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Understanding Homosexuality

abstinence, Christianity, conscience, culture, news, Rick Warren, same-sex attraction, social science 1 comment

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

Last Tuesday, evangelical pastor Rick Warren appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” to discuss the controversial question whether people are born gay or develop gay attractions.

With the recent political campaign we have heard this topic covered in the media as gay activists are pushing for same sex marriage to be legal. As of November it is legal in 9 different states.

After listening to Rick Warren’s statement I realized that at the core of the debate is our understanding of what it means to identify as gay. We need to talk about this issue and not just fight the legal battles. Talking helps plant the seed that will start people thinking about what it means to have gay attractions versus acting upon those attractions.

The first step in talking about it is to make a clear distinction about what sexual orientation means, as Peter Sprigg explains in “Debating Homosexuality: Understanding Two Views.” Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three different aspects of sexuality: sexual attraction, when one is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both; sexual conduct, whether the individual chooses to act upon that attraction; and self-identification, whether the individual thinks of himself as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “straight.”

Gay lobbyists assume that all three are consistent with one another, but based on the research, that is clearly not true.

Should an individual who feels attracted to someone of the same sex (because of the environment he or she has been exposed to, peer pressure, loneliness, or some internal self-identification) act upon these attractions? No, not necessarily.

We all have tendencies that aren’t in accordance with our God-given nature, but it doesn’t mean we choose to engage them.  As Pastor Rick Warren explained, “I have all kinds of feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it.”

So, what if someone responds, “I was born this way, I cannot change my attractions”? To this we can answer, first, that the research has not found any “gay gene” or related biological issue that proves someone is born with gay attractions, but that it’s a result of a complex mix of developmental factors. For instance, MARRI research shows that a young woman is more likely to experiment with a lesbian partner if she was raised in a non-intact family.

Second, as Pastor Rick mentioned, we can all be drawn to something that is not good for us or that is not according to our nature, but that doesn’t make it right. He gave the following example: “Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right.”

Those individuals who feel same-sex attractions should be treated with the same respect and kindness we treat any person, but that does not mean we should embrace their actions. We must fight to defend an understanding of sexuality that is in accord with our human nature and human dignity.

In order to do that we must first understand the core of homosexuality: attractions exist, but attractionsare not actions. This is especially important for helping adolescents who are confused by a false explanation of same-sex attraction or caught up in homosexual behaviors. Young people should be educated about the moral nature of every decision they make, including their sexual decisions.

Politics Posing as Medical Science

abortion, abstinence, contraception, mothers, news, reproductive technology, women's health No comments

By Pat Fagan, Ph.D., Director of MARRI

NBC News and many others have lauded the results of the Peipert program evaluation of the effects of LARCs (long term reversible contraceptives), namely IUDs and implant contraceptives, which they claim have (unsurprising) effects in lowering abortions.  However, there is much to dispute about the study.   Its method is almost non-existent though a lot of words are used to describe it.  This means their results may be a massive underestimation of the effects or even a massive overestimation of the effects.  We just don’t know;  the “method” is totally unreliable.  It is analogous to going into a library to find out the level of reading in the local population, or to giving a book to those you find at a library to figure out the effect of reading on such people!  In this case they go to a group of women desirous of reversible control methods.  To make matters worse: they have no comparison control group. They do not line up treatment and control (absolutely fundamental to this type of study), but they insinuate comparisons. The project team went through all sorts of contortions to estimate the effects, but they avoided the obvious simple, fundamental step of having a control group.  This is political correctness trumping good scholarship (a dangerous trend in the social sciences that will eventually come back to haunt academia).
Though I am opposed to their way of thinking and acting (more anon), I would have expected LARCs to have had much better results than they did.  There is still way too high a rate of abortion from a method one would expect to virtually totally eliminate it. This much-lauded method does not come close.     
 
