What to do with Henrik van der Breggen? It’s simple. Fire him.
“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.” -Paul Gauguin
Paula Deen’s golden days seem, more or less, to be over. That’s exactly as it should be. We’re just not very tolerant of people who get found out as racists.
I wish the same were true of homophobes like Henrik van der Breggen. He’s a professor — a doctor, even — at some insignificant Canadian Christian college. He published an outrageous little compilation of recycled misinformation entitled “Is Promoting Same-Sex Sex Wise?,” in a Manitoba newspaper.
Honestly, van der Breggen is a little below my weight class, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t bother with him. But three things are true. First of all, he’s started tangling with Aaron Hildebrandt, who I consider a friend. Second, he constantly repeats the claim that he’s “deeply interested in the truth,” and if there’s one thing I really can’t stand, it’s a faux-Socrates.
Third, and most importantly, he’s the sort of person who discredits academia in general, and the humanities in particular. Yes, he has the right to voice his opinions. He also has the right to suffer the consequences, just like Paula Deen. If we are to take doctoral degrees seriously, then we have to admit that what he’s done is akin to a modern doctor writing a column claiming that tuberculosis results from demonic possession. In other words, his methods are simply not compatible with our profession. He’s not just homophobic — he’s so driven by hate that he’s incapable of basic logical reasoning.
He shouldn’t retain his teaching position. He needs to be fired. Everyone like him also needs to be fired. It’s really that simple.
Hildebrandt has done a great job discrediting van der Breggen (here), but out of courtesy, he (i.e. Hildebrandt) perhaps says a little too much. He invites too much quibbling, which is, naturally, exactly how van der Breggen responds here.
Van der Breggen’s preferred form of logical fallacy is the false analogy. He implicitly likens himself to Socrates. He compares gay sex to smoking tobacco. He draws an analogy between contemporary bits of homophobic misinformation and Galileo’s revolutionary scientific theories.
- Nobody should take van der Breggen’s claims about “respecting” gay people seriously. He’s trying to scare them and validate homophobic discrimination against them.
- Furthermore, the fact that van der Breggen’s “respect” for gay people comes from his belief that all people created in God’s image deserve respect belies his claim to be interested in “truth” above all. I could not care less what he believes. Belief is not truth.
- Celebrating one’s choices publicly does not amount to promoting them. I can attend an Oktoberfest event without believing that everyone should drink alcohol.
- The analogy between Galileo and homophobic pseudo-science is ridiculous. Galileo’s ideas were revolutionary. Anti-homosexual views have been around for thousands of years. They are not iconoclastic.
- “Further investigation” into the supposed dangers of gay sex is not warranted, and van der Breggen is not arguing in good faith. People like him try to establish “scientific controversies” where none exist, like people who don’t “believe” in global warming or evolution. They see this as a first step towards making the more definitive claims they always, already, intend to make. (Techically, this is known as an “inflation of conflict” fallacy.)
- Everything van der Breggen says about gay sex could be said about straight sex. I mean, OK, if the definition of “straight sex” is limited to vaginal intercourse, then it probably doesn’t lead to increased risks of anal cancer. On the other hand, gay sex does not lead to pregnancy, and pregnancy can cause all sorts of health problems, up to and including death. (More common side effects include the feeling that one is being “kicked” in the stomach or that one is “eating for two,” feeling unwell during the morning, baby showers, and a long period of physical duress commonly known as “labor.”)
- The analogy to pregnancy is not only meant as a joke. Pregnancy is a perfect example of a behaviour that does carry undeniable health risks, and yet can still be worthwhile. To question gay sex on the grounds that it poses health risks amounts to a naturalistic fallacy, namely inferring an “ought” from a fact that has no inherent moral consequent.
Now let’s take things a little more slowly.
For the sake of clarity, I think that the Bible teaches that it is sin/immoral to engage in sexual relations outside of a one-man-one-woman marriage relationship.
And yet, it totally doesn’t. See, for example, The Book of Genesis, Chapter 19 (incidentally, it’s easy to find Genesis, since it’s the first book):
30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
There is evidence of considerable health risk associated with same-sex sexual behaviour.
See above. All sexual behaviour creates health risks. The least risky lifestyle is abstinence, a choice I would certainly recommend for van der Breggen.
Also, Hildebrandt has been guilty of earlier obfuscations over at Citizens Concerned About Manitoba Bill 18, a Facebook group from which Hildebrandt was banned. As a result of these obfuscations, I banned Hildebrandt from my blog. I suspect that this doesn’t sit well with Hildebrandt, so now he seems bent on continuing his “critique” of my work with further obfuscation coupled with an attempt to smear my academic and personal reputation.
This overuses the word “obfuscation.” The effect is obfuscatory. Thus it is guilty of the “obfuscation through obsession with obfuscation” fallacy, which is a well-known derivative of the argumentum verbosium.
Also, I wish to point out that my argument’s conclusion—that we should investigate further before we give same-sex sex our social stamp of approval—may actually be helpful to LGBTQ students, not damaging.
This is both shifting the burden of proof and an argument from probability.
Keep in mind that, contrary to what Hildebrandt’s misrepresentation would have the reader think, the goal of my argument is not to demonstrate a causal connection between homosexual behaviour and health issues; the goal of my argument is merely to point to an association between homosexual behaviour and health concerns and thus recommend further investigation.
I don’t know what part of this is slimier — the equivocation (i.e. the bad-faith distinction between deixis and demonstration), or the fallacious argument to moderation.
Keep in mind, too, that (as I mention in my column) my argument is a cumulative case argument. In a cumulative case argument the individual arguments needn’t be 100% demonstrative; they only need to carry some force, which accumulates. In the case at hand, the arguments only need to carry enough force to raise reasonable questions that will encourage further investigation.
Don’t be fooled by van der Breggen’s absurd reference to “cumulative case arguments.” This is sheer kettle logic — the belief that many fallacious arguments for the same untrue proposition demonstrate collectively something they do not demonstrate individually. “Carry some force” is a weasel phrase that conflates his appeals to homophobic prejudice with demonstrations of the truth.
Note: Contrary to what Hildebrandt seems to suggest, in my column I do not ignore the issue of depression due to social rejection/ social stigma. I write: “[W]e should be careful neither to underestimate nor to overestimate the effects of social stigma. Still, stigma or no stigma, the physical-medical health issues remain.”
I’m sort of amazed that van der Breggen would dare quote himself here, because he’s quoting a remarkably weak link in his own earlier set of arguments. If homophobia makes homosexuals prone to depression, then celebrations of homosexual love and sex have an obvious, positive, medical value. The only reason to withhold such a “social stamp of approval,” to use van der Breggen’s disgusting and entitled phrase, would be on the grounds that the medical risks posed by homosexual sex were greater than the damage caused by homophobia. But then, once again, van der Breggen would have to oppose any sexual act that posed equally serious medical risks, which he doesn’t.
Enough of this. I hope van der Breggen continues to write and publish. I hope he has lots of time to do just that — once he’s unemployed, I mean.
Until next time, this is Dr. Joseph Kugelmass, saying…