Sunday, November 02, 2008

CA Proposition 8: The Meaning of Marriage

Proposition 8: On the Definitions of Marriage and Planet

Whenever a person embraces a patently absurd argument, we have a window through which we can get a look at their moral character. If the reason that they accept the argument has nothing to do with its soundness or strength, then there must be something else motivating the agent's acceptance. Typically, it is the agent’s desires. The agent believes what he wants to believe. A look at an agent’s desires is a look at his moral character.

One absurd argument put forth in defense of California's Proposition 8 is that its defenders merely wish to preserve the traditional definition of marriage – a definition that has been accepted throughout history. It has nothing to do with hating homosexuals or the issue of rights. It's all about the meaning of a word. There certainly cannot be anything immoral with being devoted to preserving the definition of a word. It is a trivial thing, really.

Yet, the proponents of Proposition 8 seem to get quite worked up about this 'trivial thing'. In fact, the amount of energy that they put into defending this definition is proof enough that the issue is not trivial – that it is not merely concerned with the definition of a word. Those who claim it is are lying. Those who believe that it is are lying to themselves.

Let us look at another word whose definition has been put up for revision recently – the definition of the word 'planet'. The International Astronomical Union voted last year to redefine the word 'planet' in such a way that Pluto is now excluded. That has gotten quite a few people upset – they seem to have an affection for the idea that Pluto remains a planet.

There was even a move, ironically enough, to amend the Constitution in California to protect the original meaning of the word – to pass an amendment that says that the term 'planet' shall be defined in such a way that Pluto is still a planet.

However, people ultimately decided that amending California's constitution to protect the definition of 'planet' was absurd. This is not the type of thing that should go into a constitution. In fact, some people feared that an attempt in California to preserve and protect the definition of 'planet' through a constitutional amendment would make the state the laughing stock of the world. I do not know if others would have found such an amendment laughable, but they should.

Language is a tool and, like all tools, it should be designed to serve the purposes for which that tool will be used. As an invention, languages change over time . . . they typically improve over time, to reflect our better knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live.

The word 'atom' originally meant 'without parts'. It was once thought that the fundamental particles of any element – gold, copper, carbon – could not be divided into smaller parts. So, they were literally named, 'things without parts' or 'a – toms' (without – parts).

Only, as our understanding of the world improved, scientists began to realize that the thing they had been calling atoms did have parts – electrons, neutrons, and protons. So, over time, they changed the definition of 'atom'. It ceased to mean “thing without parts” and came to refer to these fundamental units of any element.

The word 'malaria' originally meant 'bad air'. It was once thought that bad air made people sick. When a person who lived near a swamp got sick, it was said that they got 'bad-air disease' or 'mal-aria'. However, as our understanding of the world grew we came to realize that bad-air disease happens to be transmitted by mosquitoes, which happen to thrive in swamps, which happen to produce foul-smelling gasses. The disease was not caused by the foul smelling gasses, it was caused by a bacteria. So, the definition of 'malaria' changed from 'bad air' to the sickness spread by these mosquitoes that once was thought to have been caused by bad air.

Today, the term 'planet' is up for revision.

Actually, the term 'planet' originally meant 'wandering star'. It was once thought that the stars themselves were fixed in the sky – permanent and unchanging – except for five 'stars' that moved across the sky over time - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Further knowledge revealed that they were big round things much like Earth orbiting the sun, so the meaning of the term 'planet' changed. And we discovered a few more – Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Then scientists started to learn that Pluto-sized things might be quite common, and had more in common with smaller rocks floating around outside of the orbit of Neptune than the big rocks circling closer to the sun. Pluto had more in common with those outer solar system objects than planets. So, the decision was made to agree to a new definition of Planet. Pluto came to be excluded.

The change in the definition of 'marriage' is no less of a matter of our improved understanding of the world than these other changes have been. We know that some people acquire a brain structure that causes them to form bonds of affection similar to what most of us feel towards members of the opposite sex, with members of the same sex. Changing the definition of 'marriage' to include same-sex relationships is no different than changing the definition of 'planet' to exclude Pluto.

It cannot be the case that the only thing that is important in Proposition 8 is preserving the definition of a word. Preserving the definition of a word has never been that important before. Thus, as I wrote at the start of this essay, those people who claim that their support for Proposition 8 is motivated merely by a desire to preserve the traditional meaning of a word are lying.

Furthermore, if an agent actually believes that he is supporting Proposition 8 because of a desire to preserve the meaning of a term, then he is lying to himself. It takes only a moment of reflection to realize that “If the real reason for supporting Proposition 8 were to merely preserve the meaning of a term, I would be supporting millions of other initiatives as well, because words change meaning all the time.”

The main point, however, is not that this 'definition of marriage' argument is such a poor argument. Others have made this point, and they tend to stop here. My point, however, is that there is a further implication.

Desires influence what a person believes. A person who did not want to believe that the harm inflicted on others is justified may be driven by that desire to reject a good argument – but he will be inclined to reject arguments that others are to be harmed, even when there is good reason to do so. He will greet such an argument with, “No. There must be some mistake. It cannot be the case that this harm done to others is justified. Go over the argument again. Make sure that it makes sense.”

If a person, on the other hand, embraces a poor argument merely because it justified actions harmful to others, then we do not have a person who is saying, "I do not want these people to be harmed, so you must prove that the harm is justified." You have a person saying, "I want these people to be harmed so badly, that I will grasp at even the most senseless argument as long as it claims to suggest that I can go ahead and do the harm that I want to see done."

When people embrace a foolish argument that justifies harm to others, the problem is not just the fact that they made a mistake. There is a further problem seated in their moral character if they are the type of person who not only cannot see that mistake, but does not want to see it.

46 comments:

Mike Hammari said...

A planet is independent of its title. By reclassifying Pluto we did not inherently change Pluto. By expanding the definition of a social policy we change that institution. It will not be with consequences. I don't even care if we agree on what the consequences will be, it is irresponsible to pretend that over the next 50 years this change will only effect Webster's dictionary.

Katesickle said...

"One absurd argument put forth in defense of California's Proposition 8 is that its defenders merely wish to preserve the traditional definition of marriage"

Anyone who uses this argument needs to take a refresher history course. Marriage today has nothing in common with tradition. We only allow two people to marry--traditionally, polygamy was common. We marry for love. Traditionally, marriage was about power and wealth. You married to solidify an alliance, or to gain a position of higher standing. Today we choose our own spouse. Traditionally, parents chose for their children.

If we were to truly preserve 'traditional' marriage, many people would be in for a shock.

Paula said...

The change in the definition of marriage is also more significant than the change in the definition of a planet. Planets are still satellites of a star. When I recently looked up marriage in a dictionary, it was defined as "the lifetime union of a man and a woman". Removing the man and woman from that definition is more akin to removing the satellite part of the definition of planet. You would be left with something essentially meaningless.
Why is the union of a man and a woman different from any other? Try the basic biology of reproduction. Think that might have something to do with marriage? Does an orbit around a star have something to do with being a planet?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Paula

A 'Planet' used to be a satellite of the Earth, back when the Earth was thought to be the center of the universe - and the Church would threaten to kill anybody who said otherwise.

It is strange how you were able to come to learn a whole different definition of 'Planet' as something that orbits the star, and the world did not come to an end.

And I think that, if the definition of 'marriage' were to change, scientists would be hard pressed to find any biological changes in human reduction following from that fact.

Again, these arguments are absolutely absurd. It is amazing that there are people so intent on doing harm to others that they would grasp such flimsy straws as these - who cannot bear the thought of treating others with dignity and respect.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

mike hamari

I can't tell if you are agreeing with me or disagreeing with me.

Proposition 8 concerns the rights and liberties that people will be allowed to enjoy in the state of California. It is not merely about the definition of a word. It is about how the government of California will treat its citizens.

The harm that supporters of Proposition 8 intend to do to a large number of California citizens is very real harm. If it were just about the definition of a term in a dictionary, then I certainly would not consider it worth my time and attention.

My objection is raised against those who speak as if their major concern is protecting the definition of a word when the real reason and purpose behind the law is to establish a legal state of affairs that does very real harm to others for no good reason.

Anonymous said...

"the Earth was thought to be the center of the universe - and the Church would threaten to kill anybody who said otherwise."

Where the hell did you learn your history?

rose said...

Through a variety of experiences,individuals develop a personal definition of what marriage is,as well as accompanying values regarding marriage.Some Protestant denominations label marriage as a covenant,while Catholics speak of marriage as a sacrament.
As a result,it considered discriminatory to raise concerns that marriage serves a practical societal and biological function for our species.
--------------------------
rosejenifar
Influencer

Eneasz said...

Anon - I'm assuming you never heard of Gallileo? Or Giordano Bruno? I think the real question is where the hell did YOU learn YOUR history? (home schooling?)

PhysicistDave said...

eneasz wrote to anon:
>where the hell did YOU learn YOUR history? (home schooling?)

Eneasz, you are a bigot.

I have a Ph.D. from Stanford (theoretical physics) and am currently a stay-at-home parent homeschooling my kids.

