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« STR's New Homepage | Main | Another Adult Stem Cell Therapy Success »

August 18, 2010

Comments

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

In other words, marriage is anything we say it is.

Yes, civil marriage is anything we say it is. Civil marriage is not a natural kind of relationship whose essential properties await our discovery any more than the office of the President is a natural kind whose essential properties await our discovery. Both the office of the Presidency and civil marriage are merely social conventions, and so we are their masters. If we wish to cause civil marriages to resemble real marriages, we may do that. If we wish to do otherwise, we may do that as well, though of course one or the other may be more wise.

That is not to say, however, that real, natural, Christian marriage is merely a social convention that we may define as we please. It is only to say that since civil marriage is a societal convention, we may choose to craft it to imitate real marriage or not. By choosing not to imitate real marriage, we may be doing something foolish, but we certainly aren't changing the essence of marriage. Civil marriage has no essence laying around for us to change.

Any definition can be rejected on the grounds of being too exclusive. Somebody, something, whatever, will be left out. We are constantly told not to worry about those things. We are told that’s not the issue at hand. Oh, but it is.

Malebranch,
do you think God differentiates between Christian marriage and civil marriage in that way? Id God neutral about civil marriage involving whoever to whoever?

Is God neutral about civil marriage involving whoever to whoever?

I'm surprised at how often folks retreat back to God and the Bible on a website that prides itself on its ability to make its case against gay marriage (or same-sex marriage or whatever STR calls it) from the unaided light of reason.

But to answer your question directly, God has not told us much about his opinions about civil marriage or what responsibilities are wise to ascribe to the office of the Presidency. What we do know is that his view tracks the truth. In order to discover God's view of civil marriage or the office of the Presidency, we will first have to discover the truth about the wisdom of the matter, and then infer that God believes the truth with respect to this issue. In light of the divine silence on the issue, trying to get at God's view first is simply backwards and cannot work. It is on a par with trying to discover a new law of nature by first discovering God's opinion on the laws of nature apart from revelation and then making the inference. That is silly.

One last thing. Jesus Christ distinguished the features of true marriage from civil marriage. When asked about the permissibility of divorce, Jesus pretty much said, "Well, because humans are moral weaklings, God made a concession and permitted a divorce clause in civil marriage. But real marriage doesn't work like that. If you want to learn about real marriage, stop taking your cue from civil marriage, which is at best a cheap imitation, and go back to Genesis." So, Jesus distinguished the properties of civil marriage from true marriage. God permitted a divorce clause in the former, but not the latter.

My point still stands, however, that we don't know much about God's opinions about civil marriage in pluralistic, democratic contemporary Western society.

The marriage bed is undefiled (Heb. 13:4), but I believe that only includes marriage as defined by God. Any other "marriage" bed is not undefiled, and is therefore sinful.

Melbranche,

Just a quick point. I don't believe that Jesus was making an implicit distinction between civil marriage and God-ordained marriage in his debate with the religious authorities of his day. First century Judaism (not to mention the Jewish religion during the previous 1500 years) did not recognize a distinction between the religious and the civil. There was simply no division - such as we have in the post-Enlightenment West - between these two spheres. They were gloriously, messily, even confusedly, intertwined. Thus, Jesus was not arguing for some religious/civil split. Rather, he was pointing his contemporaries back to the ultimate creational and theological foundations that underpinned marriage...which, of course, had always been there.

Hope that makes sense.

Scott, what about during the Babylonian exile when the Jews in exile were unable to govern themselves? Don't you think there would've been a distinction between civil and religious marriage then?

Sam:

Jesus wasn't speaking during the Babylonian exile when the Jews in exile were unable to govern themselves. He was speaking during the time of the Roman Empire when the Jews not in exile were unable to govern themselves. It was Moses, not the Romans, that provided for divorce because of the hardness of hearts.

Hope that makes sense.

Malebranche,

>>”My point still stands, however, that we don't know much about God's opinions about civil marriage in pluralistic, democratic contemporary Western society.”

What about a civil marriage defined that subordinates women to not leave the house? Besides, what does your point prove regarding this debate?

Malebranche,

Let’s go to the other side of the spectrum.

What about a civil marriage defined as any two people that just want to decrease their taxes? (Let’s assume it is worth it) They could be same-sex or opposite-sex, it wouldn’t matter. They could actually barely know each other – and live separately. They would be married under the law though – for the benefits.

God did not say anything about that kind of civil marriage either.

My point is simply this. Jesus recognized that God’s will was that a nation’s laws with respect to marriage may sometimes depart from God’s ideal. Jesus taught that God’s marriage ideal does not include divorce, but also taught that God’s will was that the laws concerning marriage include divorce clauses. Moreover, the reason Jesus cited was the moral weakness of humanity. It will do no good, therefore, and is not Christ-like, to go on and on about God’s marriage ideal or even a traditional moral ideal and conclude immediately that civil laws ought to not recognize same-sex couples. We have a clear case of Christ refusing to employ that way of reasoning because it ignores the reality of moral failure that we must deal with and even to which we may make concessions. Making this concession no more makes us accessories to sin than God’s concession made him an accessory to sin.

A Christian, therefore, may legitimately try to imitate Christ’s view of divine concession within the context of marriage and apply it to same-sex marriage. For instance, one might think that due either to our moral weakness and failure or something else entirely we as a nation are going to continue to let same-sex couples adopt children. It is entirely reasonable for a Christian to believe that the homosexual adoption war, like most other wars Christians try to win, has been lost for good. Given that, the appropriate concession may be to extend the duties and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in order to give the children of such couples more protection and stability than they would enjoy without those legal protections. Marriage tends to increase the amount of economic capital available to children (due in part to benefits married couples receive). Marriages are also often more stable than mere cohabitation. Between one and six million children are being raised by same-sex parents. If this reality is here to stay, the most Christian thing to do may be to extend the duties and benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples in order to benefit the welfare of children by giving them the most stability and protection we can give them in their situation.

Malebranche:

The state has always had an interest in the stability and protection of children that have to be adopted, or guardianship provided for. This can be done under existing contract law.

Ayn Rand (hardly a Christian) once wrote, through the words of one of her villains, "Don't set out to raze all shrines. You'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity, and the shrines are razed." [The Fountainhead].

We can adapt this writing to the issue at hand as follows: enshrining something is to recognized its holiness. Here, the thing to be enshrined is the bond between a man and a woman. The counterfeit, instead of mediocrity, is a same-sex union. The effect of ascribing holiness to a same-sex union is to destroy the holiness of marriage.

Malebranche,

>>”If this reality is here to stay, the most Christian thing to do may be to extend the duties and benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples in order to benefit the welfare of children by giving them the most stability and protection we can give them in their situation.”

I never make the ‘Christian’ argument, but the most Christian thing to do is reject the idea of a society accepting same-sex “marriage” as equivalent to opposite-sex marriage. That’s what’s going on – and it must be rejected.

Abortion is supposedly “here to stay” too – should we, as Christians, gladly extend the right to abort simply because it helps the women who demand them? Your 'do it for the children' argument is a very tough sell. I'd say the opposite is true.

Malebranche,

By the way, how in the world would declaring a same-sex couple “married” increase stability for a child? Assuming that child is already in the same-sex couples care.

Johnnie, that does make sense, but it doesn't answer my question.

Sam:

Your question is about what to think about a place and time that is not relevant to the topic at hand.

Johnnie, my question wasn't even directed to you. It was directed to Scott because of his parenthetical comment when he said, "First century Judaism (not to mention the Jewish religion during the previous 1500 years) did not recognize a distinction between the religious and the civil." Besides, it IS relevant if the Jews are supposed to set any precedent for how we ought to handle the religious/civil distinction in marriage.

