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For what it is worth, recent polls have suggested that a majority of Americans may have finally come to support SSM, if by a narrow margin. But the trend is clear, given that even evangelical youth apparently have a much more liberated attitude about this subject than their elders, and the rest of youth is clearly for it.

One reason to reject the slippery slope argument that allowing SSM opens the door to polygamy is that culture has/is changing for homosexual unions in ways that haven't been manifest (yet?) for polygamous unions. Perhaps rationally it opens the door, but emotionally mainstream American culture isn't there yet, and emotion > rationality in such things.

Personally, I'm not opposed to polygamy, but that is just because I'm an ex-Mormon with a taste for outsider stances and pro-social experimentation.

The matter would be simplified if government licensing was not required for "legitimizing" of the marital status.

Religious denominations, as their Biblical interpretations came to reflect changing values and beliefs of their parishioners, would result in shifts in acceptance of same-sex marriages.

For those religious denominations and faiths that continued to adhere to a more "traditional" conception of marriage, they would not be required to accept or endorse such relationships within their congregations.

This would and could (and already partly has) occurred in the greater society outside of the State. But what has made it contentious, I think at least in part, is that fact that the State must recognize marital statuses for couples to have various legal standings in terms of welfare and other redistributive benefits (e.g., social security benefits for a surviving spouse).

This has caused social tensions precisely because those who are critical of same-sex marriage (for one reason or another, but usually on religious grounds) often consider that legal legitimizing carries with it degrees of moral approval. (Whether it need carry this moral sanctification, that is how some view it.)

The de-politicizing of marriage through ending required government sanction and recognition would go a long way, I think, in moving it mostly into the arena of the type of social evolutionary process that Steve is drawing upon from Hayek's work.

These changes in attitudes and beliefs take care of themselves when left alone by the State. After all, there was a time when it was considered morally shocking and scandalous for a woman to show her ankle in public. And the legs of pianos were called "limbs," because "leg" was, well, too, "suggestive." Indeed, the legs of pianos would be draped, so during a recital the sight of them would not result in men getting -- "excited."

Today such attitudes and beliefs are considered almost unintelligible. Sex and nudity have come a long way since these the 19th century conceptions, and the persecution of homosexuals into the 20th century.

As one example of this change, some years ago a San Francisco businessman named Sam Husbands told me that in the mid-1960s he had invited Ludwig von Mises to give a lecture out in his city. While driving Mises and his wife Margit to the lecture hall they passed through the then-nude bar and strip area of San Francisco.

Husbands recalled that at one point Margit exclaimed, "Ludwig, look! It says 'topless' and 'bottomless.'" Mises shook his head and said, "Very bad for the textile industry."

If only more could be as enlightened and economically astute as Ludwig von Mises when he was in his 80s!

Richard Ebeling


I think you are wrong on evolutionary grounds, and also on Hayekian grounds. However, I am glad you raised this issue in Hayekian terms, because I think it merrits a good civil discussion and may further our understanding of Hayek's ideas of spontaneous order.

I suspect Hayek would have argued that the institution of traditional marriage was successful because it offered distinct survival advantages over the long haul, even though on an individualistic or case by case basis, those advantages could not, nor cannot (now) be strictly rationalized constructively.

I think Hayek would have further argued that traditional marriage is one of the staple institutions of the civil society, and we must be very careful in one generation of overthrowing such an institution or rule which has survived and governed a spontaneous civil order for thousands of years.

Now I pose this in retort. Can we concieve that Hayek would have conceded the institution of private property if successive polls were taken, and over the course of a generation a slim majority of folks had lost their faith in this institution? Hayek would be quick to side with his heros Coke, Hale, Hume, Burke, Savigny, Maine, and Carter and called such a lurch of social order into all property being owned publically a constructivist revolution. It is my strong hunch that this Hayekian principle would have prevailed in the recent sexual revolution.

Spontaneous order in civil society which allowed the maximization of a long-term individual liberty developed due to the adherence to rules which sometimes seem individually repressive on case by case decisions.

Jonathan Rauch has written a piece on this topic in Reason.

"By acting married, they show their fealty to the broader rules, even as they challenge one of them."

This goes for heterosexual co-habitation which is prevalent in Northern and Western Europe. So in light of this trend of calling the whole thing off in Scandanavia, it is a rather curious development that gay folks in the United States are clamouring to get married in the eyes of the law.

In the broader sense of North America and Western Europe, these various movements seem more like a widespread revolt against the entire classical institution of marriage to me than a desire to affirm it. I struggle with this part of steve's argument.

Enthusiasm for the last 40 year trend in the history of the institution of marriage seems quite un-Hayekian.

And finally;

"Every time the family has changed, the defenders of "inherited sentiments" said disaster was upon us and they were wrong. "

Steve, I fear you are off base here. Surely you will not argue that the divorce rate and single parenthood has not sent a profound shockwave through the civil society.

I think the term "traditional marriage" is used as a smokescreen here K. There's no such thing. Marriage has always evolved and changed as popular beliefs about what marriage was and who could marry who changed. Even man-woman isn't universal (though nearly so). Every change in marriage historically was met with the same arguments you are raising here and marriage survived all those changes. Same with SSM. That's the point of Hayek's discussion of moral innovators.

Even the language of "overthrowing" marriage that you invoke is loaded. There's no "overthrowing" here. It's another step in the long evolution of the institution. How does allowing more people in who want to be part of the institution constitute "overthrowing" it? They want IN not to get rid of it.

The real revolution in marriage was a couple of centuries ago when people started marrying because they loved each other. (And the critics said they were "overthrowing" marriage too... so much for THAT.) Everything else since has been the playing out of that theme.


Consider this:

“The whole process is a process of introducing new rules adopted by a small minority which a majority rejects, and the function of government very frequently…is to prevent further evolution.”

FA Hayek, Interview with Robert Bork, 1978.

I, for one, have thought that too much emphasis has been given to only one side of the process of moral evolution. There must also be "mutation" or a challenging aspect. Hayek recognized that moral absolutists would seek to stop this part of the process. (I call that moral dirigisme. It is the central planning of moral rules.)

FWIW, Steve, I think you are right on gay marriage. Indeed, I’ve always been enthusiastic about your writings on this topic. IMHO it strengthens the case for gay marriage if we recognize the sense in which pair bonding is “natural.”

Wilson and Daly say, “Marriage is a cross-culturally ubiquitous feature of human societies, notwithstanding variations in social and cultural details . . . . What this means is that men and women everywhere enter into individualized reproductive alliances in which there is some sort of mutual obligation and biparental investment in their joint progeny and that the alliance is recognized by people other than the marital partners” (“The man who mistook his wife for a chattel,” in Barkow, Cosmides, and Toody edited, _The Adaptive Mind_, 1992, p. 309).

Men and women have both cheated on their partners often enough to influence evolutionary history and our evolved psychology, plus it seems we have always had some polygyny and polyandry. So the universality of “individualized reproductive alliances” doesn’t mean that our biological programming allows only strict monogamy. But it does mean, I think, that “traditional marriage” is not a cultural or religious construct. The details, yes; the basic pair bonding, no. This view seems like common sense to me. When you fall in love, the other person is *it* and there is no one else. If love is an evolved human universal, as I believe, then it seems only reasonable to think “individualized reproductive alliances” would also be an evolved human universal. Why should we exclude gay people from this universal human practice? Do they not fall in love? Do they not wish to create “individualized reproductive alliances”? Honestly, I really don’t “get” the resistance to gay marriage.

If there is "no such thing" as "traditional" institutions, then you have thrown Hayek's arguments on their head. Certainly there is traditional marriage in the sense that anything else might be traditional. Perhaps not in a technical academic sense among a small community of anthropologists, but in a traditional sense.

Within spontaneous institutions, there surely is always slow evolution of rules, and eventually the evolving rules change the nature of the institutions.

However, the kinds of changes in rule structure that Hayek is primarily concerned about for orderly evolution of society are those types of rules which people follow, and but most often they cannot necessarily rationalize. In most successful long-lived institutions, people will not even be consciously aware of why they do them. They just do them, and when they get out of line, there is a heavy cost.

Over long periods, certain members within the institutions begin to deviate ever so slightly (most often unintentionally) yet find success and also get away without a big social cost to pay.

In my interpretation of Hayek, this is the sense of social evolution that he thinks contributes to a spontaneous order.

Undesigned institutions are most consistent with an orderly liberal society when they are held tacitly, not when they are analyzed under the microscope by scholars, and the scholarly rationalized view is codified into law.

What Hayek rebuffs often is the kind of *deliberate* and rationalized social experimentation that is highlighted above by Mike Giberson. It is my sense, that SSM, along with co-habitation is just this sort of social experimentation, not the kind of spontaneous "mutations" that Hayek is discussing.

Ksralla: “Can we concieve that Hayek would have conceded the institution of private property if successive polls were taken, and over the course of a generation a slim majority of folks had lost their faith in this institution?”

