Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Massachusetts Marriage Still Doing Fine

As my friend Bruce Wilson notes at the Huffington Post, after six years of gay marriage in Massachusetts the divorce rate has actually gone down – and it was already the best in the nation.

Provisional data from 2008 indicates that the Massachusetts divorce rate has dropped from 2.3 per thousand in 2007 down to about 2.0 per thousand for 2008. What does that mean ? To get a sense of perspective consider that the last time the US national divorce rate was 2.0 per thousand (people) was 1940. You read that correctly. The Massachusetts divorce rate is now at about where the US divorce rate was the year before the United States entered World War Two.

But….but….gay marriage was supposed to “destroy the sanctity” of marriage and “undermine the institution upon which all society is based.” Chuck Colson said that gay marriage would cause “an explosive increase in family collapse.” Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado said that gay marriage was part of a grand plan to “destroy the institution of marriage.”

Brian Camenker declared, “if we allow this [ same sex marriage ] to happen we will, in effect, have destabilized the basic institution of our society, which is marriage between a man and a woman.” Jerry Falwell said that gay marriage would “destroy the tradition of marriage” and that the nation was “on the precipice of moral devastation.”

And yet, it hasn’t done any of those things. I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational reason for this. Perhaps marriage has some sort of residual sanctity that has protected it so far. I’m sure it must be something like that, because it can’t possibly be that all of these people were just full of shit, right?


  1. #1 James Sweet
    September 8, 2009

    @J. Allen and FishyFred: I agree with FishyFred. Some things we call moral might be vaguely relativistic, and it’s true that non-arbitrary morality is largely shaped by our biology (although IMO game theory plays a part).

    But there IS non-arbitrary right and wrong. Trying to hold back gay marriage is a dumb idea, not because all morals are relative, but because it is IMMORAL to deny marital rights to one segment of the population for no plausible reason.

    Two blog posts I have written on morality, biology, and the problem of relativism:


  2. #2 abb3w
    September 9, 2009

    DuWayne: According to the Stanford dictionary of philosophy, morality is

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    What the conventionally “correct” terms are, I’m supremely indifferent to. “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Call them PETE and REPETE if you care. My point is, the underlying phenomenon and the human (or alien) specific expressions and descriptions of same are different philosophical entities.

    DuWayne: You are defining morality here, in a fashion contrary to any definition I have seen.

    Not so much “contrary” as “alien“. While the foundation is different, the results are almost entirely those commonly associated. Haidt identifies five … hm, flavors is probably the closest word… of what he terms “morality”, and what I would term “ethics”. All five appear to readily reduce to approximate expressions of this single underlying principle. (I conjecture from evidence a sixth that humans may recognize, and presume ordinally many we don’t… but that’s beyond present scope. And by “readily”, I mean “using undergraduate level math”.)

    DuWayne: I am not a philosopher and may have missed something along the way, but as it is commonly understood, what you are describing is not morality, it is evolution.

    Ethics are (from at least one vantage) a result of evolutionary processes. “Morality” as a thermodynamically universal generalization of the trait should be unsurprising. Which is to say: ethics result evolutionarily due to the universality of morality.

    Fortuna: I know that your opinion, which I share, is not universally held. I know that moral positions may change; mine certainly do.

    I would term such dynamic positions “ethical”; that is, our understanding/determinations of “good” and “evil”, not “good” or “evil” themselves. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet

    Of course, I’m probably mad north-northwest.

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