And They Shall Be One Flesh: Why Robert George’s “What is Marriage?” Falters

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Can only opposite-sex couples achieve a real marriage? In their article, What is Marriage?, Robert George et. al argue that same-sex couples cannot achieve a real marriage. Here I rebut their conclusion, and show:

The authors' reasoning includes, rather than excludes, same-sex couples
The authors' reasoning leads to the untenable conclusion that a woman with vaginal cancer who has a vaginectomy should be barred from receiving a marriage certificate.
The authors rely on a flawed understanding of natural selection, the process that evolved sex in the first place.

You can watch the narrated powerpoint here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfYqQe-VnHU) and read my 30 page paper here (http://www.scribd.com/doc/69140224).

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And They Shall Be One Flesh: Why Robert George’s “What is Marriage?” Falters

  1. 1. And They Shall Be One Flesh: Why Robert George’s What is Marriage? FaltersBy Brad Carmack
  2. 2. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  3. 3. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  4. 4. Audience awarenessHave heard of Robert George?Have read at least part of What is Marriage?
  5. 5. What is Marriage?Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Winter 2010
  6. 6. Main points of What is Marriage?“Marriage is the union of a man and awoman who make a permanent andexclusive commitment to each other of thetype that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled bybearing and rearing children together. Thespouses seal (consummate) and renew theirunion by conjugal acts—acts that constitutethe behavioral part of the process ofreproduction, thus uniting them as areproductive unit.”
  7. 7. Main points of What is Marriage?- Infertile heterosexualcouples can achieve real marriage ifthey have vaginal intercourse- Same-sex couples cannot achievereal marriage, since vaginal intercourseis impossible
  8. 8. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  9. 9. Reproduction”Marriage is a comprehensive union of twosexually complementary persons”-Complementary structures? (e.g. penis andvagina)-How about complementary sexualorientations? (towards men and towardswomen)
  10. 10. Sexual complementarity?The protruding shape indicates the biologicalsex of the individual.
  11. 11. Sexual complementarity?The intruding shape indicates the sexualorientation of the individual (towards men ortowards women). This is a straight male.
  12. 12. Sexual complementarity? Genitals = Orientation- Sexual orientation and genital structure are equally determined by biology, and even share some of the same pathway.- The two merely have different anatomical locations (brain v. ventral inferior abdomen)
  13. 13. Heterosexual coupleEach partner is sexually oriented toward thebiological sex of the other.
  14. 14. Homosexual male coupleEach partner is sexually oriented toward thebiological sex of the other.
  15. 15. Since each partner is oriented toward theother, homosexual couples are as sexuallycomplementary as heterosexual couples
  16. 16. Bottom lineRather than excluding same-sex couples,the authors’ reasoning can be used toinclude them
  17. 17. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  18. 18. Reproduction”The spouses seal (consummate) and renewtheir union by conjugal acts—acts thatconstitute the behavioral part of the processof reproduction, thus uniting them as areproductive unit.”-Male ejaculation is the only behavioral partof the procreative process- no femaleparticipation is needed (witness rape).
  19. 19. Vaginal intercourse makes the marriage Why would vaginal intercourse trump consent or commitment as the hallmark of marital sex? Does oral/anal/vaginal or otherwise really matter? Can’t a male-male couple complete a conjugal act by stimulating one or both of them to orgasm, ejaculation being the only behavioral element needed in the procreative process?
  20. 20. Vaginal intercourse makes the marriage What about a couple where the husband lost a penis in a work accident- can theirs be a real marriage? Should a couple where the woman has no vagina (say, she had a vaginectomy as a cancer treatment) be denied a marriage license, so that the state can teach the “moral truth about marriage”?
  21. 21. Vaginal intercourse makes the marriage Not all men can have vaginal intercourse; neither can all women. Until we are prepared to deny marriage to those incapable of coitus, it is inconsistent to deny same-sex marriage on the basis of inability to achieve vaginal intercourse. “Natural dynamism” toward procreation turns on fertility, not number of genders
  22. 22. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  23. 23. Did you know?A cheek swab taken from a human malecontains all the genetic instructions neededto manufacture a human egg.
  24. 24. Same-sex couples can reproduce Like infertile heterosexual couples, lesbian and gay couples have between them all the genetic instructions needed to procreate. This mouse has two and only two parents: two male mice.
  25. 25. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  26. 26. The Darwin is in the details“Individual adults are naturallyincomplete with respect to one biologicalfunction: sexual reproduction… theirbodies become, in a strong sense, one…coordinating for the biological good of thewhole.”
