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IEET > Rights > Disability > Neuroethics > FreeThought > Privacy > Economic > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Health > Vision > Contributors > Wesley Strong

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Transhumanism and the Politics of Project Prevention


Wesley Strong
By Wesley Strong
Ethical Technology

Posted: Aug 27, 2013

Planning childbirth and discouraging or eliminating factors that contribute to preventable birth complications are a priority for many transhumanists. All people should have access to reproductive services for free to use at their discretion, especially if we concede to live under a capitalist system that requires poverty, which in turn limits access to adequate care. This is a basic concept on which many transhumanists, especially at the IEET, agree.

(part 2) (part 1)

This is distinctly different from the reactionary positions taken by Barbara Harris and Project Prevention. Their assumptions are based on a patronizing model of parenthood. Some transhumanists even advocate for governmental licenses for parenthood. Both of these positions assume that the entities making such decisions are able to know what is best for the individual. The licensing model assumes that states and governments act as objective parties. Project Prevention assumes that it is doing inherent good, despite the use of coercive tactics and shaming propaganda. Both of these positions cite statistics and research that purposefully ignores the larger picture. The social context of human life contributes far more to the human experience than any physical characteristic, and should be weighed as such when considering pathways to the future human and society.

Where Project Prevention and Some Transhumanists/Futurists Meet

Transhumanists, many of whom come from technological, scientific, and academic backgrounds, often focus on the technological or "scientific" side of what it means to be human - ignoring or disregarding the impact of social systems. Many seem to ignore or undervalue the complexities of social reality - often because they aren't forced to confront these realities on a daily basis due to their privileged status(es). This does not mean that there is no basis for empathy. There are some transhumanists that understand these realities quite well, though there is no gaurantee that they value them appropriately. I will focus on those who primarily don’t recognize these realities.

This privileged status bears itself out in the recent audience surveys done by the IEET which shows an overwhelming majority of the audience is white (89%), male (79%), straight (85%), and enjoys an employment of privilege to some extent (Scholar/academic - 17%, Private sector white collar - 16%, Self-employed - 14%, and retired - 12% - totaling 59%).1 This demonstrates the cushion between the readers of the IEET and the lived experiences of most of the people who are targeted by Harris and Project Prevention. I understand that I am generalizing this survey to the larger transhumanist movement; however, my estimation is that these numbers, if generalizable, would paint an extremely favorable picture of the movement as a whole. I fully suspect that there are greater levels of privilege among other sectors of the movement, particularly the libertarian right. The IEET deserves to be commended for trying to push the transhumanist movement to the left. But the privilege of transhumanists as a whole limits the movement’s ability to relate to the lived experiences of marginalized populations, presenting a considerable barrier to creating a more inclusive movement.

Many transhumanists benefit from various combinations of these privileges. People with privilege cannot fully understand nor rationally make suppositions about the reality of the conditions and the inner workings of the minds of people who suffer from poverty, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. Making such assumptions is not the place of the privileged, because they have a limited ability to subjectively understand those conditions and what these communities need. Subjective context is entirely critical in developing an overall picture and method through which to analyze and approach societal problems. The only way we could understand the truth of the existence of oppressed peoples is through the eyes and minds of the oppressed.

 Aside from the patronizing view of licensing parents, there are two other arguments I have heard in support of Project Prevention. One is the rather reactionary view that the work of Project Prevention is supportable because it reduces the social cost or burden. I find this extremely troubling, because “social burden” has nothing to do with anything social. The so-called "social burden" is really all about the financial cost of providing a basic human need. The "social burden" is an extremely privileged concept to even consider when thinking about whether to support Project Prevention.

The cost of providing needed services for the poor is minimal in comparison to the billions of dollars the ruling class sits on while people starve and suffer under conditions of poverty. Wealth sitting idle in the bank accounts of the super-rich is a far greater social burden. They don’t need such wealthy excesses to survive. Money sits idle while poor people struggle to survive. Idle money could be used to directly create jobs for those who need them most, yet people still argue that those who suffer worst are the “social burden” while the rich are virtuous “job creators”. This is problematic.

Let's talk about who is really surviving on the public dime - it's corporations, business owners, military contractors, essentially the Ruling Class. The cost of raising children with prenatal exposure to drugs is pitiful in comparison to the vast amounts of wealth that sit idle or that go towards imperialist ventures and projects. Children and people can be treated, can be fed, can be given meaningful jobs, can be educated for their entire lives for free. All of this can happen, even with only a small portion of the wealth that workers in this country create going to serve the needs of everyone.

