Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Marriage, Procreation and Historical Amnesia

 best i have read yet, hope to find the followups as well
By Ross Douthat

Not surprisingly, my Sunday column raising the possibility that the successes of the gay marriage movement might be having some modest influence on marriage’s overall decline left liberals (and many others) unpersuaded. Kevin Drum has a usefully representative rebuttal, whose three major points I think I’ll take up in separate posts. Here’s the first, which dismisses the idea that the push for same-sex marriage has tended to weaken the legal and cultural connection between marriage and procreation by … blaming social conservatives for injecting that supposed connection into the debate in the first place:
My sense of the debate is that the procreation argument was introduced by opponents of same-sex marriage, not supporters. Those advocating SSM just wanted gays and lesbians to be able to marry each other. It was opponents, after realizing that Old Testament jeremiads weren’t cutting it any more, who began claiming that SSM should remain banned because gays couldn’t have children. This turned out to be both a tactical and strategic disaster, partly because the argument was so transparently silly (what about old people? what about women who had hysterectomies? etc.) and partly because it suggested that SSM opponents didn’t have any better arguments to offer. But disaster or not, they’re the ones responsible for making this into a cornerstone of the anti-SSM debates in the aughts. Without that, I doubt that most ordinary people would ever have connected gay marriage to procreation within straight marriages in the first place. If this really has had an impact on traditional marriage, the anti-SSM forces have mostly themselves to blame.
The notion that nobody would have entertained what Drum later calls the “esoteric” idea that marriage has an essential link to the way that human beings procreate if desperate social conservatives hadn’t grasped at it is apparently quite a popular view, judging by the fact that other writers raised it on Twitter over the weekend, and its popularity testifies to the way that the gay marriage debate has encouraged a strange historical amnesia about the origins of marriage law.
If gay marriage opponents had essentially invented a procreative foundation for marriage in order to justify opposing same-sex wedlock, it would indeed be telling evidence of a movement groping for reasons to justify its bigotry. But of course that essential connection was assumed in Western law and culture long before gay marriage emerged as a controversy or a cause. You don’t have to look very hard to find quotes (like the ones collected in this Heritage Foundation brief) from jurists, scholars, anthropologists and others, writing in historical contexts entirely removed from the gay marriage debate, making the case that “the first purpose of matrimony, by the laws of nature and society, is procreation” (that’s a California Supreme Court ruling in 1859), describing the institution of marriage as one “founded in nature, but modified by civil society: the one directing man to continue and multiply his species, the other prescribing the manner in which that natural impulse must be confined and regulated” (that’s William Blackstone), and acknowledging that “it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution” (that’s the well-known reactionary Bertrand Russell).
Nor, perhaps more importantly, is it difficult to find various traditional features of marriage law that only make sense given the procreative understanding: For instance, the granting, not of divorces, but annulments in the case of marriages that weren’t or couldn’t be consummated — a provision with deep roots in the common law tradition, and one that remains in force today in contexts as diverse as California and England. (Current English annulment law went on the books all the way back in the dark medieval year of … 1973.)
Note, too, that by saying that a marriage left unconsummated through coitus is invalid, the common-law tradition makes precisely the distinction that Drum (and many others) find so self-evidently ridiculous and assume was obviously just invented for the gay marriage debate — a distinction between relationships that involve the reproductive act and those that don’t, with the former being valid marriages even when they’re infertile and the latter not. This Robert George-esque view of what is and isn’t marriage may or may not make sense, but it was considered a perfectly reasonable way of drawing distinctions between heterosexual relationships long before the homosexual claim to equal marriage rights began to be advanced. Wise or not, it was a distinction inherited from centuries of legal tradition, not invented as a made-up way to keep the gays from contaminating marriage.
Now if Drum wants to argue that this “first purpose of matrimony” understanding was eroding by the time the gay marriage debate began, and that its post-sexual revolution erosion explains why marriage’s inherent connection to reproduction went from being self-evident in 1971’s Baker v. Nelson decision (the first major gay marriage ruling, whose invocation of marriage’s necessary connection to the “procreation and rearing of children” nobody at the time found “transparently silly”) to being contested in the 1990s and dismissed in the 2000s — well then, yes, he would have an entirely plausible case. But he and others seem to be making a much stronger claim than this — that basically nobody would have imagined that the gay marriage debate had any implications for marriage’s connection to procreation if the anti-gay marriage cause hadn’t seized on the idea, and that the marriage-procreation link is (at best) a medieval relic exhumed to serve the ends of homophobia, and at worst just something invented by social conservatives out of animus and desperation.
That so many people find this claim credible or even self-evident is a small but potent example of exactly the two phenemona that my column’s conclusion discussed: First, the way that gay marriage inevitably has widening cultural ripple effects, in this case revising not only the law itself but also the stories people tell about where those laws came from and what they’re meant to do; and second, the way that some of these ripple effects are making it almost impossible for liberals to show magnanimity in victory, and accept the continued existence of people and institutions that still take the older view of what marriage is and means. After all, if that supposedly “older” view was just invented by Clinton or Bush-era homophobes when their Bible-thumping stopped working, then what’s to respect or even tolerate? Once you’ve rewritten the past to make your opponents look worse, then you’re well on your way to justifying writing them out of the future entirely.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hello Supremes?

