Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Really Important Post Containing A Really Important Article

There are 'real' reasons why talk radio works far better for conservatives than it usually does liberals, but Rachel Maddow seems to combine reason and emotion in a way which is crossing ideological boundaries.

I strongly encourage my readers to read this entire article for a deeper explanation of the neural processes that produce our responses to metaphorical linguistics. I've written in the past that real spiritual conversion is a total body process that rewires our neural connections. Our sense of self is NOT divorced from our experiential biochemistry and is there for a construct we receive from others. This article is great in helping to explain all this, but the following explains how it effects our understanding of the proper moral organization of family and politics.

Blinks, Worms, and Spankers
Excerpt from an article by George Lakoff, Huffington Post, 2/21/10

Nick Kristof, in his February 14 column, discusses three experiments distinguishing conservatives from liberals.

*In one experiment, the strength of blink reflexes to unexpected noises was measured and correlated with degrees of reactions to external threats. Conservatives reacted considerably more strongly than liberals.

*Another experiment was based on the fact that disgust reactions create glandular secretions that change skin conductance. Subjects were shown disgusting images (like some eating a handful of worms). Liberals reacted mildly, but conservative reactions went off the charts.

*A third study showed a strong correlation between attitudes toward spanking and voting patterns: spanking states tend to go Republican. The experimenters correlated spanking preferences with what they called "cognitive styles." As Kristof reports it, "Spankers tend to see the world in stark, black-and-white terms, perceive the social order as vulnerable and under attack, tend to make strong distinctions between "us" and "them," and emphasize order and muscular responses to threats. Parents favoring timeouts feel more comfortable with ambiguities, sense less threat, embrace minority groups -- and are less prone to disgust when they see a man eating worms."

All three results follow from a cognitive science study called Moral Politics, which I published in 1996 and was reprinted in 2002. There I observed that conservatives and liberals had opposite moral worldviews structured by metaphor around two profoundly different models of the ideal family, a strict father family for conservatives and a nurturant parent family for liberals. In the ideal strict father family, the world is seen as a dangerous place and the father functions as protector from "others" and the parent who teaches children absolute right from wrong by punishing them physically (painful spanking or worse) when they do wrong. The father is the ultimate authority, children are to obey, and immoral practices are seen as disgusting.

Ideal liberal families are based on nurturance, which breaks down into empathy, responsibility -- for both oneself and others, and excellence: doing as well as one can to make oneself better and one's family and community better. Parents are to practice these things and children are to learn them by example.

Because our first experience with being governed in is our families, we all learn a basic metaphor: A Governing Institution Is A Family, where the governing institution can be a church, a school, a team, or a nation. The Nation-as-Family version gives us the idea of founding fathers, Mother India and Mother Russia, the Fatherland, homeland security, etc. (Mother Church, Father Joe.)

Apply these monolithically to our politics and you get extreme conservative and progressive moral systems, defining what is right and wrong to each side. (Or to our theology)...

There is no moral system of the moderate or the middle. Because of a neural phenomenon called "mutual inhibition," two opposing moral systems can live in brain circuits that inhibit each other and are active in different contexts. For a nonpolitical example, consider Saturday night and Sunday morning moral systems, which coexist in the brains of many Americans. The same is true of "moderates," who are conservative on some issues and progressive on others, though there may be variations from person to person.

Kristof doesn't mention Moral Politics, though he got a copy at a Democratic Senate retreat in 2003, at which we both spoke. If Moral Politics is still on his bookshelf, I suggest he take a look. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the difference between conservative and progressive moral systems.

Conservative Populism and Tea Partyers

After the Goldwater defeat of 1964, conservatism was a dirty word and most Americans wanted to be liberals, especially working people who were highly unionized. Lee Atwater and colleagues, working for the 1968 Nixon campaign, had a problem: How to get a significant number of working people to become conservative enough to vote for Nixon.

They intuited what I have since called "biconceptualism" (see The Political Mind) -- the fact that many Americans have both conservative and progressive views, but in different contexts and on different issues. Mutual inhibition in brain circuitry means the strengthening of one weakens the other. They found a way to both strengthen conservative views and weaken liberal views, creating a conservative populism. Here's how they did it.

They realized that by the late 60's many working people were disturbed by the anti-war demonstrations; so Nixon ran on anti-communism. They noticed that many working men were upset by radical feminists. So they pushed traditional family values. And they realized that, after the civil rights legislation, many working men, especially in the South, were threatened by blacks. So they ran Nixon on law and order. At the same time, they created the concept of "the liberal elite" -- the tax and spend liberals, the liberal media, the Hollywood liberals, the limosine liberals, and so on. They created language for all these ideas and have been repeating it ever since.

