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"...the subject of extramarital affairs becomes all the more curious in that surveys reveal some 70% of married people admit having cheated on their mates. To make the point even further, modern medical science has given us DNA testing. When applied to newborn children, we now understand that at least 15% of them are not related to their mother's husbands. Somebody had some explaining to do and it isn't the fathers."
It is a great article, but required work to studiously plow through the geneticists-speak about Mitochondrial Eve?s DNA vs. Adam?s Y chromosome.
I?ve watched plenty of PBS and Discovery Channel specials on the ascent of man and primate DNA, so was able to stay with the Carl-ster.
Carl Zimmer commented that believing "one-man-one-woman-is-traditional-and-natural" implies also believing that polygyny is ?unnatural.? I don?t know where he got this from, since both polygnous and monogamous human breeding practices are ?natural? (i.e. heterosexual), but in Modern West Society polygyny has been made societally obsolete and untraditional and monogamy hasn?t.
As I read through the piece, Zimmer seemed to float along and it wasn?t exactly clear to me what point Zimmer was building towards. Then, as I rounded the last turn into the home-stretch, I found it in his last paragraph.
<< People are perfectly entitled to disagree over what sort of marriage is best for children or society. But if you want to bring nature or tradition into the argument, you'd better be sure you know what nature and tradition have to say on the subject.>>
Zimmer leapt from a reasonably good job of discussing human breeding science and practices, to ?what sort of marriage is best for children or society,? thereby muddying up a great article,
But Zimmer would have a hard sell trying to get my Mitochondrial Mother to buy into Mitochondrial Eve being older than Y-chromosome Adam. My mother turned 39 in 1959 and was ?39 and holding? throughout the rest of her life. Poor Y-chromosome Dad wasn?t so lucky, and had to add a new candle on his Birthday cake every year.
It is fairly clear that there are two issues here:
(1) Is polygyny something that happened commonly in the past? Well, duh. That is so painfully obvious that I fail to see the answer as even remotely interesting. It is not even all that rare now, although in most modern cultures there seems to be a trend toward nominal monogamy.
(2) Is the modern attempt to define marriage as one male partnering with one female therefore an attempt to thwart biology? It seems to me that we can define words however we want. It is clear that, for a long time now, Western cultures have tended toward nominal monogamy. From that perspective, the definition is reasonable even though it is somewhat arbitrary. The key concept in the current conservative effort is that marriage is heterosexual. It is clear that DNA evidence regarding our ancestry cannot challenge that time-honored tradition unless somebody has been reproducing asexually.
# when many are trying to set the definition of marriage in concrete while arguing that it is the natural definition. This argument, as you recognize, is plainly false#
then i take it you believe in asexual birth...
*of course, that 'might' explain some of the assinine comments we hear now and again...*
It would not have occurred to me to try to argue that monogamy was the natural historic condition in marriage, and I certainly do not agree with the people who are claiming it is. Various cultures have permitted polyandry or polygyny in the past, and a few still do. That said, the other part of the argument is that marriage is and has been a heterosexual institution. There may be exceptions but certainly they are not prominent. I do not think you can seriously challenge that on historical grounds.
Definitions may be somewhat arbitrary, but they cannot be infinitely elastic lest meaningful communication break down.
Personally, I fail to see why we cannot create a legal relationship called something other than 'marriage' that is a functional equivalent. That could address the questions about estate law and such, and should be adequate for the stated purposes of gay couples. I suspect, however, that the attempt to hijack the word 'marriage' is motivated by more than the stated objectives. It appears that the motivation is more to establish full social legitimacy, which is another issue completely. It's bad enough that the social battles have already deprived us of useful words like 'gay' and '*****' (in their non-sexual-orientation meanings). I see no reason to allow folks to continue to hijack the language in their attempts to alter moral standards and teachings.
Definitions are almost completly elastic and arbitrary. It's the nature of the beast. You'd be amazed at the way definitions change over time. 'Nice', 'terrific', 'awesome' used to have drastically different meanings. These changes are usually not aggrevating to the normal user of the language. Gay and and ***** and other euphamisms took on new meanings because the idea they were used to describe was not openly recognized at the time the new meaning came into use.
Marriage is the word that we use right now to describe the relationship they wish to enter into. We can call the legally sanctioned relationship anything we want, the point is it must be available to all.
Hi, Dr. Bill.
Actually, I agree -- but why is the state involved in marriage at all? "Marriage" is really a church thing. In many European countries, there are two ceremonies, one very brief at the local courthouse or whatever (call that a "civil union," with all LEGAL rights currently pertaining to marriage) and then those who are religious can have a church wedding.
