Commentary By Michael Baggot

April 11, 2008 ( – I have a B.A. in Philosophy from a liberal arts college. When I describe my education, many people wonder what the heck I plan on doing with all the “impractical” studies I’ve occupied myself with. Yet, the more I steep myself in the public controversies reports on daily, the more thankful I am for having spent so much time pondering the important questions in life.

After all, everyone has a philosophy by which they understand life. In addition, every person has a theology, a set of convictions relating to God(s) and His/their relation or lack thereof to the world. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him.” Our laws are inevitably related to our convictions about the nature and destiny of man as formulated in philosophy and theology. Take two recent court cases related to incest.

On March 20, John Deaves and his daughter Anne pleaded guilty to two charges of incestuous intercourse. The first instance of intercourse the couple was convicted of produced a daughter who died from a congenital heart disease only a few days after her birth. The second act of intercourse they were charged with produced a healthy child.

Because of her parents’ divorce, Anne did not grow up with John. They were basically strangers when they reunited in 2000 and began their sexual relationship. Anne was in her early 30s when she freely began her relationship with her father.

“This is not a case where a father has violated his daughter and used his position of authority to take advantage of her powerlessness. Rather, this is a case of a mutually consensual union, formed by adults, who had previously had little contact,” observed District Court Judge Steven Millsteed.

Millsteed argued that “the offence of incest exists not merely to protect children from sexual abuse” and went on to cite other reasons for the law.

“In my view, other relevant factors include the need to prevent the high risk of congenital defects of children born of incestuous relationships and to prevent children who are brought up in a family unit founded on an incestuous relationship suffering psychological harm and social stigmatisation. Those factors assume significance in this case,” said Millsteed.

Yet the question remains, what if the Deaveses freely decided to undergo sterilization?

In February 2007, the German brother-sister couple Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski asked the Constitutional Court to overturn the ban on incest. After giving birth to four children with his sister, Stuebing freely opted for a vasectomy. With no threat of inflicting physical or emotional harm upon future offspring, are Stuebing and Karolewski now engaged in a perfectly healthy, loving relationship?

“The main problem is, of course, that the couple might produce unhealthy children. But if they don’t have children, then I see no reason why not, in this day and age. But then, I’m a scientist, not a moralist,” stated Professor Roland Littlewood.

From a secular perspective, Littlewood’s moral assessment is unassailable. If, as the great neo-Darwinian narrative teaches, man is merely the accidental byproduct of blind, unguided natural processes, then there seems to be no reason for man to restrain his sexual desires. If there is no God, then there is no transcendent purpose for sexuality. Man is thus free to follow and satisfy his sexual urges as he sees fit.

Most proposals for the social and legal recognition of traditionally condemned sexual relationships, whether between members of the same sex or of the same family, base their advocacy in a secular lassie-faire sexual ethic. “Our body, our choice” runs the mentality.

The secularist’s endorsement of deviant sexual practices is perfectly consistent with their worldview. The question then is whether their secular worldview is actually true. Thus, enters all that supposedly useless philosophy and theology people like me have “wasted” so much time with.

Unlike Professor Littlewood, most people, even if they haven’t had extensive philosophic or theological training, are revolted at the notion of same-sex unions, pedophilia, and incest. They have an intuitive sense of right and wrong, a “gut” sense that certain things just aren’t right. Of course, this sense of right and wrong can become obscured through repeated vice or a permissive culture. Nonetheless, both educated and uneducated, religious believers and non-believers, generally agree on the impropriety of certain sexual behavior.

It’s to man’s intuitive recognition of morality that theistic pro-lifers must appeal when dealing with those who have rejected the Judeo-Christian worldview. Theistic pro-lifers need to encourage their secular counterparts to examine the grounds for their disgust with certain acts.

The fact is that man’s intuitive sense of a moral law points towards a lawgiver. Theistic pro-lifers can point towards God as the author of the binding moral law. Further, they can explain sexuality as a gift from the Creator designed with a specific purpose. Honest secularists, on the other hand, realize that they have no basis for their moral revolt, for making any statements whatsoever about what should or should not be permitted.

Admitting the groundlessness of secular ethics, the atheistic philosopher Kai Nielsen writes, “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons, unhoodwinked by myth or ideology, need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one.”

A secularist can recognize moral truths and even live in accord with many of them. For instance, he can see that adultery, whether with partners inside or outside the family, betrays the spousal fidelity that gives the family its stability. Nonetheless, he cannot ultimately account for the source of morally binding norms.

Even when God’s voice is silenced in the public square and public educational system, it continues to sound in man’s conscience. Those who know Him need to help others identify the moral Lawgiver Who teaches man how to properly use his precious gift of sexuality for the purpose for which it was designed.

See previous related coverage:

If We Don’t Say No to Same-Sex Unions, then Why Not Incest and Pedophilia Says Archbishop

Read an argument for the grounding of morality in a Divine Lawgiver: