Baby and Mommy and Mommy and Daddy

Hey! You with the hands! Can I see your papers?

Rod Dreher is upset about a bill in California that would allow a child to have more than two parents in the eyes of the law.  (The double indent is Dreher quoting an article, followed by his comment in normal blockquote formatting).

State Sen. Mark Leno is pushing legislation to allow a child to have multiple parents.

“The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today,” the San Francisco Democrat said.

…SB 1476 stemmed from an appellate court case last year involving a child’s biological mother, her same-sex partner, and a man who had an affair with the biological mother and impregnated her while she was separated temporarily from her female lover.

This is an attempt to accommodate the radical irregularities in modern childbearing practices (surrogacy, etc.). What would this law teach us? That there is no such thing as the natural family — that family is whatever we say it is. Or, as Barbara Bush witlessly put it to the GOP Convention in 1992, “However you define family, that’s what we mean by family values.”

I think Dreher is too dogmatic in expecting civil law to conform to biology.  Law shapes and reflects culture, it’s true, but it’s also used as a kind of bureaucratic shorthand.  Being able to walk into a hospital and identify as a ‘parent’ will get you into the room of your child and empowered to make medical decisions much faster than trying to explain that you’re the egg donor and domestic partner of the mother of the patient.

In these cases, the law is recognizing a relationship that already exists, and is fitting it into the likeliest looking niche.  But the law moves slowly, so we’re often stuck using old categories that are redolent of a tradition that’s no longer universal (or perhaps never was).  It would be easier for the law to recognize civil unions and leave marriage to churches and communities.  It would be simpler for the state to recognize guardians — the person(s) who has legal responsibility for the child, and leave it to a community or a family whether that authority is restricted to biological parents, shared across a blended family, incorporates extended family, or even something more exotic, like vowed friendship.

I don’t think this category of guardianship is in danger of becoming contentless.  Although it is not rooted in biology, the obligation of the strong to the weak and of experience to innocence seems worth celebrating and setting off as special, in all of its various incarnations.  It’s up to a community and tradition to keep their particular instantiation of this virtue fiercely attractive.

– — –

Of course, there’s one institution that signed on to the idea of more than two parents quite some time ago: college financial aid offices are notorious for counting all the assets of all four parents against the demonstrated scholarship need of a student, regardless of how much support and contact the original parents have kept up after the split.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Lukas Halim

    “It would be easier for the law to recognize civil unions and leave marriage to churches and communities.” So the church or community should decide whether the ex-husband should pay child support? Or should they decide how many weekends a month the child will spend with Dad?

    My wife is good friends with a woman who was married to a man for over 18 years, and had three children with him. Her husband had an affair, divorced her, and has now proposed to his new lover. The now-ex husband used to be actively involved in church and community, but has stopped being so involved. The church and community have the power of moral persuasion, but those tools tend to work poorly when dealing with a narcissist.

    Here’s some related scripture: Matthew 18:15-17
    ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

  • Oregon Catholic

    Parents should think long and hard about changing the rules. The sperm or egg donor you thought would fade into the background could come into your life to make you miserable years later. Your ex spouse fron 3 marriages ago could continue to insist on a legal relationship with your child. I think you get the picture why 2 biological or adoptive parents are the best model.

    • anodognosic

      I don’t see how you could possibly include adoptive parents as acceptable if you’ve ruled out sperm or egg donors. A biological mother, it would seem to me, has an even stronger claim to be a part of the child’s life. Why is adoption okay and sperm/egg donation not?

      • Slow Learner

        +1 to this. In fact, your ex spouse would have much less call to be involved with children you’ve had later which are unrelated to them.
        And if you can’t deal with a sperm/egg donor being involved, you perhaps should have considered adoption a little more carefully.
        Equally, as best I understand this proposal it is a voluntary one – if neither you nor the egg donor wants her to be involved, she won’t be. If she then later changes her mind, she’d be in the same situation she is now (replace egg with sperm and she with he for the reverse situation).

      • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

        Most Catholics are against sperm/egg donation because it usually involves IVF, which involves fertilized eggs which aren’t used, which is considered abortion. Not saying I agree, saying that’s what I think the belief is.

        Yet I don’t understand why that should keep a Catholic from agreeing with your central point. Once the child is already alive, what on earth is the rationale for allowing adoptive parents but not sperm/egg donors?

        And why SHOULDN’T a spouse from three marriages ago be allowed some rights? People do form real relationships with their step children that may outlast a marriage. I have a friend who has three dads- ‘bio-dad’ (she was conceived out of wedlock, whom her mom never married), ‘dad,’ (her mom’s partner while she was growing up), and ‘step-dad,’ (whom her mom married later). The one who’s the biggest father figure for her is ‘dad.’

        Happily she’s of age and can pick who she has a relationship with, and happily all of the above adults were reasonable with visiting etc. while she was growing up, but I see that as a good argument for allowing parental rights for more than two people.

        • HBanan

          Catholics would say that, in the absence of a formal adoption signing away parental rights, the “egg donor” is already the mother, and a “sperm donor” is a father. We care about biological reality, remember? As to adoption, again, we still care about biological reality. Adoptive parents are parents, but so are birth parents, and the child of an adoption will most likely want to know them. Adoption is better than a lot of alternatives, but it is not easy on anyone. Just because we would prefer people give their unwanted children to others to raise, rather than killing them, doesn’t mean we think that adoption is free of any emotional distress for all members of both families. It’s better than growing up in foster care, it’s better than being killed, and it’s better than being raised in an abusive or neglectful household. The growing prevalence of open adoptions grew out of better knowledge of how much adopted children want to know their biological relatives, but in these cases, the birth parents have no remaining parental rights.

          It is possible to have numerous adult mentors who are wonderful role models without bringing in the courts and assigning custody to ex-step-parents.

          I actually don’t have any problem with a child having multiple, legal guardians, or even that all of these be termed parents; I would only have a problem with the scenario that lies on birth certificates and says that adoptive parents are actually birth parents. I also have a problem with adults who do not want to live in reality. One of the cases cited in support of the “multiple parent” law is:
          “SB 1476 [which] stemmed from an appellate court case last year involving a child’s biological mother, her same-sex partner, and a man who had an affair with the biological mother and impregnated her while she was separated temporarily from her female lover.”

          I am guessing that the mother is back together with her partner, who would like to adopt the child, but the father refuses to relinquish parental rights. The partner, who is now a step-parent finds herself in the same position as thousands of straight stepmothers and stepfathers. The law has been dealing with this for a long time; I don’t understand the pressing need to change anything. The relationship a step-parent builds with her child can be a wonderful one. It does not have to be enshrined in law.

          For the family in question, naming all 3 adults parents and giving all 3 rights under the law might delight the stepmother, but I don’t see how it benefits the child. It does not liberate the family from potential future battles in the court. Currently, should the mother die, the father would presumably take over full custody. If the stepmother becomes a 3rd parent, she could fight it out in court with the father, and would probably get a better custody deal than him; men generally have not fared too well recently in custody cases. If the mother and stepmother separate again, the stepmother leaves the child’s life — or not, depending on how cordial she remains with the mother and how deeply the child loves her and wants to call her or visit her. I don’t really see how these situations would harm the child, for that matter, though I have heard it is hard enough on children to have their time split between two households, let alone three. I am more disturbed that I think this is about satisfying the needs and egos of adults rather than actually doing anything for their children. It is also based in the the elevation of adult romance over biological reality, both of which I find problematic.

