Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Atheist Michael Shermer tries to rationally ground morality in debate with Frank Turek

Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality

Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality

The topic of the debate was on the grounding of morality – which worldview (theism or atheism) is better at grounding morality?

And here is the MP3 for the cross-examination only, which is what I will be summarizing. (12.5 Mb)

The full debate can be seen here and can be heard here.

Turek’s cross-examination period starts at 74m22s and ends at 89m20s.

Shermer’s cross-examination period starts at 89m50s and ends at 105m0s.

Topics of Turek’s cross-examination:

  • evolution produces Shermer’s moral sense and Hitler’s moral sense
  • why does Shermer think his is better than Hitler’s, since both were produced by the same evolution?
  • what makes right or wrong if evolution is the source of morality?
  • why is Stalin’s opinion of right and wrong less valuable than the herd’s opinion of right and wrong?
  • do the Founding Fathers ground inalienable rights in a Creator, or in evolution?
  • can atheism ground the existence of inalienable rights?
  • can you ground objective moral values and objective moral duties by asking people how they feel?
  • can you ground objective human rights on atheism by shouting like a madman and interrupting?
  • how can you trust your thinking if they are the result of an unguided, random process of evolution?
  • how can you have rational thoughts if materialism is true, and you are a machine made out of meat?
  • can you ground objective moral values and objective moral duties on personal preferences?
  • how do the personal preferences of some individuals create an objective moral duty for other individuals?
  • does naturalistic evolution orient human beings toward survival or truth?
  • on materialism, what is the chemical composition of justice?

Topics of Shermer’s cross-examination:

  • Radical muslims are exactly the same as evangelical Christians, and have the same God (Allah is the same as the Triune Christian God)
  • Radical muslims would assert that their God is the same as the Triune Christian God, with Jesus and the Holy Spirit also being God
  • Therefore, we can lay the blame for what radical muslims do on the backs of evangelical Christians
  • Radical muslims and evangelical Christians are the same, because “you’re enthusiastic, they’re enthusiastic”
  • The Bible’s notion of indentured servitude to pay off debt is the identical to the idea of slavery based on race
  • The Bible’s notion that masters and slaves are equal in the sight of God forms a basis for thinking they are unequal
  • The Bible teaches things that I disagree with, like the idea that marriage should provide children with a mother and a father
  • Gay marriage is solidly grounded in evolution, even though the morality that evolution produces varies by time and place
  • Atheists can ground objective moral values and objective moral duties by asking people how they feel
  • Can atheists who want to legalize gay marriage because “they’re in love” prohibit polygamy or incest as marriage?
  • Is shouting “you’re on the wrong side of history” a way to rationally ground morality in an accidental atheistic universe?
  • Is it loving for atheists to celebrate a lifestyle that exposes gay men to sickness and premature death?
  • Is it “bigotry” for the Center for Disease Control to warn men who have sex with men about higher health risks?
  • How do Christians decide what is right and wrong when they are confronted with a moral dilemma?
  • How do humans sense the objective moral standard that is required for them to make moral judgments
  • Can enlightenment philosophers who merely imagine human rights actually create those human rights?
  • If revelations change over time for Mormons, does that undermine the need for God to ground objective morality?

I apologize for the poor quality of the video and audio. The moderator was extremely ineffective, letting Shermer go on and on making speeches instead of asking questions during his questioning time. Also, Shermer apparently thought that shouting at Turek and waving his finger at Turek was a good strategy to defend against Turek’s use of logic and evidence.

My thoughts on Michael Shermer

I do want to make some general comments about what Shermer said. Shermer’s view of morality is “what is best for the greatest number of people”. There are no inalienable rights that act as a break on the will of the majority. Shermer has no objection to anything that the majority has decided in any time or in any place. If he were there, he would agree that whatever they decided was morally right.

Two hundred years ago, Shermer would have endorsed slavery. And if he were in Germany 50 years ago, he would have endorsed the Holocaust. If he lived in a Pakistan today, he would endorse stoning women for wearing the wrong clothes. Atheists always think that whatever the majority is doing in a particular time and place is right for them. There are no inalienable human rights that exist apart from human opinions, on atheism.

Another problem is that Shermer is constantly making moral judgments when his own view is that morality is constantly changing in different times and places. He condemns the moral values of other times and places without having any standard in his worldview that can decide between different moral values and duties. It is like saying that lunch is better than breakfast because lunch is here and now, and breakfast was then and there. That is literally what atheists do when they make moral judgments. They have no standard that applies to different times and places, just the ever evolving opinions of the majority of people in different times and places.

Is Michael Shermer concerned about morality?

Finally, I want people to understand what kind of person Michael Shermer is. You can read a post by PZ Myers on his blog Pharyngula to get the picture. I think it’s useful to know about Shermer’s own morality since he seems to like to make moral judgments so much during debates. In my own experience in dealing with atheists, although they will talk about slavery and the Crusades, there is nothing in an atheist’s moral system that makes things wrong for all times and all places. They bring it up to stop you from judging them about the things that they care about. When an atheist says “the Crusades! Slavery!” what they really mean is “I need to shame you for having a basis for moral judgments against me, so that you won’t say anything about me getting married women drunk then raping them”. That’s what atheistic use of moral language is really about.

What atheists really think about morality

Atheist Richard Dawkins says atheists have no objective moral standards:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

So, when Shermer tries to shame Christians for behaviors in other times and places which our society here and now disagrees with, what he really means is “morality, objectively speaking, is nonsense, but I will use your moral sense that comes from your non-atheistic worldview to shame you, so that you won’t have the confidence to judge me for my immoral behavior”. And we need to get used to understanding this about atheists. Morality is nonsense to them, and their real goal is to get you off their back for their hedonism. For atheists, morality is just complying with arbitrary social customs which vary by time and place. There is nothing more to it than aping their neighbors (at least when their neighbors are watching). And they would have aped slave-owners, widow-burners and Nazi prison guards too, if they lived in that time and place. And shouted at Christians for disagreeing with them, just like Shermer did about gay marriage.

If you like the way that Frank Turek debates, then be sure and check out his new book “Stealing From God“. I highly recommend it.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Robert Gagnon debates gay activist Jayne Ozanne on Bible vs homosexuality

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

I am tempted to say that this is the best podcast I have ever heard on the Unbelievable show. Do anything you have to do in order to listen to this podcast.

Details:

Prof Robert Gagnon has become a well-known voice advocating the traditional biblical view on sexuality. In a highly charged show he debates the scriptural issues on sexuality with Jayne Ozanne, the director of Accepting Evangelicals who came out as gay earlier this year.

The MP3 file is here.

If you can only listen for 15 minutes, then start at 49 minutes in and listen from there.

The following summary is rated MUP for made-up paraphrase. Reader discretion is advised.

Summary:
Intro:

  • Speaker introductions
  • Gagnon: scholars who support gay marriage agree that the Bible doesn’t support it
  • Gagnon: scholars who support gay marriage agree Jesus taught male-female marriage
  • Ozanne: I went to the hospital because I was sick from trying to suppress my gay desires
  • Ozanne: Doctors told me that I would die if I didn’t act on my gay desires
  • Ozanne: I decided to reinterpret the Bible to fit with my gay desires
  • Ozanne: According to my new interpretation, Jesus actually supports my gay desires

Segment 1: Genesis

  • Ozanne: In Genesis the Bible says that Adam needs a woman to complete him
  • Ozanne: I reinterpret this to mean that Adam needed a “complementarian human being”
  • Ozanne: Genesis doesn’t say whether Eve was complemented by Adam in that chapter
  • Ozanne: It’s not critical that men are complemented by women, a man could complement a man
  • Ozanne: Genesis 2 doesn’t talk about children, it’s all about adult needs from a relationship
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 has never been interpreted that way in all of history
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 language specifically implies a human being who is opposite/different
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 language translates to complement or counterpart
  • Gagnon: Genesis as a whole teaches that the sexuality is for male and female natures
  • Gagnon: The extraction of something from the man that is given to the woman is complementarian
  • Ozanne: I think that people can be complementary outside of male-female Genesis language
  • Ozanne: I don’t want to discuss specific words and texts and Greek meanings
  • Gagnon: the text has always been read and interpreted to support male/female complementarity
  • Gagnon: the male-female nature argument is made because the two natures are complementary
  • Ozanne: the text was interpreted by patriarchal males who treated women like property, it’s biased
  • Ozanne: what is important to me is how Christ interprets Genesis (?? how does she know that?)
  • Ozanne: I am passionate about my interpretation of Scripture which supports my gay desires
  • Gagnon: just because a person is passionate about their interpretation it doesn’t make it right
  • Gagnon: I am not arguing for the male-female view based on passion, but on scholarship, evidence and history
  • Ozanne: both sides are equally passionate about their interpretations (?? so both are equally warranted?)
  • Ozanne: the real question is why God “allowed” two different interpretations of Scripture

Segment 2: Is homosexuality a sin?

