The Calculator & The Bible

 

shutterstock_60907387Ross Douthat wrote a powerful piece last week that used the upcoming SSM ruling as a jumping-off point for a larger discussion about the history of social predictions and SoCons’ strong (if imperfect) record on the matter. I commend the whole piece to everyone, but this passage on the left’s increasing prejudice towards quantitative analysis — to the exclusion of all other modes of thought — stood out:

[T]he modern liberal mind is trained to ask for spreadsheet-ready projections and clearly defined harms, and the links that social conservatives think exist aren’t amenable to that kind of precise measurement or definition. How do you run a regression analysis on a culture’s marital iconography? How do you trace the downstream influence of a change in that iconography on future generations’ values and ideas and choices? How do you measure highly-diffuse potential harms from some cultural shift, let alone compare them to the concrete benefits being delivered by the proposed alteration? How do you quantify, assess and predict the influence of a public philosophy of marriage — whatever that even means — on manners and morals and behavior?

Of course, there is nothing in traditionalist thinking that precludes serious data dives; indeed, a traditionalist should hold that his positions will very much be validated by statistics, provided the right questions are posed and investigated dispassionately. Nor, for that matter, should a data-focused researcher be allergic to tradition, which — through the forces of trial, error, and selection — should be expected to form a great many gems that need only a little sunlight to shine. Indeed, Hayek went so far as to say in The Fatal Conceit that “all the benefits of civilization, and indeed our very existence, rest… on our continuing willingness to shoulder the burden of tradition.”

The fact is that thinking through a problem and working (or muddling) through one involve different faculties. Both are applicable to almost any imaginable circumstance, though the particulars of how — and in what proportion to each other — vary immensely with circumstance. Everyone knows that traditionalism can save us from some follies while leading us to others, but the same applies to empiricist modes of thinking as well.

Tradition and research work best when each is used to check and reexamine the others’ findings. If quantitative social research yields predictions that contradict well-established and successful traditions, that’s more than sufficient cause to go back and make sure the researchers made the correct assumptions and didn’t miss anything (Douthat makes a strong case for doing so with regard to many questions regarding sexual mores and marriage). On the other hand, the simple fact of something being tradition doesn’t automatically put it beyond empirical questioning (Douthat similarly points out that a great many of Robert Bork’s more dire predictions about these same subjects did not materialize).

Balance and judgement — as always — are very much in need.

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  1. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    I thought it was a really good piece by a really good writer on politics. I find it remarkable he writes for the NYT & I find his writings remarkable.

    What struck me in this case is how utterly useless social science is. I have a few unpleasant thoughts to share. I wish I could ask him whether I’ve understood what he’s saying–that you just notice what went on & try to live with it.

    You cannot learn the results of bad policy up until you implement it & blight an entire city or some part of a country & get many people killed or immiserated. Then, social science can come & measure their suffering. Like rates of bastardy or rape or murder. Of course, that does little to change policy & it was people who talked up social science in the first place who implemented the policies which were followed by the cursed years.

    But then–an evil day came & did not go away. Is that any proof of causality? Is there any causality in politics? Maybe liberals are as innocent of Detroit or Baltimore as of sunspots–or nearly. Does anyone know the cause of the disaster; can anyone repair it today?

    You cannot know that you cannot improve on mores up until you destroy them. There is no experimenting in social science–you make choices & live with them, if you can. You cannot undo what is done, or not quite–you might prevent something once done from being done again.

    • #1
  2. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Exactly–the results are downstream, and by the time they are quantified, the damage is done, people are unwilling to change back and we have, in short, a royal mess.  I read the piece a week or so ago, and as I recall, he made the point that Socons have been spot on about the damages we predicted to previous changes to marriage.  I just find it particularly disturbing that people are willing to bet on the lives of children, against ages and ages of evidence,  that mother and father really aren’t all that important.  We truly live in a stupid age.

    • #2
  3. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Merina Smith:Exactly–the results are downstream, and by the time they are quantified, the damage is done, people are unwilling to change back and we have, in short, a royal mess. I read the piece a week or so ago, and as I recall, he made the point that Socons have been spot on about the damages we predicted to previous changes to marriage… We truly live in a stupid age.

