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Catholics, contraceptives and John Locke


Catholics, contraceptives and John Locke

By Michael Gerson

It is extraordinary how far some will go to knit the random scraps and patches of events into the quilt of a narrative. So the Susan B. Komen controversy, resistance to the administration’s contraceptive mandate, a stag-party joke by Foster Friess and a cruel epithet from Rush Limbaugh somehow add up to a Republican war on women, sure to provoke the political backlash of an entire gender.

American women haven’t behaved as predicted or demanded. President Obama’s job approval has risen or, more recently, fallen independently of the chromosomal status of voters. Men and women, it turns out, resent dipping into their retirement savings to drive to work.

Recent opinion surveys on the contraceptive mandate, in particular, have shown women to be an independent-minded lot. In coverage of its own recent poll, the New York Times conceded that the views of women on this topic are “split.” By a plurality of 46 percent to 44 percent, women believe that employers should be able to “opt out” of providing birth-control coverage for religious reasons. But opinion is not really “split” on the question of whether “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital and university” should be able to opt out of offering coverage. Women support this proposition by 53 percent to 38 percent.

How is this possible? Americans overwhelmingly endorse contraception and regularly practice what they preach. Most believe — myself included — that child spacing and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases are public goods. Why not impose this social consensus on all private institutions?

The answer depends on your view, not of contraception, but of pluralism and religious freedom.

One tradition of religious liberty contends that freedom of conscience is protected and advanced by the autonomy of religious groups. In this view, government should honor an institutional pluralism — the ability of people to associate, live and act in accordance with their religious beliefs, limited only by the clear requirements of public order. So Roger Williams welcomed Catholics and Quakers to the Rhode Island colony, arguing that a “Church or company of worshippers (whether true or false) .?.?. may dissent, divide, breake into Schismes and Factions, sue and implead each other at the Law, yea wholly breake up and dissolve into pieces and nothing, and yet the peace of the Citie not be in the least measure impaired or disturbed.”

There is another form of modern liberalism that defines freedom of conscience in purely personal terms. Only the individual and the state are real, at least when it comes to the law. And the state must often intervene to protect the individual from the oppression of illiberal social institutions, particularly religious ones.

This is the guiding philosophy of the American Civil Liberties Union. But as Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, pointed out to me, this approach has roots in the Anglo American tradition of political philosophy. John Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration” urges legal respect for individual conscience because “everyone is orthodox to himself.” But Locke offered no tolerance for the institution of the Catholic Church: “That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince.” In Locke’s view, Catholics can worship as they wish as individuals, but their institution is a danger to the liberal order.

In American history, the treatment of the Catholic Church has often been the measure of institutional religious tolerance. It is amazing how Lockean (unconsciously, one assumes) recent actions by the Obama administration have been. Catholics individuals are free to worship. Catholic institutions must be forced to reflect liberal ideals and values.

On a variety of issues, balancing individual and institutional rights isn’t easy. But the contraceptive mandate is a particularly revealing test case. One side of the controversy argues that the autonomy of religious institutions is essential to the expression of individual conscience and important to the common good. The other side believes that the moral and health choices of individuals need to be protected by government against oppressive religious groups such as the Catholic bishops. So it is not enough for contraceptives to be legal and generally available; they must be provided (directly or indirectly) by Catholic institutions to their employees.

This is the real debate on the contraceptive mandate — and the administration has not won it.
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The Abolition of Gender

The Abolition of Gender

By Fay Voshell

The far left in Europe and America has attained the same phantasmagoric and orgiastic repudiation of reason as their predecessors, the leaders of the French Revolution.

The hopes of egalitarianism embraced by the leaders of the French Revolution included eliminating real and perceived inequities by abolishing class distinctions, which project included killing off the aristocracy and clergy while de-Christianizing society. They hoped by so doing to begin society anew.

However, in their wildest dreams, none of the leaders of the mobs ever advocated the elimination of gender as a means of establishing liberté, egalité et fraternité.

But the addled progeny of the Revolution, here and abroad, are seeking to do just that. The hope appears to be that the end of discrimination will be achieved by rendering the sexes fungible — or better yet, nonexistent. The elimination of gender distinction and the establishment of androgyny are to usher in communal utopia.

For example, the most recent Council of Europe convention on gender has defined gender as a purely social construct. Eliminating biological distinctions as the determinative factor of gender, the Council has redefined gender as meaning “the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.”

