Monday, August 31, 2015

The Feminist War on Family Science

Another comment on feminist "research" here.  Also see here and here

Few social science findings are as durable, consistent, and striking as the idea that children fare better when under the care of two biological parents (on a whole slew of indicators).  This is as close to a law of gravity as we have in sociology.

Unfortunately, there are a slew of scholars who have ignored the science, and instead argue that sociology cannot prove that children fare better with parents who are traditionally married.

The effect of this feminist war on family science—waged by Martha Fineman, Linda McClain, and Elizabeth Brake—has been staggering.

For example, defenders of traditional marriage recently pointed to family science facts in court proceedings on same-sex marriage and were forced to defend state laws favoring traditional marriage as if they were discriminatory.

In order to defend such laws, they had to prove that the state’s discrimination served a “compelling state interest” on behalf of children.

Social science studies are, however, as I say, on the side of traditional marriage.

Those who helped design legal strategies and briefs on this topic thought that the courts were putting a gun to the head of traditional marriage and forcing it to come up with the goods.

We hoped we could, under these unfavorable conditions, still win the argument on the basis of evidence.

For such arguments to win the day, judges and justices have to be willing to listen to the data. There were reasons not to be optimistic that they would be open to persuasion.

As I say, few findings in social science are as well-established as the idea that children raised by two biological parents are better-educated, commit fewer crimes, have more self-control, and do better on almost every measure of well-being than children living with single parents, from divorces, living with step-parents, and so on.

Long term studies beginning in the 1970s have shown this to be true. The most significant data on this has been available since the late 1980s, with more and more data accumulating as the years proceed.

There was a cascade of studies and prominent books on the topic in 2000, and subsequent work has done nothing but buttress such findings.

I hesitate to mention any single individual on this topic, but Robert Rector, David Popenoe, and David Blankenhorn were crucial in the early stages of this project, while few have been as important as W. Bradford Wilcox in the latest stages.

Before these findings were dismissed in court, feminists and contemporary liberals confronted them and denigrated them.

The various arguments that these feminist “scholars” have made reveal an ideological blindness that is not open to reason and evidence.

Liberal Scholars Ignore the Science

Exhibit A is Martha Fineman, author of “The Autonomy Myth” and professor at Emory University.  She discredits research in several ways.

First, she claims there is a “feedback loop,” within which family decline literature should be dismissed.  “The results of only some studies (those supporting the family disintegration thesis) get publicized and aggressively made part of policy discourse through think tanks and advocates with access to media.”

Then, in the usual manner, she cites countervailing studies—studies that show that kids of divorce or products of single parents do just fine, thank you.

Or, to be more precise, these countervailing studies show that “association is not causation” or that the effects are difficult to state or that decline does not necessarily lead to such effects or that they demonstrate the problem of a spurious relationship or a selection bias.  This exhausts what I remember from methods classes.

Fineman concludes that the science of family decline is still in the boyhood of knowledge and cannot be relied on or should not be relied on.

One wonders if she would have had the same hesitancy if the results had pointed in the other direction!

This brings Fineman to her second point.  “Even if” the social science on the children is correct, the “analysis fails to consider, let alone add to the equation, the cost suffered by women (and ultimately the children they care for) if we deter divorce or punish single motherhood through establishing economic and normative disincentives.”

Actually, such questions have been addressed more than once, and the findings suggest that women too are better off in marriage than outside of it.

Fineman represents the “science is not settled” strategy: if all the studies agree, she denigrates them as part of a “feedback loop.”  She pounces on the difficulty of conducting experiments in a social setting. She searches, mostly in vain, for studies that point in the other direction

Interestingly, Fineman cites New York University Professor Judith Stacey regarding the feedback loop, and then several subsequent feminist scholars cite Stacey and Fineman about the feedback loop.  It is almost as if there is a feminist feedback loop about the feedback loop.

Role of Traditional Family

Exhibit B is Linda McClain, who published a very comprehensive book on family policy, “The Place of Families,” in 2006. McClain puts “gendered” or traditional marriage in her crosshairs.

She claims that marital families should not be “the sole proxy for family forms that secure child well being” and that the traditional family promotes gender hierarchy, domestic violence, and male entitlement.

The harm to children seems to be a price McClain is willing to pay for greater female equality, understood as greater advances in an autonomous life for women.

Perhaps these harms can be minimized as we search for alternatives to the individualized, loving attention mothers and fathers pay their children.

What we need is high-quality, subsidized daycare and other public institutions that could replace the family. If these do not work, well, there is no back-up plan.

McClain affects not to trust the science. If she did trust the science, she would dismiss it, recognizing that this question presents an ultimate clash of values between female autonomy and child well-being.

On that clash of values, she chooses the autonomous self with capacity.

Even if the science is settled, McClain, without blinders and in full realization of what she is doing, does not care.  Other “values,” including the rearing of self-governing children, are more important than child well-being.  Public institutions, it is hoped, may also arise to help us mitigate the damage.

Expanding Marriage Even Further

Elizabeth Brake, author of “Minimizing Marriage” shows how the understanding of marriage at the heart of the same-sex movement cannot be cabined, and she welcomes a new, more minimal understanding of marriage that includes not only same-sex couples, but also a circumstance where “diverse care networks, urban tribes, best friends, quirkyalones, polyamorists,” and others can be accepted as marriage partners.

Brake is also brave in her recognition of social science data on family decline.  She concedes that if marriage is “‘for’ reproduction and child rearing … and traditional marriage were essential to child rearing, this could provide a justification for restrictive marriage laws.”

Now she does stack the deck a bit. “Essential to child rearing” is a high bar—one that I don’t think anyone seriously argues for. Brake backs away and adopts the language of “tends to” and “fosters.”

Can this be reasoned with? Perhaps.  Brake does think that “empirical findings of the benefits of marriage are mixed” and that the studies suffer from a “selection bias.” She mentions, as if on cue, that “correlation is not causation.”

(She mustn’t have gotten the memo on the feedback loop!)

Brake takes the science seriously in a sense. Her most serious problem with the social science as it exists is that it takes place in an environment of an almost tyrannical heterosexual, monogamous opinion.

Only if we conducted research in our world (the tyrannical one with very strong families, she thinks) and then conducted the same research in a world without a monogamous and “heterosexual privilege” could we make a judgment about the contributions of healthy marriage to the well-being of children.

Brake’s argument is that science can never really be settled, so society can run with the values it chooses to embrace.

The lesson from this confrontation is, I think, only reinforced by the experience of recent efforts to protect traditional marriage in the courts.

This is not an argument waged on the level of science. It is a question of “values.”

To be sure, defenders of the traditional family must use the findings of science, but in addition, they must introduce a deeper argument of ideas.

Let us talk as much about the ideas as we talk about the science itself.


Women doctors could bring Britain's NHS to its knees

Dr Max Pemberton writes cautiously below

We are facing a crisis in the NHS. It’s not a crisis caused by obesity, or dementia or binge-drinking. It’s a crisis caused by having too many women doctors.

Now, before I am inundated with accusations of misogyny, hear me out. Because I’m not suggesting for a moment that the women themselves are to blame.

Nevertheless, they are bringing the NHS to its knees — and if we don’t do something about it soon, there will be profound consequences.

This week the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health gave a stark warning that children’s wards face closure because so many paediatricians are now women and have gone on maternity leave or work part time. There simply aren’t enough senior doctors left to run departments any more.

Three-quarters of doctors training in paediatrics are women. The situation has become so bad in some areas that up to 63 per cent of shifts are being covered by locums.

In other specialities that attract women — such as general practice, where two-thirds of GPs are women — a similar staffing disaster is unfolding.

It’s affected mental health, too, which traditionally has always attracted female doctors. In my own department in the past year, four doctors out of eight have gone on maternity leave.

More and more women are coming into medicine — in some medical schools, as many as 80 per cent of students are now female, suggesting the problem is only going to get worse.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this. For years, women struggled to establish themselves as doctors. A law formally allowing them to enter the profession was not passed until 1876 and, even then, only a smattering graduated and went on to practise until well after World War II.

In the Sixties, just a quarter of medical students were female. Since then, though, the numbers rising up the ranks have rocketed. It’s predicted they’ll soon outnumber men.

But this creates challenges that, as yet, no one is addressing. Quite simply, the average male medical graduate will work full time, while the average female won’t.

In fact, a study of doctors 15 years after graduation showed that on average, after career breaks and part-time working are taken into account, women work 25 per cent less than their male counterparts.

That means, as more women enter the profession, you need more doctors. So have we seen a corresponding increase in the number of places at medical school? No.

It’s gone up slightly in recent years, but only to allow for the generally increased burden on the health service, not this fundamental demographic shift.

