Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Birds and the Bees and Allan Carlson

When I wrote my original piece, Sex, Love, and Marriage in Modern Society, I intended it to be the first in a series of articles exploring the relationship between men and women - what that relationship has been, what it is today, what it will be tomorrow, and what it should be always.

Instead, the discussion veered off into related issues -
Game, the Human Bio-Diversity Movement, Reductionism, etc. These are all fascinating topics, but it's worth admitting that the blogosphere debate - day by day - descended further and further from the original goal of developing a comprehensive philosophy regarding the proper roles for men and women today (which puts all those related issues into better perspective).

Right now, I am still in the process of sorting our my opinions, although I would wager that I am somewhere between a traditionalist and a libertarian (more specifically, a traditionalist in culture; a libertarian in politics - if that makes sense). But, like I said, my feelings remain in flux.

In the process of making a proper judgment, a friend of mine sent me some articles by
Dr. Allan Carlson, President of the Howard Center, a traditionalist advocacy group.

I've clipped out some of the highlights from 2 of Dr. Carlson's articles...

From Vive la Difference!, a review of Dr. Stephen Roades' book Taking Sex Differences Seriously (National Review, July 12, 2004)...

"The culture wars," Rhoads notes with some justice, "are really about the role of women." He shows that while men are all about the same when it comes to the masculine traits of competitiveness, aggression, and dominance (even "computer nerds" enjoy the frenzied clashes of "BattleBots"), women are divided into two camps: a majority who are traditionally feminine with a yearning for nest-building and children; and a minority, exposed to higher levels of testosterone, who show more male attributes. The tension between these two kinds of women becomes a recurring theme in the book.

All the same, the profound differences between the two sexes are the author's primary story. For example, the human hormone, oxytocin, is "the kindest of natural opiates," but it operates differently on the sexes. Men experience it at the moment of sexual release. Women, though, feel the same euphoric exhilaration while breastfeeding. Indeed, some of the oxytocin reaches the child through the breast milk. This creates a special bond between mother and child in which they become "one continually interacting, merged organism" with "a pleasant fog descend[ing] upon the brain."

No "Mr. Mom" can replicate this experience. Indeed, Rhoads shows that despite the media hype, there are actually few such men around. In candid surveys, even the best-earning, highest-status women reject role reversal in favor of a partner who is superior in power, earnings, and status. So too among female academics. Homemaking men are simply not sexually attractive to women.

A return to traditional "breadwinner"/"homemaker" homes, the author implies, would be of benefit to children. Fewer work hours by mothers increase student achievement; fewer work hours by fathers decrease it. Similarly, high maternal job satisfaction is linked to lower psychological well-being of daughters, while a higher level of job satisfaction among fathers is tied to the psychological health of daughters.

Regarding day care, for example, Rhoads reports that "two-career families who put children in subsidized day care apparently produce a near tripling of the odds that these children will be disobedient and aggressive-hardly a trend the government should support financially."

The feminist cause is floundering. Recent polls show that most women believe that feminism has made it harder, not easier, to combine jobs and families. A 1998 survey reports that five times as many men and women believe that "changing gender roles" have made it more difficult for marriages to succeed as believe these changes have made it easier.

Rhoads shows that men bound to homes as husbands and fathers are vital to the healthy development of children. Female power is of another, subtler order, the force that crafts relationships, forges family bonds, and creates societies. Grounded in these truths, Taking Sex Differences Seriously should help to restore social sanity to a nation still disoriented by extended exposure to feminist ideology.

And....From Dr. Carlson's article, The Family Factors: Lessons from History About the Future of Marriage & Family in the United States...

American exceptionalism is real and social creativity remains possible here. Europe is dying. So is Japan, also being done in by a broad rejection of children. However, unlike forty years ago, when America was leading the global retreat from marriage and children, something different is now happening here. The United States is the only developed nation in the world that recorded an increase in its total fertility rate between 1981 and 2000: from 1.81 in 1981 to 2.13 in 2000, an increase of 18 percent, to a point slightly above the replacement or zero-growth level.

This was not, as some suggest, only a function of a rising number of births out-of-wedlock. Between 1995 and 2000, even marital fertility rose by 11 percent, the first sustained increase in that number since the mid-1950s. Nor was this a function of America’s greater ethnic diversity. Fertility among Americans of European descent actually climbed by 21 percent after 1981, to a total fertility rate of 2.114 in 2000.

The Economist…predicts a US population of up to 500 million by 2050, compared to a Europe in demographic freefall, with barely half as many people.

The best explanation for America’s greater fecundity—this openness to children—is the higher degree of religious identification and behavior shown by Americans. Forty-five percent of Americans in the year 2000 reported attending religious services during the previous week; in Europe, only about ten percent did. And believers usually do have more babies. Alas, outside of recent Hispanic immigrants, overall Catholic numbers today are not impressive, but “white fundamentalist Protestants” who attend church weekly show a fertility rate 27 percent above the national average, and the fertility rate of active American Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, is about double the national average.

Dr. Carlson gives us a lot to chew on. While he is definitely a traditionalist, he doesn't ground his traditionalism in Christianity, per se, which makes it appealing to me. And while he bases his arguments on science (which I like), he doesn't descend into Reductionism (I hate Reductionism).

I'm tempted to scan through Dr. Carlson's speeches (which can be found here). If I find anything worth-while, I'll update this post.


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