban, it is not natural for them to allow their feelings to be unactualized.

Shmarya

Idolatry is also a capital offense, accordingly you would argue by extension that Jews practicing Hinduism be allowed full participation in Orthodox services as well.

Halakha does not work that way.

Participation in "Orthodox services" is open to any Jew – as long as the Jew is not at that moment committing the sin.

A known idolator – or a known violator of Shabbat, for that matter – should not lead services or receive community honors like an aliya. But even this is sometimes done if the rabbi(s) believe it will have a positive effect on the violator.

As for what atones for Sabbath violations, eating shellfish or homosexual relations, that is between man and God.

Chazal worked very hard NOT to execute anyone. Even murders were not executed – they were confined to a cell and allowed to starve to death only because they were a danger to others. The idea was that God would take his life, not man, because God could allow him to live without food and water or God could miraculously give him water and food.

But Chazal never confined a homosexual to a cell and starved him to death.

Why?

Because he was not a danger to others.

In other words:

• murderer=bein adam l'adam, between man and man.

• homosexual (or shellfish eater or the like)=bein adam l'makom, between man and God.

Aryeh

I have not conceded any points; sarcasm betrays the weakness of your argument.

Idolatry is also a capital offense, accordingly you would argue by extension that Jews practicing Hinduism be allowed full participation in Orthodox services as well. Sorry, but I fail to see the logic of your line of thinking or how it could be shoehorned (G-d forbid) into legitimate Halacha.

I will however cede that there exists a distinction between the predisposition to and the participation in acts of Sodomy in the eyes of Halacha. However, the former incurs a ban of excommunication, and is bein adam l'makom, whereas the completion of an act of homosexual Sodomy, although comprised of dozens of violations of Halacha, is atoned for only by the execution of the violator.


Shmarya

I see you conceded the earlier point through your silence.

How honest of you.

As for your more recent point, you're simply wrong. Murder is by definition a bein adam l'adam sin.

Homosexuality is not. Why? Because God calls it a toevah, just like breaking Shabbat or eating shellfish. Breaking Shabbat and eating shellfish are bein adam l'makom sins.

Aryeh

Moreover, one does not have the luxury of claiming that such practices are bein adam l'makom, since they by definition require participation of another person. Consent does not exempt someone from this issur any more than assisted suicide exempts the administering physician from charges of murder according to Halacha...(l'havdil) even in Oregon where Federal courts still have jurisdiction.

Shmarya

Sigh.

The point is not whether the penalty can ever be given – the point is that the severity of the "offense" is determined in large part by the potential penalty.

An "offense" calling for stoning to death is a severe "offense" – even if that penalty can not really be given.

If you do not understand this, just switch the offense from homosexuality to murder. Murder requires the death penalty but the death penalty was rarely if ever given. Yet murder was still a very severe offense.


Aryeh

Again, at least be honest: I cannot recall any executions by skila recorded for thousands of years, will you enlighten us please? If such is the Halacha as it stands today, please cite the instances of enforcement.

Aryeh

Not everybody gets a share in the afterlife, and it is not as clear cut as the 12 month statute of limitations may suggest. In actuality, we learn in Me'am Lo'ez that there are three levels to the soul. The first two are present in all creatures, the second is rooted in the Earth and does not ascend. The third is only drawn down by merit, and flees if the individual is persuaded to follow the inclinations of the lower two. Even the righteous Gentiles have a share in the afterlife, but there are those among our people who incur excision and forfeit their share. There are also those so irreparably wicked who will be punished until the Resurrection Of The Dead. Gehinom is actually a merciful split of those attachments of this world for which we are not disqualified from the next but unable to ascend without purging. Think of it as up to 11 months of continuous amputations. There is justice in both worlds. Hashem has allowed science to discover this justification to prohibited behavior to allow for free will and to create merit for those who choose it. Just as it is not comprehensible to define quantum mechanics in the language of Newtonian physics, the gap between science and the Torah is as great as the distance between East and West.

Shmarya

The Torah is actually quite merciful on the subject. It requires us to push them away.

And you call me dishonest? Please.

Halakha says warn them. If they continue, kill them.

True, they have to be caught copulating by two independent witnesses and warned immediately, just like other capitol crimes.

But the penalty is still death by stoning, is it not?

Aryeh

The Torah is actually quite merciful on the subject. It requires us to push them away. That is the extent of our involvement without the Sanhedrin in place. We thereby make the avera as much between Hashem and man as possible, and as little between man and another man as can be. We also must be clear that lesbianism is not a direct issur d'Orita, but that since it was a prevalent custom in Egypt, we are forbidden to practice it by extension, as it is disgusting. This blog is not based on an honest premise.

Solom

The most a person can get punished is 12 months in Gehenna, so why are we so worried about it? If it's a sin then those who commit the sin will still get to heaven even if they have to suffer for a while. Unless something a person does harms us in our mortal lives we shouldn't worry about it, since the punishment (Gehenna for a year or less) isn't very severe considering the eternity with God afterwards.

maven

Sorry, Shmarya, I'm going to defend Yossi and "a reader" on this. You are pulling a Shmuely Boteach and attempting to "darshan" a descriptive scientific paper.
As I wrote earlier, this is a descriptive, retrospective paper looking at adult patients. Its a snapshot, as it were, and other than the phenomena being described, any larger claims are hypothetical and suggestive, no more, as there is no predictive value in retrospective studies. So your comment to someone making, scientifically, a correct statement, that "you cannot read and process information" is simply unfair. Also, "caring" has nothing whatsoever to do with interpreting scientific data, only with policy decisions, etc. So even if you state that cannibalism is a biological need, it does not mean that one can kill others for food. (This is not meant as a comparator to policy regarding homosexuality, in which I am a firm supporter of liberal societal policy, what to do in normative Judaism is more complex and not related to biological issues).

And rebitzman, I gave several examples earlier of significant post-genetic changes that are fairly common. Of course, your statement is silly. Have you never heard of suntans? Obesity? Cardiac disease? Of course, the obvious example is cancer. These aren't inborn genetic necessities, they happen later, if achondroplastic dwarfism and testicular feminisation are too exotic for you.

Anyway, as scientists, we'd say it is one small paper, provocative, and would support a larger prospective longitudinal study. Certainly the term "proves" is incorrect. "Suggests" is better.

Shmarya

Who is to say environmental factors played no role in the growth and developmental stages of either the embryo, fetus, childhood, or teenage development to produce these difference now found later in life?? What an absurd conclusion you draw from this. Points again to your obvious lack of scientific background.

Not at all.

Your comment, however, not only proves you cannot read and process information well – it also proves again that you simply do not care.

rebitzman

++Who is to say environmental factors played no role in the growth and developmental stages of either the embryo, fetus, childhood, or teenage development to produce these difference now found later in life??++

You're suggesting they mutated during their lifetime?

Could you, like......give one example of this happening in nature? Ever?

A reader

First of all, these three measures do not rule out environmental causes. It wasn't even a genetic study. They are taking examples of "gay" and "straight" people AFTER THE FACT, after they have already fully developed into adults with adult functioning brains, and now analyze differences between the brains. Who is to say environmental factors played no role in the growth and developmental stages of either the embryo, fetus, childhood, or teenage development to produce these difference now found later in life?? What an absurd conclusion you draw from this. Points again to your obvious lack of scientific background.

