Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cinderella Story

I was recently pointed to this article about a study which shows a strong correlation between girls raised on fairy tales and commitment to relationships marred by domestic violence. This quote, I think, sums up the findings:
"They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behavior," Darker-Smith said. "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."
It seems that this research has some correlation to my thesis on raising kids with Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. In the case of the Easter Bunny it is a more metaphysical lie, whereas here the issue is providing little girls with a template for submissiveness.

The results make sense, at least psychologically. If you're raised with the idea that you can change another person by love alone, or with the idea that even though your man is a beast (literally) he can still be a wonderful prince then obviously you're going to act on those preconceptions later in life. In fact, I would hazard a guess that the majority of failed marriages are not an issue of people changing or growing apart, but rather an issue of couples thinking that they can change their partner.

Fairy tales ignore the reality of life, plain and simple. People don't change, there is no Easter Bunny, and Santa Clause is your deceptive parents. When we raise our children on lies and fiction, especially when we masquerade them as truth, they are bound to grow up with problems.

What do we do, then? Abandon the tooth fairy? Burn Beauty and the Beast? Forget Rapunzel?

Furthermore, where do we draw the line? For as much as we like to assure our children that it is possible, kids cannot, in fact, become whatever they'd like as they grow older. Some people just will never be astronauts. Additionally, each person is not special in the way that we affirm to kids again and again, as they can simply be replaced by another worker in the real world. These inspirational stories, quips, and cliches are simply falsehoods, and why should we raise children on falsehoods?

I am not sure that everything in this vein needs to be abandoned. Rather, we must be aware of the story and principles that we tell our children, whether it be in inspirational sound bites or in fairy tales. Maybe stories with such morals that become so obviously harmful in practice, like Beauty and the Beast, should be abandoned altogether. Likewise, children are in for a rude awakening when then enter the real world and find that everyone doesn't love them, that they aren't special or unique, and that they cannot, in fact, have whatever profession they would like. Still, we can tell them that they can strive to be whatever they would like, we can tell them that we personally love and appreciate them (even if no one else in the world does), and we can tell them that hard work and effort pay off, sometimes in getting what it is that we want.

By paying attention to what we're raising children on, we can influence the sort of conception of the world that they create. A worldview based on lies and fiction can only lead to an inability to function practically in the real world. A worldview based on reality will lead to an ability to take on the world exactly as they find it.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Cookie!

I'm sure you've heard about the Sesame Street debacle and Cookie Monster's miraculous transformation. This article pretty much sums up my feelings on the situation, and he even uses terms like "raison d'etre" and "telos," so you know it has to be good. Some choice cuts:

Why didn’t they just name him “Phil: The Monster Who Sometimes Likes to Eat a Cookie”? Conceptually, this is no different than the idiot animal rights types who want their dogs and cats to be vegans, too. Cookie Monster cannot help being a Cookie Monster any more than your tabby can stop liking fish. It is their nature to do so.

Indeed, for years, Cookie Monster has devoured not only cookies, but things which merely look like cookies, including plates, Frisbees, and the moon. If Cookie Monster is so influential, why haven’t I heard more about kids going to the hospital after trying to eat plates?

Imagine if in the name of combating homophobia, the producers declared Bert and Ernie were gay. [Wait, they're not? ~RC]

Heck, maybe the kids in wheelchairs should get up and walk next season because we’re all in favor of kids being able to walk.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Marriage

I'm sure most of you have heard about this; the Texas house has passed a bill to prohibit gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents. Furthermore, it passed by a vote of 135-6. It is almost enough to make one cry.

Some supporters of the amendment have said, among other things, that "There's a risk that more of the children will go into homosexuality because it's a cultivated and learned behavior," that "it would be better for children to live in an orphanage than to be raised in such morally deficient house holds," and that "homosexuals cannot procreate, so they recruit." Furthermore, Cathie Adams, president of the ultra-conservative Texas Eagle Forum, believes that "children cared for by homosexuals were more likely to be sexually molested." [Reuters]

Keep in mind, of course, that 2,500 to 3,000 children would possibly be removed if the bill went through.

I don't think I need to point out the simple fact that sexual orientation is not a choice, and few non-heterosexual people would even want to foist homosexuality on another person, and the while the occurrence of deviant behavior is at a higher percentage in non-heterosexual people (for a variety of sociological reason), it is also alive and well in the hetero population.

The most interesting part of the bill, though, is that bisexuals too are prohibited from being foster parents, presumably even if they are in a heterosexual relationship. The bill says that "investigations can be conducted to ascertain the sexual orientation of a present or prospective foster parent." Questions of implementation aside, what point exactly are they trying to make here? Their objection is simply that children should be raised with both male and female role models, and yet even in a household where both those role models exist the legislature is still unwilling to grant foster children. The real motive must be -if it is not to protect children as they proclaim- to strip all non-heterosexuals of rights where ever they might have them.

Luckily, it seems as though the legislature is simply going to ignore it before it goes any further, hopefully letting it die. It doesn't excuse the 135 law makers who cannot respect the rights that this country was founded on.

On a much happier note, Spain has almost legalized same-sex marriage, becoming the third country to do so. Remember, of course, that Spain is predominantly Catholic (and rather ridiculously socialist). Why can Spain do it, but not America, the land of the free?

Finger-lickin' Good

The recent Wendy's "finger in the chili" scandal brings an interesting question from the VegBlog. Why would people be so concerned about a finger in chili? They are eating meat anyway, what's the difference?

Of course I can understand that people would be angry to find something in their food that they did not expect to be there, even if it was just a piece of fish or something in Wendy's chili. The idea of eating a finger, though, shouldn't be perceptibly different from eating a cow, or a chicken.

I've explained before some good arguments to stop eating meat, but this issue reeks of speciesism. What is the difference between eating the flesh of a human or eating the flesh of an animal?

I had a debate with a friend on this very issue a few days ago, and he lodged all the regular objections. Animals are not rational, and it is rationality that makes humans human. Animals aren't worth as much as humans, so it is alright to eat them. Animals kill each other, so we can kill them. His objections were standard, and all failed to support his point. Every definition of human that he gave (rational, having a "soul," etc.) excluded some people who we would generally describe as human. His estimations of worth neglected the fact that animals do, in fact, suffer, even if they aren't worth anything, and that the suffering of animals is not different, objectively, from the suffering of humans. In the end, he admitted that his view was entirely dogmatic, but was unconcerned with this fact. After repeated attempts to explain why a dogmatic belief was not one worth holding, he simply decided that reason and logic weren't for him, and we dropped the subject.

I believe that the reason we are adverse to eating human flesh is simply due to our evolutionary psychology. Our ancestors in the EEA found that eating friends hindered their ability to survive, and this nature evolved in us a natural dislike of eating humans. Still, today, in our fantastically rational society, people can't get over this little evolutionary catch-all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

'Zinger

I have a vested interest in the Catholic church only so much as my family is made up of practicing Catholics, and as far as I was raised in that tradition. I don't much associate myself with the Catholic church, but my days for now are certainly done. A week ago I only half jokingly told some friends that if Ratzinger was elected Pope I would officially sever all remaining ties with the Catholic church.

Well, here we are. Although I don't claim to be any authority on the subject, what I know about Ratzinger leads me to dislike the man vehemently. He is exactly what I dislike about the church; the ultra-conservative, close-minded, dictator that will most certainly take the church back a few steps. I guess my hopes for Vatican III aren't really viable now.

Catallarchy has an interesting perspective on the situation. Essentially, Randall McElroy predicts, the church is on the way out, either by way of decreasing membership or by way of weakening values. It may be true, maybe not. While they church is losing members, it hasn't lost them all, at least not yet, and I still see a strong population of Catholics, at least where I live. Perhaps the church will just see a scaling back, and not a full collapse.

Of course, Ratzinger might be the greatest pope ever. He might redirect the path of the church towards happiness and freedom and open-mindedness and liberty, and he might reunite the churches of the world into one big happy family. Still, I can't expect much from a man who once served for Hitler Youth...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Exploitation

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pharmacists

I don't see what the big deal is over the pharmacist controversy. Here's the solution, plain and simple: don't work a job that requires you to perform some task you find immoral. The issue here is tantamount to a soldier in the Army declining to go to war because he finds killing reprehensible. If you really feel that way, when why enlist in the first place?