Some transhumanists also argue in support of Project Prevention on the basis that the “evidence” supports it having a positive impact on the communities it serves. This “evidence-based” model is entirely problematic. Science does not occur in a vacuum, especially social sciences. The “evidence” and “studies” are swayed by their context, and outcomes and assumptions are often relative and deferent to social paradigms and power structures. These studies can be informative in some cases when used alongside an analysis of the social context and a framework that brings into account the greater nuances and complexities.

Barbara Harris and Project Prevention rely on the assumption that their views and arguments present an objective reality about the crises of poverty, mental health, and drug addiction, partly based on an assumption that objectivity of their research is absolute and context is marginally important at best. Anyone who supports Project Prevention must be able to reconcile the reactionary politics of Barbara Harris and any progressive agenda they assume to have. Barbara Harris has no qualms judging drug addicts and mental health patients based on her individual experience with one mother.

Drug Abuse, Mental Health, Poverty, Contraception, and Birth Control under a Reproductive Justice Framework

Reproductive Justice should be at the core of any analysis or perception of any person's right to a healthy reproductive lifestyle. Transgender*2, female, male, bisexual, pansexual, gay, lesbian, straight, queer, black, brown, white, red, yellow, able-bodied, or any other identity should never be used to restrict access to full reproductive justice and health. Reproductive justice is about more than just access to quality reproductive care. It is about fighting to improve conditions in the immediate term to improve the lives of people whose access is limited by social conditions. Our focus should be on social systems and power structures that develop the context under which children are born into poverty, especially to parents who struggle with drug addiction and mental health. This includes a thorough deconstruction of the "traditional family", any system that limits access to reproductive care, and the roots of those systems alongside working to provide immediate needs to victims. Reproductive justice is critical to any progressive agenda.

Women without access to health services do not get proper care and have less ability to plan and prepare for childbirth. Poverty is a negative influence on reproductive health services both in terms of access and quality. Impoverished communities require solidarity on a pragmatic basis. This method is articulated by Paul Farmer in his book, The Pathologies of Power. Farmer's Pragmatic Solidarity focuses on serving those most in need with the purpose to provide practical, real assistance. These efforts can help many people in poverty provide themselves with necessities without having to rely on others. This would be especially important for drug addicts and people who struggle with mental health issues. Pragmatic Solidarity can take place under a reproductive justice framework, and often does, through open free clinics, mobile contraception and sexual health services, and numerous other services. These efforts are very real and already happening. Leftists and progressive should support this work and promote it as part of a building a better society.

Providing immediate needs on a basis of pragmatic solidarity is absolutely crucial to reproductive justice, but it will not be enough by itself. Transhumanists should also welcome ideologies of radical political transformation to challenge the social basis under which systems of oppression put people into conditions of poverty. Transhumanists should also isolate those who take reactionary stances within the futurist political sphere. Poverty has an extremely negative impact on the lives of drug addicts and people with mental health struggles. Addressing poverty and presenting a critical analysis on the systemic question contributes to an overall strategy toward confronting the child poverty and abuse that occurs in these contexts.

Poverty has an especially important racial component with a distinct historical basis. Slavery was both a genocidal act and the single driving force that pushed the United States into the position of power that it enjoys today. This harsh reality continues to impact communities of color, particularly under the modern liberal notion of the "post-racial" or "colorblind" era. Black and brown families continue to struggle with similar problems their ancestors faced. Modern racism is more nuanced, hidden by liberal notions of one-ness, "we are all human", and  colorblind ideology. Many liberals purport to not "see" race. Some people of color are tokenized, assimilated into the upper classes, in turn often blaming working class people of color for historic and systemic problems. Liberals and leftists who support Barbara Harris accept some amount of this ideology with or without recognizing it by assuming that individual choices are absent of a profound historic and social context.

Transhumanists must be willing to confront capitalism and the racist history of this country. Futurists and transhumanists must be willing to confront a system that purposefully limits so many people's ability to improve. This is especially the case for transhumanists who seem too comfortable sharing their beds with venture capital and DARPA, without due question as to the use of the science by those agencies and investors. These technologies are not inherently going to be used for a collective good - unless one limits the “collective” to specific groups of people.

The transhumanist movement needs to understand the relative privilege they enjoy and be willing to reconcile that reality with the lived experiences of the oppressed. Some leftist transhumanists recognize the complex intersectional social reality we live in, but few seem willing to call for radical social transformation on an anti-capitalist basis. Advocating for progressive positions is admirable; however a critical and honest perspective on a process for social transformation is needed in an age of liberal revisionism and capitalist crisis.

