An Astonishingly Bad Argument against Gay Marriage

Over at The Christian Post, General Jerry Ralph Curry gives an astonishingly bad argument against gay marriage.

Should SCOTUS actually declare homosexuality a civil right, it logically follows that polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality would one day also be declared a civil right by the Court. In spite of society’s thirst for more modernism, inclusiveness and diversity, who would want to live in the midst of such moral depravity? . . . (emphasis mine)

Umm, in a word, “No.

With all due respect to General Curry, he needs to take (or retake) an introductory course in logic. If homosexuality is a civil right, it does NOT logically follow that “polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality would one day also be declared a civil right by the Court.” This can be clearly seen by expressing the logical structure of the argument and observing that the premises do not entail the conclusion.

In fact, as it stands, he hasn’t even given an inductively strong argument, i.e., an argument in which the premises make the conclusion highly probable. At least part of the basis for legalizing homosexuality is the freedom of consenting adults to engage in sexual activity with other adults in the privacy of their own bedrooms. General Curry seems oblivious to the fact that this basis is incompatible with declaring that pedophilia is a civil right. In the General’s defense, this philosophical basis does seem to support the legalization of polygamy between consenting adults. But to try to saddle the proponent of same sex marriage with an acceptance of pedophilia is completely unjustified.

(HT: Jerry Coyne)

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

    Hi, Jeffery

    Yeah, it’s pretty bad. What does he mean by “homosexuality” by the way?

    It was not even a question for the court whether being exclusively or predominantly attracted to same-sex adults was legal, or a civil right. Nor was it a question whether gay sex was legal, or a civil right.

    So, did he mean ‘same-sex marriage’, perhaps?

    By the way, one wonders also what he meant by the other words, but one can make a parallel argument:

    Should SCOTUS declare gay sex between consenting adults in private a civil right, it logically follows that child abuse would one day be declared a civil right by the Court…

    But SCOTUS already declared gay sex between consenting adults in private a civil right (since it ruled that sex between consenting adults in private is protected by the US Constitution, in 2003, Lawrence vs. Texas), and yet no sign of a move to declare child molestation a civil right (obviously).

  • Ryan M

    I think in one sense we can think of marriage as a symmetrical relation. Call the marriage relation “M”, and say two x and ys are married. If xMy, then yMx. But consider a scenario where x is a person and y is an animal. I would say that M cannot be a relation between x and y since one party (the animal), cannot consent to M, or do anything like consent. So unless the relation works both ways it is impossible.

    That is kind of a quick thought, nothing more.

    • Sophia W

      Peter Singer, Key advisor to Obama on Healthcare Administration and author of ‘The Foundations of Bioethics’ – states the following four fundamental elements of personhood:
      1) the ability to be self-conscious;
      2) rational;
      2) have a minimal moral sense and be free.
      3) To the degree that a human being is conscious, able to make autonomous choices, and perform actions which benefit society, his or her life has value and the status of personhood. When these qualities are lacking, so is their personhood.
      In interviews with him, he has avoided all outright denouncement of the consequence of his ideas to be extended to animals. In fact, he is a key activist for animal rights and believes that humans are not above animals.
      So following his beliefs, and his unique position to implement them – people with mental disabilities are not persons, Christians/ people with religion are not persons, dolphins will have rights (and so you can marry them, aka beastiality), incest as long as committed within consenting members of family without a religion is accepted, naturally so will polygamy, pedophilia? well – just change the age of consent then the problem is solved (we do see it’s downward revision already), also kids below 2 are not persons, so it isn’t illegal to use them.

      So really? Did General Jerry Ralph Curry gives an astonishingly bad argument against gay marriage and the other consequences of meddling with the definition of marriage (and personhood)? Think again. You may not like where this is headed – but it doesn’t change the reality which is already before us.

      • Ryan M

        Following his beliefs, a subset of people with mental disabilities are not persons, but not all. Additionally, nowhere does he say religious individuals are not persons. That cannot even be inferred from the personhood conditions you listed.

        It is a non sequitur to it follows that humans can marry animals simply because animals have rights. Like I said, marriage is a symmetric relation, and it requires a form of consent which is not possible unless both parties have an understanding of what marriage is, and what it would mean to be married to one another. This is not possible between a person and an animal, so a person cannot marry any animal such as a dolphin.

        Polygamy might be possible given Singer’s model, but pedophilia would not. As you say, we could simply refine the age of consent. But there comes a point where that makes no sense. For example we could not redefine the age of consent to 1 year since ‘Consent’ would need to mean something else entirely, and consequently the age of consent could not properly be said to be lowered to 1 year after all.

