In Defense of Dangerous Ideas (Even the Really Inconvenient, Nasty Ones)

In a gently provocative Chicago Sun Times opinion piece adapted from his  introduction to John Brockman’s very uneven Edge anthology, What’s Your Dangerous Idea?, the great Steven Pinker  comes to the qualified defense of  intellectual dynamite. 

Pinker opens with a list of propositional questions well chosen to delineate some — but not all — of the boundaries that otherwise thoughtful people reflexively erect to stifle open discussion when parlor chat takes an awkward turn. In the spirit of the The Hoover Hog’s longstanding commitment to the free discussion of all things inflammatory, I shall turn shortly to these questions and offer my thoughts, along with some irresponsibly provisional best guess hunches.

Before jumping in, however, it is interesting to reflect on the criteria Pinker proposes to qualify how we are to think about the unthinkable.  Being a man of science, it is unsurprising that certain epistemic ground rules might seem justified before traipsing off into intellectual minefields. Thus Pinker’s first qualification is articulated:

By "dangerous ideas" I don’t have in mind harmful technologies, like
those behind weapons of mass destruction, or evil ideologies, like
those of racist, fascist or other fanatical cults. I have in mind
statements of fact or policy that are defended with evidence and
argument by serious scientists and thinkers but which are felt to
challenge the collective decency of an age.

This may sound reasonable enough upon first pass, but is such a restriction really justified?  Is it even consistent with the implications of some of the propositions that Pinker is content to leave on the plate? I don’t think so. The problem with omitting "harmful technologies" or "evil ideologies" from the mix becomes clear when you consider that many of the questions reserved for rational contemplation proceed upon normative grounds that, if affirmed, would tend to undermine the intellectual basis for assigning pejorative distinctions in the first place.

By way of illustration, consider just one of the questions that Pinker endorses as being consonant with the safely delimited spirit of ostensibly dangerous discourse:

Is morality just a product of the evolution of our brains, with no inherent reality?

By asking whether morality of any kind can be sustained on purely ontological grounds, we implicitly admit that the answer may tend in either direction.  (The answer to Pinker’s query, by the way, is yes; there is no objective basis for morality.  Next question, please.)   But if one concludes that no ultimately empirical justification for morality can be sustained, then asserting the inherent superiority of one ethical system — or ideology — over another will remain exceedingly difficult and arguably futile. Further assuming the that the relativist-normative games that follow can claim no transcendent rules,  Pinker’s casual invocation of the term "evil" begins to seem odd.  I would imagine such a term, with all its metaphysical baggage, should be reserved for the full skeptical treatment. As should the unquestioning dismissal of viscerally unseemly ideologies or technologies. 

My considered sense is that Pinker’s public-spirited humanism has gotten the better of him.  Like many provocative thinkers of the hyper-educated Third Culture, he favors the aura of danger but shrinks from the implications when the specter of genuine danger enters the frame.  My moral sense tells me that fascism, whether understood in colloquial or academic terms, is indeed a mighty bad idea. So, I hasten to insist, is communism.  But when I look into the maw of a meaningless universe, a universe in which moral claims may be rationally understood as necessarily tentative or merely preferential (as Pinker implicitly allows), I am at a loss to see how one can rationally proscribe the bounds of ideation to exclude any flavor of discourse. 

Was the invention of  atomic weaponry an inherently immoral accomplishment? It’s hard to think of a more demonstrably "harmful technology" in the history of human affairs, yet one’s answer to this question will to some extent depend on one’s response to Pinker’s provocative question about the etiology of human morality.  I seem to recall that at least one "serious scientist and thinker" voiced, and later retracted, an opinion about this very issue.  Would Einstein’s initial views on the matter be disallowed by Pinker’s criteria? Should Martin Heidegger’s metaphysically impenetrable defense of National Socialism be foreclosed from discussion?  Is Pinker suggesting that Hannah Arendt’s bed-buddy was less than a serious thinker?  If  we are free to consider that "evil" is a metaphysical chimera, then I submit no holds be barred.

The Other Thing

Pinker proposes another caveat in his defense of dangerous ideas that, upon consideration, is also difficult to reconcile with his stated premise.  The second qualification seeks to exempt rank kookery and mendacity from the fray of permissible discourse, and Pinker’s stated motives are indeed laudable:

Let’s exclude outright lies, deceptive propaganda, incendiary
conspiracy theories from malevolent crackpots and technological recipes
for wanton destruction. Consider only ideas about the truth of
empirical claims or the effectiveness of policies that, if they turned
out to be true, would require a significant rethinking of our moral
sensibilities. And consider ideas that, if they turn out to be false,
could lead to harm if people believed them to be true. In either case,
we don’t know whether they are true or false a priori, so only by
examining and debating them can we find out. Finally, let’s assume that
we’re not talking about burning people at the stake or cutting out
their tongues but about discouraging their research and giving their
ideas as little publicity as possible. There is a good case for
exploring all ideas relevant to our current concerns, no matter where
they lead. 

Recognizing that Pinker has parsed this exclusionary clause with enough qualifying adjectives to dilute any strong objection, I want to play on the drift of what’s being suggested.  And I want to emphasize a conspicuous omission from the roster of gut-stirring questions that can scarcely be attributed to oversight.  Most of you know where this is going.

If it is suggested that the Apollo moon landing was a government-sponsored hoax, it doesn’t much matter whether the person advancing the claim is motivated by paranoia or ignorance because there will always be scientists and rational thinkers who are willing to point out the myriad problems with such a position.  When the 911 Truth squad puts out reams of spurious scholarship purporting to demonstrate that the attacks of September 11 were the result of an elaborate government conspiracy, serious engineers and technical experts are likewise quick to refute such claims, often in elaborate detail.  The same rational correctives apply to far flung AIDS conspiracies, creation "science," and various and sundry strands of paranormal flummery.  When I was a kid, James Randi was like a fucking hero to me, and for good reason.

The charlatans and true believers who trade in wide-eyed conspiracy theories are seldom portrayed as seriously dangerous thinkers. Whether they are operating from a position of hucksterish self-interest or earnest credulity, the reasoning they employ typically resides in thoughtless opposition to Ockham’s razor.  They remain colorful figures in the American pastiche.  It’s easier to ignore them most of the time, and occasionally to explain why and how they are mistaken.  No one even considers putting conspiracy mongers and kooks behind bars.

