Rand Paul runs as a libertarian, but according to a recent video, he fails even at basic libertarian “ethics.” While libertarianism is a morally bankrupt political philosophy, libertarians often pay lip-service to the idea of equal rights for all (their actions tell a different story), Rand Paul isn’t even doing that.
In the video, Senator Paul is standing with a few reporters, and is asked about civil rights for LGBTQI people. Paul opens the video, saying that he doesn’t believe in “judging” people based on behavior, and then adds that, “I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘gay rights,’ because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior.”
Let’s leave off the fact that it doesn’t matter whether being gay is a learned behavior or genetic trait and follow Paul’s logic. If Paul is going to class being gay as being a “behavior” — what he and other bigots mean here is “learned behavior,” like tying your shoes — then it’s my job to invoke behavioral genetics.
Being gay is a “behavior,” in the sense that walking upright is a “behavior.” But if Paul is going to insist on pushing it into the “learned behavior” category, he comes face-to-face with the question of just how much of your “learned behavior” is actually a manifestation of your genotype. Behavior, after all, is influenced by chemical reactions in your endocrine and nervous systems. These reactions are determined by your genetics, and manipulated by epigenetic processes.
If you follow that logic far enough down the double-helix ladder, it’s possible to reach the uncomfortable conclusion that you’re little more than a meat marionette dancing on molecular chains dangling from your genomic telomeres.
And that’s before we get into the madness of epigenetics, and notions like pleiotropy, polygenes, epistasis, and genetic plasticity. There’s a reason evolution makes computer scientists curl up in the fetal position and cry in the corner.
Of course, Paul is talking off the cuff. He’s probably not even thinking this deeply about what he says — the bigots he’s appealing to certainly aren’t.
And it’s not clear to who or how far Paul is willing to extend the argument that rights aren’t defined by behavior. After all, isn’t speaking a behavior? Thinking? Worshiping a God/being spiritual is one part learned behavior, one part innate biological wiring (the brain felt it necessary to devote an entire lobe to this process, called the parietal lobe).
Should we deny people freedom of speech, thought, and religion?
Paul’s spokesperson, Eleanor May, clarified:
Eleanor May, a spokesperson for Paul’s 2016 re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate, said the rights that count are those in the country’s founding charter. “What he is saying in this video is that he does not classify rights based on behavior, but rather recognizes rights for all, as our Constitution defines it,” May told BuzzFeed News.
Well, that clears things right up.
You can watch the video below: