Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bedtime Poker

Boybot, newly 13, came upstairs a bit before he could be told that it was time to retire for the night.

He stuck his head in our bedroom and offered "I see your 'go to bed,' and raise you a 'right now.'"

Then he grinned and went to bed.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blankenhorn's Three Rules of Marriage

David Blankenhorn offers three fundamental rules of marriage in The Future of Marriage:
The rule of two
The rule of opposites
The rule of sex

The three rules go together. A man and a woman are drawn to one another, the natural result of which is that they wish to have sex with one another, the natural result of which is a child. Marriage is a social institution created to provide that child with his or her own mother and father permanently. Marriage also makes the sex between the man and woman legitimate, because it protects them from the natural shocks that any human relationship is subject too, and pre-emptively protects any future children that could normally be expected to result from their sexual relationship.

Blankenhorn thinks an assault on any one of these rules would lead to undermining them all. For this reason, he opposes same-sex marriage. He does not object to homosexuals, homosexuality, or, as far as I can tell, homosexual sex. His concern, rather, is to protect children. He views marriage as the greatest social invention to protect children. Any social move that deinstitutionalizes marriage will soon hurt all kids some, and hurt some kids terribly.

Blankenhorn details well that there is a concerted effort to deinstitutionalize marriage. He takes Judith Stacey as a leader in this movement, and refers to the extreme position that she represents as "the Full Stacey." Stacey is against all three rules of marriage, and openly wants to deinstitutionalize marriage altogether. Her position is that any relationship, made by any number or composition of consenting adults, constitutes a marriage if they say so. Blankenhorn points out the irony that the greatest opponents of marriage, the brigade of the Full Stacey, are the strongest proponents of same-sex marriage. The most aware anti-marriage leaders (like Judith Stacey herself) are deliberately promoting gay marriage in order to end all marriage as a social institution. They want to save the village in order to destroy it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

No Sex in Gay Marriage

David Blankenhorn in his new book The Future of Marriage points out something I had not noticed: proponents of homosexual marriage define marriage as the close relation of two people who love one another. They do not include sexual intercourse as part of the definition. By that standard, nearly all parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, even most close friends would be "married."

The Future of Marriage reviews the anthropological evidence for the early origins of intense sexual attachments among human beings, which normally result in children. Blankenhorn then makes the case that marriage is a cultural achievement, created in historic times, to permanently unite these sexually bound parents to raise their children. Once invented, marriage has become a nearly universal social institution through which a man and woman turn their sexual relation into a social relation for rearing the kids that their sex produces.

Blankenhorn can only find two schools of thought that do not include sex as an essential good of marriage. The first were the early Church Fathers, who were trying to develop a theory of marriage based on the unique relationship of the Virgin Mary and Joseph. They acknowledged that sex was part of the definition of marriage, but they weren't too happy about it. The other school of marriage theorists who define marriage without praising sex are today's proponents of same-sex marriage. Indeed, Blankenhorn says, the same-sex marriage theorists are the only marriage theorists that he has ever run across who do not include sex in their definition of marriage at all. And Blankenhorn has been a professional student of marriage for twenty years.

Blankenhorn thinks that gay marriage proponents don't want to talk about sex because they don't want to talk about children -- children being the main, though not the only, focus of all marriage theories ever developed before the current moment. It occurs to me to wonder, though, if another reason to avoid spelling out the sexual point of homosexual marriage is because most people find the idea of it distasteful, even if they don't think it should be illegal. Tactically, gay marriage may sell better if the campaign is about who you love, not who you have intercourse with, or why.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Science of Gaydar

There is a very interesting article of this title in the current issue of New York magazine. Author David France was on "The Colbert Report" last night, making a mild case for the tantalizing physical correlates of homosexual orientation. What Colbert focused on were the headline-grabbing findings like the comparative lengths of index and ring fingers (gay men more like women, lesbians more like men), or the fact that later-born brothers are a third more likely to be gay than their next-oldest brother. A new finding is that gay men are significant more likely to have a counter-clockwise swirl to their hair (23% vs. 8%) -- a literal "headline" story.

