Intelligent Design

Why you can’t have have morality – or marriage – without natural law

Spread the love

Recently, ID critic Professor Jason Rosenhouse has written a series of posts on the topic of morality. In two posts (here and here), he defended the view that morality is objective, but in two other posts in reply to Barry Arrington (here and here), he attacked the only theory that provides morality with an objective grounding in a philosophically rigorous manner: natural law theory. To me, that sounds a lot like sawing off the branch that you’re sitting on.

Professor Rosenhouse makes much of the fact that most people, most of the time, manage to agree about moral issues. Now, I’m happy to grant that our agreement about moral issues constitutes good prima facie evidence for the view that morality is indeed objective. However, it would be putting the cart before the horse if we were to simply define the objective content of morality as “those ethical facts which most people agree about, most of the time.” People generally agree about moral matters, precisely because there are certain objective truths which they can readily perceive, and which guide their moral decision-making. For instance, “Virtually everyone understands basic empathy, and understands that it is just wrong to inflict pointless suffering on sentient creatures.”

The next question we need to ask is: what kinds of objective truths guide our moral decision-making? Professor Rosenhouse writes:

There can be objective moral truths even if people don’t realize what they are. Perhaps we can only learn about such truths by observing the doleful consequences of getting it wrong.

Rosenhouse evidently believes that these truths are empirical facts about the good and bad consequences of acting in a certain way, where “good consequences” are those which result in an increase in people’s happiness or level of satisfaction, while “bad consequences” are those which cause suffering. From the foregoing description, it can be seen that Professor Rosenhouse is a utilitarian of sorts.

The fatal flaw in utilitarianism: the case of “Fat Man”

But good consequences alone cannot define morally good actions. To see what’s wrong with utilitarianism, I would invite my readers to consider what New Atheist Sam Harris says about the “Fat Man” ethical dilemma, which the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson described as follows:

…[A] trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?
(Judith Jarvis Thomson, “Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem,” The Monist, vol. 59, pp. 204-17, 1976.)

Nearly everyone, if you ask them, says it would be wrong to push the fat man. Dr. Harris would push the fat man onto the track, on the grounds that it leads to better consequences all round: it kills one individual but saves five. I have to say that I cannot understand how anyone could do that. I think Dr. Harris displays a badly formed moral conscience in defending such an action, and I’m sure the vast majority of my readers would agree with me.

Surprisingly, Dr. Harris evinces no qualms about his choice. He appears to believe that if you don’t see things his way, then you’re simply irrational. Rational, enlightened people would evaluate the morality of such an act by looking at the results produced.

But some of my readers may wish to ask: why, exactly, is killing the fat man wrong? An atheist who goes under the pen name of Robephiles identifies the error in Harris’s moral reasoning in an article entitled, Sam Harris and the Moral Failure of Science. Robephiles explains why he considers Harris’ ethical views to be “as dangerous as even the most radical religion.” What’s missing from Dr. Harris’ moral equation is that he doesn’t view human beings as “ends in themselves”:

In one of his speeches Harris mentions the famous “trolley problem.” In one scenario a runaway trolley is on a track and going to run over four people but you can flip a switch and put it on the other track where another person is. In the second scenario you are standing next to a fat man who you can push in front of the trolley to save the four people. In the first case almost everyone says pulling the switch is okay but almost nobody says pushing somebody in front of the trolley is okay. Harris mentions this but doesn’t even have a point. He just says that the two acts are “different” but doesn’t clarify.

If he had bothered to think about it for even a second he would have seen that the first example is collateral damage. There was no malice in the flipping of the switch but it was the act that was necessary to save the four. If the other person was to see the trolley and jump out of the way then their death would not be necessary. In the case of the man being pushed in front of the trolley we are using another human being as a means to an end and that is unacceptable to most of us.

He [Sam Harris] doesn’t see what else is important other than the maximizing of human welfare, so your religious rights don’t matter, your civil rights don’t matter, due process doesn’t matter. Kant claimed that every human being had intrinsic value and an inherent right to be free. Kant thought that it was better to let humans be free to make bad choices than to enslave them in the interest of their well-being. For the last few hundred years civilizations that have lived by these principles have done pretty well.

For Harris, while treating people as “ends in themselves” in everyday life might be a good way to safeguard human well-being in the majority of cases, in the end, overall “human well-being” is the supreme good, and human lives can legitimately be sacrificed to protect this greater good.

That’s how an ant-hive might work. But people aren’t ants; nor are they like cells in the greater body of “society.” Unlike a cell, whose function is wholly subservient to that of the body it belongs to, each individual person has a distinct good of their own, which can be grasped without reference to the good of society. For example, it is good for someone to create beautiful works of art, or make new discoveries, or to love another person, regardless of whether society-as-a-whole benefits from these acts. It is true, of course, that human beings are social animals, who cannot flourish outside of society. However, the point I am making here is that the flourishing of a human individual can be understood without reference to the benefits it may indirectly confer on society.

The merits – and limitations – of Kantian ethics

The Kantian injunction that we should treat other people as ends in themselves, and not merely as means to our ends, has much to commend it. It also explains why it would be wrong to sacrifice an innocent person for the good of society as a whole. To cite an oft-cited example: we all know that it would be utterly wrong for a town sheriff to hang a man whom he knew to be innocent, in order to prevent riots and acts of mob violence that would ensue if the man were not hanged.

Brilliant as Kant’s moral insight is, his ethical theory suffers from one severe limitation: it fails to specify what kinds of activities define human goodness. To be sure, Kant has his own method for distinguishing good acts from bad ones: we should ask ourselves what would happen if everyone were to act in the way that we are proposing. For example, if I propose to lie whenever it is convenient for me to do so, Kant would say that I should first consider what would happen if everyone were to do the same. The result would be disastrous: nobody would know whom they could really trust. Since the precept that I should lie when it suits me cannot be generalized, we may conclude that it is a morally bad one. Kant’s procedure possesses the merit of being utterly impartial; however, it fails to address the deeper question: what makes a consequence good or bad? In order to answer this question, we need to know what makes people tick. We need to fully understand the human animal. In other words, we need to study human biology and human psychology, before we can define human morality.

Aristotle and the natural law theorists who followed him grasped this vital point. “Good” and “bad” cannot be objectively defined without reference to human nature. Professor Rosenhouse evidently thinks that increasing people’s level of satisfaction is a good thing, objectively speaking, while causing suffering is a bad thing. Such a definition is obviously flawed: taking drugs may cause intense feelings of euphoria on the part of the drug user, but we rightly view it as a harmful activity when we consider the physical and neurological damage it causes. Likewise, when a surgeon performs a life-saving operation, s/he may well have to cause suffering, for the long-term benefit of the patient. In such a case, we would all regard the surgeon’s action as a good one.

The conclusion we have reached, then, is that if we want to define what is objectively good or bad for people, we need to understand human nature. In this essay, however, I want to go further, and tease out a subtle ethical point which is often overlooked in contemporary discussions of morality. The position that I wish to argue for is that no human action can be called good or bad in an objective sense, unless it is good for human beings as human beings. I’m not saying that something has to be beneficial for each and every human being, or even for a given percentage of human beings (say, 80%), before it can be deemed “good.” Rather, what I’m saying is that the proposed action has to be the kind of action which we can grasp as beneficial from a proper understanding of human nature, before we can call it “good.”

Different strokes for different folks?

Now, some readers may be inclined to cavil at this point. They may cite the lyrics of the 1980s TV sitcom, Different Strokes:

Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

Or they may prefer to quote the pithy Roman adage: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

However, neither of these maxims withstands critical scrutiny. The thinking that lies behind them appears to be that people come in different types, and that what’s good for one type of person may actually be bad for another type of person. Thus for extroverts, socializing is an energizing experience which benefits them; whereas for introverts, it’s a draining experience, which they tend to avoid. And when people invoke the Different Strokes maxim in the field of sexual ethics, they may argue that whereas marriage between a man and a woman is an arrangement that benefits heterosexual human beings, it may actually harm other people, who would benefit from an alternative arrangement: same-sex marriage. Professor Rosenhouse is evidently of this view.

Before I address the issue of same-sex marriage, I’d like to step back and re-examine the alleged difference between what’s good for an introvert and what’s good for an extrovert. First, I’d like to point out that solitary confinement is good for no-one: it actually sends people mad – introverts and extroverts alike. Everybody needs human company at least sometimes. It is also indisputably true that even the most gregarious person needs to be alone sometimes. Where introverts and extroverts differ is not in what is good for them, but in how much of a good thing they can handle.

Rosenhouse believes that marriage itself (and not just heterosexual marriage) is good for some people, but bad for others. He writes:

“For some people, the decision to get married and have children represents a deeply satisfying and fulfilling commitment that immeasurably enriches their lives. But for many others it is a terrible decision, one that causes tremendous pain and misery.”

However, the fact that one person’s decision to marry another person results in pain and misery does not establish that marriage itself is bad for certain people. It may establish that the two people in question should not have gotten married, or that they were not emotionally ready for marriage. And there are some people who never will be emotionally ready for such a commitment. But there is an ocean of difference between saying that a commitment such as marriage is bad for some people, and saying that some people are not (and never will be) ready for such a commitment. In the former case, one is claiming that for certain people, commitments are psychologically toxic: they actually harm the people who enter into them. But in the latter case, what one is asserting is that the commitment itself is inherently good, but that in order to realize this good, a certain level of emotional maturity is required, which certain people lack.

So, are there any bona fide cases where what is good for one type of person is actually bad for another type of person? The two most plausible cases that come to mind relate to allergies and the biological differences between the sexes.

Let’s examine allergies first. An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person’s immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. According to recent research, the likelihood of developing allergies is inherited and related to an irregularity in the immune system, but the specific allergen is not. Exposure to allergens, especially in early life, is also an important risk factor for allergy. There are genuine cases, then, where one man’s meat (or seafood) is another man’s poison, but this is due to an abnormality. What we don’t have here is a case where what’s good for one normal individual is bad for another normal individual. (Incidentally, lactose intolerance is not an allergy, since it is caused by the absence of a specific enzyme in the digestive tract.)

What about the differences between the sexes? Unlike allergies, these differences are certainly “normal,” from a biological perspective, and it’s undeniably true that what’s good for women isn’t always good for men – and vice versa. For example, women experience first-hand the risks and benefits of pregnancy and breastfeeding, in ways in which men cannot. Even here, however, what we have is not a case of something being good for men and at the same time bad for women. Rather, what we have here is a case of certain goods that women can realize and that men cannot, and vice versa. Moreover, these goods can turn out to be mutually complementary, when viewed from a child’s-eye perspective. As we’ll see below, children benefit in distinct ways from having a mother and from having a father.

Are gays and lesbians people of a different kind from the rest of us?

The argument that what’s good for gays and lesbians isn’t the same as what’s good for heterosexuals presupposes that gays and lesbians are people of a different kind from the rest of us. However, there are two powerful reasons for rejecting this view. The first reason is an empirical one, relating to the fact that sexual identity during adolescence is not fixed but quite fluid: a significant percentage of individuals who identify as gay or lesbian in early adolescence may come to identify as bisexual or even heterosexual as adults, and (more rarely) vice versa. The second reason is an historical one: until the late nineteenth century, nobody in any culture identified themselves as “gay” or “straight.”

(1) The empirical evidence

The empirical evidence for fluidity in one’s self-described “sexual orientation” is nicely summarized in an article titled, Stability and Change in Sexual Orientation Identity Over a 10-Year Period in Adulthood, by Steven E. Mock and Richard P. Eibach, in Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-011-9761-1, published online 17 May 2011.

Does sexual orientation change? Is sexual orientation more fluid for women than it is for men? Given the controversial debate on sexual orientation conversion therapy (Spitzer, 2003), and intriguing recent research on sexual fluidity among sexual minority women (Diamond, 2008), it is surprising how little research there has been on the patterns of stability and change of sexual orientation identity (Le Vay, 2010, Savin-Williams, 2009). The research that has been conducted on this topic shows some consistent themes. First, heterosexuality is by far the predominant sexual orientation identity and least likely to change over time (Kinnish, Strassberg, & Turner, 2005). Second, there is evidence of greater fluidity in women’s than in men’s sexual orientation identity, particularly for sexual minority (i.e. non-heterosexual) women (Diamond, 2008; Dickson, Paul & Herbison, 2003). Third, bisexual identity tends to be less consistently claimed over time than other sexual identities (Kinnish et al., 2005)…

In survey research, reports of heterosexual identity typically range from 90 to 98% (Dickson et al., 2003; Herbenick et al., 2010; Mosher et al., 2005). In a retrospective study of sexual orientation identity among a group of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men and women, heterosexuals reported less lifetime change in sexual orientation than sexual minorities did (Kinnish et al., 2005)…. In a 6-year longitudinal study of sexual attraction and behavior from adolescence to early adulthood, Savin-Williams and Ream (2007) found a high degree of stability for opposite-sex attraction and behavior but little consistency for same-sex attraction and behavior. Similarly, in a 5-year study of same- and opposite-sex attraction in a national sample of young adults (Dickson et al., 2003), 95% of opposite-sex attracted men and 84% of opposite-sex attracted women maintained a consistent rating of attraction over 5 years (i.e., no change), but only 65% of the men with same-sex attraction and 40% of the women with same-sex attraction did so. Although these results suggest greater stability for heterosexuality compared to sexual minority orientations, they also suggest sexual orientation identity may be less stable for women than men (Dickson et al., 2003)…

I’m not arguing here that “conversion therapy” works; frankly, I very much doubt that it does. Sexual preferences appear to be fixed by the time people turn 25. But during the adolescent years, there is strong evidence for fluidity – especially among bisexuals and lesbians.

(2) The historical evidence

David Benkof is a Stanford-trained historian whose research has focused on modern Jewish history and the gay and lesbian past. He has written about gay and lesbian history for dozens of LGBT publications, and authored the book (as David Bianco) Gay Essentials: Facts for your Queer Brain (Alyson, 1999). In an article titled, Nobody is ‘born that way,’ gay historians say, in The Daily Caller (19 March 2014), he writes:

Virtually no serious person disputes that in our society, people generally experience their gay or straight orientations as unchosen and unchangeable. But the LGBT community goes further, portraying itself as a naturally arising subset of every human population, with homosexuality being etched into some people’s DNA…

But a surprising group of people doesn’t think that – namely, scholars of gay history and anthropology.

They’re almost all LGBT themselves, and they have decisively shown that gayness is a product of Western society originating about 150 years ago. Using documents and field studies, these intrepid social scientists have examined the evidence of homosexuality in other times and cultures to see how the gay minority fared. But they’ve come up empty. Sure, there’s substantial evidence of both discreet and open same-sex love and sex in pre-modern times. But no society before the 19th century had a gay minority or even discernibly gay-oriented individuals.

Dr. Benkof adds that in times past, there weren’t “straight” people, either: the belief that people are oriented in just one direction is peculiar to Western society. He continues:

Journalists trumpet every biological study that even hints that gayness and straightness might be hard-wired, but they show little interest in the abundant social-science research showing that sexual orientation cannot be innate. The scholars I interviewed for this essay were variously dismayed or appalled by this trend.

Benkof cites two academics who share his views: historian Dr. Martin Duberman, founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, who writes that “no good scientific work establishes that people are born gay or straight,” and cultural anthropologist Dr. Esther Newton (of the University of Michigan) who described one study linking sexual orientation to biological traits as ludicrous: “Any anthropologist who has looked cross-culturally (knows) it’s impossible that that’s true, because sexuality is structured in such different ways in different cultures.”

Dr. Benkof contends that modern-day categories for sexuality don’t correspond well with how people described themselves in times past. He quotes Dr. Duberman: “Were people always either gay or straight? The answer to that is a decided no.” Duberman argues that people in olden times who slept with members of their own gender “haven’t viewed that as something exclusive and therefore something that defines them as a different category of human being.”

Dr. Benkof then proceeds to evaluate the historical evidence from ancient Greece, as well as the contemporary evidence from non-Western cultures:

[S]cholars don’t think the ancient Greeks had a gay minority. Rather, that civilization thought homosexuality was something anyone could enjoy. In addition to a wife, elite men were expected to take a younger male as an apprentice-lover, with prescribed bedroom roles. The system was so different from ours that to describe specific ancient Greeks as gay or straight would show profound disrespect for their experiences… LGBT anthropologists have also found no gay minorities in their studies of cultures around the world. In fact, Dr. Newton noted in an essay that her field has “no essentialist position on sexuality, no notion that people are born with sexual orientations. The evidence, fragmentary as it is, all points the other way.”… Dr. Newton asserted without hesitation that she knows of no non-Western cultural system that divides people into the categories of men who like women; men who like men; women who like men; and women who like women the way ours does….

For the benefit of his readers, Benkof spells out exactly what he and other gay and lesbian historians are claiming:

Gay and lesbian historians aren’t just claiming that before the 19th century nobody was called “gay.” They’re saying nobody was gay (or straight). While various societies had different ways of thinking about and expressing gender, love, and desire, homosexuality was generally something one could do, not something one could be…

(3) Homosexuality in animals – why it’s irrelevant to human beings

“But what about homosexuality in animals?”, some may ask. The New York Times has devoted articles to this issue. In a thought-provoking online post titled, Evolution, animals, and gay behavior (4 April 2010), renowned evolutionary biologist Professor Jerry Coyne (of the University of Chicago) contends that no conclusions about homosexuality in human beings can be drawn from scientific observations of gay behavior in animals. He writes:

Today’s New York Times Magazine has a long article by Jon Mooallem, “Can Animals Be Gay?”, that discusses recent observations of same-sex sexual behavior in animals. It’s a pretty good piece, showing the minefield that is animal research on homosexuality…

Can animal studies really inform work on human homosexuality? I’m not an expert in this area, but Mooallem doesn’t paint an optimistic picture. He shows, and I had guessed this, that “gay” behavior in animals (by this I mean “same-sex” sexual behavior) is a grab-bag of diverse phenomena that don’t support a single evolutionary explanation. Some same-sex behavior, such as the occasional tendency of males to mount other males, could simply be a byproduct of a general tendency for males to copulate with anything moving, which is itself adaptive since sperm is cheap… In other cases same-sex behavior may have evolutionary roots, reflecting specific adaptations… In other cases, like the polymorphous sexuality in bonobo chimps, sexual behavior may have been co-opted into forms of social bonding…

So we shouldn’t hold out a lot of hope that these kinds of studies will shed much illumination on human homosexuality. It may, but I’m not hopeful. For one things, humans have a rich and mercurial culture that is unlike anything seen in animals. Social stigma or conventions can change quite quickly, and this can affect the propensity of same-sex behavior. Was prolific gay behavior in ancient Athens the same thing, biologically, as the behavior of gays in 1930s Chicago? Who knows?

The data at hand already show that same-sex behavior in animals is a mixed bag of heterogeneous stuff, and may not illuminate homosexuality in humans. Most of the researchers described in Mooallem’s article seem to recognize this.

And of course, no matter what the evolutionary roots of homosexual behavior are, those are irrelevant (apologies to Sam Harris here) to how we regard gays. Infanticide is “normal” in some species like lions and langurs, but we condemn it and punish it in humans. What is “natural,” “genetic,” or “adaptive” has little relevance, to me at least, to the question of what is right.

Professor Coyne concedes that “there are indications that there is some genetic basis in some people” for gay behavior, but adds: “That doesn’t mean, however, that all gay behavior stems from ‘gay genes.’ Even if there’s a genetic basis, there is likely a strong interaction with the environment, too, so that one may not be able to impute gay behavior to simply ‘genes’ or ‘environment.'”

To sum up: while there is some evidence that gay behavior has a partial genetic basis, there is no good evidence for the view that gays and lesbians represent a different kind of human being, with a distinct good of their own. The available evidence points the other way. Sexual identity is fluid (at least during adolescence), and until a few decades ago, gays and lesbians have never defined themselves as a distinct “type” of human being, with a separate good of their own.

What makes sex objectively good?

Let’s now return to the morality of sex. Judging from his posts on morality and marriage, Professor Rosenhouse evidently views sex as something which is objectively good, for the majority of people. Fine; but what makes it so? If I were to ask a drug-user why they regarded their drug of preference as good, it would not do at all if they were to answer: “Because it gives me pleasure.” That certainly makes it subjectively good, but it does not make it good in any objective sense. Nor would it help if the drug-user were to point out that they partake of their favorite drug with a fellow-user, and that the shared ritual of imbibing the drug is a mutually pleasurable one. Even a shared, inter-subjective pleasure may or may not be objectively good. Only if the drug in question could be shown to enhance human health (e.g. by prolonging human life, or reducing the incidence of some disease) in some publicly identifiable manner could we make a good case that it was objectively beneficial. Likewise, before we can describe sexual pleasure as objectively good, we need to demonstrate that it is somehow conducive to human thriving, in a publicly verifiable way. We need to show that for the individuals who engage in sex, the activity itself promotes their biological and psychological flourishing, or promotes human flourishing in a way in which we can all recognize.

Sex between a man and a woman confers one benefit which is indisputable: the generation of new human beings. Only a confirmed misanthrope would deny that the birth of a newborn baby is a good thing, considered in itself. (Of course, that doesn’t make procreation prudent – let alone obligatory – for every couple, here and now. “Prudent” and “good” are two different concepts.) We also observe that married couples tend to flourish on an inter-personal level from engaging in conjugal relations: it helps them grow closer together, and it strengthens their marital bond. And marriage, too, is surely a good thing in itself: it is the most intimate human bond there is, between consenting adults. (And as I argued earlier, the fact that some people are emotionally unready for marriage in no way detracts from its essential goodness.) Since sex plays a vital role in strengthening the marital bond, we may legitimately conclude that even for heterosexual couples who are incapable of procreating, sexual relations are also objectively good, insofar as they are conducive to human flourishing.

At this point, a defender of homosexual rights may propose that we can make the same argument for gay and lesbian couples: the sex that they have strengthens their bond of intimacy, and since intimacy is objectively a good thing, it follows that gay and lesbian sex must therefore be a good thing, objectively speaking. Moreover, it seems churlish to reserve the term “marriage” exclusively for bonds between heterosexual couples. Surely, it will be urged, we need to expand our definition of marriage to include any public, life-long bond between two consenting adults, in which sexual relations are understood to occur.

Why not gay marriage?