          I will also say — if it is really important to a woman that her children be adopted by a lesbian partner, or it may be really important to her in the future — don’t have sex with a man! Heterosex has consequences — big ones that won’t be held off because the real love of your life is a woman.

          • Daleth

            If you “care about biological reality,” you wouldn’t be equating egg donors with sperm donors and calling both of them somehow “biological parents.” As you may have learned in health class, men and women are different. Please forgive the obvious, but here’s the thing: biological motherhood is not the same as biological fatherhood. Contributing one cell to create an embryo makes you a biological father, but it doesn’t make you a biological mother.

            Biological motherhood involves TWO things (contributing an egg, then gestating it and giving birth), while biological fatherhood only involves ONE thing (contributing a sperm). That’s just how it works; men and women are biologically different in a way that makes it simply wrong to equate being an egg donor with being a biological mother. True, a sperm donor is a biological father, because that’s all biological fatherhood IS; you contribute a sperm, and then someone else goes through a life-altering nine-month process that culminates in you becoming a biological father (whether you stuck around after she got pregnant or not; whether you even knew she got pregnant or not).

            But an egg donor is not a biological mother, because biological motherhood is not the same as biological fatherhood. Conceptually, the egg donor and the mother who carries the child are at least equal: they are both biological mothers, because the two functions of biological motherhood are shared by those two women. But in reality, if you actually ask egg donors, they don’t consider themselves biological mothers because (drum roll) they are not MOTHERS. They haven’t carried and given birth to a child. They haven’t been pregnant. Biological motherhood is not an experience they have had (at least, not with respect to the kid(s) born from the donation).

            It’s really that simple. Biological motherhood is a different thing than biological fatherhood. A sperm donor might think sometimes “wow, technically I’m a father,” and that’s true biologically, because that is all that biological fatherhood is; all men know that it’s theoretically possible some kid he’s never laid eyes on could show up at his door and say, “You’re my father.” But that can’t happen to a woman because (drum roll) reproduction is different for us. A woman who has donated her eggs doesn’t feel like a biological mother because she had nothing to do with the part of biological motherhood that we (women) identify as motherhood–namely, pregnancy and birth.

    • Dianne

      I think you get the picture why 2 biological or adoptive parents are the best model.

      Not in the least. Is it impossible for two biological parents to quarrel? Do biological parents never abuse their children? Is an “intact” family really all that matters to raising a child, regardless of how miserable or abusive that “intact” family is? There are serious counterexamples everywhere you look if you had the simple honesty to see them.

      As for adoption, it is an automatic setup for problems, unless you’re proposing adoption only take place if the biological parents are dead. There are multiple cases of adoptive parents losing custody when a father comes back on the scene. Then there’s open adoption where the biological mother has some contact with the child. Do you wish to deny them even that comfort in your quest to make sure only the “right” people raise children?

      There are lots of models for raising children that can work out fine. And no model is absolutely proof against problems. Why not concentrate on things like making sure that children aren’t abused or neglected, rather than obsessing about how many parents a given child has?

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    A copy of your final “Of course …” comment about college financial aid offices has somehow become interpolated into the quotation of Rod Dreher, so that it looks as if he wrote it. I’m pretty sure he didn’t.

  • Baron Korf

    In other news, California defines Tau as 6. It would be too dogmatic to object that law doesn’t conform to geometry. It is up to a community and tradition to keep their particular instantiation of this ratio fiercely attractive.

    Makes about as much sense to me.

    • anodognosic

      Then you’re being deliberately obtuse. The proposal would allow the law to deal with already existing nontraditional child-rearing arrangements. Such a change in the law would facilitate the rearing of real, actual children who are really, actually already in these kinds of arrangements. It helps the law deal with a particular actually-existing reality. Just because your preferred strategy is to pretend that they literally don’t exist doesn’t make them any less real.

      • Doragoon

        Should the law change to accept things just because they have become common? (I’m looking at you speed limit!) If there is a good reason for it, then that reason existed before the change in social norms.

        • Slow Learner

          Not *just* because they are common; but if the law is causing difficulty for some, purely because when framed it made several assumptions that no longer hold, it should be reconsidered.

          In the case of speed limits, when most speed limits were set, cars had worse brakes, longer stopping distances, and were less safe when involved in a collision. On the other hand, other speed limits are based on the fact that the road is narrow and has blind corners, say, and thus are unaffected by these improvements in car design.
          So some speed limits should probably be revised upwards, to recognise that most people go over the speed limit on these roads without any harm (I have found myself travelling at 80mph on the motorway, purely to keep up with the stream of traffic). At the same time, speed limits which depend on road conditions should remain unchanged, or possibly drop.
          It’s quite a good analogy – this appears to be exactly what this law is doing – considering the reality of what people actually do, and where it does no harm, making sure it is recognised as legally acceptable.
          Before people are actually doing it, there is no pressure to change the law.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Your logic calls to mind the old saw about the teenager who pleads to be allowed to do something because “everybody’s doing it” and the parent who says “If everybody was jumping off a cliff would you follow them?” Guess which person I think your logic represents. When the notion of harm becomes as subjective as morality we really get into trouble. Fortunately for children, imo, we still have adults in this country that are able to take the long (objective) view and think in terms of slippery slopes and harm that goes beyond personal definitions.

          • Slow Learner

            @Oregon Catholic: How? I’m talking about fairly objective measures of harm – the number of road traffic collisions on a given stretch of road can be measured pretty exactly, as can injuries and property damage resulting from them.
            The question of families and parenting is more complex, but as a broad principle I would favour recognising as parents those adults who are most directly and continuously involved in the child’s upbringing. As an example, I know someone whose biological father shouldn’t be allowed near children; fortunately it never arose, but technically if her mother had died young, he would have been presumed to be responsible for my friend, despite the fact he was an abusive shit who played no part in her upbringing. Allowing people a few options beyond and around the biological parents won’t change most situations, but could really help some people.

          • Oregon Catholic

            slow learner, what you are proposing already exists in current law. Parents can sign away their parental rights, dead beat parents can have their rights taken away, step parents can adopt, parent(s) can pick legal guardians (without them becoming parents) in case of death. The proposal is to legalize >2 parents. It starts out with 3 or 4 parental figures agreeing to something and being granted legal rights. Then once legal precedent has been made, it mutates into egg donors and sperm donors and uterus renters and former step parents and shack-up partners, etc. pushing themselves via the courts into a parental role simply because they have had a biological or social relationship to the child – no matter how unimportant or removed they might have been – and because they have a selfish desire to meddle.

            And that doesn’t even address the issue of creating new legal parental relationships that given our society’s track-record on committment are likely to be transient at best. The models of mother and father (bio or adoptive) and husband and wife have withstood the test of time and biology in proving they are the best for raising children – and that’s whose welfare we should be considering, yes?

            And the really sad thing is that all of this social mess created by going outside the natural law model to create families is so predictable and obvious to anyone willing and able to think logically, and not just I want what I want when I want it.

