Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Jim Daly's Arguments Just Don't Make Sense

     I ask myself sometimes why I even allow myself to read articles written by our opposition, since it only gets me irritated. But, like any person engaged in intellectual pursuits, I recognize that in order to fully understand why I believe the way that I do, I must also understand why my opposition believe what they beleive. This is why I chose to read the latest article by Jim Daly - President of Focus On The Family -  which appeared on FoxNews.com yesterday.


       In this article, he "examines" times when progressives changed fundamental social institutions - such as the introduction of no-fault divorce,e abortion, cohabitation, welfare - and extends the belief that because progressives got these issues "wrong" and because there were "unintended consequences" of these particular ideas that this means that same-sex marriage -will also fail. To him, this attempt at "social engineering" is wrong and will lead to unintended consequences because "However well-meaning the motivation, reengineering what God has designed is not only unwise, but radical and dangerous, too" 


      In this argument, it does not matter that there are fundamental differences between all of these examples and same-sex marriage - the primary being that the government is intentionally excluding a group of its citizens from legitimacy, benefits, and rights because of an inherent trait that they posses. That has nothing in common with no-fault divorce, abortion, welfare, or even cohabitation. You cannot compare things that have no relation towards each other; instead each must be evaluated as individual groups. If no fault divorce has failed, it is a problem with no fault divorce. If welfare failed, it is a fault of bad welfare policy. These things have no bearing on the same-sex marriage debate no matter how we want to spin them.


        But, lets rewind a bit, because Daly makes a very interesting point in the beginning of his article. He asks why should Christians force those who do not believe the way that they do to accept their views? When he said this, I was expecting an answer of depth, but instead he gives us this...
"On the basis of logic, reason, common sense and the fact that preservation of traditional marriage is in the best interest of the common good, as evidenced by any number of factors, including reams of social science data and thousands of years of history."
      Ok, first off, logic and reason are gone in the discussion when God is brought into the discussion - as He was in the first quote provided. Logic and reason cannot exist in an argument when you come into the debate with preconceptions that won't let you objectively evaluate evidence. Additionally, as explained above the rules of logic are fragrantly violated when he infers that because some things that progressives have advocated for have failed, this one will also fail.

     As for common sense, do we see any provided? Not at all, for instead we see a claim that there is abundant evidence from social science data as well as thousands of years of history. Again, the rules of logic are violated, because in this "common sense" approach an appeal to tradition fallacy. Just because something has always been a way in the past (thousands of years of history) does not mean that it is the best or the only way of doing something - women for example were denied the right to vote because that was the way it had always been done historically. Additionally, this argument overlooks the evolving nature of marriage as an institution over those thousands of years. No matter how we might like to spin it, marriage has never been a "static" institution; so even if he wasn't using an appeal to tradition argument, his analysis also fails.

    Secondly,  I'm not sure what social science data he is referring to, since most social science data actually does not back him up, and that virtually all reputable organizations from psychologists to anthropologists to sociologists disagree with his assessment. Yes there are outliers in these fields, but outliers do not dictate policy, and an appeal to them shows a lack of respect for social science research at large. Thankfully, our society is starting to realize what studies and data are bearing out; that there is no legitimate reason for denying same sex couples the institution of marriage.

    He then discusses the rights of religious organizations and religious freedom, but my discussion on this can be found here.

7 comments:

  1. You claim that one cannot compare activism for other events/issues with the same-sex marriage issue.

    However, LGBT activists are quick to draw an analogy between homosexual rights with the civil rights movement - central to this argument is this scientifically unsupported position that one is born homosexual - just like one is born into a race.

    Why is this stance that one is born homosexual not scientifically supported? Well, there is yet no proven genetic difference between a straight person and an homosexual nor is there any know physiological differences between straight and homosexual individuals.

    If there is no genetic or physiological basis for homosexuality, could a person be homosexual because of some psychological reason or because of circumstances?

    There appears to be some basis for such a thought because studies have proven much wider prevalence of homosexual behavior among prisoners - even those who went into prison with no prior homosexual experience. And there is also evidence to indicate that in many cases the homosexual behavior continues even after the person is released from incarceration.

    In studies conducted in Russian prisons, the number of people who engaged in homosexual behavior was as high as 90% of the prison population. This is significantly higher that the prevalence of homosexuality among the general populace.

    http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/MeetingAbstracts/ma?f=102211210.html

    http://books.google.co.in/books?id=roychiRaM8gC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

    So there is some basis to the claim that choice, and circumstance could play a role in homosexuality and that it need not be an orientation which one is born with.

    From that standpoint, it is disingenuous to compare race rights, where one has absolutely no choice in the race one is born into, with LGBT rights where there is some indication that choice does play a role.

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  2. I find it interesting that you have chosen to completely remove my comment. Why?

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  3. Your comment actually appeared in my spam filter for some reason, it was not intentionally removed, once I caught it, I resubmitted it.

    As per your comment, I first would like to say that I never extrapolated LGBT rights to race related rights, but regardless your analysis of insinuating that a scientific study based upon a non-representative sample - prison populations - is also inherently disingenuous.

    In order for your analysis of sexuality to work - based upon these studies - it must be shown that the same situations in prisons exist in the outside world. Sexuality in prison is not representative of the whole population for two reasons. First, the power dichotomies that exist within a prison structure and second, the lack of sexual outlet with someone of the opposite gender. Both of these factors render prison populations an unrepresentative sample to study in regards to sexual orientation.