once again from the Sword of Peter

this says a mouth full

Stupidity: A Malady of the Cultural Elite

 Nail meet Hammer, explains so many Catholics in name only, poorly educated and taught to "feel" not "think". If you notice Rush has said that for years, "what do you THINK, I don't care how you feel, feel is a sigh of intellectual laziness. Liberalism and the progressives constantly appeal to feelings and shout down intellectual debate


We live in something of a meritocracy, and our rulers believe they are by far the most enlightened and well-informed people who ever lived. For that reason they feel entitled to make the aspirations of the present day, or what they consider such, the compulsory standard for public life. They view the claim that there are principles that transcend those aspirations as the sort of thing that led to 9/11, and treat the past as worth considering only as something to escape from or a foreshadowing of the glories of the present.
Nonetheless, a variety of conditions, from the state of education and the arts to that of political discussion, makes it evident that Western society is growing less and less able to think clearly and effectively. That’s a big problem, and one that’s hard to deal with, because it is difficult to cure oneself of mindlessness. Still, we should do our best to understand what’s going on.
A basic part of the problem is that the kind of meritocracy we have leads to stupidity. Its effect is that local and subordinate groupings are deprived of talent and respect, and the leadership at the top becomes unable to think or function outside established understandings. The people at the top mostly went to the same highly competitive schools, where they were all told the same things, and it’s taken all their effort and devotion to get where they are today. The result is that they’re absorbed in their social function and setting, and would find it very difficult to adopt an independent perspective if the desire to do so ever entered their heads.
The results are evident in our public life. How often do our leaders say or write anything that would be of interest if a different name were attached? Can anyone imagine Hilary Clinton thinking something she isn’t supposed to think? And to get to the bottom line, do our rulers give the impression that they know what’s going on or what to do about it?
Naturally, meritocracy isn’t the only culprit. There are other factors at work that also stem from the nature of a society ruled by technology and technocratic ideals. Their effect is that the understandings that guide thought are becoming increasingly nonfunctional:
  • Electronic diversions train people out of the habit of consecutive thought. Tweets, texting, and multitasking mean discussions never get to the point and are hardly discussions at all.
  • Rejection of transcendent standards leads to denial of the good, beautiful, and true in favor of rhetoric and power. That means the subordination of thought to politics, propaganda, and partisanship.
  • Bureaucracy, commerce, and the media absorb functions once performed by individuals, families, and tradition. Instead of the arts of life, which require thought, we have consumer goods, social programs, and industrially-produced pop culture. The result is that thought becomes less important as a day-to-day matter.
  • Thought requires engagement with reality. Electronic entertainment and the distance between cause and effect in a complex globalized society mean people do not engage reality, while skepticism as to truth means they consider it theoretically impossible to do so.
  • A technological approach to society means mechanical unity of components, and thought and discussion are not mechanical. Common histories, understandings, and commitments, as well as freedom of association, are necessary for complex and subtle activities such as scholarly inquiry and speculative thought, and technocracy disrupts such things.
  • Thought depends on recognizing and applying patterns, and technology rejects pattern recognition in favor of simple relations of cause and effect. To make matters worse, relating individual cases to patterns means stereotyping and discrimination. Ideals of diversity and inclusiveness, which draw their institutional strength from the technocratic desire to turn people into interchangeable components, thus require suppression of the habits of mind that make thought possible.
  • Thought also depends on standards of cogency, which are disfavored because they are at odds with diversity. People want to include marginalized voices, so they feel called upon to treat thoughts nonjudgmentally, as long as they are politically acceptable.
  • In any event, standards require effort, so they’re at odds with consumerism, comfort, and lifestyle libertarianism, and the technological outlook makes those the goals of life. Such an attitude may help explain the recent startling decline of academic achievement among thoroughly assimilated Jewish and Japanese Americans.
If America and the West are getting stupider as a result of the basic nature and tendency of our society, including the measures that have been adopted to increase the intelligence with which it is run, we have to ask about the future. Some say that the no-nonsense Chinese will take over everything, others that genetic engineering will save the day, still others predict a period of general disorder, something like the Middle East but on a global scale.
It seems unlikely the Chinese will take over, since they have their own problems. For starters, selective abortion and the one-child rule mean they’re going to have a huge population of young men with no prospect of marriage, and an even huger population of elderly people with no one to support and look after them. Nor does genetic engineering look like a cure-all for stupidity, if only because the problems are mostly cultural and grow out of an understanding of man and society that reduces human life to an engineering problem. So the obvious outcome of present trends in the West is growing incoherence of thought, leading to nonfunctional public life and a retreat into inward-turning networks of survival. We’ve tried to turn Iraq into Minnesota, but it’s more likely we’ll turn Minnesota into Iraq.
What’s needed, then, is a basic change of cultural direction that allows better things to develop. That’s not impossible. Intelligence is more functional than stupidity, and cooperation works better than chaos, so why shouldn’t they have a competitive advantage?
What’s caused the problem is the habit of viewing the world exclusively as a mechanical system. That approach has been fruitful in the physical sciences, but it has no place for intelligence, meaning, or agency, so it defeats itself when applied to the world as a whole. It can deal with protons, but not with physics as a science carried on by intelligent human beings, so in the long run it undermines even science.
Man is rational, at least to the extent that if he drives intelligence and meaning out of his understanding of the world he will eventually drive them out of his way of life. What we need, then, is a fundamental change of understanding that makes intelligence and meaning integral to how things are. To be functional and stable the new understanding must be concrete enough to give determinate results, and to deserve confidence it must have a way that can be counted on to settle disruptive questions.
That sounds a lot like Catholicism. Things haven’t been going well for the Church lately, but we’re not the only ones with problems. In the long run basic principles determine results, so if we can remain true to what we are then even from a purely this-worldly standpoint we have advantages that the forces of secular modernity can’t match. The conversion of the Roman Empire became final when thinkers like Augustine found they needed the Church to make sense of life and the world. What works best wins out, so there are reasons to expect something similar to happen again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In honor of the new Pope, Francis

