Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dr Evan Harris's hypocritical sleight of tweet

Yesterday, former LibDem MP Dr Evan Harris sent out a tweet which highlighted the tendency of the Roman Catholic Church to 'assist' its adherents in the way they might vote. In this instance, it concerned the thorny issue of the proposed re-definition of 'marriage' to include same-sex partnerships. As it happens, His Grace naturally agrees with the Roman Catholic Church on this, and has said so. Indeed, marriage cannot be re-defined by Parliament without re-writing the marriage liturgy of the Established Church, and that would precipitate one almighty Church-State spat which David Cameron could well do without. His Grace would not, however, go so far as to call the proposal 'cultural vandalism', not least because there are those who might view celibacy as equally antithetical to cultural norms, and so, to a degree, subversive or destructive of natural relationship.

But the interesting thing about Evan Harris's tweet was its second instalment, in which he acknowledges that the Church has as much right as any group to lobby for its preferred policies, but should be granted 'no privileged status or access'. This is an interesting sleight of tweet, for Dr Harris appears to conflate the Church of England with the Church of Rome, which, of course, has neither privileged status nor access in the United Kingdom. Or perhaps it is simply convenient for him to lump them all in together.

That aside, there is a curious hypocrisy here, for why should the Church, which represents many millions, be prohibited 'privileged status or access', while Dr Evan Harris, who represents no-one, be granted precisely that? Why should an ordinary citizen have direct and manifestly privileged access to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister? And by what democratic right is Dr Harris granted privileged status to attend meetings of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party? Why should status and access be denied to Christian leaders who would uphold the orthodox (and majority) view of marriage, but granted to the secularist individual who seeks to usher in an era of pro-death liberalisation?

Dr Harris will not respond to these questions, of course. For His Grace is undoubtedly bigoted, hateful and homophobic; and quite possibly even anti-Semitic merely for having the temerity to draw attention to this liberal hypocrisy.

112 Comments:

Blogger DanJ0 said...

Didn't Cormac Murphy O'Connor lean rather heavily on the Catholic Government ministers of the day, including the Opus Dei one, over the Catholic adoption agency issue? How does that work in Cabinet if the Government wants to champion (say) stem cell research law and an Opus Dei member is inextricably bound to her strict and opposing Catholic beliefs? Does she have to resign, or is it always a conscience issue, or can she give more weight to her Roman Catholic masters than to her country on some issues?

13 September 2011 at 12:39  
Blogger graham wood said...

"or why should the hurch.....while Dr Evan Harris, who represents no-one, be granted precisely that? Why should an ordinary citizen have direct and manifestly privileged access to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister? And by what democratic right is Dr Harris granted privileged status to attend meetings of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party?"

Another excellent observation Cranmer! You raise a number of questions which demand answers, and not least the above.
But then the LibDem party is so stuffed full of amazing anomalies that one more in the shape of privileged status for Dr Death can be no surprise.
For example, a party which can accomodate a Business Secretary who does not really believe in a free market economy.
Or, one which can include the unctuous Mr Huhne in any capacity. A gentleman with no particular gifts or abilites, no scientific qualifications, and who is so deeply attached to his theory of 'man-made climate Change that he is given carte blanche access to our lovely British countryside in order to plant silly windmills all over it.
So we could go on.
Of course, as you say, Dr Harris will not deign to answer your questions, but I have little doubt that he and other LibDem politicians will either read your Blog, or will have their attention drawn it - and to the strange phenomena of a non existent MP's bodily manifestation in the courts of the high and mighty.
Let me suggest an answer.
He is one of Mr Clegg's special advisers on "death" issues.

13 September 2011 at 12:49  
Blogger Jon said...

Just out of interest, why wouldn't the CoE want disestablishment? Why does re-writing some documents need to cause an almighty ruckus?

Liberated from the oppressive shackles of government, the Church would be better placed to oppose the government of the day on issues of conscience.

Who knows, it may far better represent the "millions" that Your Grace refers to. Though I'm not sure that your foreign flock would be much use to you, perhaps vicars could stand as MPs? That way, all the millions of people who are theoretically represented by some unelected bishops could actually choose whether to be represented by them as MPs?

What could the Church possibly have to fear?

13 September 2011 at 13:03  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

I suspect Evan Harris's access is largely due to his elected position as Vice Chair of the LibDems Federal Policy Committee (the Chair has to be an MP per the LibDem Constitution if you care to look).

Given that all parties allow access to their party officers and employees to all sorts of places and committees it is diffcult to see how Dr Harris is better or worse than many others that you fail to mention.

We could for example look at the access given to Lord Ashcroft in his appointed position as Tory Party vice chair, or the parlimentary passes given to employees of CCHQ/those still being paid by News International if you wish.

Perhaps one of the reasons Dr Harris will not answer your direct questions is because of the manner in which you continue to address him.

As my "friends" at LDV will testify defending LibDems is not my normal role - but someone has to stand up for those who are continually being attacked in such a manner.

13 September 2011 at 13:10  
Blogger GHmltn said...

I am a LibDem. But also mt faith is important to me. I have for a number of years been uncomfortable about what I perceive as a clear anti-religion bias in Evan Harris.

I think Richard Dawkins was a constituent of his and a fan.

In this day and age religious tolerance is very important. We have not come through centuries of religious intolerance to now develop an atheist bigotry.

The spiritual dimension to human existence is immensely important. It has been so for century upon century in all societies. Respect of that is vital and is about respect for us all.

I am not commenting on any of the issues that have been part of national debate recently. I am no fan of Nadine Norries or her approach and proposals for example. Evan Harris is also an able man with much to offer the party and our national debate.

I am just concerned about a new religious intolerance against religion I detect.

That is profoundly illiberal.

13 September 2011 at 13:12  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

"Perhaps one of the reasons Dr Harris will not answer your direct questions is because of the manner in which you continue to address him."

Mr Tory Boys Never Grow Up,

And how might that be? Throughout this post Dr Harris is referred to by nothing other than his professional academic title. The tone is measured and respectful. His lack of response is nothing to do with any form of address (he clearly engages with Tim Montgomerie, despite the latter's reference to 'Dr Death'). No, the reason he will not respond is because the hypocrisy is manifest and as indefensible as Diane Abbott's decision to send her children to a private school while condemning others for doing precisely that. For Dr Harris, it is clearly one rule for the Church, and another for him. But His Grace is sure Dr Harris will appreciate your attempt at a defence.

13 September 2011 at 13:42  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Morality, ethics, faith and belief all impact in varying degrees on politicians. For those who abjure all four (which appears to be more common than one might hope) this must be a strange debate. For the rest, why can we not simply agree that as long as a politician has not concealed or sought to deceive their electorate on their personal convictions, they may feature in their parliamentary work, including how they vote.

If the electorate are diametrically opposed to a candidate's views on any of these things, they can vote for an alternative.

That way, if the electorate wish to elect a pro-abortion secular humanist (for example), the candidate may vote as his secular humanism guides him. And if they elect an anti-abortion Christian (for example), the candidate may vote as her faith guides her.

Accordingly, I can't help but think that you're spot on here, your Grace.

13 September 2011 at 14:10  
Blogger The Watchman Waketh But in Vain said...

YG, whilst I agree with your assessment of why Dr Harris offers you no reply, Mr Tory Boys Never Grow Up does correctly note Dr Harris' access is due to his position within his party, irrespective of his non-position within parliament. That he is granted such access is neither untoward nor out of keeping with the rights of access within other parties.

Whilst Your Grace is quite right to highlight Dr Harris' clear blurring of the distinction between the Churches of England and Rome, and apt to interpret this as a convenient sleight of hand for Dr Harris, one feels reference to his hypocrisy may be a tad unfair. Indeed, does he not comment 'it's perfectly legitimate for Chutch [sic] to campaign hard in politics just like any other lobby group'? Given this, and the fact Dr Harris' continued access to the Liberals Democrat Parliamentary Party appears in line with standard access across the main parties, where is the hypocrisy?

Surely, it is right and proper that the church should not have 'special access'? That is not to say no access but rather no particularly privileged access when compared with other, to borrow Dr Harris' term, 'lobby groups'. Indeed, just as Evan Harris is allowed access due to his position within the Liberal Democrat party so may Christian members of the Liberal Democrats be granted such access. Hypocrisy would be a fair criticism if, in light of Dr Harris' comment, it became clear prominent members of the BHA, who happened to be non-Liberal Democrat party members, were given 'special access' to the party whilst the church was forced to remain outside.

Whilst it is apt to remain suspicious of Dr Harris motives whenever it comes to religious groups, I find in this case hypocrisy is a charge that cannot stick. Nevertheless, if non-Liberal members of the BHA are suddenly granted a hearing this charge can certainly be revisited!

13 September 2011 at 14:30  
Blogger Albert said...

His Grace would not, however, go so far as to call the proposal 'cultural vandalism', not least because there are those who might view celibacy as equally antithetical to cultural norms, and so, to a degree, subversive or destructive of natural relationship.

No one could say that in a country governed by scripture, for the Bible says:

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.

But there is no condemnation of celibacy (which would after all condemn Our Lord and others such as John the Baptist or Elijah or St Paul).

Hence only a culture not based on the Bible could possibly put celibacy into the same category as gay "marriage".

Happily of course, no one could accuse the CofE of scriptural neglect on this occasion, for the Thirty-Nine Articles say:

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.


This clearly enjoins celibacy on those who judge that celibacy will help them in godliness.

So what's your point Dr Cranmer?

13 September 2011 at 14:37  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

Aren't you missing the point? Harris has privileged access, while complaining about the Catholic Church having privileged access. It matters little whether Harris' privileged access can be justified - he still has it, while complaining of others having it.

But what's more disturbing is that, as Cranmer says, he doesn't seem to realize that the Catholic Church doesn't have privileged access.

13 September 2011 at 15:25  
Blogger Solent Ramblings said...

Danjo

I’m trying to understand what you mean when you ask if the “Opus Dei one...can give more weight to her Roman Catholic masters than to her country on some issues?”

Who are these masters that us Roman Catholics apparently have? Do tell. Or is it an Opus Dei thing?

Are you implying that “my country right or wrong” should be the conscientious position of all Cabinet members of any religion or none?

Unless my memory betrays me, Cormac Murphy O’Connor is a very good example that the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have any privileged status or access in the United Kingdom.

After consultation, he declined an invitation to sit in the Lords. I suspect there would have been uproar amongst British Catholics if he had.

Must go. My Jesuit Control is calling me to a hush hush meeting.

13 September 2011 at 16:05  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Solent Ramblings: "Who are these masters that us Roman Catholics apparently have? Do tell. Or is it an Opus Dei thing?"

The Church.

"Do tell"? You pompous twonk.

"Are you implying that “my country right or wrong” should be the conscientious position of all Cabinet members of any religion or none?"

