The Quantum Thomist

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Relationships Bill
Last modified on Sat Oct 30 17:43:08 2021

This statuary instrument going through parliment is proving rather controversial in certain communities. Muslim protests in Birmingham have recen getting the headlines (albeit over things which are currently being tought; the draft guidelines that accompany this statatory instrument would make this pilot program effectively mandatory), but it is not just the Muslims who are upset. Christian groups have also been campaining strongly against it. As part of this, we were encouraged to contact our Members of Parliment in a last ditch effort to get the guidelines amended.

Of course, these efforts won't succeed. The educational establishment and parliment are fully in favour of encouraging immorality and opposing the family, and it is unlikely that some brief letters will have much effect. But, for what it is worth:

Dear XXXX,


As you well know, there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour in this country. This has been recently been highlighted by the increase in knife and other violent crime in London and other parts of the country. However, knife crime is merely the most obvious symptom of a far more fundamental problem. Other symptoms include gang membership, theft, drug use, vandalism, promiscuity and relationship abuse and breakdown, and the disruption in schools by a small number of pupils that is causing considerable strain on both our teachers and those students who are more inclined to learn. A growing segment of our population are reaching adulthood with no real opportunity to prosper, or contribute to society. It is unfair on both them and the rest of the country to remain inactive in the face of this evil. While issues such as police and social service funding, and how that funding should be used most effectively, are important in dealing with the symptoms, the best long term solution to reduce these problems is to tackle their underlying causes. While we can never hope to eliminate anti-social behaviour (human nature being what it is), there are policies which can reduce the prevalence of those causes, and other policies that will make them and their symptoms worse.

Of course, determining what the underlying causes are is a much harder problem. I have seen poverty, peer pressure, social media, exclusion from schools, neighbourhood poverty, mental and physical abuse and others all named as contributing factors. Indeed, there is no one single cause or set of causes: each individual who practices anti-social behaviour will have been led astray by their own particular set of circumstances; no two identical. However, I think that there is general consensus that family breakdown and family dysfunction are one of the most significant predictors of youth delinquency [1]. Indeed, they are also strongly associated with the other issues, such as poverty and school exclusion [23]; and, of course, children from broken families are more likely to have dysfunctional relationships themselves, so the problem can continue through the generations. The different causes attributed to social problems among young people are not disconnected from each other: they are all interlinked and reinforce each other. A clear way in the long term to tackle the social issues which I highlighted above is to attempt to reverse the increase in family dysfunction. Indeed, it is a cultural imperative: the collapse of the family and the institution of marriage has historically invariably been succeeded by the collapse of the civilisation as a whole [4]. While not the immediate cause, the dysfunction and economic inactivity of a growing underclass of the people leaves the society too weak to withstand the next economic or military crisis. We should not be so arrogant as to think that our own society is immune from these cultural forces. Family breakdown and abusive relationships in families are not the only problems we face, but they are a key part of the problem, and the one I want to focus on in this letter.

In my view, one of the root causes of family dysfunction and breakdown – and one of the few which can actually be addressed by the government – is poor or absent accurate moral and relationship education. Commonly listed causes for relationship breaking are given as marital unfaithfulness, argumentative natures, financial management, lack of respect, alcohol or gambling addictions, disagreements over children, domestic violence, and growing apart (see, for example,  [5]). But all of these are ultimately derived from poor moral character and choices. To point out that someone has moral flaws (as we all do) is not to demean them; it is to offer them the opportunity to become better. The virtues needed to prosper in a relationship should be nurtured in our formative years, but too often aren’t. This is what relationship education should provide.

Another key issue is sexual behaviour before entering into a marriage. Sexual intercourse creates various hormonal responses which affect the brain [6]. Among these hormones are Oxytocin and Vasopressin, which create the bonding between sexual partners, and are crucial for encouraging the long term relationships necessary to successfully raise children. The more sexual partners one has, the less effective these hormones become, and the harder it is to form a lasting relationship. The more often you abandon a partner, the easier it becomes the next time. Pornography and internal sexual fantasies also damage our ability to bond sexually.

The problem is that over the past decades children have not been trained in the virtues, and given an understanding of what it takes to build a happy marriage. Instead they have been encouraged to experiment sexually. This is precisely the opposite approach to what is needed. While there has been discouragement of things like pornography, it sits alongside an overall message that leads to the mindset that seeks out the quick but damaging sexual gratification that porn provides. The sexually liberal culture of the past fifty years, with its focus on personal gratification ahead of long term joy provided by a stable and happy family, has been a contributing factor in the breakdown and dysfunction of families, which in turn is a leading cause of the social problems now clearly surfacing in our society.

