Thursday, September 11, 2014

Was Posner Right?

With a little scholarship, Posner's gay-marriage decision becomes highly suspect.  Not because he refuses to consider the moral position, but rather because Posner's philosophy is fundamentally amoral.

....he argues that homosexual orientation is genetic, an immutable and innate characteristic rather than a choice. To support this he cites a 2008 brochure from the American Psychological Association – not exactly the summit of genetic scholarship, although admittedly, it is the APA’s official view. However, no genetic cause has yet been identified; homosexuality’s origin is still an open question. Besides, if homosexuality is genetic, it should have disappeared according to evolutionary theory, as homosexuals do not produce offspring. Posner acknowledges that this is a problem, but says that the “kin selection  hypothesis” shows that homosexuality is compatible with evolutionary theory. What he doesn’t say is that the kin selection hypothesis is so controversial that it has been criticized by the Harvard evolutionary biologist who popularized it in the first place, Edward O. Wilson. Whether this is true or false is a matter for the scientists to work out. But the genetic origin of homosexuality is unsettled and contestable....

Hmmmm.  He finds a scientist who argues against his own theory and adopts it.  Really?

...he argues that same-sex marriage does no harm to the institution of marriage or to society at large. This is a claim which is impossible to prove in less than two generations....[and] ...Posner seems quite impressed by a recent study which analysed whether marriage rates fell after Massachusetts permitted same-sex marriage. “Allowing same-sex  marriage has no  effect on the heterosexual marriage rate,” he concludes. So what?...

Always an excellent question, by the way.

...Posner says that the welfare of children should be front and centre of arguments about marriage. Since marriage is the best place to raise children, he argues, it is discriminatory to deny homosexual couples the right to raise their children within the framework of marriage.

But he only considers the material benefits of a hefty household income. The real question is whether a marriage with a mother and a father is the best place to raise children. Posner ignores almost completely the psychological effects on children of growing up in a heterosexual marriage, focused as he is on the rights of adults.

How could such a brilliant scholar offer such conventional arguments about social morality based on such weak evidence?

Well!!  Glad you asked!!

...Posner defends his view of the relationship between morality and law. He calls himself a “moral subjectivist”, arguing that “an individual acts immorally only when he acts contrary to whatever morality he has adopted for himself. I am sympathetic to this position....

Yes, really.

This creates some problems.

Posner actually defended the following positions:  1)  It is impossible even to say that a practice like female genital mutilation is wrong; 2)  There are no actions which are always everywhere wrong, even infanticide; 3) ...the Nazis cannot be condemned in any objective way. In the light of the moral standards of the countries which won World War II their actions were appalling crimes. But these were just the feelings of the victors.

I suppose, then, that one could defend 'taking out' certain judges--as does the Mafia--under #2 above.  To the Mafia, that sort of thing is simple self-defense, and that's certainly a good reason, no?

Although I have never argued the morality of homosexual activity, choosing instead to argue from Nature, there is no question that homosexual activity is morally wrong.  In fact, it is gravely disordered.

Yah, even Ron Reagan made mistakes.  This was a big one.

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