More than the Ivory Tower

Judge Vaughn Walker

Sometimes human and social concerns with an intellectual dimension get mistaken for debate “in the Ivory Tower.”  This is an understandable mistake.  No harm done.  Still though, it is important whenever possible to set the course more clearly, and tie values in knowledge issues to pressing contemporary concerns in plain language.

Author and writer Nancy Pearcey has a short and poignant piece in the American Thinker investigating Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn California’s Proposition 8, explaining how the fact and value split contributed so centrally to the judge’s ruling.

She writes:

What this means is that Walker has enshrined into federal law a secular view of truth that drives a wedge between facts and values. Of course, everyone recognizes that there is a difference between factual statements (what is) and moral statements (what ought to be). But historically, it was understood that both kinds of statement make claims about what is true. If you stated what a person ought to do, you might be right or wrong, but you were thought to be making a reality-oriented, truth-based claim.

Regardless of one’s personal opinions on the volatile and highly charged issues implicit and surrounding Proposition 8, and the use of the judiciary to overturn “the will of the voting public,” what is important to note here simply is how relevant is the mission of VKF.  The success or failure of this project has and will continue to have constant and enormous implications for our lives personally and as a society.

Pearcey carefully walks the reader through the process to the point at which Walker can present as facts (guiding his ruling) the following:

Take a hard look at some of the sweeping “facts” that, according to Walker, are now firmly established by evidence:
  • “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.”
  • “The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment.”
  • “Having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”
  • “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.” (Translation: Religion is socially harmful — which suggests that it should be suppressed.)
  • “Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions.”

The conversation is best understood after reading the whole brief and clear article here.

The mission of VKF reaches into all parts of life, personal, in the family, and on the social level.  Scholars and institutions are devoted to addressing the impact of thought and its foundations.  But the urgent mission of VKF is not limited to the concerns of scholarly and intellectual institutions, it exists for all people since every one of us are affected by patterns and directions embedded non-reflectively in the unexamined assumptions of the information age.

About Frank Kaufmann

Work in: * Religion and Peace * Values in knowledge and Information * Luxembourg * Ivory Coast Consult in: * Interreligious and international relations, * Writing, Editing, Publishing, * Teaching, Training, Education


More than the Ivory Tower — 1 Comment

  1. There are about a dozen issues tied up in this social issue. I’ll raise a couple: (1) Are what the Judge is citing as “facts” actually “values”? (2) Is marriage a political act? Should any government or citizen’s referendum have anything to do with it? Or, is marriage a religious/cultural act? Historically governments did not marry people. In the US this only began at the end of the nineteenth century to allow interracial marriages. (3) In a representative form of government, should referenda be allowed? (4) Is the primary reason for gays asking a government to make marriage legal for the economic purpose of getting fringe benefits for a spouse? If so, is the original purpose of such benefits for dependents (namely children and mothers at home), and with both spouses working, should the nature of such benefits be reconsidered? (5) Is the reason government needs to be involved to distribute estates? Can’t you just leave your property to your partner in a will?

    I personally don’t see any reason government should approve any marriage. I don’t think marriage should either be for a political referendum or a judge, but for religious communities or secular communities in the private sphere. Unless you leave such divisive moral issues in the private sphere, you are violating the “freedom of association” clause of the first amendment, and undermining the idea of a religiously and culturally pluralistic society that is a core principle of the United States.

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