I feel that improving moral, sexual and relationship education in primary and secondary schools is a key part of reversing the country’s decline. This has to put an emphasis on the natural purposes of sexuality, namely procreation, of marriage as the institution developed to provide the optimal environment to raise children, and of the long term dangers of promiscuous sexual activity: not only the social issues I have been highlighting, but physical, mental and financial health as well. The education needs to put a clear emphasis on the virtues needed to sustain a marriage: charity, temperance, patience, being slow to anger, kindness, generosity, compassion, prudence (particularly in financial matters), being quick to forgive, respectfulness, humility, being industrious and productive, and above all a focus on the good of the family unit as a whole. In addition, rather than just being thrown out vainly, the teaching guidelines needs to explain the theoretical basis behind these virtues. The definition of goodness is that something good is fit to achieve its natural ends. The natural ends are taken from the principles that define what a being is; in our case, they arise from our intellectual, social and animal natures. As part of our animal nature, we have the natural end of procreating; as part of our intellectual nature, we have the end to ensure that our children are raised in stable environment. Since both parents share the same goal and same primary responsibility for their own children, and have different roles in shaping that environment, they need to work together. While there are other moral philosophies than virtue ethics, all of them fundamentally depend on the cultivation of virtue. Unless the virtues are encouraged, people will have no natural inclination to fulfil their moral imperatives. And without inclination, those imperatives will be rejected in favour of cheap pleasure and what seems good at the time.

There are two different narratives in our country concerning sexual morality. The first, which I will call the traditional view, sees sexual intercourse being primarily orientated towards procreation, and sees the flourishing and safety of children as its primary goal. This is largely inspired by either virtue or duty based ethics. The second approach, which I call the revolutionary view, sees the primary purpose of intercourse as personal gratification. This is adopted by those who accept a consequentialist or relativist grounding for their ethics. The past half century has seen the promotion of the revolutionary view in our education systems and the media. This is to a large part responsible for the social problems which are becoming more prevalent. Since the revolutionary view does not place an emphasis on character formation to enable the stability of respectful marriages, relationships are too frequently unstable or abusive. For example, boys are taught one day to respect women, and on the next it is implied that women are just disposable sex-objects, to be used for casual sex and then cast aside. However, there is still a large swathe of the population who put our children’s future first and continue to cherish a more traditional ethics, and who wish their children to be given the same advantages. These should be respected: after all, the traditional sexual morality has been proven by the test of time, while it will take generations for the harms of the revolutionary approach to be so obvious that even the most stubborn revolutionaries will have to acknowledge them.

The problem is that there has been an inconsistency in the government’s approach: they want the societal benefits of the traditional morality, while continuing to promote the revolution.

So I was enthusiastic when I saw that the government was introducing a new statutory measure and guidelines on sexual and relationship education, something which is sorely needed to replace the current failed approach. I am fully in favour of good sexual education; but my fear is that in recent years the sexual education in schools has been so poorly constructed that in many respects it is counterproductive and has only served to encourage risky behaviours and attitudes. I was hoping that a conservative government might be able to reverse this tendency.

I am, however, disappointed. While the measure and draft guidelines have their strengths, they also have numerous weaknesses. The net result is that they will do nothing to reverse the decline in health of our families or encourage good sexual behaviour: much of it is just a continuation of the same teaching which has led our country to this precipice. It is foolish to think that implementing more of the same will lead to a better outcome.

Detailed discussion of the guidelines

The bill itself inserts the following clause into UK law:

(2) In relation to education provided under section 80(1)(c) and (d), the guidance must be given with a view to ensuring that—
  1. the pupils learn about—
    1. the nature of marriage and civil partnership and their importance for family life and the bringing up of children,
    2. safety in forming and maintaining relationships,
    3. the characteristics of healthy relationships, and
    4. how relationships may affect physical and mental health and wellbeing, and
  2. the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils.

I believe that the goals of this legislation are good, even if they ought to be expanded on. However, this legislation is also accompanied by teaching guidelines. While the guidelines contain a great deal of good material, other parts of them are very troubling. I believe that as a whole the guidelines will be counterproductive, and as such ought to receive considerable revision before they should be acceptable to the House. I cannot comment fully on the guidelines, but will highlight a few areas of concern.

For example, section 59, in the guidance to primary schools, states

Teaching about families requires sensitive and well-judged teaching based on knowledge of pupils and their circumstances. Families of many forms provide a nurturing environment for children. (Families can include for example, single parent families, LGBT parents, families headed by grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents/carers amongst other structures.) Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances and needs, to reflect sensitively that some children may have a different structure of support around them; e.g. looked after children or young carers.

