The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Block & Roll #3 – Dishing it Out

Block & Roll 3

Even if…

When I did debating back in high school, apart from dazzling people with my spiffy private school blazer and my ability to occasionally (and very deliberately) look up from my TAB cue cards, I used to employ a little tactic called “The Even If”. I remember that it was my father who suggested it first:

“You don’t always have to argue against the facts they present. That can take ages. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just accept their fact and argue against its implications. Also, you’ve got tomato sauce on your blazer.”

Sorry, that last sentence probably wasn’t relevant, but you can see the appeal. Rather than spending your entire life researching the bogus claims of your opposition, you simply take what they say at face value and shoot down whatever nonsense their “fact” implies. Take the following example, which I covered here:

    Same sex marriage opponents:
    Research shows children do best with a mother and a father!
    .
    Me:
    Well that may or may not be true, but even if it is, a child raised by your average gay couple will do a lot better than a child raised by hetero drug addicts. It makes no sense to ban one and not the other.

Case closed!

Yes, the claim being made may very well be false (as in the above example), and proving it so is admittedly very satisfying, but it can be quite time consuming. So I was understandably torn when, just last week, Jim Wallace astounded us all with this piece of wisdom:

The life of a [homosexual] male [is] reduced by up to 20 years. The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke.

My interest was immediately piqued, and the humanist, logician and actuary in me all wanted to run off and check whether this astounding revelation was true (to the life tables, Statman!). But, as I sat there considering how best to tell my wife that I couldn’t feed our newborn son for the next few hours because I needed to research the almost certainly false assertions of the jelly-brained leader of a mediocre Christian lobby group, I suddenly realised… there was no need to. Even if Jim’s claims are true, he still loses.

So let’s imagine for a moment that we live in Jim’s world. A world where homosexuality is a habit, just like smoking, that people indulge in to look cool, or to relax, or to have something to do with their hands at parties. A world where homosexuality can be encouraged and discouraged with the proper educational tools. A world where there are apparently no lesbians, which is a shame. And, most shocking of all, a world where any gay man that indulges his homosexual habit will shorten his life by 20 years.

What are we to do? Apart from training up a few lesbians, I mean.

Well, according to Jim, since we tell our children not to smoke, we should also tell our children not to gay (if “to smoke” is a verb, then “to gay” must be, too). Probably something along the lines of, “Don’t gay, or you’ll get AIDS, and do drugs, and wear mesh shirts”.

It doesn’t take a great deal of mental exertion to see that, even if we accept gaying is a habit, telling children that the only solution is not to gay is simply ridiculous: while there is no way to smoke safely, there is a very easy way to gay safely. For less than Jim’s 2012 ACL performance bonus, you can buy a thin latex sheath to put over your penis before you put it in your partner’s bottom. And if that’s not enough for you, you can put on two (condoms, not bottoms). Might it not make more sense to tell children that, rather than telling them to avoid gaying at all costs? To answer that question, let’s see what the ACL thinks of the situation in Canada:

Not only is the [Toronto District School board] trampling parents’ freedom of conscience, it is also trampling that of teachers…saying that “teachers refusing to create an inclusive classroom that is safe and supportive for all students would create a poisoned learning environment”.
Senate submission on same sex marriage

Why, that’s awful! What else is going on over there?!

The Toronto curriculum, designed for K-12 students, is particularly aggressive in that it goes beyond highlighting homosexual issues and urges teachers to encourage children to engage in social action on the issue, such as by participating in homosexual pride parades. New teachers in Ontario will be required to undergo mandatory “training in sexual orientation and gender diversity”.
– ibid.

AGGGGGGHHHHHH! My eyes! My eyes!

But… surely we’re immune from such nonsense in Australia? Not a chance!

The Australian Education Union actively promotes homosexuality among its members and in schools. Its policy document, Policy on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People, says it is committed to fighting heterosexism, which involves challenging “[t]he assumption that heterosexual sex and relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘normal’.
– ibid.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the impression that Jim isn’t all that keen on discussing gaying in the classroom at all, so gaylord knows how he’s going to discourage children from gaying, let alone telling them how to do it safely.