    Maybe people can afford far more ruin. You can be unhappy without dying or losing your health or wealth for that matter. Maybe people stopped believing that limits on human action are all that meaningful. Limits used to be either on the majority, who were too poor to afford it; or on minorities who were not rulers. Democracy seems not to have forgotten that, nor able to let it pass.

    Social science is now advertised as the careful man’s carefulness. But you have to do something before you measure its effects–some of us also require a few drinks before we start talking about cause & effect in this kind of work, because people expect that to mean predictions & power to control. Before anything is a fact, it is a value, to talk the social science talk. Social science is progressive piety, it hides the ugly origins of facts. It is also a pious cruelty, justifying in the name of study all sorts of unthinkable things having been done. Now we know better!

    • #3
  4. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith:I read the piece a week or so ago, and as I recall, he made the point that Socons have been spot on about the damages we predicted to previous changes to marriage.

    He was a more circumspect than that:

    It’s not that social conservatives are always right about where American society is going. As you would expect, they often err on the side of pessimism: The “Slouching Toward Gomorrah” fears that informed some right-wing arguments in my youth, for instance, were partially falsified by subsequent declines in crime, abortion rates and teen pregnancy, and it’s easy enough to reach back into the history books to find moral panics that turned out to be just that.

    Likewise, Humanae Vitae was right about a lot of things that it was derided for at the time, though — as Douthat has pointed out elsewhere — its defenders still can’t figure out how to talk about couples with lots of kids who use contraceptives.

    • #4
  5. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Titus Techera:

    Merina Smith:Exactly–the results are downstream, and by the time they are quantified, the damage is done, people are unwilling to change back and we have, in short, a royal mess. I read the piece a week or so ago, and as I recall, he made the point that Socons have been spot on about the damages we predicted to previous changes to marriage… We truly live in a stupid age.

    Maybe people can afford far more ruin. You can be unhappy without dying or losing your health or wealth for that matter. Maybe people stopped believing that limits on human action are all that meaningful. Limits used to be either on the majority, who were too poor to afford it; or on minorities who were not rulers. Democracy seems not to have forgotten that, nor able to let it pass.

    Social science is now advertised as the careful man’s carefulness. But you have to do something before you measure its effects–some of us also require a few drinks before we start talking about cause & effect in this kind of work, because people expect that to mean predictions & power to control. Before anything is a fact, it is a value, to talk the social science talk. Social science is progressive piety, it hides the ugly origins of facts. It is also a pious cruelty, justifying in the name of study all sorts of unthinkable things having been done. Now we know better!

    Unfortunately it tends to be the weakest and the voiceless in society who suffer most–children.

    • #5
  6. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    This focus on the calculator isn’t really new, thought.  Technocracy has been a dream for various segments of the population since at least the late 19th century.  From positivists to the early progressives to Fordists, socialists, Kennedy’s “brains trust,” social scientists, and today’s silicon valley nudgers, Americans have been itching to reduce policy to math equations for a loooooooooooooooooong time.

    • #6
  7. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Merina Smith:

    Titus Techera:Maybe people can afford far more ruin. You can be unhappy without dying or losing your health or wealth for that matter. Maybe people stopped believing that limits on human action are all that meaningful. Limits used to be either on the majority, who were too poor to afford it; or on minorities who were not rulers. Democracy seems not to have forgotten that, nor able to let it pass.

    Social science is now advertised as the careful man’s carefulness. But you have to do something before you measure its effects–some of us also require a few drinks before we start talking about cause & effect in this kind of work, because people expect that to mean predictions & power to control. Before anything is a fact, it is a value, to talk the social science talk. Social science is progressive piety, it hides the ugly origins of facts. It is also a pious cruelty, justifying in the name of study all sorts of unthinkable things having been done. Now we know better!

    Unfortunately it tends to be the weakest and the voiceless in society who suffer most–children.

    Especially if they are born in the lower classes! In that case, they indeed cannot afford it.

    I see that America looks like it can afford it, so to speak, on their behalf. There is no urge to change policy or politics, so far as I can see.

    That also is an achievement of scientific gov’t.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @bridget

    To me, it’s mostly a debate about who better understands human nature.  Douthat captures some of this when he writes,

    while the pro-life side made the allegedly-counterintuitive claim that it would have roughly the opposite effect;

    Depending on what premises you start with, you will get different results.  What the last fifty years has shown is that the progressives fail miserably at their understanding of human nature.  It would be like a scientist whose understanding of atomic theory caused them to make a whole stream of inaccurate predictions about the results of experiments; as ‘intuitive’ as those predictions might be, they are nonetheless wrong – objectively wrong.