Just in case you have the wrong impression of St Francis, he did NOT go around prancing among the birds and wildflowers hugging everyone and everything, he was a REAL piece of work, this could be very interesting. Hopefully he will "kick some butt" if you'll pardon the slang, however it is needed in the Curia and the church as a whole.

God Bless Him, and may His Pontificate be a good one.

From the Sword of Peter, one good catholic cartoon site

Monday, March 11, 2013

But they won't be lib religion hating leftist progressives like us

from the blog of Ann Althouse

Clueless, totally CLUELESS, almost painful to hear, realizing that contracepting aborting  libs are facing the biological solution


Daily Beast writers Harry Siegel and Allison Yarrow get the vapors over the possibility that conservative religion...

... might be the only viable solution to America's low birth rate problem. They get the vapors, they might be vapid, and Harry vapes.

Listen to the desperation as they sidetrack into the topic of whether the children of conservative religionists will veer into decently acceptable liberalism (and become... tattoo artists!). They never return to the issue of whether religion is needed to keep the population going into the future. If the offspring don't maintain the conservative values that caused their parents to have children, how do you get the next generation?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

same old same old, the liberals keep trying

they keep hoping to drag the church into the "Modern World"

We are to be in this world not of this world

Friday, March 8, 2013

why does it take an athiest to explain things

He makes  Piers Morgan look like the ass he is, Penn is closer to an understanding of Catholicism that the idiot catholic on the other side of the table