Ah, the joy of sticking your nose into other people’s conversations! On my Critical Conversations book web page I set up a Q&A page. It’s a book for Christian parents. The Q&A was for them, too, or for people with legitimate interest in the contents of the book. And Q&A is different from debate, right?
Well, who shows up there but Bob Seidensticker, the scoffing mocking atheist whose “civil critique” of Christianity is anything but that (especially in his and other’s comments), and John Irenicus, whose proven intention likewise is to undermine Christian belief and morality.You’d think they would have recognized this was someone else’s conversation.
But no. Bob barged in anyway. I answered his question there, since it was the kind of thing some people might have asked who actually had a legitimate interest. John followed up with a thoroughly thoughtless argument thinly disguised as a question, destined to turn that Q&A into the same kind of long debates we have here. I said I would respond here instead of spoiling the Q&A. So here goes.
Imagine that you and your wife would have found out that you are infertile shortly before you got married. Would your wife have had a moral obligation to break off the engagement and marry someone else? If not, explain why not and explain how exactly the reason you come up with doesn’t apply to gay couples.
This is the kind of “moral dilemma” argument people like to pose in philosophy classes, too:
Suppose x happens; not that x ever does happen, but suppose it does anyway. What does your moral philosophy, which you use to guide daily decisions about daily questions, have to say about x, which never happens? If it turns out x is hard to answer, maybe your whole moral system is wrong!
These kinds of arguments deserve their own skepticism. No one ever said moral systems need to be airtight against all imaginable unlikely circumstances.
Let’s see now what John Irenicus was really asking. I can’t think of any scenarios that would fit his question except something like,
Suppose that shortly before the wedding, the man suffered an emasculating injury, or the woman had a sudden serious disease requiring emergency hysterectomy, or one of them became a quadriplegic through an accident. Would they have a moral obligation to call off the wedding now because they couldn’t have children?
Either that, or,
Suppose the couple had been trying and trying and trying to have kids before they got married, until they went to a fertility specialist and discovered one of them had a problem. Should they call off the wedding?
I think John thought he was lobbing a simple stumper in on someone else’s conversation. What he was really asking, though, had he given it half a minute’s thought, was a stupidly insensitive question about how two people should handle sudden tragedy with disastrous lifelong implications at the point of their also becoming married. That, or else it was a question about how to apply moral answers to an already immoral circumstance — which is never easy, either.
Either way, I’m having trouble seeing why his question deserves the respect of an answer. It wasn’t an argument. It wasn’t even properly a question, considering how poorly it was thought through.
I don’t have time for this kind of thoughtless scoffing. Not even here where the point is to have a good debate. There’s no good debate to be found here.
If you want to have a real debate, ask a real question.