Friday, July 19, 2013

"I am Woman" -- ironic ode to the embryo

My husband is the early riser in the family, and on most weekend mornings I stumble downstairs, bleary-eyed, as the kitchen radio screams out the hits of the 1970s. This can be torture or it can be wonderful, depending on my mood and the song.

On a recent morning, my positive energy surged I when I recognized the first notes of the feminist anthem, I Am Woman. Helen Reddy was belting it like a boss, and I was right there with my sista singing along...

Yes, I am wise! But it's wisdom born of pain! Yes, I paid the price, but look how much I gained!

Dancing around, remembering how I learned this song as a little girl, and how much my strong, conservative mother loved it...

If I have to, I can do anything! I am strong! I am invincible! I am wooooomaaaan!!

Dancing more, humming the next lines because I did not know the lyrics...

I am woman watch me grow, see me standing toe to toe, as I spread my lovin' arms across the laaaand!

And then -- I did a double-take. No, that can't be, can it? I couldn't have heard that word, not in a feminist anthem! "Dean, did you hear that? In this song?" I quickly googled the lyrics and there it was:

But I'm still an embryo…

*blink, blink*

Whoa! Ms. Reddy said "embryo"! She just compared herself to an embryo!

But I'm still an embryo, with a long long way to go, until I make my brother understaaaand!

I googled again. The song topped the Billboard charts in December 1972. Mere weeks before Roe v. Wade became the horrific, bloody law of the land on January 22, 1973.

Could it be that in those weeks prior to Roe, it was still okay to be an embryo? Even in the minds and vocal cords of feminists?

If we assume that feminists still had hearts of flesh and not stone back then, we could translate the lyric like this:

"I'm here! I'm small, I'm insignificant to some, you can't see me yet, but I'm on my way. I have so much to offer, so much to show you, and once I make that long, long journey to visibility, my brothers will understand that I have been here all along! I am worthy, I have dignity, and I am just like them!"

However, if we were to translate it as feminism stands today, it would have to go like this:

"I'm a non-human parasite with no rights, a dangerous, dreaded burden sucking the life out of women and society, a piece of garbage to be killed at will and thrown into the trash with the rest of the medical waste. Nothing is as worthless as I am."

But honestly, that latter interpretation does not seem to fit with the spirit of the song, nor does it make any sense in that line, does it?

Therefore, I'm siding with the embryo-as-our-young-hero scenario, just as Helen Reddy presented it back in the more civilized, less blood-thirsty days of feminism. Back when we women could sing and remind others of our own worth and dignity without crushing the worth and dignity of other weak and fragile members of our human family. Feminists back then (I'm going to tell myself) still had love enough to speak the name of embryo without contempt and as a logical metaphor for the underdog -- whom we women naturally, instinctively nurture and protect, cheering him forward until he finds his own voice.

Oh, you embryos in 1972, you slipped by just in the nick of time! You were still the good guys then!

Ah, what feminism coulda, shoulda been! Sing it, Helen!


Related post: The Sheer Idiocy of "Every Child a Wanted Child"



  1. I'm sure you know that in 1972 a lot of self-identified feminists were pro-life. Go back earlier and the sentiment was all but unanimous.

    Why feminism began insisting on a pro-choice loyalty oath is something I have a theory on and probably so do you. I wouldn't call today's feminists "bloodthirsty" though. On the other life issues -- capital punishment, war, the social safety net -- they tend to be on the correct side, unlike some anti-abortion people.

  2. I love the song, and my sister was so happy to sing it to her new infant daughter.
    I have a question that was posed to me in another setting, and i'm intrigued what your response would be: I’m holding a baby in one hand and a petri dish holding an embryo in the other. I’m going to drop one. You chose which.

  3. I have a question that was posed to me in another setting, and i'm intrigued what your response would be: I’m holding a baby in one hand and a petri dish holding an embryo in the other. I’m going to drop one. You chose which.

    Why do you have to drop one?
    Set the infant down gently in a crib, and lovingly set the petri dish down on the counter.

    Both are babies. It's a matter of age.
    Just as you'd help an elderly person sit down and tend to an child, same logic here.

  4. We weren't told why, we were told it wasn't important.
    Thanks for the response, it interests me.

  5. They just said there was no way to save both.

  6. What kind of moral game are they trying to play?
    What's the gimmick if you don't drop one?

    Both are children. Are they trying to get you to choose the older over the younger? It's like asking you to choose which of your children to drop.

    1. I want to be your friend irl! Love your spunk in these debates!!

  7. The natural inclination would be to drop the Petri dish. This is because we already "know" the baby but not the embryo.

    Also, the embryo typically is not something we acknowledge as a separate human. Embryos "die" all the time -- the egg fertilizes but doesn't implant, and passes out during menstruation. Placing the embryo in the Petri dish changes the usual dynamics though. Now, we know that there is an embryo in there, and we know that if we do not take care of it, it will die.

  8. I was just thinking about this last night, and I think the turnaround in people's thinking had a lot to do with the supreme court ruling. In many people's minds, the SC really does delineate for them what is right and what is wrong...

  9. There's no context to this challenge. I wouldn't drop anyone.

    Sew, ur very kind! I'm totally up for hanging out ;)

  10. I have a sad story I could tell about this. It's "hearsay" of course, but in a nutshell it's about a woman who did not want to abort the baby she had conceived in the late 1970's out of wedlock (with a man who was already married to somebody else), but she was shamed and badgered into it "because it's legal now."

  11. captcrisis, not all feminists are pro-choice. Not me! Not my friends at Feminists for Life! See and you'll see what I mean. We refuse to choose between women and their children!

