The Moral Intuition of Children

So, I was reading a blog post from a conservative who is quite upset about the Obergefell decision and who linked to a few articles from likeminded citizens. One piece, from Hunter Baker, “Erickson, Sullivan, and What ‘Bigots’ Deserve,” stood out to me for its egregiously bad logic:

I think one way I could try to defend opponents of gay marriage from charges of rank bigotry is to examine the moral intuitions of children. In the course of raising mine, I have noticed that they had no underlying matrix of reason by which to understand racism. When they were a little younger, they never talked about a child as being black or white. The racial awareness simply wasn’t there. If I heard them telling a story about a classmate and wanted to know more about the child, I would ask them to describe the child. They would then include a description which might include something like light skin or dark skin, straight or curly hair, tall or short, etc. The implication is that bigotry must be cultivated.

Same-sex marriage is susceptible to a similar analysis. Because of a situation in our extended family, my children became aware of a man who wanted to be with other men instead of women. They simply did not understand why a man would want to share romantic love with another man. The idea violated their concept of what a man is. A man shares romantic/marital love with women rather than men. I learned this about their reasoning before I ever tried to explain things to them or to help them understand it. Just as a child’s natural understanding tilts away from racism, I would suggest that it tilts toward a complementary view of the sexes. In other words, men go with women and women go with men. Just as bigotry must be cultivated, so, too, must the appreciation of same sex pairings. In other words, bigotry is the result of intentional cultural work and so is the appreciation of same sex pairs. Neither is a natural understanding from the child’s point of view. (Please understand that I am not morally equating bigotry with cultural advocacy of gay acceptance. That is not the point.)

Let me see if I have this straight (no pun intended):

  1. Kids have to be taught to distinguish races and have bigoted attitudes toward them.
  2. Kids “naturally” understand that same-sex couples can’t or shouldn’t “share romantic/marital love.”

So, I’m sure Mr. Baker would agree that children raised by a same-sex couple would “naturally” be puzzled at the notion that two men could share love and would feel that such love “violated their concept of what a man is.” At the same time, I’m sure he’d also agree that someone raised by members of the Klan would be just as devoid of “racial awareness” as his kids are.

It wouldn’t occur to him that his children don’t see their friends in racial terms because they weren’t taught to see them that way, or that children raised in a conservative religious environment are not free of “intentional cultural work.”

Honestly, do such folks think before typing?


8 Responses to The Moral Intuition of Children

  1. yaanufs says:

    Maybe Hunter’s parents wrote a similar piece in the 1950’s about how their children naturally understood that inter-racial marriage was not natural?

    • runtu says:

      Exactly. What I find funny is that this is the kind of stuff certain people think is intellectually compelling. The stupid, it burns.

  2. zuort says:

    I agree that this article was GIGO. What I have noticed is a lack of engagement with the legal decision and process. It created a new civil right, and apparently it was in the Constitution for many decades, but we just didn’t know it. I disagree. Marriage isn’t a civil right. The founders didn’t discuss it and it wasn’t put in the bill of rights. Marriage has always been a matter of state law. If you like the decision, you give the suspect process by which the law was achieved a pass. But it’s bad precedent because it increases the likelihood that we’ll have more suspect decisions in the future, and some of them we’ll be against. Also, by elevating marriage to the status of a right, the court has immediately created tens of millions of bigots, and they aren’t all religious, and many of them are African Americans. Ironic and interesting.

    • runtu says:

      Actually, it was Loving v. Virginia that established marriage as a fundamental civil right. So, if a civil right was “created,” it was created in 1967.

  3. zuort says:

    Just watched an Obama 2004 clip where he said “I don’t think marriage is a civil right”. Apparently there’s some nuance here that’s somewhat complicated. So which is it? And of course the Loving court only had in mind traditional marriage. Now marriage has been redefined at the federal level, using the 14th Am. So is an institution that doesn’t accept and refuses to follow the redefinition in overt, expected ways a discriminatory institution that properly faces substantial legal consequences?

    • runtu says:

      I don’t think it’s fair to say “And of course the Loving court only had in mind traditional marriage,” as traditional marriage meant marrying within your “race.” So, yes, Loving “redefined marriage at the federal level.” And a religious institution that doesn’t accept the “redefinition” does not have any obligation to give its blessing to such a redefinition. But the state does.

      • zuort says:

        We both knew the Loving court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. So the reasonable interpretation in the context was to take the term “traditional marriage”, as used, to mean OSM. And we both know the two redefinitions are distinguishable and substantially different, and which one is fundamental. I’m not saying the other one wasn’t important.

      • runtu says:

        And interpretations change, reasonable or not. Regardless of my position on same-sex marriage, I don’t see anything untoward in what the Supreme Court did. They just did their jobs.

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