I’ll not only put my kids up against you or your kids (at the same age) in terms of their knowledge of math and science; I’d also cheerfully whip you or your kids in terms of my kids’ knowledge of history.

Just to mention a couple topics off the top of my head that we have recently covered, what do you know of Washington’s confession of having murdered Jumonville as a result of his corrupt involvement in the Ohio company or of his reluctance to attend the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 because, as he put it in his letter to Jay, “In strict propriety a Convention so holden may not be legal…. My name is in the delegation to this Convention; but it was put there contrary to my desire, and remains contrary to my request.”?

Yeah, I know, I’m some kind of horrible extremist for teaching my kids stuff from primary sources that is considered unfit for children in the government-operated schools. That’s why my kids are a lot smarter than you and why they have a great deal less faith in the US governing elite than you do.

Incidentally, my kids are regularly tested by a local school district, and they test three to seven years beyond grade level on national standardized tests.

Of course, there are some stupid people who are homeschooled, or who are homeschooling parents. But, I have run into few of them. At least homeschooling parents care enough about their kids’ education to be closely involved in it, which is true of very few public-school kids’ parents I know.

I bet I know a lot more homeschooling families than you do. And, they are not uneducated ignoramuses. On the contrary, if you wish to see an uneducated, bigoted ignoramus, I suggest you look in the mirror.

And, by the way, my wife and I happen to be atheists: the belief that homeschoolers are all a bunch of fundamentalists is just one more false, bigoted belief.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

PhysicistDave said...

Rose wrote:
>As a result,it considered discriminatory to raise concerns that marriage serves a practical societal and biological function for our species.

It is? By whom?

Since marriage obviously does serve certain functions for our species, the fact that some fool considers mentioning that fact “discriminatory” merely proves that he is, well, a fool.

Reasonable people can and do differ over the function and meaning of marriage. But to claim that merely discussing such issues or concerns is “discriminatory” comes very close to being an assault on freedom of speech.

Dave

Alonzo Fyfe said...

PhysicistDave

The fact that some children are homeschooled well does not change the fact that there are a lot of people who use homeschooling to fill their childrens' heads with nonsense that they would not get in a public school.

There is a portion of the homeschooling population that uses this method so that their children do not become corrupted with ideas such as evolution and free of religious wrongdoing (except for those OTHER religions, of course).

Tom said...

PhysicistDave said, "the belief that homeschoolers are all a bunch of fundamentalists is just one more false, bigoted belief." He also said, "At least homeschooling parents care enough about their kids’ education to be closely involved in it, which is true of very few public-school kids’ parents I know."

It is fine to be emotional and proud of raising your kids the way you are, Dave, but there are plenty of ways of proclaiming that without making bigoted statements yourself.

PhysicistDave said...

Alonzo wrote to me:
>The fact that some children are homeschooled well does not change the fact that there are a lot of people who use homeschooling to fill their childrens' heads with nonsense that they would not get in a public school.

Alonzo, I suspect that I know enormously more homeschoolers than you do, and I have not met any of the people you describe. Frankly, I think you are simply showing your prejudice.

On the other hand, objective statistics are quite clear (the international TIMMS study, for example) that American public schools are an utter disaster. In my observation, even highly rated public schools do an extraordinarily poor job of educating children, whether one is talking reading, math, history, or science.

Eneasz made a bigoted and ignorant comment about homeschoolers in general, with no attempt to back it up. What was especially bizarre was that this resulted from Eneasz’ making a misstatement of fact and then trying to defend himself by launching gratuitous attacks on others instead of admitting his own mistake.

That is shameful, and, frankly, it is this sort of behavior that gives a bad name to those of us who are not religious believers.

Of course, there are some lousy homeschoolers, just as there are some lousy surgeons, barbers, trash collectors, etc. Find any large group of human beings and you will find some bad apples.

But Eneasz’ little quip was derisory towards homeschoolers in general. There is no evidence to back that up.

There is a great deal of evidence (such as the TIMMS studies) to back up the assertion that most American parents who send their kids to government-operated schools are engaged in educational child abuse.

In recent years, I happen to have had a couple friends who were very strong boosters of public schools and who looked into all this in some depth: one was a special ed teacher in one of the top school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area; the other was an ed professor at Cal State U here in Sacramento.

After looking carefully into the functioning of the public schools in their respective metro areas in order to find a good school for their oldest child when she reached kindergarten age, both of these people, despite their intense support for the public schools, reluctantly concluded that they had to send their kids to private schools because the public schools no longer function educationally.

Since both of these people had spent several years arguing with me that I should send my kids to the public schools, both were awfully embarrassed to admit to me what they themselves had discovered.

But the truth is out there: no responsible parent should send her kids to the public schools.

Eneasz’ contempt for homeschoolers, considering the anti-intellectual nature of the public schools, is truly bizarre, rather as if someone advocated smoking as a way to improve one’s health. What makes Eneasz’ behavior especially contemptible is that it is due to his unwillingness to admit that his initial statement about history was simply a factual error, due, I suspect, to his own poor education.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

tom wrote to me:
> It is fine to be emotional and proud of raising your kids the way you are, Dave, but there are plenty of ways of proclaiming that without making bigoted statements yourself.

The only statement you quote from me was not bigoted in the slightest but was a simple statement of fact:
> "At least homeschooling parents care enough about their kids’ education to be closely involved in it, which is true of very few public-school kids’ parents I know."

That is not bigotry: it is a simple statement of fact about a large number of people I actually know. Of all the public-school parents I know personally, I know only one who is seriously involved in her children’s education. Of course, her children are also not going to a normal public school – they attend a special charter school.

Of course, unlike public-school parents, we homeschoolers are, of necessity, involved in our kids’ education all the time. Sit down and have an honest talk with a bunch of public-school teachers and they will give you an earful about how almost none of their students’ parents are really involved in the educational process.

I married the daughter of Chinese immigrants; we have numerous friends who are themselves Asian immigrants. These friends are absolutely stunned at the fraud that Americans call “schooling” and amazed at American parents’ unwillingness to take responsibility for their kids’ education.

That you do not like the statements of fact that I am reporting does not make my statements bigotry. Let me guess: you yourself were (mis-)educated in the American public schools?

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

Incidentally, the rather bizarre discussion I am having here trying to point out bigoted and false misstatements by Alonzo, Eneasz, and tom reminds me greatly of a recent online debate I had with a bunch of “traditionalist Catholics” over the Galileo issue.

They were quite convinced that I, and, apparently, all scientists, admitted that Galileo had been wrong! They claimed, again and again, that Galileo’s claims that the earth moved around the sun were contrary to science because he had no evidence for this, and that all of us scientists agreed with their point.

I told them, again and again, that in fact I know of no competent scientist who agrees with them on this, and that Galileo did indeed have evidence for the heliocentric theory.

All to no avail. To the end, they insisted that of course I knew that Galileo was wrong, but for some bizarre reason I was unwilling to admit it.

I doubt that I shall have any more success communicating with Alonzo, Eneasz, or Tom about homeschooling than I had talking with the Catholic traditionalists about Galileo.

Faith, in the minds of those who refuse to look at evidence, is indeed a mighty thing.

And, I am sure I would have just as great a problem explaining to Alonzo the reasons some of who are atheists had for voting for Prop. 8 out here in California. But, still, we won.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

tom,

I just checked out your blog and found out my guess was wrong – you were educated in a Christian school.

That actually makes an interesting point – your head was filled with all the Christian nonsense, and yet you still rejected it and learned to think for yourself.

I myself was raised attending a fundamentalist church. I was a bit more independent than you as a child: I steadfastly refused to be baptized, to “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,” to join the church, etc. Needless to say, the adults were not pleased by my choices, but since, officially, it was *my* choice, they had to accept it.

Yes, Christians fill their kids’ heads with nonsense in some areas. But then the public schools also still inculcate religion via “under God” in the Pledge, etc.

And, the public schools fill their kids’ heads with murderously dangerous lies, such as the claim that the Japanese initiated hostilities against the US in 1941.

In fact, several months before Pearl, US military aviators (the so-called “Flying Tigers”) had been sent to Asia to fight the Japanese: that was an act of war of which the Japanese were well-aware.

Indeed, twelve days before the attack on Pearl, FDR told his top advisors, recorded in Secretary of War Stimson’s diary entry for November 25, 1941 ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,792673,00.html ) , “The President brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked, perhaps (as soon as) next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what we should do. The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. . . .” This fact was presented in Congressional hearings in 1946, was covered in the mainstream media, and is a matter of public record, but I have yet to see it in any public-school history textbook.

Frankly, I am less concerned about some Christian kid having to learn as an adult that evolution is true than I am about the fact that, thanks to the public schools, most American adults still believe FDR’s vicious lie that the attack on Pearl was an unprovoked sneak attack by the evil Japanese, rather than the truth that it was a reprisal for US aggressive acts against Japan.

I could go on about this at great length: thanks to the public schools, very few Americans know about the repeated acts of unprovoked aggression that the US government has pursued for the last two centuries all around the world.

