November 1, 2005


Battered women have more sons, study finds (World Science, Oct. 31, 2005)

A British scientist has stirred controversy with a new study that finds battered women have more sons than average women do.

The women, he suggests, are unwitting pawns of a perverse evolutionary mechanism that polluted the population with more wife-beaters among our ancestors.

Darwinism exists in order to excuse our inability to live up to God's expectations of us.

The Rights and Wrongs of Alan Dershowitz: A review of Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origin of Rights, by Alan M. Dershowitz (Hadley Arkes, fall 2005, Claremont Review of Books)

Professor Dershowitz has taken it, as the thesis threading through this work, that there are in fact no ... moral principles that form the ground of our judgments. He claims to find the standards of practical judgment in a mix of considerations he calls "utilitarian," but he emphatically denies that there are "moral truths" that stand behind these judgments. He professes himself to be "(God forgive me) a moral relativist," and a "skeptic" in moral matters. A moral skeptic denies that there are knowable truths. The relativist denies those truths from another angle by insisting that there are no objective truths, only standards that are "relative" to persons and places. "Nevertheless," says Dershowitz, "I believe strongly in the concept of rights." A concept of "rights"—but with no supporting truths that can explain why they are rightful, and why the rest of us should respect them. Hence the puzzle of this book, and the spectacle of a writer jousting with himself. Alan Dershowitz has made a career in litigating and writing on the issues of the day as a lawyer, as a man who has taken as his vocation the rendering of justice. Yet he has not taken the occasion before this book to reflect in a probing, extended way about the very grounds of his judgments on the things that are right and wrong, just and unjust. By his own admission, then, this book should offer the key to his works.

Dershowitz has made provocation his signature tune over the years, and Rights From Wrongs offers the occasion to carry provocation to its deepest reach. For in the sweep of his denial of moral truths, he denies every moral premise of the American regime and the moral ground of the rights it was meant to secure. The American Founders and Lincoln took seriously the notion of "natural rights"—that certain rights were grounded in the very nature of human beings, and those rights would remain the same in all places where that nature remained the same. They would hold even in exotic places, as long as human beings were still distinguishable from the subhuman and the superhuman. And so, the concept of "human rights." Lincoln understood then that the republic did not begin with the Constitution, but with the Declaration of Independence and with that "proposition" from which everything else emanated: "all men are created equal." Dershowitz seeks a regime with the widest field of rights—"rights such as those of equality, due process, freedom of conscience and expression, democratic participation, life, and liberty"—but he makes it resoundingly clear that he rejects every moral premise contained in the Declaration. "All men are created equal" may be a summoning sentiment, but he utterly denies that it has the standing of a truth, much less of a "self-evident" or necessary truth.

Jeremy Bentham regarded natural rights as "nonsense on stilts," and Dershowitz hauls out the banner of Bentham as he, too, denies natural rights: "[H]uman beings have no singular nature…. We are creatures of accidental forces who have no preordained destiny or purpose." The founders had looked to the "laws of Nature and of Nature's God" as the source of natural rights. But Dershowitz reserves his deepest contempt for the notion that we were "endowed by our Creator with rights," for he denies insistently, stridently, the notion of a God who disclosed a scheme of moral truths.

Utility justifies anything.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2005 8:24 AM

Okay, that article doesn't even begin to make sense. It's trying to square an inconvenient (and politically incorrect) circle with all the usual liberal pieties about gender relations.

Posted by: Brandon at November 1, 2005 8:53 AM

Dershowitz is clever; he's both a Holocaust denier and enabler.

Posted by: Luciferous at November 1, 2005 9:19 AM

I read the Dershowitz book weeks ago. An empty book jacket. Dershowitz does nothing more than to attempt to replace "God said" with "I said."

He fails, as did Rawls, Ackerman, and all who have attempted to build on sand. He makes no agument which would be persuasive to the strong, so in the final analysis, he offers only Big Brother as a replacement for Big Father.

Dershowitz makes the assumption, quite silly, in light of history and anthropology, that the Christian values underlying civilization are universal to all mankind may be dispensed with, and that people will do the right thing--as Dershowits defines the right thing thing, just because.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 1, 2005 9:39 AM

"To the death camps - go!"

And Dershowitz doesn't have any argument against? How pathetic.

Posted by: ratbert at November 1, 2005 11:01 AM

I'm glad to see you picked up on Arkes criticism of Dershowitz's new book -- I was going to point it out to you. Having read this review, I think I'll not waste my time reading the book.

Dershowitz starts with moral relativistic, multicultural, and utilitarian presumtions (i.e., the standard rational tool set). He concludes these are not sufficient to justify a theory of rights other than the pernicious "[majority] might (and interests) makes rights", which he finds, for obvious reasons which he can not rationally justify, to be intolerable. He falls back to attempting to define rights as "not-wrongs", which flounders when his presumptions are equally unable to decide what is wrong and why. He seems to conclude that "wrongs" are self-evidently wrong and require no rational justification, arriving at the mirror image of the self-evident natural rights of the Declaration and revealing the futility of his whole endeavor.

As to the battered women study, isn't it self-contradictory? For:
1) Wife battering has been widely accepted until only relatively recent times, evolutionarily speaking;
2) The article presumes this trait is passed on genetically;
3) It is claimed that battering results in a differential production of more males;
so, by evolutionary logic, this differential reproduction pressure should result in all (or most) males being batterers. But this conclusion is contra-indicated by the actual state of affairs.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 1, 2005 11:50 AM

Forgive my ignorance, but doesn't the male determine the sex of the baby? Has that been changed?

Posted by: tefta at November 1, 2005 1:53 PM

The male provides the sex of the child, but doesn't determine it. X chromosomes are slightly larger than Y, and so 'female' sperm are slightly slower, thus you have a few more boys concieved than girls. Other than that, it's a generally random thing that can be subtly influenced, I'm told, by the acidity of the sperms' environment once they're off an away (ie, inside the mother). I can't remember which gives which, but that's why you're supposed to eat certain foods depending on which you want.

Posted by: Timothy at November 1, 2005 2:00 PM

Wow. Things sure have changed since I was in school. Provides the sex, but doesn't determine it????

Posted by: tefta at November 1, 2005 4:43 PM

How does the Darwinian explanation of wife beating excuse anything?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 1, 2005 5:23 PM
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