July 2001

Is Man/Nature Dualism Dead?

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

A passage in The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche portrays a madman carrying a lantern in broad daylight and searching for God. This mirthless character declares that “God is dead,” and says that we have murdered him. What the philosopher meant was that the concept of God, the idea of God, was no longer alive and well. Seventeenth-century astronomy and eighteenth-century physics had undermined the belief in God’s existence. Nineteenth century geology and evolutionary biology delivered the coup de grace, says J. Baird Callicott in his essay, “The Role of Technology in the Evolving Concept of Nature,” in the book, Ethics and Environmental Policy, Frederick Ferre and Peter Hartell, editors.

Not one of the medieval philosophers expresses the least doubt that God exists, and most of them undertook to prove it. The early modern philosophers also took the existence of God for granted but reshaped him to suit their purposes. They transformed him into the designing engineer of a clockwork universe. God receded further and further into the background and finally faded from the scientific and philosophical scene altogether.

Now many contemporary environmentalists fear that nature is dead. One can no longer find any place on earth untrammeled by the works of man. Bodies of water are ubiquitously affected by acid rain, The permafrost in the former Arctic wilderness is everywhere contaminated with traces of toxic chemicals. There is a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. And there is the greenhouse effect.

Bill McKibben in The End of Nature claims that it is the idea of nature that has ended, not nature itself. What is this idea? It is of nature as Other, as a world existing apart from us and our artifice. But Callicott says that nature is a distinctly modern notion, deeply rooted in ancient Western intellectual tradition, but that it is false and that its historical tenure has been pernicious. The first book of the Bible makes man in God’s image and gives man dominion over and charges him to subdue the earth and all its denizens. In ancient Greek philosophy humans are set apart from nature because we alone among the animals are supposed to be rational. Galileo, Descartes, Isaac Newton, and John Locke developed the idea that a conscious, rational soul is supposed to inhabit a purely mechanistic human body composed of atoms, each one of which is composed of a few simple, mathematically expressible features or properties. Nature became wholly object, and only man was a subject. As subjects, humans exist “in here” in our bodies, dispassively looking out on impassive nature, which is thoroughly alien to the enveloped and isolated essential self.

Today many consider our technological achievements grotesque; man seems to be a tyrant and nature the hapless victim. Yet many of these Jeremiahs still do not challenge the radical man-nature dichotomy. “A wilderness advocate,” argues Callicott, “lamenting man’s total reduction of nature to possession and a timber industry CEO gloating over it share the same underlying assumption that man is a case apart from the rest of nature.” In the self-congratulatory Age of Enlightenment, nature was generally believed to be a perfectly intelligible clockwork, and all nature’s moving parts were thought to be automata or mechanisms in miniature, except that a conscious, rational soul is supposed to inhabit the purely mechanistic human body. Also deeply ingrained was an essentially static sense of the “balance of nature,” a concept adapted from classical physics. Like a thermostat, ecosystems were represented as having a set point to which they return, through negative feedback mechanisms, if disturbed by drought, flood, fire or similar perturbations. If subjected to too frequent or intense disturbance, they are liable to break down, driven by runaway positive feedback mechanisms. Human activities, particularly industrial mining, agriculture, and logging, are prime examples of “unnatural” impacts on ecosystems that are too great for them to absorb and thus threaten to destroy them.

What is false about this modern picture of self-conscious rational man against an objective, essentially mechanistic nature? The idea that man is spiritually, or intellectually unique and discontinuous, with nature has a nearly three-thousand-year tenure in Western intellectual history, and because it is so self-congratulatory and self-serving, the view has not been readily or gladly surrendered, even by scientists and philosophers. It took more than a century for the philosophical implications of Darwin’s works to sink in. Darwin argued that there is a seamless continuity between gradually evolved man and our fellow voyagers in the odyssey of evolution. We are animals ourselves, precocious, but just big primates nevertheless. We are part of nature, not set apart from it. Human works are no less natural than those of termites or elephants. Chicago is no less a phenomenon of nature than the Great Barrier Reef. The transformations we effect in the natural realm are not necessarily destructive. We do not think the garden clearings of the Kayapo Indians in the Amazon Basin violate the naturalness of the forest, but we think the clearings of Euro-Brazilians do. This attitude suggests we regard only “modern man” and our ancient European and Asian antecedents to be truly human. By implication, “primitives” are just another kind of wildlife. Actually the extinctions coinciding with the arrival of the original Siberian immigrants to the Americas were of much greater magnitude than the extirpations by our Euro-American forebears. What happened to the two species of elephants, and to horses, camels, yaks, and other beasts that roamed the Western hemispheres before and after the Siberian big game hunters arrived? Indians in temperate latitudes regularly burned the countryside. North America’s Great Plains and most of the world’s grasslands are believed to be anthropogenic.

And the nature side of the man-nature dichotomy? We used to believe that, if we wished, we could replace native species with exotics and need fear no adverse systemic effects. But we have learned the hard way that nature functions more like an organism than a mechanism. Deliberately changing one component of an ecosystem often causes unanticipated unwelcome side effects throughout the whole. Also, it has been believed that nature, undisturbed by man, will remain stable, in “steady state.”

But nature is inherently dynamic, constantly changing and ultimately evolving. Even designated wilderness areas would not stay the same if they could be protected from all human modifications. What, then, is objectively wrong with urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation, oil slicks, global warming, or abrupt massive anthropogenic species extinction? Most people apparently prefer shopping malls and dog tracks to wetlands and old growth forests.

The key concept that saves environmental ethics from skepticism and cynicism is the concept of “ecosystem health.”

“The emerging postmodern model of nature is more organismic than mechanistic,” states Callicott. “Organisms proper are integrated wholes with systemic integrity.” And they change. Organisms are either objectively well or ill. Physicians and veterinarians can specify indices of organic health. But health is also intrinsically good. Except in unusual circumstances, one never prefers to be sick rather than well. A new theory of ecosystems called “hierarchy theory” may enable ecologists to specify norms of ecosystem health. With such a system we can pronounce changes that we impose on nature to be objectively good or bad. Good changes are those that do not impair ecosystem health. Bad changes cause ecosystem morbidity. The real difference between Kayapo and Euro-Brazilian slash and burn agriculture is not that one is natural and the other is not, but that one is symbiotic and sustainable while the other is not. The concept of ecosystem health enables us to envision ourselves as affecting nature as much to improve as to harm it. And we can benefit rather than harm the health of the whole of which we are a part. Callicott suggests that, if illiterate and unscientific peoples can perceptively and self-consciously reinstitute ways of living in and with nature without impairing ecosystem health, then a technologically sophisticated one can, too.

Nature is not dead, but the modern man/nature dualism and the mechanical concept of nature are dead. The new concept of nature is more organismic than mechanistic and includes man as, in Aldo Leopold’s words, “a plain member and citizen of the biotic community.”

“It is theoretically conceivable, therefore,” concludes Callicott, “that we may become good, law-abiding citizens of the natural world rather than brutal and ultimately self-defeating conquistadors. The new understanding of nature, human nature, and the growing public interest in holistic medicine and sustainable organic agriculture is evidence that a shift in the prevailing cultural worldview is already under way. Solar-electronic technologies have already shown themselves to be seductive. People want them. These technologies may inspire further application of the systemic ideas they embody; and our present unsustainable mechanistic civilization may evolve into a new, more sustainable, systemic confirmation, not only technically but socially, politically, and economically as well.”

Homosexuality: Biology, Psychology, and Human Rights

Chapter members Richard Teerlink and Paul Trane presented what was called the most “intimate” public lecture in the history of Humanists of Utah. Dick and Paul are both retired public educators who admitted their homosexual orientation to themselves and the world late in their careers. Both were active Mormons with wives and children when they finally realized that no amount of reparative therapy was going to change their innate sexual orientation.

