kylemittskus wrote:*I am going to preface this by saying that I mean no offensive and I may be wrong in my observation.*
It seems to me that in this discussion, as well as the homosexual marriage one (perhaps in others, but these are the two that come to mind at the moment), that there is a common thread: you fear (for lack of a better word) change for what that change may bring. While I understand this sentiment and at times, agree,(indeed, there is comfort in the familiar) I think that there is also a potential danger to continuing the status quo. By doing so, you (not you specifically, but whomever is continuing it, of course) is not changing with the times. And indeed, the times are 'a changing. While I understand that change comes with a risk, I wonder at what cost the lack of change comes with. IMO, it is a different risk and that risk may be paid for by those whose liberties are being denied because of what mighthappen.
I suppose that this is a decision each of us must make for ourselves -- which risk/danger/etc. we prefer, perhaps understanding that neither is necessarily desirable.
Again, I want to be careful, here and in general, to not suppose or misinterpret anyone's posts, but there is a lot of erudition being shared, so if I do so, it is completely unintentional.
The underlying assumptions in your post are that 'change' (whatever that means) is (1) good, and (2) in any event, inevitable, so to resist it is both futile and bad. I think you also unconsciously assume a fairly strong form of the idea of progress, but that is not entirely clear.
Having spent a considerable amount of my time studying the Enlightenment in my callow youth, these are ideas and debates I wrestled with at length, both as they applied historically to understanding 18th century thought, and in light of the paradoxically dismal and glorious history of the 20th century, which combined scientific progress that was almost (if not literally) inconceivable in 1900 with human behavior of a level of depravity and cruelty unsurpassed in its deadly effects.
Without getting into the nuances -- which would take a 100+ page thread and rereading probably 250+ serious books by itself -- I do not subscribe to a 'strong' version of the idea of progress. Rather, I subscribe to a weaker version, which I would argue was far closer to the view of sophisticated Enlightenment thinkers than the popular caricature the semi-educated take away from an undergraduate reading of Candide. That is, I think that progress, specifically scientific and technological progress, is possible given the right conditions and attitudes. Such progress is not inevitable. Changes may, or may not, be good. Progress in terms of human behavior is far more problematic, because I do not believe that human nature has changed significantly within historical memory: we are still motivated by the same passions and, to a lesser extent, reason, as were our ancestors.
In this regard, I note that the ancients (and the Chinese until the 20th century, perhaps to their regret) viewed change with great suspicion. Perhaps the best know formulation in the Western canon is that of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, 14 (in the Authorized Version):
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. ....
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
And, the Chinese stressed harmony and to wish someone to live in interesting times is reputed to be a serious insult.
And yet, all of the foregoing is by way of a preface to what I think is the fundamental difference in our thinking here, which relates to how one conceives of risk and how one reacts to it. This, again, is a discussion which can be had on many levels, which range from anecdotal to the highly mathematical involving game theory and chaos theory (fractal geometry, perhaps) as well as probability theory. On this, I will only say that a purely technical understanding of statistics and probability on the level one encounters it in undergraduate econometrics, engineering statistics, or business school finance courses may well be more harmful than helpful to the understanding of risk in the world.
Perhaps the simplest way to illustrate the way I think about this is to use Pascal's bet (in the popular form) on the existence of the traditional Christian god, with a bit of probability thrown in: as generally formulated, Pascal argues that we can't know whether god exists or not, but there are only two possibilities. Likewise, we have a choice to either believe or not believe in this existence. And, assume, for the sake of the argument that belief is not mere assent, that is, it will change our behavior.
So, how is one to assess the risks here. Well, consider the consequences: if you do not believe, and god exists, then you will suffer eternally. A catastrophic negative consequence. On the other hand, if god exists and you do believe (questions of whether you're in a Calvinist elect aside), you will be rewarded with eternal bliss. By contrast the consequences of belief if god does not exist are smaller - you may forgo certain actions or gains that are contrary to the teachings - and there are essentially no consequences of nonbelief if god does not exist. If the probabilities were equal of any outcome, the expected value of the outcomes would suggest belief.
However, we do not know the probabilities. It may well be that the probability that god exists is very small, way out in the statistical 'tail' as it were. This would obviously affect our ordinary expected value calculations. Yet, even so, the catastrophic consequences of unbelief in the face of god's existence is so great that no rational creature would fail to believe.
While this is overly simplified Pascal (and grossly oversimplified generally), I think it is useful for understanding how I think about things like homosexual marriage and homosexuals openly serving in the military. I don't know what the consequences will be, and I don't know what the probability is that the consequences will be as thoroughly negative as some with expert knowledge believe. However, the magnitude of the negative consequences, even if the probability is small, militates against the experiment without any dire necessity to undertake it. As Justice Jackson put it, dissenting in Terminiello v. City of Chicago 337 U.S. 1 (1949) at 37:
There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.
Another useful illustration may be the recent flooding in Tennessee, where Nashville has been devastated by a '500 year' flood. A rare event, so rare that in the development of the city it was ignored, yet, an event with catastrophic consequences.
Here, I am informed not only by philosophy, but by the study of history and the rather dismal results of the past three centuries, the baleful history of the French Revolution, the World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, Cambodia, not to mention Mussolini's fascism, Hitler's National Socialism, Japanese imperial aggression, Soviet/Communist aggression and the like.
Where one can experiment with changes, and reverse them with relative ease if they don't work out well, I am far more comfortable with change than I am in circumstances more akin to Pandora's box (amazing how the ancients touched on so many of these issues) which, once opened to release its contents, cannot put them aright. I am much more comfortable with Burkean 'organic' change that develops over time, gathering assent from broad swathes of civil society before it is reflected in legal arrangements than with change imposed by government (which includes judicial) fiat.
If you want to call this all "fear" then consider that even paranoids sometimes have enemies. Rather, I think what I have is a very healthy skepticism about any tiny minority demanding that society (potentially) dramatically alter the way it conducts itself to accommodate the minority.