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When a friend got married in France in a civil ceremony followed by a religious ceremony in the US it created quite a consternation for her family. She had some 'splainin' to do.
I agree that the fact that religion and politics both have a stake in this process is part of the problem. Unfortunately, it is a part that is not going to go away any time soon. Most Protestants regard marriage as a special human relationship, Catholics regard it as a sacrement. It seems unlikely that either group is going to be enthusiastic about attempts to redefine the meaning of the institution/sacrament.
Would separation of civil/religious unions tend to become that only the civil ceremony was automatically recognized by the governing bodies and receive whatever protection and "perks" go with it? Could the religious ceremony just become a token to appease the marrying couple, friends and family? If so, could already "legally" married couples be grandfathered into the recognition process? These are just some thoughts to consider before anyone thinks before embarking on a path to further break apart our countries moral and ethical foundation that had religious viewpoints woven deeply into it.
The legal portion of the union is already being done by everyone that gets married. The license and signature and witnesses are what's needed. The definition for the officiant and solemnization of the marriage are both broad and vague. Religious ceremonies are already, in some cases, used just to appease friends and family.
I don't think anyone is considering laws that will break already legal marriages. That would be crazy, as I'm sure most would agree.
This really does get into the difficult areas of church/state separation, particularly given our country's more-or-less Christian heritage.
That said, whether civil unions would be satisfactory depends in part on people from both ends of the debate, and it is clear that there are people on both sides who do not find the notion of civil union acceptable. Many in the gay community reject anything that implies their unions are different from or less than marriage, and many from the heterosexual community (especially the 'religious' community) reject anything that detracts from the uniqueness of marriage.
If nothing else, it will be interesting to watch the issue develop.
One of the apparent prominent spokesman disagrees. Unfortunately his Time article I remember is archive and you have to be a subscriber to access it.
But here is a column of his available that is a bit similair.
But the principle of the matter is another issue. To concede that gay adults are responsible citizens, to concede that there will be no tangible damage to the institution of marriage by their inclusion within it, and then to offer gay men and women a second-class institution called civil union makes no sense. It's a well-meaning surrender to unfounded fear.
In the Time magazine, he talks about how he and other gays just want the marriage as they grew up with the concept. And any other alternative is not acceptable. So it seems, some do object.
It seems illogical to most of us I'm sure, to me anyway. But he's talking about what he (and he asserts other gays) wants/needs. So at least some have a different agenda than just insurance and inheritance and medical visitation rights.
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In the UK, most people recognise "Partners", and to a lesser or (increasingly) greater degree, partners are being recognised in law. You will no doubt accept that this is not a hijacking of the word "marriage", but might still regard this as a reduction of quote "moral standards and teachings".
There are many here who believe that love and respect is a sufficient basis to form a union, and to raise children from that union. There are equally many who do not see the need to acknowledge the union with God's blessing until death us do part. With a divorce rate over 50%, this is clearly a promise which many cannot keep. Surely it's more immoral to pretend and it's absolutely impossible to foresee the next 40 years of one's life?
Marriages and/or partnerships between religions, races and gender become more prevalent every day. People of the world move forward in different ways, and in ways in which they individually see fit. Most of this "removal of delineation" has taken place in the last century. Where do you think we will all be in another 19 Centuries?
IMO - there are two overriding requirements - the species has to survive and one should help one's fellow man. For the former, technological advancements will give us the knowledge of what to do and what not to do to avoid infant mortality and genetically inherited/associated problems and for the latter, I guess we are on our own until we learn that killing one another is not a good plan for survival, especially when the Earth itself has so many tricks for getting rid of us up her sleeve.
The place where we probably diverge is whether 'progress' in this area is necessarily a good thing.
From a secular perspective I suspect that "gay marriage" is almost inevitable in the Western world. I cannot endorse that, but it still seems likely that it will happen. In other cultures the situation is different. Over the last several hundred years, Western culture has become increasingly humanistic and secular. That is not always a bad thing, but neither is it always a good thing.
Religious tolerance is certainly one of the positive aspects of the trend. I have no desire to live under the Catholic Inquisition or in Calvin's Geneva or Plymouth Colony. Unfortunately, we appeared to have thrown the baby out with the bath water. The very legitimate moral and ethical teachings that came along with our heritage are increasingly being rejected. I cannot accept that as a good thing.
