Quantcast

«

»

May 26 2009

Seriously? This is The Case Against Gay Marriage?

Isaac Chotiner at TNR‘s The Plank tears apart an article arguing against gay marriage that is so egregiously stupid, so delusional, and so incoherent that one would be tempted to believe we’ve been Poe’d. Alas, that is not the case. Sam Schulman appears to believe his own schlock.

A sampling:


As part of the “kinship system,” marriage has, according to Schulman, four effects. The first is too poorly presented to be summarized coherently or cogently. The second has to do with, yes, incest:

Incest prohibition and other kinship rules that dictate one’s few permissible and many impermissible sweethearts are part of traditional marriage. Gay marriage is blissfully free of these constraints. There is no particular reason to ban sexual intercourse between brothers, a father and a son of consenting age, or mother and daughter…A same-sex marriage fails utterly to create forbidden relationships.

[snip]

Uh huh. Schulman goes on to fret about children losing their “status as nonsexual beings” once all the gays are allowed to marry. He also informs the reader that he has been married three times.

Shortly thereafter, Isaac unloads with both barrels. This is all to the good. It gives me time to look up a good therapist for poor Schulman. He desperately needs one.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Steve Benen. Sorry it’s empty, Steve – I spilled it when I read the article.)

24 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Mike at The Big Stick

    I’m curious as to what the liberal arguement would be against allowing two brothers to marry?

  2. 2
    Woozle

    I don’t think there is one. Why wouldn’t you want them to?It’s not very likely to happen, in any case; there seems to be something in our wiring which biases against becoming sexually/romatically interested in other kids in the same household, even if not biologically related. For example, kids raised in Jewish kibbutzim tend not to be interested in each other in “that way”. I can try to find the data if you want.Certainly, though, a couple of brothers, both gay, could have been separated at a very young age, raised separately, and then found each other as adults and become romantically interested in each other. (I don’t know if any studies have been done towards finding out how often this happens; it may be that the mere fact of knowing that they are brothers might be enough to kick on the “sibling” aversion in most or all cases where the rest of the somewhat-improbable chain of events happens.)So, what’s the conservative argument against it?

  3. 3
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Thank you for making my point Woozle. In order to accept the liberal premise for gay marriage you have to separate the discussion from morality. Once you do that, there is really no legal reason to stop two brothers (or two sisters) from getting married. It seems Dana’s source was correct in pointing that out.

  4. 4
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Let me take this one step farther…What would be the liberal opposition to a brother and a sister, or a mother and son getting married?

  5. 5
    Woozle

    I should think that would be obvious, Mike: genetics. You get more expressions of recessive genes when two parents are related. Assuming that one purpose of marriage is to produce offspring (which isn’t always the case, but that’s a different issue), it would be foolish to allow a union where you know the odds are good there will be bad results.So… what trap have I now fallen into by giving this completely obvious answer? (Tell the lucky winner, Monty!)Also, how does this “separate the discussion from morality”? It seems to me that the basis of any morality must be to avoid harm to others, and there is no more reason to think that a marriage of brothers raised separately would be harmful than for any other couple. Arguably, it would be doing harm to arbitrarily prevent them from marrying, if they love each other and there is no particular reason to expect harm to arise from allowing the marriage.One could even make the case that such a union would be a better environment for raising kids than two unrelated men marrying, since each would be related to any offspring of the other (assuming they don’t adopt unrelated children instead of fathering via surrogate mother)….unless by “morality” you mean “an arbitrary-chosen set of poorly-explained rules which must be followed without question”.

  6. 6
    Mike at The Big Stick

    But then why not just solve the problem of possible inbreeding with abortions or pre-marital sterilization?

  7. 7
    Woozle

    “But then why not just solve the problem of possible inbreeding with abortions or pre-marital sterilization?”Your question reveals what seems to be an interesting interpretation of the purpose of “marriage”, but I could probably blow a whole 4096 characters exploring that so I’ll skip it for now.”Pre-marital sterilization” would remove the possibility of reproducing altogether. If you don’t want to reproduce (you’re willing to adopt, or possibly don’t want kids at all), then that would seem like an acceptable solution to the problem of recessive genes — although since we’re talking about the scenario of a brother-sister or parent-child “marriage”, the other benefits of marriage (sharing insurance, hospital visitation, etc.) are, as far as I know, already provided by the fact of their being related, so why go to the trouble of getting married as well?Also, in the case of the parent-child “marriage”, I would definitely want to watch out for abuse — it may be that such relationships (or, at any rate, the ones we hear about) only tend to be abusive because they are against the law, or it could be that such relationships are naturally prone to abuse. I don’t know if any studies have been done on this.As far as the abortion option: I presume you’re talking about only aborting fetuses which show signs of undesirable traits. I’m pretty sure this has actually been practiced by many cultures throughout history, though I can’t see anyone (pro-choice or not) condoning it these days. Modern tech could probably negate the need for actual abortions by judicious use of genetic screening, but my understanding is that it is not currently practical on a mass scale.I’ll skip over a great deal of discussion by saying that regardless of how you prevent permission-to-inbreed from resulting in genetic defectives, it would be a burden on society to have to foot the bill for this, and I very much doubt the ability of our current politicians (state or federal) to craft sane legislation around this issue. So we’re probably best off taking the conservative approach and just avoiding the possibility altogether — at least until there’s a big “brother-sister marriage” movement.
    So… what’s the conservative argument against allowing brothers to marry?

  8. 8
    Mike at The Big Stick

    As far as the abortion option: I presume you’re talking about only aborting fetuses which show signs of undesirable traits. I’m pretty sure this has actually been practiced by many cultures throughout history, though I can’t see anyone (pro-choice or not) condoning it these days. Modern tech could probably negate the need for actual abortions by judicious use of genetic screening, but my understanding is that it is not currently practical on a mass scale.Really? Well for starters, it’s fairly common in the U.S. I actually know someone (a friend of a friend) who just had an abortion because the prenatal tests confirmed the baby had Down Syndrome. And in Sweden it is now legal to abort a baby based on the gender. As for the conservative arguement against brothers marying one another…that’s a no-brainer. But we also have no problem legislating moral issues.

  9. 9
    Woozle

    I wasn’t sure about pre-natal genetic tests, and didn’t have time to research it… but your answer shows that there may be practical ways to enable sibling marriages, if anyone wants it. (And if we can ever arrive at a sane policy regarding pre-natal personhood.)“As for the conservative argument against brothers marying one another…that’s a no-brainer.”Most conservative arguments are; I was hoping you had something better.

  10. 10
    Woozle

    Wait, wait… let me get this straight… what I hear you telling me is that you can’t give me a logical justification for not allowing brothers to marry, right?Also, you haven’t explained what you mean by “morality”, or at least how it’s different from either of my possible definitions, if it isn’t either one of them – (1) “avoiding harm” or (2) “arbitrary set of rules which must be obeyed without explanation”.

  11. 11
    Mike at The Big Stick

    We have pleny of laws based on morality alone. This is another one of those examples.

  12. 12
    Woozle

    You’re still refusing to define it, or explain where it comes from.FAIL.

  13. 13
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Morality is a social construct that is based in a sort of ‘majority’ decision-making. We as a society decided that morally it’s no longer okay to murder, when in other times there were a lot of situations where it was okay. The only thing that changed was a revision of our commonly accepted morality.
    After debating you these months i know well your affinity for reason, logic and all the other tools of liberal thought. But you also betrayed your own belief in morality when you said, “As far as the abortion option: I presume you’re talking about only aborting fetuses which show signs of undesirable traits. I’m pretty sure this has actually been practiced by many cultures throughout history, though I can’t see anyone (pro-choice or not) condoning it these days. Unless you don’t fall under ‘anyone’ then you are admitting you don’t condone certain acts of abortion and there is no way you can convince me that decision is based on anything other than morality.
    It’s very hard to define moral laws and moral policies to the Vulcan mind. That’s why conservatives get tongue-tied when liberals demand we base our decisions on reason alone. We accept that some laws are based on a shared morality that defies reason…and we’re okay with that. The Vulcans in our midsts are not.

  14. 14
    Woozle

    I never denied the existence (or even importance) of morality — but it’s not a basis on which you can resolve disagreements.For example, we’re all pretty much down with the idea that Killing Is Bad. So when someone goes and deliberately kills someone without permission from society, we call it “murder” and we put them away for a long, long time, because everyone agrees that it’s one of the worst civilian crimes in existence. You can call that the “moral thing to do”, if you like, and very few people would be likely to disagree with you.But then we come to questions like: Is it ok to kill someone because they killed someone else (capital punishment)? Is it ok to kill fetuses (abortion)?My moral instinct says “not unless you’re absolutely 100% sure of guilt, and that is very rare” to the first, and “ack, well, yes if it’s really necessary, but we need to do everything we possibly can to work toward social conditions where it’s never necessary, and look really hard at all the alternatives first” to the second.Your moral instinct, on the other hand, apparently reverses these two – ‘yes’ to capital punishment (I’m guessing; not sure we’ve talked about it) and ‘no’ to abortion, regardless of necessity.So we have no “moral consensus” on those issues (more or less accurately reflecting the lack of national moral consensus on them), and consequently we have to resort to looking at the things which go into building such consensus — in short, the various social costs and benefits of each possible moral decision.You may base your personal decisions on your “morals” — but if you are trying to convince other people who happen to disagree with you, you will need to examine those morals to see what shaped them, what they are based on, and share those formative details.In an honest discussion between well-meaning people, the sharing will go both ways and eventually a consensus of some kind will emerge.If you’re not willing to share your data and reasoning, though, then we fall back to quid-pro-quo negotiation — which is how a lot of policy-sausage gets made, but you can’t have a meaningful discussion of political philosophy with it.

