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Jules van Schaijik

Why gender matters

Dec. 2 at 1:07pm

Ideally, Christians are always ready to give an answer for their hope and faith to anyone who asks. In practice, however, we usually don't have a convincing answer until someone asks for it. That's when we first begin to reflect on our own views.

This explains the situation many of us find ourselves in today, concerning our views on marriage. We firmly believe that it is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman. But when challenged, we can't think of any persuasive arguments, and our view appears to be no more than a blind, unjust prejudice.

For those, who, like me, want to better understand their own views on this all-important subject, and be able to give a reason for it, I recommend this article by Maria Fedoryka. (Hat tip to Patrick Dunn.) Unlike many others who focus almost exclusive attention on the fruitfulness of marriage, her piece zooms in on the issue of gender: what it is and why it matters so much.

P.S. Maria gave two great talks for us a while back. You can find them here and here.


 

Gregory Gronbacher

With all respect, Maria's article is weak - mostly fluffy sentiment. Gender does matter. But not in any way that excludes same gender marriages. 

#1 - Dec. 3 at 8:09pm | quote

Jules van Schaijik

Nonsense, Gregory. The article is not, of course, a scientific demonstration. Nor is it the final word on any of the issues she raises. But it is a clear and well thought out reflection on how marriage, understood as the union between a man and woman, images God as Trinity, or God precisely as Love. She throws lots of light on the meaning of masculinity and feminity, on how each of these is incomplete without the other, etc. And, while you may be able to raise reasonable objections to it, it makes eminent sense to say that the deepest form of union between human persons — given their being divided into two incomplete but complementary sexes — is only possible when you have one of each.

Maria is careful to say that there is no logical necessity here. We're dealing with a "divine invention".

You don't agree with any of this, I know. But you do think gender matters. What is gender in your view? And when and why does it matter?

#2 - Dec. 3 at 10:13pm | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

Jules.

Let's start with the article. Its poorly done. Sentences like these "The creation of the human person as male and female is the most central feature of the visible world". Really? What does that even mean? And speaking about gender as "aura"? This is serious philosophy?

Gender is a reality rooted in biology and genetics that mediates our existence as person on a variety of levels - existentially, mentally, physically, etc. 

Evolution has yielded two genders in many species, humans included, and the primary purpose of this appears to be for the propagation of the species. 

The complementarity for gender beyond sexual reproduction seems culturally asserted and is possible, but certainly not proven. Human subjectivity in its vast richness and depth, as well as uniqueness allows for forms of complementarity in ways other than gender. 

I'm not denying the beauty of the bond in marriage of men and women - there are many beautiful marriages out there. But our culture is now realizing that other valid forms of marriage exist as well. 

Not only are Maria's insights not logically necessary, but they do not rise to the level of moral necessity either. 

Fuzzy, lofty sentiments about gender complementarity do not make a convincing moral argument. 

#3 - Dec. 4 at 8:39am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Gregory Gronbacher, Dec. 3 at 9:09pm

With all respect, Maria's article is weak - mostly fluffy sentiment. Gender does matter. But not in any way that excludes same gender marriages. 

I hesitate to challenge the attribution of fuzziness and fluffiness predicated of Maria's remark about the most central aspect of the created universe: the creation of man and woman as contrasted with the authoritative affirmation of "Evolution" as the creator of male and female genders in animals, prior to the creation of humans.

I wonder if the "concept" of evolution is in reality not a conception following the meiosis originating sexual, that is, heterosexaul reproduction and therefore scientifically verifiable and reproducible but rather a non-sexual cloning or mitosis of an "idee fixe," the attempt to affirm  a thesis, in this case, the hypothesis of evolution, by simple re-petition, in the sentimental hope that sheer repetition will turn it into a fact.

I am also thinking of a central fact of creation, as noted by Gaudium et spes #24, that man is the only being in the visible universe created by God for his own sake and that he "discovers" himself in the sincere gift of self to others.

#4 - Dec. 4 at 3:07pm | quote

 

Don

"Evolution has yielded two genders" Talk about fuzzy lofty sentiments. And just how did Evolution "yield" two genders. When you can't use the word create, I guess you are stuck with words like "yield"

#5 - Dec. 4 at 4:04pm | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

Don, no, I don't believe in a Creator God. Evolution is a fact however, and the process has produced our reality and part of that is two genders. I don't see how that is fuzzy.