Sam,

Since your question wasn't directed at me, I will let Scott handle it. But thanks for saying that what I said made sense.

I must admit Sam, I'm not sure whether there would have been some sort of split during the Babylonian period. But two things should be said. First, we simply don't know; we have no information. Therefore, we can't say one way or the other. Second, I guess my point was that, all things being equal, the division between politics and religion was non-existent within Jewish culture. That was the way it was when the Law was given, and it certainly was that way when Jesus was speaking with the religious authorities of his day. However, my comment about Jewish culture remaining so during the 1500-year period between Moses and Jesus perhaps did not take into account specific historical peculiarities.

The only justification for the State to legislate anything at all regarding marriage is the biological reality that heterosexual unions create a unique set of privileges and responsibilities that may require State intervention to protect mutual interests and the interests of the child(ren). The State has no proper place in sanctioning homosexual relationships which do not involve sex (in the biological sense - the fusion of XX and XY chromosomes).

Until the day that rubbing two vaginas together, or filling a colon with semen produces a child, the State's involvement in these pairings is stoooopid and wicked.

Precisely because of the sorts of comments that some (not all!) have made on this blog (about same-sex marriage, evolution, etc.), this wing of the Church is tying its own noose and becoming increasingly insignificant, marginalized, out of touch, and bewilderingly anomalous in the American culture. We’re certainly seeing a rapid generational shift of opinion on issues like same-sex marriage, even within the Church. Despite the cottage industry of apologists making careers of recruiting foot soldiers to defend the fort of ‘mature, reasonable Christianity,’ the culture remains unsympathetic to important aspects of their political and theological views. Being reminded of what the Bible says about homosexuality or of how many ways a person can defile a marriage bed won't move a culture unmoved by the theological dogmas underpinning those remarks in the first place. No amount of “But that’s self-defeating!” is going to turn the cultural tide against same-sex marriage or evolution. I doubt what is needed in this situation is to rehearse once again the well-memorized arguments mined from William Lane Craig or whoever in support of some hallowed political position on intelligent design or same-sex marriage. But more than likely that is exactly what this wing of the Church will continue to do, and that is exactly why in the near future they will progress from tying their own noose to hanging themselves.

>>”this wing of the Church is tying its own noose and becoming increasingly insignificant, marginalized, out of touch, and bewilderingly anomalous in the American culture.”

Oh, but we must be liked! We must! Say it ain’t so!

Again, so what?

A very wise man once said, “I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.”

By the way, “American culture” is against same-sex marriage – if that’s your gauge.

Malebranche,

The statement that the Christian church is out of touch, too rigid & dogmatic, needs to change it thinking or tactics, etc., has been something that has been said for hundreds, and probably thousands, of years.

And yet, despite this being a constant drum beat throughout the year, the Church has grown and thrived because the Gospel is preached.

Christ said that there would even be people who would try to stop Christianity in the name of God, so why should we be surprised when people/institutions/governments are against the things of Christianity?

Todd

@Malebranche,

You paint with fairly broad brush strokes for such an enlightened postmodern. This isn't exclusively a conservative Christian vs. society issue. This also has to do with the force of a political agenda (yes, we conservatives love the word “agenda”).

When I conversed with you in an earlier post over the important place of teleology when considering the role of marriage in society I was drawing exclusively from Margaret Sommerville's argument. To my knowledge, she is not a professing Christian nor does she side with any particular political category (which are a little different up here in Canada anyway). In fact, she's an outspoken proponent of gay rights on other issues. Her paper came out of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law and was prepared for the Canadian government when they were considering the issue of legalized same-sex marriage.

What you describe is not limited to conservative Christians. Anyone who does not cozy up to the politically correct view will find themselves marginalized in a society that does not value free and diverse opinion. Do a search on Sommerville to see how she has been treated by the Canadian political mainstream ever since she published that paper.

At times you raise good points about Christians and politics, but the way this issue is being handled in broader society is truly absurd.