  15. 15
    Mike at The Big Stick

    My contention is that with a lot of those decisions, the majority moral opinion wins. In a democracy there’s never a real need for total meet-in-the-middle compromise.

  16. 16
    Woozle

    So… once again, you’re saying that you can’t defend your opinion on brothers marrying (or anything else to do with gay marriage, apparently) except to say that it is in accordance with morality.Earlier, you defined morality as “a social construct that is based in a sort of ‘majority’ decision-making.” Are you saying that if the majority of Americans decide that gay marriage (or marriage of brothers, or marriage of a man and his cat/VCR/sofa) is okay, then that would become the new morality, and hence your opinion?Also, in that same comment you said something about “reason, logic and all the other tools of liberal thought.” (1) Are you admitting that conservatives don’t like reason? (2) What tools do conservatives prefer to use for thinking?

  17. 17
    Mike at The Big Stick

    I’ve gone on record as saying I would offer civil unions to any two people who want to be legally responsible for each other. That would include siblings. So LOGICALLY speaking, no, I am not opposed. Morally though, I think allowing brothers to marry would mean the state is endorsing those types of union and to me that defies both logic and morals. Logic because I believe the states only interest in offering marriage is to hold it up as a standard and I don’t think incest should be a standard. Morally i oppose because I believe it to be wrong. Incidentally those are the same grounds by which I object to gay marriage. And intellectual conservatives rely on reason and logic a great deal. We just aren’t quite as obsessed with it as the liberal/Vulcan mind. We recognize that some things defy logic and reason and that doesn’t automatically make them bad. It’s probably why we tend to be more religious. We’re okay with the contradiction that many liberals cannot get their heads around.

  18. 18
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Allow me to rephrase part of what I said in that last comment:Morally though, I think allowing brothers to marry would mean the state is endorsing those types of unions and I disagree with that.I believe the state’s only interest in offering ‘marriage’ verses civil unions is to hold it up as a standard. I don’t think incest should be a standard.

  19. 19
    Woozle

    You can be “okay with contradictions” in your personal life, but when it comes to public policy you have to be able to defend your opinions rationally, or you can’t have a meaningful discussion.Are we in agreement that logic and reason are essential for resolving disagreements in a civil society? Or not?Also, you didn’t answer this question: If morals are “based in a sort of ‘majority’ decision-making”, and the majority decide that gay marriage is a good thing and should be supported, does that make it moral?

  20. 20
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Are we in agreement that logic and reason are essential for resolving disagreements in a civil society? Or not?I think culturally-accepted morals are within the realm of logic and reason. It is logical that a society would codify it’s shared morals into the law .
    Also, you didn’t answer this question: If morals are “based in a sort of ‘majority’ decision-making”, and the majority decide that gay marriage is a good thing and should be supported, does that make it moral?I never said that gay marriage was immoral. It is just a different set of morals than what I subscribe to. If the majority of society agrees we can accept gay marriage then either my moral viewpoint has become a minority, which I am also okay with, or it’s a non-moral decision. What I tend to think is happening with regards to gay marriage is that a lot of people are taking the libertarian route which is to say, “I think you gays are probably going to hell, but you’re entitled to your privacy.”

  21. 21
    Mike at The Big Stick

    Just happened to catch this piece today:
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Why-do-people-persist-in-voting-Republican-46574882.html
    It’s pretty applicable. A selection:
    A Durkheimian ethos can’t be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever “lost” him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest. In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at http://www.YourMorals.org.) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

