Saturday, 13 October 2012

An open letter to Jasmin H

I'm sure, by now, that you've seen the letter below, penned by Jasmin H, a home-schooled 14-year-old from Scargill in New Zealand, and published in the October 3rd edition of The Northern Outlook:

I decided that, rather than ridicule her as so many websites are doing - it's probably not her fault, people, and she's 14 - I'd write her letter:

Hi Jasmin

I read your letter in the newspaper and decided that I would write a letter to you. I should start by saying that I'm not homosexual and I have no agenda in writing this letter. I'm a married man, an ex-cop in his 50's, with three grown up kids in their 20s. Nor am I anti-religion (though I have no faith myself) and would never belittle your beliefs if you have any. I won't be impolite or, in any way, rude or bullying. You're obviously a smart young lady and feel strongly enough and well-informed enough to write letters to newspapers. All I'm asking you to do is read this letter and look at a few sources of information that maybe you haven't seen before. I hope that's okay.

I was a little bit confused by your letter. You say in your final paragraph that you don't believe in evolution. I wonder why that is, considering the weight of evidence for it. If, as I suspect, you are a person of faith, there is no reason why your faith and evolution have to be mutually incompatible. After all, the Catholic church and the Church of England and many other branches of Christianity accept evolution as fact. They simply argue that God created the process. I can't prove that they're wrong! You obviously know something about the subject because, throughout the letter, you talk about evolution as if it does exist, using phrases like 'our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat' and 'if homosexuality spreads, it can cause human evolution to come to a standstill' and 'the ducks will have evolved further than we have'. Perhaps you're more undecided, rather than disbelieving? I'd like to think that you have an open mind.

Incidentally, you might be interested to know that ducks have been around for a very long time; the fossil record suggests that they were around during the age of dinosaurs - or at least their ancestors were.

That's an artist's impression of a species called Vegavis, which belonged to an order of birds called Anserifomes, which includes waterfowl. Within this order, Vegavis is most closely related to true ducks and geese of the family Anatidae. Vegavis fossils have been found in Cretaceous rocks 65 million years old.

Julia Clarke of North Carolina State University used computer tomography (CT) scans to get a good view of the rock-encased fossil and concluded that the partial skeleton was a new species and very important to the story of avian evolution. "We now know that duck and chicken relatives coexisted with dinosaurs", she says. "This does not mean that today's chicken and duck species lived with dinosaurs, but that the evolutionary lineages leading to today's chicken and duck species did." Clarke's findings provide proof that cousins of living bird species co-existed with dinosaurs. Before the classification of Vegavis, the fossil record of living bird lineages in the Cretaceous period was very unreliable.

Ducks have been around a great deal longer than humans ... they've had more than a 60 million year head start on us. But, despite this advantage, I'd argue that they're not really more advanced  than we are. Yes, they pair up and nest together but don't most humans do that too? And we have marriage - a consciously made commitment between two people who love each other, whatever their genders happen to be. Ducks only have a primal instinct to pair bond. It really isn't a valid comparison as things differ from species to species.

And you might be surprised to learn that ducks engage in homosexual behaviour too; about one in 10 mallard couples are homosexual, which isn't too far off the figures for humans. Ducks also regularly indulge in 'attempted rape flights' when they pursue other ducks with a view to forcible mating. They also engage in necrophiliac homosexual behaviour (see here). So I'm not entirely convinced that they are a good role model for us humans; by comparison, two people loving and caring for each other is surely a vast improvement!

You also say that, after 2000 years, we should be cleverer than our ancestors but the reality is that you and I are no cleverer than the Romans were. There's been no significant development in human brains in just two millennia. People aren't cleverer today; they simply have access to more information. I couldn't build the Colosseum. Could you? And yet someone did built it all those years ago without books or the Internet. I know more than my grandfather did because I have instant access to almost the whole of human knowledge, but I'm no smarter than my grandad. I'm certainly not smarter than original thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci or Isambard Kingdom Brunel or James Watt or Isaac Newton; imagine what they might have achieved if they'd been able to Google! Da Vinci had ideas about flight hundreds of years ahead of his time; if he'd have been able to talk to other flight pioneers around the world by Skype or email or Twitter, we'd have had jet planes by the 17th century. Knowledge is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

And the most wonderful thing about knowledge is that it's available to us all unless it's deliberately withheld. The greatest gift you can give a child is a sense of wonder and an enquiring mind. Out there, right now, are 14 year olds like you who will one day cure cancer and put humans on Mars and alleviate poverty and suffering. And they will do all that by learning; by reading as much as they can and making reasoned and intelligent choices about what to believe based upon the weight of evidence. I hope that you will do the same, Jasmin. I hope that you will never let closed-minded people with blinkered views deny you the opportunity to achieve whatever you are capable of achieving. Ignorance, in its true sense of 'lacking knowledge', really isn't bliss at all.

