Friday, May 21, 2004

Updated May 21, 2004, 2:30 am; Eric Zorn and Gay Marriage, an article of Faith?

Cong. Jesse Jackson on "Public Affairs" : Iraq, North Korea, WMD and Nuclear War.

An intellectual lapse by Eric Zorn: reaching for faith and discarding analysis and empirical evidence.

Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune Columnist and Godfather to serious Bloggers everywhere-- every once in a while likes to throw up frivolous arguments by intellectual opponents and then knock them down, e.g., the notion that gay marriage would destroy civilization, as we know it, in three days. Of course, one can do that- set up the proverbial straw man [or woman], but to what end? to caricature your intellectual opponents as lacking in brainpower?

Is gay marriage a good idea, Zorn implicitly asks? It is a somewhat complicated issue. I, like most thoughtful people, can argue, theoretically, why such arrangements, may be good or bad for society, at large. We can then look at some empirical evidence-- say, countries that have already tried such, in varying forms, for a reasonable period of time (probably more than three days), and see-- whether the family, as we know it, has been strengthened, or weakened, over time-- by collecting and analyzing the data. If Eric doesn't know where to start on this type of an exercise, he can call Milt Rosenberg, who did a radio show, during the last year, with some academics [or with some guests who discussed some academics] who have done some such analyses. I would follow up on this myself, but Eric is the lucky one who has chosen to live the leisure of the Theory Class-- so that is his assigment for the day.

Instead of following what he must have known would be my advice, Eric Zorn, on his blog, tells us that he asked two of his friends in Massachusetts (quite a representative sample) what they think-- after the institution of same sex marriage has been in place for three days, gets two flip answers (See, below, from and somehow that is supposed to illuminate? If it was just for humor, that is fine. But, one senses that there are certain issues, such as this one (and School Choice/school vouchers), that Zorn does not want to subject to serious debate and empirical evidence [notwithstanding that he has
placed the voucher issue on his rhubarb patch]. Instead, I think he wants us to decide such issues as a matter of "faith."

A somewhat odd position for a humanist, who I thought took very little on faith. Further, this approach, deciding this issue as a matter of faith, is somewhat similar to that of those, on the other side, who would like to reject same sex marriage as a matter of "faith." Call me old fashioned, but I would like to take the University of Chicago approach: look at the theories, look at their testable implications, look at the empirical evidence and reach some conclusions about the theories after analysis, debate and discussion.

From Eric Zorn's blog at

THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2004
last updated 12:43 p.m.


Referencing the alarmist rhetoric from conservatives that allowing gays and lesbians to marry will harm the institution of marriage, I [Eric Zorn] wrote to my two closest married friends in Massachusetts:

How are your marriages bearing up this week under the eroding assault of legal gay weddings?

Does your union feel cheaper and degraded now that homosexuals can have something just like it?

Pete, from Falmouth, replied:
Remarkably, we're holding up pretty well. Shoot, we even know people-- I mean gay people!-- who have done the deed and yet our union has the same solidity it did last week.
Robin, from Amherst, added:
I can only report that accounts of the jubilate deo around here have not been exaggerated, and you know how joy is infectious. It's gotta be really hard work this week for those trying to hang onto their conviction that this isn't about love, life, and laughter. From where I sit, the institution of marriage is thriving.
I've asked them to let me know immediately when they see straight marriages begin to crumble around them.
Next Week's suburban edition of "Public Affairs," features, as its guest, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D- Homewood):

Jeff Berkowitz: Let me just ask you if you would concede two things: would you concede that it is possible that there still are WMD in Iraq that we haven't found? And, two, would you concede that it is possible that at some point between the time we made it clear that we were likely to take military action in Iraq and the time that we did, which was at least five or six months, that those WMD were shipped out, whether it was to Syria, or some other place, So, would you concede those two things as possibilities, not necessarily as things you believe are accurate?

Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: I am not going to concede hypotheses. What I will concede is that there are WMD in North Korea and we are not doing anything about it. And, we are not even having a conversation--

Berkowitz: Well, we are more limited as to what we can do there, aren't we?

Cong. Jackson: Well--

Berkowitz: Unless we want to take a higher risk of nuclear war.

Cong. Jackson: The message we are sending to our children, Jeff, is that is that the means justifies the ends-- in this case, the end itself justifies the means and what we are also suggesting is that we have a different standard for North Korea and the people in the Middle East and that different standard unfortunately could very well come back to haunt future generations of Americans. The precise goal that we sought to avoid-- the way in which we handled this conflict would be a message-- to future generations.
Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.(D- Homewood; 2nd Cong. District), filmed on May 16, 2004, and as will be cablecast on "Public Affairs," the Week of May 24 on Comcast Cable in the suburbs and on Memorial Day, May 31 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 through-out the City of Chicago.