Iain Dale Packs Away the Debate

A fascinating blog piece by Iain Dale repeating an article in Attitude Magazine which explains far more by what it doesn’t say then by what it does.

The blog begins with this encouraging title.

ATTITUDE COLUMN: ARE YOU BORN GAY OR IS IT A ‘LIFESTYLE CHOICE?’

That’s a good start, sets us up nicely for a in-depth discussion of what the root of homosexuality is. Is it something you are born with, something that develops in your life or something that you simply choose to do? So let’s dive in for the evidence that Iain is going to present.

I’ve always known I was gay. Well, when I say always, I mean I knew I was different to other boys almost from the age of 7 or 8. I have absolutely no doubt that I was born gay, yet I find it bizarre that some find that difficult to accept. There are still misguided souls who believe that people choose to be gay.

Iain DaleThat’s it. That’s the sum total of proof that Iain presents us in his piece as to whether he was or wasn’t born gay. He believes that he was born gay so therefore he must have been born gay. No debate as to what his feeling different at 7 or 8 was caused by. No exploration of the different theories of emotional and environmental development or biology, no discussion around whether his feeling different from other boys was the trigger for developing homosexuality at puberty OR an expression of him already being intrinsically homosexual. There is no grappling with the various theories around genetics, hormonal and other influences in the womb, no examination of the multiple twin-studies on the subject which explore the variances in genetic / non-genetic components of homosexuality and their wide variability across the sexes. Gosh, we could at least have explored the male sibling evidence which is a brilliant text book example of how the same empirical evidence can be interpreted in both a nature and nurture way.

Iain Dale is one of my absolute favourite political commentators and journalists. On so many things I am in exactly the same camp as him. I have been an avid follower of his blog and web projects and broadcasting career for many years. I value Iain Dale’s work immensely. But this is just poor. It is simply amateur to argue that something is a certain thing just because you believe it to be so. I would so loved to have seen a really good piece by Iain in Attitude magazine on this very subject, but instead what we got (amidst some utterly valid points on societal acceptance and homophobia) was a bold, non-evidenced assertion and then no more engagement with the core issue that the title suggested the piece was about.

And yes Iain, I would happily come and discuss the issue on LBC 97.3 with you any afternoon you wanted.

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  • iaindale

    It wasn’t meant to be an academic column! Let me pick out your main argument, though. “It is simply amateur to argue that something is a certain thing just because you believe it to be so”. Like God, you mean?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      The argument for the existence of God is a separate one from the argument for the causation of homosexuality. Neither’s argument is contingent on the other. By all means debate the existence of God (I will recommend a good list of people to go to on that one) but I was interested in how you presented an argument by assertion as a response to the question in your title, and what that indicated to us about the level of the debate in this area.

  • sheppied007

    Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner got it precisely right in his piece: Same-Sex Marriage Is Still Wrong; And It’s Getting Wronger Every Day

    ‘I suspect, however, that there is one philosophy that is more commonly held than many, especially among younger people. It is what I would call “benign individualism”. In religious terms this fits with what some have dubbed “therapeutic deism”, the notion that God’s nature is to provide a general context for our selves’ individual comfort. At its base, it is a conviction that individuals are good, and that their goodness demands self-affirmation and expression. Politically, it views society’s purpose in terms of permitting, encouraging, and protecting this affirmation. Anybody can be anything they want to be. Indeed, anyone can be anything they want to call themselves, as long as it “doesn’t hurt anybody else”. And we should help each other do this.

    This isn’t a particularly well-formed “philosophy”, to be sure. It is minimalist and derives from the mixed dregs of a pot-pourri of inherited cultural-political attitudes. Still, it is well-engrained, with Facebook and YouTube providing iconic frames for self-presentation, of every kind and in what (despite worries over cyber-bullying and predation) most people believe to be intrinsically benign contexts. Watch me play the guitar (poorly)! See how I can say the most silly things and get away with it! Listen to my poetry (please)! Notice the funny things I’m doing with my body!

    Of course, we can always turn the computer switch off on this kind of benign self-expression, as boring, irrelevant, embarrassing, immoral, or just too much. My son, as an 8 year-old, thought he could sell his signature on eBay: “I could be the next Lincoln!”. And he was free to peddle himself as such. But the market finally rules, and not one person took the bait. For those whose inner needs are compulsive, by contrast, benign self-expression requires more than a forum; it requires external support and sanctions, in order to be embraced by others. “You will listen to me! You will affirm me!” That turns the philosophy into a claim with a coercive edge, which is just what we have seen.’

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    My two main objections would be:

    (1) “ARE YOU BORN GAY OR IS IT A ‘LIFESTYLE CHOICE?’” is a false antithesis. Even if you are not born with a particular trait, it does not follow that it must therefore be a choice. No-one is born speaking their native language (or any language), but their native language is not a choice that they make, even if they may later choose to acquire additional languages.

    (2) The word “lifestyle” here is inappropriate anyway. Obviously no-one is born with a lifestyle. A gay person may choose any one of the many possible gay lifestyles, just as a straight person may choose any one of the many possible straight lifestyles. However, being gay is NOT a lifestyle, any more than being straight is.

    I would just add that, while “What determines sexual orientation?” is a perfectly legitimate academic enquiry, the answer – even if we had a definitive one, and we still haven’t – is of no practical importance for how people live their lives. Probably few heterosexual people ever bother to ask themselves whether they were born heterosexual, but I am sure that most, if asked that question, would express the belief that they were, or very probably were. They might even have absolutely no doubt that they were born heterosexual. But if even if they are mistaken, what does it matter? Most heterosexual people are able to live happy and productive lives without knowing what cause their sexual orientation, even if the more scientifically curious feel that it would be interesting to know, and most gay people find that they are able to do likewise.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Couldn’t agree more

    • sheppied007

      No-one is born speaking their native language (or any language), but their native language is not a choice that they make, even if they may later choose to acquire additional languages.

      Interesting point. So, how do we accommodate minority languages in the absence of completely self-determined choice?

      Should ‘equal language’ legislation be drafted to fund a transition thatensure our teachers accord perfect equality of minority languages with English, not just freedom of expression? Should it be discriminatory for public services to maintain the traditional English language primacy over all other languages?

      Perhaps, equal language will end the persecution and hostility towards those whose native language is not English. Alternatively, we can simply allow people to speak in any language that they choose, while maintaining the primacy of English.

  • Quinquagesima

    When I was 7 or 8, I never really fitted in with other kids of my age. I was a very square peg in a round hole. What’s more, I absolutely couldn’t stand boys, wanted nothing to do with them and didn’t even much like being in the same room as them – probably even more so than most girls of my age.

    If I’d turned out to be sexually and romantically attracted to other women (which as it happens I’m not, not even a little bit), would I have said that I “always knew I was a lesbian”? Very likely.
    One other thing that genuinely confuses me about this line of argument, is that sexual attraction does not develop until after puberty, so I’m puzzled as to how anyone could know anything about his sexual orientation in his pre-pubescent years?

    • Quinquagesima

      P.S. I disliked boys so much, that I distinctly remember asking my mother when I was quite little if it would be possible for me to marry another lady when I grew up!!! Er…

  • twowolves

    Very nice of you to take Ian at his word but I recall his embryonic blogging days in obscurity and what was most notable about his output was his rigid determination to foster whatever orthodoxy was blowing in the wind at the time in order to gain as much traction as possible for his up and coming media career. [roll-eyes]

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