April 14, 2009

"A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong, and they are being unfair to her."

Said Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti.

From an article about the court's refusal to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl on the petition of her mother, who is separated from her father, who arranged the marriage to a 47-year-old man to whom he was indebted. The man has agreed not to consummate the marriage until the girl reaches puberty and the girl is permitted to seek an annulment herself at that time.

94 comments:

Seven Machos said...

The degrees of separation between Western society and, just for example, this one are so stunning as to be laughable.

John Lynch said...

What really scares me about cultural relativism is that progress doesn't exist. If you believe in progress you can at least derive some comfort in the idea that stories like this won't happen in the future, that this is some last vestige of medievalism. But if culture is just subjective, there's an eternity of futures where girls will be married off to creepy old men and nothing will ever change.

Seven Machos said...

John -- But of course the issue is progress. Islam's problem is that it's set up to impede progress. Muhammad was the end of prophecy.

With Christianity and with Judaism and with godless Western society, change is hardwired into the social foundation. Whichever you choose to believe, it isn't happenstance. Serious philosophical work went into the process.

rhhardin said...

I'd be surprised if the subject isn't a plot point on women's Saudi daytime soap opera TV.

One of the eternal unresolved questions. Can a girl be happy marrying a man five times her age.

That's where progress ought to concentrate: a set of new unresolved questions for Saudi women to obsess on. Then they can be where we are.

Hoosier Daddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hoosier Daddy said...

The degrees of separation between Western society and, just for example, this one are so stunning as to be laughable.Indeed. Then again this doesn't raise to many concerns in the US because of our tiny Muslim population. On the other hand this is a major issue in Europe, particularly in France, Holland and UK which have significant Muslim populations who have no qualms about demanding special rights which are in direct conflict with Western societal values and threatening violence if those demands are not met.

Sooner or later it will come to a head and it's not going to be a pretty sight.

Peter V. Bella said...

Sooner or later it will come to a head and it's not going to be a pretty sight.It almost happened in this country. A few years ago a town in Michigan seriously considered passing an ordinance that would allow Moslems to use Sharia law in certain instances instead of Michigan law; in effect giving them rights under religious law. This was at the behest of their rising Moslem population.

zedzded said...

It is good to hear feminists denouncing islam with the same fervor they apply to Christianity. What, wait, they aren't? How surprising.

Bissage said...

Legalize same-sex marriage and the problem fixes itself!

Pogo said...

In Minnesota, young Somali immigrant males are 'disappearing', flying back home to become terrorists.

The 'flying imams' were from MN.

Our Mpls Congressman is Muslim.

Minnesota recently okayed sharia-compliant mortgages for Muslims.

I personally witnessed a busload of non-english-speaking Muslim women being told who to vote for (by their male minder) in the 2008 election.

Coming soon to the state of loons:
12 year old girls getting married against their will.
Remember Elizabeth Smart?
That's the template.

Issob Morocco said...

Seven Machos will be appearing at the Dearborn Sharia Inn this weekend!! Don't miss him (Women not allowed).

As for the arranged marriage, at least she can get an annulment when she becomes old enough. That is if all the males involved agree to the annulment. Piece of Dune Cake!!

Hoosier Daddy said...

It almost happened in this country. That's not what I'm referring to but rather the violent clash that's inevitable. It's no coincidence that the rise and popularity of extreme right wing nationalist parties in Europe conincides with greater immigration from the Middle East, coupled with their inability or refusal to integrate with Western society.

What's more telling is that religious faith is pretty much on the death spiral in Western Europe among native Europeans while fervor among the Muslim immigrants is quite the opposite. Combine that along with an antipathy toward Western values and tell me how that's going to work out.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Sounds like the 'religion of peace' is also the 'religion of piece'.

John Althouse Cohen said...

What really scares me about cultural relativism is that progress doesn't exist. If you believe in progress you can at least derive some comfort in the idea that stories like this won't happen in the future, that this is some last vestige of medievalism. But if culture is just subjective, there's an eternity of futures where girls will be married off to creepy old men and nothing will ever change.This is a great point, one I've made before, and it shows the utter self-contradiction of lefty/liberal relativists.

TMink said...

John wrote: "What really scares me about cultural relativism is that progress doesn't exist."

The myth of progress is central to the "progressive" worldview. The thinking, if I may use that word, is that with the right ideas and the right programs and the right people in charge, we can change human nature for the better. We will all become self-actualized and the world will live in peace and harmony.

Right!

The Christian world view states that humankind is sinful and depraved and we only do well when we adhere to an external moral and spiritual code. It goes further to suggest that we do best when we abdicate power and choice in our own life to our heavenly Father.