Areas of medicine that are not traditionally ‘family friendly’ due to the time commitments required face a particular struggle to fill posts. And I don’t just mean A&E and trauma surgery, where you need to be on constant call.

It’s also true of specialisms such as neurosurgery and orthopaedics, which can involve repeated, intensely complicated surgery — often over many years — that you can’t just dip in and out of.

I’m not for a minute saying female doctors aren’t a good thing. I’m relieved there are more women going into medicine as I think it’s precisely what’s needed to make it more compassionate and patient-focused.

Research published this week from Indiana University suggested that male-dominated working environments can be particularly stressful for women. But I’d argue they’re bad for men, too.

An aggressive, combative working environment isn’t enjoyable or productive. It causes stress and burn-out. Women in the workplace mean there is less bravado, less posturing.

In medicine they help generate a holistic, gentler approach with greater co-operation and planning. There’s less machismo. But that doesn’t wipe away the big, structural problem created by more part-time working and maternity leave. And it’s patients who will suffer, because it endangers continuity of care.

Medicine should be seen as a vocation, and with this comes the harsh reality that your patients have to be your priority.

It’s not sexist to point this out, and I don’t think this is a reason for fewer women to go into medicine. But it is a reason to think hard about the way we work.

I know some women doctors who have decided their choice of career simply precludes motherhood. Others, quite reasonably, think that’s too extreme — and make it practical by renegotiating roles at home.

After all, if you’re a female brain surgeon and your husband works in marketing, why should you be the one who has to give up when a baby arrives? Surely, when men have less important jobs, they should take on the childcare.

Flexible thinking — by both individuals and the NHS as a whole — is the only way forward. Otherwise, the welcome feminisation of our health service will simply cause greater and greater problems.


Ensuring a Free and Open Internet

There aren’t many things we can take for granted these days, but some things really feel as though they should be a given. A free and open Internet, for example.

Twenty years ago, it was still a novelty for many of us. But today it’s an essential part of how we live, work and play. Modern life without the freedom to find the information we need with relative ease is almost unimaginable.

But that freedom could be in jeopardy, thanks to governments in countries such as France, China, Brazil and Argentina.

To understand why, it’s important to know that the Internet freedom we enjoy comes in large part because of the fact that the United States oversees a body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN runs the naming function of the internet under a U.S. government contract with the Department of Commerce.

So far, so good. ICANN is the Internet administrator, so to speak, and the U.S. has been ensuring that it fully protects a free and open Internet.

But the U.S. announced last year that it wants to end its oversight role, provided it can ensure that the free Internet we all enjoy isn’t damaged in the transition.

So the U.S. insisted that ICANN work with the Internet community to create an accountability structure something that would substitute for the oversight role currently performed by the Department of Commerce. And ICANN has been working toward such a model ever since then, and even make some good progress.

But some governments – “a small, but vocal minority,” note experts Brett Schaefer and Paul Rosenzweig -- are trying to take advantage of this transition process to assert more government control of the Internet. At an ICANN meeting in Paris this summer, they insisted that governments should have an “enhanced” role in running the Internet.

You don’t have to be an expert in Internet policy to know what happens when government has an “enhanced” role in anything. Quality declines, freedom erodes, and any information that isn’t stamped “approved” becomes hard to get.

Think the idea of government control is a bogeyman? Consider “right to be forgotten” rules. As regulation expert James Gattuso recently wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, they give European Union residents the right to request that Internet search engines remove links that appear in searches for their own names.

In June, France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés ordered Google to apply “right-to-be-forgotten” globally. Google refused, but what if they are forced to comply? That would censor your Internet searches and impinge on your freedom. More importantly, it shows the kind of thing that happens when governments take a greater hand in controlling the Internet.

The U.S., along with many other countries, has opposed the idea of changing the way ICANN currently does business and giving government a greater role. “But the possibility remains that the vocal minority of governments may force ICANN to seriously consider giving them enhanced authority over ICANN decisions and, by extension, in Internet governance,” writes Schaefer and Rosenzweig.

“That is a red line that must not be crossed,” they add. “The U.S. government should reject out of hand any transition proposal that grants governments more influence over ICANN than they currently possess.”

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, Congress needs to be involved. Some lawmakers realize this, which is why the House passed the DOTCOM Act (currently pending in the Senate), which would require the Obama administration to give Congress 30 legislative days to review any proposal it approves on this matter before it is implemented.