(a) The logic behind gay marriage is destructive of monogamy

The foregoing argument looks plausible at first sight, but it completely ignores the bisexual community. Let’s consider the case of a bisexual male named Albert, who is passionately in love with a woman named Belinda and a man named Charles. He can’t imagine spending his life without either of them – nor can they imagine spending their lives without him. To simplify matters from a legal perspective, let’s assume that Albert doesn’t want to have children, and that he’s had himself sterilized to prevent that possibility from eventuating. If gays and lesbians are accorded the right to marry whomever they wish, then why shouldn’t bisexuals be given the same right?

Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy. And if you’re going to allow it for bisexuals, then it seems legally arbitrary to deny heterosexuals and homosexuals the same right. The logical consequences of granting people the right to marry whomever they wish, regardless of their sexual orientation, would thus be very profound: the abolition of socially sanctioned monogamy. But they are a direct logical entailment of the argument advanced by gays and lesbians in support of gay marriage.

Speaking of monogamy, Professor Rosenhouse would do well to have a look at Hanna Rosin’s article in Slate, titled, The Dirty Little Secret: Most Gay Couples Aren’t Monogamous (June 26, 2013). She writes:

The dirty little secret about gay marriage: Most gay couples are not monogamous… [Atlantic reporter Liza Mundy] tells the story of Dan Savage, who started out wanting to be monogamous until he and his partner had kids, and then they loosened up on that in order to make their union last. “Monogamish” is what he calls his new model. But as Mundy asks, can anyone out there imagine a husband proposing that same deal to his pregnant wife?

…In the fight for marriage equality, the gay rights movement has put forth couples that look like straight ones, together forever, loyal, sharing assets. But what no one wants to talk about is that they don’t necessarily represent the norm… [I]n legalizing gay marriage, we are accepting a form of sanctioned marriage that is not by habit monogamous and that is inventing all kinds of new models of how to accommodate lust and desire in long-term relationships.

I might point out that in liberal Sweden, where Media and Marketing Europe (2002) reported that “at least 6% of Sweden’s 8.8 million population are gay,” only 4521 females were married to another female in Sweden as of July 2013, compared to 3646 males in same-sex marriages. In other words, the vast majority of gays don’t want gay marriage for themselves, even in an “enlightened” country where its legalization is non-controversial.

(b) Marriage: it’s really about procreation

But by far the best case against gay marriage that I have ever seen was actually penned by a gay man, Paul Rosnick (a pseudonym), in an article titled, I’m Gay, And I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage (The Federalist, 28 April 2015). Rosnick’s argument is succinct and gets straight to the point. In a world where there were no children, there would be no need for a socially regulated institution called marriage. (If astronauts found alien life on a distant planet which reproduced asexually, you can safely bet there wouldn’t be anything like marriage on that planet.) And although it is true that not all marriages produce children, nevertheless children are the fundamental reason why the institution of marriage exists:

People have forgotten that the defining feature of marriage, the thing that makes marriage marriage, is the sexual complementarity of the people involved. Marriage is often correctly viewed as an institution deeply rooted in religious tradition. But people sometimes forget that marriage is also based in science. When a heterosexual couple has sex, a biological reaction can occur that results in a new human life.

Government got into the marriage business to ensure that these new lives are created in a responsible manner. This capacity for creating new life is what makes marriage special. No matter how much we try, same-sex couples will never be able to create a new life. If you find that level of inequality offensive, take it up with Mother Nature….

Same-sex relationships not only lack the ability to create children, but I believe they are also suboptimal environments for raising children. On a personal level, this was an agonizing realization for me to come to. I have always wanted to be a father. I would give just about anything for the chance to have kids. But the first rule of fatherhood is that a good dad will put the needs of his children before his own—and every child needs a mom and a dad. Period. I could never forgive myself for ripping a child away from his mother so I could selfishly live out my dreams.

Same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother. This hardly seems fair.

Do children do better with a mother and a father?

But is it really true, as Posnick contends, that children go better when raised by a mother and a father? The best scientific evidence currently available says yes. On this point, I’d like to quote from an article by Michael Cook at www.mercatornet.com, titled, The “no difference” theory is dead (February 9, 2015):

Fresh research has just tossed a grenade into the incendiary issue of same-sex parenting. Writing in the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, a peer-reviewed journal, American sociologist Paul Sullins concludes that children’s “Emotional problems [are] over twice as prevalent for children with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents”.

He says confidently: “it is no longer accurate to claim that no study has found children in same-sex families to be disadvantaged relative to those in opposite-sex families.”

This defiant rebuttal of the “no difference” hypothesis is sure to stir up a hornet’s next as the Supreme Court prepares to trawl through arguments for and against same-sex marriage. It will be impossible for critics to ignore it, as it is based on more data than any previous study — 512 children with same-sex parents drawn from the US National Health Interview Survey. The emotional problems included misbehaviour, worrying, depression, poor relationships with peers and inability to concentrate.

After crunching the numbers, Sullins found opposite-sex parents provided a better environment. “Biological parentage uniquely and powerfully distinguishes child outcomes between children with opposite-sex parents and those with same-sex parents,” he writes…

Until recently nearly all studies of same-sex parenting were very small. In a survey of 49 studies in 2010, one researcher found that their mean sample size was only 39 children. Only four of these were random samples; the others had been selected by contacting gay and lesbian groups. An ambitious 2012 study by Mark Regnerus, of the University of Texas at Austin, identified only 39 young adults who had lived with a same-sex couple for more than three years out of 2,988 cases.

For researchers, it’s a conundrum. The number of children being raised by same-sex couples is so small – 0.005 percent of American households with children — that capturing them in a random sample is like finding a needle in a haystack. So the figure of 512 children, while still relatively small, makes Sullins’s study a major contribution.

Sullins examines whether other factors could explain the difference in emotional welfare. According to his analysis, none of them does.

Reviewer John Londregan summarizes the limitations of previous studies of gay parenting in an article titled, Same-Sex Parenting: Unpacking the Social Science, in Public Discourse (February 24, 2015):

[Researcher Loren] Marks reviews an extensive literature on the topic and finds that most of the studies on the subject rely on “convenience samples”: groups of respondents that cannot be considered cross-sections of the population at large. ..

Marks also notes that many of the small studies either fail to identify a comparison group of heterosexual parents, or they compare educated and affluent lesbian couples to single heterosexual parents. He suggests that better comparison groups might consist of married heterosexual parents or of all heterosexual parents…

Objections from three Supreme Court justices: Kennedy, Kagan and Ginsburg

Three Supreme Court justices have put forward arguments in relation to gay marriage which rest on faulty logic, in my opinion.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is fond of invoking the term “dignity” in his court decisions, and he has recently used the term during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on gay marriage. This strikes me as philosophically unsound, for two reasons. First, dignity attaches to people, not to their choices or actions. Gay people (like heterosexuals) have dignity; gay marriages do not and cannot. Second, as Jeffrey Rosen points out in a thoughtfully argued <piece in the Atlantic (April 2015), “dignity” is a very slippery concept:

If dignity is defined so elastically, then conservatives judges might invoke it to strike down not only gun-control laws, but also other progressive legislation. Libertarian groups invoked the “sweet-mystery-of-life” my language in Casey to argue that the Obamacare healthcare mandate unconstitutionally violated the dignity and autonomy of Americans by forcing them to buy health insurance. In the future, cigarette smokers might argue that anti-smoking bans violate their ability to create an individual identity. And conservative Christian wedding photographers could claim that anti-discrimination laws compelling them to photograph gay weddings violate their dignity and ability to define themselves as conservative Christians. What courts would do when confronted with the clashing dignitary rights of the religious wedding photographer and the gay couple, or the hunter and the victim of gun violence, is anyone’s guess, because dignity is such an abstract concept that its boundaries are difficult to discern.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan derides the traditional view that the social purpose of marriage is procreation. Back in 2013, she acidly observed during oral argument during the Proposition 8 case that there is no age limit on marriage — a limit that would be expected if marriage were really all about procreation.

Justice Kagan’s objection is a facile one. First of all, there is a lower age limit on marriage, and historically speaking, the main reason for that limit is that children and teenagers are not biologically, emotionally and financially ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. Second, a marriage doesn’t end when babies are born: they also need to be raised for the next twenty-or-so years. After that, parents usually become grandparents as their children grow up, get married and have children of their own. There are thus very strong social reasons why a married couple needs to remain together for the rest of their lives, if they are to properly meet their children’s needs and fulfill social expectations. But if two people can still be married, no matter how old they are, then it would be legally arbitrary to deny two people the right to get married, no matter how old they are.

Another argument in defense of gay marriage was recently put forward by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned the tables on the conservative claim that marriage has traditionally defined as a life-long union between a man and a woman by pointing out that historically, it has also been defined as a patriarchal institution as well, in which men controlled the lives of the women they were married to. Here’s what Ginsburg was reported as saying in an article by Ian Millhiser at Think Progress, titled, Justice Ginsburg Eviscerates The Case Against Marriage Equality In Just Five Sentences (April 29, 2015):

[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.

There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.

However, Ginsburg’s argument is factually wrong. To be sure, there have been many societies which accorded husbands the dominant say in a marriage, but patriarchy is by no means a cultural universal. There are societies in which marriage is matriarchal, not patriarchal. In a 1955 article in Man, anthropologist Edmund Leach asserted that no one definition of marriage applied to all cultures. Leach put forward a list of ten rights associated with marriage, including sexual monopoly and rights with respect to children, with specific rights differing across cultures. These rights, according to Leach, included the following:

“To establish a legal father of a woman’s children.
To establish a legal mother of a man’s children.
To give the husband a monopoly in the wife’s sexuality.
To give the wife a monopoly in the husband’s sexuality.
To give the husband partial or monopolistic rights to the wife’s domestic and other labour services.
To give the wife partial or monopolistic rights to the husband’s domestic and other labour services.
To give the husband partial or total control over property belonging or potentially accruing to the wife.
To give the wife partial or total control over property belonging or potentially accruing to the husband.
To establish a joint fund of property – a partnership – for the benefit of the children of the marriage.
To establish a socially significant ‘relationship of affinity’ between the husband and his wife’s brothers.”
(Leach, Edmund. “Polyandry, Inheritance and the Definition of Marriage”. Man 55 (12): 183, December 1955.)

Even if it were true that all societies are patriarchal, marriage itself is not defined in that way: my Concise Oxford dictionary (Clarendon Press, 1990) simply defines it as “the legal union of a man and a woman in order to live together, and often to have children.” No mention of patriarchy there.

Finally, Justice Ginsburg’s contention that traditional marriage is inherently patriarchal is at odds with the words of St. Paul, who declared that in a marriage, each spouse has authority over the other spouse’s body: “A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband; and similarly, a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather, his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4). That sounds pretty egalitarian to me.

Conclusion

I conclude that (a) the arguments put forward in defense of gay marriage rest on a flawed understanding of human nature and of the notion of objective good, and (b) a defense of the goodness of marriage requires a solid foundation in natural law. Without natural law, it is impossible to make meaningful moral arguments regarding marriage.

Recommended Reading

Modern Moral Philosophy by Elizabeth Anscombe.
A probing, thought-provoking critique of utilitarianism.

Sexual and Marital Ethics by the MIT Anscombe Society. A collection of easy-to-read, scholarly articles on the purpose of sex and the meaning of marriage.

Sex and Consequences by Professor Peter Wood.
An anthropologist vindicates the traditional family.

The Meaning of Marriage by Zenit International News Agency.
A new collection of essays from across the academic disciplines argues that marriage need not be defended solely through appeals to religious authority or tradition.

Contraception and a Woman’s Self-Image by Jennifer Fulwiler, a former atheist who converted to Catholicism.

Contraception and Chastity by Professor Elizabeth Anscombe.
Roman Catholic thinker Elizabeth Anscombe relfects on the theological implications of contraception and chastity. Writing as a Roman Catholic, Anscombe offers a penetrating moral analysis of marriage and sexuality that will benefit any reader who rejects the secularist reduction of marriage as merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners.

Gay Rights: Facts About Homosexuality by Faith Facts. Faith Facts is a Bible-based, para-church ministry not affiliated with any denomination. Its mission is to further the gospel, that more may find a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the blessings of Christian living.

Responding to Pro-Gay Theology by Joe Dallas.
Joe Dallas, founder of Genesis Counseling, is the author of three books on homosexuality: Desires in Conflict, Unforgiven Sins, and A Strong Delusion: Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement. A former gay rights activist and staff member of a Metropolitan Community Church, he has worked with hundreds of men and women struggling with homosexuality and related problems.

The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 by David E. Malick.

Sex and Consequences by Professor Peter Wood.
An anthropologist vindicates the traditional family. Professor Wood also discusses the social consequences of tolerating homosexuality and of legalizing gay marriage.

Protecting America’s Immune System: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage by Dr. Frank Turek.

Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time For Change? by the American College of Pediatricians.
Points out the inherent risks of the homosexual lifestyle: violence, substance abuse, shorter lifespan and suicide. Also points out that homosexual unions rarely last longer than three years, and that monogamy is rare, promiscuity rampant.

Appendix: Homosexual behavior in males: nearly as risky as cigarette smoking?

Professor Rosenhouse considers consequences to be what matters most, in making moral decisions. It is strange, then, that he does not follow his own maxim when it comes to the goodness of gay sex.

There have been numerous widely-reported (and false) claims that living a gay lifestyle can take two or more decades off your life. Most of these claims rest on flawed methodology and out-of-date data, and fail to take account of recent improvements in drug treatments for people suffering from HIV. A good summary of the flaws in these claims can be found in an article titled, Fact check: do gays die earlier than smokers? by Andrew Crook (6 September 2012) in The Power Index, an independent Australian publication owned by Crikey.

While these claims are undoubtedly exaggerated, it is probably true that living a gay lifestyle in the United States today can take up to ten years off your life. The evidence can be found in a 2012 CDC report titled, Science of Optimizing HIV Prevention by Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On page 3, the report states that “men who have sex with men (MSM) are >40 times more likely to have HIV than other men.” On page 4, the report points out that “if current trends continue, half of today’s young black MSM will have HIV by age 35,” and “half of all MSM will have HIV by age 50.”

Think about that. Half of all men who have sex with other men will have HIV by the age of 50, and for black men who engage in homosexual behavior, half will have HIV by age 35. Those facts should give anyone pause.

Now it is certainly true that HIV is not the death sentence that it used to be. As Dr. Dennis Sifris, M.D. and James Myhre point out in their recent online article, How Long Can I Live After Getting HIV?, the current outlook for people with HIV is very positive, if infection is detected and treated early (before immune function is compromised), and if they are able to ensure viral suppression by maintaining life-long adherence once therapy started. However, as the article goes on to state, people with HIV still have a higher mortality rate than the general population, due to other risk factors (comorbidities):

Even for people able to maintain full viral suppression, the risk for the development of non-HIV-related comorbidities, such as cancer or heart disease, is far greater that of the general population, and generally develops 10 years earlier than people who don’t have HIV.

So profound are these concerns that, in the developed world, a person living with HIV is far more likely to die prematurely of a comorbid condition than an HIV-related one.

But there’s more. According to the 2013 fact sheet, HIV Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only a quarter of people suffering from HIV in the United States have adequate levels of viral suppression, leaving three-quarters of HIV sufferers at risk of succumbing to the virus: “Currently, CDC estimates that only 25% of the 1.1 million individuals with HIV have their viral loads adequately suppressed.”

Adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in older adults living with HIV/AIDS by Stephen Karpiak, Ph.D., explains why maintaining adequate viral suppression can be very difficult for many people suffering from HIV:

While the number of people living with HIV/AIDS who survive into their 50s, 60s and beyond is truly a success story, this pattern will only continue if our nation can link HIV-infected persons to adequate care, retain them in treatment and place them on antiretroviral therapy, with the goal of achieving viral suppression (Brooks, Buchacz, Gebo, & Mermin, 2012; Cahill & Valadéz, 2013). Unfortunately, of the almost 1.2 million people infected with HIV in the U.S., only one-fourth achieve viral suppression (see Figure 1). Viral suppression is contingent on adhering to ART regimens ≥ 90 percent of the time. This means that, for many people living with HIV/AIDS, they can skip or miss their HIV medications only once or twice a month. For many persons living with HIV/AIDS, this can be extremely challenging.

And as if that were not bad enough, a large percentage of people suffering from HIV don’t even know that they have the disease. To quote from the CDC fact sheet, HIV Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men:

In this study, the overall percent of gay and bisexual men with HIV who knew of their HIV infection increased from 56% in 2008 to 66% in 2011. Among those infected, 49% of young MSM [men who have sex with men] aged 18 to 24 years knew of their infection, whereas 76% of those aged 40 and over were aware of their HIV infection. Fifty- four percent of black/African American MSM knew of their infection, compared with 63% of Hispanic/Latino MSM and 86% of white MSM. Persons who don’t know they have HIV don’t get medical care and can unknowingly infect others.

It is often believed that lesbians have an almost zero risk of getting HIV. This belief is ill-founded, as shown by a recent report titled, HIV Risk for Lesbians, Bisexuals & Other Women Who Have Sex With Women (June 2009) by the Lesbian AIDS Project (LAP) at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC):

The vulnerability of lesbians and women who have sex with women (WSW) to HIV infection is a complicated public health issue that is perplexing to some and ignored by many..

With more than 15 years of experience with lesbians and WSW, the Lesbian AIDS Project (LAP) at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) knows first hand that there are lesbians and WSW living with HIV. We set about to research the risks lesbians and WSW face in this, the third decade of the HIV epidemic…

This research indicates that some lesbians/WSW engage in high risk behaviors that place them at risk for HIV transmission. Some WSW use injection drugs and may share needles and works. Some WSW have sex, or sexual histories, with HIV-positive men and/or injection drug users. Furthermore, our observations in LAP also suggest that WSW of color in New York City experience a number of environmental adversities that drive risk and confound expectations based solely on their sexual orientation.

…The objective of this paper is not to argue that lesbians/WSW are at the same risk as their heterosexual counterparts, but to acknowledge that there is significant risk of HIV, other STIs, and other health disparities for lesbians…

Lesbians and bisexual women, like their heterosexual counterparts, engage in at-risk sexual and social behaviors that place them at high risk, including but not limited to: unprotected sex with men, an increased number of sexual partners, the use of injection drugs, and exposure to fluids known to transmit HIV i.e. menstrual blood, vaginal secretions. Research from 1992 has shown that while a number of women (81%) believe that safe sex is important, only a few (18.7%) actually practiced it when engaged in sexual activity with other women (Russell et al. 1992). More than a decade later, this continues to be a reality for a many lesbians/WSW.

The CDC has stated that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is “more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 10, 2010. “CDC Analysis Provides New Look at Disproportionate Impact of HIV and Syphilis Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men.”)

Compare this with the risk of smoking:, which takes about ten years off the life of a long-time smoker, according to the article, Putting a Number on Smoking’s Toll by Anahad O’Connor, in the New York Times Ask Well blog (January 23, 2013).

No responsible government would recommend smoking to its teenagers as a an alternative lifestyle. Yet governments which do not present the gay lifestyle as a valid alternative to high school students are stigmatized as “intolerant.” Does that make sense to any of my readers?

129 Replies to “Why you can’t have have morality – or marriage – without natural law

  1. 1
    nightlight says:

    The fatal flaw with the “Fat Man” and similar contrived “counterexamples” is that they presume omniscient agents.

    Neither you nor anyone else can know what action maximizes the total happiness in the universe for all time, which is the final utility function. For example, the Fat Man you decided to throw under the trolley in order to optimize the immediate, local, short term happiness, could have turned out to be the person whose future action may save lives of 20 or 20 million people, and that would yield greater total happiness. Hence, throwing him under the trolley today could have been evil from utilitarian perspective i.e. you arrive at contradiction.

    The problem with such premise is that universe itself is still computing the solution to that utility function (maximum total happiness) i.e. harmonizing its elements at ever larger scales the best it can based on its computations so far. There is no solution book with answer ready to be consulted in order to make the optimum decision.

    In algorithmic terminology/perspective, the problem that universe is working out is computationally irreducible — the shortest way to get the answer is to let the universe run its course and compute the optimum configuration (if there is any i.e. if the problem is decidable; we don’t know whether that is the case, either). One can also view this observation as extension of the Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to ethics — if you assume completeness of the system (e.g. omniscience in the Fat Man example) you can arrive at contradictions (same action evaluated as good and evil as pointed out earlier).

    Note that all those counterexamples against utilitarianism are based on the common sleight of hand — smuggling in the old problem of good and evil that the hypothetical omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good being of theism has, by attributing some of these divine traits to humans (e.g. omniscience in the Fat Man “counterexample”).

    Neither theism nor utilitarianism (which are ultimately the same position expressed differently) have that problem if they reject those (allegedly) divine attributes.

    Hence, while there may be an objectively optimum action (that maximizes total happiness in the universe) at any moment, no one knows what it is. Therefore, at any given time we have to rely on guidance from the best available approximations we have, such as those built into each of us as our biological feedbacks (emotions, reasoning, judgment) as well as moral, religious and secular codes of our culture. In the Fat Man example, the gut reaction would prevent most of us from pushing him under the trolley.

    None of these approximations are objectively optimal, or equally optimal for everyone or for all time. For example, in a war, the moral evaluations of the same actions by the warring sides are often exactly the opposite from each other. The same ‘relativity’ manifests also when evaluating the same actions or behaviors in different eras and social systems (slavery, racism, gender roles, smoking etc).

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Dr. Torley,

    Thank you for this thought provoking article. It occurs to me that the “fat man” trolley problem is far from academic. We see it played out a million times a year in America’s abortion clinics. Here is the problem as formulated

    A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

    The problem could be reformulated as:

    An inconvenient baby is on its way. You are the bridge over which she must pass to live, and you can stop her by blocking the bridge. As it happens, there is an abortion doctor down the street – your only way to stop the baby is to have the doctor cut her into little pieces, killing her but saving you a good deal of inconvenience. Should you proceed?

    The only reason that someone would proceed is their failure to understand the rational soul within them is an end in itself.

  3. 3
    Zachriel says:

    vjtorley: the “Fat Man” ethical dilemma

    The ethical dilemma is an everyday occurrence. War is a constant feature of human behavior, and sacrificing pawns for the greater effort is a common tactic.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    As the OP points out, the evidence that there is a genetic basis for same-sex attraction is equivocal at best. Probably there is no such genetic basis. But even if that turns out not to be the case (i.e., some future study establishes that homosexuality has a genetic basis), the conclusion that homosexual behavior is good does not follow. There is a genetic basis for numerous conditions that no one suggests are good. For example, sickle cell anemia has a genetic basis. No one argues that we should embrace and celebrate sickle cell anemia. Rather, it is regarded as a genetic defect. There is some evidence that a tendency toward alcoholism may have a genetic basis. No one suggests that the alcoholic condition should be enshrined as an affirmative good in law and pizza parlors should be hounded out of business if they refuse to serve an alcoholic another drink.

