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April 22, 2005

Science Without Logic

Believe me: as is often the case, I'm actually a bit anxious to move on to other topics than homosexuality. But I've been following an editorial-page debate in the University of Rhode Island's student paper, The Good 5¢ Cigar, and I couldn't let the following, from a letter by Professor of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Alvin Swonger, go without comment:

Mr. Nelson expresses amazement that Americans still "support homosexuality" despite it contributing to AIDS transmission. That his argument is preposterous can be readily understood by choosing from among the unlimited number of parallel arguments relating to other health concerns.

Women after age 45 are twice as likely to suffer major depression as men, yet Americans - amazingly - continue to support femininity. Most cases of influenza are transmitted by inhalation, yet Americans - amazingly - continue to support breathing. Parkinson's Disease is most prevalent in elderly men, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency in blacks, Italians, Greeks, Arabs, and Sephardic Jews, psoriasis in pale skinned whites, radon exposure in miners, and spousal abuse in married couples, yet - amazingly - Americans still (usually) tolerate those various demographic groups and support aging, farming, mining, and marriage while spending tax dollars researching the causes and potential treatments for the related medical and social problems.

Is Swonger serious? These are the sorts of comments that, I imagine, spark rewarding titters in the faculty lounge, but as a logical matter, the professor's own argument is — at the absolute least — as "preposterous" as that of the student whom he is addressing.

I don't know Prof. Swonger, and therefore I've no reason to doubt his intelligence or professional competence; I say that honestly, without intending to imply doubt through insinuation. But the other option is that this particular intellectual approach is so common that academics — scientists, no less — let it slide through their own minds without a second thought.

I would hope that, once the faulty passage has been circled in red ink, people far less intellectual than college professors would be able to see the distinctions over which Swonger has glossed. If not, let me know, and we'll see about some lesson plans for a 101.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 22, 2005 7:13 PM
Marriage & Family

By the choice of his analogies, he seems to equate homosexuality with a disease. I wonder if he realizes that.

Posted by: c matt at April 25, 2005 6:00 PM