  22. 22
    Woozle

    PART ONE: Ashbury (i.e. not Haidt)[W] If morals are "based in a sort of 'majority' decision-making", and the majority decide that gay marriage is a good thing and should be supported, does that make it moral?[M] I never said that gay marriage was immoral. It is just a different set of morals than what I subscribe to. Here's what you said about gay marriage (brothers and otherwise):- "In order to accept the liberal premise for gay marriage you have to separate the discussion from morality."- "As for the conservative argument against brothers marrying one another…that's a no-brainer. But we also have no problem legislating moral issues."- "Morally though, I think allowing brothers to marry would mean the state is endorsing those types of union and to me that defies both logic and morals."- "Morally i oppose [brothers marrying] because I believe it to be wrong [...] the same grounds by which I object to gay marriage."I was assuming that you were saying that your personal opposition was based on a universal morality — but now you're saying there are two different types of morality — (a) a universal one, where things are "immoral" if they go against it, and (b) your personal morality, where things which go against it aren't "immoral" but still "defy morals" and are "wrong" and "separate from morality".I think you're pulling a bait-and-switch on me here. All along we've been talking about the immorality of gay marriage. I ask about the source of that morality; you eventually define it as a group consensus. I ask what happens if the group changes its consensus, would the morality change too? — to which you reply, in essence, "Oh, the morality that would change isn't the one I was talking about. Gay marriage would still be wrong within my moral system, even if society decided otherwise."So, okay, careful rephrase of the question: If the majority whose group-decisionmaking determines your morals changed its mind, would you change your mind about gay marriage?…and a further question is begged as well: How does that group come to its decisions about what is right and wrong? Do you believe it generally makes good decisions? If so, how can you tell if they're good or bad, if you just blindly accept whatever the group decides your moral system should be?(mis-posted to the other thread on June 2, 2009 4:25 PM)

  23. 23
    Woozle

    PART TWO: Haidt (is not a family value)(Oh frak, this part is over 4096 chars by itself. *stabs Blogger*)PART TWO (Haidt), Part One: It's science, Jim, but not as we know itAnything based on Haidt is going to have a difficult time persuading me, as I've found his oft-discussed "five pillars" theory about the nature of conservatism vs. that of liberalism to be based on false premises to begin with, from which he proceeds with questionable reasoning.And he seems to be playing true to form in the referenced essay.== Here's the argument as I understand it:1a. When gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so.1b. #1a is a key point which Democrats "fail to grasp", "choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion" — implying that it's just as valid (or perhaps more so) to choose a leader by how persuasive the leader is.2a. "The moral domain varies across cultures."2b. "morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way."I'm not sure how 2a relates to 2b except that they are both about "morals".My responses will be in part two part two.(mis-posted to the other thread on June 2, 2009 4:33 PM)

  24. 24
    Woozle

    PART TWO (Haidt), Part Two: Analysis finds no signs of intelligent life.#1a: The fact he fails to mention is that we do have tools for getting around those personal biases, and that it is vital to do so in order to arrive at reasonable resolution when there is disagreement. Do I have to point at the real-world examples of what happens when disagreeing parties unfailingly follow their "moral instinct"? Try the Irish Protestants vs. Irish Catholics… or the Israelis and the Palestinians… or any of countless bloody conflicts throughout history.Humans have learned — through millennia of observation, work, and sacrifice — to be better than that — but you and Haidt are apparently happier throwing it away. Whatever it is that you're sacrificing that for, it had better be damn good.#1b: In other words, Republicans vote for the politician with the most persuasive, the most emotionally compelling, argument.What Republicans don't seem to get is that this means they can be easily manipulated by people who know how to make a compelling argument out of complete bullshit.It's equivalent to choosing your grocery store by how colorful and appealing their advertisements are (never mind whether the food is any good or the customer service is helpful)… or choosing a used car based on how shiny it is (never mind if the engine is crap)… or voting for the politician who gives you the most free candy (never mind that he got the money for that candy by selling out your town to the highest bidder).#2a I have to discard as irrelevant; the only point it seems to support is mine: if all sets of mores are equally valid, how do you resolve disputes? By bashing each other over the head until one side or the other calls it quits.#2b: The goal of morality isn't about being nice to each other, it's about supporting social institutions and being… "sanctified", whatever the hell that means… and "noble", which I guess is kind of like "admirable" but more class-conscious.So that's it? That's the fabulous prize?Shorter Haidt: We must sacrifice centuries of progress in overcoming emotional bias and superstition, and instead allow ourselves to be led around by myths, rumors, and emotionally persuasive candy-arguments……which will somehow lead to the actions necessary to preserve institutions……which we are told (along with lots of really shiny candy, so it must be true) are vital to society at large……but which in fact are each only held as valuable by fairly small segments of society……and totally ignoring the glaring fact that, in a fundamentally multicultural society such as America, the only way most of those individual traditions could have a snowball's chance would be by the majority following a rational liberal philosophy of tolerance and diversity.Did I miss anything important? The rest of the article looks similarly fuzzy-headed and selective, but if you think he makes any significant points which need to be addressed I can have another go at it.(mis-posted to the other thread on June 2, 2009 at 4:44 PM)

Comments have been disabled.