Excellent point! It shows the tension in Hayek’s thinking. In “Fatal Conceit” Hayek argued that one of the good things about religion is that it forced people to follow established principles when no short-term rational for them existed. But if those principles are open to experimentation, then those necessary principles aren’t so necessary.

And the problem with principles is that the effects are long term, sometimes very long term, so long that when people face the consequences of previous actions the lag is so great that no one can make the cause/effect association.

Keep in mind that in some societies murdering newborn girls at birth is accepted by everyone, as is burning the surviving wife at the death of the husband. And one time murdering all Jews was commonly accepted. The will of the majority has been a terrible repository of morality in the past.

Ksralla: “Surely you will not argue that the divorce rate and single parenthood has not sent a profound shockwave through the civil society.”

According to the US Census Bureau, the segment of the poor growing most rapidly is poor single mothers.

You might think from the above that I have strong feelings on the subject, but I don’t. I honestly couldn’t care less. I don't think the state should decide who is married and who isn't, though.

However, isn’t anyone just a bit curious as to why homosexual activists are so determined on this issue? After all, they can live together all they want and most states have given live-in partners the same benefits as married ones. So what is the point? All I can figure is that they want to force opponents of homosexuality to accept it as moral.

And why are people abandoning tradition and becoming more accepting of homosexuality? Mainly because the mainstream media has persuaded the majority that homosexuality is genetically based, which is a blatant lie. So people are becoming more “enlightened” as a result of a lie? And that’s a good thing?

Of course if it’s not genetic, what causes people to become homosexual? The best evidence I have seen is that older homosexuals recruit younger ones into the lifestyle. And if done around puberty the sexual preferences become imprinted.
Could it be that homosexuals want legal status for SSM in order to make recruiting easier?


Steve, please accept my arguments in good faith. There is not intent to do anything in the way of disseminating a smokescreen, only to explore this issue on Hayekian terms trying to leave out as many normative judgements as possible.

"The best evidence I have seen is that older homosexuals recruit younger ones into the lifestyle. And if done around puberty the sexual preferences become imprinted.
Could it be that homosexuals want legal status for SSM in order to make recruiting easier?"

O boy. With "evidence" like this who needs reason? Seems to me that this is more likely an explanation of religious belief.

Niclas, the Jonathan Rauch article was very good! Thanks!

There is no constructivism involved in "permitting" SSM. This is the way I think of ite. People want a certain (contractual) relationship with each other. One form is called marriage. The state has no business regulating which consenting adults can make such arrangements. Laissez-faire is the word. Now this does not mean that any particular church or individual must say, "Yes, this is good." They can say what they wish -- just as anyone can say what they wish about Schwarzenegger's marriage. Or Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "living in sin" with his girlfriend.

Marriage is an institution that the state and Church began to regulate not that long ago.

In any event, I view the state's role, if any, simply to enforce contracts as made by consenting adults. I do not think the state should be in the business of banning SSM because of the psychological insecurities that some people feel when they are presented with options. You know, too much choice!

K: A few thoughts.

1) I believe the higher rate of divorce (which, btw, is falling among younger cohorts) has been a net plus for society. There is evidence that children of divorce do slightly worse on average than from intact marriages, but there is also evidence to show that the real problem for kids is not divorce per se but marital conflict. Kids from civil non-conflict ridden divorces look pretty much like kids from intact marriages. Plus, we MUST count the gains to women from easier divorce if we want to ask "has it been good for society?" Those gains are significant.

2) "Smokescreen" was poor choice of words. That said, the language of "traditional marriage" obscures the fact that the institution has evolved and that the phrase is often used to pretend it hasn't. Which traditions/whose traditions are we talking about? Why isn't coverture a tradition worth keeping? The same arguments that it would destroy marriage and the family were raised when it began to collapse - not to mention anti interracial marriage laws or even marriage for love etc.

3) Mario was too polite to McKinney. (And people wonder why I sometimes am too quick to assume bad faith...)

Look, there is certainly a tension between "tradition" and the evolutionary component of spontaneous order. Hayek himself couldn't figure out the balance. But it sure seems to me that when we see a larger number of people accepting the change in the rule and there's no evidence of the evolution of actual practice causing harm, we should side with evolution.

Plus, as I've argued elsewhere, it's simply unjust for the state to treat similarly placed citizens differently. Equality before the law is a central principle of classical liberalism. If you have a state, it must act in a way that treats its citizens equally (as Hayek recognized clearly). When some citizens are functionally married but are not treated so by the state, and are harmed in the process, an injustice is taking place.

And some empirical evidence:

Steve, if Mario attacked anything I wrote I missed it. Of course I’m kind of thick skinned as well as thick headed. Maybe you could explain it to me.

As I wrote above, I couldn’t care less whether SSM becomes legal or not. I don’t think the state has a right to determine what marriage is. That’s a personal matter and usually a religious one. I will never consider SSM to be moral, regardless of what the state does.

I just think it’s odd that no one seems to care why homosexuals are so obstinate about the issue. It’s clear why their opponents are. It seems clear to me and a lot of other people that homosexuals want to end the moral stigma that unlawful marriage places on homosexuality because homosexuals have nothing to gain from SSM other than that.

Most people are so terrorized by homosexual activists that they won’t even discuss the subject. Why aren’t people discussing the cause of homosexuality? I admit that the evidence for my opinion on the cause isn’t great, but it’s better than anything else out there.

"But it sure seems to me that when we see a larger number of people accepting the change in the rule and there's no evidence of the evolution of actual practice causing harm, we should side with evolution."

That was the fatal conceit.

Type "homosexuality" into the search box for Hayek's Constitution of Liberty and you will see that he explicitly endorses tolerance for homosexuality. Pretty advanced for 1961 IMHO.

I meant 1960.

My wife came home early and caught me with my secretary. I told her I wasn't cheating, it was just a polycentric marriage.


An aspect of this I have not seen brought up much is that even if it should not be doing so, at least in the US the state has passed laws that provide favors and benefits to those who are legally married in the eyes of the state compared to those who are not. The obvious one involves favorable treatment in the tax code, but there are also matters of inheritance rights and some other items, with one of the most sensitive the matter of visitation rights in hospitals.

So, we have Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin now trying to undo the ability of gays to visit each other in hospitals because a few years ago the state passed a constitutional amendment affirming "traditional" hetero marriage, and Walker sees these visitation rights as violating that, so he will keep gay partners from seeing each other when one of them is dying. This is pretty shameful stuff, as far as I am concerned.

R: Endorcing tolerance and endorcing legal codification of SSM are two different arguments.

I would assume everyone here endorces tolerance. Concenting adults are free to do whatever private acts they want so long as they do not harm others, and we should treat all with the respect and dignity due human beings. I think that classical liberals can find agreement here.

The questions of rules and law revolve around the correct balance of negative vs positive liberties and public vs private liberties. These are harder questions.

S: Ceteris paribus, two parent homes are superior for raising children than one parent homes. Do you agree?

One's views on SSM will depend almost exclusively on how one views the causes of homosexuality. I'm appalled at the silence on that subject. Is it fear?

Evolutionary changes to any spontaneous order necessarily involves rebellious people stepping out in front of the society. This behavior is represented in our tragic art. That is, indeed, what tragic art is all about: the one who steps out, challenges some aspect of the system, and is punished by society for having done so. However, the door is now cracked open, and people can see glimmers of the other side. Others follow suit, pushing the door open more and more, until it is finally wide open, and a new room is realized.

Another metaphor: trail blazing. Imagine you live in a tribe, and you know the world covered by that tribe, but nothing beyond it. How do you investigate more of the world? If you just wander off, you'll be lost -- and in a hostile world, most likely die. Another option is to just wander around in the known. How do you venture off without getting lost? By blazing a trail. And where do you make the blaze? In the known world? Of course not. You know where you are. In the known world? Of course not. You are already lost. Where, then? On the edge of the known and the unknown. As you venture out, you keep the blaze in view, and make the next blaze within view of the past blaze. Thus, you investigate more of the world without you or anyone else getting lost.

That is how spontaneous orders evolve naturally. It is also, not coincidentally, how the arts best evolve. Without the trail-blazing tragic heroes, there is no evolution of any spontaneous order. Allowed to take place naturally, society will follow along eventually, if the trail being blazed seems to lead somewhere. However, sometimes someone with power will be a true believer in the tragic hero, and insist that everyone follow him, whether anyone else believes in what he is doing or not. The results become tragic for the society when that happens.

Homosexuality can be seen to run in families. More, we now know that gay men have female pheromone receptors, meaning they are sexually stimulated by male pheromones. This is something I discuss is much greater detail here:

I will also note that homosexual behavior is not uncommon in nature. There is a high rate of it among bighorn sheep. Dolphins and our closest relatives, bonobos, are generally bisexual. Such behaviors are used among dolphins and bonobos to strengthen social bonding. Bonobos use sex, regardless of sex, as a form of greeting, to solve conflicts, as a trading currency, and to say goodbye. All of these point to a genetic component, not "recruitment" -- an idea thoroughly discredited and downright silly (to put it politely).

