Saturday, August 16, 2014

everybody knows what you will say

So, Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers put this video out in May of 2012. I still think the points are sound, though, and I've also decided to transcribe it, for reasons that will become obvious later.
"Morning, John! A rather...complicated morning, John, because stuff's been going down this week...As you know, the state of North Carolina, where our parents live, just decided to just outright ban gay marriage, like stick it in the Constitution--

"Opposing gay marriage is not a viewpoint that I understand, and I know that this video is going to piss people off, but I don't care anymore. This isn't a political issue, it's just deciding that we're going to treat some citizens of our country differently than other citizens. That's wrong!

"So I want to go through some of the arguments that I hear, and why they're crazy.

[Onscreen flashes "Why Can't Gay People Just Be Committed Without Marriage"] "'What's the big deal, why can't gay people, just, you know, have a party and say they're committed to each other? Why do they gotta come in on our thing?' IRRELEVANT! This isn't complicated! If some people can get married, and other people can't, then that's wrong.

"TWO!" 'But..God...'"
[Onscreen flashes the same two words] "Marriage can be a religious thing. It can also be a secular thing. And guess what--not everyone in the world is of the same religion. Preventing gay people from getting married is not an expression of religious freedom, it's an expression of religious oppression. Because in the religion of the gay people getting married, presumably their god thinks it's okay, and you are oppressing them.

'But...the Bible...'"
[Onscreen flashes the same words.] "The Bible is not a legal document. Our country was founded upon the idea of a separation between church and state. The Bible is also very explicit on the rules of farmers selling their daughters as slaves. It may be not the best document to base our laws on. 'Gay marriage would undermine the institution of marriage.'" [Onscreen flashes the same words.] "This is a thing that I've named, I've created a name for it in my head, because I see them all the time. I'm calling them 'hypothetheories'."

"So a hypothesis is a question that you ask. You say, 'I wonder if gay marriage would undermine the institution of marriage?' That's a hypothesis, that you can then go out and test, in any number of ways. And then, if you confirm that it is true, that it explains the phenomenon, then you can eventually convert that into a theory. If you skip the middle step, and just assume that you have a true-statement-of-fact 'theory', then you have created what I call a 'hypothetheory'!

"I could make the exact opposite hypothesis, and it would be just as valid, because it would have just as much testing behind it! I could say that not allowing people who love each other to get married, that is undermining the institution of marriage! That that seems like a valid thing; now let's go test it!

"So stop saying this as if it is truth! Because you just made it up and you're like, 'Oh, that makes sense to me! Why does that make so much sense to me? It does, whatever, it must be true! It makes sense!' And you know why it makes sense? Because of the biggest actual complaint that people have about gay marriage, which is 'It's unnatural'."
[Onscreen flashes the same two words.]

"'It doesn't feel right to me.' And maybe to you, it doesn't seem right--because we build our worlds, we build the rules of the world that we live in; that's how we understand this place. And I think to a lot of people, it feels like this is a big, messy, grey world, and at least, there are some sharp distinctions. Like the distinctions between genders, and sexual orientation, and those are just lines that shouldn't--they should be always be hard lines. But saying that that simplicity is 'natural' is idiotic, because the most natural thing in the world is complexity, and gender, and sexual orientation, are proven over and over again to not be firm lines. The whole world is
grey, and if you just appreciate that, if you understand it and appreciate it, then it's beautiful.

"But if you try and spend your whole life fighting against it, then you're going to be bitter about the world actually being more complicated than it is, and you're going to make other peoples' lives less awesome. Which is exactly what this boils down to. Because there are a hundred arguments against gay marriage; you can come up with--with all kinds of hypothetheories, and just spout them off, and people will say 'nod nod, yes yes yes'. But to me, there's only one argument that matters for gay marriage: that all people in our country should be seen as equals in the eyes of the law. So North Carolina, and all of the thirty other states that have passed laws like this, you better check yourselves. Because we can't live in a society like that, and call ourselves Americans.

"John, I will see you on Tuesday."
Now, some of the dimensions, state by state, have shifted in this debate, some states going further, some states retracting, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the comments that Hank Green got after posting this video.

