Indefinite dyad

The other week we discussed the views on gay marriage of that most unprotected of unprotected classes, the academic right wing. We’re as bored and as frustrated as the next person with the rhetorically effective but in equal measure logically clueless slippery slope arguments against gay marriage. To see the latest iteration, watch this clip from The Colbert Report. But we’d like to return briefly to the discussion of the “Princeton Principles” of the conservative Witherspoon Institute.

In an otherwise shamefully incoherent document (here’s one example: in the name of limiting government’s control over people’s lives, government should vastly enlarge its control over people’s affective choices), we find the following almost unforgivable claim:

>Yet there remain even deeper concerns about the institutional consequences of same-sex marriage for marriage itself. Same-sex marriage would further undercut the idea that procreation is intrinsically connected to marriage. It would undermine the idea that children need both a mother and a father, further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget. Finally, same-sex marriage would likely corrode marital norms of sexual fidelity, since gay marriage advocates and gay couples tend to downplay the importance of sexual fidelity in their definition of marriage. Surveys of men entering same-sex civil unions in Vermont indicate that 50 percent of them do not value sexual fidelity, and rates of sexual promiscuity are high among gay men. For instance, Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at New York University and a leading advocate of gay marriage, hopes that same-sex marriage will promote a “pluralist expansion of the meaning, practice, and politics of family life in the United States” where “perhaps some might dare to question the dyadic limitations of Western marriage and seek some of the benefits of extended family life through small group marriages…” [emphasis added]

In the reflective language of the disinterested sociologist, the authors suggest that the extreme views on marriage of one one advocate of gay marriage suffice to show the apocalyptic character of a gay-friendly future. There are probably thousands (if not millions) of advocates of straight marriage whose views would cause the fellows of the Witherspoon Institute to recoil, but just because they share a goal does not mean they share a view. Insofar as all slippery slope arguments suggest extreme (but unlikely) consequences, they threaten; they play on the fears of their listener.

The respected scholars of the Witherspoon Institute ought to know better than to resort to inflammatory fear mongering.

2 thoughts on “Indefinite dyad”

  1. An anonymous colleague of mine writes in an email:

    What I find so annoying about slippery slope arguments
    is that they are made in place of actually arguing
    against the claim. I find this inference particularly
    unintelligible: “It would undermine the idea that
    children need both a mother and a father, further
    weakening the societal norm that men should take
    responsibility for the children they beget.” Whether
    or not children need a present father and mother for
    healthy development is entirely unrelated to whether
    parents should take responsibility for their children.
    In fact, if the claim is, “a child needs a male adult
    caregiver”, then it doesn’t need to be the biological
    father. If the claim is that “a child needs its
    biological father as an adult caregiver,” then it
    would follow that adoptions lead to similar
    developmental problems.


    Of course if marriage is “intrinsically connected to
    procreation” does it follow that the infertile
    (including the post-menopausal) are not capable from
    entering into a proper marriage?

    Finally, if the arguments that the ban on same-sex
    marriage is unjust also entail that the ban on
    polygamy is unjust, then we should accept that fact
    and work to purge our unjust, polygamaphobic

  2. Note that it does not argue that the fate of some individuals will be altered to their detriment, say, some innocent children who could be lovingly parented by closeted homosexual fathers now will either be not born or be raised fatherless as their father shamelessly marry their preferred sexual partners.

    No, the argument is that the IDEA of marriage would be degraded etc. For those of us who are reality based, either children need male caregiver or not, and this is a quantifiable fact (either there exist statistical evidence or not). But what counts for Whitherspooners is the fate of the IDEA. Which makes me curious about their ontological views. Clearly, if an idea can be alter by legal technicalities, it does not exist independently of reality. On the other hand, empirical reality does not make this idea safe.

    I guess that for a Whitherspooner we live in the universe of memes, and as the very fabric of existence consists of memes, bad memes undermine it. I guess this position was very nicely elucidated by Jorge Luis Borges in “Tloen, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” If you read the story to the very end, you may get suspicions that the hidden goal of Whitherspoon Institute is to convert our material world into purely idealistic Tloen.

Comments are closed.