    Eventually, it’s everyone else’s job to say, “Hey, you really don’t have any clue what underlying processes cause these results, so please stop telling us that we are stupid haters for disagreeing with you. In fact, please stop making these predictions until you’ve adjusted your premises to match reality.”

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    bridget:Eventually, it’s everyone else’s job to say, “Hey, you really don’t have any clue what underlying processes cause these results, so please stop telling us that we are stupid haters for disagreeing with you. In fact, please stop making these predictions until you’ve adjusted your premises to match reality.”

    Exactly.

    “I crunched a bunch of numbers!” isn’t inherently smarter or wiser than “I have an old book that says otherwise!” Depending on the assumptions behind the numbers, the particular choice of old book, and the specific circumstances of the question, the opposite may well be the case.

    • #9
  10. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    This was a part of my original piece but there’s a pretty good analogy here to planning and improvisation. Though very different, both are necessary to success though how much of each is best can vary. One is deliberate and cognitive, the other made-up and experiential.

    • #10
  11. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    bridget:Eventually, it’s everyone else’s job to say, “Hey, you really don’t have any clue what underlying processes cause these results, so please stop telling us that we are stupid haters for disagreeing with you. In fact, please stop making these predictions until you’ve adjusted your premises to match reality.”

    Exactly.

    “I crunched a bunch of numbers!” isn’t inherently smarter or wiser than “I have an old book that says otherwise!” Depending on the assumptions behind the numbers, the particular choice of old book, and the specific circumstances of the question, the opposite may well be the case.

    “If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it.”
    -Pierre Gallois

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    Social science data has been around for decades predicting the consequences of discarding the traditional family unit and we have arrived. Here’s one called Demographic Winter:

    In Claire Berlinki’s book “Menace In Europe”, written 9 years ago, she describes the stats in Europe then, of decline of families, less children, towns in Italy, traditionally Catholic, with few children, and the rise of Islam to take its place:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/26/opinions/flynn-livingston-smith-isis-threat/index.html

    as well an extreme rise in socialism, and even violent, Nazi-ist attitudes, and Jewish persecution resurfacing.  The strong family values and Biblical beliefs of the WWII generation kept countries going throughout it’s darkest hour. When Poland was absorbed into Russia, priests went underground and kept the sacraments, Polish culture & identity going. Strong values for what’s right brought down the Hitler machine and the Berlin Wall.

    The DVD Witness to Hope is proof that passing these values on have created and sustained strong, healthy, productive societies, even rescuing them from darkness:

    The consequences of discarding traditional values speak for themselves. Today’s headlines include:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/index.html

    We have gotten away from traditional values that kept our society going, financially, economically, emotionally, and we’re not teaching and passing these important values forward. We’ll pay the price for that.

    • #12
  13. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    I don’t think the contraceptive question is really so hard. It’s a kind of “preponderance of missing elements” problem. Sure, it’s completely possible to use contraceptives and maybe believe that divorce is possible in extreme cases, and still have an overall well-ordered perspective on marriage and family. I think the Humanae Vitae-outlines perspective gives a wonderful consistency that’s hard to find elsewhere, but a few cracks in that beautiful consistency won’t bring the whole tent crashing down, particularly not if that healthy perspective is supported by a substantial bulwark of tradition and cultural expectations.

    The problem of course is that, for so many Americans now, it isn’t. Now it’s become beyond the pale culturally to ask people to accept that, absent a willingness to shoulder the burdens of responsible parenthood, they *maybe just shouldn’t have sex*; once you cross that line it’s very hard to walk things back, no matter what the social science says or shows.  One reason I have such strong feelings about third party reproduction is because I think it’s another such turning point (like contraceptives): sure, there’s no direct or immediate contradiction between supporting TPR and having stringent standards for what sort of people should use it. You could say: third-party reproduction is okay, but only for infertile couples in solid marital relationships etc etc. Very similar to the way contraceptives were sold to the general public (only for married couples looking to space their children at more manageable intervals, etc).

