Women Are Affected by Abortion

by Marcia Segelstein

Sadly, but not surprisingly, there was little media attention paid again this year to the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. But the Media Research Center sent a reporter and videographer to interview some of the women marching, find out why they were there, and let them tell their stories. Some were conceived in rape, and some of those were pro-choice before they found out the truth. Some brought their babies who had been conceived in rape. And some were there because they regretted the abortions they’d had.  “I bought into the radical feminist lies of the 1960′s and 70′s,” said one woman who had two abortions. “It’s only through the grace of God that I started being truthful — and then I had to be truthful about what I had done.”

Salvo covered the issue of post-abortion suffering in “A Buried Grief.” It includes links to ministries and organizations that offer healing for women who’ve had abortions.

“Three-parent” IVF, it’s more than an organ donation

Britain’s House of Commons has approved, by an overwhelming majority, to allow a form of technology that involves replacing the nucleus of one woman’s egg with the nucleus of another to be used in so-called “three-parent IVF.”

This vote has been wrought with controversy. Many people are hopeful that this technology will help those women with mitochondrial disease to have biological children without passing on their mitochondrial DNA. Others are concerned about the long-term consequences that this procedure will have on the children born from it.

In November of 2013, I wrote an article about mitochondrial screening and three-parent IVF for bioethics.com that discusses the science and the bioethical issues behind these techniques. It also provides a some background information on mitochondria. The issues raised in this article remain relevant to today’s vote. I do want to add a comment about something that has appeared in recent media reports.

Julian Savulescu, ethicist at Oxford, said in a recent article in The Guardian that the technology used for “three-parent IVF” is akin to micro-organ, or organelle, donation. Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist at NYU, in an article in Wired, also likened this technology to a kind of organ donation. However, replacing the nucleus of an egg with another is not analogous to organ donation, or stem cell donation, because this kind of procedure changes the germ line. In other words, the results from replacing the nucleus in an egg cell changes not only the child born from the subsequent IVF procedure, but the children that come from this child, and so on down the generational line.

With something like a kidney transplant or a stem cell transplant, the procedure does not introduce the donor’s DNA into the recipient’s gametes, and thus, does not incorporate new DNA into the germ line. If the recipient has children after receiving an organ or stem cell donation, he or she will not pass the donor’s DNA along to the child.

Some would consider the multi-generational effect from this nuclear transfer procedure beneficial because it means that mitochondrial disease is not passed down to the next generation. Others are concerned that any unforeseen problems that emerge later would be perpetuated down the generational line. Even though there have been studies with primates and human embryos, we cannot truly know if there will be long-term negative effects until it is done on a human embryo that is allowed to mature.

However, if we assume, as Julian Savulescu and Arthur Caplan have said, that this technique is like organ (or micro-organ) donation, then should we be concerned with compatibility issues? While the mitochondrial DNA has its own replication and transcription processes and it codes for some of the proteins used in mitochondrial processes, it does not code for all of them. Many of the genes necessary to code for proteins used in the mitochondria are made from the nuclear DNA. The proteins are transported from the nucleus to the mitochondria through the cytosol. The assumption is that this interaction will be compatible even though the nucleus and the mitochondria have DNA from different people.

Healthy primate offspring have been born from this technique, so this assumptions not unfounded, but, particularly in cases of reproductive technologies, there is a conceptual and biological leap when going from animal models to human subjects. This technique has, apparently, been done in human embryos that have not been implanted in a womb, but there is a limit to what can be discerned from the laboratory setting because human embryological development is a complex process from beginning to end. We must assume that the nucleus and the other organelles are compatible, but we will not actually know until the embryo is implanted development continues.

On Gender Fluidity

Women’s College Cancels ‘Vagina Monologues’ Because It Excludes Women Without Vaginas

Good riddance! Yet I just can’t get on board with the logic of Mount Holyoke’s dismissal…

In a school-wide email from Mount Holyoke’s student-theater board, relayed by Campus Reform, student Erin Murphy explained that “at its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman … Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”

I know people HATE when “slippery slope” reasoning gets employed for use in an argument, but the story above is exactly why I think such reasoning is now fair game. This article comes to us from reason.com.

Author Robin Phillips has written in the pages of Salvo on the subject of gender being viewed as “a wide and varied experience.” I submit to you for further reading: Gender Benders Is My Sexual Identity an Accident Just Waiting to Happen?

If gender polarity really is that fluid, then do the categories of male and female have any objective meaning at all? To find the answer to that question, I turned to books written by gender scholars. Surely, I thought, they would have the answer.

And so they did (or claimed to), and their answer was a resounding no. Far from having any objective meaning, gender, many of these books claim, is in fact illusory. For example, in Woman Hating, Andrea Dworkin asserts that “the discovery is, of course, that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs?.?.?.?demeaning to the female, dead-ended for male and female both.”