  • Gagnon: Jesus affirmed traditional sexual morality, which forbids homosexuality
  • Gagnon: Jesus teaches that marriage is male-female, and limited to two people
  • Gagnon: No one in history has interpreted the Bible to say that homosexuality was not immoral
  • Ozanne: Jesus came to bring life, and that means he supports homosexuality
  • Ozanne: I was dying, and embracing my gay desires allowed me to live, so Jesus approves of me
  • Ozanne: God says “I am who I am” and that means he approves of me doing whatever I want
  • Ozanne: There is an imperative to be who I am, and that means embracing my gay desires
  • Gagnon: Jesus argued that the twoness of the sexual bond is based on the twoness of the sexes
  • Gagnon: Jesus did not come to gratify people’s innate desires, he called people to repent of sin
  • Gagnon: Jesus did reach out to sinners but he never condoned the sins they committed
  • Gagnon: Jesus’ outreach to tax collectors collecting too much and sexual sinners is the same: STOP SINNING
  • Ozanne: I don’t think that Romans 1 is talking about homosexuality
  • Ozanne: I think it’s talking about sexual addiction, not loving, committed gay relationships
  • Ozanne: Paul was condemning pederasty in Romans 1, not loving, long-term, consensual sexual relationships between gay adults
  • Gagnon: nothing in the passage limits the condemnation to pederasty
  • Gagnon: the passage was never interpreted to be limited to pederasty in history
  • Gagnon: rabbis and church fathers knew about committed two-adult same-sex relationships, and said they were wrong
  • Gagnon: the argument for marriage is based on the broad two-nature argument, with no exceptions
  • Gagnon: the condemnation is not limited to exploitative / coercive / lustful / uncommitted relationships
  • Gagnon: even pro-gay scholars agree the passage cannot be interpreted Ozanne’s way (he names two)

Segment 3: The showdown (49:00)

  • Ozanne: I don’t care how many pages people have written on this
  • Ozanne: God says that “the wisdom of the wise I will frustrate” so you can’t use scholars, even pro-gay scholars, to argue against my passionate interpretation
  • Ozanne: I am not interested in the text or history or scholarship or even pro-gay scholars who agree with you
  • Ozanne: what decides the issue for me is my mystical feelings about God’s love which makes my sexual desires moral
  • Ozanne: you are certain that this is wrong, but your view does not “give life” to people
  • Ozanne: your scholarship and historical analysis is “a message of death” that causes teenagers to commit suicide (= you are evil and a meany, Robert)
  • Ozanne: “I pray for you and your soul” (= opposing me will land you in Hell) and “I hope that listeners will listen with their hearts” (?? instead of their minds?)
  • Ozanne: you can prove anything you want with research, even two mutually exclusive conclusions, so you shouldn’t rely on scholarship and research since it could be used to prove my view as well
  • Ozanne: instead of relying on research, you should rely on your heart and your feelings about God’s love to decide what the Bible teaches about sexual morality
  • Gagnon: you are distorting the gospel in order to make your case
  • Gagnon: attacking my “certainty” is an ad hominem attack to cover your dismissmal of the scholarship and history
  • Gagnon: you distort the gospel to make it seem like Christ just wants us to get what we want, when we want it, with who we want it with
  • Gagnon: Christ calls us to take up our cross, to lose our lives and to deny ourselves
  • Gagnon: you have a notion of what “fullness of life” is, but it’s not reflective of the gospel
  • Gagnon: Paul’s life was much more troubling than yours, mine or anyone else around here
  • Gagnon: Paul was beaten, whipped, stoned, poorly sheltered, poorly clothed, poorly fed, shipwrecked, and anxious for his churches
  • Gagnon: on your view, he should have been miserable and angry with God all the time
  • Gagnon: but instead Paul was constantly thankful and rejoicing to be able to suffer with Jesus and look forward to the resurrection
  • Gagnon: I have suffered too, but the suffering we go through never provides us with a license to violate the commandments of God
  • Ozanne: “the ultimate thing is what people feel God has called them to”
  • Ozanne: My goal right now is to tell young people that homosexuality is fine so they don’t commit suicide
  • Ozanne: the view that homosexuality is wrong is “evil and misguided”
  • Gagnon: the greater rates of harm in the gay community are intrinsic to homosexual unions, not caused by external disapproval of homosexuality