Even though liberals have worked tirelessly for the material benefit of working people, the repetition of conservative populist frames over more than 40 years has had an effect. Conservative ideas have spread in the brains of conservative populists. The current Tea Party movement is an attempt to spread conservative populism further.

Sarah Palin may not know history or economics, but she does know strict father morality and conservative populist frames. Frank Rich, in his February 14 NY Times column, denied David Broder's description of Palin as "perfect pitch populism" and called it "deceptive faux populism" and a "populist masquerade." What Rich is missing is that Palin has a perfect pitch for conservative populism -- which is very different from liberal populism. What she can do is strengthen the conservative side of bi-conceptual undecided populists, helping to move them to conservative populists. She is dangerous that way. (She is especially dangerous because she is portrayed as a 'nurturing' mother with the first dude at her side being protective and guiding. He is her silent, but obviously macho, and ever present male Guardian Angel. He is the perfect foil in case Sarah comes across as too much of a feminist.)

Frank Rich, another of my heroes, is a perfect pitch liberal. He assumes that nurturant values (empathy, social and personal responsibility, making yourself and the world better) are the only objective values. I think they are right values, values that define democracy, but unfortunately far from the only values. Starting with those values, Rich correctly points out that Palin's views contradict liberal populism and that her conservative positions won't materially help the poor and middle class. All true, but ... that does not contradict conservative populism or conservatism in general.

This is a grand liberal mistake. The highest value in the conservative moral system (see Moral Politics, Chapter 9) is the perpetuation and strengthening of the conservative moral system itself!! This is not liberal materialism. Liberals decry it as "ideology," and it is. But it is real, it has the structure of moral system, and it is physically part of the brains of both Washington conservatives and conservative populists. The conservative surge is not merely electoral. It is an idea surge. It is an attempt to spread conservatism via the spread of conservative populism. That is what the Tea Party movement is doing.

False Reason and Real Reason: The Obama Mistake

It was entirely predictable a year ago that the conservatives would hold firm against Obama's attempts at "bipartisanship" -- finding occasional conservatives who were biconceptual, that is, shared some views acceptable to Obama on some issues, while keeping an overall liberal agenda.
The conservatives are not fools. Because their highest value is protecting and extending the conservative moral system itself, giving Obama any victory at all would strengthen Obama and weaken the hold of their moral system. Of course they were going to vote against every proposal and delay and filibuster as often as possible. Protecting and extending their worldview demands it. (This is precisely what is happening in the Vatican as well. The Vatican of the last forty years is all about strengthening the moral system entrained in the brains of pre Vatican II clerics. It has never been neurologically about conversion to Jesus's far different moral view. Jesus even said that to get His teachings His disciples were going to have to abandon their FAMILIES and by extension the moral thinking their families espoused.)

Obama seems not to have understood this -- or wants to appear that way.
We saw this when Obama attended the Republican caucus. He kept pointing out that they voted against proposals that Republicans had made and that he had incorporated, acting as if this were a contradiction. But that was to be expected, since a particular proposal that strengthens Obama and hence weakens their moral view violates their highest moral principle.

Such conservative logic explains why conservatives in Congress first proposed a bipartisan committee to study the deficit, and then voted against it.

That is why I don't expect much from the President's summit with Republicans on February 25. Why should they do anything to strengthen Obama's hand, when it would violate their highest moral principle, as well as weakening themselves electorally. If Obama thinks he can shame them in front of their voters, he is mistaken again. Conservative voters think the same way they do. (Conservatives are also highly guilt driven. Benedict is allowed to manipulate through guilt because he is 'one of them' and a paternal authority figure. Obama is an 'other' and his introduction of guilt will only result in more obstinance because it will not be seen as morally instructive, but as an attack. Think of the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama used framing perfectly and articulated the progressive moral system (empathy, individual and social responsibility, making oneself and the world better) as well as it has ever been done.

But he changed after the election. Obama moved from real reason, how people really think, to false reason, a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment and favored by all too many liberals.

We now (finally!) come to the point of going through all those experiments in the cognitive and brain sciences. Here are the basic differences between real and false reason, and the ways in which all too many liberals, including Obama during the past year, are wed to false reason.

Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious. False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone. (This can not be stressed enough. Real reasoning is a total body experience. One feels real reasoning. False reasoning is a game the conscious brain plays to alleviate it's unconcsiously generated fears and it has little real power to persuade anyone. It's Jesus's whole concept of 'ears to hear and eyes to see'. All of this is the fundamental reason He taught through metaphor. He was looking for conversion, or the rewiring of neural pathways.)

Empathy is physical, arising from mirror neurons systems tied to emotional circuitry. Self-interest is real as well, and both play their roles in real reason. False reason is supposed to serve material self-interest alone. It's supposed to answer the question, "What's in it for me?,"which President Obama assumed that all populists were asking. While Frank Luntz told conservatives to frame health care in terms of the moral concepts of freedom (a "government takeover") and life ("death panels"), Obama was talking about policy minutia that could not be understood by most people.
Real reason is inexplicably tied up with emotion; you cannot be rational without being emotional. False reason thinks that emotion is the enemy of reason, that it is unscrupulous to call on emotion. Yet people with brain damage who cannot feel emotion cannot make rational decisions because they do not know what to want, since like and not like mean nothing. "Rational" decisions are based on a long history of emotional responses by oneself and others. Real reason requires emotion.

Obama assumed that Republicans would act "rationally" where "rationality" was defined by false reason -- on the logic of material self-interest. But conservatives understood that their electoral chances matched their highest moral principle, strengthening their moral system itself without compromise.

It is a basic principle of false reason that every human being has the same reason governed by logic -- and that if you just tell people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion. The President kept saying, throughout Tea Party summer, that he would just keep telling the truth about policy details -- details that most people could not make moral sense of. And so he did, to the detriment of all of us.

All politics is moral. Political leaders all make proposals they say are "right." No one proposes a policy that they say is wrong. But there are two opposing moral systems at work in America. What moral system you are using governs how you will see the world and reason about politics. That is the lesson of the cognitive science behind Moral Politics and all the experiments since then. It is the lesson of all the research on embodied metaphor. Metaphorical thought is central to politics. (And it's critical to spiritual thinking.)

Finally, there is the lesson of how language works in the brain. Every word is neurally connected to a neural circuit characterizing a frame, which in turn is part of a system of frames linked to a moral system. In political discourse, words activate frames, which in turn activate moral systems. This mechanism is not conscious. It is automatic, and it is acquired through repetition. As the language of conservative morality is repeated, frames are activated repeatedly that in turn activate and strengthen the conservative system of thought -- unconsciously and automatically. Thus conservative talk radio and the national conservative messaging system are powerful unconscious forces. They work via principles of real reason.

But many liberals, assuming a false view of reason, think that such a messaging system for ideas they believe in would be illegitimate -- doing the things that the conservatives do that they consider underhanded. Appealing honestly to the way people really think is seen as emotional and hence irrational and immoral. Liberals, clinging to false reason, simply resist paying attention to real reason.

Take Paul Krugman, one of my heroes, whose economic sense I find impeccable. Here is a quote from a recent column:

"Republicans who hate Medicare, tried to slash Medicare in the past, and still aim to dismantle the program over time, have been scoring political points by denouncing proposals for modest cost savings -- savings that are substantially smaller than the spending cuts buried in their own proposals."

He is following traditional liberal logic, and pointing out a literal contradiction: they denounce "cuts in Medicare" while wanting to eliminate Medicare and have proposed bigger cuts themselves.

But, from the perspective of real reason as conservatives use it, there is no contradiction. The highest conservative value is preserving and empowering their moral system itself. Medicare is anathema to their moral system -- a fundamental insult. It violates free market principles and gives people things they haven't all earned. It is a system where some people are paying --God forbid! -- for the medical care of others. For them, Medicare itself is immoral on a grand scale, a fundamental moral issue far more important than any minor proposal for "modest cost savings." I'm sorry to report it, but that is how conservatives are making use of real reason, and exploiting the fact that so many liberals think it's contradictory. (The "Grand scale" argument is precisely why Catholic bishops can so easily practice 'mental reservation' and other deceptions which appear to contradict the Gospel message when it comes to the sexual abuse crisis.)

Indeed, one of the major findings of real reason is that negating a frame activates that frame in the brain and reinforces it -- like Nixon saying that he was not a crook. Dan Pfeiffer, writing on the White House blog, posted an article called "Still not a 'Government Takeover'," which activates the conservative idea of a government takeover and hence reinforces the idea. Every time a liberal goes over a conservative proposal giving evidence negating conservative ideas one by one, he or she is activating the conservative ideas in the brains of his audience. The proper response is to start with your own ideas, framed to fit what you really believe. Facts matter. But they have to be framed properly and their moral significance must be made manifest. That is what we learn from real reason.

