Are contraception opponents anti-science?

Journalist Laura Sessions Stepp at CNN says that people who oppose contraception are anti-science.  They are among those conservatives who have no faith in science and oppose Darwin’s theory of evolution.

via Anti-science and anti-contraception – CNN.com.

First of all, how can science (which is concerned with “is”) determine a moral principle (which is concerned with “ought”)?

Second, who are these people who oppose contraception?  The most defined group would be “Catholics,” not “conservatives” or even “the religious right” as such.  Certainly some conservatives and non-Catholics also oppose contraception, as do some environmentalists and nature advocates on the left.

Third, she lumps together religious liberty advocates, pro-lifers, and a wide array of health activists as being against contraception.

Fourth, what’s this about Darwinism?  Isn’t his theory of evolution about, you know, propagating the species, with the best adapted having more offspring than the unfit and so passing along their genes?  Doesn’t contraception get in the way of that?  Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that contraception goes against the theory of evolution?

HT:  Rebecca Oas

Cross-species contagious yawning

You know how when you are in a group of people and somebody yawns, and then other people start yawning, and then you too feel the irresistible impulse to do likewise?  Well, if there are dogs in the room, they too very likely will start yawning.

Scientists have studied the phenomenon of dogs yawning when people do.  Furthermore, dogs don’t have to see someone yawn; they apparently hear humans yawning, which makes them want to yawn too.  Researchers speculate whether this is evidence that dogs can actually empathize with human beings.  See  Dogs yawn when they hear people yawn, suggesting they empathize with humans – The Washington Post.

Now looking at this phenomenologically, I don’t recall empathy as a cause of my own yawning.  I don’t notice someone yawning, feeling his boredom, and expressing that by yawning in an act of emotional solidarity.  My theory is that in a group in which one person is bored or sleepy, the chances are good, since everyone is sharing the same experience, that other people are also feeling bored or sleepy.  When a person yawns, that reduces the social pressure to repress the outward expression of what one feels, an inhibition that disintegrates completely when more and more people do it.

Now that dogs can also share in this collective experience is intriguing.  Dogs are social animals.  They demonstrate pack behavior.  And, as we know from the Dog Whisperer, they consider human beings to be leaders of their pack.  If the group of people were to all of a sudden start running, I’m sure the dogs would join them.  Maybe it’s the same for yawning, although the meaning and the communication mechanisms for dogs remain mysterious.

Then again, it’s also mysterious why people yawn, what the connection is between feeling bored or sleepy and opening your mouth really wide.  Does anyone have any theories about all of this?

Thoughts on homosexuality not being genetic

A couple of weeks ago I posted this:  Evidence homosexuality is not genetic | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  It was a link to a discussion of how identical twins (who share the exact same genes) are not particularly likely to both be gay (something that happens in only 10% of the cases).  That would indicate that homosexuality is not genetic, or, if there is some kind of genetic component, it isn’t causative or determinative.  That post attracted more than ten times the usual traffic on this blog!  But there is more to say on the matter:

(1)  Homosexuality cannot be genetically transmitted.  Or if it is, that would strike a mortal blow against Darwinism.  You don’t have to believe that natural selection gives rise to different species to believe that natural selection is a real phenomenon.  That simply means that genes that aid survival and (more importantly) reproduction will be passed on to the next generations.  Same-sex attraction does NOT promote reproduction.  Rather, it prevents reproduction.  So that trait, if it is genetic and inheritable, would tend to die out.  And yet it hasn’t.  So it’s hard to imagine how it could be genetically determined and handed down.

(2)  Just because homosexuality isn’t genetic, that does not mean it is just a “choice.”  It might have causes that are psychological, physiological, medical, cultural, environmental, or some combination of these or other factors.  It’s too bad that the politically-correct conviction “not that there’s anything wrong with it” is inhibiting research into the causes of homosexuality.

(3)  The Lady Gaga diagnosis–”I was born this way”–has indeed helped homosexuality become broadly accepted today. This, however, may not be true.

(4)  There would seem to be no moral issue if a person can’t help his or her sexual orientation. And yet having a desire is not the same as acting on that desire (which is certainly evident in heterosexual attractions), so moral agency remains.  To be sure, our inner desires to do what is forbidden–our “concupiscence”–are sinful and testimony to our fallen condition.  Nevertheless, the will is operative.

(5) And yet, Christianity teaches that the will is in bondage to sin.  As a result, we cannot simply choose to stop sinning.  This applies to all sins and not just to homosexuality.  Sin inheres in our “flesh.”  Sin is part of our fallen condition.  In that sense, sin–including but not limited to homosexual desires– is inherited (even though, contrary to Darwin, it has no survival value).