    Genetic defects exist. It follows that merely because a condition has a genetic basis does not mean it is good. The question, therefore, is if homosexuality turns out to have a genetic basis, is it nevertheless good (like physical beauty which also obviously has a genetic basis) or is it a genetic defect (like sickle cell anemia)? The answer lies in the OP. That which is good is determined in reference to human nature. By human nature, I mean the nature of human beings generally, not any particular human being (which, like all instantiations of a form, vary to one degree or another from the essence of that form). Human beings come in two essential varieties (male and female) and it is blindingly obvious that those two varieties are mutually complementary. Thus, heterosexual conduct conforms to the essence of what it means to be human in a way that homosexual conduct does not. That is why Aristotle condemned homosexuality, not on religious grounds but on purely rational grounds.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Of semi-related note: One of the most enigmatic ‘novelties’ of the Cambrian explosion was the appearance of a wide variety of methods of reproduction for a such wide variety of different multicellular species/phyla in such a short time:

    Reproduction in Phylums
    https://quizlet.com/17313821/reproduction-in-phylums-flash-cards/

    The reason why such a diverse range of reproduction is such an enigmatic mystery for the Cambrian Explosion is best summed up in the following quote:

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    In other words, since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful, and rapid, asexual reproduction be realistically ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides rapid asexual reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, or even ‘slow’ sexual reproduction itself, would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing rapidly, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would, sooner or later, slow down successful rapid reproduction.
    And although Darwinists have a lot of hand waving ‘just so stories’ as to how sex originated, the truth is that they have no clue how sexual reproduction originated:

    Another whack at the “sex paradox” – July 1, 2014
    Excerpt: The article is most informative about tests done on the various theses but in the end (they state).
    And so the paradox of sex lives on. “We still really don’t know the answer to this very most basic question,” says Mark Welch. “We don’t know why sex exists.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....x-paradox/

    The following quote captures the heart of the profound questions as to the origin of sexual reproduction that are never honestly addressed by neo-Darwinists:

    How did the sexes originate? Why is it that the vast majority of living things require a “male and female” to reproduce? If evolution were true – doesn’t it make much more sense that EVERY living organism was self-replicating and required no useless energy expenditure? When did the first male get here? When did the first female get here? How? Why? Wouldn’t they have had to appear fully functional and at the same time in order for the next generation of organisms to arrive? Of course, they would. So, how is it that the first male and female for almost 2 million living organisms arrived together and fully functional so that reproduction could take place? “Sex is the QUEEN of evolutionary biology problems.”
    Dr. Graham Bell – In his book, ‘The Masterpiece of Nature’

    Moreover, contrary to what Darwinists believe about sexual reproduction promoting genetic diversity, it has been known for quite a while, as Walter Remine relates in this following interview, that sexual reproduction severely limits genetic variability rather than enhances it as Darwinists had originally thought.

    Walter ReMine on the Origin of Sexual Reproduction – interview
    http://kgov.s3.amazonaws.com/b.....BEL150.mp3

    This following study concurs with Dr. Remine that sexual reproduction limits genetic diversity instead of promoting it:

    Sex Is Not About Promoting Genetic Variation, Researchers Argue – (July 7, 2011)
    Excerpt: Biology textbooks maintain that the main function of sex is to promote genetic diversity. But Henry Heng, Ph.D., associate professor in WSU’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, says that’s not the case.,,,
    ,,,the primary function of sex is not about promoting diversity. Rather, it’s about keeping the genome context — an organism’s complete collection of genes arranged by chromosome composition and topology — as unchanged as possible, thereby maintaining a species’ identity. This surprising analysis has been published as a cover article in a recent issue of the journal Evolution.,,,
    For nearly 130 years, traditional perceptions hold that asexual reproduction generates clone-like offspring and sexual reproduction leads to more diverse offspring. “In reality, however, the relationship is quite the opposite,” said Heng.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161037.htm

    Moreover, sexual selection, although originally thought to be a major force in speciation by Darwinists, is now found to be quite ‘tenuous’

    The counterintuitive role of sexual selection in species maintenance and speciation – Maria R. Servedio – April 2014
    Excerpt: Speculation on the role of sexual selection in driving speciation and species maintenance traces back to the beginning of the explosion in sexual selection research seen in the past few decades (e.g., refs. 3, 4, 22, and 28). The more that this putative relationship is explored, however, the more tenuous it appears to be (e.g., refs. 10 and 11). Here we show that when sexual selection is isolated in a pure Fisherian form, it inhibits species maintenance in one of the situations in which its role seemed clearest, when the trait under sexual selection is also locally adapted. Furthermore, sexual selection is lost in this Fisherian system if preference strengths themselves are allowed to evolve.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/ea.....4111.short

    Also of interest to sexual reproduction, in terms of sexual biology and reproduction, the ways in which Chimpanzees and Humans reproduce, contrary to Darwinian thought, ‘could hardly be more different’:

    The Red Ape – Cornelius Hunter – August 2009
    Excerpt: “There remains, however, a paradoxical problem lurking within the wealth of DNA data: our morphology and physiology have very little, if anything, uniquely in common with chimpanzees to corroborate a unique common ancestor. Most of the characters we do share with chimpanzees also occur in other primates, and in sexual biology and reproduction we could hardly be more different. It would be an understatement to think of this as an evolutionary puzzle.”
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....d-ape.html

    One major difference in sexual reproduction that really stands out between man and chimps is that Man’s sexual reproduction relies on ‘hydraulics’ whereas the chimpanzee’s reproductive system is a ‘mechanical’ system that relies on an actual bone in order to achieve reproduction:

    Ian Juby’s Chimp compared to Man sexual reproduction video – (plus Can sexual reproduction plausibly evolve in the first place?) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab1VWQEnnwM

    Moreover, the drastic differences in sexual reproduction between chimps and man, again completely contrary to Darwinian thought, extends all the way down to the molecular level.
    This evolution friendly article found the differences between the Y chromosome of chimps and Humans to ‘differ radically’ and to show ‘extraordinary divergence’:

    Recent Genetic Research Shows Chimps More Distant From Humans,,, – Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: A Nature paper from January, 2010 titled, “Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure and gene content,” found that Y chromosomes in humans and chimps “differ radically in sequence structure and gene content,” showing “extraordinary divergence” where “wholesale renovation is the paramount theme.”,,, “Even more striking than the gene loss is the rearrangement of large portions of the chromosome. More than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome, and vice versa,,,”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....shows.html

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    This following articles state the differences on the Y chromosome are ‘horrendously different from each other’ and ‘overturned expectations’

    A False Trichotomy
    Excerpt: The common chimp (Pan troglodytes) and human Y chromosomes are “horrendously different from each other”, says David Page,,, “It looks like there’s been a dramatic renovation or reinvention of the Y chromosome in the chimpanzee and human lineages.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....richotomy/

    Chimp and human Y chromosomes evolving faster than expected – Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: “The results overturned the expectation that the chimp and human Y chromosomes would be highly similar. Instead, they differ remarkably in their structure and gene content.,,, The chimp Y, for example, has lost one third to one half of the human Y chromosome genes.
    http://www.physorg.com/news182605704.html

    The evolutionary scientists of the preceding paper offered an evolutionary ‘just so’ story of ‘dramatically sped up evolution’ for why there are such significant differences in the Y chromosomes of chimps and humans, yet when the Y chromosome is looked at for its rate of change we find there is hardly any evidence for any change at all, much less the massive changes that evolutionists are required to explain.
    The following paper asserts, contrary to the preceding papers claim of ‘dramatically sped up evolution’ to ‘explain away’ the horrendously different Y chromosome, that the human Y chromosome has lost just one gene in 25 million years and, furthermore, that the Y chromosome has been stable for the last 6 million years.

    Theory of the ‘Rotting’ Y Chromosome Dealt a Fatal Blow – February 2012
    Excerpt: “the sequence of the rhesus Y, shows the chromosome hasn’t lost a single ancestral gene in the past 25 million years. By comparison, the human Y has lost just one ancestral gene in that period, and that loss occurred in a segment that comprises just 3% of the entire chromosome”, “,,,earlier work comparing the human and chimpanzee Ys revealed a stable human Y for at least six million years. “Now our empirical data fly in the face of the other theories out there. With no loss of genes on the rhesus Y and one gene lost on the human Y, it’s clear the Y isn’t going anywhere.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....154359.htm

    CHROMOSOME STUDY STUNS EVOLUTIONISTS
    Excerpt: To their great surprise, Dorit and his associates found no nucleotide differences at all in the non-recombinant part of the Y chromosomes of the 38 men. This non-variation suggests no evolution has occurred in male ancestry.
    http://www.reasons.org/interpr.....lutionists

    Of related interest: The Y chromosome is more ‘holistically integrated’ with the rest of the genome than would be expected on Darwinian presuppositions:

    Genes on the Y chromosome prove essential for male survival – April 23, 2014
    Excerpt: Moreover, the vast majority of these tenacious genes appear to have little if any role in sex determination or sperm production.,,,
    “There are approximately a dozen genes conserved on the Y that are expressed in cells and tissue types throughout the body,” he continues. “These are genes involved in decoding and interpreting the entirety of the genome. How pervasive their effects are is a question we throw open to the field, and it’s one we can no longer ignore.”
    Page believes this research will at last allow his lab to transition from proving the so-called rotting Y theorists wrong to a new era in Y chromosome biology.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....132421.htm

    Of related interest, the X chromosome plays a ‘integrated’ role in sperm production.

    Sex Chromosome Shocker: The ‘Female’ X a Key Contributor to Sperm Production – July 21, 2013
    Excerpt: Painstaking new analysis of the genetic sequence of the X chromosome — long perceived as the “female” counterpart to the male-associated Y chromosome — reveals that large portions of the X have “evolved” to play a specialized role in sperm production.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161358.htm

    Of course the researchers never actually proved the evolution of such a complex relationship between the X and Y chromosomes. They have merely found a complex relationship between the two chromosomes and assumed it must have evolved because, of course, in the materialistic mindset everything must have evolved. Darwin’s theory is simply never really allowed to be questioned, much less actually falsified, in the Darwinian mindset.

    But why do I bring all this up on a post defending the sanctity of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman? Well, basically, since Darwinian explanations fail so miserably in accounting for the origin of sex in the first place, then, IMHO, Darwinists certainly have no right to make moral judgments as to whether it is morally right or not for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman.

    Verse and Music:

    Mark 10:6-7
    Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,”

    Michael Bolton & Percy Sledge – When a Man Loves a Woman – Live
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sgTkpTWFAw

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    The foregoing argument [that marriage should be expanded to include same-sex marriage because it strengths the bonds of same-sex couples] looks plausible at first sight . . .

    I disagree. English, like all languages, is conventional, and therefore it is obviously the case that the English word “marriage” means whatever English speakers as a group agree that it means. And if English speakers as a group agree that the word refers to a relationship that includes same-sex unions, then that is what the word will refer to, i.e., the meaning of the word will have changed.

    At a more important level – the ontological level – the meaning of the English word “marriage” is irrelevant. As I stated in comment 4, human beings come in two essential varieties (male and female) and it is blindingly obvious that those two varieties are mutually complementary. Thus, heterosexual conduct conforms to the essence of what it means to be human in a way that homosexual conduct does not. This is a fundamental ontological datum that is completely independent of language.

    It follows that the bonding of male and female has an ontological foundation in a way that the bonding of male and male or female and female does not. The bonding of male and female that has traditionally been called “marriage” has an essential form, and even if English speakers change the meaning of the English word “marriage” to include same-sex relationships, the essential form of the bonding formerly known as “marriage”* would not change. It would simply be the case that English speakers would no longer have a word that refers to that essential form.

    Therefore, it is not at all the case that any argument that a same-sex couple could be “married” could ever be plausible. A man cannot marry a man any more than he can marry his left shoe.

    __________
    *Yes, Prince fans, I get it

  8. 8

    VJT: Another interesting argument. Can I ask a question?

    Let’s say that same-sex marriage (or civil union?) is immoral and that a same-sex marriage raising a child is immoral (by the standards of your argument); would you (or anyone who agrees with your argument) have any reason to advocate that it be kept or be made illegal?

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM @ 8

    All reasonable people agree that not everything that is immoral should be illegal. For example, gluttony is immoral. No one would support a law imposing fines, jail time or other sanctions on gluttons. It is also the case that not all illegal actions are immoral (speeding; jay walking).

    It follows that no one believes that “illegal” is or should be coextensive with “immoral.” Whether any particular immoral act should also be made illegal is a matter of prudential judgment based on a number of factors.

  10. 10

    Mr. Arrington @9:

    I agree wholeheartedly. I believe expression of free will should trump all but very serious and egregious cases of immorality (murder, stealing, etc.), which is why I asked VJT (or anyone else’s) opinion on the matter.

    IMO, whether or not same-sex unions are immoral, it doesn’t seem to me to rise to the level of something that should be illegal. I personally think gambling, prostitution and personal drug use should be at least potentially legal activities (left up to the states) – but then, I’m a states-rights Federalist first and a Libertarian when it comes to social values, although personally I’ve very conservative.

    If people want to engage in immoral behavior I say let ’em, but there are lines that have to be drawn and I’ve often pondered the question on the legalization of same-sex unions and how/if they should be recognized at the federal level. Same with same-sex unions and raising children.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM @ 10:

    You raise a lot of issues.

    IMO, whether or not same-sex unions are immoral, it doesn’t seem to me to rise to the level of something that should be illegal.

    Agreed.

    I personally think gambling, prostitution and personal drug use should be at least potentially legal activities (left up to the states) – but then, I’m a states-rights Federalist first and a Libertarian when it comes to social values, although personally I’ve very conservative.

    I am a Burkean conservative. And while “libertarian” is far from a synonym for “Burkean conservative,” there is a great deal of overlap. On the issues you raise, I believe there are many very sound reasons for keeping prostitution illegal. Gambling is not even always immoral (only excessive gambling is immoral). I favor regulating it because of the baleful secondary effects that always seem to follow when it is unregulated; I don’t favor flatout bans. Drug use; I more and more lean to repealing the drug laws, not because I think drug use is moral (except the drugs I use, i.e., fine scotch and the occasional pricy cigar) but because the “cure” (i.e., the war on drugs) might be worse than the disease. At the very least I am convinced that reasonable people can differ on the issue.

    If people want to engage in immoral behavior I say let ‘em, but there are lines that have to be drawn and I’ve often pondered the question on the legalizatin of same-sex unions and how/if they should be recognized at the federal level. Same with same-sex unions and raising children.

    You are mixing apples and oranges here. There is a difference between whether immoral behavior should be illegal and whether it should be affirmatively sanctioned in law. Same sex relations are already legal everywhere and have been since 2001 (Lawrence v. Texas). Thus, same sex couples are free to carry on with their immoral behavior without the slightest risk of interference from the state.

    Legalizing same-sex marriage is very different. This is not allowing immoral behavior. This is affirmatively sanctioning immoral behavior. And that is wrong. You raise another issue with respect to the federal government’s role in all of this. The federal government, of course, is not a government of plenary power. It is a government of limited and enumerated powers. That is, it does not have general power to enact any sort of regulation it thinks might be appropriate. Under the constitution (and especially but not only the Tenth Amendment), the federal government has power only to regulate in those areas that are specifically set forth (primarily in Article I, section 8). The constitution does not enumerate the regulation of marriage laws as an area of federal power. It follows that it has zero constitutional power to regulate marriage laws.

  12. 12
    Mark Frank says:

    I can’t get worked up about gay marriage – most of my gay friends are not too concerned either – but surely this argument is poor:

    The foregoing argument looks plausible at first sight, but it completely ignores the bisexual community. Let’s consider the case of a bisexual male named Albert, who is passionately in love with a woman named Belinda and a man named Charles. He can’t imagine spending his life without either of them – nor can they imagine spending their lives without him. To simplify matters from a legal perspective, let’s assume that Albert doesn’t want to have children, and that he’s had himself sterilized to prevent that possibility from eventuating. If gays and lesbians are accorded the right to marry whomever they wish, then why shouldn’t bisexuals be given the same right?
    Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy. And if you’re going to allow it for bisexuals, then it seems legally arbitrary to deny heterosexuals and homosexuals the same right. The logical consequences of granting people the right to marry whomever they wish, regardless of their sexual orientation, would thus be very profound: the abolition of socially sanctioned monogamy. But they are a direct logical entailment of the argument advanced by gays and lesbians in support of gay marriage.

    Anyone straight, gay or bisexual may find themselves in the position where they are passionately in love with two people.  The logic of the bisexual case is no different from any of the others. The law and custom in most countries does not all you to marry more than one person and as far as I know no one is suggesting that gay marriage will change that.

    Is anyone suggesting that gay marriage means you can be married to a woman and man simultaneously?

    If no one is suggesting it, then it is false that “Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy.”

    If some formulations of gay marriage do allow marriage to a man and a woman simultaneously then that is a fault in that particular formulation of gay marriage and does not affect the broader principle.

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF @ 12

    Is anyone suggesting that gay marriage means you can be married to a woman and man simultaneously?

    You are missing Dr. Torley’s point; he is making a reductio ad absurdum argument. IOW, if you accept the logic of same-sex marriage it will lead to absurd consequences (i.e., polyandry and polygamy).

    The logic of same-sex marriage (that we should allow a person to marry anyone to whom they have a strong bond of affection) has no limiting principle. It follows that a restriction on multiple spouses is arbitrary. If we are going to allow same-sex marriage, there is no logical reason we should not allow polyandry and polygamy. Lest you suggest this is far-fetched, proponents of polyandry and polygamy are already agitating for legal recognition of their relationships using the same arguments homosexuals used (as was predicted by Justice Scalia in Lawrence v. Texas). It seems that some people do not believe the reductio is so absurdum after all.

  14. 14
    Joe says:

    Thanks to same sex marriages, same family marriages, polygamy, polyandry, different species marriages, all of that is now on the table and none of it can be reasonably argued against.

  15. 15
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    UDEditors: YM’s comment and our rebuttal (in bold) are combined here:

    Homosexuality is neither good nor bad, moral nor immoral. It just is.

    UD: Yes, if you mean the disposition to homosexuality. No, if you mean homosexual behavior, for the reasons set forth @ 4, which you do not even address, far less rebut

    Whether or not it has a genetic link is immaterial.

    UD: Agreed, for the reasons set forth in @ 4.

    The only thing that we know for sure that in manifests itself very early in life.

    UD: Which, for the reasons set forth @ 4, is also immaterial.

    For the same reason, same sex marriage is also neither moral nor immoral.

    UD: No, for the reasons set forth @ 4 — YM, you are very long on bare assertion; very short on rational argument.

    It is just a formal commitment between two individuals, every bit as valid and meaningful as a marriage between an opposite sex couple.

    UD: YM, you should note this very carefully, because you seem to have a problem with it. Merely asserting a conclusion is not an argument.

    The opposition to SSM takes one of two forms. By far the biggest is a religious objection, which the natural law argument is a category of,

    UD: Obviously; blatantly; glaringly wrong. See comment 4. Which religion was Aristotle pushing when he condemned homosexuality on the basis of pure reason?

    and the objection because it makes people uncomfortable.

    UD: People are made uncomfortable by it because it is ontologically disordered; but the logical objection stems from the latter, not the former.

    Canada has had same sex marriage for ten years and none of the warned consequences have come true. It hasn’t weakened the institution of marriage. It hasn’t led to multiple person marriage or human animal marriages.

    UD: Ten whole years! Well, I guess that settles it. Again, beside the point for the reasons set forth in comments 4. Also, for the reasons set forth @ 7, Canada most certainly has not had same-sex marriage for ten years for the same reason that Canada has not had (and never will have) square circles.

    Their activities do not harm anyone or anything, other that puritanical sensitivities. But much the same arguments that have been used to oppose SSM were also used to oppose inter-faith marriages and inter-racial marriages. .

    UD: Your argument here seems to be: People were wrong about other things; therefore they are wrong about this thing. Look up “non sequitur” and you will see why this argument does not work. And yes, their behavior does harm; anytime a person acts in a way contrary to human nature he has done harm because he has acted in a way contrary to the good. Your “harm” argument also fails for the reasons set forth in the addendum to the OP. Finally, those who opposed inter-faith and inter-racial marriages did not make Aristotelian arguments (or if they did they were wrong to do so).

  16. 16
    GCS says:

    It appears to me that a large problem is that there is no definition of marriage. The lack of definition, and I might add lack of purpose of marriage, means that there is no reason to legally restrict any relationship. The “yuk” factor does not count.

    The interesting result will be that the same sex people are quickly going to find marriage leaving them behind. For example, they fought hard here in Vermont to deny Civil Unions to two elderly sisters, aunts, etc. They argued that marriage was the “Gold Standard” and that gay persons should not be denied the opportunity to partake in it.

    Interestingly, their use of the term “Gold Standard” has in it the ultimate failure of their hopes. “Gold” implies that there is also silver, bronze, and lead. They now have to make a value judgement on why their relationship is “Gold” and another is not. Difficult to do without a definition to fall back on.

    “Standard” has the implication of something that is fixed, something you can measure against. The whole attack has been to deny any standard they have to meet.

    The “Gold Standard” of marriage is a FREELY entered union of persons in which each gives themselves FULLY which by its nature has the potential to be FRUITFUL. Only one relationship, one man and one woman in permanent union, meets that standard. All other relationships fail in one or more aspects. Even one man one woman can fail to meet the standard depending on how they act in the marriage.

    FREE – Being coerced into a relationship is not free. This coercion can be gross (sex slavery) or very subtle (seduction).

    FULL – The person must give themselves fully as a gift to another. You can not share yourself with multiple others and do it fully with each. You must give every part of you fully, including your sexuality. You can not give yourself fully unless you have the physical means to complement the other. (Complimenting also helps a lot!)

    FRUITFUL – The nature (not necessarily the individual circumstances) of the relationship must be able to produce life.

    Ultimately these three terms are important because they describe the very activity of the Holy Trinity itself. Life in the Trinity is an infinite dance of complete self giving in love: Free, Full, and Fruitful.