  12. captcrisis, I've read that discussion many times before (including yesterday, I need to find that!), in different incarnations. First, I'd tell you not to drop either, obviously (you would be culpable for which ever one you harmed, and I would not be part of your evil by instructing you to drop one; this is similar to our familiar discussion of a terrorist asking a person to kill an innocent child to save the rest of the hostages).

    But of course, you are really asking an emotional or practical question, not a question of "who is more human" (though you expect us to frame it that way). Usually, the question is set in a fire or a flood. You can only save the embryo or the born child. In a fire or flood, which would you choose? The obvious answer is you try to save both, but if you cannot save both, you save the one you can. We don't have to make a choice based on "value" but on location and feasibility. Hopefully, I can get to both.

    Captcrisis, let me turn your scenario on you: You are holding two women. One is pregnant, one is not. Whom do you drop? Or, you are holding a child and an middle-aged person. Whom do you drop?

    The brilliant Fr. Tad has a whole post on your scenario, and I will try to find it and post it here.

  13. I wouldn't call today's feminists "bloodthirsty" though.

    Did you see the reaction in Texas? Just because the state mandated normal health standards for abortion clinics and would not allowing killing after 20 weeks (Europe disallows abortion usually after 12-14 weeks)? They were howling like demons, bringing in feces and urine, etc…. That is not a bit blood-thirsty?

    On the other life issues -- capital punishment, war, the social safety net -- they tend to be on the correct side, unlike some anti-abortion people.

    I've never heard of any of that promoting the direct, targeted killing of innocents.

  14. I remember those ridiculous exercises. Nothing but training tools to get people used to the idea of assigning different values to human beings. Unrealistic and quite cruel for a preteen. But then again, what good training for later in life when we will be asked to assigned worth to the sick, elderly, downs babies etc etc. I imagine young SS officers could draw on such experience when devising a final solution.

  15. How about if you were a Chinese feminist and you held two Petri dishes, one male child and one female child?

    1. Brilliant. Though knowing the average Chinese, most would love to keep both. Except that evil has so enveloped their society under communism that it has resulted in the one-child policy. Funny how the population still grew, even accounting for the ageing of their society, eh?

  16. The natural inclination would be to drop the Petri dish. This is because we already "know" the baby but not the embryo.

    Exactly. You are asking an emotional question. If we could save someone else's child from a fire, or our own, for example, we would try to save our own. It doesn't speak to the value or worth(lessness) of the other child.

  17. Copezio - It's just another version of the "Fire in the IVF Clinic!" scenario, as discussed by Fr. Tad here:

    The basic answer is: "Choosing who to save in an emergency triage situation, especially one perpetrated by a hostage-taker who is threading the lives of innocents, in no way determines the humanity or worth of the human beings involved."

  18. JoAnna, thanks! And, I should have addressed Copezio with my comment on that subject. I am confusing the two commenters! Sorry!

    Copezio, here is where I saw that very discussion yesterday, int he comments section. If the subject interests you, you will like this:

  19. reallife98105, exactly. What do they say, "The law is a teacher"? Many people believe that if something is legal, it must be moral.

    csawwww, good points.

  20. ...not all feminists are pro-choice. Not me! Not my friends at Feminists for Life! See and you'll see what I mean. We refuse to choose between women and their children!

    Exactly! We don't choose between young and old, women and men, born and unborn, sick and healthy, etc. All human beings have lives with infinite value, and all human life is inviolable.

    The idea of pitting one human being against another is truly evil. We don't make such choices.

  21. Is anyone else struck that this feminist anthem contains the word "embryo" in a good light? Did anyone else know that the word was even in the song? To me, it's just strikingly ironic! But maybe I'm weird. ;)

  22. @Melissa

    Yes, you're right, Feminists for Life, a good group. Another web site I used to visit was Jen Roth's "Leftout", a place for progressive pro-lifers. Unfortunately things are so polarized that liberal or feminist pro-lifers are off the radar. It seems a basic tenet these days that the definition of being feminist boils down to being pro-choice.


    I don't particularly care about the "correct" answer to the conundrum posed by capezio. It's no answer to say that you should save both, because it's a forced-answer exercise. In real life one does have to make tough choices, and we should be wary of people (whether self-identified as feminist or not) who reject forced-choice exercises by saying that women have a different way of looking at things. I'm thinking of Carol Gilligan as the seminal (what a word!) exponent of this view. What they are in effect saying is that women can't make tough decisions. But . . . capezio's conundrum doesn't seem like a real-life situation. The only way I can imagine it actually happening is if someone has a gun to your head and forces you to choose one or the other, like in the movie "Sophie's Choice". I don't see any concentration camps in my immediate future.


    Whether the Texas legislature really cares about the safety of abortions is debatable. Pro-choice people see the new law as going down the slippery slope to outlawing abortion in general, particularly since the new law will in effect result in closing clinics (it requires the doctor to have admitting privileges at the local hospital, but does not require the hospital to extend admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions; a lot don't). And similar laws in other states have been struck down on Constitutional grounds because no actual medical reason was shown. Certainly many who voted for the bill are on record as saying Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

    Pro-choice people think that the Texas legislature actually cared more about punishing women than about saving the unborn. I don't think that's true (at least mostly) but I can see how they might come to that conclusion. A good way of finding out is to see whether those legislators also 1) support better prenatal care and 2) support measures that will decrease unwanted pregnancies.

  23. captcrisis, you are right that there is a deep fear in the feminists and others that they may not have the ability to kill their children at some point. The fear, the truly irrational fear, of not having access to killing one's own child is a whole other issue. What is the object of the fear? A child. From a Christian perspective, who hates a little child so much that he must be destroyed at all costs? That person, hopefully, will be the subject of my next post.

    You said:
    It's no answer to say that you should save both, because it's a forced-answer exercise. In real life one does have to make tough choices, and we should be wary of people (whether self-identified as feminist or not) who reject forced-choice exercises by saying that women have a different way of looking at things.