This statement is at best misleading, and at worst simply false. Study after study has confirmed that children do best across a range of measures when raised by their own parents in a family with a healthy dynamic [7]. While I agree there is a need to be sensitive to children in other family structures – one must be careful, for example, to make a distinction between single parents, who do the best job they can in different circumstances and thus should be praised, and the institution of single parenthood which is known on average to clearly disadvantage children and which thus should be condemned and discouraged1. The goal should be both to support current single parents as much as possible and simultaneously to discourage the next generation from falling into the trap. And it must be emphasised that to be raised by a single parent doesn’t automatically mean one will be a failure, but it does mean that considerably more effort is needed to become a success. To teach children that all these forms are equivalent does them a great disservice, and cannot do anything but harm their future prospects of getting into a stable relationship. Instead, they should be encouraged to aim at marriage as the best environment to raise children in.

Data on LGBT families is still in its infancy, and most research papers are of poor quality, being based on small or biased samples, or subjective measures [8] (indeed, very little of social science research would pass muster according to the rigour demanded in the hard sciences). The least bad research [9] again shows that LGBT families are at a disadvantage to heterosexual families, although whether this is due to relationship instability or inherent to having both parents the same sex (and thus no good example of how men and women ought to relate to each other, or both parents providing the same type of influence while the other type of input is neglected) is unclear.

The idea that all family types are equally good is repeated in the guidelines several times. These need to be removed or at the very least clarified to avoid conflicting with the stated purpose of the bill to teach the importance of marriage in bringing up children.

Section 60 encourages the virtuous life, and what this is intended to achieve should be commended,

A growing ability to form strong and positive relationships with others depends on the deliberate cultivation of character traits and positive personal attributes, (sometimes referred to as ‘virtues’) in the individual. In a school wide context which encourages the development and practice of resilience and other attributes, this includes character traits such as helping pupils to believe they can achieve, persevere with tasks, work towards long-term rewards and continue despite setbacks. Alongside understanding the importance of self-respect and self-worth, pupils should develop personal attributes including honesty, integrity, courage, humility, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice. This can be achieved in a variety of ways including by providing planned opportunities for young people to undertake social action, active citizenship and voluntary service to others locally or more widely.

This is repeated in a slightly changed form in advice for secondary schools, in section 74. However, in neither place, is there any emphasis on teaching the fundamental reasons why these virtues are important. As well as practical actions to encourage virtue, the theoretical basis also needs to be explained, otherwise the teaching will have no impact. (No teenager reacts well to a seemingly arbitrary list of rules; but they do respond well to something that is clearly explained to them.) Nor is the list of virtues complete. At the very least, it must include charity (to desire goodness), wisdom (to know what is good), patience, the ability to forgive, and fortitude (moral courage), which are crucial to building up a relationship. Equally, thought needs to be given to explaining the link between the virtues and a successful relationship.

And that brings me to the next point: the guidelines do not define what makes a relationship successful. The definition of success is to fulfil one’s natural purposes. The natural (or biological) ends of sexual activity is the procreation of children and the formation of a stable family unit2. Marriage is the institution that has developed in society to provide the stability needed to allow a man and woman to come together to have and raise children. The best form of marriage is one where the man and woman are equally valued and equally contribute, albeit in different ways. Historically, of course, the structure has frequently fallen short of this ideal (usually by diminishing the worth of the woman, either through polygamy or by making her an inferior partner), but it has always maintained this focus on children. The other goods of marriage – that it should be long lasting (ideally life long), a financial merger, and the mutual companionship – are all justified from the premise that both parents have a responsibility to equally combine to raise and support their children. And this is why I was disappointed to read in the advice to primary schools a definition of marriage that excludes the children:

That marriage represents a formal and legally recognised commitment of two people to each other which is intended to be lifelong.

Without emphasising that the commitment made in the marriage vows is not only to each other but also any children, it is impossible for the students to understand why it is the ideal or what it was established for. The danger is that students might enter into the relationships motivated only for their own personal gratification. Of course, a stable family does provide a great deal of pleasure and joy. But if you go into a relationship for selfish motives, seeking pleasure and joy, you won’t find any lasting satisfaction. Instead, you need to enter into a relationship looking to serve your partner, and any children. A selfish relationship is not a joyful relationship. I don’t see any recognition of this in the draft guidelines. Equally, there is no recognition that the commitment and assessment of each other has to come first before the sexual experience. The danger of doing otherwise is that the pleasure of sex will entice people to become too deeply drawn into an ultimately damaging or abusive relationship.

Another thing lacking from the draft guidelines is sufficient discussion of how to choose a good partner. We have this statement:

Pupils should know
  • how to recognise who to trust and who not to trust, how to judge when a friendship is making them feel unhappy or uncomfortable, managing conflict, how to manage these situations and how to seek help or advice from others, if needed.