Somerville’s case does not touch my point about the possible legitimacy of making a concession to a nation that is going to continue to allow gay couples to raise children. One could summarize her argument as follows:

(1) Legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages would undermine the symbolism of marriage, namely the symbolism of the procreative potential between opposite-sex partners.
(2) We ought not to do something that will undermine the symbolism of marriage unless we have overriding reasons to do so.
(3) We do not have overriding reasons to legally recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.
(4) Therefore, we ought not to legally recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.

Notice that I have provided a reason to deny premise (3). My reason is that same-sex couples will continue to be able to adopt children and that the appropriate concession to that is to extend the benefits and protections of marriage to those couples for the sake of the children. I may, if I am convinced, affirm both premise (1) and (2) above, but so long as this point stands undefeated, I see no reason to believe premise (3). Her argument, therefore, fails to establish its conclusion, since she has not sufficiently shown that considerations of the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples do not constitute overriding reasons.

The substance of her case is greatly called into question by her remarks toward the beginning of her article. She begins her piece by acknowledging that she believes that the same rights and benefits ought to be extended to same-sex couples as are currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples:

I believe that civil partnerships open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples should be legally recognized and that the partners, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, are entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

There’s a little ambiguity in that remark, but her major complaint seems to be that she does not want to call civil partnerships between same-sex couples marriage, even though she supports same-sex civil partnerships that carry along with them all the rights and benefits of what we currently call marriage. Fine. I am not here to bicker or get hysterical about honorific titles, which ‘marriage’ may be. The substance of the issue concerns legal rights and benefits, not words. If she is simply recommending calling such civil partnerships something other than marriage, then I would recommend that she concern herself with more substantive things. If she is trying to establish something more substantive, such as the restriction of legal rights and benefits, then she needs to say a lot more in support of premise (3). But given her remarks at the beginning of her paper, I suspect she will opt for triviality and take the former route, reducing her case to a quibble about honorific titles. After all, she seems to not have any objection to extending the legal rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.

Malebranch:

MijkV's link to Somerville is dead. Somerville's brief to the Canadian court, available at Wikipedia, appears not to contain the word "overriding". Can you give us an exact rendition of Somerville's four points, rather than a summary?

Here's the link that I found on google:

http://www.marriageinstitute.ca/images/somerville.pdf

Johnnie,

You are right that her case does not contain the word 'overriding.' I was being charitable, since without that clause, the argument is even weaker. Taking that clause out, we have the following argument:

(1) Legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages would undermine the symbolism of marriage, namely the symbolism of the procreative potential between opposite-sex partners.
(2) We ought not to do something that will undermine the symbolism of marriage.
(3) Therefore, we ought not to legally recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.

This weaker form of the argument is vulnerable to this challenge:

"Your argument ignores the possibility that despite negative effects same-sex marriage might have, we may nevertheless have overriding reasons to permit it, such as the welfare of children or whatever. If such reasons exist, your second premise is false, and your argument fails. So, you need to convince us that such reasons do not exist, otherwise we have no reason to believe the second premise of your argument."

So, you may take either her original version or my more charitable version as you please. Both suffer from the same problem.

Malebranche:

Somerville's Premise #1 appears to be the second paragraph on page 10 of the brief. There are two other arguments that you don't mention: the right to to be cloned or genetically engineered and the right to have a mother and a father.

Your counterargument is one half of the p or not p argument that goes as follows:

p or not p
if p, then q
if not p, then q

therefore, q

in your case, q is "you need to convince us that overriding reasons do not exist", and p is "we have overriding reasons". So the half of the argument that you have given is "if overriding reasons exist, you need to convince us that such reasons do not exist". But you have not given us the other necessary half of the argument, which is "if overriding reasons do not exist, you need to convince us that such reasons do not exist". So your counterargument fails.