All - I recognize I operate from different vantage points. Yet I was once part of your tradition. And my education is the same as many, if not most of you. 

I am not looking to be here just to argue or be difficult. I appreciate the level and topics of conversation. I am a personalist - I see, affirm, recognize, assert human dignity and the value of the human person. 

I'm happy to leave you folks alone. But I am also happy to engage in non-snarky, substantive discussions. 

#6 - Dec. 4 at 5:34pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Gregory Gronbacher, Dec. 4 at 6:34pm

I'm happy to leave you folks alone. But I am also happy to engage in non-snarky, substantive discussions. 

That's progress.

The origin of the concept of evolution is not fuzzy. Nor is the claim of the theory - rather of the theories, since there is more than one - of evolution fluffy. The connection between the logical elements of the concept of evolution is extremely precise. And the claim has monumental consequences for personalism. It entails a casual connection between all the possible "stages" of evolution: you and I and every "person". Indeed, everything in the universe at the present moment is an effect of past causes and could have been otherwise. And nothing that is an actual effect is superior or better or more perfect than any other possibility that could have happened but didn't.

So, every "person" is an effect of evolution, no more meaningful than than anything that is a non-person, i.e. an earlier stage of evolution, simian, reptilian, ... non organic, chaos, chance. What , then, does "dignity" mean? "Happiness"?

How is "discussion"  between two "products" of evolution even possible in the first place?

#7 - Dec. 5 at 7:53am | quote

Jules van Schaijik

Gregory,

I'm with Newman on recognizing the role of "antecendent probabilities" in any argument. Maria's article (published, as it is, in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review) is clearly meant for a catholic audience. It is a form of "faith seeking understanding." It expects not just neutral objectivity, but a fair degree of sympathy and shared assumptions from its readers. To such, I continue to hold, it is very helpful.

To you, understandably, it is not. So let's just set it aside. I too welcome substantive discussions. But for this one to be fruitful, we clearly have to begin somewhere else.

Agree?

#8 - Dec. 5 at 8:18am | quote

Jules van Schaijik

P.S. I had not seen Damian Fedoryka's latest before posting the previous comment. I did not mean to end the discussion he begins there, about how something like dignity can be squared with evolution.

#9 - Dec. 5 at 8:26am | quote

 

Don

Gregory,

Please don't be offended by my comment. Not personal. Just think about the beautiful complexity of the human eye and its relation to the brain and to the process of seeing. What is sight?

Evolution theory is hopelessly hopelessly inadequate to explain. I know you've heard it before.  Evolution theory is so mundane.

#10 - Dec. 5 at 8:27am | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

Gentlemen,

Evolution does present fascinating as well as problematic aspects for personalism and philosophical anthropology. How can a material process produce something like mind? The mind-body mystery remains just that. 

(A side note for Don. It seems you are appealing to Behe's work on Intelligent Design. I spent considerable time with Behe and his ideas were generally appealing. However, much work in the area of micobiology and evolutionary physiology have thrown serious doubts on Intelligent Design's notion of irredicible complexity. But this is for another day.)

The general theistic argument roughly is to appeal to a Divine being who ensouled humans, creating them as persons in His own image. 

I find it nearly impossible to honestly assert any belief in the existence of a Divine personal being. My difficulties arise in light of much time spent with issues of theodicy, suffering, the somewhat randomness of life, etc. 

It seems that I can accept an unknown - how seemingly, the immaterial comes to be from the material. Or I can attempt to reconcile what seems a contradiction - a God of love who permits evil and suffering, and fails to act tangibly in the face of both. 

#11 - Dec. 5 at 9:16am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Jules van Schaijik, Dec. 5 at 9:26am

... I did not mean to end the discussion he begins there, about how something like dignity can be squared with evolution.

 It can't.  The cause-effect structure of evolution means that every present "being" and its "state of being" is the effect of past material causes. In colloquial terms, you and I, as well as all our acts, are the result of "being pushed around," indeed, victimized by our past and our environment.

Pesonal human dignity refers to the the fact that I and my actions are not simple effects of a prior cause, not even of a "first cause." If my acts are caused not by my "ego" or "I", neither they are not my own.

Every self-respecting woman is perfectly right in insisting that she is "her own woman" who rejects being "pushed around." She is refering to an essential trait of personhood, the power to possess oneself, to "own" oneself.

