Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eggsploitation: Egg Donation and the Infertility Industry

A powerful documentary on egg donation and the infertility industry, Eggsploitation, will debut at The Little Theater in Rochester, NY, August 9, 2010. Produced by The Center for Bioethics and Culture it "spotlights the booming business of human eggs told through the tragic and revealing stories of real women who became involved and whose lives have been changed forever."

Read the article "Eggsploitation' Documentary Reveals Secrets of Infertility Industry"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Sokal Affair and the Academy

"The intellectual is so frequently an imbecile that we should always take him to be such until he has proved to us the contrary"--Bernanos
The Spring 1996 issue of Social Text contained an article by Alan Sokal (see a summary here) that revealed the weak-mindedness and ideological bias in academic journals. The author was a physicist who submitted his paper to a top peer-reviewed cultural studies journal to see if it would publish an article making scientific claims that have no basis in reality. The problem was that this claim coincided with the ideological prejudices of the editor and reviewer. His paper was a parody that argued that gravity was a social construction. Neither the journal editors nor the academic reviewers saw the submission as a parody. Sokal revealed this hoax after the journal published his paper.

Although Sokal endorses leftist politics and I do not embrace his preferences, his paper reveals a profound bias in the assessment of ideas in the academy today. He has also seen entire academic disciplines embrace poorly-constructed ideas simply because of the ideological position embraced in the research. Regardless of its merits, scholars tend to support papers and ideas because of the position endorsed rather than the evidence for the argument. Scholars have forgotten their main task and have become proponents of an ideology. Sokal wanted to illustrate this dramatically by offering a non-sense article to a top journal to see if they would publish it. Unfortunately, this journal complied and published an article claiming that gravity was something created through social construction and was something that could be changed if only human beings were socialized differently. In the article where he reveals the parody, Sokal writes, "... anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. (I live on the twenty-first floor.)" The editors claimed they were to busy to assess the actual merits of the article and used this as an excuse for their inability to distinguish between parody and authentic scholarship. Perhaps a more troubling side of this controversy is the good articles that make arguments outside the prevailing ideological consensus would equally be dismissed and prevented from being published. It seems that what you claim is more important than the truth of your statements. This event reveals the deep ideological bias in the academy and the problems that exist for individuals who are open to reality and reveal the shortcomings in weak-minded popular ideas.

In reading this post, you may ask yourself, "What does this have to do with forming a Catholic culture?" The Church finds itself outside the prevailing intellectual ideology and, in fact, several disciplines have active petitions that would effectively ban Catholic professors from the academy. There is a petition advanced by the American Philosophical Society that wishes to prevent Christian colleges from discriminating against homosexual acts. Anyone attempting to publish a paper that does not conform to the prevailing academic ideology jeopardizes their academic advancement. There is also the case of Dr. Kenneth Howell, the adjunct Illinois professor, who was fired for presenting the Catholic position on homosexuality. There is also the case of Jennifer Keeton, the Augusta State University student who was told that her Christian faith in unethical and was forced to undergo training to accept homosexuality or leave the program. If this policy spreads, the danger is that the only surviving believing counselors will be those who gave no indication of their faith before graduating. The other academic disciplines in the social sciences are equally anti-Catholic and are guilty of the same intellectual crimes.

Ideological litmus tests are now part of the academic world and, as the Sokal Affair displays, reason is no longer required to affirm or deny ideas. As scholars have lost the ability to distinguish between good and bad thought, the freedom to express ideas at universities has declined. In particular, this has worked to suppress the voice of the Church and the voice of individual believers to remove them from the academy so their voice will not reach today's youth. This is a dangerous trend and, unfortunately, it is growing.

See also:

Brief Reflection on the Academy

Newman Centers in the West

John Paul II's Warning

Walker Percy Commencement Address at ND

See Also Walker Percy Interview

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pope Benedict Quote

"Ethics are a consequence of being: first the Lord gives us new life-this is the great gift. Being precedes action and from this being action then follows, as an organic reality, for we can also be what we are in our activity. Let us thus thank the Lord for He has removed us from pure moralism; we cannot obey a prescribed law but must only act in accordance with our new identity." In Italian

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Television, Video Games, and Attention Problems in Children

The latest Pediatrics issue provide an article showing evidence that watching television and playing video games is related to higher levels of attention problems in children. The entire article is available online for free.

