Saturday, May 30, 2015

Traditional Marriage: A Brief Defense

Some brief arguments on behalf of traditional marriage:

Conservatives hold a deep respect for tradition. Every generation possesses a cultural inheritance bestowed to them by earlier generations. Whatever traditions constitute part of this inheritance rest upon the reasoning of those earlier generations. Traditions can be changed; some should be changed. Conservatives hold that tradition remains the default position, however,  and that suggested changes must have compelling reasons as justification.

Traditional marriage between one man and one women is such tradition. (It is, of course, a Western European tradition as part of our cultural inheritance from the Greeks and the Romans. It is NOT a biblical tradition, although Christianity has sanctioned traditional marriage. Biblical marriage, of course, is polygamous.)

Traditional marriage is a social reality based upon biological reality. Men  and women engage in sexual intercourse, procreate, rear their offspring, and form kinship networks based upon consanguinity. Homosexual couples cannot do these things. They cannot engage in sexual intercourse properly speaking. They cannot procreate. They cannot form new kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Obviously, some marriage couples cannot procreate. Although evolution designed two genders for the continued preservation of the species, some people are unable to have children. The fact that some couples cannot have children or that some couples choose not to have children seems irrelevant to the question of same sex marriage. Marriage recognizes the potentiality for children. No same sex couple possesses the potentiality for children.

Centuries ago, Aristotle argued that to understand the justice of any social practice, one must understand its telos--its end or purpose. Only traditional marriage fulfills the fundamental purposes of family formation. Consequently, it is just to restrict marriage to the traditional formula of one man and one woman.

And this is why in every state the laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman constitute part of family law or family code.

Marriage is a social convention with social purposes that we as a society can change and define anyway we want. We can change the definition of marriage to include couples of the same sex. We change the definition of marriage to include good old fashioned Biblical or Koranic polygamy. We can change the definition to include new fashioned gender neutral polyamorous relationships.

There just do not seem to be any compelling reasons why we should.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sexual Disorientation

Several recent posts, here at Right Detour explored the nature of marriage as part of human social reality that rests upon biological reality.

Four million years of human evolution has yielded two genders for the reproduction and rearing of offspring. Nature has provided that men and women are drawn together to some degree subconsciously by subtle visual, auditory, and olfactory cues. For centuries men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Over the centuries different societies have devised different social conventions that sanction human pairing and infuse it with meanings particular to those cultures. They call it marriage. They are all but universally based upon pairings between men and women. Marriage was created by heterosexuals for heterosexuals.

Yet homosexuals, who make up somewhere between 1%-2% of the population, claim to experience an innate attraction to persons of the same sex. (Because this describes one’s private, subjective mental state, no one can or should contest that claim). They also claim to be born "that way" and that homosexuality results from natural biological processes in the same way as heterosexuality. (That is a very different claim that is by no means obviously true). Consequently, they argue, homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality and should not be the basis of discrimination in the issuing a marriage licenses. But if homosexuality is explained strictly by biology, this makes homosexuality something of a biological anomaly.

Scientists do not usually talk about purposes when describing natural processes such as evolution. Modern science has long abandoned a teleological view of the universe for a mechanistic one. But the mechanisms of evolution have made heterosexuality the biological norm. It is not heterosexuality that needs explanation; it is homosexuality. How is homosexuality to be explained?

The traditional explanation of homosexuality is not biological at all, but psychological and /or moral. Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association included homosexuality among its list of sexual deviations in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At that time it substituted Sexual Orientation Disturbance, which referred to people who were unhappy with , in conflict with, or wanting to change, their orientation. This did not mean the APA normalized homosexuality. The author of the change in nomenclature wrote that “by no longer listing it as a psychiatric disorder we are not saying that it is "normal" or as valuable as heterosexuality.” This change occurred, however, as a reaction to political pressure, not as a result of new research evidence or better reasoning about homosexuality. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later.

At the same time, many jurisdictions in the United States still criminalized certain sexual practices associated with homosexuality. Statutes usually referred to such things as "crimes against nature" rather than violations of the Christian scriptures. As a society we have never squared homosexuality as a mental disorder with homosexuality as a criminal activity. If it is a mental disorder, why to we criminalized it? The same situation persists today with pedophilia. It is still considered a mental illness but is also criminalized.

A more contemporary explanation relies on genetics. Genes determine physical characteristics of biological organisms. It is possible that a mutation triggers drives in homosexuals that deviate from those inherited by the vast majority of other members of homo sapiens. Perhaps homosexuals carry an allele that accounts for the deviation from nature's norm. If true, it suggests that homosexuality is natural in that it results from natural processes. But it is certainly a maladaptive trait. The possession of a homosexual allele or some other genetic factor does not affect directly the viability of the individuals who carry it. But, like most mutations, it is does not appear to enhance the survival of the species as a whole. Homosexuals couples cannot reproduce themselves. If homosexuals found themselves separated geographically so that their gene pool became isolated, it would not lead to new species. It would lead to extinction. Some research suggests, however, the counter intuitive conclusion that homosexual factors in the genes actually increase the chances for reproductive success among heterosexuals. And this explains the persistence of homosexual genetic traits in the general population.

