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The Poulos Hoax?


Far be it for me, a lowly adjunct so depressed by the market he let his MLA membership lapse, to criticize Michael Bérubé, the current President of the MLA, but his summary of James Poulos’ definition of what women are for fails to account for the fact that Poulos has forwarded a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made  in such detail or with such care. Thankfully for all involved, Poulos decided to respond to critics of his original post with wit and aplomb. Contrary to Bérubé’s claim that Poulos thinks “tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin,” all the founding editor of The Postmodern Conservative meant to say was that:

Those who would restrict officially recognized marriages to one man and one woman are seen by many gay marriage advocates as using the power of the law to atavistically reverse the partly organic, partly hard-fought progress of civilization.

Civilization, you see, is composed of one part “organic” and one part “hard-fought.” Those who support gay marriage want to use the “power of law” to reverse the “progress of civilization” by employing an atavism, which we all know refers to the reemergence of an ancestral trait in a modern species. This reemergence can be genetic—like when babies are born monkeys—or it can be social—like when Buck remembered that dogs are wolves and heeded the call of his wild. According to Poulos, the desire of the gays to revert to a state of nature by finding female bodies disturbing is a social manifestation of a genetic trend, because the gays are atavisms—throwbacks to the early human societies in which partly organic men fought hard against progress by refusing to procreate with women. How they survived has long stumped evolutionary theorists, what with success typically defined in terms of how many half-genes an individual loosed upon the EEA, but Poulos is right to claim that

a column that points out that a society which rejects the premise of a question about sex, gender, and natural purposes might very well have achieved a great leap forward in the progress of human civilization.

That he happened to be the author of this great leaping achievement is immaterial, because “philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Heidegger” are famous people whose names he knows.

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