Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Sunday, October 30, 2005
Again, on Kass
Kass's main objection with modern hormonal contraception seems to be that it's interfering with nature. However, the initials "M.D." after his name tell us that he's a physician--his job is to thwart nature for human purposes. Maybe contraception has changed the definition of womanhood, but couldn't it also be said that caesarean section, forceps, and other innovations in obstetrics that have saved countless women's lives also changed the definition of womanhood by lowering the mortality rate for women in childbirth? Furthermore, could we also not say that antibiotics and antiseptics have changed the nature of humanity by making our lives considerably less "nasty, brutish, and short" than Hobbes observed in the 17th century?

Kass is conflating biology with destiny--but biology hasn't been destiny since humanity gained consciousness. What is a tool but an attempt to transcend our physical limitations? Biology is our starting point, but we each craft our own endpoint.

Saturday, October 29, 2005
Side effects include annoying Leon Kass
Not only does hormonal female birth control greatly reduce the chances of pregnancy, regulate and moderate the menses, and clear up mild to moderate acne, it also, according to Blog or Not's favorite bioethicist Dr. Leon Kass, redefines the meaning of our own womanliness by separating reproduction from sex, and thus "free from the teleological meaning of her sexuality [....] her natural maternal destiny".

A few thoughts:
--If destiny can be thwarted by minute amounts of estrogen and progesterone, or even by a thin piece of latex, then destiny is weak.
--If womanliness is defined by openness to a "natural maternal destiny", does that make nuns not-women? As a correlary, would it mean that women who were actively trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization "super-women" because they're trying to seize their "maternal destiny"? Wait, nature doesn't want them to have children, so they're thwarting nature. But does that mean that those women aren't women? I'm confused.
--If a man can define woman's essential nature, can a woman define manliness? Does it require an M.D.?

Perhaps the answers to these questions will be coming in Part III of "The End of Courtship".

Monday, October 24, 2005
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Apparently NASA officials are worried that romantic relationships formed during long-term missions to Mars could jeopardize the missions themselves--and by "long-term", they're talking about at least 30 months long with only seven other people to keep you company--so they're trying to figure out how to minimize the impact.

But what about the larger problem--that of sticking only a few people in a tiny space for more than two years? The record for a continuous stay in space is a little less than 438 days--and that's on Mir, where there would be some turnover. Trips to the Antarctic can sometimes last as long as three years, but usually there's at least fifteen people on the base, there would be base turnover, and when all else fails one could go and chat with the penguins. While our Martian astronauts may be able to take long, solitary walks on the Red Planet, I don't think they'll have any lifeforms other than a few terrestrial microbes for company--unless NASA decides that they need to study hamsters in low-g environments.

Sunday, October 09, 2005
Plus ca change...

George Polgreen Bridgetower, Polish-born English violinist of African-European descent, 1778-1860. Inspired Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, called "the Abyssinian Prince" as he was rumored to be descended from African royalty.

Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson), American musician and composer of African-European descent.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Hoosier Daddy?
Apparently Indiana state senator Patricia Miller wants to know:

An interim legislative committee is considering a bill that would prohibit gays, lesbians and single people in Indiana from using medical science to assist them in having a child.

Miller said the state often reacted to problems and that she wanted to be proactive on this issue.

"We're not trying to stop people from having kids; we're just trying to find some guidelines," she said.

Well, let's see. In cases where an unmarried (in Indiana) person literally can't have a child without medical procedures--be it from slow sperm count, irregular ovulation, previous cancer of the testes/ovaries--it looks like the state would very well prevent this person from having a child. And if Senator Miller is trying to create some moral guidelines for in vitro fertilization based upon the ideal of the one mother/one father family, she's in the wrong business. Doesn't she realize that impossible-to-fulfill moral guidelines based upon increasingly scarce ideals are what churches are for?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to all restrictions on scientific means of conception--while I don't see what interest the state has in governing whose sperm enters whose egg, I'd agree that barring convicted child molesters from claiming legal parentage of a child is within the state's interest. But shouldn't this hold for all children, be they conceived in a uterus or a petri dish?

Monday, October 03, 2005
"The Most Brilliant Man I've Ever Met"
is, according to Bush's latest pick for the Supreme Court... Bush himself.

Now, I disagree with Scalia on pretty much everything, but at least he's actually his own man on the Court. And yes, Thomas does exhibit evidence of independent thought sometimes. And I can understand why Bush would want to appoint someone whose opinions are similar to his own. But a syncophant? And someone who has never been on the bench OR held high elected or appointed office (as in the case of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had been previously been Governor of California, and rumored to contest Eisenhower in the Republican primaries)?

The President's supporters should hope that this is a stunt. Otherwise, George Bush has shown himself mentally unfit to be President, and no one in his Cabinet has the courage to play damage control.

This post has been revised from its original version