Dave

Eneasz said...

Hi Dave. I feel I must respond, and in addition, I must first apologize.

So to begin - I do apologize for denigrating home-schoolers. In the area that I live, most home-schoolers are people who want to isolate their children from any view that doesn't include "Jesus Christ was tortured for your sins, and you are horrible if you don't devote your life in thanks to him." I do (did?) therefore have quite a biased view of home-schooling. I don't know what to say in response to your defense of the practice. I still feel that more than anything, the most harmful part of home-schooling is the lack of exposure children get to views other than their parents, and the lack of ability to build vital social skills (which tend to be more important than other other kind if the metric used is "success in post-graduate life for the average human".)

But I from the sound of it, you probably have that problem well in control too. My statement was based only on the information I have currently (how could it be any other?) and if it was bigotted I want to apologize, and I would gladly look over any reviews you have of contemporary data.

I have no children of my own, but I was educated in the public school system, and I can't speak for all schools, but mine was pretty good. I know, for example, of the claims you make that FDR knew Pearl Harbor was incoming and let it happen to spur the nation to war, and that they have a fair amount of support.

I also don't have much love for public schools. I consider them not much more than holding pens that distort an adolescent's view of reality (see: one of my favoirte essays on the subject (and yes, I've read the counter-opinions as well). However this hatred of public schools fails to explain why it is that children/teens who WANT to learn, do so, spectacularly, and go on to achieve great things in life. Public schools are not a great evil, nor are they a great good - they are simply there, and what benefit is gained from them depends greatly upon the values instilled in children by their parents. I doubt that your children would become apathetic dead-heads if they went to public schools, because you have already infused them with the love for learning, and the drive to succeed, that allows children of caring parents to excel in any sort of school.

Let's not forget, quite a few idiots have "graduated" from private schools as well (need I name the currently-most famous one?)

Besides, public schools is the only option available to many (I was raised by refugees from communist Poland, private school was not an option), and often (at least in the part of the country where I live) home-schooling is worse.

However your posts seem to be intent on pointing out how you are better than others, and know more. Fair enough - you are a PHD in physics, and probably know more than anyone else here in terms of physics. And yet you say you voted FOR Prop 8? I don't want to be presumptive, but why would you want your children (if any of them should happen to be gay) to have less rights and freedoms than you enjoy? It sounds like you care for them quite a bit.

Tom said...

Dave,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Regarding my quote that you sound(ed) bigoted, well, the comment, as I read it, sounded bigoted. Your follow-up comments were presented much clearer.

Now, it would be interesting to hear your perspective on voting for prop 8. My response is that of what I assume to be the stereotypical atheist's response, that allowing gay marriage is not harmful to society and benefits homosexuals. You are an exception to my presumption, so I am curious.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Dave is certain that his children's hermite pursuit of knowledge should otherwise dissuade them from what would be an irrational and unfounded decision... to join in matrimony with a member of their own sex; they would surely scoff at such derision as the intellectuals they have become.

There is evidence that one exposed to higher degrees of socialities can better apply the knowledge one has gained through study to instances in the real world that demand of a more diacritical investigation. One can both empirically scrutinize and empathize with the beliefs of an individual, reveal their true motivations in the context of a broader subject, and then further clarify the findings of that instance in a more widely communicable mode. Barack Obama, for one, the office of President, is a good example.

Dave, you are simply mistaking a lack of intellectual knowledge for a deficit in any intelligence whatsoever. You are comparing your situation to the situation of the average American. Such a small sample to a such a large population. Your propensity to defend your children is commendable, but that it would occlude your ability to conduct but the simplest of scientific reasoning is, well, though not a surprise, on the verge of irresponsible. You are only correct in your little experiment if you yourself are the only accountable variable in your children's education.

I'd like to point out how you failed to mention that when home schooled 8th graders happened to score up to ten times greater on those math tests, those were against others of their age group, but when actually compared with 12th graders' results, they scored considerably worse, indicating that students become more dedicated in public schools in the last four years. Learning earlier doesn't always mean learning better.

You assume you are the only one capable of ensuring your children's successful education. That is incorrect. It is a notion typical of one home schooled oneself. A child raised with a strong constitution would reject the platitudes and insufficiency of any public school, devoting himself to rigorous intellectual pursuits. But then he may as well be studying at home, right? Not necessarily.

There are many great things to be taken from such a voracious and unhindered pursuit of knowledge (under the assumption public school parents aren't interested and involved in their children's education, and that's the only reason those children are behind), but there are worthier ways to apply oneself in life than books and a limited intellectual forum, a relationship with their father, can possibly convey; in all their facts and details, the experience of that incessant barrage of emotional interactions provided in the public schools could only be imagined.

A casual involvement at home could produce the same results. I know you feel you are the only one capable of ensuring a successful education for your children, and that the public school system will hamper their intellect. But then, whose fault would it be if that were allowed to take its full force? A father with such intellect has a moral responsibility for reprimanding his children if they deviate too far from their studies.

Are you suggesting that if you sent your kids to public school, you would no longer be a factor in their education? What would do, leave? Do you know this system is failed, or is this belief merely an experiential one?

Sorry in advance for appearing rather patronizing. And for assuming your children do nothing but study... I hope that's not the case. It's not a result of my desire to provide a superior intellectual position, what with my first-hand experience with the public school system. It's merely a conviction I had wished to express as relationally as I could. Sure, my intention might be self motivated, it might serve some purpose of satiating my own ego, but you must admit that there is a personal value in analyzing such egotism. That whatever value you ascribe to my post is a result of what you are personally capable of discerning, or willing to explore, regardless the context and ignorance of my post.

Martin said...

To Tom:

Being atheist doesn't mean you don't have some "moral constitution" that you are willing to impose on others. I think it all comes down to discomfort. It has nothing to do with the benefits of such a law to one subset of the citizenry over another. A victory for the evangelical Christians isn't really a victory for the individuals that comprise that group. It's a victory for the "social order" imposed by that institution, from which those individuals benefit a comfortable, unconfronted life.

PhysicistDave said...

eneasz wrote to me:
>I know, for example, of the claims you make that FDR knew Pearl Harbor was incoming and let it happen to spur the nation to war, and that they have a fair amount of support.

That was not what I said, if you look back at what I wrote: I don’t know whether FDR knew the attack was coming specifically at Pearl. He *should* have known: the US had intel that suggested this. But government messes up so much that it is quite possible that a snafu occurred and he never got the needed data.

I doubt we will ever know.

What is not under debate among historians is the quote that I gave from Time magazine: as long ago as 1946, it was a matter of public record, thanks to Secretary Stimson’s diary, that FDR knew and expected Japan to attack somewhere: he had, after all, provoked that attack through numerous actions – the Flying Tigers’ being sent to attack the Japanese was only the most obvious of those provocations.

Yes, everyone has heard of the grand and never-to-be-settled debate about whether FDR knew of the coming attack on Pearl. What most people do not know is the content of the Stimson quote, which is ironclad history, not subject to debate as to its facticity, unlike the debate about Pearl.

That was my point.

There are similar points about the Mexican War, the Civil War, etc.: evidence that is not under dispute among historians but that is unknown to most Americans shows the American government, in its foreign policy, to have behaved very much like Nazi Germany did when it faked the attack by Poland in 1939.

The US government has lied through its teeth for centuries in tricking the American people into war, and few Americans know this.

You also wrote:
>However this hatred of public schools fails to explain why it is that children/teens who WANT to learn, do so, spectacularly, and go on to achieve great things in life.

I was one of those spectacular students myself – near perfect SAT score (back before they dumbed down the scoring system), National Merit scholarship winner, etc. – and I can answer your question. I effectively homeschooled myself. I treated school as a chance to relax, waste time, and prove how smart I was (it was pretty easy for me to get an A average and to be valedictorian). I figured out in grade school that I would have to teach myself, and I did.

School was a real impediment to learning, but I did the best I could to work around that impediment, and largely succeeded.

You wrote:
>Public schools are not a great evil…

Well, for gifted students like me (and, as far as I could tell, for average students too), yes, they were a colossal evil. I survived them, but it was a real pain, and they were a real impediment to learning.

The public schools, as measured by objective criteria such as test scores, are even worse today than when I was a student forty years ago.

You also wrote:
>I doubt that your children would become apathetic dead-heads if they went to public schools…

Well, I certainly hope they would have the moral fortitude to fight the system until they were formally expelled!

With the advantage of hindsight, I wish I had done that myself. However, there were fewer options four decades ago -- no charter schools, almost no homeschooling, etc. Looking back with an adult’s knowledge, I realize that if I had made a big enough stink, I could somehow have gotten myself out of the system and not wasted thousands of hours in the public schools. But as a child, I did not understand that.

Hopefully, as most responsible parents remove their kids from the public schools, those schools will simply implode, as they become obviously nothing but cesspools, and will cease to exist. Experience before the twentieth century shows that it is quite simple to teach kids the very basics – the three Rs – that so many high-school graduates nowadays have never learned.