      • deiseach

        andognosic, how does changing the law to allow three or more parents help in this situation? If the natural mother wants custody of the child, which presumbly she has, and her civil-partner wants to adopt, then the natural father (if he agrees to the adoption) will lose all legal rights. That means Mommy A and Mommy B will be put down on the birth certificate as the parents, and all legal rights and responsibilities will rest with them.

        Now, if the same-sex partner is not permitted to adopt, because the law in that state does not recognise same-sex adoptions, that’s a different kettle of fish. There, the birth certificate can have the name of the natural mother and the natural father – or just the mother’s name alone, if she doesn’t want to identify the father or he is unwilling to take responsibility for the child. In that instance, the partner will be in the same boat as step-parents who have not adopted their spouse’s children have been for years. It is to be hoped that all three parties can act like reasonable humans and think about what is best for the child’s welfare. If the father wants to take responsibility and be involved in the child’s life, I think that is something to be encouraged. If this hurts Mommy B’s feelings, then tough – it’s not about her and Mommy A, it’s about the kid.

        My main objection to mucking about with law is that I don’t see how “Heather Has Three Parents” is going to make things better. Where anyone can be a guardian – family member not a parent, relative by marriage not blood, or just a family friend or neighbour – then this weakens, not strengthens, bonds. What Leah says about “the obligation of the strong to the weak and of experience to innocence” is exactly what needs to be supported, and where the stronger party can slip their responsibilities by handing off a child like a bag of spuds to another person to take care of, they will do it I’ve seen it in my job). Helping them do it by widening the law to make anyone and everyone a parent/guardian is not, in my opinion, the best thing for the interests of children who need stability and structure.

        I had six years in a local goverment education committee, working in a clerical capacity in a secondary school (ages 12-18, intake disproportionately lower-income and special needs/behavioural problems/psychological problems/less academically able, because we were at the bottom of the informal school pecking-order in the town), early school leavers programme, literacy centre and adult/continuing education. In that short period, I saw the multitudinous ways parents can screw up their kids’ lives by putting their own interests first. Couple of instances – I told you about the father dicking around with his kid’s education (chance to go to university and her future) just to piss off his ex-wife, but I also saw kids having their names multiply changed every time the mother took up with a new guy (and she would phone us up in the office to yell at us if we dared send a letter home with last week’s name on it because her kid was John Smith-Murphy, not John Jones or John Brown or John Whatever it had been previously – how can you build any sense of a stable identity if you don’t know what your name is going to be today?), playing find-the-needle-in-the-haystack because of multiple changes of address by parent so we were never sure where the child was living, 15 year old girl living with elderly and ill grandmother because her dad was God knows where and her mother had cleared off to England, etc. etc. etc.

        What I took away from that (and which only confirmed me in previous opinions) was this: you’re 21 or over and it’s just you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/basset hound/whomever? I don’t give a damn, do what you like and good luck to you.

        There’s a child involved? Grow the hell up and start acting like an adult, because it’s not all about you and your need to find a new squeeze to knock boots with.

        • anodognosic

          Honestly? You can cite bad examples until the cows come home. You will find bad examples until the cows come home. But you can do the same with biological parents. You know, the proponents of this law probably support it because they saw specific cases where the child would have been benefited by some such arrangement, and saw the harm of its absence in specific cases. I’m agnostic towards this particular law, because I don’t know enough to support or oppose it. But it falls well short of altering some fundamental constant, and citing misuse–especially misuse of rights and privileges that have nothing to do with this law–are just plain bad arguments against it absent any kind of analysis of the tradeoffs involved. And furthermore, I’m skeptical making a family look stable by preventing things like name changes (or divorce, for that matter) makes a family actually stable.

          • Slow Learner

            I know someone quite well, in her 50s now, who wishes her parents had divorced – they spent many years making each other, and their children, miserable but they stayed together ‘for the sake of the children’ and because at that time divorce was socially unacceptable.
            She maintains this opinion, even having seen friend her age divorce, sometimes very messily, so it’s not just a childish “This is horrible I wish it would change” without considering how ‘change’ might also mean ‘get worse’.

          • deiseach

            I know people mess up. The point was not “straight marriage is in such a wonderful state”, it was that when you start mucking around with who is and is not a parent, it’s not for the benefit of the children, it is for the benefit of the adults.

            I would have the same objections if this was a proposal to make it “Daddy and Mommy and Daddy” or “Daddy and Mommy and Daddy’s new wife Mommy”. I’m not saying Mommy B will not or cannot be a good parent; I’m saying she can be a step-parent/adoptive parent like othe step-parents and adoptive parents if the three of them can work out something in the child’s best interests, and that making it easier for people – that means straight people too, if I wasn’t clear enough on that point – to abandon responsibilities or shuffle them around by saying “One in, all in! Names on the birth cert for everyone!” isn’t the way to go.

  • Andrew

    I’m not really that I really understand your point. Are you saying by implication that the impregnated mother has the right to shut the father out of the life of the child? That the father has to accept that role? What if the biological father wants to be a guardian but the biological mother disagrees. That rights of people within “the family” will come and go based on what role they assume. It seems to me that the law has to be the adjudicator in situations where a child, a new life is created by the union between two people who do not love each other.

  • Ted Seeber

    Commitment is better than love at uniting parents, except in the rare case of the virgin parents who haven’t burnt out their oxytocin receptors on other people long before coming together to create a child. Other than that, I’m with you.

    (Yes, I just admitted to a sin that is as bad as homosexuality that I have long since repented of- and am still struggling with repenting for- that *HAS* damaged my sacramental marriage but is perfectly acceptable in secular society).

    • anodognosic

      Is there anything to back up your claims that 1. people who get married as virgins have stronger lifelong love ties, and 2. it has anything to do with oxytocin desensitization?

      • Slow Learner

        +1 again. anodognosic, why you talk so much sense!?

        • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

          Is there even such a thing as oxytocin desensitization?

          • Anonymous

            We certainly don’t have any good data for the idea Ted proposed and anodognosic rigorized. We know very little about oxytocin in the brain, and what we know about it in the blood is mostly: “It’s there. It goes up and down when these things happen. We can manipulate trust a little bit.” However, desensitization is present in most receptors, and oxytocin receptors aren’t likely an exception. We know for sure that they’re not an exception in the uterus. The long-timescale implications of such desensitization… or its affect on behavior? Plan to wait a while before you really have good data for this.

          • anodognosic

            Thanks for the info, anon. I did find some references to oxytocin desensitization in far more physiological contexts, but which I don’t really have the training to understand. In any case, while oxytocin desensitization seems a plausible enough phenomenon from a layman’s perspective (as in, it may be true for all I know), I don’t see why monogamous marriage where both partners were virgins at the wedding would prevent desensitization over many, many years of marriage.

          • Ted Seeber

            It doesn’t. It in fact just means that to get the same rush over many, many years of marriage you need to communicate and stay bonded to that person.

      • Ted Seeber

        Yes. Tons of studies on the subject. Oxytocin is basically the hormone in the brain that promotes monogamy. When you have an orgasm, it releases a rush of Oxytocin. Like all addictive substances, you eventually need more and more of it to get the same “rush”.

        If you are monogamous with only ONE person throughout your life that you met in adolescence, your bond with that person is going to be a lot stronger than with a person you met in say, your late twenties.