But this doesn’t provide good guidance to the schools, and so there is a risk that this will be taught badly. The dangers of choosing the wrong sexual partner must be emphasised, and the children must be clearly warned not to get into a sexual relationship until they are confident about the character and background of the other person. Someone who is emotionally immature is not worthy of you. The most important thing in finding a partner is to choose someone of a good character (which means that you also should seek to cultivate a good character yourself before expecting someone to start wanting to date you). Secondly, you need to both have a common purpose and vision to how the relationship will shape itself, and how you can each equally contribute to bringing it about. This needs to be taught if the guidelines are to meet the aims stated in the legislation, but unless it is in the guidelines, it won’t be.

The guidelines are full of comments which assume a particular philosophical or moral approach to sexual relationships, an approach which is ultimately contrary to the stated aims of the legislation. Here is a more subtle example:

Pupils should know
  • that each person’s body belongs to them.

This is in the context of staying clear of unsafe physical contact, which is certainly a noble aim. My objection is not with the goal of this point, but with the premises used to justify the goal (there are far better justifications). These premises, if carried to their logical conclusion, ultimately lead to a damaging perspective on sex and relationships. The idea of self-ownership of our bodies was, I think, first introduced by the philosopher Locke, and it has been inherited by our culture without much reflection, even though the original justification for the idea is almost universally rejected. Its main problem is that it presents a dichotomy between the person and the body. The body is not something that belongs to us, like we would own a shoe or a phone. Our bodies are a part of ourselves, not something separate; they define who we are. Cartesian (or gnostic) dualism, which presents a chasm between mind and body, is a very dubious idea. Gnosticism usually collapses into either asceticism (I must purge myself of the evil bodily desires) or antinomianism (since I am not my body, it doesn’t affect me whatever I do with it). The concept that we have ownership of our bodies has historically led to the idea that that we have a right to do what we will to our bodies. It should, of course, be better phrased that everyone else lacks the right to our bodies (more philosophically justifiable, and more to the point as well). Saying that we have the right to do what we have with our bodies negates our duty to do what is good for our bodies. The obvious examples of not doing good involve the extremes of gluttony or anorexia, or substance and alcohol abuse. But it is also key in sexual and relationship issues. Those ills are pointed out later in the teaching notes. My concern is that this statement implies a philosophy which, when worked out in full, contradicts that later teaching. It sends out a mixed message, which can never be good. My concern is not that such viewpoints would be taught. It is that they would be the only things taught, and the children not given the understanding needed to judge the strengths and weaknesses of different moral philosophies.

Would a child think through statements like this in this way? No. And that is the problem. The guidelines encourage children to subconsciously adopt moral prejudices which are difficult to justify and thus can lead to ways of thinking that are ultimately self-harming. Far more care needs to be made in giving the guidelines a consistent and productive message; while this example might seem small and innocent, it is indicative of a wider problem.

Another concern is how LGBT issues are discussed in these notes. We are undergoing a massive social experiment, without any clear conception of where it is going to lead us. Not everybody is enthusiastic about it. Under international law, parents have the right to guide their children’s moral education. The guidelines allow for parents to request to withdraw their children from the sex education, and that religious viewpoints should be presented as part of the religious education syllabus. However, this is merely a right to request rather than a right to withdraw, and it is not clear that it applies to the relationship education to be taught in primary schools. I expect that you have already received letters saying how important it is that the will of parents should be primary in these matters, and I would emphasise the point. Teachers and government ought to be there to serve the needs of the families of the country, and should not be tyrants over them. Section 37 of the draft guidelines, with its expectation that all pupils are taught LGBT content regardless of parental or even pupil wishes, turns the present government into a tyranny. For a Labour government, that would be upsetting; for a government that claims to be Conservative it is a scandal.

But this is not just a religious issue, and exemptions should not just be over religion. Sexually active same-sex relationships are known to be associated with numerous physical and mental health risks3. Some of the physical health risks are related to rampant promiscuity, but others are inherent to the nature of anal sex, such as ruptures of the colon, contact with faecal matter, and colon cancer. The mental health issues are commonly ascribed to stigmatisation of gay people, but with little evidence to support it [10]. If that were so, one would have expected the prevalence of depression, alcohol abuse, and suicide among the gay community to have decreased as our society has become more accommodating over the past decades, or between more and less accommodating cultures; and for there to be similar levels of long term health and psychiatric issues in other stigmatised groups. On a moral side of things, entering a same sex relationship bars someone from the natural end of procreation. None of this criticism of same sex activity is aimed against people who identify themselves as gay. On the contrary, it is motivated by concern for them. Our children should be informed of all the facts, and both sides of the argument. Then, when they are old enough, they can decide for themselves whether the risks are worth it.

In section 75, the guidelines read,

Sexual orientation and gender identity should be explored at a timely point and in a clear, sensitive and respectful manner. When teaching about these topics, it must be recognised that young people may be discovering or understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity. There should be an equal opportunity to explore the features of stable and healthy same- sex relationships. This should be integrated appropriately into the RSE programme, rather than addressed separately or in only one lesson.

