Saturday, August 11, 2007

God week continued: Margaret Somerville wises up on polygamy

Margaret Somerville, the Vatican's permanent representative at McGill University in Montreal has published a piece titled 'If same-sex marriage, why not polygamy?' in today's Globe and Mail. She issues another dark warning that gay marriage (which as a Vatican emissary she doesn't like much) would lead to even worse stuff like polygamy. It's a truckload of bollocks, really, but it's fun to read, mostly because it is so badly argued that one wonders whether the newspaper just wants to get angry responses tearing her argument apart.

Anyway, keeping with the spirit of trying to entertain during the weekend, I wrote this tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor of that paper.


I read with great interest Professor Margaret Somerville's incisive
analysis on the vexing issue of gay marriage and polygamy (Sat Globe
'If same-sex marriage, why not polygamy?'). I am always amazed how
Professor Somerville manages to write brilliant treatises on ethical
issues, given her near-lack of professional training in the area. Not
only that, in a world of overpopulation, the destruction of the
environment, genocides and mass murder, she routinely addresses
ethical issues that really matter, such as polygamy.

Her analysis cannot be faulted. She realises that there is no need to
provide reasons in support of her basic premise. We all know, deep
deep in our souls, that the only and the true reason for why people
should get married is in order to breed. It's all nice and well that
those homosexuals go on about loving each other, but surely it is
self-evident that love is neither necessary nor sufficient for
marriage. It takes true intellectual leadership, such as that
displayed by Professor Somerville, to drive such obvious points home
to our by and large ignorant populace.

As a great admirer of Professor Somerville's leadership in a field
that in many, tragic ways ignores her, allow me to draw a few further
conclusions that seem to follow from her path-braking analysis. It
seems to me as if we need urgent legislation designed to dissolve all
marriages that have not been reproductively successful within a
certain period of time. It would make much more sense to enter
reproductive losers back into the pool of potential breeding partners
and let them marry again. So, may I suggest that, as a first step, we
agree on a time-limit on marriages. If there's no off-spring within,
say, a year, we issue a first warning, second and third warnings could
follow within a few months. If no pregnancy ensues there must be
compulsory divorces. There is no other way. We should not get swayed
by some overly romantic nonsense such as the couple's professed love
for each other. No breeding, no marriage. End of story. Furthermore,
we urgently need to introduce pre-wedding fertility tests. After all,
if they can't breed, they can't breed, they can't marry. Of course, we
must be very careful with folks trying to cheat the system by means of
artificial reproduction, surrogacy or (horror of horrors) adoption.
Just because there are a few million orphans on this planet doesn't
mean we should allow non-breeders to get away with such betrayal of
the primary function of marriage.

Prof Schuklenk is author of 'How He Did it in Seven Days', 'Why
Non-Breeders are Losers' and other essays, Flat Earth Press: Roma.'


  1. This is a fantastic reply to the nonses of Prof. Margaret Somerville.

    I am agree with your argument.

    Saul Garcia

  2. Your letter was so ... convincing! Hope Margaret understands tongue-in-cheek-speak!

  3. Great response to a ridiculous argument.

  4. Mike HuttonAugust 13, 2007

    Professor Schuklenk,

    Thank you for your letter to the Globe this morning. I was beginning to feel like a voice crying in the wilderness in my objections to Somerville’s frequent op-ed pieces in the Globe and other newspapers. I’ve attached one of my letters which was published in the Citizen a while back. Not sure if you can answer this, but do you know why she seems to have been anointed as Ethicist-in-Chief for Canada, and why so many other professionals in the area don’t seem to want to challenge some of her views?

    Mike Hutton

  5. Difficult one, Mike. I had an argument with Julian Savulescu, a good colleague at Oxford over a related matter. I was/am frustrated that bioethicists too often focus on inconsequential issue and loose sight of the bigger picture - like people in developing countries trying preventable death because they can't affordable access to existing medication. Julian's point was that that indeed is an important issue but also that it is philosophically neither interesting nor challenging. While I am not entirely happy with his response, it would not surprise me if this was the reason why few to no philosopher or ethicists really engage Professor Somerville. Her argument as in the current commentary I responded to) are so poorly constructed that they come closer to Papal ex cathedra pronouncements than any serious kind of philosophical argument. In short, Professor Somerville typically preaches rather than argues. I doubt serious philosophers would want to spend too much time with that sort of content. - This is just a guess though. -
    Newpapers might like to have her content because it's controversial and so generates possibly a bit of copy. I doubt the papers are truly always driven by concerns for quality when it comes to the Op-Ed pages.

  6. Let's hear it for the Pope for setting the example: He knows that if he's not going to reproduce, then he shouldn't get married.

    Who was it who said: If you don't play the game, don't make the rules?

  7. Yay! Co-religionists! I was beginning to think I was all by myself in failing to see the Empress's new clothes.


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