        • Slow Learner

          I’m sorry, I don’t think that follows; if your oxytocin receptors are burnt out, you won’t get the oxytocin rush from anyone; when you met them and how long you’ve been together are irrelevant to that.
          What is more, a lot of people, when adolescent, are bluntly idiots. They have no idea who they want to be with for the rest of their life. If you try to make them decide, you end up with miserable marriages in which people are trapped, or a whole lot of divorces.
          If you put the decision in someone else’s hands, you end up with all the horrors of arranged and forced marriages.
          Much better to let people wait to marry until they’re mature enough and experienced enough to know what they want and need in a partner and a relationship; then the marriage has a better chance of lasting long-term.

          • Ted Seeber

            The way Oxytocin seems to work, when you burn out your receptors, you’ve settled down to ONLY being able to bond with a single individual.

            If you’re not with the one you love, you can’t love the one you are with any longer.

            See what long term married couples say about divorce after 25 years of marriage. It’s just not done- and not because they aren’t tempted and don’t fight- but because they truly cannot imagine life without each other any more.

          • Slow Learner

            That sounds highly unlikely: please cite sources.

        • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

          So I just did a little Google scholar search for oxytocin desensitization. It’s a real phenomenon—that occurs during labor, has to do with the contractility of the uterus, and has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual pair bonding.

          Dredging up some memories from school, the most studied kind of pair-bonding that we know IS facilitated strongly by oxytocin is the mother-baby pair bond. There is no evidence whatsoever that a mother bonds less strongly with her second, third, fourth, etc. child than with her fourth, and there is also no evidence that a mother who has her first child later in life bonds less strongly with it.

          I believe the role of oxytocin in sexual bonding is less well understood, but judging from what I’ve read, and my memories of these classes . . . I’m calling BS until I see some studies.

          –Rosemary, whose pet peeve is the mis-use of medical studies to prove ideological points

          • Anonymous

            “…and has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual pair bonding.”

            This is probably false. At the very least, it certainly doesn’t follow from the fact that oxytocin also plays a role in maternal bonds. If peptides could only play a single role in our psyche, we’d have to learn a lot longer list of peptides.

          • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

            I meant that the studies I found on oxytocin desensititization were only about labor. Oxytocin can be used to induce labor (under the trade name Pitocin, hence ‘pit drip’), so the researchers are interested in how the molecular biology might affect dosing. Specifically, they are curious how the dose might need to be increased after a woman is in (induced) labor for 12-20 hours (that seemed to be the time frame of many of these studies). Many of these studies were in vitro only.

            Here are the first few article titles that pop up (I clicked through and read abstracts. OB-GYN, isn’t my field, but I can read the medical language): “The desensitization of oxytocin receptors in human myometrial cells is accompanied by down-regulation of oxytocin receptor messenger RNA” — that’s uterine cells in vitro. In a Petri dish.

            “Oxytocin-induced desensitization of the oxytocin receptor” This one is generic muscle cells in vitro.

            “Loss of myometrial oxytocin receptors during oxytocin-induced and oxytocin-augmented labour” Biopsied uterine cells from women in labor.

            “Desensitization of oxytocin receptors in human myometrium” More biopsies from women in labor.

            “Internalization and desensitization of the oxytocin receptor is inhibited by Dynamin and clathrin mutants in human embryonic kidney 293 cells” As stated. Human embryonic kidney cells in vitro. And the authors are interested in . . . labor.

            “Minimum oxytocin dose requirement after cesarean delivery for labor arrest” Pitocin can also be used after delivery to involute the uterus and prevent bleeding (to my understanding- again, I’m not in OB). So this study was interested in that sort of dosing.

            I clicked pages deep into Scholar. I also ran a quick search on PubMed. Almost every single reference to oxytocin desensitization was in a context of exogenous (not natural; medically introduced) oxytocin in the context of induced labor. I saw one study on SSRIs and oxytocin desensitization. Other than a few myometrial biopsy studies, the overwhelming majority of studies were in vitro, and on the molecular level. On neither search tool did I see any studies on the level of a whole organism. Nowhere was this phenomenon tied to sexual pair bonding in any way.

            Sure, maybe it’s possible . . . but the science is just not there. Any speculation is just that.

          • Anonymous

            Yay! You’ve supported that the literature focuses on (and best understands) the role of oxytocin in childbirth… a thing that was completely uncontested!

            …we also have very conclusive studies concerning a role in orgasm… and an effect on trust. Obviously, the system is much more vast than just childbirth. Do you have any evidence that the receptors involved in these systems are completely unlike any other receptors in the human body… and for some reason don’t experience desensitization?

            As I’ve said above, we certainly have no comprehensive and conclusive results of the scope that Ted would like… but it’d be pretty foolish to jump the gun and say that oxytocin has nothing to do with sexual pair bonding. In fact, given the current information, it’d be quite reasonable to believe that it has a significant, if yet not completely understood, role.

  • Brian

    We continue to see the absurdity that results from so-called same-sex marriage. This video is positively prophetic:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifUSSt–gLg&list=FLSULGhNfwvz0BT9KI57_ojg&index=2&feature=plpp_video

    ^We need to continue making arguments like these, and, eventually, we WILL get through to homosexualists.

    • http://seriouslywhimsical.wordpress.com Jennifer

      Sometimes I think that atheists should just stop bothering to try and talk people out of religious faith. Individuals like Brian seem to be doing an admirable job for the atheist cause. Well done Brian! :D

      • Brian

        Watch the video. As Jennifer Roback says, multiple-partner parenting or contract parenting results from the detaching of marriage from parenthood, which is exactly what same-sex “marriage” does. Once you get out of a realist view of marriage, only positivism remains.

        • Oregon Catholic

          Brian, I agree with you but a moral relativist (very common among atheists) is never going to ‘get’ your point. Because to be a moral relativist you have to start from the position that me, myself, and I are the determiner of morality. It’s all subjective and no one should be able to put limits on what they subjectively decide is good or bad. Therefore, society should open up the laws to let me, myself, and I decide how many parents my child should have based on whatever reasoning I choose (today) and let me change my mind as often as I want.

          • Ron K

            Interesting. From my perspective as an Atheist (albeit not really a relativist), both sides are acting as if they are moral relativists. Both sides believe that what we have here is a conflict of two equivalent value systems — one traditional and one new. The difference is in the reaction to the emergence of the new value system.

            Liberals want the laws to adapt to this new population with this new value system, the same way laws adapted in the civil rights movement in the ’60s or the women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century.

            Conservatives want to reject this new value system, which they consider to be dangerous to the social fabric. They see this as a part of a process of drift from the country’s ‘original’ values that began somewhere after WWII. Therefore they fight to impose their values on all, or at least enough values to stop this drift.

            A true moral objectivist wouldn’t see a competing value system as a threat — after all, their moral system is provably and inherently superior and objective. You don’t need to fight a moral system if it is inherintly evil — it would be self evident if it were so. If they would want to fight over something, it would probably be teaching more logic in schools, so that they can sit back and relax as the objective moral system reveals itself to every rational being.

          • Oregon Catholic

            No, Ron K, Catholics don’t argue just from a traditional value system. We argue from the natural law upon which the “traditional values” of marriage between one man, one woman, and the biological reality of parents as one father and one mother come from. We don’t accept the notion that we should change laws or values to reflect whatever liberals decide is fashionable this year.

