It seems that scientists have recently uncovered underlying genetic differences between people who identify themselves as conservatives and people who identify themselves as liberals. Bugs me. I don’t like it. I guess it might be true. I guess it might not. Science is less about finding definitive answers and more about finding answers that are progressively closer and closer to the truth. For science to actually touch the truth, and finally know it in its entirety, takes more than one study, more than one decade, more than one century, even. They’re still uncovering subtleties and fundamental theoretical errors in the work of Einstein — who himself uncovered things that Newton missed (I believe, is my layman’s understanding), and so on.
It bugs me, though, that we’re increasingly looking for ways to explain away our divisions, rather than ways to bridge them. This isn’t the scientist’s fault, but it is the fault of the blah-blah-blah types — the writers and analysts and assorted chattering hacks — who have latched onto this study and are extrapolating its findings in an attempt to explain away the bullshit going on in our political system these days. If the other side is just birth-defected, then that takes all responsibility for reasoned debate off of my shoulders: I don’t have to stand up for my side of the matter and try to convince the others about the rightness of my position and the wrongness of theirs, because the other guys aren’t capable, genetically, of ever understanding.
In other words: the end of democracy, or maybe even The End of Democracy. All we have left to look forward to is the next Civil War, waged on the basis of Genetic Purification. Maybe I’m exaggerating, a little bit.
I’ve had similar reservations about declaring my gayness to be an inborn condition. It doesn’t matter who I was when I was born, it seems to me — what matters is who I have chosen to become. In this, I am weirdly in agreement with the “pray the gay away” types. I’m not saying that I believe gay should be prayed away. I’m saying this: all too often, advocates for gay rights reach for the “born this way” argument as if it was the nuclear option, the last and most powerful word on the subject, all that needs to be said. But it isn’t, and it never has been. Alcoholism also has a genetic component, but we do not believe that that means we should leave alcoholics to their disease. Just saying that being gay has a genetic component is no excuse for it. Where I disagree with the gay-away-prayers, of course, is that I understand that gayness doesn’t need an excuse, that it is not only perfectly acceptable morally, but also has a social and a cultural reason (not excuse, not justification) for its presence in the world. A host of reasons. Maybe I’ll expound upon that later — it would take more than a blog post. It would take a book. But that isn’t the point. It’s the idea that we don’t have to justify ourselves — born this way, chose this way, whatever, all is good — that will ultimately allow us to prevail. Just saying “it’s not our fault, we couldn’t help it” while it will win us some small battles, will not finally win the war.
In college, when I was fond of saying explosive, dramatic things in political arguments (as opposed to now — ha!), I used to say that fundamentalists would change their position on abortion as soon as they could test their fetuses for gayness. I don’t believe that anymore. They won’t abort. They’ll just try to thwart. If gayness were 100% genetic, and could be tested for in the womb, any gay child born of fundamentalist parents would be in for a living hell of quack psychiatry and medication from the day he or she popped out of the birth canal. At least those kids don’t get subjected to Jesus Camp at present until they hit puberty.
And what happens when they find a cure? For gayness? Or for liberalism? Would you take the pill?
Would they make you?
I’m hoping those scientists find some answers at some point that restore at least the illusion of free will and personal responsibility to our politics, and our sexualities, before we go down such a horrible pathway as that. That’s what I’m hoping.