Secondly, the answer to your initial question is an obvious no. IF what you concluded was true, which it isn't, "Would this change the negative halakhic (Jewish legal) view of homosexuality?" No, obviously not. And you know the answer is no, too.

rebitzman

++That is right "Rebbetzin Man". As you suggested to me, why don't you kindly flock to your feather in a parade or something. Just keep it in Toronto or Frisco.++

And you move it 30 clicks to the North.

BTW - my oldest son is in San Francisco - going to visit him soon. He's straight (not that it matters) and learned early on that it takes more than a silly hat to be "frum", and that even in Eretz Y'srael there are Jews who bring us shame.

Bartley Kulp

rebitzman- Would you cateragorize anybody who does not think that a gay lifestyle to be natural as homophobic? Even if I am homophobic it has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. That would be like accusing anybody whether democrat, republican or liberal who thinks that communism is impractical of McCarthyism.

As for your line - "A gay man can change one word - and make the same statement."

That is right "Rebbetzin Man". As you suggested to me, why don't you kindly flock to your feather in a parade or something. Just keep it in Toronto or Frisco.

Shmarya

But we do know what comes first – brain changes that are not influenced by environment.

Yossi

You're getting there, Shmarya-dude. It's not PURELY environmental. It's distinctly possible that a biological or genetic predisposition may guarantee homosexual predispositions and it's also possible that they may predispose one to homosexual tendencies when certain environmental conditions are present. We just don't know for sure in such a complex system anymore then we know why other preferences necessarily develop.

Renee

Its soy!!

Soy messes up our hormones.

rebitzman

++The truth is that I am not homophobic.+

You do a GREAT impression of a homophobe.

++30 kilometers northeast of where I live gives animal husbandry a whole new literal meaning. Also there intolerance to gays is a matter of self-loath.++

I know - which is why I suggested the move. Birds of a feather SHOULD flock.

++The fact that I am a heterosexual is something that I do not think about as I go about my day. I am also a land walking mammal that breaths aerobically.++

A gay man can change one word - and make the same statement.

Shmarya

But it still is NOT environmental.

In other words, while some contributing factors may be environmental, the physiological differences in brain size and make up are not.

Yossi

::deep sigh:: Shmarya, environmental doesn't necessarily mean the stereotype of 'weak parent of same/opposite gender"

It could mean a million other things as well. No one knows.

Bartley Kulp

You need to move north or east about 30 kilometers - you'll find people that share your "tolerance".

30 kilometers northeast of where I live gives animal husbandry a whole new literal meaning. Also there intolerance to gays is a matter of self-loath.

The truth is that I am not homophobic. I am just saying that being tolerant to gays is not the same thing as being tolerant to people of different ethnic groups.

The very usage of the term gay identity is an indication of issues that need to be worked out by an analyst. Usually a person describes his identity based on etnic/racial background, religious affiliation, nationality etc. Ones sexual orientation has no place in this. I would describe myself as a Jewish male, north American, Ashkenazi, etc... The fact that I am a heterosexual is something that I do not think about as I go about my day. I am also a land walking mammal that breaths aerobically.

The truth is that tolerance itself is a semantic. I am tolerant of gays. Blacks Asians, Aboriginals, etc.. do not need my tolerance because they are just fine as they are.

rebitzman

++The more that medical/behavior science learns about homosexuality, the closer it is to finding a proper therapy for people who suffer from these issues.++

You need to move north or east about 30 kilometers - you'll find people that share your "tolerance".

Bartley Kulp

Whether it develops in the womb or out of it, it is NOT a learned thing. It does NOT come from a "weak" father or a "masculine" mother or too much TV. It just is.

Posted by: Shmarya

What you are saying is granted. Now that I have conceded that, I would just like to say that I think it is wonderful that a lot of money and effort is being spent medically researching this issue. The more that medical/behavior science learns about homosexuality, the closer it is to finding a proper therapy for people who suffer from these issues.

Yossi

As a matter of fact, it may well be the case. I understand what they wrote quite well. They weren't discussing genetics. They were considering neuroanatomy and cerebrovascular circulation.

Since it is conclusively proven that experience and environment do influence formation of neural pathways, there is not yet any reason to conclude, based on this particular study, that environment can be ruled out.

HOWEVER epidemiological studies of identical twins DO indicate evidence of a genetic basis for sexual preference. The incidence of homosexual preferences is much higher among identical twins then among even fraternal twins.

Skeptical Believer

I wrote:
>>We all know Science never changes.

un-named person writes:
>Only people who know absolutely nothing about and have zero understanding of science believe this or believe that scientists claim this.

I reply: I have not said scientists believe this idea. I rather implied this is the belief of individuals I call Fundamentalist Secularists. First not all scientists are secularists & among those who are no doubt a smaller number of them can be classified as fundamentalists. So this is a Red Herring.

. . .

I DO NOT believe scientists believe Science never changes. Kneejerk Fundamentalist Atheists, Skeptics, Secularists OTOH.........but not scientists that is simply silly.

Jim -

I write this in all seriousness and not as an attempt to make fun of you.

While there might be some fundamentalist atheists, skeptics, and secularists who believe that "science never changes" but I've never met them.

Visit the following sites, read what they have to say, and listen to their podcasts - not to agree with them or be persuaded by their arguments regarding religion . . . but to learn what they really believe regarding science.

Point of Inquiry
http://www.pointofinquiry.org/
(A well-done and thoughful program combining free thought and public understanding of science. A lot of good interviews here, too.)


Freethought Radio
http://ffrf.org/radio/
(This group is fundamentalist atheist - and they can be rather obnoxious and annoying - especially the silly songs and abortion talk. However, they don't present science as unchanging. One of the hosts is a former Christian pastor, and his co-host/wife is a lifelong atheist.)


Skepticality
http://www.skepticality.com/
(The official podcast of the Skeptics Society. Not a very slick program last I listened, kind of a hybrid NPR/College Radio feel to it in its production/personality-feel, respectively. It's kind of fun, and while the hosts aren't smooth (like Point of Inquiry) they don't come across as obnoxious, either (like Freethough Radio), though an occasional guest might.)


The Skeptics Society
http://www.skeptic.com/
(By the way, this would be a good site for anyone to explore. While religion is not an uncommon focus, Skeptic tends more toward investigating (and inevitably debunking) paranormal claims, junk science, health fads, etc. It's good informative reading.)

Skeptical Inquirer/Committe for Skeptical Inquiry
http://www.csicop.org/

(Ditto the above re: The Skeptics Society)

American Atheists
http://www.atheists.org/

(I don't visit this site much, as I'm not an atheist, so much of their content does not appeal to me. But they do have some interesting articles on science and creationism, etc. I'm only including this because nothing I've read here makes any claim that science never changes - and these people are about as hardcore fundamentalist atheist as you can get.)

Check these sites out and get the real scoop on what freethinkers, skeptics, etc. believe about science.

Just like some fundie atheists often get the wrong idea about what religious people really believe, or tend to overgeneralize such beliefs (and you will hear some of the people on the above podcasts do such), religious people do the very same thing, every bit as much. So, it would be good for you to learn the real story.

Mind you I have a double standard(for which I feel no shame). I have no problem with myself or others calling Christopher Hitchens a drunk. Why? Because people who say Mother Theresa should be in Hell are little bitches regardless of what they believe & Hitchens isn't here for me to rag on him in person. But that is off topic....

Calling Hitchens a drunk should have nothing to do with his views on Mother Teresa. The Hitch is a walking bottle of Johnny Walker Black, so calling him a drunk isn't all that out of line - regardless of his views on anyone.