Dick presented a short biographical sketch in which he related a discussion with his mission president about his same sex attraction. His mission president gave him this advice:

  1. Never tell another person about his same sex attraction.
  2. Never seek the company of other homosexuals.
  3. Never read any of the psychological literature about homosexuality because all of it was of the Devil.
  4. Never seek advice from a professional counselor or therapist because their work was also of the Devil. If he ever needed counseling he was to seek out a General Authority of the LDS Church.

For many years Dick suffered feelings of guilt and pain. Finally, he lost his faith in Mormonism and decided to be what he is. He became alienated and remains separated from much of his family. “Fortunately, I still have a relationship with my two daughters,” Dick says. Three years after his divorce he met his partner Paul with whom he has shared a happy and satisfying relationship for the past 10 years. Click here for a full transcript of Richard’s presentation.

Paul also gave a short history of his life. He talked of his early years in a rural Lehi, Utah home living with his extended family. He noted that while he was growing up that even though he had both boys and girls as friends, he “…felt totally alone and isolated. I thought that I was the only boy in the world that had these feelings and desires.” He was the classical example of a “sissy boy” that nobody wanted on their team and was told as much, and sent home crying on several occasions. Paul suffered periods of deep depression and had many suicidal thoughts.

Since coming out, Dick and Paul, still educators at heart, have devoted much time and energy into helping teens struggling with their sexual identities. They presented literature to the group describing the so-called Gay Agenda. The main points are: 1. Basic protections against discrimination, 2. Freedom from Government intrusion into their intimate lives, 3. The expectation of physical safety and protection from hate motivated crimes, 4. Recognition of family relationships, 5. Right to parent, 6. Access to Health Care, 7. Schools that care for and protect all of their students, 8. Fair chance for every child, and 9. Human Rights for all.

Dick presented research evidence suggesting that male homosexuality is biologically determined. For example, Dean Hammer discovered that homosexuality in some men may be caused by a gene on the X chromosome in a region labeled Xq28. Richard Pillard observed that when an identical twin is gay, the probability that his identical twin is also gay is 50%. Ray Blanchard has noted that there is a birth-order effect in Male Homosexuality. For every older male sibling a boy has, the probability he will be gay increases substantially. The likely hormonal interaction that causes this effect is not well understood.

During the discussion that followed there was a lot of emphasis on the genetic results until Professor Deen Chatterjee made the point that, from a strictly moral point-of-view, it does not matter whether homosexuality is a result of Nature or of Nurture. As long as the participants are consenting adults that cause no harm to each other or to society, their sexual preferences are exactly that: their sexual preferences.

–Wayne Wilson

Richard Teerlink Discusses Homosexuality

The following is a full transcript of Richard Teerlink’s June 14, 2001 presentation to Humanists of Utah general meeting on the subject of homosexuality.

It is an honor to make this presentation this evening. Attitudes about homosexuality have greatly polarized the Utah community, and so in that context this discussion is timely. As a gay man, I have always felt at home among the humanists, and I am confident to say that gay people are welcome here. Our purpose tonight is to provide you with information that I hope will be useful as we struggle together in the cultural war over homosexuality.

I believe that hearing and reading personal stories of gay and lesbian people is one of the most powerful tools in dealing with anti-gay prejudice. Many people who hold a strong bias against gay people have never had a conversation of depth with a gay person. Telling my story is difficult because I have been hiding this information for most of my life. This hiding served a purpose. Because of the stigmatization of homosexuals, I could have lost my job as a public high school teacher, or have been thoroughly rejected by my Mormon family and church.

I labeled myself homosexual when I was 19 and a freshman in college. I remember that moment with great vividness. As I look back, the evidence that I was gay was abundant and present through, and before, the age of puberty. Perhaps my naivete about myself was due to being a teenager in the 50’s when homosexuality was not in the news everyday as it is now. The realization that I was homosexual was disturbing and perplexing beyond words. I had no idea of what this meant for my life or what to do about it. By the next day, this new and disquieting awareness had vanished. Deep denial is not surprising since I had been raised in a devoutly Mormon family, and all forms of sexuality were forbidden to an unmarried young man.