If we can destroy the public schools and make education a productive activity instead of a bureaucratic morass, Americans can be much better educated than almost anyone is today.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

anonymous wrote to me:
>There is evidence that one exposed to higher degrees of socialities can better apply the knowledge one has gained through study to instances in the real world that demand of a more diacritical investigation.
[snip]
>Barack Obama, for one, the office of President, is a good example.

So,, the (former) cocaine addict Barack Obama bamboozled the American people into choosing him as their current Messiah just as the (former) cocaine addict G. W. Bush did in 2000.

Americans seem to be keen on electing coke addicts as President lately.

One of the main reasons I am not sending my kids to the public schools is that I desperately do not want them to be “socialized” into drug-addled, unproductive, worthless parasites like Bush or Obama (admittedly, Barack can at least put sentences together in the English language).

You also wrote:
>'d like to point out how you failed to mention that when home schooled 8th graders happened to score up to ten times greater on those math tests, those were against others of their age group, but when actually compared with 12th graders' results, they scored considerably worse, indicating that students become more dedicated in public schools in the last four years.

The literal meaning of what you have written is that homeschooled eighth-graders did not know as much as twelfth-grade public-school kids in math. Your verbiage is so inarticulate that I cannot tell if that is what you really mean.

But you may be correct that the average homeschooler is not four grades beyond grade level.

The TIMSS data shows that American public-school students decline dramatically in high school in math compared to the rest of the world.

You also wrote:
>Are you suggesting that if you sent your kids to public school, you would no longer be a factor in their education? What would do, leave? Do you know this system is failed, or is this belief merely an experiential one?

They would be wasting over a thousand hours a year. That is a huge amount of time. It is difficult to make it up. I would not be teaching them in the public schools, so, yes, for much of the year, in effect, I would “leave” in terms of their education if I let them fall into the clutches of the public schools.

I went through the public schools myself; I therefore had to educate myself outside of school in the few hours of free time I had left. I succeeded, but it was very hard. I do not want to impose that burden on my kids.

No one should do that to their kids.

And, as I have said above (perhaps you read as badly as you write!), it is not just my personal experience: there is a huge amount of quantitative data, widely discussed in the media – I mentioned the TIMSS data as one good example.

You also wrote:
>It's not a result of my desire to provide a superior intellectual position, what with my first-hand experience with the public school system.

The way you have written your post does indeed nicely illustrate the results of a contemporary public-school education.

Thank you for proving my point so nicely.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

tom wrote to me:
> Regarding my quote that you sound(ed) bigoted, well, the comment, as I read it, sounded bigoted. Your follow-up comments were presented much clearer.

And, I erroneously assumed that you were a product of the public schools like me. Yeah, sometimes people misunderstand each other.

Incidentally, I am quite intrigued by your going into neuroscience at a rather mature age! I think that is where the action is scientifically in this century. Best of luck. By the way, have you read philosopher Colin McGinn’s “The Mysterious Flame” arguing that you guys can never really understand consciousness? Every neuro guy or gal should read it and then make it their professional ambition to prove that Colin’s pessimism is wrong. I think Colin would agree, by the way: he and I are Web acquaintances, and he’s a good enough fellow that he would enjoy being proven wrong.

You asked why, as an atheist, I voted for Prop. 8.

On election day, I happened to have a conversation with a young African-American fellow at the local university who was walking around carrying a sign urging people to vote for Prop. 8. He explained that his primary concern was that enshrining gay marriage in the law would mean that his pastor at his church, under the guise of equal protection, would be forced to marry gays, contrary to his religious beliefs.

This may seem rather far-out to people from outside of California. However, while I hope that his pastor would be protected by the First Amendment, anyone who knows the courts out here in California cannot be completely sure this guy’s fears were unfounded: we have some very goofy judges in California!

At any rate, it is almost certain that if gay marriage were allowed to remain a matter of state law (it was only recently imposed by a court decision), it would result in a good deal of litigation arguing that employers, businesses, etc. somehow discriminated against gays who were married as opposed to married heterosexuals.

That is the main reasons I voted against the proposition: I think that health-care benefits for gay partners, for example, should be settled by negotiation between employers and employees (or employee unions where they exist) rather than being settled by litigation in court.

“Gay marriage” is often considered a matter of “free association.” However, gays are already free to associate, between themselves, as they wish in California. We have long had a "consenting adults" law, and nothing in California law will prevent gays from holding a wedding ceremony for themselves if they wish, for example. The real issue is whether other people shall be forced by the state of California to accept that such a wedding was really a marriage. I would prefer to let everyone decide that for himself or herself, rather than having that conclusion dictated by the state of California.

The black fellow I talked with on election day agreed that gays should have the same rights as anyone else in terms of hospital visits, inheritance, etc., and, in fact, everyone I have talked to out here in California agrees on that.

Incidentally, the African-American community in California voted overwhelmingly *for* Prop. 8: there was even, according to CNN, a phone bank calling African-Americans with a recording of Obama’s voice (from some time in the past) declaring that he himself saw marriage as only between a man and a woman. Obama could have denounced this phone bank effort: he chose not to.

I did have some subsidiary reasons for voting for Prop. 8. At a fundamental level, I have thought for decades that the requirement to get a “license” from the state to get married is simply idiotic. Marriage is an agreement between two people – it should be a private contract between them, and the state should have no involvement. I’d like to stop marriage licenses for heteros: it’s just a pointless bureaucratic waste of taxpayers’ money. Extending marriage licenses to gays seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

I also enjoyed swatting down the judges who decided unilaterally on an issue that should properly have been decided by the legislature or by the people of California. Our state judiciary is way out of control out here.

Finally, I’ve recently been teaching my own kids about human sexuality and reproduction, from a strongly Darwinian perspective of course. One of the points I have been emphasizing is the intimate evolutionary connection between sex and reproduction: sexuality is simply evolution’s way of creating genetic resilience by mixing two different genomes together. To have a separate term for intimate relationships between a couple of opposite sexes, and to have special expectations for such relationships that do, quite often, lead to babies, seems to me to make sense in terms of Darwin.

Homosexuality is an evolutionary malfunction. Since it is not a malfunction in my genes but rather in some other people’s genes, I don’t really care (though I do have two fairly close family members who are gay, so I suppose they do negatively impact my own “inclusive fitness”). However, I do somewhat resent attempts to alter the English language so as to obscure differences that are indeed scientifically relevant: i.e., the difference between heterosexual sex and the accompanying relationships and homosexual “sex” and the accompanying relationships.

I don’t think corruption of language, especially by unilateral judicial fiat, is a good thing.

Anyway, I assume that this is at least as much as you ever wanted to know about why I voted for Prop. 8! This issue is not of deep importance to me (you should see how long I can go on about issues I really care about), and I know that reasonable people can and do disagree with my perspective. However, I hope I have explained why not all secularists/atheists are opposed to Prop. 8, as one might think.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

Eneasz,

I wanted to let you know that I did follow your link and read your essay on nerds.

You’re of course quite right that a major part of the reason that nerds are not popular is that, considering the time and energy required to be popular:
>The answer, I think, is that they don't really want to be popular.

I’d add that evolution has caused females to want to go for the football players (good hunters and protectors), not the calculus whiz (no value in the Paleolithic at all).

However, I suspect that in your age group this all may have mattered much more than in mine (I was born in the early ‘50s).

I was the nerdiest guy in my high school by a long shot. Yet, my classmates elected me to the Student Council ExComm my junior and senior years. I was a friendly acquaintance of the co-captains of the football team and some of the cheerleaders, and I even knew slightly the TV/movie star John Goodman, who happened to attend my high school: I have actually been one of three back-up singers to John on-stage (high-school production of course: “Hello, Dolly!”).

Of course, none of these guys invited me to any of their parties, but then we all knew I did not want to go to their parties! Why would I waste my Saturday evenings at a party when I could spend them studying tensor analysis or the errors in Keynes’ “General Theory” (I’m not kidding)? My close friends, male and female, felt much the same way (though none was as nerdy as I).

I dated a couple of girls, and was good friends with several others. The cheerleaders even showed up when I was on our team for the scholastic quiz show on a local TV station, which is pretty funny if you think about it (though I really did appreciate their effort).

While I knew I was not the most popular guy in our class, I was as popular as I wanted to be.

I had fun.

I was bullied on occasion in both junior high school and high school by a few of the real losers – until the bullies figured out that I was a big kid who was willing to fight back, and that I also knew how to get permission from the school authorities to fight back. For example, one PE teacher took me aside after class and asked me if I’d like him to deal with the bully or if I thought it would be better if I did it myself. I sighed and said that I thought I’d better deal with it.

I did. The whiny little bully complained that I was beating him up once he realized I had permission to fight back. Nobody listened to him.

I take it that the current life of nerds is rather less fulfilling than mine was, and I consider this one more argument against the current public schools.

You also wrote:
>And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done.

