How principled are opponents of scientific research?

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July 7 2006 2:48 PM

Stem Sellouts

How principled are opponents of scientific research?

Motivated in part by his own affliction from Parkinson's disease, Michael Kinsley's piece on "what pro-lifers are missing in the stem-cell debate" elicited a passionate response in Read Me.

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Rejecting Kinsley's straw man argument "that all or most opponents of such harvesting equate a microscopic embryo to an adult human life," RoboTombo instead draws a moral line "between producing embryos with the intent of destroying them (stem-cell research) and producing embroyos with the intent of producing a human life (fertility clinics)."

TheRanger notes a contradiction in Kinsley's "attempt to dehumanize the embryo. He vainly tries to couple sentience to the beginning of life while at the same time claiming that nobody can define when life begins." For skruuball, "those who oppose stem-cell research on the basis that life begins at conception" while praising the work of fertility clinics are the ones guilty of inconsistency, "as the number of embryos destroyed during the in-vitro process dwarfs the number that would be destroyed during the harvesting of stem cells. However, coming out against fertility treatments is not nearly as politically expedient."

In her opposition to the destruction of all embryos (even for ostensibly good causes), MaryMack3897 makes this broader claim: "Pro-choice proponents are really pro-self proponents. They do not endorse the practice of letting everyone make choices for themselves, because they support practices such as abortion, which prevent the formation of free-will from ever occuring."

Xando places "the burden of proof on supporters to prove that stem cell research is a valuable use of government funds." Criticizing the practical effect of such a position, lucymom contends that "blocking government funding … will stop many of the best scientists from doing this research. It is very difficult to conduct high level science with private funds for many reasons. Stopping public funds is a way to reduce the amount of research done and the opponents know it." engineer counters:

…if there is really a big payoff, wouldn't the private sector be investing in this as a cure for Parkinson's, nerve damage, etc.? I imagine Mr. Kinsley and other sufferers would gladly pay for a cure.

Stem cell science is at the basic stage and does not justify spending much public money. We lose many more people to heart disease, traffic accidents, drug addiction and mistakes in hospitals. Those areas are not very sexy, but have a large impact on public health.

The stem cell issue may end up like breast cancer, but with its own color ribbon. Lots of money will be spent with little reduction in the leading causes of death and sickness.

Speaking of public funds for stem-cell research, you can find out the latest on California's Institute of Regenerative Medicine (funded by voter-approved Prop. 71 in Nov. 2004) here. AC11:47am PDT

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Wednesday, July 3, 2006

One of the week's consistently smartest discussions has been taking place in The Highbrow Fray. Meghan O'Rourke started brains a-churning with her nuanced analysis of Linda Hirshman's Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World.

For many readers, the central point for debate is the definition of a "good" life. MutatisMutandis argues that Hirshman's argument is rooted in status quo feminism:

Despite any possible hullabaloo from the conservative side, in essence this is a Conservative position with a capital C, and not a radical one. It involves implicit acceptance that society will largely stand as it is, namely materialistic and careerist, and explicit acceptance of its norms: Only people who make (a lot of) money have really "valuable" lives. And therefore Hirshman requires that women do more to conform to the demands of this society; she is not set about changing society itself.

Carstonio speculates that "Hirshman is really a mole for anti-feminist groups."

Can one only change a careerist society by infusing its icy materialistic heart with humanist sentiment? seg makes a good argument that this is so:

Women may have entered the workforce, but corporatist culture has done little to accommodate the needs of the family in response. Maternity leaves are miniscule when given, and often result in demotion. Paternity leaves are nothing more than a joke—men do not have the choice to spend adequate time with their families. Clinton's family leave act was controversial, charged with "hurting business". Safe, affordable day care does not exist for most of the country's employees—and as I'll return to in a moment, day care for most is not a choice, but a necessity. Working hours in the United States grow longer, not shorter, leaving little time for our families.

In my opinion, it would be in everyone's best interest if this culture could change—men, women, and certainly children. But if the culture is going to change, then somebody is going to have to force it to bend. When women opt out of the work force, they strip themselves of the economic power to make demands. Why should corporations listen to us if we're not of some value? Only by staying in the work force can we earn real power, And have a fighting chance to really create family values.