No. However, if the Church said (say) you must vote this way despite the Government's position or you will be excommunicated then that's tending towards blackmail of sorts I'd say. Is that possible, do you think?

13 September 2011 at 16:31  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Harris - Look old chap, this is a Christian country and there isn’t that much wrong with it thanks to our Christian nature and ideals.

We’ve done more than enough to accommodate our homosexual brethren. You are the son of jewish immigrants. So, how about a bit of courtesy, respect and understanding for your host country then. There’s a good fellow…

13 September 2011 at 18:20  
Blogger MARTIN TURNER said...

As former chair of Lib Dem Christian Forum, I've crossed swords with Evan Harris on many occasions, but always amicably. It's true that Evan's zeal against the Church often outstrips his knowledge of it (conflating Catholicism and Anglicanism, for example). At the same time, as vice-chair of FPC which is itself an elected office, his access is neither untoward nor hypocritical. Any paid-up party member can stand for that role.

13 September 2011 at 19:32  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Mr Cranmer said ...
"His Grace would not, however, go so far as to call the proposal 'cultural vandalism', not least because there are those who might view celibacy as equally antithetical to cultural norms, and so, to a degree, subversive or destructive of natural relationship."

Why not go that far?

And come now these issues are not to do with "cultural norms"! They are to do with God's purposes. No reasonable comparison can be made between homosexual marriage and voluntary celibacy?

How can a voluntary vow to dedicate oneself exclusively to God and forgo marriage be construed as "subversive" or "destructive" of natural relationships? Is it now mandatory to marry or to be sexually active; and if you're not you're a sexual deviant of some sort?

Homosexuality is clearly condemned by the bible and Church teaching. It is seen by the Church as a disordered tendency, a disrder, which, if expressed, is a self indulgent act corrupting the very purpose of human sexuality. By supporting this and putting such relationships on a par with marriage, the common good is damaged.

Celibacy, on the other hand, has biblical support from Jesus and from St Paul and is an act of selflessness and dedication to God and others.

Some who wish to discredit the Roman Catholic Church may want to imply there is a link between paedophilia and celibacy. However, there is no evidence supporting this speculation.

13 September 2011 at 19:43  
Blogger Albert said...

Dodo,

a self indulgent act corrupting the very purpose of human sexuality

Quite. There's an irony that the suggestion could be made even in the language of "there are those", by an Anglican. Anglicanism is after all a form of Christianity which permits the use of artificial contraception. As even Freud said:

It is a characteristic common to all the perversions that in them reproduction as an aim is put aside. This is actually the criterion by which we judge whether a sexual activity is perverse - if it departs from reproduction in its aims and pursues the attainment of gratification independently.

However, I think the point Cranmer is making is so bizarre, and, as I argued earlier, inconsistent with Anglicanism, that I think he is just winding us up!

13 September 2011 at 22:02  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Albert said ...
"I think he is just winding us up!"

You think so? I'm not so sure.

13 September 2011 at 22:19  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Albert

We don’t want society overrun with children who can’t be cared for properly because their parents are poor because of too many children . What’s wrong with contraception ??

(And I wouldn’t ask Freud to come to your defence, he was way off the point...)

13 September 2011 at 22:21  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Inspector General

The Church does not prevent family planning just artificial forms of preventing conception.

There is plenty of Catholic guidance on this on various web sites.

The nub of it is that human sexuality serves two God given purposes. Self-giving to one's partner, a unitive act, as well as a means of procreating, a creative act.

Artificial means of contraception, according to Catholic teaching, distorts God's purpose and shifts the focus towards selfishness and gratification. Natural methods of family planning reguire abstinence and self control and still allow for the possibility of conception.

13 September 2011 at 22:40  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dodo

You RC fundamentalists do nothing to make life tolerable for us papists.

Have you considered the monastic life ?? (...And take Albert with you for company...)

Allow us temporal types to get on with our short lives in peace, and without guilt...

13 September 2011 at 23:03  
Blogger Man with No Name said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 September 2011 at 00:17  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Inspector General

Mydear Sir, it was you who asked!!

What is a "fundamentalist"? Simply someone who accepts the fundamentals of one's faith and for a Catholic this includes the authoritative teachings of Rome.

No one said following the true Church would be easy! There is an internal logic and consistency to the Church's teachings about these matters which I sincerely believe reflect God's purpose for us and how we should live our lives for our good and the wider good.

14 September 2011 at 00:22  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Evan Harris is perfectly correct.

If anything he was understating the case, given the corruption, brainwashing and general pressure the vile RC chirch puts on its' own membera, and attempts to put on everyone else.

14 September 2011 at 08:57  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

The Way of the Dodo
"The nub of it is that human sexuality serves two God given purposes. Self-giving to one's partner, a unitive act, as well as a means of procreating, a creative act."

Surely the fact that the Catholic Church seeks to prohibit its priests from pursuing one of these purposes while at the same time castigating homosexuals and those using "artificial" conception for not pursuing the other really just demonstrates why it is such an organised hypocrisy.

14 September 2011 at 10:56  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I guess it's no rumpy-pumpy for those married people who physically cannot have children because of medical issues or simply being too old. Afterall, gay people can easily tick the 'unitive act' box in the same way as those married people can.

14 September 2011 at 12:03  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

tory boys never grow up

(well, at least one little boy, tory or no, hasn't quite developed maturity of thought)

Do read previous posts before coming out with simplistic nonsense. In case you're unable to master the task below is a reposting of an earlier comment covering the rather silly point you make.

I don't expect someone dismissive of religion in general and of Catholicism in particular, to be able to fully grasp the concept of selflessness in sexual matters.

Mr Cranmer said ...
"His Grace would not, however, go so far as to call the proposal 'cultural vandalism', not least because there are those who might view celibacy as equally antithetical to cultural norms, and so, to a degree, subversive or destructive of natural relationship."


Why not go that far?

And come now these issues are not to do with "cultural norms"! They are to do with God's purposes. No reasonable comparison can be made between homosexual marriage and voluntary celibacy?

How can a voluntary vow to dedicate oneself exclusively to God and forgo marriage be construed as "subversive" or "destructive" of natural relationships? Is it now mandatory to marry or to be sexually active; and if you're not you're a sexual deviant of some sort?

Homosexuality is clearly condemned by the bible and Church teaching. It is seen by the Church as a disordered tendency, a disorder, which if expressed is a self indulgent act corrupting the very purpose of human sexuality. By supporting this and putting such relationships on a par with marriage, the common good is damaged.

Celibacy, on the other hand, has biblical support from Jesus and from St Paul and is an act of selflessness and dedication to God and others.

Some who wish to discredit the Roman Catholic Church may want to imply there is a link between paedophilia and celibacy. However, there is no evidence supporting this speculation.

14 September 2011 at 12:22  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

DanJ0

Read the bible to see that God can work miracles so far as conception is concerned. Age and disability poses no issues at all.

This is no argument, from a Christian's perspective, for egaging in what are seen as morally disordered and unnatural sex acts.

14 September 2011 at 12:30  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "It is seen by the Church as a disordered tendency, a disorder, which if expressed is a self indulgent act corrupting the very purpose of human sexuality."

Self-indulgent? It gets worse! Lol. It's just sex, Dodo. Sometimes self-gratifying, and sometimes an expression of love. In the latter context, it's much nicer for everyone in my experience but that doesn't negate the potential usefulness of the former. Just like with heterosexual sex. This is one of the things I find most exasperating about many Catholics: their freakiness and hangups about sex. The sooner the church's priesthood get their end away, and I don't mean with choirboys and other vulnerable people, the better I reckon.

14 September 2011 at 13:24  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

One thing is clear, we must never let these people gain temporal power over us again. It'd be missionary positions only, and certainly not for lustful enjoyment, just like that Aquinas chap wanted. :O I bet he's the main source of this disorder in thinking. And those poor unnatural bonobos! What would we do about those. :(

14 September 2011 at 13:36  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

"Read the bible to see that God can work miracles so far as conception is concerned. Age and disability poses no issues at all."

I know. I'm just waiting for all the amputee veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to be made whole. I'd rather it focused on that rather than giving a bunch of Isaacs to Abrahams and Sarahs in care homes who don't want babies and probably struggle to afford care fees let alone future university educations for their unexpected offspring.

14 September 2011 at 13:49  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"Homosexuality is clearly condemned by the bible and Church teaching. It is seen by the Church as a disordered tendency, a disorder, which if expressed is a self indulgent act corrupting the very purpose of human sexuality. By supporting this and putting such relationships on a par with marriage, the common good is damaged."

Perhaps I have developed enough maturity of thought to think through things for myself rather than relying on literal interpreations of an instruction manual that was written well over a 1000 years ago and with only very limited updates to reflect modern conditions. It is also interesting how different churches are able to interpret things differently - or are they just not sufficiently mature.

14 September 2011 at 14:04  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Dodo

BTW I am not dismissive of religion in general or the Catholic Church in particular - just some of its more idiotic pronouncements. Its called free thinking - you don't have to agree with every thing written in the manual. I think you will find that an awful lot of Roman Catholics have a similar view and practice "artifical" birth control and homosexuality (even despite the virtually non existent threat of excommunication with regard to the latter).

PS I'm not a Tory - very sharp working that out!

14 September 2011 at 14:10  
Blogger Jon said...

Bloody hell, Dodo, you aren't half obsessed with sex!

If your posts were a representative sample of catholic doctrinal output, there'd be more references to sex in a Papal bull than there are in Playboy!

14 September 2011 at 15:40  
Blogger Albert said...

Inspector General,

And I wouldn’t ask Freud to come to your defence, he was way off the point

Agreed, except that I wasn't calling on Freud to support my view that artificial contraception is wrong, only to show that until very recently, it was considered antithetical to culture (Cranmer had suggested that some people think celibacy was antithetical to culture - so my over all argument was (a) celibacy isn't antithetical to culture and (b) artificial contraception is (or at least was, when the CofE started to support it)).

You RC fundamentalists do nothing to make life tolerable for us papists.

But surely it is you who is the fundamentalist. Despite the fact that you believe the Magisterium is the highest authority on moral matters, you have have contradicted it by following the view of sexuality found in secular society. And let's face it, secular society hasn't exactly got sexuality right has it?

Have you considered the monastic life ?? (...And take Albert with you for company...)

I think my wife may object (and my children (and the monastery)). But why assume opposing artificial contraception means one is anti-sex? Surely, it is the very means of being able to embrace sexuality in all its natural glory?! (As opposed to despising it and denaturing it of that which contributes so beautifully to its dignity - the transmission of life.)

Allow us temporal types to get on with our short lives in peace, and without guilt

Who's feeling guilty?!

14 September 2011 at 16:38  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

Surely the fact that the Catholic Church seeks to prohibit its priests from pursuing one of these purposes while at the same time castigating homosexuals and those using "artificial" conception for not pursuing the other really just demonstrates why it is such an organised hypocrisy

Sorry how did you move from:

1. Sexual acts must be open to procreation.

to

2. Therefore, everyone must be having sex.

The logic escapes me.

14 September 2011 at 16:41  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy

Its called free thinking

Is that a euphemism? It's just that so far, you have (a) trotted out the the standard misapprehensions of Catholic teaching on this topic, while (b) trotting out the standard opinions on this topic that anyone has in society if they haven't thought about it.

14 September 2011 at 16:46  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

*suddenly hit by self-doubt*

I'm right that Dodo is doing a bit of sophisticated ... and essentially harmless ... trolling here aren't I? :O I've just been playing along, or thinking I've been playing along, but I'm suddenly not so sure. But I suppose that's the ideal reaction to proper trolling rather than the G Tingey version isn't it?

14 September 2011 at 17:02  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Albert

The logic, in so much as there is any is based on Dodo's statement that one of God's chosen purposes is to use sex for the purpose of procreation. Surely, we are not allowed to make our own free choices as to which of God's chosen purposes we pursue and those which we don't?

Where you and Dodo appear to go wrong is in that you seem to see this as a matter of logic - rather than more correcly as a matter of values. Plenty of other logical theologians, with better minds than all of us, have been able to argue that it possible not to require celibacy of priests and to accept "artifical" contraception and homosexuality and still operate within the connstraints of biblical logic and be consistent with its values.

Others of us are even able to indulge in free thinking beyond these constraints and draw our values from an even wider range of sources than the Bible or the some of the related doctrines. Such of place quite a high importance on values such as liberty and freedom, and the tolerance of others with different behaviours.

It really isn't about logic.

14 September 2011 at 17:26  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

values such as liberty and freedom, and the tolerance of others with different behaviours.

Who's arguing for a restriction on anyone's freedom? I am not! I am not saying contraceptives should not be sold, I am not saying people should be prosecuted for engaging in homosexual acts etc. Whether something is right or wrong is not the same question as whether it should be illegal. But look at how those with liberal views impose (or try to), by law, their positions on others. If you really value freedom etc. you surely need to separate yourself from such impositions.

one of God's chosen purposes is to use sex for the purpose of procreation. Surely, we are not allowed to make our own free choices as to which of God's chosen purposes we pursue and those which we don't?

Indeed not, but noting that God's chosen purposes for sex includes openness to procreation does not entail the conclusion that God has chosen for us (all) to have sex. After all, it is also part of God's chosen purpose for sex to occur in marriage, but not everyone is married - even if they would like to be.

Where you and Dodo appear to go wrong is in that you seem to see this as a matter of logic - rather than more correcly as a matter of values

I don't really know what you mean by this. Surely, our society's values on sexuality are pretty awry? Which values are you upholding and why?

not to require celibacy of priests

Everyone accepts that it is theologically possible to have married clergy.

to accept "artifical" contraception and homosexuality and still operate within the connstraints of biblical logic and be consistent with its values

Only by proceeding from premises that I wouldn't accept and (to keep with the original point of the post) which Christians for the whole of their history until the last 80 years or so, would regard as antithetical to our culture. Though there is an important point here that you make: it is rather odd of members of the CofE to accept, women's ordination and artificial contraception but be vehemently opposed to homosexuality.

Others of us are even able to indulge in free thinking beyond these constraints

If there is a correct answer given, what virtue is there in "freely-thinking" towards a wrong conclusion? "Free-thinking" is an uncertain ally - as post revolutionary France showed. But again, what is the evidence of this free-thinking? I could get the same opinions from a thoughtless adolescent in today's world (but at the same time, an adolescent would probably also have an awareness that something is wrong with the way society views sexuality - but then, adolescents, sexuality and logic do not really mix, but I won't press the point because you say "it isn't really about logic").

and draw our values from an even wider range of sources than the Bible or the some of the related doctrines

Isn't it obvious that Dodo and I are drawing on philosophy and personal experience as well as the Bible? In my case, I haven't always been a Catholic and my experience is that the Catholic understanding of sexuality is far richer and reflects a much greater grasp of the frailties and dignity of humanity. Have you any experience of living according to Catholic teaching on sexuality?

14 September 2011 at 18:20  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dodo / Albert

The Inspector thanks you both for his drubbing on artificial birth control. Benedict XVI himself wouldn’t have found a word out of place.

Of course, none of it originates directly from Christ. There was no ‘sermon on family planning’...

You two are most definitely ‘A’ stream RCs with very high standards – much higher than the common man the Inspector comes across all the time, many of whom are barely literate. Higher than the Inspector would want to tolerate for him and his loved ones, that’s for sure.

For probably the great majority of Roman Catholics in this world, putting food on the table is the main result of their daily labours. It would be agreeable to think that after that, he could spend a bit of time alone with his woman without having to get the crucifix out and putting candles either side of it, so to speak. With all the evil in the world, would Jesus find any harm in it ?

The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t own any of us. The best it can hope for is that people adhere to its teachings. Sadly, on the reproduction side, there is just not enough adhesive on that aspect for many.

Having changed it’s mind about the sun going round the Earth (...they have, haven’t they ?...), we await another rethink in the near future, that’s within the next two hundred years, the way things are...

(Note, the Inspector says ‘they’. Now how much better if he could ever say ‘we’)

14 September 2011 at 19:28  
Blogger Albert said...

Insepctor,

Benedict XVI himself wouldn’t have found a word out of place.

You say the kindest things!

none of it originates directly from Christ. There was no ‘sermon on family planning’

Well they didn't have the pill in those days did they? However, it is worth pointing out that the Jewish/Christian world, in contrast to those around them, always emphasised heterosexual, fruitful marriage against sexual acts which removed reproduction from the act. Moreover, the principle "That which God has joined together, let not man divide", does come from Christ and artificial contraception certainly separates that which God has joined together (there would be little point in it if it didn't). In any case, Christ is the author of the natural law which this teaching reflects.

It would be agreeable to think that after that, he could spend a bit of time alone with his woman without having to get the crucifix out and putting candles either side of it, so to speak.

If you mean wouldn't it be agreeable if sexuality could be removed from the moral sphere, then I think not. Indeed, you only have to look at the world to see that people would be happier and have more fulfilling and loving sex lives, if they had tighter sexual morality. Families would be more likely to stay together and children to suffer less.

Having changed it’s mind about the sun going round the Earth (...they have, haven’t they ?...), we await another rethink in the near future, that’s within the next two hundred years, the way things are

There's not much parity between the two: one comes in a Papal Encyclical - which is the highest papal teaching document there is, and the other is a mere declaration from the Inquisition. One follows the universal Christian teaching of 2000 years and solid Catholic principles, while the other was a here today gone tomorrow judgment, which contradicted traditional Catholic principles.

Note, the Inspector says ‘they’. Now how much better if he could ever say ‘we’

Sorry, do you mean that you still believe the sun goes around the earth?!

14 September 2011 at 20:17  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Albert

I'm glad that you're not saying that values should translate directly into legal requirements - but then neither was I either. Societies were this have been tried have always been pretty disastrous affairs.

You still seem to belief in the premise that society as whole should take its values directly from your church's particular interpretation of what the Bible says and what its high placed elders consider to be the view of God. I'm not saying that such a viewpoint has nothing to contribute (and I agree that there shouldn't be a free for all on all matters sexual) - but in a democracy those us without God have to get to our own viewpoints with a little free thinking and there has to be some tolerance of different viewpoints if we are all to rub along together.

As for living according to Catholic teaching, that is really not the point, but to be honest I have done nothing too heinous - I would just have problem accepting that I have sinned for what are seen by the Church as pretty common deviations - but more seriously I would have real problems in seeking to tell others that my own personal morality (which is probably pretty strict by most standards) was the course that others should follow.

As for your comment about members of the CofE being vehemently ooposed to homosexuality - I think you should have said some members of the CofE - some are most definitely not - hence the fury of the debate in that quarter.

14 September 2011 at 20:52  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy, thank you for your comment,

You still seem to belief in the premise that society as whole should take its values directly from your church's particular interpretation of what the Bible says and what its high placed elders consider to be the view of God.

No, I said,

Dodo and I are drawing on philosophy and personal experience as well as the Bible[.] In my case, I haven't always been a Catholic and my experience is that the Catholic understanding of sexuality is far richer and reflects a much greater grasp of the frailties and dignity of humanity.

And again,

the natural law which this teaching reflects

That's actually the beauty of Catholic moral teaching. It isn't a divine command theory (God says X is wrong therefore X is wrong), it is based on natural law (X is bad for human flourishing, therefore God says X is wrong). This enables us to be able to discuss morality with non-Christians. There's a limit to how that can go, because it is always possible without an absolute good, such as God, to trump any moral principle. But it gives us common ground to be going on with.

in a democracy those us without God have to get to our own viewpoints with a little free thinking and there has to be some tolerance of different viewpoints if we are all to rub along together.

Which is why things like Civil Partnerships, forcing chemists to give the pill, using tax-payers' money to carry out abortions etc. are gravely unjust and must opposed by all people who care about tolerance of different view points. Such things impose a particular (and I would say tenuous and perhaps ephemeral) view of humanity on all of us.

I would just have problem accepting that I have sinned for what are seen by the Church as pretty common deviations

Why? Isn't every part of life capable of being perfected by reason and love? Surely, it is when people try to allow a part of their lives to escape such care that that (perhaps initially small) part of their life gets out of control and leads to more destructive behaviours?

I would have real problems in seeking to tell others that my own personal morality (which is probably pretty strict by most standards) was the course that others should follow

But surely, there are some things you think all people should avoid? In any case, if there is such a thing as human nature, then there is no such thing as a purely personal morality, rather moral truths are participated in by us all, by virtue of our shared nature.

I think you should have said some members of the CofE

Quite right (I'm an ex-Anglican remember!). That's why I said "members of the CofE", rather than just the CofE. "Members" does not imply "all".

14 September 2011 at 22:10  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Albert

Bah !! You have an answer for everything...

When The Inspector awakes of a morning, he has a bloody good scratch. He’s not going to tell you what he scratches as no doubt it’s covered by RC dogma and that’s another avenue of pleasure denied.

Incidentally, he believes it was DanJ0 who mentioned the missionary position was the only position allowed. The Inspector recalls reading this from his schoolboy days (when obviously he hade no idea what it signified). Where the hell did that one come from ??

14 September 2011 at 22:34  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"it is based on natural law (X is bad for human flourishing,"

I'm sorry, but I don't see this, especially since I read "natural law" as being the old terminology for science. Most of what I see (perhaps more so from Dodo than yourself) is I'm afraid circular arguments - along the lines of what we say is right because we are told that it is right.

" Which is why things like Civil Partnerships, forcing chemists to give the pill, using tax-payers' money to carry out abortions etc. are gravely unjust and must opposed by all people who care about tolerance of different view points."

