21 September 2011

Contra Republicans: Homosexuality is neither wrong nor a disorder

Stephen Kershnar
Republicans and Gays: Get Off Their Case
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 19, 2011

Republicans have a problem with gays. The husband of one leading candidate, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a clinic that performs conversion therapy, which tries to change homosexuals into heterosexuals. Another two (Mitt Romney – Mormonism- and Rick Perry –Evangelical Christian) are members of churches that condemn homosexuality. Most of their candidates oppose gay marriage, as did Barack Obama during the 2008 election.

Gays are a small percentage of the population. On University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann and colleagues’ famous study estimate self-identified gay males are 2.8% of the male population and gay females are 1.4% of the female population, although about 9% and 4% have had sex with someone of the same gender. Still, both are significant numbers. Gays outnumber farmers and, depending on the way they are measured, probably approximate Jews, both of which get pandered to by politicians.

The Republicans’ and their churches’ positions boils down to the claim that gay sex is wrong or homosexuality is a mental disorder. The first can be quickly dismissed. One person acts wrongly only when he wrongs someone and there is no one whom gay sex wrongs. Such sex does not wrong the gay person’s partner as she gave informed consent. Nor does it wrong the gay person herself for the same reason. Even if it harms her in some way, and this claim would need to be defended, many activities that harm participants are not wrong. Consider, for example, smoking, overeating, or wasting money on the lottery.

The Bible condemns such sex. See Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” See, also, Romans 1:27, Corinthians 1:9-10, and Timothy 1:8-10. Given that the Bible also rips pig eating and money lending and permits slave owning (see Leviticus 11:7-8, Ezekiel 18:13, and Leviticus 25:44-46), we can safely ignore the Bible when thinking about these types of issues.

The disorder issue is trickier. Currently, the psychiatric community does not consider homosexuality a mental disorder. In 1973, the board of directors of the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its handbook on disorders, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The association’s membership ratified this decision in 1974. In 1975, The American Psychological Association followed suit. Until 1986, the psychiatric association it did consider gays as having a disorder if they were unable to get aroused by heterosexual sex and this inability interfered with their relationships and produced distress (ego-dystonic homosexuality). In 1986, it eliminated this diagnosis.

A disorder is, roughly, a disease or injury. More specifically, it is a dysfunction that causes harm. Following NYU professor Tim Wakefield, a dysfunction is the inability of some bodily mechanism to perform its natural function. A mechanism’s natural function is its evolutionary purpose or one of its purposes. For example, the heart’s natural function is to pump blood. If the heart fails to do this adequately and this causes the owner harm, then he has a disorder. Is homosexuality a disorder?

The evidence for homosexuality being a biological dysfunction is simply not there. If homosexuality is a dysfunction, then it involves a person failing to use his organs to perform their evolutionary function. It is unlikely that the penis and vagina were favored by evolution only for immediate impregnation. They also likely have a role in individuals bonding, which also has evolutionary advantages. This can be seen in that our closest animal relatives (bonobos), who engage in gay sex and adult-child sex, despite neither leading to reproduction.

In the U.S., heterosexuals and homosexuals differ in their rate of reproduction. On one study, only 38% of heterosexual couples do not have children, while 78% of lesbian couples and 90% of gay couples do not. If mechanisms are judged solely by how they frequently contribute to reproduction, then homosexuality would be a dysfunction. However, certain races also reproduce less often. For example, in the U.S., blacks reproduce at a significantly higher rate than whites (24% in 2008). The same is true for Hispanics. Also, people with higher IQs reproduce at a lower rate than people with lower IQs. The notion that whiteness and high IQ are biological dysfunctions is implausible.

If, in evolutionary terms, homosexuality resulted in more of gays’ genes being passed onto the next generation, perhaps by adding to the success of nephews and nieces, then it might have been favored by evolution. A similar mechanism can be seen in African hunting dogs where evolution has led to only the leading male and female producing puppies and the other members of the pack, who are related to the leading pair, helping to feed and protect them.

The harm claim is also unclear. It is unclear whether gays can be changed into heterosexuals. A 2002 study by Psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder found it ineffective in roughly 9 of 10 participants. The most proponents of conversion therapy proponents can claim is that the studies conflict and are beset by methodological problems. If homosexuals cannot change their orientation, or most cannot do so, then it is unclear in what sense homosexuality harms them.

When compared to heterosexuals, gays do appear to be less happy. Professors Susan Cochran, Theo Sandfort, and others have found that gays do have higher rates of psychiatric disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders. For example, one 2011 article by Paul Flynn and Matthew Todd in The Observer found that for depression, gay men are four times more likely to suffer depression than straight men. Both gay men and women are also more likely to attempt suicide. They also are less happy. Laumann and his colleagues found that homosexuals were less likely than heterosexuals to say they were very happy and more likely to say they were unhappy most of the time.

It is likely that the lower-level of unhappiness in gays has an outside cause, societal hostility, that explains at least some of these problems. This is supported by the studies that indicate that nearly half of gays have been subject to verbal abuse or physical violence and that such victimization is associated with a variety of mood and anxiety disorders. Still, it is not clear whether this abuse is the cause of all of these problems. This lack of clarity is hardly enough evidence to support the claim that homosexuality is harmful to gays.