(5)  All have sinned, including homosexuals, whose sin goes far beyond sexual transgressions, just as heterosexuals sin in more ways than in their sexuality.  And what all sinners need is grace, forgiveness, redemption, all of which is freely available from Christ, who covers their sins with His blood.   Self-righteousness, though–the conviction that “I am good as I am” and “I don’t need forgiveness”–is what keeps sinners away from Christ and all His free gifts.

Can you think of any other corollaries?

And I’m curious about this, from you Lutheran theologians.  It seems that Lutheranism has a view of sin and of human anthropology that is very realistic, though different from that of other theologies with a higher view of the will and a lower view of sin.  Does Lutheran theology throw any distinct light on this issue?

 

The moon as our 51st state

It isn’t just that Newt Gingrich wants us to go back to the moon or that he wants to set up a colony there.  He is thinking that when the population of the lunar colony reaches 13,000 the moon could apply for statehood.  Yes the notion is crazy, absurd, and inappropriate.  But imagine!  The moon as the USA’s 51st state!  Think how indignant the rest of the world would be, looking up in the night sky and seeing America.

First Read – Gingrich promises US moon colony by 2020.

Evidence homosexuality is not genetic

Wheaton provost Stanton L. Jones corrects an article in the New York Times and cites evidence that homosexuality is not genetic after all:  Identical twins, who have exactly the same genes, are not very likely (contrary to some reports) to both be gay.

Frank Bruni, in his essay “Genetic or Not, Gay Will Not Go Away“(New York Times, January 28, 2012), makes a broad point regarding which I am in complete agreement: Our societal, legal, and cultural debates will not be solved by science. But when you do cite the science, you ought to get it right. . . .

In support of the argument that at least sometimes sexual orientation is a condition of birth, Bruni describes how “One landmark study looked at gay men’s brothers and found that 52% of identical twin brothers were also gay.” This brief explanation both fails as a description of that 20+ year old study and fails to reflect the better research published since.

Bruni gets the number right; the 1990 landmark study by Bailey and Pillard reported a 52% “probandwise concordance” for homosexual orientation among genetically identical sibling groups, but this does not mean what Bruni says it means. A proband wise concordance is a technical calculation, one that in this case results from the following actual results: There were 41 genetically identical sibling groups (40 identical twin pairs and one triplet trio) and of these 41 groups, only in 14 of the groups did the genetically identical brothers match for sexual orientation; in the remaining 27 sets the identical twin brothers did not match.

But this 1990 study was actually based on a sample that was apparently distorted by volunteer bias and hence not representative of homosexual persons in general. Bailey’s own study of a decade later, and the recently published “gold standard” study by Långström et. al. of the Swedish Twin Registry, both found even lower matching among identical twins with much larger and more representative samples. Both studies reported about 10% matching (for Långström, 7 identical twin pairs matched with both identical brothers gay out of 71 total pairs of male identical twin pairs).

So in plain English, the best contemporary scientific findings are that when one identical twin brother is gay, the probabilities of the second twin being gay are approximately 10%. This suggests that the contribution of genetics to the determination of homosexual orientation is modest at best.

via The Genetics of Same-Sex Attraction » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The truth about sexual violence statistics

More ways to lie with statistics.  From an article by Christina Hoff Sommers:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?

The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” . . .

The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?

It found them by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault. Consider: In a telephone survey with a 30 percent response rate, interviewers did not ask participants whether they had been raped. Instead of such straightforward questions, the CDC researchers described a series of sexual encounters and then they determined whether the responses indicated sexual violation. A sample of 9,086 women was asked, for example, “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?” A majority of the 1.3 million women (61.5 percent) the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced this sort of “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.”

What does that mean? If a woman was unconscious or severely incapacitated, everyone would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape — indeed, a nontrivial percentage of all customary sexual intercourse, including marital intercourse, probably falls under that definition (and is therefore criminal according to the CDC).

Other survey questions were equally ambiguous. Participants were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by “telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?” All affirmative answers were counted as “sexual violence.” Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by “repeatedly asking” or “showing they were unhappy” was similarly classified as a victim of violence.

via CDC study on sexual violence in the U.S. overstates the problem – The Washington Post.

Perhaps the CDC researchers are sensing that all extra-marital sex has an element of exploitation about it, but since moral absolutes must be left out of the equation, they are instead trying to employ secular legalisms and the feminist ideology that says women are always being oppressed by men.  But that does not excuse  “constructing” data like this.


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