U.S. leverage is crucial. However it’s accomplished, Congress needs to put itself in a position to reject a bad deal. The alternative -- giving more authority to authoritarian countries that see the Internet as something to be controlled for government purposes -- is unthinkable.


‘Shut Up, Bigot!’: The Intolerance of Tolerance

Conservatives are called bigots because those who embrace the new sexual mores are beholden to the new tolerance as a plausibility structure. Postmodern liberals cannot comprehend the idea that one could simultaneously reject a belief and accept the person who holds it.

America is in the midst of a raging national debate on issues surrounding sexuality and gender. If you dare to suggest that gender is determined by sex and is immutable, that same-sex sex acts are immoral, or that marriage is a permanent, exclusive union of husband and wife, then you will be called an intolerant bigot, hater, and homophobe.

Where does the charge of bigotry come from? Is it just a passing fad, a political and social tool for power and control, or do its roots go deeper?

Bigotry is defined as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.” Notice that bigotry is not intolerance toward the opinions or beliefs of persons other than yourself, but intolerance of the other person. Bigotry is not simply disagreeing with what someone else believes; it is an unwillingness to tolerate or accept the person who holds those beliefs.

A little reflection on this definition will reveal that the vast majority of bigotry accusations populating the internet and in public discourse are not legitimate ones. On the contrary, they are the consequence of a mistaken view of tolerance that is itself a product of a warped postmodern epistemology.

Two Views of Tolerance

Under the traditional view of tolerance, two aspects were required: first, that you respected the right of the person or individual in question to hold his beliefs and voice his opinions; and second, that you had a right to disagree with those beliefs and contest them both privately and publicly. As D.A. Carson paraphrases it in The Intolerance of Tolerance, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” You do not have to like the person with whom you disagree, but you do have to respect and tolerate his right to speak.

This conception entails tolerance toward the person while allowing intolerance toward beliefs. Since beliefs are abstract objects communicated through propositions in written or spoken language, they have no inherent dignity in themselves. It does them no harm or offense to disagree with them or offer a rebuttal. Disagreeing with or being intolerant of a belief, in this view, is fundamentally different from being intolerant or hateful toward the person who holds that belief. In other words, this definition is built on a clear and obvious distinction between a person and his beliefs.

The traditional understanding of tolerance reflects a certain epistemology: namely, that there is such a thing as truth, it can be known, and the best way to discover the truth is through debate, reflection, and investigation. The pursuit of truth requires mutual cooperation, serious consideration of opposing beliefs, and persuasion through the use of reason. Coercion, exclusion, slander, and threats of force have no place in the search for truth.

Over the course of the last century, however, the old view of tolerance has been slowly transformed. The emergent new tolerance holds that persons who are truly tolerant accept the views of others and treat these individuals fairly. The key distinction is that under the old tolerance, one would accept the existence of other views even while rejecting some views as false; but under the new tolerance, one accepts these other views. In other words, all views are seen as equally valid and true.

The new tolerance rejects “dogmatism and absolutism,” affirms that each person has the right to live by his convictions, and eschews imposing one’s views upon others. Yet underlying this view of tolerance is a fundamental contradiction. Is not this concept of tolerance being imposed on all peoples and cultures, in direct violation of one of its own tenets? And as Carson points out, “does not the assertion, ‘Tolerance . . . involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism’ sound a little, well . . . dogmatic and absolute?"

Therefore, despite its appeal and aplomb, the new tolerance is both intolerant and internally incoherent.

Intolerance: The Supreme Sin

A critical error of the new tolerance is that it conflates beliefs and persons. In this view, to accept divergent beliefs is to be accepting and respectful of the person who holds them; conversely, to reject a belief as untrue is thought to be a rejection of the person who holds that belief. To say, “I think your view is false,” is akin to saying something unkind and insensitive about the person with that belief.

Thus according to the new tolerance, to be intolerant toward another’s beliefs is to be intolerant toward the person. And intolerance toward persons, incidentally, is the definition of bigotry. So when traditionalists voice dissent against the array of beliefs held by sexual liberals, this is interpreted as a rejection of the people who hold those views. Thus, within the incoherent paradigm of the new tolerance, the accusation of bigotry appears justified.

For practitioners of the new tolerance, intolerance is thought to be the supreme sin because it offends and disrespects persons. No one deserves to be offended or disrespected, and such an offense is considered an assault on their very dignity as a human being. This is why the rejection of same-sex marriage, homosexual practice, and transgenderism is believed to be an attack on the dignity of people with such attractions and lifestyles. This is why Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, appealed repeatedly to the dignity of LGBT individuals as a basis for their inclusion in the institution of marriage (as opposed to the metaphysical nature of marriage). To exclude them would have been an intolerant act, a defacing of their human dignity, and a supreme vice.