    But see, since it's a Catholic blog, I have to speak in Catholic terms, in moral terms. One may never choose evil. Period. So, the only choice would be not to make a choice to do evil. To do nothing. If a choice is really "forced", then it would require coercion to such a degree (even someone else moving the person's limbs for them), that the culpability would be zero. It would be the sin of the coercer, not the person whose will (and limbs) were overtaken. So you could say there are two choices, and I could respond that there are two evil choice, but no moral choice.

  24. I am a huge groupie of Fr. Tad Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., the bioethicist, so I emailed him this morning to find the article that JoAnna found before Fr. Tad replied. I hope you (captcrisis) and Copezio enjoyed that article, and I'd love to hear the reaction to his logic. The article begins:

    One argument that is often made to justify destroying human embryos begins like this:

    Suppose there is a fire in a fertility clinic. You are the only adult present, and there is a newborn baby and a tank of liquid nitrogen with 5,000 frozen embryos in the clinic. You can save only one of them before the place burns down -- which would you choose?

    Only the most passionate and radical extremist, so the argument goes, would save the container with the embryos instead of the newborn baby. This seems to demonstrate what advocates of embryonic stem cell research have been saying all along, namely, that everybody makes a moral distinction between embryos and children, and that killing embryos cannot be on the same moral level as killing children. Embryo destruction, they conclude, poses no real moral problem if they are killed for research to benefit others.

    Yet it is clear that this argument fails to justify what it proposes.

    We can see this by modifying the storyline slightly. Imagine three beautiful baby sisters who were just born, lying together and sleeping in the same hospital bed. The father of these girls is in the waiting room down the hall. In another bed next to the girls is their mother, unconscious and recuperating from surgery. The father is the only person in the hospital ward, when suddenly a massive fire flares up. He runs down the hallway to rescue his family, but he can only choose one bed to roll out of the ward before the fire completely engulfs the room and makes it impossible to rescue anyone else. If he chooses to rescue his wife, rather than his three daughters, does that mean there is a moral distinction between his daughters and his wife? Does that in any way imply that he would accept the idea of his daughters being experimented on by researchers or sacrificed for science? Certainly not — such a conclusion would never follow from his action. The fact that he chose to save his wife would not indicate that he valued his three daughters any less than his wife, or that he viewed them as being “less human” than his wife. It might rather indicate that because he had spent a lot of time with his wife over the years, he was more emotionally attached to her, knew the sound of her voice, and on a first emotional level responded to his lifelong friendship with her. It says nothing about how valuable his daughters really are, even to their own dad. For the case of the embryos who might get left behind, the same is true: rescuing the infant says nothing about the embryos’ intrinsic worth and dignity, because the rescuer may first be reacting to what is most familiar to him, namely, the newborn baby.

    The rest is here:

    Also, he linked to the following interview:

  25. As an amateur musicologist the video is facinating. Notice her style of dress. Shes wearing pants with a belt buckle and a sweater vest thus hiding her curves. Her hair isnt long or styled that was typical of the 70s. In other words shes doing what ive seen from many feminist musical women of previous generations do: take on male traits. Wouldnt the video evoke something different if she was wearing say a dress and flowers in her hair? We women are definately embryos in asserting women can be both feminine and strong. Thats what i take from the lyrics.

  26. Deltaflute, yes, that's quite right! The attempt to take on male traits, avoiding feminine "stereotypes", and yet the lyrics themselves seem to imply that there is a difference between men and women ("as I spread my lovin' arms across the land"). It's an acknowledgement that we have a feminine genius (h/t Blessed JPII), and it's a gift to share with the world. Why would we want to be men? If these feminists love their womanhood so much, why do they want to take on the very traits of the sex they have called the oppressor? But there's an irony, too (now I'm just stream-of-consciousness babbling), in that the oppressed often becomes the oppressor. Women were right to fight for their rights and dignity to the extend that oppression by men was occurring, but the oppressed then forgot the point of the battle, and became the oppressors themselves, this time against their own children! They did not become more like women, more like their own nature (which should be celebrated!) but they became brutalizers, not only denying (and seemingly loathing) their own sex, but also their very own biology and their own offspring. It's like there are massive blinders on.

  27. rescuing the infant says nothing about the embryos’ intrinsic worth and dignity, because the rescuer may first be reacting to what is most familiar to him, namely, the newborn baby.

    Exactly. The fact that a person's choice, in this circumstance, would demand that he/she choose quickly how to best help the people/persons in that situation cannot be applied beyond the immediate crisis, and it certainly can't be used to claim the person in the crisis endorses killing anyone (embryo or not).

  28. Leila@ You sound like a musicologist. We have swung from one extreme to the other. Now we try to effiminate men. I have 2 boys and im horribly afraid that they will be told that rough and tumble is bad or they're only cute little lady killers/ men or they cant speak for their own unborn children. Its awful. I totally like having the vote and right to property but not at the expense of my husband's or children's rights.

  29. @leila

    Fr. Tad has pretty much the same view as I do. The natural tendency is to save the baby because you don't "know" the embryo. It doesn't necessarily mean that the embryo is worth less. It needs a uterus to implant into, or it will die, but you could just as well say that an unborn child in a uterus needs the mother's nourishment, or it will die, and a newborn needs nursing or it will die, etc.

    Catholic thinking on this still has to be worked out. In church-history terms, it's a new issue. No one knew about this sperm and egg business until the 19th century. The mammalian ovum wasn't discovered until 1829. Before that, they only knew that a penis ejaculated inside a vagina (at certain times of the month, the result was more likely), the woman missed her next period, and about 6 weeks later she felt something moving inside her ("quickening"). Even within that framework, Catholic theologians went back and forth as to whether the unborn baby was an actual human being (i.e., the "ensoulment" debate).