Other big concerns I have about this approach to avoiding abortions is the effect of this form of behavior on the long-term marital, family, parenting, and sexual habits of the women involved.  My prediction is that young women who use these methods (who would not feel sexually liberated with totally effective birth control methods) will have many more sexual partners, behavior that itself increases the likelihood of procuring an abortion.  The program will also have high STD effects, likely have very significant effects on future marital stability, and in turn have significantly weakening effects on these women’s future children’s life outcomes.  That STD rate effects would be tracked and measured is something one would expect to be second nature for OBGYNs to report upon.  Maybe there is a second study coming (but that would be useless too, given no control group.)
So: failing grades on method and on narrowness of their view of effectiveness.  And failing grades also are given to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for rushing shoddy work to press in order to influence the Presidential campaigns.  That is really sad.  It definitely is not good science, nor good politics either, though we would expect medical science to stay above the political fray.  All in all, it is a sad day for medicine and science. 

For an in-depth analysis of the study, see Dr. Michael New’spiece.

To Rebuild Society, We Should Rethink our Foundation

crime, culture, family, news, Pat Fagan, social institutions, youth 1 comment
By Julia Polese, Intern
On February 13th, New York Times columnist David Brooks examined the current trends in sociological study that have displaced economic and cultural determinism as the primary explanation for the weakening of the American social fabric. He explains that regardless of the origin of social disorganization – job loss, government growth, or abandonment of traditional norms – it continues through the generations. Disruption causes more disruption and weakening social fabric within certain communities can be tied not primarily to sweeping moral decay or the recession, but to sociological factors on as small a scale as a child’s attachment to his parents. “It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies,” he writes. “The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.”
 
This trend points to a third route between the extremes of building the Great Society and subsidizing atomization. Sociological studies in the past several decades regarding crime and reasons for delinquent behavior have largely drawn from Social Control Theory, outlined by Travis Hirschi in 1969. In his seminal work, Causes of Delinquency, Hirschi broke with the preceding scholarly consensus by claiming that both delinquents and those who have not committed crimes share the same disposition to delinquency, but what differentiates them are their social bonds and relation to conventional society that constrain their baser passions. The sociologist named attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief as four essential aspects of a person’s development. Deficiency in one or more of these values can weaken one’s social bonds and, as many subsequent studies drawing from Hirschi’s theory have shown, lead to delinquent behavior. The key to social disruption is breakdown in relationships.
Brooks writes that in order to “rebuild orderly communities,” orderly people need to be cultivated. While the columnist proposes sometimes using the government to build “organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly,” these structures do not have to be created by tax codes and mandates to provide individual incentives to behave. Rather, the family structure can provide such an incubator for responsible citizenship. As the fundamental “orderly community” and basis of civil society, the family shapes a child’s belief in the norms around him, his attachment to others, and involvement in and commitment to the community.
 
“Social repair requires sociological thinking,” says Brooks, and the sociological data consistently has revealed the significant role the intact family can have in reweaving the disintegrating social fabric. However, sociological thinking must be done within the correct paradigm. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, states that “Sociology done well cannot but reflect the way God made man.” A correct anthropology in light of our state as fallen creatures must inform attempts at “social repair.” Sociology is reflective, but cannot be fundamentally reparative. Repair begins with grace from outside us that constrains our passions and reorders our will to what is good. The family is one means of such grace, and the data cannot help but reflect the goodness of this first structure.

The Dismissal of the Stay-at-Home Parent

Alexis de Tocqueville, culture, family, marriage, mothers, news No comments
By MARRI Interns
A piece by Molly Worthen for Slate on Michelle Bachmann raised the question whether the GOP could become the party of the working mother. According to the article,

Bachmann’s story is not a pitch for a return to a postwar arcadia of fixed gender roles in little boxes made of ticky-tacky. Instead, she casts herself as an icon of American working womanhood, a “career woman” whose calling and identity are not clouded by the “faddish fog of ‘feminism,’” but are instead the result of real-life experience, Midwestern pragmatism, and Christian faith. Secular feminists have long dismissed the women of the Christian right as a mob of Hillary-hating homemakers. What they haven’t noticed is that, for the past few decades, American conservatives have been building the case that the GOP is no longer the party of Betty Draper—it’s the party of the working mom.

