Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How fathers teach children to work hard and believe in God

Here’s a good article for Father’s Day from Arthur Brooks in the radically leftist New York Times, of all places.

Excerpt:

The data confirm that hard work is correlated with well-being. The University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics polls thousands of American families, and its 2009 results show that people who feel good about themselves work more than those who don’t. It asks how often the respondents felt so sad that nothing could cheer them up. My analysis of the study showed that people who felt that way “none of the time” worked 10 percent more hours per week than those who felt that way “most of the time.” This holds true when we eliminate people who worked zero hours, so it is not merely that unemployed people are miserable. This doesn’t prove that extra work hours chase away sadness, but it weakens any argument that the cure for the blues is a French workweek.

So vocation is crucial to leading a satisfying life. Who teaches this truth to children? Many traditions emphasize the role of fathers. Jesus defended himself to the Pharisees for working on the Sabbath by saying, “my Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” And the Talmud instructs us, “For a man not to teach his son a trade or profession is equivalent to teaching him to steal.”

The best way for a father to teach this is by example. This explains why a child’s ability to grow up to be a productive adult is so strongly predicted by the presence of a working father in the home. The Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan has for decades studied what happens to sons and daughters when their fathers are absent. She finds that after controlling for demographics, children in fatherless families are roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school as kids in intact homes. Even after controlling for student talent via standardized test scores, a sharp decline in grades and attendance persists. And young men who grow up without a father are 1.5 times more likely to be idle — that is, neither in the work force nor in school — than those with a father in the home. And this brings us to a particularly serious issue this Father’s Day: Our growing national jobs deficit. In 1953, just 14 percent of adult American men were neither working nor seeking work. Today, that rate has more than doubled, to 30 percent. And this doesn’t only reflect an aging population with more retired men: Just after World War II, 8 percent of noninstitutionalized males ages 25 to 54 were not working. Today, 17 percent of that same group of men are idle.

So fathers are important for teaching children to work, which is how they become independent and able to share with others in need. That’s valuable. And that was certainly true for me – my father took me to work all the time and on weekends even. And when I was in high school, he encouraged me to work in the summers and take a job in the evenings year-round. Looking back, this is definitely one the things that went right in my story.

But there’s more that fathers can do. Take a look at this statistical evidence on fathers and religious belief of children.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[…]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Basically, anyone who doesn’t have a benevolent, involved father is going to have an enormously difficult time believing that moral boundaries set by an authority are for the benefit of the person who is being bounded. The best way to make moral boundaries stick is to see that they apply to the person making the boundaries as well – and that these moral boundaries are rational, evidentially-grounded and not arbitrary.

You can learn even more about the importance of fathers by looking at these statistics on fatherlessness.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children

Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.

Excerpt:

A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

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New study: lack of secure attachment during early childhood harms children

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, a respected think tank I usually disagree with.

They write about a new study:

Attachment theory is founded on the idea that an infant’s early relationship with their caregiver is crucial for social and emotional development. It is an old theory, born during the 1950s. But it can bring fresh light on issues of opportunity and equality today, as a three-decade longitudinal study of low-income children from Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, Elizabeth Carlson, and W. A. Collins, all University of Minnesota psychologists, demonstrates.

[…]Small infants are heavily dependent on caregivers, who must respond to their needs. But counter-intuitively, the infants who have a reliable caregiver are also most likely to become self-efficacious later.

Infants (aged 9 to 18 months) with responsive parents learn how their own behavior can impact their environment. This “call and response” process builds the infant’s sense of self-efficacy— one reason parents should pick up the sippy cup, especially for the hundredth time! But this virtuous learning cycle breaks down if the caregiver fails to respond adequately.

Here are the definitions:

  • Secure attachment: When the caregiver (mom, in this study) is present, the infant explores the room and interacts with the experimenter, occasionally returning to the caregiver for support. When the caregiver leaves, the child becomes sad and hesitates to interact with the experimenter, but upon their return, is visibly excited.
  • Anxious/resistant attachment: Regardless of the caregiver’s presence, the infant shows fear of the experimenter and novel situations—these infants cry more and explore the room less. They become upset when the caregiver leaves, and while they approach upon return often resist physical contact, as a form of “punishment”.
  • Anxious/avoidant attachment: No preference is shown between a caregiver and a stranger— infants play normally in the presence of the experimenter and show no sign of distress or interest when their caregiver leaves and returns. The experimenter and the caregiver can comfort the infant equally well.