I'm sorry but tolerance cuts two ways. While I have a lot of sympathy with the view that people should not be asked to do thinks that themselves do not think is moral e.g. perform abortions, conduct civil partnership ceremonies - there is also the need to be tolerant of those who wish to perform those acts.

"I would just have problem accepting that I have sinned for what are seen by the Church as pretty common deviations

Why?"

Because I don't necessarily see the deviations from the RC standards as being wrong - and quite the contrary in my case one such deviation increased the order in my life and had the most constructive and wonderful consequences!

"But surely, there are some things you think all people should avoid?"

Yes of course - but I would only want to see legislation or moral suasion used those where there existed a general consensus. I think all people should avoid voting for the Tories as its underlying philosophy is morally dubious in my eyes - but I wouldn't want top impose that view on anyone - and it would probably be a good way to lose most of my best friends!

14 September 2011 at 23:00  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

tory boy - DanJO - Jon

The fiercest criticism and preoccupation with Roman Catholic teaching on sexual morality seems to come from secularists promoting essentially libertine values. One has to wonder why this is.

The Church's teaching is not complicated. It is based on the Bible, natural law and moral reasoning.

One man, one woman, expressing their sexuality within a lifelong commitment to another, Blessed by the Sacrament of marriage, with the purpose of self giving, self fulfilment and the transmission of life.

There's nothing radical or outrageous in any of this. It is a coherent framework based on centuries of theological reflection and understanding and on moral reasoning. Yes its challenging and many Catholics struggle with the implications of the full teachings.

People are free to reject the teachings and accept the consequences for themselves and for society.

The teachings are not the product of a sexually frustrated male priesthood; they are not 'homophobic'; not 'sexist' nor 'misogynistic'; and neither does it result in clinical love making love.

Why are YOU so terribly preoccupied with and bothered by the Catholic Church's moral teachings? Why do they rile you so much and result in such childish abuse?

Maybe YOUR conscience, your God given innate sense of moral right and wrong, is troubling you!

14 September 2011 at 23:30  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Inspector General

I know of no canon law proscribing one from scratching an itch, just so long as we are not talking metaphorically here.

Neither is the method and style of permissible love making codified in canon law. Providing all unnatural acts are avoided, you are at liberty to experiment with, shall we say, different approaches.

Enjoy!

14 September 2011 at 23:40  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "The Inspector recalls reading this from his schoolboy days (when obviously he hade no idea what it signified). Where the hell did that one come from ??"

I think Aquinas thought it was the position which was mostly likely to result in offspring and is therefore: Good. You can almost following the reasoning from the sexual hangup thing too. By observation, there's something bestial in the doggy position, which surely can't be good if you're inclined to sexual moralising and are focused on so-called 'natural' and 'unnatural' distinctions, natural being something different for spiritual beings like us I suppose.

One wonders where this sort of thinking leads with regard to other positions which have no chance of resulting in offspring, such as a gobble. I mean, a 'half-nelson double shunt' and a 'wheelbarrow' still have a chance of resulting in a kid even if it's more, well, adventurous than 'missionary'. One gets the feeling too that actually enjoying it and giving enjoyment purely for the act is somehow Wrong in this line of thinking.

wv: arsti :O

15 September 2011 at 07:05  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Why are YOU so terribly preoccupied with and bothered by the Catholic Church's moral teachings? Why do they rile you so much and result in such childish abuse?"

We're essentially in a Cold War with the Catholic Church. Does anyone actually believe it wouldn't try to impose its religious values on the rest of us if it could? We gay people are quite new to the due recognition of our rights so we like to make sure they're understood and defended. Forty years or so ago, we'd have been put in prison for having a sex life. We're not going back to that, oh no.

Anyway, this is essentially a forum and forums are where views are exchanged. If you put out your views down here, or promote those of your religion, then you can hardly expect them not to be challenged even so often. If you don't like them then don't read or reply to them etc, I'm not going to chase you around. I recall someone quite Dodo-like telling me that recently.

15 September 2011 at 07:19  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Maybe YOUR conscience, your God given innate sense of moral right and wrong, is troubling you!"

You know that's bollocks. Ironically, it's a pretty childish retort too. My innate sense of right and wrong would be troubled if I didn't speak out against what is essentially a corruption of how stuff is and ought to be, given the impact it has on some people's lives.

15 September 2011 at 07:23  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Dodo:
"The fiercest criticism and preoccupation with Roman Catholic teaching on sexual morality seems to come from secularists promoting essentially libertine values. One has to wonder why this is."

WRONG

What people do IN PRIVATE, and NOT HURTING ANYONE is no-one else's business, at all.

The secularist and atheist point of view is that the churches (in the widest sense, as this includes islam as well) should eff off and leave people alone.

15 September 2011 at 08:12  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

AanJ0 said ...
"We're essentially in a Cold War with the Catholic Church."

At war yes, not with the Catholic Church but with God and His message.

G Tingey said ...
"What people do IN PRIVATE, and NOT HURTING ANYONE is no-one else's business, at all."

But you don't keep it as a private matter do you? The point is that the 'sexual revolution' has damaged our society by undermining family life. Look around you at the way children have become sexualised. Look around at the rate of divorce and the number of fragmented lives. The relationship between a man and a woman and the raising of children is the building block of our society. Once we departs from God's purposes we open Pandora's Box.

Churches are perfectly entitled to teach the message of Christ and do all they can to stand in the way of what the Bible teaches is moral degeneration. The consequences for individuals and for our society are too serious not to.

15 September 2011 at 08:36  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

What's the moral, not legal but moral objection to sex with sheep?

God knows we subject these creatures to much suffering, why not have sex with them and show them some 'affection'? After all, where's the harm if it's done in private?

15 September 2011 at 08:52  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Dodo

Where does your definition of natural law/unnatural acts come from? Or is this again the same circular reasoning of this is what my Church says so it must be right.

If you look at homosexuality/birth control i think the evidence would point to it being quite common in human (and other species for homosexuality) - and species are quite able to recreate themselves without everyone engaging in procreation and natural methods of birth control. In fact it could be argued that the opposite might be the case.

Of course Roman Catholicism can be expressed as a coherent moral framework - but it cannot do so to the exclusion of other moral frameworks as hard as you might try.

As for singling out the RC church for scrutiny - I wasn't aware that I had - I thought I was just responding to the points that you raised. As I have already said I don't think that RC's have nothing to contribute to the debate - but they are just one of many contributions that need to be considered.

15 September 2011 at 09:40  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"What's the moral, not legal but moral objection to sex with sheep?"

I would have thought that it would be difficult for them to demonstrate their consent to such an act.

15 September 2011 at 09:43  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "At war yes, not with the Catholic Church but with God and His message."

Which god?

I have similar problems with Islam. Whilst there is clearly a debate about key passages, there is a core of Muslims who think women should cover their heads, and some of those who think women should cover their faces, arms, ankles, and so on. These people are bringing up their children to believe the same things. They're trying to encourage others to adopt their beliefs in this area, including exerting lots of social pressure. I have no doubt many of them wholeheartedly believe the message is from god and that people who do not do it are rejecting god and his message.

I think that's bollocks, too.

I agree that the teleological message you are currently promoting is coherent in itself. But one has to also accept the premises on which it is built in order to accept the message. One may be inclined to look at some of the social issues we see today and put that down to people not following a god's plan but these things don't occur in religious bubbles. If we were to follow a Islamic model of society, in particular a Wahhabi one, then I expect we'd see much fewer divorces. But what would we lose in the process?

15 September 2011 at 09:56  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

This all turns on human nature of course. If we accept that our human nature is, and should be, as creatures fulfilling a creator god's purpose then we're going to view sex as something special and regulated. If we accept that our human nature is as individuals living in a social setting operating with a mashup of individual and social interests sometimes competing and sometimes co-operating then we get a very different view.

15 September 2011 at 10:08  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Ah, the way of the bible ...
including all the violent, cruel tortures and murders in "Judges" etc?
And killing children who disobey their parents?
And all the other total bollocks?

Waht's the value of Pi, then?
And is the Earth flat, as is suggested in one of the older books?

Bronze-Age goatherders' myths.

15 September 2011 at 10:35  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

DanJ0
G Tingey

One either believes in God or not and the Christian God or not.

tory boys never grow up said...
"What's the moral, not legal but moral objection to sex with sheep?"

"I would have thought that it would be difficult for them to demonstrate their consent to such an act."

Is it required? Why?

If it is merely about consent to mutual pleasure, then what is the moral objection to sex between adult siblings, providing the possibility of conception is removed? Or between parents and adult children? Moral arguements mind, not legal ones? If there's consent, mental capacity and no one feels abused, why not?

I would remind you of the following statement:

"The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female –had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy. While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful."
(Peter Thatchell 1997)

15 September 2011 at 12:47  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

I'm sorry, but I don't see this, especially since I read "natural law" as being the old terminology for science.

No, it is a fairly standard contemporary philosophical position. There are natural law theorists who are not religious.

circular arguments - along the lines of what we say is right because we are told that it is right.

Where has there been a circular argument? Surely Dido and I have both been at pains to demonstrate that this isn't about just agreeing with authority? And while we're about it, where is your moral argument?

there is also the need to be tolerant of those who wish to perform those acts.

With regard to Civil Partnerships, if homosexual people wish to couple together, have celebrations of their relationship etc. that's fine. I defend their right to do so. But a Civil Partnership imposes their self-understanding onto me. It requires me to treat them in a particular way. Why? What's the rational basis? It's just intolerant of those who hold a different understanding of what it is to be human.

Abortions are different. This should not be tolerated because in denying another human being life, one denies the very thing on which freedom is based.

Because I don't necessarily see the deviations from the RC standards as being wrong

But the point about natural law theory is that it enables us to have the discussion. You casn agree or disagree, but we are not saying "X is wrong because we say it is". But neither can you say a priori "This part of my life will exist in a moral vacuum." Therefore, it is possible that part of one's life will, after examination, turn out to be immoral. That might be painful, but we would hardly need moral theory if doing what is right always came naturally to us.

I would only want to see legislation or moral suasion used those where there existed a general consensus

Really? So you would be opposed to banning Sati in India, prior to there being a general consensus? The problem here is that secular society doesn't really have a moral basis for its opinions (and thus it assumes no one else has either) and so all it can provide is a vague general agreement, based on not terribly much. Besides, what constitutes a "general consensus"?

Where does your definition of natural law/unnatural acts come from?

Something is natural if it is in accord with that to which it is naturally directed. So eyes are for seeing, not for plucking out and playing ping pong. Reason shows us this, even if some creatures act in a disordered way towards it.