    But once you’ve tipped your hand that far, it’s very hard to plant yourself anywhere in the middle of that slippery slope. Who gets to decide which aspiring parents are “good enough” to justify the breaking of natural organic bonds? Who’s in a position to judge which stories are sympathetic enough? The desire for family is pretty fundamental and it really can be wrenching to see that desire unfulfilled in some people’s lives. But if we start talking (as some already are) as though there’s a “right to parenthood”, how can we stop the cultural descent into open baby-markets?

    Linking this back to Tom’s point about tradition and social science: yes, they should ideally work in tandem, but if you adopt a “leap first, ask questions later” approach to cultural change (as we so often do), the data may not be of much practical use once we get it.

    • #13
  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:This was a part of my original piece but there’s a pretty good analogy here to planning and improvisation. Though very different, both are necessary to success though how much of each is best can vary. One is deliberate and cognitive, the other made-up and experiential.

    Do you know how good improvisation works?

    It is super-algorithmic.

    Basically, you have to acquire mastery of some minimally-functioning set of compositional algorithms that many people find hard to implement correctly when they’re given as much time to explicitly plan as they want.

    We don’t get to choose to avoid algorithms. The best we can do is to choose to implement algorithms at a level where their nature is hidden to us :-)

    • #14
  15. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu:I don’t think the contraceptive question is really so hard. It’s a kind of “preponderance of missing elements” problem. Sure, it’s completely possible to use contraceptives and maybe believe that divorce is possible in extreme cases, and still have an overall well-ordered perspective on marriage and family. I think the Humanae Vitae-outlines perspective gives a wonderful consistency that’s hard to find elsewhere, but a few cracks in that beautiful consistency won’t bring the whole tent crashing down, particularly not if that healthy perspective is supported by a substantial bulwark of tradition and cultural expectations.

    I think “most Christians who have kids” is more than a crack.

    Linking this back to Tom’s point about tradition and social science: yes, they should ideally work in tandem, but if you adopt a “leap first, ask questions later” approach to cultural change (as we so often do), the data may not be of much practical use once we get it.

    Some leaping is necessary. The founders were quite uncertain about the efficacy of the republic, but that didn’t stop them. Yes, they were steeped in human nature, but we forget that their interpretation of it was quite controversial and (essentially) unproven.

    • #15
  16. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Merina Smith:Exactly–the results are downstream, and by the time they are quantified, the damage is done, people are unwilling to change back and we have, in short, a royal mess.

    You just summed up the MO of liberal policymakers going back decades.

    1 – Push radical social/policy change. When conservatives complain about consequences, bald-face-lie and argue that no such consequences will come, knowing they’ll take a long time to be made apparent. Liberals know they’ll come, and want them.

    2 – During implementation, when changes slowly begin to manifest, say “See? Those bad things didn’t happen” and/or “See? The conservatives exaggerated those things”, while still continuing to claim you’re not in support of the consequences.

    3 – Years afterwards, when the damage is done, spin the damage as a positive thing, and claim you were for it all along, while using conservative opposition decades ago as proof that they’re haters/bigots/anti-progress, etc. “We were always for these social/policy changes, and conservatives were always against them. Why would you ever vote for a conservative?”

    The Left plays for the long run, and conservatives usually lose. Liberals know that in these changes, people will

    • resist at first
    • then grumble during implementation
    • then usually, they just resign themselves to it and get used to it. Sometimes, even becoming dependent on the new ways.

    The Left counts on people getting used to Sodom and Gomorrah. And they’ve bet well. Eventually, people just give in.

    • #16
  17. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    The nice thing about tossing a pebble in the ocean and predicting that it will cause a tsunami somewhere is that when the next tsunami comes you can congratulate yourself on your prescience.

    • #17
  18. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    More than a crack? Yes and no. I think you have to appreciate the thickness of the tradition that was handed down to them/us. It doesn’t collapse overnight; you can subtract a few pieces and still be left with a mostly-harmonious whole. Still, *if* you accept that artificial contraceptives can be justified, you’re in a weaker position (argumentatively speaking) for combatting a myriad of other developments.

    As far as the necessity of leaping goes: sometimes, yes, but we need to think about *why* it seems so necessary. So, for example, I sometimes make these arguments myself concerning traditional gender roles. It’s not that there’s anything per se wrong with how your grandparents divided their chores and responsibilities, but cultural and economic changes sometimes merit adjustments (which, nevertheless, should be made cautiously, in a way that’s mindful of underlying natural facts about the needs of men, women and children).

