buy levitra onlineww.thepublicphilosopher.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/baby.jpg” alt=”" width=”510″ height=”290″ /> No kidding around
Jonathan Last covers the “childfree” movement in a recent Weekly Standard piece. He writes:
These people differ from the merely “childless” in that they want the world to know that their situation is not an accident. A spinster or an infertile couple might be childless by bad luck. The childfree are childless by choice.
While the size and influence of the “childfree” movement are unclear, considerably more people have embraced the lifestyle in recent years. What values or preferences might be motivating them?
On the self-regarding side, “childfree” couples might argue that they can make a greater contribution to humanity through their work than by bringing a child into the world. The time spent child-rearing could be time spent writing a great novel, performing scientific research, etc. Or they might argue that emotional and physical intimacy with one’s partner is impossible with children. Or they might simply not like being around kids.
Society will be fine without their kids, they might continue, because others gladly have life views that incorporate having children, more than enough, in fact, to continue society’s existence.
It’s possible, strangely, to argue for a “childfree” existence from a more altruistic perspective. Many “childfree” couples believe that the world is experiencing a permanent social and cultural devolution. Thus, it would be wrong to subject a child to such negative conditions.
Last quotes from Better Never to Have Been by David Benatar, a philosophy professor at the University of Cape Town: “The quality of even the best lives is very bad and considerably worse than most people recognize it to be. Although it is obviously too late to prevent our own existence, it is not too late to prevent the existence of future possible people.”
Douthat clarifies his argument
In his New York Times blog, Ross Douthat wrestles with one of the most persuasive critiques of his recent article against gay marriage; the notion that there is no reason to view heterosexual relationships as exceptional or “distinctive” in a way that merits them being prioritized over homosexual relationships.
In responding Douthat argues that:
The interplay of fertility, reproductive impulses and gender differences in heterosexual relationships is, for want of a better word, “thick.” All straight relationships are intimately affected by this interplay in ways that gay relationships are not.
Why Ross Douthat fails to deliver
(A) What values gay marriage threatens,
(B) The process by which it threatens those values,
(C) The values protected or promoted by the legalization of gay marriage, and
(D) Why the values gay marriage threatens outweigh those it promotes.
Douthat focuses on the (A) category and completely ignores the other three. He argues that gay marriage threatens the Western ideal of “lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate.”
Republican leaders have reversed course after it was widely reported last week that some top Republicans are reconsidering the 14th Amendment right that guarantees citizenship to those born in the United States. In an Associated Press article, Jeff Sessions of Alabama was quoted detailing his party’s concerns about the amendment with respect to immigration policy:
“I’m not exactly sure what the drafters of the [14th] amendment had in mind, but I doubt it was that somebody could fly in from Brazil and have a child and fly back home with that child, and that child is forever an American citizen…”
Similar comments from other Republican lawmakers have generated controversy, and Republican leadership has since backpedaled. Is challenging birthright citizenship merely partisan and discriminatory, or is it a
reasonable idea made indefensible by its controversial nature?
In today’s New York Times Ross Douthat dismisses many of the traditional arguments against gay marriage, but concludes by stating that heterosexual marriage is unique in an important respect.
This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up
in intimate contact wit
h both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.
Is this “organic connection between human generations” so essential to the definition of marriage that allowing gay and lesbians to marry will undermine the essence of the institution? The other question is, what about heterosexual couples who cannot have children or would rather adopt? On what grounds do they have more of a right to marriage than a gay couple?
Image used under a Creative Commons attribution license from Flickr user Steve Polyak
The Obama administration’s new Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative
Beginning with a speech on Father’s Day Sunday, Obama launched a new initiative on responsible fatherhood. This was a campaign issue for then-candidate Obama, and remains one of the social issues with which he shares common ground with conservatives, who frequently emphasize the role of responsible parenting and accountable fatherhood in helping to create the conditions for future economic success of low-income children.
In an email from the White House:
My own father left my family when I was two years old. I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It’s something that leaves a hole no government can fill. Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves.
