Vanity Is Vanity

The Emptiness of Progressive Virtue Signaling

They've been popping up like mushrooms on lawns across America: signs bearing the declaration, "In this house we believe," followed by slogans that have become fashionable among progressives, like "Science Is Real," "Love Is Love," "No Human Is Illegal," "Women's Rights Are Human Rights," and "Black Lives Matter."

For many, it is a public display of resistance against forces opposed to progressive causes that doubles as a vehicle to shame the unenlightened and inform the world: There are no science skeptics, homophobes, xenophobes, misogynists, racists or any misanthrope from the "basket of deplorables" under this roof. While my neighbors (and you, passerby) may serve the purveyors of fear and misinformation, as for me and my household, we serve the truth.

Setting aside for now the derisive undertone of the message, we can allow that coming out in service of the truth is fine and good. But how true are the "truths" they serve?

Science Is Real

No disagreement that science is real—as are falsehoods, errors, and misinformation, in that these things exist objectively in the world. The issue isn't whether science is real, but whether its results are valid.

Contrary to the implication of the slogan, science is not a monolithic, infallible source of truth. Rather, it is a systematic method by which "truths" are discovered, but held tentatively, subject to refinement, revision, and even reversal.

Although it may come as news to the sloganeers, scattered along the trail of scientific progress lie the graves of "certainties"—many of which were long-held consensus positions—proven false, like geocentrism, spontaneous generation, the medicinal benefits of blood-letting, the "steady-state" universe, and the inflexibility of time and space.

In just the past decade or so, the science-based concerns over global cooling and overpopulation have shifted diametrically to global warming (or climate change) and demographic decline. Most recently, we've witnessed just how fast, frequently, and dramatically the science of the day can change.

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical experts have informed us:

You don't need to wear a mask and it's no more serious than the flu; you do need to wear a mask, though the virus is so small it can penetrate all but the N95 brand, so you should wear two masks; a vaccine will protect you from catching the virus and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you won't have to wear a mask if fully vaccinated; you must still wear a mask even if fully vaccinated because of the Delta variant; if you have been fully vaccinated it is unlikely you will catch the Delta variant, but wear a mask anyway just in case.1

Science is real, but as the historical record makes plain, it is not immune from error, bias, and groupthink.

Beyond the question of scientific validity is the issue of whether the decisions and actions "based on science" are actually congruent with science.

Take the case of human sexuality. According to science, sex is determined by our chromosomes—specifically, by a pair of sex chromosomes in the DNA of every cell of our bodies. Persons with two X chromosomes are female, while those with one X and one Y chromosome are male. It is a physical reality that no amount of chemical injections or surgical mutilation can change. Consequently, "Caitlyn" Jenner is a man and "Elliot" Page is a woman.

To insist otherwise is to trade a scientific truth (about biological sex) for a social construction (transgenderism)—a trade that has led to the sexual assault of girls and women in restrooms, as well as to female athletes losing sports rankings, prizes, and scholarships to biological men.

Then there's the harnessing of nuclear power, one of the greatest achievements of modern science. Nuclear power is a scientifically based and empirically proven technology that provides an abundant, reliable, and efficient source of energy. Its safety record far exceeds that of all other energy industries, and its solutions to the problem of nuclear waste are technologically sound. What's more, it's carbon-neutral.

Those who disqualify nuclear power out-of-hand from considerations of energy independence and, ironically, climate change (a major source of progressive anxieties), do so not because of its duly deliberated scientific merits, but in spite of them.

Love Is Love

Indeed, love is love, as hope is hope and faith is faith. What's more, we know from the first rule of logic that love cannot be "not-love." So what's going on here?

The problem is not with the statement but with the implication that homosexual love is equal to heterosexual love in all ways. Yet while homosexual love can be equal to heterosexual love in intensity of feeling, it is not equal romantically or in unitive capability, and it cannot produce what heterosexual love is uniquely designed to produce: children.

As a way to work around their procreative dysfunction, same-sex couples turn to artificial reproductive technology (ART), whereby children are produced with the help of a sperm or egg donor, or both. If a surrogate mother is thrown into the mix, a child can become the product of three adults while being legally attached to two others who are genetically unrelated to him.

Consequently, homosexual love is not equal to heterosexual love in that it cannot produce the family structure that, as history has shown, is best suited for the nurturing of children: a home headed by their married biological parents.

And there is another way homosexual love is not equal to heterosexual love.

Because homosexuality affects less than five percent of the population,2 the odds are overwhelming that a child raised in a homosexual home will be heterosexual. But same-sex parents cannot model how their child should relate to the opposite sex in courtship, dating, and marriage. They cannot credibly teach their heterosexual sons or daughters how to understand their sexuality or experience it in a manner consistent with their design. They can only model a transmogrified version of romantic love that puts their children at risk for sexual confusion, confliction, and dysfunction.

Little wonder that a long-term study by the Williams Institute, a thinktank on sexual orientation and gender, found that "the children of lesbian parents are less likely to identify as heterosexual as adults and much more likely to report same-sex attraction."3

No Human Is Illegal

The slogan is right—no person is illegal, but his or her activities may be. And while an illegal activity does not make the perpetrator illegal, it does make him a criminal.

Just as the person who gains unlawful entry into a home is a criminal, so is an immigrant who crosses a national border illegally. But, contrary to the implication of the slogan, calling the latter an "illegal alien" does not call into question his proper status as a human being, but his legal standing as a non-citizen.

Women's Rights Are Human Rights

Pitched as a matter of women's health, "women's rights" include, foremost in the progressive mind, the "right" of a woman to abort her child. Created in the U.S. in 1973 (Roe v. Wade) by the Supreme Court, the "right" was expanded in1992 (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) with the rationale, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Few people would deny that we should have the right to hold our own concepts about life and its meaning. But few would also suggest that any action derived from those concepts should be free from governmental restrictions and penalties.

Eighty years ago, Joseph Goebbels had a concept of life's mystery that resulted in the deaths of six million Jews. Since 1973, the "women's rights" movement has had a concept that has cost the lives of 62 million children and counting.

But beyond the deaths of children who might have been poets, educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, there are consequences also for women. Abortive women have higher incidences of suicide, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, violent behavior, child abuse, and relationship problems, including divorce. So in a grim sort of way, progressives are right: "women's rights" do concern women's health.

Black Lives Matter

To all decent people, black lives indeed matter—that is, all black lives. But to the Black Lives Matter movement, only some black lives matter—specifically, those ended in encounters with the police.

For over a year there have been BLM demonstrations, protests, and riots—many accompanied by acts of violence, looting, and arson—in reaction to the dozen or so unarmed blacks killed in the last few years by police. Yet there has been nary a whisper from BLM over the dozen or so blacks killed every weekend in cities across the nation by other blacks, or over the hundreds of black babies killed every day in abortion clinics strategically placed in black neighborhoods.

The disparity of response is evidence that black lives matter to BLM only when they serve the movement's political purposes, which, as its self-described Marxist founders have stated, are framed around Marxist objectives, like "disrupt[ing] the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure."4

Not What They Think

For the folks who plant these signs to let the world know that they belong to the class of smart, tolerant people, the incongruities of the slogans and disparaging insinuations about people who see things differently indicate they may not be as smart and tolerant as they think they are.

1. Cal Thomas, "COVID-19 Round 2," Townhall (Aug. 3, 2021):
2. Frank Newport, "In U.S., Estimate of LGBT Population Rises to 4.5%," Gallup (May 22, 2018):
3. Julie Moreau, "Adult children of lesbian parents less likely to identify as straight, study finds," NBC News (April 2, 2019):
4. Joshua Rhett Miller, "BLM site removes page on 'nuclear family structure' amid NFL vet's criticism," New York Post (Sept. 24, 2020):

Regis Nicoll  is a retired nuclear engineer and physicist, a Colson Center fellow, and a Christian commentator on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters, available at Amazon.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #60, Spring 2022 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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