Homosexuality is neither wrong nor a disorder. Republicans should drop their hostile stance toward them, hide their religions’ stance toward them, and focus instead on Obama’s creeping socialism.

07 September 2011

Jews: Why are they make so much money and vote so left?

Stephen Kershnar
The Mystery of Jewish Success
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 5, 2011

As a group, American Jews are a mystery. Their overall success lacks a clear explanation. So does the fact that they consistently vote for and fund a party that is against their interests.

Jews are roughly 2% of the U.S. population. In the U.S., University of Washington sociologist Paul Burstein points out that Jews are more successful educationally and economically than other ethnic, racial, or religious groups in America. One 2005 study found that in the 1990’s more than 60% of Jews were college graduates, versus 22% of all Americans. Even the well-educated and successful Episcopalians (46% college graduates) don’t come close.

This pattern intensifies at the high end of the academic food chain. Blogger Steven Silbiger points out that Jews are 20% of the professors are leading universities. During the 20% Century, University of Utah Anthropologist Gregory Cochran and his colleagues point out that 27% American Nobel Prize winners in science were Jewish. They are also 25% of the Turing Award winners (for excellence in computer science). They are also more than half of the world’s chess champions.

Jews also have and make a lot more money than other Americans. One 2003 study found that their family net worth is roughly 2.5 times greater than other Americans. A 2005 study found that their household income is roughly double (195% per capita) of the average American household.

Again, the pattern intensifies at the high end. Silbiger reports that 45% of the Forbes richest Americans are Jews and that one-third of American multimillionaires are Jews. This pattern can also be seen in the professions. Consider, for example, law. Silbiger reports that 45% of partners in leading law firms in New York and Washington are Jews. The same is true for one-third of the Supreme Court Justices.

In other areas, they are far less successful. Their presence in the professional football, baseball, basketball, and mixed martial arts is far less impressive. For example, in the NFL in 2002-2003, there were only six in the NFL, 4 of whom play the less athletic positions such as quarterback, kicker, or punter (34% of the teams are currently owned by Jews). There are few American sex symbols who are Jewish, although Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are near the top.

There are multiple explanations for the Jews’ success, although it is unclear whether any particular one is true and, if so, what weight to give it. One explanation is that Jews do well in the same way non-Jews do, by getting more education and working long hours. This explanation is unhelpful because it begs the question as to why Jews do these things more than others.

A second explanation is that Jews succeed because they have beliefs or behaviors that are specifically Jewish. For example, Professor Lehrer and others posit that the advantage might come about because education is central in traditional Jewish life and because Jews have a historic tradition of self-help organizations. Others note that Jews have a long tradition of working in managerial and financial jobs. It is not clear how to test this explanation. A 1998 study by Esther Wilder and William Walters found that more observant Jews (for example, Orthodox Jews) make less money than less observant ones (for example, Reform Jews), but it is unclear whether religious observance tracks the influence of traditional Jewish life.

A third explanation focuses on social capital. Social capital is the advantage that a population has because it has certain collective human resources that benefit members. Burstein provides an example of a Jewish gathering in which professionals and business owners provide the younger generation with a competitive advantage by serving as role models and giving them advice and encouraging proper attitudes. Along the same lines, more educated parents might be thought better able to better promote academic skills. Again, this explanation is hard to assess and, in any case, likely depends on another account to explain why they have more social capital.

More controversial is a fourth explanation: intelligence and genetics. Anthropologist Cochran and his colleagues argue that Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQ of any ethnic group. They score about 0.75 to 1.0 standard deviations (12-15 IQ points) above the general European average. In at least one case, the higher IQ was found even among poorer Ashkenazi Jews. They also have a very distinctive pattern in scoring noticeably higher in verbal and math scores, but lower in visuo-spatial abilities. Cochran and company argue that this might explain why their success in literature and math has not produced similar results in several of the arts (for example, sculpture and architecture). To the extent that group differences in intelligence have a genetic explanation, this might partly explain Jewish success.

Despite their economic and educational success, Jews vote against their interest. They overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party despite its explicit commitment to wealth redistribution and higher taxes on the wealthy and upper middle class. This is even more surprising given the Democratic Party’s and President Obama’s unwavering support for affirmative action, many of the spots for which would otherwise go to Jews (and Asians). There are frequent reports that Jews provide a significant portion of the money that goes into Democratic coffers, but I am unable to find an academic study that verifies these reports. According to Ruy Teixeira, 78% of Jews voted for Obama. This makes them more similar to blacks (96% for Obama) and Hispanics (67% for Obama) than whites (43% for Obama). This is all the more interesting given that on the whole Democrats and the left are less supportive of Israel than Republicans and the right. This is particularly true of Obama who is probably the least friendly President to Israel in years.

The Jewish pattern of voting for Democrats appears to lack a good explanation. As Marc Sheppard from the American Thinker has pointed out, the pattern has been in place since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Jews supported Roosevelt by a 9-to-1 in 1940 and 1944. Sheppard argues that this is odd given that the Roosevelt administration worked overtime to prevent Jewish immigration and during WWII avoided bombing the death camps. It is also odd because socialist states were notoriously hostile to Jews and some (for example, Germany and Soviet Union) targeted them. In any case, the pattern is stable over recent years with large majorities of Jews supporting Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama. Unlike the explanations for economic success, the various explanations for Jewish leftism are far more speculative. It remains a mystery why group members vote so transparently against their interests.