Transhumanists should fight to change social systems of power that so greatly define what it means to live as a human as a method to build towards a future human and society. Capitalist systems and models require oppression on a massive scale. A future society and the future human should categorically reject systems of oppression that prevent people from reaching their potential and reaching beyond it. Transhumanists must be willing to deconstruct programs like Project Prevention and deal with the conflicts inherent in their coercive practices inside of a social and political vision that understands the depth and nuance of complex systems of oppression. Transhumanism and other forms of futurism without a vision for radical social transformation will leave doors open to accusations of eugenics. Programs like Project Prevention must be understood inside of a broader social context and condemned for the harm they bring to communities already victimized by systemic violence.

1 http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/poll20130716

2* denotes the inclusion of multiple identities


Wesley Strong studied sociology at Central Connecticut State University, where he graduated from in 2008 with honors. Wes was awarded the C. Wright Mills Award for Excellence in Public Discourse.
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COMMENTS


Hi Wes—I am curious about your opinion on something.

Two economists wrote a paper asserting that Roe vs. Wade - legalization of abortion - has been the major contributing factor to “a 70% drop in violent crime by the year 2020.”  The implication is that violent crime is often caused by unwanted children, children of parents with substance abuse, etc. It seems to me that Project Prevention can further the reduction of crime in the same manner…

Do you think that argument is true, or not?  If you do think it is true, do you believe that reducing violent crime provides justification for Project Prevention?

here’s a link: http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf





Hank,

I think the point of the article is to make us look at the larger context, not some bits of data that smells of eugenics at worst, short-term-techno-fixes at best. If there is a connection between RvW and a drop of crime, who cares? Maybe you can add it to talking points for a women’s right to choose, but it is minimal - the arguments for the legalization of abortions in the U.S. span a much wider range, especially the consequences of back alley abortions, etc. So you may use this as a talking point at your local legislative building, but it is one out of many for choice.

If we look at crime in the larger context, perhaps the lack of social services, regional education being a total failure across the U.S. (wealthy communities tend to have “better” education) and the gap between the rich and poor are far more important issues.





Hi Kris - Hi Wes—

this article is from a liberal magazine. It discusses what I said above -

Did Roe vs. Wade Abort Crime?

http://prospect.org/article/did-roe-v-wade-abort-crime





Kris and Wes - this NYTimes article reports a huge drop in violent crime

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/us/24crime.html?_r=0

This refutes Kris’s contention that: lack of social services + poor public education + gap between the rich and poor are “far more important issues”

None of the three factors he mentioned have improved in the last decade, but crime has plunged anyway…

My belief is that Roe vs. Wade was an actual important factor - plus the elimination of leaded gasoline. Mother Jones reports on that here:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Here’s an article that claims the poor are 2X more likely to be victimized by violent crime. (sorry it is from the UK but I am sure it applies to USA as well)

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2006/apr/18/socialexclusion.crime





Hank,

Do you think the revolving door of the PIC has anything to do with crime?

Why are there more people going through the prison industrial complex than ever before?

When it comes to lack of social services + poor public education + gap between the rich and poor, wouldn’t you rather see those divides (including lead, etc) go down, way down??

The NYTimes article says NOTHING about abortion.

Then your Guardian link again says NOTHING about abortion, and actually raises the issue of poverty. “About 32,000 people change jobs every year and 180,000 move home as a direct result of being attacked. More than 850,000 people say they lost earnings as a result of becoming a victim of violent crime…... People living in poorer households have less choice about where they live, cannot afford to pay for expensive alarm systems or take taxis home in the evening. They are less able to control the risks they face and often have no option but to expose themselves to greater danger.” Repeat victimisation was particularly worrying, having a much larger impact than would be predicted. The study says that despite a 44% fall in crime over the past decade, the impact is not equally distributed.”

Hank it sounds to me like you are looking for a direct connection to abortion and the reduction of crime either to spark controversy or maybe a real conversation, idk - but either way anyone who knows anything about statistics is that if someone is looking for a link between one thing and another, it can be found across almost all spectrums of politics and social sciences.

However, I am willing to admit that many statistical studies do find legit links between areas of interest, and that many statistical studies are very important to make progressive progress.





I just feel that a woman should not pressured, or even have someone suggest to them that “if you make the choice of having an abortion, stats show crime might go down!”

I think the right to choose is immensely important and any woman who needs to make that choice is in a place I personally could not ever understand, and I support her decision either way she chooses.