Segment 4: Concluding statements

  • Gagnon: gay male relationships on average have more sex partners and more STDs
  • Gagnon: female relationships on average have shorter-length relationships and more mental issues
  • Gagnon: the greater rates of harm are because there is no complementarity / balance in the relationships
  • Gagnon: everyone has some disappointment or suffering in their lives that hurts them, and that they are tempted to break the rules to fix, but we should not break the rules in order to be happy
  • Ozanne: both sides are passionate, so no one can be right, and evidence proves nothing
  • Ozanne: only feelings about “what God is doing” can allow us to decide what counts as sin or not
  • Ozanne: the main thing that is at stake here is to make people like us, not to decide what the Bible says about sin
  • Ozanne: my message to people is to do whatever you want, and ignore mean people who don’t affirm you
  • Ozanne: we should be more opposed to mean people who make non-Christians feel unloved than about doing what the Bible says

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , ,

Serial sexual relationships, multi-partner fertility, single motherhood and fatherlessness

A man leading a woman upward

A man leading a woman upward

Here’s an article from the policy journal National Affairs (editor is Yuval Levin) that has some statistics about single motherhood by choice. When you are reading the article, keep in mind that most people who lean left are so influenced by feminism that they seem to think that women trip and fall accidentally, and end up pregnant from random men. I don’t think that we should minimize the fact that most women freely choose the men who treat them badly.

Excerpt:

Pew Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys indicate that, on a range of measures, a very large share of fathers who do not live with their children have virtually no meaningful relationship with their non-custodial children. More than one-half report that they had not shared a meal with their non-custodial children in the last four weeks, while nearly two-thirds had not read to their children and a full three-quarters had not done homework with them. Moreover, these are self-reported figures, so the share of fathers with no relationship to their non-custodial children is most likely even higher.

When fathers form new romantic partnerships, their involvement with children from previous relationships declines. Jo Jones and William Mosher report that, while 39% of fathers in new romantic relationships had shared a meal with their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 62% of those not in a new romantic relationship had. While 55% of fathers in a new romantic relationship had spoken with their 5- to 18-year-old non-custodial children, 77% of those not in a new romantic relationship had.

In addition, men with less education are more likely to exhibit absent-father behavior. Whereas 70% of fathers with at least some college had talked to their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 59% of those with no more than a high-school degree had done so. While 74% of fathers with at least some college had played with their non-custodial child under 5 years old at least once in the past month, only 53% of those fathers with no more than a high-school degree had.

Multi-partner fertility is not only associated with father abandonment, it also adversely impacts child-maltreatment rates. Women attempting to balance work, the demands of new relationships, and the challenges of raising children are faced with a set of chronic stressors that often lead to child abuse and neglect. The shift from welfare to work increased these stresses. Partially as a result, between 1993 and 2005, the rate of overall abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and serious abuse, respectively, rose by 22%, 14%, 49%, and 34% for children living with single mothers. By contrast, for children living in two-parent households, child-abuse rates fell on each of the four measures (by 42%, 24%, 62%, and 37%, respectively). By 2005, the child-abuse rate was 2.9 per 1,000 for children living with married biological parents but 10.2 for those living with a single parent and no partner, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This disparity cannot be explained solely by socioeconomic status since the abuse rate for children in families of all kinds in the lowest socioeconomic group was still lower than that for children living in single-parent households.

Multi-partner fertility also increases child-abuse rates in a second way: the presence of non-biological fathers in the house. Child abuse in households with single mothers triples when they live with a man other than the child’s father. Child-maltreatment rates are actually lower in black than white households when the mother lives alone. But unfortunately, many men bring their job and other frustrations into the home, creating abusive situations. As a result, when a partner is present, the black rates on all three measures of child maltreatment — emotional, physical, and endangerment — are almost double the white rates. In addition, rates of intimate violence are over 12 times higher for single mothers than for married mothers.

Edin and Nelson ignore the subject of abusive behavior in men. Instead, despite the fathers’ caring attitudes, we are told, the mothers kick them out because they don’t earn sufficient income. And on the impact of multi-partner fertility on children, Doing the Best I Can offers one benign sentence: “Kids are amazingly resilient, but the rate of family change among children of unwed fathers has become so rapid, and now leads to such complicated family structures, that kids might have a hard time adjusting.”