Yes, and that’s why I’m homeschooling: I value my kids’ time – in the end, time is all we humans have, and not that much of it – our lifespans are not that long. I see no reason why kids should be warehoused for thirteen years, even if the warehouses I spent my time in seem to have been much more pleasant than yours.

Very nice essay.

Dave

Eneasz said...

Dave, you sound seriously impressed with yourself. You probably have good reason to be. But when every other paragraph extolls your own virtues, it tends to get tiresome.

You were a product of public schools too, so feel free to stop sneering at others with quips like "you show the reading-comprehension of someone educated in public schools" (paraphrased)

Regarding Prop 8 - the fear that a priest may be forced to marry two people he does not want to marry is pure scare-mongering. It's as much a lie as this "War On Christmas" crap is (Democrats will make it illegal to celebrate christmas!). For someone as intelligent as you are, I find it hard to believe you couldn't see through this lie on it's merits. It leads me to believe you have what Alonzo refers to a "moral blindspot". Despite being intelligent and good on all other issues, you have developed a blind spot on this particular issue for purely emotional reasons.

I understand your position about how the state should not be issuing marriage licences at all, and that all partner-benefits should be negotiated by the employer-employee (very Liberterain). Personally, I agree. In a perfect world I don't think the state should have anything to do with personal relations between adults, straight or gay. However that is not the world we live in. States have been licencing marriage for thousands of years, and they won't stop any time soon. To say you vote for Prop 8 because you are striving for this ideal is as silly as saying that you'd vote to defund the police because ideally no one should be committing any crimes anyway. Again, I don't think a man with your intelligence would normally fall for such a poor arguement, unless he held such a moral blindspot.

You say you agree gay couples should have all the same rights of (for example) inheritance and visitation as straight couples, but when it's becomes possible for them to actually have these same rights you vote against it. This does not make sense.

Finally, reproduction. A very common arguement, and a very flawed one. First the standard counter-arguements - if this was really the criteria for marriage then couples too old to have children couldn't marry, nor could sterile people, nor could couples who do not want children. And once DNA-splicing becomes possible, a gay couple will be just as able to have a mixed-genes child as anyone else. Heck, gay people can already have children, and very many do, they just can't have children with their partner. Yet.

The Darwinian arguement fails on an even more basic level though. No animal has sex to reproduce (with the possible exception of humans, altho very rarely). Animals have sex because it feels good. Mixing genomes and reproducing is merely a side-effect (from the animal's point of view). In fact, for humans, it is almost always an unwanted side-effect. We go through great measures, sometimes costly measures, to ensure that reproduction will NOT occur due to sex.

On top of that, "sex" is not the reason people get married. It is to signify a bond of trust and love. Sex can be had without marriage very easily.

Finally, basing moral decisions on how something happens in nature is a tragic mistake. I'm sure I don't have to bring up the thousands of examples of brutality that's been bred into species because it is the most evolutionarily adaptive solution. Fortunatly, we are better than evolution. We can rise above our Blind Idiot God

In summary, you seem too intelligent to hold the views you say you hold, which leads me to believe you have a moral blindspot when it comes to this topic. That's not in itself a failing, but now that you know about it, it's worth your effort and energy to analyze it.

(ad. - the above link leads to a very long post. I am quoting below the most relevant part, in italics)

In a lot of ways, evolution is like unto theology...the Shaper of Life is not itself a creature. Evolution is bodiless, Omnipresent in Nature,. Vast as a planet's surface. Billions of years old. Itself unmade, arising naturally from the structure of physics. Doesn't that all sound like something that might have been said about God?

And yet the Maker has no mind, as well as no body. In some ways, its handiwork is incredibly poor design by human standards. It is internally divided. Most of all, it isn't nice.

In a way, Darwin discovered God - a God that failed to match the preconceptions of theology, and so passed unheralded...instead Darwin discovered a strange alien God...really genuinely different from us. Evolution is not a God, but if it were, it wouldn't be Jehovah. It would be H. P. Lovecraft's Azathoth, the blind idiot God burbling chaotically at the center of everything...

Which you might have predicted, if you had really looked at Nature.

So much for the claim some religionists make, that they are waiting innocently curious for Science to discover God. Science has already discovered the sort-of-godlike maker of humans - but it wasn't what the religionists wanted to hear. They were waiting for the discovery of their God, the highly specific God they want to be there. They shall wait forever, for the great discovery has already taken place, and the winner is Azathoth.

Well, more power to us humans. I like having a Creator I can outwit. Beats being a pet. I'm glad it was Azathoth and not Odin

Alma Alexander said...

"Why is the union of a man and a woman different from any other? Try the basic biology of reproduction."

Okay, then. I am a heterosexual woman happily married to a heterosexual man for nearly eight and half years now.

We do not have children. BY CHOICE. I did not want kids, he had a handful from his first marriage, it worked out fine for both of us.

But if the definition of "marriage" depends on "basic reproductive biology", well, hell, my marriage of eight happy years is invalid and should be annulled forthwith.

If you find this ridiculous, well, you SHOULD. Because it is. Whatever the proponents of keeping marriage "traditional" say, it IS NOT about reproductive biology.

A marriage between two gay people who genuinely wish to enter into one does not threaten, in any way shape or form, the definition of my own marriage. A marriage is between two PEOPLE. Not between a sperm donor and a womb.

PhysicistDave said...

eneasz wrote to me:
>Finally, reproduction. A very common arguement, and a very flawed one. First the standard counter-arguements - if this was really the criteria for marriage then couples too old to have children couldn't marry, nor could sterile people, nor could couples who do not want children.

That is not what I said.

I said that sexuality evolved because of its close and obvious connection to reproduction.

That is not open to any scientific dispute at all, and, indeed, is quite obvious to everyone.

Of course, heterosexual behavior does not always lead to pregnancy. But it would not exist at all if not for the fact that in certain circumstances it can and does lead to pregnancy.

The same is not true for homosexual “sex.”

I find that an interesting distinction, worth enshrining in our language. As the recent vote shows, so do most people, across the US.

You also wrote:
>you sound seriously impressed with yourself. You probably have good reason to be. But when every other paragraph extolls your own virtues, it tends to get tiresome.
>You were a product of public schools too, so feel free to stop sneering at others with quips like "you show the reading-comprehension of someone educated in public schools" (paraphrased)

That was not a quip but a statement of fact: the guy had insulted me, and he was in fact an inarticulate moron. I was too kind to him.

I am not an egalitarian: I have no desire to pretend that I am Michael Jordan’s equal in basketball or that the moron is my equal in intelligence. You find that tiresome. I find your attitude on that tiresome and, frankly, absurd.. C’est la vie.

You also wrote:
>Regarding Prop 8 - the fear that a priest may be forced to marry two people he does not want to marry is pure scare-mongering.

It is not. You, apparently, have not observed California judges for thirty-five years as I have.

They’re nuts.

For example, just last spring a state appeals court outlawed homeschooling out here, in a case that did not require them to decide anything of the sort. Fortunately, everyone from the Governator to our Democratic Attorney General (Jerry Brown) and our Democratic state superintendent of education pointed out to the moronic judges that they were going to be nailed for their incompetence, and they finally backed down and killed their own decision.

But that’s typical of the California judiciary – a bunch of washed-out old druggies whose brains are no longer functional. No, it’s not scare-mongering to expect the worst from these morons.

I simply disagree with you on the biology: sex and marriage are about reproduction – that is why sex evolved and why human societies have marriage. If you cannot accept that, I think you have a huge blind spot that betrays a grotesque inability to understand science.

It won’t surprise me if eventually “gay marriage” is generally legalized: if so, normal people will just invent another term, perhaps “real marriage” to refer to true heterosexual marriage.

We see a similar phenomenon with the strange gyrations used for the “polite” term for “African-Americans”: when I was a kid, it was “Negro,” then “black,” then “Afro-American,” then “African-American.” Those changes were due to the fact that each term came to have a somewhat negative connotation for some people: people adapted and the new term came to have the connotation they wished it to have (“minorities” is now a sneer term for many people: I remember when it was a “politically correct” term).

Reality is what it is. You and several people here are interested in social engineering to alter basic aspects of human attitudes by altering language. You may succeed in altering the language. You will fail to alter basic aspects of human nature.

Yes, in a way, I am a “libertarian,” even an “anarchist”: I’m certainly an “atheist” and a “secularist” as most people understand those terms. I also agree with fundamentalist Christians on more social values than I agree with you on.

As I said, my wife is the daughter of Chinese immigrants: her family is Confucian and Buddhist. But they generally have the same social values as fundamentalist Christians, values her parents brought with them from China (her parents are actually more “fundamentalist” than the American fundamentalists in their social views).

Human nature is more resistant than you cultural liberals think.

I like that. I really get a kick out of the fact that the Prop. 8 result irritates the hell out of you.

Good.

Frankly, my strongest motive for voting for Prop. 8 may have been the obvious pain it would cause to cultural liberals such as yourself.

Trust me, in coming decades, you have a lot more irritation and pain ahead of you.

Christianity is dying. We traditional-values atheists are on the rise.

I do not think you will enjoy the result.