Kris, there is no evidence that Project Prevention pressures anyone. They offer them a modest amount of money to use contraception. It infantilizes them to imply that this is undue coercion. It also infantilizes them to say that if someone tells them “Its probably not a good idea for you to have kids since you are a drug addict” that this shaming and coercive. The implication of Wes’ piece is that the best response to individuals in this circumstance is to tell them to join the Party and fight for socialist revolution. That has been the ultra-Left solution to lots of things in the past, and it is inadequate. I clearly remember being yelled at in 1990 by comrades who said we shouldn’t legalize drugs until after the Revolution because drug use was a response to capitalism, and dulls the masses revolutionary ardor. But drug decriminalization that frees people from the prison-industrial complex is actually a good thing for the empowerment of poor and minority communities. Similarly advancing family planning for people in general, and for people with mental health and substance abuse problems, is not an impediment to social change, but a complement to it.





James,

When it comes to Project Prevention I actually agree with both you and Wes. Project Prevention is actually a kind of distributing wealth to help people who are in a bad place like drug addiction. On the other hand (maybe it is my idealism talking here) I would like to see them get help immediately for their drug addictions, and get help for whatever else in their lives they feel they need help with, whether it be housing, food, education, and/or family planning.





Ok, so there are a few things here.

1. Your definition of “violent crime” is based on a definition defined by the greatest purveyors of violence in the world. This definition inherently does not include violence perpetrated by the state both domestically and internationally. It’s hard to argue that this state is in a position to determine what “violent crime” is, beyond some functionary essentialist thinking about how states function. The definition in and of itself is designed to criminalize poverty rather than prevent murders, robberies, and sexual assaults.

2. You argument hinges on a definition of violence that is inherently limited and biased, and excludes the gap between what happens and what is reported to official sources and police (who are historically known to discourage reporting or misrepresent the facts).

3. Violence is an everyday experience in the lives of poor people, not because of restrictions on reproductive rights, but BECAUSE of poverty. (caps used in lew of italics). Poverty puts people in dependent situations where they are often abused by those they are dependent on. This violence is incredibly under-reported and is extremely violent.

4. You ignore the violence committed on the people who are actually the subjects in this case. This is not about the “social burden”. This is about how programs like this effect the people they target.

5. People in poverty are often more exposed to violent crime, though that is often subjective to their individual context. Again, this points to poverty being problematic much more than anything else.

6. People in poverty, especially those who rely on others like drug addicts and people with mental health struggles, have less access to avenues to remove themselves from these situations BECAUSE of poverty (also combined with the stigma of having those struggles). Roe v. Wade may grant them reproductive rights, but if poverty excludes them from exercising these rights, then these rights are meaningless.

7. I state that the traditional family structure is a problem to raising children. The capitalist system has little to offer in terms of resolving this crisis. Foster care is based on the same traditional model. Foster care is based on a “charity model” that often exploits those who it is supposed to serve. This model fails.

Wealthy families give birth to children that they didn’t want or that they don’t want to parent. This is the same for middle income families. Child abuse is not a phenomenon distinct to people in poverty. It is made worse BECAUSE of poverty. People with economic stability and even small amounts of privilege have access to more ways to free themselves from violent situations. Children in poverty simply don’t have those choices. They often don’t report child abuse because they can’t risk losing the fragile support system they have. This goes for children and adults. The system offers them little help. It offers more punishment than help. This is the problem.

There need to be programs for children seeking to escape bad family situations that aren’t based on the “traditional” exploitative family model. Socialists and anarchists have developed several models that have worked and aren’t based on exploitative dependent relationships. Not saying that all of these are perfect, but there are many that would be a huge step forward.

Hank, you are basically trying to support an argument that is entirely external to the people this program focuses on. This is the “social burden” example. It is highly problematic. Drug addiction and mental health problems are not a crisis. They are part of the human experience. Poverty is a crisis with historical and systemic roots that takes these experiences and exacerbates them. You are essentially taking the stance that the victims of poverty are 1. to blame for violent crime (ignoring the violence inherent in systemic poverty) and 2. claiming that focusing on the reduction of violent crime statistics will objectively improve the lives of the poor. These are both simply not the case.

Poverty exacerbates normal human struggles to such a point that they become a perceived crisis. These perceived crises often disregard the deeper roots of how they are produced through historic oppression and poverty.





James says

“It infantilizes them to imply that this is undue coercion. It also infantilizes them to say that if someone tells them “Its probably not a good idea for you to have kids since you are a drug addict” that this shaming and coercive.”

Project Prevention’s propaganda is directly shaming populations that struggle with drug abuse and mental health issues. They are using poverty to forward their reactionary agenda. They aren’t focusing n rich areas which also produce children who “aren’t desired”, they are focused on poor people. They might operate under a guise of “free choice”, but such a choice doesn’t exist. People are put under conditions of their context which influence their decisions. Poor people live under incredibly oppressive social contexts which heavily influence their decisions. I describe some of this a bit in my previous comment.