    Interestingly, how we view marriage is a reflection of how we view our relationship to God! A few quick examples:
    Islam – People are slaves of God. Marriage is totally male dominating women.
    Protestant – God could divorce His church after 1500 years and start over with a new church. Divorce is accepted.
    Secular Materialists – There is no God and there are no restrictions on marriage.
    Catholic (and traditional Jewish) – God is in an everlasting covenant with His people. Marriage is a covenant and can not be broken.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share this.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    William J. Murray

    IMO, whether or not same-sex unions are immoral, it doesn’t seem to me to rise to the level of something that should be illegal. I personally think gambling, prostitution and personal drug use should be at least potentially legal activities (left up to the states) – but then, I’m a states-rights Federalist first and a Libertarian when it comes to social values, although personally I’ve very conservative.

    I would frame the issue this way: Does the state exist in order to preserve the family or does the family exist in order to preserve the state? Which of those two institutions is primary and which should be valued most highly? I submit that any analysis of natural law would come down on the side of the family.

    To legalize gay marriage is to say that [a] the state is more more important than the family and [b] gay rights should trump children’s rights. That is the way it is with any right at any level–a zero-sum-game. One participant’s gain always results in another participant’s loss.

    If you are the first driver to arrive at an intersection with a four-way-stop sign, you have the exclusive right to pull away first. The key word here is “exclusive.” That same right has been taken away from all other drivers at that time and place.

    So it is with the inevitable conflict between Gay rights and family rights. From a natural-law perspective, the family is more valuable than the state. Thus, the family has the “natural right” to shape the culture. It is logically impossible for both institutions to have that same right. Insofar as one gains, the other loses.

    Accordingly, when the state revolts against the natural order and presumes to institutionalize a same sex union as a marriage, it takes away the family’s natural right to shape the culture, preserve order, or to even offer any resistance. Gay rights cannot co-exist with family rights.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    GCS: “It appears to me that a large problem is that there is no definition of marriage.”

    See my comment at 7 where I address the relation between the linguistic and the ontological.

  19. 19
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    If some formulations of gay marriage do allow marriage to a man and a woman simultaneously then that is a fault in that particular formulation of gay marriage and does not affect the broader principle.

    You seem to be making a negative judgement against people – stating that it’s a ‘fault’ and not a ‘benefit’ of that particular formulation.

  20. 20
    Eugen says:

    Why judges have to make decisions about all kinds of issues these days including marriage definition? They are not elected…….

    “You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps…. Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.”
    — Thomas Jefferson

  21. 21
    Mark Frank says:

    #19 SA

    You seem to be making a negative judgement against people – stating that it’s a ‘fault’ and not a ‘benefit’ of that particular formulation.

    It was VJ in the OP who made the negative judgement that polygamy was wrong – do you disagree?

  22. 22
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    GCS says

    Protestant – God could divorce His church after 1500 years and start over with a new church. Divorce is accepted.

    I say,

    Actually the traditional Protestant position is that the Roman hierarchy was never Christ’s church but a pretender who used the authority of the state to enforce a false definition of the institution on the world.

    Sound familiar. 😉

    peace

  23. 23
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Actually the traditional Protestant position is that the Roman hierarchy was never Christ’s church but a pretender who used the authority of the state to enforce a false definition of the institution on the world.

    Which partly explains the warfare waged between factions. Note that Protestants also used the state to enforce their religious beliefs.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    GCS and 5MM @ 22. I’m gaveling that topic.

  25. 25

    Look, this isn’t rocket science guys:

    No harm, no foul.

    It’s the simplest moral law there is, and it’s entirely natural.

  26. 26
    Mung says:

    No harm no foul is not a good basis for morality.

  27. 27
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    Barry, since you weren’t the one who wrote the OP, I didn’t think it was necessary to address your comment. But since you insist.

    “…the conclusion that homosexual behavior is good does not follow. There is a genetic basis for numerous conditions that no one suggests are good.”

    But since nobody is saying that homosexual is good, this is a non sequitur (see, I do learn).

    ” There is a genetic basis for numerous conditions that no one suggests are good. For example, sickle cell anemia has a genetic basis. No one argues that we should embrace and celebrate sickle cell anemia.”

    Except there is significant evidence that the presence of the sickle cell gene is “good” from an evolutionary perspective. People with the gene have an increased resistance to malaria, a definite advantage in an area where malaria was a significant cause of death.

    ” The question, therefore, is if homosexuality turns out to have a genetic basis, is it nevertheless good …”

    Again, non sequitur.

    “. Human beings come in two essential varieties (male and female) and it is blindingly obvious that those two varieties are mutually complementary.”

    We agree.

    “Thus, heterosexual conduct conforms to the essence of what it means to be human in a way that homosexual conduct does not. “

    How do you know that homosexuality does not co form to the essence if what it means to be a human being unless you are a homosexual, or know the designer’s mind with respect to what the essence of being a human being is? Therefore, opinion, not fact.

    “That is why Aristotle condemned homosexuality, not on religious grounds but on purely rational grounds.”.

    So, now you claim to understand the motivations behind Aristotle’s thoughts on homosexuality. And are you seriously suggesting that the main opposition to SSM is due to Aristotle’s reasoning? 99% of the people who oppose homosexuality and SSM don’t know how to spell his name, let alone know who he was.

  28. 28
    sean samis says:

    A couple of preliminaries: Professor Jason Rosenhouse sounds more a consequentialist than a utilitarian, even Torley admits that “Rosenhouse evidently believes that these truths are empirical facts about the good and bad consequences of acting in a certain way”. I’m not sure of Jason has written on utilitarianism vs. consequentialism.

    Regarding the “fat man” problem, the difficulty is not that some people would push the fat man in front of the trolley, but that they would do so without qualms. Such a horrible choice should give any moral person severe qualms! And it raises a question to ask them: what if you were the fat man, would you jump in front of the trolley?

    By design, the trolley problems have no good answers. Treating humans as having intrinsic worth does not help; the whole problem is one person’s intrinsic worth versus several persons and their combined worth. In the problems, failing to act is to make a choice, and either way someone dies. One can either make a reasoned choice or construct a rationale to justify their moral cowardice in not acting. Otherwise, the trolley problems have no right answers.

    Torley wrote that “the deeper question [is] what makes a consequence good or bad? In order to answer this question, we need to know what makes people tick. We need to fully understand the human animal. In other words, we need to study human biology and human psychology, before we can define human morality.”

    It’s usually not that hard. There are extraordinary circumstances where it becomes difficult, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s not that hard.

    Evil acts are those that 1) cause harms, 2) are intentional and 3) are unnecessary.

    By ‘harm’ I mean any physical injury, financial loss, impairment of liberty, or exposure to a substantial risk of any of these without express consent.

    By ‘intentional’ I mean premeditation, recklessness, or unreasonable negligence.

    By ‘unnecessary’ I mean not justified by the mitigation or prevention of other harms or injustice nor justified by the consent of the one harmed.

    This “definition” probably covers more than 80% of genuine evil, and is a good starting point. I do not claim it is complete. Suggestions will be considered.

    Which leaves us with: what makes something “good”? That simply has no generally applicable, objective answer; every person has a right (liberty) to decide that for themselves. Even Torley, in his comments on what is good for different people actually referred to things that were bad for all (solitary confinement) or bad for some (marriage). Definitions of “good” are usually reduced to “something not bad” or “not evil”. No greater definition is needed or wanted.

    In fact, seeking an “objective” definition of good is often a pretext to evil: “objective” good is a weapon with which to deprive others of their liberties (a harm). Compelling things because they are “objectively good” is the key to tyranny.

    Torley’s commentary about gays and lesbians and that they are not different from the rest of us is a form of this malicious objectification of “good”: implying that since we know what we think is good, it must also be good for them. Wrong; it does not matter whether gays or lesbians are the same as heterosexuals; as long as they cause no harm to others, they should be entitled to decide what’s good for them, even if it annoys us.

    Let us define and refine our concept of evil, and let everyone arrive at their own concept of what is good for themselves.

    Torley defines sex as being objectively good because it can lead to procreation. But that still fails; there are persons who should not be parents, persons who just don’t want to be parents, and persons who cannot be parents. This “objective” good does not extend to them, and that means it’s not an “objective” good at all. It may be a good for many, but that still makes it a “subjective” good. It may be biologically necessary for our species, but to demand procreation by all others would be a variation on the trolley problem: treating some persons as merely a means to an end.

    Regarding same-sex marriage, Torley wrote that “The logic behind gay marriage is destructive of monogamy”. He explains that, “if gays and lesbians are accorded the right to marry whomever they wish, then why shouldn’t bisexuals be given the same right? Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy.”

    OK. So how does polygamy destroy monogamy? It doesn’t. Legalized polygamy (which is found and approved of in the Old Testament) does not destroy monogamy, it only destroys monogamy’s exclusive hold on marriage currently. That’s not a harm. Therefore same-sex marriage is compatible with traditional marriage.

    Marriage may have been originally about children, but it has not been primarily about children nor predicated on having children for centuries. Marriages between persons utterly incapable of procreation have been recognized and celebrated for centuries.

    Torley wrote that, “if two people can still be married, no matter how old they are, then it would be legally arbitrary to deny two people the right to get married, no matter how old they are.”

    If two people can still be married without the ability to have children, then it is legally arbitrary to deny two people the right to get married because they cannot have children, no matter what their genders are. An elderly couple and a same-sex couple are similarly situated. There is no harm to letting both couples marry, and it is an attack on the dignity of the same-sex couple to treat them unfairly.

    Torley concluded that, “(a) the arguments put forward in defense of gay marriage rest on a flawed understanding of human nature and of the notion of objective good, and (b) a defense of the goodness of marriage requires a solid foundation in natural law. Without natural law, it is impossible to make meaningful moral arguments regarding marriage.”

    In fact, Torley’s arguments against same-sex marriage rest on a flawed understanding of marriage, of human nature, and the dignity of persons. His notion of “objective good” is corrosive of human liberty and harmful. Natural law is necessary to make meaningful moral arguments regarding marriage, and weighs heavily in favor of same-sex marriage.

    sean s.

  29. 29
    Tim says:

    EL@25

    Ok, and on that basis, I’ll put this forward (with tongue only slightly in cheek). As I consider homosexual behaviors, it makes me feel sick in the same way that when most people consider the behaviors of pedophiles, it makes them sick. I am outraged, and my outrage is felt to my bones, dominating my rational thought, giving me the “shivers” yes, including a visceral disgust (and on and on and on . . . )

    In short, I am harmed.

    As I survey both at the very least the quizzical looks afforded the gender-benders by the youth around me, and at the very worst the suicidal tendencies of some of the children of homosexual parents (and across this vast chasm, a gamut of difficulties, sadness, confusion, and misery for the children in this arena), I conclude:

    In short, children are harmed.

    In both instances, the harm is not due to a difficulty or imperfection in the “gay agenda” on marriage, but as an extension of it.

    So, EL@25, would you also agree that because there is harm, we should cry “FOUL”?

    Oh, and I liked that part about “entirely natural.” Really, so precious. . . .

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    EL @ 25.

    No harm, no foul.

    False at two levels. Read the appendix to the OP; read my summary @ 4.

    and it’s entirely natural

    False again. See 4.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    YM @ 27:

    But since nobody is saying that homosexual is good, this is a non sequitur (see, I do learn).

    This statement is so utterly disconnected from reality as not to merit a response.

    Except there is significant evidence that the presence of the sickle cell gene is “good” from an evolutionary perspective. People with the gene have an increased resistance to malaria, a definite advantage in an area where malaria was a significant cause of death.

    Your statement proves that there is no point so obvious that someone can’t miss it if they try really hard.

    Barry: The question, therefore, is if homosexuality turns out to have a genetic basis, is it nevertheless good …”

    YM: Again, non sequitur.

    A question cannot be a non sequitur.

    How do you know that homosexuality does not co form to the essence if what it means to be a human being unless you are a homosexual, or know the designer’s mind with respect to what the essence of being a human being is? Therefore, opinion, not fact.

    I told you how I knew. Apparently you missed it.

    So, now you claim to understand the motivations behind Aristotle’s thoughts on homosexuality.

    Of course I do. He made them quite clear in his analysis.

    And are you seriously suggesting that the main opposition to SSM is due to Aristotle’s reasoning? 99% of the people who oppose homosexuality and SSM don’t know how to spell his name, let alone know who he was.

    Look up “genetic fallacy” and you will see why this “argument,” such as it is, is fallacious.

  32. 32
    Seversky says:

    Tim @ 27

    Ok, and on that basis, I’ll put this forward (with tongue only slightly in cheek). As I consider homosexual behaviors, it makes me feel sick in the same way that when most people consider the behaviors of pedophiles, it makes them sick. I am outraged, and my outrage is felt to my bones, dominating my rational thought, giving me the “shivers” yes, including a visceral disgust (and on and on and on . . . )

    In short, I am harmed.

    No, you are offended. Being offended is not the same as being harmed. If it were, there should be a warning to any actual or potential contributors to this (and other) blogs that participation could be harmful.

    As I survey both at the very least the quizzical looks afforded the gender-benders by the youth around me, and at the very worst the suicidal tendencies of some of the children of homosexual parents (and across this vast chasm, a gamut of difficulties, sadness, confusion, and misery for the children in this arena), I conclude:

    In short, children are harmed

    It wouldn’t surprise me to find that there were children who had suffered in some way as a result of being brought up by homosexual couples. Gay or straight, people are imperfect and can sometimes get themselves into bad situations. But any statistic about children of homosexual couples would only have meaning when set against the number of children harmed in bad heterosexual marriages and we already know there are more than enough of those. Perhaps that would be a good reason to ban marriages altogether.

  33. 33
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: That which is good is determined in reference to human nature. By human nature, I mean the nature of human beings generally, not any particular human being (which, like all instantiations of a form, vary to one degree or another from the essence of that form).

    Which leads to the question: why is the majority (heterosexual) human genetic makeup “good” and the minority (homosexual) “bad?” That sounds like tyranny of the majority to me for no other justifiable reason than that they are the majority.

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    sean samis @ 28

    By design, the trolley problems have no good answers. Treating humans as having intrinsic worth does not help; the whole problem is one person’s intrinsic worth versus several persons and their combined worth. In the problems, failing to act is to make a choice, and either way someone dies. One can either make a reasoned choice or construct a rationale to justify their moral cowardice in not acting. Otherwise, the trolley problems have no right answers.

    No, the fat man trolley problem does have a right answer. Indeed, it has only one right answer, as Dr. Torley points out in the OP. It is always wrong in all circumstances to treat a human being as a means rather than an end. It is always wrong to murder another human being.

    Anyone who destroys a life is considered to have destroyed an entire world.

    Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5

    It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.

    Will Munny, The Unforgiven

    Evil acts are those that 1) cause harms, 2) are intentional and 3) are unnecessary. Intentionally causing unnecessary harm is certainly evil. . . .This “definition” probably covers more than 80% of genuine evil, and is a good starting point. I do not claim it is complete. Suggestions will be considered.

    OK.

    Which leaves us with: what makes something “good”? That simply has no generally applicable, objective answer; every person has a right (liberty) to decide that for themselves.

    This is clearly wrong, and I expect you don’t really mean it. Did Hitler have the right to decide for himself that it was good to slaughter innocents? No. Therefore, your argument falls to an ad reductio.

    Even Torley, in his comments on what is good for different people actually referred to things that were bad for all (solitary confinement) or bad for some (marriage). Definitions of “good” are usually reduced to “something not bad” or “not evil”. No greater definition is needed or wanted.

    You have this exactly wrong. Good is not defined as “not evil.” Evil is defined as “not good.” Evil does not have existence in its own right. It is the privation of the good.

    In fact, seeking an “objective” definition of good is often a pretext to evil: “objective” good is a weapon with which to deprive others of their liberties (a harm). Compelling things because they are “objectively good” is the key to tyranny.

    Absurd. This argument boils down to “evil men pretend to be doing good when they are doing evil; therefore good does not exist.” Non sequitur.

    Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t you just say a minute ago that everyone gets to make up for themselves what good means? Now you are using the word “tyranny” as if it is objectively evil. I assume tyrants would say, “I gotta be me.” Why can you be you, but not tyrants? Answer: You really don’t believe what you said. No one acts as if they believe moral subjectivism is true, especially those who spew it all over the internet. I have yet to see such a person fail to use “objective speak” sooner or later (usually in the same paragraph in which they deny it).

    Torley’s commentary about gays and lesbians and that they are not different from the rest of us is a form of this malicious objectification of “good”: implying that since we know what we think is good, it must also be good for them. Wrong; it does not matter whether gays or lesbians are the same as heterosexuals; as long as they cause no harm to others, they should be entitled to decide what’s good for them, even if it annoys us.

    Incoherent. You are arguing for a radical subjectivism in which the good means the desirable and the desirable means that which is actually desired. If this were true, “good” would mean only “that which I prefer.” You say that Torley’s commentary is “malicious.’ I take it that you mean Torley’s commentary is not good. But you just said that everyone gets to decide for themselves what is good. Obviously Torley thinks his commentary is good. Therefore, under your definition of good, it is good. You can’t even articulate subjectivism without being either incoherent (as in your example) or smuggling in objectivism (which often happens).

    You seem to think there is no objective definition to “good” but that there is an objective definition to “harm.” At least you are using the word “harm” as if it has an objective meaning. Have you appointed yourself as the world’s final arbiter of the objective meaning of the word harm? If not, who are you to say that Torley’s definition of the word is wrong and yours is right?

    Let us define and refine our concept of evil, and let everyone arrive at their own concept of what is good for themselves.

    Again, absurd and incoherent. Unless the word “good” has an objective meaning, it is essentially meaningless.

    Torley defines sex as being objectively good because it can lead to procreation. But that still fails; there are persons who should not be parents, persons who just don’t want to be parents, and persons who cannot be parents.

    And he takes into account all of these factors in his analysis, which you apparently failed to grasp. The “good” to which Torley alludes is considered in reference to human nature, not the nature of any particular human. He made that clear enough.

    This “objective” good does not extend to them, and that means it’s not an “objective” good at all.

    Wrong, for the reason just articulated.

    It may be a good for many, but that still makes it a “subjective” good. It may be biologically necessary for our species, but to demand procreation by all others would be a variation on the trolley problem: treating some persons as merely a means to an end.

    Straw man. Torley does no such thing.

    Regarding same-sex marriage, Torley wrote that “The logic behind gay marriage is destructive of monogamy”. He explains that, “if gays and lesbians are accorded the right to marry whomever they wish, then why shouldn’t bisexuals be given the same right? Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy.” OK. So how does polygamy destroy monogamy? It doesn’t. Legalized polygamy (which is found and approved of in the Old Testament) does not destroy monogamy, it only destroys monogamy’s exclusive hold on marriage currently. That’s not a harm. Therefore same-sex marriage is compatible with traditional marriage.

    Human beings come in two essential varieties (male and female) and it is blindingly obvious that those two varieties are mutually complementary. Thus, heterosexual conduct conforms to the essence of what it means to be human in a way that homosexual conduct does not. This is a fundamental ontological datum. It follows that the bonding of male and female has an ontological foundation in a way that the bonding of male and male or female and female does not. The bonding of male and female that has traditionally been called “marriage” has an essential form, and even if English speakers change the meaning of the English word “marriage” to include same-sex relationships, the essential form of the bonding formerly known as “marriage” would not change. It would simply be the case that English speakers would no longer have a word that refers to that essential form. A man cannot marry a man any more than he can marry his left shoe.

    Marriage may have been originally about children, but it has not been primarily about children nor predicated on having children for centuries. Marriages between persons utterly incapable of procreation have been recognized and celebrated for centuries.

    Straw man that Torley address in the OP. Did you even read the OP?

    If two people can still be married without the ability to have children, then it is legally arbitrary to deny two people the right to get married because they cannot have children, no matter what their genders are.

    It is not legally arbitrary, because a man cannot marry a man any more than he can marry his left shoe, and the law certainly has a right to recognize this datum.

    An elderly couple and a same-sex couple are similarly situated. There is no harm to letting both couples marry, and it is an attack on the dignity of the same-sex couple to treat them unfairly.

    It is not an attack on anyone’s dignity to tell them that you are not going to sanction behavior that is contrary to human nature.

    In fact, Torley’s arguments against same-sex marriage rest on a flawed understanding of marriage, of human nature, and the dignity of persons.

    You are long on bare assertion and short on argument.

    His notion of “objective good” is corrosive of human liberty and harmful. Natural law is necessary to make meaningful moral arguments regarding marriage, and weighs heavily in favor of same-sex marriage.

    Again, you are long on bare assertion and short on argument.

  35. 35
    mike1962 says:

    Stephen: I would frame the issue this way: Does the state exist in order to preserve the family or does the family exist in order to preserve the state? Which of those two institutions is primary and which should be valued most highly? I submit that any analysis of natural law would come down on the side of the family.

    As one with strong libertarian (small L) leanings, I would frame it this way: does the state exist in order to preserve individual liberty, or does the individual exist in order to benefit the state?

  36. 36
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: By design, the trolley problems have no good answers.

    I tend to disagree.

    Barry: That’s good; because I did not say this. Sean did.

    I would not intervene for such a dilemma unless I was the cause of the situation in the first place. If God exists, it’s God’s fault. If no God exists, then it’s nobody’s fault. Either way it is not my responsibility to make such a life and death judgement and take action. If one of the players was a loved one, that would probably cause me to act in their favor.

  37. 37
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mike @ 33

    Which leads to the question: why is the majority (heterosexual) human genetic makeup “good” and the minority (homosexual) “bad?” That sounds like tyranny of the majority to me for no other justifiable reason than that they are the majority.

    It is not a matter of head counting. It is a matter of which conforms to human nature and which does not. It is merely a coincidence that there are fewer people who conform to human nature than those who don’t with respect to this issue. In other words, even if homosexuals were a majority, homosexual conduct would nevertheless be ontologically disordered and thus would not conform to the good.

  38. 38
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    Barry: “Your statement proves that there is not point so obvious that someone can’t miss it if they try really hard.”

    You said that the sickle cell gene was a defect. Bad. I demonstrated that for the bulk of human history this was not true. It has only been in the last century or two of human history that your statement could remotely be true.
    So, what is the point that is blatantly obvious?

    Barry: “A question cannot be a non sequitur.”

    When it is presented as a rhetorical question, it certainly can.

    Barry: “I told you how I knew. Apparently you missed it.”

    No, you told me what you believe. Not how you knew. Again, explain how you know that the designer did not design homosexuals to also conform to the essence of what it means to be a human being.

    Barry: “Of course I do. He made them quite clear in his analysis.”

    No he didn’t. Unless you are a medium who can talk to the dead. We know what he wrote. Not what his motivations were.