And here the results:

The Minnesota study found that attachment makes a difference later in life. Without knowing students’ attachment history, preschool teachers judged those who had secure attachments to have higher self-esteem, to be more self-reliant, to be better at managing impulses, and to recover more easily from upsetting events. When teachers were asked which students, among those with serious struggles in class, nonetheless had “a core of inner self-worth, an indication that… maybe they could get better,” they picked students that had secure attachments as infants.

In contrast, children with anxious/resistant attachments:

  • tended to hover near teachers
  • became easily frustrated
  • were more likely to be seen as “dependent” by blinded observers
  • were less competent and patient with puzzles and other cognitive challenges

Children with anxious/avoidant attachments:

  • tended to be apathetic towards other children
  • failed to ask for adult help when stressed
  • were “often self-isolating”

Both groups had higher rates of anxiety and depression as teenagers.

So again, we are seeing that when it comes to parenting, you have to think about what you are doing. That doesn’t mean that you have to be slaves to your kids, or spoil them or hover over them. It means that what you are doing with your kids matters. It means that you need to make a plan to have enough time and money to be able to care for them. I think that the right time to talk about such things is during the courtship.

Also, one more point. If you meet people with some of these short comings, (I had most of the anxious/avoidant ones growing up), then try not to draw lines in the sand where you reject them over these shortcomings. Instead, do what I do. Recognize that these people have value and that if you take responsibility to care for them and supply for their needs, you might be able to guide them to do some pretty amazing things. Don’t be so self-centered that you expect people to be perfect so they don’t need anything from you. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has a story. If you want to be like Jesus, why not start by recognizing the effects of a disrupted childhood through study, and then make a plan to grow people – even difficult ones like me.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

What should we do to encourage men to marry?

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Dina tweeted two articles in a row about a new book that describes some of the reasons that men aren’t marrying. I thought that since she tweeted two of them, that I had better blog on them. I think there are some good ideas in here about why men are not marrying as much as they used to.

The first article is from the UK Daily Mail, and it talks about how men are mocked in the popular culture.

It says:

Our universities and further education institutions are dominated by women at a proportion of ten to every seven men, with the Royal Veterinary College formally identifying boys as an under-represented group.

Across the Russell Group of Britain’s leading 20 universities, just three have a majority of male students.

This means your son will be more likely to join the ranks of the unemployed, the majority of whom are now — yes, you’ve guessed it — men.

The Office of National Statistics noted that in the summer of 2014 a total of 1,147,511 British men were out of work, compared with 887,892 women.

Psychologically, your son will be more likely to suffer from depression and attempt suicide than his sibling, but there’ll be less support in place to save him.

He’s also more likely to endure everyday violence than women, with the latest crime statistics for England and Wales noting that two-thirds of homicide victims were men.

[…]By the time your son is 18, he will probably have absorbed the social message that his dad is much less valuable as a parent than his mother — that fathers in families are an added bonus, not a crucial cog.

Then, if he starts his own family and his relationship doesn’t last, he may become one of the four million UK men who have no access to their children, yet are forced to fund them.

This part below about health care for men was interesting – how well do men do in a big-government health care system?

Not well:

To cap it all, he’ll be progressively neglected by British healthcare despite being more likely to get — and die from — nine out of the top ten killer diseases. You know, the biggies: these include cancer, heart conditions, strokes, pneumonia, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.

Fifteen years ago the UK Men’s Health Forum showed that, for every £1 spent on men’s health, £8 was spent on women’s. Since then little has changed, for no good reason. Or rather, one very bad reason: we live in a medical matriarchy. In other words, male life is cheap. Bargain basement, last-day-of-the-sale cheap.