K. Sralla,

On average two parent homes > one parent ones, unless one parent is abusing another. But what on earth does this have to do with SSM?

Troy, I can't access your blog where I am, but I'll try to read it this weekend. However, what you suggest in your post is that homosexuality has a genetic base, while every study I have read on the subject over the past 30 years shows no basis for that. The media rarely report the follow up to sensational announcements of findings of a genetic base for homosexuality, all of which have reported that the positive finding was junk science.

The best argument against the morality of homosexuality is the natural law one frequently appearing on Ed Feser's blog: it violates nature.

That said, it is not a moral issue that the state should enforce. The state should be neutral.


Do the bonobo chimps "violate nature" when they engage in widespread gay sex?

Barkley, that depends on your definition of nature. As you are probably defining it (what appears in nature) then no, it doesn't.

But the philosophical definition involves teleology and according to it, yes. See Fezer's "Last Superstition" for a good presentation of it.

"BTW, hostile readers ignorant of what classical natural law theory actually says are asked to spare me stupid remarks along the lines of “Isn’t wearing glasses ‘unnatural’ too?” “How come sterile people can marry?” “If it’s ‘natural,’ shouldn’t everybody already agree about it?” etc. etc. I’m not going to get into a long exchange over sexual morality and natural law here, sorry. I’ve written on this topic at length elsewhere, most recently in chapter 4 of The Last Superstition.)"

Feser: "If there are no ends set for us by our nature, then there can in principle be no objective, non-arbitrary way of determining what it is good for us to do, and thus what we ought to do. Hence in the final analysis, and in the main if not in all details, traditional sexual morality and morality full stop stand or fall together. Though liberal advocates of “same-sex marriage” are fervently moralistic, they have no rational basis whatsoever for their moralism. Their position rests ultimately either on an appeal to something like Rawlsian “considered intuitions about justice” – academese for “groundless and parochial liberal prejudices my friends and I all have in common” – or on a neo-Hobbesian contractarianism, which is not really a moral position at all, but a non-aggression pact between the members of whichever group of “rationally self-interested individuals” can collectively convince the mob (or at least the judicial bureaucracy) to implement policies favorable to their interests."

PS, while the state should not enforce heterosexuality, it should prevent recruiting of minors by older homosexuals. That is a legitimate protection of life and liberty by the state.

In Feser's natural law, what is the purpose of sexual organs? That purpose determines what is good use and bad use.

M: If we go with Darwin, genitals have a *function*, but not a *purpose*. Moreover, they may well have more than one function even in their sexual dimension. Frans de Waal says the sexy behavior of bonobos is all about peacemaking. So *their* genitals have an important social function quite apart from reproduction. Mightn't something similar be true of that close cousin to the bonobo, homo sapiens sapiens?


Of what siginificance is Feser's interpretation of "natural law" here, please? While it can be traced back to Aristotle, it is only the Roman Catholic Church that views it as authoritative in matters regarding sexuality ("sex is only for reproduction"), and given the Church's track record on matters sexual, particularly recently, they do not look like much of an authority (and particularly regarding matters involving adults abusing children, whether gay or straight).


Two of my comments have been eaten by the blog monster. I have memory issues, but do recall that I was quite proud of the verbage. Are they gone?

The good thing about the libertarian position on this issue is that people can have all manner of views about the function or purpose of gentalia, the role of procreation in marriage, what is natural or unnatural and so forth and yet none of these mental constructs will affect the voluntary agreements between consenting adults.

It is also the case that the consistent libertarian doesn't believe he or she has the right to constrain the actions of others to attain metaphysical ends or get protection against the insecurity that he may feel when the rest of the world does not affirm his views.


Sorry if this is impertinent, but do you support Gov. Walker's move to prevent gays from visiting their dying partners in hospitals because of what Ed Feser has to say about natural law?


So, seriously, how do you reconcile the objective proper use of body parts theory with subjectivism?

What is the purpose of the thumb? To aid primates in grasping tree limbs. One can perhaps argue that grasping food and grasping tools is a logical development of this original purpose. But is it, then, a violation of natural law for deaf people to use the thumb in their signing? No, it is merely getting used for, in this case, a different, in this case, social, purpose.

Among the more intelligent species, including dolphins and bonobos, sex is used for more than just reproduction. Its pleasurable aspect has been turned into a social-bonding element, as the pleasures associated with sex become associated with particular individuals. This is how bonobo culture can use sex for greetings, etc. This evolved naturally, and partially transformed the purpose of sex -- from mere reproduction to social bonding. In polygamous/polyandrous/bisexual bonobos, the social bonding is quite widespread. In pair-bonding humans, it results in a tendency for the social bonding element to apply to but one person at a time. Thus, one of the natural ends of sex is social bonding. To deny that element is to deny one of the proper ends of sex. More, to insist on the reproductive aspect only results in the absurd conclusion that one must only have sex to reproduce -- thus denying sex to those too old to reproduce (or at least the women -- suggesting the men should only pair bond with those young enough to reproduce).

If we recognize the social bonding aspect, then a good use of the sexual organs is any that creates social bonds, while a bad use is one that destroys social bonds. Bad uses would thus include rape and cheating (the latter being a good reason to break the marriage contract, but not so strong as to be illegal). Along these lines, pair-bonding between homosexuals would fall into the "good" category. From the perspective of reproduction, both use of the sexual organs to have homosexual relations or to have sex with a post-menopausal woman (and a variety of sexual activities even between couples of reproductive age) would equally fall into the "bad" category. Thus, from the natural law perspective you are promoting, one can only conclude that homosexual sex and sex with a post-menopausal woman (and oral sex, etc.) would be neutral, with the social "good use" balancing out the reproductive "bad use."

Gays don't "recruit." I'm of the firm belief that only those who are firmly convinced that they could be so recruited truly believe in the recruitment theory. All the homosexuals I have ever known are not in the least interested in recruiting anyone. If they are interested in you, when they find out you're not gay, they move on. People are born with a range of sexual orientations, across the spectrum from 100% gay to 100% straight to varying percentages of bisexuality in between. Our culture pushes people into choosing to be either gay or straight, but that is a social element that affects our behavior, not our born orientations.

Barkley, it’s not impertinent. No I don’t support Gov Walker’s move. And that’s where I disagree with Feser, who thinks the state has a legit role in restricting homosexual behavior. The state has no role in telling consenting adults what to do about sex. That doesn’t fall within the protection of life, liberty and property. The state might have a role in protecting minors, however.

Mathieu, I don’t. Subjectivism has to do with value, not with morality.

Troy, you don’t understand what Feser is saying. You’ll have to refer to his book. However, you should heed this warning: a whole lot of things happen in nature that we don’t want to happen among humans. Animals kill and eat each other.

If what exists is good simply because it exists, then we don’t have any means of deriving morality, even if the majority approves of it. As I wrote above, the majority has often approved of some horrible things. Remember eugenics?

“Gays don't "recruit."

They certainly do. Maybe not all, but many do. I know from personal experience, the testimonies of many homosexuals, and documentaries showing it. You don’t have a wide enough experience with homosexuals if you think they don’t recruit younger, vulnerable boys.

“People are born with a range of sexual orientations, across the spectrum from 100% gay to 100% straight to varying percentages of bisexuality in between.”

There is no scientific evidence for that. And homosexuals make us only about 2% of the population, which shows it’s not widespread.

Questions to the experts here: Is the "bisexuality" of dolphins and bonobos determined by "cultural" or "genetic" factors? Or both? And are some of these creatures "social reactionaries" -- 100% straight or gay?

It matters not ONE WHIT what the "cause" of homosexuality is. It is behavior that harms no one (or at least not any third party). Whatever the cause, there's no reason to treat it differently.

K: I agree that two parent homes are cp better than one parent homes. That's why I support same-sex marriage: there's plenty of kids waiting to be adopted by loving two-parent families.

More generally, the problem is that ceteris is rarely paribus, so using policy to artificially support two parent (usually heterosexual) relationships is not a conclusion one can draw from your true statement.


What happened to my other comments? They appeared as posted, then dissapeared later.

Steve, it matters only because it determines one's views on SSM. It doesn't matter with regard to the state's role in controlling sex.

I love how when people object that homosexuality is unnatural that, when you point out that it is, in fact, not unnatural, they then turn around and argue that what is natural isn't the same as good, or that humans need to be better than nature or some such.

As far as Feser goes, I based what I said on what you said about his position. I have shown the absurdity of that position, as you presented it.

I would hardly call my experience with homosexuals not wide enough. I would call yours tainted by prejudice, which is coloring your perception. I was raised a fundamentalist Baptist, so I know of what I speak.

The 2% number reflects behavior, not orientation. Read more carefully what I wrote.