While I understand the resistance to the latter, the mythology of the former is quite amusing.

Trey

Jason (the commenter) said...

Islam's problem is that it's set up to impede progress. Muhammad was the end of prophecy.Refresh my memory, were Martin Luther and Joseph Smith, Jr. welcomed with open arms or did they live in fear of being murdered?

With Christianity and with Judaism and with godless Western society, change is hardwired into the social foundation.The only change Judaism and Christianity would seem to "want" would be for society to follow their tenets. Then they generally want society to not change. Look at history.

People is Moslem countries are simply more religious at this point in time than people in Western countries. Nietzsche said something once about there not being enough religion in the world to burn down a single church. Well there certainly is in Saudi Arabia.

craig said...

Blogger Seven Machos said...

"John -- But of course the issue is progress. Islam's problem is that it's set up to impede progress. Muhammad was the end of prophecy.

With Christianity and with Judaism and with godless Western society, change is hardwired into the social foundation. Whichever you choose to believe, it isn't happenstance. Serious philosophical work went into the process."
1. Christians believe Jesus, being God, was the full and final revelation of God this side of eternity. So it's wrong to characterize Christianity as being subject to new revelation. It develops while Islam does not because Christianity teaches that reason is an attribute of God, therefore God is not capricious. The practical applications of this is that the workings of His creation and the proper care thereof can also be understood by reason.

2. Christians believe in original sin. No imagined progress can be made that is not subject to being undone by the desires toward sin resident in every human heart. There is nothing new under the sun.

3. Someone once said "God has no grandchildren". If Christians do not impart Christian philosophy and belief upon their children, they can't expect their children to live in a Christian ethical framework. We are always at most one generation away from barbarism.

Ann Althouse said...

"sharia-compliant mortgages"

What's wrong with making sharia-compliant mortgages legal? No one is forced to use that financing method.

Peter V. Bella said...

Re: Ann's question on Sharia compliant mortgages-

What makes them legally different than other mortgages? Just curious.

Anton said...

"It's at the intersection of apparently indestructible ancient ignorance and cheap, widely available western technology that the dark imponderables of the future lie." -- Mark Steyn

Pogo said...

No one is forced to use that financing method.A foot in the door.

Next up: Sharia courts.
No one is forced to use them.

Sharia marriages of minors.
No one is forced to use them.

Sharia candidates.
No one is forced to use them.

Sharia law.
You are forced to use them.

sean said...

Sharia-compliant mortgages are set up as, in form, something other than an interest-bearing loan, e.g., a sale-leaseback or a repurchase agreement.

Incidentally, here in the U.S., we agree that a 14 year old girl can have an abortion. I wonder how we know that we are right and this mufti is wrong? Is this something we agreed on behind the veil of ignorance? Is it written in scripture? Is it the dialectic? Most interesting of all, will people in 200 years agree with us or with the imam? Will Prof. Althouse's great-grandchildren be embarrassed by the thought that she believed that 14 year olds could obtain abortions, but could not get married?

Anton said...

Peter V. Bella asked, "What makes them legally different than other mortgages? Just curious."

I believe that, instead of foreclosure, the title holder is beheaded if he defaults on his obligation. I'm not certain of that, though...

Hoosier Daddy said...

Refresh my memory, were Martin Luther and Joseph Smith, Jr. welcomed with open arms or did they live in fear of being murdered?Hardly welcomed with open arms but then again, the Reformation did take place, albeit along with considerable bloodshed with an end result being religious tolerance. Unfortunately for Islam, there doesn't appear to be much in the way of a Reformation movement.

The only change Judaism and Christianity would seem to "want" would be for society to follow their tenets. I think you're confusing the acceptance of progress, societal as well as technological versus change in religious tenants.

People is Moslem countries are simply more religious at this point in time than people in Western countries. Yes and I'd argue a whole lot less tolerant as well. Hollywood can make movies that Jesus was shacking up with Mary Magdalene and Christians are expected to quietly accept it the name of artistic expression. On the other hand, make a movie critical of Islam or Mohammed and you get shot on the street in broad daylight with a hate note pinned to your chest with a knife. Then the director of said movie is crticized for being 'culturally insensitive.'

Fact of the matter is Christianity has evolved with time while Islam is still stewing in the 11th century.

Hoosier Daddy said...

That should read 'religious tenets.' I need more coffee.

Pogo said...

One would think that those who favor separation of church and state would oppose the government becoming involved in a series of laws that favors only one religion.

But you would be wrong.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Incidentally, here in the U.S., we agree that a 14 year old girl can have an abortion. I wonder how we know that we are right and this mufti is wrong? Versus a 19 year old girl that can have an abortion? The issue you're bringing up is that a 14 year old can get an abortion without her parents being notified. That's a bit of a stretch to comparing her parents forcing a 14 year old girl into an arranged marriage with an adult, which is reprehensible in its own right.

Then again, under Sharia the pregnant 14 year old would be stoned to death.

TMink said...

Jason wrote: "The only change Judaism and Christianity would seem to "want" would be for society to follow their tenets."

And that is change I could live with!

Seriously, well said, I agree. Christianity is about obedience, not progress. Although rejecting our obedience to God since the founding of America has led to change, I cannot call it progress.

Well, I guess cancer progresses in a sense.

Trey

Lawgiver said...

Trey wrote,

We will all become self-actualized and the world will live in peace and harmony.


Blech, I hate that term, "The full realization of one's potential."

Ger said...

Didn't one or more of the southern states (Alabama? Mississippi?) many decades ago allow 10-12 year old girls to marry with parental consent?

One state currently allows 13 year old girls to marry with parental consent.

X said...

by ruthbaderginsburgs logic, shouldn't this be the law here too? or do you thik she just picks and chooses foreign law based on her own preferences?

Esther12 said...

Reminds me of this story, about child brides in Yemen (as young as 8 at the time of their marriage).

"Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage in Yemen"
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/world/middleeast/29marriage.html

Both girls featured in the story managed to escape after some months/years from their husbands. One got a divorce; the other (at the time of the story) was still awaiting one I believe - so much depends on the individual judges' decisions.

Both girls were repeatedly raped and also beaten from their wedding night on. (In the story from this blog post, about the girl in Saudi Arabia, I find it difficult to believe the husband will wait until she reaches puberty. Not that it wouldn't be rape then too, but I doubt she'll get a reprieve of a few years).

John Althouse Cohen said...

(Sorry about the lack of line break above.)

The myth of progress is central to the "progressive" worldview.Do you really deny that society is making moral progress? You don't think we're any better today than in the past? Do you think blacks and women should be subordinate?

ricpic said...

The total naivete of those who think we are moving away from these vestiges of the benighted past. Don't you get it? Yet? The forces of atavism are on the march. It's all the precious progress of The West - which you don't even have the sense to see as precious - that is being sucked under as Islam advances.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Hm, now it's clear that Blogger is removing my line breaks, since I know I just used one between the quote and my response. How irritating.

paul a'barge said...

Clearly, it's time we invaded these mutss and converted all of them to Christianity.

Right?

John Althouse Cohen said...

Also, Trey: You're creating a straw man version of liberalism, then setting it in opposition to a reasonable-sounding version of Christianity. This demonstrates nothing. Of course people are imperfect and can't be made perfect by the government. People of any faith or no faith at all can understand those obvious facts. It's simply not true that these insights are dependent on Christianity.

paul a'barge said...

The problem with legalizing Sharia-compliant mortgages is the same problem with legalizing Sharia-compliant anything ... it's, well, it's legalizing Sharia-compliant something.

And you do NOT want to give the the Islamo-mutts an inch, because if you give them an inch, they'll take your clitoris.Well, maybe not yours. But one of their daughters.

And then it's a fast ride down the slippery slope to the rabbit hole and beyond.

Hope that helps.

zedzded said...

I think it is time to acknowledge that Western civilization is not worth defending and convert to islam. I concur with my liberal bretheren that we need to eliminate Israel and zionism, kill all Christians and accept the enlightened nobility that is islam. We will be better off living in the 7th century. Think about it - no more women drivers, no women voters, all homosexuals hung in public - it will be a jolly good time. And by hung in public, I do not mean that the way they do in San Francisco.

I for one, welcome our sharia wielding overlords. Now roll over and take it like an 8 year old, you hear?

And vote democrat - that is the only way to ensure that muslims will rule us all.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Christianity is about obedience, not progress. Although rejecting our obedience to God since the founding of America has led to change, I cannot call it progress. Well I will. I think you can easily live in a free and progressive society while at the same time faithfully adhering to one's religion. The Amish seem to have no problem at all as do most evangelical Christians. Render unto Ceasar and all that.

sean said...

"Do you really deny that society is making moral progress?"

Wow. Does someone really assert that World War II was more morally worthy in its purpose or execution than the Wars of the Roses? Does someone really assert that the Gulag was more morally worthy than the Inquisition? I certainly don't believe those things.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Does someone really assert that the Gulag was more morally worthy than the Inquisition? I certainly don't believe those things.OK, but that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. I mean primarily the United States. More broadly, Western society. Not the Gulag.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Does someone really assert that World War II was more morally worthy in its purpose or execution than the Wars of the Roses? .
.
I guess that depends on who you ask. I had a history prof in college who certainly felt we ranked up there with the 3rd Reich.

