This Marriage Abstraction


Hope the bigots at read this, not that they ever allow facts to get in the way of their bigotry. But, oh dear, David Blankenhorn and Elizabeth Marquardt hate to be called bigots. They even have a letter online to the New York Times asking them to reprimand Frank Rich for calling Blankenhorn a bigot. And they have a letter from their bloggers who say that Blankenhorn really isn't a bigot. And boy they love Maggie Gallagher. Elizabeth Marquardt agrees with Maggie that Dan shouldn't be giving sex advice. Not that they are bigots or anything. They just want to protect marriage.
As I always say: There is no such thing as an internally consistent and empirically truthful argument against gay marriage. ALL arguments against gay marriage rely either on false premises or invalid deductive reasoning, or both. There are no exceptions to this. Every person who makes an argument against gay marriage either fails to understand the internal logic of his own argument, assumes the truth of a demontrably false assertion, or is lying to herself or others.
Here is my confusion: If these guys are truly about saving straight marriage, why aren't they in the business of counseling straight people? Trying to save the 50% of straight marriages that end in divorce? The number of gays and lesbians who want to marry must be a drop in the bucket compared to the huge numbers of straight marriages that crash and burn annually, right? So why devote so much time and energy to a relatively small proportion of marrying adults?
Straight people never "redefined" marriage. It was always like that. Marriage as this wacky idealistic thing only ever existed like that in the past memories of a very imaginitve group of minds.

It's like all "conservatism" is at this point is a method of therapy for people who can't handle compexity, change, and uncertainty.

And to think it used to mean an understanding that looking to the past for insight can be an effective way to adapt tothe inevitability of all three.
Just for clarification, "rearing" is the correct term. As a college prof I had once put it, crops are raised, children are reared.
Here is Elizabeth Marquardt's remarks on "Taking Advice from Dan Savage":…

I would leave a comment on the post, but they don't allow me to post there anymore.

Perhaps 1963 was a high point of monogamy....

And certainly marriage was the same from 0 b.c. Through 1963...
I've written and read plenty of of academic drivel myself. It's always fun to see how much BS can be primped up to look respectable when you dress it all up academic-like with lots of scholar-ese.

Of course, from your description, I naturally assumed it was some crap from FRC or Pa@l C*m*r*n. Had no idea that Harvard would be spreading this kind of santorum.
So... I just read most of this 'paper' and before I go pour drano in my ear I'll share this from the article:

"We do not pretend to know the genesis of same‐sex attraction, but we consider it ultimately irrelevant to this debate. On this point, we agree with same‐sex marriage advocate Professor John Corvino:"

"The fact is that there are plenty of genetically influenced traits that are nevertheless undesirable. Alcoholism may have a genetic basis, but it doesnʹt follow that alcoholics ought to drink excessively. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to violence, but they have no more right to attack their neighbors than anyone else. Persons with suchtendencies cannot say “God made me this way” as an excuse
for acting on their dispositions.118"

"looking for a good time." Why was she looking for a good time in the house she was living in? What type of house was this?
Contact info for the authors:

Sherif Girgis
Princeton University Department of Philosophy
(302) 465-1671

Robert George
Princeton University - Department of Politics
(609) 258-3270

Have at it, flying monkeys!
Yeah, I couldn't finish the paper. I got to the section where the authors come up with the Platonic idea of "real marriage" and use that as a stick to beat teh gheys, as in, "Even if you convince SCOTUS or the legislature to change the law, you'll never have a *real* marriage, so nyer nyer."

In fact, you could use that paper as a near-perfect example of what's wrong with contemporary analytic philosophy: the authors define marriage from a series of abstract principles that aren't connected at all to how the word has been deployed historically or across cultures (you'll notice a paucity of real-world examples). There's lots of detailed logical argumentation but the core of the paper revolves around some question-begging (in the technical sense) definitions of marriage that you either have to accept or reject. And, of course, the authors come to the stupendously boring conclusion that the way things have (supposedly) been done for centuries is just hunky-dory. It's the same malaise that makes analytic philosophers think very deeply about silly moral conundrums involving trolley cars and how many planks of wood you can replace on a ship before it's no longer the same ship.
I'll just say this: Anybody who has spent any time in real science at all and been involved even peripherally in writing a real peer-reviewed scientific paper for publication in a respected journal, would feel like the air had been sucked out of the room when reading that abstract.

Social science has always been the squishiest, in part because its branches are among the youngest and terminology/methodology are hard, people, and also because rigor is difficult to achieve in the real world outside of test tubes and particle accelerators. Such realities haven't stopped the social sciences from making enormously useful contributions to human knowledge. This isn't one of them.

The language used is pathetic. It's the social-science equivalent of intelligent design. Nothing about that abstract resembles good scientific writing. Harvard University should go to any lengths to distance itself from this turd of a "study," and closely examine whatever internal rot led to its publication. Same goes for Princeton and Notre Dame.
You can wrap up a turd like a journal article but it's still a turd.
For what it's worth, this is largely a one-man show. Robert George is the silverback here. He's a full professor with an endowed chair, one of the Christian right's alleged "intellectuals," former chair of NOM.