And there you have it. I could have spent hours finding the studies his figures were based on, and then checking who commissioned them, where the data came from, whether there were sampling biases, and whether there were any other studies that contradicted them. Instead, however, all I had to do was show that Jim’s suggested course of action was not only illogical, but something he doesn’t want to do anyway.

Easy peasy.
___

I should add that, thanks to some diligent legwork by the always awesome Chrys, we know that the claim is bogus anyway. Surprise, surprise.

Bronte and Jim go to the dog park

I have two golden retrievers, Bronte and Rory. They are awesome. But Bronte hides a terrible secret.

When she was born, I said to myself, “As long as she doesn’t get my nose, I’ll be happy”. And I was happy. Well, as happy as you can be if you have a nose like mine.

The weeks went by, we ran, we played, we pooped in the backyard. As her personality began to express itself, however, I started noticing things. Bronte started noticing things, too. And by “things” I mean “much smaller dogs”. And by “noticing” I mean “seeking them out in the dog park and forcing them to play with her against their will until they ran back to their owners for protection and a doggie treat which she thought was all part of the game so she’d run over to their owners as well and jump on them and steal the treat and then sit there asking for more and thinking ‘This is the best game ever, I can’t believe I invented it'”.

To be fair to Bronte, she always had good intentions. Golden retrievers are nothing if not big, smiling, balls of goofy happiness, and Bronte certainly fits the mould. But you can’t escape facts. And, sitting at the dog park watching her playfully terrorise anything smaller than herself, the fact seemed to be that she was a bully.

After a couple of years, we started to wonder that perhaps the reason Bronte was so, er, enthusiastic, was that she didn’t really get to play with other dogs that often. I’m sure Bronte was wondering things, too. Mostly why the government set the carbon price at $23 per tonne, but also why none of her little playmates ever visited. Anyway, we decided the time was right to get another dog. Another goldie. Someone to keep her company, and teach her some playtime manners.

Ah, Rory. The definition of a letdown.

I’m kidding, of course. Rory is absolutely sensational, and we don’t call him “Rorgeous” for nothing. But teach Bronte manners? He practically begs her to pick on him. Don’t get me wrong, they get along like a doghouse on fire, but Bronte’s bullying seemed to just carry on as normal.

Enter Trixie, Mum and Dad’s german shepherd. Trixie loves playing with Bronte, in much the same way that Bronte loves playing with small dogs with treat-laden owners. And Bronte doesn’t like it, not one bit. As I was watching them the other morning, a sudden thought occurred to me. Bronte and Jim Wallace, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, have a lot in common.

You see, Jim is a bully, too. That’s all his opposition to same-sex marriage is. Bullying.

Jim is happy to stand up and tell homosexuals that they are immoral. That they aren’t fit to raise children. That his dogmatic definition of a family, cherry-picked from a randomly-selected holy book, is better than everyone else’s. That his opinion on your personal life is worth more than yours.

But don’t you dare disagree with him. He doesn’t like it:

What it says for the respect they have for alternative opinion, even our values, is extremely disappointing and we need to register our disappointment.

We must respect your opinion that gays are inferior? Sorry Jim, but no, we don’t. You’re just a bully, running around telling everyone else what they have to think and believe, and then crying foul when someone disagrees with you. Which is exactly what Bronte does.

Although, she’s a young dog, and means well.

You’re an adult human, and just, well… mean.

It’s time to have a look in the mirror, Jim, or pretty soon no one will want to play with you at the dog park. Not even Bronte.

I demand to be heard!

I’m getting really sick of this. People keep trying to stifle my opinions! Which is kind of frustrating, since my ill-informed, psychologically-damaging opinion is heaps more valider than everyone else’s, coming as it does from a narrow interpretation of a single line from a plagiarised set of fairytales that aren’t very interesting and talk a lot about mildew.