    Additionally, you seem to be confusing the act of sex with sexual orientation. Someone for example, may have sex with a person of the opposite gender, but may have a homosexual orientation. Your orientation is the trait that is being discussed, not whom you decide to sleep with. Though there have not been any definitive scientific studies dictating whether or not sexual orientation is inborn, the vast majority of scientific literature leans in this direction.

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Most appreciated.

    The point I am making isn't dependent on the situation in prison being the same as the outside world - I never made that assumption.

    I just state that there are enough instances of homosexual sex in prison to indicate that not all homosexual encounters are driven by "orientation" especially one which a person is born with.

    Also, please look at the second link that I sent you (specifically page 105) - it refers to data which indicates that a lot of sex in prison (especially among female inmates) appears to be consensual - and not something which was forced upon the person.

    Studies differ on the percentage of Americans who consider themselves gay - the percentages I have seen varies from 0.7% and going all the way upto 5%. Kinsey reported 10% but that was widely discredited because of the methodology he adopted.

    But even considering Kinsey's reported percentage, the homosexual behavior in prison inmates is far greater than this. In the first link I sent you, in Russian prisons less than 10-15% of the inmates indicated that they haven't been having homosexual sex - which implies that at least 85-90% of the population were involved in homosexual sex.

    Also, there is statistics to indicate that the percentages are quite high (as compared to the general populace) in the armed forces as well.

    My point is this - if consensual homosexual sex does happen at a rate which is far higher than what is seen in the general populace for whatever group of people, it can indicate that homosexual behavior is not wholly driven by orientation - that it could be caused by circumstance and also the individual's choice.

    Don't you agree with that assessment?

    This runs contrary to the central premise of LGBT rights which states that homosexual behavior is ingrained and is a orientation from birth and that circumstance and personal choice have no bearing on the sexual orientation of a person.

    About the comparison with race rights - the reason I brought that up is not because you raised that point, but because you stated that comparing the same-sex marriage issue with other issues such as no fault divorce and abortion is wrong. I agree with your assessment.

    But I would like you to consider that many of the LGBT activists do make comparisons between same-sex marriage issues with race rights .. and that is equally wrong. And the reason stated is the same - that one is born with a sexual orientation the same way one is born African-American/Caucasian/Asian/etc - the evidence doesn't support this conclusion.

    Thank you once again for taking the time to respond.

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  5. Also, to answer your comment a bit more clearly - your points about the circumstances in prison being different than what is available outside prison and that homosexual behavior may exist even without the orientation basically gives credence to my point - that homosexual behavior could be driven by circumstance and personal choice.

    As you will be aware, the point that homosexual behavior could be driven by circumstance isn't well received (to put it mildly) by the LGBT community.

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  6. Balbir:

    LGBT activists are quick to draw an analogy between homosexual rights with the civil rights movement - central to this argument is this scientifically unsupported position that one is born homosexual

    It's not central to the argument at all. The analogy demonstrates that:

    1) Just because a majority of people believe something, does not mean that it isn't morally repugnant.

    2) A long-standing tradition of doing something in a particular way doesn't make it right.

    Why is this stance that one is born homosexual not scientifically supported?

    You're confused. To say that something is biologically determined does not mean that one is necessarily born that way. That said, most of the factors that contribute to one's sexual orientation probably happen pre-birth, and yes there are lots of reasons to believe that.

    nor is there any know physiological differences between straight and homosexual individuals.

    And now you're lying:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation#Physiological

    This runs contrary to the central premise of LGBT rights which states that homosexual behavior is ingrained and is a orientation from birth and that circumstance and personal choice have no bearing on the sexual orientation of a person.

    You're conflating behavior with orientation.

    Sexual orientation is biologically determined, we have no conscious choice over it.

    We do have a conscious choice about our behavior.

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  7. Thank you for responding.

    Please note that many of the references that you have pointed out from Wikipedia have been criticised by other experts - also, some of the physiological differences that are pointed out are so small that they are statistically insignificant.

    Example:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suprachiasmatic_nucleus

    Other problems: The conclusions drawn by the researchers don't appear to have considered other possible explanations for the results.

    Example:
    About Fluoxetine absorption differences between gay and non-gay people, it has been shown that the Fluoxetine absorption in gay men is twice that of a heterosexual person, but it is not stated that the absorption levels are the same as that of a depressed person.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine

    Differences in brain size between heterosexual and gay men - it is claimed that gay men have smaller brains, but again, brain sizes vary a lot between individual irrespective of their sexual preference.. or even gender. It wouldn't be possible to look at a person's brain and accurately determine their orientation/preference.

    Also, some of the differences (such as the difference in penile length between gay and non-gay men) are self-reported - and that isn't particularly useful from a scientific standpoint.

    So the physiological evidence for a homosexual orientation is tenuous at best and perhaps even non-existent.

    Also, given a tissue sample, one can ascertain if the individual is male, female or one with an extra X chromosome (which could lead to one having ambiguous genitalia), it won't be possible to determine if that individual is homosexual or not.

    Also, may I point you to research which indicates that the environment may have a role to play? Please note that the article starts of by stating quite strongly that there is no proof that there may be a link between environment and homosexual orientation.. but then proceeds to lay out exactly the sort of evidence which states the opposite. So there appears to be some sort of a bias in the group-think on wikipedia: Please see for yourself:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environment_and_sexual_orientation

    Also, the research that I have pointed out in my previous post does indicate that homosexual behavior may be prompted by circumstance (you seem to be in agreement with this).

    So what is to say if an individual is involved in a homosexual life style because of a choice or because of orientation?

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