I was called on a Mormon mission at age 20, and my homosexual feelings came into overpowering consciousness when I fell in love with my mission companion, who was a very attractive, intelligent and caring young man. As a kind of reality test, I decided to tell my companion about my same sex attraction. My straight companion was as puzzled and confused about it as I was. So off we went to the Mission President for advice.

My mission president dealt with it in a matter of fact way as if this might be an everyday occurrence. He told me that this is the way Satan would tempt me the rest of my life and that my eternal salvation depended on my ability to withstand this temptation. He asked me if I could get an erection and I answered yes. He then explained that that made me eligible for marriage which was also required for salvation. He then listed how I was to deal with this.

  1. Never tell another person about my same sex attraction.
  2. Never seek the company of other homosexuals.
  3. Never read any of the psychological literature about homosexuality, because all of it was of the Devil.
  4. Never seek counsel from a counselor or therapist, because their work was also of the Devil. If ever I needed counseling, I was seek out a general authority.

I was a conscientious and earnest missionary, and successfully finished my mission. But even in that time when my commitment to Mormonism was at its peak, I had doubts. In a moment of deep reflection I could see two roads that beckoned to me that I dared not travel. Both could lead me out of Mormonism. The first I labeled intellectual apostasy and the second I labeled homosexuality.

After my mission I returned to the University of Utah, and broke one of the directives given by my mission president: I visited a non-LDS Counselor. The therapy was Rogerian, self-directed counseling. I presented myself as a devout Mormon, and my concern was whether heterosexual marriage was an obtainable goal for me. I came away from therapy having learned these important things:

  1. I was not a bad person because I experienced same sex attraction.
  2. Marriage was possible though it would be less satisfying because of my orientation.
  3. Homosexuality is not a disease and that trying to change my orientation would be chasing an illusion.
  4. That being homosexual did not disqualify me from my chosen career of high school science teacher.

That I never expected to change my orientation saved me a great deal pain and suffering. I have met many gay men who had their self-esteem demolished because reparative therapy utterly failed. This should not be surprising when you know that the motivations and methods used in reparative therapy are primarily religious in nature.

In time I met my future wife and my counselor guided me through the courtship. I discussed with my counselor the ethics of concealing my sexual orientation from my future wife. He made it very clear that if I told her, the marriage would probably not work. And so it was that I was required to keep a monstrous secret from my soul mate.

The first major crisis in my marriage came when my faith in Mormonism collapsed. My parents blamed my University of Utah education. I was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for apostasy, which brought alienation from family and friends, but the marriage survived. The second major crisis occurred when my wife found out about my sexual orientation. I can not begin to describe how profoundly that discovery hurt her. The marriage then began a slow, but inevitable, decline which ended in divorce. When my siblings learned the reason the marriage failed, the alienation from them became nearly total. Fortunately I still have a relationship with my two daughters.

Three years after the divorce I met my partner Paul, and we have had a very satisfying relationship together since that time.

Through my entire career I never divulged my sexual orientation to my students, and so I don’t know how it feels personally to be an out teacher. Since then Wendy Weaver won her case in court, and was not fired because she was a lesbian; a small number of courageous teachers have stepped out of the closet. I have personally heard their stories. You have to be very brave to do this in Utah because of public opposition.

Changing directions now, I wish to spend the rest of my time this evening answering two questions: What causes a person to be gay, straight or bisexual and are gay people born that way or did they choose their orientation? I personally think these are important questions, because surveys indicate that when people become informed about the biology of sexual orientation, their opinions about gay people often change. My presentation will deal primarily with MALE HOMOSEXUALITY.

