- Does Capitalism Hurt Women?
The article answers no. I think the abbreviated explanation is satisfactory.
- What might actually be leading to apparent increases in autism?
I am aware of no scientific evidence for the connection between autism and vaccines, but all that bluster might be a bit of a distraction from several contributing factors that are less politically correct to mention:
- Maternal Age
Women have children later and later in life. It’s not just that they’re continuing to have children, it’s that they’re having their first children much later (in the upper classes, anyway…women continue to have children prior to marriage in lower socio-economic rungs). But because careerism is pushed so hard, the biological realities are rarely explained to women who want a family and a career, but advancing maternal age predicts autism spectrum disorder
- Maternal Obesity
We’re fatter than ever. There are several risks for this state of affairs to anybody residing in the womb of an obese person, but it is rarely hinted that autism is one of them.
- Maternal Antidepressant Use
A few studies suggest a link between autism and maternal antidepressant use. While the link is small, the most recent look into the issue (2016) suggests that more research needs to be done. It does appear to be true that boys are more susceptible to ASD from in association with SSRIs. This particular issue is of some importance in light of the fairly recent revelation that 21% of American women are on psychiatric drugs.
- Paternal Age
Because of several factors, ranging from delayed marriage, delayed reproduction, or the remarriage of older men to younger women (after men age physically, they’re typically more resource rich, so they seem to remain in the dating pool potential for younger women), men are fathering children at older ages than in the past. And the data on autism spectrum and paternal age is “robust.”
- Endocrine Disruptor Exposure
While air pollution is verified to have neuro/psychological effects, another key environmental factor to consider is endocrine disruptor exposure. These chemicals are quite common in plastics. Based on Simon Baron-Cohen’s research on the connection between in-utero androgen exposure and autism, it’s worth a look. And as it turns out, some evidence is beginning to emerge.
- Maternal Age
- Yale University has awarded those who oppose free speech. There are several solutions to problems of this sort. My favorite is solution is that the universities should continue to cater to this small but noisy coterie of agitators while a group of smaller schools follow a market model designed around product quality and efficiency. People underestimate the possibility of this because they assume that sports or other interests will overtake a school if it becomes market oriented, but this is simply untrue. Most schools take donations and government money which determine the sort of product that can be offered. If a school taught specific skills at a high level, even the skills of the humanities, such a school could thrive if is was reasonably priced and owned/managed by the professors. Churches did this in the past. Of course, that’s all idealistic, somebody has to build it.
- Jordan Peterson’s lectures on the Bible have started:
- Vicki Larson writes that marriage shouldn’t receive social benefits of privileges. The thesis is interesting. The argument is not only boring, but unconvincing. Insofar as a society exists in which parents prefer to take prime responsibility for their own children, marriage will continue to exist. And insofar as procreation is how society continues to exist, then marriage will be the prime theatre for social responsibility and therefore privilege. Why? Because privilege and responsibility usually go together.
Archives for May 2017
The Best Article I’ve read in the WSJ
In an unusual occurrence, I found a pretty good WSJ article today in which the author argues that nationalism (what I’ve called friendly-competition nationalism or neighborly concerned nationalism in private conversations) might solve some of the problems with poorly assimilating Islamic cultures around the world:
To wit, for most people everywhere, humanity is “too large and too diverse” to provide meaningful communion. “I cannot prove that the nation-state is the only viable form,” he says. “But what I’m sure about is that to live a fully human life, you need a common life and a community. This is a Greek idea, a Roman idea, a Christian idea.”
Then again, the 19th-century marriage of liberalism and nationalism ended in a very ugly divorce in the first half of the 20th century. What about the dangers of reviving nationalism today? “There is no a priori guarantee that it could not devolve into something nasty,” Mr. Manent says. “But if we don’t propose a reasonable idea of the nation, we will end up with an unreasonable idea of the nation. Because simply: However weakened the idea of the nation, nations do not want to die.”
The article was written in response to what is, regardless of what people think of its source, a piece of political wisdom of an older, saner age:
America is a sovereign nation, and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.
The reason I was always, and will always be reticent to identify with a particular political party is the tendency of the current parties to frequently engage in endless wars, endless invitations to those dispossessed by those wars to live here, and endless nation-building in response to the destruction wrought by said wars.
Does Religion Cause All Those Wars?
Reposted from my old blog.
This post was meant to be a brief response to Sam de Britto’s short article on the relationship of God-belief to war. It mostly became a rambling essay spring boarding from his thoughts.
