Divorced From Logic

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Michael LaBossiere, a philosophy professor at Florida A&M University, has written a short Kindle book entitled For Better or Worse Reasoning: A Philosophical Look at Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage. In this book, LaBossiere reviews the “arguments” against same-sex marriage and points out the fallacious reasoning behind them. I would like to highlight a couple of the fallacious arguments, but for a complete treatment I suggest you download his book which is only $0.99.

In one of LaBossiere’s early examples, he uses a recent blog post by Bristol Palin in which she commented on Obama’s support of same-sex marriage by saying:

While it’s great to listen to your kids’ ideas, there’s also a time when dads simply need to be dads.  In this case, it would’ve been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends parents are no doubt lovely people, that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage.

This common argument from same-sex marriage opponents is an Appeal to Tradition, a logical fallacy. The fallacy occurs when something is assumed better or correct simply because it has been around for a long time. In reality, the “tradition” of marriage has evolved since ancient times. As Jay Michaelson points out:

Abraham had two wives, … King Solomon had 700 wives, … Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives.

Rick Santorum suggested that legalizing same-sex marriage was akin to legalizing polygamy:

So, everybody has the right to be happy? So, if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that OK?

Santorum used the fallacy known as the Slippery Slope where the legalization of polygamy inevitably follows from the legalization of same-sex marriage with no argument for the inevitability. The reasoning is fallacious because there is no reason to believe the inevitability. Ironically, polygamy has been a “traditional” form of marriage for thousands of years.

Santorum’s slippery slope could also be used to argue against opposite-sex marriages: “if we allow different-sex people to marry, the next thing you know, same-sex couples will get married and then people will be marrying flying fish.”

With regard to consenting adults, LaBossiere writes:

I regard homosexuality the same as I regard heterosexuality, namely as being morally neuter: neither good, no bad.

H/T: WaPo, WSJ.

84 thoughts on “Divorced From Logic”

  1. There is no valid comparison of incestuous marriages with homosexual marriages, because we have a culture in which sex with one’s children is illegal while the children are minors. The idea that a family can arise in which the children are NOT sexually abused or brought up with real sexual impositions and boundary problems and yet those children, upon turning 18, just happen to want to marry one (or both) of their parents is ridiculous. The natural way that people are brought up in our culture necessitates a long period of dependency, child for parent. If a child grows up with that long period of dependency, there is really no chance that the child will be able to move into a safe, adequate, equality-based marriage with the person upon whom she was utterly dependent for 18 years. Therefore, there is a policy and must be a policy in the society to prohibit this kind of marriage, since it is a threat to society.

    Every marriage in which one of the partners weilds such power over the other that the other cannot live free has the potential of making enormous trouble for the society. In some cases, this is the source of the greatest trouble imaginable. Our society cannot afford to adopt a policy that seems to embrace marriages that have such risk.

    Two partners of the same gender CAN be consenting adults and equal partners, or at least partners who have enough independence or possibility of independence to adequately protect their own interests. This does not happen as often, or as predictably, if you have marriages between spouses, one of whom was the parent of the other.

    As to whether siblings should be allowed to marry, I would say that also is a policy that encourages problems for the society simply because growing up in the same family necessarily means that the siblings were both subject to control by the parents of both of them. It also does not encourage much independence or much ability to seek a free and competent relationship. I can just imagine the divorces! They would be sibling rivalries institutionalized! Policy ForBID!!

  2. importanttopics,

    You’re probably worth $800.00 unless I only give you $50.00 and kick you out the door. Are you going to call the police in Columbia?

  3. ummm, importanttopics: sorry but sexual abuse and rape are all involved in incest.


    it is a crime of the powerful against the powerless.

  4. “Gene, you are the one who is using eugenics to support you argument. And again, you are including rape and sexual abuse in your view of incest.”

    I’m using eugenics as the part of the argument that incest is stupid, but feel free to try to mis-characterize it again.

    As to rape and abuse being a red herring? Sorry. The statistics bear out that any red herring here is you appeal to the adult consensual incest as being some kind of sexual norm when it isn’t. http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32360

    “Your appeal to “valid public policy” is nothing more than an appeal to popularity.”

    Actually it’s an appeal to legal principle in protecting consent and not forcing risk upon unwilling parties.

    “I do realize that the idea of homosexual marriage is much much more popular than the idea of incestuous marriage, and that will certainly win you the popularity contest, but not the philosophical argument.”

    You won’t win philosophical argument on the matter either. I know. I’ve had this argument many times before. The only rationale you have in the end is you don’t approve of homosexuals. You cannot prove that allowing them to marry has any substantive negative effect on your life or society. You are welcome to try though. If you don’t approve of homosexuality? Don’t practice it.

  5. importanttopics,

    Who are you really working for? Are you getting paid by the hour?

  6. importanttopics,

    Even if you don’t think there will be long term psychological effects for the couple, you should consider what long term psychological effects there will be for the child of that union. There will be some. None of this changes your argument hinges upon a false equivalence. Incest and homosexuality are not the same thing just because you find them disgusting. One is an aberrant behavior (incest) that was/is an aberrant behavior even in societies that didn’t condemn it and the other (homosexuality/bisexuality) is a normal variation of human sexuality that occurs in approximately 7.5% of the population in the U.S. as of 2011 (7% for women, 8% for men) according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior conducted by Indiana University.