We can do a simple inquiry along these lines right here and now. I am going to ask you a question that gay people are asked all the time. That non-gay people seldom ask themselves this question is quite reveling in itself. Take a moment to reflect about when you personally discovered your own sexual orientation. More importantly did you make a conscious choice about it? It seems reasonable to me that if sexual orientation is a choice, we should all have recollections of having made that choice. How many days or weeks did you deliberate on “should I choose gay or straight?” I invite you to reflect and ponder how your own sexuality came into conscious awareness. My experience, and that of male homosexuals that I have spoken to, suggests that most human beings gradually awaken to their sexuality and that it is not a matter of choice.

Let’s do another simple inquiry. How many of you are left handed? Please raise your hand and let’s take note of the numbers here. How many are right-handed? Now, did you choose to be left or right-handed? How many of you believe that this trait is biologically determined? I maintain that there is a strong parallel between sexual orientation and handedness.

I would now like to explore what we know about the causes of sexual orientation.

A great deal of experimentation on rats and other laboratory animals has been done that illuminates the process that determines sexual orientation. Of course people are not rats and so we must be cautious in making generalizations that include humans. The evidence suggests that a brain structure called the hypothalamus is sexualized before birth and that this process usually produces individuals with heterosexual orientation. In a minority of cases this process is altered producing homosexual orientation.

It is widely known that the hypothalamus is the part of the brain where the sex drive is located. Simon Le Vay is particularly well known for his 1991 report in Science, which described a difference in the structure of the hypothalamus between gay and heterosexual men. He found that male homosexuals and females had a similar structure. Other researchers have not as yet duplicated his observations. His work has been criticized because all of the homosexual males in his sample had died of AIDS, and some believe that the difference in brain structure could have been the result of disease.

Dean Hamer and a team of scientists selected a group of 114 gay men in which 40 of the men had brothers that were also gay. Hammers team found an unexpectedly high rate of homosexuality among men on the mother’s side of the family. This pattern was consistent with the transmission of a gene carried on the X chromosome through the mother. A sophisticated genetic analysis showed that 33 out of 40 pairs of gay brothers shared DNA markers labeled Xq28 from one small region of the X chromosome, a far higher number than chance alone would predict. Although Hamer and his colleagues haven’t yet found the actual gay gene, they uncovered compelling evidence for its existence. This discovery inspired T-shirts sold in gay bookstores: Xq28 – Thanks for the genes mom. Other scientists have tried to replicate this experiment and have had poor success suggesting that the high correlation my have been true for Hamer’s sample, but not for subsequent samples.

It is becoming increasingly clear that sexual orientations correlates with birth order. A man with one or more elder brothers is more likely to be gay than a man with no siblings, only younger siblings, or with one or more elder sisters. This birth order effect is so strong that each additional elder brother increases the probability by roughly one third in that particular family. This translates to an increase of roughly 1% for each additional older male sibling when calculated to the population as a whole. The effect has now been reported in Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States, and in many different samples of people.

An important clue lies in the fact that there is no such birth-order effect for lesbians. There is something specific to occupying a womb that has already held other males, which increases the probability of homosexuality. The best explanation concerns a set of three active genes on the Y chromosome called the H – Y minor histocompatibility antigens. Ray Blanchard, one of those who studies the birth-order effect, argues that the H – Y antigens’ job is to switch on other genes in certain brain tissues thus sexualizing the brain. The problem is that the mother’s immune system can make antibodies that can destroy the antigens, and each additional male embryo increases the probability that her immune system will produce the destructive antibodies. This mechanism has been confirmed in mice and fruit flies, but not in humans.

So what causes a person to become gay, straight, or bisexual? At this point, the most widely held opinion among researchers in this field is that multiple causes such as genetic, hormonal, psychological and social are at work. In the last decade there has been a definite shift toward genetic and biological causes. Do we have an airtight case for this? NO. There is much scientific work yet to be done. I predict data produced by the human genome project will add new discoveries, because already many links between genes and behavior has already been found. In reality very little scientific research into homosexuality has been done. Many researchers don’t want to go anywhere near this topic, because their work automatically becomes contested, and their reputation becomes suspect because this topic is so controversial.