            Relativists and liberals are so willing to create all kinds of social chaos out of their attachment to their own feelings and notions. Then they use the rationale that because the chaos exists and they are now realizing the legal problems it’s created (which traditionalists pointed out in the beginning) we should change our laws to ‘fix’ them, thereby assuring that even the conservatives are forced to live with, accept, and even celebrate their chaos as well. And of course there are those uber-liberals (read anarchists) who exist to live outside of accepted social values, so the chaos never ends because once something is made law it becomes traditional to them and must be subverted by some new and in-your-face lifestyle.

          • Ron K

            The funny thing is, that the *same* moral objections were raised by conservative Catholics and Protestants in the early 20th century against the mixing of the races, mixed education, and especially against interractial marriages. ‘God’, they said, ‘created us in different races on different continents for a purpose’. At that same time, progressive Catholics and Protestants joined to help the Civil Rights Movement.

            What that means to me, as an outside observer, is two things:
            1) We don’t mean the same thing when we say ‘natural’. When I say it I mean just the state of things as they are — no moral judgment and indeed no moral conclusion. It is natural for humans to live in the savannah and hunt. It is natural for humans to fish in a Polynesian island. It is natural for humans to be polygamous and polyandrous. It is natural for humans to be monogamous. It is natural for humans to lie about being monogamous. If it exists in humans, by definition it exists in nature, and is therefore natural.

            When I hear you say ‘natural’ what I hear is ‘the way things were in my culture roughly at the time I was brought up’, and it is thick with value and undertone and nostalgia to a past that has probably never really existed as you remember it.

            You *are* aware that an appeal to nature is a fallacy, right?

            2) In politics, political beliefs carry much more weight than religious ones. The fact that the same church can contain Bill Donahue and nuns who act in exact political opposite, the fact that demographically Catholics are politically split suggests, that irrespective of the Church teachings on Morality and Religion, it does not do a good job in touting a political line, either by accident or by choice.

            Therefore, having a political and social position ‘as a Catholic’ is meaningless. Doing it sounds like you’re putting your own thoughts in the mouth of a much larger, much more powerful organisation. I’m not saying that your thought aren’t influenced by Catholic thought, I’m just saying that there are other Catholics who have, from the same premises, reached different conclusions. When you speak for ‘Catholics’ in general, that’s kind of dishonest.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Ron K, you can apply whatever squishy sort of personal definition of natural you want to. My definition rests on the biological truth of how our species IS, in particular how we reproduce and raise children. I can also point to the thousands of years of civilization’s historical configuration of family, which makes current progressive notions nothing but a passing fad.

            As far as me speaking for Catholics in general, no I don’t speak for other people or define what individuals think. I can however speak with certainty as to what the Catholic Church teaches and one can draw their own conclusions from that about who is a Catholic.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            @Ron K -

            You say: When I hear you say ‘natural’ what I hear is ‘the way things were in my culture roughly at the time I was brought up’, and it is thick with value and undertone and nostalgia to a past that has probably never really existed as you remember it.

            For Natural Law theorists – whether Catholic or atheist or of any other religious belief – “natural” means that things conform to their essence. A human is most natural when it is most human, a tree when it is most perfectly and fully a tree, an up quark when it is up-quarkiest.

            I won’t pretend to deny that there are plenty of people who argue from nostalgia. Some of them use “unnatural” to describe what they don’t like. But please do not confuse them with those of us who are arguing from Natural Law.

            The Natural Law theorists argue that the world and its inhabitants have a teleology. They have a purpose or reason in existing. Likewise, Natural Law theorists argue that the world and its inhabitants have forms, that is, they are some definable thing. The difference between a rock and Rocky Balboa is a real difference (difficult as it may be to discern at times).

            Because things have teleology and form, we can tell when something is not right. A broken arm is not right: its form is distorted and it fails in its purpose. A blind or nearsighted eye is a bad eye: diseased or injured, distorted in form and incapable of achieving its end.

            A Natural Law theorist would actually accuse you of falling into the Naturalistic Fallacy, mixing up is and ought.

            In other words, you may hear nostalgia, but please accept that this is not what Natural Law philosophers are talking about, and therefore your counterarguments miss their marks.

          • Ron K

            @Robert King
            I wasn’t arguing against ‘Natural Law’, or against Catholicism as a way of thought. I was arguing specifically with Oregon Catholic’s words.

            I understand the basic neo-Platonist philosophical position, although in my views it is extremely flawed. ‘Natural Law’ is a misnomer, because the philosophy assumes the existence of supernatural, metpahysical, undemonstratable ‘essences’ and ‘purposes’, of which things in our world are manifestations.

            Not only do you claim that these exist metaphysically, you claim to have direct knowledge of them. You say that ‘Because things have teleology and form, we can tell when something is not right’. How can you tell? Even if teleology (i.e. purpose) and form exist in the metaphysical world, they are undectectable in the natural world by our faulty human mind and senses. You are still bound by the natural world, your imperfect senses, and your imperfect human mind, and are therefore prone to mistake. Since in this scenario there could be no external, repeatable, verifiable tests to show someone wrong, all you are left with is some lofty metaphysics, a bunch of opinions and no way to distinguish between them.

            To claim that I am making the naturalistic fallacy, a mere paragraph after saying that since most people *do* have use of their hands, broken hands are *bad* and *should be* fixed is absolutely ironic. What if someone was born with a fully functioning third hand? would that make him more human and therefore better? Maybe the ‘purpose’ of humans was to develop that third hand all along. How can you tell, without resorting to direct metaphysical knowledge?

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            @Ron K

            You’re right: “we can tell” makes epistemological claims that are a few steps away from the point I’m trying to make.

            My intended point is: without teleology and form, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Without teleology and form, there is no bridge from “is” to “ought” – not even to say, “What is = what ought to be.” In other words, the naturalistic fallacy is to mistake what is for what ought to be, not to posit an ought as a model for is.

            As to Neo-Platonism, I fully agree with you that (as beautiful a system as it is) it is utterly wrong in its metaphysics. My approach to Natural Law – and the approach taken by most of those I’ve read and talked to – has been the Aristotelian and/or Thomistic approach (often abbreviated to A/T).

            In A/T philosophy, our knowledge of Natures and Natural Law is founded in empirical experience, and understood by abstraction. This knowledge is incomplete and open to error on many levels, but it is a kind of knowledge nonetheless. Moreover, it is a knowledge that does not require inspiration or revelation of any supernatural being. It only requires as much trust in reason as it does in the external senses.

            Form and teleology may not be perfectly comprehensible, but that is because our reason (and senses) are imperfect and limited. Rather, as we think and research and compare our thoughts and experiences, we gain greater knowledge and insight into the world than any one of us can achieve on his/her own.

          • Ron K

            @Robert King
            Thank you for the clarification. I don’t know enough about Aristotle’s metaphysics to have an opinion, though if it has anything to do with the way he investigated Physics, there are some serious methodological flaws there, especially overly trusting your own senses and reasoning.

            Regardless of philosophy, I still think that there isn’t, and can never be, a bridge from ‘is’ to ‘ought’. One can posit whatever metaphysics, epistemology or ethics one wishes, and still will never be able to logically get from the situation in the observable universe to a value statement, and vice versa. Anyone who does this commits the naturalistic fallacy, even if they invent a complicated word-game to hide it.