    So what about embryos that are formed via normal intercourse, but don't implant and die? Should medical procedures be pursued to keep this from happening (just as nowadays people who would have died can now be kept alive through extraordinary means)? Do embryos have a soul? Should a funeral be held if they don't implant? Are they considered to be "baptized in effect"? Are they in limbo? Why would they be in any different a situation than embryos that do implant and result in miscarriages?

  30. "Even within that framework, Catholic theologians went back and forth as to whether the unborn baby was an actual human being (i.e., the "ensoulment" debate)"

    And yet, even then, it was never morally permitted to kill the unborn. So, the academic exercise is nice and even elucidating, but there is no change in the moral law with regard to killing the unborn, nor will there be. Therefore, the questions of ensoulment, funerals, where they go after death, how far to go to save the embryo, etc., will not affect the moral question of if we may willfully kill them. We may not.

  31. You know what else is interesting about this song? She references her soul as well:

    ...'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul…

    I daresay, there is no feminist anthem today that would do such a thing! All this talk of embryos and souls, ha ha! One might think it's a Catholic song. ;)

  32. And while I'm at it….

    Why, if there is no difference between men and women, is the song not entitled I Am Human (or Humyn)? Truly, I thought that the only difference between men and women is incidental genitals (as we've been told by commenters on this blog numerous times)? Was she singing about only her reproductive organs?

    Of course, I think the answer is that back then, we still at least acknowledged that women are essentially different from men. How far we have fallen since 1972, even though the decline had begun.

  33. @leila

    I think you're reading too much into the song. This is Helen Reddy, not Simeon the Stylite.

  34. @captcrisis- actually thats what musicology is. We look into the lyrics and place it in the social context of the time it was written. Leila's not doing anything extraordinary or different than a musicologist. Although we would also include instrumentation and compositional style in the analysis. All music including chant is important in understanding humans as social beings. The arts are an expression of humanity.

  35. My unfinished thesis actually was looking a French women composers of the late 19 th early 20 th c when female composers were gaining ground. I studied France because compared to the rest of Europe they were behind in women's rights. No universal vote until 1940. One of the women had unacknowledged children and dressed like a man but did something unthinkable wrote operas. The other dressed like a little boy. Fascinating stuff really.

  36. Deltaflute, fascinating! I am clueless when it comes to music theory or the history of music, etc. I'd make a horrible musicologist for real, but I am so flattered that you said that, ha ha! So your moniker has to do with your musicology? I'd love to hear more!

    captcrisis, I guess you didn't notice my "ha ha"s or my winky emoticon. I obviously am not taking the song too seriously (just a read of the OP could tell you that!), but I do take the themes of feminism very seriously, and find it all very interesting, how it's played out, even since Reddy's song (which would never be written by feminists today!).

  37. Hi. When I clicked on the video early this morning, listening to the song put me in a good mood.

    Yes, Leila, I think it is meaningful that the word embryo is in the song. I get the point you were trying to make.

    As far as that silly question, embryos aren't suppose to be in a petri dish. They belong in the womb, so I'm like "What's the embryo doing in the petri dish?" Well, I know, but my first reaction was the embryo - oh never mind.

    And who is so big and strong they are carrying a middle-age person? I guess a fireman, but a fireman would just pass off either the adult or the baby to someone else in his department. That's why the firemen and paramedics show up in groups,

  38. Lena, those last two paragraphs cracked me up! Amen, sister.

  39. @Leila i graduated from delta state university with a bme (bach of music ed). Went onto uofaz for mm in musicology but never finished my thesis. Decided that academic politics is not for me. My husband is the academic. He has a phd in planetary science from uofaz. And now we're packing to move to canada from tempe. He has a new job at western u of ontario. Ive met your cohort joanna in real life.

    Sorry for all the net speak. Packing sucks the vigor out of me.

  40. Deltaflute, email me!

  41. Friend one: children are nothing but heartbreak.

    Friend two (with knowledge of all the abortions near and dear): Oh what glorious heartbreak could have been.

    I think it is worth it to shed a tear for the children who died too soon.

  42. "Therefore, the questions of ensoulment, funerals, where they go after death, how far to go to save the embryo, etc., will not affect the moral question of if we may willfully kill them. We may not."

    But is this a crime? or just an infraction? Is it like killing an animal? or a human being? The Church has been of several minds about it. Aquinas thought it was like killing an animal -- until "ensoulment", which by the way according to him happened later for girls than for boys. The timeline was a matter for debate, a debate which was carried out with what by our standards was a crude degree of knowledge (and remember, no mothers were allowed to join in) and much superstition.

    I don't think many women who have an abortion feel good about it. It's something that was necessary (in their view). Like killing an animal is at times, unfortunately. Despite some rhetoric from pro-choice folks, I think this is still the case.

  43. Captcrisis- I have never met a woman who agreed her abortion was necessary in the long term. I realize that is only my experience but I think it is significant enough to advise against such a heinous act.

  44. As brilliant as Thomas Aquinas was (and I love the saint!), he was neither a 21st century scientist, nor the Magisterium. So, it's not important if in the 13th century theologian didn't know what we know now. He knew enough to know what the Church has always taught (and which is all we need to know to make sure we are not out of friendship with God): Killing the unborn is a mortal sin. Hardly an "infraction", then or now.

    I don't think many women who have an abortion feel good about it. It's something that was necessary (in their view).

    To be honest, most abortions are coerced (usually by the girl's mother, or by the woman's cad of a boyfriend/husband). So, I wouldn't even say that most think it was necessary. However, I think you could argue that all grave sin (killing, sexual sin, theft, rejection of God, etc.) is "justified" as "necessary" or "good" by the person who sins, no? Don't we all claim we really "had" to do it? That we had no better option, or that this was what was good for us?