This study simply affirms the conventional wisdom about children and television and affirms the findings in childhood psychology.

LifeSiteNews also offers a summary of this study.

This is a theme we will return to in later postings.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Courts and the changing Church-state relationship

Western governments are slowly making legal changes that will take away the religious freedom of the Church. The recent U.S. and Belgian movements were preceded by the earlier British court decisions. The outcome will be to expand state powers over matters of religious doctrine and give secular courts the authority to rule over theological questions. This may take some time to achieve, but this is the direction Western courts are moving.

See UK and End of Religious Freedom
& UK Courts Cross New Threshold

Monday, July 5, 2010

What is Scandal? Part two: Major causes of scandal in our day (by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted)

Bishop Olmsted is an active participant in the world of art and culture. When I lived in Arizona I was able to attend a couple of events he hosted in the diocesan office center in downtown Phoenix. One was the premier staging of a play and the other was an evening with Michael Waldstein where the theologin gave some observations on his translation of the theology of the body. Biship Olmsted's observations on the crisis the Church is suffering is worth reading.

What is Scandal? Part two: Major causes of scandal in our day, by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

See the LifeSiteNews report

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day and it is time to take a deep and difficult look at our country. We have to be honest with ourselves and see that our self-image no longer corresponds with reality. We are a country in decline. A deep disagreement arises between those who judge our downfall in simple, materialistic terms and those who see cultural degeneration as the primary cause that led to this crisis. The date when the U.S. started to decline as a hegemonic power is no longer debated, it started with the 1973 recession. There were two strategies the United States could pursue to recover and both were difficult. The first involved sacrifice and a re-investment in education and infrastructure. Manufacturing would remain in the United States and wages too would remain high. The second option was to ignore the cultural aspects and simply allow business to correct this deficit on its own terms. We selected the second option and moved capital outside our national borders and set our country on the path of decline.

Culturally, this seemed like an irrelevant option. What was the domestic price we were asked to pay? We saw the ability of workers to organize, which Leo XIII acknowledges is a human right in Rerum Novarum, threatened and unions became unpopular and powerless. The result was the end of a living wage for workers and the ‘economic’ necessity for both parents to work. This destroyed a natural order where one spouse provided economically and the other spouse stayed at home with the children. Politically, the pro-life movement cooperated with policy that brought about the end of a living wage. This is a cultural problem in that we attempted to affirm human life while politically aligning with those who had an interest in paying lower wages. How could we not see that the policies we were sponsoring served the culture of abortion by forcing both parents to work and increasing the difficulty for spouses to bring children into the world? My argument is not that government should have stepped into the process to provide money to families; it is that unions should have been able to guarantee a living wage for workers. This observation will strike at the hearts of those who confuse conservative economic policies with the culture of life. You unintentionally served the culture of death and increased the financial hardships that destroy families. We accepted the reasoning of economists who argued that there was no other way. This case in retrospect was a lie. You also dismissed a human right recognized by the Church for politically expedient reasons.

We cannot affirm a culture of life that places economic reasoning above the family. In his last encyclical, Pope Benedict shows that the financial calamity is primarily a moral crisis. It is no coincidence that the decline of the United States as a hegemonic power started in 1973. This was also the year when the Supreme Court made abortion legal. One could say that from this moment the success of our largest corporations was a higher national priority than human life and, as a result, we allowed a new culture to emerge that sub-ordered the family and the person to the economy. Our civilization became self-destructive and our problem was that we did not see reality in its fullness. As Catholics we need to be politically wiser today than we have been in the past. We cannot cooperate with those who use our pro-life positions to destroy families (and it is inconceivable to support pro-choice politicians). Are we then left to be passive in the political system voting for the party that presents the less-evil position? We should not be resigned to this.

(Originally posted on July 4th, 2009)

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Caravaggio was no stranger to drama and this forced him to create many paintings while on the run. The Italian journal 30 Days (30 Giorni) provides an overview of Caravaggio's life. Perhaps it is no coincidence that another one of Italy's greatest artists was named Michelangelo.

In Italian