The ultimate insult? It’s all done at our expense. The National Health Service is funded by the public purse, but it’s men — yes, men — who pay a whopping 70 per cent of UK income tax. Yet we are thrown nothing but crumbs in return.

Currently, women are screened for breast cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer. This is great, but excuse me if I don’t jump for joy. There’s still no screening programme for prostate cancer, even though it kills four times more men than cervical cancer does women.

And while we’re on the subject of statistics, we men will die five years earlier than our wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends in a life expectancy gap that’s increased 400 per cent since 1920.

Regarding government-run health care in the UK, this is the same as in other government-run systems. In America, men do much better because the health care system is slightly less controlled by government.

Look:

Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.[1]  Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom.  Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway.  The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.[2]  Breast cancer mortality is 9 percent higher, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher and colon cancer mortality among men is about 10 percent higher than in the United States.

I was wondering if he was going to say something about divorce and child custody in his article, but he left that for his second article, also tweeted by Dina.

He writes:

‘Ultimately, men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family,’ says Dr Helen Smith, author of Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood And The American Dream.

‘They don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.

‘Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.’

[…]It wasn’t always this way. In the 1800s, men typically got custody of the children in the event of a split — not as a result of privilege, but because they were solely financially responsible for them.

They got the children, but they also got the bill. Benefits Britain didn’t exist, encouraging single mums to go it alone.

Now, 200 years on, women get the children, but men still get the bill. Sometimes, men even pay for children who aren’t theirs.

The Child Support Agency has 500 cases of paternity fraud a year, where a mother names a man as the biological father of her child, even when she has a good idea he isn’t. And that’s just the cases we know about. According to a YouGov study, 1.2 million men doubt they are the fathers of their partners’ children.

[…][N]o British woman has been convicted of paternity fraud.

And finally, the well-known sex-withholding problem:

Think your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life, chaps? You may need to think again. The quantity — and quality — of sex dwindles after marriage, say researchers.

A recent survey of 3,000 couples found those who had sex four times a week before their wedding did the deed just once a week afterwards.

The value proposition of marriage to men has certainly changed over time, and men are responding to the changing incentives.

One of my co-workers who has no trouble attracting talented, attractive women to live with him asked me to name one reason why he – as an atheist – ought to get married. I could not think of one. The risks are just too high, and in my experience, women (not Dina, obviously), generally don’t understand the problem, nor are they sympathetic with the needs of men.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

Serial sexual relationships, multi-partner fertility, single motherhood and fatherlessness

A man leading a woman upward

A man leading a woman upward

Here’s an article from the policy journal National Affairs (editor is Yuval Levin) that has some statistics about single motherhood by choice. When you are reading the article, keep in mind that most people who lean left are so influenced by feminism that they seem to think that women trip and fall accidentally, and end up pregnant from random men. I don’t think that we should minimize the fact that most women freely choose the men who treat them badly.

Excerpt:

Pew Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys indicate that, on a range of measures, a very large share of fathers who do not live with their children have virtually no meaningful relationship with their non-custodial children. More than one-half report that they had not shared a meal with their non-custodial children in the last four weeks, while nearly two-thirds had not read to their children and a full three-quarters had not done homework with them. Moreover, these are self-reported figures, so the share of fathers with no relationship to their non-custodial children is most likely even higher.

When fathers form new romantic partnerships, their involvement with children from previous relationships declines. Jo Jones and William Mosher report that, while 39% of fathers in new romantic relationships had shared a meal with their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 62% of those not in a new romantic relationship had. While 55% of fathers in a new romantic relationship had spoken with their 5- to 18-year-old non-custodial children, 77% of those not in a new romantic relationship had.

In addition, men with less education are more likely to exhibit absent-father behavior. Whereas 70% of fathers with at least some college had talked to their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 59% of those with no more than a high-school degree had done so. While 74% of fathers with at least some college had played with their non-custodial child under 5 years old at least once in the past month, only 53% of those fathers with no more than a high-school degree had.

