Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jeffrey Shallit, Lebensunwertes Leben, and gay marriage

Jeff Shallit has a characteristically nasty and ill-considered post at Recursivity:

The shame of Princeton University, Robert P. George, is at it again

The shame of Princeton University? George is the McCormic Professor of Jurispridence at Princeton University,  a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution,  a former member of the President's Council on Bioethics and founder of Princeton's James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.  He currently holds the professorship occupied by Woodrow Wilson.

He is also a renowned Catholic scholar, which, of course, explains why Shallit calls him "the shame of ...".

Princeton also employs Peter Singer, an atheist ethicist who advocates abortion, infanticide of handicapped babies, and sex with animals. But for Shallit,  it is a conservative Catholic that is the shame of Princeton.

If George came around and recommended zoophilia, perhaps Shallit might reconsider his condemnation. 

Shallit:
What's really funny about George and other "natural law" advocates is they never, ever discover that "natural law" is in violation with beliefs they already hold. No, somehow, miraculously, "natural law" demands that their prejudices be true
Of course, George can't say this out loud, so he's required to surround it with academic bafflegab like "sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation". And he makes ridiculous, over-the-top claims like "New York has abolished marriage as a matter of civil law and replaced it with a counterfeit that New Yorkers’ children and grandchildren will be taught to accept and approve as if it were the real thing." And he makes bogus claims, as when he states, "It is to give up on the truth that children need both a father and mother, and benefit from the security of their love for each other." (For the truth, go here.) In my field, if you said stuff like this, with so little to back it up, and expected to be taken seriously, people would just laugh at you. But in philosophy, or politics, or constitutional interpretation, or whatever field George thinks he is master of, it's considered to be important work. Go figure.
The really sad thing about George's claims about gay marriage is that you can transform nearly every claim, mutatis mutandis, to a similar claim about interracial marriage. And George's bigotry against gays will seem as quaint and baseless in 20 years as proscriptions against interracial marriage do today.

Interracial marriage? Natural law argument about interracial marriage is quite clear: it is perfectly moral.  Heterosexual marriage isn't about race, and race, from a natural law standpoint, is meaningless.

Interracial marriage has been practiced throughout human history.

The laws against interracial marriage were violations of natural law.  Those laws were the inappropriate application of misguided political viewpoints (blacks were inferior and blacks and whites shouldn't mix) to natural marriage.  Natural law supports interracial marriage and heterosexual marriage.  Laws contrary to that-- laws that establish racial boundaries or that establish same sex marriage-- are against natural law, because they misrepresent the truth about marriage, which is heterosexual and color-blind.

Natural law is a strong defense of heterosexual marriage,  irrespective of race.

I point out that laws against interracial marriage in the US were created entirely by Democrats (Shallit's wing) and opposed by Republicans (George's and my wing).  Shallit needs to get out more,  and to understand the historical bigotry of his political confederates.

Back to the issue of bigotry and opposition to homosexual marriage based on natural law.

Support for natural law isn't bigotry, of course.  The recognition that heterosexual unions are potentially procreative, and homosexual unions aren't,  isn't bigotry. It's recognition of truth about man and nature.  It is recognition of the truth that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. But it's more than that. It's recognition that marriage is consensual, between two individuals, not between relatives, etc.

Does Shallit support non-consensual marriage? If not, then he is using the natural law inference that marriage is only valid if the parties consent.  Surely Shallit wouldn't endorse a bigoted natural law philosophy like consent.

Does Shallit support polygamy? If not, why not? Would that make him an anti-Mormon bigot?  Does Shallit support marriage between a father and a daughter?  If not, why not (no appeal to natural law!).  Is Shallit an anti-incest bigot?

If you're familiar with Shallit, you'll know that it's best of course not to take anything Shallit writes too seriously.  He's a nasty, but unserious, fellow.

Nasty, you ask?  How so?

Shallit, 2009:

" ...why are decisions [labeled] as "eugenic" necessarily bad? Why, exactly, would the world be better off with more Down's syndrome children?"

Shallit defends eugenic extermination of children with Down's syndrome.  Presumably, though,  if they escaped Shallit's eugenic plan, they could marry same sex partners.

