The Long View 2006-01-23: From Iraq to Iran; Girlie Ed; Metahistory & IQ; Serious Abolition; Anne Rise Panned

In this post, John Reilly suggested a compromise solution on abortion that might have worked, once upon a time. Alas, it might be too late.

No, abortion should be ended. We ought to have gathered by now the the attempts to criminalize it have the perverse effect of preserving it, since the political system recoils against the use of criminal sanctions in this context. Certainly the Supreme Court is least likely to overturn Roe if the test case asks the court to approve precisely the kind of law that the court has spent 30 years striking down.
The matter should be folded into medical ethics. Last week, the Supreme Court preserved the discretion of the states to define medical practice; that was the case about the right of Oregon to allow physician-assisted suicide. The states should use that discretion to define abortion, outside a few exceptions, to be the sort of malpractice that would require a physician's licence to be suspended until he completes a medical refresher course.
Such a statute would be popular. It would be enforcible. Upholding it would require the court to reject the protean "liberty interest" or "autonomy right" that is the root of the problem

From Iraq to Iran; Girlie Ed; Metahistory & IQ; Serious Abolition; Anne Rise Panned

 

Osama bin Laden's message that was released last week is perhaps old news by now, so forgive me for refreshing your memory:

"In response to the substance of the polls in the US, which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to.

"We are a nation that Allah banned from lying and stabbing others in the back, hence both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by war.

"There is no problem in this solution, but it will prevent hundreds of billions from going to influential people and warlords in America - those who supported Bush's electoral campaign - and from this, we can understand Bush and his gang's insistence on continuing the war."

My immediate assessment of this is that, particularly in Iraq, al-Qaeda is in a position where it has to declare victory and get out. Whatever else happens there, Osama's brand of Islamism has lost any chance it might have had of influencing the future state of that country. If al-Qaeda stops massacring Shia and the US begins withdrawing some months later as the new Iraqi government becomes more confident, that could be characterized as a "truce." A failure to launch a major terror action in the US might also be characterized as a component of such a truce.

Does that mean that we should discount the possibility of another terror attack on the US? By no means. I am sure that al-Qaeda's attempt to strike the US continue without reference to Osama's public statements, or indeed without much regard to what the US does. Another attack could occur in the US even after the war in Iraq is over. The US is always doing something that could be called as a violation of a "truce."

On the basis of no particular evidence, except for scattered reports about the proliferation of improved shoulder-fired missiles, I suspect that the easiest kind of attack at this point would be simultaneous rocket attacks against civilian aircraft. The economic effects would be substantial, even if all the attacks fail: the airtravel system would be closed for days, or longer

* * *

That Spengler has declared war against Iran, as we see from his column at Asia Times:

It is remarkable how quickly an international consensus has emerged for the eventual use of force against Iran. Chirac's indirect reference to the French nuclear capability was a warning to Tehran. Mohamed El Baradei, whose Nobel Peace Prize last year was awarded to rap the knuckles of the United States, told Newsweek that in the extreme case, force might be required to stop Iran's acquiring a nuclear capability. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the military option could not be abandoned, although diplomatic efforts should be tried first. Bild, Germany's largest-circulation daily, ran Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad's picture next to Adolf Hitler's, with the headline, "Will Iran plunge the world into the abyss?"

The current menu of options is not good, but the situation would be absolutely hopeless if there were not Coalition forces in Iraq. Suppose Iraq were still under the corrupting sanctions regime, or that the sanctions had been lifted, and Iraq was now arguing that it needed a nuclear program to counter the Persian threat?

* * *

Higher education is getting girlier, according to The New Republic:

What's most worrisome are not long-standing gender differences but recent plunges in boys' relative performance. Between 1992 and 2002, the gap by which high school girls outperformed boys on tests in both reading and writing--especially writing--widened significantly. Given the reading and writing demands of today's college curriculum, that means a lot of boys out there are falling well short of being considered "college material." Which is why women now significantly outnumber men on college campuses, a phenomenon familiar enough to any sorority sister seeking a date to the next formal. This June, nearly six out of ten bachelor's degrees awarded will go to women. If the Department of Education's report is any indication, in coming years, this gender gap will grow even larger.

Might I suggest that this trend has something to do with the content of the curricula at all levels?

* * *

Lectures and interviews on metahistorical questions are now available at any time of the day or night on Slate's Meaning of Life site. If you need to hear Robert Wright cross-examine the head of Georgetown's theology department for 46 minutes on evolutionary teleology today, you need look no further. You do need DSL or better.

* * *

Schopenhauer is to blame for the notion that intelligence in living things is epiphenomenal. He called the brain "a useless fruit," or something of the sort. A naive form of this principle survives in the arguments of neodarwinists that the evolution of intelligent life on Earth was a fluke, one not likely to be repeated elsewhere in the universe. Other people argue that there are many kinds of intelligence, and we should not privilege one over the over. Now, however, a study shows that ordinary testable IQ helps:

The average IQ score nationwide is estimated to be 100, with children scoring in the range of 130 or higher generally considered "gifted." According to the current study, a child with an IQ score of 150 experiences a 44% lower risk of premature death than a child with an IQ of 135. The health benefits of a high IQ appear to work independently of other factors, including socioeconomic status. Researchers found that high-IQ children from lower-income families tend to experience greater longevity, and generally fewer health problems, than children with low IQ scores from higher-income families. However, the study also found a limit to the effects of IQ: Children who scored above 163 on IQ tests were not found to suffer fewer health risks than those scoring 150.

Is there a Maximum Useful Intelligence that senscient life, wherever it exists, could be expected to approach?

* * *

South Dakota could attempt to recriminalize abortion in the near future:

In the next six weeks, South Dakota lawmakers will decide whether to make abortion a crime.

A bill that would ban abortion in the state will be introduced within the next two days.

The bill will be called the Woman's Health and Life Protection Act. It will ban abortion, but won't prosecute a doctor who performs one to save a woman's life.

And the lawmaker who's introducing the bill says he thinks now is the right time to try and over-turn Roe vs Wade.

Rep. Roger Hunt says, "Abortion should be banned."

No, abortion should be ended. We ought to have gathered by now the the attempts to criminalize it have the perverse effect of preserving it, since the political system recoils against the use of criminal sanctions in this context. Certainly the Supreme Court is least likely to overturn Roe if the test case asks the court to approve precisely the kind of law that the court has spent 30 years striking down.

The matter should be folded into medical ethics. Last week, the Supreme Court preserved the discretion of the states to define medical practice; that was the case about the right of Oregon to allow physician-assisted suicide. The states should use that discretion to define abortion, outside a few exceptions, to be the sort of malpractice that would require a physician's licence to be suspended until he completes a medical refresher course.

Such a statute would be popular. It would be enforcible. Upholding it would require the court to reject the protean "liberty interest" or "autonomy right" that is the root of the problem.

* * *

The first really bad review of Anne Rice's Christ the Lord to come to my attention appears in the February issue of First Things, where Cynthia Grenier says:

Appalling. That's the word that kept echoing through my mind as I turned the pages of Anne Rice channeling the seven-year-old Jesus Christ in her 27th novel, the first since her recent return to the Christianity of her childhood.

No, no: the concept is appalling. The novel itself is not that bad. Count your blessings.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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