“The implication of Wes’ piece is that the best response to individuals in this circumstance is to tell them to join the Party and fight for socialist revolution. That has been the ultra-Left solution to lots of things in the past, and it is inadequate.”

I neve make any mention of party. My political challenge is asking for Transhumanists to consider these points. I don’t feel that a political party would be 1. functionally useful or 2. critical to building a movement for social transformation in the current moment of social movements in this country. Nor do I advocate the type of centralist dogma of marxist-leninsts, which anyone who knows my politics would clearly understand. I find it problematic that you put the term “ultra” in front of revolutionary socialist politics, which is essentially the same thing done historically by social democratic forces and parties to adhere themselves to the privileges of capitalism.

“I clearly remember being yelled at in 1990 by comrades who said we shouldn’t legalize drugs until after the Revolution because drug use was a response to capitalism, and dulls the masses revolutionary ardor. But drug decriminalization that frees people from the prison-industrial complex is actually a good thing for the empowerment of poor and minority communities.”

The organized left has a lot of problems. This is one that many leninist organizations have. I know of several organizations that prohibit members from consuming drugs. This is an old-left vanguardist principle that is entirely reactionary and problematic. This is really aged thinking which is problematic among the left, especially the sectors of the left who are party-centric, leader-centric, etc. that discourage real democratic discussion. These organizations have leadership structures that rarely if ever change and hae cultures that are quite regressive on many fronts, largely because of their commitment to buiding a revolutionary vangaurd party over building a truly democratic movement for social transformation. I would advocate for an entirely new approach, a break with marxist/leninist/even trotskyist assumptions about building the party = building the movement etc. These cultures are entirely problematic. In this article I aimed to focus more or promoting these issues among Transhumanists more than confronting the massive problems in the left and their historical roots. I could do that, but there’s quite a bit more to say about that. Not to mention that many leftists have a pesudeo-religious obsession with “after the revolution” as if the revolution would exist in one point in time. IDK maybe they see that as when their party wins political power and becomes the new state bureaucracy, but that’s simply not a reality for them or for people in general.

“Similarly advancing family planning for people in general, and for people with mental health and substance abuse problems, is not an impediment to social change, but a complement to it.”

I couldn’t agree more with these comments. I think we would disagree as to whether this program actually helps in this regard, however. It could hurt a lot in the long run from shaming propaganda to contributing to a rejection of outside help due to exploitative methods and coercive tactics. It’s also base don a “charity” model which is entirely problematic and sustains systems of oppression. I understand the argument for a program like this being good given there is little hope for achieving what we need, but that shouldn’t stop us from demanding what we need and dismantling this program for its problems and tying those problems to their systemic roots.

James, I think you and I would agree on a lot of the problems in the left, though we take clearly divergent paths on where to go from there. There are things that can and should be done in the immediate term to help people who are struggling (drug legalization/medicalization is something we probably agree on), however I don’t think we have to sacrifice a commitment to revolutionary struggle simply because the face of the left as it exists today is inadequate. Leninism, Trotskyism, even Maoism - socialist politics that center on the authority and privilege of the party - can be very problematic and regressive at times on issues and their power structures create an organizational culture that is very hard to change. I could talk for a long time about this, but this comment is already too long.





@Kris

PP is not about “redistributing wealth”. not at all. $300 does not go far at all. rent, food, transit, healthcare, etc. $300 could be gone in a week, even without spending it on drugs. real redistribution would have profoundly beneficial impacts for pretty much everyone, but especially for people in poverty. A guaranteed minimum income would be a great start, but still wouldn’t address historical oppression by addressing wealth inequality.

PP is just another example of a failed “charity model” approach to address a perceived crisis, largely approaching it from the wrong position.





Hi Kris—

the link that talks about the connection between abortion and the lowering of violent crime - is this one:

http://prospect.org/article/did-roe-v-wade-abort-crime

It’s point is rather encapsulated in the statement below:

“Legalized abortion… disproportionately lowered the number of children born to mothers in impoverished circumstances who hadn’t intended to become pregnant and gave birth to babies they didn’t want. The effect on subsequent teenage arrest rates suggests that these were indeed the conditions that put children “most at risk of engaging in criminal behavior.”“

Wes and Kris -

I think in discussions like this it is valuable to provide research links / scientific evidence to substantiate one’s assertions.

If you don’t do that, I’m just listening to your “opinions.” Opinions without evidence… well, I don’t think they’re valuable. I feel like I am listening to How-You-Personally-Wish-The-World-Was, but not much else.  I am happy to be persuaded by scientifically-backed evidence, but I am not much moved by demagoguery.

The best example of this is Wes’s assertion that :

“the traditional family structure is a problem to raising children” 

Where’d you get that idea, Wes?  I fear you just “made it up.”