  45. I never could understand how any feminism could be legit without embracing non-violence towards all innocent people. After all, how many women have been violently treated at the hands of bad men? Treating our own children as property to destroy when and how we see fit isn't any different than a man who thinks he has the right to treat "his woman" the same way.

  46. "As brilliant as Thomas Aquinas was (and I love the saint!), he was neither a 21st century scientist, nor the Magisterium."

    Indeed. Since the time of Galileo, the Church has reversed itself on science and now takes its findings into account in applying teaching or doctrine (or teaching) (or doctrine). With the abortion issue science is decidedly the Church's friend. The more we know about the early unborn child, the more it seems human. In a 2009 article in New York Magazine entitled "Just How Pro-Choice Is America", by Jill Stanek, the author goes over the most recent prenatal findings and points out, "Generally, science is the friend of progressive political causes. Not this one."

  47. Reversed on science? Galileo proposed a theory. He wasnt the only one. He also said the sun was the center of the universe which today we know is untrue. Galileo ran into political problems but even the pope supported his proposition of the theory. Its not a cut and dry case of reversal on science.

  48. Thanks Deltaflute, Galileo is one of those stories long ago oversimplified and parroted to enforce anti science narrative of the church.

  49. The Church doesn't make declarations regarding science. That's not Her job. Deltaflute is absolutely correct - to say She had a "reversal" is inaccurate. Copernicus was also a Catholic and the Church had no issues with his findings and theories because he (unlike Galileo) didn't present them in such a way to insist that Scripture was false.

  50. Also want to add that various members of the Church have proposed numerous theories without issue. Mendel father of modern genetics....Fr. Georges Lemaitre Big bang theory.

    Heres a list.

    Its a bit insulting to Catholics that we're anti science or reverse our ideas when Popes have at various times been patrons. Not to mention all the Vatican observatories and collections of meteorites. Its just plain ignorant.

  51. Haven't heard that song in ages. I didn't remember the "embryo" part, either.

  52. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. @delaflute

      Several popes have now admitted that Galileo should have been allowed to print and teach his theory that the earth revolved around the Sun. Why can't you?

      The Inquisition threatened Galileo with torture and forced him to recant. He had to stay under house arrest for the rest of his life. The Church's official finding was that the heliocentric view was against Scripture. If you're going to take a literalist view of the Bible, then you are being antiscience. Other scientists were tortured and, in the case of Bruno, burned at the stake. Fortunately the Catholic Church learned its lesson and moved away from the literalist view.

  53. captcrisis, I always wonder when someone brings up and misrepresents the Galileo incident as a way to paint the Church as anti-science. Yep, we are anti-science all right:

  54. For a long time, Catholics were not allowed to believe that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Any science book that was heliocentric was automatically placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

    But no longer. In the modern era the Catholic Church has embraced science, has allowed it into the room, when issuing teaching and even when formulating doctrine. The idea that life begins at conception is the example I gave, a doctrine that came into being (some centuries after Aquinas) when science discovered the mechanism of conception.

    Of course the Church also recognizes that some applications of science are unethical. It's not alone in that view; a lot of people, from both right and left, were and are opposed to atomic weapons, cloning humans, etc. My point above was that science is on the Church's side on some issues. It also allows the Church to escape some of the crueler consequences of its own doctrines. For example, the prohibition on impotent men marrying, no matter how much the couple loves each other and love God. In the old days impotence was thought to be (quite literally) a curse. For some reason God did not want this man to have sex. Nowadays the Church recognizes it is a medical or psychological matter, and that with treatment, some day that penis might get hard and ejaculate. So the marriage is allowed. We can probably think of other examples too.

    1. For the sake of clarification, what are you calling the "modern era"? Can you put dates with that?

    2. It looks like the 18th century was when the Church turned around. That's when it finally took Copernicus's (and Galileo's) work off the Index of Forbidden Books.

      There was probably a geopolitical dimension to this change. The Papacy had a lot of temporal power (both direct and indirect) and it could not have escaped their notice that Protestant countries were taking over the globe and Catholic empires (the Spanish, the French, and the Italian hegemony of the Mediterranean) were receding in importance. Also, heliocentrism was clearly correct. Placing the Sun at the center, and observing the motions and gravitational forces between the planets, made possible the advances of Kepler, Newton, etc., and made possible advances in mechanics and the Industrial Revolution. Such progress can only the be result of free inquiry, where scientists can conduct experiments and publish their findings, to be tested and either proven or disproven by other scientists. To its credit, I don't think the Catholic Church has a problem with this, nor has it for two hundred or more years.

  55. And yet, captcrisis, you haven't posted any evidence to support your accusations, whereas those who disagree with your historical perspective have posted evidence to support theirs.

    If the Church "banned" heliocentrism as you claim, why was Copernicus' research regarded heliocentrism funded by the Church, and why was he honored for it by the Church?

  56. Captcrisis, this is the perfect example of why we are talking past each other and where you are going wrong:

    The idea that life begins at conception is the example I gave, a doctrine that came into being (some centuries after Aquinas) when science discovered the mechanism of conception.

    "Life begins at conception" is not a Catholic doctrine, it's a scientific fact! The relevant doctrine is: "Thou shalt not murder." And even before science discovered and confirmed the fact that the unborn is human, the Church was teaching that one may not kill the unborn (ensoulment or not). So, the Church has not changed her doctrine on the evil of abortion.

    As for impotence, the Church has not changed her teaching there, either. If a man cannot consummate a marriage, then he cannot marry (otherwise they only have a friendship, really). The ability to perform the marital act has always been required for marriage. Even the secular authorities will annul a civil marriage for non-consummation. If you are trying to say that "love" is the only basis of marriage (or that it's absolutely essential to it), then you are contradicting everything we've ever known about marriage, and you have redefined it, not the Church. If "love" (a romantic feeling?) is essential, then you are saying that all the consensual arranged marriage throughout history and even today are invalid (my grandparents were never married?). Are you willing to say that?

