This post, part of my ongoing ‘Just Add Logic; Won’t Hold Water’ series, is an interruption of the promise I made in my last post to deconstruct a NSWTF video on the subject of Local Schools, Local Decisions. That post is still coming, but this came to my attention and I wanted to address it directly.
Another piece of public rhetoric came my way over facebook in the form of a 2 minute video defining the marriage act. The video can be found here http://vimeo.com/44782830
This video presents an argument on the topic of Australia’s marriage act that, when put under scrutiny, fails to effectively argue its point and ends up being just another piece of meaningless rhetoric.
I will break down the logical argument of this post, and even go so far as to suggest a couple of conclusions that can be drawn from the evidence presented here.
“Boy… meets girl.
Boy desires girls, girl desires boy
As the days and weeks and months went by, boy and girl fell in love and pondered the nature of their relationship. They decided that they wanted to get married. Why? “
So the video opens with a narrative that draws on fairly familiar patterns. Then it ends with a question, the response to which is…
“Because they are a boy and a girl, who might one day might want to make little boys and girls of their own.”
Awww … how sweet. Marriage is the path to making babies. Hang on… I’m pretty sure that my year 9 science class on sexual reproduction was pretty explicit on the fact that it was the combination of male sperm and female ovum that led to a baby. I don’t remember there being a step in the process that required the contributing parents to get married first. Is this video trying to make the argument that Marriage is essential to the production of children? Or is it perhaps overemphasising the importance of marriage in the process? Do I really need to answer my own rhetorical questions? No. Let’s move on.
“This is called the act of marriage, and its currently legislated by the marriage act of Australia, defined as ‘between a man and a woman’.”
The sentence before this was detailing how the boy and girl might want to make boys and girls of their own, and apparently THAT is called the act of marriage? I can’t remember ever hearing sexual reproduction, or the associated act of sex referred to as the act of marriage before. I’ve heard it referred to as the act of making love by those seeking to romanticise or bowdlerise the act of sex. But ‘Marriage’? This video is, in terms of logical argument, seeking to prove that sexual reproduction is called the act of marriage.
That doesn’t seem right. Another way to read it would be as an example of a Non-Sequitur, an illogical argument where the conclusion drawn does not follow from the argument and evidence provided, usually used to imply a logical connection where none exists, and often used disingenuously to try and trick an audience into making that false leap of logic in their own heads. The video wants us to believe that heterosexual unions that produce offspring is an action that is called the act of marriage, even though the video does not address the fairly common-knowledge disassociation of sexual reproduction from marriage. It is hoping that the audience will make that connection and just ignore any cognitive dissonance that may arise.
“Their love is not protected by the marriage act. See their love was filled with passion and desire, though their sexual energy did not need protection from the government. They had a strong friendship, though the govt. had better things to do than set the terms of that friendship. Their love was about sacrifice, though the government did not need to ensure that they put each other first.”
This section barely holds together at all. What does government protection of, or protection from the government of love, friendship or sexual energy have to do with anything that has come so far?
We have a strong of non-sequitur arguments with no explicit logical connection all being presented together in the expectation of the audience making a message out of it.
This is an example of a con-man trick known to some as the ‘gish-gallop’, where you throw a bunch of words and phrases at the audience in the hope of confusing them and baffling their ability to argue back. In this particular passage there are a lot of positive sounding words – friendship, love, sexual energy, protection, passion, desire – but the sentences don’t actually present any coherent argument.
This passage is a worry because it suggests that this video, apart from so far failing to present any logical argument, may actually be some form of con, a deliberate a knowing lie intended to confuse and disorient, rather than genuinely inform.
“The govt. legislates marriage because the central purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, and biologically, one boy and one girl is the recipe for more boys and girls.”
Here’s another clear logical fallacy: Begging the Question. This statement is expecting us to assume that the statement as to the purpose of marriage is correct. This is a highly contentious issue, as marriage was originally established as a form of property contract, and since the acceptance of civil unions, marriage has adopted a legal status independent of producing offspring, instead providing a legal status that has implications for tax status and ownership laws. The point here is that the idea that the ‘central purpose of marriage is to produce offspring’ is a statement that in and of itself needs to be proven.
“Its out ancient and organic origins.”
