December 15, 2011

Gingrich expounds on homosexuality: "it’s a combination of genetics and environment. I think both are involved."

"I think people have many ranges of choices. Part of the question is, do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?"

That was the answer to the question "Do you believe that people choose to be gay?" I'd jump all over the "bias" concept, but the interviewer followed up with: "So people can then choose one way or another?" Response:
"I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern. I don’t believe in genetic determinism and I don’t think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism. There are propensities. Are you more likely to do this or more likely to do that? But that doesn’t mean it’s definitional."
So I assume what he meant by "bias" is that society can incentivize the heterosexual lifestyle so that people within the middle of the range of "propensities" will be more likely to tip toward heterosexuality. And the real question then is, as he stated it: "Do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?" Should we support positive/negative incentives in an effort to increase the likelihood that people will form heterosexual relationships? Well, should we? I think his answer is yes — and the main incentive is: marriage, limited to one man and one woman.

The interviewer, however, was stuck on the choice point and asked again: "So a person can then choose to be straight?" Gingrich said:
"Look, people choose to be celibate. People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It’s part of how the species recreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons."
Again, the word "bias" appears, but there I think he's saying that nature has a bias toward engaging in sexual behavior and not refraining. But it's still possible to resist the urge to engage in sexual behavior. Okay. I think nearly everyone agrees with that, but it's completely unresponsive to the question whether people can choose whether to be gay or straight, which has to do with the urges one feels, not whether one acts on them or not.

But if you examine all of those Gingrich quotes, I think you can see that he is conceding that sexual orientation isn't a matter of choice. Once this mysterious combination of genetics and environment has done its work, the individual has whatever feelings he has. Gingrich never says the individual has a way to will himself into different feelings, only that one can refrain from acting on those feelings, and society can influence whether one does refrain. He may also be saying that society shapes the environment, which is a component (along with genetics) in the causation of the feelings an individual experiences.

It's not always easy to understand what Gingrich is saying. He's a slippery character, and you have to ask the right follow-up questions when he gets cagey like this.

60 comments:

MayBee said...

I think the matter of whether or not one chooses to be gay is one of the stupidest things to ask a presidential candidate.

He doesn't know.
And why does it matter?

Maguro said...

I don't think it is all that difficult to understand, but I'm sure all the usual suspects will misunderstand on purpose and get OUTRAGED! anyway.

Mark B said...

Cagey my ass. He's being nuanced -- and appropriately so. Good answers, Newtie!

People make choices about how they act, and these choices affect how they think and feel. Are you not human, Ms. Althouse?

Mark B said...

Sorry, Ann. I know you're human. And you seem kind of biased on this issue, as any mom would. I really mean that, snarky as it may sound.

Jose_K said...

He's a slippery character...he is a politician. All are that way and will be forever. Politics is about power and interest. They will do anything for it. And the second are tradeable, always.
Most voter are ignoramius in politics, even great proffesors, with better thing to do. The old people who has nothing else to do and people with strong interests are the only one going to the polls.They will catter to them.No matter if is good or not for the "country"
So time to grow up, and learn on other heads..Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Spain in 2004, Peru, Argentina... voted against politicians and they are receiving what they deserve.
Newt Ginrich is the best choice for the USA.Like the rapist he will sign a ban on tobacco advertising in the morning and a subsidy to tobacco farmers in the night and then will steal the pen.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Tatcher are one of a kind . You get one like them once a century.
The true, the conservatives precandidates belong to a mental house and need to go to scholl

Coketown said...

Too nuanced. Too sciencey. The people want red meat! But Gingrich knows red meat gets one into trouble. Answer "yes, it's a choice" and the media would never let him live it down; answer "no, it's not a choice," and he irritates a considerable portion of his base. So he's being nuanced, consoling both the [just fucking admit it already] liberal media and a portion of his base, while starving the whole rabble of sustenance.

He's like Jon Stewart's Interview Sand (I think John Yoo was the original), slipping through the interviewer's fingers when the interviewer would sell his mother's SOUL to get a grip on his neck and strangle him.

Brian said...

It seemed to me that the interviewer was simply trying to create a controversial soundbite.

BT said...