    Barry: “Look up “genetic fallacy” and you will see why this “argument,” such as it is, is fallacious.”

    This wasn’t an “argument”. It was an observation that, in my opinion, is quite accurate. Unless you honestly think that most of the people opposing same sex marriage are basing their opposition on Aristotle’s arguments.

  39. 39
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: It is not a matter of head counting. It is a matter of which conforms to human nature and which does not. It is merely a coincidence that there are fewer people who conform to human nature than those who don’t with respect to this issue. In other words, even if homosexuals were a majority, homosexual conduct would nevertheless be ontologically disordered and thus would not conform to the good.

    “Good” as specified by what?

    As for being “ontologically disordered”, whatever that means, who says that this is some criterion of “good?” I know gay people who do just fine in their lives together. They don’t seem “ontologically disordered” to me- not any more than the average person, at least. What’s not “good” about it such that it needs to be outlawed by a secular state?

  40. 40
    Barry Arrington says:

    YM @ 38:

    So, what is the point that is blatantly obvious?

    You say you don’t understand the point. Either you are an outrageous liar or incredibly stupid. Charity compels me to assume the latter. Either way, however, continuing the discussion with you is pointless.

  41. 41
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mike @ 39. You apparently did not read the OP. Your questions are answered there.

  42. 42
    mike1962 says:

    Barry, I guess we’ll have to disagree. I find nothing persuasive in the OP or in any of the comments that would lead me to accept that the state has the right to trump individual liberty that does no harm to disinterested parties because of some natural law argument or (which is not part the OP) because the majority happens to think it repugnant. Especially if it turns out that gay people are that way genetically.

    I suppose I would say that the idea of practical fairness trumps the natural law position.

  43. 43
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: That’s good; because I did not say this. Sean did.

    Oops. Sorry. Mea culpa.

  44. 44
    Barry Arrington says:

    Especially if it turns out that gay people are that way genetically.

    So if it turns out that alcoholism turns out to have a genetic basis you will consider it to be a good thing?

  45. 45
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    Barry: “You say you don’t understand the point. Either you are an outrageous liar or incredibly stupid. Charity compels me to assume the latter. Either way, however, continuing the discussion with you is pointless.”

    Reading comprehension is obviously not your strength. I didn’t say that I didn’t understand your point. I said that it wasn’t blatantly obvious. But I was being generous. Your point was blatantly wrong. Calling something a genetic defect (bad) is totally dependent on perspective.

    UDEditors: Really? Whether Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Hemophilia, Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs are bad is totally dependent on perspective? Idiot.

    Sickle cell is a prime example. Modern medicine has resulted in this being a gene that nobody would wish on anyone.

    UDEditors: And since I am writing the comment in 2015, that is where the analysis ends. It is bad.

    But prior to modern medicine, it allowed those with the gene to survive long enough to reproduce. So, back then, was it a defect or an adaptation?

    UDEditors: It was a defect. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    If you are not capable of admitting an error, I can see why you would prefer to call me stupid and close off conversation. We all have to stick with our strengths.

  46. 46
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: So if it turns out that alcoholism turns out to have a genetic basis you will consider it to be a good thing?

    What an alcoholic does in his own home is his own business, as long as nobody else is negatively affected. As soon as he steps off his property, or starts abusing anyone, it’s everyone’s business. Alcoholism is destructive to unwilling victims. Tremendous amounts of domestic abuse. 10000+ deaths a year due to alcohol related car crashes. So of course it’s not a good or justifiable thing.

    The primary purpose of the state, IMO, is to protect people from being victims of other people and to protect the Union as a whole from foreign invaders. I see how regulating alcohol, and punishing alcoholic offenders does that. I don’t see how outlawing gay marriage accomplishes that.

  47. 47
    Graham2 says:

    Barry is the one that would allow his own children to die, rather than make a decision. I think that’s one person whos views on morality we can ignore.

  48. 48
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mike @ 46

    You missed the point of my comment and of the OP. You say that even if alcoholism has a genetic component it is bad; you say that homosexuality is not bad, especially if it has a genetic component.

    So you agree with Torely and me. Whether something has a genetic component is irrelevant in the analysis of whether it is good or bad. Some things with a genetic component are bad; some things with a genetic component are good.

  49. 49
    velikovskys says:

    BA:

    You have this exactly wrong. Good is not defined as “not evil.” Evil is defined as “not good.” .

    How about something that is both ” not good” and ” not evil” ?

  50. 50
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2: And you would participate in the murder of your child, using her as a means rather than an end.

    Yes, I would allow one of my children to die if the only alternative was to murder another one of my children. You apparently do not grasp what is obvious to others: Murder and allowing to die are in different moral categories. Hint: One is always bad; the other is not.

  51. 51
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    Barry: “UDEditors: Really? Whether Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Hemophilia, Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs are bad is totally dependent on perspective? Idiot.”

    But those weren’t the examples you used. You used sickle cell, which has long been known to provide a resistance to malaria. An easily researched fact. Maybe you were an idiot to use that as an example. And some of your other examples do not reveal themselves until after reproductive years. So, again, whether or not they are defects (bad) depends on perspective. Certainly from the individual perspective they are not good, but from the human perspective, natural law if you will, they are neutral. Hereditary genetic “defects” do not tend to survive if they affect the youth. In fact I have one that tends to significantly shorten life span. And there is a good chance that at least one of my children do as well. From a natural law perspective, this is neither good nor bad. But I am certainly not happy about it.

    So far you have called me a liar, stupid and an idiot. My father once told me that name calling is the fall back position for people who can’t defend their position, have no imagination, or are assholes. Being a generous soul, I will let you pick.

  52. 52
    bornagain77 says:

    videos – Extended Interviews with 29 former homosexuals
    http://suchweresomeofyou.org/

    I found this testimony particularly moving

    Daniel Delgado Pt 1 – Transgender Transformation – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv1ZK6a3ITk

    I’ve also been following Matt Moore’s walk with the Lord since he turned from the gay lifestyle several years ago. He is one of the most brutally honest humans I’ve seen write.

    For Years I Pleaded With God To Make Me Straight, So Why Did My Prayers Go Unanswered? Matt Moore – 2015
    Excerpt: My heart was changed instantaneously when I trusted in Christ and began to follow Him, but my mind was not. I now have a heart that genuinely loves God and desires to worship Him, but at the same time, I’m still utterly messed up and damaged by sin. The Lord is working in me and renewing my mind day by day, shaping me more and more into the reflection of Him that I was created to be. But it’s been a process. And it will continue to be a process until I receive a new, perfect and sinless body in the age to come. When that day comes, the fullness of what Jesus purchased for me will be given to me: full freedom from every sinful thing that restrains my enjoyment and worship of God.
    http://www.christianpost.com/n.....ed-133098/

  53. 53

    Mung:

    No harm no foul is not a good basis for morality.

    It’s an excellent basis for morality. In fact it’s pretty well the first step in any moral system.

    Once you’ve discovered something is harmful, then we need some kind of system of ethics to figure out what is least harmful, when harm is justified, etc.

    But that is all predicated on the presumption of that the action in question causes harm. If there’s no harm, there’s no need for an ethical decision.

    That’s why Hippocrates put it at the front:

    First, Do No Harm

  54. 54
    Mark Frank says:

    #51 YM

    So far you have called me a liar, stupid and an idiot

    If you are going to get into any kind of debate with Barry you will get used to it.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT:

    A carefully researched article, as usual.

    I would add, let us not overlook the dimension of radical mob-rule factions and ruthless activism, already rising persecution of people of conscience and the general amorality tied to a sort of adolescent, superficial hedonism that now seems to increasingly rule the roost in our civilisation. Warranted, by long understood implications of evolutionary materialism warned against by Plato in The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”)], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse], and not in legal subjection to them.

    Alcibiades, is probably as close to what Plato spoke of as is in fairly accessible Classical history. The collapse of Athens across less than 40 years tied to its increasing arrogance, hegemony, corruption by wealth and the rise of utterly ill advised counsels to power are all well worth pondering. The Pseudo-Platonic Dialogues Alcibiades I and II may have a thing or two to say to our civilisation, never mind that they do not have the force granted to Plato’s own undisputed works:

    A I: http://www.gutenberg.org/files.....1676-h.htm

    A II: http://www.gutenberg.org/files.....1677-h.htm

    As to marriage and where our civilisation seems headed, I suggest we may find it useful to ponder the thoughts of a Russian-Australian activist, here. I consider that our civilisation, on a very broad basis, seems hell-bent on a march of stubborn folly (having neglected, dismissed or derided all history, counsels and calls to the contrary), and so we are headed for a collision with hard reality as we plunge willfully over a cliff.

    But in the face of such folly, we have the lesson of Acts 27, that in the storm you need a good man — often; the very one whose counsel was disregarded ahead of time. And, from a thousand years before that I draw comfort from a shepherd-boy turned general who got sick of dodging javelins thrown at him by a dysfunctional and jealous king, and fled to the Cave of Adullam in the Judaean wilderness.

    For, to him came the despairing and desperate, who were then forged into the core of what would become the greatest generation in the history of Israel.

    I see a very hard time ahead, and one that unfortunately is liable to be very costly, especially when I ponder what a few nuke devices can potentially do by way of an EMP attack.

    Our civilisation has come to reductio, and as usual those who cling to the absurd insist brazenly that all is well.

    Reality is knocking at the door and begs to differ.

    The ghosts of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and even Alcibiades are shaking their heads in warning.

    KF

    PS: A snippet from A I on the pivotal issue in all of this attempt to redefine foundational institutions and to advance agendas:

    SOCRATES: Well, then, consider and try to explain what is the meaning of ‘better,’ in the matter of making peace and going to war with those against whom you ought to go to war? To what does the word refer?

    ALCIBIADES: I am thinking, and I cannot tell.

    SOCRATES: But you surely know what are the charges which we bring against one another, when we arrive at the point of making war, and what name we give them?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes, certainly; we say that deceit or violence has been employed, or that we have been defrauded.

    SOCRATES: And how does this happen? Will you tell me how? For there may be a difference in the manner.

    ALCIBIADES: Do you mean by ‘how,’ Socrates, whether we suffered these things justly or unjustly?

    SOCRATES: Exactly.

    ALCIBIADES: There can be no greater difference than between just and unjust.

    SOCRATES: And would you advise the Athenians to go to war with the just or with the unjust?

    ALCIBIADES: That is an awkward question; for certainly, even if a person did intend to go to war with the just, he would not admit that they were just.

    SOCRATES: He would not go to war, because it would be unlawful?

    ALCIBIADES: Neither lawful nor honourable.

    SOCRATES: Then you, too, would address them on principles of justice?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

    SOCRATES: What, then, is justice but that better, of which I spoke, in going to war or not going to war with those against whom we ought or ought not, and when we ought or ought not to go to war?

    ALCIBIADES: Clearly.

    SOCRATES: But how is this, friend Alcibiades? Have you forgotten that you do not know this, or have you been to the schoolmaster without my knowledge, and has he taught you to discern the just from the unjust? Who is he? I wish you would tell me, that I may go and learn of him—you shall introduce me . . . . Very good; and can you tell me how long it is since you thought that you did not know the nature of the just and the unjust? What do you say to a year ago? Were you then in a state of conscious ignorance and enquiry? Or did you think that you knew? And please to answer truly, that our discussion may not be in vain.

    ALCIBIADES: Well, I thought that I knew.

    SOCRATES: And two years ago, and three years ago, and four years ago, you knew all the same?

    ALCIBIADES: I did.

    SOCRATES: And more than four years ago you were a child—were you not?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And then I am quite sure that you thought you knew.

    ALCIBIADES: Why are you so sure?

    SOCRATES: Because I often heard you when a child, in your teacher’s house, or elsewhere, playing at dice or some other game with the boys, not hesitating at all about the nature of the just and unjust; but very confident—crying and shouting that one of the boys was a rogue and a cheat, and had been cheating. Is it not true?

    ALCIBIADES: But what was I to do, Socrates, when anybody cheated me?

    SOCRATES: And how can you say, ‘What was I to do’? if at the time you did not know whether you were wronged or not?

    ALCIBIADES: To be sure I knew; I was quite aware that I was being cheated.

    SOCRATES: Then you suppose yourself even when a child to have known the nature of just and unjust?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly; and I did know then.

    SOCRATES: And when did you discover them—not, surely, at the time when you thought that you knew them?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

    SOCRATES: And when did you think that you were ignorant—if you consider, you will find that there never was such a time?

    ALCIBIADES: Really, Socrates, I cannot say.

    SOCRATES: Then you did not learn them by discovering them?

    ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

    SOCRATES: But just before you said that you did not know them by learning; now, if you have neither discovered nor learned them, how and whence do you come to know them?

    ALCIBIADES: I suppose that I was mistaken in saying that I knew them through my own discovery of them; whereas, in truth, I learned them in the same way that other people learn.

    SOCRATES: So you said before, and I must again ask, of whom? Do tell me.

    ALCIBIADES: Of the many.

    SOCRATES: Do you take refuge in them? I cannot say much for your teachers.

    ALCIBIADES: Why, are they not able to teach?

    SOCRATES: They could not teach you how to play at draughts, which you would acknowledge (would you not) to be a much smaller matter than justice?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And can they teach the better who are unable to teach the worse?

    ALCIBIADES: I think that they can; at any rate, they can teach many far better things than to play at draughts.

    SOCRATES: What things?

    ALCIBIADES: Why, for example, I learned to speak Greek of them, and I cannot say who was my teacher, or to whom I am to attribute my knowledge of Greek, if not to those good-for-nothing teachers, as you call them.

    SOCRATES: Why, yes, my friend; and the many are good enough teachers of Greek, and some of their instructions in that line may be justly praised.

    ALCIBIADES: Why is that?

    SOCRATES: Why, because they have the qualities which good teachers ought to have.

    ALCIBIADES: What qualities?

    SOCRATES: Why, you know that knowledge is the first qualification of any teacher?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

    SOCRATES: And if they know, they must agree together and not differ?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And would you say that they knew the things about which they differ?

    ALCIBIADES: No.

    SOCRATES: Then how can they teach them?

    ALCIBIADES: They cannot . . .

    In short, where you find hopeless contentions and confusions or appeals merely to the “consensus” of the many or the anointed elite, throw the red flag of warning and go back to first principles issues. (My thoughts on that general subject, the grounds of our being under moral government, were posed here at UD some time ago in reply to AS: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....of-theism/ I trust, some will find them helpful.)

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: From A II:

    SOCRATES: There are cobblers and carpenters and sculptors and others of all sorts and kinds, whom we need not stop to enumerate. All have their distinct employments and all are workmen, although they are not all of them cobblers or carpenters or sculptors.

    ALCIBIADES: No, indeed.

    SOCRATES: And in like manner men differ in regard to want of sense. Those who are most out of their wits we call ‘madmen,’ while we term those who are less far gone ‘stupid’ or ‘idiotic,’ or, if we prefer gentler language, describe them as ‘romantic’ or ‘simple-minded,’ or, again, as ‘innocent’ or ‘inexperienced’ or ‘foolish.’ You may even find other names, if you seek for them; but by all of them lack of sense is intended. They only differ as one art appeared to us to differ from another or one disease from another. Or what is your opinion?

    ALCIBIADES: I agree with you.

    SOCRATES: Then let us return to the point at which we digressed. We said at first that we should have to consider who were the wise and who the foolish. For we acknowledged that there are these two classes? Did we not?

    ALCIBIADES: To be sure.

    SOCRATES: And you regard those as sensible who know what ought to be done or said?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: The senseless are those who do not know this?

    ALCIBIADES: True.

    SOCRATES: The latter will say or do what they ought not without their own knowledge?

    ALCIBIADES: Exactly.

    SOCRATES: Oedipus, as I was saying, Alcibiades, was a person of this sort. And even now-a-days you will find many who (have offered inauspicious prayers), although, unlike him, they were not in anger nor thought that they were asking evil. He neither sought, nor supposed that he sought for good, but others have had quite the contrary notion. I believe that if the God whom you are about to consult should appear to you, and, in anticipation of your request, enquired whether you would be contented to become tyrant of Athens, and if this seemed in your eyes a small and mean thing, should add to it the dominion of all Hellas; and seeing that even then you would not be satisfied unless you were ruler of the whole of Europe, should promise, not only that, but, if you so desired, should proclaim to all mankind in one and the same day that Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, was tyrant:—in such a case, I imagine, you would depart full of joy, as one who had obtained the greatest of goods.

    ALCIBIADES: And not only I, Socrates, but any one else who should meet with such luck.

    SOCRATES: Yet you would not accept the dominion and lordship of all the Hellenes and all the barbarians in exchange for your life?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly not: for then what use could I make of them?

    SOCRATES: And would you accept them if you were likely to use them to a bad and mischievous end?

    ALCIBIADES: I would not.

    SOCRATES: You see that it is not safe for a man either rashly to accept whatever is offered him, or himself to request a thing, if he is likely to suffer thereby or immediately to lose his life. And yet we could tell of many who, having long desired and diligently laboured to obtain a tyranny, thinking that thus they would procure an advantage, have nevertheless fallen victims to designing enemies. You must have heard of what happened only the other day, how Archelaus of Macedonia was slain by his beloved (compare Aristotle, Pol.), whose love for the tyranny was not less than that of Archelaus for him. The tyrannicide expected by his crime to become tyrant and afterwards to have a happy life; but when he had held the tyranny three or four days, he was in his turn conspired against and slain. Or look at certain of our own citizens,—and of their actions we have been not hearers, but eyewitnesses,—who have desired to obtain military command: of those who have gained their object, some are even to this day exiles from the city, while others have lost their lives. And even they who seem to have fared best, have not only gone through many perils and terrors during their office, but after their return home they have been beset by informers worse than they once were by their foes, insomuch that several of them have wished that they had remained in a private station rather than have had the glories of command. If, indeed, such perils and terrors were of profit to the commonwealth, there would be reason in undergoing them; but the very contrary is the case. Again, you will find persons who have prayed for offspring, and when their prayers were heard, have fallen into the greatest pains and sufferings. For some have begotten children who were utterly bad, and have therefore passed all their days in misery, while the parents of good children have undergone the misfortune of losing them, and have been so little happier than the others that they would have preferred never to have had children rather than to have had them and lost them. And yet, although these and the like examples are manifest and known of all, it is rare to find any one who has refused what has been offered him, or, if he were likely to gain aught by prayer, has refrained from making his petition. The mass of mankind would not decline to accept a tyranny, or the command of an army, or any of the numerous things which cause more harm than good: but rather, if they had them not, would have prayed to obtain them. And often in a short space of time they change their tone, and wish their old prayers unsaid. Wherefore also I suspect that men are entirely wrong when they blame the gods as the authors of the ills which befall them (compare Republic): ‘their own presumption,’ or folly (whichever is the right word)—

    ‘Has brought these unmeasured woes upon them.’ (Homer. Odyss.)

    He must have been a wise poet, Alcibiades, who, seeing as I believe, his friends foolishly praying for and doing things which would not really profit them, offered up a common prayer in behalf of them all:—

    ‘King Zeus, grant us good whether prayed for or unsought by us; But that which we ask amiss, do thou avert.’ (The author of these lines, which are probably of Pythagorean origin, is unknown. They are found also in the Anthology (Anth. Pal.).)

    In my opinion, I say, the poet spoke both well and prudently; but if you have anything to say in answer to him, speak out.

    ALCIBIADES: It is difficult, Socrates, to oppose what has been well said. And I perceive how many are the ills of which ignorance is the cause, since, as would appear, through ignorance we not only do, but what is worse, pray for the greatest evils. No man would imagine that he would do so; he would rather suppose that he was quite capable of praying for what was best: to call down evils seems more like a curse than a prayer.

    SOCRATES: But perhaps, my good friend, some one who is wiser than either you or I will say that we have no right to blame ignorance thus rashly, unless we can add what ignorance we mean and of what, and also to whom and how it is respectively a good or an evil? . . . .

    SOCRATES: And there is still another case which will also perhaps appear strange to you, if you will consider it? (The reading is here uncertain.)

    ALCIBIADES: What is that, Socrates?

    SOCRATES: It may be, in short, that the possession of all the sciences, if unaccompanied by the knowledge of the best, will more often than not injure the possessor. Consider the matter thus:—Must we not, when we intend either to do or say anything, suppose that we know or ought to know that which we propose so confidently to do or say?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes, in my opinion.

    SOCRATES: We may take the orators for an example, who from time to time advise us about war and peace, or the building of walls and the construction of harbours, whether they understand the business in hand, or only think that they do. Whatever the city, in a word, does to another city, or in the management of her own affairs, all happens by the counsel of the orators.

    ALCIBIADES: True.

    SOCRATES: But now see what follows, if I can (make it clear to you). (Some words appear to have dropped out here.) You would distinguish the wise from the foolish?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: The many are foolish, the few wise?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

    SOCRATES: And you use both the terms, ‘wise’ and ‘foolish,’ in reference to something?

    ALCIBIADES: I do.

    SOCRATES: Would you call a person wise who can give advice, but does not know whether or when it is better to carry out the advice?

    ALCIBIADES: Decidedly not.

    SOCRATES: Nor again, I suppose, a person who knows the art of war, but does not know whether it is better to go to war or for how long?

    ALCIBIADES: No.

    SOCRATES: Nor, once more, a person who knows how to kill another or to take away his property or to drive him from his native land, but not when it is better to do so or for whom it is better?

    ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

    SOCRATES: But he who understands anything of the kind and has at the same time the knowledge of the best course of action:—and the best and the useful are surely the same?—

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES:—Such an one, I say, we should call wise and a useful adviser both of himself and of the city. What do you think?

    ALCIBIADES: I agree.

    SOCRATES: And if any one knows how to ride or to shoot with the bow or to box or to wrestle, or to engage in any other sort of contest or to do anything whatever which is in the nature of an art,—what do you call him who knows what is best according to that art? Do you not speak of one who knows what is best in riding as a good rider?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And in a similar way you speak of a good boxer or a good flute-player or a good performer in any other art?

    ALCIBIADES: True.

    SOCRATES: But is it necessary that the man who is clever in any of these arts should be wise also in general? Or is there a difference between the clever artist and the wise man?

    ALCIBIADES: All the difference in the world.

    SOCRATES: And what sort of a state do you think that would be which was composed of good archers and flute-players and athletes and masters in other arts, and besides them of those others about whom we spoke, who knew how to go to war and how to kill, as well as of orators puffed up with political pride, but in which not one of them all had this knowledge of the best, and there was no one who could tell when it was better to apply any of these arts or in regard to whom?

