V. Conclusion


The articles in this series treated marriage from a Darwinian perspective in that it occurred to me that marriages replicate with each new set of nuptials. The thing for a Darwinian to do when he notices that something has been replicating for thousands of years is to inquire as to what it is doing that is causing itself to be replicated. As regards marriage, I wondered what effect does the form of male/female pairs taking on the obligation to form an enduring relationship produce that makes the institution valuable to keep around? The answer popped right out that male/female pairs taking on such obligations to one another prevents the problems that result from their production of children.

The problems we are currently experiencing with marriage are the result of the mistake of taking love to be the function of marriage. Love is the great Aristotelian virtue of marriage, that is, it is the feature whose presence contributes to the institution performing its function, but it is not the function itself. This confusion of the virtue for the function has had disastrous consequences for society.

Conservatives made a further terrible mistake in thinking they could win the argument by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and they put all their eggs in that basket. Such a definition appears merely arbitrary and discriminatory, and since the argument was whether such a definition was arbitrary and discriminatory, conservatives handed their opponents victory. Instead, what should have been done, and would still be worth a try, would be not to define marriage, but to declare that the social function of marriage is to prevent the problems that result from the production of children, just as the function of the police is to enforce the law, or schools are to educate the young.

For a list of answers to objections to this series, see How a Lack of Teleological Thinking Lost the Marriage Debate.

It looks like the debate has been lost for at least the next couple of generations. My prediction is that the social problems that result from the production of children without a society of strong marriages will continue to grow in scope until they become so evident that they can no longer be ignored. They are already glaringly obvious, but people are blind. At that point society will begin to ask how these problems may be prevented and how they historically were prevented. At this point it will dawn on them that they got marriage wrong all those years ago: that marriage is not just about love, but it has a social function. And then humpty dumpty can begin to be put back together.