From Matt Sierra:
"so im not really against same sex marriages having the same rights i just dont want to pay more for taxes and healthcare because they are getting the same benefits as opposite sexed married couples, i haven't really seen anything that shows that same sex marriage or polygamy having the same benefits to society as one man one woman marriage. im certainly open to seeing data that shows polygamy or same sex marriage to society but at this point I'm not convinced."
I'm wondering what's wrong with supporting all marriages the same way? If two people wish to marry, raise children, share a home together, get involved in joint tax returns--who's Matt (or anyone else) to say that they can't do just that? Again, that creates a sub-class of citizens, and to date, the only real sub-class of citizens we have that's likely not to change is the criminal class. (And there are even some arguments that, after a set number of years back in society without further criminal behavior, their full citizen rights should be restored.)

How'ver, in reply to that, Nimulos Maltibos asked,
"What benefits do you mean? Children? Check the orphanages. Other than that I don't get what you could mean by benefits, care ot enlighten me?"
Matt answered:
"no, because man/woman married couples are better able to pass on favorable genes they have evolved to complement one another and society so as an example there is a domesticating effect that women have on men that lowers crime rates and increases a drive to work and produce. i dont think that most of the societal effects that opposite sex marriage have are as easy to quantify but the ability to adapt and pass down complementary traits are not something that same sex married couples have. we dont give tax and insurance benefits to married couples because they are some sort of inherent right, it's because we know from history that societies do better when there are more opposite-sex married couples."
...Right. A "domesticating effect". Tell that to the girlfriend of the Florida man who dreamed his girlfriend was cheating on him, so spent the entire day after he woke up beating her. Not kidding, this happened. "Domesticating effect", my ass.

In a Google+ comment, ShadoWolf0913 stated to Matt:
"I'm sorry, but by "favorable genes," I have to assume you mean heterosexual genes (which is not simply a genetic thing, anyway), because that is THE only difference between gay and straight people. Otherwise, people are people, regardless of whether they like men, women, both, or neither. A male/female marriage, assuming they do decide to have a child (which many do not,) certainly doesn't mean that child will have "better" genes.

A gay couple can be quite beneficial to society in terms of children by adopting orphans/unwanted kids and raising them in what can be as much a loving, dedicated family as any other. Those children, once grown, can offer every bit as much potential to society as a child raised by heterosexual parents. Should gay couples receive the same benefits as straight couples? I don't see any reason why not. Just because two men or two women cannot physically produce a child together doesn't mean they are less useful to society than a man/woman match. (There are also options like surrogacy to consider. A gay person, assuming they don't have a medical problem that would prevent it, would be in no way unable to reproduce if they chose to. Sexual orientation does not affect fertility, nor the quality of a person's genes.)

That wives somehow have an effect on men that "lowers crime rates and increases a drive to work and produce" I'm not even going to get into, except to say I think that's a pretty sexist statement that isn't backed by any statistics I have personally seen, and which implies only men commit crimes and won't/can't stop or be productive unless they are married to a woman. If nothing else, there are plenty of female and married male criminals out there."
Exactly. Witness Zach Wahls' rather passionate defense of being raised in a non-traditional family, in which he states unequivocally that being raised in a caring, loving environment by his two mothers gave him the moral compass he has today.

Matt goes on:
"I'm not talking about an opposite sexed couples ability to have kids but their ability to provide a greater chance of passing on favorable genes and reducing the chance of passing on negative genes through natural selection. because of this a man and a woman are more likely to complement one another then two men or women or one man or woman or one man and several woman etc. this is why we give tax incentives to married couples but not single couples or polygamy couples even though there is nothing to make me believe that polygamy is any less valid to a secular society than man-woman marriage or same sex marriage. im totally fine with same sex couples having the same benefits for having kids but also the same marriage benefits as polygamists."
That's actually the first thing he's said I agree with, that all marriage constructs should be equally valid, but again, that's not the point. I'm wondering where he's getting this "favorable genes" theory in the first place. In 2013, Bjorn Carey published an article on the livescience blog about the developing rules of sexual attraction, as perceived by heterosexuals. The big three? Symmetrical features (visual perception), a specific hip-to-waist ratio in women (a subconscious understanding of the potential levels of energy to care for offspring, plus her ability to easily bear children), and scent (which comes down to gut-level olfactory perception of pheromones, which we have zero conscious control over). But here's the thing--these are rules for heterosexual people. Are there rules for homosexual attraction?