There are several problematic aspects of this. Firstly, as I have stated, there are no healthy same-sex relationships, in that all same sex activity is strongly correlated with mental and physical health risks. There are, of course, some types of the homosexual lifestyle which are less unhealthy than others, and this should be taught. Secondly, “equal opportunity” seems a bit much, when it only refers to 1-2% of the population, and a same sex relationship is naturally sterile, and thus does not naturally involve the whole issues of successful child birth and rearing. Thirdly, these guidelines presuppose certain ideas concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, which are again unproven. Children are known to be fluid in sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the best longitudinal studies [1112]. Many of those children who initially identify themselves as homosexual later grow out of it. Similarly, there are plenty of children who have gender confusion before puberty, and then will revert to accept their biological sex when they get older [13]. There are also a few who go through medical procedures, which can be hugely intrusive and damaging (if nothing else, for the patients fertility), and then regret it4, while those who have undergone surgery continue to suffer from worse psychiatric health compared to the general population [14]. The surgery is always going to be physically harmful: it removes the ability to have children, and introduces hormones which can have long-term affects on mental and physical health. If the syllabus is taught badly, then it will encourage people into experimentation and doubt which will lead them into either a lifestyle which will cause them harm, or a medical procedure which will leave them mutilated and stunt their natural development.

My fear is that these guidelines, if implemented, will encourage the presentation of a biased view of these issues, with only one side of the debate heard, albeit one which is currently fashionable in certain circles. It will highlight many of the problems for those affected, and encourage various choices while underplaying the known risks associated with those actions. We should be more careful with our children’s lives. If children are to be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity, they must be informed of the health risks and dangers associated with it, and the current uncertainty of the research, as well as the options open to those directly affected by these issues. My worry is that children may be pressurised into actions (whether gender transitioning or sexual experimentation) that will harm them in the long term, when many of them will not genuinely have gender dysphoria or same sex attraction. Given these dangers, parents must be kept involved and have approval of their children’s education in these matters.

This is exacerbated by the recommendation of Stonewall as a provider of teaching materials. Stonewall are biased. Their sexually explicit material, including for primary school students, is designed to encourage early sexual experimentation of all types, because that is what their own moral principles demand. This is contrary to the stated aims of the legislation, and to what the country needs. They will not provide material that informs the children of the risks of same-sex relationships or gender transitions (just as other groups are biased the other way). As such, they can hardly be trusted with being the sole teachers of our children on contentious issues. In particular, Stonewall’s wider philosophy involves the acceptance of promiscuity and other dangerous sexual behaviour. Recommending them to provide teaching materials for a course intended to emphasise the importance of marriage and family stability is like recommending a fox to guard a hen-house.

Of course, nobody should promote the bullying of LGBT children. This is the one thing Stonewall have right. All bullying, for whatever reason (and we should not neglect other types of bullying: they are all equally bad), is incredibly harmful to the children. The motivations in teaching the reasons for the classical as well as the fashionable viewpoints are to inform, protect and help children, and this should be made clear. Children struggling over their sexual attraction should not be bullied over it, but listened to with sympathy and understanding. The concern is that more dangerous ideas will be smuggled in with the anti-bullying message.

Concluding remarks

There are two different and incompatible classes of philosophical world views concerning sex and sexuality. The first is the traditional one, which to be found in various virtue and duty based ethical systems. It argues from the premises of those systems, together with biological fact, to the desire to promote strong and stable marriages and families, and views sexual intercourse as aimed at procreating first and pleasure as an secondary offshoot of that. It promotes a more general view of love, emphasising charity as well as romantic emotion. It emphasises the importance of virtue and character building as the key component of a strong relationship. It is built on its own set of premises, which, over the course of millennia, have been well developed and refined. It is not just a product of Western culture: every prosperous society across the world, from Western European, Eastern European, Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and everywhere in between has come to adopt similar norms for similar reasons. Not surprisingly, all (long-lasting) religions have also adopted this world-view to a greater or lesser extent, although the motivation for holding it is not just religious. These moral perspectives have led to numerous stable and prosperous societies across the world.