Having long been fascinated by the subject of intellectual taboo, I can assert without reservation that there are literally two propositions that stand out as uniquely incendiary.  The first is the idea that Pinker openly entertains in  his excellent contribution to "What’s Your Dangerous Idea." To cite the title of his essay, it is the idea that "Groups of People May Differ Genetically in Their Average Talents and Temperaments." When The Bell Curve scared the shit out of the very best people over a decade ago, there was already a massive corpus of scholarship that was consistent with this unthinkable nostrum, and in subsequent years the evidence that long documented differences between racial groups — most importantly with reference to intelligence — have a partially and even significantly genetic basis has only grown stronger.  And as Pinker notes in his essay, advances in genetic testing signal the development of dispositive methods of investigation that many people, clinging desperately to their timeworn copies of The Mismeasure of Man, would sooner leave untried.

Clearly, the grand stature of this taboo stems in large measure from the widespread, if seldom articulated, fear that it may be true.  And it probably is.  We’ll know soon enough.

Chances are, you’ve already guessed the other distinctively formidable taboo that troubles our collective imagination.  It’s the one Pinker doesn’t mention.  It’s the one I strongly suspect he is seeking to exclude (erroneously, if sincerely) with his above quoted ground rules.  It’s the one that, if voiced in most of the western world, can get you thrown in jail.

A recent essay by the ever-provocative and erudite Theodore Dalrymple explores a little investigated socio-cultural phenomenon, the tendency of interested cultural constituencies to credulously believe genocide stories, even when historical evidence proves wanting.  The essay, published in the New English Review, is entitled "Why Intellectuals Like Genocide."   Dalrymple focuses specifically on an academic scandal that erupted among Australian scholars over the publication of a work of dissident history.  The book is called, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, by  Kieth Windshcuttle. Its central heresy:  it "sets out to destroy the idea that there had been a genocide of Tasmanian aborigines carried out by the early European settlers of the island."

Dalrymple is mining the episode for greater verities, of course, but his account of the ensuing disputation is significant.  Here’s the passage that struck me:

It is, of course, possible,
that the professors and the intelligentsia were so convinced that there had
been a genocide, and believed that the evidence that it had taken place so
overwhelming, that any person who denied it must have been an extremely bad man.
On the other hand, if the evidence was so overwhelming, they should have been
able easily to produce sufficient of it in public to convince someone like me
(and many others). This they have not done, and so one must conclude that, at
the very least, the historical question is an open one. And if the question is
still an open one, the fury directed at Windschuttle was quite disproportionate.

What is an open question?

Everyone is quite sure that Holocaust revisionists (I’m sorry, deniers) are ill-motivated cranks and anti-Semites who have no respect for accepted scientific and scholarly methods of inquiry.  I think it’s fair to suggest that the average right-thinking person harbors little doubt that those who questions the scale or enormity of the intentional "Destruction  of the Eropean Jews" during the Second World War can be readily branded a "malevolent crackpot" who is "engaging outright lies, deceptive propaganda, [and/or] incendiary
conspiracy theories," if not far worse.  Those who question the official history of the Holocaust are routinely compared to moon landing conspiracists, and to the conspicuously  nonexistent faction of hate-mongers who deny the existence of slavery.

The trouble is, no one is assaulting or  incarcerating the people who say "we never went to the moon." The trouble is, no one has ever claimed that slavery "didn’t happen," and if they did they’d be laughed out the next Klan meeting. The trouble is, people who are confident in their assumptions about the spuriousness of the other side of genocide almost never deign to read the actual arguments advanced Holocaust revisionists, the better of which often turn out to be disarmingly scrupulous and falsifiable

And the trouble, just as with the bugaboo over genes and racial difference, is that deep down people suspect there may be something to it all.  People fear that where the claims of Holocaust skeptics are concerned,

we don’t know whether they are true or false a priori, so only by
examining and debating them can we find out.

Importantly, Dalrymple’s essay does not focus merely on the public row over Windschuttle’s thesis.  He also outlines the case that intellectually abetted belief in genocide stories "has parallels elsewhere." He writes:      

I remember when I lived for a
time in Guatemala
reading the most currently-celebrated account of
colonial Guatemala
, called La patria delcriollo.
In all of its eight hundred pages the role of epidemic disease in reducing the
number of Indians after the arrival of the Spanish was not mentioned even once,
not even in passing, though it is almost certain (that is to say as certain as
it can be) that the overwhelming cause of the decrease was epidemic disease.

Why was it not mentioned?
Because the author wanted to present the current, supposedly lamentable state
of Guatemala
to be a direct consequence of the colonial era, which
was itself a time of genocide. This being the case, there was only one thing to
be done: to found the state anew, to start all over again, to build a new state
from a better blueprint. It is not very difficult to see what role the
intelligentsia would have in constructing the new society: a very powerful,
indeed directing one.

Set aside the question of political motives for the moment.  Embedded within Dalrymple’s anecdotal case studies, I think there resides another, more intriguing, possibility.  Might it be that there is a universal human tendency for peoples to believe certain stories about their own historical subjugation, much the way people seem to believe supernatural accounts of their creation? 

Lately, there has been much scientific speculation about the existence of something akin to a "God gene," or some innately bound aspect of our common nature that predisposes people to believe stories of the divine.  This idea is echoed in Daniel Dennett’s treatment of "belief in belief," and it may find some evolutionary support in David Sloan Wilson’s group-adaptationist account of religious phenomena.  But for now, let’s just say it’s an open question.

OK, then.  Turn to page 363 of the Pantheon edition of Arno Mayer’s well regarded Holocaust history, Why Did The Heavens Not Darken, and you will find the following text:

Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable.  Even though Hitler and the Nazis made no secret of their war of the Jews, the SS operatives dutifully eliminated all traces of their murderous activities and instruments.  No written orders for gassing have turned up thus far.

Having duly noted that there is in fact little to no reliable trace evidence to confirm the existence of the Nazis’ primary murder weapon (which may seem a bit odd to the most people who assume the whole sordid business to be so well documented  as to render revisionist skepticism prima facie absurd), Mayer goes on,  noting that:

Most of what is known is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and bystanders.  This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be influenced by subjective factors of great complexity.

And, a few sentences later:

…there is no denying the many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources. These cannot be ignored, although it must be emphasized strongly that such defects are altogether insufficient to put in question the use of gas chambers in the murder of Jews at Auschwitz.  Much  the same is true for the conflicting estimates and extrapolations of the number of victims since there are no reliable statistics to work with.