    ALCIBIADES: I should call such a state bad, Socrates.

    SOCRATES: You certainly would when you saw each of them rivalling the other and esteeming that of the greatest importance in the state,

    ‘Wherein he himself most excelled.’ (Euripides, Antiope.) —I mean that which was best in any art, while he was entirely ignorant of what was best for himself and for the state, because, as I think, he trusts to opinion which is devoid of intelligence. In such a case should we not be right if we said that the state would be full of anarchy and lawlessness?

    ALCIBIADES: Decidedly.

    SOCRATES: But ought we not then, think you, either to fancy that we know or really to know, what we confidently propose to do or say?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: And if a person does that which he knows or supposes that he knows, and the result is beneficial, he will act advantageously both for himself and for the state?

    ALCIBIADES: True.

    SOCRATES: And if he do the contrary, both he and the state will suffer?

    ALCIBIADES: Yes.

    SOCRATES: Well, and are you of the same mind, as before?

    ALCIBIADES: I am.

    SOCRATES: But were you not saying that you would call the many unwise and the few wise?

    ALCIBIADES: I was.

    SOCRATES: And have we not come back to our old assertion that the many fail to obtain the best because they trust to opinion which is devoid of intelligence?

    ALCIBIADES: That is the case.

    SOCRATES: It is good, then, for the many, if they particularly desire to do that which they know or suppose that they know, neither to know nor to suppose that they know, in cases where if they carry out their ideas in action they will be losers rather than gainers?

    ALCIBIADES: What you say is very true.

    SOCRATES: Do you not see that I was really speaking the truth when I affirmed that the possession of any other kind of knowledge was more likely to injure than to benefit the possessor, unless he had also the knowledge of the best?

    ALCIBIADES: I do now, if I did not before, Socrates.

    SOCRATES: The state or the soul, therefore, which wishes to have a right existence must hold firmly to this knowledge, just as the sick man clings to the physician, or the passenger depends for safety on the pilot. And if the soul does not set sail until she have obtained this she will be all the safer in the voyage through life. But when she rushes in pursuit of wealth or bodily strength or anything else, not having the knowledge of the best, so much the more is she likely to meet with misfortune. And he who has the love of learning (Or, reading polumatheian, ‘abundant learning.’), and is skilful in many arts, and does not possess the knowledge of the best, but is under some other guidance, will make, as he deserves, a sorry voyage:—he will, I believe, hurry through the brief space of human life, pilotless in mid-ocean, and the words will apply to him in which the poet blamed his enemy:—

    ‘…Full many a thing he knew; But knew them all badly.’ (A fragment from the pseudo-Homeric poem, ‘Margites.’)

    ALCIBIADES: How in the world, Socrates, do the words of the poet apply to him? They seem to me to have no bearing on the point whatever.

    SOCRATES: Quite the contrary, my sweet friend: only the poet is talking in riddles after the fashion of his tribe. For all poetry has by nature an enigmatical character, and it is by no means everybody who can interpret it. And if, moreover, the spirit of poetry happen to seize on a man who is of a begrudging temper and does not care to manifest his wisdom but keeps it to himself as far as he can, it does indeed require an almost superhuman wisdom to discover what the poet would be at. You surely do not suppose that Homer, the wisest and most divine of poets, was unaware of the impossibility of knowing a thing badly: for it was no less a person than he who said of Margites that ‘he knew many things, but knew them all badly.’ The solution of the riddle is this, I imagine:—By ‘badly’ Homer meant ‘bad’ and ‘knew’ stands for ‘to know.’ Put the words together;—the metre will suffer, but the poet’s meaning is clear;—’Margites knew all these things, but it was bad for him to know them.’ And, obviously, if it was bad for him to know so many things, he must have been a good-for-nothing, unless the argument has played us false.

    ALCIBIADES: But I do not think that it has, Socrates: at least, if the argument is fallacious, it would be difficult for me to find another which I could trust.

    SOCRATES: And you are right in thinking so.

    ALCIBIADES: Well, that is my opinion.

    SOCRATES: But tell me, by Heaven:—you must see now the nature and greatness of the difficulty in which you, like others, have your part. For you change about in all directions, and never come to rest anywhere: what you once most strongly inclined to suppose, you put aside again and quite alter your mind. If the God to whose shrine you are going should appear at this moment, and ask before you made your prayer, ‘Whether you would desire to have one of the things which we mentioned at first, or whether he should leave you to make your own request:’—what in either case, think you, would be the best way to take advantage of the opportunity? . . .

    And, there is more.

    In every direction we go, we see Plato, Aristotle and Socrates too, on the way back. With Alcibiades and friends trailing behind.

    These dialogues have much to teach us yet.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: Maybe, we are now ready to hear Solomon, echoing his father who taught him carefully after failing with a first generation of sons:

    Proverbs 1 English Standard Version (ESV)
    The Beginning of Knowledge

    1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

    2
    To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
    3
    to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
    4
    to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
    5
    Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
    6
    to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

    7
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction . . . .

    20
    Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
    21
    at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
    22
    “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
    How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
    23
    If you turn at my reproof,[a]
    behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
    24
    Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
    25
    because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
    26
    I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
    27
    when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
    28
    Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
    29
    Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
    30
    would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
    31
    therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
    32
    For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
    33
    but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” [ESV]

    Also, perhaps, we can hear this concerning the naturally evident Creation order regarding marriage, from Jesus:

    Matt 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    To this, let us add the how much more principle.

  58. 58
    Joe says:

    Aurellio:

    I think we have a moral duty to persuade Barry to better behavior.

    Work on your own behaviour first.

  59. 59
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Once you’ve discovered something is harmful, then we need some kind of system of ethics to figure out what is least harmful, when harm is justified, etc.

    How would you know if you have discovered something harmful? What happens if you discover that killing your neighbor gives you pleasure?

  60. 60
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: So you agree with Torely and me. Whether something has a genetic component is irrelevant in the analysis of whether it is good or bad.

    Not at all. For me, “acceptable” and “not acceptable” relates to the likely or apparent negative impact an activity has on potential innocent victims. The genetic component is not the only factor to consider with regard to the state’s regulation of an activity, whether genetic or not. For alcoholism, the potential negative impact on innocent victims is apparent and should be regulated by the state whether or not there is a genetic component. For gay marriage there is no apparent negative impact on innocent victims and therefore should not be regulated by the state, especially if there is a genetic component.

  61. 61
    Heartlander says:

    …if opposition to same-sex marriage is as immoral as racism, why did no great moral thinker, in all of history, ever advocate male-male or female-female marriage? Opposition to racism was advocated by every great moral thinker. Moses, for example, married a black woman, the very definition of Catholic is “universal” and therefore diverse and has always included every race, and the equality of human beings of every race was a central tenet of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other world religions. But no one – not Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Aquinas, Gandhi, not the Bible or the Koran or any other sacred text, nor even a single anti-religious secular thinker of the Enlightenment — ever advocated redefining marriage to include members of the same sex.

    To argue that opposition to same-sex marriage is immoral is to argue that every moral thinker, and every religion and social movement in the history of mankind prior to the last 20 years in America and Europe was immoral. About no other issue could this be said. Every moral advance has been rooted in prior moral thinking. The anti-slavery movement was based on the Bible. Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost the “Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.” and he regularly appealed to the moral authority of the scriptures when making his appeals on behalf of racial equality. Same-sex marriage is the only social movement to break entirely with the past, to create a moral ideal never before conceived. It might be right, but it might also be an example of the moral hubris of the present generation, the generation that created the self-esteem movement: After all, you need a lot of self-esteem to hold yourself morally superior to all those who preceded you.
    – Dennis Prager Why a Good Person Can Vote Against Same-Sex Marriage

    [Regarding gay marriage] It all depends on your definition of truth.
    And about what America’s current fascination with gay marriage says about its ancestors and roots.
    Because this change in fundamental human definition plays havoc with any concept of absolute truth, and it passes harsh judgment on the peoples, cultures and religions which have gone before. Specifically, it says they all were benighted and hatefully bigoted.
    Christianity, Islam and Judaism are a sham, the native cultures of Africa, Asia and America were all oppressive and homophobic, and the great men and great minds of yesterday were socially retarded and inferior to us.
    We are the most enlightened and advanced people of all time.
    If gay marriage is right.
    But if it is wrong, if cultures and millennia past had wisdom and insight, then it is we who are benighted, we who have arrogantly abandoned the ways of truth and right.
    If Moses and Mohammed were prophets, if Jesus was divine, if Martin Luther and John Wesley and John Paul II were inspired, if Albert Schweitzer, Marcus Whitman, Mother Theresa and Billy Graham were servants of God, then we are full of crap.
    And gay marriage is not liberation, it is licentiousness. Not the new morality, but the old immorality.
    – Bob Lonsberry When Were We Wrong – Then or Now?

    See also from Frank Turek:
    Same Sex Marriage: Stealing Heresy From God

    Anyone who opposes same-sex marriage is wrong, says the “gay mafia”—the term the liberal TV personality Bill Maher gave to homosexual activists who “whack” dissenters.

    ****<<>>****

    Natural Marriage is Not Bigotry—It’s Biology

    What reasons, other than religious reasons, might someone want to keep marriage defined as only the union of one man and one woman?

    ****<<>>****

    Same Sex Marriage: Stealing Rights From God

    Is same-sex marriage really a “right”? If so, by what standard is it a right? Who said and by what authority?

  62. 62
    Popperian says:

    Nearly everyone, if you ask them, says it would be wrong to push the fat man. Dr. Harris would push the fat man onto the track, on the grounds that it leads to better consequences all round: it kills one individual but saves five. I have to say that I cannot understand how anyone could do that. I think Dr. Harris displays a badly formed moral conscience in defending such an action, and I’m sure the vast majority of my readers would agree with me.

    Can you provide a reference in which Harris actually indicated he would push the fat man onto the tracks? In fact, Harris argues agains a kind of consequentialism that is merely concerned with reducing body counts in at least one video where he discusses the Trolly problem.

  63. 63
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark @ 54 and AS @ 55, consider the following exchange:

    YM:

    Calling something a genetic defect (bad) is totally dependent on perspective.

    Barry:

    Really? Whether Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Hemophilia, Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs are bad is totally dependent on perspective? Idiot

    YM:

    And some of your other examples do not reveal themselves until after reproductive years. So, again, whether or not they are defects (bad) depends on perspective.

    YM says something really stupid. I point it out. He doubles down on his stupidity. Yes, I called him an idiot. I agree I should not have done that. It is an insult to idiots.

    You do have an unintentional point though. I should probably just ignore a lot of the idiocy that gets spewed into the comboxes on these pages. But in a classic example of the triumph of hope over experience, I assume that fools such as YM will respond to correction. I try to shame them into doing better. It pretty much never works, as the YM example above demonstrates. Yet, for some reason I still feel compelled to continue trying.

  64. 64
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Zach @ 23. I’ll take this rare moment to agree with your insight on that.

  65. 65
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF @ 21

    It was VJ in the OP who made the negative judgement that polygamy was wrong – do you disagree?

    I wondered about your view on it, but it seems like you don’t want to discuss it. It might be easier if you just said that?

  66. 66
    Mark Frank says:

    #66 SA

    I think there is some misunderstanding here. For the record I think in Western culture it is usually wrong for someone to be married to two people simultaneously including being married to a man and a woman (I guess there might be extraordinary exceptions). But as VJ also appears to be of that opinion it doesn’t seem worth discussing.

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank @55,

    I have a preliminary question. Is there any such thing as a stupid or foolish comment?

  68. 68
    Popperian says:

    First, Neo-Darwinism is the theory that that knowledge of how to create copies of organisms, as found in their genome, was created by a process of variation and criticism. As such, nature, as it exists, is due to the growth of that knowledge. It genuinely did not exist before. Nor can we predict the impact of genuinely created knowledge. As such, any such morality based on it would not be objective in the sense that it is unchanging or can be extrapolated from observations. Rather, moral knowledge (the knowledge of how to solve moral problems) is objective in that it is independent of anyone’s belief.

    Second, even if we assume that the supposed problems that VJT appeals to are valid, which I’m not (what about heterosexual couples that cannot conceive?), the fatal flaw in his argument is that it makes the short sighted assumption that human beings will never create the knowledge necessary to become a fundamental force of change so great that any supposed objectivity will have to change significantly because of it.

    People are universal explainers. That is, we can create explanatory theories about how the world works that are designed to solve problems, which we then criticize. In the case of science, criticism includes empirical tests. People matter in the cosmic sense.

    For example, there is no law of physics that indicates human beings cannot live to oh, say, 500 years old. As such, the only thing that would prevent us from doing so is not knowing how. IOW, if living to 500 was impossible, regardless of how much knowledge was brought to bear, then that would be itself be due to a discoverable law of physics. No such law is known to exist. And, if it did, it would prevent uncontroversial biological processes that occur. For example, the ability of particular species of salamanders to regrow entire limbs, including bone, muscle, nerves, etc.

    When this occurs, assuming we decide to create the necessary knowledge to survive, ideas of what is morally correct regarding age differences, marriage, etc. will no longer be sufficient. They will change significantly to the extent that they will no longer be objective, as implied. The same can be said for gender and who we fall in love with. When we create the knowledge of how to genuinely change genders, allow even male same sex couples conceive and cary a child, etc. any such “moral” assumption will no longer apply either.

    In fact, I would suggest that the vast majority of the “supposed” problems that VTJ appeals to would be solvable, given the right knowledge. Note: I’m not suggesting things will ever be perfect, as new and better problems will take their place, but the problems that VTJ is appealing to are solvable. And when they are solved, any such supposed objective moral rule will cease to be objective.

    This is why I’ve said that moral knowledge exists in the context of moral problems. It genuinely grows when we conjecture solutions to solve them, then criticize those solutions. Since we cannot predict the impact of the genuine growth of knowledge, including what kind of moral problems we will encounter, knowledge about future moral problems, which we cannot even conceive of, doesn’t even exist yet.

    Note that this too falls under the umbrella of our current, best explanation for the universal growth of knowledge. So, I’d suggest the OP is parochial (unnecessarily narrow in scope) because it grossly underestimates the role of knowledge.

  69. 69
    Tim says:

    Sev@32,
    I am so glad you were able to refine for all of us that I was not harmed, only offended. Phew. On that basis, I would like to remind those who would like to redefine marriage that their “outrage” at perceived harms is nothing more than being offended, too.

    [ . . . not really anybody’s fault for thinking this way (sigh), since”Casey”, the “thinking” that supported it (i.e. the “right to creates one’s own reality”) has obliterated what used to be call a moral landscape.]

    As for the part concerning harm done to children within marriage (vs. marriage defined by the gay agenda), you have completely missed the point, and I am sorry for that. I will let what we have each written speak for itself.

  70. 70
    Mark Frank says:

    #68 SB

    I have a preliminary question. Is there any such thing as a stupid or foolish comment?

    Yes. There are even stupid and foolish commenters. But you need a lot of the first to be sure of the second.

  71. 71
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF @ 67

    For the record I think in Western culture it is usually wrong for someone to be married to two people simultaneously including being married to a man and a woman (I guess there might be extraordinary exceptions).

    As I said, I was looking for your view. You’ve given me “Western culture’s” view, which as we know, considered it wrong for someone to be married to a person of the same sex for a very long time.

    So you seem to support the OP’s point that the “logic of gay marriage” is destructive of monogamy. Since Western culture has changed its view on same sex marriage, then (on the same logical basis) there’s no reason why it should not change on someone being married to two people simultaneously. It would be discriminatory not to allow it for such people who want that.

    Again, I’m not sure what your view is since you didn’t want to discuss it. I just observed that you seemed to take a negative view against people who want to marry more than one person simultaneously and I didn’t understand why.

  72. 72
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    YM: “Calling something a genetic defect (bad) is totally dependent on perspective.”

    Barry: “Really? Whether Cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Hemophilia, Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs are bad is totally dependent on perspective? Idiot”

    YM: “And some of your other examples do not reveal themselves until after reproductive years. So, again, whether or not they are defects (bad) depends on perspective.”

    Barry: “YM says something really stupid. I point it out. He doubles down on his stupidity. Yes, I called him an idiot. I agree I should not have done that. It is an insult to idiots.”

    Nice example of the quote mine tactic. I see that you conveniently left out the follow up where I state that these are clearly bad from the individual perspective but from an evolutionary survival perspective some of these are neither good nor bad. Is aging good or bad? It certainly does not go easily for an extremely large number of people but I have never heard that it was a defect.

    But if you are genetically incapable of having a discussion without resorting to abusive comments I will simply ignore you, because you obviously have nothing of value to say.

    Have a nice day.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    Yes. There are even stupid and foolish commenters. But you need a lot of the first to be sure of the second.

    Agreed. So if there is sufficient evidence to show that a commenter is wallowing in stupidity, it is reasonable to call him or her on it.

  74. 74
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    So if there is sufficient evidence to show that a commenter is wallowing in stupidity, it is reasonable to call him or her on it.

    First. Barry doesn’t seem to need much evidence. One comment will do.

    Second. Even if you feel you have sufficient evidence that someone is foolish or stupid it doesn’t follow that is reasonable to call him or her on it. It is bad manners, frequently leads to some kind of name-calling in response, and generally makes the discussion unpleasant and unrewarding. If you know someone is being deliberately deceptive that might be different – although I am rather keen on Lizzie’s policy of always assuming your opponent is sincere.

  75. 75
    sean samis says:

    In #34, Barry wrote, “No, the fat man trolley problem does have a right answer. Indeed, it has only one right answer, as Dr. Torley points out in the OP. It is always wrong in all circumstances to treat a human being as a means rather than an end. It is always wrong to murder another human being.

    Failing to act to save the 5 is also an unjust killing. And to let them die so you can feel good about yourself is treating them as a means rather than an end. Every answer to the trolley problem is a bad answer. I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer said something about there being times when every choice is bad. The trolley problems sets-up that kind of situation. Letting 5 people die because you didn’t want to dirty your hands is tantamount to murder.

    Regarding my definition of what was good, you wrote that this “is clearly wrong, and I expect you don’t really mean it. Did Hitler have the right to decide for himself that it was good to slaughter innocents? No. Therefore, your argument falls to an ad reductio.

    Your comments are based on what appears to be a deliberate misrepresentation. I’ve seen the warnings that you don’t argue honestly, now I have personal experience.

    My full statement was “Which leaves us with: what makes something “good”? That simply has no generally applicable, objective answer; every person has a right (liberty) to decide that for themselves. Even Torley, in his comments on what is good for different people actually referred to things that were bad for all (solitary confinement) or bad for some (marriage). Definitions of “good” are usually reduced to “something not bad” or “not evil”. No greater definition is needed or wanted.

    Please notice that last pair of sentences (which you edited out in your response). Good is something not bad or not evil. To be more precise, good and evil are non-overlapping categories. One could argue some things are neither good nor evil; I suppose that might be true, but for the moment that is not relevant. (h/t to velikovskys in #49)

    But you did not omit those two sentences by accident, because immediately after, you commented separately on them! So you intentionally left them out; and then objected to them later.

    You wrote that “Good is not defined as “not evil.” Evil is defined as “not good.” Evil does not have existence in its own right. It is the privation of the good.

    A perfectly fine opinion. I think it is wrong. We’ll have to discuss that sometime.

    Having corrected your misrepresentation, your comments about Hitler are shown to be red herrings.

    Regarding: “Absurd. This argument boils down to “evil men pretend to be doing good when they are doing evil; therefore good does not exist.” Non sequitur.

    At no point do I say anything like “good does not exist”. You’re making things up. Does it really come as a surprise to you that evil persons pretend they are doing good?

    The rest of your comments are generally incoherent nonsense predicated on the willful misrepresentation of what I actually wrote.

    Regarding: “Unless the word “good” has an objective meaning, it is essentially meaningless.

    ‘Evil’ I defined. ‘Good’ applies to acts that are at least not ‘Evil’.

    In #37, to Mike, you wrote, “It is not a matter of head counting. It is a matter of which conforms to human nature and which does not. It is merely a coincidence that there are fewer people who conform to human nature than those who don’t with respect to this issue. In other words, even if homosexuals were a majority, homosexual conduct would nevertheless be ontologically disordered and thus would not conform to the good.

    Human nature is much more various than merely male and female. Homosexuality is a natural human phenomena; as is the “transgender” phenomena. These are not “ontologically disordered” in any objective sense of those words, they are just natural variations. Humans are sentient, social creatures, they cannot be understood apart from sociology or psychology.

    In #50, you wrote that “Murder and allowing to die are in different moral categories. Hint: One is always bad; the other is not.” Interesting. So all those guards at Auschwitz were guiltless so long as they didn’t actually kill someone? If you allow someone to die when you could have intervened, it’s morally equivalent to murder.

    sean s.

  76. 76
    sean samis says:

    In #60, Elizabeth asked, “How would you know if you have discovered something harmful? What happens if you discover that killing your neighbor gives you pleasure?

    Ask yourself how you’d feel about someone killing yourself, or someone you love. If you conclude that would not give you pleasure, then you have to avoid killing your neighbor. Anyone not insane knows that pleasure is a worthless moral compass. There’s more to it than this, but it’s a good place to start. Golden Rule.

    sean s.

  77. 77

    Joe:

    How would you know if you have discovered something harmful?

    You would note whether it harms someone.

    What happens if you discover that killing your neighbor gives you pleasure?

    You would note that it harms your neighbour.

    hth.

  78. 78

    sean samis wrote:

    In #60, Elizabeth asked, “How would you know if you have discovered something harmful? What happens if you discover that killing your neighbor gives you pleasure?”

    No I didn’t. Joe asked me.

  79. 79
    sean samis says:

    Ah, Elizabeth, you are correct. My error.

    sean s.

  80. 80
    Eugen says:

    Media is elevating issues involving homosexuals to the level of main national catastrophe.That certainly doesn’t reflect priority issues for general population as the latest Gallup poll shows. Let’s look at some numbers to put it into proper perspective.

    Total households in USA (2010) 114,800,000 vs. total homosexual households (2010) 593,324. Homosexual households make 0.51% of total households.

    Homosexual couples raise mostly their biological children from previous broken hetero relationships. Small percentage of children they care for are lab conceived or adopted.

    We can make conclusion that homosexuals are statistically insignificant as consumers, taxpayers and voters. Their statistics on raising children involves calculating fraction of a fraction so don’t bother. Numbers turn from statistically insignificant to meaningless. It’s no wonder main stream media treats this as a top secret.

