The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

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

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.

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.

Michael Kiwanuka

Via Bimmo.

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:

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

    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.

    We want the vote!

    Haha, that’s funny!

    Umm… why is that funny?

    Because only men can vote!

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

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

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

    But you can’t – only men can vote!

Need some more examples? How about these:

    We want to be counted as citizens!

    Sorry, but only white people can be citizens.

    Equal pay for equal work!

    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.

A sorry excuse for apologetics

apologist [əˈpɒlədʒɪst] (noun)
A person who offers a defence by argument.

CASE (noun)
The Centre for Apologetic Scholarship and Education, a Christian apologetics organisation.

Trevor Cairney [pɒmpəs hɪpəkrɪt] (noun)
A person who willfully ignores the previous two definitions. Which is weird because he is the Director of CASE.

First, a little history

I first stumbled across Trevor Cairney’s blog in May 2009. I can no longer remember why or how, but I found myself reading this post about “the disappearance of mutual respect” between men and women, a post apparently prompted by the then-current Matthew Johns group sex scandal.

I simply pointed out that:

Leaving aside issues of consent and mutual respect, a Christian persepective on the events in question will always be flawed, since it presupposes that group sex is inherently wrong. This is, of course, absurd.

There is nothing inherently wrong with group sex between rational, consenting adults.

Despite a few wacky pronouncements (“God gave woman to man to live in relationship to him” and “to be confined and constrained can be quite liberating”), Trevor gave a rather in-depth, informative response (to his credit).

So far so good.

Things carried on in this way for a while, and some of the discussions we had were even interesting. Like the ones on the god of science, matters of life and death, the continuing quest for belief, faith and politics (interesting, but frustrating), and the story of Abraham and Isaac.

But then an odd thing happened. Trevor had a meltdown.

The great dummy spit
In this review of Terry Eagleton’s book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Trevor had this to say:

But Eagleton’s major focus and motivation for writing this book has been to challenge the simplistic separation of faith and reason. Both New Atheists and liberal nationalists he claims have failed to understand this relationship. Dawkins he points out assumes that his own belief is reflective of reason, while he sees Christians being guilty of blind faith. Rather, he suggests New Atheists hold a faith position of their own.

In response, I submitted two links. The first, a link to this video, where Dawkins highlights how stupid it would be if science worked like religion:

The second link was to a newspaper article highlighting a particularly nasty incident of religiously inspired violence.

Trevor’s response, which he e-mailed rather than posting on his blog, was… well… strange:

What’s your point Tim?

The first clip from Dawkins simply demonstrates that he has no arguments at all. He refuses to engage beyond the superficial. He simply characterizes Christians as unintelligent; I’d expect more sophisticated arguments from a Year 10 debating group.

The second newspaper clipping is irrelevant to the post in question.

Should I look through papers for clippings of violent crimes committed by people of no faith. Are you aware that the majority of people in prisons are atheists? Of course, this is a silly anti intellectual argument of the kind Dawkins uses all the time, but no more silly an example of poor logic and argument than you sending me the article that you have.

I assume that your point is that religion leads to all manner of terrible crimes. How would you explain Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, genocide in Cambodia, the slaughter of millions in communist regimes like Russia and China where religion was banned? I could go on but I won’t.



Ahh… so that’s why you didn’t post your response on your blog. Hyper-sensitive dummy spits and wildly illogical generalisations sound sooo much better via e-mail. It’s also probably best not to let your readers see what you’re really like.

Anyway, one statement in particular stood out – was I “aware that the majority of people in prisons are atheists?”.

I had to admit that, no, I was not aware of that. But being a curious fellow, I was eager to find out how exactly Trevor became aware of it. So I asked him.

    Where have you seen that the majority of people in prison are atheists? Can you provide some links?
    (no response)
    I would be very interested in any such evidence. Could you provide some links?
    That wasn’t my point. I was simply trying to say the argument being made was as silly as me trying to use the argument that many regimes and nations that ban faith and people who reject God are capable of terrible things.
    You asked if I was aware that the majority of prison inmates are atheists, indicating that you had information that this was the case. Can you direct me to that information?
    Let’s not waste our time Tim. You and I both know that it’s impossible to tell, as most inmates would hardly be likely to answer honestly.

Right. Well… this is awkward. For you. Especially since there actually proportionally more Christians in prisons than atheists.

No more Mr Nice Trevor Cairney
For a while, Trevor published some comments, but blocked anything that didn’t begin with “Dear Trevor, you are so good looking”.

Now, however, he blocks everything. He’s also blocked me on Twitter, and asked me not to e-mail him anymore. All because, in response to a post on the wonders of theology, I sent him this:

    “Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.”
    – H. L. Mencken

    “Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein quotes

    “What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has ‘theology’ ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?”
    – Richard Dawkins

    “The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion”
    – Thomas Paine

True to form, Trevor had a hissy fit (again, via e-mail):

Wow, you’ve hit a new all time low for anti intellectual argument. For one who prides himself on presenting evidence, it’s remarkable how you’re prepared to use slogans and arguments as your only form of attack, especially given that you spend so much time attacking Christians for lack of evidence.

Your second comment is perhaps the most remarkable. You offer 4 quotes that present no evidence (and include obvious falsehoods) while criticising people who believe in God as being deluded and stupid. If this is the best atheists can do there is no doubt that Christianity is under no threat from fundamentalist new atheists. I’m surprised you cannot see the errors in the Thomas Paine quote? And as for the evidence he offers? There isn’t any.


Especially when your stated aim is to “[defend] the Christian faith, [engage] with other world views and [attract] ‘thinking’ people to the message of the Christian faith”.

Having a thinking person at the helm might be a start.

Just awesome

There aren’t too many good news stories out there these days… but here’s one that makes up for it.

Byron Widner was a white supremacist, and had covered his face and body in racist and hateful tattoos. He eventually left the movement, and his tattoos so repulsed him that he vowed to remove them in any way he could. It turns out that meant putting his life at risk, undergoing months of agonising operations, and a $35,000 donation from a stranger.

What an inspiring story… well worth a read.