            I disagree, that without that bridge there is no meaning to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — there is a meaning, but only in the ‘ought’ world. It just has to be derived from moral axioms, and not from the natural world. Due to the naturalistic fallacy, the ‘ought’ system is a closed logical system, impossible to measure, prove, or disprove.

        • Slow Learner

          Marriage =/= parenthood. I think it’s such a narrow view of marriage, to see it as all about reproducing.
          What about the bond of love and companionship between a married couple? The support that they can give one another, as the old words say “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death do us part”? Because I’ll be honest, I find marriage hugely important – so much so that I recently spent most of my savings on mine – and even though I fully intend to have children, I wouldn’t have married my wife just to have kids. The point of marrying is that together you can face ALL the challenges of life better than you can alone – and raising children is a major challenge.

  • deiseach

    “Being able to walk into a hospital and identify as a ‘parent’ will get you into the room of your child and empowered to make medical decisions much faster than trying to explain that you’re the egg donor and domestic partner of the mother of the patient.”

    But when is one a parent and when is one merely an egg donor? Or a surrogate? In the case above, the woman who gestated the child is the surrogate. And what of the man involved? Is he also a parent, and so liable for child support, or is he merely a sperm donor?

    You see, this is why I am not convinced about the arguments that “the State should get out of the marriage business”, because people won’t let the State get out of making decisions. I’d be happy if the law said “We’re not making any decisions about who is and who isn’t a parent, you people sort out your own arrangements” or I’d be perfectly happy if the law said “A parent is…” but. People. Want. To. Have. It. Both. Ways.

    So we have women in the Third World being used as brood mares (to borrow the charming term used in a former comment thread) where private companies broker arrangments for well-off Westerners to have their children from donor ova, gestated by women overseas, aborted if it suits their convenience (multiple pregnancies being quite often a result of IVF treatment which, to be brutal about it, operates on ‘no foal, no fee’ principles) and then the baby delivered back to the purchasers – oops, I mean, parents!

    Is the surrogate in India a parent? No, say the courts. Is the surrogate in the hospital scenario above a parent? Yes, say the courts. What about the man – sperm donor or father? Depends what the mother wants, say the courts. If she chooses to pursue him for child support, then he is the father. If she doesn’t, then he has no rights to see the kid and be involved in its life.

    Where is the consistency? And how do we improve society by treating children as commodities?

    • anodognosic

      Okay, first of all, I agree that the government can’t simply be a neutral observer where cases of custody are involved. Second, some of the things that you have mentioned are indeed terrible things that people do! And there are many bad laws and laws that are inconsistently applied, without a doubt!

      But here’s the thing: the real world is a messy, messy place. You can have an inconsistent pragmatic system with unclear values that leaves a lot of people out in the cold by failing to strictly define responsibilities, or you can have a simple and strictly coherent values system that leaves a lot of people out in the cold by failing to acknowledge the specific circumstances of their situations. And in either case, you still have a widespread failure of the law and institutions to get bad people to act responsibly.

      • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

        Yes, but the benefit of having laws rooted in some constancy (some may call constancy an “ideal” now, just like ‘honesty’ has become a virtue–we can lower the bar pretty easily) is that in this messy messy life we have something to ground our considerations and responses.

        Just saying that the world is a messy place or life is tough is not a revelation. However, the purpose of rational discourse and laws is not to leave them as messy as life but to stand them up as something to look at. Law is, as Aristotle stated (it “should” be), “reason without passion.”

        We human beings can be very rational and our reason has to supply what is lacking in law (when the law is too new or general to help us). But we are also subject to weakness and need help, and this is where carefully considered law based on carefully considered aspects of the human good help us.

        • anodognosic

          Constancy can all too easily become prejudice. A dogged adherence to a strict theoretical system risks alienating and excluding those who do not fit properly within it. I am skeptical both of the value of such a system in the first place–of there being one and only one valid kind of family–and of the law’s ability to push people to conform to it. It seems economic and cultural forces are overwhelmingly stronger than mere legal formality.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I don’t get this logic(?) at all that people should be free to do all kinds of stupid things and then expect the law to change to help them clean up the mess they made of their life. Seems to me that if people choose to live outside the norms of society they ought to be prepared to deal with the consequences. I know taking responsibility for one’s own choices isn’t popular in our culture today but it should be the norm.

      • deiseach

        Sure, but where is the constancy or logic or simple ‘this at least is a constant’ when a court in one state can say “X and Y and Z are all co-parents and have equal rights and responsibilities” and ten miles over the county line, the court in the next state says “X and Y are the parents, sorry Z” and the court on the opposite coast says “Y and Z are the parents, unless Y splits up with Z and then he/she can get Z’s name taken off the birth cert and have A’s name put on instead.”

        People are galloping ahead with new kinds of arrangements in the spirit of “it’s my right to be happy!” and I wish they’d take ten minutes to consider what they’re doing. If you are going to have a child, or adopt a child, or father a child, or donate sperm/ova/surrogacy for a child, you are affecting the life of a human being. It’s your choice to make yourself responsible for that human, and you don’t get to weasel out of it just because it doesn’t meet your needs in this situation anymore.

        Yeah, people are always going to screw up and people are always going to take advantage of the system, but changing things just because “I wanna!” is something most of us are told to get over when we’re six years old.

  • deiseach

    “Of course, there’s one institution that signed on to the idea of more than two parents quite some time ago: college financial aid offices are notorious for counting all the assets of all four parents against the demonstrated scholarship need of a student, regardless of how much support and contact the original parents have kept up after the split.”

    Oh, boy, don’t get me started on this one. As part of my former public employee duties, I was involved in processing student grant applications, and the requirement for evidence of means was always a headache.

    And sometimes a heartache – one example I always remember was a girl, who was living with her mother and getting no support from her father. All we needed was a two-line note from the dad, not even signed by a lawyer (it could be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or a Commissioner for Oaths) just saying “I’m not providing any financial support”. She was eligible for the grant, we venomous parasites (as civil servants were described in the Virginia Wiccan comment thread) wanted to give it to her, we just needed this piece of paper to finish off so we could give it to her.

    Nope, he wouldn’t do it. Basically, he was just being a prick to piss off his ex-wife, but the only person he was hurting was his kid. This is why I don’t weep salt tears over emotional heart-tugging where adults are involved, about “But we really loooove each other!” or “I want my new snookums on the birth cert as co-parent (until we break up and then I’ll go to court to have him/her taken off)”.

    Yes, I am that “Will nobody think of the children??!!” lady :-)

  • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

    “Law shapes and reflects culture, it’s true, but it’s also used as a kind of bureaucratic shorthand. ”

    Well, that’s a pretty unclear view of law, then. If law is constantly shaping and reflecting culture what does that tell us other than that it’s a “shifting sands” concept that no longer grounds itself in anything natural (or what have you) but is just a tool to fit our lives. I think you’re taking the law to be about convenience (in this case) and kind of ignoring how law, to be general and apply to everyone, has to be ground in something other than “it changes all the time” as the quote above seems to infer.

    So, like your civil marriage/religious marriage argument, it’s not really ground in anything except “we should redefine it, or something.”

    I see what you’re saying about the practical side and visitation and all that, but I don’t think your critique or analysis of the law (in marriage or parentage) makes for solutions but just a tangled mess that doesn’t ground us in a position we can work from or a situation where a solution is anything more than adapting to mere circumstance.