Multi-partner fertility is not only associated with father abandonment, it also adversely impacts child-maltreatment rates. Women attempting to balance work, the demands of new relationships, and the challenges of raising children are faced with a set of chronic stressors that often lead to child abuse and neglect. The shift from welfare to work increased these stresses. Partially as a result, between 1993 and 2005, the rate of overall abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and serious abuse, respectively, rose by 22%, 14%, 49%, and 34% for children living with single mothers. By contrast, for children living in two-parent households, child-abuse rates fell on each of the four measures (by 42%, 24%, 62%, and 37%, respectively). By 2005, the child-abuse rate was 2.9 per 1,000 for children living with married biological parents but 10.2 for those living with a single parent and no partner, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This disparity cannot be explained solely by socioeconomic status since the abuse rate for children in families of all kinds in the lowest socioeconomic group was still lower than that for children living in single-parent households.

Multi-partner fertility also increases child-abuse rates in a second way: the presence of non-biological fathers in the house. Child abuse in households with single mothers triples when they live with a man other than the child’s father. Child-maltreatment rates are actually lower in black than white households when the mother lives alone. But unfortunately, many men bring their job and other frustrations into the home, creating abusive situations. As a result, when a partner is present, the black rates on all three measures of child maltreatment — emotional, physical, and endangerment — are almost double the white rates. In addition, rates of intimate violence are over 12 times higher for single mothers than for married mothers.

Edin and Nelson ignore the subject of abusive behavior in men. Instead, despite the fathers’ caring attitudes, we are told, the mothers kick them out because they don’t earn sufficient income. And on the impact of multi-partner fertility on children, Doing the Best I Can offers one benign sentence: “Kids are amazingly resilient, but the rate of family change among children of unwed fathers has become so rapid, and now leads to such complicated family structures, that kids might have a hard time adjusting.”

Academic studies paint a much grimmer picture. After surveying the evidence, Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks concluded earlier this year,

[A] father’s absence increases antisocial behavior [among children], such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment…by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control.

The effects of growing up without both parents when it comes to aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan found in 2011 that the behavior of boys is far more dependent upon good parenting practices — spending time with a child, emotional closeness, and avoiding harsh discipline — than that of girls. Such parenting habits are far more common in two-parent families, which helps to explain why boys with absent fathers are more likely to be suspended and have other behavioral problems than boys who have both parents at home.

The evidence also indicates that the outcomes are most negative when a man other than the biological father is present. Cassandra Dorius and Karen Guzzo found that “adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings.” Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan reported in 2004 that, among fatherless boys, those who lived with stepfathers were at an even greater risk of incarceration than those who lived with a single mother.

I think in today’s society, there seems to be a lot of fear and trembling to speak about moral standards. And it seems to be especially true that men are not allowed to tell women about their moral obligations. I know that at least when I speak to young women, they are often very rebellious. The attitude I encounter most often is that they feel that they should be able to trust their feelings and act in the way that their feelings dictate. Any destructiveness that results – which I warned them about – is dismissed as “unexpected”.

I can clearly remember the first time this happened to me, when I was in high school. I was friends with a girl named Tara who would come over and speak to me before morning announcements. She would tell me about her stock car driving boyfriend. One day, she told me that she was moving in with him. I warned her against it, and listed off a bunch of statistics about how this would cause problems. She stopped coming to talk to me, and so did her best female friend. Well, a few years later I ran into her again at one of our local universities where I was an undergraduate. She filled me in on what had happened. He had cheated on her with her best friend in their house. He got her pregnant. She had an abortion. She knew better now, but back in high school I was easily dismissed, and all of her friends sided with her.

Whenever I try to produce evidence to say that something is likely to cause harm, the response is usually “well I know a person who broke the rules and nothing happened”. I produce statistics about some likely consequence of following your heart, and it’s dismissed because some Hollywood celebrity managed to escape the probabilities. “Don’t judge me!” they say. Happiness comes first, and the best way to decide how to be happy in the long-term is apparently to do what makes a person feel happy right now. But statistics are there to tell a story of how the world normally works – dismissing it all with individual cases is bad logic. There are consequences to following your feelings and dismissing moral obligations.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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