Atheists are goofuses
It must be frustrating worshipping an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being and He does nothing to smite, humiliate or deter those who do not. Violence or discrimination in God’s name thus seems to be the ultimate redundancy because surely the point of divine omnipotence is setting the chessboard just as you’d like it…Take the same stand against God [that I take] in the US and you’ll never see high public office, which means every “leader of the free world” now believes in the Sky Wizard or is so fearful of a pious backlash, they lie about it in public and toddle off to church every Sunday to complete the charade…
The imaginative atheist
The Historically Errant Atheist
As has been pointed out by many esteemed thinkers, this is the insidious nature of “moderate” religion. It makes it all so reasonable to respect and treasure “fantastic propositions” that can be believed without evidence and that it’s only extremists who distort the “truth”.
- the source text (Bibles, Vedas, etc.)
- how the mainstream sects interpret said text
- what are people doing that either contradicts or comports with that interpretation.
The Potentially Violent Atheist
The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.
The Historically Errant Atheist
The Dark Knight Trilogy and Intertextuality: Stallone, Dumas, Hugo, and Dickens
I’ve always loved intertexuality. I especially love the interplay between books and film.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is a great example.
The movies have many resonances. For instance, the trilogy is intentionally based upon Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Most obviously, when Commissioner Gordon reads from the book:
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
But there were other allusions as well. Some outside of French literature. For instance, there’s an almost plagiarized line from Rocky III in the film:
“I was wondering what would break first…your spirit…or your body!”
“If I can’t break your spirit, I sure enough can break your back.”
And then, of course, the movie also follows the pattern of Rocky III as well as the Rocky III theme song, Eye of the Tiger:
So many times it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
“Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you.”
While Thunderlips couldn’t break Rocky’s spirit, Clubber Lang did. But his former opponent, Apollo Creed invites Rocky into a dangerous and new training environment in order to come back and attempt one last fight against Lang. Similarly, Bruce Wayne, after having his body and spirit broken by Bane ends up in a prison filled with the criminal element of the world (Wayne’s primal enemy). But it is the criminal element that understands the fear of death and the desire for life and freedom that allows the Batman to fight Bane with renewed vigor, “Rising up to the challenge of survival.”
But aside from Rocky and the Tale of Two Cities, what other literature adds meaning to the films? Two examples are Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
The character Bane, is essentially a combination of Javert from Les Miserables and Dantes from Monte Cristo.
For instance, Javert and Bane are both born in prison. Both are deeply obsessed with the idea of innocence. To the extent that both are willing to die rather than be implicated in actual wrong doing. Bane is willing to die in a nuclear blast in order to cleanse Gotham of evil as well as for the sin of allowing Batman to escape prison. Similarly, Javert ends his life when he realizes the contradiction between the law and his own life. Also, in Javert’s confrontation with Valjean (I’ll quote the musical for familiarity’s sake), he claims that he can easily understand and defeat Valjean despite Valjean’s superior strength because of his personal familiarity with the scum of the earth:
Valjean I am warning you, Javert
I’m a stronger man by farThere is power in me yetMy race is not yet run!I am warning you, JavertThere is nothing I won’t dareIf I have to kill you here
I’ll do what must be done!
Javert Dare you talk to me of crime And the price you had to pay Every man is born in sin Every man must choose his way You know nothing of Javert I was born inside a jail
I was born with scum like you
I am from the gutter, too
This is essentially Bane’s line when the Batman attempts to use the power of the shadows to defeat him:
“I was born in the darkness…the shadows betray you because they belong to ME.”
Both Bane and the Batman are painted with shades of Edmond Dantes. For instance, in the comic books and in Bane’s backstory in the movie, he was trained in prison by a priest who taught him deeply in philosophy, mathematics, science, and linguistics. And Bane, in the film, can perform advanced nuclear physics in his head, not only so, but he was picked up and trained by the League of Shadows partly due to his already considerable fighting prowess. But this training is what Edmond Dantes received when he was wrongly imprisoned, with the addition of fencing. Bane, after further training from the League of Shadows, seeks to do anything possible to cleanse civilization from any elements which are dangerous or corrupting of children. But Bruce Wayne is also an allusion Dantes. When Bruce Wayne is wrongly imprisoned, he sinks into despair and wishes to simply die until a wise sage-like character (perhaps Bane’s teacher) who encourages him to regain his strength and escape and gain vengeance upon the man who broke his spirit and left him to languish unjustly in prison. This is, of course, very important in the Nolan Trilogy, because Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman from prison in the first film, for there he means the leader of the League of Shadows.