    “It’s up to a community and tradition to keep their particular instantiation of this virtue fiercely attractive.”

    Uh… what? I don’t get it.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like you’re saying “If you want some traditional value to inform this or that experience- (e.g., biological parenting, family structure)– you should make sure it can withstand time and be the most attractive alternative.”

    So, is it the case that now, because biological parenting has been threatened by artificial insemination, split families, and all this other stuff, that the law should reflect our new reality we live in (because traditional parenting is no longer “practical” or “attractive”?)

  • DavidM

    “Being able to walk into a hospital and identify as a ‘parent’ will get you into the room of your child and empowered to make medical decisions much faster than trying to explain that you’re the egg donor and domestic partner of the mother of the patient” – and you think that’s a good idea (supposing it’s even true – and obviously there would be other ways to deal with this issue than the one in question, so it’s not much of an argument)? The more people who can waltz right in and make important decisions the better? Why not just have an open list of ‘parents’ – then we’ll really be able to celebrate ALL the various incarnations of the strong protecting the weak (provided that is in fact a reasonable way to construe what this law does)? The problem is, that’s nuts. The point of being a parent should not be to give oneself a reason to celebrate oneself (“Look at me! I’m a parent!”) while ignoring the needs of children, including those which are rooted in their biology (which is a real part of their human nature, not something to be ignored or denigrated).

  • chris(other)

    IF law simply is instantiated sociology, then its only function is reduced to making the politically correct coercible.

  • Sandy

    What a brave new world we are making.

    • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

      They need to start making those pills, if they haven’t already.

  • http://catholicgamer.com darrenl

    “I think Dreher is too dogmatic in expecting civil law to conform to biology.”

    …and why shouldn’t civil law conform to our biology? This is “dogmatic”, this is simply common sense. Directing law against biology leads to such things as homosexual “marriage” (…for which there is no biological case for, unless someone has discovered that the digestive system is in fact reproductive in nature…), and now this many parent issue. It takes a male and a female to create a child (…last time I checked…)…that adds up to two, not three, four, or seven. I’m not writing anything controversial here.

    We can’t just make up reality as we go along, then pass a civil law thinking reality will now conform to the law. It seems; however, that some do indeed think that biological reality is a legislative issue. Strikingly amazing to behold.

    • Slow Learner

      So darrenl, you think that marriage needs a biological case for it? How interesting; I do hope that you will also put forward a biological case for law enforcement, democratic government and civil rights?
      Because those are all social constructs…just like marriage.
      Just like those who actually bring up a child, and provide all its emotional, intellectual and physical needs aren’t necessarily the ones who provided the sperm and the egg. To which does the term ‘parent’ really apply? The ones who had sex, or the ones who’ve put in 18 years of loving effort? Hopefully that shouldn’t be a difficult question…

      • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

        @Slow Learner -

        I think the law should be based in reality. In marriage, there is a significant biological aspect to the reality involved, i.e., sex. In democracy there is little or no biology involved, but what little there is (defining living human persons, for example), I do think the law should conform to reality as best we understand it. The same goes for civil rights – all the more so, since the biological differences between the so-called “races” are scientifically insignificant. After all, slavery was also a social construct; would you make no arguments against it based on the biological unity of all humanity?

        Biology is not the only science involved, but it does have a role to play – as do all the sciences. Or are you afraid to base your worldview on science and rationality?

        • Slow Learner

          The law should be based in reality? Ah, excellent.
          So two people who love one another and are committed to one another can marry regardless of their age, sex, gender, race or religion, because their love and commitment are equal and so should be the bond between them.

          As to slavery – slavery is wrong whether you’re talking about humans or not. Your argument suggests that it is only the fact that other humans are our cousins that should prevent us from enslaving them, rather than the fact that they are sentient beings who deserve to be treated as an end in themselves, not a means to something.
          Consider the possibility that another hominin had survived until modern times and been used as slave labour – if they were unable to breed with humans they would not share ‘biological unity’ with us, but enslaving them would be just as wrong as taking homo sapiens sapiens slaves from Africa or elsewhere.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            As darrenl points out below, you are assuming your conclusion: that marriage is nothing other than a social contract, and is subject entirely to the will of human individuals.

            However, that conclusion is exactly what is being disputed here. So if you want to reach that conclusion, please lay out your arguments, and address the arguments of your opponents directly.

            Also, I exactly did NOT say “it is only the fact that other humans are our cousins that should prevent us from enslaving them.” Rather, I said: “Biology is not the only science involved, but it does have a role to play.” Historically, many were making arguments than Africans (or Jews or non-Europeans generally) were biologically inferior to Europeans or White Americans. That biological argument could only be answered directly with a biological counter-argument.

            However, the basis for opposition to slavery is, as you point out, philosophical rather than biological. So the biological argument has a relatively small role in discussion of slavery. It has a somewhat larger role in the discussion of marriage, since one of the key premises we are arguing about is the connection of marriage to sexual intercourse and biological procreation.

          • Slow Learner

            Given the variation in marriages, in every respect including:
            who can enter into marriage (one man one woman? two adults? one man many women? etc)
            whose consent is required (those marrying? those marrying and their parents? just the parents? the parents and the church? etc)
            who has to recognise it for the marriage to be valid (the couple themselves? the civil authorities? a church?)
            what changes on marriage (The couple can now have sex. The man moves in with the woman’s family. The woman moves in with the man’s family)
            I could go on, but the point is that for anyone with a moderate knowledge of the variation in human societies it is obvious that there is no one thing common to marriage in all of them, and thus your view of marriage is based on the society in which you were brought up, not some objective standard.

      • http://catholicgamer.com darrenl

        @Slow Learner -

        Your argument begs the question and assumes that the statement “marriage is a social construct” is true, which you haven’t demonstrated.

        The rest of your argument is fallacious as enforcement, democratic government and civil rights are not biological in the same sense as marriage is. You’ll need to do better than that.

        “So two people who love one another and are committed to one another can marry regardless of their age, sex, gender, race or religion, because their love and commitment are equal and so should be the bond between them.”

        OK. So your definition includes incest and marrying off 6 year old girls to 50 year old men because apparently age does not matter and you never mention blood relation….it’s “all about the love, man”. I think you need to be more careful with your argumentation, because you’re getting into territory which is repugnant.

        This is not about love…this is about sex and has always been about sex. Marriage is a sexual relationship, not a love relationship and the two have nothing to do with each other. All sexual relationships are not equal and can never be equal. I can’t believe I need to spell this out, but apparently I do. A sexual relationship between two men is not equal to a sexual relationship between a man a women…it’s biologically incoherent to say that they are (…one can biologically produce life and the other can’t. This is fact.). A sexual relationship between a 6 year old girl and a 50 year old man is not equal to the sexual relationship between one man and one women…it’s also biologically incoherent to think otherwise (…one can produce life, the other can’t…). I can go on down the list here, but again, this is not new information here.

        There is a reason why marriage (…being a sexual relationship…) is restricted due to certain criteria of age, sex, relation and number. If you violate any of those restrictions, you go against the biology of the human animal and there are biological consequences for doing so.

