Actually, there is something wrong with that

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If you're a conservative, one of your core beliefs is that human nature has no history. Human nature is not some malleable thing that the government can, with sufficient incentives or punishments, reshape into its ideological ideal. The Soviets tried to create a "New Soviet Man," willing to give his all for the sake of the state with no hope of reward for himself, and they failed miserably. Any society that refuses to acknowledge basic, undeniable truths about human nature will meet the same fate. It's like trying to build a bridge over a canyon without acknowledging gravity.

One of the undeniable truths about life is that life reproduces. Whether you believe that life is the result of evolutionary blind chance or an intelligent designer, there's no doubt that life perpetuates itself through reproduction. There are differences of opinion on the list of the essential characteristics of life, but reproduction is on everyone's list.

Humans reproduce sexually. That's obvious to most of my intelligent readers, but sometimes you have to state the obvious. There are two sexes, male and female, and one representative of each sex is needed to make reproduction happen. Round about the age of 13 certain hormones kick in making us not only capable of sexual reproduction but also driving us to seek out someone with whom we can reproduce.

If that sexual drive fixes itself to some person, animal, or object with whom reproduction is impossible, it means there's been a malfunction. Something has gone haywire. Whether that mis-direction is the result of an act of the will, some physical or psychological trauma, or both doesn't change the reality that one's sex drive isn't working to further the survival of one's own genetic traits.

A conservative approach to issues involving homosexuality begins with the reality that it is a malfunction, a disability of one of the core characteristics of all living beings.

* * *

I'm amazed and disappointed by the willingness of many self-described conservatives to wave the white flag on cultural issues. Perhaps some of them believe that asserting traditional -- and increasingly counter-cultural -- understandings of marriage and sexuality are hurting conservatism's political success. Perhaps some have abandoned traditional sexual mores in their own lives and don't wish to be called out as hypocrites. Perhaps they just don't want to be thought of as judgmental.

But being a conservative means being willing to deal with human nature as it is. It means respecting and defending the institutions that have evolved over millenia to cope with human nature, particularly the institution that provides a stable context for the reproductive drive and the children that result from it.

RELATED and a must-read: Theodore Dalrymple's City Journal essay on the roots and fruits of the Sexual Revolution. It's from 10 years ago but seems right up to date. Dalrymple notes the clash between the realities of human nature and the misguided utopianism of those who laid the foundation for what emerged in the 1960s: Margaret Mead, Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, to name a few:

The revolution had its intellectual pro-genitors, as shallow, personally twisted, and dishonest a parade of people as one could ever wish to encounter. They were all utopians, lacking understanding of the realities of human nature; they all thought that sexual relations could be brought to the pitch of perfection either by divesting them of moral significance altogether or by reversing the moral judgment that traditionally attached to them; all believed that human unhappiness was solely the product of laws, customs, and taboos. They were not the kind of people to take seriously Edmund Burke's lapidary warning that "it is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free": on the contrary, just as appetites often grow with the feeding, so the demands of the revolutionaries escalated whenever the last demand was met. When the expected happiness failed to emerge, the analysis of the problem and the proposed solution were always the same: more license, less self-control....

There is virtually no aspect of modern society's disastrous sexual predicament that does not find its apologist and perhaps its "onlie" begetter in the work of the sexual revolutionaries 50 or 100 years earlier. It is impossible to overlook the connection between what they said should happen and what has actually happened. Ideas have their consequences, if only many years later....

Of course [Margaret Mead's] depiction of Samoa was in error: she was taken in by her ironical informants. Sexual morality in Samoa was puritanical rather than liberal, and owed much to the efforts of the London Missionary Society, no advocate of free love during adolescence or at any other time.

But few people are averse to the message that one can indulge appetites freely without bad consequences to oneself or others, and so Mead's book passed as authoritative. And if youthful sexual libertinism was possible in Samoa with only beneficial social and psychological effects, why not in Sheffield and Schenectady? Even had her depiction of Samoa, per impossibile, been accurate, no one paused to wonder whether Samoa was a plausible model for Europe or America or whether the mere existence of a sexual custom--the celibacy of religious communities down the ages, say--should warrant its universal adoption.

So generations of educated people accepted Mead's ideas about adolescent sexuality as substantially correct and reasonable. They took the Samoan way of ordering these matters as natural, enjoyable, healthy, and psychologically beneficial. No doubt Mead's ideas were somewhat distorted as they filtered down into the class of people who had not read her (or any other) book: but it does not altogether surprise me now to meet people who started living in sexual union with a boyfriend or girlfriend from the age of 11 or 12, under the complaisant eyes of their parents. Only someone completely lacking in knowledge of the human heart--someone, in fact, a little like Margaret Mead--would have failed to predict the consequences: gross precocity followed by permanent adolescence and a premature world-weariness.

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16 Comments

I agree completely.