I would have thought that it would be difficult for them to demonstrate their consent to such an act

Sheep don't consent to being slaughtered, or sheered, but that doesn't seem to be an objection for most people. Surely, the ultimate reason intercourse with sheep is wrong (i.e. beyond purely emotional responses of disgust, which may or may not reflect a moral truth) is because it is contrary to nature, as you cannot reproduce with a sheep.

15 September 2011 at 12:48  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

15 September 2011 at 13:15  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

If the potential for a miracle to occur which results in a baby is enough of a defence for having sex with someone naturally too old to have babies knowing that sans miracle it is purely for enjoyment then why can't the same apply to having sex with a sheep? Afterall, I have no doubt that the concept of the Christian god is enough for it to magick a human baby from the womb of a ewe if it so chooses. Or would we fall foul of the regulations regarding sex outside of marriage, a marriage being between a human man and a human women?

15 September 2011 at 13:28  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "One either believes in God or not and the Christian God or not."

Well, quite. I do not in both cases. You're probably at war with Allah and his message. If a Muslim says it to you then I expect you're as nonchalent as I am when you say it to me. It's essentially meaningless isn't it? However, it's not meaningless to be at war, albeit a cold, slow-burning one, with the Catholic Church. Or with a Caliphate-oriented political organisation. They're tangible, real-world things and they want some of your liberty and self-determination from you.

15 September 2011 at 13:29  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

If there's consent, mental capacity and no one feels abused, why not?

Because it can be destructive of pre-existing established relationships.

Tatchell clearly has a different moral standpoint from my own - I don't believe minors have sufficient experience to determine whether or not they are being abused. The same would apply to some over the age of consent - but while such behavior can be immoral I'm afraid it would be legal.

15 September 2011 at 13:33  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Sorry, I have to comment on the eye thing. The loa loa worm exists to eat its way through eyeballs and other bits. It's not disordered, its essence is as a parasite which lives under the skin of its food source i.e. people in parts of Africa. It's a curious 'creation' in the scheme of things, especially in regard to us.

15 September 2011 at 13:44  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"Something is natural if it is in accord with that to which it is naturally directed."

And who says what is naturally directed - I suspect many homosexuals feel naturally directed towards seeking company of the same sex. Sex serves many purposes other than procreation.

As for slaughtering and sheering sheep this does serve a genuine human need which it is difficult to say that beastiality does. I know vegetaarians would see things differently. Just killing elements for the hell of it would not be moral in my view - but there are some who also have a different view.

15 September 2011 at 13:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

If the potential for a miracle to occur which results in a baby is enough of a defence for having sex with someone naturally too old to have babies knowing that sans miracle it is purely for enjoyment then why can't the same apply to having sex with a sheep? Afterall, I have no doubt that the concept of the Christian god is enough for it to magick a human baby from the womb of a ewe if it so chooses

I think this is addressed to me, so I will reply - apologies if it wasn't.

I would say that it isn't the possibility of a miracle that justifies sex with a woman who is too old to conceive. It is the fact that the act is essentially natural - i.e. essentially ordered towards procreation, even though it is accidentally highly unlikely. It's rather like having sex during the non-fertile period.

I have no doubt that the concept of the Christian god is enough for it to magick a human baby from the womb of a ewe if it so chooses

Why use the word "magic"? Many atheists rest their unbelief on the peculiar assumption that events and beginnings can occur without any cause - which is worse than magic. But no, I don't think God could draw a human being from a ewe's womb, as I think what followed wouldn't actually be human.

15 September 2011 at 13:51  
Blogger Albert said...

I have to comment on the eye thing. The loa loa worm exists to eat its way through eyeballs and other bits. It's not disordered, its essence is as a parasite which lives under the skin of its food source i.e. people in parts of Africa. It's a curious 'creation' in the scheme of things, especially in regard to us

It is doing what is natural to it, but it is plainly harmful to the eye ball, since it is destroying its nature, and is thus, contrary to the eye-ball's nature.

It's only curious to a creationist.

15 September 2011 at 13:54  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"The problem here is that secular society doesn't really have a moral basis for its opinions"

This is really just your view - there are plenty of secular philosophers who have seeked to develop such bases. And even if they hadn't we could just pick and choose from the multitude of contradictary moral bases provided/made up by religions.

15 September 2011 at 13:55  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy

Because it can be destructive of pre-existing established relationships

I'm a little disturbed that that is the best you can do to oppose paedophilia (I recognise of course that you are opposed to it, I just worry that your philosophy affords no more compelling reason why it is wrong) Lots of things that are perfectly moral can be destructive of pre-existing established relationships - like growing up.

And who says what is naturally directed - I suspect many homosexuals feel naturally directed towards seeking company of the same sex

I am sure that you are right about people feeling naturally directed towards the same sex. Something similar is presumably said also by paedophiles. This is not to say that I am putting the two on the same moral level, it is just to point out that it isn't enough to claim someone feels they want to do X to show that X is right. We have to look more widely at the nature of the act. For example, we would wish to include in our consideration that there are about 300 million sperm per ejaculation.

Sex serves many purposes other than procreation.

Indeed, some people make money out of it for example, they may exploit others with it. That's why we need a wider moral framework than just any use that can be named or just any aspect of sexuality which people feel drawn to.

As for slaughtering and sheering sheep this does serve a genuine human need which it is difficult to say that beastiality does

My comment was in relation to your suggestion that the sheep needed to consent for it to be moral. I do not see that your comment here supports that demand.

This is really just your view - there are plenty of secular philosophers who have seeked to develop such bases

And quite a few who say that it is impossible. As far as I can see what secular philosophers do, who wish to defend morality, is to proceed from the idea that human beings have value. But that is the very point that needs to be established.

15 September 2011 at 14:07  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "I think this is addressed to me, so I will reply - apologies if it wasn't."

It was one of Dodo's responses when I pointed out that gay people can just as easily be covered by the 'unitive act' justification for sex even if no offspring will result. It's just like with older people having post-menopause sex in that case. It took a miracle for Abraham and Sarah to conceive Isaac but the mere possibility for a miracle was enough for Dodo, if I understood his argument correctly.

"I would say that it isn't the possibility of a miracle that justifies sex with a woman who is too old to conceive. It is the fact that the act is essentially natural - i.e. essentially ordered towards procreation, even though it is accidentally highly unlikely. It's rather like having sex during the non-fertile period."

I get the teleological argument but on its own it's not really enough for me. It just sounds like defining away inconvenience. One has to have the rest of the metaphysics for it to work I think.

"Why use the word "magic"? Many atheists rest their unbelief on the peculiar assumption that events and beginnings can occur without any cause - which is worse than magic."

This particular atheist makes no specific claims about that. I don't know how the universe came about, or even whether that question is a sensible one to ask. It may be a creator god. The creator god may even be called Allah or Krishna. I'm content not to know. But not knowing does not therefore lead me to Aquinas's god. I actually think whatever we believe will turn out to be wrong, including stuff about the physical nature of our reality which we may actually be able to find out about at some point. So, miracles and magic are probably the same thing in regard to babies from barren wombs.

15 September 2011 at 14:15  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I take a slightly different tack over incest, bestiality and the other things often thrown up in arguments about homosexuality: sex in and of itself is not actually a moral thing. It's a biological thing, often with morally relevant attributes and consequences.

15 September 2011 at 14:22  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I have to say, it seems a bit churlish to deny a loa loa worm its eyeball feast when it is merely doing what it must do from its god-given nature. It's not as though it is misbehaving in a Sodom and Gomorrah sort of way: eyeball eating and the like is how it must function in order to be a loa loa worm.

15 September 2011 at 14:29  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

One has to have the rest of the metaphysics for it to work I think.

I think you are right, and I am not interested in imposing any particular metaphysic on anyone else. However, if one accepts the metaphysic, then things like homosexual acts quickly seem wrong. Consequently, things like Civil Partnerships are effectively imposing a particular metaphysic on others. I think that is intolerant and wrong. I don't mean anyone any harm in saying this. I just think that as I defend the right of a homosexual to behave according to how he sees the world, I should not be denied the same right by him.

The creator god may even be called Allah or Krishna

I think the arguments for the existence of God all point to the God of classical theism. There is a level at which monotheists are all agreed, whether they be Jews, Christians or Muslims. They are also agreed that the identity of God can only be known by revelation. However, I do not think the cause of the universe could be Krishna - Allah possibly (viewed philosophically, I mean).

I actually think whatever we believe will turn out to be wrong

I sort of agree. To believe in God is to say two things:

(i) There is a reason why the physical universe is here
(ii) That reason (which I call God) is utterly unlike everything else (or it would need causing too) and is thus utter mystery. I'm reminded of Aquinas saying after a religious experience that everything he wrote is mere straw.

sex in and of itself is not actually a moral thing

I think any act which may be freely engaged in or declined is a moral act.

when it is merely doing what it must do from its god-given nature

It is simply trying to perfect its nature, but at the expense of another. Hence the other is entitled to stop it in order to perfect its own nature. Moreover, I think we are "higher" beings owing to the fact that we have the power of reason.

15 September 2011 at 14:49  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"I'm a little disturbed that that is the best you can do to oppose paedophilia"

It was the case for opposing paedophilia - the question was asked specifically in relation to consenting adults. Lack of consent/risk of mental damage are all issues there as well.

15 September 2011 at 15:12  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Presumably, the primary teleological purpose of our being here, at least for a Christian, is to worship the Christian god. If we don't accept that then we're already 'off message'.

If we take an Aristotelian view then our essence is probably something to do with rationality. Where does that take us regarding the arrangement of societies? What's the teleological direction there? Not living in a liberal and capitalistic society, I'd wager. Or is that just open to our rational nature working out something suitable?

Does the Christian interpretation of natural law intend us to a social institution of marriage? Or is it actually pair-bonding as with other species? How do we arrive at a nuclear family arrangement? Rationally, extended families seem to be the best arrangement in my opinion, especially in a capitalistic society involving leaving the home to work.

What I'm actually getting at, albeit by a round about route, is that we may be pulling in quite a lot which isn't necessarily teleological but informed by Judeo-Christian tradition instead.

I mean, from the outside there seems to be an undue focus on homosexual sex and very little focus on (say) heterosexual blow-jobs. Homosexual relations has a 'low-hanging fruit' aspect about it (no pun intended).

15 September 2011 at 15:24  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

the question was asked specifically in relation to consenting adults. Lack of consent/risk of mental damage are all issues there as well

Fine, perhaps I missed the point - sorry if so. However, we often require children to do things that they don't consent freely to do - like go to school, have an injection etc. So the consent thing doesn't seem to answer the question. Moreover, Tatchell takes the view that not all sex with children is harmful. If he is right, is there no further objection? It does seem odd that the rightness of paedophilia comes down to the question of simply whether it is harmful or not, so that, in principle, it could be viewed differently.