    The fact that modern medicine has allowed some formerly impotent men to consummate is a good thing! The Church is happy when any disorder is treated effectively by science, as long as the treatments fall within the moral law and are not unethical. We like things being restored to right order.

  57. Leila - Absolutely capital comment!

    "Captcrisis, this is the perfect example of why we are talking past each other and where you are going wrong..."

    I see this ALL THE TIME: people criticizing the Catholic church for things that we do not even believe! THANK YOU.

  58. Leila said
    . If "love" (a romantic feeling?) is essential, then you are saying that all the consensual arranged marriage throughout history and even today are invalid (my grandparents were never married?). Are you willing to say that?


    My grandparents were consensually arranged . Married 58 years, 5 kids, 18 grandkids, 59 great grandkids. 7 great great grand kids. Yeah, that counts!

    " do you love me? .... You're a fool!"

  59. And your original question " isn't it ironic that that word embryo is used in this song.?" Yes! Absolutely bizarre, crazy, whacko, nuts " that" word was used in "that" song. Like so much surrounding that sureal event in history when we denied our own humanity, it's truly ironic and odd. I finally got my wife's jaw off the floor after 10 minutes of heavy lifting.

  60. Captcrisis- are you a scientist or a historian? Because you havr no idea what you are talking about. My husband is a planetary scientist and i was a music history major. Galileo got into hot water because he proposed a theory and then without any authority to do so attempted to apply it to scripture. He refused to listen to his patron the pope. He ended up making enemies.

    BTW theories arent the same as laws. They are plausible but not necessarily law. At the time he had a theory about the sun. It was later proved to be only half correct. Our universe does not revolve around the sun. Rather than being open to debate like science is supposed to be, G ignored everyone elses opinion. Today thats like saying you've performed an experiment and gotten x result but then refuse to put your data in a peer reviewed journal or worse refuse to disclose your methods so they can be duplicated. Natually people wondered what Gs motivations were. Did they handle his obstinace well. No. But thats not the same as being anti science.

  61. Oh and nice straw man attack there. I'm not a biblical literalist. I believe in evolution. I live with a scientist.

    Science is not a religion. It sets out to show the workings of the natural world and at times all humans can do is offer conjecture based on the data. Thats why scientists duplicate experiments or apply new techniques or talk. Its not perfect. Only God is. Hes there where science leaves off. Science and religion are not incompatible. They are complimentary.

  62. Let me beat a dead horse for a second....

    My husband has a boss. Hubby collects data and thinks it means x and could also mean y. He runs this by his boss who in addition to paying hubby will also have his name literally put on the paper as a co author. Boss with more experience agrees about x but not so sure about y. Tells him leave y out of paper.

    My husband ignores his boss. He publishes both thus angers his boss and ends up jobless.

    This scenario happens today but is also the jest of what happened to Galileo. So does that mean my husband's boss is anti science or the Church is? No. Just that my husband and Galileo forgot where their pay check was coming from.

    1. Oh and my husband would never do something that dumb. Hed run another experiment either in duplication or using another technique. That is if his boss or some other funder allowed it. This is the normal course of science. My husband did end up switching advisers and projects as a phd candidate because he believed his adviser was wrong about an experiment. Saved face so to speak.

  63. Deltaflute, really great points, with a fresh analogy!

    Captcrisis, thoughts?

  64. Delaflute is saying that 1) the Church was right, and Galileo was wrong, about the Sun or Earth being at the center ("X" v. "Y"), and 2) Galileo was wrong to continue to insist that the Sun was at the center ("he forgot where his paycheck was coming from"). Unless I'm misunderstanding, you have a disagreement with Pius VII, who took Copernicus off the Index of Forbidden Books in 1830, and John Paul II, who reversed the Inquisition's finding as to heliocentrism being "in conflict with Scripture" in 1992. JP II endorsed the finding of his Pontifical Academy of Science, which admitted that Galileo was "more perceptive" in his understanding of Scripture (i.e., that it was not meant to describe literal physical fact) than the cardinals who imposed sentence on him.

    This is a case of being "more Catholic than the Pope".

    Leila, delaflute, I know you're loyal Catholics, and are dedicated to supporting the Church as it goes through the centuries and confronts the difficult questions raised by changing times. Apologetic is a difficult task, especially when you are brave enough to open your ears to opposing views. I also enjoy this blog and in the short time I've been reading it I've been encouraged to do a lot of research and found out things that either I didn't know or had forgotten (for example, that Copernicus at first had a friendly reception in the Church). But you can't put yourself in the position of supporting everything the Church does, or has ever done.

  65. "But you can't put yourself in the position of supporting everything the Church does, or has ever done."

    Captcrisis, forgive me, but that is the kind of line that makes me nuts. I in no way "support everything the Church does, or has ever done." Please, where are you getting that? We have talked often here about how much and how often people in the Church, including leaders, sin. And that there have always been elements of corruption in the human dimension of the Church. So, your comment just makes me want to (politely) scream. ;)

    Since you are a new-ish reader of the blog, maybe these posts will help clarify some things for you, about how the Church operates:

    But that fact that you (still apparently) don't even understand the difference between scientific findings and the Deposit of Faith makes me think we continue to talk past each other.

  66. O.K., but you are continuing to hold a position as to Galileo that the Church itself no longer holds, on an issue that no serious person outside of the Flat Earth Society thinks is debatable any more.

  67. Captcrisis- 1) wrong! Galieo said the sun was the center of the solar system AND the universe. He was only half right. Science had proved that the sun is the center of the solar system but the sun and our solar system has been proven to NOT be the center of the universe. The Church never took an official position. And as far as I know doesnt take official positions on matters of science.