Self-possession and evolution are mutually exclusive. The evolutionist's affrimation of dignity is a contradiction. As such, a "dignity" that is the effect of evolution is an oxymoron. It can't refer to a reality, only to a state of mind.

#12 - Dec. 5 at 2:41pm | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

A question for clarification - do you deny any sense of material evolution?

Our evolving from past material causes does not necessarily imply being pushed around nor victimization. They are merely facts. 

If we examine the human person - consider his or her faculties, selfhood, uniqueness, interiority, and so on - we understand the proper response is one of wonder and recognition of immense dignity and value. This does not depend on our origins or cause - it is rooted in our being, as it is now. 

#13 - Dec. 5 at 2:50pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Gregory Gronbacher, Dec. 5 at 3:50pm

A question for clarification - do you deny any sense of material evolution? 

Our evolving from past material causes does not necessarily imply being pushed around nor victimization. They are merely facts. 

If we examine the human person - consider his or her faculties, selfhood, uniqueness, interiority, and so on - we understand the proper response is one of wonder and recognition of immense dignity and value. This does not depend on our origins or cause - it is rooted in our being, as it is now. 

You ignored the substance of my post: (macro)evolution entails the cause-effect and that the colloqial for my being and acts as "effects" it to be "pushed around". Also dignity entails "being my own" and this entials not being the effect ... even of God as "first cause of my being and acts."  If God is simply "first cause" then the cause-effect process is quite compatible with God, who must then also be a part of the process of evolution as his own "externalization." 

Answer: material evolution - No. Organic micro-evolution - Yes. Macro-evolution - No-no!.  "Mere fact" = the state of having no meaning, requiring neither proof nor explanation

#14 - Dec. 5 at 3:17pm | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

What is the difference between material evolution and organic-micro evolution. Granted, these distinctions are helpful.

And I am failing to understand your comment about facts. 

#15 - Dec. 5 at 3:26pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Material evolution is not a fact. In other words, it is not the case.

Organic micro-evolution is a fact. In other words, organic evolution obtains within a species.

MicroEvolution presupposes an essential identity in the nature of what evolves. The process of evolution entials the actualization of an active potency, i.e. a power to actualize a possibility that is already inscibed in the genetic structure of an organice being. In organic evolution, therefore, the belong X does not become something different, a being Y, but remains essentially the same kind of being.

The hypothesis of Macroevolution was proposed as explanation of the origin of species that were considered different species: the "species" man was explained as orginating from the different species, "anthropoid."  The  attempt to identify the the so called "missing link," as evidence for precise process that caused the "minute" variations in what was also a continuity of generation, was a scientific failure. This was masked or disguised by the metaphysical rejction of the opriginal state of affairs that was to be explaiend: the real, irreducible difference of species was now replaced by the essential identity of everything in the universe as matter, marked by different degrees of complexity. Period. Spirit is material. 

#16 - Dec. 5 at 8:26pm | quote

 

Gregory Gronbacher

After spending some time rechecking sources, etc. I find what seems ample material that your assertion that there are so-called missing links and that macro evolution is a scientific error, etc. to be seriously challenged, if not incorrect.

I appreciate everyone's time, but we have drifted far away from our original topic. I also fear that our vantage points might be further apart than originally thought. Perhaps I am wrong. 

However, i am thinking that it will take so long to work our way back to a discussion on marriage and sexual ethics, not to mention issues related to theodicy, faith, and so on, that maybe we are facing a somewhat impractical task. 

#17 - Dec. 6 at 1:43am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Gregory Gronbacher, Dec. 6 at 2:43am

our vantage points might be further apart than originally thought. Perhaps I am wrong. 

 You are entirely right. It is the distance of the metpshysical contradition between marriage as the mutual gift of love between man and woman and the usage of the term "marriage" to designate sexual but genderless activity. 

It is not a matter of time but of insight: two products of evolution are metphysically incapable of self-possession, a necessary condition for the gift of selves.

And that is the inherent problem of evolution which has produced eyes so that they may not see. The evolutionary vantage excludes the possibility that its product pray to God for sight to see the beauty of the beloved or the splenfor of spousal love.

Sunt lacrima rerum

#18 - Dec. 6 at 7:40am | quote

Jules van Schaijik

I think you're right Gregory.

Thanks, Damian, for the interesting comments on macro-evolution. I think you are right about the contradiction between it and dignity. Still, there must be people who have made the attempt to reconcile them, and I would like to know how they go about it.  But that is definitely a topic for a new post.

