Sunday, September 9, 2018

College Course: Heterosexuality Is Not “Natural”




By Professor

     My kind readers often give me “hints” on what to write about, and I had several point me in the direction of a strange-looking course, via ZeroHedge.

     First let’s address the course by dissecting the course description:

QUEER ECOLOGIES
FALL 2018
TAUGHT BY: HEATHER DAVIS
SECTION: A
CRN: 7681
Credits: 4


     The professor is Heather Davis, and section “A” means there’s probably only going to be one section. The CRN is the important part:7681. The first digit of a college course generally says what year student should be taking the course. Your typical undergraduate will probably not take courses numbered higher than 4000 (or 400, for smaller campuses), because a typical bachelor’s degree is a 4 year degree.

      Once you past 4000, you’re looking at graduate school. With a 7000 number, this is a very advanced course. If you walk into a 7000 level course in mathematics, physics, chemistry or engineering without a very firm background in the subject…you’re doomed. It takes years of preparation to understand the material in a 7000 level course—I remind the gentle reader the whole point of education is always to prepare the student for more.

      So what exactly is in this extremely advanced course?

This course will address the interdisciplinary constellation of practices that aim, in different ways, to disrupt prevailing heterosexist discursive and institutional articulations of sexuality and nature…

    
     The jargon a bit intense, but I’ll give the professor some slack here—advanced courses are like this. An easier way to express the above would be “this course is a look at all the ways we’re disrupting the view of heterosexuality as the way the world works,” at the risk of oversimplifying (small risk, I admit). There’s more:

and also to reimagine evolutionary processes, ecological interactions, and environmental politics in light of queer theory.


     Hmm. It’s hard to view homosexual behavior as having much impact on evolutionary processes—homosexual behavior isn’t really conducive to pregnancy, after all (we’re specifically addressing humans here), and our understanding of evolution requires propagation of the species in that manner. Similarly, I’m hard pressed to understand what behavior homosexuality would have on the ecology of the world which would be different than heterosexuality (beyond dying off in a single generation, but I doubt that’ll be the gist of the discussion).

      Whatever benefits dying off would have on the ecology would be negated with environmental politics—if you don’t have children, destroying the environment would seem a more acceptable outcome, right? Somehow I suspect that point of view won’t come up in the course.

     There’s more:

Drawing from traditions as diverse as evolutionary biology, LGBTQ+ movements, feminist science studies, and environmental justice,


     One of these things is not like the others, big time. “Evolutionary biology” is something of a science, while the others are political movements/ideologies more than anything else. Ok, I guess some would dispute evolutionary biology as being scientific…but I sure can’t call it a “tradition.”

     There’s more to the course description, but color me puzzled. Where exactly would all this ideology lead? What do you need to know to come into the course? These are real questions in legitimate graduate courses which always—always!-- need to be justified by providing very solid answers to those questions.

     This course seems to be just a bunch of stuff. A bit more on the course:

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)
Department: Culture and Media (LCST)
Campus: New York City (GV)
Course Format: Seminar (R)
Max Enrollment: 18


      Again I’m scratching my head. What is a “culture and media” department? I sure don’t remember any of that in my academic studies, and I’m a little puzzled how “LCST” is a fair abbreviation for “Culture and Media.”

      More worrisome than the puzzling acronym is the enrollment of 18 is full, as near as I can tell. There are truly 18 people studying this incredibly advanced concept? I can’t recall ever seeing a 7000 level course in my discipline with 18 serious students. Again the question of “where are they going with this?” comes to mind.

      Campus Reform had some questions about the course but didn’t really understand the answers provided by the professor, so I’ll try to help, here.

Davis explained that queer ecologies is an “interdisciplinary field that examines the relationship between sexuality and nature, thinking beyond the boundaries of assuming that heterosexuality is the norm or standard.”


     Wait. When I look up the definition of “norm,” it’s “usual, typical, or standard.” Gallup says around 4% of the population is homosexual, so, yes, a human being heterosexual is indeed quite typical, even if our media grossly exaggerates the percentage of the population as gay.

      So basically the professor is saying the course will be going beyond the boundaries of thinking “words have meaning.” Hmm.

     The professor continues trying to explain:

The field “inquires into the sexual lives of animals, plants, and bacteria—lives that are often much more strange, adaptable, and queer than anything humans do,” she elaborated. “It also seeks to critique how heterosexuality is presumed as natural.”


      I’m not convinced that humans and bacteria could validly have their “sexual lives” compared, but…there’s a question about heterosexuality being natural? Again, a cursory inspection of the definition of “natural” is in order:

nat·u·ral

/ˈnaCH(ə)rəl/

adjective
·         1.existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind:


As per the definition, yes, heterosexuality is natural, in that it is not caused by humanity. On the other hand, there’s evidence that homosexuals are more common among those abused as children, thus satisfying the definition of “unnatural” but I digress.

“We can see this in how queerness is often said to be ‘unnatural’...rather than thinking about how queer sex might actually be helpful to the survival of species,” Davis noted.


     As much as I have concerns about these types of courses, the above is certainly an interesting idea. Alas, she doesn’t give an example of how that might be the case. Instead, she devolves into faulty logic and obfuscation in what passes as her explanation:

One example of this, Davis asserted, is how scientists often characterize plants using gender-specific language.
“We still tend to characterize plants that reproduce sexually in heterosexual terms where a male and female plant need to transfer gametes. Although this understanding of plant reproduction is not un-true, it misses the point that in order for these plants to fertilize they also rely on other species, such as bees and wasps,” she argued.

   Homosexuality in humans refers to the same species, so discussion of how plants to some extent rely upon other species for their reproduction is a non-sequitur, not reinforcing her idea (it’s kinda-sorta leading up to it in a way, I suppose).

     I’m particularly worried about her “not un-true” line regarding understanding of plant reproduction in heterosexual terms. “Not un-true” is garble-speak for “true”…I’m don’t know what confusion of ideas allows for acknowledging the fact that something is true as a means to argue it’s not true.

     Perhaps I’m being hard on the course. I grant that someone could look at a description for a 7000 level mathematics course and criticize the strange terms and concepts being addressed there. But I still maintain that such a course would have real requirements for entry, unlike the above where simply being able to recite the ideological tenets would be sufficient.

       And, where exactly would this course lead?