“Wow, Tim,” I hear you say. “You seem upset! What happened?”

Glad you asked…

A pesky gay rights organisation called Stonewall placed ads on London buses, proclaiming “Some people are gay. Get over it”. Bit offensive, sure, but that’s their right. The problem came when the morally upright vanquishers of homosexuality from the Core Issues Trust tried to put up ads of their own. All these guys wanted to do was to let everyone know that The Gay can be cured. Seems fair, right? Wrong! The nasty mayor of London cancelled the ads faster than you can say Ted Haggard.

This not only impinges on Christians’ religious freedom, it’s also downright dangerous. The Gay is a disease just like any other. Well, OK sure, they seem to have more fun than people with cancer, but having cancer won’t send you to hell. Unless you’re also gay. But the important thing is, unlike cancer, The Gay can be cured, and souls can be saved! If only the mayor of London would run the ads.

Thankfully, the good people at Core Issues Trust are appealing the decision. Let’s hope they win. Cos if they do, perhaps I’ll finally be able to put up some ads promoting a cure of my own:


___

If you’re black, please don’t be offended. I have an ancient holy book to back me up.

Not to mention a fuck-tonne of stupid.

Anti-equality argument 4 – Aren’t there more important issues we should be worrying about?

When the bigotry barrel is nearly bare, you will often hear a same-sex marriage opponent heave a sigh of exasperation, and protest that we should be focusing on the real issues. Irony isn’t their strong point.

The argument in a nutshell
Same sex marriage isn’t important to me personally. Not at all. I just fight it tooth and nail because I really enjoy pointless debate about things that don’t concern me.

What they’re really trying to say
Can’t you and your rational arguments just leave us alone?!

The Smackdown
Jim and Bob are housemates. They’re quite different, and not particularly good friends, but they manage to live in the same house without too much trouble.

One day, they decide to go for a walk together.

Jim: Nice day, eh Bob?

Bob: Very nice! Did you remember to lock the front door?

Jim: I did indeed.

Bob: Great! Ah bugger… I forgot my coat! I’d better go back and grab it. Can I have the house keys?

Jim: Haha… no, you can’t.

Bob: I’m sorry?

Jim: No need to apologise, Bob. I’m ready to move on if you are.

Bob: Hang on… you’re seriously not going to give me the keys so I can get my coat?

Jim: Correct.

Bob: Why on earth not?

Jim: Well Bob, as you can see I remembered to bring my coat. It’s nice, eh? I think it really suits me. But, your coat, Bob… well… I mean, come on…

Bob: What’s that supposed to mean?

Jim: I really didn’t want to get into this, Bob. But since you asked… Quite frankly, your coat is a bit crappy.

Bob: Firstly, isn’t that a matter of personal taste? And secondly, how is that a reason for not letting me go back and get it?

Jim: Glad you asked, Bob! No, it isn’t a matter of personal taste. You coat is clearly inferior to mine. And if I was to be seen standing next to you, me in my awesome coat and you in your crappy one, mine just wouldn’t look as good.

Bob: Haha, well I don’t particularly want to stand next to you anyway, so that won’t be a problem. Can I just have the keys please?

Jim: Of course not! Have you not been listening?

Bob: Come on, Jim… I really think you’re being a bit silly.

Jim: OH MY FUCKING GOD JUST SHUTUP ABOUT YOUR STUPID FUCKING COAT THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT.
___

Yes, there are. And we’d like to move on, too. If only you’d let us.

Anti-equality argument 3 – The Slippery Slope

We’ve all heard this one before – allowing same sex marriage is just the start of a slippery slope which leads inexorably to absolute ruin. The thin edge of a drag queen’s wedge. The big gay straw that will break the camel’s back, where the camel is us, and its back is life as we know it. Or, in the immortal words of Republican Arizona Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth:

I guess [it would mean] you could marry your horse.

