James Taranto takes to task A. Barton Hinkle's disingenuous argument that if gay "marriage" can harm individual marriages, it cannot harm the institution of marriage. Taranto writes:
Hinkle's argument is complete sophistry. To illustrate why, let's take on his thought experiment involving a virus. First, we shall stipulate a few premises, which it is likely Hinkle already accepts, to wit:Taranto concludes:
Homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is inborn and immutable after birth. Homosexuality is not morally objectionable, and homosexual individuals have no lesser capacity for happy and worthwhile lives than heterosexual individuals have.
Now for our hypothetical virus. The Hinkle virus is so fast-spreading that it soon infects every person alive, but it is largely benign. It has no effect on men, and only two effects on women: (1) it is passed on to any children they have, and (2) any children they conceive after infection will be born homosexual.
The Hinkle virus would seem to fit its namesake's criterion that it does no harm to any individual human person. We have established as a condition of the experiment--and we trust that in the real world Hinkle agrees--that it is not harmful to a woman to give birth to a homosexual child, nor is it harmful to a child to be born homosexual. And since the virus affects the sexual orientation only of the yet-unborn, it should not disrupt any existing heterosexual relationship.
Yet it should be obvious that the Hinkle virus would threaten humanity by dramatically reducing the incentive to reproduce. Presumably the next generation would stave off complete extinction by means of artificial insemination, but it's preposterous to think that fertility in an all-homosexual society would come anywhere near the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman (or 4.2 per lesbian couple).
The foregoing is not an argument against same-sex marriage but rather a defense of a form of argument that Hinkle makes an embarrassing philosophical error in categorically rejecting. Humanity is not "simply the sum of the humans in it" any more than A. Barton Hinkle is simply the sum of the cells in him, or those cells are the sum of the atoms in them.
It's hard to see how permitting gay couples to marry could do anywhere near as much damage as has already been done by the combined systemic effects of such developments as feminism, sexual liberationism, modern birth control and no-fault divorce, all of which were advanced--quite compellingly, it is crucial to acknowledge--as great windfalls for individual freedom and happiness.I do foresee certain elements that makes gay "marriage" more damaging--the potential for allowing government into religion, to dictate or control religious belief and expression, and trivialize the institution of marriage so it becomes irrelevant, and then extinct.
At the same time, the record of past "liberations" in producing unanticipated social ills militates in favor of the opponents' reluctance to embrace this one. And Hinkle's shallow and philosophically insupportable dismissal of any concern about the institution of marriage is a reason to resist, not embrace, same-sex marriage.
Update: added link to arrest of U.S. preacher in U.K. for saying that homosexuality is a sin.