Just think of it: a whole planet dominated by people who combine the most annoying character traits of Jerry Falwell and Richard Dawkins!

Scary, huh?

Dave

Mark said...

Frankly, my strongest motive for voting for Prop. 8 may have been the obvious pain it would cause to cultural liberals such as yourself.

Oh, well done, Dave. You've just validated the thesis of this post - that the "intellectual" bloc in support of the Prop 8 movement is utterly morally bankrupt, driven by the urge to do a group of people harm who have done you no harm at all.

All that intelligence, all that arrogance, and so very little moral character. What a pity.

Eneasz said...

Dave -

Obviously I over-estimated your capacity for moral reasoning.

Of course, heterosexual behavior does not always lead to pregnancy. But it would not exist at all if not for the fact that in certain circumstances it can and does lead to pregnancy.

The same is not true for homosexual “sex.”


Of course, the desire to rape would not exist if not for the fact that it can and does lead to pregnancy. This is no grounds for defending rape.

I also find it interesting that you put quotes around the word "sex" when dealing with homosexual sex. It betrays your inner reasons for hatred.

A friend of mine got a vasectomy as his wedding present from his wife. Is their marriage not valid? Do they not have "real sex"? Do they not actually feel "love" for each other?

I won't comment on California judges, as I know very little about that topic. However you sound like you took this article as true.

I simply disagree with you on the biology: sex and marriage are about reproduction – that is why sex evolved and why human societies have marriage

We don't disagree on biology. But we do disagree about societies. Marriage is not about reproduction. Marriage has never been about reproduction. To state the contrary is to reveal your own ignorance. Perhaps you should take a home-school-history-of-marriage class?

You and several people here are interested in social engineering to alter basic aspects of human attitudes by altering language. You may succeed in altering the language. You will fail to alter basic aspects of human nature

You're wrong about the "by altering the language" part. I couldn't give a damn what the language is.

You should avoid bringing up "altering the language" when arguing for straight-only marriage. Traditionally, marriage was defined as "One man, and as many women of the same race as he can afford to support." You probably don't want to revert to the traditional definition of marriage. Or maybe you do... your statements thus far imply you'd be comfortable with that.

You're right about wanting to alter human nature though. I would love to alter human nature in a way that a 13-year-old girl would never again be executed for the crime of being raped. Apparently you don't think trying to alter human nature is worth the effort.

Yes, in a way, I am a “libertarian,”

Yeah, the arrogance gave it away. Most libertarians come to the position after independently figuring out something that is the opposite of what everyone they know believes (often "capitalism is actually pretty good" or "god doesn't exist"). Generally causes a fair bit of arrogance. Fortunately, most of us grow out of it.

I like that. I really get a kick out of the fact that the Prop. 8 result irritates the hell out of you.

Good.

Frankly, my strongest motive for voting for Prop. 8 may have been the obvious pain it would cause to cultural liberals such as yourself.


Ah. Pure spite - always a valid reason for taking away the rights of others. I hope you indoctrinate this value into your children.

Christianity is dying.

You fail to understand basic human nature (I shouldn't be surprised). Religion will always be with us. With effort we can do our best to make sure the vast majority of the religious hold to non-extremist religions.

We traditional-values atheists are on the rise.

I do not think you will enjoy the result.


And finally the truth about home-schooling comes out. It is used to isolate children from any views other than those their parents want them to hold. You show the realization that your views cannot survive contact with the outside world. It is fearful, and it is pathetic.

You have done nothing challenge the stereotypes of homeschooling. You have only reinforced them. Which is a pity, because I'm sure there are plenty of good home-schoolers out there.

I truly wish that some day you get a chance to live in the world you envision. It would be the most poetic form of justice.

In the meantime, the rest of us will continue trying to make this a better place.

PhysicistDave said...

eneasz wrote to me:
>I won't comment on California judges, as I know very little about that topic. However you sound like you took this article as true.

No, I have lived out here for over a third of a century, and I follow public affairs. Our judges are nuts. Admittedly, our politicians are a bit loony too, but even dear old Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown is much saner than our judges (I have to admit that I love Jerry Brown, as loony as he can be – he is a good deal brighter and more honest than most politicians).

You also wrote:
>You're wrong about the "by altering the language" part. I couldn't give a damn what the language is.
>You should avoid bringing up "altering the language" when arguing for straight-only marriage. Traditionally, marriage was defined as "One man, and as many women of the same race as he can afford to support." You probably don't want to revert to the traditional definition of marriage.

I have stated repeatedly and quite clearly that I want the law and the government out of the business of defining “marriage” altogether. I want everyone to make up his own definition without legal endorsement of any definition – let a hundred flowers bloom!

I have a radical free-thought position on all this: if someone wants to marry fifty wives, or his dog, I honestly do not care -- indeed, I find such things funny. I simply do not want such choices enshrined in law as part of an “official” definition of marriage. I don’t want any official definition of marriage, which is my main objection to Prop. 8, by the way: while it did, rightly, prevent judicial alteration of the dictionary meaning of the word, I would have preferred to simply strike down the judicial usurpation without putting any definition into the state constitution.

You wrote:
>We don't disagree on biology

And I say we do disagree on biology. Which sort of proves that, somehow, we do disagree!

Sort of a self-referential paradox, isn’t it?

I love you liberal liars who are so determined to suppress freedom of thought that you will not even concede to others that they actually do disagree with you! I’ve seen that trick used hundreds of times.

You’re funny.

You also wrote:
>Ah. Pure spite - always a valid reason for taking away the rights of others. I hope you indoctrinate this value into your children.

But of course, you’re the one taking away rights. I’m not trying to take away any rights from gays. I am merely unwilling to have the government that I pay for give them a certificate validating that they are “married” (yes, I love putting “married” in quotes, largely because of how much it irritates you “progressives,” also in quotes you’ll note). Let them go to Kinko’s and pay for making up their own silly “marriage” certificate.

You also wrote:
>And finally the truth about home-schooling comes out. It is used to isolate children from any views other than those their parents want them to hold. You show the realization that your views cannot survive contact with the outside world. It is fearful, and it is pathetic.

Oh, no, there is a huge diversity in beliefs among home-schoolers on religion, politics, etc., and our kids are exposed to those views. It’s you public-schoolers, as you yourself explained so well in your nice essay, who are exposed to a mono-color, murderous, official “progressive” culture. The “progressives” have murdered hundreds of thousands of Americans, and untold numbers of foreigners, in all the wars they have started from the Civil War through the World Wars and Korea and Vietnam. The world has had more than enough of you Yankee “progressives.”

Fortunately, as Alma so proudly reminded us, you folks are now, in vast numbers, declining to breed.

Good. Let’s weed the defective gay, “progressive,” etc. genes out of the gene pool by the voluntary eugenics in which you folks are so eagerly engaging.

I supported gay liberation from the beginning: when I was a kid, I found it utterly bizarre that it was actually illegal to engage in gay “sex,” between consenting adults.

But one of the things that I like best about gay lib is that, now that gays no longer feel pressured to get married and have kids, we are rapidly weeding the defective gay genes out of the gene pool. It should not be long before the gay genes are eradicated entirely.

You ended by saying:
>I truly wish that some day you get a chance to live in the world you envision. It would be the most poetic form of justice.
>In the meantime, the rest of us will continue trying to make this a better place.

Well, thanks. I too hope I will live long enough to see a world without Christianity, without government, without “progressives” or “liberals,” without imperialism or militarism, etc. I’m certainly pleased to see us moving on the right direction, as shown by the victory of Prop. 8, but real progress takes time.

Your side will lose: we will destroy all of your “progressive” achievements; we will repeal the twentieth century – public education, Social Security, affirmative action, collective security, the UN, and nation-building abroad – we will destroy all of that. You cannot stop it. There is nothing you can do about it. But by all means keep trying. Normal people get a kick out of laughing at you “progressive” guys.

Gay “marriage”! What a hoot!

Remember: as you so fearfully suggested, we homeschoolers are raising a whole generation, a well-educated, well-trained army, of children eager to engage in the battle to destroy “progressivism.” And, unlike dear Alma, we are not refraining from passing our genes on to the future – the gene pool will belong to us.

I do hope all you “progressives” keep up the voluntary eugenics program: it’s really important to weed your genes out of the gene pool.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

Alma Alexander wrote:
>We do not have children. BY CHOICE. I did not want kids…

Alma, I think I speak for all responsible human beings in saying that we are very pleased that you have responsibly refrained from passing on your genes to the future. (And I really loved that you CAPITALIZED the phrase “BY CHOICE.” That is just so progressive of you.)

Really. The human gene pool, the entire human race, will be better off for not having your genes.

I am glad you had the decency to see this, too.

You definitely should not have kids.

You also wrote:
>A marriage between two gay people who genuinely wish to enter into one does not threaten, in any way shape or form, the definition of my own marriage.

You protest too much. Why do I have this nagging feeling that you suffer from real anxiety that your husband will leave you for some hot young guy if gay marriage is legalized?