In political circles it is called denying the headline. Not sure why the editorial board thought Newt had special insight into homosexuality, unless it is because his step sister is one, or he might have broken bread with Mary Cheney

Simon said...

It's like asking if people choose to be alcoholics—it's a way of avoiding the real issue. It doesn't matter why people are alcoholics, it matters whether they choose to drink. Are people gay by genetics, environment, or choice? In the last analysis, it doesn't matter because engaging in conduct is indisputably a choice. The Catechism puts it this way: "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." But because "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered … [and] contrary to the natural law," persons so oriented "are called to chastity." CCC2357-59. Or as Althouse puts it: "[I]t's still possible to resist the urge to engage in sexual behavior. "

Mark B said...

Jose! Have another! It's on me.

wv: finis

Chuck66 said...

Well, there are no gays in Iran, but tons of them in San Francisco. So you draw your own conclusions.

Mark B said...

the term "repression" should be cast into the outer darkness.

Coketown said...

Oh. Think Progress. Duh.

Having failed spectacularly with the economy, government ethics, and healthcare (the current top three Issues of Importance according to Rasmussen), the Left is trying to make the next election hinge on non-issues: Keystone XL, income inequality, and the causes of gayness (?).

Newt's stamp collection is more interesting than the causes of gayness. And nobody wants to know what causes gayness anyway because, once answered, it might be cured. Remember when the University of Wyoming cured gayness in goats? And the whole PFLAG establishment was up in arms in horror? Yeah. Stop asking that question.

edutcher said...

As to the question of choice, I remember (this is some years ago, keep in mind) a fairly prominent homosexual (actor, IIRC) saying, "If it were a choice, why would we choose that?".

Of course, now he would get the Sarah Palin/Clarence Thomas treatment.

Ann Althouse said...

It's not always easy to understand what Gingrich is saying. He's a slippery character, and you have to ask the right follow-up questions when he gets cagey like this.

As Jose notes, that's why he's a politician.

WV "pheek" - The latest of J's epithets.

Mark B said...

newtie is slippery when talking about his role at Fannie. Here, it is human nature that is slippery. which Newtie understands very well.

Revenant said...

the Left is trying to make the next election hinge on non-issues: Keystone XL, income inequality, and the causes of gayness

While that is certainly true, the Republican candidates certainly seem to be wasting a lot of hot air on the usual social crap -- gay marriage, gays in the military, abortion, even HPV vaccinations.

I would love it if voters ignored all non-economic considerations in the next election, but they aren't going to.

Titus said...

My environment was a small town in Wisconsin where I hunted and fished and cut wood with my dad.

I still ended up being a big fag.

When I was like 3 I was horny for that doctor on Trapper John MD. He would walk out of the shower with that hot bode and i would immediately get a little hard on.

My dog is limping and I am sad and therefore I haven't jerky jerky'd in 4 full days.

I have a huge load and my balls are really filling up. When I do shoot it is going to be huge, probably all the way up to my eyes.

shooting a load.

Terry said...

There are a lot of similarities between being gay and being left handed.
Even some gayness-is-an-orientation people have pointed this out, probably without realizing the implication of what they are saying.
-People in the "gray zone" don't consistently identify as either-or handedness. Ask a person when they are 20 if they are R or L handed they might give you one answer. At 40, another.
-Socializing matters. If a baby is born "left-handed", and he or she is discouraged from using his or her left hand and encouraged to use his or her right hand, he or she may, as an adult, be indistinguishable from a R handed person by any test that can be made by man.
-People who are left handed can be shown to have a greater chance of exhibiting certain physiological and psychological maladies than the R handed population.
-If you ask any R or L handed adult if their handedness is a choice, and if it is part of their identity, they will say "no" and "yes".

Holmes said...

I know a pair of identical twin males, one is straight, one is gay. Here's your counterexample.

Craig said...

Prostitutes generally have to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency before they can establish a preference for the gender of their clients.

m stone said...

What did Terry say?

Mark B said...

I was born with a propensity to murder kittens. That means it's right to kill kittens. And if you disagree, you're a bigot.

Coketown said...

While that is certainly true, the Republican candidates certainly seem to be wasting a lot of hot air on the usual social crap -- gay marriage, gays in the military, abortion, even HPV vaccinations.