Melinda,

"Since Prop. 8 sought to clarify the definition of marriage and the judge struck it down, did he replace it with a new definition? What is the definition of marriage now in California? Is there one? "
Since a Proposition changing the legal definition of "Marriage" was struck down, I would expect that the definition reverts back to what it was before the Proposition. Is there some reason that wouldn't be the case? I read the decision, and I don't recall the judge saying that there could be no definition of "Marriage", only that the one in Prop 8 wouldn't do.

Johnnie,

I haven’t the slightest clue what you are even attempting to claim.

Substituting your constants with the propositions you intend them to refer to, the argument you construct goes as follows:

(1) Either we have overriding reasons to extend the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples or we do not.
(2) If we have overriding reasons to extend the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples, then Somerville needs to convince us that overriding reasons do not exist.
(3) If we do not have overriding reasons to extend the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples, then Somerville needs to convince us that overriding reasons do not exist.
(4) Therefore, Somerville needs to convince us that overriding reasons do not exist.

What kind of monstrosity of an argument is this and who ever thought of endorsing such a confused chain of reasoning? What could anyone, for instance, say on behalf of premise (2)? What on earth do you intend to assert by saying that my comments are one half of this half-baked argument?

My original point was quite simple. If overriding reasons for same-sex marriage exist, then despite the bad consequences Somerville points out, we ought to recognize same-sex couples as married. What that profoundly simple point has to do with the argument you constructed above escapes me entirely.

Malebranche:

Your argument is the monstrosity because the half you put forth assumes the consequent ("if overriding exceptions exist....). Assuming the consequent is a logical fallacy unless you also assume the anticonsequent and get the same conclusion from either.

If you want us to believe that overriding exceptions exist, you don't start by assuming that they exist. Just show us one.

Malebranche:

"Consequent" refers to a different fallacy that is called "affirming the consequent". Use "answer" instead. "Assuming the answer" is the same as circulus in probando, or circular argument.

That wing of the Church who fiercely opposes same-sex marriage (SSM) is divided into at least two camps. First, there are those who wish to extend the legal rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples (SSC) while refraining from calling such civil partnerships marriage. Margaret Somerville, though perhaps not a Christian, is an example of someone who seems to hold this view. Christians advocating this position suffer from the fatal problem of triviality. They have managed to get themselves in a hysterical fit of alarmism about the use of an honorific title to name legally identically civil partnerships.

The second group consists of those who wish not to reduce themselves to loud protests concerning the trivial. They, unlike the former group, recognize that getting worked up merely about a word is a foolish waste of everyone’s intellectual energy and time. In order to avoid triviality, therefore, they focus their attention on opposing efforts to extend the legal rights and benefits of marriage to SSCs. The fact that millions of children who will continue to be raised by SSCs may benefit significantly from such legal recognition does not budge these dedicated (and culturally impotent) foes of SSM. In fact, not only does this wing of the Church fight the losing battle of opposing SSM (and evolution, and prayer in school, etc.), but they also tie their opposition to yet another losing battle, the illegalization of adoption by SSCs (and perhaps even single parents if they choose to make much ado about the right to a father and a mother). After compounding losing battle upon losing battle, this wing of the Church sends out mass emails and newsletters foretelling the future collapse of civilization, the undermining of the institution of marriage, and the persecution the Church will receive due to SSM. Horror of horrors! Just look at Canada! At this point everyone gets worked up in a lather about the ordeal and sales for Christian apologetics manuals and books rise significantly. The base then dutifully memorizes the manual (marriage is about natural procreation, check; same-sex couples are inferior at raising healthy children, check; the same rule applies to everyone so it’s not discrimination, check; marriage is not a social convention, check) and rushes the courts (but only because the liberals rushed them first) in order to defend the sanctity of marriage (you know, no-fault divorce serial heterosexual monogamy).