Kirk Parker said...

Peter,

"What makes them legally different than other mortgages? Just curious."

They use a legal fiction to hide the fact that interest is involved. (For the quibblers: "to hide the fact that the lender is somehow earning money on the deal.")

Hoosier Daddy said...

OK, but that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. I mean primarily the United States. More broadly, Western society..
.
Well again that's a matter of perspective. There's a good chunk of the population that would argue we're a less moral society in terms of promiscuity and general coarseness.

sean said...

Last I checked, World War II was fought by "Western" society, i.e., Germany, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Note that, to evaluate "Western" society, you have to take the moral average of these three countries.

I think it's very suspicious if you can't demonstrate any long-term or global moral trend, but somehow discover that the past hundred years in your own society have revealed amazing moral progress. How likely is it that you would be living in the one place during the one century where such a thing occurred? It seems more likely to be an example of extreme provincialism, to think that your own place and time is morally superior to all other places and times.

John Althouse Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Althouse Cohen said...

Well again that's a matter of perspective. There's a good chunk of the population that would argue we're a less moral society in terms of promiscuity and general coarseness.


I notice that although many people have responded to my statement, everyone is ignoring my question of whether we've made progress on issues of gender and race.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I think it's very suspicious if you can't demonstrate any long-term or global moral trend, but somehow discover that the past hundred years in your own society have revealed amazing moral progress. How likely is it that you would be living in the one place during the one century where such a thing occurred? It seems more likely to be an example of extreme provincialism, to think that your own place and time is morally superior to all other places and times.Well, if it's amazing, then it's amazing. Maybe the world is amazing, because we have made amazing moral progress.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Again, please mentally insert a line break after the italicized (quoted) part of that comment. Blogger is automatically deleting line breaks.

Daryl said...

The degrees of separation between Western society and, just for example, this one are so stunning as to be laughable.It was only a few hundred years ago that this was fairly common in Western countries.

The question is how long it will take Muslims to catch up.

Christy said...

Pardon him, Theodotus, he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature. G. B. Shaw

Sean, you are way to subtle for me. Please expound upon your point. And wasn't China the only part of the globe left out of WWII? As I said, I don't understand where you are going and your logical steps.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Another thing.... "Coarsening of the culture"? Sure. There has been some coarsening of the culture that I actually agree is immoral.

But did I ever say we're on a perfect upward moral slope, with no countervailing forces?

Nope.

Unfortunately, the world is complicated. I don't think anyone in this thread is claiming that America is perfect or is ever going to be.

All I was arguing against is the notion that we're stuck at exactly the same place -- the "human nature" of which conservatives supposedly have a deeper understanding than liberals. No one is willing to address my point about race, because they have some kind of aversion to admitting that America has made moral progress.

I say: let's give America lots of credit for becoming a better place. At the same time, it's fine to make criticisms of "coarsening" or "promiscuity" -- those might very well have merit. But I don't understand the unwillingness to admit some of the obvious ways America has become an increasingly morally good place.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I notice that although many people have responded to my statement, everyone is ignoring my question of whether we've made progress on issues of gender and race..
.
Ok I'll take a shot. Overall I'd say yes. Black no longer sit at the back of the bus but instead have achieved the top position of President so yes. Women, despite the rants of more radical feminists, enjoy greater freedom and opportunity than say the June Cleaver days and as Hillary showed, proved they could go toe to toe for the top job.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I say: let's give America lots of credit for becoming a better place. At the same time, it's fine to make criticisms of "coarsening" or "promiscuity" -- those might very well have merit. But I don't understand the unwillingness to admit some of the obvious ways America has become an increasingly morally good place..
.
JAC, for example I think for some conservatives watching Brittany and Madonna strut on a platform playing tonsil hockey is a sign of moral decay where others see it as a sign of freedom and female emancipation. I I would argue we are morally good because we are a free society that pretty much lets anyone do what they want. That doesn't always translate to moral behavior but then again, morality is a subjective term.

Old Maui said...

Christy,
On July 7th, 1937 China became very much a part of World War II.

Old Maui said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Althouse Cohen said...

JAC, for example I think for some conservatives watching Brittany and Madonna strut on a platform playing tonsil hockey is a sign of moral decay Well, yeah, I know that there are "conservatives" who see lesbian kissing as a sign of moral decay. So what? I'm not a moral relativist, so I don't see the mere fact that some group has a moral belief as meaning the belief is necessarily correct.