Don't know. They're not in the spam filter and I didn't delete them, so I'm not sure.

All: As every regular contributor here is certainly aware, the family is one of the key institutions Hayek singles out as arising due to human action but not design. It is one of the main staples of a spontaneous order resembling anything like a classically liberal utopia.

Therefore if we take the Hayekian research program and its major findings seriously, it is critical that scholars approach such institutions with great respect. *Designed* perturbations in the rules governing these fundamental institutions which occur through any form of rational social engineering or moralizing must necessarily have an impact on the nature of the social order that emerges. As Hayek labors long and hard to point out, social engineering usually ends with many unintended negative consequences for a previously liberal social order.

If we are to learn anything significant from Hayek's research program of political economy, it must be that social scientists are too often keen on tampering with these types of institutions due largely to the basic fact that the collective body of knowledge dispersed in these institutions and rules can almost never be completely reduced and rationally deconstructed by any individual mind (including the scientific observer), and this reality profoundly agitates most modern intellectuals.

My bet is that we all mainly agree up to this point. Now here is where I will try to throw my breaking ball for a strike.

Have we asked ourselves where the SSM initiative began? Has the change in the acceptable rules governing marriage come from an unconscious and spontaneous movement of the grassroots who accidentally over time stumbled into the new rules through a long period of muddling through, or rather has the seemingly recent societal push to tweak the rules come from the brains of mostly 20th century academics in the social sciences and philosophy departments who have looked down from their ivory towers and spotted social injustice that must be remedied through the recourse of new legal constructions?

I have an opinion about the answer to the question, but hopefully somebody here will first let me know what they think. I'm very interested to read opinions on this question.

I am still trying to dig through my memories to figure out who recruited me... it seems that every time I do, I come to a blank. I had no contact with any other gay person before I came out to the world. If you find whoever recruited me, then please let me know.

K. Sralla,

I have no doubt that the movement for SSM is a down-up grassroots matter. GLBT people have been massively repressed, and many had life-long relationships in the past that they had to cover, keep secret, make excuses for, etc. etc., because of possible repercusssions, including torture and death. As these restrictions and repressions have been gradually reduced, these people have stepped forth and demanded that they be able to share in the state-awarded benefits that hetero married people have. The idea that somehow elites or central planners in "ivory towers" have gone out and encouraged them to go against these massive repressions to demand their rights is the absolute height of utter absurdity.

Sorry. I do not know what planet you live on, but this one is not operating the way you seem to think that it is.

I don't utter this sentence very often but: I agree completely with Barkley. :)

@Steve, @Troy:

Marriage, in many countries, is strongly connected with taxes and welfare state. If governmente would be "indifferent", marriage could be reduced to a simple contract and SSM would be no questionable from any point of view. But the very fact that it extendes the so-called "social rights" (to use a leftish term) is a source of conflict without doubt.
In Western countries this is the most relevant difference between being married or not. From a legal standpoint you alomost can act as if you were married whatever you sexual preferences are (to live together, to name your heir, etc.). If the question would be simply to allow o not to allow visiting a loved person in a public hospital it wouldn't be a great social issue able to divide public opinion so long.
The relevant differences are 2: social benefits and cultural discrimination. So:

- Do you agree to raise (/to spend) taxes to extend social protections in favour of SSM?

- Do you agree to give special protections to GLBT, I mean aggravated punishments when they are victims, i.e. if the author of a crime has a bias toward a minority or a particoular group should be punished just because of its crime or even also because of its feelings, prejudices, etc. ?

These questions, even when they're not expressed, are difficult to separate from the main one. They could be (and they are) philosophically different, but from a politcal and pragmatic point of view to say "yes" to SSM implies to say "yes" to all the rest. From an hayekan point of view these could be unintended consequences of your positions.

If you're a socialdemocratic no problem. But if you're a libertarian

- where can you trace the border between a request of freedom and lobbying for benefits?

- And again, if you can't trace it clearly or to defend it, what is better to fight cultural prejudice here and now through ideas or more government intervention pro GLBT?

B: Last time I checked, I am comfortably inhabiting Earth. Thanks for asking. I can also produce my birth certificate if you need proof.

S: Were you in agreement with Barkley profiling me about citizenship, or some other point? :)

In all seriousness. My hunch has come partly from closely watching the ordination of gay clergy in the liberal Protestant denominations here in the United States. No, this is not the same issue, yet it may give us some valuable insight into the question I asked.

The concerted push for ordination of gay clergy most definately began in the seminaries and philosophy departments associated with these respective denominations, and almost exclusively in the denominations of higher educational enlightenment and wealth such as the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and the remaining liberal Congregational/Unitarian churches in New England.

The fact is however, that this single issue has severely split the grassroots of these denominations, and most congregations who have ordained gay ministers have shrunk drastically in size. However, if the push for the ordination of gay clergy was a widespread organic movement, one might suspect that such a numerical shrinking would not be occuring.

We might instead expect the ordination of gay people to be a rallying cause that brings in folks from the hedgeways and highways (to borrow a very southern church expression). There is no doubt some of this happening in very small pockets, but the point is that the size of movement is not large enough to counterbalance the mass exit from the pews.

Social experimentation in the church has been discussed openly in seminaries ever since the old guard conservatives were expelled in the early 20th century. One can look no further than Princeton theological seminary, and read what the faculty was writing 40-50 years ago, long before most of these issues came to the public forum. Without a doubt, the issue of gay clergy was disussed, debated, and settled among the intellectual class long before it has emerged into the public mindset.

Now I will grant you that this proves nothing, and more scholarly documentation needs to occur which documents the story I have just told. Also one might counter that this only reflects the bigotry of those who have left these congregations. However, I think we need to consider this more closely.

The pattern of evolution that I have described in liberal Protestantism should not be surprising to anyone here. I suspect that many of us strongly agree that most big societal shifts in rules, public policy and laws begin with the intellectuals, not with the grassroots. Pete Boettke taught me this truth of political change, and he is right. It is the academics who frame the issues that trickle down to the public intellectuals, then to the public and policy makers.

So this leads me to another question: Is the rule of thumb that big public policy changes come from the top down not valid on the issue of SSM? Why not?

K. Sralla,

But the movement to let GLBT people marry or be ministers comes from the ground up initially, from the oppressed GLBT people who wish to do these things that others can do. That the first groups or people to support their demands may have been intellectuals in elite universities (not central planners) does not undo that reality. You did not have elite heteros in seminaries sitting around talking about ordaining GLBT people prior to GLBT people asking to be ordained.

I have watched over the last 15 years with my first-year students to see how they think about this issue (having taught courses on marriage and the family). They have steadily and clearly become more sympathetic to SSM and GLBT issues more generally over that period, all of which is well before they are directly influenced by any intellectuals.

If you want to argue it's all part of some grand plot that includes public school teachers, go right ahead, but the more parsimonious explanation is that the widespread presence both on TV/movies and in the real lives of more and more Americans, especially younger ones, has just led them to realize that GLBT folks are just like them and should be treated equally under the law. It's so obvious and such a no-brainer to a clear majority of young people (and increasing numbers of the non-young), that attributing it to some top down process is somewhat insulting to their own intelligence and sense of justice.

Silvano: I am opposed to any laws that treat GLBTs differently. So I'm opposed to "hate crime" type laws. I'm also opposed to any law that would force religious organizations to marry gays and lesbians. This is about the state treating citizens equally.

And yes, even if expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples means spending a few more tax dollars I would favor it. For the umpteenth time: classical liberalism is not JUST about the size and scope of the state but also equality under the law. A state that treats similarly placed citizens differently is unjust *on classical liberal grounds*.

Suppose we had a law that said red-heads could not get Social Security. Would you opposed repealing that law because it would mean a larger budget? I seriously hope not.

Given the existence of the state (a given I'm always ready to challenge), it has an obligation to treat its citizens equally and that obligation comes before any budgetary considerations.

"If you want to argue it's all part of some grand plot that includes public school teachers, go right ahead'

No No No. I suspected ahead of time you would hit me with this, but it is distinctly *not* what I am arguing. Again, please give me a bit more credit than this.

To further clarify, Hayekian thought that I have tried to adhere to in my argument is vastly inconsistent with "grand plot" or conspiricy theory minutia, so let me assure you that I do not believe in these types of boogey men.

However, you understand exactly what I am arguing, and therefore I am quite dissapointed that you failed to engage the substance of my question about the way in which information and ideas disseminate downward and contribute to an evolving social order.

In "The Intellectuals and Socialism," Hayek made it very clear that trends in ideas, and following this, changing social beliefs and attitudes among growing numbers in the society is greatly influenced by the "second-handers" of ideas -- the professional intellectuals.

And in this sense, many, if not most, changes in social currents is "top-down." This has applied to attitudes towards sex and sexual relationships. The cultural influencers -- those who produce and star in television shows, for instance -- consciously attempt to modify the public's beliefs.