Switching now from biology to psychology I wish to mention an important study carried out by Richard Green at UCLA. Other investigators have obtained similar results. This study has become famously known as “The Sissy Boys” study. He found that there was a strong association between childhood gender nonconformity behavior and adult homosexuality. He identified 7 gender-differentiated traits such as does not engage in rough-and-tumble sports to having the social reputation of being a sissy. With the help of parents, teachers and pediatricians he identified a large group of these “sissy boys.” The remarkable thing is that over 80% of these boys self identified as being gay when they reached age 18, and it is probable that even more will self identify when they are age 30. There are very few childhood behaviors that predict adult outcome this well. It suggests that these behaviors develop early and have life long stability and immutability.

Ultimately the causes of homosexuality are irrelevant to the question of whether homosexuality is moral or immoral. From a humanist point of view as long as the participants are consenting adults that cause to harm to each other or to society, their sexual preferences are exactly that: their sexual preferences.

–Richard Teerlink

The Gay Agenda – The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The BOTTOM Line     January 15-28, 1999     Palm Springs, California

Right-wing extremists often refer to “the gay agenda” in the most menacing terms, as if it threatened everything that Americans hold dear, and as if there were something “wrong” or “dangerous” about a group of Americans campaigning for fair play, justice, and equal treatment. In fact like many other Americans, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities do have an agenda of public policy goals. These include planks that many Americans take for granted in a democratic society, but they also include planks that would extend fairness, equality, and compassion to everyone. Here are some of our basic goals:


For decades, lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals were explicitly excluded by law from major areas of employment in the public and private sector. The federal government led the way with a 1953 Executive Order that prohibited the employment of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in all federal jobs. Hostility to homosexuality justified widespread discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas of economic and social life.

Today, in most parts of the country, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people still have no legal recourse against arbitrary discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Twenty surveys of lesbian and gay men done in the 1980’s and 1990’s documented widespread discrimination, with figures ranging between 16 and 44 percent of those responding reporting employment discrimination.

Only nine states and fewer than 130 cities or counties have amended their civil rights statutes to include sexual orientation. In the rest of the country employers can fire someone from their job, banks can deny credit, realtors can refuse to rent or sell housing, and insurance companies can refuse to sell policies to individuals simply because they dislike or disapprove of someone being gay.

The denial of access to employment or housing solely because of prejudice is a fundamental denial of basic rights that every American should have. Since the passage of historic civil rights legislation in the 1960’s, important advances have been made to attack discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, and disability. Rather than turn back the clock to an earlier era when there was no legal recourse against discrimination, existing civil rights legislation at the federal, state, and local levels should be extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This is essential to guarantee that lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people will enjoy the same basic civil rights as other Americans.


Laws prohibiting sodomy and other forms of same-gender consensual sexual behavior have been a baseline from which other penalties against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people have grown. Though there has been a move toward repeal of those laws in the last generation, 22 states still have sodomy, or “crimes against nature,” statutes. In some of these states, penalties range upward of 10 years.

Regardless of whether these laws are vigorously enforced, their existence has the effect of criminalizing the intimate relationships of a segment of the population. They are also invoked to justify job discrimination [ “how can we hire a criminal?”], and other penalties. Repeal of all remaining sodomy statutes is an essential element in the quest of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people for equality and justice.


The current climate of hatred and divisiveness, created and supported by right wing extremists, has led to an increase in crimes of prejudice based on race, national origin and religion as well as on sexual orientation. Because of the climate of hatred against homosexuality, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people are frequent targets of hate-motivated crimes ranging from verbal harassment and assault to brutal murders. Incidents have risen sine the first studies were done: 172% in five major cities between 1988 and 1992. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented 2,2000 incidents in 11 major cities in 1995 alone. In parts of the country that have faced anti-gay ballot initiatives, reported incidents of violence have risen dramatically. And, because law enforcement agencies have often been active in the harassment and arrest of gay people, victims of hate-motivated violence are often reluctant to report these crimes to the police.