    2) wrong. He was wrong about not listening and being in dialogue with other voices on matters of theology and science. One can posture any theoretical position like evolution or creationism but until scientific advances improve one still needs to listen to voices of descent particularly ones with more experience and knowledge than you. People think science is black and white but cutting edge science is more gray. You have data and then give an opinion about what it means in relation to what's happened before you. All my husband's papers start talking about other people's research.

    Did I ever say the Church was perfect in its dealings with Galileo? No. In fact what I said was they could have handled it better. As far as the science....if this was an alchemist or some othe psuedo-science I dont imagine that you'd be up in arms about what the Church said. You're looking at the events through a 21st century lense knowing what is now fact and fiction. At the time noone was completely sure of anything. It was highly arogant of Galileo to block out the other voices and highly unscientific.

  68. Captcrisis- about the boss thing. Science doesnt just happen unless you have a source of funding. Scientists for better or worse have always had to defer. My husband cant just do or say whatever he wants. Outsiders seem to think science is free of bias and its just simply is not free.

  69. Galileo thought the Sun was the center of the universe. At the time they didn't know about galaxies. I suppose if he took into account galaxies (a concept which was 150 years in the future) you would say he neglected quarks and string theory.

    He was prohibited from publishing, and condemned to house arrest for the rest of his life, because his findings were "contrary to Scripture". If I was thus condemned by Church authorities, I'd certainly consider that to be an "official Church position". And Copernicus was placed on the Index.

    And I just can't buy delaflute's statement that one's findings must always conform to the beliefs of the entity funding the research. We are getting into some undesirable parallels here!

    These arguments are beginning to remind me of the contortions American Communists used to go through to "justify" or "explain" Soviet abuses.

    I don't think there's anything new to be exchanged here. I look forward to leila's next post though . . . !

  70. Captcrisis, the Church does not hold to any particular scientific understanding and claim it as part of the Deposit of Faith. That is why, for example, the Church has never insisted that the Creation story be taken literally (six-day creation), even in the earliest centuries.

    My next post should be interesting, if I ever get around to it, ha ha!

  71. Captcrisis- finally! Thats what I've been saying all along. He had debatable theories based on what was known. When he decided to apply his debatable theory to scripture he went beyond his scope. Naturally the Church didn't want him to publish something highly debatable with the support of the Church. They went too far in his arrest but not so far in surpressing what was again highly debatable almost heretical.

    As for modern science let me give you the long version...

    My husband's current boss is funded by NASA; his new boss is funded by a mining company. To get funding one must propose a project. The entity can choose not to fund your project. They can also stop funding it. You can always try to keep the project going but without money to pay to use the equipment or permission from the owner/ runner of said equipment you cant do anything. And in my husband's case he has to get samples. That also requires permission and or money.

    Say my husband has a project. Barring no problems with data collection he runs his experiment. He gets data. He then writes a paper and then gives a position of what he thinks it means.

    Now here's the part you dont like. His more experienced boss disagrees. So all he can do is publish the data because yes the rest is debatable. Same with peer review papers. They may be rejected as has been in my husband's case. Now good scientists govern themselves and leave themselves open to good ideas. But this is how science works. You just cant do whatever it is you want or the community frowns on you.

  72. This is why people get into debates about vaccines and gmos. The research is funded by Merk and Monsanto. There's no peer review or over sight. The power struggle or debate is held among the public and these two big entities.

    People who think science is all pure are believing in unicorns. Unless you have peer reviewed research or duplicated experiments there is no guarentee that the data is being interpreted correctly. As my husband science in the short term is wrong but in the long term is right or close to. Thats why we can now say the sun is the center of the solar system.

  73. Deltaflute. Interesting points you make, I would like to comment on a couple of points, perhaps to further the discussion.
    My own belief is that science has emerged from our God given ability to arrive at means to rationalise about His creation, and all the phenomena, physical or social, which it produces for us. Science is a methodology. I also believe that evolution is real, very real (though not in some of the fanciful and meaningless ways some scientists believe it is). I mean, if you read about it how can you not be amazed by the elegance, and the appropriateness of fit to the God's Earth and everything that lives on it. Why wouldn't God use evolution as His tool? What else is a greater Act than commanding randomness?
    As for the politics of science, my own view is that ethical standards, among which is striving for objectivity and neutrality (though these can never be fully achieved) is as important as the methodology and peer review process. Otherwise it becomes scientism. I am not saying that your husband engages in it, from what you're saying, I am sure he doesn't.

  74. There is another irony related to the Reddy song inasmuch as the message contained in the lyrics have been adopted by pro-life women. Reddy says: If I have to/I can face anything/I am strong/I am invincible/I am woman

    Upon reflection, what woman who has adopted this mantra should expect any man to take much interest in protecting her and/or her offspring? Relating to the question of the conception of a child, and the father's role in it, he would reasonably say, "She freely chose intimacy with me, and pregnancy resulted; but a strong and invincible woman is able to deal with this on her own. She being so strong and invincible, I would be simply meddling to get involved with what is her problem."

    For my part, I do not take seriously Helen Reddy, or any woman who attaches herself to the ideology of that song in any way. I am not willing to say to my wife (hypothetically, mind you, as I'm pretty sure she thinks the song ridiculous herself) "Honey, you say you are strong, wise, invincible, not able to be kept down. Sounds like you can pretty much take care of yourself, so from here on out, I relinquish any responsibility for you." Not to take women seriously in this way is the only way I know to remain consistent and with integrity on this matter.

  75. Bucky, absolutely… I agree that the song is not perfect, from a pro-life perspective! I am sure that the song is not trying to make a statement about abortion, so that is not so troubling to me, but I get your point, for sure.

