'Facts,' 'Values,' and the Redefinition of 'Marriage'

The ruling that overturned California's Proposition 8 last week is a significant step in America's descent into secularism. The decision builds a case for same-sex marriage by pitting objective "facts" against "private values," then dismissing values as a basis for law -- a favorite strategy in the secularist playbook. 

During the trial, the lawyers challenging Proposition 8 produced a parade of scholars and researchers -- psychologists, sociologists, historians, and political scientists from the nation's top universities -- who presented studies purporting to find that same-sex couples are equal in every way to opposite-sex couples. In the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, the expert testimony added up to "overwhelming evidence" that Proposition 8 violated same-sex couples' rights to due process and equal protection.

Against that mountain of putative scientific facts stood nothing but a "moral view" that same-sex marriage is wrong -- a view the judge dismissed as "private" and "irrational."

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. 

And because morality was objective truth, it had equal standing with scientific truth in decisions about public policy.

Today, however, most of academia accepts what is called the fact/value split, which reduces values to nothing but personal preferences. The term values literally means whatever an individual or group values -- what she approves or disapproves of, likes or dislikes. This explains why Walker disparaged the motives of Proposition 8 supporters, saying they were acting out of "unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples." 

It also explains why the plaintiffs' lawyers worked so hard to collect studies and claim science in support of their position. They understand that what is accepted as facts will trump mere values every time. And it only adds fuel to the fire when those values are described as "cherished" or "deeply held." Such emotive language reinforces the secular stratagem that reduces values to private feelings instead of respecting them as objective truths. 

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 case will be appealed, but the "facts" that Walker enumerated will now be invoked everywhere as the scientific position on same-sex marriage. Anyone who disagrees will be dismissed as anti-science. We have seen this strategy applied to a host of issues, from sex education to abortion to stem-cell research. The secular perspective is labeled scientific while the moral perspective is reduced to private values -- which are then said to have no place in the public sphere. 

It has become a truism that politics is downstream from culture, and this case is a stunning example. It writes into law a secularized view of truth -- an epistemology, to use the technical term. No matter what happens legally, the judge's reasoning will be influential in the further secularization of American law and policy. 

Those who wish to have a healthy political impact must understand the underlying ideas that drive politics. When the fragmented secular view of truth is taught in the universities and law schools, it will eventually be imposed upon the entire society with the bang of a gavel. And that is a fact.

Nancy Pearcey is editor at large of The Pearcey Report. She is also the author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity and the forthcoming Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning. Pearcey@thepearceyreport.com
The ruling that overturned California's Proposition 8 last week is a significant step in America's descent into secularism. The decision builds a case for same-sex marriage by pitting objective "facts" against "private values," then dismissing values as a basis for law -- a favorite strategy in the secularist playbook. 

During the trial, the lawyers challenging Proposition 8 produced a parade of scholars and researchers -- psychologists, sociologists, historians, and political scientists from the nation's top universities -- who presented studies purporting to find that same-sex couples are equal in every way to opposite-sex couples. In the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, the expert testimony added up to "overwhelming evidence" that Proposition 8 violated same-sex couples' rights to due process and equal protection.

Against that mountain of putative scientific facts stood nothing but a "moral view" that same-sex marriage is wrong -- a view the judge dismissed as "private" and "irrational."

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. 

And because morality was objective truth, it had equal standing with scientific truth in decisions about public policy.

Today, however, most of academia accepts what is called the fact/value split, which reduces values to nothing but personal preferences. The term values literally means whatever an individual or group values -- what she approves or disapproves of, likes or dislikes. This explains why Walker disparaged the motives of Proposition 8 supporters, saying they were acting out of "unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples." 

It also explains why the plaintiffs' lawyers worked so hard to collect studies and claim science in support of their position. They understand that what is accepted as facts will trump mere values every time. And it only adds fuel to the fire when those values are described as "cherished" or "deeply held." Such emotive language reinforces the secular stratagem that reduces values to private feelings instead of respecting them as objective truths. 

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 case will be appealed, but the "facts" that Walker enumerated will now be invoked everywhere as the scientific position on same-sex marriage. Anyone who disagrees will be dismissed as anti-science. We have seen this strategy applied to a host of issues, from sex education to abortion to stem-cell research. The secular perspective is labeled scientific while the moral perspective is reduced to private values -- which are then said to have no place in the public sphere. 

It has become a truism that politics is downstream from culture, and this case is a stunning example. It writes into law a secularized view of truth -- an epistemology, to use the technical term. No matter what happens legally, the judge's reasoning will be influential in the further secularization of American law and policy. 

Those who wish to have a healthy political impact must understand the underlying ideas that drive politics. When the fragmented secular view of truth is taught in the universities and law schools, it will eventually be imposed upon the entire society with the bang of a gavel. And that is a fact.

Nancy Pearcey is editor at large of The Pearcey Report. She is also the author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity and the forthcoming Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning. Pearcey@thepearceyreport.com