For example, the very popular TV shows, "Brothers and Sisters" and "Grey's Anatomy." Gay and lesbian couples are consciously portrayed as "normal" and "natural." Hugging, kissing, having sex, adopting children. This is not "bottom-up"; this is "top-down."

The "left coast" is intentionally working to "raise the consciousness" of "middle America," the backward "rednecks" who, to quote Obama, suffer from fear and depression, and therefore cling to their outdated religion and worship of guns. You know, the racists and bigots who believe all the things that the left elite rejects because they are "naturally" far more "enlightened" than the rest of the society.

This is just how ideas shift more often than not occur. In the 19th century, abolitionists had to work hard to "enlighten" in the society of that time that (a) slavery was wrong, and (b) that blacks were not inferior, and it was not a threat to the foundations of society if blacks lived in the same neighborhoods as whites, and inter-racially married with whites.

As classical liberals, we are elitists, who are attempting to enlighten so many of our fellow citizens who have been mis-educated and perversely indoctrinated by the collectivists in accepting an ideology of redistribution and political paternalism. We are attempting a "reeducation" program of individual liberty, self-responsibility, and understanding of the working and superiority of voluntary associations and Adam Smithian "invisible hands."

This is the nature of ideological and political and much of social change in society -- for good or bad -- in modern history.

This is not to belittle or under-appreciate bottom-up "spontaneous order" evolutionary processes.

But all of us who are full-time or part-time intellectuals (especially, but not exclusively in academia, as I suggested above with the impact of "Hollywood") are at work to influence the trends and currents of social opinion and policy.

Richard Ebeling

Absolutely intellectuals seek to influence the trends of the culture. They should.

But a wise intellectual should always carry around a good dose of Hayekian humility about the limited knowledge that is possible to obtain about the workings and information contained within a complex social order made up of many individual minds.

Classical liberals value honest and open discussion amongst fellow intellectuals, education of students, and communication of basic economic realities to the public and policy makers, yet classical liberals are usually extremely cautious about direct intervention and activism through the political or legal process. This is especially true when it comes to moral issues.

It is direct constructivist activism and social engineering by academics that Hayek warns can and does often lead to bad consequences, and ultimately risks a severe reaction against liberty.

I hope nobody takes that as an accusation that anyone here (mostly from the classical liberal tradition) is guilty of Hayek's no no's, but I do believe that many others outside this tradition do not carry around such a caution. There is a heavy temptation among many to engage in direct social engineering to right the wrongs of society.

If there is a push too hard among activist intellectuals to radically shove certain enlightenment medicine down the throat of the private sector, then they risk a severe reactionary movement against the enlightenment and liberty they seek to bring forth.

We can cite example after example of this in history. Since Richard Ebeling brought up the racial immorality that the United States endured via tolerance for the institution of slavery, we must be reminded that in America, the end of this evil institution coincided with an unmitigated human disaster, a violent mass bedlam leading to the loss of 700,000 lives. Yet for many years leading up to this event, a large and growing group of southerners had already conceded that it was a matter of time before slavery was finished.

The story needs to be put together.

GLBT wanted equal rights. That is bottom-up. Intellectuals accepted the justice of what they want. This resulted in immanent criticism (an important part of the spontaneous order story as told by Hayek, not directly mentioned by anyone, but hinted at by Richard) by the intellectuals. Acceptance among the intellectuals trickled down, through college education, writings, etc. to the rest of the people, slowly changing enough of the general population's minds so that we ahve reached the point, today, where about half of the U.S. population agrees on GLBT rights, including marriage. It is much, much higher among the youngest of the populations.

It's a feedback loop. Bottom-up, top-down, bottom-up, etc. Notice that in this story nobody is imposing anything on anyone. Rather, we have feedback loops of influence. Thus does society's rules change. It is a flaw in the system if legislation has to be involved.

My answer to Silvano's argument is the same as Steve's. It's a matter of equality under the law. All the rest are separate arguments. It is ethical to argue to get rid of welfare; it is unethical to argue to get rid of welfare for African-Americans or Hispanics only because, after all, it would move us in the "right direction" so to speak.

@Steve, @Troy

Philosophically, I agree with you. But, maybe beacause I'm writing from the town of Machiavelli, I'm afraid of my "fellow traveller". I think that it is very difficult to say "yes" to SSM, but "no" to "Hate Crime" type laws and all the rest of the agenda of radical leftish.
Some countries implemented something like "partnership/relationship contract" which found consensus among both heterosexual and homosexual couples. I don't think it is a definitive solution, but anyhow it is an attept to give a more contractual dimention to relationship.
In many countries the contractual dimention of marriage i severely limited by law: pre-marriage agreement aren't enforced, judges have discretion in case of divorce, etc. In other countries polygamy and polyandry is an offence prosecuted by law (but now are facing wawes of muslim immigrants and the solution is a "don't ask / don't tell" unwritten compromise).
And I'm aware how politicians use issues related with the redistributive effects of welfare state against immigrants or minorities. Some decisions are irreversible that's why I prefer to second some istances but to delay decision to the moment when the consesus is wider. A case by case, (i.e. state by state, coutry by country) approach I think it's better. And if in the meanwhile "marriage" would be more "contractualised" and less "institutionalized" I think it's even better,.


Just because the left supports something, that doesn't mean 1) that it's necessarily bad, and 2) that you then have to support everything else the left supports. It's not an all-or-none package. It is likely that there are going to be overlaps among leftists, rightists, classical liberals, etc. Saying it's not worse if one person is murdered over another, because first degree murder of anyone is equally wrong has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one supports SSM.

I think we should acknowledge that K. Sralla's Hayekian argument against SSM is not formally flawed. If I'm getting his drift, he is saying that SSM is a big change and we should not take such leaps lightly, which *form* of argument passes Hayekian muster.

IMHO K. goes wrong in a couple of ways. First, I don't think it's the big change he makes out. Divorce was a much bigger change. What we who favor SSM want is simply to allow gay folks to do like the rest of us can regarding marriage. This does not change the choices available to the hetero majority and thus represents an incremental, not radical change. Second, I think K. underestimates the importance of equity considerations that are deep elements of our cultural traditions. Liberals and other favor equality under the law, which means that you should not be needlessly disadvantaged by any unchosen condition. While homosexual behavior is a choice, homosexual orientation does not seem to be a choice at all, as suggested by the angst and struggles of some gay Christians. I think there are others things we might say to K., but those might be the two main points to counter his Hayekian argument against SSM. I guess I might tag on the suggestion that the quote I linked to above suggests that if Hayek were to rise from the dead today and hold forth on the issue, there's a good chance he would support SSM.

My main point, however, was just to acknowledge the logical integrity of K's Hayekian resistance to SSM.


"The good thing about the libertarian position on this issue is that people can have all manner of views about the function or purpose of gentalia, the role of procreation in marriage, what is natural or unnatural and so forth and yet none of these mental constructs will affect the voluntary agreements between consenting adults.

It is also the case that the consistent libertarian doesn't believe he or she has the right to constrain the actions of others to attain metaphysical ends or get protection against the insecurity that he may feel when the rest of the world does not affirm his views."

This is on point, I agree!

And the non-libertarians are simply wrong!

I find it very hard to swallow that homosexuals have been oppressed in this country at all, let alone "massively." Blacks and Native Americans, no doubt. They have suffered massively, but homosexuals, not at all except for a few individuals.

There is no conspiracy driving homosexual activism, but one of the main points of the first atheist philosphers, especially Nietzsche, is that without God morals have no logical basis. So atheists and their companions have dedicated themselves to destroying traditional Christian values for centuries.

What Christians have gradually realised is that the state shouldn't enforce most traditional Christian values except for theft and murder. This was the genius of the Dutch Enlightenment and much of the Protestant Reformation.

If homosexuals want to pretend that they are married, that's fine, just don't drag the state into it. We should eliminate the state's control over marriage, a control they didn't have in the US until a little more than a century ago.

I can't begin to enumerate the false empirical claims and logical fallacies in McKinney's last comment, other than to say that my religious gay friends would be surprised to hear that they are part of an atheist attempt to destroy Christian values just because they'd like to get married.


I'm afraid it may be time for you to think about bowing out of this discussion. You dug yourself into a hole early in this thread, and you kept on shoveling deeper.

You will convince nobody with these types of wild arguments, especially seasoned academics.

To play this game competitively, you will need to be more thoughtful, and try to make some positive and reasonable arguments, attempting with all your might to leave out your own personal emotional judgements. They are irrelevant.

As Steve stated forthrightly at the beginning, there is a legitimate Hayekian argument that might be tried here, but you have not made it.

There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration.

Steve, I never claimed that your religious homosexuals do anything. I didn’t even mention them. All I was pointing out is the history of the onslaught against tradition values. It began with atheist philosophers and continues with the “second hand” dealers in philosophy, the media. The late Dr. Francis Schaefer provides the empirics, if anyone cares. It’s really odd that people demand a dissertation with footnotes on blog posts. And if you’ll point out my empirical errors instead of just tossing lame insults I will be glad to correct them.