This wing of the Church simply will not compromise or work with the culture until the culture surrenders and agrees that only opposite-sex couples ought to enjoy the benefits of marriage. The idea of working to make the best of the inevitable (a culture where same-sex adoption will continue) is hateful to them. Why settle for that when you can die as a cultural or Christian martyr fighting to protect America from everything except the highest Christian marital ideal? Besides, doing this would be giving the devil an inch, would amount to facilitating in wickedness, etc. That isn’t how culture warriors behave, and these folks are culture warriors for crying out loud. Making a concession for the welfare of children who we know will continue to be raised by gay couples is for softies, post-moderns, liberals, and the seeker-sensitive emergent church (in other words, folks whose rational faculties have been overwhelmed by political correctness, unlike us clear thinking conservatives). Furthermore, this appeal to the welfare of children is really just a cover-up for their secret (or not so secret) anti-Christian agenda. It’s obvious, after all, that mature Christians should oppose SSM in a Western pluralistic (relativistic!!!) democracy, so really support for SSM constitutes an attack on Christianity in the culture. But Jesus told us we would be persecuted and hated. If how much we are hated by the culture is any measure of our success in proclaiming the gospel, then we are the best of evangelists indeed. What greater evidence that we are defending the gospel than the fact that the culture hates our attempts to prevent SSM?

Malebranche:

The wing of the Church that fiercely favors same sex marriage (SSM) is divided into at least two camps. First, there are those who wish to extend the legal rights and benefits to same sex couples (SSC) and calling such civil partnerships marriage. Malebranche, though perhaps not a Christian, is an example of someone who seems to hold this view. This view holds that Christians opposing this position suffer from the fatal problem of triviality, but this view overlooks the problem that if this honorific title is truly trivial, why fiercely support calling these civil unions marriage in the first place?

The second group, in order to direct attention away from an issue they regard as trivial, when it isn't, focus their efforts on extending the rights and benefits of marriage to SSC's. The fact that millions of children who will continue to be raised by SSC's, or will be raised by SSC's in the future, may be hurt significantly by having their rights violated, namely, the right to be part of an institution vested with special holiness, the right not to have been cloned or genetically engineered, or the right to have a mother and a father, does not budge these dedicated, and culturally ascendant, advocates of SSM. They tie their battle of trying to get SSM approved with the battles waged by others, such as about evolution or prayer in schools, when in fact there is no such tie. They send out mass emails and newletters saying that they are the unopposable wave of the future. Horror of horrors! Just look at Israel! There is no civil marriage there, and the state's civil code prohibits particular types of marriage, such as polygyny, without implying that there was such a thing as civil polygyny. The manual dutifully tweaks a few things here and there: marriage is not to protect the right of the husband not to have to raise a prospective child that is not his, check; the rights of the father extend to those who are fathers by reason of rape or incest, so there is no discrimination, check; marriage is a social convention, check; and no-fault divorce is sanctified.

Furthermore, Jesus told us we would be persecuted and hated. The fallacy of affirming the consequent (that word showed up in a recent post, which post hasn't been answered yet) says, "If we are defending the gospel, the culture hates our attempts to prevent SSM, therefore, if the culture hates our attempts to prevent SSM, we are defending the gospel". Affirming the consequent in this way does not establish that we are defending the gospel. But stating the fallacy of affirming the consequent does not disestablish that we are defending the gospel.

By the way, this nonsense about my position being post-modern is silly. In fact, many have defended SSM on libertarian grounds. Drawing on John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, many have become convinced that there is a presumption on the side of liberty and non-interference. I myself am not a libertarian, but am merely pointing out that there is nothing about my position per se that is post-modern. The reasons I’ve already given in support of SSM are reasons all can appreciate. Consider the following passage from Mill’s On Liberty:

There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism…[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.

Those favoring this principle of negative liberty (the right of an individual to not be interfered with when doing things that do not forcibly harm others or constrain their behavior) might think that in addition to the freedom of thought and the freedom to unite, normal human adults have a natural right to enter into whatever contracts they please unless those contracts are clearly forcibly harming others. Some would like us to believe that children are clearly harmed by being raised by same-sex parents, but there is no good evidence for that. In fact, the bulk of the evidence is against it (check out http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/514477). Furthermore, arguments that SSM will harm the common good of society are at best highly speculative. In the absence of clear evidence for this looming threat, preference ought to go to the principle of negative liberty, or so says the libertarian.