A somewhat different appeal is to behavioral genetics. Genes play a determinate role in the instinct bases species-specific behaviors exhibited by animals. Scientists have now embarked on studies of behavioral genetics in humans. They suggest that a variety of genes contribute to human behavior. This seems to be a much more difficult task, given that humans do not really exhibit instinctual behaviors like other animals. Humans distinguish themselves from other animals by the possession of free will. And this brings us back to the controversy over homosexuality as a matter of choice. Moreover, researchers have yet to find a "homosexual gene."

Some researchers believe that genes contribute to homosexuality indirectly. They suggest that some malfunction of the genes that govern intrauterine development result in homosexual orientation or at least susceptibility to the development of a homosexual orientation. This seems the most probable.

Perhaps homosexuality results from some combination of biological processes, social conditioning, and choice. A recent pamphlet produced by the American Psychological Association suggests just that:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles..."

Does this mean homosexual relationships are evil? No,

Does this mean homosexual relationships are less worthy? No.

But neither does it contribute much to the argument for homosexual marriage.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marriage: Social, Anthropological, and Legal

Although rooted in biological realities, marriage exists mainly as a social convention.

Marriage is historically understood as a union between a man and woman. Efforts to describe just what kind of union reveals its multifaceted character. The most common models understandings include marriage as a social practice, a religious rite, a legal contract, and a civil institution.

First, marriage as a social practice is the most fundamental. As a social practice, marriage precedes political society and the modern state’s establishment of marriage as a legal institution. Marriage brings together a man and woman into a new relationship between them and into a new standing before the larger society. For most of human history and in traditional patriarchal societies today, fathers arrange the marriages of their children. Arranged marriages usually are endogamous in that they maintain existing kinship networks. Marriages between relatives sharing some degree of consanguinity reinforces tribal or clan identity. Of course, families arrange exogamous marriages outside the existing kinship ties as well in order to establish new ones. Enhancing the economic well-being or status of the families motivates many if not most arranged marriages. As a social practice, traditional marriage serves the related functions of regulating sexual behavior, establishing the legitimacy of offspring, and defining property arrangements. Romantic love or passion between spouse either do not constitute a crucial aspect of arranged marriages at all or is expected to emerge during the marriage. The rise of modern romantic marriage, however, fundamentally altered traditional practices. In the West and in other less traditional societies, modern marriage is understood as a matter of individual choice.

Second, because most societies contain one or more religious traditions, marriage is also considered a religious rite. The ceremony informs the event with religious meaning as the couple assumes a new standing before God--however he is conceived. This usually means some religious official presides over the ceremony, confers divine blessings on the union, and provides some sort of theological understanding of marriage within that society‘s religious tradition. Marriage as a religious right endures even in today’s more secular age. In most nations, the state authorizes religious officials to conduct marriages.

Third, because marriage involves some agreement between parties, whether between family heads in an arranged marriage or between individuals in modern marriage, it is also described as a contract. In fact, most civil codes today define it as such. When a proposal for marriage is agreed upon, the couple exchanges promises regarding rights and duties. Marriage differs from other legal contracts, however,  in that the parties rarely write out the rights and duties as clauses in a  formal agreement. The modern state has assumed regulatory powers over marriage through licensing. The state establishes licensing procedures and specifies who may enter into marriage contracts and what kinds of marriage contracts it will recognize. The state accords recognition based upon the interests of the state.

That last point is the essential one the in current debate about same sex marriage. Few people oppose, or at least possess any standing to oppose, a same sex marriage ceremony conducted in some liberal mainline church or Las Vega wedding chapel. Any same sex couple has the freedom to walk an aisle, make mutual pledges of love and fidelity,  and declare to their friends that they are now  . . .  well, spouse and spouse.

The point of debate is whether or note states lie under any moral or legal obligation to recognize such unions.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Marriage: Nature and Convention

As previously noted, marriage is an institution that constitutes part of the social reality created by human beings. It is rooted, however, on the biological reality of two genders.

An older but similar way of looking a marriage considers the question of whether the bonding of the sexes and the establishment of marriage as an institution is natural or conventional--or perhaps a little of both.

To the degree that marriage is natural , it should be rooted in human nature and  should possess a uniformity across time, place, and cultures. To the degree that marriage is conventional, it will differ across time, place, and cultures.

As is customer here at The Rational Right, Aristotle serves as the starting point.

Aristotle seems to think of the bonding of the sexes as natural. It is necessitated by those natural drives that lead to sexual intercourse and procreation. It is not a result deliberate purpose, i.e., convention:

 "There must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because in common with other animals and with plants, mankind  have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves,), and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved."

It is not certain what Aristotle means here by a natural desire to create offspring. Certainly men and women possess natural visceral urges for sexual intercourse. And although the natural purpose or function behind sexual intercourse is procreation, that is probably not what is foremost in the minds of couples in the heat of the moment. Either pleasure alone or its combination with the purpose of expressing one's emotional affection for another is in their minds--although physical pleasure is only accidental to the biological purpose of sexual intercourse.

Aristotle sees it as natural in another sense. It serves to meet human needs or ends. These needs are chiefly material. Aristotle sees the household as the primary wealth generating institution. The word Aristotle uses for household is that same by which we get word economy.

"The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men's everyday wants. . ."

Enlightenment era philosophers echoed Aristotle's assertions.

Jean Jacques Rousseau called the family "the most ancient of all societies and the only one that is natural."

John Locke, too, thinks along the same lines. In Locke's view, God put mankind "under strong Obligations of Necessity, Convenience, and inclination to drive him into Society, as well as fitted him with Understanding and Language to continue and enjoy it." He calls  the relationship between man and wife "the first society." This seems to fit the description of natural.

And like Aristotle, Locke notes the economic as well as the procreative ends or purposes served by the conjunction of male and female:

"Conjugal Society is made by a voluntary Compact between man and woman: and tho' it consist chiefly in such a Communion and Right in one anothers Bodies, as is necessary to its chief End, procreation: yet is draw with it mutual Support, and Assistance, and a Communion of Interest too, as necessary to their common Off-spring, who have a right to be nourished and maintained by them, till they are able to provide for themselves."

"For the end of conjunction between Male and Female, being not bare Procreation, but the continuation of the Species, this conjunction betwixt male and female ought to last, even after Procreation, so long as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young Ones, who are to be sustained by those that got them, till they are able to shift and provide for themselves."

In Locke' view, the lengthy period that passes before offspring possess the ability to fend for themselves and the fact that a couple will continue to production additional children explains why the conjunction of male and female lasts much longer that that between other animals.

While Locke argues that the natural and "chief end" of the conjunction of male and female is procreation and the continuation of the species, in the passage above he also notes a conventional aspect as well. He calls conjugal society a "voluntary compact between a man in a woman." This characterization of marriage as a compact constitutes part of the foundation of his larger purpose: demonstrating that the formation of political society, too, is voluntary compact among citizens. It also seem to distinguish, however,  marriage as a conventional social institution distinct from the conjunction of male and female for the natural purposes of procreation and material well-being.

Immanuel Kant,too, rests his own definition of marriage on the biological reality of two genders. He defines marriage as "the union of two people of different sexes with a view to the mutual possession of each other's sexual attributes for the duration of their lives.”

Sexual intercourse leads to procreation and "from the fact of procreation there follows the duty of preserving and rearing children."

This duty (one of Kant's favorite words) of rearing children continues "so long as it is itself incapable of making proper used of its body as an organism and of its mind as an understanding."

Etc. Etc Etc.

Enlightenment era thinkers then, despite their attempt to break away from Scholastic and even classical philosophy, only confirm the traditional Western view of marriage and the family. In this view, marriage is a social convention that rests upon nature.

Or returning to the previous post, it is part of human social reality resting on the brute biological reality of two genders.

It seems beyond their wildest imagination that someone might conceive of marriage detached from the fact of sexual intercourse between men and women and the procreation  and the continuation of human species.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Marriage: Social and Biological Realities

In several previous posts, I noted the most fundamental difference between conservatism and liberalism lies in the contrast between virtue or liberty as the end or goal of any political society. Conservatism,  at least the version promoted here, envisions the end or goal of government as the inculcation of virtue or human excellence in citizens. Liberalism sees the primary goal of government as the protection of liberty.

I also noted that the inculcation of virtue, however, does not begin with the government. It begins with the family. So it is only appropriate to post some different perspectives on the family. This also will present the opportunity to make some observations on the current controversy over the controversy of same sex marriage.

Marriage constitutes part of the social reality created my human beings. Marriage, government, money, religion, schools, professional associations, and economic institutions are the most obvious constituents of the social reality of modern mankind. Marriage has been constituted in various ways in different places and human beings. As such, we can define marriage any way we want. This social reality is based, however, on a fundamental biological reality: the existence of two genders.

Over the course of four million years, biological evolution has yielded two sexes for the reproduction and rearing of offspring to perpetuate the human species. Human reproductive organs possess an evolved compatibility. The male's external reproductive organs and the female's mostly internal reproductive organs when properly functioning enable intercourse and reproduction. Although instinct does not determine human behavior the same way that it does in other species, natural tendencies involving various visual, auditory, and olfactory cues influence human mating. Facial appearance, voice pitch, and the more subtle influences of pheromones such androstadienone and copulance draw the sexes together. Sexual desire itself as a visceral urge is expressed through human sexual intercourse. These biological phenomena assist in establishing human mating generally and finding genetically advantageous mates specifically.

Some interesting and informative videos can be found here.

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Men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity since the emergence of homo sapiens. Wherever humans inhabit the globe, they establish families. And wherever humans establish families, they do so through the pairing of the two genders.

One way perhaps to clarify discourse on this topic (at the expense of brevity) is to define the biological reality as the bonding, pairing, or conjunction of the sexes and the institutional reality as marriage.