Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sex Selection, Newspeak, and Getting a Grip

An op-ed/blog post in the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate was interesting. In several ways.

A problem that's been brewing for years - decades - seems to be getting a little more attention now:
"The world is becoming unbalanced. In pockets across the globe, women are giving birth to too many boys. In China, the sex ratio is 121 boys to 100 girls. In India, it's 112 to 100. Sex selection also is a force in the Balkans, Armenia and Georgia...."
("In this brave new world, girls disappear, Debra J. Saunders, SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle (July 31, 2011))

"Potential People"

There's the same old newspeak I've been hearing and reading for a half-century. I've highlighted some of the examples in that blog post:
"...In her eye-opening book, 'Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,' journalist Mara Hvistendahl estimates that ultrasound and abortion have 'claimed over 160 million potential women and girls - in Asia alone.' That's more than the entire female population of the United States...."

"...These immigrant women, the study observed, 'are both the assumed beneficiaries of reproductive choice while remaining vulnerable to family violence and reproductive coercion.'..."
(Debra J. Saunders) [emphasis mine]
I don't know when M. Hvistendahl thinks someone stops being a "potential" person, and starts being a real person.

Since I'm a Catholic, I think that a person is a person from the time of conception. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2270) The 'life begins at conception' idea made sense to me decades before I converted to Catholicism.

The way I saw it, from the time an egg is fertilized to whenever we die all that changes is how big we are, and what we can do.

Nothing But Smart, Strong, Beautiful People?

I suppose a society could wait until someone was old enough to take aptitude tests before deciding whether or not it was a person.

A problem with that is that parents might get emotionally attached to something that wasn't smart, strong, or pretty enough to make the grade. Maybe if the "potential people" were raised in isolation, by specially selected and trained professionals - - -.

Another problem is that eliminating the 'unfit' isn't exactly ethical. In my opinion. And, more to the point, according to the Church. (Catechism, 2277)

Prostitution isn't Good for Women?!

The same old "potential" people and "reproductive choice" language was no surprise. What I hadn't expected was this hint that enthusiasm for the 'prostitution is good for women' idea may be eroding in America's more 'intelligent' circles:
"...If you think that scarcity makes women more valuable, you are right - but that does not mean females benefit. As 'surplus men' have trouble finding mates, young girls are forced into prostitution. Others are forced into arranged marriages. On Taiwan's eBay, Hvistendahl finds three Vietnamese women for sale for $5,400...."
(Debra J. Saunders)
I remember the 'Good Old Days,' when America's better sort wanted prostitution legalized because it would liberate women. And were taken seriously.

That actually makes sense, from a particular point of view.1

Feminists, Sex Selection, and Abuse

Here's how D. J. Saunders ends the post:
"...Canadian sociologist Sharada Srinivasan has another suggestion. As she told Hvistendahl, at some point, feminists have to define sex selection as a human rights abuse. That would be a good start.
(Debra J. Saunders)
As she said: "That would be a good start."

'Technology Outpacing Ethics?'

Finally, the old idea that nobody's thought about the ethics of 20th-century technology got an encore: "in a world where technology moves faster than ethical thinking...." (Debra J. Saunders)

I'm pretty sure that D. J. Saunders believes that. We're in an era where technology is changing, fast. Quite a few folks seem to feel it's changing too fast.

I've often run into the assumption that nobody saw a down side to attractive ideas like killing people who aren't good enough. Not that folks are likely to put it quite like that.

Like I've said before: "If three hundred million people really believe in a stupid idea - it's still a stupid idea."

Ethical Thinking - From the 'Wrong' Source

I think the "technology moves faster than ethical thinking" notion hangs on partly because the 'wrong people' were doing the thinking:
"From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life. Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2322-2323)
Listening to what the Holy See has been saying for centuries - millennia - could lead to questioning the popular belief that religious people are, by definition, not rational. And that's another topic.

There's plenty of "ethical thinking" about how we should use technology - new or otherwise. I think the problem, from the dominant culture's point of view, is that:
  • The 'wrong sort' have been doing the thinking
  • They've been saying
    • Actions have consequences
    • 'Do whatever you want, and everything will be fine' doesn't work2
And they've been saying it for millennia. With little-to-no regard for intellectual fashions of the day.

An innocent person's right to not get killed, the idea that children aren't property, and other counter-cultural beliefs, may not be popular. But I don't think that means they're wrong. 3

Related posts:
News and views:

1 Legalized prostitution, along with the abolition of marriage and some other groovy ideas, was supposed to liberate women.

Here's the reasoning:
  • Prostitution isn't a particularly skilled sort of work
  • Poor women could be prostitutes
    • No experience necessary
    • 'Earn while you learn'
    • Achieve financial independence
  • Women could use money they earned as prostitutes to
    • Pursue an education
    • Achieve financial independence
    • Enjoy a quality lifestyle
    • Escape the oppression of male chauvinist pigs.
My guess is that too many folks started noticing what actually happened to prostitutes, in that nifty job. And that's another topic.

2 I've discussed natural law before:
3 More from the Catechism:
"The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
" 'The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.'80
" 'The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights.'81"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2273)
"'One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.'83
" 'It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.'84

" 'Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity'85 which are unique and unrepeatable."
(Catechism, 2275)

"A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The 'supreme gift of marriage' is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged 'right to a child' would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right 'to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.'170"
(Catechism, 2378)

1 comment:

Brigid said...

I think you scrambled some code: "unrepeatable."">2275)"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.