Ksralla, the truth often sounds wild to people. Try posting about Austrian econ on a socialist web site. They’ll think you’re from Mars. If you’ll show me where my arguments are unreasonable, instead of pulling rank (“seasoned academics”) I’ll be glad to reconsider them.
I have commented on the Hayekian argument. Hayek wasn’t clear on the issue. When do you stop experimenting? Socialist experimentation has destroyed many of the gains made in the past. As I wrote, I have no problem with SSM as long as the state doesn’t decide the issue.

PS, At the same time, to reject traditional morality on the grounds that we can see no short-term problems with it is the very idea that Hayek criticized as the fatal conceit and pseudo-reason.

In the early 1970’s, the great atheist evangelist and scientist Sr Julian Huxley appeared on the Dick Cabot show. Cabot asked him why people were so quick to adopt Darwinian evolution before there was much evidence for it. Huxley said that he thought it was because people wanted freedom from traditional sexual morality. Huxley was the last honest atheist.

McKinney: The Huxley quote is likely totally bogus as suggested here:

I did not check out the cite or otherwise do lots of research here, but a basic reality check seems to support the view that the Huxley quote is pure invention or confabulation. The burden of proof is now on you.

The Hayekian argument against SSM proves too much. We should freeze society in place forever because well never perfectly understand why things are the way they are. "Traditional" morality and Christianiy themselves should never have been allowed to evolve.

I think it should be recognized (and I presume it probably was in the seminar Steve ran at the Liberty Fund workshop), that indeed it is possible to construct a Hayekian case to support either side here. The anti-SSM position clearly rests on his defense of tradition based on his Whiggish view of evolution (if it evolved, it must be at least sort of good). There is also evidence that he personally disapproved of homosexuality, as evidenced by his remark about Keynes suggesting that his bisexuality showed his broader immorality.

OTOH, quite aside from his general support for individual liberty, Hayek did actually come out specifically for legally tolerating homosexuality, although I do not believe that he ever addressed the question of SSM itself.

My beef with your latest remarks, McKinney are with your "doubt" that "homosexuals have ever been oppressed in this country." Now it is true that they have not been burned at the stake, nor that we followed the Hitler policy of attempting to exterminate them along with the Jews and the Gypsies. But until very recently anyone who came out of the closet could be fired from their job, thrown out of a rental unit, beaten up badly by pretty much anybody, publicly ridiculed, arrested if they engaged too openly in their actions (those ant-sodomy laws got enforced in ways that the ones around the country against adultery and having oral sex on Sundays have not been), and on and on, including, of course, this matter of not letting someone visit their dying lifelong partner in a hospital, or allow them to inherit, and on and on. Sorry, McKinney, but you really have no idea what you are talking about when you come up with such stuff.

It is widely accepted that the brilliant computer scientist, Alan Turing, committed suicide because of harassment over his gayness. He is far from the only person who has done so, although one of the most famous.

Roger, the quote actually comes from Dr. D. James Kennedy in one of his books. He wrote this:

"I remember listening a few years ago to a televison broadcast on public television in which a young lady was interviewing Sir Julian Huxley….The lady interviewing him asked, “Why do yo think evolution caught on so quickly? Why do you think the scientists leaped at the Origin of Species?”

I remember exactly where I was sitting while watching this public broadcasting television station and Huxley’s response, verbatim. …He said this: [I suppose the reason] we all jumped at the Origin was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.”

He may have lied. I can't prove it either way. He wasn't that type of person, though. And the interviewer wasn't Merv Griffin.

I'll let you know if I find anything else.

Barkely, my response was to the “massive oppression” statement above. I agree that homosexuals have been poorly treated, but there is no way you can stretch their treatment to conform to “massive oppression.” Nerds get bullied and mistreated. A guy was beat almost to death for being a fan of a particular baseball team. There are a lot of evil people in the world who use any excuse to treat others badly.

Yes, homosexuals who identified themselves as such could suffer the treatment you describe, but was that the rule or the exception? I think they were the exception. There is a lot of arguing from the exceptions in these posts.

That kind of oppression was the rule until recently in the West. It is still the rule in much of the rest of the world. Defending despicable acts doesn't lend you much support for your world view.

Confabulation is not lying, M. Thus, we do not need to form a poor opinion of J. D. Kennedy's character to recognize that the quote likely bogus.

You're still dodging my question on the different functions of primate genitalia.


I suspect that why you think it was the exception rather than the rule is that in fact most GLBT people stayed in the closet precisely to avoid these sorts of discriminatory actions that included threats to even remaining alive. Most such people did have people who knew the truth, but those were people who loved them or cared for them and assisted in the coverups needed to maintain their closeted status (Oh yes, poor Aunt Winnie, just never could find the right man! It is so good that her roommate Phoebe is such a nice lady, and they make the best deviled eggs for the weekly potlucks down at the Baptist Church!). Sure, there were certain locations and professions where one could be somewhat more open, but even in those places the threat of something really unpleasant happening was never that far away.

I can speak from personal experience. My first wife was my high school sweetheart, and we had two daughters together. However, about the time she hit 30, she realized that she was really a lesbian and left me for a woman with whom she was very much in love. If they had been legally allowed to and if there had not been such a hostile environment, they would have married and been open about their relationship. As it was, they remained closeted. My ex moved up in academia, becoming about a decade ago the first woman dean in a major university in the US South, but had to remain closeted the whole time, having to periodically flirt with powerful and ignorant men, only coming out recently after becoming provost at a northern university in a more tolerant environment.

As for her and her partner, her partner died of excruciating cancer. They were blocked from seeing each other and my ex suffered massive legal problems dealing with her partner's estate after death, and these were highly intelligent people in a better position to avoid this sort of stuff than many. My ex was (and remains) profoundly bitter about what went on, and I do not blame her at all.

Call that a small sample, but I think in fact it reflects pretty well what has been the rule, not the exception. I suggest that your argument along these lines is seriously out to lunch.

Roger: “Confabulation is not lying, M. Thus, we do not need to form a poor opinion of J. D. Kennedy's character to recognize that the quote likely bogus.”

I don’t see how you can do otherwise. Either he lied or he didn’t. His character demonstrates that he wasn't in the habit of lying.

Roger: “You're still dodging my question on the different functions of primate genitalia.”

What is the primary function of genitalia? Suppose someone used his genitalia as a hammer to drive nails. Does that mean the prime purpose of genitalia is to drive nails? In natural law philosophy, the character of the organ determines its function. Can it be miss used? Of course! We eat the hearts of some animals. Does that mean the primary purpose of animals hearts is to provide food for humans?

Barkley, I’m sorry for your wife’s troubles, but she is a sample of one. You are building a theory and a world view on a sample of one!
Many people have issues with their insurance companies, not just homosexuals. Take President Obama’s grandmother as an example.

How many people have been murdered because they were homosexual in the past century? A dozen? Compare that with the treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century and Blacks for the past 300 years.


You really need to do some research before you make statements about facts. Go google. In 2008, there were reportedly 190 "homophobic murders" alone in Brazil, with the FBI reporting 5 in that year alone for the US. Iran has executed about 4000 gays since 1979. If you want to hold to your "dozen" over the last century in the US, well, either the FBI is lying, or the rate wildly accelerated to make a mere 7 reach your dozen in a single year.

And my ex-wife's problems went well beyond merely dealing with insurance companies, if you know how to read.

Also the rapes of lesbians in parts of Africa as "curative."


1) Um, didya *look up* "confabulate" to see, you know, what it means?

2) The human tongue is used for talking and for tasting. Doesn't your argument imply that one of those uses is "bad" and "unnatural"?

Here’s the first mistake most people make about teleogy in the natural law tradition:

“If you are going to understand Aristotle and Aquinas, the first thing you need to do is put out of your mind everything that you’ve come to associate with words like “purpose,” “final cause,” “teleology,” and the like under the influence of what you’ve read about the Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design debate, Paley’s design argument, etc. None of that is relevant. If you think that what Aristotelians or Thomists mean when they say that teleology pervades the natural world is that certain natural objects exhibit “irreducible specified complexity,” or that some inorganic objects are analogous to machines and/or to biological organs, or that they are best explained as the means by which an “Intelligent Designer” is seeking to achieve certain goals, etc., then you are way off base. I realize that that’s the debate most people – including writers of pop apologetics books – think that arguments like the Fifth Way are about. They’re not. Think outside the box. “What hath Thomas Aquinas to do with William Paley?” Nothing. Forget Paley.”…

The claim so far is only that where there is an efficient causal connection between A and B, then generating B is the final cause of A in the sense that A inherently “points to” B or is “directed at” B as its natural effect. That’s it….

So far, then, nothing has been said about either “design” or a “designer,” because the point has nothing to do with design. Nor does it have anything to do with complexity, “specified” or otherwise….