Regarding Hitchens and Mother Theresa - he has seemingly valid arguments - but I tend not to blame Mother Theresa herself for the bad things committed in her name.

I believe that she truly intended to do good - both for her fellow humans and for G-d. I also think she was a bit naive and misguided - which led to her being used by others as a fundraiser and an object.

Mother Theresa has been accused of not doing enough for the people of Calcutta. She ran hospices, but not hospitals. People came to her to die, not to get well (though some might have thought they would).

However, in Calcutta, before Mother Theresa, people would just die on the street - being stepped over like a piece of trash. Mother Teresa was right to take these people in so they could have at least some semblance of dignity when they passed on. In an place that had grown so desensitized to people lying dead in the streets, she introduced a major change of thought. That's not a small thing, and it is indeed praiseworthy.

At the same time though, the Hitch would point out, when Mother Theresa became popular, her order ended up with quite a bit of money. Her hospice clinics, however, were still cash strapped. This, of course, doesn't look good.

But, was Mother Theresa an accountant? A business woman? Did she do all of the finances? Likely not. She probably entrusted others to this. They could have done something to get Mother Theresa to expand her services. They apparently did not.

Those higher up than her in the Church hierarchy could have also done more - but seem not to have.

She was not perfect, and even if I were a Catholic I'm not sure that I would view her as a "saint" per se . . . but I tend to disagree with Hitchens wishing there was a hell for her to go to.

When I say that she was maybe a bit naive, I refer to her trusting those above her and those who worked for her perhaps a bit too much - not that she was stupid, she obviously was not. I think that she thought she was doing G-d's work and doing the best that she could to help people, but some of those associated with her just viewed her as great publicity and used her for what they could get out of her instead of helping her to achieve her goals even more than she could have hoped (which she very well could have done). So maybe a little Divine punishment for those. people?

I do enjoy listening to Hitchens - he might be a jerk or try to come across as one, but he is pretty funny. And sometimes he says things that need to be said - such as asking why people give time and respect to bigots or jerks like Al Sharpton or Falwell just because they are pastors? However, he shoots himself in the foot too often by painting with too broad of a brush ("religion poisons everything") and I still can't figure out how he arrives at his views regarding Israel, and in the case of Mother Theresa I think despite his "investigative journalism" he's still taking a rather shallow view of things.


Shmarya

"Whether they may relate to processes laid down during the foetal or postnatal development is an open question."

So a biological basis does not in any way implied an inherited or a genetic tendency. Post-natal development would in and of itself include environmental factors.

You simply misunderstand what they wrote.

Post-natal development would in and of itself include environmental factors.

No. And the study says just that. You ASSUME whatever happens outside the womb is influenced by environment. But that is not the case.

Yossi

Sharya, they also said:


"Whether they may relate to processes laid down during the foetal or postnatal development is an open question."

So a biological basis does not in any way implied an inherited or a genetic tendency. Post-natal development would in and of itself include environmental factors.

Again, they say there may be some biological basis as well as environmental.

This indicates a very complex series of processes and can not be simplistically determined to be either nurture or nature , or happenstance but may in fact be uniquely different in each individual.

Archie Bunker

Rabbi DW,

Why are you so quick to dismiss non-literalist meanings in the Talmud ? The Maharsha was the greatest rabbi of his time. The Maharal and others do not read several sections of the Talmud literally either.

It's even more of an insult to these giants to compare them to the corrupt pishers at Artscroll.

Archie Bunker

I hope Steve doesn't incur the wrath of Vicky Polin by opining that patronizing a prositute is a "victimless" crime. That's heresy in Vicky's book.

Yochanan Lavie

Maven: Thanks; fascinating stuff.

Time for another wacky song parody. Apologies: The Bee Gees.

Well, you can tell by the way I schukle and shake
I'm not a woman's man, can't masturbate.
Farbringen loud and beis medrish warm.
I've been circumcised after I was born.
And now it's all right, it's not Gay.
If you please look the other way.
We can't ever understand
The Foward's coverage of Rubbishcan.
Whether you're a bocher
Or saying a brocha,
You're livin' a lie, livin' a lie.
Feel the sweat breakin'
And ev'rybody shakin'
And we're livin' a lie, livin' a lie.
Oy,yo, yo, yo
livin' a lie.
livin' a lie.
Oy, oy, vey, vey
livin' a lie.

Well now, I go to the mikveh and I get high
And I can't help but check out the guys.
Got the fear of heaven in my soul
But I need some stud to fill that hole.
I know it's not right, in halacha.
Please don't tell my mishpocha.
The rabbi hates it; he says "feh!"
But he performs metzitzah bepeh.
Whether you're a Chossid
Or whether you're a misnagid,
You're a faigeleh, faigeleh.
Feel the taboo breakin'
And ev'rybody shakin'
And we're livin' a lie, livin' a lie.
Nu, nu, nu, nu, nu
livin' a lie.
livin' a lie.
Gevalt, 'valt, 'valt
livin' a lie.

I'm, in the closet.
Somebody help me.
Somebody help me, nu?
I'm in the closet.
Somebody help me, nu?
livin' a lie

maven

Yochanan-

There has been an explosion in "epigenetic" research lately, with several FDA approved drugs such as azacytidine, vorinostat, decitabine, which operate epigenetically, that is, at the level of turning genes on and off. It is becoming clear that Lamarck was right to some degree (not lysenko), and that environmental responses to external events leave traces at the histone level which can affect gene activity. So, as they say, its not only the genes you have but what you do with them, as it were.
Obviously this isn't the forum to expound on this, but only "popular science" claims to have "answers", in reality there's very little we understand; real science is a process (see above) not a textbook, not yet, anyway.

maven

jim-

you have hit upon an important difference here, the critical one between science and religion. In science, there is data, and the data is subject to interpretation, and often reviewers will tell the researchers that they are overreading data, or that conclusions can't be drawn from that data, etc. That's the peer-review process, and why one needs to look at the data rather than interviews in scientific american, etc.
On the other hand, while in religion there is a text, which is to some degree data, there are officially sanctioned readings, which are inarguable and often themselves considered divine, and deviations from that dogma are heretical and back in the bad old days, could lead to capital punishment. The Catholic Church is a classic example, so prior to the Protestant era, the laity was not even allowed to read the Bible in the original, and only a sanctioned priest was allowed to interpret scripture or deliver sermons. So your example about calling Gd is true from a Catholic perspective, but not from a Jewish one. In fact, the Talmud specifically gives several instances where Gd was overruled by human interpreters, which in the past was a very progressive position. Part of the existence of this blog is due to movement within Judaism away from this model...

Jim the Catholic

>Also, Jim's comments about caveman genes are a reflection of not having heard of the Hardy-Weinberg principle. Genes don't disappear that easily (of course, I'm not sure that genes per se are the issue here).

I reply: I will defer to your professional expertese here Maven but the follow statement on your part is just plain nuts.

>So Jim is wrong in stating we should ask the investigators what they meant. They can offer an interpretation, but that's all it would be.

I reply: You & Shmarya disagree as to what the investigators meant to convey in this paper common sense dictates you ask said investigators what they ment rather then argue your own private interpretations.

That's just common sense. Saying the people who produced this paper are not authorities as to it's meaning is like saying God doesn't understand the Torah he gave to Moses.

Yochanan Lavie

Maven writes: his argument about the impossibility of random mutations is based on his ignorance of epigenetic mechanisms that are environmentally derived responses that lead to genetic change (this may require a longer explanation).

Please explain. I thought it was people like Lamarck or even Lysenko who said acquired traits can become heriditary, and they were disproven. Tell how I'm wrong.