Also, even at a time when divorce is rampant, I believe that we can and should aspire to the goal of lifetime commitments in marriage. There is real value in working through differences rather than abandoning relationships in a quest to "find oneself". I am not trying to condemn those who have been through divorce. We are all imperfect in many ways. I do, however, believe that the very real value of a lifetime commitment is worth supporting even if we frequently fall short.
Similarly, even though I recognize that celibacy prior to marriage and monogamy within marriage are not universally practiced, I still believe they are reasonable goals and an appropriate moral standard. The fact that some people fail to live up to those standards reflects more on our humanity than it does on any problem with the standards.
I do not see the notion that marriage inherently involves heterosexual relationships as "narrowly limiting the definition of marriage" so much as recognizing what the word has always meant in standard English usage.
For better or worse, the word "marriage" does have both legal and religious connotations so attempts to hijack the meaning will inevitably offend a lot of people.
I find your post difficult to reply to because you make suggestions with which I don?t agree.
Moral and ethical values (as distinct from religious teachings) are not being rejected; on the contrary, they are being upheld. (By the way moral and ethical mean the same to me - are you making a distinction?)
I must set religious teaching aside because we are talking of moral character rather than beliefs.
Lifetime monogamy is great for couples who are well matched, but you will of course acknowledge that divorce laws came into being to release couples from untenable circumstances. Thank goodness women especially have the option to make a life for themselves without the total dependency upon their husbands which was earlier a necessity. ?Loveless? (or worse) marriages should not be for life IMO.
Regarding pre- and post marriage, you say that The fact that some people fail to live up to those standards reflects more on our humanity than it does on any problem with the standards
Those so-called standards are neither right nor wrong. They can only be perceived to be so, depending on one?s standpoint. Adhering to them or otherwise is a matter of choice, not of failure to live up to them. You lose me when you say that it reflects more on our humanity??
My use of "morals" and "ethics" may have been imprecise. Personally, I do not believe that there can be any meaningful moral standards apart from absolute truth rooted in God's Word. From my perspective, the efforts to create ethical standards from any other basis are doomed to failure because they are built on a foundation that is unsound and arbitrary. Obviously, there are others who see things differently. In any event, that means I do not accept the possibility of truly moral character apart from religious beliefs.
For somebody like me, the moral standards are rooted in absolutes, and we violate them at our peril. Unfortunately, because we are imperfect beings, we do violate our own moral standards frequently. That does not mean there is anything wrong with the standards. It just means our conduct will never quite "make the grade".
From a Christian perspective, that is precisely why Jesus had to come as a human being. He is/was the only perfect human being, and as such He was able to pay the penalty demanded for our failings (aka: sins).
From this perspective, the "so-called standards" are not something that we can freely choose to follow or not. We choose to ignore them at our peril.
Divorce as an institution exists precisely because we are not able to live up to the standards God set. It may be that there are times when divorce is the best choice among a number of bad options, but does not mean it is ever ideal. Unfortunately, as you noted, marriages do not depend on just one person's behavior and it is clear that in some cases there are major problems that prevent maintenance of a meaningful marriage relationship.
Does that clarify what I was saying? As noted, we are starting from radically different perspectives so we will naturally see things somewhat differently.
I can't argue with you cos we will not meet at a joining line. I try to come over to your way of thinking, but fail dismally.
There are people who arrive differently, through no fault of their own (you can't choose your parents.) I guess you will say that it is because of people-interaction and possibly blame those parents for having strayed from the moral standards. But what if those parents haven't strayed? Where does that leave the children?
It leaves them exactly where they are.
God takes people into his fold provided they repent their sins (with some caveats), but are these people to repent for having been born? How come they are not equally His children in His eyes?
If the (legal) law only protects the rights of some of God's children, how can that be?
"Mystified of Tunbridge Wells" (an English expression).
Maybe I'm being obtuse today. I guess I don't have a clue what most of your post is saying.
My best answer, perhaps far wide of the mark, based on woefully inadequate understanding of what you were saying, is that the whole point to the Law is not to condemn, but to serve as a demonstration of how far our human nature leads us from God, leaving us all in need of His redemption, guidance and love. Thankfully, God has made all of those fully available to us.
God undoubtedly has diverse expectations of each of us. A prophet said "a bent twig He will not break" in reference to God's understanding of our frailty.
As to why He has chosen some creatures to be more pleasing to Him than others, I cannot offer an opinion. As Paul of Tarsus noted, that would be very much like a potter's clay opining about what shape the potter should create from the clay.
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