The NY Times is home to a lot of traditional reason, often based on false principles of how people think. That is why the reporting of those experiments brightened my day. Perhaps the best way to the NY Times mind is through the science of mind.

Kudos once more to the Times' science reporting on those experiments.

George Lakoff is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book is The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics.


I can not stress how important it is for progressives to understand the neuroscience involved in the above. Logic, as we currently define it, has no moral authority to change anybody because it is a head game. On some level Benedict knows this, which is why he can write such beautiful logic in his encyclicals but then turn around and use the 'disordered homosexual' and abortion cards as the primary basis on which to further his brain entrained notions of the traditional family and traditional Catholicism. The use of the term homosexual punches both the paternalistic sexual morality button, and just as importantly, the disgust button.

The 'reason' and logic of his encyclicals is brain candy for liberals and as such has zero impact on the conservative forces to which he is really pointing his papacy. In other words he disarms liberals by soothing their need for 'truth' by using the logic of false reason, and then reinforces his conservative supporters through gay bashing and reinforcing their notions of traditional family and traditional liturgy.

This is powerful stuff and liberals have to get over their reliance on logic and realize even they are subject to the rules of neural entrainment. There really is a method to what appears on the surface as conservative madness. The neural processes are the same even though the starting and ending points seem diametrically opposed. All of this is why our political battles are also our religious battles. I'll have more on this tomorrow.


  1. That's an excellent article, and you are right that it is well worth reading the original in its entirety.

    Having said that, the one study regarding "disgust reaction" differences between conservatives and liberals, and particularly Nick Kristof's take on it, has been deservedly criticised here and especially here.

    I agree with the general thrust of Lakoff's article, though. Too often we (progressives) expect our logical defense of things like gay rights, for example, to persuade those who disagree with us, without realising that conservatives don't hear it as a logical argument, they hear it as an attack on their belief system.

    When we consider how many of them think of the preservation of their belief system as their ticket to heaven (and guard against eternal damnation), it's not surprising that they find progressives so threatening.

    If we look at this within the framework of development, and understand that mature progressive perspectives generally tend to come from higher stages of development (whether cognitive, moral, or whatever) than conservative perspectives, we find that the things that effect transitions from one stage to the next are actually quite identifiable -- and logical argumentation is not one of the triggers.

  2. None of this is new. Al of this was well known to the practicioners of contemplation/ meditation in many religious traditions.

    What has happened is that knowledge has been disrgarded especialy by those overly influenced by Cartesian dualism.

  3. Colleen, thank you so much for making this important piece available, and for your illuminating commentary about it.

    It helps provide me with an epistemological language to explain my current frustration with dialogues about progressive change in church and society.

    There's a kind of knowing, it seems to me, that keeps head and heart in integral connection--and which therefore brings front and center the moral implications of ideas, which get suppressed in the head talk of "objective" centrist discourse.

    Nothing can change--nothing essential--it seems to me, as long as we're stuck in that head-talk space, with its refusal to see and admit the strong, intrinsic moral content borne by ideas.

    And thus the obligation to make choices, to get off the fence. To commit.

    Progressives ironically continue the very split between head and heart and ideas and morality that undercuts progressive agendas, by continuing the head talk. By assuming that logic is going to change hearts.

    And this is part of why I'm now distancing myself from a lot of the head talk and those who engage in it. People who talk about ideas as if those ideas don't connect to real people's real lives frustrate me.

    What frustrates me is the ability of so many of us simply to deny the ties that bind us. And when those denying those ties are liberal religionists who claim to be all about compassion, I'm beyond frustration.

    A church can credibly claim to be catholic only when it behaves in catholic ways.

    (P.S. I've had great trouble getting this comment through your site--but I'm having that same trouble with other religion-oriented blog sites these days.)

  4. I hardly know where to begin with all of this data and information. It leaves me with the sense that the political climate that exists now cannot be resolved with logic, as the article points out, but in speaking in such a way that would create new frames of reference.

    Conservatives have been relying on some old frames to get their way since the 1950s. Recall the McCarthy era, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. Despite the desire for peace, there has not been peace.