So this is what it truly comes down to.  A question of whether the wholesale absence of documentary and physical evidence for a monstrous crime can be construed as sufficient grounds for questioning  whether and how the alleged crime took place.  Answer in the negative and everything will be fine.  Answer in the positive and you may get your ass thrown in jail.  I may be oversimplifying, but not by much.

Remember the tunnels under the McMartin preschool?  Remember Kelly Michaels shoving silverware into those poor preschool kidlings’ orifices?  Remember the evil Iraqi soldiers who tore helpless Kuwaiti premies from their incubators?  Remember those weapons of mass destruction that Colin Powell told us about?

Remember Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS?

Please, consider what Arno is saying.  Then consider some facts that no serious scholar disputes.  Typhus was epidemic in the concentration camps of Europe during the latter stages of  the war.  As is often forgotten, it was typhus that killed Anne Frank — at Bergen Belsen, not Auschwitz. As Dr. Franciszek Piper, former Director of the Auschwitz  State Museum acknowledges in a fascinating interview with (revisionist) David Cole, Hydrocyanic gas, the poison long purported to have fueled the killing machines at Auschwitz (under the notorious brand Zyklon B), was in fact used primarily for purposes of lice disinfestation and for the disinfection of camp barracks. A dual purpose. Consider also that there was never an operational gas chamber at Dachau.  And that among serious Holocaust historians of no relation to those who intend to revise or deny, few still profess to believe oft-repeated legends about lampshades and soap.

With reference to the canonical Holocaust history, virtually every claim of unique iniquity may yield just as plausibly to a less sinister interpretation.  Which good people are implored, in this instance only, not to consider.  Why?  Because the question is not open. Why?  Because the question is not open, and if you persist in asking, then there are consequences.    

A few years back, a thoughtful feminist literary critic named Elaine Showalter wrote an important book called Hystories that met with a remarkably hostile reception.  By dint of a fascinating psycho-literary interpretive approach, Hystories sought to explore and explain past and present episodes of sociogenic illness or delusion, more commonly — and some would argue, pejoratively — known as hysteria.  Had Showalter limited her focus to long forgotten stock market panics and witch trials, all would have been well; her core heresy — and distinction — lay in applying the same scientific and deconstructive  methods to the study of variety of politically sensitive modern phenomena, such as satanic ritual abuse, chronic fatigue syndrome, and perhaps most contentiously, Gulf War Syndrome

The explosive controversies surrounding Showalter’s book may have obscured the value of her astute sociocultural analysis, but I think she was dead-on correct to discern the narrative signs of somatization disorder in each of these variegated cases.  Moral panics may seem obvious in distant — or even immediate — hindsight, but from the trench of instant cultural experience, a skeptical perspective can seem preposterous.  (As far as I know, no one has yet bothered to debunk the now all but forgotten episodes of "cruise ship illness" that grabbed headlines a few years back, but the smart money suggests that their etiology was sociogenic rather than pathogenic.   I suspect but cannot prove that we are in the midst of a very similar kind of episode with reference to autism.  Time will tell.  Or maybe it won’t.)   

A few years after the row over Showalter’s book had died down, a similarly focused and far more provocative monograph appeared, and this time the potentially offended audience disdained to notice.  Pseudononymously authored by one "Samual Crowell," the name of this text (which was published, to the best of my knowledge, only in samizdat editions, but is now freely available online) was The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes. Its central aim, modestly stated in the subtitle, was to proffer "An Attempt at A Literary Analysis of the Holocaust Gassing Claim." By reading early accounts of German gassing atrocities in the context of contemporaneous cultural anxieties  that were resonant in a host of  widely read fictional narratives found in popular works by Sax Rohmer, Georg Kaiser, HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others, Crowell hoped to "show that the revisionist interpretation on the subject of mass
gassing was possible, and since possible, a particularly unworthy
candidate for censorship."

Go ahead and read it.  No one will know.  If you’ve long been sold on the straw version of revisionist arguments that has been so successfully promoted by our self appointed intellectual gatekeepers, you may  be in for a real surprise. Crowell’s study is entirely consonant with the rationally trained skepticism that scholars and lay readers take for granted with reference to any other subject or event.  He makes careful, intriguing, and unexpected arguments.  And I should mention that he cites Showalter’s text appropriately. 

But whether his arguments should stand to careful criticism, we may never know.  Secure in their eternally reinforced assumption that any critical study of the Holocaust is inherently borne of mendacity and hate, scholars are never bothered to fashion a response. Like Steven Pinker, the intellectual classes who might otherwise take notice are content to consign such studies to the bin of kookdom, sight unseen. 

This is a grave mistake.  Crowell’s only lapse is to breach a cultural taboo. He simply failed to heed the admonition of Arno Mayer to believe accusations for which evidence is scant, or at least questionable. The same is true with reference to Robert Faurisson, David Cole, David Irving, Germar Rudolf, Ernst Zundel,  men who may not have been burned at the stake, but who have been subject to very real persecution, simply for advancing a singularly and quite literally dangerous idea.

I am going on at such length in part because I have nothing better to do. But also because I suspect, perhaps wrongly, that Holocaust Revisionism is the goblin Pinker has in mind in excluding the consideration of certain ideas from the realm of serious intellectual discussion and debate. I have little doubt that Pinker’s heart is in the right place, and I have little doubt that, like most intelligent people, he is confident that  revisionist arguments are beset with rational and empirical problems that are easily refuted and that have surely been refuted, and repeatedly, by reputable scholars from all corners. But such assumptions, whether or not they inform Pinker’s perspective, simply are not true. Where this, only this, subject is concerned, the light of day has been steadfastly denied in favor of the more ancient and tried tactics of censorship, intimidation, professional ostracism, and incarceration. 

Strip away the unique aura of taboo and the first thing you notice is that Holocaust revisionism proceeds on the very rational grounds preferred by Pinker and other top flight thinkers.  The central claims made by revisionists are soundly empirical and subject to the tools of scientific investigation. But more importantly, the arguments made at considerable risk, by revisionists, qualify as ideas that, "if they turned out to be true, would require a significant rethinking of our moral

Enough already.  On to Pinker’s questions. Because, conspicuous omissions notwithstanding, they really are a heap o’ fun.

Pinker’s List: The Hog Responds

Do women, on average, have a different profile of aptitudes and emotions than men?

To which The Hog replies: Are you fucking kidding?  Does the Pope shit in the woods? 

OK, maybe I’m wrong to open with an indignant hurumph. After all, merely broaching this subject got poor Larry Summers into a groan-inducing shitstorm of trouble only a few years back, long after I had begun to naively assume that most academics had shaken off the remaining fetters of such PC-abetted blank slate fallacies.  But old habits die hard, even and especially among the professoriate, so iterations are probably unavoidable.

The broad strokes, as I understand them, are as follow. While the question of whether men on average are more or less intelligent than women remains open to debate, it seems well settled that  men and women differ in their average mental and emotional profiles.  In his magisterial study of human intelligence, The g Factor, Arthur  Jensen makes a strong but qualified case for the intellectual parity of the sexes, but J. Philippe Rushton and Richard Lynn have also presented evidence that men have may enjoy a slight overall advantage in cognitive abilities.  Importantly however, few scientists question that there are consistent and significant differences in the flavor of intellectual abilities that characterize the sexes; women are more likely to outperform men in tests of verbal aptitude, while men perform better in tests of mathematical and visual-spatial ability.   

The case that men and women think differently and that such differences manifest early in life regardless of parenting style and other cultural variable is as strong as it is intuitively obvious.  As for  differences with reference to emotional and temperamental traits, I refer readers to Steven Pinker’s exemplary treatment of the subject in his paradigm-shifting pop-science treatise, The Blank Slate, as well as to Simon Baron-Cohen’s engaging review of the primary literature in The Essential Difference.

Finally, if you still need convincing, check out this debate between Steven Pinker and  Elizabeth Spelke.  It isn’t even close.   

Next question, please.          

Were the events in the Bible fictitious — not just the miracles, but those involving kings and empires?

To which the Hog replies:  I really couldn’t begin to guess. I suspect that Shakespeare’s histories are neither more nor less accurate, but honestly, I don’t even care. I suppose it wouldn’t much surprise me if Jesus and Moses turn out to be products of fictional imagination as a recent spate of thoughtfully heterodox scholars have suggested.  I’m out of my depth simply because religion bores me only slightly less than Arthurian legend and tic-tac-toe. 

If this is your cup of hemlock, however, a you might want to check out The Jesus Puzzle or Daniel Lazare’s more ambitiously conceived essay, "False Testament."

Next question, please.    

Has the state of the environment improved in the last 50 years?

To which The Hog replies: In the words of the late, great Julian Simon, I’ll bet on it.  Look up some of Bjorn Lomborg’s work, or just about anything by Peter Huber or Reason‘s outstanding science reporter, Ronald Bailey.  In addition to having a piss-poor empirical track record, environmental doomsaying is infused with a quasi-religious quality that begs for careful skepticism.   

Next question, please

Do most victims of sexual abuse suffer no lifelong damage?

To which The Hog replies:  Prolly not. 

This is the one that made life so difficult a few years back for Judith Levine, author of the 2002 book, Harmful to Minors. Levine’s major transgression, as you may have forgotten, was to cite a  a meta-analysis of some 59 studies that examined the conventional wisdom through interviews with students who had experienced varying degrees of sexual abuse as children.  The research team behind the study was headed up by Bruce Rind of the Psychology Department of Temple University, no doubt an incorrigible pervert, who would have us believe that "[s]elf-reported reactions to and effects from CSA (childhood sexual abuse) indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women. The college data were completely consistent with data from national samples." Rind et al’s  paper, which was published in the APA journal, Psychological Bulletin, concluded that "[b]asic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported."

For all the din of the faux outrage that followed from the usual quarters,  Rind and Levine’s skepticism always seemed to me to be refreshingly sober and their conclusions simply intuitive. After all, people are adapted to be resilient. Once you accept that sexual abuse may not be such unalloyed life-shattering poison, it is the penumbral questions that become more salient. If the widespread belief in irreparable, lifelong, harm stemming from sexual abuse is largely unsupported by evidence, why are people so adamant in believing it must be true?  My hunch is that the self-appointed protectors of kid-victims often, but not always, harbor some latent sexual fascination with children’s long denied sexuality. 

I know that sounds cheap, but there is something insidiously creepy and potentially dangerous in the sort of idealized childhood innocence that many victim-advocates promote under the easily spun pretext of overweening concern. Taking James Kincaid‘s lead, we might chalk it up to a kind of Foucauldian dissonance rooted in the Victorian denial of childhood sexuality.  Regardless, the unarticulated fear is that if children’s sexual nature is acknowledged in any context, or if their emotional damage is in any way questioned, that  adults will feel free to fuck them.  The problem, of course, is that the one’s who know better already do.

Next question, please.      

Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape?

To which The Hog replies:  Is nothing sacred, Professor Pinker?  To think that old cryin’ Indian PSA  buried in our collective childhood memories could be tainted even by the suggestion of less than noble savagery — well, it just don’t seem right. Yet the answer, on both accounts, is at least probably,  yes. As pre-industrial tribal hunter-gatherers, American Indians were, like their counterparts all over the world, warfaring peoples prone my dint of myth, economic ignorance, and common human nature to engage in environmental despoliation and the not-so-occasional inter-tribal atrocity.  The much maligned Thomas Woods devotes some discussion to these questions in his recent book,  33 Questions About American History That You’re Not Supposed to Ask.      

Next question, please.

Do men have an innate tendency to rape?

To which The Hog replies:  Makes sense to me, but you should ask the guys who wrote a book that really upset Katie Couric.

Next question, please.

Did the crime rate go down in the 1990s because two decades
earlier poor women aborted children who would have been prone to

To which The Hog replies:  The idea here, first formally proposed in a paper by Freakonomics author, Steven Levitt, is that liberalization of U.S. abortion law in the early 1970s can be independently linked to the
decline in national violent crime rates in the mid 1990s. "Unwanted"
children, the logic goes, are more likely to commit crime; and since
abortion supposedly reduces the number of unwanted children, it thereby reduces the number of children who would otherwise have grown
up to be violent criminals.  Steve Sailer has referred to the imputed mechanism as "preemptive capital punishment," which is harsh but accurate.      

When I
first encountered this argument back in 1999 or thenabouts, I remember
thinking it just had to be true. Levitt’s econometric trendlines were
impressive at a glance, and the underlying logic seemed almost
inescapable. But I’ve since done a good deal of reading on the subject
and I’ve gradually come around to a more skeptical – and nuanced –  view.

still don’t think it’s possible to rule out a "Levitt effect" in some time or context, but with reference to the American experience, the
weight of evidence seems increasingly against it. What’s more,
counterintuitive as it may seem, there may be good reasons not to rule
out an opposing tail effect, i.e. that legalizing abortion may have
actually had the effect of increasing rates of both "unwantedness" and crime.

