Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Prager Takes On

Dennis Prager’s essays are always something of a challenge, speaking mildly, for those of us who demand reason in our argumentative essays, but today’s Townhall offering is a grand tour of lunacy.


Prager’s basic thesis seems to be that divorce is not, in fact, a threat to the institution of marriage, despite what those tricky liberals are trying to get you to believe. Nay, gay marriage is the real threat to marriage! Divorce does no harm! Gays are the evil that is hurting marriage today!

He opens with this sentence:

One of the most frequently offered arguments by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is not gays wanting to marry a member of the same sex that threatens the institution of marriage, it is the high divorce rate among heterosexuals.

I had to read that a couple of times. I finally figured out what Prager was trying to say. He then told me that this argument was a “meaningless non sequitur.”

Hmm, I think. Does Mr. Prager know what non sequitur means?

Well, he does, of course. I happen to know that Mr. Prager is a scholar, so I know he knows what it means. He’s just hoping his readers don’t, I guess.

In any case, the argument that divorce is a bigger threat to the institution of marriage than allowing gay folks to marry is not, in fact, a non sequitur – which means, btw, “it doesn’ t follow,” and is a logical fallacy resulting when your conclusion does not result from your facts.

(Like so: Dennis Prager studied Latin. The phrase was in Latin. Therefore Dennis Prager must have had fish sticks for lunch. )

Dennis goes on to blather about how divorce does end “many a marriage,” but that this doesn’t mean it hurts marriage – laws no! – and that even if it did, that wouldn’t mean divorce threatens marriage.

I admit he loses me on the curve here. I think he loses himself, because he jumps into an analogy, and says, it’s like parenthood! Just because some people are bad parents, doesn’t mean we want to redefine parenting, do we?

Uh, yeah, Dennis, we do. Lots of people are really bad at parenting. So, yeah. We’ve been radically changing the way we parent over the past fifty or so years. I mean, you haven’t, probably. But the rest of us have.

Also? There’s the other fallacy you might have heard of? False Analogy? Look that sucker up for me, will you?

He admits we might need to refine the concept of marriage if it looks like it’s in trouble:

Why, then, don't we do the same regarding divorce -- think of ways to improve marriages and discourage people from marrying before they are ready?

But he doesn’t think we have to “radically redefine it…That redefinition is what threatens marriage.”

Well, you know, Dennis, that’s your opinion. It’s not based on fact. I think radically redefining it might help it. That’s my opinion. Lots of people share your opinion. Lots of others share mine. And before you drag out your blustery “all of human history has defined marriage as a man and a woman,” no, it hasn’t. So shut up with that, okay?

He then makes this kind of bizarre argument:

There is a second reason the divorce-rate-threatens-marriage argument is disingenuous: If gays marry, they will divorce at least as often as heterosexuals do.

And I’m like, and?

First, how does he know this? He doesn’t have any data to back this up.

And second, even if it is so, so what? Why shouldn’t gay folk be allowed to have the same sort of success/failure rate of marriage as straight folk do? I mean, Good lord.

His final argument is the really stupid one:

The third flaw in the argument is that it presupposes that every divorce constitutes a failure of a couple's marriage. Sometimes this is true; sometimes it is not. I know a couple married for 30 years who made a beautiful home for their three now-married children. The couple divorced last year because they had both concluded that they had drifted too far apart to continue living together in any meaningful way (one aspect of the drift was one partner's increasing devotion to religion and the other's decreasing interest in it). Who has the hubris to call their marriage a failure?

Okay. Whatever. This marriage is a wonderful success. So is a gay marriage that produces “years of comfort” to the couple involved and a “fine home to their children” it protects. So what’s your issue, dude?

Then he says this:

Finally, marriage is threatened not by divorce, but by people not marrying in the first place -- as is increasingly the case in the two European societies that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. …Nothing provides the antidote to narcissism, or the environment for the healthy raising of children, or the way for people to take care of one another, as does the marriage of a man and a woman.

Okay. Shall we talk non sequitur? How does he get from “marriage is threatened by people not marrying,” from “the trouble is narcissism,” to “it’s got to be a MF marriage”?

By just declaring it. Fiat.

The trouble with Right-wing thinkers, I’m afraid – at least those who publish on Townhall – is that they seemed to have stopped doing much thinking.


Diane said...

That is so nuts it makes my head spin. Especially the part about "if divorce is a problem, then gay marriage will make it worse." I sure hope he's lobbying the White House against its plans to force poor women to marry. More divorce, you know.

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to find someone who is as irritated at Dennis Prager's blather as I am. A loved one has constantly listened to his radio show for a number of years, and now shows definite signs of being brainwashed. Have you heard of any Prager cults? How can she be deprogrammed?