Thursday, November 02, 2006

Debunking the Scandinavia Argument's Inductive Reasoning: Coexisting Vs. Codependent

(See intro.)

When first heard, the proposal that de facto gay marriage is the cause of high out-of-wedlock birthrates seems a little absurd. The two concepts strike an initial dissonance of biological logic. Still, from a sociological angle, Stanley Kurtz composes an argument for the two that does appear reasonable a first, but with thorough reading becomes blatantly off-key with his own facts. There prevails a feeling that either common sense is lacking in Kurtz's conclusion, which overlooks much of what he describes about the situation in Scandinavia or that he is intentionally evading these serious points that should be considered.

In the early nineties, gay marriage came to the Nordic countries, where the out-of-wedlock birthrate was already high. Ten years later, out-of-wedlock birth rates have risen significantly in the middle group of nations. Not coincidentally, nearly every country in that middle group has recently either legalized some form of gay marriage, or is seriously considering doing so. Only in the group with low out-of-wedlock birthrates has the gay marriage movement achieved relatively little success.

This suggests that gay marriage is both an effect and a cause of the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood. As rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry?

Kurtz's essay has several sections like this that point out the chronological impossibility of gay marriage being the direct cause of marital breakdown. What is interesting about this example is that it states that the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood brought forth the legalization of gay marriage. When a conclusion evokes a kind of reverse catch-22 like this, it is usually wise to question the possibility of a third variable from which both issues stem from. Kurtz is taking two things that seem to coexist and concluding that they are codependent without considering other factors that he addresses elsewhere.

A 2002 study by the Max Planck Institute, for example, concluded that countries with the lowest rates of family dissolution and out-of-wedlock births are "strongly dominated by the Catholic confession." The same study found that in countries with high levels of family dissolution, religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, had little influence.

The resonance of this interesting fact is solidified by the following where he notes that:

Swedes themselves link the decline of marriage to secularism. And many studies confirm that, throughout the West, religiosity is associated with institutionally strong marriage, while heightened secularism is correlated with a weakening of marriage. Scholars have long suggested that the relatively thin Christianization of the Nordic countries explains a lot about why the decline of marriage in Scandinavia is a decade ahead of the rest of the West.

I would not go so far as to say that a country must have a "thin Christianization" in order to legalize gay marriage. One fact cannot be denied though: the largest opposition to gay marriage are organized, fundamentalist or otherwise strongly conservative religious groups (notably Christians, Catholics and Muslims). It is perfectly logical that areas with stronger separations of church and state would be more likely to legalize de facto gay marriage than those without. When you consider that much of Scandinavia seems not only to be secular but socially radical...

There are also cultural-ideological causes of Swedish family decline. Even more than in the United States, radical feminist and socialist ideas pervade the universities and the media. Many Scandinavian social scientists see marriage as a barrier to full equality between the sexes, and would not be sorry to see marriage replaced by unmarried cohabitation. A related cultural-ideological agent of marital decline is secularism. Sweden is probably the most secular country in the world. Secular social scientists (most of them quite radical) have largely replaced clerics as arbiters of public morality.

...the result becomes painfully obvious. The acceptance of gay marriage and the decline of marriage alone imply no intrinsic correlation or dependence. A pattern alone tells not its how's and why's, and the appearance of a pattern that is not confirmed through deductive reasoning tells nothing certain of what is actually being observed. It was greatly through the regional decline of their mutual opposition (the church) that out-of-wedlock birthrates and de facto gay marriage came to Scandinavia. Notably with the former, there are many other variables to be considered (such as how Sweden's welfare system encouraged the decline in marriage) but it is Scandinavia's radical secularism that aided both.


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