Sunday, November 29, 2009


Motorizing the Ol' Goal Posts

It seems that Australians ... or at least a certain Matthew MacDonald among them ... are familiar with the old tradition of moving the goalposts:

Not all discrimination is unjust and not all relationships are the same. Parents love their children – including their adult ones – but the law will not allow them to marry. Would we allow siblings who loved each other to marry – of course not! We discriminate and make distinctions between different kinds of relationships and with good reason. Only the relationship of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life can be a marriage.

Women and men are equal in dignity but we are not the same. We are a bit like hydrogen and oxygen – though both are gasses, they are not the same. When mixed they create water. So, too, only the love of a man and a woman, when intimately joined, have the possibility of creating something new – a child. Mixing hydrogen and hydrogen creates nothing – all you have is hydrogen. Only the joining of a man and a woman creates a 'marriage'.

So, it is only the potential to have children that somehow makes a marriage a "marriage." Not quite:

It does not follow that because some couples, either because of age or medical infertility, cannot have children they are the same as a homosexual couple. Their relationship – being between a man and a woman – has by nature the possibility of procreation even if that possibility is never realised. A relationship between two men or two women is of its nature simply not the same as the relationship between a man and a woman and cannot bring forth children.

Let's review the definition of "possibility": 1: the condition or fact of being possible; ... 3: something that is possible; 4: potential or prospective value. Let's even go on to the definition of "potential": 1 a: something that can develop or become actual; b: promise 2: reason to expect something; especially: ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence.

So, "possibility" does not mean "actually being possible" and "potential" doesn't mean "something that can develop or become actual" or a "reason to expect success." The words mean, apparently, in Mr. MacDonald's private definitions, some general notion that men and women can, together, make babies, regardless of the actual potential of the man and woman who are getting married. Note the circularity: a marriage can only be between men and women because they are men and women, irrespective of whether they can produce babies. But Mr. MacDonald is not done yet:

Social science has given ample evidence to support what common sense would tell us – that a child has the greatest possibility of growing to be a healthy and well rounded contributor to the community when raised with the love of both father and mother. In a same-sex household, children will always be unjustly deprived of the chance to be nurtured in the unique relationship which exists genetically and spiritually with at least one of their biological parents.

It does not follow that because some parents, usually at enormous personal cost, do an heroic job of raising children on their own that it would not have been better for both the child and the solo parent had they had the benefit of the love and support of the other parent. The sad reality of a parent's death or a marriage breakdown is no justification for deliberately depriving a child of that important and irreplaceable relationship.

But wait a minute, Mr. MacDonald is claiming that:

Same-sex relationships are not the same as the union of a man and a woman. They can never be marriages. This is an attempt at social engineering that will have disastrous consequences.

Shouldn't we be taking the children away from single parents then and placing them in two parent households? If being raised by two daddies or two mommies is such a disaster, then surely being raised by only one is twice as damaging to children? No doubt, Mr. MacDonald will say the cases are different because ... um ... they are simply different as he did before.

And they wonder why certain atheists (and others) make mockery of their beliefs.

Let's explore MacDonald's chemical analogy a little, shall we?

The mixture of hydrogen and oxygen can lead to a combustion reaction, like the reaction that caused the Hindenburg explosion and killed 36 people.

The mixture of hydrogen and hydrogen can produce helium and energy, like the nuclear fusion reactions in the core of the sun that provide our planet with life-sustaining energy.

Not sure what this proves, other than to show that argument by analogy is often not very persuasive.
Especially when you are comparing simple elements subject to the strict laws of chemistry with the gloriously contradictory social interactions of highly complex human beings.
John, a nice correlation between the article and the picture! The goalposts in motion strongly resemble somebody-or-other's Golden Arches. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Bob Carroll
There was an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Pediatrics 109(2):341-344, Feb. 2002) that specifically addressed the issue of raising a child by a loving, same-sex couple, versus raising a child in a broken, dysfunctional "traditional" marriage. From the abstract: A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimum development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.
There was an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics ...

Thanks for that. I had nothing specific with which to challenge MacDonald's claim on that point, so I left it alone, even though I doubted it was so simple (minded).
"Only the relationship of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life can be a marriage."

So - no more divorce? And cheaters aren't married?
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