Jim: Mea Culpa. I mistook your rhetorical zeal for a statement of what you thought was fact. On this issue, as on many others, I am to the right of Shmarya, but to the left of you.

Joel: Someone said that advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Many sci fi writers are ahead of the curve, culturally speaking. I admire Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Frank Herbert and Aldous Huxley as examples of this.

Unimpressed: If Shmarya has a vendetta because of the Rubbishcan babes, did ICE, PETA, the labor and health agencies want to date them, too? Or is Shmarya so powerful he can manipulate them with one puny blog? If so, don't piss him off!

Shmarya et al. Aren't there examples of identical twins where one "turned out" Gay, the other straight? I am thinking of the notorious Kray brothers from London, particularly. (Notorious for being gangsters, not for their sexuality). So many there is an environmental trigger for an innate disposition.

As in any sin, crime, or foible, the litmus test is whether the perp knows right from wrong and does it anyway. Anybody can use an excuse, but the only legit one in my opinion, is if the perp is so divorced from reality that they don't what they're doing is wrong and make no attempt to cover their tracks.

That being said, I don't think there is anything wrong with having a gay orientation. But male to male anal sex is prohibited. There are other forms of expression other than that. Gay men who want to be observant will just have to refrain from that act. It doesn't mean they can't find happiness with a partner, or even show affection some other way.

Finally, I have heard that female sexuality is different from male sexuality and that women may be more inclined to bisexuality. Those who know, is there any basis for this, or is this wishful thinking on the part of lonely scientists (LOL)?

If one doesn't believe that the torah has some kind of divine origin (which doesn't necessarily mean direct word-for-word transmission), the prohibition against homosexual anal intercourse is easy to edit out. For people who blindly follow the rabbis, just listen to what Reb Berel Shmerel has to say, and shut off your mind. For those of us who need to believe, but are not fundies, we with difficult issues: Why did God forbid this act? What does this all mean? Is there a way that gay people can be reconciled with halacha humanely (which would therefore exclude celebacy, which I think is inhumane).


Shmarya

Jim –

Read this:

Male Homosexuality Can Be Explained Through A Specific Model Of Darwinian Evolution, Study ShowsThe results of this model show the interaction of male homosexuality with increased female fecundity within human populations, in a complex dynamic, resulting in the maintenance of male homosexuality at stable and relatively low frequencies, and highlighting the effects of heredity through the maternal line.
These findings provide new insights into male homosexuality in humans. In particular, they promote a focus shift in which homosexuality should not be viewed as a detrimental trait (due to the reduced male fecundity it entails), but, rather, should be considered within the wider evolutionary framework of a characteristic with gender-specific benefits, and which promotes female fecundity. This may well be the evolutionary origin of this genetic trait in human beings.
The possible widespread occurrence of sexually antagonistic characteristics in evolutionary processes, which play their evolutionary game by giving a fecundity benefit to one sex while disadvantaging the other, has only recently begun to be appreciated. This is understood as a key mechanism through which high levels of genetic variation are maintained in biological populations.

maven

Shmarya-

The point is, one ought not overread a descriptive paper. Changes in brain structure are what they are, but any attempt at figuring out where they come from or even what they really mean are meaningless exercises scientifically. So Jim is wrong in stating we should ask the investigators what they meant. They can offer an interpretation, but that's all it would be.
I would leave this paper alone, there are more comments than there is data there. It falls under the rubric of "provocative data", but as Yossi and others pointed out, longitudinal analyses over time and in more subjects would be necessary to "prove" anything.
Also, Jim's comments about caveman genes are a reflection of not having heard of the Hardy-Weinberg principle. Genes don't disappear that easily (of course, I'm not sure that genes per se are the issue here).

Jim the Catholic

Shmarya wrote:
>All that means, Jim, is that, once exposed to alcohol, the person has a very high chance of addiction. It does NOT mean the person spends his entire childhood and early adult life trying to score booze that he has never tasted.

I reply: Logically it would also have to be the case with having genes that lean someone toward homosexuality. Otherwise HOW would you pass on those genes? Logically all the proverbial gay cavemen would be too busy screwing each other & no cavewomen to pass on the gay genes. Thus the only gays we would have are lesbians since their participation in the sex act for procreative purposes is passive.

>On the other hand, all humans have a sex drive. That holds true whether they have ever had sex or not. (As any 13 year old boy about that.)

I reply: True so far.

>That drive is strong, primal and cuts to the core of what we are.

I reply: I know some Christian & Buddist Monks who would take issue with that. Plus I philosophically reject defining the individual according to their sex drive.

>Homosexuals have the very same drive we do, with one difference – they are attracted to men, not women.

I reply: One obvious problem with your thinking is that it is A FACT some people like to experiment outside their precived orientation. I remember reading an article in the Village Voice once how persons who get into the adult entertaiment industry start off straight but open themselves up to experimenting with homoerotic sex(especially women are encouraged to do this) & eventually even forming a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex. Homosexuality it seems CAN be learned & in a subculture like the adult film & entertaiment industry where it is not taboo but even encouraged this also seems to be the case.

>So the drive exists and remains even if the homosexual never has sex with a man or never has sex at all.

I reply: OTOH the human body is STILL biologically geared toward heterosexuality. Gay sperm will still fertilize a woman's ovum. The female body seems to be built by nature to give birth to children after heterosexual mating. There may be a biological tendancy there toward gay sex but I submit it still requires enviromental factors to develop.

>Shmarya said: "Again, homosexuality is a SIN bein adam l'makom, between man and God, NOT between man and man.
The case you bring is a sin bein adam l'havero, between people. There is a victim who is damaged and a man who did that damage. The two cases are in no way comparable."


I reply: Well, if you tempt someone to commit evil with you, you still harm them & sin against them. Eve was guilty of her own sin by eating the forbidden fruit but she added insult to injury by persuading Adam to do the same wicked act of defying God (& Adam further sinned & made a jerk of himself by blaming both Eve & God for his sin).

OTOH if you mean by this two gay dudes having sex with each other in private doesn't directly hurt me well I might with qualifications agree with that.

I think it's pointless to put gay dudes in jail with OTHER MEN.

Jim the Catholic


Yossi writes:
>The authors of this study (see my post close to the top) made it quite clear that they believe BOTH prenatal AND environmental factors can play roles in the predisposition to homosexual behavior. They did NOT claim that it is purely a genetic predisposition. ALL they said was: the brains are wired differently and have different circulatory patterns then straight people of the same gender.

Shmarya writes:
>What they said is clear, and I quoted them.
The differences in gay brains cannot be easily attributed to perception or behavior.
That means environmental factors – a strong mother, a weak father, etc. – play no role. And that, Yossi, means that, while environmental factors may add to a person's homosexuality, they are not the primary cause.

Easy solution gentilemen rather then spew out 100 posts arguing over the exegesis of the words of this Paper & parcelling sentences why don't you two SIMPLY contact the writers of the Paper & ASK THEM what they ment?

It's not hard.

Jim the Catholic

I wrote:
>>We all know Science never changes.

un-named person writes:
>Only people who know absolutely nothing about and have zero understanding of science believe this or believe that scientists claim this.

I reply: I have not said scientists believe this idea. I rather implied this is the belief of individuals I call Fundamentalist Secularists. First not all scientists are secularists & among those who are no doubt a smaller number of them can be classified as fundamentalists. So this is a Red Herring.