Asian-Americans arguably have the strongest family units in the USA - very low divorce rates, low domestic violence, etc. They are also extremely successful in every other social category.

Here’s a link: http://www.bgsu.edu/offices/mc/news/2011/news103463.html

The study above says people that aren’t highly-educated have the highest divorce rates. Asians have the lowest divorce rates, African-Americans the highest.

So - where’s the evidence supporting your opposing viewpoint? 

 





Hank,

Please fill in this Modus Ponens example:

If abortions have been shown to lower crime, then []
Abortions lower crime.
__________
Therefore []





Hi Kris—here’s another article on abortion lowering the crime rate, written by a Harvard scholar.

http://scholar.harvard.edu/barro/files/99_0927_crimerate_bw.pdf

What the scholar says is:

“The researchers estimate that, for every 1,000 extra abortions in 1973 to 1976, there were 380 fewer property crimes, 50 fewer violent crimes, and 0.6 fewer murders in 1997.”

Quite impressive gains, IMO. And it seems Project Prevention furthers this positive direction.





“That has been the ultra-Left solution to lots of things in the past, and it is inadequate. I clearly remember being yelled at in 1990 by comrades who said we shouldn’t legalize drugs until after the Revolution because drug use was a response to capitalism, and dulls the masses revolutionary ardor.”


And Comrades themselves sometimes drink too much. Alcohol is the In Thing for them; often they think overconsumption of alcohol is not substance abuse, but ‘unwinding’. (Well injecting meth is unwinding too). The euphemism is “drinking”—as if alcoholic beverages are fruit juice. Even calling such ‘beverages’ is low-balling it. Comrade so-and-so has a ‘drinking’ problem, that’s all.. he likes the taste of the grape contained in his wine made from sun-ripened grapes. Whiskey is nothing more than fermented grains and what could be more natural than good wholesome field-ripened amber waves of grain?

(“Try heroin. Our heroin is made from natural sun-ripened poppy seeds from scenic Afghanistan. You’ll just love it.”)

Comrades are more often than not quite old fashioned, not radical.





@intomorrow good point. The socialist left is all to eager to attakc “illegal” drug use while polluting themselves with excessive consumption of alcohol, which seems entirely contradictory. Several recreational drugs can be far less harmful than alcohol, some can even be beneficial in the long term at the right levels.

@hank “i don’t ‘believe’ in anything unless it is backed by science”

well thats entirely problematic because science only looks at certain things. They look at the things you mention through racist and sexist lenses. Like seeing abortion as positive because it “reduces crime” instead of it being important to reproductive freedom and justice. They often ignore violence being done on these communities through systemic entities and how that violence creates violence in these poor communities.

Traditional families rely on a basic dependency of children on parents, making them subservient and often a victim of parental abuses. Children of various ages should have safe spaces away from these situations that don’t involve a process that could put them in danger of even greater harm, as the criminal and DCF systems often do. To underline a few basic points on the violence inside families, here are a few sources:

“Domestic violence and child abuse often occur in the same family and are linked to several consequences for all family members, as well as for members of the larger community. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk for substance abuse, juvenile pregnancy, and criminal behavior than those raised in homes without violence. Many studies have noted that children from violent homes exhibit signs of more aggressive behavior, such as bullying, and are up to three times more likely to be involved in fighting. “
https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/domviolence/prevention/

Stereotypes about the “proper” roles and responsibilities of men and women in the family reinforce the view that the family is a self-contained unit, deserving privacy at the expense of other rights and freedoms. Traditionally, women are relegated to subordinate positions in this family structure. For victims of domestic violence, this notion of family privacy often interferes with effective police intervention and prosecutorial decisions in domestic violence cases. In many countries, people interviewed, including many police officers, reported that police often regard domestic violence as a minor offense and as a family issue in which police officers should not interfere.
http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/svaw/domestic/explore/3causes.htm

This is an even bigger problem among police families.
http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/1862/

“Also often overlooked in the family values rhetoric is the obvious fact that the traditional family can also be a site in which negative values can be transmitted. In the current rush to enshrine the nuclear family, it can be forgotten that traditional nuclear families have also been the place where children have seen, learned about, and been the victims of behavior such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and incest.”
http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/other/lawreview/familyvalues.html

“While the society struggles to accept
the reality of violence in the family, many
within the religious community, as well as
members of the “clergy… refuse to believe
that abuse exists within their congregations”
(Bussert, 1986, p. 2). This denial further
compounds the sense of isolation and shame
that many victims of domestic violence
endure. Pagelow & Johnson (1988) write:
“Silence within the religious community has
served to keep the lid on the simmering pain
that not only immobilizes victims but
encourages the behavior of the perpetrators”
(p. 9).”