        Another problem with the ‘Just change the age of consent’ attack is that it assumes only a proper subset of possible positions cannot be altered in such a way that it allows for absurd moral consequences. That is wrong though. For any moral model, you can either tweak the axioms, add additional ones, or remove some of the axioms to make different moral propositions true or false. So for example on a model where only rational souls have rights, you can retool the axiom to say ‘A soul has a right just in case it is a rational soul and just in case it is a person as defined by Peter Singer’. This method effects any model the same way it would effect Singer’s. As another example, consider a Thomistic model where a being has a right to life just in case it has a rational soul. By your standards, we can show the model is bad just by saying “We can change the definition of rational souls to not include black people”. And so the model seems to fail just because you can use a set of ordered symbols and give them a different semantic content. Further the method is troubling since it is actually creating a new model to attack a particular one. For example assume we have some mathematical model M with a set of axioms {a, a1, a2, a3}, and some set of theorems {h, h1, h2, h3} follows from M. If you attack M by saying we can derive impossible theorems if we either remove, tweak or add axioms to M, then you’re not even attacking M, rather you’re attacking a model similar but distinct from M. This is exactly what you’re doing with the ‘We can change the age of consent’ attack, so it is untenable.

        Finally, Singer says persons have a right to life, but this does not entail non persons have no rights at all. He would disagree that humans under the age of 2 can be used as a means to an end in any respect we desire. For example we cannot subject an infant to unnecessary suffering just as we ought to not subject an animal to unnecessary suffering.

  • Brian

    All atheists supporting gay marriage to stick it to the religious nutters are dumb as hell. Marriage is such a hindrance to men where they fall under the dominance of the weaker sex.

    • laraharris

      Wow. How many people can you offend in once sentence. Atheists, Religious, Men and Women. I can’t decide if you’re an idiot or a troll.

    • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

      All atheists supporting gay marriage to stick it to the religious nutters are dumb as hell.

      What about atheists supporting gay marriage for other reasons, e.g., because it’s right to support it?

      Marriage is such a hindrance to men where they fall under the dominance of the weaker sex.

      Surely that’s not related to gay marriage, even if it were true, since we’re talking about same-sex marriage.

      Perhaps, you would prefer to make a case against men supporting opposite-sex marriage, but not against women supporting opposite-sex marriage, and not against anyone supporting same-sex marriage?

  • Lillynyx

    Hi Jeffrey, I have only one disagreement with your response to General Curry…I don’t believe he deserves your, ‘all due respect’. Besides an incredibly stupid response to the ruling, (although it makes me wonder if in his world there is a lot of thought about bestiality and pedophilia), he is somebody who promotes hatred and inequality towards a segment of humanity that does nothing to merit such despicable treatment.
    Perhaps there are areas of his life where he might be a decent person but in a response to his comments, I really don’t feel he earns any respect at all.

    • wombat

      Perhaps ‘all due respect’ means no respect at all, because that’s precisely how much respect his statement deserves.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      General Curry is a retired U.S. Army general who has served his country honorably. My use of the expression, “With all due respect,” was in reference to that fact. I do respect his service. I totally disagree with his views.

      • Lillynyx

        In light of what he says publicly, I can’t help but have some doubts about how ‘honourably’ he served his country. I can’t believe his views regarding basic, equal human rights did not cross-over into his professional life and I highly doubt his opinions regarding gay people and equality arose after he retired. He’s willing to announce openly his sickening views in this regard…it truly makes me wonder what other discriminatory biases he holds.

  • Eric Sotnak

    There is something a bit odd in the fact that both opposition to same-sex marriage and support for polygamy are strongest in religiously motivated groups.

    It also seems that the strongest objections to polygamy are found in the way religious groups promoting it have imposed severe restrictions on the liberties of girls, basically brainwashing them to accept it as part of the religious framework, and often imposing it on them while they are minors (thus coming back to failure of consent).

  • Jason Farnon

    the “astonishingly bad argument” is you trying to take him down while conceding his central point on polygamy. you haven’t given a single reason the right to polygamy doesn’t follow from the arguments the supreme court made for homosexual marriage. the reason it isn’t a civil right is you dopes get your morality from lady gaga.

    • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

      1. No, the argument is astonishingly bad because it’s obviously false that it doesn’t logically follow what he says it logically follows.

      2. If one understands it as a probabilistic assessment, the claim is still astonishingly bad, taken as a whole.

      3. Obviously, I do not get my morality from Lady Gaga. I’m not even sure what her views are, or that she’s opposed to polygamy. Is she? Is she also against other poly-relations, involving one woman and more than one man, or more than one man and more than one woman, etc.?

