- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

Vague family values

"[During his presidency,] Jimmy Carter … summoned a White House Conference on Families. This conference, among its other accomplishments, sought to define precisely what was meant by the word family.

"As with certain other words, until then, everyone thought that he knew what it meant. The purpose of the White House conference was to build up and strengthen families and to reaffirm 'family values.'

"Suddenly it appeared that we were not quite sure what it was that we were supposed to build up and strengthen. To avoid accusations of favoring the 'traditional family' two parents, children, perhaps with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all related by marriage or by blood a new definition was proposed.

"The conference came up with a rather generic definition of family as 'a group of people living together.'

"This could enable us to consider a college fraternity, an army platoon, or even four convicts sharing the same prison cell a family."

Harold O.J. Brown, writing on "Breaking the Ties That Bind," in the November issue of Touchstone

Infants and baby seals

"I have argued that the life of a fetus [and even more plainly, that of an embryo] is of no greater value than the life of a non-human animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc., and that since no fetus is a person, no fetus has the same claim to life as a person. Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus.

"A week-old baby is not a rational and self-conscious being … If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby does not either … the implications of this position for the status of the newborn life are at odds with the virtually unchallenged assumption that the life of a newborn baby is as sacrosanct as that of an adult …

"It is true that infants appeal to us because they are small and helpless and there are no doubt very good evolutionary reasons why we should instinctively feel protective toward them … .

"To think that the lives of infants are of special value because infants are small and cute is on par with thinking that a baby seal, with its soft white fur coat and large round eyes, deserves greater protection than a gorilla, which lacks these attributes … .

"If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby, we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants."

Princeton University professor Peter Singer in his new book, "Writings on an Ethical Life"

Different choices

"In 'Sex & Power,' law professor and television commentator Susan Estrich sets out to show that discrimination and barriers prevent women from attaining top jobs in law firms, academia, politics and business. But she actually establishes the opposite.

"In anecdote after anecdote, she shows that women have different preferences from men and make different career choices: Many do not want to put in the hours to get to the top if it means they have to sacrifice family time… .

"In the real world, equality of opportunity for men and women does not lead to precise equality of outcome, because, as Estrich repeatedly shows, men and women are different.

"When two groups are given the same job opportunities, and yet outcomes differ, discrimination is not necessarily the story… . When given a shot at the 80-hour weeks and hectic travel required to get to the top of a major firm or corporation, many women (like many men) just say no… .

"Susan Estrich, mother of two, knows firsthand the overwhelming attraction of motherhood, yet she calls on young women to make a different choice from hers and instead to fulfill the mission of feminism and finish the revolution."

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, writing on "Susan Estrich's America," in the Nov. 13 issue of the Weekly Standard

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