Are you serious? Republicans were totally mum when DADT was repealed. Bachmann is the only one being stupid about HPV vaccinations, and nobody is mentioning gay marriage.

You're stuck in 2006. Join us in the present, were Republicans are almost invariably talking about the economy.

Mark B said...

If i want to stop killing kittens, and go to Michelle Bachman's husband Marcus to help me stop, then I am denying my humanity.

Craig said...

Propensity for murdering kittens doesn't make those who object to it bigots, but it does help football coaches spot potential linebackers.

Craig said...

Anybody see the lick that Pittsburgh linebacker put on Colt McCoy? That's how you murder a kitten.

Mark B said...

"Propensity for murdering kittens doesn't make those who object to it bigots, but it does help football coaches spot potential linebackers."

It does both!

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"I would love it if voters ignored all non-economic considerations in the next election, but they aren't going to."

I'm not sure that they should. The next President has to make decisions, and they're going to affect those social issues which aren't going to be any less relevant. Indeed, in some ways it's getting all the more acute if one thinks about what DHHS—which +Dolan says is at war with Catholics, although it's hard to take him seriously when he refuses to act—is up to. This was always the problem with the "Daniels truce." The world won't stand still while we deal with economic problems.

Terry said...

m_stone-
You are asking what I meant while ignoring Titus's recollections about his Hemingwayesque childhood?
Get your priorities straight.

Chip S. said...

Once this mysterious combination of genetics and environment has done its work, the individual has whatever feelings he has.

Not according to recent research.

Here's an excerpt from the abstract of a paper by economist Andrew Francis on the extent to which sexual orientation is a choice:

I present evidence that AIDS causes some men to shift from homosexual to heterosexual behavior, whereas AIDS causes some women to shift from heterosexual to homosexual behavior. Thus, sexual behavior may respond to incentives. I consider alternative hypotheses, including biological theories of sexual orientation and stigma-related survey bias, and argue that they are unlikely to explain the results.

m stone said...

Sorry, Terry. What was I thinking?

Simon said...

Chip S. said (quoting Andrew Francis)...
"AIDS [may] cause[] some men to shift from homosexual to heterosexual behavior, whereas AIDS causes some women to shift from heterosexual to homosexual behavior. Thus, sexual behavior may respond to incentives."

To an extent, you'd expect it to. The received wisdom is that bisexuality is much more prevalent among women than men, so if a same-sex encounter has a lower risk of unwanted outcomes than an opposite-sex encounter, then to the extent that the gender of a partner is held approximately equal, one will prefer lesbian encounters.

Beta Rube said...

Does anyone doubt that the next election will turn on whether a candidate goes for nurture or nature?

Utterly meaningless except as a means to continue the Meadehouse ugly piling on of the Speaker.

Michael K said...

Ron Paul has just apologized or Iran and its nuclear program.

The Musket said...

Mitt is sounding pretty good. Paul is good on spending, bad on foreign policy, can't figure Newt out, Bachmann is good and bad, but her hair is great tonight, Perry said good things about getting rid of regulations -- are there others up there??

EDH said...

It’s part of how the species recreates.

And how the species procreates?

Some might argue that promiscuity is genetic and not a choice.

Simon said...

EDH said...
"Some might argue that promiscuity is genetic and not a choice."

A proclivity for promiscuity, and for sin generally, is built in, but acting on those impulses is always a choice, and it's the action not the inclination that's a sin.

Mark B said...

Simon is pretty solid.

Michael Gersh said...

We all have urges to commit murder from time to time, but society discourages acting on that impulse. Impulse control is one behavior that the Boomers have spent the last few decades attacking, trying to obliterate it, yet, according to NIH, 2% of men practice MSM, or men having sex with men. It seems that gay behavior is one impulse that has resisted the Boomers' attack - in men at least.

Synova said...

It seems to me that there are a whole lot of people around who are "bi"... like that's something "definitional." It seems ridiculous to me that we've got to all pretend that humans, as a species, really care what or who they're having sex with most of the time. And a "bias" (for what it's worth) that glorifies our sexual universalism as essential and important identity rather than behavior is just odd.

rcommal said...

This should not be a concern of the POTUS, full stop. It shouldn't even be anywhere near the top priorities of the POTUS--again, full top.

