The Instigator
robzilla180
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
debaterjake
Con (against)
Winning
18 Points

Can you legislate morality?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/9/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,452 times Debate No: 190
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (9)

 

robzilla180

Pro

Yes you can legislate morality. We've been doing it for centuries. There isn't a law enforced today that doesn't legislate morality? Take speed limits for example. Everyone in his right mind understands that you need to enforce speed limits. It isn't right for people to go 55 in a 30 zone or 90 in a 55 zone. Why? because you could cause a serious accident. So what do we care? We care because if someone causes an accident, you could very easily kill someone. It isn't right for someone to put their personal fun in speeding ahead of another's safety. If you agreed with the preceding statement note the key phrase, "It isn't right". We do have laws that say it isn't right to do this or that, hence, you can legislate morality.

Agree?
debaterjake

Con

When we look at this topic I think it essential to define what exactly the role of the government is. In my opinion --and the opinion of the founding fathers of this nation-- the role of the government is to protect the rights of individuals. So an example of this would be that the government has an obligation to protect my right to freedom of speech, or the right to my life, and so on down the line. However, the role of the government is not to define what is moral and immoral or to direct the actions of my life. Ultimately, I should be able to do whatever I want as long as it does not infringe upon some one else's ordained rights.

Now the example of speeding in this instance doesn't really apply. Is speeding a right? I think we would all agree that it is not. But is speeding necessarily immoral? Beyond the fact that it breaks the law, I don't really think that it is immoral in nature. As much as I try not to excessively exceed the speed limit, I frequently drive 5 or so miles per hour over the speed limit, or when everyone on the freeway is traveling over the speed limit, I'm not going to hold them up by strictly following the speed limit. Having said that, I don't think that I'm sinning or being immoral when breaking the speed limit.

However, I do feel it essential to enforce the speed limit to protect the lives of individuals (one of their rights) I do not see how speeding really falls into the category of legislating morality. I would see laws that ban pre-marital sex, or the use of narcotics, or the use alcohol as legislating morality, but not speeding.
Debate Round No. 1
robzilla180

Pro

I see that like me you are against Gay Marriage. Would you support a ban on gay marriage? I also see you are against Abortion like I am. Do you support bans on these?

"Now the example of speeding in this instance doesn't really apply. Is speeding a right? I think we would all agree that it is not. But is speeding necessarily immoral? Beyond the fact that it breaks the law, I don't really think that it is immoral in nature. As much as I try not to excessively exceed the speed limit, I frequently drive 5 or so miles per hour over the speed limit, or when everyone on the freeway is traveling over the speed limit, I'm not going to hold them up by strictly following the speed limit. Having said that, I don't think that I'm sinning or being immoral when breaking the speed limit."

In the question of whether or not speeding is immoral, here's a question. Let's say for a second that there are no speed limits. you can go as fast as the want. would you drive as fast as you can? This would be wrong because you have all kinds of drivers on the road including those that aren't good at driving. Will you put them in peril because you drive faster than them?

BTW, can you name one law the doesn't legislate morality?
debaterjake

Con

I don't really think you have a clear sense of what legislating morality actually is. When you talk about someone legislating morality you are talking about legislating moral action.

With that in mind, the role of the government is not to make people moral people, but it is to protect people's rights. You asked me if I would drive as fast as I could, and I probably would, and I wouldn't think of it as immoral. Well I'm a pretty good driver, so I don't think I would put others in peril, but I'm sure some people would be put in peril, however, this isn't a moral issue. The reason there are speed limits is to protect people's right being kept safe from injury. (You can debate whether that is the case, but that isn't the point.)

Let me ask you a question, is the autobahn immoral? Because there aren't speed limits there. Would I be behaving immorally to drive on the autobahn?

You also asked what laws don't legislate morality. I think you already have your answer, speed limits don't legislate morality. See I think where you get confused is with things like murder and such. Because laws can have a moral stance, in a sense, without actually legislating morality. Going back to the whole point of government, a government is supposed to protect rights, so when the government outlaws murder, it is doing so to protect rights and not to uphold morality. Even if murder weren't immoral, there would still be a law against it because it violates someone else's rights.

You asked me if I would support a ban on gay marriage or on abortion and I have the answer for you. First on gay marriage, I would not support a national bill to ban gay marriage, instead I think state governments should make that decision on their own, having said that, I do feel that gay marriage shouldn't be allowed, but not because I am morally opposed to being gay (which I am) but because you can't be gay and be married. Look at the definition of marriage, it is between a man and a woman, not between two guys or two gals. If you were to say propose a bill banning being gay altogether, I would oppose it because two consenting adults can do whatever they want no matter how morally opposed to it I am.

On the issue of abortion I would support a ban on abortion because it infringes upon the rights of a child to live. Of course people say that unborn children aren't children, but I completely believe that to be absurd. From the moment of conception a child is a child. I oppose abortion because it's murder.

Even though murder is immoral I would like to stress that I oppose it because it violates rights. I think when you look at rights and morality the two can be confused for each other, and sometimes they may even lead to the same thing, but the role of the government is not to make people behave morally but to protect rights. If the government can make people behave morally then they can also determine what is moral and what is not, and that's just a bad path to go down.
Debate Round No. 2
robzilla180

Pro

robzilla180 forfeited this round.
debaterjake

Con

That's two people to forfeit their rounds against me. I wonder why.

I think it's pretty obvious that speed limits don't legislate morality. What's more, legislating morality falls outside of the role of government. The government is supposed to protect rights, however, it is not supposed to make people behave morally.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by dullurd 9 years ago
dullurd
First off, if you click the link I provided, you see that the same-sex definition is actually part b of the first def, not the second def(I didn't know this was done in dictionaries, but it's worth pointing out).

Secondly, not to be offensive, but citing the Bible as a moral authority in a debate is worse than citing a dictionary, because unlike dictionaries, there are certain "moral teachings" in the old and new testaments that basically no one believes anymore, not even the most devout. For some examples: http://www.religioustolerance.org...

So you're using circular logic again. If you cite a text as a moral authority, you either need to prove everything in it is true, or at least prove the part you're citing is true. The point is that since some things in the Bible are undeniably morally wrong, the fact that the Bible opposes homosexuality doesn't matter, at least in a debate where reason and logic are paramount.

I imagine that faith plays a role in this for you, but the problem is that faith is belief in the absence of proof, and proof is precisely when you need in any meaningful debate.

I think that when citing Supreme Court decisions and Founders' Intent, you should keep in mind that the movement to recognize gay marriage is a civil rights movement, and as such needs to be debated on its merits rather than by citing people and institutions of the past who agree with you. Since gays have never been able to marry before, of course the Supreme Court is on your side. The Founders were openly bigoted against black people and women, plus they lived in a time when few were comfortable enough with their homosexuality to be "out" so I'm not sure how relevant their views would be.

Finally, to be fully honest, I'm guessing the real reason you oppose gay marriage is you're just disgusted by homosexuality, and imagine that it would be damaging for children to be raised by gays. I encourage you to get to know some gay people. They're good people.
Posted by debaterjake 9 years ago
debaterjake
I'm not only citing a dictionary to demonstrate why I believe gay marriage isn't really marriage, sure that's all I wrote in my post, but the Christian Bible talks about how gay marriage isn't marriage and how marriage is only between a man and a woman.

When you look at the new Webster dictionary, of course it is going to define Same Sex Marriage, because that's a term necessary to define in a dictionary, however, the 1st definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. That's the definition of marriage, same sex marriage isn't marriage but still defined. I hope that makes sense.

I don't get my moral opposition to gay marriage from a dictionary, however, when it comes to my legal stance on whether or not it should be allowed, I do look to dictionaries, but I also look to the Founder's intent for this nation, and Supreme Court decisions. All of which when taken in the right context demonstrate that gay marriage is not really marriage. It defies logic to assume that two guys or two girls could be married, it just doesn't work.
Posted by robzilla180 9 years ago
robzilla180
The problem with this debate was, in the sense that you were debating, I agreed with you. lol the irony.
Posted by dullurd 9 years ago
dullurd
ggravelle- I use drugs and I don't think there's anything immoral about it, so you're wrong too. Would love to debate you about this if you want.
Posted by dullurd 9 years ago
dullurd
con clearly wins. I have to say, though that it's quite disingenuous to say you're against gay marriage because the dictionary says it's between a man and a woman. First off, since I was curious, I checked Merriam Webster online and the first definition is this: "1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>" See for yourself: http://www.merriam-webster.com...

So you're factually incorrect, but even leaving that aside, suppose you were right. You're still begging the question. It's circular logic to cite the dictionary as a moral or philosophical authority, especially considering how dictionaries are revised every year. English is alive. It evolves. A Dictionary is merely the attempt of fallible people to catalog and define every word. They make mistakes like everyone else.
Posted by ggravelle 9 years ago
ggravelle
A perfect example of why you cannot legislate morality is illegal drugs; its is understood by even drug users that the use of drugs is immoral, however it is only in an idealistic world that drugs may be eliminated. As long as individuals are allowed free will, legislated morality cannot be successful.
Posted by robzilla180 9 years ago
robzilla180
I forfeited the stupid round because I had too much stinking school work. lol
some other time...
Posted by Korezaan 9 years ago
Korezaan
It would be NICE if everyone was moral, but doing that through legislation just won't work. And you can't do it anyways.

RFD: Con
Posted by rkmcdaniel 9 years ago
rkmcdaniel
If speed limits affect death rates, then why is it that Germany, with 80% of roads having no speed limit, has a near identical speed related death to the US? Accoring to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. http://www.ibiblio.org...
Posted by Rob 9 years ago
Rob
I think you're right, under that definition of "morality." But when people speak of "legislating morality," normally they're speaking of a particular cultural or religious moral code, e.g., Biblical morality or social taboos. Thus, I doubt anyone would dispute that we can legislate universal ethical imperatives based on our shared humanity; where things get thorny is dealing with values that aren't so universal.
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