Attention Yochanan Lavie, Dude! My Friend! My Homeboy! My Boychik! Let me put your mind to rest. I DO NOT believe scientists believe Science never changes. Kneejerk Fundamentalist Atheists, Skeptics, Secularists OTOH.........but not scientists that is simply silly.

BTW I luv criticizing Shmarya for what I believe are weak arguments on his part on many issues & I like making what I think are better arguments. But calling him gay is just stupid & Lazy. I won't go there it's cheap. Plus it's much MORE fun to nail him on logic & facts. If you call him gay you automatically loose the argument.

Mind you I have a double standard(for which I feel no shame). I have no problem with myself or others calling Christopher Hitchens a drunk. Why? Because people who say Mother Theresa should be in Hell are little bitches regardless of what they believe & Hitchens isn't here for me to rag on him in person. But that is off topic....

Anyway back to the topic at hand.

AZ

Shmarya said: "Again, homosexuality is a SIN bein adam l'makom, between man and God, NOT between man and man.
The case you bring is a sin bein adam l'havero, between people. There is a victim who is damaged and a man who did that damage.
The two cases are in no way comparable."

Well Shmarya
I fail to see the big difference, but let's go your way. The prohibition for worshiping other gods is absolutely Bain Adam L'makom. Let's say that because of one's ADHD or other deficiency, in the heist of the moment he worshiped some 'Avoda Zarah. Assuming that he is a believer in Go-d and the Torah, would he then say: Please Go-d, it's your fault because you gave me bad genes, or should he go ahead and repent all his life for that mistake?
I guess that according to the current 'wisdom' as is surely reflected in many of the comments here, homosexuality is on a level unto itself and beyond one's control (which would make it somehow 'incomparable' with my current example as well.) That might be so. But I happened to dismiss this current 'wisdom' altogether. Most stable civilizations in human history, regardless of religion opposed homosexuality and I tend to see the world in the same view. And I have the same intellectual freedom that you have to downplay what I believe is less important while emphasizing what is more important to me.
You see Shmarya, your point of view and value system is not absolute as you may want to believe. Other people's, views and values may be as just as yours and maybe better.

Joel

"To get around this, Savic-Berglund focused on the structure and function of brain regions that develop during fetal development or early infancy—without using any cognitive tasks or rating systems"

Are you saying that these parts of the brain do not undergo any development after birth. So much so that the "pattern" of homosexuality is now ingrained upon them? And that the researchers found those folks who had an intact limbic system that had never undergone any change since birth? WOW!! Those are some thorough people. The problem with this study is that they used adults ONLY. At most it would prompt further study. I have read the original paper and it was still not convincing. As for SciAM's report, Nikhil Swaminathan has a long history of leftwing agenda articles. When he touts a study I take his assesment with an enormous grain of salt. Who knows, maybe he is a little sensitive on the subject? (smirk) Just kidding Nik. Maven is right, this study proves nothing. It highlights an interesting blip on the radar but cannot prove anything. Oh and Lavie, one of your statements reminded me of Asimov's Foundation, where science is turned into a religion with the scientists as "monks". Its scary but happening.

rebitzman

++Besides, with the way you are so worked up with the Rubashkin clan just because one of the daughters dumped you, how can anyone believe you are not straight, or at least bi?++

A lie often repeated MAY be believed by the naive, but:

A) It is still a lie
B) Further proof that there's a bunch of people who own the hat, but don't walk the walk.

Un-Orthodox and Unimpressed

Shmarya, don't worry about what they say about you.

Just because you try something out for a while doesn't mean you are a homosexual.

Besides, with the way you are so worked up with the Rubashkin clan just because one of the daughters dumped you, how can anyone believe you are not straight, or at least bi?

Shmarya

No.

What they said is clear, and I quoted them.

The differences in gay brains cannot be easily attributed to perception or behavior.

That means environmental factors – a strong mother, a weak father, etc. – play no role. And that, Yossi, means that, while environmental factors may add to a person's homosexuality, they are not the primary cause.

Yossi

The authors of this study (see my post close to the top) made it quite clear that they believe BOTH prenatal AND environmental factors can play roles in the predisposition to homosexual behavior. They did NOT claim that it is purely a genetic predisposition. ALL they said was: the brains are wired differently and have different circulatory patterns then straight people of the same gender.

Shmarya

And this, from the paper's conclusion:The present study does not allow narrowing of potential explanations, which are probably multifactorial, including interplay between pre- and postnatal testosterone and estrogen, the androgen and estrogen receptors, and the testosterone-degrading enzyme aromatase. It nevertheless contributes to the ongoing discussion about sexual orientation by showing that homosexual men and women differed from the same-sex controls and showed features of the opposite sex in two mutually independent cerebral variables, which, in contrast to those studied previously, were not related to sexual attraction. The observations cannot be easily attributed to perception or behavior. Whether they may relate to processes laid down during the fetal or postnatal development is an open question. These observations motivate more extensive investigations of larger study groups and prompt for a better understanding of the neurobiology of homosexuality.The cause is still biologic, not learned or behavior-induced.

In other words, acting gay can't make you biologically gay.

Shmarya

Context is everything. Here is what the paper's publication abstract actually says:The present study shows
sex-atypical cerebral asymmetry and functional connections in
homosexual subjects. The results cannot be primarily ascribed to
learned effects, and they suggest a linkage to neurobiological entities. Whether it develops in the womb or out of it, it is NOT a learned thing. It does NOT come from a "weak" father or a "masculine" mother or too much TV. It just is.

rebitzman

rabbidw - slichah

maven

I cited it above. The middle paragraph in my post above is directly copied from the PNAS paper.
The authors say "Whether they may relate to processes laid
down during the fetal or postnatal development is an open question." So don't argue with me, argue with them.
I'm not saying that this is or is not a genetic trait, or a post-natal one (it would make no difference to me, I'm "liberal" on this subject and agree with Rabbi Freundel's approach), only that one needs to quote scientific literature correctly and understand trial design and statistics.
Frankly, I'm happier to accept that this is a structural issue of the brain, and thus formally denounce any supporters of Ben Zion Sobel (the rosh yeshiva who systematically sodomized so many innocent kids at Itri) who claim that he went through "therapy" and is now "cured" and thus doesn't have to answer for his crimes, that dwarf any of the more discussed pedophilia/abuse cases of more recent times.

Shmarya

You either have to go back to the actual article and cite from there, or hold off replying. Scientific American reviews of an article are second hand assessments. What the authors themselves say in the article contradicts what you just posted.

If so, post the exact quote that contradicts me.

The study is not simply about brain activity – it is about brain size, and that is determined before birth.

maven

Shmarya, I won't allow that response of yours, its posul :)
You either have to go back to the actual article and cite from there, or hold off replying. Scientific American reviews of an article are second hand assessments. What the authors themselves say in the article contradicts what you just posted. That is not uncommon in popular reviews of science (i've done alot of these interviews for healthnet, etc).
Anyway, the point is, that it is not possible to determine whether this is a genetic phenomenon or something that comes after. That's not to take a political stand in either direction, there are post-genetic changes that are pretty darn significant (such as achondroplastic dwarfism and testicular feminisation syndromes). In fact, if you really want to slam Shmuely Boteach, his argument about the impossibility of random mutations is based on his ignorance of epigenetic mechanisms that are environmentally derived responses that lead to genetic change (this may require a longer explanation).
In short, you are better served by citing the actual scientific literature rather than second hand reports, which are frequently inflammatory in order to get better readership, etc.