What are the moral hazards of pursuing material success? rundeep provides a stark illustration of ambition's conflict with idealism:

To act as if women have not made significant strides in the professions and in business in the last 20 years is just plain unrealistic. But here's another nasty little fact: women are often the biggest stumbling block to other women in the workforce. "You wanted your babies, now you stay home with them" is something I have heard from people who would otherwise happily declare themselves feminists. Or it's more insidious. A good friend of mine, ostensibly a decent person, objected when women at her firm elected to tack their four-week vacation onto her 12 week paid maternity leave. She led a fight to force these employees to take vacation at some other time during the year because it was intended to reward work and not motherhood. So I wouldn't be so complacent about "women encouraging women" in the workplace, especially if one-half of them are moms and the others aren't. Indeed, if Hirshman were the CEO, do you have any doubt that she would fail to promote women who elected to spend "too much time" at home.

For a truly galling anecdote of professionalized misogyny between women, check out candoxx's testimonial account. But nixie_watervixen notes one way in which women who don't work professionally subtly demean their professional counterparts:

I think that women who accept jobs and school spaces and plan to leave before they enter these schools and the prestigious jobs right after them, are doing a major disservice to the women in this country. They are reinforcing the idea that women are not to be seriously considered for demanding, high-powered careers because it is unlikely that they will stick with those careers anyway.

If women should be redoubling their ascent of the corporate ladder, several despondent men seem to be on the verge of hurling themselves off. TJA writes:

I'll tell you right now, having a choice IS liberating. How do I know? I am a man. I HAVE no choice. I feel limited and imprisoned. Society tells me I must work and can never take time from SUPPORTING my family in order to BE with my family. I would LOVE to have this choice that the feminists so easily dismiss as a mirage.

Several writers offer insights to illuminate the caste bias behind the valorization of success. tkropp notes that most people "have been firmly ingrained since [childhood] that a person's duty was to family first." A female attorney, whits, observes her husband's career pains from staying at home, concluding "insisting that women work 'for the good of equality' is both short-sighted and ignores the fact that this is a stay-at-home parent problem."

Might work-force feminism ask more of some women than they are prepared to bear? BZL presents with symptoms:

How would this author counsel a woman who, like me, lied in bed sleepless at night hating her place in the all-empowering "corporate" world, starting to imagine herself like a little squirrel on a wheel. And how did I get myself into that endless pit to begin with? By believing crap like this, that it was more important to pretend I was happy in the corporate world rather than develop my own less financially rewarding interests.

She might find a sympathetic physician in lyn_vla, who reports: "I will be taking a year off next year after residency and may never reach my career potential, but I am exhausted and will happily put my own needs and those of my family above the cause of feminism."

Probably the best summary of the anecdotal arguments' abstract implication comes from jeejee:

There's not a lot of room for the success of the type of feminism O'Rourke is fawning over. Are feminists really going to convince women to abandon their preferences/choices and overcome their sense of obligation to their families... all in service to some abstract idea that doesn't seem to be much in favor anyway? Will women really sacrifice their choices only so future mothers are denied an option they themselves appreciate? Not in a million years.

In fact, the most common philosophical objection to Hirshman's position seems to come from the classical liberal view that only personal autonomy can secure the collective good. ElbowRuum, autonomous ideologue, argues:

The only kind of feminism is the "choice" variety. What Hirschman is pissy about is that feminism empowers individual woman to have choices in how and why to live their lives where that choice didn't exist before. What it ISN'T for is to turn females into a unified bloc, which consequently is where her vitriol comes from against the stay-at-home moms.

For a grab bag of other great posts, I recommend Bromba's financial analysis of day care for low earners and littlelawyergirl's questionable analysis of welfare's fiscal advantages. Houdini has an intriguing insight about increasing longevity's role in this debate. Ravnwing offers a historical survey, positing that the discussion of women in the workforce only makes sense in the context of a vanishing deviation from "the historical norm for women to work." I also recommend  this excellent post from srcichterstl, showing how alienating the entire discourse of choice can be for those of us living accidental lives.

If you're looking for something to do between World Cup matches this weekend, you should definitely spend some time in The Highbrow Fray. GA 4:30pm PDT

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Barbara Ehrenreich and Jason Furman's weeklong epistolary exchange on the morality and economics of Wal-Mart's labor policies generated passionate debate.

Human contemplates a "perfect liberal dream" scenario in which "Walmart arbitrarily decided to increase their worker's pay by $2 an hour … funded by a voluntary pay cut by top management" and the attendant consequences:


Say a Wal-Mart worker has been taking some classes and learning some new skills. This guy was making $7.50 an hour before the arbitrary Wal-Mart pay increase, now he's making $9.50. He sees a job opportunity that is slightly more skilled than his current one, a job in which he can use his newly learned abilities--but this job only pays $8.50 an hour. Perhaps it's a job in a small business who's owners can't afford to simply give away free wage increases.

So the guy continues working at Wal-Mart. The $8.50 job goes unfilled, a casualty to the Wal-Mart job that is only worth $7.50 but is overpaid at $9.50.