Lest it be thought the Council’s definition of gender is a mere aberration, its “advanced” sociological philosophies advocating the abolition of gender are to be found in academia, both here and abroad.

For example, Magnus Hirschfield, author of the The Sexual Revolution opines:

[I]n the bourgeois, capitalist societies of the West which are dedicated to individual freedom, the sexual revolution continues. The right to sexual self-determination is considered as important as ever, and, indeed, various sexual liberation groups are working hard to extend it.

Maya Andrea Gonzalez of the University of California earnestly exhorts in her treatise, “Communization and the Abolition of Gender,” in rhetoric typical of anti-gender fanatics:

Since the revolution as communization must abolish all divisions within social life, it must also abolish gender relations – not because gender is inconvenient or objectionable, but because it is part of the totality of relations that daily reproduce the capitalist mode of production. Gender, too, is constitutive of capital’s central contradiction, and so gender must be torn asunder in the process of the revolution.

In contrast to Hirschfield and Gonzalez, Patrick Fagan, family scholar at the U.S.-based Family Research Council, declares that defining gender as a mere social construct is “evidence of thought so divorced from reality as to be a form of mental illness.”

Well, yes.

Alas, the mental illness has metastasized, establishing colonies of the mentally deranged in North America, including the California Teachers’ Association, which, as reported by the Christian Examiner, held a conference during which the association’s conference presenters and program received materials advocating “gender liberation.”

According to the materials, male-female distinctions must be eliminated in order to “liberate” children from unnecessary stereotypes about what it means to be male or female. To be absolutely clear, the anti-genderists are not seeking “equal rights,” but obliteration of the distinctions between male and female.

For example, the conference literature included this instruction on “gender etiquette”:

“Please do not assume anyone’s gender, even people you may have met in the past. A person’s external appearance may not match their internal gender identity.”
“You cannot know the gender or sex of someone by their physical body, voice, appearance or mannerisms.”
Pay attention to a person’s purposeful gender expression. We consider it polite to ask: “What pronoun do you prefer?” or “How do you identify?” before using pronouns or gendered words for anyone.
One way of acknowledging the needs of all people is to designate restrooms as gender neutral.
“Respectful allies, who learn from and with everyone and then educate others, are important for successful gender liberation.”
Each of us can decide for ourselves in which bathroom we belong.

It appears that the powerful group of leaders within the CTA wants to brainwash children into believing that gender neutrality (androgyny) is the new ideal for society.

Maybe our children will learn the new androgyny in ways similar to those being advocated in British Columbia, where a gender coach recently was videotaped earnestly assuring elementary schoolchildren that they can be any sex they choose. The video is found here.

What does all this madness, now being inserted into our public schools, mean?

Quite frankly, if our society accepts gender redefinition as a merely societal construct, it means the end of civilization as we know it — not mere reformation or transformation, but the abolition of civilization itself.

The entire social construct of any given society is based on gender distinction — man and woman. The differences in gender are the first and most essential ways in which human beings relate to one another: mother and father, husband and wife; brother and sister, aunt and uncle, daughter-in-law, brother-in law — just to name a few.

The beginning of individuation is gender; the elimination of it ensures the destruction of individuality and absorption into an amorphous, indistinct communality.

Elimination of gender distinctions means entering a Brave New World in which everybody belongs to everybody else, and all belong to the state. It is to achieve the disappearance of the “other” that complements us. It is to attempt to absorb all of humanity into the All by eradication of distinctions.

How ironic that those who purport to desire diversity actually are seeking the abolition of diversity at the most fundamental level. That is because they favor the communal versus the individual. The elimination of individuality starts with the elimination of sex, and the new unisex identity is always an indicator of tyranny, as faceless and sexless masses are more easily manipulated by an all-powerful state. It is notable, for instance, that Mao Tse Tung’s blue-suited masses were without obvious sexual distinction.

The great philosopher/theologian C.S. Lewis, in his masterpiece The Abolition of Man, pointed out that constant debunking of the foundational pillars of Western society portends a future in which the values of the majority of citizens are dictated by a tiny group of people who believe themselves to be able to infallibly see through any system of absolute morality and reality and to debunk it. That they themselves are ruled only by their own arbitrary system of morality is not apparent to them. At the end, Lewis predicts, not even the controllers will be recognizably human. They will be like robots, and the abolition of man will have been completed.

He writes, “If any one age really attains … the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger.”