Academic studies paint a much grimmer picture. After surveying the evidence, Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks concluded earlier this year,

[A] father’s absence increases antisocial behavior [among children], such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment…by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control.

The effects of growing up without both parents when it comes to aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan found in 2011 that the behavior of boys is far more dependent upon good parenting practices — spending time with a child, emotional closeness, and avoiding harsh discipline — than that of girls. Such parenting habits are far more common in two-parent families, which helps to explain why boys with absent fathers are more likely to be suspended and have other behavioral problems than boys who have both parents at home.

The evidence also indicates that the outcomes are most negative when a man other than the biological father is present. Cassandra Dorius and Karen Guzzo found that “adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings.” Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan reported in 2004 that, among fatherless boys, those who lived with stepfathers were at an even greater risk of incarceration than those who lived with a single mother.

I think in today’s society, there seems to be a lot of fear and trembling to speak about moral standards. And it seems to be especially true that men are not allowed to tell women about their moral obligations. I know that at least when I speak to young women, they are often very rebellious. The attitude I encounter most often is that they feel that they should be able to trust their feelings and act in the way that their feelings dictate. Any destructiveness that results – which I warned them about – is dismissed as “unexpected”.

I can clearly remember the first time this happened to me, when I was in high school. I was friends with a girl named Tara who would come over and speak to me before morning announcements. She would tell me about her stock car driving boyfriend. One day, she told me that she was moving in with him. I warned her against it, and listed off a bunch of statistics about how this would cause problems. She stopped coming to talk to me, and so did her best female friend. Well, a few years later I ran into her again at one of our local universities where I was an undergraduate. She filled me in on what had happened. He had cheated on her with her best friend in their house. He got her pregnant. She had an abortion. She knew better now, but back in high school I was easily dismissed, and all of her friends sided with her.

Whenever I try to produce evidence to say that something is likely to cause harm, the response is usually “well I know a person who broke the rules and nothing happened”. I produce statistics about some likely consequence of following your heart, and it’s dismissed because some Hollywood celebrity managed to escape the probabilities. “Don’t judge me!” they say. Happiness comes first, and the best way to decide how to be happy in the long-term is apparently to do what makes a person feel happy right now. But statistics are there to tell a story of how the world normally works – dismissing it all with individual cases is bad logic. There are consequences to following your feelings and dismissing moral obligations.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Neil Shenvi responds to popular arguments for abortion rights

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this decision

I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this message

A very good read to make sure that you can handle the obvious ones, from Neil Shenvi, Ph.D.

Here are the objections:

  • “Women have a right to do what they want with their own bodies.”
  • “The government has no right to make laws telling a woman she can’t have an abortion”
  • “The unborn is not a human being, it is just a mass of cells.”
  • “Until the fetus has a heart and brain, it is not a human being.”
  • “It is moral to kill a fetus as long as it feels no pain.”
  • “No one should be forced to carry and raise the child of their rapist.”
  • “Making abortion illegal will not decrease abortion; it will only make drive it underground and make it less safe.”
  • “Laws should not be based on religion”
  • “If you are opposed to abortion, don’t have one.”
  • “We should combat abortion by reducing poverty, not by making it illegal.”
  • “Most people (i.e., men) who are against abortion will never even become pregnant.”

And here’s the detail on one of them:

“Women have a right to do what they want with their own bodies.”

The fundamental problem with this objection is that it assumes that laws against abortion are primarily concerned with what a woman can and cannot do to her own body. But they are not. Why? Ask yourself a simple question: how many brains does a woman have? One. But how many brains does a pregnant woman have? Still one. The woman’s body is not the issue in abortion: the baby’s body is. The developing fetus has a complete set of human DNA different than the mother’s. It has its own circulatory system, its own brain, its own fingers and toes and arms and legs. If it is a male, it even has a different gender than the mother. Therefore, the fetus is clearly not just ‘part of the woman’s body’. Laws against abortion aren’t telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body; they are telling a woman what she can and cannot do with someone else’s body.

Read them all, and pass them along.

You can find more answers to pro-choice questions here, from Dr. Francis Beckwith. These are the early versions to some of the arguments that later ended up in his academic book on pro-life apologetics entitled “Defending Life“, published by Cambridge University Press. The best introductory book on pro-life arguments is Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life“.  I really recommend that one, because he is the top pro-life debater in the world, and he speaks from that experience of dealing with pro-choice arguments in public debates.