What is? Marriage? Or one boy plus one girl equals babies? This point is very unclear in its intention. If it is suggesting that Marriage is our ancient and organic origins, then what is organic about marriage? And how were people producing children before the social contract of marriage existed?
If the video is suggesting that the boy+girl idea is our ancient origins, then that only further confuses the issue of the relationship between marriage and reproduction by identifying that sexual reproduction is ancient and organic, which means marriage is… modern and synthetic?
Overall, this is another Non-Sequitur, or more correctly and attempt to encourage the audience to draw their own non-sequitur conclusions that marriage and sexual reproduction are united – even though the video doesn’t explicitly state that.
“Marriage, the way it currently is, doesn’t take away any rights or laws form other types of couples in Australia.”
This sentence is self-defeating and therefor meaningless. By invoking the legal definition of marriage earlier in the video, this argument acknowledges the fact that marriage is a legally defined status. Therefore, by denying marriage to anyone, they are denied the legal status of being married and thus denied definition under the marriage act, which is a law!
“84 laws were changed to ensure there is no discrimination against any couples in Australia.”
… Except for the marriage act which discriminates against same sex couples…?
The lack of integrity present in this sentence is as bemusing as it is depressing. Depressing that such a statement could be made earnestly, and depressing that someone would accept it as a truthful statement without recognising the glaring logical hole right there in the middle. Still, half of all people are below average intelligence…
“There’s a place for every relationship in Australia, so lets’ keep the marriage act intact.”
Another wonderful example of a non-sequitur, and this time in a single sentence. The perception that every relationship ‘has a place’ has no direct correlation to the idea of leaving the marriage act ‘intact’.
Also, the concept of keeping the marriage act ‘intact’ denies the fact that it has been amended form it’s original wording – specifically in 2004 when the definition of marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman was added. If we were to stick to the ‘traditional’ definition of marriage under the Australian marriage act, the definition that existed for most of the acts history from 1961 to 2004 – THERE WOULD BE NO DEFINITION! Marriage would just be between two people.
“When 73% of Australians believe that babies should be raised by their biological Mum and Dad, and when 72% of Australian children are being raised by both their biological parents in 2.1 million families.”
These are not even complete statements. They are lacking the necessary explanation that would be linked with a conjunction such as ‘then’ or ‘because’. Read these sentences in isolation and try to identify exactly what they are saying and how they are intended to relate to the discussion at hand. I suspect they are another example of encouraging the audience to form a non-sequitur conclusion.
“If we add to, or subtract from the marriage act, it will no longer be what it is.”
Just like it no longer is what it used to be after it was amended in 2004. Perhaps the person who wrote the script for this video doesn’t actually understand the legal process of Australia, nor do they understand that laws are able to be amended by the politicians of the day. I can’t decide which I think is worse, the writer’s grasp of legislative process, or their capacity to argue their case. Both seem exceptionally poor. Unless, of course, they’re knowingly misrepresenting the situation in an effort to confuse the audience on the facts of the issue.
“The marriage act is not only about love. Why would you want the government to regulate your love, anyway?”
Hang on, earlier in the video it was stated that the marriage act was specifically not about love, now they’re saying it’s not ONLY about love? This is another act of self contradiction that renders both points somewhat meaningless.
“So the boy and the girl, decided to get married, because one day they might want to make little boys and little girls of their own, and raise their future generations together as a couple.”
Narrative closure… but wait…
“And that’s what the marriage act legislates.”
No, it doesn’t. Well, it doesn’t if you actually read it. Or if you could actually decipher what this video is trying to say marriage actually IS.
“Lets’ celebrate marriage.”
Absolutely. Once we figure out what it actually is.
So, in this video we have a new record of not even a single valid point of argument or substantial piece of evidence being put forward, yet many examples of attempts to misdirect, misinform and potentially deliberately baffle the audience into making a false association between the concepts of sexual reproduction and the legal definition of marriage.
Is such confused writing the product of a lack of understanding or ability to write a coherent argument? Or was it the product of an attempt to confuse, baffle and persuade without providing argument or evidence? You can decide that one for yourself. Personally, I’m going to be charitable and suggest that the writer is just unskilled and uninformed, because to accuse them of attempting deliberate manipulation wouldn’t be very polite of me.