Of course, the pitfall with this sort of thing is
that people assume you have some kind of agenda involving fetuses. I
don’t. I don’t even like fetuses. I just want to do my small part to
keep things honest and to promote free inquiry on a truly interesting and not entirely resolved

In that spirit, then, I’ve
put together a truncated chronology highlighting some key arguments in the debate as it has played out in various forums. So if you want to catch up on the twists of politely couched
acrimony (or if you simply enjoy wading through the finer points of
sociometric contention), just scroll down for the links and you’ll be
up to speed in no time.

Levitt’s most prominent critics, by the way, have been Steve Sailer, John Lott, Christopher Foote, and Ted Joyce. They’re all worth reading, but I personally find Sailer’s  prose to be more cogent and more entertaining. Levitt is good fun as well.

Some sources on the controversy:

The Slate debate (1999) – Steve Sailer and Steven Levitt’s debate

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime (2001) – Levitt & Donahue set out the basic argument, as revised.

Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out-of -Wedlock Births (2001) – John Lott and John Whitley’s critique of Levitt & Donahue

Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime? (2004) – Ted Joyce’s critique of Levitt & Donahue

Further Evidence That Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime (2004) – Levitt & Donahue’s reply to Ted Joyce

Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine (2005) – Levitt et al’s assessment of the confounding influence of crack-related crime

Pre-emptive Executions? (2005) – Steve Sailer’s article from The American

Testing Economic Hypotheses with State Level Data (2005) – An attempted refutation, arguing that once key variable are taken into account, the abortion-crime effect disappears.

Abortion and Crime: Who Should You Believe? (2005) – Steven Levitt’s response to mounting criticism      

Did Legalizing Abortion Cut Crime? – Steve Sailer’s collected writings on the controversy, with invaluable links to almost every relevant paper, rejoinder and resource available.   

Of course, the debate didn’t end in 2005.  Most recently, John Lott has re-entered the fray with a detailed discussion of the issue in Freedomnomics, a smart book cheekily marketed as a corrective to the Levitt-inspired vogue of trendily idiosyncratic economic scholarship.

Next question, please.   

Are suicide terrorists well-educated, mentally healthy and morally driven?

To which The Hog replies:   It seems so, and I’m not at all surprised.  The reflexive assumption that fanaticism is a bastion for the hopeless and destitute is rooted in misguided liberal romanticism.  There may be a raft of psychological factors in play, but true believers of whatever stripe are also likely to be thoughtful people whose devotion to a cause  is in large measure based on reason and principle, however faultily conceived.  To paraphrase Bradley Smith, we are at our worst when we see other people as monsters.

Next question, please.

Would the incidence of rape go down if prostitution were legalized?

To which The Hog replies: There’s some impressive economic research  suggesting that legalized prostitution does indeed lead to a reduction in sex crimes, and a very significant reduction at that. If  true, the old feminist trope that rape  is never, repeat: never, about sex, becomes even more difficult to maintain with a straight face.

Next question, please.

Do African-American men have higher levels of testosterone, on average, than white men?

To which The Hog replies: Yes.

Next question, please.

Is morality just a product of the evolution of our brains, with no inherent reality?

To which The Hog replies: Um, yes. And this one undermines Pinker’s first caveat, Q.E.D.

Next question, please.

Would society be better off if heroin and cocaine were legalized?

To which The Hog replies:  I don’t know about "society," but I would be better off.   

Next quetion, please.

Is homosexuality the symptom of an infectious disease?

To which The Hog replies: This is one of those ideas that seems nuts when first encountered, but increasingly plausible the more you study on the literature, much of which is rounded up here and here.  I also discuss the question of a gay germ in my less informed post, "A Natural History of the Fag Hag."

All I know for sure is, it’s never wise to bet against Greg Cochran.

Next question, please.    

Would it be consistent with our moral principles to give parents
the option of euthanizing newborns with birth defects that would
consign them to a life of pain and disability?

To which The Hog replies:  Consistent with whose moral principles? Ours?  Or Peter Singer’s?  Without getting all deontological or slippery slopery, a nagging problem with this brand of utilitarian quandary is that the working assumptions tend to be tilted in favor of hedonically-challenged normalcy.  Notably, research has consistently shown that paraplegics and quadriplegics report being at least as happy their unafflicted peers, and I have yet to encounter a "victim" of Down Syndrome with a dour temperament.  Yet it’s hard to imagine an affliction worse than paralysis, and the data is pretty clear that DS babies are being selectively aborted, arguably to the point of near extinction

The safer approach, I submit once again, is to prohibit people from having children altogether. Problem solved.

Next question, please.    

Do parents have any effect on the character or intelligence of their children?

To which The Hog replies: Judith Rich Harris and David C. Rowe say no, and I believe them.

Next question, please.

Would damage from terrorism be reduced if the police could torture suspects in special circumstances?

To which The Hog replies:  Maybe.  But Allen Dershowitz is still a douchbag.

Next question, please.

Is the average intelligence of Western nations declining because duller people are having more children than smarter people?

To which The Hog replies:  See Idiocracy and ask again.

Next question, please.

Would unwanted children be better off if there were a market in adoption rights, with babies going to the highest bidder?

To which The Hog replies:  Baby selling for fun and profit?  I vote yes.

Next question, please.

Would lives be saved if we instituted a free market in organs for transplantation?

To which The Hog replies:  As with the free-market adoption bugaboo, this is the kind of question that seems dangerous only in commensurate proportion to one’s beliefs about free markets.  As someone who is pretty well sold on the benefits of market driven competition, it’s a no-brainer.   Lives would  be saved because a free market in organs would provide the most efficient means of addressing problems of scarcity that are intrinsic to any form of centralized rationing.  After donating a kidney to her friend (the medical policy writer, Sally Satel), former Reason editor, Virginia Postrel, has written extensively about the politics of organ donation and the forever thwarted prospect of market-oriented solutions.

Next question, please.

Should people have the right to clone themselves, or enhance the genetic traits of their children?