    1. Leila,

      Thank you for your generous response. I suppose we may end up being quite in disagreement about this, but I'd say that the song not only is imperfect, but is driven by a philosophy that works against the gospel of life. Women, by virtue of their particularly relational and dependent natures, show all of humanity its need to depend upon God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. When women refuse this dependent role, and live as boldly independent (which is really only an illusion, a charade after all) all of humanity loses a vital teacher of how we are to relate as dependent creatures to our Creator. The philosophy behind Reddy's song smashes this idea of woman as teacher in how to be dependent upon God. In addition, it foments a war between the sexes, between women and men, that is, "brothers" who just don't understand.

  76. John, you won't find anyone more sympathetic than I when it comes to not wanting to foment a war between the sexes. I love men, and the "gender wars" make me ill. I also am with you as far as the lie of independence. We are made (all of us, really) to be dependent on others and on God. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. But I think we must on some level also look around and see that on the whole, the world of men has not been totally kind and protective of women. To the extent that women have been mistreated, and badly, by men in the past, this song speaks to that. For example, I can champion the rise of women (and their independence from evil men) in places like Afghanistan, Iran, etc. The brutality and suppression of women is fierce. We never had that level of oppression here in the US I don't believe (unless girls were routinely assaulted with acid when they tried to walk to school), but there was a domination that was unhealthy. Interestingly, as a woman of Middle Eastern descent, I see that Christian women in Arab countries are freer and more respected than their counterparts either in the Muslim Arab world or the atheist regimes around the world. Christianity liberates women! In the right ways.

    1. Thanks again. Sorry for the confusion in the handle. Both the previous comments by "Bucky Inky" and by "John" are mine.

      I'm still trying to figure out what I think on this matter of particular oppression of women by men throughout history, so my thoughts there are not complete. I am not at all certain (and in fact quite doubtful) that history is in any way a story of the particular oppression by men of women, at least not without a reciprocation by women. This seems too much to follow a Marxist narrative to be trustworthy to me. Have men mistreated women throughout history? Of course, and being men, and sinful ones, we should not be surprised to see them sinning in particularly "sinful man" ways, which would include especially a sinfulness in his relationship with woman (in a way that a woman is not capable of sinning, even if she wanted to). But then this story is not complete without mention of the "sinful woman" ways that women throughout history have also sinned, in particular in her relationship with man, and that in ways in which men are not capable for their part, even if they wanted to.

      As to generalities of relationships between the sexes, I'm inclined to agree with a saying that I have heard in my readings, and I paraphrase: Everywhere, and at all times throughout history the men and women of any given society deserve each other.

  77. I felt my last comment a little incomplete, and perhaps bordering on plagiarism without leaving a reference, which I actually could easily find, to the "saying that I have heard in my readings." I first encountered it in a mock Q & A forum online here. The whole entry is worth reading, and probably does a much better job of summarizing my thinking as pertaining to what you write, Leila, here.

  78. John, I do agree with you that there is no systematic "patriarchy" designed to keep women (who are all pure, all good!) shackled. You are right, and I think you would like the story of my friend Kim (a convert) who was a radical feminist and used to buy such malarky:

    "revisionist history at its finest" :)

    1. Thanks, I'll take a look, and thank you for entertaining my thoughts on your blog.

  79. John- I don't understand why those lines would upset you.

    Your example is a man saying "well it is her problem." Ummm, guys do that all the time. The kinda guy who would say "Well she said she's a woman hear me roar, so I don't have to be a dad" is the same guy who would find ANY reason not to live up to being a father.

    Are you really getting upset with a hypothetical woman saying "If you turn out to be a deadbeat dad, I will be okay. I will find a way to make this work because I am strong and I can handle this"?

    Do you want them to say "Ohhhhhh help me! I'm so scared." Trust me, plenty of women play that role to a T.....on purpose.....because they like manipulating men. It has nothing to do with their "dependent natures" it has to do with the fact they like feeling powerful. Nothing makes a girl feel more powerful than having big, strong, powerful male at her beck and call.

    The song is about a woman finding _her_ strength. Look at the lines right before the ones you took exception to:

    "I am wise/but it is wisdom born of pain/Yes, I've paid the price/but look at how much I've gained."

    Part of leaving childhood behind and becoming a woman worth her salt is learning you have to be tough and you have to be strong. Not just for your sake but for the sake of those depending on you.

    Strong women aren't a threat to men.

  80. Kat, you said:

    Your example is a man saying "well it is her problem." Ummm, guys do that all the time. The kinda guy who would say "Well she said she's a woman hear me roar, so I don't have to be a dad" is the same guy who would find ANY reason not to live up to being a father.

    I disagree. While there are some incorrigibles out there who would refuse responsibility in any situation, toward whom the best mode of operation is to avoid at pretty much any cost, this is true of very few men among the population. A much larger portion of the population of men are very influenced by what they perceive to be what women want; they are average when it comes to practicing virtue; they are principled in some things, but not very consistent; and they are likely to believe that, when a women says she doesn't need a man, she means it. It is a mistake, however, to conflate this "average" guy with the kind of guy who is chronically averse to responsibility. The "average" guy is influenced negatively by a women who repeats the Reddy philosophy: whereas he would otherwise consider his particular responsibility as a man toward a woman in matters of physical, spiritual, and emotional protection, the Reddy philosophy tells him that, by and large, women don't need this, don't really want it, and he concludes (reasonably so) why should he bother with something that causes him extra work anyways?

    Your other points are difficult to address (such as "Are you really getting upset with a hypothetical woman..." or "Strong women aren't a threat to men.") because I do not take the positions that you appear to ascribe to me. The difficulty is increased because we obviously have different ideals, such as having a very different idea of what a "strong woman" is.


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