Why Homosexuality Is Both Normal and Not Normal: Two Equivocations

The latest bit of cultural Hooah! to pop up in my mixed upper class shitlib/batshit recluse libertarian Facebook news feed today was an interaction between Australian Tall Poppy Kevin Rudd and a pastor seemly hellbent on assassinating him with sheer staring power. Mr Rudd discussed his beliefs that people were born gay, at that the idea that being gay is “somehow an abnormal condition is just wrong.”

Except that being gay is by definition an abnormal condition. Normal refers to the predominant prevalence of a particular condition within a defined sample group, or, to put it into more casual terms, “usual, typical, or expected.” [Dictionary definition, provided by Google.] Within the human population, homosexuality is decidedly not “usual, typical, or expected;” most studies of sexual demographics peg the rate of homosexuality in the single digits, with even notorious latter-day Sodoms like Man Francisco only coming in at 15% gay. Even on the extreme high end, Dr. Alfred Kinsey found that 37% of males had “achieved orgasm” with another male, with 13% of females getting theirs from their sisters – still each decided minorities. So homosexuality is not normal, as it refers to individual homosexuals.

Enter equivocation number one. Homosexuality is perfectly normal, as it relates to groups. Every culture on Earth has homosexuality. Most, if not all, sexually reproducing animal species engage in homosexuality. Hell, there are probably even gay plants and a couple rocks and minerals and shit on the down low. The concept of homosexuality in the human population – in other words, that gays will exist – is completely usual, typical, and expected.

Equivocation number two. None of what I just wrote matters for the purposes of the arguments they always appear in. Whether homosexuality is normal or abnormal, or whether being homosexual is normal or abnormal, is never the actual point: the underlying argument is always whether being homosexual is positive or negative.

Normality has nothing to do with the value of the particular condition. Stating that being gay isn’t normal doesn’t cast any aspersions on it: those on both sides of the agenda who claim otherwise, whether gay rights advocates (“He said we were abnormal! Hate speech!!” Well, you are…) or religious conservatives (“Those gays aren’t normal!” So?) are equivocating: they use normal to mean good.

It doesn’t. Normal means typical. Being gay isn’t normal. Homosexuality in the broader sense is. Neither stops gays from being good or bad people, or means homosexuality in itself is a negative or positive trait. It’s not hate speech, and it’s not an accolade. It’s just a comment about prevalence.

You can be abnormal and still be OK.

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A Quick List of Common Fallacies

1.         Ad Hominem

Attacking the speaker instead of the message.  “Senator Pinko’s ideas on crime are wrong, because he’s a Democrat.”

2.         Equivocation

Where words change meaning from premise to conclusion.  You know what equivocation is, because every dirty joke you’ve ever heard uses it.

For instance,

Premise:

 

I want to see your peacock, cock, cock.  Your peacock, cock.

Conclusion: Gee, Katy Perry must really like birds. [1]

3.         Exclusivity

Exclusivity is an option-limiting fallacy, where people falsely believe that either one option or the other must occur, without realizing both can, or some unstated third option.  For instance, young folks often think that if they don’t get in to ______ school, their lives will be ruined.  They don’t realize that both can occur until the loan bill comes due.

4.         Absence of Evidence

I like to call this the Apple Juice argument:

Why do I only drink apple juice in the mornings?  Because OJ will break into your hotel room and rob you of sports memorabilia at gunpoint.

When I’m teaching, I always laugh and forget why I was making fun of OJ Simpson and have to look back at my notes.  The absence of evidence fallacy is “We couldn’t find enough evidence to convict OJ of murder, so he must not have done it.”  Stated more broadly, just because you have no evidence something is true does not mean it’s false.

5.         Composition

Whole to part: The characteristics of the group are falsely assigned to each member of the group.  American colleges now are 60% female, so each American college student is 60% female.  LGBTQIAXRA is going to have to add a couple more letters.

Part to whole: The characteristics of the individual are falsely assigned to the group.

 

The Rock is often concerned with whether people can smell what he’s cooking, so the WWE must be a nasal health organization.  Or a restaurant.

6.         Circular Reasoning

This is a perennial favorite among logic neophytes.  They all love to find circular reasoning in everything.  It’s actually pretty rare, and blatantly obvious when it occurs.  The best examples, like most other real world logic, come from rap music.

 

“I’m hot because I’m fly.”  Mims.

P: I’m attractive.
C: I’m attractive.

7.         Absolute numbers vs. percentages

Any link between absolute numbers and percentages is suspect.  A larger percentage of a smaller number can still be smaller than a smaller percentage of a larger number; 10% of 1000 is larger than 90% of 100.

8.         Statistical fallacies

Biased sampling and control group issues come up from time to time.  Imagine a study that purports to show that most Americans support a full-scale legalization of marijuana that was solely conducted in Northern California and Boulder.   The sample must be representative of the population it claims.

It also can’t contain any loaded questions, or those that force an assumption on the answerer.  The classic example is “have you stopped beating your wife?”  Oooh!  Double bind.

9.         Correlation vs. causation

Correlation does not imply causation.  Hospitals are full of sick people, so if you go to the hospital you will become sick.

10.       Categorical fallacies

The most common of all, categorical fallacies are anything where the scope changes categories.  These will often manifest in either past/present/future time changes – what happened vs. what will happen – or shifts in probability or prescriptive nature, like can happen vs. should happen vs. will happen.

It is currently noon where I am.  I could make a categorical fallacy argument based on that:

P: The sun is currently out where I am.
C: The sun will always continue to be out where I am.

11.       S/N or Transitive Fallacies

Assuming a sufficient condition is necessary, or vice versa, or incorrectly chaining transitive conditionals.

[1] Note this is an identical equivocal conclusion to that we could have reached from “I Kissed A Girl.”