    Obama is making a huge mistake by trying to negotiate with those whose only intent is to destroy him and everything he stands for, which in their minds is right to do because the policies he represents threaten their "way of life"; a way of life of privilege, power and control, law and order, punishment for those who might topple or cripple in any way the world they are trying to protect at all cost, which to me can be seen as old money.

    Perhaps liberals have been tamed or trained to be subservient to tyrants? The responses to certain experiments suggest a detachment in their reactions and to conservatives this seems to suggest liberals are spineless.

    Compromise in relationships, rather than being seen as healthy and a way to progress and create stability in the world, is seen by the conservatives as an indication of validation of their world view.

    Obama seems to validate the conservatives world view each time he compromises his own beliefs and while doing so shoots himself in the foot each time he does so and alienates those who put him into office to represent us and make changes that are beneficial to us, such as health care reform, creating new jobs, etc.

    The old money is oil and gas, insurance companies, banks, the military industrial complex. Environmentalist try to use logic too, but it does not work.

    Kids who are spanked often wind up spanking their own children. However, many have left families who are abusive. Some live in resentment and anger and act out in ways in which they will be punished.

    Old wineskins can not be filled with new wine, less they burst.

    The most important thing to remember is this last paragraph - "The proper response is to start with your own ideas, framed to fit what you really believe. Facts matter. But they have to be framed properly and their moral significance must be made manifest. That is what we learn from real reason."

  5. Annon, you are certainly correct that this is nothing new and that it is Cartesian dualism. I've written about this in the distant past in dealing with the attributes of right and left hemishperic thinking. Real compassion, as opposed to intellectual compassion is a product of a number of different neural centers. See today's post.

    Bill, I know what you mean. The logic isn't ever going to lead to any kind of conversion. In fact it only serves to harden the opposition.

    It will be meeting real people in our real lives and allowing those relationships to convert us.

  6. "Benedict XVI, being German, comes from a place "decidedly averse to these things," argued Fr. Amorth, saying that in Germany "there practically aren't any exorcists." However, he clarified, "the Pope believes (in them)." (Yes indeed, Benedict is creating his own army of exorcists.)"

    ## That comment on the Pope's words,taken with everything up to that point, conjures a mental picture of something from a very bad B-movie :)

    We present "SuperPope and the Legion of Exorcists"

    As Aquinas points out, one does not "believe in" demons; one believes them to exist.

  7. Absolutely astonishing. IF there is one thing the current Pope and what you think of as "conservative" Catholics have been writing about for decade after decade after decade is that Cartesian dualism is WRONG. Catholic attacks on it go way way back - in an attempt to return to the pre-Cartesian way of thinking that Aquinas understood, to cite just one example, we have St. Edith Stein. Just a few other names: Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, David L. Schindler, Karol Wojtyla....You are right that that there exists a reduced reason that invents itself as totally divorced from the human person, including the body, but for heaven's sake - the Pop has taught on THIS EXACT SUBJECT repeatedly, as has John Paul II. Umm, check out the John Paul II Institute in DC and the international journal COmmunio for what-you-call-"conservative" Catholics who do NOT buy reduced reason and Cartesian dualism. Check out the entire membership of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

    Seriously, just do some RESEARCH. We all agree with the REASON side of your argument, though not with the nonsense that Prickliest Pear said - that there are NO rational arguments against homosexuality, for example.

    Sigh. It seems so hopeless that people will ever be able to talk to each other when articles like this are not only written, but celebrated.

    You are really barking up the wrong tree in your attempt to reduce the Church to American conservative politics.

  8. N Clark, I don't really want to go into the details in a comment, but Western culture has a tendency to divide the brain against itself in how it's taught to construct the notion of self.

    Successfully placating basic survival needs -and thriving in doing so- emphasises use of the conceptual intellect of the left brain. The left brain is constructed in such a way that it can divorce itself or over ride the input from the intelligence of the emotional centers.

    This is why in the debate about homosexuality it makes sense to the left brain that homosexual sexual activity is the sole focus of the teaching. The sexual acts are not procreative in the biological sphere.

    To the gay person it's not about the physical acts of sex but the emotional fact of love. The capacity for gays to love another is exactly the same neural capacity straights use to love another and the effects are the same on the phsyiological and neural systems. This love can be incredibly healing and such partnerships can be very creative and beneficial for society. Just like straight partnerships.

    Where the traditional moral logic breaks down is with non fertile straight couples. The argument switches form pro creative sexual acts to love between partners. To a gay mind this is an illogical double standard. A double standard which is also applied to fertile straight couples when it comes to birth control.