I actually do think Brittney Spears has coarsened the culture in other ways, but not by kissing a woman. Public lesbian kissing is no worse than public heterosexual kissing.

save_the_rustbelt said...

In 30 - 40 years Western Europe will be immersed in civil war, with a large minority Muslim population demanding to be in charge, and the whimpering left hailing this as progress, until of course, the lefties get beheaded.

Synova said...

I think that we're missing the vital difference in Christianity (and while I hesitate to exclude Catholicism and Judaism from what is certainly a Judeo-Christian tradition... I'm mostly talking about Protestantism) is that two elements are heavily emphasized... over all... humility.

There seems to be a great deal of excellent teaching in Islam about morality and what a person ought to do and (considering this thread) the care that ought to be taken to ensure your wife's well being and pleasure... but it all seems to be destroyed by concepts of public honor and saving face (by whatever name.) It's not uncommon to hear that some Muslim or other has explained that Christ could either not have died as he did, or else could not have been the Son of God, because God would never have allowed him to be humiliated as he was. To a Christian, however, that humiliation is the whole point.

Not that Christians are not prone to suffer from pride or any other vice or sin, but the concept is there and it is foundational.

If Christ accepted scorn and humiliation, then it may well be expected of His people. So... although Christian cultures used to have the backward notion that virginity lost through rape soiled a young woman's purity, male relatives did not feel it necessary to protect their own honor by both pretending it was not rape (in which case they'd be guilty for not protecting her) and undertaking an "honor" killing to prove how pious they are.

The other thing that the West has, and this one is more strongly Protestant, is notions of individual, personal, accountability to God. Every man (and woman) has to make their own way under their own authority. Respect for elders is emphasized, but ultimately each person is responsible for their own soul and has the responsibility to stand up and defy authority in favor of what is right.

If a person were to develop a system that encouraged the greatest innovation possible I'd suggest those two things. A willingness to accept public humility - necessary for anyone who will buck the system *or* admit they were wrong and try something else. And individual sovereignty - over choices, results, *and* profit.

TMink said...

JAC asked good, tough questions: "Do you really deny that society is making moral progress?" Yes, though I would not use the word deny. I do a lot of work with sexually abused people, and those rates are currently rising. I see the much of the moral progress as shifting the abuse to other areas rather than reducing abuse and heartache that we inflict on each other.

"You don't think we're any better today than in the past?" I do not think that human beings have changed. I do think that Democracy and free markets have allowed more people to be succesful, though I fear its demise. Any honest reading of the founding fathers has to acknowledge the blessings of God and Christianity in that process. I am happy about scientific and medical advances, though not in the moral decline that promotes 1,000,000 murders of the unborn every year. So there is some take with the give.

"Do you think blacks and women should be subordinate?" Absolutely not. I praise God for the Christian men and women he used to make America aware of those sins. Especially concerning the horrors or racism. And I completely believe in equal pay for equal work and appreciate the slow progress made there. But the Civil Rights movement was at its core a religious revival, and that is a process of becoming more obedient to God rather than making moral progress as a nation or humanity as I see it.

I have no misgivings about the sin of racism being attacked and made less prevelent, but the feminist movement has been much more of a mixed bag. Equal opportunity is good law, abortion and gotcha pregnancies are not. Stripping children from their father is awful and we are paying for that in the imprisonment of the boys who grow up without fathers. THe best predictor of a young man being incarcerated is the absence of a stable father in his life, not his race.

So I see the "progress" as smoke and mirrors in some areas JAC.

But thank you for asking such a difficult question, and for asking it so respectfully.

Trey

Synova said...

Public lesbian kissing is no worse than public heterosexual kissing.I'd really rather not be made to participate in other people's physical relationships (all apologies to Althouse's stated feelings on public kissing.)

We chew with our mouths closed and keep other body functions that involve fluids reasonably private. Why make an exception for sexual foreplay?

TMink said...

JAC, I accept your statement about setting up a strawman, please accept that this was not my intent. I was trying to be brief rather than manipulative and deceitful. But I see your point.

And also, my world view completely affects my perceptions and I get back to our fundamental sunjectivity as humans. But I hope my earlier post addressed some of your concerns. I gotta get back to work, but I hope we can continue our conversation.

And let me again say how much I enjoy having a respectful conversation. You rock.

Trey

Hoosier Daddy said...