The second is, in its current form, Western and modern, having been promoted for about the last century, and practised for about the last half century. It is ultimately based on certain consequentialist or relativist ethical theories, and in particular the idea that the moral goal is pleasure and that freedom ought to be absolute. A good character is deemed as an irrelevance and perhaps hindrance to its goal. It teaches that sex is primarily about personal pleasure and fulfilment, with children as a (perhaps unfortunate) side effect, and love as primarily romantic emotion. Relationships are to be discarded as soon as they cease to be satisfying; consequences for the children be damned. This ideology has evolved other the years. Modern LGBT theory is a logical consequence of it, and can only arise from its premises. Its advocates claim that it will promote sexual pleasure, avoid sexual repression, significantly improve the lot of women, and have no detrimental effects on society. Those who accept the premises of the traditional models predict that sexual liberation leads to the opposite consequences. Women will trapped in single parenthood and poverty and far worse off or condemned to shed their femininity in the workplace, there will be poor consequences for children and consequently increased social problems when those children become adults (and thus the issues will be passed on, only magnified, to each successive generation), and unstable relationships, ultimately leading to less long term satisfaction and greater mental issues in the population as a whole.

These two world-views are based on incompatible premises, and their consequences for society directly follow from what happens when you apply those premises in the real world. There are people in our society who (consciously or unconsciously) hold to either of these world-views. While it is true that the traditional moral position tends to be associated with the major religions, it is not true that it can only be justified by religious arguments, and neither is it true that every religious sect rejects the more revolutionary moral principles. Thus this is not solely a matter concerning the freedom of religion, but is more fundamental than that.

There are two fundamental concerns with the draft guidelines.

  1. The legislation emphasises the importance of marriage for bringing up children. It would thus seem to demand that the schools teach the more traditional moral perspectives which focus on this. However, the guidelines themselves construct a world-view which in some places clearly assume the revolutionary doctrine, and nowhere strongly emphasise the traditional philosophy (although a lot of what they recommend would be applauded by adherents to both viewpoints). There is thus a contradiction between the guidelines and the requirements of the legislation and the needs of society. By promoting a moral philosophy that has led to societal dysfunction and will continue to do so even more, the guidelines are very much counterproductive, and whatever good is in them will be lost.
  2. In restricting the rights of parents to withdraw their children, the government is forcing the second philosophy to become almost an established religious dogma of the state. This is against the wishes of a significant proportion of the people. The government has assumed that the precepts of that philosophy are true, when this is greatly disputed (as most moral questions are), and what practical evidence there is suggests that adopting the revolutionary philosophy is detrimental to society (while promotion of the traditional sexual morality has already been proved to lead to a strong and stable nation). Either both viewpoints should be fairly presented side by side from first principles so the children themselves can be exposed to different ways of thinking and learn the skills and difficulties of judging between different world-views, or the children’s parents should have the main say in which one is promoted to their offspring. Presenting both moral visions side by side is not like presenting the case for a flat earth alongside a round earth; there is no overwhelming scientific evidence that the revolutionary moral philosophy is correct. What evidence there is suggests that it is already causing great harm to society. The government’s proposal to indoctrinate the nation’s children in dubious moral premises against the wishes of the parents is both morally and legally unacceptable.

I would therefore appreciate it if you could raise these and other related concerns when parliament debates the draft guidelines.

Yours faithfully,



[1] D. J Smith et al. The edinburgh study of youth transitions and crime: Key findings at ages 12 and 13. British Journal of Criminology, 43:169–195, 2001.

[2] P. A. Kemp, J. Bradshaw, P. Dornan, N. Finch, and E. Mayhew. Ladders out of Poverty. University of York, 2004.

[3] Jon Shute. Family support as a gang reduction measure. Children and Society, page 1, 2001.

[4] J.D. Unwin. Sex and Culture. Oxford, 1934.

[5] Gravningen K, Mitchell K R, Wellings K, Johnson AM, Geary R, Jones KG, et al. Reported reasons for breakdown of marriage and cohabitation in britain: Findings from the third national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles (natsal-3). PLoS ONE, 12(3):e0174129, 2017.

[6] Joe S McIlhaney Jr and Freda McKissic Bush. Hooked: The Brain Science on How Casual Sex Affects Human Development. Moody, 2019.

[7] Karen Robson. Changes in family structure and the well-being of british children: Evidence from a fifteen-year panel study. Child Indicators Research, 3(1):65–83, 2010.

[8] W. R. Schumm. A review and critique of research on same-sex parenting and adoption. Psychological Reports, 119(3):641–760, 2016.

[9] Mark Regnerus. How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? findings from the new family structures study. Social Science Research, 41(4):752 – 770, 2012. [Edit: 30/10/2021 See also this paper by Sullins. Note that these articles do not represent the consensus in the field. That doesn't mean that they are wrong; there is a particularly strong pro-liberal bias in the social sciences, and this topic in the social sciences in particular. Maybe that is because of how the data has gone, or maybe the bias motivated people to perform their studies. My own feeling is most of the studies I have seen contain methodological flaws and isn't reliable. That include Regnerus and Sullins; although I view their papers as less flawed than the others in the topic which I have reviewed. A Notable response to Regnerus' work is at, which Renerus responds to here.

[10] Mark Regnerus. Is structural stigma’s effect on the mortality of sexual minorities robust? a failure to replicate the results of a published study. Social Science & Medicine, 188:157 – 165, 2017.