    Myself with most average citizens are tired of the homosexual media hype. I don’t care about them or the group of people who sexually prefer midgets.

    (Data is from census.gov)

  81. 81
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    You would note whether it harms someone.

    One person’s harm is another person’s pleasure and one person’s pleasure is another person’s harm.

    You would note that it harms your neighbour.

    Unless they found it pleasurable, too.

    Do we have to live our lives by others’ subjective whims?

  82. 82

    That report on the Sullins paper is highly misleading, as is Sullins’ own abstract.

    From the paper:

    By contrast, biological parentage had a powerful
    explanatory effect. In supplementary modeling
    (not shown), the relative risk for having same-sex
    parents was statistically significant in every
    model that excluded biological relationship, but
    was not significant in most models that included
    it
    . No combination of explanatory variables that
    included biological relationship, moreover,
    improved upon the reduction in predicted relative
    risk for same-sex parents obtained by biological
    relationship alone. Biological relationship, it
    appears, is both necessary and sufficient to
    explain the higher risk of emotional problems
    faced by children with same-sex parents.

    Findings for adopted children were consistent
    with this result, although because of the very
    small number of adopted children it was not
    possible to include this category in the
    multivariate models. As with instability and
    stigmatization, adopted children were at higher
    risk of emotional problems overall (RR 1.65 CI
    1.5-1.8), but including child adoption status had
    no effect on risk due to same-sex parents (RR
    2.10 CI 1.5-2.9 with adoption included). Among
    children with no biological relationship to either
    parent, the prevalence of emotional problems
    was twice as high for ones with same-sex
    parents (22.0% CI 8.0-47.6) than for those with
    opposite-sex parents (11.2% CI 10.2-12.1). This
    estimate should be interpreted with caution due
    to the sparseness of the data
    .

    In other words, it is not having gay parents that increases the risk of having ADHD, it’s having non-biological parents including being adopted

    So there is the straightforward explanation for the increase OR for ADHD in children of gay couples: ADHD is highly heritable, and ADHD is a risk factor for teen pregnancy. Sullins does not, in case I have somehow missed it, give a table for the model in which biological parentage was included (which is very odd and misleading in itself), so we cannot tell whether the key factor is biological relationship or adoption per se. The second paragraph I cited suggests the latter. And regarding his last point: not only are his data sparse on this, but he does not provide any data whatsoever about background of the adopted children. It is, at the very least, not unthinkable that children available for gay couples to adopt may be from a more needy population than those available for straight couples.

    In his abstract Sullins concludes that effect is entirely accounted for by biological parentage, even though the table he presents in the paper is not for this model. He nonetheless, makes an unwarranted commentary on this conclusion (bolded below):

    Conclusion: Joint biological parentage, the modal condition for opposite-sex parents but not possible for same-sex parents, sharply differentiates between the two groups on child emotional problem outcomes. The two groups are different by definition. Intact opposite-sex marriage ensures children of the persistent presence of their joint biological parents; same-sex marriage ensures the opposite.

    Without knowing whether the key difference is adoption, rather than biological relationship per se (and Sullins’ data suggests it may be, and certainly does not indicate that it is unlikely) that comment is sheer bigotry, frankly, and I’m surprised the reviewers let it through. I’m also surprised they didn’t require Sullins to supply the model with biological parentage included.

    So it doesn’t surprise me to find, in Vincent’s link, that:

    As a professor at Catholic University of America, and a married Catholic priest with three children (he used to be an Episcopalian), Sullins has to be ready to go all 15 rounds.

    No harm in an catholic married priest doing research into the welfare of the children of same-sex marriage, but his conclusion should follow from his data, not his church’s teaching. And if it is the case, and it may be, that gay couples, due to barriers to adoption, are prepared to adopt needier children than those more readily available to straight couples, then thank goodness for gay couples.

  83. 83
    Yarko Matkewski says:

    Dr. Torley’s section on the shortened life span of homosexual men is a red herring. Men having sex with men is not the risk factor. Men having promiscuous sex with men is. Using this to conclude that all homosexual activity is bad is bogus and hypocritical. Until relatively recently syphilus (sp?) was a death sentence. And cervical cancer caused by STDs will certainly reduce the average life span of those involved. But I don’t here anyone conclude from this that heterosexual sex is bad.

    In both cases, the issue is multiple partners, not the sex itself. And I am sure that almost everyone here would agree with the idea of promoting monogamy amongst heterosexual couples. But how come I get the feeling that we won’t get the same near unanimity for the idea of promoting monogamous behaviour for homosexuals?

  84. 84
    sean samis says:

    Joe, you are arguing diligently against an idea that, as far as I can see, no one supports anyway; the idea that subjective whims, pleasure, or preference morally justify things.

    I reject that; I’m sure Elizabeth rejects it; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t reject it.

    Time to put a match to that straw man of yours.

    Regarding adoption by same-sex couples, numerous studies find these children do just as well as children adopted by different-sex couples. Not a single State has been able to justify laws banning or limiting same-sex couples from adopting; there’s no good reason to.

    Regarding the “shortened life span of homosexual men”; if that is a reason to discourage or prohibit gay sexual activity, shouldn’t that also be used to justify banning cigarettes, or high speed limits? Both of those and other common behaviors are associated with shortened life spans.

    sean s.

  85. 85
    Mung says:

    I have a preliminary question. Is there any such thing as a stupid or foolish comment?

    Yes. A very common one is “Trust Me.”

  86. 86
    Joe says:

    sean s., I am going by what Elizabeth writes and trying to decipher it.

  87. 87
    StephenB says:

    Yarko Matkewski to Barry

    But if you are genetically incapable of having a discussion without resorting to abusive comments I will simply ignore you, because you obviously have nothing of value to say.

    You were the recipient of such a harsh rebuke because you began with, and tried to build on, a mindless premise:

    As you put it,

    Calling something a genetic defect (bad) is totally dependent on perspective.

    If it is “totally dependent” on perspective, then it is not dependent in any way on reality or the facts. You were saying, in effect, that perspective is everything and nothing else matters. Don’t expect to be well received when you say such silly things.

  88. 88
    Mung says:

    Don’t expect to be well received when you say such silly things.

    Wow. Light bulb just went on. Is that why people here don’t like me?

  89. 89
    vjtorley says:

    Hi, everyone. A few quick comments:

    1. Nowhere in my OP did I argue that gay sex is morally bad because it leads to bad health consequences. What I said was that a consequentialist like Professor Rosenhouse should take those consequences into account when deciding whether gay sex is good or bad. I’m quite surer he thinks smoking is bad. Gay sex is a comparable risk, at the present time.

    2. A cure for AIDS may one day be found. But for the time being, it remains elusive. We have to deal with the here-and-now.

    3. If gay men had only one lifetime sexual partner then of course AIDS wouldn’t be a problem. But very few men (gay or straight) have only one partner during their lives.

    4. As Elizabeth Liddle correctly points out, the emotional problems found in children of gay couples are caused by their being adopted. But nowhere in my OP did I call for the banning of gay adoptions. Rather, my point was that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother.” That’s a less-than-optimal outcome for children. Adoption is certainly better than living in a string of foster homes, but it’s far worse (in the great majority of cases) than growing up with your biological parents.

  90. 90

    4. As Elizabeth Liddle correctly points out, the emotional problems found in children of gay couples are caused by their being adopted. But nowhere in my OP did I call for the banning of gay adoptions. Rather, my point was that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother.” That’s a less-than-optimal outcome for children. Adoption is certainly better than living in a string of foster homes, but it’s far worse (in the great majority of cases) than growing up with your biological parents.

    The argument that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother”, is nonsensical – just as the argument the report you cited of the paper, and that of the paper itself, is nonsensical.

    Not being able to have your own biological children, for whatever reason (and my own heterosexual marriage was infertile for 20 years) does not cause children to be removed from their biological parents. On the contrary, not being able to have you own biological children, for whatever reason (including being a gay couple) means that you have the opportunity of adopting children who need a home, children who are likely, for a number of well-understood reason, to have an elevated risk of ADHD.

    And the evidence from Sullins’ study, contrary to his own inference, suggests that a higher proportion of gay couples take on this responsibility than same-sex couples.

  91. 91
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    I tried giving the OP a serious read. I am afraid I came to the conclusion it is one of the most confused and rambling things you have ever written. It is so confused I have trouble picking out the key issues- but here are a few:

    About Rosenhouse’s views
    I dare say he is eminently capable of explaining and defending his own views. However, I don’t know where you got the idea is an objective utilitarian. He is not trying to do moral philosophy (he isn’t a philosopher) but is just pointing that pragmatically we all agree on a lot of moral points including an act is evil is if its primary intent is to cause harm to sentient beings. He doesn’t seem to care whether this is objective or subjective as long as everyone agrees:

    Any proposed standard of morality can be challenged by someone intent on denying it. The fact remains that my definition is in accord with what virtually everyone agrees “evil” to be.

    Given that this is just a pragmatic statement intellectual games about trolley problems and utilitarianism are irrelevant.

    Your arguments (I have given them letters for conciseness)

    (A ) There is nothing that can be good for one type of person and bad for another type

    You have to perform intellectual somersaults to try to defend this extraordinary position. Almost everyone would accept that there are things that are good for some people and bad for others.
    Some examples:

    In the former case, one is claiming that for certain people, commitments are psychologically toxic: they actually harm the people who enter into them. But in the latter case, what one is asserting is that the commitment itself is inherently good, but that in order to realize this good, a certain level of emotional maturity is required, which certain people lack.

    So marriage is bad for those people that lack a certain level of emotional maturity and good for those that have it.

    There are genuine cases, then, where one man’s meat (or seafood) is another man’s poison, but this is due to an abnormality. What we don’t have here is a case where what’s good for one normal individual is bad for another normal individual.

    You are changing the proposition to:

    (B ) there is nothing that can be good for normal people and bad for normal people
    Which immediately raises the obvious retort – who defines what is normal? 

    But even if you change the claim to B, you yourself raise a counterexample –  lactose intolerance (who cares whether it is an allergy or not – it is genetic). Milk is good for those who are lactose tolerant and bad for those who are intolerant. Are you going to say that the lactose intolerant are not normal? Or perhaps the lactose tolerant as we appear to be in the minority.
     

    (C ) Gays and lesbians are the same kind of people as the rest of us

    I don’t know why you bothered with this – if it were true that nothing can be good for one type of person and bad for another type then it would not be necessary to prove we were the all the same type!  You don’t define what you mean by “the same kind”  so it is very hard to address your argument. But who cares? The fact is some people are gay, some are not, and many somewhere between.
     

    (D ) We need to show that for the individuals who engage in sex, the activity itself promotes their biological and psychological flourishing, or promotes human flourishing in a way in which we can all recognize.

    For some reason you don’t find enjoying sex to be objectively good but you do find intimacy to be objectively good. This seems to be based on an analogy with drug use.  Drug use is pleasurable in the short term but not in the long term. That is why is not considered to be good.  On the other hand participating in sport is for many people pleasurable in both the long and the short term. Do you dismiss that pleasure as subjectively good?
     

    (E ) Gay marriage is destructive of monogamy

    This seems to rest on this odd statement: Granting bisexuals the right to marry whomever they wish would, in effect, legalize polygamy. That would only apply if they had the right to marry a man and woman simultaneously. As far as I know, no one is suggesting that. If someone is suggesting it then it is indeed legalizing polygamy just as it would if you granted the right to heterosexuals the right to marry two people simultaneously. It is nothing particularly to do with sexual preference.
     

    (F ) Marriage: it’s really about procreation
    That is a matter of opinion. Earlier you recognised the value of intimacy. Many people marry because it formalises a life long commitment to each other.
     

    (G ) Children do better with a mother and a father

    Possibly. But what has that got to do with marriage?  Are you suggesting the possibility of marriage will make gay couples more likely to decide to bring up children?  This needs proving. It seems far more plausible that it is the other way round. Having decided to bring up children may cause gay couples to get married.  On the whole I would have thought the stability of a formal structure of marriage would improve the children’s prospects.
     

    At this point I lost the will to continue.

  92. 92

    Mark Frank:

    At this point I lost the will to continue.

    It was the nausea.

  93. 93
    Barry Arrington says:

    EL @ 90:

    The argument that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother”, is nonsensical . . .

    This statement does not mean what you probably intended to write. It is obviously false as you will no doubt see upon reflection.

  94. 94
    sean samis says:

    Joe, you diverged long ago from what Elizabeth wrote. I recommend you burn your straw man and find something useful to do.

    vjTorley commented (about Elizabeth Liddle):

    “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother.” That’s a less-than-optimal outcome for children. Adoption is certainly better than living in a string of foster homes, but it’s far worse (in the great majority of cases) than growing up with your biological parents.

    There are several problems with that claim.

    It implies quite openly that ALL same-sex relationships result from the breakup of a different-sex marriage or require taking children away from their parents and giving them to unrelated same-sex couples. Your claim expressly states that this is the intention and purpose of all same-sex relationships. Quite simply, this is false. It is absurd.

    Divorce is less-than-optimal for children, but better than living in a home filled with violence and hatred; where the parents are constantly at each other’s throats. Ironically the worst outcomes are in homes where the parents put-off the divorce until the damage is done.

    Divorce has been a problem for decades. Given divorce, the optimal outcome for children is found in homes where the adults respect and love each other and set good examples for the children; where the adults provide security and love and good role models. A same-sex couple is just as capable of doing this well as a different-sex couple.

    Barry Arrington weighed in, writing that Elizabeth’s comment “does not mean what you probably intended to write. It is obviously false as you will no doubt see upon reflection.

    Hmm. To me the claim that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother” seems pretty unambiguous and absurd. (Embolding added)

    Elizabeth’s evaluation of the claim being “nonsensical” is spot-on. I suspect her statement means exactly what she intended to write, and I know that her evaluation is obviously true.

    sean s.

  95. 95

    Barry

    EL @ 90:

    The argument that “same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother”, is nonsensical . . .

    This statement does not mean what you probably intended to write. It is obviously false as you will no doubt see upon reflection.

    I took Vincent to mean that same-sex relationships, by design, require that children be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised in the absence of one of them (father or mother). Which is nonsensical.

    If he meant that the problem is that that children with same sex parents are raised without either a father-figure or a mother-figure, then that is quite a different argument from the one made by Sullins, and Sullins provides no evidence that lacking a father figure or a mother-figure is predictive of poor outcome. So if that was what Victor meant, it was completely irrelevant to any discussion of Sullins’ findings, and is not the inference that Sullins drew, so is irrelevant to my point about Sullins’ paper to which Vincent was responding.

    Sullins wrote:

    For child well-being the two groups differ by definition. Intact opposite-sex marriage ensures children of the persistent presence of their joint biological parents;same-sex marriage ensures the opposite.

    which is true but irrelevant to his findings, because nothing about same-sex couples adopting children who are the biological offspring of neither does anything to jeopardise the “persistent presence of their joint biological parents”.

    What jeopardises the “persistent presence of their joint biological parents” is what ever factors in their lives led to their being put up for adoption.

    What gay parents can provide is loving homes for such children.

    Morover, Sullins provides no evidence that the lack of “persistent presence of their joint biological parents” does any harm at all. As I’ve said, adopted children tend to have with elevated risk of poor outcome for a number of well-understood reasons, particularly if they are what in the UK are called “Hard to Place” children.

  96. 96
    Heartlander says:

    But on an even more basic level, if the Supreme Court sides with Ms. DeBoer, they will be giving gay adults the right to force children to grow up without something that the vast majority of their peers have: a mother and father. On top of that will be added the problem of denying citizens their heritage. If this ends in a reparations trial decades down the line, we can’t say there weren’t ample warning signs of what was to come.
    Robert Oscar Lopez, Imagine ‘Gay Marriage Reparations’

    See also: Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family ‘Equality’

  97. 97
    Barry Arrington says:

    EL @ 95:

    I took Vincent to mean that same-sex relationships, by design, require that children be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised in the absence of one of them (father or mother). Which is nonsensical.

    What is nonsensical is denying reality. Same-sex couples remove children from one of the biological parents and raise them without them all the time. Have you been under a rock. Here is one of countless examples:

    After gay marriage became legal in England in March 2014, [Elton] John and Furnish married in Windsor, Berkshire, on 21 December 2014, the ninth anniversary of their civil partnership.[148][149][150][151] They have two sons. Their oldest, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born to a surrogate mother on 25 December 2010 in California.[152][153] A second son, Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John, was born to the couple by the same surrogate mother on 11 January 2013

    From Wiki

    Liddle, you are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.

    Rachel Lu:

    Contrary to what your first-grade teacher may have told you, there are such things as stupid questions. “Do moms matter?” is one of them. It’s the sort of ridiculous query that actually should leave us spluttering for an adequate response.

  98. 98

    Barry, I was addressing the Sullins paper that Victor cited, and pointed out that Sullins’ – and Victor’s – conclusion was unsupported by the data – i.e. the facts – and indeed nonsensical.

    Sullins’ own data showed that when he included biological relationship in the model the apparent effect of the gayness or otherwise of the parents on the probability of ADHD in the children ceased to be significant.

    In other words, there is no reason to think that it was not adoption, per se, that was accounting for the initially apparent elevated risk of ADHD, as opposed to the fact that the children were not biologically related to their parents. Indeed, their sparse data on children adopted by same-sex parents tended to support this.

    Adopting children entails far more than simply having children that are not your genetic offspring. The reasons children become available for adoption are complex, and often confer elevated risk of ADHD.

  99. 99
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    what it looks like when two worldviews collide.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zcs1K7Gi9Pg

    As happens so often when we talk to each other it’s like we live in different universes.

    There is absolutely no common ground in this discussion. As the two speakers demonstrate we might as well be speaking different languages.

    It really is sad

    peace

  100. 100
    vjtorley says:

    Elizabeth and Sean Samis,

    The statement in my OP that “Same-sex relationships, by design, require children to be removed from one or more of their biological parents and raised absent a father or mother” was a quote from a gay man, writing in The Federalist (April 28, 2015). If you don’t like what he wrote, I suggest you take it up with him.

    Barry Arrington’s comment that “Same-sex couples remove children from one of the biological parents and raise them without them all the time” is spot-on, as are his remarks about surrogacy. If you don’t think that this would traumatize a child, then I for one am speechless.

    Sullins’ data was not cited by the gay person whom I quoted, but it certainly establishes that children raised by adoptive parents (gay or straight) are much more likely to experience emotional problems. Given that the vast majority of children raised by heterosexual couples are biological children, while the vast majority of children raised by gay couples are adopted, that bears out my concern about their well-being.

    The point I’m making is a very simple one: gay couples are by nature incapable of procreating a child in the ideal environment for raising children: a family where the child is the biological offspring of both its parents. The child of a gay parent starts life with a handicap, even if it is deeply loved.

    By the way, my name is Vincent, not Victor.

  101. 101
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark Frank,

    Thank you for your post. I’m mystified by your remarks about polygamy. I repeat my statement above that the case for gay marriage completely ignores bisexuals. As I wrote:

    Let’s consider the case of a bisexual male named Albert, who is passionately in love with a woman named Belinda and a man named Charles. He can’t imagine spending his life without either of them – nor can they imagine spending their lives without him. To simplify matters from a legal perspective, let’s assume that Albert doesn’t want to have children, and that he’s had himself sterilized to prevent that possibility from eventuating. If gays and lesbians are accorded the right to marry whomever they wish, then why shouldn’t bisexuals be given the same right?

    Why, indeed? What would you say to Albert? His request seems a reasonable one to me, given his sexual orientation – once you grant the liberal premise that people have the right to marry whomever they wish, provided that they intend to stay together for life. Denying Albert the right to marry either Belinda or Charles is tantamount to denying him the right to express his deeply felt love for both individuals.

    The fact that no-one is making the above argument at present merely indicates that gay marriage advocates are politically savvy and highly disciplined. They know when to keep their mouths shut. I note, however, that polyamory is widely advocated in certain circles.

    Re the objective value of intimacy: I don’t deny it for a moment. What I asserted in my OP, however, was that procreation is the only reason why we have created a social institution called marriage. As I wrote in my OP, you wouldn’t expect to find this institution in an alien civilization where individuals reproduced asexually.

    Finally, my OP was written with modest, limited aims. It was not my intention to formulate any moral arguments against gay sex (although I did point out its adverse consequences in the Appendix). My post was about marriage and natural law morality.

  102. 102
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    Why, indeed? What would you say to Albert? His request seems a reasonable one to me, given his sexual orientation – once you grant the liberal premise that people have the right to marry whomever they wish, provided that they intend to stay together for life. Denying Albert the right to marry either Belinda or Charles is tantamount to denying him the right to express his deeply felt love for both individuals.

    I would say to Albert that while you have the right to marry Belinda or Charles, you don’t have the right to marry both of them at the same time. Just as a heterosexual man can marry Belinda or Caroline but not both at the same time.

    The right to marry people of the same sex is logically completely divorced from the right to marry more than one person simultaneously.

    I have never heard anyone making the case for polygamy. If some people are making the case, it is a different argument.

    Re the objective value of intimacy: I don’t deny it for a moment. What I asserted in my OP, however, was that procreation is the only reason why we have created a social institution called marriage. As I wrote in my OP, you wouldn’t expect to find this institution in an alien civilization where individuals reproduced asexually.

    I agree that children is the main reason societies developed institutions called marriage. The fact remains that in modern societies it fulfils many other important roles. The marriage service does not commit you to have children or even to try to have children. It does commit you to mutual support through life. The significance of institutions change. You would not deny marriage to heterosexual couples who know they cannot have children. So how can this be a reason to deny marriage to homosexual couples?

  103. 103
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ #100

    The question of whether married couples who cannot have children should be allowed to

    a) adopt
    b) have a child through a surrogate mother

    is different from the question of whether gay couples should be allowed to marry. Heterosexual couples who cannot do children do both and it raises exactly the same moral issues.

    I would have thought (a) depended on the alternative available to the child. (b) is a tricky moral question whatever the genders of the couple.

    Before you wrote this OP I was cool about gay marriage. You have pretty much convinced me it is something worth supporting!

  104. 104
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark Frank. You asked:

    You would not deny marriage to heterosexual couples who know they cannot have children. So how can this be a reason to deny marriage to homosexual couples?

    Short answer: because there’s an objective reason why heterosexual marriage, as an institution, needs to be monogamous (namely, that the sexual acts in which heterosexual couples engage are liable to generate children, who thrive best when raised by their biological mother and father), whereas there’s no objective reason why homosexual marriage needs to be monogamous (as the acts in which these couples engage are incapable of generating children).