To which The Hog replies:  As with all normative propositions, the answer will depend on your premises.  If you begin with the libertarian principle of nonaggression, as I prefer, the sustainable ethical position will hold that people should be free to do whatever they want, provided their conduct doesn’t forcibly intrude on the equally qualified rights of others.   Which leads to the question of whether cloning or genetic manipulation of prenatal organisms (or of preconceptional gametes) constitutes harm.  Which leads to the question of procreation itself.  Which, I’m very sorry, leads me to my previously articulated position of antinatalism — which, in a nutshell, is the view that because coming into existence is always to some degree harmful, no one should ever have children.  Which means no one should ever clone children either, since, once you get past the morally confused verbiage concerning nascent genetic technologies, cloning is essentially and ethically no different than creating people by fucking, or with some medicalized version of a turkey baster.

The question of genetic enhancement is slightly trickier, at least to the extent that it involves a genetically complete individual who may be assumed, for present purposes, already to have come into existence. Since the initial existential harm has been done, it seems logical that the parent-agents might be expected to utilize existing technology to the furthest extent possible to ensure that the hapless prenate has the best shot possible.  A problem with this position arises when you consider the inherent subjectivity that could bedevil many qualitatively directed genetic alterations that parents might favor in the interest of their already doomed offspring.  While few would argue against tweaking genes to prevent disease or infirmity, the prospect of genetically enhancing a person’s intellectual or physical traits might invite objection — most importantly from the subject, once grown — on any conceivable grounds.  My gut feeling on this is that it would appropriately be dealt with through torts, with wrongful life jurisprudence providing a workable starting point.

At their core, I think the value of bioethical questions concerning human cloning and genetic tinkering is that they point up  more fundamental  and little-considered problems with procreation itself.  When intellectuals raise dread Frankensteinian potential of or posthuman future, their arguments are often colored by conservative biases, but just as frequently their reasoning turns out to embrace many of the elements of antinatalism.  Their failure, as always, rests in not asking the next question.  Please.   

Is that it? 

Autism and Moral Panic

GNXP links to a TimeOnline story recounting the fallout over a recently leaked autism report being touted in some quarters as evidence for the widely discredited theory that autism is linked to the MMR vaccineSimon Baron-Cohen, a preeminent authority on autism (and neurological gender differences) was part of the research team behind report, and he does his futile best to quell the mounting hysteria. "I don’t believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism and I don’t believe that
there are hidden environmental reasons for any rise in cases," he states. "For the
moment, we should assume [any rise] is more to do with diagnostic practice."

Reading over the diagnostic criteria cited in the article, I’m more inclined than ever to
believe this whole "epidemic" can be explained as a moral panic fueled
in large measure by the rat-race expectations of upper-middle-class parents.  It may
turn out, as Baron-Cohen has speculated, that a modest spike in the incidence of aspergery temperamental traits can be traced to selective mating among "systemizing" tech nerds, but
to the extent that diagnostic bias is informed by culture (and doctor
shopping), I fear a lot of time and harmfully specious theorizing has
been expended over a nonexistent phenomenon. 

If Elaine Showalter ever writes a
sequel to Hystories, I hope she keeps this one in her sights.

Initial Harm Part Three: Evolved Hostility and the Burden of Belief in Belief

The way I was raising them they could never be saved. … Better for someone
else to tie a millstone around their neck and cast them in a river than
stumble. They were going to perish.

               — Andrea

No, I don’t believe in god. Although I do think it can be relevant.
Probably not the way you imagine.  Do you believe in hell?


Well, if you’re going to entertain this impossible idea of mine — that
having children is at a minimum an imposition, then your belief system puts you
in a far worse position, doesn’t it? — at least potentially.  Being a
childless atheist, I guess by your account I can look forward to burning in hellfire. The truth is, I’m not all that worried.  But
on your end, the stakes are raised.


Well,  your kids.  They’re in grade school, right?  And
they go to church? Or Sunday school or whatever?


OK then, suppose they change their tune on the whole Jesus Christ story.
Suppose they come to reject it, like I did. Like millions of people do.
And then, not to be morbid, but…


But they’ll go to Hell, right?  Fire and brimstone for eternity?
Isn’t that what you believe? Eternity is a long time.


The point is that it’s much worse for you.  There’s a chance that
your condemning them to something far worse than prosaic disappointment and
eventual death.  Endless punishment. That’s a serious fucking
ticket.  If you’re not bulshitting, then you have to admit it’s a real


I guess accusations are inevitable. But am I wrong?  I mean, if they
had never existed, then they would never suffer and die — like I said
before.  So it comes back to
my point that it’s all preventable — that life is a death sentence, and
potentially at least, for you, much, much, much worse. 


Children of (Godless) Men

What? You think this is all a joke?  A supercilious sleight of
sophistry rooted in churlish pessimism and ostentatious misanthropy? You
suspect my purity of intention? Think I’m choking on the bitter backwash of too
many bad days?

I may never rise above well suspected cynicism, but I must offer my assurance, all
the same, that I am only too serious.  Mortally serious. I’ve checked my
premises.  I’ve charted the escape clauses and raked over the
eschatological implications of a logic at once compelling and impotent. And I
refuse, finally and without apology, to shrug it off.  For all his
wishfully confused sentiment, Rothbard was off to a half decent start. But he
choked on the lede. The ethics of liberty is the moral negation of breathing.
This is libertarianism as existentially predicated ethical fascism. It’s what
I’m left with.  And I mean it.   

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that the existential dialectic proceeds
after a stark bias, a bias wrought by consciousness and blindly insistent
biochemical imperatives. Existence exists, said the homely Russian
dilettante.  But kick away the objectivist stilts and mull, once again,
over the asymmetry that remains: sentient existence entails suffering and
implies doom; non-existence is the absence of pain, the absence of a dying
light.  Metaphysics always misses the mark. In a phrase, you didn’t ask
for this
. No one did, because they couldn’t have. Because they were not.
We are deducibly victims of existential harm, traceable to negligent
agency.  Thus every apology and every demand follows after this grave and
arrogant presumption.

The Hoover Hog has taken frequent issue with the oft-disingenuous lip
service paid in service to "critical thinking" by  self-imagined
freethinkers who would sooner teabag Boris Yeltsin’s maggot-infested scrotum
than think critically about biological race differences or engage the arguments
of "holocaust deniers." But reflecting on the problem in our sights
has given me pause to wonder.  Could it be that antinatalism provides the
most revealing litmus test of all?  Unlike cookie-cutter taboos that evoke
secretive fascination, this one cuts to the quick of every epistemic bias in
one’s mental reserve.  If you’re given to presuppose — or postulate —
rights or interests or any proscriptive order of ethical conduct, regardless of
your preferred philosophical edifices, the reconciliation you imagine does not
come easily, if at all.