  27. 27. The Darwin is in the details“They perform the first step of thecomplex reproductive process.”• Natural selection evolved sexual organs and sexual intercourse.• Natural selection operates at the level of the gene, not the couple.• Sex is not the first step- DNA replication is.
  28. 28. The Darwin is in the detailsA male virgin, David, dies inbattle at age 25, having firstslain three opponents.David’s act favors the genes inhis tribe over the enemy tribewithout David reproducing.• Sexual reproduction is merely one of many useful Darwinian strategies employed by “selfish” genes
  29. 29. The Darwin is in the details“In this case, the whole is made up of theman and woman as a couple, and thebiological good of that whole is theirreproduction.”Humans don’t replicate in a Darwinian sense-genes do (witness how different your father isfrom you). A male-female pair is asubordinate unit of selection; thus,reproduction benefits the sovereign gene,rather than the couple (witness how quicklythe couple dies, while the genes persist).
  30. 30. The Darwin is in the detailsOther possible “purposes” of sex:-Pleasure (occurs muchmore often thanconception, and canbe evolutionarily useful)- Pair bonding (also occurs much moreoften than conception, and can beevolutionarily useful, witness parenting)
  31. 31. The Darwin is in the details Fingers used for grasping fruit and branches today may be used for strumming cellos and painting masterpieces tomorrow. Vaginal intercourse could entirely lose its connection to sexual reproduction. Natural selection makes no necessary connection between function and behavior.
  32. 32. Bottom lineEither no purpose can be attached tovaginal intercourse, since it evolved froman undirected, continuing process whichmay entirely abandon that “purpose”later;OR it is not clear that the purpose ofvaginal intercourse is procreation, sincepair bonding and pleasure are likelycompetitors.
  33. 33. Outline1. Summarize What is Marriage?2. Understanding reproduction3. Teleology of sex4. Conclusions
  34. 34. Conclusions The authors’ reasoning fails to exclude same-sex couples while including infertile opposite-sex couples The authors’ reasoning relies on a flawed understanding of Darwinian selection, which evolved sex in the first place.
  35. 35. Conclusion “Why, in other words, should we legally recognize an infertile same-sex marriage? … the effort to determine fertility vagina/penis function would require unjust invasions of privacy….
  36. 36. Conclusion “even an obviously infertile same-sex couple—no less than childless newlyweds or parents of grown children—can live out the features and norms of real marriage and thereby contribute to a healthy marriage culture.
  37. 37. Exhortations Read my paper, And They Shall Be One Flesh: Why Robert George’s What is Marriage? Falters Email me at bradleycarmack@gmail.com
  38. 38. The end Short version follows: use if in a time bind
  39. 39. Short Version 1) Vaginal intercourse? 2) Sexual complementarity? 3) Reproduction: genes or
  40. 40. Short Version 1) Vaginal intercourse? 2) Sexual complementarity? 3) Reproduction: genes or individuals?
  41. 41. Main points of What is Marriage?- Infertile heterosexualcouples can achieve real marriage ifthey have vaginal intercourse- Same-sex couples cannot achievereal marriage, since vaginal intercourseis impossible
  42. 42. Jeffrey Jessica Marcus Jessica Marriage No marriageJeffrey lost his penis in a workaccident; Marcus did not.
  43. 43. Raise of hands-can they marry? Marcus Jessica No marriage Jeffrey lost his penis in a work accident; Marcus did not.
  44. 44. Raise of hands- can they marry?Jeffrey JessicaJeffrey lost his penis in a workaccident; Marcus did not.
  45. 45. Jeffrey Jessica Marcus Jessica Marriage No marriageCase closed.
  46. 46. Short Version 1) Vaginal intercourse? 2) Sexual complementarity? 3) Reproduction: genes or individuals?
  47. 47. Sexual complementarity”Marriage is a comprehensive union of twosexually complementary persons”-Complementary structures? (e.g. penis andvagina)-How about complementary sexualorientations? (towards men and towardswomen)
  48. 48. Since each partner is oriented toward theother, homosexual couples are as sexuallycomplementary as heterosexual couples
  49. 49. Short Version 1) Vaginal intercourse? 2) Sexual complementarity? 3) Reproduction: genes or individuals?
  50. 50. The Darwin is in the detailsA male virgin, David, dies inbattle at age 25, having firstslain three opponents.David’s act favors the genes inhis tribe over the enemy tribewithout David reproducing.• Sexual reproduction is merely one of many useful Darwinian strategies employed by “selfish” genes
  51. 51. The Darwin is in the detailsPeople don’t reproduce: genesdo.Same-sex couples, likeopposite-sex ones, can unitethrough sexual activity
  52. 52. Conclusion “Why, in other words, should we legally recognize an infertile same-sex marriage? … the effort to determine fertility vagina/penis function would require unjust invasions of privacy….
  53. 53. Conclusion “even an obviously infertile same-sex couple—no less than childless newlyweds or parents of grown children—can live out the features and norms of real marriage and thereby contribute to a healthy marriage culture. They can set a good example for others and help to teach the next generation what marriage is and is not. And as we have argued and will argue, everyone benefits from a healthy marriage culture..

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