But, really, I am sure the only threat to your marriage comes from some cute little thing who offers your husband the chance to pass on more of his genes, the chance that you have denied him, right? After all, he left his first wife, didn’t he?

But, no, of course, no man, especially not your husband, would ever behave like that, driven by the evolutionary urge to reproduce, now would he?

Alma, dear woman, I salute you for showing us all how a true “progressive” behaves: cull your own genes out of the gene pool and have faith that your husband is immune from the normal demands of evolution.

You are indeed making the world a better place!

Dave

Anonymous said...

Hrmmm, I, too, won a National Merit scholarship. And I am going to use my nationally merited intelligence to say that Dave is a supreme A-hole. Additionally, anyone else get the feeling he had his crank in his hand when he talked about the "hot young man" who Alma's husband was going to leave her for? Careful, Dave, your homoerotic tendencies are showing. Don't want to pass that on to your children.

Or have you already? Is that where all this misplaced rage comes from? Daddy get a little too friendly with you at bath time? Or did one of your football playing "friends" in public school rape you in the shower?

Arrogance is invariably a cover for insecurity. Any no one's more insecure than a closeted queer like Dave. Go back to playing good-touch/bad-touch with your kids, Dave. It's soooooo much better than public school.

Friggin' freak.

Ted Lemon said...

Framing this in terms of moral character is not functional. Essentially what you are saying "those bastards did what they did because they are bastards." This renders you powerless.

They did not do it because they are bastards. They did it because it served them in some way. If you want to make the world a better place, figure out how it serves them. Whether they are moral or not is beside the point.

And, by the way, the flaming that's been going back and forth here can be analyzed the same way.

Eneasz said...

I have stated repeatedly and quite clearly that I want the law and the government out of the business of defining “marriage” altogether. I want everyone to make up his own definition without legal endorsement of any definition – let a hundred flowers bloom!

Aye, agreed. But in the meantime, this is the system we have. It hasn't changed for millenia, and it won't change for centuries. If you're really so intent on destroying state-sponsored marriage, perhaps a much easier way to do it would be to make it so inclusive that it basically loses it's meaning?

And as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You may have good intentions, or merely pretend to in order to cover your bigotry, but the result is the same - you are denying people rights, causing them harm, for no reason other than spite. Is this one of the traditional values you so admire?

And I say we do disagree on biology. Which sort of proves that, somehow, we do disagree!

Ok, have if your way if you prefer.

You’re funny.

You don't seem to be laughing. I detect resentment, actually. And some misplaced sense of anger.

I am merely unwilling to have the government that I pay for give them a certificate validating that they are “married”. Let them go to Kinko’s and pay for making up their own silly “marriage” certificate.

The marriage certificate is immaterial, it is paper. What people should have are the rights that come with having an officialy-sanctioned marriage. Yes, I think it's stupid that these rights only come after a government approves that your marriage is legit. That doesn't change that fact that you don't have them until they do.

And I'm sorry... the government YOU pay for? I believe the gay populace pays just as much for it as you do. More, most likely, as they have to pay to subsidize your breeding. (Tax breaks for children is another unfortunate thing we'll never be rid of). So both you and theoretical Gay Person A pay the same amount in taxes, yet you get to extract additional benefits from government that he/she does not, by getting all the privileges and rights that a married couple has.

Put your money where your mouth is. You really think govt-sponsored marriage is a load of crap? Don't get one. Get divorced now, and continue to live exactly as you did before, but without all the privileges a married couple legally has. Anything less and I call you a hypocrite and a liar.

(yes, I love putting “married” in quotes, largely because of how much it irritates you “progressives,” also in quotes you’ll note)

Quotes don't bother me, I find them a useful insight on your psyche.

The “progressives” have murdered hundreds of thousands of Americans, and untold numbers of foreigners, in all the wars they have started from the Civil War through the World Wars and Korea and Vietnam. The world has had more than enough of you Yankee “progressives.”

Ah, so all the atrocities are to be blamed on the other tribe, who happen to be "progressives" in your case. I feel my point being strengthened. The fact that you somehow can equate people who are fighting for the rights of minorities today to the people who started a civil war centuries ago for (among other reasons) the right to keep slaves is very telling.

we are rapidly weeding the defective gay genes out of the gene pool

Defective? Much like the defective black and jewish genes too, right? Perhaps you should come right out and say "Anyone who isn't like me is defective and I hope they die out."

Again, I look forward to the day you find yourself in such a society. :)

we will destroy all of that. You cannot stop it. There is nothing you can do about it. But by all means keep trying.

All talk. You have nothing but empty threats on your side, which is why you can deploy nothing else. If you were to attempt such a massive social change (and you accuse us of attempting to engineer society??) you would quickly end up with a society fashioned in the glorious style of North Korea or Somalia. And while you are repressing your people, the rest of the world will move on without you, continue to experience the economic and technological growth that comes with a liberal tolerant society, and eventually all your people would be trying to flee your country and seek asylum in the developed world so they can have a decent standard of living. So it always goes.

And I saw it first hand, as I said before, my parents fled communist Poland to make a better life here.

I do hope all you “progressives” keep up the voluntary eugenics program: it’s really important to weed your genes out of the gene pool.

You place a lot of emphasis on genes. I don't think you understand how humanity works nowadays. Evolution is a long and slow process. It takes tens of thousands of years to make incremental changes. And they are not always for the better. You want to breed your way to success? Please try. The fact that you fear that the only way you can win is by out-breeding others shows your lack of strength.

Ever since modern man took the center stage on this planet, memes have trumped genes by orders of magnitude. No one needs to out-breed the other side when their memes are better - they will prove themselves by that society's success and be eagerly adopted by all those who want a better life. Breed all you want - your ideas will fail because they are inferior, and your children will "fight" for us (using your militaristic terminology there. For someone who claims to hate imperialism and militarism, your speech is chock-full of it).

Want proof? Look at yourself. The conservatives of today are the liberals of the previous generation. Less than a century ago the so-called "traditional" and "conservative" values you espouse would shock even the most liberal of "progressives". Go back several centuries and they could get you executed by the conservatives of the day. Those who cling to their traditional values are replaced every generation by a new "conservative" class who claims that the liberal views of the previous generation were their traditional views all along (and now must be stuck to unswervingly). It is a comedy of proportions only immortals could truly enjoy. Keep sticking to your guns, and keep losing, it never fails.

Eneasz said...

Ted Lemon - I take your point. It was cathartic though.

JoeWelling said...

"Gay 'marriage'! What a hoot!"

I've had a vasectomy, do you think it would be laughable if I decided to get married?

Also, what about people well past reproductive age? Would you deny them the right to get married?

Just trying carry the "it's all about reproductive biology" argument to its other logical conclusions.

What a hateful point of view.

JoeWelling said...

Another comment from yet another National Merit Scholar (I was the only one in my class of over 400).

Good essay, Alonzo.

My mom gets stuck on this notion that her marriage is somehow lessened if gay marriage is allowed. The problem as I see it is that the term "marriage" has two meanings that have become blurred. For my mom, marriage is a sacrament administered by the Catholic Church.

Of course, our secular government accords such marriages all sorts of legal rights and status. There's the problem.

There really ought be a wall of separation between church and state. What happens in a church should have no legal standing or recognition whatsoever (and the state should have no say at all in what is allowed or disallowed there).

If someone wants both, their own church sacrament AND the legal/secular accidents attached with it, they should have two marriage ceremonies: one in their church, and the other at the civil courthouse.

The historical meaning of a word is irrelevant (even if they got their history right), as Alonzo says.

Prop 8 was not an innocuous debate about the definition of a word. It IS about denying rights to a minority. This is something that should never be allowed to happy by majority vote.

JoeWelling said...

D'oh---that's "happen" not "happy".

Pecunium said...

Physicist Dave: You swallowed a lie about Prop 8. A church can refuse it's sanction to marriage for anyone, even it's own members.

I'm not a mormon, as such the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints won't solemnize a marriage for me. The catholic Church won't perform a marriage for a couple of mixed faith (because they fear the children will not be reared in the faith). A Quaker meeting (one of the most inclusive of faiths) won't marry a couple it doen't beleive has a clear understanding of what they want.

And the state can't force them too. The first amendment protects them. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in Prop 8 can change that.

As for the other complaint (that of litigation because of discrimimation), are you telling us you think it somehow justifiable for homosexuals to be discriminated against? Because that's what it looks like to me. You are afraid that someone will press a lawsuit demanding to be treated as any other married couple, should such marriages be legal.

What a radical concept, equality under law.

As for the question of individual (or even group) negotiation for benefits... those things are often decided by ligtgation (or arbitration). But those are minor issues, when compared to inheiritance, survivorship, guardianship of children, the effect of tax laws (to include probate, see above, re inheiritance). All of those are factors because of the legal nature of marriage, which isn't equally addressed in civil unions.

When you take into account the legal status of privacy in California (explicitly gauranteed, not just implicit in the unenumerated rights of the 9th amendment to the US Constitution) and that one may have a secret marriage, but not a secret civil union, there is another question of equal protection.