So what? I'm not a moral relativist, so I don't see the mere fact that some group has a moral belief as meaning the belief is necessarily correct. .
.
Then I would refrain from stating that America has become an increasingly morally good place. Morals obviously are subjective. Ok we’ve made impressive strides in race and gender relations as the last election has sown. I doubt anyone in 1955 would have believed it was possible. Then again they probably didn’t believe we would have things like Amber Alerts, or needing parental controls on TV or that teenage pregnancy would be at the level it is today or that schools would become shooting galleries. It’s not so much that you don’t believe that some group has a moral belief as meaning the belief is necessarily correct but rather that society as a whole pretty much believes the way you do. For example:
.
.
. Public lesbian kissing is no worse than public heterosexual kissing..
Ok but what about the person like my very liberal co-worker who believes that any public kissing, sexual orientation notwithstanding is the equivalent of indecent exposure? JAC I know some very liberal folks who are downright Puritanical when it comes to things like sex or what kind of media programming they watch so it’s not a conservative vs liberal issue. If the advancement of gender and race relations is your barometer of a morally good America, I’d substitute egalitarian instead to avoid confusion ;-)

Trooper York said...

I just want to be on record that I support public lesbian kissing.

Trooper York said...

I also support public lesbian fondling, touching, rubbing and any of the Sapphic pleasures that they might want to indulge in to display their deep and abiding love.

garage mahal said...

I always liked Trooper. Wise man.

Christy said...

Old Maui, I stand corrected and hang my head in shame of my ignorance.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Trey: Thanks much for your response. Very good points. Just a few things:

- "I do a lot of work with sexually abused people, and those rates are currently rising." I certainly appreciate your experience and concern in this area, and yes, this is very important. But your statistics must be based on reported sexual abuse, since, by definition, if it goes unreported, we don't know about it. I'm sure sexual abuse is being reported a lot more now than it was 50 or 100 years ago. It's not at all clear to me that more sexual abuse is actually happening now than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

- If we're going to talk about crime statistics, how about the fact that crime overall is falling? Not that there isn't a lot of crime in the US. But it's been falling for many years.

- I respectfully disagree with you about abortion. I think women being free to have abortions is itself one more example of moral progress. In my opinion, states that (unlike the US) prohibit abortion are committing an evil that's tantamount to rape: they're forcing something to come out of a woman's body, which I think is morally equivalent to forcibly inserting something into a woman's body. (And I do agree with the Freakonomics point that more abortion has empirically good consequences for society as a whole, which is morally relevant.) I respect the fact that many people obviously think I'm wrong about this. But just because they disagree with me doesn't mean I'm not actually right -- I still do think my opinion is right, or else it wouldn't be my opinion. Needless to say we're not going to resolve this extremely controversial issue in this comments section.

- I'm not so much concerned with whether we've made an aggregate moral advance -- my point throughout the thread has been more to the effect that it's possible for society to make moral progress, since we've actually done so in some areas. That's not undermined by the fact that we may have retrogressed in other areas. So, as far as I'm concerned, you've basically conceded my point just on the racial angle, despite your reservations on gender and our disagreement on abortion.

Pogo said...

It's a little odd to point to islands of improvement as evidence of anything at all.

A man can be dying of cancer but have excellent liver function and demonstrate improvements in his lipids and diabetes and obesity.

So with societies, where morals appear to have bettered in parts may only mask a serious decline.

That abortion might be considered a moral good is to many an abomination of morality.

And it goes to prove what I have previously argued, that without God, everything is permitted (and that everything can be regarded as 'moral' by them).

Synova said...

It's easy to argue that eugenics would be an over all human good as well. It began, after all, as an essentially moral argument to improve humanity and the concept shouldn't be sullied by the eventual perversion of it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

In my opinion, states that (unlike the US) prohibit abortion are committing an evil that's tantamount to rape: .
You know that sounded just as dumb when Cameron Diaz said the same thing on Oprah in 2004.

I guess that's where my issue about morality being a subjective thing comes front and center again. You believe moral progress is achieved by the state allowing the killing of an unborn human being. On the other hand, I can be fined and serve jail time if I disturb or destroy a nest of Canadian geese eggs. Both contain an unborn potential life but evidently the state places a higher value on the goose egg than the fetus. Now some may call that moral progress but as you said, I don't see that some moral belief you hold is correct.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm not so much concerned with whether we've made an aggregate moral advance -- my point throughout the thread has been more to the effect that it's possible for society to make moral progress.
.
Actually it seems as if your point is that we have made progress in those areas which matter to you as 'moral issues.'

Ann Althouse said...

" Public lesbian kissing is no worse than public heterosexual kissing..."

... which rules.

Revenant said...