My thoughts turn to a random handful of prominent freethinking gadflies and
skeptics whom I respect: Daniel
Ian McEwan, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens,
Peter Singer — all  intelligent and outspoken critical thinkers who in
various forums have provided subtle to  devastating critiques of theism
and the folly of religion.  Collectively, these guys form the vanguard
of  the "new atheism" you’ve been reading so much about  —
the more public-spirited in-your-face brand that’s ever more inclined to rattle
cages and pick fights. With a few unimportant caveats, I think it’s a healthy,
if somewhat over-hyped backlash.  I respect each of these men for their public
courage and intellectual mien. And I agree, Q.E.D., with a major point of their
critique — that ethical norms can be reliably derived — or invented —
without reference supernatural order.

Yet the next thought, the one that always follows, turns on what I cannot but see as a contradiction. Or
at least a mystery. All of these men — every one of them — has children. Even
Peter Singer.

Am I wrong to puzzle over this?  Am I mistaken or naive to wonder: did
the questions that seem so obvious to me elude these thinkers?  Did they
arrive at different conclusions? Could it be that in some fleeting adumbration,
the dire problem of procreation crossed their better minds, only to be
deflected as untenable or hopelessly nihilistic. Or are they simply blinkered
by base carnality?  I bristle with curiosity.

Again, in the absence of divine guidance, most atheists would
agree that ethical reasoning is a secular enterprise of considerable
import.  It could plausibly be argued that it is the only branch of
philosophy that may never fully yield to scientific dethronement. Yet and thus,
secularists of laudably inquiring disposition seldom find cause to articulate
their reasons for bringing new life into existence. How and why this elision
persists is the question that preoccupies me.

My money is on rank biology, abetted by habit.  They’re blinded, I suspect, by the
same ecumenical gloss that afflicts the god-believing throng.  They’re
victims of the same evolved moral sense, a sense long adapted to avoid certain
show-stopping questions.  And I fear that in some tragic sense, they are
caught up the same pointless game.

That antinatalist arguments should so consistently be overlooked by superior
minds is at first suggestive.  That such arguments, once confronted,
should typically be met with hostile or dismissive reception is, I submit, a
testament not to any rational deficit in their formulation, but rather, and
more acutely, to the same Darwinian bias.  As sentient critters, our moral
sense is at once informed by and limited by preprogrammed genetic
interests.  Our existential fate being at bottom a natural phenomenon, it
follows that all this hard-wired  brainstuff  would have been
selected for a staggering variety of reasons, most or all of which, it seems
safe to assume, would have been intrinsically incompatible with antinatalist

Indeed, it would be truly surprising if our viscera did not rebel
against a  moral conclusion that demands the cessation of generational
propagation, which is reason enough to ask why the problem never came to focus
in your otherwise searching mental machinery. And it is further reason to
triple check your reflexive rebuttal once the matter is put.  Only by
recognizing the pre-rational constitution of one’s reflexive discomfiture can
we ward against the predictable temptation to fall back on the sort of lazily
conceived and ill-supported axiomatic rejoinder that proceeds after this very
special flavor of dissonance.

The point is not lost on Benatar, who writes:

…there is a good  evolutionary explanation for the  deep-seated
belief that people do not harm their children seriously by bringing them into
existence.  Those who do not have this belief are less likely to
reproduce. Those with reproduction-enhancing beliefs are more likely to breed
and pass on whatever attributes incline one to such beliefs.

So what happens is, you assume a dismissive posture.  Or maybe you just
get pissed off. 

A crass but telling illustration of this hostility may found in the
negative  reviews of Better Never to Have Been posted on Amazon.
"So let me get this straight," sneers one reviewer, "Mankind
would be better of [sic] had he never been born? Has this author offed himself?
If not, what is his justification for his continued existence? Certainly not to
produce laughably idiotic tomes like this."

Or consider the more syntactically confused splenetic pronouncement offered
by one "Edgy Evangelical," who writes:

I have not read the book, but from reading the title, I do beleive [sic] the
cosmic stupidity of it would have proven fatal. The author should apologize to
all his teachers and instructors throughout his whole education by insinuating
their incompetence through his stupidity [sic], and then he should be made to plant 5
trees to make up for the waste of paper that was this book. Then he should be
forced to work in the real world until his brain works again. My life is
lessened because I know of the existance [sic] of this book.

So antinatalist reasoning  is branded as misanthropic. This may be no
surprise, but it is nevertheless profoundly wrongheaded.  Whatever his motives,
Benatar’s argument is essentially and explicitly philanthropic. And so,
despite my intermittently flaring hostility, is mine.  The iterations cannot be exhausted.  Creating people increases
suffering.  Or creating people violates rights. There is nothing
misanthropic or hostile in the mission to reduce suffering, to spare people an
unknowable fate that could entail terrible illness or be defined by desperation
and psychic malaise. There is nothing morally suspect about an ethical
imperative that denies the multiplication of hangnails, holocausts, and gravestones

But if the best of god’s enemies have failed to step up on this crucial
point, maybe I shouldn’t crucify them for their lapse.  After all, they’re
smarter than I, which means, of course and alas, they are also better than
I.  Thoughtless murderers though I believe they are. To paraphrase the old
antisemitic quip, some of my best friends are breeders

It is better instead  that we should study on the implications of
antinatalism for those who nakedly assert their claim to transcendentally
based  moral righteousness. Because once you think about it, most followers of
the Nicene Creed  have a lot more explaining to do. 

Benatar is largely silent on the subject of religion, making only a passing
reference to Shaker celibacy in observing that  "religious traditions
can embody views that superficial religious thinkers would take to be antithetical
to religiosity." 

He might have thought better, because for
Christians, at least for the practicing majority who embrace a scriptural
mandate for damnation, the inherent problems of procreation are
infinitely magnified.  To understand this, it is not necessary to
entertain the veracity of preposterous christian claims about the fate awaits
unsaved sinners.  To borrow Dennett’s expression, we need only posit a
"belief in belief." If the hell-fearing christians mean what they
say, then their conduct should be judged accordingly. When heaven and hell are
introduced into the calculus, the import of antinatalist reasoning is cast so
starkly that it defies credulity to believe that one could overlook the potential harm
of their doing. Yet even with the stakes raised immeasurably, the christians seem at least as blind as the atheists. 

All but one, that is. 

The First and Last Pro-Mortalist Christian Martyr

I remember you, Mrs.Andrea Yates. 