I also hope that you'll come to see that it's not a sin to love someone, or to want to spend your life with someone, who just happens to be the same gender. Homosexuality isn't a disease or an illness; it won't 'spread' as you suggest. You can't catch a dose of Gay. It's been around as long as humans have been around - there just seems to be more of it these days because society is becoming more enlightened and less intolerant. People can come out more openly than ever before. The children of gay couples don't automatically become gay themselves and many heterosexual couples choose not to have children.

We are all born gay or straight or bisexual. We can no more choose who we fall in love with than a duck can choose to lay square eggs. Do you have any gay friends? How would you feel if your best friend or one of your relations 'came out'? It wouldn't stop them being the person they always were, would it?

If we all want to live in a peaceful society free from fear, persecution, prejudice and harm, then the foundation stones we need to set in place are knowledge and mutual respect. We should all strive to be less judgemental. In an ideal world, we should all make the effort to understand each other and ensure that we never treat others in ways that we ourselves wouldn't want to be treated.

THAT's enlightenment.

Warm wishes


P.S. If this all turns out to be a practical joke or a 'Poe', ignore everything I've said, okay?

Sources: Live Science, 600 Co  


  1. Steve

    what a wonderful way to address someones awareness and values - very sensitivly done and (as always) a superb read :)


  2. Well said!

    From the brother of one of those pesky homosexuals.

  3. the romans always seemed to have a lot more fun than we do generally as a society (ok ignore the rampant murders and being eaten by lions etc) so why would we want to move on from that really? Back then you could eat and fornicate at will without having some sanctimonious prig making you feel guilty about it. (yes i'm talking about you mother)

  4. Just so you know, there is almost no chance Jasmin is a real person and this letter is in any way serious.

  5. Thanks for the comments people.

    Anonymous 15 October - you may well be right (I alluded to the fact in my postscript). However, saying that there is 'almost no chance' Jasmin is a real person is meaningless. Do you have some evidence to support the idea that the letter is fake? What do you know that we don't? I would dearly like to know the truth.


  6. The Jasmin letter may well be fake but sadly there are people who do hold those odd views that homosexuality is wrong and goes against the word of "god"

    Stevyn wrote an excellent rebuttal!

    If ducks become our future overlords, I'm sure they would even agree with that!

  7. Andy

    I'm not in a position to say whether Jasmin is real or not or whether the letter is fake. I'm keeping an open mind until further information becomes available. Sadly, I've seen worse that have turned out to be quite true. Whether true or not, 'Jasmin's'letter has been reproduced on many websites and has been professionally dissected and addressed by very smart people like P Z Myers.

    Whatever the truth, it doesn't mean I want to alter a word of my letter in reply to it.

    Duck Vader?

  8. um. You carefully say "Jasmin H" on your blog to protect her identity (being a minor and all that), but this page's link doesn't have such sensitivity, it seems

  9. Anonymous

    I did. Her name has been quite openly used on other sites - which may or may not add veracity to the letter. The fact is, that Jasmin - if she exists - wrote to a public newspaper and gave her surname to the world, as did the newspaper.


  10. I wonder if this 14 year old knows that ducks are the only other species (other than humans), that practice gang rape. Oh and they engage in homosexuality as well. Moral to this story: Hate is being taught by the parents of this home-schooled girl. You aren't born with hate, you have to learn it.

  11. Oh come on. If you even have even a sliver of a doubt that this isn't a master-class in trollery, then you have some serious confirmation-bias issues.

    1. Nope. Simply don't believe you: see Poe's Law. Or Fred Phelps. Or the Flat Earthers. Or Scientology. Or any article about Obama. I don't think this by ANY means outside the realm of real kookery.

  12. That poor damaged child. I am only resentful towards her parents and the church for filling her head up with nonsense. I don't even have a problem with people disapproving of homosexuality -- my love is stronger than that, as long as homophobes and creationists keep their distasteful practices in their bedrooms where it belongs. But the tortured logic of this girl's letter betrays a disrespect for intellectual integrity that makes me ill, and I can't blame anyone but the blind faith she was raised in.

  13. The wonderful thing about the Romans was that they fed Christians to lions for entertainment...

  14. This is wonderful, and thank you so much for your letter, open-mindedness, and enlightened comments. I am truly thankful for individuals such as yourself.