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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to email@example.com and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
There is a big push on to get the Government to pay for additional free ‘pre-school’ places when finances allow. There are two big arguments in favour of this. One is that it benefits children educationally, the other is that will help more women into the workplace. Two new studies from the UK call both of these arguments into question. One, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of Essex found that for every six children given a free nursery place, five would have been put in the nursery anyway.
The debate over same-sex marriage could be summed up as a debate between those who think it will redefine the institution in a way that will undermine the rights of children, and those who think it will merely expand it. Many same-sex marriage supporters argue that nothing about the character of the institution will change, that bringing same-sex relationships under the umbrella of marriage won't do anything to alter the institution that hasn't already been done by opposite-sex couples. I totally accept the sincerity of their argument, even if I disagree with their conclusion, and so I hope they'll join me in being rather concerned at the latest news from Scotland.
A while ago, a large study came out which indicated, among other things, that having a big wedding was correlated with having a happier marriage with less chance of divorce. At Iona, we wondered at the time if it was splashing out that really made the difference, or was it the number of guests? Well, now we have an answer. A new study finds that spending more money on your wedding ceremony, reception, and even engagement ring, is correlated with a greater chance of divorce.
Look at any futuristic movie – say Star Trek or Blade Runner – and you find one reliable consistency: massive cities, packed with Frank Lloyd Wright-esque mile-high skyscrapers. Why? Why would we need such density of building? If the West maintains its current attitude toward procreation, the future will look very different.
The straw man is an all-too-common feature of contentious debates. On one level, this is understandable: why engage with your opponent's actual argument when you can create another, weaker version of it which can be easily defeated or dismissed? The problem, of course, is that you never actually get anywhere: neither side understands the other, there's little to no possibility of anyone changing their mind, and the victorious side in the debate is simply the one most successful at misrepresenting the other. The straw man's brother, the steel man (which involves deliberately trying to engage with the strongest arguments your opponents put forward), is much rarer, but leads to much more fruitful discussions.
The tragic case of Dhara Kivlehan, who died of organ failure several days after giving birth by Caesarian section, is the latest in a number of cases where Irish hospitals disastrously failed pregnant women, many of them non-nationals. But there's something strange about the degree to which the Irish media seem to cover each of these stories. None of the other women who died seem to have received anything like the same amount of coverage as did Savita Halappanavar.
The Synod on the Family, convened by Pope Francis, begins in Rome this coming weekend. The Synod will look at the totality of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family, the challenges facing the family in various parts of the world, and what the Church can do to help families and better communicate its teachings on this vital matter. An open letter on the state of the family, signed by marriage experts and marriage advocates all over the world, has been sent to the members of the Synod.
I was reminded of the Terry Schiavo case from a few years back when I read about a recent study from the University of Western Ontario. But more on her later. Patients in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state” may be much more aware of their surroundings than previously believed. The researchers provided strong evidence for intact conscious experiences in a brain-injured patient who had remained behaviourally nonresponsive for 16 years. So, good news, right? Findings such as these help form a more powerful argument against euthanasia. But be careful. By engaging in a science-says argument, we can also fall into a trap.
Every so often, you'll hear about some kind of policy move so utterly ridiculous that it's a wonder its advocates don't burst out laughing. The recent decision by the Californian State University system (CSU) is such a move. What did they decide? To remove recognition from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship because they required their leaders to be Christian. Yeah.
Developmental biologist Prof Lewis Wolpert, writing recently in the Daily Telegraph, describes how, from conception, genes affect our gender roles. It's not simply nurture at work. Wolpert’s principle examples are well worth a read. But the arguments around the issue are even moreso. Today, solid, objective research is not enough to merit publication. Good research might not get published because it violates the canons of political correctness. And Wolpert shows how this socio-political pressure is affecting some of the field’s biggest names.
Study after study shows that children benefit when their parents are married. Ah, say the sceptics, is that because they’re married, or it is because married couples usually have more money and better parenting skills? Share those same benefits with other family forms and all will be well. Sweden provides a sort of controlled experiment for this point of view. Sweden has pushed the welfare state to its outer limits and has done more than any other society to eradicate poverty and its effects. But there still remains a big difference in Sweden between child outcomes for children raised by single parents and married parents.
The entry of women into the workplace in ever-increasing numbers is usually hailed as a great progressive victory. And indeed, the lowering of the barriers that prevent women from choosing to work is a very good thing. But the fact that there has been no corresponding move of men towards spending more time childrearing has ended up placing huge pressures on families. And as Neil Gilbert blogs at the Institute for Family Studies, many women are responding by choosing to stay at home.
Writing about the legalisation around the world of “assisted suicide” in 2012, palliative care oncologist José Pereira explained that “laws and safeguards were put in place to prevent abuse and misuse of these practices. Prevention measures have included…explicit consent by the person requesting euthanasia, mandatory reporting of all cases, administration only by physicians (with the exception of Switzerland), and consultation by a second physician.” But now the bar has been set pathetically low: in the Netherlands, euthanasia for anyone over the age of 70 who is “tired of living” is now being considered.
Breda O'Brien, teacher, Irish Times columnist and Iona Institute patron, recently debated surrogacy with Deirdre Madden of UCC on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme. She talked about the recent surrogacy scandals, and emphasised the fact that similar things can and have happened regardless of whether surrogacy is commercial or altruistic. Madden argued that banning surrogacy in Ireland would just lead people to seek it out abroad, but O'Brien said that on the contrary, legalising altruistic surrogacy would normalise the practice and drive up demand for commercial surrogacy elsewhere.
Trying to facilitiate human flourishing and happiness should be among the first goals of any policymaker. In all the endless discussions we have about economic growth, social capital, labour productivity, and debt levels, what we often don't talk about is the reason we pursue all these policies. The answer is (or should be) very simple – we want to help people to live well. So what are the things that tend to make people happy? Dr Edel Walsh analysed data from the European Social Survery 2010, taken at the height of the recession – and the answers might surprise you.
Several terrible surrogacy scandals have come to light recently. The most high profile involved Gammy, a Down’s syndrome baby born to a Thai surrogate mother. The Australian commissioning couple did not want to raise Gammy, only his healthy twin. A very similar case has just come to light in Britain. And now we learn that an Australian man who had children via a surrogate mother (again a Thai woman) sexually abused those children.
The Rotherham child sex abuse scandal that has rocked Britain is the result of half a century of Multiculturalism, moral-relativism and national self-loathing by those driven to guide, protect and improve society. “Rotherham,” dear reader, will for a long time to come be synonymous with the utter, immoral collapse of Radical social engineering. Well, one can only hope.
Dawkins was at it again recently. He claimed that Ireland is civilised in all but one aspect: its abortion laws. He then added that it’s “moral” to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome. As Dawkins has greyed, his pronouncements have gotten more off the wall. And I thought wisdom increased with age…
A new study from the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project analyses some of the ingredients that go into lasting, high-quality marriages. By starting with a sample of over 1000 people who were in a relationship but unmarried and tracking them (418 of the individuals got married), the study's authors were able to analyse how decisions made before marriage impacted the quality of the union. They drew three major conclusions:
The latest UK figures on sperm donation reveal that the “top 500” donors have fathered 6,200 children between them, with 15 of these having more than 20 each. The figures illustrate a simple truth – legalising sperm donation is not a good idea, even if you ban anonymous donation. Let's review the arguments against sperm donation. All else being equal, it's a good idea for children to have a relationship with their biological parents, where possible. The natural ties are important, should not be set aside lightly, and certainly not deliberately. This is a substantial part of the reason why civil marriage evolved as a social institution – to bind parents, and particularly fathers, to their children.
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