      Regardless, even if some or all of us got our moral beliefs from Lady Gaga, that would have nothing to do with whether something (anything) is a civil right, so your argument is also confused.

      4. Actually, Curry’s argument was not related to any arguments that the SCOTUS made in this case, since Curry made it on April 10, long before the ruling.

      5. Actually, the SCOTUS did not declare that same-sex marriage was a civil right. Rather, it refused to hear the case on grounds of standing.

    • David Mock

      What’s wrong with polygamy? They’re all consenting adults.

      • Sven2547

        Google the “lost boys” of Mormon fundamentalism. Polygamy, UNLIKE same-sex marriage, has harmed many people.

        • David Mock

          Yeah it’s harmful because it’s religious indoctrination. It’s the same as saying not murdering someone because the Bible told you is not morality, it’s instruction. Those who want to be in a polygamous relationship outside of religion should be allowed. And something being harmful is no reason to get rid of it if the person has consented. No one is forcing these people to be part of the Mormon church.

          • Sven2547

            The isolation of the “lost boys” is more a side effect of the logistics of polygamy itself, as opposed to the Mormon fundamentalism that spawned it.

            Roughly 50% of children are born boys. In an environment where the standard practice is for men to take multiple wives, you get a lot of single boys with no chance of marriage. It’s just plain math. The boys never consented to being put in this polygamy-induced demographic crisis.

          • UWIR

            So, if Bob wants to marry Alice, but Alice would prefer to marry Charles, even though Charles already has a wife, the government should step in and force Alice to not marry Charles so she’s available for Bob?

  • PDH

    The philosopher John Corvino has done a lot of excellent work on these issues. I thoroughly recommend him to interested parties.

    You can find a summary of some of his work over on John Danaher’s Philosophical Dispositions. For example, there is a great series of posts on Corvino’s response to a stronger version of this argument (called the ‘PIB Argument’). Here are the links.

    Part One: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/corvino-on-pib-argument-part-one.html

    Part Two: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/corvino-on-pib-argument-part-two.html

    Part Three: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/corvino-on-pib-argument-part-three.html

    There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, in my opinion, than reading through these. Look out for a summary of Corvino on the definitional objection to same sex marriage, as well, on the same site.

    • Lillynyx

      PHD: thank you for providing these links. I’m only half way through the first part, but I look forward to reading all of them. I had never heard of PIB before…there’s an acronym for everything. The fact that some people, or groups of people, spend so much time and effort arguing that PIB is a natural progression from SSM, (another acronym!) makes me wonder if they may be protesting a little too much. There is nothing at all natural about a ‘progression’ like they state…it’s about as twisted as it gets. Just think of Alan Chambers and Exodus…at least he finally had the honesty to admit who he really was and apologize for all the lies and harm he had caused over the years. A bit too little, too late, but at least he did it.

      I think that if there is actually one shade of grey with PIB, that would be polygamy. Personally, I think that’s just a really sad state of ‘marriage’ and I don’t believe there can be much in the way of love or respect, and definitely no equality. But when it’s a choice between competent, consenting adults and it’s not hurting or involving anybody else then that’s their choice. I also believe that any children in that type of family dynamic would be harmed by it. When it has to do with religion, that’s a completely different state…which includes forced marriage of minors, usually to men many, many years older. That’s pedophilia and those abusers need to be locked away. It’s been a nasty situation out in Bountiful, B.C. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bountiful,_British_Columbia I’m embarrassed that this goes on in Canada.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    An anti-gay argument (which I’ve heard often) that avoids this problem is, “If you advocate for gay marriage, you have no logical grounds by which to object to [fill in crazy stuff here].”

    But, of course, the factor they ignore is harm. Does gay marriage harm anyone? Nope. How about pedophilia? Yep. To different things. Allowing something specifically because it is a good thing for one subset of the population and doesn’t take away from the rest does not entail that we should then go do bad things.

    • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

      How does a brother and sister having sex with each other in private harm anyone. It certainly doesnt take away from those not involved…..

      Your response seems to reinforce the point.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        When there’s a critical mass of people arguing for brother/sister marriage, let’s consider it and weigh the harm. Until that point, it’s a red herring.

        • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

          No its not a red herring the logic of the arguments are the same. To respond by saying. I’ll consider that argument another day but not now does not address it. That is evasion.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

            Nope, not evasion. I thought I covered this, but let me try to be clearer. Is there harm in brother/sister sex or marriage? That’s the relevant question. If not, then why stand in the way? If so, then, no, society shouldn’t condone that marriage.