    It’s a little harder to explain why we need to do so much leaping by way of revolutionizing sex and marriage. What’s changed so drastically that would necessitate revision of traditional sexual mores? Isn’t the issue more just that, in light of technological innovations, we allowed our hedonistic impulses freer rein and now find the re-imposition of self-discipline distasteful? How good a justification is that really?

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:This was a part of my original piece but there’s a pretty good analogy here to planning and improvisation. Though very different, both are necessary to success though how much of each is best can vary. One is deliberate and cognitive, the other made-up and experiential.

    Do you know how good improvisation works?

    It is super-algorithmic.

    Basically, you have to acquire mastery of some minimally-functioning set of compositional algorithms that many people find hard to implement correctly when they’re given as much time to explicitly plan as they want.

    We don’t get to choose to avoid algorithms. The best we can do is to choose to implement algorithms at a level where their nature is hidden to us :-)

    Midge, I’m not sure this works for politics. There is too much change & too little action, so to speak. You deal with events–this is much harder with people who delude themselves that they make events–as they come, with or without the perspective to make sense of them. Perspective has anti-democratic implications–a certain reliability or standing against change that means the people will not get a choice.

    I’m not sure what improvisation in your terms of algorithms would have been possible or helpful after 9/11 or the housing bubble burst, to look just at recent events…

    • #19
  20. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Larry3435:The nice thing about tossing a pebble in the ocean and predicting that it will cause a tsunami somewhere is that when the next tsunami comes you can congratulate yourself on your prescience.

    You can, but the nay-sayers are rarely gracious enough to do the same.

    • #20
  21. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Tom Meyer: #4 “Likewise, Humanae Vitae was right about a lot of things that it was derided for at the time, though – as Douthat has pointed out elsewhere — its defenders still can’t figure out how to talk about couples with lots of kids who use contraceptives.”

    We live in an era when children are hardly welcome.  Perhaps the point of Humanae Vitae is that children should be welcome.   Thought of as gifts of God to their parents.  In a counter cultural time, wouldn’t that be a surprise.

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    donald todd:We live in an era when children are hardly welcome. Perhaps the point of Humanae Vitae is that children should be welcome. Thought of as gifts of God to their parents. In a counter cultural time, wouldn’t that be a surprise.

    Stipulating that this is anecdotal, my experience indicates otherwise. My Facebook feed is a constant series of sonogram, baby, and toddler pictures. Perhaps this in unrepresentative, but I doubt it’s that unrepresentative.

    • #22
  23. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    donald todd:We live in an era when children are hardly welcome. Perhaps the point of Humanae Vitae is that children should be welcome. Thought of as gifts of God to their parents. In a counter cultural time, wouldn’t that be a surprise.

    Stipulating that this is anecdotal, my experience indicates otherwise. My Facebook feed is a constant series of sonogram, baby, and toddler pictures. Perhaps this in unrepresentative, but I doubt it’s that unrepresentative.

     

    It could be that in your personal circles, children are celebrated. But in my time on this world, I’ve very much noted a kids-suck trend. Which is one of the reasons I so loathe the Democrats and their “pro-family” policies. They’re hypocrites. These are the same people that think kids are a personal fulfillment hobby at best, and a nuisance at worst. In the west, families are increasingly seen as optional. The whole PR message of the abortion crowd to young girls is that babies should be a choice not unlike picking bucket seats or the higher-end stereo when buying a car. They’re a thing to be acquired for personal use, or not.

    • #23
  24. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Proving the effects that will flow from SSM is necessarily a speculative inquiry. Although we’ve had SSM in a few places for a little while, there’s just not much information on what happens to societies that have SSM. Even if we had useful data, determining that SSM, rather than some other snowflake in the blizzard of factors impacting social outcomes, is to blame for a negative outcome will always be the source of great dispute. I don’t mean to brush aside social science as a hopeless debate, but at this point in time, the arguments on both sides are theoretical.

    And, we thus arrive at the problem of presumption. Traditionalists, who understand the Chesterton’s Fence parable, believe that reformers should be the ones who convince society that marriage as currently understood is not useful. But, at least as I see it, SSM advocates almost never do this. They never start with the proposition that, yes, marriage as between a man and a woman may have served to foster procreation within certain bounds, and may have served a legitimate purpose in yesteryear. No, they start with the proposition that traditional marriage is discrimination, and that if you still believe in it, you’re a bigot. This position is the by-product of litigation–if SSM supporters concede that traditional marriage might serve a legitimate purpose (or maybe did long ago), it makes their legal claims incredibly weak.

