This is... Science!
Or is it?
You step out of your time machine and into ancient Sparta. You’re not just any adventurer – you’re on a mission. Your goal: teach the Spartans the wrongness of their brutal ways, convince them to no longer leave the weakest of their children out to die.
For all your impassioned eloquence, the reception is frosty. As one local leader explains, the practice of killing off the weak isn’t cruel – it’s science. He hands you the latest copy of the Spartan Journal of Medicine (and Battle). There’s a study in there, co-authored by the leading minds of the day, presenting a straightforward statistical analysis of the clear benefits of child killing. It’s peer-reviewed! The evidence is unmistakable. Whenever a weak child is not left out to die, that child has a significantly higher rate of depression and suicide in adolescence compared to his peers (p<0.005). As the locals explain, the greatest glory imaginable is to die in military service. To condemn a Spartan to life without the hope of battlefield honor is unfathomably cruel. Killing weak children is not an act of brutality, but of the utmost mercy. The Spartans ignore your entreaties. The weak remain slated for death; the science is settled.
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What prompts this Spartan reverie? One of the most read articles in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association was this one, courtesy of UPenn, demonstrating that limiting easy abortion access is a risk factor for suicide among young women. You may have seen lots of mainstream news coverage of this finding, for example here and here. Put aside the methodological/statistical problems (what its authors politely refer to as “the limitations of the ecologic design”). These days, having learned much from the CDC and FDA, I personally don’t trust any study unless it’s done on eight mice – not a mouse more, not a mouse less! Put aside even the abortion debate itself, that’s not my topic either. Instead, I hope to illustrate one of the central myths of modern life.
To do so, let’s return to Sparta. Accepting certain preconditions, their mass murder of weak little babies was just and merciful indeed. The catch is that “accepting certain preconditions” carries an awful heavy load. The basic stipulations we must grant to celebrate their actions include:
- All life is not sacred
- The primary goal of existence is self-evidently martial glory
- Suicidal depression at one’s lack of martial mettle is natural and expected
For anyone who holds to those statements, as the Spartan researchers implicitly did, the case for child killing is a simple matter of science. Put together a well-designed randomized controlled trial or two and the answer – objective, neutral, inarguable – presents itself. One would have to be a partisan ideologue, a know-nothing, a Bible thumper, to disagree.
Yet disagree we do. Leaving all those poor babies to die, starving and alone, out in the elements, is barbaric; if anyone did that today the only argument would be death penalty or life in prison.
Does that make us anti-science zealots? Have we abandoned objectivity, swayed to irrationality by our emotions? Of course not. Ignore the protests of the Spartan Medical Association; it was never peer-reviewed, objective, neutral “science” to kill babies. Why not? Because the three preconditions above, the ones they took for granted, are wrong. All human life is God-breathed and of infinite value, military prowess is not life’s highest aim, and it’s downright silly to be depressed just because you don’t look good in armor.
You see, the disagreement with the Spartans is not over “science” – it’s over worldview. What is worldview? Well, it is to us as water to a fish. It is the moral/ideological/intellectual atmosphere we live and breathe in. The problem with worldviews is, just like a fish does not know it is wet, we don’t even know we have one.
Imagine my toddler trying to bargain for a later bedtime by offering me the rare opportunity to smell his beloved security blanket, or me bargaining back by offering him a discounted mortgage rate. We might live in the same house, but we inhabit radically different worldviews.
The mistake we too often make is ignoring that worldviews exist and accepting the opposition’s preconceptions as our own. Faced with morally deranged studies, we argue about the statistics – the sample size of suicidal Spartans was sparse! – instead of addressing the underlying clash of assumptions. We ought to highlight those preconceptions and either reach agreement or clarify where we disagree.
The great myth of modern life that I was talking about? It’s that that the public square is neutral. Decisions, we are told, are made based on science and objective studies, and the religious among us should leave our faith at home, not “impose” it on the public. Yet there is no such thing as neutrality. There are only competing worldviews; some we are aware of, others we’re not. JAMA might think it’s ideologically neutral, objectively scientific – but so did the Spartans! Both share unexamined assumptions about life unworthy of life, and it is anything but neutral to sit back and let those preconceptions lead to children’s bodies piling up.
In a devout society, where a Biblical worldview is shared by plumbers, professors, physicians, and politicians, of course one doesn’t need to invoke biblical principles in a scientific journal. Everyone is already on the same scriptural page. But in a divided society, where some have Biblical worldviews and some do not, it is not neutral to keep your faith shut up – it’s an abdication, a surrender, and a guarantee that anti-Biblical worldviews will proliferate unchallenged. And if history is any guide, the murders inevitably follow.
In short, don’t buy into the neutrality myth. Don’t leave your faith at the door. As C.S. Lewis put it, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” If we are to have any hope of stopping latter-day Spartans, we need to stop arguing statistics and start preaching the good news of Christ!
More to come on the myth of neutrality (this time featuring public education), but before ending this installment, I wanted to highlight another aspect of the JAMA article. Long time readers may have noticed its similarity to the National Lampoon Theory of Trans Suicidality. In both the abortion and affirmation cases, the goal of the strategy, by highlighting the horror of suicide, is to enlist the compassion of the public.
In Walker Percy’s prophetic medical thriller The Thanatos Syndrome, a priest makes this startling claim:
Tenderness is the first disguise of the murderer … Never in the history of the world have there been so many civilized tenderhearted souls as have lived in this century … More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together … Do you know where tenderness always leads … To the gas chambers.
Percy’s character is echoing something one of the greatest of 20th century American writers, Flannery O’Connor, once remarked:
In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.
O’Connor and Percy are among our most perceptive moral thinkers – yet they think tenderness is what led to death camps? A bit extreme, no? What on earth were they thinking?
Well, my hope is that now you might begin to understand their point. Look at that JAMA article, look at the National Lampoon trans theory. Both make use of our compassion to support… what, exactly? In the abortion case, to support killing babies. In the affirmation case, to go one better and ensure the babies are never born in the first place, by supporting permanent sterilization of children. These are profoundly anti-life, anti-human movements – yet they advance by manipulating our humanity, our tenderness, our hatred of suicide. Spoiler alert: the doctors and ethicists making these claims about abortion and affirmation are 100% on board with doctor-assisted suicide (which killed over ten thousand Canadians last year). They don’t hate suicide, not in the least - but they know that you do. They are using your compassion to create a culture of death. For, precisely as O’Connor and Percy put it, compassion, without God, inevitably leads to the gas chamber.
Do not harden your hearts; I am not arguing against tenderness. It is a wonderful gift. Just remember who gave it: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Detach the gift from the giver, and we’re back in Sparta. And this time we won’t need a time machine to get there.
What of the suicide of women who've killed their children in abortion? Abortion not only destroys a baby, it is an all-out assault on the woman's conscience. We are wired to protect our children so when we are induced to murder them (for convenience, usually, of the father or the respective families), we know. We have done something so atrocious we don't recover without a great deal of support from people and a closer relationship with God, involving a confession of our failure, for openers.
Super “smart” of those researchers to compare reproductive women versus post reproductive women and not comparing reproductive women who use social media versus reproductive women who don’t use social media. People are so gullible and will cling to anything that affirms their evil conscience so they don’t feel bad about their choices and thoughts.