A real eye-opener is the chapter in We're Doomed where the author admits--practically brags, really--that most of the people he knows at the top of the conservative pyramind are a-religious. They don't have the ideological bedrock that you would think they have.

route66news said:

So ... on that same tack, do you object to these people getting married?

-- People who are too old to reproduce;

-- People who are sterile;

-- People who choose not to have children;

The people listed above are already getting married and have been for eons, and I see no endangerment to the human race in doing so. Why you're discriminating against one group of people while ignoring others for not reproducing is completely illogical.

A "true" conservative also would argue that encouraging homosexuals to marry and thus tacitly produce a stable relationship and family would create benefits to society, not detriments.

As you're a liberal, Ron, I don't think you're in a position to say what a true conservative would argue.

I think it's possible, Man of the West, for someone to be a solid conservative without being religious, as long as you're willing to acknowledge reality and resist political correctness. Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) is the first example that comes to mind.

Roy said:

I found the essay at the link below very useful. Developing along lines parallel to Mike's essay, it argues from observational data for the reasonableness of society protecting marriage rather than surrendering to an assault upon what marriage involves.

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/SchulmanGayMarriage.php

Sometimes heterophobic folks such as that judge in Calif get cut way too much slack. Instead of recognizing the utter devastation he intends and removing any and all means of his accomplishing that disaster, people insist on our being civil.

Shadow6 said:

Oh, my godness, Michael. You are playing with fire. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

No more than two miles from Mayo Meadow lunatics protest on a corner on a semi-regular basis. Don't give them ideas about relocating.

If you hear this chant nearby:

"Racist, sexist, anti-gay,
Right-wing bigot, go away!"

...for about four hours or so, well, it's your fault. And there's a sympathetic newspaper downtown that would love to cover it. Or participate.

Good luck. If you need to seek refuge down the way in White City, I got room. We have different lunatics nearby, but they don't chant.

By the way, you may want to do a dummy comment anonymously and see if you are happy with the way it works out. It's been clunky for me a few times.

mark said:

Michael –

The fact that one is a “liberal” or “conservative” (I’m neither) does not preclude one from contributing constructively to cultural and policy dialog.

I think Ron makes a compelling point. It is fair to ask what has the most utility for society – channeling the sexual energy of homosexuals into legitimized, stable, monogamous relationships OR continuing to consign those individuals to a legal landscape that does absolutely nothing to discourage the promiscuous impulses and behavior that is innate to all mankind? Given the social costs of sexual promiscuity, the choice of same-sex marriage is a no-brainer from a rational policy perspective.

Please understand that there is likely no one more concerned about, and “at war” with, our over-sexualized, violent and materialistic culture than me – if I had the power, I’d pull the plug on the Internet tomorrow! But, as Evangelicals, I think we must use our God-given intellect and intuition to let the Holy Spirit guide us into the cultural battles that are most productive and healing for our societies. The resistance to same-sex marriage simply does not resonate with my spirit as one of those battles.

In terms of a Biblical imperative, I’ll not waste your bandwidth here with my hermeneutical arguments, but would enjoy discussing those with you sometime.

Best regards.

Moogle Author Profile Page said:

The argument against is actually very pragmatic completely apart from any religious considerations: If you want society to bestow a legal title and benefits, what does society get in return?

It's a simple logical conclusion that without the production of children, the society will die out; for example, the Shakers. The endorsement and government subsidization of illegitimacy has provided conclusive evidence that societies must also raise enough of those children in stable families or face disintegration of the society.

So, from stable, responsible hetero marriages, society gets an enormous practical benefit: It gets its very existence. A key word here is "responsible".

A few decades ago, a significant part of marriage was understood to be fulfillment of social responsibility: It isn't all about you. Part of what you are doing with the marriage is making society better. In some eastern societies, the primary function of marriage is the benefit of family and society, and any happiness the couple gets from it is almost accidental.

Western society has not taken it to quite that extent, but there was a time when the social responsibility aspect was much greater. As we have gotten liberated by the MSM, the social purpose of marriage has been eliminated making it little more than a living arrangement for your own happiness until you decide you aren't happy with it, at which point you get a divorce. It really is all about you.

This lays the foundation of the argument for homosexual marriage: Since marriage is primarily a living arrangement for the benefit of the participants with any benefit to society being only an accidental side effect, then it is selfish and greedy of heteros to deny homosexuals that benefit.

The characterization, by the MSM, of marriage as nothing but a convenient living arrangement with no inherent social obligation is the major cause of increasing crime and failing schools. The only way homosexual marriage makes any social sense is if we accept the MSM characterization of marriage.

It can be reasonably argued that the MSM characterization is now an established fact, so we might as well accept it. The problem with that is that society is decaying as a result of it. The element of social obligation and responsibility with regard to producing and raising children must be reasserted at some point or society is literally doomed.

Although there is a small percentage of homosexual marriage that will fulfill a positive social purpose, the vast majority will not. So, from a pragmatic standpoint, if society gets no benefit from it, then why should society extend any benefit to it? This appears to be a case of people wanting something for nothing.