...

“In one study on wife abuse, several
wives were abused by their husbands, who
were ministers (Pagelow, 1984). Another
study of 350 battered women found that
28% had sought counsel from the clergy
(Pagelow, 1981b, pp. 277-300). In this
study, the top responses the women received
were a) a reminder of their wifely duty and
instructions to forgive and forget, b) referral
to another resource to limit church
involvement, and c) impractical advice
based on religious doctrine that was not only
insensitive to their needs, but at times,
dangerous. Some were reminded of their
vows “for better or worse,” and were
exhorted pray more. “One, scolded by her
minister for ‘betraying’ her husband by
revealing what had occurred in the privacy
of their home, was beaten harder by her
husband when the pastors told him of her
visit” (Pagelow & Johnson, 1988, p. 5)”
http://www.the-ripple-effect.info/pdf/ReligiousViewsOfDomesticViolence.pdf

“Today, family violence occurs across different cultures and family structures. The common
denominators are the cultural attitudes and the social structure that the family both shapes and is
shaped by. It would seem that only fundamental cultural changes and changes in these
entrenched social structures - in Eisler’s terms, a shift from the dominator to a partnership model
of family and social orientation - will make it possible to deal with family violence in a systemic
way and to move to nonviolence as the norm in both families and societies worldwide. “
http://www.rianeeisler.com/documents/excerptsFAMILYSTRUCTUREANDFAMILYVIOLENCEANDNONVIOLCE.pdf

Is that enough for you?

The evidence is overwhelming that the nature, the very heart of the “traditional family” is based on propagating extremely damaging social oppression that lead children to developing struggles as they grow older. Children are treated legally as property by the system. They have very few rights. The problems with family violence in the “traditional” structure are emblematic of this crisis. There are no shelters for children to run to to escape family violence. They are dependent upon state action, which often fails to resolve the problem. This is what I am talking about RE: “traditional family”.

Couching an argument for abortion in the notion that it “reduces crime” is problematic in that it 1. uses a limited definition of “crime” that largely ignores the overwhelming majority of violence in society and 2. purposefully ignores the systemic roots of the problems poor people face when having children. Children of poor parents struggle because their parents struggle, BECAUSE THEY ARE VICTIMS OF SYSTEMIC POVERTY, not because their parents should have had an abortion. People in poverty shouldn’t be forced to make those decisions, that is not reproductive justice.

Lets talk about evidence based assumptions. 86% of perpetrators of sexual violence are white men. Should we promote programs to pay white families to abort their children if they are sexually male in utero in order to reduce sexual assaults and rapes?

Arguing that programs like PP are productive because they “reduce crime”, which is debatable, uses a similar logic of using “evidence” to make an assumption about how to approach and manage other people’s rights and freedoms. Truth being that we should never use such arguments as a basis through which to attack people’s freedoms, especially when talking about crime studies that are inherently biased.





Wes - I find your ideas about “the traditional family” very interesting. That does not mean I agree with them - I am a parent myself, in a traditional relationship, and it is hard work but I think I am doing a good job.

I was also raised in a “very traditional” family, and I think all-in-all, my parents didn’t “damage” me. So I am not at all in favor of scraping the traditional family.  But I am curious to know what you would replace it with?

The Kibbutz system in Israel is an alternative. My brief look at it - well, I think some kids thrived in it and others did not.

What other “family structures” do you see, as being better?

I think the “traditional family” can work fine, very well indeed, with sufficient economic support. It is better if kids aren’t overly exposed to stress, violence, drugs, criminality, etc. A nice quite place to study with good food seems essential.

Of course, parents DO impart their values on children. I think the statistic is something like 70% of children believe what their parents believe, politically and religiously. The reasons for that… can’t really be changed. Children have parents for role models and guardians, for better or worse.

 





Hank, it seems to me that ANY “family” that does not abuse their children deserve much more than society is willing to currently offer.





Hi Kris—

The USA does NOT help parents very much, but other nations do.

Here’s an article called “Norway Best In World for Mothers”

http://www.newsinenglish.no/2010/05/04/norway-best-in-world-for-mothers/

it says:

“Norway… pays women to have children [with] grants given to mothers for every child born. Child care benefits are also paid out every month, regardless of household income, and working women in Norway can take nearly a year of maternity leave at full pay. Parents also are entitled to 20 days off per year to care for a sick child, at full pay, health care is provided by the state, and day care centers are heavily subsidized.”

“Ranked right behind Norway was Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany.”