15 September 2011 at 15:36  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Albert

You seem to recognise need for some moral hierarchy when it comes to how humans react with sheep - but when it comes to relationships between humans you don't want to establish a hierarchy with regard to deciding competing moral claims (and it is often not a one vs one copetition but many vs many) - and hence you feel that your more peripheral moral objection to Civil Partnerships should take precedence over the wishes of others to engage in such partnerships. Of course there needs to someway of deciding between competing claims - but I'm afraid your way is just one of many.

15 September 2011 at 15:40  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

undue focus on homosexual sex and very little focus on (say) heterosexual blow-jobs

Not really, this issue first arose over contraception, I think. The Catholic Church is consistent - sexual acts must be of the sort that are essentially open to conception. The inconsistency of non-Catholics who oppose homosexuality but not contraception worries me and does (perhaps) imply an irrational, anti-gay prejudice.

Not living in a liberal and capitalistic society, I'd wager

Considering that capitalism arguably originated in the thinking of people like Aquinas allowing interest to be charged, I think that's a surprising suggestion. In relation to society, reason shows us to be social animals, insofar as we rely on each other. Therefore, those forms of government that assist that help are acceptable. Those that do not - such as tyrannies which undermine the value of human persons are unacceptable.

Why is liberal capitalism good on your philosophy?

Marriage is good because sex between heterosexuals tends to lead to children. It is good for us all to support marriage, as we each rely on the next generation, and if children grow up in unstable relationships, they become troublesome to us all.

we may be pulling in quite a lot which isn't necessarily teleological but informed by Judeo-Christian tradition instead

May I suggest you just sit down with a copy of the Summa Theologiae and find out?

15 September 2011 at 15:48  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Albert

Yes harm does come into it as well - difficult to see how schooling (by adults other than the parent) and injections fit into your natural law framework - and of course some religions don't thing that they do!

15 September 2011 at 15:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy

you feel that your more peripheral moral objection to Civil Partnerships should take precedence over the wishes of others to engage in such partnerships

No. My objection is that a Civil Partnership requires me to do certain things. If you wish to require me to behave in a particular way, then the burden of proof rests on you to show why I must be so required. Unless we have given up on the concept of liberty completely (which perhaps we have as a society), the burden of proof does not rest on me to show why I should be free.

Yes harm does come into it as well

Yes, but is that all? Aren't you saying that you are open, at least in principle to the possibility that paedophilia may in some cases be right? We've got to have something more than that against it surely - otherwise, all it will take is for "experts" to side with Tatchell and suddenly it becomes acceptable.

15 September 2011 at 15:53  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"The inconsistency of non-Catholics who oppose homosexuality but not contraception worries me and does (perhaps) imply an irrational, anti-gay prejudice."

Perhaps you could also worry a little bit first about the millions of Catholics who oppose homosexuality but not contraception. What is the RC church in Italy doing about the millions of such in its congregations?? Don't they have a moral duty to do something about it?

15 September 2011 at 15:56  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

It's probably impossible to determine whether sex with a child is definitely harmful. But mostly it is, I imagine. So, under various different moral themes we would create normative rules to cover the general case.

In my view, there are other considerations too related to duties and obligations in a deontological style. We have a duty to children to act in their best interest too, I'd say. I can't see sex with an adult, even if it's a 13 yo child with a 16 yo, is likely to be in their best interests.

Yet two adult men or two adult women living together in a pair-bonded relationship, providing physical, sexual, emotional, and financial support sounds fine to me. Considerably better than two single, celibate people trying to go it alone, actually.

15 September 2011 at 16:00  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"My objection is that a Civil Partnership requires me to do certain things"

Like what - beyond performing the ceremonies the obligations of anyone else really are pretty minimal

On paedophilia - I have already said harmn isn't all - the lack of consent, abuse of a duty of care come into as well - I find it hard to think of any conceivable circumstances where it might be justified.

15 September 2011 at 16:02  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

Perhaps you could also worry a little bit first about the millions of Catholics who oppose homosexuality but not contraception.

Very fair, but I was really meaning attitudes people have. People will always behave in contradictory ways because of human weakness, but if our attitudes are unfair and contradictory, then there is no hope!

Like what - beyond performing the ceremonies the obligations of anyone else really are pretty minimal

Not if it means you lose your job. What of the B&B owners, or the fact that employers are required to treat Civil Partners as if they were married? I'm not saying these things are wrong, I am saying, what is the basis for forcing it?

I have already said harmn isn't all - the lack of consent, abuse of a duty of care come into as well

Yes but none of these things seems quite watertight. Isn't there just a level in which paedophilia is wrong because it is unnatural? Can you not say that on your moral philosophy?

15 September 2011 at 16:26  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

I can't see sex with an adult, even if it's a 13 yo child with a 16 yo, is likely to be in their best interests.

Agreed (obviously) but aren't you a hostage to fortune here? All it takes is someone to disagree, persuade others to disagree and then what? People will accuse you of imposing your morality on others, when all you are trying to do is protect children.

Where do you get your deontological duties from BTW?

15 September 2011 at 16:29  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "Marriage is good because sex between heterosexuals tends to lead to children. It is good for us all to support marriage, as we each rely on the next generation, and if children grow up in unstable relationships, they become troublesome to us all."

Gay marriage doesn't undermine straight marriage, it essentially extends it to accept the reality of gay people in our society. At least in the social sense. Just because two gay men set up a household in the same way as a post-menopausal woman and a man doesn't mean divorce will rocket, or heterosexual teenagers will be rutting on the streets at the weekend, or the birth rate will drop through the floor.

"Why is liberal capitalism good on your philosophy?"

It's the least worst I think. So far, anyway. The liberal bit builds on my idea of human nature and the essentially individualistic aspect of it. The capitalism bit allows us to carve out social time outside of work as individuals. We're a creative species. We need space to be that, too.

I'm trying to imagine what a society might look like which fits into my sense of where your teleological reasoning takes us. It's a bit weird, truth be told. And obviously unattractive to someone like me. Possibly it's an Essene-like arrangement at its core and perhaps some sort of communist-socialist thing on the outskirts.

"Considering that capitalism arguably originated in the thinking of people like Aquinas allowing interest to be charged, I think that's a surprising suggestion."

I don't know what justications he uses but capitalism is rather more than that I think. I expect he'd want some notion of the common good to prevail over capitalism's excesses.

"May I suggest you just sit down with a copy of the Summa Theologiae and find out?"

I've tried. Even allowing for the style, it's a tough call patience-wise. Possibly even demanding the patience of a saint. I can do Aristotle if that helps.

15 September 2011 at 16:35  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "Agreed (obviously) but aren't you a hostage to fortune here? All it takes is someone to disagree, persuade others to disagree and then what? People will accuse you of imposing your morality on others, when all you are trying to do is protect children."

We're a reasoning species. I need to show people the evidence and present an argument in favour of one way or another. If it's a good argument and I'm a good presenter then it will probably win the day. We're really talking about ethics, not morals, here. But I always make that point.

How do you go about persuading people that YHWH is the truth of our reality rather than Allah? Short of indoctrination, or personal revelation in the private space of an individual's mind, you're reduced to arguments. And it's worse. You're reduced to arguments without the benefit of evidence, other than co-opting the same evidence as I might present.

"Where do you get your deontological duties from BTW?"

They follow from the construct. You're perhaps thinking in terms of theories rather than ethics and hoping I am too.

Years ago when I did my philosophy degree one of the lecturers said something that seemed quite profound to me: All of the moral theories you will study contain unstated assumptions and logical flaws if you look hard enough but perhaps the most important is that they make the unstated assumption that a single moral theory is there to find. Remember that.

I actually think that in a sentence it captures what separates the religious from people like me, and not just regarding moral philosophy.

15 September 2011 at 16:56  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

Gay marriage doesn't undermine straight marriage

I'm not suggesting it does. I am saying that I cannot see the morally significant move that shows that gay couples (as couples) can be viewed equally with married heterosexual couples. Remember: I am not try to stop anyone doing anything except force a particular view on anyone else. I am arguing that Civil Partnerships are wrong because they are intolerant, not because they undermine marriage.

It's the least worst I think.

Agreed!

I expect he'd want some notion of the common good to prevail over capitalism's excesses.

Yes, but that's not so very different from the demands of a modern liberal democracy - especially a European one.

If it's a good argument and I'm a good presenter then it will probably win the day.

Well except that you have already admitted "It's probably impossible to determine whether sex with a child is definitely harmful." So you concede that while you think it is wrong, the reason you think it is wrong, may prove to be false.

YHWH is the truth of our reality rather than Allah? Short of indoctrination, or personal revelation in the private space of an individual's mind, you're reduced to arguments.

But surely that's the beauty of natural law, it doesn't rely on someone believing in YHWH or Allah. Indeed, up to a point, it doesn't rely on someone believing in God at all.

They follow from the construct

Which construct?

perhaps the most important is that they make the unstated assumption that a single moral theory is there to find.

Sounds like a faith statement to me! Perhaps there is no moral theory or moral truths - that would be more likely on a non-religious than a religious basis, I think.

Just before signing off - may I just check that you are happy carrying on with this? (I wouldn't mind if you didn't - I suspect we are somewhere close to reaching the point where our positions are just irreconcilable, anyway.)

15 September 2011 at 17:44  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

I couldn't agree more with DanJO's philosopy lecturer. However, I don't think it is just the religous that work on assumption that there is a single moral theory to be found out there - even non religous totalitarians such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao seem to have fallen into the same trap. I could also make a case that nearly all the war and pestilence in the world can be laid at the hands who seek to pursue a single moral theory to the exclusion of all others - and it well nigh time that more attention is paid to those who are prepared to accept a more pluralist view of the world.

And no Albert i dont believe that "People will always behave in contradictory ways because of human weakness" - they do so because that is the way we are (a natural law if you wish) and it is actually one of our strengths rather than a weakness - and we need to recognise this and learn to live with it. I have already said that I personally have some sympathy with people not being required to go along with all aspects of Civil Partnerships if it runs counter to their values - but that does not amount to allowing a total veto on such arrangements. All of us need to accept that we cannot have everything that we might want.

As for why I cannot accept some things as just being unnatural - i'm afraid that I see an awful lot of things (both good and bad in my view) as occuring naturally - and just as I wouldn't want to accept all of them - I think there is a massive danger in automatically labelling some of them as unnatural/unnecessary because they are pursued by a minority at a particular point of time in a particular place - as an alternative to a little thinking about their likely consequences and effects.

There is a lot to be said for "he who is without sin cast the first stone" I'm afraid - although the Church does not appear to been against casting an avalanche of boulders itself.

15 September 2011 at 17:55  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

Aren't you in danger of proposing a single moral theory: it is immoral to propose a single moral theory.