It may just be Mr Hayworth’s name, but that almost sounds hopeful. Here comes the bridle, indeed.

The argument in a nutshell
Same sex marriage is the root of all evil.

What they’re really trying to say
We’re out of ideas, so we’re going to distract everyone by yelling “KIDDY FUCKERS!”.
___

Despite Mr Hayworth’s poorly-disguised wishful thinking, the argument labours under three rather fatal delusions.

The Smackdown Part 1 – Assumed Inevitability
No one ever seems to explain exactly how the slippery slope will get going. It’s just taken for granted that a large proportion of the population wants to, say, marry horses, but they’re a bit shy, and waiting for same-sex marriage to be legalised before they ask. A bit like when you’re out at dinner, and you wait for everyone to get their meals before doing a big crap on the table.

That sounds ridiculous, of course, but the (lack of) logic is the same. Take one perfectly innocuous event, and just blindly link it with something completely outrageous, with no further explanations necessary.

Which I guess means we can link the possible though extraordinarily unlikely existence of a magical bronze age zombie carpenter with the institutionalised sexual predation of minors. Oh, hang on…

The Smackdown Part 2 – Assumed Immorality
Not everyone is stupid enough to link same sex marriage with something as ridiculous as equine romance – some are content to merely link it to, say, polygamy. In this case, it’s not just inevitability that is assumed, but immorality.

There’s no question that the polygamy practiced by countless religious sects is immoral (hey Mormons!), or at the very least, sexist (hello to you too, Muslims). But we shouldn’t let a few perverted misogynists spoil it for the rest of us.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with polygamy between consenting adults. Unless you’re in the Fun Police.

The Smackdown Part 3 – The False Start
The people who make this argument assume that the “slippery slope” looks something like this:

Pretty scary, eh? The funny thing is, they never consider that perhaps their precious slippery slope actually looks like this:

That is, the argument just takes for granted that same sex marriage is the tipping point. The one thing that will lead to moral oblivion. But, if you think about it, wasn’t heterosexual marriage the thing that led to same sex marriage? And doesn’t “people going to the movies and shit” lead to heterosexual marriage? So isn’t the real start of the slippery slope “people going to the movies and shit”? How far back should we go?

If the argument has any merit at all, the only way to avoid the complete and utter destruction of society is for us all to just all stay at home, with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears. Because a single glance at someone of the opposite sex will set us all off on a vuwy, vuwy scawy slippery slope. And you know what that means.

We’ll all end up as KIDDY FUCKERS!

Or watching Alf re-runs.

Anti-equality argument 2 – Children need a mother and a father

This argument is probably just as common as “marriage is between a man and a woman”, but its proponents are convinced it’s impossible to shake. Well I’m about to shake the shit out of it.

The argument in a nutshell
WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

What they’re really trying to say
Get your filthy gay hands off our kids. Also, gay love is gross. It says so in the bible.

The Smackdown- Part 1
The first thing to note is that this argument has nothing to do with same sex marriage. Nothing. Much like straight couples, same sex couples simply don’t need marriage to have children. They are already free to adopt (in the ACT, WA and NSW at least), and there is nothing to stop a lesbian couple, for example, obtaining sperm from one of their male friends and conceiving a child, with a turkey baster the apparent weapon of choice. In fact, I know of three couples that have done just that – my uncle is gay, and donated his sperm to two lesbian friends; another of my gay friends did the same; and a lesbian friend obtained the sperm of her partner’s brother. Obviously, none of these couples are married. Gay couples will continue to adopt, or conceive children of their own, with or without same sex marriage.

If you want to argue against same sex parenting, go and do that somewhere else. You’ll still lose, but at least you’ll just be wrong, rather than wrong and irrelevant.