Sherif Girgis is a grad student, and Ryan Anderson isn't listed on the Notre Dame department page, which means he's either a grad student or an undergrad.

I don't mean to discount a grad student's contributions, but this never would have gotten published without George's name on it.
What I want to know is why is Harvard publishing such drivel?
@5, once upon a time, states had laws that prohibited Newt Gingrich's second and third marriages. So while marriage was never perfect, the state used to have laws in place that held straight people accountable to the marriage ideal.

Dan, if you'd like a neo-conservative version of what you just wrote, here's Francis Fukuyama:

Money quote: Prior to the Great Disruption, all Western societies had in place a complex series of formal and informal laws, rules, norms, and obligations to protect mothers and children by limiting the freedom of fathers to simply ditch one family and start another. Today many people have come to think of marriage as a kind of public celebration of a sexual and emotional union between two adults, which is why gay marriage has become a possibility in the United States and other developed countries.
Marriage is the legal union of two equal and consenting adults.
I've long suspected that the opposition to gay marriage is in fact an opposition to considering marriage to be a union of equals. There is an extremely high correlation between thinking "marriage should be between a man and a woman" and thinking "wives should be subservient to their husbands." That's what the anti-gay marriage crowd means by "preserving marriage"-- they're want to preserve their institution of marriage, which keeps women dependent on men. Living in a society where there are marriages which obviously lack such gender roles undermines that brainwashing. The last thing conservatives want is for conservative/religious women to learn that happy and functional marriages exist where one person does not continuously yield to the wants and needs of the other.

Of course, this is a tremendously unpopular opinion, which is why the bigots dance around whenever they're asked to explain how, exactly, their stance "preserves marriage." All of this makes the label "anti-marriage equality" that much more applicable.
@15 The article really isn't social science - it's mostly philosophy (albeit an incredibly impoverished form of philosophy) with a little sprinkling of jurisprudence on top. If it were social science it might actually have to look at how real marriages and real same-sex unions work, and these authors deliberately avoid anything other than hypotheticals - because any reference to historical or social realities would open them up to a host of damaging counterexamples.
@21, I'll accept your characterization of the work. The problem, of course, is that this paper will be trumpeted, and accepted by many in the public, as science.
Rob Tisinai does an excellent point-by-point takedown of Robbie George's article here. (Each installment is also cross-posted on Box Turtle Bulletin.)

Tisinai's posts are ongoing: he's up to #14, which might normally lead a reader to think that he's milking it. But Tisinai takes George on at the level of Catholic Natural Law, with all of its contradictions and assumptions on full display.

I look forward to each new post in the series.
In all that, there is not one fact that shows why gay people can't marry. Gay marriage doesn't stop anyone else from having a marriage defined anyway they want. If they believe marriage is only for rteproduction, nobody says they can't marry for that reason. It's like every debate with the right wing. While they are free to believe whatever nonsense they want, they can't bear the idea that somebody believes differently. That somebody should call their morality nothing more than a bogus excuse for their bigotry.
Dan, it's not that they believe that same-sex OR opposite sex marriages are immoral.

It has nothing at all to do with marriage. It's about hating queers. Period.

No, not everyone who is anti-marriage is motivated by vitriolic hatred of queers. But anyone motivated enough to write papers on it? To organize against it? Absolutely. I mean, I hate opera. I don't listen to it and if I'm forced to, I'll stick the earbuds in to block it out.

But I don't go around trying to ban it, or convince other people not to like it. I hate it, but it doesn't affect my life so I really don't care about it.

Because I'm not fixated on my hatred. I don't spend any time thinking about opera, nor do I react with a shudder when someone mentions the three tenors.
Re: 22, I didn't mean that to come across as grudging acceptance of @21 at all; I got distracted by a phone call at the moment of posting. @21 is exactly right. And the abstract, normally an integral part of a research paper, is not present in the published work. A scientific paper normally includes these formal sections: Abstract, Introduction, Materials & Methods, Results, Conclusions, and References, with some minor variations depending on the field and the journal. This work is 43 pages of philosophical blather.