Lewis predicted:

The power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. [T]he manmolders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state … They are men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what ‘Humanity’ shall henceforth mean. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ applied to them are words without content.

As are the words “male and female.”

A dogmatic belief in the objective (and ineradicable) assignation of gender is necessary to the very idea of what it means to be a human being. If the anti-genderists succeed, the final debunking of what it means to be human will have been completed, and the word “human” made a mere abstraction onto which any meaning can be projected. Man’s final conquest will have proved to be the abolition of Man. The descent of society into madness will have been assured.

How ironic to read the constant ridicule heaped on Jews and Christians who are accused of naiveté at best and insanity at worst for believing the reality of the great creation story when it proclaims that “male and female created He them.”

Proponents of the abolition of gender remind one of the emperor who wore no clothes. They are deluded by fatuous intellection and dystopian phantasms that defy rationality.

It is high time rational observers, like the little boy in the story about the emperor, proclaim that the arbiters of education are out of their minds.

Fay Voshell holds an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology. She may be reached at [email protected]

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Race-Based Hate

FBI: Hate Crimes Target Blacks In 70 Percent Of Race-Based Cases
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Blacks were the group most likely to be the targets of race-based hate crimes, according to a new federal report.

The report, compiled by the FBI’s civil rights division, found that the large majority of racial bias crimes were “motivated by anti-black bias.” Latinos were the targets of 66 percent of all hate crimes motivated by ethnicity or national origin. Jews were the targets of most crimes against religious groups, and most crimes against a particular sexual orientation or gender were motivated by “anti-homosexual male bias.”

The number of hate crimes remained essentially flat between 2009 and 2010. There were 6,628 hate crimes reported in 2010, up very slightly from 6,604 in 2009. About 47 percent of all the reported hate crimes were racially motivated, with 20 percent motivated by religion, 19.3 percent motivated by sexual orientation, and 12.8 percent motivated by nationality.

“Almost a fourth of our 2010 civil rights caseload involved crimes motivated by a particular bias against the victim,
” said Eric Thomas, the bureau’s civil rights chief in Washington. “We frequently worked these cases with state and local law enforcement to ensure that justice was done–whether at the state level or at the federal level.”

The FBI said that because of the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, the bureau is making some changes to collect more information for bias crimes against a particular gender or gender identity and for crimes in which juveniles are targets. The law, which was signed by President Obama in 2009 and was meant to bolster and expand existing hate crimes laws. It is named after two of the most high profile victims of hate crimes in recent memory. Shepard was a college student who died in 1998 after being tortured and tied to a fence for being gay. That same year, Byrd, a black man in rural Texas was killed after being dragged behind a pickup truck for miles by a group of white supremacists. At the time of their killings, there were no hate crime laws in many states.


Video ,Deryl Dedmon Leaves The Courtroom In Jackson , Miss. , Pool) , Sept. 30 , After Entering a “Not Guilty” Plea Before Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill , Friday , On a Capital Murder Indictment. Dedmon Is Charged With Running Down James Craig Anderson On June 26 With a Pickup In What Authorities Say Was a Hate Crime.


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The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction

The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction

Taking Birth-Control Pills May Mask the Signals That Draw the Sexes Together, Research Shows

By SHIRLEY S. WANG

Much of the attraction between the sexes is chemistry. New studies suggest that when women use hormonal contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, it disrupts some of these chemical signals, affecting their attractiveness to men and women’s own preferences for romantic partners.

Researchers say birth control pills are upending the natural influence of hormones on attraction. WSJ’s Shirley Wang reports on a new study in lemurs that show how contraceptives may influence the way the primates pick and choose their mates.

The type of man a woman is drawn to is known to change during her monthly cycle—when a woman is fertile, for instance, she might look for a man with more masculine features. Taking the pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive upends this natural dynamic, making less-masculine men seem more attractive, according to a small but growing body of evidence. The findings have led researchers to wonder about the implications for partner choice, relationship quality and even the health of the children produced by these partnerships.

Evolutionary psychologists and biologists have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates. One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the T-shirt study, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts. The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors known as pheromones.

The study also showed that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune-system genes known as MHC. The family of genes permit a person’s body to recognize which bacteria are foreign invaders and to provide protection from those bugs. Evolutionarily, scientists believe, children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more pathogens.

Couples dancing in a ballroom. When women are ovulating, they tend to be drawn to men with greater facial symmetry and more signals of masculinity, such as muscle tone, a more masculine voice and dominant behaviors.