Robert Wright argues in today’s New York Times that “in its own way, the Tiger Woods scandal is as important as Kandahar and the Catholic Church.” Why? He provides a list of reasons, including:
5) Moral sanction matters. Though monogamous marriage may be, on average, the best way to rear children, a lifetime of monogamous fidelity isn’t natural in our species. And extramarital affairs have a way of leading, one way or another, to the dissolution of marriages – not unfailingly, by any means, but with nontrivial frequency. And even when an affair doesn’t end a marriage, it can permanently change the marriage – and child-rearing environment – for the worse.
So we’re stuck with this unfortunate irony: the institution that seems to be, on average, the least bad means of rearing children is an institution that doesn’t naturally sustain itself in the absence of moral sanction – positive sanction for fidelity, negative sanction for infidelity. And negative sanction often involves sounding judgmental – something that, in addition to incurring the wrath of a columnist’s readers, raises genuinely thorny intellectual problems.
This is a pretty instrumental view of morality. Wright is essentially arguing that Tiger’s infidelity vitiates cultural support for monogamous marriage. On his account, that’s bad because monogamous marriage is good for children, but without moral sanction, it’s a difficult institution to preserve.
But why is good childrearing so important? The only answers are really (a) it provides for the best, most successful propagation of our species or (b) it’s something we owe both to our own children and to the next generation in general to help them thrive and succeed.
The first option is one that seems logical, but actually has trouble finding a rational foundation until you get down to some inherent human dignity. And the second option refers to that dignity directly.
But once you’re in the field of human dignity, it’s hard to suppress issues of choice, freedom, etc. that call into question both emphasis on monogamous marriage as a lifestyle and a ethical structure that uses moral injunction to support a cultural practice.
Photo by Flickr user Keith Allison used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Ian Murray over at The Conrer has an interesting post on whether having a child is a right or, as one British MP asserts, a privilege. The discussion stems from a Sun article in which 59-year old Sue Tollefson tells the paper that she plans to use In vitro fertilisation (IVF) to have a baby. The MP, Tom Harris, contends that the state should be able to ban IVF at that age because “of course 60 is too old to become a mum.” Harris argument is actually quite interesting:
I agree that it’s not fair that some women who desperately want to have children reach the age when they can collect their pension but still haven’t achieved that ambition. But what’s even more unfair is knowing that a child is born with the near certainty of being left motherless before it reaches its teens, or will spend their formative years as a carer. Children are not lifestyle choices. They’re not possessions to be added to our collections of material wealth as we grow older: first car (used), first flat, first house, second car (new), baby, bigger house… Children are precious for their own sake. The happiness and fulfilment they offer to their parents is secondary.
As for Ian Murray at The Corner, he argues that there exists a right to have a child: “Now I’m not one for long lists of positive rights, much preferring short lists of negative rights, [ ] it says something that every statement of human rights since the 1948 U.N. declaration includes the right to marry and found a family.” I can imagine, though, that some of his colleagues will take an opposite position. For faced with a common conservative dilemma — what to do when rights conflict with religious belief — many will see IVF as unnatural and, thus, immoral in itself.
Science vs. religion in the pursuit of healing
The Washington Post had an article yesterday on efforts by the Church of Scientology to get Congress to include in health care reform a provision that would require insurers to reimburse patients for the cost of prayer practitioners. In the United States, health care is most often administered through scientific-based medicine – medication, surgery, etc. However, for much of human history, there has been a concept of faith healing – the idea that religious belief, prayer and rituals can evoke divine power to remedy disease and disability.
Like doctors, prayer practitioners claim to be able to heal the sick. So, the argument goes, insurance should cover the cost of prayer. So should it? Read more
The Washington Post had an interesting article Sunday on a group of people rarely thought of in the debates over gay marriage – the straight ex-spouses of formerly closeted homosexuals. As the article describes, “many of these former spouses…see the legalization of same-sex marriage as a step toward protecting not only homosexuals but also heterosexuals.”
On Friday, I linked to a discussion on The Corner about whether abortion could be a pro-family policy. Today, I wonder if gay marriage could be a pro-family policy? As the article suggests, if gay marriage was more accepted these straight ex-spouses “might have been spared doomed marriages.”