Society loses that $1.00 an hour of extra value that would have come from the job switch. In other words, the more skilled job that would have provided more benefit to society is lost to the less skilled job.

But the problems don't stop there. Now consider a new entry to the workforce who is willing to work for 7.50. If Wal-Mart hadn't arbitrarily raised wages, that extra-skilled guy would've left and the new worker could have taken his place. But they did, so she loses a job opportunity…

Capitalism is a good system because it is an efficient system. When everyone works for their value, no more and no less, the total wealth of society goes up. Yes, there are problems. Wal-Mart workers should be able to live better lives. But these problems are best solved by government acting as much outside the economic system as possible, not by big business arbitrarily raising wages.

run75441 has this rebuttal: "Walmart make it a point of underpaying and directs its workers to medicaid and other welfare programs to make up the difference. Society loses more than a $1 and it pays $3 per hour to subsidize Wal-Mart employees with benefits unpaid by Wal-Mart. Don't you agree? Why should I subsidize Wal-Mart?"

Martin_Straub points out as a practical matter that pay increases are not at the whim of management but up to shareholders and concludes with this caveat: "The idea of punishing the most successful company is extremely counter-productive. It shrinks the whole pie."

Having "been one of the working poor all my life," Sewells1951 thinks that the so-called progressive agenda, aimed at "making life better for the working poor … for 40 years now," is in need of rethinking:

How long are we supposed to wait for Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society to pan out? Instead of making things better for the working poor, what it has yielded is health care that only the affluent can afford and a wealth distribution curve that is growing more skewed every day.

Theory is indispensable but at some point one has to pay attention to the exprimental results and when they aren't what one's theory predicted then one simply must recognize that one's theory needs revision.

For amykate, a missing point in the debate is location, location, location:

People from cities often don't understand this, but those in rural areas have nowhere else to buy things, low cost or otherwise. Walmart has succeeded because it puts stores in places that need both places to buy things and jobs for workers. Many towns are thrilled to have any jobs at all and low prices are a bonus.

I live in a small town (around 10,000) surrounded by hamlets so small they don't even rate dots on a map. The nearest mall is 35+ minutes away. If I want groceries or painting supplies or a ceramic elephant, I buy them at Walmart because there are few, if any, other places to buy it. I would love to rail against the dominion of box stores or about how Walmart is driving down wages, but can't because I'm too happy that I can buy what I need without making a 3 hour sojourn across the state line and that a few hundred people in my town have jobs.

On a related note, Sibyl_Vane wonders what will happen to Wal-Mart's "market share as the diffusion of technology and knowledge allows rural Americans to purchase goods off the internet instead of relying solely on the Wal-Mart store that serves 3 counties."

For a fascinating article on the influence of Ozark culture and its "brutal hill-country society" on the present-day corporation, read Simon Head's 2004 article from The New York Review of Books. AC ... 6:09pm PDT

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

In Best of the Fray, switters has produced a parodic masterpiece capturing the essence of Fray life and culture. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Slate, it seemed worthy of reprinting here in its entirety, with one modification: the neologism Enterfraynment Tonight© has been provisionally trademarked. Here goes:

Ready for "the new look"? Didn't think so.

With a new makeover for Slate comes a new makeover for The Fray. Sassy, hip, fresh, "phat" boards. And we here at Enterfraynment Tonight© couldn't be more excited about them. So here's a sneak peek at some of the things on tap for Slate's loyal readers, and our "new blood".

Reality Roundup, focusing on today's most important reality television shows, will be linked to articles reviewing, recapping and re-inventing reality as we know it, at least on our TVs. Good times!

Obituarfray will help regulars keep track of who's dead but still manages to find time to post, and help make our new readers aware of the fact that some people here (most?) are truly troubled.

Go Fuck Yourself will tackle everyday life encounters with grass roots issues that really hit hard on the home front and come out smelling fresh on the other side.

Quake 3 Frayrena will be a one-on-one venue for flaming, complete with play-by-play "sidebars" by the editorial staff who announce the winners after all the spittle has settled.

I Write The Songs That Make The Whole World Puke, dedicated solely to the creepily insane army of Barry Manilow fans, or "Fanilows", will allow you to make fun of him and them. [!!!Warning!!! Extreme density of earworm prevalence makes this board highly volatile, and the editorial staff highly recommends blasting Led Zeppelin's epic Presence whilst visiting.]

Vanity Not Fair, dedicated solely to the creepily insane army of Vanity Fair fans, or "Fair Weather Friends" (ourselves here at EFrayT included), will allow you to make fun of it and them. One special feature of this board will be links to pictures, say, of Dominick Dunne's head on Kate Moss's body, and the like. Let the hilarity ensue!

