Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Apr/09

1

Attitudes toward homosexuality

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In a follow up to my previous post, I decided to use the GSS’s logit regression feature to probe the relationship between a set of variables and attitudes toward homosexuality. The columns are the dependent variables, while the rows are the independent ones. I’ve omitted all variables where the beta coefficient is not statistically significant at p-value = 0.05. I’ve also bolded the largest beta in each column.

  Allow Homo. Speak Allow Homo. Teach Is Homo. Wrong Homo. Right To Marry Allow Homo. Books
Age 0.017 0.023 -0.015 0.102 -0.020
God - 0.103 -0.266 - -
Income - -0.074 - - 0.039
Degree -0.376 -0.355 0.408 - 0.287
Wordsum -0.228 -0.194 0.130 0.016 0.191
Sex -0.279 -0.447 0.413 -0.577 0.259
Race - - -0.394 - -
Region - 0.057 - - -0.056
Polviews 0.187 0.205 -0.449 0.354 -0.182
Bible -0.595 -0.488 0.598 -0.418 0.719
Relig -0.093 -0.081 0.115 - 0.067

One immediate comment here is that age is not a very strong independent variable when you control for others. In other words, the young are not gay-friendly because they are young, but because other variables (e.g., religiosity) are correlated in a particular manner with youth. Secondly, attitudes toward the Bible (Word of God, Book of Fables, etc.) are excellent predictors of attitudes toward homosexuality. What does that tell us? I think this is one place where the old over-used chestnut that “correlation does not equal causation” holds. What the Bible variable is getting at in my opinion is more the particular subculture or Zeitgeist in which an individual is embedded. This is interpretation is conditional on my assessment that most people who hold the Bible to be the Word of God do not systematically read and memorize the Bible and transform themselves into inference machines whereby all actions and beliefs are reflectively munged through Biblical criteria. They may say that this is what they are doing, but I do not believe that humans are so conscious, reflective or deductive in their thinking.

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18 comments

  • Ben Abbott · April 1, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    David,

    What do “Degree” and “WordSum” refer to?

    And with regards to “Sex”, is “male” or “female” the postiive correlation?

    TiA

  • Joshua Zelinsky · April 1, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    There may also be people who may be rejecting seeing the Bible as the Word of God precisely because it leads to a result about homosexuality that they don’t like.

  • Author comment by David Hume · April 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    What do “Degree” and “WordSum” refer to?

    degree = highest degree attained. rank order:
    less than HS
    HS
    community college
    bachelor’s
    graduate

    wordsum is a 0-10 score on a vocab test. e.g., 10 out of 10 = 10 right. IOW, lower score = less intelligent.

    and with regards to “Sex”, is “male” or “female” the postiive correlation?

    men are more anti-homosexual.

  • Ben Abbott · April 2, 2009 at 1:24 am

    @David Hume

    So if I understand correctly, the better educated are less likely to believe homosexuality is wrong, but more likely to conclude the homosexuals should be restricted in their speech and from teaching?

  • Author comment by David Hume · April 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    but more likely to conclude the homosexuals should be restricted in their speech and from teaching?

    no. the signs don’t match across columns. go here and type ‘homosexual’ in the search box, and you’ll get some illumination. but if you don’t want to do that, just know there aren’t any surprises in terms of signs, just magnitude (e.g., the young are more homosexual-friendly, but less than you would think with some other variables controlled).

  • Richard · April 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I do want to make one observation here, just to be clear.

    The orthodox Christian perspective on homosexual activity is not rooted in the Bible strictly. The Bible only reinforces something known and knowable through natural human reason.

    In other words, the Orthodox, Catholic and (until 5 years ago) Mainline Protestant view is that the prohibition of homosexual activity is not a religious view per se.

    Just for the record.

  • The Great Gay Marriage Debate: Round Three - Damon Linker · April 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    [...] could say that we can know homosexuality is contrary to (human) nature because many heterosexuals (especially men) find the idea of homosexual intercourse (especially between men) repulsive. This is what Kass has [...]

  • Gotchaye · April 2, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Richard, there’s some truth in that (as was discussed on the other thread, a lot of it is people choosing the bits of the Bible that reinforce their own prejudices), but that tradition has its origins in the notion that Catholicism is not rooted in the Bible strictly. The idea is that the Bible only reinforces all Catholic dogma, and that it’s all known and knowable through natural human reason. By that reasoning, the whole religion is not actually religious. Regardless, is it particularly surprising that believers would claim that their beliefs are justified for reasons beyond the fact that they’re conveniently located in a particular book?

  • Danny · April 2, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Gotchaye: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and a host of other pre-Christian moral philosophers weren’t such big fans of homosexuality either (nor were they acquainted with the book of Leviticus).

    As for your thoughts on Catholicism and the Bible: It is extremely inaccurate (well, just flat out wrong) to say that the Catholic Church believes that all of it’s creeds can be arrived at through the use of natural reason. It holds, for instance, that the existence of God can be known through natural reason, but not that God is Triune – that knowledge required Revelation. Same goes for belief in the resurrection and last judgment.

