They were bipedal and married: a romance

Hey the Family Research Council has gone all Darwin and sciencey on us.

Some people believe that religious dogma is the only reason why anyone opposes same-sex marriage. Those who believe the human race began with Adam and Eve, and that their relationship was God’s model for marriage, believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. But those who don’t believe in the Bible, who think Adam and Eve are a myth, and who don’t accept a Christian view of the human person, have no reason to believe marriage is an opposite-sex union. Right?

Well, no, not exactly. Those who don’t believe the Bible is some kind of magic rule-book and who don’t want Christians telling them what to do, have no reason to think that the word ‘marriage’ has some absolute for-all-time set in stone meaning that can’t ever be changed, or that the word ‘marriage’ is the same thing as the institution of marriage and that both (or both in one) should be treated as sacred and inviolable and immune to alteration. Those who think Adam and Eve are indeed a myth have no reason to think that we can’t shouldn’t mustn’t alter our practices and domestic arrangements as our ideas about people and sex and morality change. It’s more like that. It’s not that we disagree that marriage has always referred to the legal union of a woman and a man* – it’s that we disagree that it can’t now expand its meaning to cover other kinds of couples. It’s that we think it’s a human arrangement, intended to meet human needs of some kind, and that we are free and entitled and allowed to adapt it to meet other needs, or the same needs of other people, or both.

But never mind that, go ahead.

The scientists believe that a primate skeleton found in Ethiopia is that of a human ancestor—one that lived 4.4 million years ago. Almost at the end of this long piece, the article describes what C. Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist at Kent State University, says about the social organization of this species:

The males, he argues, pair-bonded with females. Lovejoy sees male parental investment in the survival of offspring as a hallmark of the human lineage. So, how long has marriage (i.e., “pair-bonding”) been a male-female union? About four million, four hundred thousand years, if this secular scientist is to be believed.

Uh…..pair-bonding isn’t the same thing as marriage, which is kind of the point. Gay pair-bonding already exists and is now mostly legal, but many gay people want marriage. Ardipithecus didn’t have marriage. Furthermore, the fact that males, according to Lovejoy, pair-bonded with females, of course doesn’t necessarily mean that all males pair-bonded with females or that all females pair-bonded with males. Obviously Lovejoy would have no way of knowing that, and it’s most unlikely that he meant to imply that. He meant, it seems fair to say, that in general males pair-bonded with females – as opposed to abandoning them after mating and playing no role in child-rearing. And furthermore again – what does the Family Research Council care what some pesky secular scientist says?

It cares because it wants to say

Marriage is not merely a religious institution, nor merely a civil institution. It is, rather, a natural institution, whose definition as the union of male and female is rooted in the order of nature itself.

Fine. Marriage is the institutionalization of a natural tendency to pair-bond, if you like. Fine. But so what? Pair-bonding has fostered a vast array of elaborations and decorations over these 4.4 million years, so what is the problem if some people want to avail themselves of the institutionalized version even though they don’t match the male-female child-rearing model? The old model gets to continue, complete with quarrels and divorce and bad jokes, so what difference does it make if other people join the party too? None. But the FRC isn’t going to mention that aspect of the story.

*Though of course we do disagree – since it has meant other things too, such as polygamy.

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