Anon said:

I agree with Michael totally. A failure of biological process.

Despite the fact that committed relationships do develop, it ain't 'marriage'. That's why I would support Civil Unions, something different.

Yet, there remains another void in all this. As a single person with no children, I have no one who can act in my behalf should I need it. Short of a Power of Attorney, they could not even visit me in an Intensive Care Unit.

So, solving the same-sex issue doesn't really cover the issue which concerns me. Besides, I'd hate to think I'd need to marry anyone just to achieve that. But, I've thought about it just to get good health insurance coverage a couple of times.

The inequities of an unequal situation are numerous. So, shouldn't this also allow me to marry myself, my pet or some inantimate object?

Single people, by far, are more discriminated than gay couples when it comes to actual conditions regarding life, taxes, health care and jobs.

Anon raises a good point. Rather than civil unions that imply mutuality, exclusivity, and sexual involvement, allow an individual to designate another person as having power of attorney, as default heir and beneficiary, next of kin, etc. The designation would need the agreement of both parties, but it would be unidirectional. Widow A may wish to designate her single son B, but it may make more sense for B to designate friend C. Or she might prefer to designate her married daughter D, who wouldn't reciprocate because she's already got a next of kin in her husband.

Many years ago, American Airlines opened up their employee non-revenue travel benefit, previously restricted to immediate family and near-relatives, and allowed an employee to designate an unrelated person as a travel companion who could travel with the employee as if he or she were an immediate family member. If I recall correctly, it could also be used to elevate the status of a non-immediate family member. (Non-rev travel is handled in priority order, with immediate family trumping parents and siblings.)

Joe Taylor Author Profile Page said:

Michael, I'd like to hear your answer to route66news's main point. Why is marriage between heteros who cannot or will not reproduce different than homosexuals who cannot reproduce?

Route66News said:

The parties who wanted to continue California's ban on gay marriage had ample opportunities in court to prove why gay marriage would be harmful, and they failed utterly. If the arguments cited on this blog were viable, why weren't they used?

That would lead me to believe that the defense attorneys were incompetent, or there simply isn't any sound reason to continue the ban. Considering how the defense team was well-funded, it's doubtful the former is the case.

Anon said:

R66,

The marriage of those three groups you mention, in particular, recognize the relationship between a man and a women to be biologically normal, whether they reproduce or not. That relationship needs to be well founded in order to provide a basis for reproduction.

A biologically abnormal relationship does not provide that foundation. It sort of defies gravity, so to speak. And, while accepting that it happens does not also make it normal.

A four-leaf clover can't simply call itself a three-leaf clover and have it be true.

We're getting off-topic here, but you're presuming that the judge intended to be fair. Judicial analyst Ed Whelan wrote back in February that Judge Vaughn Walker's "entire course of conduct in the anti-Prop 8 case has reflected a manifest design to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trial of Prop 8’s sponsors." Read the article to see the specifics with links to additional details. Walker included an inquiry into voter "animus" -- in other words, were the majority of California voters thinking mean thoughts about homosexuals when they marked "yes"? Walker appears to have been biased from the beginning and reportedly has a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case.

Regarding married couples who have no intention of having children or who are unable to have children -- there is always at least the theoretical possibility, however slim, that a heterosexual couple will reproduce. It's impossible for a homosexual couple to produce offspring. I'm not going to try to reproduce in a comment the eloquent defenses of traditional marriage made by Maggie Gallagher, Sam Schulman, and many others; they address this objection. (Thanks, Roy, for the link to the Schulman essay.)

Route66News said:

Michael, you're citing an Ed Whalen report that was written even before the ruling was written and issued? That's like writing a report on the baseball game in the third inning.

I've actually read the 136-page ruling, and it bristles with legal precedent and evidence citations.

Again, the defense team presented NO evidence to support its claims that gay marriage would create harm. It got the point where Judge Walker practically begged the defense lawyers to present at least something. They did not.

If you don't present evidence to support your side, it's darned hard to win any case. That's irrefutable.

I'll bet it had footnotes, too, and Latin phrases. All very impressive, I'm sure.

Did you read Whalen's piece? If the umpire is calling strikes against when the ball is over the batter's head, do we really need to wait until the end of the game to take notice? If Whalen waited until after the decision was announced to criticize the judge's conduct, you'd say it was sour grapes and he should stop whining. (If you like, there are plenty of detailed critiques of the decision out on the web for you to grouse about.)

Walker was wrong to demand evidence of harm. In fact, there was no need for evidence at all in this case. The people of California passed a law via initiative and referendum. The law joins a long list of laws that constrain California's political subdivisions. The case should have been laughed out of federal court, but Walker has a history of judicial activism in cases involving homosexuality.

And with that, I'm closing off the discussion of the Prop 8 case, which is not the topic of this blog entry. Feel free to comment on the main point.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 13, 2010 12:56 AM.

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