    • #24
  25. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom, it may seem to you that children are celebrated, but you need a more nuanced appreciation of what’s going on. Children are simultaneously celebrated and scorned, because they’ve ceased to be an ordinary, natural and expected part of life and society. The ramifications are multifaceted. It gives you the accessory phenomenon, wherein “designer babies” are paraded around like prizes. It gives you various strains of anti-child sentiment, from your overt Amanda Marcotte “I hate kids” to the various manifestations of fecundaphobia (a familiar phenomenon for people like me who have more children, at a quicker pace, than many/most Americans consider “seemly”). It also gives you the “helicoptering” phenomenon, because if children represent a contingent parental choice, why not demand that parents give them every advantage elite liberal society can imagine (including non-stop supervision practically to adulthood)? If you don’t feel up to it, no prob, (we’re happy to sterilize you at public expense).

    So yeah, it’s more complicated than just child-loathing, but all things taken together, our attitudes towards parenthood and children are pretty neurotic.

    • #25
  26. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    gts109:Proving the effects that will flow from SSM is necessarily a speculative inquiry. Although we’ve had SSM in a few places for a little while, there’s just not much information on what happens to societies that have SSM. Even if we had useful data, determining that SSM, rather than some other snowflake in the blizzard of factors impacting social outcomes, is to blame for a negative outcome will always be the source of great dispute. I don’t mean to brush aside social science as a hopeless debate, but at this point in time, the arguments on both sides are theoretical.

    The problem is that the ground shifted out from under SSM before the fight was even getting started.  Relaxed divorce laws, rising standards of living, changing attitudes towards children, more atomized families…most of these things were supposed to be the effects of legalizing SSM, but by the time SSM became a real issue all of those changes were already in place or well on their way to being so.

    • #26
  27. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    On the “how we value kids now” question, something I wrote awhile back that might be relevant: http://thefederalist.com/2014/11/13/neanderthals-made-better-parents-than-we-do/

    • #27
  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Titus Techera:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:There’s a pretty good analogy here to planning and improvisation. Though very different, both are necessary to success though how much of each is best can vary. One is deliberate and cognitive, the other made-up and experiential.

    Do you know how good improvisation works?

    It is super-algorithmic.

    Basically, you have to acquire mastery of some minimally-functioning set of compositional algorithms that many people find hard to implement correctly when they’re given as much time to explicitly plan as they want.

    We don’t get to choose to avoid algorithms. The best we can do is to choose to implement algorithms at a level where their nature is hidden to us :-)

    Midge, I’m not sure this works for politics…

    I’m not sure what improvisation in your terms of algorithms would have been possible or helpful after 9/11….

    OK. First-responders are trained to be highly algorithmic. There’s a reason for that.

    First-aid and disaster-preparedness is all about being able to automatically implement the algorithms you learned beforehand even when you’re too terrified to think. Even the etiquette surrounding orderly, civilized responses to crises is algorithmic: “women and children first” for example.

    or the housing bubble burst…

    Harder for me to spot would be the absence of algorithms here… Certainly, whether a family responds well to an underwater mortgage depends greatly on the other routines (habits, algorithms) they already have in place.

    • #28
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rachel Lu:On the “how we value kids now” question, something I wrote awhile back that might be relevant: http://thefederalist.com/2014/11/13/neanderthals-made-better-parents-than-we-do/

    You say,

    What we need at this juncture is to recover our sense of the naturalness of parenthood. We need to reconnect to older customs and life patterns, but also to our own physiology.

    with all the luxury of one born healthy enough to not have a physiology hell-bent on killing her from an early age.

    The naturalness of my physiology would have been to die in infancy from asthma or a massive respiratory infection. There really is no way around that for me, or the increasing population of people like me.

    You once called traditional Catholic sexuality a “luxury good”. You were, I think, much more accurate in that description than even you suspected.

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  30. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu:Tom, it may seem to you that children are celebrated, but you need a more nuanced appreciation of what’s going on.

    I was responding to Douglas’ comment that “We live in an era when children are hardly welcome.” That there are issues — serious ones — surrounding modern parenting seems beyond question.

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