It's easy to argue that eugenics would be an over all human good as well. It began, after all, as an essentially moral argument to improve humanity and the concept shouldn't be sullied by the eventual perversion of it.The problem with eugenics is the manner in which it was carried out. Living human beings were, in many cases, murdered or forcibly sterilized to remove them from the gene pool. In addition, people with traits that had no negative impact on either society, like racce, were targeted for elimination.

But a program of eugenics that worked via genetic modification of embryos could be a wonderful thing indeed, eliminating countless genetic and congenital ailments without harming a single human being in the process.

Revenant said...

I guess that's where my issue about morality being a subjective thing comes front and center again. You believe moral progress is achieved by the state allowing the killing of an unborn human being.Most pro-choice people don't think a fetus or an embryo counts as "a living human being". So I doubt JAC holds the belief you attribute to him.

If one views a fetus as being genetically human but not morally human, then the above viewpoint is recast as "you believe moral progress is achieved by the state allowing the human beings to remove unwanted growths from their bodies". As a relative of numerous cancer victims, I'd say "absolutely".

Smilin' Jack said...

"A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong, and they are being unfair to her."

Said Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti.
The Christian God would certainly agree, since Mary was only a year or two older than that when Jesus was born. Or maybe God has taken some Women's Studies courses, and had His consciousness raised.

Smilin' Jack said...

Blogger is eating line breaks. This is annoying.

Hoosier Daddy said...

As a relative of numerous cancer victims, I'd say "absolutely"...
.
Well unlike cancer Rev, the 'genetically human' growth didn't just sprout by itself.

But honestly I don't want to go down the abortion debate because it's all too much like wrestling with pigs and in all honesty, I have no dog in the fight.

JAC's argument has been about our moral progress as a nation yet he also contends that he doesn't necessarily hold someone's moral beliefs as correct. Well that door swings both ways.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The Christian God would certainly agree, since Mary was only a year or two older than that when Jesus was born. Or maybe God has taken some Women's Studies courses, and had His consciousness raised..
.
At a time when life expectancy was the ripe age of 35, it pretty common for girls to be married at the tender young age of early childbearing years.

I always find amusing when folks like to draw societal equivalencies with the ancient world as if nothing's changed in 2000+ years.

Synova said...

I wonder what children think.

We'd consider a mother telling a child "I could have had an abortion" to be verbally abusing the child. "I could have killed you,""I wish you'd never have been born."

And what our culture tells children when abortion is presented as something positive is that we are better off when children are not born.

I'm sure not everyone takes it that way, but the message is there. As is the anti-child message inescapably coupled with efforts to convince young people that if they have a child their life will be ruined. (And the planet.)

True enough that those who support abortion rights don't consider the aborted fetus to be a baby or a child. And even if that is actually *true* I'm not sure that the conceptual connection is avoidable.

Telling children not that long separated from the womb themselves that babies are a "punishment" and not expecting a good number of them to make the connection, is expecting too much.

Even *if* a fetus is in no way a person, there must be a better solution to the Right of women (and men!) to control their reproduction than abortion.

Revenant said...

At a time when life expectancy was the ripe age of 35*Average* life expectancy was 35, but that's because of the huge child mortality rate. If you made it to puberty, even back then, your life expectancy was a lot higher than 35. A 14-year old was not 40% of the way through her expected lifespan. :)

Anyway, there's a world of difference between marrying at 14 (when many women are sexually mature), and marrying at age 8 or 10.

Revenant said...

And what our culture tells children when abortion is presented as something positive is that we are better off when children are not born.The ability to HAVE an abortion is presented as something positive, Synova. Very few people speak of the act of having an abortion as something positive.

Similarly, the act of gunning a man down is not generally hailed as something to celebrate -- but the right to keep and bear arms certainly is!

Synova said...

Eugenics was conceived as an entirely positive thing.


The problem with eugenics is the manner in which it was carried out. Living human beings were, in many cases, murdered or forcibly sterilized to remove them from the gene pool.And yet, that was with the best intentions. Doctors on Indian reservations were only concerned with the children who would be raised in an alcoholic culture. Doctors in mental institutions were only concerned with the reproduction of people who couldn't be expected to make the right choice or even understand the choice they were making. And do people have the right to be a drag on the resources of society if they should turn up one day too impaired to function or even brain dead due to disease or accident?

In addition, people with traits that had no negative impact on either society, like racce, were targeted for elimination.But people at the time thought that race did have a negative impact on society. What do we know today that isn't true?

I'm entirely serious when I say that eugenics was conceived as an complete moral good. How could it be anything *but* good?

Those who promoted it were not evil people, even. They just wanted a better world. They were interested in progress and improvement.