        • Slow Learner

          Ah specificity. In my befuddled haze of tiredness I said ‘age’ meaning old-age, as specifically relating to the end of the ability to bear children, and of course assumed that anyone reading would know I had meant that. Slight egg-on-face moment there. Of course I am not arguing for a 6-year-old to be able to marry – meaningful consent must be given; however I see that as part of the ‘commitment’ – can a 6-year-old commit to much of anything, after all? – and thus, again, assumed it would be clear to all.
          As to marriage being a social construct – yes, I assumed that all could accept that, given that it is a social thing, which has taken different forms in different places and times through human history. That’s not to say that some forms of marriage aren’t better than others, but it’s pretty clear there isn’t One True Marriage which has been practiced throughout history.

        • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

          @darrenl -

          I think you overreach when you say “Marriage is a sexual relationship, not a love relationship and the two have nothing to do with each other.” We are not mere animals; we are rational beings, capable of more than simple rutting.

          Rather, in humans, sex truly is a physical expression of the unitive impulse of love, to become one with the beloved.

          However, sex is far from the only expression of love, and union is far from the only impulse of love. It does not harm the argument from Nature to acknowledge that love is an essential part of sex and marriage – so long as what is meant by “love” is made clear.

    • anodognosic

      darrenl, do you think adoption by a straight couple does not conform to reality? After all, it also fails a primary adherence to biology that you seem to advocate. After all, it is not a “biological reality” that adoptive parents are parents. Should we then ban adoption? Or do you agree that, as is commonly understood, parents are sometimes not the biological parents?

      • http://catholicgamer.com darrenl

        Excellent question.

        I never presented adoption in my biological argument above (…I only mentioned homosexuality and more than one male and one female as a parent as biologically consistent…), so you’re presenting a different argument altogether.

        Adoption follows my biology argument perfectly as long as it’s one male and one female, as I stated above. They themselves may not be the parents in a biological sense, but it is still a biological reality that they are one male and one female that still have the capacity (…if not the capacity due to medical problems, then the desire or will…) to be parents. One male and one female adoptive parents mirror the biological reality in a complete sense . In the case of homosexuality, the biology is never there to be parents…ever…and it is irrelevant to how many laws are passed saying otherwise. In the case of “many parents”, the capacity may be there due to numbers, but it is still only one male and one female who exhibit and carry out this capacity as our biology dictates.

        Again, you can’t get around our biological reality. It’s that way for a reason.

        • Dianne

          They themselves may not be the parents in a biological sense, but it is still a biological reality that they are one male and one female that still have the capacity (…if not the capacity due to medical problems, then the desire or will…) to be parents.

          So ALL that matters in your world is gonads? Nothing about interest in the child or ability to spend time with the child or ability to be a good role model? Just matching parts and all is good? What a strange place your mind must be!

        • Dianne

          Again, you can’t get around our biological reality. It’s that way for a reason.

          Actually, you can. Oocyte fusion. Two eggs, one conception, no men involved at all, except maybe the lab tech.

          And the reason it’s there is that’s the way we evolved. We also evolved with a 20-30% mortality rate during labor and delivery. We get around that one quite a lot. Why worry about what is “meant” to be rather than what works best for real people?

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    … but there’s already a category for this. It’s called Legal Guardian. We don’t have to make an existing social title contentless by force of law.

    • deiseach

      Exactly. There are already legal arrangments for who is the parent, adoptive parent, legal guardian and so forth. Creating a whole new slew of extra roles is not doing anything for anyone.

  • Jeff

    I don’t really think there is such a thing as a “parent”. That’s just a shorthand way of saying “mother” or “father”.

    And we don’t have seven of those. Only one of each.

  • Alan

    I hope you are reading the comments Leah – do you really think Catholicism is the right place for you?

  • R.C.

    Keep in mind the intrinsic and unalienable human rights of the child, including…

    1. The right to know the identity of his/her biological father
    2. The right to know the identity of his/her biological mother
    3. The right to know the identity of his/her biological siblings if any
    4. The right as a minor to cohabit with and be fathered by his/her biological father
    5. The right as a minor to cohabit with and be mothered by his/her biological mother
    6. The right as a minor to cohabit with and be raised among his/her biological siblings if any

    If a parent or sibling dies through misadventure, of course, that isn’t a violation of the rights of the child.

    But if an adult conspires to violate the child’s rights knowingly — as in the example of a divorcing heterosexual couple, or a lesbian couple impregnated by an anonymous sperm donor, or in fact any use of anonymous sperm or egg (with DNA) donation at all, then the child’s human rights are being violated by an adult.

    I don’t know in what way such a violation should be prosecuted, or indeed what guidelines would help us understand whether a given violation of these rights should be prosecuted, but I strongly suspect some of them should.

    They haven’t been until now simply because our laws were largely written by adults; that is to say, by people who were old enough to effectively protest the violation of their rights on their own initiative. The sundering of families by divorce, especially, became common because the children lacked adequate political power to wield against their victimizers. But it’s a human rights violation nonetheless.

    P.S. It is reasonable to say that the burden of fathering or of mothering is transferable in extraordinary circumstances; adoption is that. A man incapable of fathering may allow his child to be adopted by a surrogate father, for the welfare of the child. A woman incapable of mothering may likewise allow her child to be adopted by a surrogate mother. This is less ideal than the child being raised by his/her biological father and mother, but may be superior to other alternatives.

    This does not, however, eliminate the human right of the child to know (or, prior to attaining their majority, to have their adoptive father and mother know) the identity of his/her biological father and mother.

    • Dianne

      So you’re absolutely against adoption, right? Because then the child is separated from its biological family altogether.

      Again, why fetishize biological relationships over, say, the right of a child to have a home where s/he is not abused or neglected, has adequate food, shelter, and stimulation, and is protected from exploitation? These seem to me to be more important than whether or not your chromosomes match.

      • R.C.

        I don’t think you read all the way to the post-script, Dianne.

        • Dianne

          You’re right, I didn’t. Now I’m very confused about your position. How is adoption any less a violation of the “right” to live in your biological family than any of the other scenarios? The child of a woman who has a child through a sperm donor has at least one biological parent on hand. And the assurance that s/he was a wanted child, not someone conceived because the parents were too drunk, lazy, or dogmatic to use birth control despite hating the idea of having another child.

          Studies have suggested that children are less likely to be abused if they are raised by a lesbian couple than if they are raised by heterosexuals. What about the right of a child not to be abused?

      • Ted Seeber

        Catholics aren’t absolute about anything. Absolutism is a heresy.

    • Slow Learner

      So it is more important for the child to be around people with similar genes, than for it to be around people who care for its welfare? That’s just warped.
      I wouldn’t argue with the first three whatsoever – of course an adopted child should be able to discover who their biological relations are, if they so wish.
      But the right to live with their biological relatives? Why? If the biological relatives wanted the child to live with them, surely the child would be with them already? And forcing a child into a family where it is unwanted is a recipe for neglect at best.
      A child should live in a home where their physical, emotional and intellectual needs are met, by adults, whomever they may be, who take on that heavy responsibility gladly. That is far, far more important than genetics.

  • Sophia

    “Brave New World” here we come! (Perhaps we are there already). Such legalities were predictable and will only get more complicated and futile as things progress. And it is the innocent who will suffer more and greater problems of identity. Neither laws, nor churches, nor communities will be able to address the problems adequately in any way that would be true and lasting in such an ever changing and unstable new world.