Against Our Cultural Bias Towards the Adults

A recent study on parents who have had same-sex relationships purports to show that their children have measurably worse outcomes than the children of married, stable biological parents.  The study has come in for a lot of wrath, as well as some legitimate criticisms of its methodology and conclusions.

One of the critics is E. J. Graff, a writer who is an advocate of same-sex marriage.  I've generally been impressed with her writing even though she and I are on opposite sides of this issue.  She is raising a point about the methodology and conclusions that I agree with -- that the study doesn't actually prove what the author claims it proves -- but in a way that makes my head spin.
Those aren’t the children of same-sex parents. Those are the children of different-sex parents, one of whom later has some sexual relationship with someone of the same sex, however brief or sustained. The gay dads he’s writing about? Those are men who finally get an adolscence, late in life, after they’ve lied to themselves or others to try to fit in socially because people like Mark Regnerus told them being gay is bad. In our world, those men should never have married women. A healthy society would let them come out young and, if they wanted children, have children with a male partner with whom they could happily remain. 
Emphasis in the original.

I have a serious problem with this way she has framed her point here.  All children are children of different-sex parents.  There is no such thing as a man having children with a male partner.  Whatever else a healthy society may do, a healthy society does not lie to itself about reality.

What happens when a male-male couple 'has children' is that the mother of the child is somehow excluded from the child's life.  She may be involved to some degree, or she may not, but the child doesn't have the day-to-day relationship with his or her mother that a child would have in a household with married biological parents.

It seems to me that the child has a very strong interest in having a loving relationship with both of its biological parents.  They are the two people in the world who are most like the child, after all:  so much of who we are is passed genetically that knowing your parents is an advantage in and of itself.  The better you understand them, and  how they deal with the difficulties they encounter in life, the better prepared you will be to engage in the difficulties life is most likely to throw you.  Even if you don't like your parents, you benefit from knowing them well.

Thus we can see a ranking, from the perspective of the child's interests:  the ideal thing for a child is to be born into a loving, stable heterosexual family in which the child can have a good relationship with both biological parents.  Every other option is less ideal, though we can disagree about whether a family with happy gay partners -- not "parents," though one of them might be -- is better or worse for the child than living in a marriage between unhappy biological parents.  That's the kind of thing that a study might usefully inform, if one is ever done; but it will be a while before it can be done well, since right now the data set is limited.  (I would think you would need to control for a lot of other things to get useful data, though:  income levels, for example, surely affect the outcomes for a family's children.)

Now having children isn't one of those things that you shouldn't do if you can't do it perfectly.  Perfection of the end is the proper way to aim, but it's still better to partially achieve the end than to entirely fail.  Many argue that it is better for children to spend time with their parents than in day care centers, for example, but even if that were conclusively proven it wouldn't mean that no family should have children if they can't avoid using day care.  That would be absurd:  clearly the child obtains a benefit from being born, and more benefits from every day of life.  To deny the child birth is to deny the child every good it will ever have.

That would be like telling a poor family that, since they can't eat steak, they shouldn't eat at all.  It's a ridiculous and absurd notion.  It's better for the child to be born, and have the chance for some happiness.  Besides, the odds aren't everything:  maybe the child will figure out a way to do better than the odds suggest.

For a long time, though, we've been talking about this issue as if the happiness of the parents was the paramount issue in how we think about questions of marriage and divorce.  Whatever else the study did, it at least put the focus back where it belongs.  Families are about kinship bonds across generations:  the children's interest is at least as important as the parents' interests, even if the child is powerless to defend its interests.  I would argue that the interests of the earlier set of parents is also relevant -- that there is a continuing set of mutual duties between all the involved generations -- but that seems to be an unpopular position these days.  If we can get people to at least change focus to favor the interests of the next generation over the current one, I'll take that as a good start.

A Swordsman on Swordfighting

I've had the chance to train with him.  For those of you who are interested, the man knows what he's talking about.


We're having a bit of technical, inter-tubes related difficulties here at the Hall.  Don't mind if you don't see me on any given day.

Mostly I'm just laying in wood for the winter anyway.  The odds of me having a great insight to trouble you with at this time are fairly small.  I can tell you that chainsaws, given modern fuel conditions, work better at 50:1 than 60:1; and that you need to change your gas out before it gets a month old, no matter how good your ratio happens to be.

Since we're doing old cartoons on relevant subjects, how about a Depression-era Disney cartoon on the subject of eviction?

The Nature of the Thing

We've spoken often of views marriage, and especially of Aquinas' concept that matrimony is based in natural law:  that is, it is based on human nature.  Our nature imposes upon us certain requirements -- if we wish to survive as a species, or as a culture, these requirements take the force of duties.

Of course, it's a duty that doesn't have to be done by everyone:  there are some who reject it for themselves, which is fine so long as they support it when it is done by others.  If it is a fact of human nature -- and surely it is -- we have to sort out a way to make this work.  It's a duty that falls on us all, either to bear ourselves, or to support.

But she is wrong to say that children are poor conversationalists.  That may be true for children whose parents didn't bother to talk to them like people.  If you did, though, you probably found that they were very interesting conversationalists.  A child who has been engaged enough to have learned to speak well and properly presents quite a challenge in conversation.  If you take them seriously, and engage them seriously, you'll have few conversations as interesting in your whole life.

Restoring Faith in Government

So we're all excited to learn that the Justice Department has appointed two investigators to look into the rampant leaks, sometimes derailing critical Top Secret programs, that have recently emerged in a series of articles highly favorable to the Obama administration.  However...

Well, look on the bright side.  Only one of them has heavily donated to both the Senate and Presidential campaigns of President Obama; while holding an office to which he was appointed by President Obama; in order to take a position for which he will doubtless be paid a fine honorarium by the Justice Department that serves President Obama.

The other guy is just in the pay of the administration.  Otherwise, he appears to be independent.  Since the Justice Department is theoretically autonomous to a certain degree -- if Eric Holder can be relied upon in this regard -- there should be nothing to worry about.

How not to chat on Facebook

From PJ Media:
Here’s a thought: If you’re a liberal who feels the urge to murder kittens when someone says something nice about Sarah Palin or a conservative who thinks Obama is a mixture of Stalin and Darth Vader and you just can’t shut up about it, maybe you shouldn’t be [Facebook] friends with someone who vehemently disagrees with you. If you are going to be someone’s friend, then you should keep in mind that friends politely disagree. They don’t regularly insult each other, trash other people in the thread, and go off on angry rants. So, just remember what your mother said, “If you can’t say something nice, then shut your ignorant mouth, you loser! I can’t believe I ever had a horrible child like you! You’ll never be a success! Never!” Ok, maybe I’m just assuming that’s how the mothers of people like that talk, but you have to admit that it would explain a lot.

Thoughts on Silence

Here is an interview with a Trappist monk on the virtue he finds in what is popularly called the vow of silence.
When a man and woman meet and fall in love they begin to talk. They talk and talk and talk all day long and can't wait to meet again to talk some more. They talk for hours together, and never tire of talking and so talk late into the night, until they become intimate—and then they don't talk anymore. Neither would describe intimacy as “the sacrifice of words” and a monk is not inclined to speak about his intimacy with God in this way.

A Study in Terrible Judgment

Anyone who happens to be a pedophile should consider any and all procedures that prevent them from acting on their disorder.  If you choose to disregard this advice, however, at least don't select a horse ranch in Texas as the best place to carry on.
A Texas father caught a man sexually assaulting his 4-year-old daughter and punched him in the head repeatedly, killing him, authorities said.
Well of course he did.

West Point Looks Back

Were you aware that the United States Military Academy's Department of History teaches students to fire 1500s matchlock muskets?  Conduct WWI-style trench warfare?

These are some interesting videos.  The old lessons become relevant again surprisingly regularly:  think of the SF guys in the early days of Afghanistan having not only to ride but to pack horses.  Rigging a pack horse is an entirely separate skill set, once well known to the American cavalry.

The lessons of trench warfare can become relevant again quickly, if only for an afternoon:  but if it does, remembering the old ways is the difference between surviving the afternoon and not.

An Older View of Marriage

I was just reading Ragnhild Johnrud Zorgati's Pluralism in the Middle Ages:  Hybrid Identities, Conversion, and Mixed Marriages in Medieval Iberia.  There's an interesting passage I wanted to quote to you as it pertains to our occasional discussion of the nature of marriage.  We're familiar with Aquinas' natural law view of matrimony, i.e., that view of marriage that takes its form from the nature of humankind.

Aquinas lived in the 13th century, though, and his formulation out of the natural law didn't occur until the writings of Aristotle were restored to the West.  It is Aristotle, after all, who puts such an emphasis on "the nature of the thing" in determining questions about ethics and justice (and indeed even physics).  Those writings came to the Church out of Spain, especially following the conquest of Toledo in 1085.  When the Christians found themselves in possession of the great libraries of Toledo, rather than burn them (as the Mongols did to the libraries in Baghdad and Persia) they set up teams of translators.  Many Christians who spoke and read Arabic lived in the city, as well as Jewish scholars who could read multiple languages.  Translation from Arabic into Latin and other languages accessible in Europe became a focus of the Crown of Castille, which provided the funding for the efforts led by the Church.

Before that, marriage did not have the natural law reading in the West.  It still had a unique character in Christian civilization, though, opposed to the contractual reading.  Marriage was a contract in Islam.  Dr. Zorgati explains (p. 102):
According to Charles Donahue, “the most frequently made comparative statement about the Christian law of marriage, on the one hand, and the Islamic [ . . . ] or the Jewish [ . . . ], on the other, is that marriage is a sacrament in Christianity but it is not in Islam or Judaism” (Donahue, 2008, 46). In studies dedicated to Muslim marriages, it is often its contractual nature which is at the forefront. 6 However, the opposition between marriage as contract and marriage as sacrament has to be nuanced. First, there is not one Islamic marriage contract, but many, since different legal schools developed different requirements for the marriage contract, and because people could add individual stipulations to their contracts. Second, although the idea of marriage as a sacrament has roots back to Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it was first translated into legal doctrine in the twelfth century (Donahue, 2008, 47). According to Islamic law, “marriage is a contract (ʿaqd), established by bilateral agreement” (Ali, 2008, 11). It is a mundane transaction (muʿāmala) which some jurists also saw as an act of worship (ʿibāda) since according to one ḥadīth a married person has fulfilled half of his or her religion (Ali, 2008, 11). Moreover, one of the essential features of the contract is the offer (ījāb) made by the bride’s family and the acceptance (qabūl) of the groom’s family (Ali, 2008, 11– 13). Other important elements are the dower (ṣadāq) and the role played by the guardian and the witnesses, as well as the consent of the contracting parties.
The Church's idea ran in contrast to the actual practice of the Christian people:  before the 12th century, Christians tended to prefer arranged marriages based on social class and the preservation of the stability of the family.  As the Church developed the idea of marriage as a sacrament, though, the sacred character of the bond tended to undermine family authority (Zorgati p. 104):

The insistence of the free consent of the parties must be understood in relation to the developing view that marriage constituted a sacrament. Canonists writing in the decades before Alexander III insisted on the sacramental character of marriage. For example, Peter Lombard established that marriage was one of the seven sacraments of the Church, whereas Hugh of Saint Victor explored the etymology of ‘sacrament’ that he thought corresponded to ‘holy sign’ (sacrum signum). 10 Hence, in addition to the received idea that the relationship between husband and wife was analogous to the relationship between Christ and the Church— a mystery, or sacrament, according to Saint Paul— he saw marriage as a sign of the mutual love between the soul and God. This new idea had, according to Donahue, an impact on the doctrine of free consent in marriage which developed at the same time: “A theology that sees in marriage a sign of the mutual yearning of the soul for God and of God for the soul would tend to emphasize, as Hugh does, the element of choice in marriage, and would tend to exclude the choice of anyone else as being relevant to the question of the formation of marriage” (Donahue, 2008, 54). 
That's an interesting view, and one that is in contrast with the view that Aquinas came to in the next century.  The principal end of matrimony in that view, derived from "the nature of the thing," is filling the need for humanity to reproduce itself across generations:  not only to procreate, but to educate and develop children so they are able to sustain themselves and support the greater society of which they are part.

Unlike the Islamic and Jewish contractual view, the Christian view permitted the two parties who loved each other to come together regardless of their rank in society, but only by their own free choice.  Also unlike the contractual views, however, divorce was forbidden.  The Love that could unify a man and a woman of different ranks into one flesh was a miracle.  None should dare to live in defiance of such a miracle.

No idle hands

This pattern is absorbing me as thoroughly as the golden Ring in Frodo's head:  day or night, all I want to do lately is crochet it.  When I finish a length sufficient for a bedskirt in this thick "bedspread weight" thread, I think I'll start a new one in a very fine thread, to edge the pillowcases with.

With All Due Respect, Have You Gentlemen Lost Your Minds?

InstaPundit approvingly cites Walter Russell Mead:
Air conditioning in warm regions uses far less energy than heating in cold regions. 
So if you want to help save the planet, move out of Vermont and get yourself to Alabama where people know how to live in harmony with Mother Gaia. Moving out of New England could be the purest form of environmental activism; your selfish, earth destroying choice of living in Massachusetts in killing us all. And as for Canada, Gaia’s message is clear: shut it down, now. The Germans for their part could help the planet by moving to Spain and Greece; this might also help with Europe’s financial woes. 
Perhaps the blue model politicians whose tax and spend policies are driving businesses and residents out of their states are smarter than they look. They could be green activists, steadily working to save the earth by driving people out of the northeast. We look forward to green activists introducing legislation in Congress to levy new taxes on those whose choice to live in cold states imposes costs on the more virtuous and eco-friendly inhabitants of Texas and South Carolina.
It only seems fair. You do care about the planet, don’t you?
Am I seriously reading a professor from South Carolina and another from Tennessee suggesting that what we need is for more Yankees to move down South?  Is this what you want for the good people of Alabama?

(I haven't forgotten you, Raven!  But still:  Bernie Sanders voters moving to Alabama?  Madness.)

RIchard Feynman is my hero

This is from a oft-quoted speech, Feynman's 1974 commencement speech at Cal Tech, but I never can get enough of it:
This long history of learning how not to fool ourselves — of having utter scientific integrity — is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis. 
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
I far as I can tell, everything Feynman ever wrote is worth reading, especially "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", "What Do You Care What Other People Think?", and "Q.E.D."  The first two are reminiscences; the third is one of the best pieces of popularized science I've ever read.

H/t Maggie's Farm.