While I doubt anybody still thinks about those films, they really are rich with intertexts as well as archetypal figures (remember, in the first film the penultimate villain is a Jungian psychiatrist!). The key archetype is the relationship of vulnerable humanity to the chaos and danger in the world. For Bruce Wayne (or Bane) to overcome evil in the world, they must descend into the depths of the underworld as well as their own souls. This is analogous to the Christian discipline of confession. One must truly discover one’s own filth and admit it in order to take any steps to clean up the world. Or, to put it another way, one must gain the cunning abilities of the serpent, but only use them innocently in order to avoid becoming the serpents prey (Matthew 10:16). You have to have the teeth of the predator in order to be a protector, etc.
Because the movies touch on such universal themes, they will remain significant to any who watch them regardless of whether their legacy will endure.
Atheists and Toleration
John Locke famously argued that atheism/atheists ought not be tolerated in a religiously free society:
Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration. As for other practical opinions, though not absolutely free from all error, if they do not tend to establish domination over others, or civil impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no reason why they should not be tolerated.
While this makes me uncomfortable, I am reminded of what Rosenberg wrote, of atheists, in his book The Atheist Guide to Reality:
The interesting thing is to recognize how totally unavoidable [the answers to the questions below] they are, provided you place your confidence in science to provide the answers.
Is there a God? No.
What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.
What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
What is the meaning of life? Ditto.
Why am I here? Just dumb luck.
Does prayer work? Of course not.
Is there a soul? Is it immortal? Are you kidding?
Is there free will? Not a chance!
What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.
What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.
Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.
What is love, and how can I find it? Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it.
Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.
Does the human past have any lessons for our future? Fewer and fewer, if it ever had any to begin with.
Aside from the hilarity of an Atheist writing ‘ THE guide to reality’ for other atheists while decrying as stupid those who believe in sacred literature, in what you read above there are two major incoherencies:
- If you can learn nothing from the human past, then you can learn nothing from science for every experiment was done in the past.
- If there is no difference between any opinion, moral or otherwise, and no meaning to human history, then it makes no difference to believe in illusions or not, so the book is frivolous and without meaning.
But aside from atheism’s ability to inject such incoherencies into one’s thoughtspace, it also does precisely what John Locke feared: it devalues the keeping of promises because the reason to be moral is that “it makes you feel better than being immoral.”
There is no valuation attributed even to the individual life nor to the project of civilization. Even evolution, for all its transfer of data and information and the thousands of years it took for luck to yield beings who experience the universe as a series of ecstasies and horrors, has no point and the information given to offspring through culture and DNA has no meaning (this is false on the surface because our cells find plenty of meaning in DNA).
Anyway, if human contracts, human civilization, and human life have no meaning in this worldview, then Locke was right to be suspicious of those who held it.
 Alex Rosenberg The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions (Digital Edition), 22.9/669.
Clown World: laws against child abuse are insensitive to people from abusive cultures
In Minnesota, citizens are concerned about the increasing prevalence of female genital mutilation amongst new Minnesota residents. So, a bill was passed to prohibit the practice, but a lot of folks aren’t happy.
Republicans, reliably afraid of looking bad for making democrats unhappy had this to say:
Now, the author of the Senate version is voicing second thoughts about approving the legislation yet this session, though Senate GOP leadership have not committed to a course of action. “We all agree this practice is absolutely horrible, and something needs to be done,” said the author, Sen. Karin Housley. “How can we empower communities to address this practice from within rather than having Big Brother come down and say, ‘This is wrong?’ ”
In other words, “This is a horrible practice (see, I’m against it, don’t call me a coward) but let’s not make it illegal (please don’t call me racist or xenophobic).”
Anyway, read the whole article. The issue of female genital cutting has an obvious answer: don’t do it, it’s wrong and despicable.
On the other hand, Christians need to think about what our revulsion to this practice means for the frequent Protestant appropriation of circumcision.
But back to the issue at hand, it’s really easy to let people entering the country know that you can’t practice FGM: include a “we don’t chop children’s genitals” portion of the immigration class.
About six months ago I made the joke that perhaps FGM should be made legal or even mandatory and be covered by the Affordable Care Act because otherwise people would get back alley procedures done as an analogy to the similar pro-choice. I fear that, based on the increase in the practice, we actually aren’t far from a third wave feminist argument to that effect. I’ve already seen this:
FGM is called, “gender egalitarian surgery.” How long until the game of changing the terminology becomes a game of competing for government funding for the practice as a routine medical procedure? My hope is that that timeline approaches infinity.
Now, I think that there is a way for the legal system to meet people halfway, but you don’t do that by refusing to outlaw child abuse.
As an aside, in my home town a child was left in a car while the family watched a movie and the parents were simply warned because of their different culture rather.