Issues surrounding today's parents will be highlighted in Hey Dumbass!, a new board where readers can explore the problems of kids having to grow up too fast, or not at all, and why the little brats have such an acute sense of entitlement not seen since the civil rights movement.

Shoot&Scoot, utilizing our patented new Censorizor™ software, will allow only "eom" posts. The soul of wit may be brevity, but a well-timed "drive-by" has been known to take out more than a few innocent bystanders.

Hegel And Bagels will feature a weekly Monday morning breakfast breakdown of Germany's favorite omni-cosmologist, not to mention purple onions, cherry tomatoes, cream cheese and salmon! It's BYOBagel, though.

We're really excited about The Yammering Cunt, which, through the magic of our other patented new software program, ScourMate3000™, will earmark posts made by the "challenged" amongst us, yank them out of the other boards, and place them all in one convenient location for us to pour over and enjoy for days on end, and really feel better about ourselves.

The Golden Age will give old-schoolers a home to relive their glory days of yore, when The Fray didn't suck. Cross pollinated with Nursing Home Nabobs, this should help keep the fast-moving boards free from the clutter of thoughtfulness, and hopefully will cut down on the intellectual incontinence of spammers. (Speaking of which…)

Cut&Waste, using a technology similar to that of ScourMate3000™ called ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZap!™, automatically, well, "zaps" posts that are little more than copied articles on other internet fora, usually msnbc.com, thus eliminating the much unnecessary middleman. Hey, isn't that what we're after: a clean Slate?

Gay Jew Central, Slate's foray into all things conspiratorial, will cover everything from the latest trends in fashion, banking, and what it's really like controlling the course of world events from a hermetically sealed killer 3 bedroom/2 bath "apartment" deep within the core of our planet, earth. We're hoping GJC will make The X-Files look like The Parent Trap (the original, with Hayley Mills) and help reveal the anti-semite in all of us.

Dickhead, which, it turns out, you can say on National Public Radio, which Bob Garfield of On The Media did three weeks ago, will be devoted to discussing NPR personalities, their hobbies, and various and sundry Ann Taylor soup recipes. (Speaking of which…)

What's For Supper? will be devoted to castigating France for being French with a zealousness heretofore not seen on these boards. But know that there will probably be no shortage of references to that one movie, The Freedom Connection, or that other movie, The Freedom Lieutenant's Woman, or to the lovable character on the old Brian Keith TV show Family Affair, "Mr. Freedom" [www.eyeonsoaps.com]. Viva la Freedom sur la Marche! (Speaking of which…)

Go Play In Traffic won't be so much a board as it will a complicated system of links and portals that will open up dozens of hardcore porn windows just as your boss walks by. Oops!

Be on the lookout for Regulation Hottie Retard Smackdown, the board to which posts made to an article stupidly linked to the "front page" of msn.com are redirected, posts which are summarily heckled to within inches of their lives by the likes of fraybabes rundeep, bright_virago, et al. Don't get it? Okay. Say poor Troy Patterson, Slate's go-to TV guy (and a great writer to boot) has the unfortunate assignment of writing about the upcoming Beverly Hills 90210 Reunion Show. Some nimrod editor links it on the msm.com front page, and faster than you can say, "Try thinking with your mouth closed," every idiotic retard with a modem is posting anything and everything that crosses his or her walnut sized brain. E.g. "I better Melrose like than Code now even more with Jason Prester have logs on yummy hair"; "BRING IT BACK FOR GOOD!!! BEST SHOW EVER YES!!!"; "blothle snork taff mulket lurbie…" &c., and on. You just want to shake these people. And that's the beauty of it. You don't have to. What you can do is sit back enjoy the show when deep and bright do the smacking for us. Thanks, lovely ladies!

Meat Locker. This one's a standalone. We're just gonna see where it goes with a name like that. We're hoping it creates the same sort of confusion Heavy Petting did when we launched that board. Hot stuff!

Then there's Yahtzee, about board games. In every sense you want to interpret that.

And, of course, swittersville, Population: Funny! (note that I'm the only one who gets italics in his/her title), a new board linked to my flagship column about all things southern – with lots of racism, bigotry and profanity.

But we don't want to give away too many secrets!

Yes, we here at Enterfraynment Tonight© are pretty dagnabbed excited about Slate's, and The Fray's, new look. You should be, too. Because when things get "a new look", it usually means that they're "taking something off the menu" that you really liked.