I have already said that I personally have some sympathy with people not being required to go along with all aspects of Civil Partnerships if it runs counter to their values - but that does not amount to allowing a total veto on such arrangements. All of us need to accept that we cannot have everything that we might want

I suspect that means you think the rights extended in Civil Partnerships need trimming not extending. Opponents cannot prevent homosexual couples from living together and regarding each other as equal (as a couple) to heterosexual married couples. But then homosexual couples cannot impose that view on others by (say) requiring they be given a double-room in a B&B against the beliefs of the owners. It does seem possible to live in peace on this one. (Moreover, I am not meaning to take pot-shots at anyone in a Civil Partnership - they could have that without seeking to impose their legal "rights" on others - e.g. by finding a new hotel.)

I think there is a massive danger in automatically labelling some of them as unnatural/unnecessary because they are pursued by a minority at a particular point of time in a particular place

Which is of course, not what anyone has argued.

There is a lot to be said for "he who is without sin cast the first stone"

Obviously, I agree, it comes from a rather splendid authority! But that truth does not alter the fact that we have to make moral judgments about things, and at times defend ourselves from unjust claims made on us by others.

15 September 2011 at 18:07  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

On the subject of B&Bs I think my view would be that if anyone wants to offer accomodation to the public then they should not seek to discriminate against wich members of the public they allow in - to allow otherwise would be to permit all forms of discrimination. The B&B owners would be of course free to make theri accomodation available to the public or not.

15 September 2011 at 19:53  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

tory boy, DanJ0 et al

I asked:

"If it is merely about consent to mutual pleasure, then what is the moral objection to sex between adult siblings, providing the possibility of conception is removed? Or between parents and adult children? Moral arguements mind, not legal ones? If there's consent, mental capacity and no one feels abused, why not?"

tory boys never grow up replied:

"Because it can be destructive of pre-existing established relationships."

Not an answer based on morality. And what if there is no "established relationship" as in the case of children adopted at birth who are then reunited with their biological family? It does happen. What then? What moral objection can there be to them enjoying sex if it pleases them both to do so?

15 September 2011 at 20:07  
Blogger Albert said...

Tory boy,

On the subject of B&Bs I think my view would be that if anyone wants to offer accomodation to the public then they should not seek to discriminate against wich members of the public they allow in

Again, I agree. It would be profoundly wrong to turn away two gay person just because they were gay. But that isn't the issue. The issue is whether the couple were further entitled to be treated equally with a married couple - to share a room, even though unmarried couples were not allowed to share a room.

For that to follow, you would need to show that Civil Partnerships are equal to marriage. They clearly are in law (though the law is odd on this point, and I'm not surprised that homosexuals want it clearing up), but without a moral argument to show that equality, appealing to the law is just appealing to a use of brute force.

This is the problem with such legislation: if we are to force people to treat gay couples equally to heterosexual, married couples, we need to show they are in fact equal. And then the question is "Equally what?" Here we will be into differing metaphysical world-view and I thought we were all opposed to imposing metaphysical world-views on others. Hence, I think the present situation is profoundly unjust.

15 September 2011 at 20:44  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo, I've done all that stuff with Lakester ages ago. Incest is not necessarily morally wrong even though it is viscerally unpleasant as an idea for most people ... and that may be down to something innate. Look at the incest laws across Europe, it's a tricky issue by observation. What about unprotected sex between married people who carry a genetic disease highly likely to manifest in their offspring? Ought they not to have unprotected sex? Or is it none of anyone else's business? If one is a known carrier then would the couple be obliged to test the other?

15 September 2011 at 22:23  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "Well except that you have already admitted "It's probably impossible to determine whether sex with a child is definitely harmful." So you concede that while you think it is wrong, the reason you think it is wrong, may prove to be false."

It may prove to be wrong in a specific case but not as far as ethics are concerned. Ethics are about how we carry on and a rule which recognises that in most cases significant harm results and therefore outlawing it completely is the best course of action is quite suitable as far as I am concerned.

"But surely that's the beauty of natural law, it doesn't rely on someone believing in YHWH or Allah. Indeed, up to a point, it doesn't rely on someone believing in God at all."

But we (I mean a general we) can't agree on what natural law actually is. You want a Christian one I expect, and along Catholic lines. I think there's a sense that some of our shared morality can be derived from human nature in some way but it's not really clear what. It has the flavour of fuzzy logic to me.

"Which construct?"

As ever, we need to define terms to proceed. Think of the construct in a similar way to a right.

"Sounds like a faith statement to me! Perhaps there is no moral theory or moral truths - that would be more likely on a non-religious than a religious basis, I think."

Why a statement of faith? The statement of faith is that there is single moral theory to find even though no-one appears to have found one which most of us recognise as valid.

I'm some sort of value-pluralist. By observation, I see people reasoning in the area of right and wrong using a variety of ways and applying different weights to certain aspects depending on the circumstances. As I have said in the past, many moral decisions appear to leave a moral residue behind.

When arguments about morality come up here, I recognise your approach to be one of trying to corner someone and check that the Ts are crossed and the Is dotted, obviously expecting them not to be if one is not religious.

You appear to me to be using the idea of a single, coherent, universally-applicable moral theory as a yardstick. I think for you this is an indication of whether an approach is 'rational' or not, depending on whether things can be reduced to one of those.

I actually think your approach, if that is what it is, is fundamentally flawed. For example, there's something unsatisfactory about the idea of relative morality but that may actually be the nature of it, unsatisfactory feeling or not. It may well be an incompatible or irreducible values-based system standing on a foundation of so-called natural law which has some fuzzy logic in it.

I honestly think there's something to seperating out the religious from the non-religious based on personal comfort readings over an ordered universe with a direction and an overall plan and where the individual actually matters in some sort of cosmic way. I'm unconcerned myself but I know lots of religious people who cannot cope with the idea that we're largely unimportant except to ourselves.

15 September 2011 at 23:02  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

DanJ0 SAID ...
"Incest is not necessarily morally wrong even though it is viscerally unpleasant as an idea for most people ... and that may be down to something innate."

"Viceral unpleasantness" indeed and "down to something innate". My very point. What is this innate compass and where does it come from? A selfish gene or a moral code?

The problem is that people are able to convince themselves that something morally objectionable is acceptable.

15 September 2011 at 23:13  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "My very point. What is this innate compass and where does it come from? A selfish gene or a moral code?"

You know that lions live in prides based on a particular format, right? All the females are related, there is a male or very small coalition of males which breed, and the young males leave the pride on maturity. That's not learned behaviour, is it, and lions are not moral agents as far as we know. So, is the lack of pair-bonding a moral deficiency on the part of lions? Is there a moral code they are unable to live by? Or is it innate as a result of genetics? And by the way, I think you're misusing 'selfish gene' there.

"The problem is that people are able to convince themselves that something morally objectionable is acceptable."

Yes, I know. I argue against some of those things myself, such as the issues surrounding contraception, abortion, human sexuality, and end-of-life in the Catholic Church. I think many people convince themselves those morally objectionable policies are right because they are promoted by a so-called authority rather than because their moral intuition tells them so.

Shall I leave you to ignore the questions about genetic disease and the issues surrounding reproductive behaviour? They're related to incest and the answers are not easy to come by just as someone like me would expect but someone like you ought to be able to simply rattle off.

16 September 2011 at 07:08  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

DanJ0

Are you seriously proposing that human's are not significantly different to animals?

My knowledge about how animals breed and conduct themselves is limited. What I do know is that what distinguishes people from animals is our ability to reflect on behaviour and consider consequences.

Unlike animals people experience feelings of shame and guilt. We have a sense of right and wrong in part because we can consider the impact of our conduct on others and the effects on ourselves. We are self-aware and other-aware.

The tragic circumstances of a couple with a serious genetic condition that might be inherited is one of anguish for those involved. However, whether it be Catholic orthodoxy or not, the morality and natural law reasoning, outlined so clearly by Albert, would still hold.

The difficultly with concessions and compromises to acts that in themselves are unacceptable is not only that they are wrong but also that they then permit other exceptions. They undermine the moral code that we as humans have as a part of our make-up.

What 'genetic flaw' would be in need of irradicating? Who would make this decision? It's the same argument over access to abortion.

And, if its acceptable for genetic reasons why not for other reasons such as convenience, limiting the size of one's family? Why not move on and start to control gender and other qualities that are seemingly random in the natural course of events?

If there is a 'gay gene', would you consider it acceptable for couples to intervene to prevent the conception or birth of people with homosexual tendencies? Or what about if scientists believe they discover a 'religious gene'?

16 September 2011 at 08:59  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Danj0 & Dodo:
Incest is wrong for a very simple, practical reason.
Inbreeding, which leads to really harmful recessive traits surfacing, rather than being smeared out.
Try looking up "Charles the Sufferer" ( Carlos II of Spain )

Humans are no different from "other" animals" any more than say, a Bononbo is different from a Gorilla.
All three are Apes, but they are very different in erm, "lifestyle", diet and habitat.
Humans appear to have the advantage of "intelligence" (like New Guinea Crows, and Dolphins) and definitely have the advantages of opposable thumbs and speech.

Erm, quite a few animals show signs of something strongly resembling shame/guilt, epsecially if they are "herd" or "pack" animals.
Humans are interesting here, because we are both herd and individual.

16 September 2011 at 09:19  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Are you seriously proposing that human's are not significantly different to animals?"

Dodo, we're animals ourselves. That said, we're clearly very different to most non-human animals. Yet we have strong similarities with some, such as the great apes. The extent of your separation of human animals and non-human animals is a consequence of your religious beliefs, in my opinion.

As you say, we're self-aware. We have language. We are empathic. We have rich emotional lives. And we're very intelligent. But we're still animals subject to our genetic inheritance. You think our moral intuition is god-given, I think it comes from our attributes, such as those I've listed.

You think that incest is a moral issue and you're a Catholic on the face of it. Hence, your notion of sexual morality comes from that theology. Not only is incest a moral issue for you, it's inherently immoral as I understand it.

For me, the starting point is a biological process. Clearly, the primary purpose our genitalia is to reproduce. For you, it's a disorder if they are used other than for your god's plan for us. For me, it's all subject to human enterprise in the first instance as with other stuff in our lives. We don't have god-given wings but we fly around because of the results of enterprise. That's not disordered or inherently wrong.

As far as incest is concerned, there may well be drivers in our genetic past which discourage it. This may be why male lions leave their pride so they don't mate with their female relations even if they don't know why they do leave.

But really, is sibling sex actually inherently wrong? Outside of your religious paradigm, what is inherently wrong with it? Socially, there are probably good reasons why we might want to discourage it within family groups. Genetically, it really doesn't seem like a good idea. Legally, it could get very confusing too. The opportunity for abuse also seems very high.

In other European countries, we have various legal and ethical approaches to dealing with incest. For instance, marriage may not be allowed but the act may not be criminalised. Prosecutions are pretty rare, I think, where the act is criminalised. I think this reflects the moral ambiguity in the issue.

