Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Same-Sex Science

Stanton L. Jones is provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College. In the recent issue of First Things he takes to task two widely-held and, in his mind, equally mistaken views of homosexuality:
Many religious and social conservatives believe that homosexuality is a mental illness caused exclusively by psychological or spiritual factors and that all homosexual persons could change their orientation if they simply tried hard enough. This view is widely pilloried (and rightly so) as both wrong on the facts and harmful in effect. But few who attack it are willing to acknowledge that today a wholly different, far more influential, and no less harmful set of falsehoods—each attributed to the findings of “science”—dominates the research literature and political discourse.

We are told that homosexual persons are just as psychologically healthy as heterosexuals, that sexual orientation is biologically determined at birth, that sexual orientation cannot be changed and that the attempt to change it is necessarily harmful, that homosexual relationships are equivalent to heterosexual ones in all important characteristics, and that personal identity is properly and legitimately constituted around sexual orientation. These claims are as misguided as the ridiculed beliefs of some social conservatives, as they spring from distorted or incomplete representations of the best findings from the science of same-sex attraction.
Jones goes on to discuss these popular misconceptions about homosexuality and homosexuals: Are homosexual persons as psychologically healthy as heterosexuals? Is homosexuality biologically determined at birth? Has science established that sexual orientation is immutable? Are homosexual relationships equivalent to heterosexual ones? Has empirical science established homosexual identity as positive and legitimate?

Jones delves into the science on these questions and concludes that much of what we think we know about them is simply not supported by the evidence. It's a very worthwhile article for anyone interested in the issues he discusses.

If Assad Survives

Bashar Assad appears to be holding on to power in Syria, at least for now, despite the efforts of rebel groups to end his bloody rule. If he does survive it will be a serious blow to the West for a number of reasons. According to debkafile's analysis, there are at least seven very regrettable consequences of Assad's continued rule in Damascus. Here's a summary:

1. The Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah bloc, the Middle East axis of terrorist evil, will emerge greatly strengthened.

2. Iran, which is Syria's sponsor, will record a major strategic success in counteracting the US and the Saudi-led Gulf Arab emirates' depiction of the Islamic regime as seriously crippled by crushing international sanctions imposed to halt its drive for a nuclear bomb.

3. Hizballah will have won a chance to recover from its setbacks in Lebanon. The Pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiite group stands to regain the self-assurance which ebbed during Assad's brutal crackdown against Syrian dissidents, re-consolidate its bonds with Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad, and rebuild its political clout in Beirut.

4. Enormous damage will have been suffered by Saudi Arabia and Turkey from their colossal failure to topple Assad's government in Syria. The Palestinians will also be hurt since Hamas repudiated Iran in support of the Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and their security agencies invested huge sums in the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime but were trounced by Assad's security and intelligence services and the resources Iran provided to keep him afloat.

The Arab League, which for the first time tried its hand at intervening in an Arab uprising by sending observers into Syrian trouble spots to cut down the violence, watched impotently as those observers ran for their lives. Assad first accepted, then ignored, the League's peace plan. Turkey, too, after indicating its military would cross the border to support the Syrian resistance and provide the rebel Free Syrian Army bases of operation, backed off for the sake of not offending Iran.

5. Russia and China have gained credibility in the Middle East, and scored points against the United States, by standing up for Assad and pledging their veto of any strong UN Security Council motions against him. Moscow's arms sales and naval support for the Assad regime and China's new military and economic accords with Persian Gulf emirates have had the effect of pushing the United States from center stage of the Arab Revolt, where it stood during the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, to the sidelines of Middle East action.

6. Bashar Assad has confounded predictions by Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he couldn't last more than a few weeks. His survival and the cohesion of his armed forces have contributed to the tightening of the Iranian military noose around Israel.

The Syrian army was in sustained operation for almost a year without breaking and suffered only marginal defections. It is still in working shape with valuable experience under its belt in rapid deployment between battlefronts. Syria, Iran and Hizballah have streamlined the cooperation among their armies and their intelligence arms.

7. The Palestinian rivals, Fatah and Hamas, have again put the brakes on their on-again, off-again reconciliation. Hamas' decision to distance itself from Iran and the embattled Syrian regime has apparently been rescinded by Assad's survival, which puts them again in tension with Fatah.

All in all, the survival of the Assad regime would be a terrible outcome for the Syrian people, for the Israelis, and for the West. It would also be a significant foreign policy failure for the Obama administration as it seeks to impose its will on the Iranians and secure peace in the Middle East.