The Smackdown – Part 2
That should be the end of the argument, but, unfortunately, it’s not. As misguided as it is, it seems to have some traction, and not just with the religious bigots. Indeed, I have spoken with many liberal, open-minded people who not only agree that children need a mother and a father, but also think that it’s somehow relevant to the same sex marriage debate. So, let’s assume for the moment that it is relevant, and allowing same sex marriage will lead to a significant increase in same sex parenting. There are, then, two components to the argument:

  1. Premise
    All other things being equal, any children raised by same sex parents are likely to be worse off than the children of straight parents; and
  2. Conclusion
    The degree to which they are worse off is large enough that we want to actively prevent same sex couples from raising children.

Let’s look at the conclusion first. If we temporarily accept the premise, and we say that same sex couples don’t fit our definition of “ideal” parents, should we actively prevent them from raising children?

To answer that, let’s go ahead and construct this set of “ideal” parents. What traits would we give them? Well, for starters, it’s probably a good idea that they actually want children. We’d probably also want them to be loving, compassionate, dedicated, generally responsible, of a certain age, financially independent, and have a strong support network (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc). We also wouldn’t want them to be racist, or walruses, or Jim Wallace. If we really sat down and thought about it, we could probably list 1,000 things that we’d want our ideal parents to be (or not to be, as Hamlet would say).

We could then rank all of our desirable and undesirable characteristics in order of importance. For example, we could say that having walruses for parents would be marginally better than having Jim Wallace, and therefore place “Not Jim Wallace” above “Not walruses” on our list. If we proceeded in this way for each combination, we would eventually have a list of all 1,000 characteristics in order of relative importance. Such a list may look something like this:

    Ideal parents should:
    1. Not be Jim Wallace;
    2. Not be walruses;
    3. Actually want children;
    4. Love and respect each other;
    5. Be responsible;
    6. Be older than, say, 16;
    .
    .
    .
    999. Love Deepak Chopra;
    1000. Know what “transubstantiation” is.

Now, the opponents of same sex marriage will tell you that “Must have parents of opposite gender” is pretty important – so important, in fact, that they want to actively prevent same sex couples from raising children. Which brings us to the crux of the matter – where would they place it on our list? Would they say it was the most important?

I seriously doubt it. Surely even the most intractable bigot would admit that a child would be worse off with a couple of white-supremacist heteros than some nice, clean-cut queers. If that is indeed the case (and I would love to meet someone who disagreed), they must argue that there are potentially quite a few reasons to actively prevent people from parenting. But they don’t argue that at all.

If “white-supremacist heteros” seem a bit far-fetched for you, how about this? A lot of the opposition to same sex marriage comes from Christians. Now, if you’re a Christian, and you believe that the fate of your eternal soul depends on an abject submission to Jesus, wouldn’t you consider being Christian as the most important thing for parents to be? I mean, what’s worse, having gay parents or spending eternity in hell? If these guys had any intellectual honesty at all, or even the vaguest idea of argumentative consistency, they would be out there campaigning to ban all non-Christians from having children. Especially atheists. And Scientologists. But, as I said, they don’t.

Even Jim Wallace isn’t that stupid.

The bottom line is that, as a society, there are many things we’d like parents to be. But it’s simply illogical to single out same sex couples for exclusion, when any two lazy, irresponsible, violent, drug-addled, Satan-worshipping anti-vaxers can have as many children as they like… as long as they have the right “bits”.

The Smackdown – Part 3
So… We’ve just seen that even if we accept the premise that children raised by same sex parents are worse off, there are still no good reasons to prevent them from becoming parents.

But, do we have to accept the premise? Absolutely not.

Study after study after study has shown that children raised by same sex couples have psychosocial outcomes no worse than the children of heterosexual couples. In fact:

The scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has been remarkably consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.
Wikipedia

Or, if you don’t believe Wikipedia, how about the Australian Psychological Society, who said that:

The family studies literature indicates that it is family processes (such as the quality of parenting and relationships within the family) that contribute to determining children’s wellbeing and ‘outcomes’, rather than family structures, per se, such as the number, gender, sexuality and co-habitation status of parents. The research indicates that parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents, despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.