16 September 2011 at 10:33  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

The reason I raised the issue of inheritable diseases is to draw out exactly the sort of questions you rhetorically ask. We modify our actions according to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

In the case of some of those diseases, the outcomes are terrible. Once we have a child with the disease then of course they're as valuable as the rest of us. But we have the luxury and the burden of acting or not before the consequences result.

It seems wrong to legislate to criminalise knowingly having sex which will probably result in one of those diseases in a consequent child. It seems wrong to have a child knowing it will inevitably have a shortened live with rapidly diminishing quality. It seems dangerous to remove chance from the context in case we lose something crucial through genetic co-expression. And so on.

No doubt the Catholic Church has adopted an approach to these issues which remains consistent with its core principles and themes. It may have quietly brushed some moral residues under the carpet in doing so, I dare say, or impaled itself on one horn or other. I actually suspect there may even be multiple correct answers to some of these dilemmas in the real world. Applied ethics are always difficult but it all seems a bit too reductionist to me to use teleological reasoning.

16 September 2011 at 10:49  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Finally ...

"If there is a 'gay gene', would you consider it acceptable for couples to intervene to prevent the conception or birth of people with homosexual tendencies? Or what about if scientists believe they discover a 'religious gene'?"

No to both. Homosexuality is to heterosexuality is like ginger is to other hair colour. The issues, such as they are, are social and unnecessary. As for a religious gene, I'm sure religious people can lead happy, healthy lives in themselves for themselves - I only wish they'd all set their boundaries properly with respect to the rest of us.

16 September 2011 at 10:58  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

This is getting very long, so let me cut to the chase of what I think is for both of us the key issue:

You appear to me to be using the idea of a single, coherent, universally-applicable moral theory as a yardstick. I think for you this is an indication of whether an approach is 'rational' or not, depending on whether things can be reduced to one of those.

Yes, certainly. I think that relative morality ends in absurdities. But let me place some cards on the table: I had very little interest in moral philosophy until fairly recently.

Towards the end of the last government, I became aware that more and more Christians were coming into conflict with the law because of various moral teachings that pretty well everyone in this country would have taken for granted until recently. It's not just here, there was a case some years ago when a Catholic with impeccable credentials was forced off the European Commission or some such, because he was an orthodox Catholic and therefore believed that gay sex is wrong.

In the midst of all this, I heard an awful lot of hysteria from the gay lobby, but very little justification worth speaking of. Public figures seemed to speak about religion from a pinnacle of ignorance (most non-believers are quite simply too ignorant of religion to comment intelligently). Freedoms seemed to be being denied or restricted for very poor reasons - frankly on the basis of prejudice.

It is reasonable in such circumstances to ask for the reasons for restrictions of freedom. If the answers given are not consistent, lead to wrong conclusions if applied elsewhere, or are simply arbitrary then why shouldn't I critique them? If you can't provide a rational basis for restricting my freedom, by what right do you do it? It's just a power-bid isn't?

I'm sure religious people can lead happy, healthy lives in themselves for themselves - I only wish they'd all set their boundaries properly with respect to the rest of us

It seems to me the problem is the other way around. What makes the secularist so dangerous is that he doesn't see how he imposes his views on others.

16 September 2011 at 14:30  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

And absolute morality DOESN'T lead to absurdities?

Try again.
Niot even close.

16 September 2011 at 15:20  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "Yes, certainly. I think that relative morality ends in absurdities."

It would certainly be simpler if there were a single, coherent, universally-applicable moral theory, and probably absolute too, which most people recognise as valid and sound.

However, I think I said some time ago that we appear to be in a position where we can choose from a range of universally-applicable moral theories depending on which god we like. That seems absurd to me too.

We could argue about the validity of a particular theory (such as the Categorical Imperative, to choose a mostly rational one in both senses of the word) but if most of us don't accept its founding premises then we don't get that far.

I'm a liberal. That's obviously a political position rather than a moral one. Rightly or wrongly, we value freedom and individuality as social goods. In terms of a State, this puts the State in a position of arbiter between special interests.

Short of operating a theocracy, there needs to be some sort of strategy for arbitration. This is especially so in a multicultural country like ours. In a liberal democracy like ours, that is based in part on the Harm Principle.

This is where I believe arguments about freedom lie, not in moral philosophy, although there is arguably some overlap. In particular, this comes to a head over freedom of conscience and rights to manifest religious belief. When I talk about ethics, rather than morals, I'm really talking about normative rules.

I think our normative rules in society are necessarily divorced from moral theories. They're from shared values instead, and shared values arise out of our collective moral sense and attitudes. We then apply ethical foundations (such as rationality, lowest harm, consistency, impartiality, and justice) to firm up our decisions over applied ethics.

I think this is why we don't agree, and probably will never agree, on the complete set of ethical dilemmas. You appear to take a bottom-up approach and require crossed Ts and dotted Is. I take a top-down, values-based approach and accept the inevitable fuzziness. However, that doesn't mean the caricature of Anything Goes which is often put about is true at all.

16 September 2011 at 20:27  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I'm also not at all convinced of the two (at least for me) core things in this Catholic formulation: the non-contingent existing thing, and the teleological argument.

Perhaps I'm missing subtleties but the first seems to be a sleight of hand to redefine oneself out of the infinite regress issue, and the second is another way of looking at things but I don't really see how it avoids the Euthyphro Dilemma, and the naturalistic fallacy seems to loom in the background.

In both cases, there seems to be a distinct jump backwards and a flourish in order to seem to break away from direct involvement.

17 September 2011 at 08:30  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

I'm a liberal.

That's interesting, because having languished in the CofE for most of my life, I've come to think of a liberal as someone who is essentially intolerant! He imposes, by force, his position on everyone else.

Having said that, I think there is perhaps more agreement between us than it would appear.

there needs to be some sort of strategy for arbitration. This is especially so in a multicultural country like ours. In a liberal democracy like ours, that is based in part on the Harm Principle.

You see, contrary to what you might expect, I'm really more of a libertarian politically speaking, and what you say here is the reason why.

If we cannot agree on some overarching moral theory, it seems to me that the state should be small, and the law should be very slow to force people to do things. As I said in my last comment, it is precisely because I am forced to do things (e.g. pay for abortions through my taxes, treat Civilly Partnered couples as equal to heterosexual married couples etc.) that I defend myself with moral philosophy. The reason I resort to moral philosophy is because there is nowhere else to go, except to unveil the legal violence, the liberal uses to impose his view on others.

In other words, if consenting adults of the same sex wish to have sex with each other or behave as if they are married, then I don't think they should be stopped. But for the same reason I don't think you can produce a legal document which requires someone else to provide facilities for them to do so. To me that is profoundly illiberal (but then, as I say, I think liberals are illiberal - at least that was my experience of the CofE).

the inevitable fuzziness

Is that a concession that these legal impositions cannot be justified philosophically?

They're from shared values instead, and shared values arise out of our collective moral sense and attitudes.

I think there are some distinctions here that need examining. You set moral sense and values against moral theory. I'm just wondering what that means.

a sleight of hand to redefine oneself out of the infinite regress issue

I'm not sure I follow. However, I have noticed that atheists often misrepresent theist arguments by saying "everything that exists needs a cause". (Stephen Law does this in his Philosophy Gym - good luck against William Lane Craig!)

Obviously, if that is the premise then the answer that there is a non-contingent being is absurd. But no serious theistic philosopher has ever come up with such a stupid argument. Instead, the premise is "Whatever begins to exist has a cause" - leads to a being without a beginning, or "Whatever changes has a cause" leads to a being that doesn't change, or "whatever is contingent has a reason or cause" leads to a necessary being etc.

I don't really see how it avoids the Euthyphro Dilemma, and the naturalistic fallacy seems to loom in the background

That's odd, because it seems to me from writers on Aquinas (Stump, Feser etc.), that it is quite widely held that his philosophy avoids that dilemma and fallacy. How are you understanding the teleology that underpins natural law?

17 September 2011 at 10:06  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Telology is itself a false argument.

This is the "argument from design"
Well, Darwin blew that one right away.
Why are you arguing a case that is 150 years dead?

17 September 2011 at 15:07  
Blogger Albert said...

Telology is itself a false argument.

Some design arguments are certainly undermined by Darwin, but the classical teleological argument are not touched by Darwin.

17 September 2011 at 19:48  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Albert: "That's interesting, because having languished in the CofE for most of my life, I've come to think of a liberal as someone who is essentially intolerant! He imposes, by force, his position on everyone else."

*shrug*

A bit of self-disclosure doesn't do any harm now and again I suppose.

"If we cannot agree on some overarching moral theory, it seems to me that the state should be small, and the law should be very slow to force people to do things."

Why? How small?

Should we be radical libertarian to the point of anarchy in the formal sense of the word? Perhaps I should (say) refuse to pay tax for the NHS given I'm healthy and well off enough to pay for private health care.

It's a strange thing you say there. Not on the face of it of course as I'm a liberal. It's your emphasis on moral theories in particular.

"As I said in my last comment, it is precisely because I am forced to do things (e.g. pay for abortions through my taxes, treat Civilly Partnered couples as equal to heterosexual married couples etc.) that I defend myself with moral philosophy."

You're actually into the territory of social contracts I think.

"Is that a concession that these legal impositions cannot be justified philosophically?"

No. I think the justice of those things can be readily argued for ... starting from the top, of course. In that case, the starting approach is probably to show that something sufficiently like should be treated alike based on those ethical foundations I mentioned.

"I think there are some distinctions here that need examining. You set moral sense and values against moral theory. I'm just wondering what that means."

It was a statement of what is actually the case ... bearing in mind my own interpretation of the status of single, universally-applicable, perhaps absolute,
moral theories.

"I'm not sure I follow. However, I have noticed that atheists often misrepresent theist arguments by saying "everything that exists needs a cause""

It's not a misrepresentation of a theist argument, it's an outstanding argument of a more general kind. We can try to do away with it conceptually, a sleight of hand really, but it's not really satisfactory. An infinite regress is not really satisfactory either.

"How are you understanding the teleology that underpins natural law?"

The Christian version of natural law, I think you mean. How does one answer a fairly open ended question like that on a medium like this? As I have said in the past, one can only really give a sense of form here I think; a few key phrases, that sort of thing. People reading can then investigate or not as they wish.

17 September 2011 at 20:52  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

I think the justice of those things can be readily argued for

Go on then.

You're actually into the territory of social contracts I think

No I'm not.

It's not a misrepresentation of a theist argument, it's an outstanding argument of a more general kind.

Name a theistic philosopher who uses such a premise.

How does one answer a fairly open ended question like that on a medium like this?

Quite easily, what is meant by an "end"?

It was a statement of what is actually the case ... bearing in mind my own interpretation of the status of single, universally-applicable, perhaps absolute,
moral theories


I'm none the wiser!

17 September 2011 at 21:17  

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