Family therapist Olga Silverstein expresses similar sentiments when she urges “the end of the gender split,” for, according to her, “until we are willing to question the very idea of a male sex role?.?.?. we will be denying both men and women their full ­humanity.”

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir is even more blunt: “Women are made, they are not born,” she asserts. And since women have been “made” by society, the corollary to becoming more enlightened is that we should strive to unmake the female.

This is exactly what the influential psychologist Sandra Bem has suggested. She would like to see the concept of androgyny so absorbed by the culture that, as Melanie Phillips puts it in The Sex-Change Society, paraphrasing Bem’s views, “concepts of masculinity and femininity would cease to have distinct content and distinctions would ‘blur into invisibility.’”

Susan Moller Okin is equally wistful when contemplating a future without gender. She thinks that “a just future would be one without gender. In its social structures and practices, one’s sex would have no more relevance than one’s eye color or the length of one’s toes.”

If we take the above statements seriously, then we’d have to say that Nietzsche was wrong when he posited the Übermensch as the pinnacle of the evolutionary process. Rather, true utopia will be found in neither the superman nor the superwoman, but in the liberated unisex being that will emerge out of the liquidation of gender.

I think it’s starting to be obvious to most people that worldviews do matter and that “ideas have consequences”–and that is a very good thing.

More Daycare Data

by Marcia Segelstein

Nicole King has an interesting post at MercatorNet on the subject of daycare. In 2003, findings published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicated that young children in “non-relative care” were much more likely than those in “maternal care” to exhibit problems such as aggression and defiance in kindergarten. Now, evidence in a follow-up study indicates that those problems among daycare kids persist through sixth grade. Salvo covered the issue of daycare in “Daycare Denial,” including firsthand accounts from former daycare worker May Saubier, author of Doing Time: What It Really Means to Grow Up in Daycare.

Is Being Productive the Highest Good?

Peter from Office Space (Picture from Rotten Tomatoes)

What happens when all we live to work. Let’s take a look at two shows that poke fun at the white-collar office worker. In the movie, Office Space, the main character, Peter, is disillusioned with the “rat race” of office life. His work is repetitive and unimportant, and therefore, he feels that his life is also repetitive and unimportant. His life is centered on his job. He lives to work, and because he does not have the right job, he is unhappy. The “happy ending” of the movie is not that Peter eventually learns that there is more to life than work and his identity is not wrapped up in his job. The happy ending is that he eventually finds a job that has the things he likes, being outdoors and working with his hands.

Jim

Jim from The Office (Picture from http://theoffice.wikia.com/wiki/Jim_Halpert)

In the television show, The Office (U.S. version), one of the characters, Jim, is apathetic about his job at a paper company, Dunder Mifflin. Jim has hobbies, like cycling and playing guitar, but we get the impression that he generally considers his job boring and one of those necessary evils of life (his views change as the series progresses). Dwight, on the other hand, approaches his job at Dunder Mifflin with enthusiasm, showing up early, leaving late, and always trying to be a team player. He also happens to live and work on beet farm, of which he is equally enthusiastic.

Both Office Space and The Office are written so that we relate to Peter and Jim. They represent the angst that most white-collar workers feel, even if we cannot put our finger on exactly what that angst is. Peter wants to be outside. Jim plays music. But are cubicles and paper-pushing really the problem?

Perhaps the problem has to do with how we prioritize our lives. Our Western culture has bought into the idea that productivity is the highest good, and therefore work should be an end in itself. Productivity is certainly one of many signs of a good employee or a well-run business, but it is not an end in itself. Being productive should not be the end-all-be-all of life. To live for productivity is hollow and dehumanizing. Machines are fine-tuned to be optimally productive. People strive for something more, and productivity helps us get there.

What is leisure?

In pre-modern times, people whose lives were centered on work were called slaves or laborers. They put in twelve or fourteen-hour days and spent their non-working time resting and recuperating so that they can work the next day. Their value is in their productivity. This is contrasted to the aristocracy. They engaged in leisure activities, but these activities are not what we think of when we think of “leisure” today. The aristocracy considered leisure activities important for cultural enrichment. Those that used their freedom to engage in diversions or hedonism were considered slothful.

Leisure, in the classical sense of the term, is different from restful activities to help recuperate from a long day or mindless activities to cope with the mental tedium of repetitive, labor-intensive work. Leisure activities consisted of the higher pursuits, like education, art, music, and sport. It is no accident that the word we use for “school” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word for leisure. Leisure activities often consisted of difficult things that required hard work to master, but these activities were personally enriching and culturally significant. They often involved creating or writing things that have aesthetic appeal and are good in and of themselves.

The Industrial Revolution

This two class system was turned on its head with the advance of the Industrial Revolution. Industrialization, over the course of one hundred years, took menial, repetitive, undignified work and automated it. It also meant that people did not have to work as many hours, allowing all people to have a life that consisted of rest (including sleeping, eating, and bodily care), non-work, and work time. The non-work time was to be a time for leisure pursuits so that all men may cultivate a virtuous character and engage in culture-making.  This resulted in more people getting an education and engage in the arts and sciences.

But something happened that caused people to lose track of those priorities. Mortimer Adler, an early-twentieth century scholar, points out that while the Industrial Revolution did much to dignify work and rid of us a labor/aristocracy class system, it also skewed our understanding of work, leisure, and recreation.

Adler lists four negative consequences of the Industrial Revolution that contribute to our malaise:

  1. The Industrial Revolution eliminated the value of individual craftsmanship. Things that used to be made by artisans and craftsmen, like shoes, clothes, candles, or food, were easily produced in the factory setting, thus trivializing certain kinds of work.
  2. The Industrial Revolution changed our priorities such that producing more and more goods became the purpose of all of our efforts. Adler says that we ought to regard the increase in productivity only as a means and not as an end.
  3. As a result, people now think free time should be used only for recreation (or recuperation) in order to get back to work and produce more. It is no longer a time to engage in those things that are edifying and that often bring people joy. Instead, it is spent engaging in diversions which are not ultimately fulfilling.
  4. Classical, or liberal, education was replaced with training for the job so that a person can become a productive member of society. This perpetuated a kind of empty meaning to education that goes something like this: “Go to school and make good grades, so you can go to a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can be a productive member of society.”

Meaninglessness

By placing an emphasis on productivity, people live to work, and therefore, their free time is spent on things that are not tiring, but also not particularly enriching. This leads to a kind of boredom that philosopher-types like to call hyper-boredom. You get the sense of this hyper-boredom when you watch Peter in Office Space. However, hyper-boredom is more than “being in a funk” or not finding the right job. It is a malaise that is best described as operating as though everything was ultimately meaningless.

Why is a proper view of leisure important? Adler summarizes the classical concept of leisure as “consisting in all those activities by which the individual grows morally, intellectually, and spiritually, through which he attains personal excellence and also performs his moral and political duty.” Essentially, it is the things people love to do and would do whether they were paid or not.

Leisure is not the same has having nothing to do or “killing time” and it is not a diversion to cope with life. Adler points out that, based on the classical concept of leisure, the good life depends on labor, but it consists of leisure.

A couple of caveats are in order, though. First, some people are blessed to be able to do the leisure activities that they love as their full-time job. Adler, a college professor, considered his job both work and leisure. But, as anyone who has ever been a full-time teacher, writer, or artist knows, there is still a labor aspect to their leisure activity. Most people do not consider grading papers, filling out tax forms, or making sales pitches leisure activities. These things tend to be compulsory, making them work rather than leisure.

Second, this is not to say productivity is bad. It is good to be productive as part of pursuing excellence in work. However, orienting your life around productivity is to enslave yourself. Recall that in The Office, Jim was apathetic about work, but Dwight was not. Their characters are meant to be comic foils of each other, but as always, comedy is funny because it contains elements of truth. Dwight had a beet farm, a leisure activity, while Jim had diversions. Jim’s character started to change when he engaged in a meaningful relationship.

We often think that our leisure, or non-work time, is unimportant, but in reality, it is very important. A proper view of leisure helps us orient our lives in a way that acknowledges the reality of having to earn a living to survive but that we crave more than merely survival and consumerism.

J. Warner Wallace on True Believers

Something to think about–Even Unbelievers Are True Believers.

I’m not foolish enough to think Christians are immune to misguided or improperly motivated beliefs. I’ve written repeatedly about the perils of “accidental Christianity” and the largely unthoughtful nature of the Church. If you’re a Christian, you might want to ask yourself why you believe Christianity is true. There are lots of “true believing” Christians who are just like my unbelieving atheist and Mormon friends; committed to a worldview not because it is evidentially true but for some other utilitarian or practical reason.

This Christmas season, let’s renew our effort to celebrate the life of the mind as Christians. When you’re about to begin a conversation with an unbelieving friend, keep this important truth in view: Even unbelievers are true believers. We sometimes present the case for Christianity as though we are talking to people who simply don’t know the facts, (as if we are speaking into an evidential “vacuum”). But this isn’t always the case. Everyone’s a “true believer”, and sometimes the challenge is in recognizing why someone is committed to their views.

To learn more about J. Warner Wallace, see this article about him and his work as a homicide detective as well as being an impressive apologist for the Christian faith.

HT: Mr. Wintery Knight