Your shibboleth of "free association" is, to be blunt, arrant nonsense. Nothing actually happens, in law, when a Quaker Meeting, a Unitarian Church, a liberl Pentecostal, or any other church recognises a union. Absent that piece of paper from the courts, no one else has to either. So the benefits which you argue acrue to society, (and the species, which are a real stretch, and decidedly not provable) don't come into play. Not for the couple (who aren't married, so far as the law is concerned, and that's what Prop 8 is about, the law; not the private relations of people to each other, but the public relations of the law, nor for the society which might benefit from those things it grants to married people; in its interest). For anything to happen, the law must recognise it.

Then again you contradict yourself, when you say you want the state to have nothing to do with marriage (or perhaps you don't, and you don't want to tell us you hope the judges revert to the remedy they said was available, but not optimal; outlawing marriage and only allowing the state to recognise civil unions). If you want the state to have nothing to do with marriage, why vote to codify, in the constution, what marriage is. In a nation such as ours the state doesn't get more involved than that.

Your nonsense about the judges is also just that, nonsense. The judges job is to do that. The claim, of the Prop 8 bigots, that "4 million" Californians were ignored... well that's what, 4 million out of 25 (of voting age in 2000, when they passed a law which was redunant; mostly as a ploy to get out the vote in a presidential election year). You are a phsycisit, not a jurist. It's possible the judges have a small amount of specialist training, a wee bit of acquired knowledge and a small amount of experience; amplified by reams of pages of explication, leading to their decision. You want to talk activist judges, lets discuss Union Pacific v Santa Clara Cty, in which a few guys declared corporations were legally people (which was a new, and radical concept).

The bit about Darwin... you'd better stick to phsyics, because that's not the way it works, and I can make a case as strong as any you can, that homosexual marriage is just as good for the species as hetero, and that polyandry is as good as polygamy, which is as good as monogamy, which as good as no marriage at all. I say this because your use of, "malfunction" shows a fundamental lack of understanding in how the mechanisms of evolution work.

Then again, the most telling part may be that you also claim to have voted to enshrine hate and bigotry because... you are hateful and wanted to cause pain to others. Your complaints of how bigotted others are, because they think everyone ought to be treated the same, and you are being poorly treated, well, "methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Pecunium said...

A note... because this is a post about words, Malaria isn't caused by a bacterium, but rather a protozoan.

Anonymous said...

hahah, i was thinking that too about the protozoan - but got distracted by the drawn out argument...

Anonymous said...

Marriage is a social, religious, spiritual, or legal union of individuals. This union may also be called matrimony, while the ceremony that marks its beginning is usually called a wedding and the married status created is sometimes called wedlock.

Marriage is an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state or by religious authority. It is often viewed as a contract. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction. If recognized by the state, by the religion(s) to which the parties belong or by society in general, the act of marriage changes the personal and social status of the individuals who enter into it.

People marry for many reasons, but usually one or more of the following: legal, social, and economic stability; the formation of a family unit; procreation and the education and nurturing of children; legitimizing sexual relations; public declaration of love; or to obtain citizenship.[1][2]

Marriage may take many forms: for example, a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife is a monogamous heterosexual marriage; polygamy – in which a person takes more than one spouse – is common in some societies.[3] Recently, some jurisdictions[4] and denominations[5][6][7] have begun to recognize same-sex marriage, uniting people of the same sex.

A marriage is often formalized during a marriage ceremony,[8] which may be performed either by a religious officiant, by a secular State authorised officiator, or (in weddings that have no church or state affiliation) by a trusted friend of the wedding participants. The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved and, in many societies, their extended families.

Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam gives men and women the "right to marriage" regardless of their race, colour or nationality, but not religion.

Laurel Kornfeld said...

Pluto IS a planet because unlike most objects in the Kuiper Belt, it has attained hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning it has enough self-gravity to have pulled itself into a round shape. When an object is large enough for this to happen, it becomes differentiated with core, mantle, and crust, just like Earth and the larger planets, and develops the same geological processes as the larger planets, processes that inert asteroids and most KBOs do not have.

Not distinguishing between shapeless asteroids and objects whose composition clearly makes them planets is a disservice and is sloppy science.

As of now, there are three other KBOs that meet this criterion and therefore should be classified as planets--Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. Only one KBO has been found to be larger than Pluto, and that is Eris.

The IAU definition makes no linguistic sense, as it states that dwarf planets are not planets at all. That’s like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear. Second, it defines objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were placed in Pluto’s orbit, by the IAU definition, it would not be a planet. That is because the further away an object is from its parent star, the more difficulty it will have in clearing its orbit.

Significantly, this definition was adopted by only four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists. No absentee voting was allowed. It was done so in a highly controversial process that violated the IAU’s own bylaws, and it was immediately opposed by a petition of 300 professional astronomers saying they will not use the new definition, which they described accurately as “sloppy.” Also significant is the fact that many planetary scientists are not IAU members and therefore had no say in this matter at all.

Many believe we should keep the term planet broad to encompass any non-self-luminous spheroidal object orbiting a star.

We can distinguish different types of planets with subcategories such as terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants, dwarf planets, super Earths, hot Jupiters, etc.

We should be broadening, not narrowing our concept of planet as more objects are being discovered in this and other solar systems.

In a 2000 paper, Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Hal Levison distinguish two types of planets--the gravitationally dominant ones and the smaller ones that are not gravitationally dominant. However, they never say that objects in the latter category are not planets.

I attended the Great Planet Debate, which actually took place in August 2008, and there was a strong consensus there that a broader, more encompassing planet definition is needed. I encourage anyone interested to listen to and view the conference proceedings at http://gpd.jhuapl.edu/ You can also read more about this issue on my blog at http://laurele.livejournal.com

Anonymous said...

I can't remember your name.... really I don't care to....

First of all I would like to say you are an ignorant person to compare marriage to planets. Atheism is ridiculous in the sense that there is HISTORICAL FACT and EVIDENCE that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead.

How i found this site was through trying to find FACT about Prop 8 and now I realize how ridiculous some people are to say its about changing the definition!

Proposition 8 has NOTHING to do with definition of the word marriage, it's about whether we want to allow our children to be taught "gay is ok" when it is clearly forbidden in the Bible! I personally do NOT want my children to EVER witness a gay marriage, especially on a school fieldtrip when they aren't even taken to witness a true Biblical marriage for school.

Imagine if the whole world turned gay.... All the good faithful christians have gone for the rapture and now everyone is gay.... Will there be families? Or children? Maybe you marry the lust of your life! You will never have children of your own now because everyone is attracted to a person of the same sex. Unless you rape someone. (You're gay too, so I highly doubt that would happen. But since gay is ok I guess that means it's now ok to force someone to have intercourse with you? Thats in the Bible too, want to try to contradict it?

Pretty much, I hope you have a pleasurable life on earth because this is where it ends for you.

Jonathan Baker said...

Sorry, I hope I am not repeating anything someone else has said, but I got tired reading the long screeds of arguments that do not relate at all to the question of the meaning of marriage.

Marriage needs to be defended today as a institution between one man and one woman for one reason only: the raising of children. This is a difficult and important challenge that needs to be defended, protected and aided by society. Children are not yet "useful" to society, but are our potential for the future. The way we bring them up matters greatly (as all are aware).

Studies show that the best way to do this is the rather obvious way: the natural parents. Clearly there are times when (unfortunately) adoption and other measures are needed, and these, too, need to be supported by the state. But the prior implication is that a man and woman who choose to live together and to do so long enough to bring their offspring to maturity should be recognised and protected. Naturally there is no way of knowing whether a couple have any intention of doing this when they get married, but they need to be helped if that is what they desire.

Consequently such things as cohabitation, homosexual unions, those who marry with no intention of having children, or those who would be ready to obtain a divorce at the first obstacle ... all these are unhelpful to the building up of society as such. Don't read me as saying that they should be illegal, but simply that the state certainly does not need to support any of them as such.

Anon Ymous said...

There was a comment left on Pharyngula, by a poster under the 'nym "Varlo", which I would like to post here:

" Posted by: varlo | October 25, 2008 2:23 PM

I like to think that I am a language purist (except when I deviate from the mother tongue by choice), and Iwill admit, with NO anti-gay sentiment that on linguistic grounds I dislike the idea of gay "marriage." (Hell, I object to marriage at all for myself. Tried it once, didn't like it.) But we have a fundidiot-inspired amendment on the Florida ballot also. I have already voted against it, would gladly do it again both here and California if I could, and in a pallid imitation of Voltaire, while I do not agree (see liguistic argument) with the verbiage of gay marriage, I will defend the right of gays to do it at least to the extent of a bruise or so. The Christo-Turds should get the xxxx out of any damned bedroom but their own."

This sounds a lot like what you were talking about, with a "good" moral person maybe liking the traditions, but seeing that his/her traditions are actually harming people, and voting against the thing s/he likes, because an aversion to causing harm to others is stronger than attachments to things in present.

Thanks again for a good post, and sorry for being so late to the party :o)