    The fact that the reason I cited above doesn’t apply to each and every heterosexual couple (since some are sterile) is neither here nor there. What we should be comparing are not two individual couples but two kinds of coupling (one essentially monogamous, the other not).

  105. 105
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark Frank. Re #103, I will concede that in the light of Sullins’ finding that children of gay couples are no more emotionally disturbed than other adopted children, there would seem to be no scientific justification (on sociological grounds) for a law prohibiting gay couples from adopting, while allowing heterosexual couples to do so.

  106. 106

    Vincent:

    Barry Arrington’s comment that “Same-sex couples remove children from one of the biological parents and raise them without them all the time” is spot-on, as are his remarks about surrogacy. If you don’t think that this would traumatize a child, then I for one am speechless.

    There is no evidence that I am aware of, and certainly none that you cite, that being brought up without one or both of your biological parents traumatizes a child. You may be “speechless” at the suggestion that it may not, but that does not absolve you from the requirement to find out whether or not it is true before asserting it to be so.

    There is certainly evidence that removing a child from their parents to be raised by parents not biologically associated with adverse outcome – but not that it is the lack of biological relationship that is the problem per se.

    So to claim that somehow, in principle, the children of gay couples must be worse off than the children of same-sex couples, because the children of gay couples must be raised without one of their biological parents is, as I said, simply unsupported by any evidence you have cited, or that I am aware of.

    Whereas I am extremely aware of the factors that contribute to poor outcomes in adopted chlidren including elevated risk of ADHD in adopted children. And those factors are not to do with the sexuality of the adopted parents. We should, I argue, welcome the fact that gay marriage has brought a whole new population of potential adopters into the frame for children in desperate need of a family. That is an argument for removing the bar to adoption by gay couples that I understand still exists in parts of the US. It is certainly not an argument that gay marriage is any kind of threat to anyone.

    Sullins’ data was not cited by the gay person whom I quoted, but it certainly establishes that children raised by adoptive parents (gay or straight) are much more likely to experience emotional problems. Given that the vast majority of children raised by heterosexual couples are biological children, while the vast majority of children raised by gay couples are adopted, that bears out my concern about their well-being.

    And here you repeat the very nonsensical argument I was trying to point out to you!

    Let me propose a simplified model, just to try to get across my point. Let us say that 10% percent of heterosexual couples adopt children while 50% of gay couples do.

    And let us also say that the risk of ADHD in a child raised by his/her biological parents is 5% and while the risk of ADHD in a child raised by adopted parents is 20%.

    And let us also say that all the adopted children were born to parents whose children, for whatever reason, were unable to raise them themselves, and that those reasons include parental ADHD (which is true – people with ADHD have an elevated risk of unintended pregnancy). Note also that ADHD is highly heritable.

    Under those circumstances, Sullins data would show what it did show: that the children of gay couples had elevated risk of ADHD compared to those of straight couples, but that that association was no longer evident when “biological relationship” was entered into the model

    In other words, that simplified picture is entirely consistent with Sullins’ data. Sullins’ data does NOT tell us that gay adoption is bad for children. It tells us that if the factors that lead to need for adoption are bad for children, then couples more likely to adopt are more likely to have children with adverse outcomes, not because the gay parents did the children any harm by adopting them, but because gay parents, by being more likely than straight parents of becoming the parents of adopted children are also more likely to become the parents of children with elevated risk of adverse outcome.

    Now to DI and surrogacy: I accept that it is true that gay couples mean that there are slightly more infertile couples in the world whose options for children, other than by adoption, are limited to donor insemination/surrogacy. But you have provided no evidence of poor outcomes for children are born in this way, and I do not know of any study that shows it. Indeed the only studies I am aware of show that if anything, outcomes are better, which is probably simply due to motivational effects (by definition all children born as a result of fertility intervention are wanted children).

    The point I’m making is a very simple one: gay couples are by nature incapable of procreating a child in the ideal environment for raising children: a family where the child is the biological offspring of both its parents. The child of a gay parent starts life with a handicap, even if it is deeply loved.

    First you would have to demonstrate that “the ideal environment for raising children” is “a family where the child is the biological offspring of both its parents”. This may seem intuitively true, but, and this goes to the heart of all “natural law” arguments, may not be, and indeed there is no evidence to support it.

    And it doesn’t even make a lot of sense a priori. For couples for whom natural conception is impossible, any children, by definition all children will be intended and wanted. For couples for whom natural conception is all too possible, all too often, the children are neither intended nor wanted. Which is why a substantial proportion of them need loving homes. Which is why it is fortunate, for them, that there exist infertile couples who want to give them loving homes.

    And gay couples are such couples.

    So let’s be thankful for them.

  107. 107
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ #104

    Sterility is just as objective as homosexuality. You can’t get round this. Your logic implies that sterile couples (a type of couple) should not get married. It would also apply to couples where the woman is past menopause It also suggests that if gay couples can have children (not inconceivable – no pun intended – with modern embryology)then it is OK for them to get married.

    Thanks for the gracious concession on #103

  108. 108
    Mung says:

    There is no such thing as a sterile couple.

  109. 109
    Mark Frank says:

    #108 Mung

    There is no such thing as a sterile couple.

    What do you mean? Suppose the woman has had her ovaries removed because of cancer? Or her uterus? Or the man has had a vasectomy?

  110. 110

    Mung, there certainly is. I was a member of an infertile couple for many years – although amazingly, with my last egg, we managed a child.

    But many of the couples I met over those years were not so fortunate. In some ways I was almost envious of those with absolute bars to natural conception, because they knew what their options were – people in whom the man was azoospermic, or the woman had blocked fallopian tubes, or no ovaries, and who went for donor solutions, or adoption.

    And the thing about infertility is that it is, indeed, a couple problem. Two subfertile people can amount to one infertile couple, and it is not unknown for an infertile couple to split up, and both subsequently become natural parents.

    So yes, there is such a thing as an infertile (or “sterile”) couple, or at least there is in the sense I was using the term, and that is the sense in which it used in the field of fertility medicine.

    In fact it’s vital, because if a couple seeks help for fertility BOTH partners must be investigated. There is no point, for instance, doing invasive surgery to help a woman conceive if it turns out her partner is azoospermic. So it’s a couple issue.

  111. 111
    Mung says:

    You’ve just given an example of two sterile individuals.

    Don’t mind me 🙂

    Full Definition of COUPLING
    1
    : the act of bringing or coming together : pairing; specifically : sexual union

    I’m just wondering how two sterile individuals can have a sexual union.

    IOW, how can the two become one?

  112. 112
    Mark Frank says:

    #111 Mung

    I am really struggling with your point. Of course two sterile individuals (or as EL points out two individuals who together are not fertile) can have sex. Is there some special significance to the word “union” other than two people who form a long-term loving sexual partnership?

  113. 113

    By having sex, Mung.

    Unless you are defining “coupling” (“copulation”) in such a way that it isn’t coupling if it doesn’t result in a child?

    Which would be a very narrow definition, and not the one we are using here.

    Not one I’ve even read or heard!

  114. 114
    Mung says:

    Two individuals who have failed to couple are not a couple.

    Seriously, you don’t have to take me seriously on this.

    I’m just offering a different perspective.

    But I don’t think it’s too far removed from the issues raised in the OP so as to be considered off topic.

    Famously:

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

    How do they become one flesh, if not in bearing of children?

  115. 115

    I’ve noticed, Mung, that when you and I are at odds over something, it is often over a definition.

    While dictionary definitions are useful, they are descriptive, not proscriptive, and they are inclusive, not exclusive. They tell us how words are used to mean, not what they are not used to mean. And many of the meanings given are non-overlapping, and some are subsets of other meanings. So one can use a word to mean something very specific, or to mean something just as specific, but different, or to mean something quite general. A classic example that comes up a lot, is the word “random” which has all kinds of meaning.

    So a lot of these discussions end up with arguments over definitions, with people accusing others of “equivocation” and of others of “quibbling”! To understand each other, using the imperfect medium of language, sometimes it is important to say precisely what we mean by a word.

    And in this instance, I think that anyone using the phrase “infertile couple” or “sterile couple” means a couple who, as a couple, cannot have children.

    And that condition is a property of the couple. Even if you have, say, a male partner who could readily father children with a different partner, in the context of the couple, he is just as infertile as his partner, if she is unable to conceive.

    And in many cases the problem actually arises directly from the pairing. For instance, one of the treatments I received for infertility was “innoculation” with my partner’s tissue, on the grounds that my immune system was mounting an over-active immune response to his genetic material, and thus to any conceptus that resulted from fertilisation of my ova with his sperm. With a different partner I might have been fine; with a different partner he might have been fine. But together, we were subfertile (and, at that point, effectively infertile).

  116. 116

    Mung:

    Two individuals who have failed to couple are not a couple.

    Even by standard dictionary definitions, coupling means two people having sex (some definitions specify the form of sex). I have not read a definition in which it solely means having-sex-that-results-in-children.

    And even if there was such a definition regular use, it isn’t the meaning that I think anyone is using here.

    Certainly what I mean by “infertile couple” is a “couple”, by which I mean two people who are committed to each other in a monogamous relationship, who would like to have children to bring up, but who can’t produce them as a couple, or, at least, not without help.

  117. 117
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth:

    I’ve noticed, Mung, that when you and I are at odds over something, it is often over a definition.

    That’s a far cry from asserting that I never attempt to clarify terms!

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp.....ment-62864

    I don’t intend to argue over what it means to say that two individuals are a couple.

    Some people would say that a couple just is two individuals.

    A couple of apples just is two apples. 3 and 5 are just a couple of numbers. I just need a couple more minutes.

    But how can two homosexuals become “one flesh” in Biblical terms?

  118. 118
    Mung says:

    p.s. Isn’t homosexual a contradiction in terms?

  119. 119
    Mung says:

    In other news:

    Wikipedia article on sex fails to mention homosexuality.

    Time to demand an update

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex

  120. 120

    That’s a far cry from asserting that I never attempt to clarify terms!

    Not sure what assertion you are talking about, but I’m a great fan of clarifying terms. That’s why I’m always banging on about the need for operational definitions in scientific methodology!

    The important thing in a discussion is to check that people are talking about the same thing (and indeed, that one person isn’t sliding between two definitions, either deliberately or inadvertently, when making an inference).

    But how can two homosexuals become “one flesh” in Biblical terms?

    I have no idea. But if I want to find out whether children are disadvantaged by having gay parents, then the answer will lie in actual data. And while it is often asserted as self-evident that two heterosexual parents are better, all other things being equal, than two gay parents, I propose that not only is it not self-evident, but that the evidence suggests no such thing.

    What appears to matter is that the parents are good parents. And as far risk of ADHD is concerned, there’s absolutely no evidence that the sexuality of the couple who raise you has anything with your risk of ADHD.

    Even Sullins own data does not suggest this, as he acknowledges, even though it doesn’t prevent him from drawing an pejorative inference.

  121. 121
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth: Not sure what assertion you are talking about

    Why not? I provided a link to said assertion.

    Here, I’ll follow that link for you and quote the content:

    petrushka:

    In fact, Mung is under a compulsion not to engage in adult dialog or try to reach consensus on the terms of the discussion.

    I will retract that if anyone can point to a discussion where Mung engaged in an attempt to clarify terms.

    Yes, that’s at TSZ. Your site. Right?

    Adapa:

    Lizzie isn’t like the egotistical clown who runs UD and who bans posters just for disagreeing with him.

    Maybe Lizzie is like the absentee slumlord who appeals to her absence as a defense for the conditions of the slum she owns.

  122. 122

    OK, thanks for clarifying. Well, I am not making such an assertion.

    And I’m not even defending it. I’m certainly not appealing to my absence for a defense.

    My instincts are to apply slightly heavier hand to the guano button at TSZ, but I’d rather err on the side of letting people have their say.

    However, this thread is not the best place to discuss moderation criteria at TSZ! We can take it to the moderation thread at TSZ if you like.

  123. 123
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth, I agree with you that both sides should try to better understand each other. It sure beats talking past each other and thinking points were scored that simply missed the mark.

  124. 124

    Cool 🙂

    It’s not easy, but worth doing, I think.

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I think a Dominical saying is highly relevant to this thread, though doubtless it will be strong and bitter medicine:

    >> Matthew 18 English Standard Version (ESV)
    Who Is the Greatest?

    18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Temptations to Sin

    7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin![b] For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell[c] of fire . . . >>

    A word to the wise, from the wisest.

    The folk-saying, here, is: the harbourer is worse than the thief.

    That’s all,

    KF

  126. 126
    Eugen says:

    It’s flabbergasting and creepy this learning experience. I have hard time processing how strange and weird atheists, materialists, liberals etc are. In their bizzaro world 2+2 can equal sometimes 5, sometimes 4, sometimes 6…. Whatever goes at the moment. Whatever is needed or suitable at the time.

    Did you ever notice when squirrel gets flattened by a car somehow tail doesn’t get damaged so it’s flying freely around depending on a wind. Atheist-materialist worldview reminds me of that tail.

  127. 127
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    EL says,

    My instincts are to apply slightly heavier hand to the guano button at TSZ, but I’d rather err on the side of letting people have their say.

    I say,

    If you would apply a heavier hand I can guarantee you would have a more diverse set of people “having their say”.

    I for one would love to discuss ID in a place where critics and fan boys both felt comfortable and the atmosphere was civil.

    peace

  128. 128
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Elizabeth Liddle,

    Thank you for your post (#106). I think we may be talking at cross purposes, so I will attempt to clarify my position. You write:

    There is no evidence that I am aware of, and certainly none that you cite, that being brought up without one or both of your biological parents traumatizes a child.

    I didn’t say it did. What I claimed was that being removed from your biological parents would traumatize a child. I also said that surrogacy traumatizes children. Incidentally, I think surrogacy should be outlawed, full stop.

    You also wrote:

    I accept that it is true that gay couples mean that there are slightly more infertile couples in the world whose options for children, other than by adoption, are limited to donor insemination/surrogacy. But you have provided no evidence of poor outcomes for children are born in this way, and I do not know of any study that shows it.

    What? You are seriously asserting that there’s no evidence that children born of surrogate mothers are worse off, and that there’s no evidence that children conceived as a result of donor insemination are worse off? Do the words “identity crisis” mean anything to you? And what about the trauma felt by surrogate mothers, for many years afterwards?

    You might like to have a look at this article: http://nypost.com/2014/06/16/a.....speak-out/

    But why should the onus be on me to prove a negative outcome for surrogacy? It would be massively counter-intuitive if there were none, so the onus should really be on the advocates of legalized surrogacy to prove that there isn’t one. And the studies conducted shouldn’t just track children born of surrogate mothers until they reach adulthood; they should also examine what happens to their children, as well.

    I’m also old enough to remember what Australian childcare researcher Gay Ochiltree discovered about children placed in daycare: she found that they tended to be brattier and more disobedient than children who spent all day at home. But instead of admitting that daycare was associated with negative outcomes, she redefined a negative outcome as a positive one. Children in daycare, she said, were more independent than their home-bound peers. It sounds to me like she had an agenda she was trying to push. And I suspect the same is true for academics who fail to uncover negative outcomes for children born of surrogate mothers. Do they really want there to be none? I believe so.

    Re gay adoptions, you write:

    We should, I argue, welcome the fact that gay marriage has brought a whole new population of potential adopters into the frame for children in desperate need of a family. That is an argument for removing the bar to adoption by gay couples that I understand still exists in parts of the US.

    First of all, I’ve already conceded (see #103 above) that there’s no scientific justification for a law allowing heterosexual couples to adopt but not homosexual couples. Instead, what I believe lawyers should focus on is outlawing surrogacy.

    Second, I wasn’t aware (and I very much doubt) that there is a shortage of parents willing to adopt children. In an age where 1 in 7 couples is infertile and where couples usually have to go overseas to adopt a child, I fail to see the need for “a whole new population of potential adopters.” All that will do is push up the price of adoptions.

    Finally, re the Sullins report: I’ve already acknowledged that the negative outcomes uncovered by Sullins in his survey of gay couples were due to adoption, rather than the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents. My beef is not with gay couples adopting per se, but with gay marriages increasing the demand for adopted children, leading to more children being removed from their biological parents and to more surrogacy arrangements (which I believe should be banned across the board).

    I hope that my post will give you a better understanding of my views. Thank you.

  129. 129

    Thank you for your response, Victor.

    You wrote:

    I didn’t say it did. What I claimed was that being removed from your biological parents would traumatize a child.

    Beyond infancy, children are made available for adoption (legally anyway) the people responsible for the child’s welfare consider that adoption is in the best interest of the child. At least that is the case in the UK. I trust it is the case in the US. I am sure in many cases the removal is traumatic, as it also is from temporary foster parents. But more traumatic are the events that make fostering and adoption necessary.

    Regarding adoption of infants, there is a little evidence of elevated risk of poorer outcomes, but none that it is the removal per se that is the relevant factor, indeed some evidence that it is not, as, children born by surrogacy arrangements appear to do, if anything, better than matched controls. So the more likely mechanism would appear to lie in the reasons why adoption was necessary.

    I also said that surrogacy traumatizes children. Incidentally, I think surrogacy should be outlawed, full stop.

    You are of course entitled to your opinion regarding the law, but your assertion that surrogacy traumatizes children is not supported by any evidence that you have cited, nor by any that I am aware of.

    What? You are seriously asserting that there’s no evidence that children born of surrogate mothers are worse off, and that there’s no evidence that children conceived as a result of donor insemination are worse off? Do the words “identity crisis” mean anything to you? And what about the trauma felt by surrogate mothers, for many years afterwards?

    I am saying that the evidence (scientific evidence) that I am aware of does not suggest that children born through surrogocay arrangement are worse off, nor DI, nor oocyte donation. The studies I have read suggest, if anything, the reverse.

    The effect on surrogate mothers is a different issue, and the key one, in my view, regarding surrogacy. Far too often impoverished people are pressured by poverty and circumstance into selling their bodies in various ways. That is why, in the UK, for instance, blood donation is entirely voluntary.

    But why should the onus be on me to prove a negative outcome for surrogacy? It would be massively counter-intuitive if there were none, so the onus should really be on the advocates of legalized surrogacy to prove that there isn’t one. And the studies conducted shouldn’t just track children born of surrogate mothers until they reach adulthood; they should also examine what happens to their children, as well.

    The onus is on you if you are asserting that there is a negative effect. The literature actually suggests that any effect is in the opposite direction (not that surrogacy causes better outcomes but that the factors that lead parents to surrogacy are also factors that tend to make for good parenting).

    Just because it is “counterintuitive” to you to think that surrogacy might not be damaging is not in itself a reason to assume that it is until demonstrated otherwise. What is counterintuitive ain’t necessarily wrong. And in this case, the evidence suggests that it is not.

    I’m also old enough to remember what Australian childcare researcher Gay Ochiltree discovered about children placed in daycare: she found that they tended to be brattier and more disobedient than children who spent all day at home. But instead of admitting that daycare was associated with negative outcomes, she redefined a negative outcome as a positive one. Children in daycare, she said, were more independent than their home-bound peers. It sounds to me like she had an agenda she was trying to push. And I suspect the same is true for academics who fail to uncover negative outcomes for children born of surrogate mothers. Do they really want there to be none? I believe so.

    Well, you can suspect all you want, but the papers are published and you can check them out. If you think the wrong variables were measured, then make your case. But Sullins most definitely had a “an agenda he was trying to push” (and indeed has a shot at pushing it), yet could not make the data say what his agenda wanted. Yes, he found an effect of same-sex parenting on ADHD outcome; but it vanished when he included his biological relationship variable in his model.

    But even supposing you were right: that surrogacy has traumatic effects on children, and is so unavoidably damaging to the mothers that even if it didn’t traumatise the children, it should be outlawed. That is an argument for making surrogacy illegal. It is not an argument for making gay marriage illegal, and it is certainly not an argument for making gay adoption illegal.

    And it tells us absolutely nothing about whether gay relationships are immoral under “natural law”.

    Second, I wasn’t aware (and I very much doubt) that there is a shortage of parents willing to adopt children. In an age where 1 in 7 couples is infertile and where couples usually have to go overseas to adopt a child, I fail to see the need for “a whole new population of potential adopters.” All that will do is push up the price of adoptions.

    There is a terrible shortage of people willing to children other than babies. You are correct that there is a shortage of babies for infertile couples. In the UK it is virtually impossible to adopt a baby, unless you are under 25 for instance, as the adoption agencies have to have some way of cutting down the list of potential adopters. And if adopters are paying foreign women to sell their babies, then that is grossly unethical, and, I would have thought, illegal.

    However, there is a desperate shortage of couples willing to adopt older children, children with behavioural problems, sibling groups, or babies with disabilities (although it depends on the disability – some disabilities, including Downs, don’t present a problem). In the UK they are called “hard-to-place” children, and for these children, gay couples are a growing source of potential parents (not that you need to be a couple to adopt, but gay couples often do, especially since civil partnership, and now marriage, have provided the protective legal structures).

    Finally, re the Sullins report: I’ve already acknowledged that the negative outcomes uncovered by Sullins in his survey of gay couples were due to adoption, rather than the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents. My beef is not with gay couples adopting per se, but with gay marriages increasing the demand for adopted children, leading to more children being removed from their biological parents

    And I’m saying that if we separate out the issue of surrogacy (which you yourself do), there is no reason why increasing the “demand” for children should increase the number of children who are removed from their biological parents. If this is the case – if couples seeking children to adopt are actually resulting in children being removed from their parents who would not otherwise be, that is baby-purchase, if not baby-stealing, and is already against the law in most civilised countries. It is certainly against the law in the UK.

    and to more surrogacy arrangements (which I believe should be banned across the board).

    …and is a different issue, and different again to DI and oocyte donation, as it involves a woman carrying a child to term that she may then give up.

    I hope that my post will give you a better understanding of my views. Thank you.

    Yes indeed, and thank you for clarifying. However, of the issues you have raised, the only one I agree with you on is the issue of the potential exploitation of surrogate mothers.

    But this is not an issue that is specific to gay couples, and has nothing to do with the capacity of gay couples to be effective parents, nor, I would argue, are there good grounds for concern regarding the child. It is an issue that applies to any infertile couple seeking to become parents. My own view is that while infertile couples (of which I was once one) should be regarded with sympathy, and helped to have a child where possible, there are limits to the lengths that are ethically justifiable. In the UK, even foreign adoption is not normally possible, because of ethical concerns.

    But none of that has any bearing on the morality of gay marriage.

Leave a Reply