    It's too bad for the Church's sexual morality that love doesn't confine itself to people who are capable of procreation and willing to have all the children their biology is capable of producing.

    Partnered love is about personal development with in relationship and then cultural continuity. It transcends pure biological creativity.

    In my opinion the Church has put itself in a position in which it is arguing absolute morality from the inferior position of biology, when it should be arguing from the transcendant position of healthy relationship. It should be making it's case from a position of love, not sex.

    Oh well, shoulda, woulda, coulda. It won't change when the teaching comes from those who have rejected both partnered love and sex, and on a daily basis have a much more difficult time with the sex part of it--until they fall in love and then they more often than not, lose the game.

  9. Actually my comment wasn't about homosexuality - I was just trying to speak to the Cartesian dualism issue - the Church has for 300 years opposed Cartesian dualism, consistently. Think of Pope John Paul II's philosophical works, "The Acting Person" and "Love and Responsibility," not to mention "The Theology of the Body." And again, everything by everyone from Aquinas to Edith Stein to Balthasar. The very encyclicals by Pope B16 you mention are consistently anti-dualism and fact that is one of their points. They are not "false logic" aimed at liberals - believe me, liberals hate them and conservatives adore them - they are like "theology on your knees" - it's hard not to begin praying once you reach the end of "Deus Caritas Est" for example, precisely because it is NOT what you say (reduced logic) but so amazingly holistic. There is simply not a single Catholic theologian who is a dualist.

    (an aside: It was the Enlightenment philosopher Rousseau who believed that morality sprang from gut reactions, not ANY conservative philosopher).

    My doctoral dissertation is on these issues so I know whereof I speak. The Church has never defended body-body dualism, from the very beginning (that's Gnosticism,with which so many people - including Catholics! confuse Catholicism).

    I am not a political conservative, (nor a liberal, for many, many reasons - I'm too radical, I guess) and I have several dear gay friends and relatives. Maybe because I am "an intellectual" (cough, cough!), at least by the world's standards (Yale grad degrees etc) I NEVER meet conservatives who don't use reason, and far more often than ideological liberals I know, but I admit there are ideological conservatives.

    Onto homosexuality. The issues are troublesome and I appreciate your writing from a reasonable standard in the comment and not the "everyone who doesn't agree with me is irrational" view of the original post.

    Your argument is that the church argues from outdated biology, and not from the transcendent category of relationship. Look, my most beloved cousin, a famous photographer, has a wonderful, wonderful relationship with his gay partner, and I won't deny that it has transcendent aspects. So I am asking YOU not to say something about the church that is factually wrong. The entire argument is METAPHYSICALLY and TRANSCENDENTALLY based. Again, key texts are the ones I mentioned above by John Paul II - Love and Responsibility, Theology of the Body, and The Acting Person.

    The trouble is that they have to be read and studied and UNDERSTOOD, not just skimmed for "gotcha" sentences about homosexuality that seem wrong when wrenched from the context.

    The entire "Communio" school of Catholic theology, the predominant theology of the 20th and 21st century, which grew out of all the pre-Vatican II responses to what was becoming an ossified Baroque Thomism, is based on transcendence and relationality. Try reading some of the works that come out of that school - many of Communio's articles are available online, and for the reading public there is "Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body" by Carl Anderson and Jose Granados - a quick and easy read.

    For a harder read - von Balthasar's magnum opus, The Splendor of the Lord.

    I realize that for someone who just glances at Church teachings OR just knows really dumb Catholics, it SEEMS as if it is based on biology, but there are few things you can judge by how the man in the street understands them.

    If you want to continue this discussion you can write to me at I am only on my computer occasionally, so if I don't answer right away I am not ignoring you.

  10. Nate I'm not unaware of the fact the Church has consistently railed against mind/body dualism and sees this as gnosticism.

    Unfortunately, this written word is too often contradicted by how these authors live their actual lives.

    I really like a lot of what JPII wrote in TOB, but then he lived his life by torturing his body for the sake of his spirituality. It's a contradiction of epic proportions and in my mind, points to a dualism in which he thinks one thing but it either doesn't apply to him or he can't live it, because his thinking is not integrated with his feeling.

    In some respects this is the core issue in seminaries. Great mind candy but no equal maturation process for the sexual/emotional component. The problem here is seminarians are discouraged from experiencing the kinds of relationship which foster sexual/emotional maturity.

    It is virtually impossible to authentically live a theology of relationship you haven't been allowed to experience.