My argument from the welfare of children and this argument from the principle of liberty are neither liberal nor postmodern. Ironically enough, they are both drawing from conservative values.

Here's an interesting discussion of same-sex marriage:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/353

I also am not a libertarian, but human affairs under libertarianism would be straightforward. There is the freedom to unite, and there is the freedom not to unite (i.e., discrimination). SSC's would be lawful, and discrimination against SSC's would be lawful.

I get the distinct impression that on this blog folks often throw out complete fabrications by way of objections and congratulate themselves with dialectical victory until their opponent responds. I once used the conjunction axiom of the probability calculus to illustrate a problem with certain evidential arguments for Christianity and someone who calls himself ‘Kpolo’ speedily ran to William Lane Craig’s website (shock shock, right?) to see if what I said was true. He then read something completely irrelevant to my point (it pertained to deductive arguments, not Bayesian Confirmation Theory), quoted it, and declared victory. Usually I just ignore such silly objections and let my interlocutor begin his victory dance without bursting his bubble. But since Johnnie has made much ado about some alleged fallacy I committed earlier, I’ll take up his challenge.

Ok Johnnie. Suppose I were to argue as follows:

(P1) Taking my daughter to the dentist will cause her physical pain.
(P2) I ought not to do things that cause my daughter physical pain.
(P3) Therefore, I ought not to take my daughter to the dentist.

This is a crap argument, as even you will agree. Why is it a crap argument? Because it ignores the possibility that one has overriding reasons to take one’s daughter to the dentist. Perhaps if one fails to take one’s daughter to the dentist, even worse things will happen. Or perhaps in order to obtain a greater good (better health for your daughter) one must take one’s daughter to the dentist. So, this crap argument should be fixed as follows:

(P1) Taking my daughter to the dentist will cause her physical pain.
(P2*) I ought not to do things that cause my daughter physical pain unless I have overriding reasons to do so.
(P3*) I lack overriding reasons to take my daughter to the dentist.
(P4) Therefore, I ought not to take my daughter to the dentist.

If this argument is to be convincing, however, we will need good reasons to believe all of (P1) through (P3*). If I fail to give good reasons to believe (P3*), then I fail to establish the truth of (P4). That is just obvious. Furthermore, this is simply a parody of the point I made against Somerville.

Now your objection is hard to decipher because it is pretty confused. You began by confusing the fallacy of affirming the consequent (which I have not done) with some other fallacy. You then caught yourself amidst that confusion, and tried to come up with some other fallacy to charge me with. The one you came up with was the fallacy of ‘assuming the answer’ and identify this with circular reasoning.

Well lets see if any of that holds water. Here’s Somerville’s argument

(S1) Allowing SSM will undermine the symbolism of marriage.
(S2) We ought not to do things that undermine the symbolism of marriage unless we have overriding reasons to do those things.
(S3) We lack overriding reasons to allow SSM.
(S4) Therefore, we ought not to allow SSM.

Now, my objection was that Somerville did not convince us that premise (S3) is true, because she did not attend to the possibility that we may have overriding reasons to allow SSM (perhaps the welfare of children raised by SSCs counts as an overriding reason). So, let’s present my objection formally and see if I affirm the consequent or engage in circular reasoning or whatever:

(M1) Somerville establishes the truth of her conclusion on the basis of her argument only if she gives us sufficiently good reasons to believe that premise (S3) in her argument is true.
(M2) Somerville fails to give us sufficiently good reasons to believe that premise (S3) in her argument is true.
(M3) Therefore, it is false that Somerville establishes the truth of her conclusion on the basis of her argument.

