I am about half way through Steven Pinker’s much discussed recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature a book on why violence has supposedly declined over time, and I have to say there is much there for a Christian to agree with. I plan to write a few posts reviewing the book once I am done but something he wrote about the spike in violence in the ’70s and ’80s starting on p. 160 struck me. He attributes this spike to the ‘decivilization’ of the 1960’s specifically to attacks on self-control, the delegitimizing of webs of interdependence that obligate us to other people and the undermining of marriage and family life during that time. These decivilizing forces created a huge spike in violence in the US, reversing a decade’s long decline. In many ways I see the memory of this history as being one of the main factors in opposition to the current gay marriage efforts. One of the reasons there is an age gap between supporters of gay marriage and those who oppose it, is that the older generation remembers the impact of the sexual revolution of the ’60s. It created societal chaos, greatly damaged the family and was very detrimental to the poorest segments of society.
In short, when gay marriage advocates claim that arbitrarily changing the institution of marriage to satisfy particular sexual proclivities won’t damage the institution of marriage we have empirical evidence to prove this isn’t true. We have been there and done that and the results were devastating – in fact we have only in the last decade begun to recover from the last round of social experimentation.
Pinker counts himself amongst the ‘New atheists’, so he obviously has no reason to empirically verify these essentially conservative and Christian values and yet he does so throughout his book. I think this is the inevitable result of a cold and hard chronicling the facts of human history.
The great experiment on what values and morals best lead to human flourishing has already been done – I for one appreciate the fact that someone like Steven Pinker has been honest enough to take a look at the data.