--

So far as what Gingrich said in terms of "it's a combination of genetics and environment," I think that's likely closest to the reality, though I do not think each part of the equation can be applied in the same way to each and every individual. Sexuality and how it's expressed tends to work out that way.

rcommal said...

I'm so sick of various constituencies insisting that this be a POTUS issue. So sick of it. It's so wrong, in my view, to make it a litmus test w/r/t to POTUS selection, and both are wrong to do it. To the extent that both insist on making it so, I'm almost out of patience with both.

Kirby Olson said...

Every person is probably different on an individual level. So you have to think: is this good on a societal level? And who knows? No one knows how to think about this. There are a few fanatics on both sides. Most people just never think about this issue, and have no feelings about it at all. If you are gay or have a close family member who is gay, or if you take Leviticus very seriously, maybe you'd know, but otherwise, I don't think anybody much really knows anything about this. I suppose you'd look at a gay rights parade and think: does that look good for the society? How does anybody know anything about this topic? Or any of the other social topics? The big topic and the one that really divides the nation is the economy.

Kirby Olson said...

I guess you could say I'm sick of the issue and the bullying on all sides. If someone brings it up, and tries to force an opinion out of me on it, I generally don't talk with them any longer. It's just something I care about less than who wins the hockey cup whatever it's called. Stanley, I presume.

Revenant said...

I know a pair of identical twin males, one is straight, one is gay. Here's your counterexample.

Two points:

1. You are witness to their behavior, not their orientation.

2. Assuming for the sake of argument that one is oriented one way and the other another, that would only rule out the "genetics as sole explanation" theory. It does not rule out the "gay from birth" theory, as genetically identical twins can still be somewhat different as a result of how their prenatal development occurred.

Revenant said...

The next President has to make decisions, and they're going to affect those social issues which aren't going to be any less relevant.

How could they be? :)

Seriously, though, your argument applies equally in the other direction. If gay marriage is relevant because the next President might somehow sway the issue, then Democrats are free to harp on income inequality and oil pipelines for the same reasons.

The world won't stand still while we deal with economic problems.

Abortion will still be legal twenty years from now no matter who wins the election. The government, however, will not necessarily be solvent.

Wasting time on social issues is fundamentally unserious.

Damon said...

"I assume what he meant by "bias" is that society can incentivize the heterosexual lifestyle... in an effort to increase the likelihood..."

Actually, that might be reading into it a little bit. What makes clearer sense is a thought bias and not directing action. Example, the bias would not be to produce heterosexuals, but to allow life to be easier for heterosexuals, e.g. disallowing gay marriage.

The current trend in society and law is to cater to everyone's peculiarity.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Seriously, though, your argument applies equally in the other direction. If gay marriage is relevant because the next President might somehow sway the issue, then Democrats are free to harp on income inequality and oil pipelines for the same reasons."

Right, that's true. They are.

"Abortion will still be legal twenty years from now no matter who wins the election. The government, however, will not necessarily be solvent."

I disagree. The legal status of abortion—that is, whether the pro-choice absolutism of the Roe-Casey framework—depends on the Supreme Court, which depends on the appointments made by the President. I'm sure that Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg would prefer not to retire under a Republican President, but none of us choose the hour of our departure. I could easily see the demise of Roe within the next twenty years assuming favorable outcomes in the Presidency and Senate.

Steve Koch said...

Newt should not have given a detailed answer to the question about the causes of homosexuality. Better to just say that he is not an expert on the issue and that there are much more important issues confronting the USA that need to be discussed.

BTW, Newt has a book coming out that includes a chapter about global warming written by a particularly stupid global warming alarmist (a Dr. Hayhoe from Texas Tech). Newt has decided to delay publication of the book until after the election.

Roz Chatt said...

I don't know exactly why, but listening to these men talk about sexuality was just gross. I shutter to think of any of those people in the bedroom.

And if they really care that much about "preserving the sanctity of marriage" they should ban divorce. Of course that wouldn't work so well for Newt's sanctimonious marriages.

What's so sacred about marriage when people can get married for 72 days or be married unlimited number of times, just because it's a man and a woman?

Contrapundit said...

So what?!

Quit making mountains out of molehills. Vote Newt!

