Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sex Selection

Byron forwards us a link to a piece about a book by Mara Hvistendahl which makes the case that the freedom to choose (as in the freedom to choose whether to terminate a child's life or not) has not worked out so well for women. Hvistendahl, who is strongly pro-choice is nevertheless alarmed that in the last thirty five years or so 163 million female babies have been aborted by mothers who wanted a boy.

Here's some of what the article says about Hvistendahl and her book:
Mara Hvistendahl, a noted journalist, influential writer and a feminist, has become so alarmed by the global trend of choosing boys over girls---sex-selective abortion, that she has written new book titled, "Unnatural Selection".

She is not pro-life, nor is she writing from a moral or even political point of view .... Although unintended, her book is a gift to the pro-life cause.

She documents that in nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is universal in all cultures and economic levels.
And herein lies the tale. This natural ratio is being seriously skewed in numerous countries around the world where female children are not valued as highly as males. A sign in an Indian clinic is illustrative: "Better 500 rupees now, than 5000 later." Five thousand rupees is the average cost of a girl's dowry.

Hvistendahl notes that:
In India today, there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China the number is 121, with some Chinese towns over 150 to 100.

This growing imbalance is not unique to Asia. Azerbaijan has 115, Georgia 118, and Armenia is 120.
So why is this a problem? The case she makes is that artificially created gender imbalance leads to cultural violence, particularly violence against women, and that organizations like Planned Parenthood are unwittingly promoting policies that will make life more dangerous for women a generation or two from now:

"Historically, societies in which men substantially outnumber women are not nice places to live---often unstable, sometimes violent," noting high sex ratios in fourth century BC Athens, China's Taiping Rebellion in the 1800s, and even America's early western frontier.

There is compelling evidence, she claims, of a link between high sex ratios and violence. According to her research, historically, high sex ratios mean a society is going to have "surplus men" with no hope of marrying due to a lack of women. "In Chinese provinces where sex ratios have spiked, a crime wave has followed," she says.

She found that in India today the best predictor of violence and crime for any given area is not income, but sex ratio....Unnatural sex ratios lead to abuse of women, more prostitution, etc.
When males significantly outnumber females a host of other problems arise. A society in which males cannot find mates leads to roving gangs of men preying on the weak, which usually means women. It also leads to solutions for solving the problem that involve territorial expansion or raiding other countries for their women, or some other form of war in which the surplus males are simply cannon fodder.

All of this raises a vexing problem for people like Hvistendahl. The policy they endorse, unlimited access to abortion for any reason, is leading the world to a much darker place, especially for women, but doing away with abortion would also in her view make the world a darker place, because then women would have to endure their pregnancies.

I wonder which in her mind is worse in the long run.

Those Nefarious Israelis

From Strategy Page:
On June 22 Israeli aircraft bombed a tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel. Apparently the Israelis detect these tunneling operations and let the work proceed, then destroy the tunnel when it is nearly complete. This keeps the tunnel workers busy and unable to start another tunnel that might not get discovered. Hamas and other terror groups dig these tunnels so they can move terrorists across the border and kidnap Israelis, or carry out other kinds of terror attacks.
This account conjures childhood images of Wiley Coyote on the Saturday morning cartoons, but, despite the similarity, this is not a cartoon. The Israelis are literally fighting for their lives. Hamas has now stockpiled over 10,000 rockets in Gaza, and Hezbollah has even more in Lebanon. Neither group is likely to let those weapons rust nor do they plan to use them against Egypt or Syria.

Another war in the region is virtually inevitable as soon as Israel's enemies feel they're strong enough to inflict serious pain on the Israeli people. They don't even have to believe that they'll win such a war because they know the international community will not allow the Israelis to decisively defeat them.

Thus, groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah hope that by continually pushing Israel into financially and psychologically draining wars they can wear them down and cause them to just give up and leave so they can then get about the business of killing each other.

Advice for GOP Candidates

Philosopher of science Jay Richards co-wrote a column for the American Spectator with David Klinghoffer in which they offer some advice to presidential candidates about how to handle the inevitable evolution/creationism question. Journalists who themselves know little about the issue seem to delight in ambushing political candidates, or more precisely Republican political candidates - since they're not likely ever to do this to a Democrat - with a question about teaching creationism in public schools.

So far this campaign season a version of the question has been posed to Michelle Bachman, Tim Pawlenty, and Chris Christie (who is not a declared candidate, but they fear he will be). There's only one reason for asking politicians to respond to what is usually a very poorly framed query and that is to embarrass them as they struggle to come up with an answer that makes them sound neither uninformed nor unsophisticated. There can be no other reason, at least no good reason, since what a president believes about what should be taught in schools is pretty much irrelevant, the case law on the matter being what it is.

Anyway, what Richards and Klinghoffer suggest is this:
Asked about evolution, here's what Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, or Chris Christie could have said:

"Life has a very long history and things change over time. However, I don't think living creatures are nothing but the product of a purposeless Darwinian process. I support teaching all about evolution, including the scientific evidence offered against it."

Dogmatic neo-Darwinians won't like that answer (they admit of no scientific arguments against their theory, unlike in any other area of scientific inquiry). But some other scientists will be fine with it, and, according to Zogby polling data, so will the 80 percent of Americans who favor allowing students and teachers to discuss evolutionary theory's strengths and weaknesses.

Such a formulation, true to the scientific evidence and to the Constitution, would also be devilishly hard for rival candidates to disagree with. Campaign staff and advisors would do well to commit something like it to memory.
Of course, they shouldn't have to, but sadly, given the shallowness of so much contemporary journalism, they do. I wouldn't be surprised if the next thing they'll have to have an opinion on is the Casey Anthony trial. Maybe John King of CNN can work the creation/evolution thing into a "This or That" question if anyone ever lets him moderate another debate.