But it's being disseminated by the Social Science Research Network, which gives it a scientific gloss and imprimatur it doesn't remotely deserve.
dan, in the midst of this serious discussion, i just want to thank you for quoting that newlywed game episode. i hadn't thought of that for years. hilarious moment.
@4- Dear Canuck... They care no more about 'saving' het marriages than they do feeding un-aborted fetuses- that's up to the individual before god. So the babies that don't get aborted live in crack-houses and heroin dens- not our problem but save them babies. So Suzie and John beat each other senseless and their kids, too- not our problem, just as long as the gays aren't allowed into the club.
They believe what we do as a society is attracting the ire of the almighty, so hence, what you or I do in the privacy of our bedrooms will bring god's wrath down on them as well as ourselves.
I wish that the godless left could understand better the way these people think.
@17 Margaret has it right. Robert George used to serve on the President's Council of Bioethics, if you can believe that. He can be relied upon to appeal to right-wing notions of human dignity and the purity of the soul to oppose homosexuality, human cloning, abortion, and probably stem cell research and feminism though I haven't checked. He and Leon "wisdom of repugnance" Kass are of a piece.
jazus, what utter drivel. is it just my faulty memory, or was there once a time when the right had a least a few real thinkers who could make a somewhat intelligent and semi-persuasive argument?
Morning, OutInBumF! Okay, if you go the WWJD route about this, then how do they get around all of the admonitions against divorce in the bible? Or if Jesus ever said anything about gays, which he didn't...It's easier to fight them if you understand them, and I don't! (And I mean literally can't grasp their argument, because it's so murky.) When I watched Maggie at the doma hearing, she seemed to be saying that since straight marriage was suffering so much already (high divorce rates, etc) that gay marriage would somehow speed up the decline of straight marriage. She was asked for examples of how Bill and Eric down the road tying the knot would accomplish this, and she didn't have an answer. So, if these people can't provide any proof of their assertions, why do we give them a platform at all? It's like going to a trial, and the prosecutor has no evidence, only would get thrown out. I'm ranting, but I increasingly think that allowing people like Maggie to testify is like allowing a Flat Earther to present a "paper" at an oceanography conference. Hmphf.
@20 Kudos to you! Amazing post.
Dan's being bigoted toward "queers" who don't wanna get married, and are opposed to marriage equality because, apparently, they're opposed to the institution tout court. Those people need to have their feewings acknowledged, too! Douchebag comes to mind (for them, not Dan).

However, we (the borg) think that marriage encourages monogamy. It doesn't guarantee it, but it encourages it. And if that's true, it is in keeping with the statement that teh geyz should be fuckin' less...and fuckin' less for teh geyz means less of that ugly philadelphia style aids shit and the clap. Swear you can smell the aids in some of these gay dives.

Children of divorce die younger than children raised by parents who stay together according to a longitudinal study at the university of who gives a fuck (I don't think it's an ivy, and colleges that aren't don't exist to me. Peasants). Also, children of divorce are more likely to have unstable relationships when they stop being children, repeating their parent's flakey instability.

Mawwage is a social institution that has changed dramatically throughout western civilization to meet the whims of those for whom it is open (like all social laws, and need to). Like all bigotry, excluding "queers" is arbitrary and groundless. Therefore, it mawwage should be open to "queers" (or, as I prefer, pickle kissers).

Yeah, they probably hate me as much as they hate you -- I didn't change my name when I got married. And I suppose we're "monogomish" as you put it. So far we've never had sex with others, but we haven't completely ruled it out forever either. My sister didn't change her name when she got married. And she doesn't want kids.
Neither of us were married in a church or by a religious officiant. And although the bigots probably disapprove of our marriage as much as yours, they're only trying to legislate your marriage rights. And I'm very adamantly and vocally on the side of gay marriage and would be even if the weren't going to come after my marriage next. But they probably are, so I figure we should all join hands in the fight now!
Honestly, I think a big part of why they're going after gay marriage and not other forms of modern marriage is the "ick factor." Which is a stupid reason and they know it. That's why they always offer up the, "I don't hate gays, I just disapprove of gay marriage." As if it's some kind of abstract theoretical idea that won't affect any real people. Stupid.
It's worse than that, Dan. Marriage opponents don't just think that same-sex marriage is immoral... they think that the homosexual orientation is immoral (just like they've always thought), but the only way they can express their bigotry in 2011 is to be against gay marriage.
In other words, they lost the battle to demonize the LGBT community a decade ago but they never changed their opinions about gay people.
Listen to what they say, but more importantly, listen to who is saying it. It's the same group of people who have ALWAYS spoken out against us... they just have a few new code words, and now they try really really hard not to appear bigoted. But guess what? They ARE bigots, and if they could round up the entire GLBT community and place us in internment camps they would.
They're also scared. They know that in the end, they will lose this battle as well. Hell, they've already lost it, but they just aren't ready to admit it yet. So please stop using the label "gay marriage opponents" to describe them. Let's call them what they really are... raging, unrepentent homophobes.
@23 - That's great stuff. Thank you for posting that. Anyway...

"Opponents of same-sex marriage should just level with us: they don't just believe that same-sex marriages are immoral. They believe that most opposite-sex marriages are immoral. It's not marriage equality they have a problem with but modern marriage itself."

This really does seem to be the point of the article. George et al. seem to be arguing for an abstract, philosophical view of marriage which they more-or-less admit has little to do with marriage as actually practiced in the world.

I've come to think that more than anything, the thing that anti-gay-marriage folks don't like about gay marriage is that, well, it'd be a big change. I feel like a lot of anti-gay-marriage sentiment comes from an abstract and general fear of change, more than from any specific moral or political value.
I've come to think that more than anything, the thing that anti-gay-marriage folks don't like about gay marriage is that, well, it'd be a big change. I feel like a lot of anti-gay-marriage sentiment comes from an abstract and general fear of change, more than from any specific moral or political value.
I'll go even broader. I think most conservatism comes from an abstract and general fear of change, more than from any specific moral or political value. That's why conservatives-- even the well-educated ones-- tend to have a staggering lack of intellectual curiosity.