Saturday, March 16

Grow Up, Shut Up, Give Up, Or Dry Up

George Eff Will, "The shaky science behind same-sex marriage". March 15

IN the spirit of the thing let's begin with two "social science" questions. One: at the height of their swoony-ness, what effect did a personal appearance by Sinatra, or Elvis, have on the promiscuity of a town's teenaged girl population? And, two: is it possible to determine if this is the exact effect the proximity of CPAC has had on George Eff Will?

(Speaking of which, since the national networks didn't find that guy who suggested that Frederick Douglass should have enclosed a check covering his room and board in that Thank You note he wrote Massa even 1% as newsworthy as Ward Churchill or Jeremiah Wright, my favorite CPAC moment was Andrea Fucking Mitchell opining that "the people inside the room needed to find a way to connect with the people outside the room". As though this constituted a brave critique, and as though renouncing the very foundation of the organization wasn't the only possible way to do that.)
When on March 26 the Supreme Court hears oral arguments about whether California’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the constitutional right to “equal protection of the laws,” these arguments will invoke the intersection of law and social science. The court should tread cautiously, if at all, on this dark and bloody ground.

As opposed to invoking the intersection of law and religious tenet, which is an excuse to dance like a drunkard.
The Obama administration says California’s law expresses “prejudice” that is “impermissible.” But same-sex marriage is a matter about which intelligent people reasonably disagree, partly because so little is known about its consequences.

Talking about the "consequences" of same-sex marriage isn't proof of reasonable disagreement. If anything, it's proof of not having engaged the argument.
When a federal judge asked the lawyer defending California’s ban what harm same-sex marriage would do to the state’s interests in “the procreation purpose” of heterosexual marriage, the lawyer said, “I don’t know.” This was mistakenly portrayed as a damaging admission. Both sides should acknowledge that, so far, no one can know.

When did we all agree that the state has an interest in "the procreative purpose"? The question doesn't apply to both "reasonable" sides, just the one making the claim in the first place. A claim it can't back up. So, yeah, damaging admission. (Meanwhile, as has been pointed out again and again--engage the argument, George, or get yourself to an hermitage--the state permits senior citizen marriage, prisoner marriage, and marriage where one or both parties is barren.)
A brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the California case by conservative professors Leon Kass and Harvey Mansfield and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy warns that “the social and behavioral sciences have a long history of being shaped and driven by politics and ideology.”

Unlike, say, religion. Or The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
And research about, for example, the stability of same-sex marriages or child-rearing by same-sex couples is “radically inconclusive” because these are recent phenomena and they provide a small sample from which to conclude that these innovations will be benign.

Mathematics is the only science that isn't in a constant state of flux. Of the social sciences, only linguistics and physical anthropology can claim to approach "hard" science, in a court of law, anyway. That doesn't mean we, excluding Texas and Florida, of course, believe in frying the insane. Trials are all about weighing disparate testimony, expert or no.

Which is not to say "let's call it even." It's to say, "This is your fucking argument, not the fucking argument." The fact that the other side responds to those claims doesn't grant them some holy rhetorical credence. I really don't know anyone on the Right to Married Life side who argues like this. "Ha ha, some psychologist somewhere is on our side." It's a question of equal protection. Period. The rest is just shit your side has thrown against the wall in the hopes being plastered with feces will protect you from being homo-raped.
Unlike the physical sciences, the social sciences can rarely settle questions using “controlled and replicable experiments.” Today “there neither are nor could possibly be any scientifically valid studies from which to predict the effects of a family structure that is so new and so rare.” Hence there can be no “scientific basis for constitutionalizing same-sex marriage.”

No, hence social-science argument is a matter the Court will adjudicate, or ignore, which is the same situation that applied two-hundred and eighty-nine words ago, at the beginning of your column. Constitutionalizing same-sex marriage, which is, actually, not the question before the Court, (although the Court could make it so, and macaques could take wing from my rectum) is not, in fact, technically a question of scientific consensus.
The brief does not argue against same-sex marriage as social policy, other than by counseling caution about altering foundational social institutions when guidance from social science is as yet impossible. The brief is a preemptive refutation of inappropriate invocations of spurious social science by supporters of same-sex marriage.

"Social science cannot metaphysically refute our claims, therefore the only prudent course is to wait until it can. Reasonable people say so."
For example, a district court cited Michael Lamb, a specialist in child development, asserting that the “gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment” and that “having both a male and female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.” The conservatives’ brief notes that, testifying in the trial court, Lamb “had conceded that his own published research concluded that growing up without fathers had significant negative effects on boys” and that considerable research indicates “that traditional opposite-sex biological parents appear in general to produce better outcomes for their children than other family structures do.”

"The social sciences prove we should not listen to the social sciences."
The brief is replete with examples of misleading argumentation using data not drawn from studies satisfying “the scientific standard of comparing large random samples with appropriate control samples.”

Maybe both sides should have attorneys, then.

Name two, by the way. Just for fun.
The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a distinguished social scientist, said the “pronounced” liberal orientation of the social sciences is “well established” and explainable: “Social scientists are frequently caught up in the politics which their work necessarily involves” because social science “attracts persons whose interests are in shaping the future.”

Okay, even granting that "distinguished sociologist" is not an oxymoron, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wasn't one. He was a public policy maker with a sociology Ph.D, much beloved of people who think theatricality, vocabulary, and retrograde haberdashery indicate one is The Right Sort.
Since Moynihan wrote the above in 1979, the politicization of the social sciences has become even more pronounced, particularly in matters of “lifestyle liberalism.”

Yeah. The explosive growth of the highly-lucrative "addiction" counseling industry is just a minor blip that had nothing whatsoever to do with politics.
Hence the need for judicial wariness about social science that purports to prove propositions — e.g., that same-sex marriage is, or is not, harmful to children or society — for which there cannot yet be decisive evidence.

Of course, the rather clear picture of the dominant role of biology in gender and sexual orientation is irrelevant.
If California’s law is judged by legal reasoning, rather than by social science ostensibly proving that the state has no compelling interest served by banning same-sex marriage, the law may still be overturned on equal-protection grounds. But such a victory for gay rights, grounded on constitutional values, and hence cast in the vocabulary of natural rights philosophy, would at least be more stable than one resting uneasily on the shiftable sand of premature social science conclusions.

And, y'know, it's really easy to make an informed decision on just that question. Just a thought: why don't you guys see what it's like being on the right side of history for once?


R. Porrofatto said...

Once again, maximus gratias. Were she not a decent person and more like me, Mildred Loving would be sending a hearty "fuck you" to George Eff from the grave.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a social scientist, George Eff Will can shut the hell up, as can anyone whose argument boils down to the proposition that civil rights should wait until people like George Eff Will are willing to admit that it might not bring about the Downfall of Western Civilization.

Precisely the same argument has been made for 150 years or so about the effects of unleashing a host of desperately poor and essentially illiterate black Southerners on the nation by outlawing slavery. Wouldn't it be safer for everyone, and really kinder for those poor souls, to leave them enslaved until we can really prove that we won't all be worse off?

When some VDARE-citing asshole deploys that argument in front of cameras CPAC, most conservatives have the minimal grace to be embarrassed, but apparently as long as you substitute "gay" for "black", George Eff WIll is perfectly okay with expressing bigotry in print.

Kathy said...

Since when do conservatards give a shit about "teh Children"? If it were up to them, kids would be working 12-hour days in factories and fields. Any the schools would be private and expensive. No inoculations, no "Head Start", no 15 minutes recesses or breaks.

Weird Dave said...

The rest is just shit your side has thrown against the wall in the hopes being plastered with feces will protect you from being homo-raped.

You see? This is why Eff Will has a column in The Washington Post and you don't.

DocAmazing said...

Clearly, no new products can be released onto the market until they have been rigorously studied for safety for at least two generations.

Rugosa said...

If the social sciences supported conservative principles rather than "lifestyle liberalism," would Will still complain that they are politicized?

Anonymous said...

"...much beloved of people who think theatricality, vocabulary, and retrograde haberdashery..." Hee hee.

The sole raison d'etre of Mr. Will is as a butt for our lovable Mr. Riley.


Anonymous said...

.Still, I take comfort from the argument in court. It's the last ditch argument of people who know they are on the losing side of history. Just 5 years ago the same people were arguing that gay marriage was an abomination that MUST remain unlawful. Today they are down to "well, we really don't know enough about it yet, lets study if some more."
No one convinced they were on the winning side would cave so much in so short a period of time.
CVille Bob

Calming Influence said...

Conservatives fear that if homosexually becomes socially acceptable to the point that gays can marry, it will weaken the resolve of that fairly large segment of its base trying desperately to remain in the closet.

For instance Lindsey Grahmm, who happens to be gay as a french horn, may suddenly snap and marry Richard Simmons, admit that he's also always thought taxes were to low on the rich and that people with vaginas should have rights too, before switching parties to join Bernie Saunders' Democratic Socialist caucus.

Since it's well known to the Republican leadership that "G.O.P." stands for the Latin phrase meaning "Repressed Sexual Identity", it's a risk they simply cannot take.