Everyone deserves to know that they can walk the streets, enjoy public spaces, and sit in their homes free from harassment, abuse, and violence directed at them simply because of who they are. An aggressive campaign against hate-motivated violence, including training of law enforcement officials, punishments to deter such crimes, efforts to eliminate or reduce the rhetoric which makes such crimes seem acceptable, and education of the public about its seriousness and extent, is necessary to insure the safety of lesbians, gay man, bisexuals, and transgender people and others who are targeted for violence solely because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.


Nowhere in the United States do lesbian or gay couples receive the same recognition or benefits that married heterosexuals do. In fact they face tremendous discrimination. Lesbians and gay men can be turned away at the hospital when a partner has an accident or illness; lack access to family health coverage and other forms of insurance; are denied the benefits of inheritance and taxation that heterosexual spouses automatically enjoy; and have no rights to a range of government benefits, despite the fact that they pay taxes like other Americans do.

In many workplace situations, employee “fringe” benefits comprise as much as 40 percent of a worker’s total compensation. Marital status most often determines eligibility for sick, bereavement or parenting leave, health and dental insurance, and disability and retirement benefits.

The recognition of same-gender partner, or spousal, relationships by private employers and federal, state, and local governments is a basic issue of equity and fairness.


Conflicts over child custody and visitation rights bring more lesbians and gay men into courtrooms in the U. S. than any other issue. Courts in many states have made rulings on the presumption that lesbians and gay men are unfit to have custody simply because of their sexual orientation, rather than focusing on the best interest of the child. Almost every state refuses to allow two adults of the same gender to be the legal parents of a child. And a growing numbers of states either explicitly ban adoption or foster parenting by lesbian and gay couples or are seeking to do so. All of this occurs despite the results of dozens of reputable scientific studies that demonstrate that lesbians and gay men are neither more or less likely to raise emotionally stable children.

The right to bear and raise children without restrictions based on sexual orientation is a key message of the status of gay men and lesbians. Equality in this area would include freedom from the threat of losing access to one’s children on the basis of sexual orientation; equal access to alternative insemination; the ability to adopt or become foster parents without arbitrary restrictions; and recognizing and protecting the rights of non-biological parents in gay and lesbian households.


In the last generation, health care costs have skyrocketed, and the number of Americans without health insurance has grown dramatically. More recently, efforts to balance the federal budget have placed programs like Medicare and Medicaid in jeopardy.

From AIDS to breast cancer and other forms of serious illness, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have faced in recent years their own version of a serious medical emergency. While government funds for certain diseases such as AIDS have grown in recent years, the availability of health care remains closely tied to access to insurance and the ability to pay for increasingly expensive forms of medical care. Proposals to cut Medicaid funding or to give states greater freedom to exclude people from its coverage would have a devastating effect on lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people, many of whom depend on it.

Health care reform, including universal access to medical care, is a widely held goal of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, as it is for most other Americans.


Youth who identify as lesbians, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who find themselves questioning their sexual orientation, need a nurturing and protecting school environment, as do all other students. The threat of violence and abuse against such students, from verbal harassment to assault is all too common in our school systems. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents need to know that the public schools will provide an environment that teaches respect for the individual and for the variety of family forms in which children are being raised. Teachers and other school personnel need to know that their jobs will not be in jeopardy simply because of their sexual orientation.

At a minimum public school systems need to create an environment through curriculum content, counseling services, and personnel and other policies, that teachers respect for the wide range of families from which this generation of children comes, that provides accurate, nonjudgmental information about sexuality and sexual identity that promises a swift reliable response to incidents of harassment and violence, and that guarantees non-discriminatory policies toward its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender personnel.


Every child deserves to have a fair chance in life. No child deserves to be penalized for the histories of inequality that our society has imposed on massive numbers of Americans. And, since the next generation of children who will be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender will be found across the social and economic spectrum, a public policy agenda for the community needs to address the broad range of life-critical issues that Americans face.