    Your citing that article is a hasty generalization and possibly the Ludic fallacy. A case where both parties are adults and express consent is the exception, not the rule in cases of incest. Most cases of incest are between single degree relatives and takes the form of an older family member sexually abusing a child or adolescent.

  7. Gene, you are the one who is using eugenics to support you argument. And again, you are including rape and sexual abuse in your view of incest. This is a Red Herring. I am and always have been speaking about consensual adult relationships with no history of abuse. Your appeal to “valid public policy” is nothing more than an appeal to popularity. I do realize that the idea of homosexual marriage is much much more popular than the idea of incestuous marriage, and that will certainly win you the popularity contest, but not the philosophical argument.

  8. importanttopics,

    Don’t talk to your preacher. Talk to somebody else.

  9. Gene, I am not speaking about adults who were, when they were children, raped or sexually abused by their parents or other family members. I am talking about an adult male/female who discovers that they are sexually attracted to his/her adult son or adult daughter, and that attraction is then reciprocated consensually. For instance: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7662232/Grandmother-and-grandson-to-have-child-together.html

  10. Let’s just give this a rest. It’s unpleasant. Go back to church.

  11. importanttopics,

    The eugenics argument falls under the stupid category, not the valid public policy argument. The choice to have children with a significant chance of birth defects rests with the parents just like the decision to have an abortion based on pre-birth testing should rest with the parents. The mental health and inequitable bargaining position points concerning incest, however, are valid public policy arguments. They involve vitiation of consent and the forced assumption of risk.

  12. “Homosexual relationships are non-reproductive.

    Incestuous heterosexual relationships are reproductive with a significant chance of birth defects.”

    Also Gene, I think this particular argument fails if a mother, seeking to marry her son, has had a hysterectomy or has been diagnosed as post-menopausal by a certified gynecologist and the son has had a vasectomy performed by a certified urologist.

  13. “Homosexual relationships are non-reproductive.

    Incestuous heterosexual relationships are reproductive with a significant chance of birth defects.”

    Gene, thanks for contributing. Many couples have been shown to have a genetic disposition which includes a significant chance of hereditary birth defects if they conceive a child. Do you oppose the marriage of such couples? Should people with genetic disorders themselves be allowed to marry, even though their children have a significant chance of also acquiring those defects? Should carriers of defective genes be allowed to marry other carriers of defective genes even though the risk of birth defects is significant in any children they may have? What about unmarried couples who have a Myelomeningocele or Down syndrome child, or both? Should they be allowed to marry?

  14. In some countries, it is legal. Like it or not. That doesn’t mean people who live there agree with it. If there isn’t a law making it illegal, it’s legal. By definition? Not my subject.

  15. False equivalence.

    Homosexual relationships are non-reproductive.

    Incestuous heterosexual relationships are reproductive with a significant chance of birth defects. In addition to the physical health consequences, there are mental health consequences. Studies show that female incest victims disproportionately suffer alcohol dependence, depression, panic attacks and phobias (especially agoraphobia – fear of public places). Although treatable, all of these psychological conditions are potentially disabling. Studies of long term psychological effects of homosexual relationships show no more incidences of mental illness than heterosexual relationships.

    There is also the imbalance of power in an incestuous relationship that familial relation exacerbates. All relationships have some power differential, but if the instigator of an incestuous relationship is in a superior familial position of power, that is no different than other legally frowned up relationships such as those between superiors and subordinates in the work place. This is probably contributory to the previously mentioned mental illness issues with incest survivors.

    Should incest be illegal? Probably. Whether it is ethical or moral or not is completely beside the point that it is stupid from that perspective. However, there is no rational scientific justification for discrimination against homosexual couples like there is against incest. Any rationalization is based purely on a willingness to force your morals (which are not the same thing as ethics as morals carry religious connotation when then don’t carry explicit religious denotation) on others.

    The practices that are not equivalent in net effect.

    The attempt at reductio ab absurdum fails just as badly with the incest comparison as it does with the bestiality comparison.

    There are valid public policy reasons for criminalizing incest.

    There are no valid public policy reasons for discrimination against homosexuals.

    If you simply want to discriminate? Own it. But don’t hide behind “incest should be legal too then”. It makes you look like a jackass in addition to a bigot.

  16. importanttopics

    There is no argument. If you want to win, you just did.

  17. My perspective is what’s good for homosexuals is good for incestuals. I am personally opposed to the idea of marriage for both based on ethical and moral beliefs.

  18. Importanttopics,

    What is your perspective? Don’t talk to me about religion. Do you know the Satanists don’t think they’re doing anything wrong? They think you deserve what you get. It’s freedom of religion. Keep poking the corpse with a stick. And keep buying a certain fashion designers clothing.

  19. importanttopics,

    Incestuous relationship get tricky because of the power imbalances where one of the persons is the parent or parent-figure of the other. And of course there are the problems associated with genetics.

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