Well, sort of. For gays, it mostly comes down to olfactory perception, in initial studies from 2001 and 2005. Later, in 2010, a study of Samoan homosexuals posits that "unaffiliated" (at least genetically) men involved in non-reproductive relationships with other men still substantially aided the children of heterosexual couples to whom they were related.

Which is all well and good that there may actually have been an evolutionary reason for same-sex affiliation to evolve, but again, doesn't give me any understanding of that "favorable genes" argument. Either my Google-fu is failing, or he's holding a completely irrational belief set.

In answering someone else's question, Matt replied:
"'What do you mean by "favorable genes," exactly?'- the way that men and women are different in such a way that they complement one another, though it is possible for two men or women or men and women in a polygamy relationship to exhibit slimier traits, to expect them to inherently would go against what science can observe about us. i havent seen anything to show same sex marriage to be anymore valid or useful than polygamy as such i dont want to pay more for health insurance or taxes because they pay less. what makes me less entitled to similar tax or health insurance breaks as a single man?"
I'm going to go out on this limb and assume he meant similar traits, not slimier ones, but even so, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Matt again:
"'If I were making the laws, I would probably allow it because if people find happiness with that kind of relationship, that's their business and not mine' it is my business though because i am spending more on taxes and healthcare. what makes those more worth the benefits then my choice to be single? society is where it is because of the classic male female dynamics of society, i do believe that men and women are different and complement one another. men tend to be more explorative but without the feminine drive for stability social structure and justice would not develop, for example. if all were masculine society would not develop, if all were feminine the race would die in its infancy. we needed that dynamic and that is why the roles developed."
So basically, in spite of everything else he's said, his objection is that he'll take a larger hit in taxes as a single man? What? Because the same argument could be made if heterosexual society--the marriages he's claiming to defend--generates a great upswing in marriages suddenly. That same tax hit would happen. Is he against that, too? Or just the "gay ones"?

From a Google+ comment by binkey:
"You say 'there is a domesticating effect that women have on men that lowers crime rates and increases a drive to work and produce'

"This sounds like another "hypothetheory". What evidence do you have that women have that effect on that men at all? Even if you show that men who are married to women are less likely to commit crime and more driven to work, you have to remember that correlation is not causation. It could be argued that the reason for this discrepancy is that women are just more likely to marry lawful, hard working men, than they are to marry lazy criminals.

"Assuming that you prove that it is actually women having a "domesticating effect" on the men they marry, you would have to show that a man marrying another man or a woman marrying another woman would not have the same effect. To do that you need married gay people, but if gay marriage isn't allowed then how could you do that study?

"You say that heterosexuals are better able to "pass on favourable genes." But the fact is that heterosexuals are also better able to pass on unfavourable genes. Besides, reproduction is not impossible for homosexual couples. I live in Canada where same sex marriage is legal* and I know a lesbian couple who through a sperm donor were able to have children of their own. Sure the children don't share genes with both parents, but I don't see how that would interfere with their ability to raise the children. They seem to have managed to pass on their favourable (and perhaps some unfavourable) genes just fine.

"* So far I haven't noticed a big any effect on the taxes I pay. In fact the tax rate has gone down since gay marriage was made legal—not that I'm suggesting a causal link."
Which are also great points--there is nothing that stops two gay men from fathering children, or two lesbian women from giving birth to them, but actual infertility or a complete lack of desire to raise kids in the first place. It's a specious argument to insist that just because a couple cannot breed, they cannot marry. That also leaves out a great chunk of marriages among the infertile--who may or may not know that at the time of their marriages--as well as marriages occurring later in life, where childbirth may no longer be possible due to age.

Matt starts going off the rails here:
"he point was because our species has such a solid tradition of monogamy and solidarity, that i think a man and a woman will be prone complement one another in such a way that i wouldn't expect a polygamy marriage or incest or same sex marriage to. not that those forms of marriages cannot but that on average they won't be as complementary and useful to society. im not opposed to seeing evidence to the contrary but im not just going to be ok with giving people special benefits that i dont have access to because of my choice to be single on some vague principle that all marriage should be treated the same."
Wait. Okay, first, what's a "prone complement", I don't understand that term. But second, who mentioned incest?? While the rules are growing lax in some states regarding the marriages of first cousin to first cousin, which I personally find fairly creepy for genetic reasons, there is no state that allows incest to occur--let alone incestuous marriages, which is what I think he's leading up to implying.

We're moving on to part II.

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