    It is also inaccurate to say that the Bible is just “a particular book.” Why did certain books make it into the bible (such as the four Canonical Gospels), but not others (such as the Gospels of Thomas and Peter?). It was because a council of Bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, got together and decided which books contained accurate accounts of the life of Jesus and the Apostles and which ones weren’t. In order for Christians to have accepted their judgment about which books were canonical and which ones weren’t, there must have been a prior understanding that the College of Bishops, together with the bishop of Rome, were endowed with the ability to make authoritative pronouncements on matters of faith and morals. This continues to be the belief of the Catholic Church.

  • Gotchaye · April 3, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Fair enough on Catholic doctrine, Danny. Even with that, though, the reasoning that Richard outlines seems to lead to the idea that a belief in the existence of God (and I know that many theologians have held that even the specifically Christian God is knowable by natural reason) is not a religious belief.

    Also, I wasn’t being entirely serious when I used the phrase ‘conveniently located in a particular book’. I was just pointing out that there’s a bit of “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he” to a religious believer’s claims that his religious beliefs can be justified without scriptural revelation.

    Finally, I wasn’t talking about the origins of views on homosexuality – I think I’ve been pretty clear around here that I’m largely with DH on where our moral views actually come from – but about the justification of those views. The only real justification that your average disapprover of homosexuality can offer is that it’s against God’s law. There’s nothing contradictory or even confusing about saying that most modern opposition to homosexuality is religiously motivated while granting that the belief isn’t rationally derived from the Bible or that people were against homosexuality before there was Christianity.

  • Caledonian · April 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

    “In order for Christians to have accepted their judgment about which books were canonical and which ones weren’t, there must have been a prior understanding that the College of Bishops, together with the bishop of Rome, were endowed with the ability to make authoritative pronouncements on matters of faith and morals.”

    Wrong. Doesn’t logically follow.

    There was no prior understanding that the Supreme Court could declare laws to be Unconstitutional, until it did so and people accepted their pronouncement. Their action created the precedent that their power extended to evaluating the Constitutionality of laws, and the general acceptance of this new idea made it de facto the case.

    The concept of authority can usually be extended by having ‘authorities’ with poorly-defined roles make declarations. Most people will go along with the flow rather than take a stand against an actor with an association of authority.

  • Danny · April 3, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Gotchaye:

    I suppose it depends upon how you define religious belief. As Pascal wrote after a 2 hour mystical experience, “GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob – not of the philosophers and of the learned.”

    Christianity has always made a distinction between what is specifically knowable by reason about God and what required revelation. The purely philosophical aspects (His existence, eternity, incorporeality, etc.) are not necessarily religious, but are regarded as the preambula to faith – one could not accept that the resurrection was a historical event if one did not hold a prior belief in the existence of a God who could bring such an event about.

  • J · April 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    @Joshua Zelinsky

    Yes, I think that is true. People either accept the Bible and what it teaches or they have their own religion and accept only the parts of the Bible (or none of it) that support their point of view.

  • Chairm · April 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

    What of the converse?

    Whence the pro-homosexual view if not blind faith in the dogmas of postmodernism (which have politically saturated much of the soft sciences)?

  • Darel · April 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    David, you really need a variable for parental status. People without children are far more positive toward homosexuality than are those with children. The data even shows a correlation between *number* of children and attitudes toward homosexuality — particularly homosexual practice (i.e. morality of same-sex sexual acts and same-sex marriage).

    Much of the young’s support for the normalization of homosexuality is due to their having no children. The increasingly later and later age of first marriage and first birth increases this relationship.

  • Author comment by David Hume · April 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    David, you really need a variable for parental status. People without children are far more positive toward homosexuality than are those with children.

    i added “childs.” it is statistically significant in some cases, not in others (e.g., sig. for marriage, not for homosexuality is wrong), but is not one of the stronger predictors in any case.

  • Chris · April 6, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    @Chairm: What pro-homosexual view? I’m only aware of the neutral-toward-homosexuals view that (a) homosexuality should be ignored unless relevant, and (b) it is seldom relevant.

    Obviously that needs no dogmas to support it, since the first part is a special case of a basic principle of rational action (anything irrelevant should be ignored, since the cost of paying attention to it exceeds the zero benefit) and the second is a null hypothesis.

  • Lorenzo · April 10, 2009 at 4:23 am

    @Danny
    Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and a host of other pre-Christian moral philosophers weren’t such big fans of homosexuality either (nor were they acquainted with the book of Leviticus).
    Nor did they believe in civic equality for women. This does not make civic equality for women a dubious issue.

    Besides, Plato’s attitude is very unclear. The Athenian in “The Laws” famously argued (on the false empirical basis that animals do not have sex with members of their own sex) that homosexuality was unnatural. Yet, in “The Symposium”, love between men is seen as one of the supports of a free society (a rhetorical commonplace for centuries).

    The weird thing is believing that someone else’s private sexual activity (or even which other adult they want to build a life with) is something you need to have an opinion on. The whole “attitudes to homosexuality” matter is as dubious as “attitudes to Jews/blacks/Gypsies etc”. Selling the effortless virtue of feeling superior for not wanting to do something you have no interest in doing is as dubious as selling effortless virtue for not being female/black/Jewish etc. That it is an easy sell has made a common sell, but not therefore an any more respectable one.

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