David Boaz hints at this simple solution in Cato's daily commentary. The thrust of the argument, though, is the idea that rights cannot conflict. The only way by which to believe in personal rights and, at the same time, have them not conflict with each other is to make sure that the rights you're promulgating are only negative rights, not positive ones. When our conception of rights is purely based on prohibitions about force that we cannot enact on others, then the society we live in allows for the most freedom possible with the least contradiction and political confusion.

Miscellanea III

Please, Brian Eno, don't you think this is a little melodramatic? Go back to your ambient synth-pop, please, and stay away from the socialized health care. [Thanks to the Vegblog for bringing it up.]

I like this little page, especially as someone with a raging appreciation for economics but with little formal training. In fact, I think that of the 10 points raised that economics can be summarized into the first 2.

Also, you should read this remarkably interesting article over at Catallarchy. I think that one of the comments puts it best, "libertarianism is a framework in which people can build their own utopia."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Title IX

A recent commentary over at Cato demonstrates exactly the twisted nature of discrimination. Title IX, like its racial brother Affirmative Action, creates more discrimination than it stops by its very nature.

For the sake of my argument, I'll define discrimination as any law or rule that disallows some privilege that other can receive simply based on superficial, non-chosen traits like gender, race, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, discrimination acts as a barrier against an individual because of a class they belong to, instead of judging a person based on their personal merits.

Title IX requires both women's and men's sports to develop side by side, and be treated as equal. Women's sports, though, are both less appreciated by fans and women in general. Either because of some social construct or because of some genetic difference, women are less likely than men to participate in organized sports (see the Cato article for more statistics).

By requiring women's sports to develop side-by-side with men's, you restrict, based soly on the superficial class of gender, who can play what where. As example, I submit the rugby and lacrosse teams at the university I attend. There are substantial men's teams for both sports that currently exist as club sports, but their women's counterparts are sorely lacking. It is only this year that women's teams have emerged, and neither women's team has gained much momentum. In both cases the men's team cannot get further funding, they cannot join a division, and they cannot become anymore than an extracurricular club sport, simply because they are men without female counterparts. This is discrimination.

Furthermore, women's sports simply are not appreciated in the same way that men's are. For instance, at the University I attend basketball is our most popular sport and indeed the focal point of our campus culture. Men's basketball games are sold out every home game, and people travel hundreds of miles to attend tournament games. Women's basketball, on the other hand, is lucky to get more than a handful of fans in the stadium and had a record size crowd when the arena was half full. Why should it be the task of the federal government to force women's sports on a population who doesn't even want to watch them?

In short, I come to the same conclusion that Cato does; title IX needs to go. It creates more discrimination than it avoids, and it forces a supply (of women's sports) that consumers don't even want. By subjecting women's sports to the market forces, we'll find that women's sports are left out where they are unwanted, but they will be retained, and more strongly, in places where they are appreciated. Furthermore, with a majority of college students being of the female persuasion, schools will find that if they do discriminate against anyone they will lose attendees, which is something most schools cannot afford. By abolishing title IX, we create a more equal, more free, more tolerant world.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

April Madness

Feel like something is missing now that March Madness has come to a close? Well, go ahead and fill out your pope brackets. I'm personally pulling for Duke. Can you imagine Coach K as pope?

If that isn't enough, try this movie bracket. No surprise here; I have Spinal Tap winning it all, but then, I haven't seen some movies, most notably Rushmore, of which I hear great things.

Lastly, if you still aren't amused enough today, try this.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

MUSIC ALERT!

The much awaited new group, The Sinto Street Project, have released a few demo takes for public consumption. Visit their site here to hear their magnificence.

Also, you can contact The Sinto Street Project at thesintostreetproject[at]gmail[dot]com.

Classical

Marginal Revolution brings to our attention this article on Lang Lang, the classical piano phenom from China. Tyler makes the claim that the future of classical music lies there, in China, given their appreciation of it. While I think he isn't totally off the mark, he isn't representing the whole picture.

To be sure, the Chinese have a lock on classical performance. The majority of respected pianists, cellists, violinists, and other musical performers have been from China and Japan, and no one denies that they are incredible in both their talent as well as their devotion to the art. Even in America at children's piano recitals the students who are the most advanced at a young age are almost invariably those with Asian familial backgrounds. I still haven't quite figured out yet why this is, but I believe it has something to do with work ethic, or something like it.