Shmarya

There seems to be alot missing from this study. The one glaring thing that jumps out at me is that they knew who was gay before the MRI. Now if i had 40 people 20 with cancer and the rest not and i scanned them of course we would find cancer in those 20 people.

And then,

Prozac and related drugs produce changes in PET scans in the brains of depressed patients. The changes go away once the drug is stopped.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (talk, introspection and behavior changes) and related approaches have been shown to produce similar changes to those produced by the drugs-- but the changes persist after the therapy stops and can be maintained by as few as one followup visit in a year or more.

Reread the Scientific American report. It clearly states:Previous studies have examined brain differences between gay and straight people on the basis of their responses to various tasks, such as rating the attractiveness of other people. The problem was that there was no way to determine whether their responses were colored by learned social cues.

To get around this, Savic-Berglund focused on the structure and function of brain regions that develop during fetal development or early infancy—without using any cognitive tasks or rating systems.

Peter

maven is right on the money. Here is some related information:

Prozac and related drugs produce changes in PET scans in the brains of depressed patients. The changes go away once the drug is stopped.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (talk, introspection and behavior changes) and related approaches have been shown to produce similar changes to those produced by the drugs-- but the changes persist after the therapy stops and can be maintained by as few as one followup visit in a year or more.

That's right. What you think and do can change your brain.
(And what you eat, and maybe what you think and do, can change which genes are expressed and which are not; so maybe what you eat can change your brain.)
So as maven said, maybe the Karolinska observations could be seeing the result of homosexual behavior rather than the cause.

Joel

There seems to be alot missing from this study. The one glaring thing that jumps out at me is that they knew who was gay before the MRI. Now if i had 40 people 20 with cancer and the rest not and i scanned them of course we would find cancer in those 20 people. The trick is to find these same brain changes in say a person off the street and then hypothesize that this person is gay based on observation and measurments, and then ask himher (even in this case you might not get a good reading, what if the test subject lied?) In the end all this study really says is that gay people exhibit more fear on PET than their straight counterparts. Perhaps the social stigma?Disaproval? And that whole thing about brain size? What came first the chicken or the egg? It is well documented that certain behaviores can alter brain structure and chemistry. Even as an adult. Bottom line, as I read it, it was a poorly designed experiment with nebulous results at best. A better version would track people from birth. Test an unknown. Maybe have a control group? This just smacks of amateurism.

Marching in a Gay Pride parade is not enough to pro(v)e homosexual acts.

This is true. There are plenty of straight people who march in gay pride parades to show their solidarity. Marching in the parade doesn't make them gay.

maven

Here are over 80 comments and apparently no one actually looked at the article in question. As someone who has published in PNAS myself, perhaps I can help everyone calm down.
This was a small descriptive study looking at PET-CT changes among self described homosexual (Ho) vs heterosexual (He) men and women, 20 individuals in each arm. Certain anatomic findings seemed to be more similar in Ho men and He women, and a little less so between Ho women and He men. That's all. No theories, etc. In fact, the only way to argue that its "decided at birth" is to do these studies in children and then prospectively follow their sexual orientation. Citing from the paper itself (not the scientific american summary, which of course has an interest in making the data look more provocative, being a popular science magazine):

The present study does not allow narrowing of potential explanations,
which are probably multifactorial, including interplay between
pre- and postnatal testosterone and estrogen, the androgen
and estrogen receptors, and the testosterone-degrading enzyme
aromatase. It nevertheless contributes to the ongoing discussion
about sexual orientation by showing that homosexual men and
women differed from the same-sex controls and showed features of
the opposite sex in two mutually independent cerebral variables,
which, in contrast to those studied previously, were not related to
sexual attraction. The observations cannot be easily attributed to
perception or behavior. Whether they may relate to processes laid
down during the fetal or postnatal development is an open question.
These observations motivate more extensive investigations of larger
study groups and prompt for a better understanding of the neurobiology
of homosexuality.

So yes, there are biological changes in response to what we do; whether these changes "force" us to act, or emerge in response to what we do, is not clear, and certainly can't be claimed absolutely by this data set. (of course, someone may claim that I'm writing this response because of some structural element in my brain, so no one can prove anything, but then according to Chabad Hillel and Shamai had different views about things because their souls came from different sefirot, so there's always someone trying to "blame" birth and biology for everything).

rabbidw

Rebitzman, please read what I said. The entire sentence. I do not want to insult you, but you are deleting half of what I wrote. Please go back, read every word, look for the commas, and you will see I said exactly what I meant. No contradiction. The mechalles Shabbos in public is something we see with our own eyes. Marching in a Gay Pride parade is not enough to probe homosexual acts. It is not homosexuality that is a halachic problem, and unless you have witnesses to homosexual acts, you ain't got nothing. Now, stop picking a fight with someone who you agree with and go fight with someone else.

String Cheese Theory

Scientific research programs can progress through years without the means to empirically verify them and even end up proposing theories that are inherently non-verifiable, such as the "many worlds" interpretations of string-theory--even scientists can be moved by "faith"

There is a difference between scientific "faith" and religious faith.

The dictionary definition of "faith" does not square at all with scientific practice - even when it comes to those who believe in some of the more "far out" aspects of string theory.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith

"1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs "

The closest match can be found in the last part of the definition:

"(3)something that is believed especially with strong conviction"

That's rather broad. Since everyone has conviction, this is not useful in comparing string theorists with religious fundamentalists.


"(2): complete trust"

A scientist might have trust in a theory, but to the degree that it can be complete trust is debatable. When it comes to string theory, that degree of completeness plummets considerably.


"(1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof "

This is probably the most tempting one to use to compare string theorists with religious fundamentalists.

However, while there may be scientists who firmly believe that the "many worlds" theory has validity, I doubt that that firmness is the same as that held by a fundamentalist.

Further, though there is no absolute proof that the many worlds theory is correct, it is not based on a whim or a neat idea. It is pages with calculations all over them. It is based on mathematical models. It is based on prior knowledge that has been shown to be reliable.

A scientist doesn't say, "I have a theory of many worlds to integrate into string theory - and this is how it works" and not show the data that led to the conclusion. If a scientist just said, "I don't have any data, just trust me," the idea wouldn't go very far.

Compare that to how fundamentalist religion works.

So, no, while string theory - being as far out as it is - is wild and complicated and hard to understand ("If you think that you understand string theory, you don't" - Richard Feynman) it's study, degree of acceptance, adoption, etc. differs completely from that of fundamentalist religious faith, or from the definition of faith at all.

Shmarya

So Shmarya, should polygamy and bestiality be illegal?

I think bestiality should always be illegal because the animal cannot consent.

Polygamy is allowed in halakha, as you surely know. Should it be legal in the US? It is currently illegal. If society at some point in the future decides to legalize it, so be it.

Anon

So Shmarya, should polygamy and bestiality be illegal?

It's RELIGION'S job to have all the true answers and never change.

Baloney. That's only what the Fundamentalists (of all religions claim). You aetting up a straw man for religion, just as Jim set up a straw man for science.


I worded it that way because I was responding to JtC, who is a Fundamentalist. I've argued about nuances with him in the past. It's no use.

Ariel Sokolovsky

B"H
Rebbe says:


Essays
Other Essays
"Rights Or Ills"
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Publisher’s Foreword
The persistent problem of the so called Amendment to "Local Law 2" has been plaguing some people for several years. Although this problem has much wider national and international ramifications, the New York version of this problem has taken on a strange political hue.