            Telling us that the sky is falling because far down the slope is people marrying their sex toys is, indeed, a red herring. We have our hands full dealing with things that responsible people are actually asking for. Let’s focus there.

  • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

    I think a lot depends on “why” Scotus declares homosexuality a civil right. For example if it does so on the ground there is a right to engage in any consensual sexual activity in private, then given certain obvious facts, such as that adult siblings or polygamous couples can consent and have sex in private, then certain forms of incest and polygamy do actually follow from the argument. [though Bestiality and pedophilia raise other issues]

    On the other hand if other grounds are cited it may not have this implication.

    • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

      By “homosexuality” do you mean same-sex marriage?

      On the issue of consensual activity (not marriage), SCOTUS already declared gay sex between consenting adults in private a civil right (since it ruled that sex between consenting adults in private is protected by the US Constitution, in 2003, in Lawrence vs. Texas). That did not lead to the decriminalization of incest between consenting adults as far as I can tell (though I think the law criminalizing it is a bad idea, but that’s another matter), nor to a recognized right to same-sex marriage.

      The recent court cases were about Proposition 8 and about DOMA, and in any case the court did not declare same-sex marriage a civil right. Instead, it refused to hear the Proposition 8 case (my position is that that was a bad idea; they should have heard it and strike it down), and declared DOMA unconstitutional., but that does not mean that state laws only allowing opposite-sex marriage are unconstitutional (which I think they are, but the court did not declare that).

      • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

        “By “homosexuality” do you mean same-sex marriage?”

        I was using the language used in the argument above:

        “On the issue of consensual activity (not marriage), SCOTUS already declared gay sex between consenting adults in private a civil right (since it ruled that sex between consenting adults in private is protected by the US Constitution, in 2003, in Lawrence vs. Texas). That did not lead to the decriminalization of incest between consenting adults as far as I can tell (though I think the law criminalizing it is a bad idea, but that’s another matter), nor to a recognized right to same-sex marriage.”

        That’s irrevelant, because the question is not wether
        decriminalising homosexual conduct on those grounds has lead to decriminalisation of incest. Its whether decriminalising it on those grounds logically commits one to do so.

        Its not hard to see it does. An adult brother and sister who
        consent to have sex with each other and there adult father in there own bedroom are engaging in (a) sex that is (b) consensual and (c) in private. Hence if sex between consenting adults in private is protected by the US Constitution then incest of this sort is constitutionally protected.

        Decrying this as hysterical does not change the fact it’s a pretty
        obvious implication of decriminalising homosexual conduct on those particular grounds.

        • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

          I was using the language used in the argument above:

          Alright, so it seems you meant same sex-marriage. Else, please clarify.

          That’s irrevelant, because the question is not wether decriminalising homosexual conduct on those grounds has lead to decriminalisation of incest. Its whether decriminalising it on those grounds logically commits one to do so.

          1. Actually, the original argument claims that it logically follows that one day they will be declared a civil right.
          2. Okay, so you want to discuss whether decriminalizing gay sex on the ground that there is a right to engage in consensual sexual activity in private in all cases, then sure, on the same grounds, one would be committed to decriminalizing consensual incest, as long as those grounds are meant to apply to all consensual activity in private, regardless of the situation (which is unlikely to be the case; e.g., if some activity would result in almost certain and instant death for one of the partners due to some new lethal transmissible disease, the matter shifts to issues of consensual killing of another person, which is a different matter altogether, etc.).

          Its not hard to see it does. An adult brother and sister who
          consent to have sex with each other and there adult father in there own bedroom are engaging in (a) sex that is (b) consensual and (c) in private. Hence if sex between consenting adults in private is protected by the US Constitution then incest of this sort is constitutionally protected.

          Yes, of course assuming that there is actual consent, which in practice would almost never and perhaps never happen in that manner. Other cases, like those involving adult siblings, would happen, even if very infrequently.

          Decrying this as hysterical does not change the fact it’s a pretty
          obvious implication of decriminalising homosexual conduct on those particular grounds.

          Obviously, decrying your point as hysterical would not change the facts.
          Do you know of someone who decries the point you’re making here as hysterical?

          Incidentally, as I said, I think laws criminalizing incest between consenting adults are a bad idea in the context we’re talking about. Additionally, I think that if there were a court case, the SCOTUS should decriminalize consensual incest between adults (not in all potential scenarios; that requires a very different discussion, but then the same applies to sexual activity between unrelated opposite-sex people).


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