When a mainstream naturalistic philosopher like David Armstrong speaks of the “dispositions” physical objects possess as manifesting a kind of “proto-intentionality,” and when a mainstream naturalistic philosopher like George Molnar argues that the causal powers of material objects exhibit a kind of “physical intentionality,” they are certainly not claiming that there is an intelligent designer who made the world with certain ends in view. But they are (even if unwittingly) more or less stating in modern jargon what the A-T tradition meant by the principle of finality…

If that claim sounds obvious and trivial, then terrific: You’re starting to understand Aristotle and Aquinas, because it’s supposed to be obvious and trivial.

This is probably a waste of time, but while GLBT people were not enslaved nor killed in battles over territory in the US prior to 1890, racial discrimination in employment has been banned in the US for decades, with if anything people charging that at least some racial minorities have been discriminated in favor of due to affirmative action (and I just read that whites in the US think the problem of discrimination against them is now greater than against blacks, even if that is delusional).

OTOH, there is no federal ban against sexual preference job discrimination. There are many locales that now ban such discrimination, but this is far from universal, and there has even been backsliding on this matter recently.

So, in Virginia, where I live, recent governors included sexual preference in proclamations they made on being inaugurated into office against discrimination in state hiring. The current one removed this phrase from his proclamation. On top of that, and just to show that they really mean it, the VA Attorney General sent an official opinion around to all the state colleges and universities informing them that the rules against such discrimination in hiring that many had put in place were illegal and should be removed, given that the VA legislature has never passed on such a matter.

McKeinnean logic:

The primary purpose of muscles is to move animals, not to be food. Therefore, it is immoral to eat muscles.

And, to riff off of Roger:

The primary purpose of the tongue is to taste food and move it into the throat and to lap up water. Its secondary purpose, developed exclusively for humans, is to aid in speech communication. Therefore, speech communication is immoral.

And to riff off of Wittgenstein:

The primary purpose of a shoe is to cover the feet. To use it for a secondary purpose, such as to hammer in a nail (if you have a hard-soled shoe), is thus immoral.

Perhaps teleology is not the best way to understand moral behavior.

Barkley, I thought we were discussing the US. I don’t have anything to say about Iran or Brazil. Their treatment of homosexuals is disgusting and evil. But what does that have to do with the US?

Roger, yes, I looked up confabulate. But in order to confabulate one has to be under some kind of delusion or under hypnosis or some external cause that makes the person think he is telling the truth when he isn’t. That’s a pretty stupid accusation of someone like Dr Kennedy. Either he told the truth or he didn’t. If he didn’t tell the truth and was confabulating, then you need to show some evidence that he was delusional.

As for the tongue, why couldn’t both be its purpose? See the quotes by Feser above for a clearer understanding of teleology in natural law.

It really amazes me how some of you “seasoned academics” argue. Like Keynesians assaulting Austrian econ, you make no effort at all to understand the opposing argument.


So the credibility of the Huxley quote is now equated with the personal honesty of one evangelical writer? Sorry, that doesn't work for me. People make up false memories all the time. It's called being a human.

It's pretty clear we're going precisely nowhere, but I'll hang in for another round or two anyway. So . . . If the the tongue can have multiple purposes, why can't the penis? You sure seem to be saying that because the "primary function of genitalia" is reproduction, only straight sex is okay. You agree that the tongue can have multiple purposes and it does not constitute some sort of violation of natural law to use your tongue for eating and talking. So why does the "primary function" of a penis rule out other uses, but the "primary function" of a tongue does not? Where is the asymmetry here? That's a fair question that has nothing to do with supposed conflations of Aristotle and Behe.


Funny how you ignore my remarks that focused on the US. You claim that treatment of GLBTs in the US is nowhere as near as bad as that of blacks and Indians. You also claim that only a dozen GLBTs have been killed in the last century.

So, do you have a response to the fact that in 2008 alone the FBI reports that there were 5 "homophobic murders" in the US? At a constant rate per year, that adds to 500 in the last century, a bit more than your dozen.

And you have nothing to say about the continuation of job discrimination against GLBTs with the reassertion of the right to do this having been made recently (at least in VA), while racial discrimination in hiring has been banned for decades. Indeed, if you would go back and read carefully about my ex-wife, one of her problems was precisely that she was afraid of being discriminated against in work due to her preferences, although you seem to have only noticed the "problems with insurance companies," and indeed I know that she did not get appointments to higher positions on more than one occasion because her preference became known to the wrong parties. She was actively discriminated against and still would be if she were in certain locations.

You really need to get off your high horse on this issue. You are completely out of touch with reality.

I thought this argument over SSM was all about equal access to the welfare state grab-bag, since no one was arguing in favor of enforcing sumptuary laws disfavoring GLBTs, or contractual agreements between cohabitants. But now: the legal right not to be discriminated against? In jobs? Or, maybe, just state-supported educational institutions? A new tool for the plaintiff's bar.

Feser provides a teleology that can be used to support my view. Feser argues that there is "immanent or “built in” final causality or teleology" to something and "extrinsic final causality or teleology imposed “from outside.”" Using this distinction, genetalia's immanent teleology is reproduction, while their extrinsic teleology is pair-bonding, pleasure, social bonding, etc. One could argue that gays use their genetalia's extrinsic teleology, which is perfectly legitimate. Feser argues that art has extrinsic , but not immanent, teleology -- which hardly makes it illegitimate. As a consequence, one could make the argument that gays practice sex in a purely artistic fashion (I do not think that Oscar Wilde, the man for whom the term "homosexual" was coined, would be displeased by this idea). Again, it is not a violation of a thing's telos that it be used for artistic purposes. It's just a different kind of telos. That is all.

How is that for understanding the opposing argument?

Roger: “People make up false memories all the time.”

Do you make up false memories all the time?

Confabulate: “In psychology, confabulation is the spontaneous narrative report of events that never happened. It consists of the creation of false memories, perceptions, or beliefs about the self or the environment—usually as a result of neurological or psychological dysfunction.” Wikipedia.

So before you can credibly accuse Dr Kennedy of confabulation, you need to show that he suffered from some neurological or psychological dysfunction. People have often confabulated as a result of hypnosis, but there is no evidence that Dr Kennedy was undergoing hypnosis. And you need to show a habit of such things.

Roger: “It's pretty clear we're going precisely nowhere…”

And why might that be? You guys are debating like Paul Krugman debates Austrian econ, from a position of extreme ignorance while assuming you’re expert in the opposing theory.

It’s clear from your posts that none of you know anything at all about natural law theory. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest minds in Western history and he built his system of natural law on the works of Aristotle, another not-too-shabby intellect. The greatest minds in the West refined natural law theory for nearly another millennium. Do you honestly think that the obvious and facile contradictions you guys have served up would have escaped all of those thinkers for nearly a thousand years?

I won’t try to defend natural law theory any more in this discussion because all I’m doing is trying to educate you on what it really says and none of you care. You won’t even bother to read a Wikipedia article on it. Until you’re willing to actually learn something about it, discussing it with you is as frustrating as talking about Austrian econ with Paul Krugman.

Some wrote that inconsistencies are the hobgoblin of little minds. Finding inconsistencies in the other person’s argument is the junior high school method of debate. Few people are inconsistent in their thinking. The apparent inconsistencies that opponents find are usually the result of the opponent not bothering to understand the other side.

The straw men, putting words in my mouth, appeals to authority (“seasoned academics” seriously! I can’t stop laughing about that one), and ridicule are junior high methods of discussion. You guys are much better than that. I have read economics papers by every one of you and you are very good economists.

But on this issue you are letting your emotions carry you away and you’re descending into junior high school techniques.

Barkley: “…the FBI reports that there were 5 "homophobic murders" in the US?”

That’s very sad, but it doesn’t compare with the treatment of blacks and Native Americans at all.

Barkley: “And you have nothing to say about the continuation of job discrimination against GLBTs…”

I think you exaggerate the degree of the problem. Personally I wouldn’t discriminate, but at the same time making it illegal violate the right of free association.

I’m sorry about your ex-wife, but I honestly thought the problem you were highlighting was that her insurance wouldn’t pay for her partner’s cancer treatment. Discrimination is a tough thing to face, but at the same time your ex’s employers have a right to free association. Employers discriminate on the basis of many things, sexual orientation being just one of them.

BTW, I have one very close friend, best man at my wedding, whose wife left him for another woman. And I have several acquaintances that experienced the same thing. I have some idea of the difficulties involved.

Troy: “How is that for understanding the opposing argument?”
Not very good.


The point was that memory can be deceiving, and so Kennedy's recollection may in fact be incorrect, even if offered in all honesty. Whether one should refer to this with "confabulation", with its specific connotations, or with some other word, is of minor importance. To focus on technicalities of "confabulation" is to miss the point being made.