The claims of bigotry that stem from the new tolerance are moral claims: To reject the beliefs of the new sexual mores is to be intolerant of persons and to attack their dignity, and this is wrong. It is impossible to be a virtuous citizen if you are intolerant in this manner, and unvirtuous citizens who are bigots have no place in the public square; they are to be ridiculed, excluded, and publicly shamed.

This is why the battle for religious liberty and freedom of conscience is so important. There is the very real possibility that conservative voices and freedoms will be stamped out just as racist behaviors and attitudes have been. Some individuals naively claim that Obergefell v. Hodges will have no effect on issues of religious liberty, but such views ignore the current attacks against those who hold to traditional sexual norms.

If the current view of tolerance retains its cultural grip, conservatives will be systematically discriminated against and socially ostracized. Teachers will be excluded from faculty at liberal universities or denied tenure altogether. Businesses will be forced to abide by laws that conflict with their religious beliefs and consciences. Commencement speakers and guest lecturers will be uninvited to academic events, publishing houses and journals will refuse to print certain perspectives, colleges and universities will be denied accreditation and federal funding, and on and on. In other words, while the letter of our First Amendment rights might be upheld, their spirit and practice will be rejected by the greater society that is still functioning according to the mistaken view of tolerance.

Due to such repercussions it is imperative that conservatives, libertarians, and traditionalists work together to dislodge the new view of tolerance from its cultural pedestal.

The New Tolerance’s Rotten Postmodern Foundation

The conceptual underpinnings of the new tolerance can be traced back to postmodern epistemology. Postmodernism is complex, to be sure, but at its heart it is a form of cultural relativism. It rejects metaphysical realism in favor of the claim that reality is a social construct.

Objective and universally binding truth claims are thought to be impossible.

The only way to discredit the new intolerance is by attacking the philosophical foundations of postmodern theory. Unfortunately, postmodernism has thoroughly worked itself into Western culture, shaping Western assumptions and plausibility structures. “Plausibility structures” is a phrase coined by sociologist Peter Berger, referring to structures of thought widely and unquestionably accepted throughout a given culture. They dictate what individuals in that culture will consider to be possible or impossible, plausible or implausible.

Over the past half century, the new view of tolerance has become a foundational plank in the conceptual structure of Western thought. This means that individuals who act according to the old understanding of tolerance will be met first with befuddlement, and then with scorn. The old tolerance is unrecognizable in a culture that has embraced the new vision of tolerance and adopted it as a plausibility structure.

Conservatives who dispute the views of sexual liberalism are called bigots because those who embrace the new sexual mores are beholden to the new tolerance as a plausibility structure. Postmodern liberals cannot even comprehend how one can simultaneously reject a belief and accept the person who holds it. Thus, the charges of bigotry that spew forth reveal the intellectual and interpersonal poverty and dysfunction in which these persons live.

The Way Forward

The new tolerance turns out to be just as intolerant as the intolerance it abhors. By demanding that all views be considered equally valid, it cannot tolerate the old but correct view of tolerance, and it therefore becomes the intolerance of true tolerance. In the end, tolerance itself is destroyed, yielding instead to tyranny. When this happens, the new tolerance wields the libel of bigotry in order to intimidate and silence dissenters and impose conformity.

We must challenge postmodern thought at a fundamental level and reintroduce the old vision of tolerance into society. This will be most effective if we practice the old tolerance, visibly and powerfully demonstrating that it is possible to hold to objective truths and dissenting views while being respectful and loving toward those with whom we disagree. Such interpersonal virtues are rarely seen in a culture where social media exchanges and comment threads overflow with vitriol. Only by consistently and unfailingly teaching and practicing the old tolerance—and defending its epistemological foundations—will there be any chance of overturning the new tolerance.

So what will the future of American society and culture be? Will it be a place for true tolerance, where competing ideas and visions of human flourishing are openly and respectfully debated in the public square? Or will the new tolerance create a totalitarian regime that controls both private thought and public engagement through accusations of bigotry while masquerading as enlightenment and progress?

It’s up to American citizens to decide. We must not be intimidated, and we must not be silenced, for the freedom and flourishing of an entire culture and her people are at stake.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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