The Spectacle Blog

The Inevitable ‘Inevitability Argument’

By on 3.29.13 | 10:11AM

Even the casual Facebook and/or Twitter user has likely come across something akin to the following exchange in recent days:

Proponent of traditional marriage -- “I believe that marriage has a definition and that is one man, one woman. I don’t hate gay people and I’m fine with them having similar rights when it comes to matters involving their loved ones.”

Proponent of re-defining marriage (or just someone who never took a class in argumentation/logic/reasoning) -- “Dude, it’s inevitable. Give it up, bro!”

Now, I’m not claiming that every exchange runs this smoothly or that either side is even fairly represented in my hypothetical scenario. But this whole “inevitability” argument for why those of us who believe marriage is an important institution -- one worth defending, whatever the prevailing cultural sentiments may be -- should shut up and stand aside strikes me as underwhelming and something less than compelling.

Other (relatively) recent inevitabilities:

1) The Titanic would never sink
2) The 2007 undefeated Patriots would beat the NY Giants in the Super Bowl
3) Israel would be defeated in 1948 by an army more than 5x its size intent on destroying them
4) The USSR would be the world's dominant force in the 21st century
5) Laser-discs would take over for VHS

The contemporary understanding of “progress” evidently has been reduced to “whatever is different than what used to be.” Or perhaps, “whatever those Scandinavian countries with free health care have already done.”

And when there are examples of actual bigotry and exclusion from our nation’s recent past -- i.e. blacks not being able to marry whites in certain parts of the country -- it’s comforting for those with some combination of a progressive worldview, short attention span and public school education to nod knowingly along when someone drops the “Inevitable” bomb on one of those “Bible-thumpers.”

I’m not here interested in debating the finer-point merits or pros/cons of the marriage issue. My humble agenda item is simply to point out that it is morally insufficient to use as the basis of the rationale for one’s supporting of (or remaining neutral to) the radical re-definition of the institution of marriage a “Well, it’s probably going to happen anyway” argument.

This intellectually-lazy line of defense presupposes that both sides are relatively indifferent to the outcome and that things have been left up to the dialectical pull of human history – that it’s all some sort of crap-shoot and that no concerted, socio-political effort has been undertaken for decades by those seeking to re-define marriage. And that those of us on the other side of the debate are merely being obstinate for obstinacy’s sake.    

The laws may all change. The courts may all rule in favor of gay marriage. Popular opinion may be swayed to a super-majority.

So what?

Nobody has any business to use the word “progress” unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say that nobody can be progressive without being infallible at any rate, without believing in some infallibility. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word “progress” than we…

I do not, therefore, say that the word “progress” is unmeaning; I say it is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine, and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who hold that doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word, but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us. It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be used by rigid believers and in the ages of faith.

--GK Chesterton

 

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