Or, if won’t take their word for it, what about the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, or the Canadian Psychological Association? And that’s just North America.

But here’s the kicker, and the ultimate reason why this whole argument is completely bogus. It wouldn’t matter how much evidence you gathered to show that same sex couples are just as good at parenting as their heterosexual peers, the majority of the people who make this argument – that is, religious people – will never change their minds.

And if you’re not willing to enter an argument with a view that’s amenable to change, you’re simply not worth arguing with.
___

So, what are we left with? An argument that is not only irrelevant, but has a false premise and an illogical conclusion, made by close-minded, dogmatic bigots. In short, this argument couldn’t be more wrong if it was made by Bill O’Reilly in a sequined mankini.

And that’s pretty damn wrong.

Anti-equality argument 1 – Marriage is between a man and a woman

Let’s start with the most common – marriage is between a man and a woman.

The argument in a nutshell
When arguing for changing the definition of something, you can just repeat the existing definition over and over again.

What they’re really trying to say
Gay love is gross. It says so in the bible.

The Smackdown
This has to be one of the most juvenile, illogical, anti-intellectual and downright idiotic arguments I have ever seen… for anything… ever. It’s exactly the sort of thing Lionel Hutz would say:

    Judge
    Mr. Hutz, we’ve been in here for four hours. Do you have any evidence at all?

    Hutz
    Well, your Honor, we’ve got plenty of hearsay and conjecture, those are kinds of evidence…

Sure, lots of things have definitions that we don’t really want to change. For example, if I ask you to pass me the salt, I want to know that you and I have the same definition of “salt”. I mean, let’s face it, dinner would be really awkward if you’ve defined “salt” as your penis. Social constructs just aren’t like that. We invent them, we can change them.

To give you an idea of just how stupid this argument is, let’s go back in time, and see if it would have worked against the changing of some other socially-determined definition.

    Women:
    We want the vote!

    Men:
    Haha, that’s funny!

    Women:
    Umm… why is that funny?

    Men:
    Because only men can vote!

    Women:
    Yeah we know, that’s what we’re trying to change.

    Men:
    You can’t change it, silly! Look… I have the law right here. See? Right there… “Only men may vote in elections”.

    Women:
    You’re not getting it. That’s what we want to change. We want to vote, too.

    Men:
    But you can’t – only men can vote!

Need some more examples? How about these:

    Aborigines:
    We want to be counted as citizens!

    Whites:
    Sorry, but only white people can be citizens.

    .
    Women:
    Equal pay for equal work!

    Men:
    Sorry, but we get paid more than you.

    .
    African Americans:
    We don’t want to be slaves!

    White Americans:
    Sorry, but you are.

How do those arguments all sound? Stupid. Incredibly stupid.

Arguing against change by simply acknowledging the existence of an arbitrary status quo is one of the dumbest things you can do. If the “Marriage is between a man and a woman” argument is sound, then we may as well just go back to being cavemen, because it renders invalid every single social advancement our species has ever made.

But perhaps that’s exactly what the opponents of same-sex marriage are after.

That’s IT!

OK, I’ve finally had enough of the same-sex marriage “debate”. It’s not a debate. A debate is what occurs when an inconclusive proposition is put forward for rational discussion. But nothing about this debate is inconclusive. And only one side is discussing it rationally (that’s the affirmative, in case you’re wondering).

It’s time to beat this “debate” into submission. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be ripping the “arguments” against same-sex marriage apart.

Starting with this one.

So what’s the lesson here?

Now, I’m not an expert, but I think the lesson is that a relationship suffering from a full-on bout of gayness is grosser than one with a mild case of incest.

Or, maybe it’s that it’s better to have an aunt for a mother-in-law than a dad for a mother.

On the other hand, the lesson could be that the slippery slope actually runs backwards, i.e., we don’t want to allow same-sex marriage because it might lead to people not being able to marry their relatives.

Or maybe it’s just an accident of history that is crying out for correction.