At a minimum this would include: jobs at a living wage for every adult wishing to work; affordable child care for every working parent; access to health care as a basic human right; an adequately funded system of elementary and secondary education that doesn’t penalize children raised in school districts with a weak tax base; a system of publicly funded higher education that places college within the financial reach of anyone who is able to attend.


Ultimately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are working for a world that recognizes the human rights of everyone and in which compassion, justice, cooperation, and respect are primary values. Food, shelter, education, health care and physical safety are basic human rights that need to be guaranteed for all.

The Militarization of Space

In the beginning were the V-2s. Before rockets rose upon pillars of fire and smoke to assail the stars, they were weapons. Hitler’s scientists envisioned V-2s and their descendants arcing across the Atlantic to rain destruction on New York and Washington D.C. and bring the United States to its knees. After the war, the U.S. military raced to spirit away as many Third Reich missile scientists as they could, even sheltering them from prosecution during the Nuremberg trials.

German aeronautical engineers combined with American physicists in places like White Sands, New Mexico, to usher in the darkest days of the Cold War. The days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and Dr. Strangelove had arrived.

Now, in the 21st century, after the widely proclaimed ending of the cold war, the fledgling President of the United States urges us to embark upon the militarization of space. New antiballistic satellites with particle beam weapons are proposed, although essential technologies do not exist. Historic agreements and practices of long standing are to be dismissed. The entreaties of allies are to be ignored. The past fiascoes of “Star Wars” and SDI are deemed irrelevant.

The colonization of the nearby solar system, let alone other star systems, may be centuries away; for now, the most productive activities in near space are the development of space stations and lunar bases, and the dispatching of sophisticated probes into the galaxy. We have so much to learn about the universe, and about ourselves. To spread the destruction of human conflicts beyond our planet would be a grave mistake.

Let space be the place where our great journey begins, not where it ends.

–Richard Garrard

Elevator Definitions of Humanism

At the latest meeting of the AHA board the challenge of developing short definitions of Humanism was discussed. All Humanists could use a short answer at times to the question “What is Humanism?”

Board members decided to solicit one line answers that could be used on elevators and other public places where lengthy conversations are not appropriate. Here are a few ideas generated so far. If you have suggestions pass them along to me.

  • Humanism is evolution writ large.
  • Humanism is the scientific quest for virtue, goodness and happiness.
  • Humanism is an alternative to religion in the quest for the meaning of life.
  • Humanism is faith that humans control their own destiny.
  • Humanism is the search for truth, reality and the will to live.
  • Humanism is the scientific view of life.
  • Humanism is the science of morals and ethics.

–Flo Wineriter

Letter to the Editor: Anti-anti-humanism

I have read the last three anti-humanism, and Living With the Local Culture, articles with great interest. We need informative criticism of religion and cultural movements more than ever.

I wish to thank the editor for the quality of the newsletter, and his critical thinking editorials.

I also wish to respond to the “Stop ‘Anti-humanist’ Columns,” published in the May edition. Our newsletter is a place for our chapter members to know what is going on in our chapter. It is also a journal, and as a journal, it is a place to let all our members have a voice on issues relative to the philosophy and cultural movement that we call naturalistic humanism.

To ask for the articles to be stopped, in my opinion, is censorship. Mr. Garrard has brought to our newsletter a unique and professional style. He is informed in his opinions, whether we agree with them or not, whether we think that they should be voiced or not.

Uphold our democratic ideals, and support the voices of our membership, as that is what makes our membership strong. It is the advocacy of humanism, not the advocacy of the censoring “anti-humanists,” that is voiced with democracy.

P.S. I note that the Living With the Local Culture column was not published in the June edition. Please, don’t stop. If the Utah Humanists don’t have a critical voice in regards to Mormonism, who is left? The Utah Lighthouse Ministry? Though accurate in many details, they still color their judgments with Christianity, instead of objectivity. Let us at least make the mistake of coloring our judgment with humanism.

–David Evans