Further study

Learn about the pro-life case:

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How secular leftists misuse science to normalize sexual anarchy

Jay Richards tweeted this article Touchstone magazine.

Here’s part of it:

Here is how the Mead Method works. It has four easily memorized steps. You begin by proving that some behavior is natural, in the sense of being enjoyed by primitive people, who are assumed to be far closer to the basic human realities than we are. As the Chronicle’s writer put it:

Less than 50 years ago, Canela women, who live in Amazonian Brazil, enjoyed the delights of as many as 40 men one after another in festive rituals. When it was time to have a child, they’d select their favorite dozen or so lovers to help their husband with the all-important task. Even today, when the dalliances of married Bar ladies in Colombia and Venezuela result in a child, they proudly announce the long list of probable fathers.

Then you find some way to show that the behavior works. If to our overdeveloped modern eyes it looks like self-indulgence or sluttishness, it is actually a rational and effective way of living. An anthropologist quoted in the article claims that the more possible fathers a child has, the more men will take care of him and his mother. As the writer put it, “Fooling around appears to have helped our ancestral mothers equip their little ones for success—the sexual equivalent of reading to them every night or enrolling in the after-school chess club.”

Having established to your satisfaction that the behavior is not only natural but effective, you then declare that all such behaviors are just social constructions anyway and ours (the modern, still sort of Christian way) is really not nearly so common as we would like to think. To do this the writer quotes an anthropologist who studied tribes in Paraguay and Tanzania, who said, “This model of the death-do-us-part, missionary-position couple is just a tiny part of human history. The patterns of human sexuality are so much more variable.”

At this point, the case is often strengthened by caricaturing the present. That “missionary-position couple” is supposed, I think, to suggest “dull.” It can be strengthened even more by not stopping to ask what the patterns found in history might actually be. Perhaps there are only a few patterns, and contemporary marriage an expression (as it seems to be) of a dominant mode by which human societies try to restrain the destructive effects of human sexual desire and direct it to social ends.

Finally, you imply, without quite saying it, that the primitive behavior would work just as well for us, it being (though a social construction) more natural and all. The writer does this with quotes, like this one from a William Crocker of the Smithsonian Institution: “Multiple lovers, that’s just part of the life. It’s recreation, just like races and running. It’s all done in the spirit of joy and fun.”

The Margaret Mead Method, in either its original or modified form, is a very useful method . . . if you’re a creep. It proves—to the standard of the man with his pants halfway off and the woman who has gotten a better offer than her husband the couch potato will make, anyway—that sexual libertinism is natural and sexual restraint unnatural, and since being natural is always good, you ought to let go and have fun, just like the jolly party girls of the South American tribes.

This is why Coming of Age in Samoa made Mead famous. You want to have an affair with the babe next door? Well, those darling little Samoans living in a state of nature are doing it all the time, and look how happy and fulfilled and innocent they are. Margaret Mead said so. It’s scientific. You feel guilty? You’re a modern man afflicted with Judeo-Christian guilt, but just ignore it—socially constructed and unnatural as it is—and enjoy the pleasures nature and evolution have provided for you.

I am afraid this is the idea these stories almost always promote, whatever insights into the nature of a fallen creation they provide. They begin with reports of young Samoans having free and joyful sex among the palm trees, and end with middle-aged Barney desperately betraying his wife at the Hampton Inn.

Now this is supposed to be a hopeful, helpful blog post, so let me give you some advice.

There are things you can do to get around the older people who try to sell you this in school and in the culture. You have to do your own research, and learn the consequences of getting rid of the rules around sexual conduct before you break them.

First, read Romans 1, and understand that people who are doing evil things feel better about what they are doing if they can get you to approve of it, celebrate it, and subsidize it. So keep that in mind when people are telling you that something wrong is “right”.

Second, understand that people who are teaching you in school often portray themselves one way in class, but in actual fact, their private lives are totally messed up. It’s tempting to give them more respect than they deserve.

Third, it’s good to be think critically about what you see in the culture, and to read history in order to gain a perspective that allows you to judge what is seen as normal in your own time.

Fourth, it’s good to read studies to find out what happens next, should you take some course of action that is “normal”. For example, it’s a very good idea to research the link between the number of premarital sexual partners and divorce rate.

Fifth, you should be skeptical of people who misuse science in order to push an agenda. Just understand where they are going and then see if they might not be abusing science to get there. It happens all the time – just look at how global cooling / global warming has been used to justify increased control of energy development and consumption by government.

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