The recognition and understanding of the importance of family over individual wants and needs is sorely missing in our society. Throughout his profound book, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the importance of religion and family. Tocqueville praised the Christianity of the American settlers and colonists, because their faith was so highly conducive to democratic and republic principles and ideals.[1]
While there is no problem with the GOP being the party of the working mom, there tends to be a disregard and even eschewing of mothers and even fathers who stay at home, as made evident in this article. Throughout western society, specifically American society, mass media has continuously attacked and looked down upon parents who stay home to care for their family. The role of the stay-at-home parent has become viewed as unnecessary in the social zeitgeist of modernity.
Society ought to adjust its perception of the stay-at-home parent. The role of the stay-at-home mother or father is arguably more important than that of the spouse who enters the workforce, because the parent who stays at home maintains the household and raises the children. This is why Tocqueville went as far as to say that “it is the woman who makes the mores.”[2] In Tocqueville’s mind, mores were perhaps the greatest component to maintaining the greatness of American democracy, because he believed them to be the “whole moral and intellectual state of a people.”[3] Without someone to instill virtue and habits into children at home, the family resigns this authority to the state or some other institution or secular influence. Therefore, while entering the workforce should not be discouraged, the value and significance of taking time to ensure one’s children are on the right path should not be disdained or looked down upon as something old-fashioned or insignificant.
[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 275
[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 279
[3] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 275

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?: Part 2

Christianity, family, marriage, monogamy, news, Pat Fagan, polygamy, religion, social institutions No comments

By Pat Fagan

A response to the conclusion in Libby Copeland’s piece for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage: “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?”:

Ms. Copeland concludes that “Christianity may have brought monogamy to Europe and many other places, but those cultures succeeded because monogamy happened to suit them. In other words, as far as social evolution is concerned, the best form of marriage for a given society isn’t really about what’s moral, but what works.”

Libby Copeland’s concluding statement (that monogamy is best for society because it works, not because it is moral) gets the causation backwards: Monogamy works because it is moral. Christ gave his disciples tough standards in marriage– so tough his disciples’ initial reaction was “In that case, it is better for man not to marry.” Nevertheless, Christ prevailed and his disciples embraced this moral doctrine — and gave it as a gift to Western Civilization, not because it works (though it does), but because Christ so instructed (and still does, though Christians today on marriage — as in many times in the past on different aspects of Christ’s teachings — are very lax in obeying and following him).

There is a unity in Christian teaching, and its fruits come out repeatedly, in myriad ways: the good of women, of children, of the poor, and of the sick are just a few (and all its fruits are good for society– though, again, this is not why they are done). Monogamous marriage is just another in a long list of gifts to the West, and to mankind at large. We took it so much for granted we never realized it, until it started to fade. But ultimately it is not marriage that is failing, but Christians. Marriage of its nature does not fail — people flourish in marriage, when they live it. It works, but it takes moral effort. Christians would say it takes more at times: lots of grace and effort.

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?

child well-being, children, crime, culture, family, fathers, human capital, marriage, monogamy, news, polygamy, social institutions, women No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Libby Copeland writes for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage on crime in “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?” While we disagree with Ms. Copeland’s conclusion (that the best form of union for a society is best not because it is moral, but because it “works”), the research she references in her piece is extremely interesting. Read along:

History suggests that [plural marriage] is [harmful]. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

“Monogamous marriage reduces crime,” Henrich and colleagues write, pulling together studies showing that polygynous societies create large numbers of unmarried men, whose presence is correlated with increased rates of rape, theft, murder, and substance abuse. According to Henrich, the problem with unmarried men appears to come primarily from their lack of investment in family life and in children. Young men without futures tend to engage in riskier behaviors because they have less to lose. And, too, they may engage in certain crimes to get wives—stealing to amass enough wealth to attract women, or kidnapping other men’s wives.