Nora said...

The question is dumb. It's not a matter of belief. The fact is that so far the scientific evidence goes all ways. So the answer was quite informed one.

Simon said...

Roz Chatt said...
"And if they really care that much about "preserving the sanctity of marriage" they should ban divorce. Of course that wouldn't work so well for Newt's sanctimonious marriages. ¶ What's so sacred about marriage when people can get married for 72 days or be married unlimited number of times, just because it's a man and a woman?"

Just because something is abused doesn't make it less sacred. I do agree that divorce should be on the radar—not necessarily in terms of making it illegal, but certainly in terms of restraining quickie and no fault divorce—but there's an essential difference between the abuse of marriage and attempts to redefine it at its core.

Writ Small said...

Contrast Newt's answer on immigration two debates ago with the one last night. The substance was identical, but in the first debate he makes a bold statement of saying illegals who have been here a long time will not be sent back and implies that the others - especially Bachmann - are heartless and unrealistic. Last night, he says Romney's position and his are virtually identical but he has minor differences about how to handle very long-term illegals.

Impressive how he can smoothly stay technically consistent, yet give an entirely different impression about what his views are.

Like with Romney, if you're inclined to like the guy, you brush off these chameleon-like skills as what any politician needs to survive. If you're against the guy, you see this as evidence of flip-floppery and lacking a serious core.

SGT Ted said...

Democrats can't run on the economy or foreign policy.

They HAVE to make the election about Scary Christians.

It's all they have.

grackle said...

The legal status of abortion … depends on the Supreme Court, which depends on the appointments made by the President … I could easily see the demise of Roe within the next twenty years assuming favorable outcomes in the Presidency and Senate.

This is the unlikely hope of I guess most pro-lifers – an overruling of Roe vs Wade by the SCOTUS. But folks, even if the SCOTUS were to be totally manned by conservative judges I don’t believe the SCOTUS would ever overrule Roe vs Wade. That particular cow has already left the barn so trying to close the barn door is a waste of time and energy.

I do agree that divorce should be on the radar—not necessarily in terms of making it illegal, but certainly in terms of restraining quickie and no fault divorce.

Another forlorn longing by certain conservative elements. Relatively easy divorce is now firmly imbedded in the Western DNA and I just can’t picture any path back to the days when divorce was difficult and there were heavy legal and social sanctions against it. Another cow out of the barn.

Simon said...

grackle said...
"I don’t believe the SCOTUS would ever overrule Roe vs Wade. That particular cow has already left the barn so trying to close the barn door is a waste of time and energy."

So thought Paul E. Wilson, mutatis mutandis. Or think of the poor, deluded attorney writing a brief urging the court to overturn Swift v. Tyson! Didn't anyone tell him that the cow was out of the barn?


"[New restrictions on divorce are a]nother forlorn longing by certain conservative elements. Relatively easy divorce is now firmly imbedded in the Western DNA and I just can’t picture any path back to the days when divorce was difficult and there were heavy legal and social sanctions against it. Another cow out of the barn. "

So thought the politburo in July 1991, mutatis mutandis. So thought England's Labour Party until Margaret Thatcher, mutatis mutandis.

The progressive tide can never, ever be rolled back. Except when it is.

Terry said...

1. You are witness to their behavior, not their orientation.
Revenant, "Orientation" is a term of art. It describes what has no objective basis in reality. If you can't determine "orientation" by observing behavior, how do you do it? Telepathy?

Simon said...

Terry said...
"Revenant, 'Orientation' is a term of art. It describes what has no objective basis in reality. If you can't determine 'orientation' by observing behavior, how do you do it? Telepathy?"

You can ask them, for one thing. A celibate and chaste heterosexual is still a heterosexual in orientation even if they are not actually having sex. Likewise a celibrate and chaste homosexual. Orientation means (in this context) preference not behavior; are you really arguing that preference has no objective basis in reality?

Terry said...

Simon, self-identification doesn't work. Many people who believe that orientation is inborn don't believe it can change. This means that every practicing heterosexual who later identifies as homosexual was not reporting their true "orientation".
It also means that homosexuals who go through some sort of treatment and pronounce themselves new heterosexuals are lying.
People don't even report their R or L handedness reliably.