[11] Dickson N, Paul C, and Herbison P. Same-sex attraction in a birth cohort: Prevalence and persistence in early adulthood. Social Science and Medicine, 56:1607–1615, 2003.

[12] Savin-Williams R. C. and Ream G. L. Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during adolescence and young adulthood. Arch Sex Behav, 36(3):385–94, 2007.

[13] Thomas D. Steensma et al. Factors associated with desistence and persistence of childhood gender dysphoria: A quantitative follow-up study. Journal of the American adademy of child and Adolescent psychiatry, 52:582, 2013.

[14] C. Dhejne et al. Long-term follow-up of transsexual persons undergoing sex reassignment surgery: Cohort study in sweden. PloS one, 6(2):e16885, 2011.

1Note the importance of the phrase ”on average.” This does not mean that every single parent home will be a failure and every stable married home a success. A lot depends on other factors, including the financial circumstances. It merely means that more married couples will be successful, and that the most successful families will be disproportionately dominated by those headed by a married couple and the most problematic families disproportionately dominated by other family structures.

2There are, of course, other ends as well, but these are not replacements for the procreative and familial ends, but additions to them. An infertile couple cannot achieve the procreative end, but that doesn’t mean that it is not present, and doesn’t continue to define what a good relationship ought to be or what shape it must take: it merely means that, because of factors for which they can’t be blamed, this particular couple is unfulfilled in this respect; although they might have a fulfilling marriage in other respects.



Quantum Switches

Reader Comments:

1. Matt Smith
Posted at 14:51:16 Tuesday August 6 2019

Hard to know where to start...

There is so much wrong here it's impossible to critique it all in a reasonable time frame. When you disparage social sciences on the one hand, and make such claims as, "there are no healthy same-sex relationships" on the other, it really makes me think you ought to stick to what you know. Of course, I'm sure any papers you can find you think support that ludicrous and bigoted statement will be social science of the right sort, correct?!

Homosexual behaviour is natural (found everywhere in nature), whereas marriage is exclusively a human endeavour. Sex purely for procreation is on dodgy grounds just looking at human anatomy in detail, and primate behaviour in general. Really, just stick to God of the gaps arguments where you're less likely to attract unwanted attention. For example, why not try to explain either from evidence or philosophy how we could possibly know that our local, observable space-time is all of physical reality, and that the entirety of physical reality must obey the same laws as we observe here? You could then go on to illustrate how you know 'nothingness' could have preceded the entirety of (presumably finite) physical reality, just waiting for a disembodied Jesus to poof it all into existence.

I'll be waiting with baited breath.

2. Nigel Cundy
Posted at 19:43:15 Monday December 30 2019

Response to Matt

Dear Matt,

Thanks for your comment. Sorry that I haven't replied until now, I have only just become aware of it. I agree that I am stepping outside my area of expertise here. But that doesn't mean that my opinion is worthless.

With regards to my comment on the social sciences, I would stand by it. I'm not the only person to notice it. If you will forgive the wikipedia link as a summary,

offers a good summary.

One cause of the problem is the p-value test that is standard in the social sciences. There are various theoretical problems with p-values (such as positing a null hypothesis in a complex system frequently leads to a false dichotomy); but the standard of accepting something with p < 0.05 is to my my mind ludicrous. That's only 2 sigma. As a particle physicist, I'm simply not interested unless its a 3 sigma effect, and wouldn't announce it to the world unless it is 5 sigma (and even there I would still want more data and the result to be replicated by an independent study). p < 0.05 is (if there is no systematic error) only a 1 in 20 chance of a spurious result; that sort of thing happens all the time only to go away again when you analyse further. Given that there are numerous different ways of analysing the data and parametrising your regression tests, any inventive researcher could get that down to one in four at least. Then there are problems in assigning numbers to certain questions. "How happy are you on a scale of 1 to 5?" What does a score of 4 mean? Then there are systematic problems in many studies I have seen: small sample sizes, biased samples (e.g. advertising for people to participate in the effects of homosexual therapy in a gay nightclub: if the therapy had succeeded, then presumably the people would have stopped going to those nightclubs), use of proxy variables to find correlations, confusion of correlation and causation, and so on. Very few social sciences studies I have read have come anywhere near close to the standards of acceptance required by a physics journal (not just because they are a different topic).

And yes, that does make it hard for me to use social science to support the opposite view. The Regnerus study I cited certainly has its problems. It's advantage is that it uses an unbiased sample from a large population survey. But given that the number of people raised by same sex couples is a tiny fraction of the population, that makes the sample size of interest very small. Equally, it is difficult to be sure that the effect was due to same-sex parenting rather than a family breakup (which is known to affect children's development); and it doesn't take into account ages when the relationship started or how long the child had same sex parents. This is why I called the study "least bad" rather than good. But that it uses a random rather than biased sample is of key importance, and makes it better than its rivals.

