How Do You Argue With Someone Immune To Evidence? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 9 2012 @ 7:28pm

by Patrick Appel

Maggie Gallagher says that her opposition to marriage equality cannot be changed. Rod Dreher, who also opposes gay marriage, compares me to Gallagher:

I wonder what evidence would convince Patrick, or his boss, to change their minds about same-sex marriage. I’m confident that there is none, that they are as committed to their position in favor of it as Gallagher is against it. This is not to say that the positions are equally rational, but only that at bottom, each side reasons from first principles about the way the world works — principles that are not ultimately derived from reason, but that reflect a religious, or quasi-religious, interpretation of the world. Karl Popper said that in matters of empirical observation — which is to say, in science — a claim has to be in principle falsifiable. That is, it has to be able to be proven wrong, in theory. If there is no way to demonstrate empirically that the hypothesis is wrong, then the claim becomes something other than science. 

If there were real evidence that marriage equality made gay couples unhappy, if the children of gay parents were severely damaged due to their upbringings, and if same-sex marriage truly were a grave threat to straight marriage, I'd reconsider my views.

My support for marriage equality originated from experiences with gay friends and families. That support grew stronger after deep study of the opposition's flimsy arguments. Watching the Prop 8 case, it was revealing that opponents of equality couldn't produce a single expert witness who could make a strong secular case against marriage equality. 

Before gay marriage was legal anywhere, arguments for or against it were mostly based on first principles and theoretical conjectures. Now that there are real-world examples of same-sex marriages, evidence-based arguments for or against equality are possible. Opponents of equality retreat to first-principles arguments because the facts are increasingly stacked against them.

Political opinions are not science, but they can be informed by science. Gallagher's fact-resistant opinion has almost nothing to do with gays themselves. Her opposition is rooted in theology and was likely reinforced by personal longings for a nuclear family.