Ms. Copeland also addresses the effects polygamy produces for individual men, women, and children. These effects are consistently negative:

That polygyny is bad for women is not necessarily intuitive. As economist Robert H. Frank has pointed outwomen in polygynist marriages should have more power because they’re in greater demand, and men should wind up changing more diapers. But historically, polygamy has proved to be yet another setup that [harms] the XX set. Because there are never enough of them to go around, they wind up being married off younger. Brothers and fathers, realizing how valuable their female relations are, tend to control them more. And, as one would expect, polygynous households foster jealousy and conflict among co-wives. Ethnographic surveys of 69 polygamous cultures “reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious,” Henrich writes, with what must be a good dose of understatement.

Children, too, appear to suffer in polygamous cultures. Henrich examines a study comparing 19th-century Mormon households, 45 of them headed by wealthy men, generally with multiple wives, and 45 headed by poorer men, generally with one wife each. What’s surprising is that the children of the poorer men actually fared better, proving more likely to survive to age 15. Granted, this is a small study, but it’s consistent with other studies, including one from Africa showing that the children of monogamous households tend to do better than those from polygynous households in the same communities. Why? Some scholars suspect that polygyny may discourage paternal investment. Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.

For more on the benefits of intact, monogamous marriage for society and individuals, visit www.marri.us.

American Population Growing at Slowest Rate Since before the Baby Boom

economics, human capital, news, US population No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Reuters reports:

The population of the United States is growing at its slowest rate in more than 70 years, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Wednesday.The country’s population increased by an estimated 2.8 million to 311.6 million from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. The growth rate of 0.92 percent was the lowest since the mid-1940s. “The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the Baby Boom,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement. Texas gained more people than any other state in the 15-month period, at 529,000, followed by California at 438,000, Florida at 256,000, Georgia at 128,000, and North Carolina at 121,000, according to the latest Census estimates. These five states accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population growth, the bureau said.

To read the full report, click here. Also, be sure to read the MARRI report “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change” for more on the implications of the decline in population growth and human capital generation.

Pew Report Shows Percent of Married Americans is at a Record Low

MARRI, marriage, news, social institutions, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data…In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years.

The full report states that approximately 44% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree that marriage is “becoming obsolete,” compared to 41% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 34% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 32% of those 65 and older. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to believe that marriage was becoming obsolete than whites, and those without a college degree (some college: 41%, high school or less: 45%) were far more likely to agree that marriage was becoming obsolete than Americans with a college degree (27%).

However, the report also states that “attitudes toward the institution of marriage do not always match personal wishes about getting married. Asked whether they want to get married, 47% of unmarried adults who agree that marriage is becoming obsolete say that they would like to wed.”

In its reporting on this Pew publication, the Washington Post included an interactive map showing the family structure and population density of the United States by county and state. The map showed that 44% of residents in the District of Columbia live alone, 14.1% are married with no children, 10.6% are single parents, and a mere 7.9% are married with children.

For more on marriage trends and on the economic and social need to preserve marriage, see the Pew Research Center’s series The Decline of Marriage and MARRI Original Research papers “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital & Population Change,” “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” and “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples.”

Marriage and the Economy

economics, family, intact family, MARRI, marriage, news, Pat Fagan, poverty, US population No comments

Edward Glaeser in More Americans Need to Work, and to Marry (Bloomberg) writes, “America’s economy has long benefited from its well-functioning labor markets. Our high marriage and fertility rates boost demand for housing, and all its associated expenditures, and steady population growth makes it far easier to pay for social programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.”

Following close on his heels, Marriage and Economic Well-Being reviews the literature on the impact of marriage on income and savings. Our review of the available research shows that married families earn more income, hold more net worth, are less likely to be poor, and enjoy more child economic well-being and mobility than other family structures. For example, only 5.8 percent of married families were living in poverty in 2009, whereas an estimated 30 to 50 percent of single-mother families are impoverished.

The paper closes, “There is an intimate relationship between our income and wealth and our sexual culture. They rise or fall together, and thus, strange though it may seem, there is a significant connection between our sexual habits and our national economic strengths and weaknesses.”

Our social policies push against the intact married family. Our elites in academia and Hollywood and the White House push against the intact married family. Our ordinary grandparents knew more about how to have a good society than the White House or Congress does today.