For Shallit, gay marriage is fine.  Handicapped children-- "Lebensunwertes Leben"-- are another matter entirely.

8 comments:

  1. What an idiot Shallit is. As everyone knows interracial marriage cannot possibly result in children. That makes it just like "gay marriage".

    Atheist reason: Is there anything it can't figure out?

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  2. Lebensunwertes Leben does not bother atheists!

    I just wonder what their reaction would be if they were Lebensunwertes Leben

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  3. Sorry, Jeff Shallit doesn't support eugenic extermination of children with trisomy 21. He supports the right of parents in high risk categories of having amniocentesis to detect foetal abnormalities, such as trisomy 21, and to have termination of pregnancy. A foetus isn't a child by any stretch of the rational imagination. Some parents won't consider termination regardless, so they shouldn't, for practical reasons, not be offered screening. But many parents don't have the means or time to be able to bring up more than a few children, so they have the right to have as normal offspring as possible, delightful as many children with trisomy 21 are. The fact is that most parents with trisomy 21 children are much older than normal, and taking care of dependent adults with it is extremely difficult for elderly parents, so unless Michael is suggesting that the state or church should agree to take over the care of affected individuals, then the decision by some parents to abort affected foetuses is rational.

    I would disagree with parents being able to select sex, eye colour, etc of their offspring, for personal reasons.

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  4. @bachfiend:

    [Sorry, Jeff Shallit doesn't support eugenic extermination of children with trisomy 21. He supports the right of parents in high risk categories of having amniocentesis to detect foetal abnormalities, such as trisomy 21, and to have termination of pregnancy.]

    That's eugenic extermination of a child, when you trim off the euphemisms. Why not at least be honest about what you support?

    [A foetus isn't a child by any stretch of the rational imagination.]

    A fetus is a human being in the womb from 11 weeks of gestation until birth. A child passing through the birth canal is a fetus.

    A baby in the birth canal isn't a child?

    [Some parents won't consider termination regardless, so they shouldn't, for practical reasons, not be offered screening.]

    Oh good. You don't support mandatory eugenics.

    [But many parents don't have the means or time to be able to bring up more than a few children, so they have the right to have as normal offspring as possible,]

    That "right" supersedes the right of the child to life? You have a bizarre hierarchy of rights. Without the right to life for all, other rights are meaningless.

    [delightful as many children with trisomy 21 are.]

    They're only delightful is they're alive.

    [The fact is that most parents with trisomy 21 children are much older than normal,]

    No. Most Down's kids are born to young parents. The risk of Down's goes up with parental age, but most births are to young parents.

    [and taking care of dependent adults with it is extremely difficult for elderly parents,]

    So it's ok to kill people who are difficult to care for?

    [so unless Michael is suggesting that the state or church should agree to take over the care of affected individuals, then the decision by some parents to abort affected foetuses is rational.]

    That's exactly what I suggest. I take care of handicapped kids professionally. Many of them are in foster/adoptive families. It is hard for some families to care for handicapped members. There are many people willing to care for these kids.

    Killing them because they are handicapped is an atrocity.

    Mike

    I would disagree with parents being able to select sex, eye colour, etc of their offspring, for personal reasons.

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  5. @bachfiend:

    ["I would disagree with parents being able to select sex, eye colour, etc of their offspring, for personal reasons."]

    Why? By your system of 'morality', a fetus isn't a child, so what business of yours is it if a parent wants to kill their ... whatever it is? Is this your reasoning: "it's only ok to kill unborn children who are handicapped."

    Many families feel quite strongly about the sex of their child. In some countries, having a boy is a genuine help to the family. So you support sex-selective abortion?

    Mike

    Once you accept the killing of children because they're handicapped, you have no basis to reject any kind of killing.

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  6. Dr Egnor

    You are brilliant, with killer logic.

    You have a great writing style too.

    When is your book coming out?

    These militant atheists deserve a dose of their own medicine.

    Keep up the good fight!

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  7. Shallit ought to try posting under his real name, since he honors it so well.

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  8. Shallit is a failed mathematician - he can't cut it. He has never produced any renowned work. This makes him bitter.

    Explains a lot.

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