This can’t be real

Where religion is killing gays

Crazy, huh? The primary source of the hatred gays face in Africa, and especially Uganda, is fueled by religion.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

But surely this is just an extreme example, right? After all, we have far too much religion in the U.S. but we aren’t putting in place laws that kill gays. Except we’re setting the stage. We are telling gays – and the world – that being gay is morally wrong, that it is evil, and that gays do not deserve the same rights as everyone else. Still in so many states it is legal to fire a person for being gay. There are bigots (even on the Supreme Court) who support anti-sodomy laws. In fact, that purely political, non-legally minded ‘judge’ Scalia said this when he voted against striking down laws that specifically targeted gays:

Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned.

He was worried that by acknowledging that no government has any say over the sexual lives of two consenting, autonomous adults that gay marriage might become a reality. (He also noted that it can be said that any law targets a group, intentionally forgetting that gays constitute a group not defined by choice.)

It’s this sort of dictionary bigotry that is assisting in the primarily Christian and Muslim effort to destroy the lives of gays. In fact, it is American Christian groups that are largely behind the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

And does this sound familiar?

In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to expel gays from the country and urged citizens not to rent homes to them.

In addition to it being legal to fire gays in many U.S. states, it is also legal to refuse to rent to them. It was until just a few years ago that Maine finally passed a law which made it illegal to discriminate against gays in education, employment, housing, and other basic areas of life.

The plight of gays in Africa is the same plight of gays in America, especially in places like the south. By clinging to religion and irrationally proclaiming that gays do not deserve the exact same rights as everyone else, we are setting the stage for the discrimination, criminalization, and violence that they must face in Africa every single day.

Oh, but maybe this has nothing to do with True Religion, with the mainstream beliefs of Christians.

Oh wait:

In recent years, conservative American evangelical churches have had a profound influence on society in Uganda and other African nations. They send missions and help fund local churches that share their brand of Christianity. Sermons and seminars by American evangelist preachers are staples on local television and radio networks across the continent.

Some activists say the attacks in Uganda intensified last year after three American evangelical preachers visited the country. In seminars attended by thousands and broadcasted over radio, the preachers discussed how to “cure” homosexuality and accused gays of sodomizing boys and destroying African culture. A month later, a Ugandan lawmaker introduced the anti-homosexuality bill.

“The religious fundamentalists want to rule everyone. They want everyone to follow their religious agenda,” said Pepe Julien Onziema, a gay rights activist here.

Expected distortions

Michael Behe recently had a paper published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, a non-creationist journal. Here is Jerry Coyne’s conclusion:

Behe has provided a useful survey of mutations that cause adaptation in short-term lab experiments on microbes (note that at least one of these—Rich Lenski’s study— extends over several decades). But his conclusions may be misleading when you extend them to bacterial or viral evolution in nature, and are certainly misleading if you extend them to eukaryotes (organisms with complex cells), for several reasons:

Go to Professor Coyne’s site for the whole review.

It’s all fair enough and no one is really up in arms about Behe’s paper itself. But isn’t it interesting how quickly the creationist intelligent design crowd started distorting the facts?

Over at the intelligent-design site Uncommon Descent, the ever befuddled Denyse O’Leary has already glommed onto the review I wrote yesterday of Michael Behe’s new paper. And, exactly as I predicted, she distorts Behe’s conclusions:

So, not only must the long, slow process of Darwinian evolution create every exotic form of life in the blink of a geological eye, but it must do so by losing or modifying what a life form already has.

In other words, she’s extended Behe’s conclusions, based on viral and bacterial evolution in the lab, to evolution of “every exotic form of life” on the planet. This is exactly what one cannot do with Behe’s conclusions.

It really isn’t a surprise that this happened; Creationists are always distorting scientific papers – and specifically so they can prop up their religious beliefs. I’m just impressed with the utter accuracy of Professor Coyne’s prediction.

This distortion is hardly news, of course—I’m completely confident that Behe not only expected it, but approves of it—but I feel compelled to highlight it once again. Luskin’s three distortions, which correspond to the three caveats attached to Behe’s results:

1. Luskin doesn’t mention that Behe’s analysis concentrated only on short-term laboratory studies of adaptation in bacteria and viruses.

2. Luskin also doesn’t mention that these experiments deliberately excluded an important way that bacteria and viruses gain new genetic elements in nature: through horizontal uptake of DNA from other organisms. This kind of uptake was prohibited by the design of the experiments.

3. Luskin implies that Behe’s conclusions extend to all species, including eukaryotes, even though we know that members of this group (and even some bacteria) can gain new genetic elements and information via gene duplication and divergence. And we know that this has happened repeatedly and pervasively in the course of evolution.

About an hour ago I finished up my last assignment for this semester, and man, it’s always a relief when that special moment arrives. But after reading this creationist intelligent design proponent garbage, I’m already getting antsy to go back and continue with my legitimate education.