When the Needs of Children Are Secondary to the Desires of Adults, Guess Who Keeps Losing? by Marcia Segelstein
Perhaps the producers of “Sesame Street” were prescient—or, more likely, trying to push things along—with the lyrics of one of the show’s songs, “Doing the Family Thing”:
Any group of people
And loving each other
Are doing the family thing . . .
It doesn’t really matter
Just who you’re living with;
If there’s love, you’re a family too . . .
Little listeners (among them my own then-preschoolers) were being taught, albeit subtly, a new definition of family. Daddy’s not around? No worries; Mommy’s live-in boyfriend is family. Never mind that it wasn’t actually true. But the message was clear: all it takes to make a family is love.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and kids hearing that song might be reassured that Mommy’s live-in girlfriend, or Daddy’s live-in boyfriend, is family. Only now, depending on a state’s marriage laws, it could be true. In Connecticut, for example, an organization calling itself Love Makes a Family successfully took up the fight to get so-called same-sex marriage legally recognized there.
Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in several other states now, too. And while it may be the most headline-making example of how norms of family structure are changing, it’s hardly the only one. Shifting societal attitudes, easy accessibility to artificial reproductive technology, and the success of the gay rights movement have opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities for “doing the family thing.” The definition of family is changing, and with it, the definition of parent. In today’s brave new world, biology—and even love—are being trumped by “intention.”
The current issue of Salvo is now available in digital format for reading on your computer, tablet, phone, or whatever else you got. I sent out an email yesterday to our subscriber list. If you didn’t get this email, it means you never gave us you email to begin with or that you opted out of our emails. If you would like to get the instructions for login, email me and I’ll send the login credentials to you. We’re still finalizing the login system, but this way works for now. We’ll keep you posted on any future updates.
Intelligence Is Today’s Unknown Country
by Denyse O’Leary
In recent issues (Salvo 21 and 22), we looked at animal intelligence among primates, birds, and reptiles. We found that the claims for chimpanzee intelligence were overrated and that, on some tests, birds or dogs do as well as or better than chimps.
One outcome of the current sanctified status of the chimpanzee as our “cousin” is our difficulty grappling with the very idea of intelligence. Human intelligence is an outlier, by orders of magnitude. So if common descent is true, it does not follow that our chimpanzee “cousin” must be vastly more intelligent than other animals. Do we expect a great scientist’s relatives to be necessarily science-minded? Talents and interests do run in families, but outliers also can appear without apparent antecedents. Contra Darwin, nature does make leaps, and background studies may not help much in accounting for extreme outliers.
At times, the assumptions behind the studies can give the impression of a detailed “tree of intelligence,” such that, if humans are smarter than chimps, mammals must be smarter than birds, and birds smarter than reptiles. But intelligence isn’t quite like that. First, we don’t really know what intelligence is, in the sense that we know what water is. Definitions are on offer, of course, but they mainly describe what intelligence enables. And when we look into evidence for animal intelligence, we risk making some counterintuitive discoveries.
In 1969, psychologist Nathaniel Brandon published a very influential paper called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” in which he argued that “feelings of self-esteem are the key to success in life.” Brandon’s ideas were first institutionalized when a task force, charged by the California state legislature, formulated a set of recommendations entitled, “Toward a State of Esteem.” The report argued that low self-esteem caused a variety of ills ranging from academic failure to teen pregnancy, and that teaching self-esteem in schools would be a “social vaccine” to inoculate kids from these problems. It recommended that every school district in California strive for “the promotion of self-esteem…as a clearly stated goal, integrated into its total curriculum and informing all of its polices and operations” and that “course work in self-esteem should be required for credentials…for all educators.”
Other states and schools were swept up into this movement and incorporated self-esteem-boosting exercises into their curriculum and programs. These exercises and guidelines – which often revolved around eliminating competition from the classroom — were designed to make students feel good about themselves, under the belief that these good feelings would then beget all sorts of success for them.
However, as later researchers found out, true self-esteem actually has two components — feeling good and doing well. The self-esteem movement had gotten their order mixed up. While the California report posited that low self-esteem causes problems like teen pregnancy and welfare dependence, studies have shown that the opposite is true; low self-esteem is the consequence, not the cause, of such behavior. Thus you can’t start with “feeling good” and have it lead to doing well. It happens the other way around. Feeling good, and true self-esteem, naturally follow from doing well. You can’t pump kids full of self-esteem — it’s something they have to earn for themselves, through true merit.
You really should read the whole thing. There’s a lot to chew on here.
Also, the new issue of Salvo is in the mail now. Subscribers should be receiving their issues soon if they haven’t already. Some articles are up online too, along with the fake ads. I’ll be posting more here at the blog soon.
Maybe it’d be better stated that (fallen) humanity poisons everything. Let’s face it, every worldview has to account for “sin.”
Cooler Heads A Closer Look at All the Factors & Views on Global Warming
by Regis Nicoll
Every religion has its doctrines of Sin, Judgment, and Redemption. The current misanthropic strain of environmentalism is no exception. In this eco-religion, the Sin is man’s carbon footprint; the Judgment is the sizzling Eschaton of global warming; and Redemption can be obtained through carbon credits and population control. Pounding its pulpits, its prophets preach on the ecological Fall and the gospel of sustainability. One such prophet is Steven Schneider, who, early in the global warming debate, confessed:
To capture the public’s imagination . . . we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.