A group of prominent Christians has published a letter indicating their intention to defy any decision by the Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage or overturns the Defense of Marriage Act. Without bothering to wait for the decisions in gay marriage cases before the court, they have argued that natural law supersedes the Constitution.

You can read their argument here:


Natural Law is a concept from Catholic theology that has been used to provide a basis for both morality and legality. A general discussion of its history and substance may be found here:


In a nutshell, natural law is a claim that there are objective moral (or legal) standards which can be discovered by human reason. As such it is not a part of revealed religion, but might be considered as part of natural religion. Of course in the present instance the claim is that marriage is between one man and one woman is an objective moral law.

The unanswered question is what form their defiance can take. Mere refusal to recognize gay marriages is a weak kind of defiance if it can be called defiance at all. Another question is the degree to which Americans are prepared to recognize natural law as an objective basis for actual law. I would bet that the notion of natural law is not widely understood. Its purported independence of religious claims is also open to question.

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In a nutshell, natural law is a claim that there are objective moral (or legal) standards which can be discovered by human reason.

Natural law = Humanism.

Nuf said. Morality and law is completely subjective, we are all fighting for our end of the blanket. Were there no political borders on the planet, we would simply have the freedom to associate with the H.sapiens we happen to agree with, and kill of the other when they mess with our space. Unfortunately the modern legal system imposes that completely refractary humans are forced to coexist, and waste all this time convincing each other that "I'm right no I'm right".  Our legal system insures that we're not allowed to kill off all the bullies and schizos and crazies, in essence, our legal system protects stupidity and devalues reason.
I am not impressed by either bunch.

I find it difficult to equate natural law with humanism. Humanism is a term used and abused in many ways, but taking it as placing human judgment above religious doctrine, it could be construed to include natural law as an objective ingrained standard distinct from doctrine, but it would also include the development of human values through the advance of social consciousness. Social consciousness is fluid, but natural law is fixed. All that might change is our understanding of it.

The proponents of this argument were looking to find a basis for rejection of the court decision which was not religious and which could be said to supersede the Constitution. They chose natural law, a concept unfamiliar to many, because it at least has a history in philosophy. Whether any such thing exists is the first question, but even if it did, how would you determine what it is?

Our legal system insures that we're not allowed to kill off all the bullies and schizos and crazies, in essence, our legal system protects stupidity and devalues reason.

The legal system should protect everyone by providing a method for resolving disputes and maintaining rights. Who could be trusted to decide who is stupid and deserves extinction at the hands of the system?

I'm not trying to suggest they are the same.

My point is that 'morality', for a significant part, is one of those things where we come to a gut conclusion, and then provide rationalizations for it. Experiments with the trolley car problem have shown that there is no rational consistency through most people's sense of right and wrong.

Even law works this way. Pretty much the goal of the law exists first, then a rationale and method is developed to achieve that goal. In private morality, people tend to start what they think is acceptable and not acceptable and come up with a narrative that supports that distinction.  Sometimes the narratives are fairly contrived.

In a sense, I suspect our moral sense is like the email filter you can put on you computer. Each time you get a spam, you can create a rule that blocks it. Eventually you have a bunch of rules that pretty much work, but are likely logically inconsistent.in a strict sense. Evolution has done the same thing with some of our internal social instincts.

Ultimately, much of our morality cannot be determined by pure rationality (as much as some humanists would like to make it so) because the real world is too complex. Rules like "best outcome for the most people" seem like a basis, until you look at he deterministic impossibility of assigning a globally acceptable calculable value to the equation.

I strongly recommend Jonathan Haidt's book 'The Righteous Mind' for an insight into the complexity of our moral sense.

I've seen Haidt's book and he is convincing that most people rely on emotions rather than reason in making moral judgments—that is the primary reason we have a system of laws. Otherwise society would be wracked with vengeance.

Nonetheless people can shift views if they are fully aware and involved in their experiences. William Perry described various stages in the ethical development of Harvard students in his studies many years ago and the "Perry Scheme" has been investigated by others as well. It starts with a primitive belief in absolute right and wrong and progresses to a more nuanced and complex set of values.

As Clive Bell put it "The first step in becoming civilized is the correction of instinct by reason."

Reaon may not triumph often enough for all the reasons Haidt cites on the basis of his research, but it does happen occasionally and it is an ideal to be fervently sought.

Every thing I've read about Haidt is complete scientific nonsense. He uses subjectively achieved interpretations and pretends they are science. He is nothing but pseudoscience. And though I fully realise some of us enact some sort of personal moral code, for most on the planet, morality (from the French mores) is a social code of conduct. So us personally who believe we live by a different code than others (such as myself) are in most regards illegal in many of our actions. Do we get caught... not so much, cuz we're wise enough not to.
The problem I see is when folks who claim to have a generally socially accepted moral code (Christianity) are constantly breaking their own moral codes... now that is the laughable one.

A society without our rigid legal structure would have more violent fatalities, less schizos, less sociopaths, less thieves, less wife-beaters and less rapists. The trouble with our legal system is that it defends not justice but wealth and power. People rely on the justice system for justice, but it's a futile dream. It's not at all a justice system, it's only a legal system, operating within an arbitrarily-set legal framework, designed by the powerful to protect the powerful.

I find it quite entertaining that it's the religious folks pushing this, they're usually such sheople.
Overall, I think it's a good thing to push the legal system to its limits, maybe then we can take our hands off our eyes and see how biased the system is.

As for "romantic love" and "marriage", I don't see those as "rights", they're but social fads meant to fit people into social molds. In the end, they are both detrimental to Homo sapiens well being.