One of the biggest problems with the traditional model of the family, as I described above, is that children have few rights, if any, and have even fewer resources to protect themselves from violence in the home. Children are told that their parents are always right, that they always know what is best for them, which is patently absurd. This doesn’t even begin to explore the violence women face inside of these relationships. This has a religious basis, but is also supported by capitalism which individualizes the responsibility of raising children. I am not advocating any specific particular model as I have not done much reading on tat front or had a lot of real-life experience on that front, however, there are obvious glaring problems with the traditional model which are outlined above.

There are massive problems that underlie this crisis that lay question as to whether a particular model could be implemented to completely solve the problem, as models in and of themselves wont necessitate the political shift that is needed. Right-wing crazies, religious nuts, and others are still likely to be just as oppressive, if not more, under different models.

I would advocate for a massive expansion of support systems for women and victims of domestic/family violence. The biggest change would be the recognition of basic rights for children and a support system that could help them empower themselves out of messed up situations, far beyond the limited legal models and the equally oppressive models of foster care and group homes. There are some successful models throughout history, yet few would have a chance of being applied in the US because they require such a drastic shift in family politics that many simply wont make.

As far as kids generally believing what “their parents believe” that’s more attributable to socialization and the oppressive traditional model than any inherent or genetic basis. That is largely irrelevant when addressing the question of if change can be made.

There are social-democratic models that are slightly better than the US, however, the narratives around them come from privileged sectors of those societies and miss the gaps. There needs to be a place where victims can go, and right now there isn’t. Even well-off families use violence against children. This is not something that would disappear with poverty reduction. Poverty makes it harder to access resources. Eliminating poverty would increase access in general, but children would still have limited access because they legally equivalent to dogs in many ways and there are no shelters that children can escape to in order to get away from violence in the home. This is most critical for teenage children who are beginning to develop their individual and sexual identity, which can become points over which they face abuse in the home. These family politics are the biggest problem. There are several alternative models to discuss, but the politics are at the center of the problem.





We are agreed on the family, it is the most outmoded ‘institution’ (a dry term) of all—but the most respected. Say “family values” and millions get warm and fuzzy. However we can’t be all things to everyone and be pro-family and not be pro-family.. there is no neutral. Older I get the less concerned with the feelings of opponents: if people feel threatened by change, can’t help them on that; if they are so religious they will have to pray about adapting to change.

If the majority are not interested in those outside their own families: how can we even communicate with them to start with? it is talking in circles. The dialogues always come back to Ronald Reagan or someone: https://www.nationalreview.com/sites/default/files/styles/nrd_cover_nav/public/uploaded/cover_130902_toc.jpg
All rules have to be dropped regarding the family, otherwise its not worth the unceasing back and forth. Aside from professional political activists, who wants to spend the next twenty years wrangling about gay marriage in Turkeyshoot Minnesota; full/part benefits for spouses; and all that. One would have to be a policy-addict.

Reason we are in agreement is am tired of attempting to discover a modus vivendi with the old-fashioned. It eventually winds up being tied up in philosophical knots. Being diplomatic becomes sychophantry.. one often wants to find a commonality with opponents however it is easy to tell others what they want to hear. One can say one believes in the sanctity of life and how the views of the pro- ‘life’ are to be taken into consideration—yet one obviously cannot be pro-life and pro-choice at one and the same time. You can’t be anti-war and say let’s possibly nuke Mecca to teach those cameljockeys a thing or two.
In other words it is easy to talk out of both sides of one’s mouth.

This is to say I’m no longer interested in the nuclear family, no matter how necessary the nuclear family may still be. If all families were to hypothetically become gay families it wouldn’t make the slightest difference IMO. Next time Henry Bowers comments here, will tell him whether or not he is philosophically/spiritually correct is not what counts for me anymore. Henry Bowers does his thing; we do ours.





Thank you for this series, and kudos to IEET for actually supporting multiple viewpoints about complex issues on this forum, in line with its purported mission (despite repetitious scientism about crime statistics in a dialogue about larger social issues by several of its leaders). As someone with interest in transhumanist issues who also cares deeply (and foremost) about social justice and equity, it’s great to see these concerns addressed. TH too often veers off toward a fantasy contingent on first-world technological availability, but as you make clear, this need not be the case. A socially-informed transhumanism needs more work, more voices, and more support.





I also think it bears mentioning that science is constrained to the objective; part of what this means is that it can’t tell us what’s “best” for society because there simply is not a universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes “best.” No number of studies will overcome this barrier. Some would gladly consign more lives to the horrors of poverty or worse in the name of progress; others believe that the “best” world prioritizes justice, equity and the inclusion of the voiceless amongst its people.  Since numbers cannot tell us who is right in this regard, opinions - informed, hopefully, as Wesley seems to be - are not at all without value.





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