The fact that it ended in programs to encourage poor women and black women to have abortions is something we can look at now with a bit of horror, but at the time Sanger was entirely open about race as a genetic weakness. Poverty, too, was considered a genetic weakness.

Obviously we feel very enlightened in these modern times. But the fact is that we have no idea which of the things we KNOW simply aren't so.

(I'm pro-cloning and pro-human genetic engineering... but even so, we don't know what choices we will make that will turn out to be wrong. I can't remember if I read a novel based on the concept or if it was an idea I was toying with at one time... of a world used as a genetic repository, where all the genetic conditions cured and removed from the larger human population were preserved... just in case humans accidentally got rid of something that turned out to be important later.)

Synova said...

Very few people speak of the act of having an abortion as something positive.That's changing though, isn't it?

Weren't there links to some Anglican minister's sermon just this last week saying how abortion was a positive wonderful thing, even if there was no reason at all to have one, it should be encouraged?

It used to be that the pro-choice people were very careful to say that an abortion was a tragedy and they should be as rare as possible. That's not part of the pro-choice message any more, is it?

Now it's all... it's not *sad* and we sure don't want to make anyone who had an abortion feel *bad* and it's just a medical procedure that should have no negative connotations at all.

Synova said...

Dr. Katherine Ragsdale has recently been appointed as the sixth and newest president of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.So not *too* fringe, right?

She's the "abortion is a blessing" lady. Apparently. Even when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child, Not a sad thing at all. A blessing.

Synova said...

I got Anglican and Episcopal mixed up... probably because it was England.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"The Christian God would certainly agree, since Mary was only a year or two older than that when Jesus was born."

Jack - how do you know how old Mary was when Jesus was born?

Synova said...

I think people are mostly guessing how old Mary was by guessing about the usual age when people got married in that culture.

Lots of guessing.

Revenant said...

I'm entirely serious when I say that eugenics was conceived as an complete moral good. How could it be anything *but* good?

Some people conceived of it as a complete moral good, others as a necessary evil, and others as just plain evil. There was no point in the history of eugenics in which it was completely without controversy.

But the fact is that we have no idea which of the things we KNOW simply aren't so.You're right that it is hypothetically possible that any given thing we think we know is, in fact, false. But that's not an argument for staying our hand. When a man rapes a child, do we punish him for it or do we say "well, he COULD be doing the kid a favor, we can't say for sure"? It is more sensible to act on the belief that the things we have ample evidence are bad are, in fact, bad, while the things we have ample evidence are good are, in fact, good.

Cancer is bad. Schizophrenia is bad. Asthma is bad. Hell, hayfever is bad. I feel perfectly comfortable saying these things. If we reach the point where we can eliminate these things from the human genome and it turns out that they were good after all, we can always put them back. But seriously now, do you think anyone lies on their death bed thinking "it has been a good life, but it would have been EVEN BETTER if I'd been allergic to peanuts"? :)

Smilin' Jack said...

Jack - how do you know how old Mary was when Jesus was born?



It's a longstanding tradition of Biblical exegesis, and consistent with the customs of the time. Just look at any Pieta--Jesus died at 33; does Mary look over 45 to you?

TMink said...

JAC wrote: "So, as far as I'm concerned, you've basically conceded my point just on the racial angle, despite your reservations on gender and our disagreement on abortion."

I see what you are saying, but we disagree about the source of the progress in terms of race. But where we agree is significant, more than I first allowed.

And our disagreement about abortion is obviously deep. It is interesting to me, that even with your measured and respectful points, I had a BIG emotional response reading what you wrote. It was not personal, I was not angry with you, for that I am glad, and perhaps a little bit proud. But my goodness it was an emotional exercise for me reading what you wrote!

I think I disagree about progress in general because the patterns I see in human society are one step forward, one step back. Progress in reducing racism is countered by other losses, and I see the net effect as zero.

So I think I actually do agree with you that progress is possible and has occured in some areas, but that it is negated by regression in other areas.

And could you please put some flesh on my strawman about the liberal philosophy of social progress? As always, I appreciate your thoughts, and I could benefit from your perspective.

Thanks pal. If I see you some day, I will have to buy the first two rounds now.

Trey

sean said...

Mr. Cohen's claim has become much attenuated: that there has been moral progress in some areas in the United States in the recent past. The progress hasn't occurred over a long time, or in other countries, and it may be counterbalanced by moral decline in other areas, so that there is no net moral progress. With those caveats, I agree. But it's a little like saying that I have made great progress in staying away from crack, even though (i) the crack dealer has found plenty of other customers and (ii) I myself have switched to meth.

amba said...

"Mufti" sounds like a euphemism for merkin.