-discrimination of GLBT
When given evidence that this is more widespread than you thought, you don't address that. Instead you change the subject to something not under discussion, namely whether or not this should be legal.

-natural law/genitalia
Camplin makes a reasoned argument that under natural law genitalia can have more functions than just reproduction. You're only response was "not very good". You may be perfectly right, but it'd be more convincing if you'd provide a refutation.
I say this to encourage you to make your case. Especially on this last point it would be very interesting to see some good arguments brought forward.

I should not waste my time, but...


I do not think natural law theory is the underpinning of Austrian economics. It is one philosophy among many out there. I suspect that you are granting it all kinds of authority that somehow people here are supposed to respect for religious reasons or whatever. Otherwise, why do you keep bringing something up that is basically philosophically irrelevant to the discussion at hand? You are simply out of place on this one.

Oh, you say "employers have a right of free association" and "employers discriminate on the basis of many things, sexual orientation among them." So, the bottom line is that you think it is just fine for employers to discriminate against GLBT people, that my ex-wife should just suck it up and shut up, right?

This matter came up because I noted that in fact under the law employers do not have the right to discriminate on racial grounds. You were the one claiming that blacks and Indians have it (or had it) worse than GLBT people, but now you basically admit that it is just fine that GLBT people have it worse than do blacks or Indians. And while 5 may be not a huge number, I think the number of blacks and Indians killed in 2008 for their race was zero, even if it was much higher a century ago. Do you know otherwise?

Bottom line is that on many fronts, racial minorities are treated much better than GLBT people. We used to have laws against miscegnation; they are gone. Employment discrimination on race was fine and widely practiced. Those are now gone, but not for GLBT people, and you defend this discrimination in both marriage and employment.

This will be my last post on this thread, as I think I have made myself quite clear. And, McKinney, you have dug yourself into a very deep and digusting hole that I doubt you will be able to get out of.

Regarding SSM, my argument begins with 3 premises, with I believe a Hayekian conclusion. I believe the issues begin with our language.

1. Any observer of barnyard behavior or human prison populations sees high incidence of same sex behavior. Is there a species that does not exhibit such sexual practice? Therefore looking for a 'gay' gene may be a misnomer, because the word is a misnomer; we have given same-sex a name perhaps given its rarity and illicitness, when in fact its potential to varying degree lies in all of us. It is rare in all cases (perhaps 3-10% in humans) because it does not propagate the species. In humans, our self-aware consciousness amplifies same sex liasions, positively in some and negatively in others, . Nothing more or less.

2. As Mr. Ebling pointed out, the issue of same sex marriage is significantly complicated because it is politicized. The government's interest in marriage can only arguably extend to tax incentives for children to extend its own success. Period. By now government involvement is bungling marriage in general, not just SSM.

3. Contrary to Mr. Horowitz' views regarding the family, monetarily incenting women (women instigate >70% of divorces) through law to divorce has arguably been a complete disaster. Emotional maturity predicts life success and adaptability, not intellect. And we learn best by modeling in highly immersed contextual milieus (insert education failure rant here). Removing the father from immediate influence has been terrible for children, for whatever reason. Greater than 70% of all suicides, runaways, prison populations, depressives, and the poor come from single families. Families are the most intimate and fundamental units of society. We are destroying them. IMHO it is the largest blind spot of many libertarians; that free markets and successful societies do not rely on moral protection. 'Falling out of love,' by far the largest reason for divorce, is a terrible reason for breaking society's most important bond.

These three premises arguably stand alone, their confluence in same sex marriage obfuscating and complicating the issue. Should we allow same sex couples to join and raise children?

If you agree with my premises, I suggest the question is turned upside down, and is better answered by rectifying the negative social engineering of each premise. Assuming we did that, the question is not whether SSM is OK. It is up to them. The question is not should they raise children, but how to nurture children with both male and female role models regardless of who is rearing them, since we know that families of two or more are exponentially more successful at child rearing than one.

Then, McKinney, I'm afraid you don't understand either natural law or teleology. I looked up Feser, found a discussion of two different kinds of telos, and used his argument against your points. Which suggests you don't understand Feser, either.

I will also note that you committed the logical fallacy of argument from authority. Aristotle and Aquinas were wrong about a great many things. And the science of logic did not end with either Aristotle or Aquinas. Much has been developed since even the Medieval period.

n point (ii):

Most religious adherents are not clamouring for homosexual activities to be snooped out and to be outlawed. They are not advocating intrusion into personal sexual behaviour. But what is at stake is that by legitimatizing same-sex marriage, it fundamentally changes the definition of marriage - which has always meant a union between a man and a woman, across all societies.

What IS the definition of a marriage? I believe this is the crux of the issue, and discussion is not possible without it.

If the only condition for marriage is love - well, what is stopping me from marrying my mother or marrying a kid so long as it is voluntary by both parties? Boris Johnson once pointed out - why not have marriages between three men, or even three men and a dog?

The Darwinian perspective is that the family structure so happened be a social structure which has enabled humanity to survive thousands of years. However, the social structure could have been different - a biology friend pointed out that Boris Johnson was indeed correct in some sense, it could've been three men, three men and a dog. There is nothing 'sacrosanct' about the family structure. As an aside, he also said he had social-engineering ideas of his own - how humanity could organized itself better.

I pointed out to my friend that any social structure which has enabled humanity to survive millenia should not be tinkered with too hastily. It would be appropriate for any proposed change to the family structure to be tested over a similar thousand-year time-frame.

The concept of family has been heavily whittled down in the West - so I view the development of same-sex marriage to be another step of this trend. It is not that single-parents are less deserving of dignity - they have equal worth and equal dignity as any other individual, but it is very different to claim that such a social arrangement is of equal efficacy (especially when it comes to the upbringing of children) as a traditional daddy-and-mommy family.

Never has there been a time in human history where family has been de-emphasized to such an extent as today. Take the Roman-Greco period - family still received some emphasis, because it was linked to inheritance and progeny matters. It would have been difficult for them to view a same-sex relationship as a marriage - as a same-sex union could not produce kids and propagate your lineage. But technological advancements have allowed us to dispense with many such considerations - a homosexual couple today can have kids in some sense. I believe this to partly contribute to the agitation of same-sex unions elevated to marriage status - because many of the supposed "disadvantages" or "incapabilities" of same-sex couples... these natural barriers can now be removed via technological means.

I am a Chinese - we do not have a conscious memory of our history or culture (unlike the British, for instance). It is a subconscious one - with Chinese values including the emphasis on hard work and family being passed down from generation to generation. These values were forged and tested through 5000 years of civilization.

The Chinese people had always lived as if we had no "rights", certainly no right to welfare. Good times, bad times - but there's family, which Lee Kuan Yew once described as a "survival raft" for the individual and with which we pull through somehow.

The Chinese emphasis on family is proved by experience, and has enabled our civilization to endure for thousands of years - through inflations, deflations, depressions, civil war, imperial invasion, dynastic downfall, cultural revolution, etc. We should not be too hasty in abandoning it.

On point (iii):

I believe there's a very intimate connection between the same-sex marriage debate and economics per se. People like Wilhelm Ropke and Goh Keng Swee understood that the market economy could not function on its own - you can design the best economic policies, the best political institutions, but it would not work (c.f. some experiences of African countries). They believed that the market economy could only function if there was a strong sense of morals among individuals, further supported by institutions especially the family structure.

For them, it was also the family which illuminated life. What illuminates life is not material goods (demand and supply stuff) - that is material wealth, which is not unimportant in itself. But real wealth, the things which illuminate life, is our relationship with others - with friends, with family... and for the Christian, above all is his relationship with God.

What would Hayek say?

It is difficult to say as his views evolved over time. Towards the latter part of his life (after he wrote the "Why I am not a Conservative" essay), he claimed to increasingly identify with Edmund Burke - perhaps Hayek was aware of the internal contradictions of his ideas, especially pertaining to morality as I pointed out in part (i), and some other problems suggested by K Sralla. And Edmund Burke would probably say no to same-sex marriage.

This still does not answer how it is that SSM undermines traditional marriage. How is it that allowing more people to participate in something undermines it?

Imagine there is a franchise company, and suppose that everyone who ever bought a franchise from it was straight. The franchise grew to become as successful as, say, McDonald's. Would a gay person buying a franchise suddenly undermine it, make everyone unprofitable? Even if nobody went to the gay person's store? Hardly. That is absurd. The rest of the stores are unaffected by who owns any of the other stores.

Marriage has been slowly evolving in the West. Actually, it has been slowly evolving everywhere. Polygamy was once far more common everywhere. Now it is not. Who is lamenting the loss of polygamy? (Indeed, why are there laws against it?)

As for bluez's points. There is the Westermarck effect to prevent you from entering into incestuous relationships. That is biological. It's not perfect, but it deeply underscores our sexual morals. Animals cannot enter into a contract freely. And neither can children. That takes care of all of your comparisons. We are talking about adult human beings who should have the same rights as everyone.

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