A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Notes from the Untergang

In an audio conference entitled Why Get Married? author Masha Gessen had this to say:
“It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. 
The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago. 
I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three… And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”
And speaking of polygamy...
While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.
 Slippery slope?  What slippery slope? 

Meanwhile, life gets really, really complicated:
But despite their commitment to gender equality, many feminist institutions have long had trouble seeing trans women as part of the movement. Cisgender feminists of the 1970s often viewed their trans sisters with suspicion, as though they were men in dresses trying to invade “real” womanhood. Some women’s centers, rape-support organizations, and lesbian-rights groups have gone as far as expelling trans women from their midst. The legendary Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has always barred trans women from entry (and still does). Second-wave thought leaders like Mary Daly called them “Frankensteins” and in her book, The Transsexual Empire, radical anti-trans feminist Janice Raymond accuses trans women of “appropriating” the female body and many other much less pleasant things.
Cisgender?  Transgender?  Sigh.  Who knew there were such terms?  LGBT life can be complicated, apparently.

What next?  Normalizing pedophilia?  Oh, wait.
Like many forms of sexual deviance, pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a sexual orientation as immutable as heterosexuality or homosexuality. It is a deep-rooted predisposition — limited almost entirely to men — that becomes clear during puberty and does not change.   
Well, as long as it's a natural sexual orientation...  The article makes no outlandish pleas, and is actually a reasonable analysis - simple word substitution suggests itself - yet one cannot help but wonder.  How long to Tolerance?  How long after that to Celebration?  After all, when orthodoxy becomes optional it will eventually become outlawed.  

Perhaps we can simplify by dividing folks into Eloi and Morlocks:
The buzzword among cognoscenti is “post-person,” defined in a much-cited 2009 Philosophy and Public Affairs paper by tenured Duke professor Allen Buchanan, as those “who would have a higher moral status than that possessed by normal human beings” (emphasis original). Buchanan admits crafting chromosomal übermenschen “might be profoundly troubling from the perspective of the unenhanced (the mere persons) who would no longer enjoy the highest moral status, as they did when there were only persons and nonpersons (‘lower animals’).” 
Oh, those whacky cognoscenti....

Better yet, the neuroscientists can help out, because Neuroscience™ can tell us whether a criminal is more likely to lapse back into crime! 
Identification of factors that predict recurrent antisocial behavior is integral to the social sciences, criminal justice procedures, and the effective treatment of high-risk individuals. Here we show that error-related brain activity elicited during performance of an inhibitory task prospectively predicted subsequent rearrest among adult offenders within 4 y of release (N = 96). The odds that an offender with relatively low anterior cingulate activity would be rearrested were approximately double that of an offender with high activity in this region, holding constant other observed risk factors. These results suggest a potential neurocognitive biomarker for persistent antisocial behavior. 
 Aren't they cute when they pretend to do Science™?  Never mind what you have or have not done.  The Brain Scan™ does not lie! 

Or maybe not.
Weak statistics are the downfall of many neuroscience studies, according to researchers that analyzed the statistical strategies employed by dozens of published reports in the field. Especially lacking in statistical power are human neuroimaging studies—especially those that use fMRI to infer brain activity—noted the coauthors of the analysis, published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience last week (April 10).
Phrenology has been rediscovered and really-truly scientificalized.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we substitute correlation for causation.  But that's what happens when we try to apply methods devised to study inanimate matter to matter that can talk back. 


  1. Meant to email you this a couple of weeks ago, Michael, but other matters intervened.

    Good Friday RBS customarily came over after his pizza deliveries [which augments his substitute teaching] to sack out overnight instead of driving home to Dover and back again to Northern New Castle County to return to the job Saturday afternoon.

    We began talking about gay marriage and he commented that these early efforts would open the floodgates to a demand that polygamists be officially permitted to marry. I told him of your earlier post about the woman in Paris who "married" the Eiffel Tower and that other woman in San Francisco, iirc, who "married" a warehouse or some such edifice.

    After the shudder, Richard asked me to relate to you that the woman in France misheard -- the Eiffel Tower actually responded "Adieu", not "I do."

    That report on the entrenched statistical fumble in neuroscience seems familiar. :>)


  2. I don't care for the slippery slope either. Viewing gay marriage as slippery slope to polygamy presumes that while gay marriage is nothing very wrong, polygamy is horribly unthinkable and thus the reason to oppose gay marriage is that it would lead to polygamy.

    This, I submit, is through confusion. Polygamy is far more natural than gay marriage which is shown by historical practice and current geographical spread and also that Church admits the naturalness of polygamy.

    It might be more correct to substitute "polyamory" for "polygamy" but even then the fact remains that gay marriage is at the bottom of a slippery slope that begun with acceptance of contraception and the gay marriage is not the head of any slippery slope.

  3. Be nice if the purported pedophile "facts" in the LA Times article matched reality.

    "It is a deep-rooted predisposition — limited almost entirely to men..."

    Fortunately many more cases of female pedophiles and ephebophiles are both coming to light and being prosecuted.


  4. The modern world (or the post-post modern world - whatever) is totally enthralled with Hegelian 'logic' - you directly and mysteriously grasp, all at once, the big picture that explains everything, then hammer away at any facts and especially any people who challenge your insight. Facts, and the logic that both underlies and connects them, are for the little people - you just can't get to the big picture by starting with facts and using logic. Insistence on making sense and appeals to the real world just prove you're among the unwashed.

    So: we see in the wonderful juxtaposition above a simple disregard for the truth - Truth? What is that? Only the first speaker, Masha Gessen, seems to have any concern for the truth at all - and even then, her use seems a little twisted: either marriage should be destroyed OR it's a no- brainer any imaginable combination of people should be able to get married. The other quotations largely reveal a disinterest in truth. It's just not relevant if something is true or not, as long as it helps achieve 'progress' (that 'truthiness' idea) - despite progress being a very elusive idea to define. The feminists with their distrust of 'trans women' (itself a concept indifferent to the truth) seem untroubled by inconsistency - there's goals to achieve! Let's not get all hung up on whether any of our fundamental notions correspond to reality in any way.

    Finally, modern phrenology. Sadly, one of my beloved nieces is deep into this stuff in college. As a decorated graduate of an elite high school, complete with a sterling GPA and an array of AP class credits, she has now nearly completed a course of study at a fine public university - and, not coincidentally, can't think her way out of a wet paper bag. Oddly, she's really very bright - she just has no idea how to use it. So, she becomes another worker bee in the hive, having been totally convinced by her education that she is both open-minded and rigorous in her thinking. That there's no scientific basis for concluding much of anything pales when on can observe that someone one doesn't like displays “the sloping brow and cranial bumpage of the career criminal.”


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