During the Purim Farbrengen (gathering) of 5746, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shlita, addressed this issue. He touched upon the fundamental problem, its social, emotional and health risks, its psychological manifestations and its actual threat to society and individuals.[1]

At the same time, the Rebbe suggested clear-cut remedies and proposed a humane therapeutical approach, which takes account of the seriousness of the problem and still remains cognizant of the important aspect of self-respect and self-esteem of many men and women.

Finally, the Rebbe urged to stop naming this issue an issue of "rights" – but to see it and treat it for what it really is – a serious physical, mental and spiritual problem which needs immediate help from concerned, devoted and compassionate people. The Rebbe expressed the hope that this issue will be reexamined in its true light and be dealt with accordingly.

This Essay is excerpted from the Rebbe’s sicha (discussion), in a free translation by the publishers.

Sichos In English
21st Day of Iyar, 5746

I
Developing a Healthy Personality, Through Education
True education is not merely the transmission of facts and imparting information. The fundamental role of education, and one of its earliest and most important goals, is to mold a healthy, productive individual and to safeguard a person against his own potential negative tendencies and offensive traits. This is especially true of early childhood education .

On his own, a person is not objective in evaluating his own characteristics. A person’s inclination and his own innate, materialistic nature and self-love often will "bribe" an individual into a distorted view of his negative traits. Proper education is therefore required to help an individual cultivate and carefully focus his/her introspective analysis.

The earliest narrative related in Scripture tells the story of the "Tree of Knowledge," which was "desirable to the eyes" and, therefore, was also assumed to be "good to eat." (Bereishis 3:6) As a result of the overpowering temptation, G-d’s warning was disregarded and death came to mankind. In other words, tempting pleasures can often "blind" one’s better judgment.

Solomon, the wisest of men, taught us:

He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastises him early. (Mishlei 13:23)

This means that effective education and childhood training must incorporate a strong approach to form the positive personality of the individual, and to rid the child of "unsavory" dispositions. Laxity in this area would represent hatred for our children, and experience has shown that those children who were not properly and strictly brought up, but were raised with a liberal, "free" upbringing, came back to their parents later with serious complaints. Eventually they blame their "rod-sparing" parents and teachers for their personal behavior and unmodified, negative inclinations and traits.

In our era we know this a posteriori – from our own experience.

This fundamental role of education is not only pertinent in modifying the acquired characteristics and habits which a child picks up by "nurture," but also in relation to the inborn predispositions which come to the child by his "nature." Here, too, the child must be educated, and his natural conduct must be modified with a strong and positive involvement on the part of the parents and of the educator. For, if they "spare the rod," waiting for the child to mature on his own and independently learn to overcome his inclinations, in the interim the child will cause harm to himself and sometimes also to his surroundings. The firm education "rod" is the best favor for the child.

This vital principle of education is axiomatic. People are born with diverse natures, and education is always necessary to set the person properly on his/her feet. This applies to the training of good traits as well as the modification of bad traits. Good tendencies in children must also be nurtured, directed and cultivated through proper education and training, for if not, the uneducated intellect can run amok and go against its own good nature. His actual conduct will not match his good tendencies.

When a child has character traits which are abnormal and undesirable, it is certainly the responsibility of the parents and teacher – those who love and really care for the child – to train the child and modify his/her attributes. It is also self-evident that the behavior modification must be followed through, despite the objections and arguments of the child that this trait is:

1. part of his "nature," or
2. that he is willing to suffer the consequences, or,
3. that there will be no negative results of his actions.

The necessary forcefulness must obviously be applied to be successful.

All this holds true in the normal course of growing up – evaluating and distinguishing the good and bad traits, and guiding the growth and maturity of the child.

There are times, however, when a child is born with a genetic deviation or deficiency, for example some emotional or mental disorders which have symptoms such as "tearing out their own hair," "biting nails," "knocking their heads against a wall," or some other self-destructive traits.

It goes without saying that one who loves and cares for this child will do all he/she can to correct this aberrant behavior and seek a training plan, a learning module, or an educational framework to cure this deviation. When the child grows up and is cured, he will surely feel a sense of gratitude to the ones who had "not spared the rod" of education and had pulled all the stops to correct his deficiencies.

These universal principles of education as applied to children may also be adapted when we speak of rehabilitating adults. They, too, can be educated to modify their harmful traits and they, too, will be eternally grateful for such vitally important help.

Every person has the ability to choose "life." For some it is easier and for others it is harder, but without doubt, if one so wills, he can overcome those traits which are offensive or self-destructive .

Educators, therapists and counselors should keep in mind that the possibility exists to eventually correct the problems, even though the troubled client might vehemently claim (which might actually be quite true) that his deviations are inborn and part of his nature. They can be helped; and experience has shown that in the end they will express their eternal gratitude for the firm direction and support they received from family, counselors and friends.

Maimonides teaches:

Free will is bestowed on every human being. If one desires to turn towards the good way and be righteous he has the power to do so. If one wishes to turn towards the evil way and be wicked, he is at liberty to do so. (Laws of Repentance 5:1)

Consequently this true, free will, described by Maimonides, is decisively all-powerful. Yet, in the laws relating to Moral Disposition and Ethical Conduct, Maimonides admits that:

Every human being is characterized by numerous moral dispositions...exceedingly divergent. One man is choleric, always hot tempered; another sedate, never angry...one is a sensualist whose lusts are never gratified; another is so pure that he does not even long for the few things that our physical nature needs... stingy, generous, cruel, merciful, and so forth. (Laws of Ethical Conduct 1:1)

Maimonides adds:

Of all the various dispositions, some belong to one from the beginning of his existence and correspond to his physical constitution. (Ibid:[2])

In other words, some people are born with the nature of stinginess etc., and others are born with different natures! Does everyone really have free will to freely choose right from wrong even if it seems to be against his/her nature?! The commentaries on Maimonides explain that Maimonides means to say that although one may truly have an inclination and leaning by his very nature, and although he may show a propensity for certain conduct, none of these factors can "force’’ him to act in a particular way. He still has an absolutely free will!

The ideal way to control and overcome the offensive predispositions is to be trained, while still a child, by the strong and firm controlling hand of the loving parent and educator. But it is never late for this educational process to begin; a human being can always learn, improve and progress.

II
Recognize the Ills and Bring the Cure
At this point let us turn our attention to a phenomenon affecting some of our society, the problem of individuals who express an inclination towards a particular form of physical relationship in which the libidinal gratification is sought with members of one’s own gender.

In the democratic society in which we live the question of how to deal with this deviation has been plaguing some citizens as well as some communal or political leaders.

The first criterion which must be invoked in finding a solution to this problem is not to call for an airing of political arguments and then to call for a consensus, but, to evaluate whether this practice is helpful or destructive, and to act accordingly, to correct and remedy the negative.

Empirical truth has shown us that this form of abnormal relationships has been totally negative.

1. In a normal relationship the results which follow bring forth children and create a new generation, which goes on to bring future generations, to the end of time. The abnormal trait brings no positive results and no offspring.

2. This trait is self-debilitating, it causes a dissipation of the strength of the individuals involved; it is purely selfish and no one else receives anything from it.

3. Another very important reality; the individuals who practice this form of relationship are filled with the self-abnegating feeling of being strange and queer; they feel that they are doing an abnormal act. Both in the case of men who have these relations, and in the case of women, they know that this tendency is not normal. They look at the world around them and they know that their practice is abnormal.

Except for a very few "orders" where this deviation is practiced, the whole world conducts itself in a normal way. Besides, both parties involved in this said relationship know that it was only the normal form of family relationship which brought them into the world!