O my goodness! What do we have on our hands here? Is this an instance of the formally valid argument pattern called ‘modus tollens’? By golly I think it is. Whew, that’s a relief!

If you wish to disagree with my objection, therefore, it will do no good to fabricate nonsense about the logical form of my objection or accuse me of circular reasoning. The logical form of my objection is perfectly fine, since it’s an instance of modus tollens. Moreover, it is not circular reasoning, since the conclusion does not appear as a premise in my argument.

What you will need to do if you are going to reject my conclusion is to reject the truth of one of my premises. Since (M1) is obvious, you won’t be wise to reject that premise. You will therefore have to argue that Somerville actually established that we lack overriding reasons to allow SSM. But you will have a difficult time doing that, since Somerville never argued that the welfare of children raised by SSCs does not count as an overriding reason to allow SSM. But surely that is something that we would have to rule out before we confidently declared that (S3) in her argument is true.

So, though I may have made other blunders, I have neither engaged in circular reasoning or affirmed the consequent.

This is also an interesting discussion:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/26165?in=11:13&out=19:51

Malebranche:

We already established that Somerville did not use S2.

How about this:

M1: If there are overriding exceptions to allow SSM, Margaret is wrong.

M2: There are overriding exceptions to allow SSM.

M3: Therefore, Margaret is wrong.

So all you have to do is establish M2.

Well that's certainly valid and non-circular. But that wasn't my argument. I gave my objection to Somerville already in terms of her failure to address the worry that we may have overriding reasons to permit SSM that she failed to undermine or even so much as address.

Despite my (overly?) harsh remarks above, I do give credit where credit is due. I think the argument you constructed is a lot closer to one I am interested in investigating further. I would quibble with it a bit, but am very interested in the merits of something like the following argument in favor of SSM:

(1) Allowing SSM will probably improve the welfare of children who, despite the political efforts of some, will continue to be raised by same-sex couples.
(2) If performing A will probably improve the welfare of children, then we ought to perform A unless we have overriding reasons to refrain from performing A.
(3) We lack overriding reasons to refrain from allowing SSM.
(4) So, we ought to allow SSM.

Malebranche:

Any refutable hypothesis is true only on probation. That Somerville has not established the truth of her proposition does not mean that it is not true.

But if an overriding reason exists, it is easy to prove her wrong. So put her out of her misery.

Malebranche:

In your (1), when you say "continue to be raised by same sex couples", I presume you are referring to actual children that are in the process of being raised in SSC households, and particular SSC's want SSM's. Then (2) would have to be handled on a case-by-case basis for each household who wants a SSM. In each case, a court would have to rule that the situation that exists in the household is already a marriage (perhaps a common-law one). The plaintiff would be the couple and defendant would be the state. The judge (this would likely be an action in equity, not law, so there is no jury) would set the evidence against the jurisprudence. Some couples might win their cases because of their particular circumstances and other couples might lose. Suppose that later the legislature specifically prohibits SSM. There might be a legal argument for grandfathering in the SSM's that already took place. Or they might be voided. The couples would have the burden of showing the evidence that would let the judge carve out an SSM, and that evidence could be rebutted if the state shows that the SSM will deprive the existing children of a right, such as to be part of an institution vested with special holiness, or the right to a mother and father.

In most jurisdictions, courts will not offer advisory opinions ("what if") but they wait until an actual case or controversy comes up, and each is unique.

Johnnie,

You've overlooked a far simpler solution. Simply grant SSM equality to SSCs and require each SSC to make their case before the court no more than is currently required by heterosexual couples.

What my argument recommends is that enacting this policy is the best way to give children of SSC benefits and resources they wouldn't otherwise have given the fact that they will continue to be raised by SSCs.

Oops. Meant to write, "Simply grant marriage equality to SSCs..."

Since "marriage" nowadays seems to be all about public approval of who you are having sex with, I wonder what exactly is government's interest in solemnizing it at all?

Does anybody remember why governments did that in the first place?

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