In the article, France reports more of the detailed work on less visible body features that correlated with homosexuality. He talked to Simon LeVay, who did a pathbreaking study on the size of the hypothalmus, the brain structure most seaped in sex-controlling hormones, in which gay men's brains are more like women's. He reviewed the research on the most probable chromosomal region for a hypothetical gay gene. France talked to researchers working on how hormone sequences in the womb influence all kinds of expressions of masculinity and femininity -- a line of research that I am guessing will prove the most instructive in the end.

France also discusses the inevitable politics of even doing such research. Most of the researchers in this field are homosexual, and they, like France, are looking for an account of their own lives. Some gay activists, though, oppose even asking the question, for fear that suggesting a biological cause will then lead to a search for a biological cure. I am sure, as France is, that how individuals turn out is a complex mix of nature and nurture. I fear no research, because I know good science will yield appropriately complex answers.

In facing the question of where to draw the nature/nurture line in understanding sex differences, I was driven some years ago from the "overwhelmingly nurture" position that most sociologists take, to a more balanced position. I find it best to think that sex and gender are a 50/50 balance of nature and nurture -- recognizing that these are imprecise metaphors for a complex set of causes on both sides of the divide. I believe the science of sexual orientation, like the science of sex itself, will turn out the same way: 50/50.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Creation Museum

Yesterday I went to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Why Australians came all the way here to place their museum, I do not know. Still, it is a gift to me that a place so interesting is only a day trip, so daughter Endub and I made the expedition.

The museum is very nicely done. The Lexington paper reported that they spent $27 million. All the animatronics are up to date, the videos were professionally done, and the planetarium show was great. The content of the museum has generated controversy, because they promote a fairly extreme version of "young earth" creationism. When they opened, there were secularist pickets marching outside the gates. In fact, security was surprisingly strong and evident - electronic gates, uniformed guards, security cameras everywhere. The crowd was also great -- evangelicals from all over, a few respectful skeptics, a vanload of Mennonites, and four young goths in full Marilyn Manson get up. A sociologist's feast.

The tone of the museum is very calm. It is hard to convey very much information in a museum -- all the text presented in the plaques and video scripts would probably fit in a 100-page book. The visuals of the size of the stars and the distances of the universe were wonderfully done in the planetarium show, and could not have been done as well in a book. The core of Answers in Genesis' argument is that the Noah flood can account for the many phenomena that appear to have taken millions of years to develop. The visuals showing (hypothetical) floating forests being folded into coal seams by tidal waves, and giant rafts of logs circulating with currents carrying ark animals to different continents are very helpful in getting the picture they are trying to convey. Their reading of Eden has some new features I had not heard before, including the idea that all animals before the Fall were vegetarians, and no poisons, diseases, or other methods of dealing death yet existed in nature.

And then there are the dinosaurs. The Creation Museum loves dinosaurs as much as any natural history museum does. They have full-sized models, some of them moving, in Eden. They are about to open a whole Dinosaur Wing, which we got to peek into. The film that ends the tour suggests that Noah took dinosaurs on the ark, Job's Behemoth was a brontosaurus, and St. George fought one of the last remnant dino-dragons. In the park next to the museum the kids can play with a T. Rex, and Nessie swims in the lagoon. The New York Times story has the best set of pictures. They do not have my favorite scene, though: a cave girl playing with a squirrel, while two veliciraptors (or something like that) hang around nearby. I think one of the central creative decisions made in designing the museum was to take the dinosaurs, and dinophiles, head on.

I was not convinced by the Creation Museum, despite their slogan -- You Will Believe. There are plenty of other kinds of biblical and creationist views that do not entail believing in a 10,000-year-old earth. Still, I commend the expedition to all who can make it. And since the conflicts and scandals have already begun within Answers in Genesis, you might want to get there before the whole extravaganza implodes.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dutch "Weariness With Moral Squalor"

The Dutch are cutting down on prostitution, pot, and hash. Moral reformers from many parties, from the orthodox Christian Union to the liberal and secular Labor Party, are trying to roll back the "anything goes" policies of the last few decades. The Dutch are particularly disturbed that they are becoming a regular tourist destination for foreigners seeking sex, drugs, and abortions that are illegal in their own countries. Foreign mobs have been entering the sex and drugs markets, too.

While the small Dutch Reformed remnant has very active in pushing the moral reforms, the movement is by no means restricted to religious people. James C. Kennedy, a history professor at the Free University in Amsterdam was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that there is a national "weariness with moral squalor."