Perhaps you should read the source. I somehow doubt you even realize what points he is making from the subject of your comments.

The material covers both his research and others in cross cultural comparisons looking at the psychological basis for even the existence of something we call 'morality'. There is nothing theistic about his discussion.

Morality  as a concept, not specific details, is far more involved in the human social instinct than either ideology or religion.

I have read several of his studies, they are pseudoscience. And yes, I do realise he has a huge following in some pop science sub cultures, but not among biologists.
In fact, there is very little about psychology that is scientifically based at all. We haven't come far since Jung. The entire field of sociobiology (any interpretation of nurture as nature) has been plagued with bad science, and I don't see it ending any time soon.
And as for "theistic about his discussion" I never said anything like that, so I have no idea what you're referring to.

Behaviors are subject to natural selection just like any other organ. Species evolve both physically and behaviorally in response to survival pressures. While people readily apply this to animals until recently there has been a strong resistance to applying it to humans (apparently driven by ideology).

The truth is that our gut behaviors are as much a product of our evolutionary history as any other animal.

Where Haidt has  been correctly criticized for his allusions to group selection (he is not, though a biologis) his field is psychology from an anthropological perspective, and there he is on quite solid ground I feel.

I was really impressed by the way he nailed the liberal / conservative divide and how each 'side' perceives the other. It was an alternative to Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas" where, in my opinion, Frank completely fails to understand why conservative voters don't vote they way he expects them to.

ALL cultural behaviours can be taught or untaught given the right circumstance. There is no biological evidence, no more than there is god evidence, that cultural behaviours are hard wired. So no, most behaviours evidenced today in modern civilisation are not in the least subject to "natural selection". Nothing in culture in so innate that it can not be undone by culture. Brain differences between political slants are no different than brain differences between un-traumatised and PTSD patients. The brain is highly plastic and any attempt to pass off anything from our "culture" onto biology is biologically indefensible. We are taught to be conservatives or liberals, we are not born that way, and major life changes rewire the brain and cause people's allegiances to shift, some even shift for no rational reason at all. Most biologists disagree with the Dawkins meme evolution ideas. Ideas are taught, and from one parent to the next, one generation to the next, what was thought to be hard and cold "innate evolved (rollseyes) culture" can disappear, just like that.  Attempting to mix evolution and psychobable is never a winning combination and only serves those seeking confirmation bias. It is the absolute worst case of bad science. Bad science is the very expensive price science pays for attempting to popularise science.
Always remember this: girls do NOT biologically prefer pink, girls are taught to prefer pink. This stands true for nearly all of what we perceive as cultural mores.
This will by my last response to this particular thread as I don't think you have a solid enough understanding of the biological sciences to discount your pop culture biases.

I think you are taking a straw man position.

Neither I nor Haidt nor any rational person is arguing that 'girls prefer pink' is genetic.However there are plenty of behavior patterns that are, and these are visible through cross cultural and cross species analysis. Are males more aggressive than females? They are in primates, in fact across virtually ALL mammalian species they are (with good evoultionary reason actually).

Studies of humans and other primates show a deep level of social instinct (though much higher in humans than even in chimpanzees). Frans de Waal's research into primates for the roots of morality is extensive and well document, these instincts enable complex social groups.

It's very true that humans are elastic in details, that is an important key adaptation it itself because culture can adapt to circumstance far faster than evolution. But the underlying instincts, the groupthink (adapting one's ideas to one's peers, the behavior modifying value of social approval/disapproval etc) are deep seated components of our psychology, components without which our massive societal structures cannot exist. Compare human behavior to solitary animals... solitary animals don't seem to care what other members of their species 'think' of them as long as it doesn't come to confrontation. With humans, the sense of being 'outcast' is painful and motivates the individual to modify behavior. This is not a product of human intelligence, it's a product of a deep complex social instinct, an instinct that has made human society the most complex on earth. It's also the existence of a complex social instinct that make domestic dogs (very social) and domestic cats (minimally social) so profoundly different in their behavior even in a shared environment.

What Haidt pointed out (and this point it seems to me you've missed) is that there are a number of axes that people place themselves on in their selection of a moral framework but every socially functioning human has these axes.  The mistake that many in the political world make is that they don't take the time to realize why others are coming to different conclusions... it's often NOT because they are unthinking or stupid, but because they are placing different weights on the underlying core components.

Art and literature have long addressed the core human experience, precisely BECAUSE we have far more instincts that are alike than acclimitisations that are different. This is all through the natural world. A chimpanzee does NOT behave like a gorilla, nor does it behave like a human.
[" Most biologists disagree with the Dawkins meme evolution ideas. ". Huh? Did Dawkins EVER even SUGGEST that this was an evolutionary component (he did not). There is nothing for bioligists to reject because the meme idea had nothing to do with biology execept as an interesting analogy.]

"The legal system should protect everyone...."

A legal system should protect the rights of all who are subject to it, but history tells us that those who create a legal system can and do write their own values into it.

America's Civil War era laws are one instance of many. Current laws on transgender folk are another.

James Madison in the 1787 Constitutional Convention told us his values: Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests and check the other. It ought to be formed as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. (June 26)

The many 5-4 rulings in the US Supreme Court tell us it's a political body, not a judicial body.

Certainly but the notion of equal protection under the law is a desirable ideal to be strived for whether or not it is achieved—it is enshrined in the image of blindfolded Justice.

Should an emergency room physician be permitted to refuse treatment to someone because their religious beliefs differ from his own? Should policement be allowed to protect only those with whom they agree on religious doctrine?


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