You who were so obviously — biochemically, hormonally, legally, certifiably
insane.  That you drowned your five beloved broodlings, lest
they should suffer the torment of eternal hellfire.  You poor, haplessly
afflicted christian-mother-wife-victim. So beleaguered and bedraggled and
brainsick. So deserving of our enlightened compassion, yet so unfairly
condemned by the masses of unthinking remote-control moralists. All the best
people agree: we can learn from your plight. 

But my dear Andrea, could it be that your detractors as well as your
enlightened defenders have somehow missed the central lesson? As I recall, you
were very clear about this. Those voices in your head, the one’s you heeded in
your unquestionably psychotic lapse of innate maternal judgment, the voices
informing your unthinkable fillicidal deed, were they not consonant with the
voices so long resonating in the minds of your flock?   Were they not
the same sermonically sanctioned voices long ratified by your chosen

Let’s be honest, dear. You had your reasons. Reasons more soundly deduced
than delusional. You knew what you were doing. Your mistake, Saint Andrea, was
in believing too earnestly.

I do not intend to be airily mordacious or snide.  I want instead to
play on a forgotten thread of Szaszian skepticism by suggesting that Andrea
Yates’ actions can be understood without appeal to theories of insanity or
feminist-enabled hormone-sickness.  I want to suggest — nay, insist
— that her crimes, considered in the context of clearly stated and widely
believed church dogma, were inescapably rational.  Katie Couric’s
postpartum psychosis poster child
  was acting, as they say, in her
children’s best interest.

Stop sighing and listen.  Andrea Yates was a member of the Clear Lake
Church of Christ
, a Texas-based tendril of a fiercely but by no means uniquely fundamentalist
sect of protestant christianity boasting a mostly southern American membership
of more than two million people — some of whom we might imagine, just for the
sake of argument, to be very sincere.  As with most sectarian strands of
christendom, The Church of Christ embraces and promotes certain doctrines. With
general reference to the subject of damnation, and with specific reference to
this imaginatively dreadful place called hell, the Church of Christ is as abominably
fanciful as they come. If you don’t accept the j-man and submit to proper
baptismal rites, you can look forward to an an unimaginable eternity of
unimaginable suffering. 

It’s a vicious and tawdry idea, I know.  But if you honestly believe
it; if you sincerely ascribe to the notion that such inconceivable punishment
awaits the nonbeliever, then how fucking dare you have children?  Children
who, by dint of free will  (CoC votaries reject predestination), may
succumb not merely to worldly misery and death, but to never-ending torturous

Thus it is for you that I must reserve my harshest sentiments. Fuck you, careless
christian procreators.  Because of what you believe, you have placed yourselves beyond the
bounds of human turpitude.  You have consigned yourselves to the bottom depth of human iniquity.  When the killing machines are fueled and ready, I hope you’re
the first in line.

But Andrea, only Andrea, in her perfect, tragic, pathetic, guileless,
lonely sanity, saw the writing on the wall.  She knew what she had wrought.  And she knew there was one last ditch. A loophole; a way to save
her children. It’s all spelled out quite clearly in a gratingly ingenuous church
intended specifically for Andrea’s erstwhile congregants:

History can be a wonderful teacher and help us gain perspective on current
situations. We understand the Scriptures to teach that infants and small
children are innocent of the guilt of sin. Jesus used them as illustrations of
humility and innocence saying, in essence, “You adults need what they possess!”
(See Matthew 18:2-6; 19:13-15; Mark
9:36-37; 10:13-16; Luke 9:46-48;18:15-17.)
The baptism of infants and children was unknown during the New Testament period
but began early in Christian history. It began due to a misunderstanding of the
nature of God which led to unnecessary fear. There was fear that if an infant
or child died he or she would not go to heaven. Baptism was thus seen as the
method of providing assurance of salvation while giving the child the
opportunity to develop faith.

Although we have, thankfully, never practiced infant baptism in Churches of
Christ, we have sometimes fallen victim to the same false view of God and fear
for the salvation of our children. If Jesus is to be taken at his word in the
above scriptures, God is more interested in the salvation of your children than
you are! For this reason, we must trust him enough to believe that His mercy
and grace will extend to our children during their formative years and that His
grace will cover your children during the time they need to develop their

If I could wave a magic wand and change one concern in parent’s hearts in
regard to this matter, it would be to give them the peace and assurance they
need that God really is merciful and gracious. This way we can give our
attention to how we can best develop the faith of our children without fear
that they’ve got to get baptized quickly or God will not admit them to heaven

Of course, Mother Yates put the matter a mite more bluntly, informing her
worldly persecutors that "[t]hese were their innocent years.  God
would take them up." And whether it was meant as a baptismal precaution or
an oblique stab at irony, I have to admit the bathtub was a nice touch. 

But look.  Ten out of ten faithful followers agree: all children go to
heaven. Just ask one of the sheep: what fate befell these innocent victims?
They’ll tell you.  Andrea’s babes are playing put-put with Jesus in the
heavenly hereafter, or something similarly trite.  It’s the sinful adults
who are exclusively eligible for the other version of this Manichean
cartoon.  For the true believer, a vastly greater cruelty resides in
foreclosing the fillicidal final solution.  In heeding the command to be fruitful,
christians wantonly place countless lives at far worse than mortal risk.
Therein I submit lies a more resonant shade of insanity.    

The droning liberal apologetics,  inevitably fashioned in the language
of warmed-over pop-feminist victimology, stands as a crass disservice to a brave
Kierkegaardian heroine.  Whose only real mistake was in sincerely
believing what others emptily profess to believe. This woman’s crimes were
rationally compassionate, conceived in perfect fidelity with scriptural
doctrine that she and millions of others insist upon being inescapably True.

It makes absolutely no difference that you and I reject such theistically
countenanced fantasies out of hand. Andrea didn’t.  My apology may be
exploitive, but it is necessary and sincere. Make no mistake, I mean to corner
the argument.  For the vast millions of hell-believing christians,
procreation entails a uniquely unconscionable measure of horror.  For the
rest of us, it’s merely unconscionable.

Am I gilding the lily?  Honestly, I can’t say that I care.  The
unsubtle point, whatever triangulation is assumed,  remains the

No one should ever have children.


Note: This is the penultimate installment
in a four-part series on antinatalism.  Part Four will take a critical
look at David Benatar’s "pro-death" position on abortion, and will
consider the
compatibility of antinatalism with the idea of "immortalism" as
expounded by contemporary proponents of transhumanism.  How’s that for