4. Also important: Those who feel that this form of conduct is permissible and they continue to practice this deviation, will in the end see that it brings to excessive, abnormal weakness and to the most horrible diseases and maladies, as we are presently beginning to discover.

When one knows the truth, that this trait is destructive, and is honest enough to acknowledge this fact, one will realize that it is no different from a child who is born with the tendency to tear out his hair, or bang his head against the wall. But there is a very tragic difference in that this trait when practiced is very much more devastating because it destroys, destroys the body and the soul.

There are those who argue that an act which brings pleasure and gratification is, or even must be good. This rationalization is analogical to taking a deathly poison and coating it with sugar. Along comes someone and says, "I see sugar, there is no poison in this sugar pill." To prove his words, he tastes it and swears it is sweet! Someone else may come along and say, "I don’t care if there is poison in the sugar, so long as I can enjoy the momentary pleasure of the sweetness, albeit in an abnormal fashion, I don’t care what the consequences will be!"

Certainly, they themselves will eventually very strongly complain against those who misled them, and also against those who saw what was going on and did not do all that was possible for them to do, to prevent it from happening.

It makes no real difference what causes an individual to presently choose this form of relationship. Even one who was horn with this inclination, and was not educated in his youth to correct it (no matter who is to blame) and is now an adult, must also be motivated to educate him/herself, now; for it is still just as destructive, it is still just as abnormal, etc.

An important point to stress is that there is no insult intended and no derogatory attitude is suggested; it is a case of healing a malady. When a person is ill and someone volunteers to help him get well, there is no disrespect involved, not at all!

At the same time, we must keep in mind that the vehement and vociferous arguments presented by a patient, that he is really well and that his condition is a healthy instinct – or as least not destructive, do not change the severity of the "ailment." In fact, this attitude on the part of this individual indicates how serious his malady really is for this person, how deeply it has penetrated into his body and psyche, and how perilous for him it really is. And so, special action must be undertaken to heal the person and save his life. And again, there is no insult at all, no disrespect involved, only a true desire to really help.

If he claims that he was born with this nature, this is indeed all the more reason to reassure him that no disparagement was meant, for it is no different from the case of one who was born with the tendency to bang his head against the wall. Do we shame that unfortunate one?! Nevertheless, everything must be done to remedy the situation. And dubbing the deviation with some Greek term or, calling it an "alternative lifestyle" will not in the least influence the seriousness of the problem.

The question must be answered: Does this type of relationship contribute to human civilization? Does it, at least, benefit the individual? Is it truly satisfying after the act? Or, does it only provide momentary gratification? And furthermore – this point should be carefully pursued: Are all his/her protestations about the "great pleasure" and "satisfaction" derived from this relationship really true? Or, has he/she just been saying this for so long that now he/she is not willing, or is ashamed, to admit that he/she is wrong!

In G-d’s world of goodness and justice, when one comes to purify and be purified, he is assisted from Above. Despite the misguided way of the past, everyone has the capacity to change. People who open their eyes and realize their error, will at the end voluntarily accept the truth.

All civilized society accepts the said tendency as a perversion, and although in the past there were pagan tribes and "orders" which included these practices in their idolatrous rituals, history has shown that their memory is lost and their customs have vanished!

A special responsibility lies on the parents, educators and counselors to educate those afflicted with this problem, their duty is not to "spare the rod," and at the same time, to take a loving, and earing attitude by extending a helping hand.

III
Government Must See the Truth: Not Human "Rights" but Human Ills
Recently, this whole matter has become a cause celebre in our city, and certain well-meaning people have pursued the issue from a misplaced point of view.

A bill was introduced (and passed) to protect the "rights" of people who profess these "deviant lifestyles." This bill of "rights" seems to assume (wrongly) that this particular trait truly represents and reflects the essential existence and real being of these people. Hence, their "human rights" must be protected! However, even simple human logic, recognizes, that this form of relationship is abnormal and should be rectified. This is not a question of "rights" it is a question of healing ills.

It is self-evident that in such a matter we should not hold political debates, but judge the matter on the basis of its impact on the physical, moral and psychological health of individuals and of the society: Is it detrimental or not?!

It is clear that the approach of society and government must be to offer a helping hand to those who are afflicted with this problem, but certainly not to aggravate it.

The key to this issue is: We are not dealing with the inalienable American, or human, right of freedom of choice; we are not dealing with the innate and sacred, democratic right of free will; we are dealing with an issue of abnormality. In simple language: a sickness! And just because the patient proclaims that he is normal does not make the malady any less dangerous.

In this case a bill which proclaims that the "rights" of these people must be protected and supported, should be seen for what it really is: It is taking away their right to be really protected (also – from themselves); it is depriving these people of the vitally needed help! In simple physical terms it will bring even more suffering and pain to them, to their loved ones and to all society. Certainly all must be done to assure that this will not occur.

In every society where the norms of justice and righteousness are followed, if someone climbs up on a bridge and intends to commit suicide by jumping into the river, the alarm is sounded and the police, fire fighters, and "negotiation teams" are called in; and they use every means at their disposal to stop the person from killing himself.

As time goes by and the person who threatened suicide calms down, he is very thankful, to say the least, to all those who have taken away his "right" to commit suicide.

This subject is really an elementary one, and all nationalities and peoples can find common ground here, and cooperate to correct the misguided attitude.

The goal is to work for the correction of this bill, and the sooner the better.

The truth will prevail and the word of G-d will stand forever.

Notes:

1. (Back to text) The religious aspect of this problem was elaborated in a special Sicha.
http://www.sichosinenglish.org/essays/46.htm

Yochanan Lavie

Yudel writes:
This is fascinating how all the boys are so worked up and so nervous about gays.

My theory is that chareidi culture is homoerotic. They get nervous, just like football players/fans get nervous at the obvious subtext.

Let's see; Dancing with men, men going to mikveh, metziztah bepeh, exaggerated facial hair, not associating with women in any way. Maybe there are others to add to the list.

Paul Freedman

Scientific research programs can progress through years without the means to empirically verify them and even end up proposing theories that are inherently non-verifiable, such as the "many worlds" interpretations of string-theory--even scientists can be moved by "faith"

yudel

KUDOS....YEP THEY MISSED YOUR POINT
This is fascinating how all the boys are so worked up and so nervous about gays.
------------------------
What most commenters seem to have missed is my point about homosexuality being a bein adam l'makom sin, not a bein adam l'havero sin. It's between man and God, not man and man.

Every other example brought in the above comments involve sins between man and man: between a man and a child who cannot consent, between a man and an animal who cannot consent, etc.

And that makes those arguments moot.

--------------------------

What i find even more interesting is the lack of any humanity in most comments. Gee guys we are sure afraid of caring and fear being sensitive. We worry over something that does not effect us.

....worries about gays doing something to others ...this is the under tow.

Not a word here about the basic fact that gay men do not hit on straight men period.

You got to figure in the beis medresh at least 10% or even 5% whatever bochruim are gay.

Tell us about your experience with your gay chavursa and what happened to you in learning. How did you keep him off you?
The public wants to know.

And the survey is......................

Yochanan Lavie

It's RELIGION'S job to have all the true answers and never change.

Baloney. That's only what the Fundamentalists (of all religions claim). You aetting up a straw man for religion, just as Jim set up a straw man for science.

Now, if you will excuse me, as a Levite I have to prepare the incense mixture for the Temple. Oh, I forgot. We daven in a shul now.

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