#19 - Dec. 6 at 8:13am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Jules van Schaijik, Dec. 6 at 9:13am

... the contradiction between it and dignity. Still, there must be people who have made the attempt to reconcile them, and I would like to know how they go about it.  

 De Chardin did, following Hegel and Marx. Heidegger did. So also those who defend "guided evolution." As to the "how," it involves a redcutive deconstruction of "self-possession," "ownerhsip" and "sovereignty" to the act appropriation, - the antithesis of receiving, - which rejects St. Paul's reminder that everything we "have" we have received.

#20 - Dec. 6 at 9:12am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

 Jules,

Jules van Schaijik, Dec. 6 at 9:13am.

 macro-evolution.....the contradiction between it and dignity.  a topic for a new post.

 You are right, it would be the topic calling for a new post.

The relevance of macro-evolution for marriage and gender is this: the former makes radically impossible the self-possession that is a metphsyical precondition for receiving and giving of self, the "total" mode of which is marriage.

It also makes impossible the feminine and masculine genders, each of which is a "mode" or "tone" in the articulation of the person as spiritual: the feminine in the "mode" or "key" of receptivity, the masculine in the "mode" of spontaneity or "going out" of one self in giving. Each is equally called, as person to give and receive in an interpersonal relation. The distinctive mark of the spousal reciprocity is not simply the "totality" of the reciprocated gift of Self but the ontological intention and possibility of "becoming one" that is not tha same as a "sharing" of Self that is metaphsyically distinct in all other kinds of love that neither achieve nor intend, the "becoming one" of spousal love, which alone is fruitful in the full, personalist, sense.

That's why gender matters.

#21 - Dec. 6 at 12:21pm | quote

 

Samwise

Please follow this logic as a solution to "why Gender Matters": Jesus of Nazareth claimed that he was the Son of his Father--an identity reserved only for a man.  No daughter would dare make that claim because her father would not verify it.

Had Jesus claimed that he was the daughter of God, then we could easily question and be confused about gender significance.  Rather, he said that he was the Son, and so, we can begin to trust that he is who he says he is.

Connection with marriage? Only a son can marry a daughter.  It sounds simple, but it holds up if you follow my logic that sonship is identity.  Jesus' Sonship is his identity as the Man, the Son of his Father.

In other words, the fact that Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Son of God, whether one believes it or not, is proof of both his manhood in general and his sonship.

Likewise, only a daughter can marry a son.  When they are both presented before the priest/father, they are fulfilling their baptismal promises to become the man and the woman that they ought to be.  And the priest validates them.

#22 - Dec. 10 at 5:19pm | quote

 

Samwise

Arguments I can preliminarily refute to the above:

1) Belief in Jesus has no bearing on the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA
*My logic doesn't rely on belief in Jesus, it asks for recognition of his historical existence and claims. Secondly, it doesn't require belief to recognize that Jesus was a man, and more specifically, a man who claimed he was the Son.

2) Jesus wasn't married

*Marriage doesn't bestow identity, so much as make it more public.  Mystically, Jesus married the Church, his bride.  He is therefore the Bridegroom of the Church.  It does require belief to recognize Jesus as such.

3) children do not get their identity from their father, they make it up themselves, which is why men can be women, women can marry women, etc.

*Not until the present day did children NOT get their identity from their father.  Even Jesus was known as Jesus bar Joseph and so on.  Just because the modern world lacks fathers does not mean that this sense of identity should cease.

#23 - Dec. 10 at 5:48pm | quote

Jules van Schaijik

Samwise,

I've read your comments a few times, but can't make heads or tails of them.

#24 - Dec. 11 at 6:15am | quote

 

Samwise

If all persons are made by a father and a mother, then all persons must be fathers or mothers to make other persons.

In other words:  sons can become fathers, daughters can become mothers--objectively, if they engage in sexual intercourse with the opposite sex.

Daughters can't become fathers, and sons can't become mothers.  Nor can you have two fathers, or two mothers.  There must be one father and one mother, whether married or not, to make sons and daughters.

Secondly, siblings verify sexual identity just as parents do.  Siblings say, "you're my brother or sister, and the son or daughter of so and so". 

Family objectively verifies sexual identity, regardless of the subjective inclinations of the individual.  Legally, medically, and socially, persons are identified by sex in relation to their families.

#25 - Dec. 11 at 9:25am | quote

 

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