But performance isn't the "future of contemporary classical music composition." In fact, it is quite the opposite; it is classical music performance that flourishes there. Yes, there is much more popular appreciation in China for classical music, but this appreciation leads kids to start playing the classics, the old masters, but not writing their own music.

Historically, America has been the haven for composers. Arnold Schoenberg, perhaps one of the most revolutionary and influential composers of the 20th century, moved to L.A. on account of rising anti-semitism in pre-WWII Germany. Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley, the contemporary faces of minimalist and serialist music, are all Americans. Choral composers like Eric Whitacre flourish here (although he did have to premier his new opera in Berlin to get any sort of response to it), orchestral composers like Samuel Barber are from America, and real post modernists like John Cage call their home the USA.

This isn't to discount the important contemporary music of the many, many other composers who have helped shape modern classical music, but even the next most notable composers aren't from Asia at all. Les Six, including Milhaud and Poulenc, were from France. Benjamin Britten and John Rutter are from England. Those that are from Asia are all from Russia: Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Penderecki.

Just because music is popular somewhere doesn't necessarily mean that it will garner a large following of new composers in the future. While the Asians are excellent at performing the classics, they haven't yet shown aptitude in composing new music. How many Chinese composers can you name?

As a side note, and trying not to brag, but one of the songs on Lang Lang's program, Lizst's Hungarian Rhapsody, is one that I'm playing this semester.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Miscellanea II

A few quick treats to finish off your April Fools Day weekend, and perhaps give you a little study/work break (as that is what these are for me):

Johan Norberg discusses John Paul II, albeit briefly, here. If nothing else, the pope was a proponent of human rights, something that no free nation can exist without.

Left2Right brings to our attention the issue of asexuals, and how their plight might bring some new ammunition for the gay rights movement. I don't, though, know what this means:
Those who think that homosexuality is immoral because it's unnatural, and unnatural because it's contrary to evolution -- they must think that asexuality is immoral for the same reason. Right?
I don't know of any evolutionary psychologists that say that homosexuality is intrinsically bad, I only know Thomistic sort of arguments in this vein. David V. should have left evolution out of this altogether. The rest sounds about right, though, even if it is a little silly.

Lastly, the Neolibertarian movement is heating up. I wasn't even aware that libertarianism had been around long enough to need a "neo-" prefix, but if you're interested in some liberty minded reading, check this out.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pope

As John Paul II spends his last moments alive, the future of the Catholic church seems uncertain. There hasn't been a new pope in almost 30 years, and with dwindling church attendance throughout the world, it seems as though the once all-pervasive Catholic church is in a slow decline.

I foresee a variety of things happening to the church in the next few years. Depending on the pope, I think that it would be appropriate and possible for the church to call another ecumenical council. The Vatican III council will address a variety of things, particularly all the issues of sexuality that the church more or less ignored during the 2nd Vatican council. While I have no basis for making these predictions, I believe that any number of the following things will be addressed:
  • The problem of decaying conformity in liturgy.
  • A reform in liturgical music, increasing homogeneity and reducing the amount of songs like "One Eagles Wings."
  • The decreasing number of clergymen, and how to increase their numbers.
  • Allowing priests to marry.
  • Rethinking the stance on birth control.
  • A new commitment to reunifying a shattered Christian church, including mandatory and unbiased education in Catholic run institutions about the Orthodox churches and protestant churches.
  • A new inclusion of the laity in both the liturgy and daily operations of the church.
Additionally, if the pope is particularity radical:
  • Rethinking the stance on homosexuality, possibly allowing same-sex marriage (this one is a long shot).
  • Acknowledging the huge numbers of closeted priests, who should be allowed to at least admit their sexuality.
  • Allowing female deacons and possibly priests.
To clarify, it should probably be clear at this point that I'm not particularity attached to any church, and while I grew up in the Catholic tradition, I don't identify myself with it any longer. These are simply issues that I see the church as needing to address, and issues which I think society at large might benefit from having the church address.

No matter what happens, I certainly hope that the important steps the JPII has taken in unifying the church, as well as his acknowledgement of the importance of youth will not only be respected in the church, but among the rest of the nations institutions as well. John Paul has perhaps overstayed his welcome as pope, but he certainly did a good enough job.