My statement that "there are no healthy same sex relationships" is one of the medical rather than social sciences. It doesn't require making complex models and subjecting them to p-value tests, but just from collecting statistics. One example I found detailing the information is the below.

Same sex activity is associated with greater levels of sexually transmitted diseases, and damage to the colon and rates of colon cancer and so on. Indeed, one would not need a survey to see this (although the surveys back up the expectation): it is obvious from the nature of the act that it is unheathly.

Your statement "Homosexual behaviour is natural (found everywhere in nature)" is an example of confusing two different meanings of the same word. The word "Natural" in Aristotelian terminology means according to the inherent tendencies of the substance (while artificial means that we rearrange the substances to give additional tendencies). For living organisms, one of those tendencies is reproduction. In this sense reproduction is natural for a living organism; to artificially introduce something that will prevent reproduction is unnatural. In our species, that tendency is reflected in the sexual faculties. Thus sexual faculties ought to be directed towards reproduction, and that is consequently their primary purpose. Not the only purpose of sex, certainly, but it cannot be dismissed. (An act is good only if it is directed towards all its purposes; you can't just skip one because it is not politically correct). What penguins get up to in their spare time says nothing about what is natural for humans (that is what is consistent with the inherent tendencies which define human nature). Indeed, it says nothing about what is natural (in the sense that I use the term) for penguins. One cannot judge how penguins ought to behave by observing how penguins do behave -- this is just the is/ought fallacy.

"Marriage is exclusively a human endeavour." Yes, I agree. (If we leave aside any divine commands). That is completely irrelevant for natural law arguments for marriage, which depend solely on human nature. It is a social institution created primarily to enforce certain moral norms such as monogamy, commitment and faithfulness. These moral norms (like all moral norms) arise from the particular details of human nature. Different species of animals have their own individual natures, which imply different social organisations. It is, of course, those things which are important rather than any ceremony or certificate or legal or social recognition; but the ceremony plays an important role in marking and formalising the transition between uncommitted single life and committed married life. Why are such things important? Because they provide by far the best environment to raise children. We only have to look at the way our own society is breaking down to see the effects of a breakdown in marriage.

"Sex purely for procreation is on dodgy grounds just looking at human anatomy in detail, and primate behaviour in general." I see you don't justify this. You call to primate behaviour is just the is/ought fallacy. One can't make moral claims just by looking at behaviour. Also, I don't claim that sex is purely for procreation. My claim is that procreation is the primary natural purpose of sex; and that the the other ends (pleasure, bonding, and so on) exist to serve this primary purpose. (Let's think about it from the perspective of natural selection: if sex didn't lead to procreation -- and nothing was put in its place to do that -- then the human race would have lasted one generation. If sex didn't lead to pleasure, then presumably we would have less sex, which means less children. Those who find sex pleasurable thus have a selection advantage over those who don't, but only because sex is procreative. Bonding keeps people around to raise the children -- a selective advantage, but only because sex is procreative. The other ends of sex thus serve the procreative end. They are only good in as much as they encourage a higher good, namely procreation. Remove the good of procreative sex, and you remove any justification for calling, for example, sexual pleasure good.)

As for your remaining comments, they are off topic. But for your reference, I do not use and am very much opposed to anyone who uses the "God of the gaps argument." I don't argue from what we don't know, but from what we do know. My argument is that God underlies scientific law; if there was a gap in science (other than a miracle), then it would undermine me. My arguments do not rely on the idea that "Our local, observable space-time is all of physical reality." Nor do they rely on the idea that "the entirety of physical reality must obey the same laws as we observe here." I do require that all of physical reality must obey some laws; and I do make the point that the laws and space time we know about are what we would expect if theism is true. If our universe is part of a wider multi-verse, then that multi-verse would also be governed by various symmetries, which would be consistent with the ones we observe in this particular corner of the multi-verse. Calling the second person of the Trinity "A disembodied Jesus" is not consistent with any Christian theology that I recognise (since it implies that you get to God by taking away from Jesus). And as for how I "know 'nothingness' could have preceded the entirety of (presumably finite) physical reality," that misunderstands the Thomistic cosmological arguments (which are consistent with an eternal universe, though don't require them). Also, from the second law of thermodynamics (which, given that we don't exist in a state of statistical equilibrium, implies that the universe has a finite past) we know that space, time, energy and matter had a beginning. Since the start of the universe is also the beginning of time (as known from General Relativity), it makes no sense to ask what preceded it. When we say that the universe was created from nothing, we mean that it was not shaped by rearranging pre-existing matter (as a man might create a spear, clock or car).

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