Seductive Science

What happens to a woman during her most fertile days?

Her voice becomes higher pitched.
Men are more attentive to her, with behavior ranging from thoughtful to jealous.
Her scent becomes more attractive to men.
She seeks men with more masculine features.
Her social behavior changes, including increased flirting.
She tries to look more attractive and may choose more-revealing clothing.
If she is with a less masculine man, she may feel less attracted to him.

More than 92 million prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches and injections, were filled last year in the U.S., according to data-tracker IMS Health.

Researchers say their aim isn’t to scare or stop women from taking hormonal contraceptives. “We just want to know what we’re doing” by taking the pill, says Alexandra Alvergne, a researcher in biological anthropology at University College London in the U.K. “If there is a risk it affects our romantic life and the health status of our children, we want to know.” Dr. Alvergne last year published a review detailing the existing literature on the topic in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Both men’s and women’s preferences in mates shift when a woman is ovulating, the period when she is fertile, research has shown. Some studies have tracked women’s responses to photos of different men, while other studies have interviewed women about their feelings for men over several weeks. Among the conclusions: When women are ovulating, they tend to be drawn to men with greater facial symmetry and more signals of masculinity, such as muscle tone, a more masculine voice and dominant behaviors. The women also seemed to be particularly attuned to MHC-gene diversity. From an evolutionary perspective, these signals are supposed to indicate that men are more fertile and have better genes to confer to offspring.

Women tend to exhibit subtle cues when they are ovulating, and men tend to find them more attractive at this time. Women try to look more attractive, perhaps by wearing tighter or more revealing clothing, says Martie Haselton, a communications and psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Research on this includes studies in which photos that showed women’s clothing choices at different times of the month were shown to groups of judges. Women also emit chemical signals that they are fertile; researchers have measured various body odors, says Dr. Haselton, who has a paper on men’s ability to detect ovulation coming out in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Such natural preferences get wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown. Women on the pill no longer experience a greater desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation. Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears. And men no longer exhibit shifting interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, perhaps because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.

Some women using birth-control pills have long reported changes to their libido and mood. Research is still in the early stages to explore the implications of taking hormonal contraceptives for women’s choice of mates and for fidelity in relationships. Researchers speculate that women with less-masculine partners may become less interested in their partner when they come off birth control, contributing to relationship dissatisfaction. And, if contraceptives are masking women’s natural ability to detect genetic diversity, then the children produced by parents who met when the woman was on the pill may be less genetically healthy, they suggest.

“We don’t have enough research to draw a firm conclusion yet,
” says Dr. Haselton. “It is certainly possible that if women don’t experience that little uptick in [desiring] masculinity that they end up choosing less masculine partners,” she says.

That could prompt some women to stray, research suggests. Psychologist Steven Gangestad and his team at the University of New Mexico showed in a 2010 study that women with less-masculine partners reported an increased attraction for other men during their fertile phase. Women partnered with traditionally masculine partners didn’t have such urges, according to the study of 60 couples.

In another study, the researchers analyzed MHC gene samples of 48 couples. Women partnered with men with whom they shared the least genetic diversity reported being less sexually responsive to their mates. The study was published in 2006 in the journal Psychological Science.

There is also accumulating evidence indicating men react differently to women when they are on birth control. A 2004 study in the journal in Behavioral Ecology used the T-shirt study methodology but instead put the shirts on 81 women. A panel of 31 men, smelling the T-shirts, experienced the greatest attraction for the non-pill-using women when they were ovulating. Twelve women on the panel didn’t detect any difference.

A study on primates appears to support the idea that hormonal contraceptives change mating preferences. Duke University researchers studied hormones secreted by female lemurs before and after the animals received a hormonal contraceptive. They also studied males’ preferences for these scents.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences this year, showed that the injection of Depo-Prevara, a long-lasting contraceptive that is approved for use in humans, dramatically altered the chemicals that female lemurs give off to indicate their identity and how genetically healthy they are.

The females given the contraceptive became overall less appealing to the males than before getting the injection, says Christine Drea, a professor in Duke’s evolutionary anthropology department and senior author on the study. The contraceptive erased all the normal information the odor signals conveyed, she says.

Though the study would need to be conducted in humans to draw direct conclusions, there are potential parallels to people, Dr. Drea says. Birth control “could be mixing up your own [signals] and others aren’t smelling the real you,” she says.

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