In the words of topazz, "we're not worthy." Contribute your ideas (legitimate or otherwise) for a Fray face-lift here (for BOTF-eligible) or in Slate's 10th Anniversary Fray. AC12:51pm PDT

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Reactions to Apple's latest spot, reviewed by Seth Stevenson, brought out strong feelings of operating-system partisanship and rivalry.

This, despite the fact that the distinction between Macs and PCs has diminished somewhat with the former's adoption of the Intel processor, as carmen2u points out. Au contraire, saysmelvil: "new Windows that may be available by this time next year (after they beta test it on a million suckers) will be a slavish imitation of OSX." 

PasadenaJake summarizes the shortcomings of Apple's ad in this way:

Apple plays to their stereotype while turning off the corporate buyer, me. This campaign gives me no reason why I should have the technical department switch wholesale to Macs. Sure, Windows can be installed on Macs, but I've got a guy who installed OS X on a PC and without having to turn it off and on to run the other OS. Show me a Mac that can do that. Show me a Mac that can run cost-efficiently in the corporate world. Show me a Mac used by somebody you would want to hire. IOW, do not show me the smug, unshaved, yesterday's clothes wearing Justin Long telling me about the PCs of eight years ago.

Self-appointed MacAdvisor rises to PJ's challenge and makes a plug for Parallels Desktop, which "can have both Mac OS X 10.4 and Windows running at the same time, switchable between both, with copy and paste functioning. It is far superior to Bootcamp from Apple." To show how serious he is, MacAdvisor is willing to quit his current job "with two-weeks notice" and offer tech support services exclusively. Interested parties can respond here.

While noting that Macs are already the environment of choice for advertising, graphics, and publishing, -Isonomist says that their appeal for everyone else is primarily cultural, not technological:

Mac users are in love with the iconoclast idea, though, and that's where the new campaign comes in. This is the Big Brother campaign of the 21st century: more subtle, less brash, but the same message: only doped up clones would do the PC thing, and hip folks are on Macs. Preaching to the choir, yeah, sort of. But when I see writer friends showing off their new iMac (or insert any Apple product), which is (for them) basically going to serve as a word processor (it may as well be a Lanier) and maybe a DVD on the plane, some Internet porn downloads, what have you-- I can only think that whatever Apple thinks it's doing, people are digging it.

For Rhonda25555, Apple's mean-spirited campaign backfires completely, as "these ads only cement my allegiance to the PC more firmly. A serious miscalculation on Apple's part: when they designed these ads they created a likable underdog, forgetting that people like to root for the underdog."

Shokanso pointedly disagrees with Stevenson's grade of C:

The beauty of the spots is that they're NOT mean spirited. The Windows guy isn't a villian. He's a nice guy, but he's a bit nerdy. He's a buttoned-up business guy (maybe because 99% of businesses are running Windows?) The Mac guy is all about cool media stuff (music, photos, videos) because Apple has spectacularly simple, elegant applications for these.

The Mac brand is young, hip and fashionable. The PC brand is... oh wait, there isn't one.

I think an ad that makes its point brilliantly, no sets, no effects and no product shots whatsoever, is worth an A, not a C.

Where computer malfunction is involved, NeoModerateRevolution and Isonomist reduce the Mac vs. PC debate to a choice between "the spinning wheel of death" and the "frozen screen of death," respectively.

Take sides in Ad Report CardAC11:50pm PDT

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sometimes, what's good for the Fray is very hard on your poor Fray editor. Emily Yoffe's provocative article on the parenthood debates, "My Mommy War," generated hundreds of responses. Even more daunting, the level of discussion in our Hey Wait Fray has been higher than any I've seen before. Apparently, almost everyone has been either a parent or not—and nearly all have something lucid and interesting to say about it. This synopsis can barely scratch the surface of the great material in our Hey Wait Fray.

Many readers of the original controversial Dear Prudence column kept their criticism focused on a procedural point—that it is inappropriate for an advice columnist to disregard the premises of a letter-writer's complaint. Gilker_Kimmel writes:

I am a father of two. [...]. I love my kids dearly and have loved being a father from the first breath they took. But that didn't touch my decision to have a vasectomy shortly after my second child was born. [...]

Even at that, we have had to endure the same stupid pressure to reproduce that originally sparked the letter. People who do not wish to have children, shouldn't. They shouldn't be pressured, they shouldn't be cajoled, they shouldn't be urged. Period.

It's true that the letter writer was asking for advise - on how to deal with egregiously rude advise. That doesn't open the door for heaping on additional egregiously rude advise.

But does rude advice call for rude response? Reader j_snare shares his polite correspondence with Yoffe:

I was one of the people that did write to Emily. [...] Emily was overly thankful for the tone of my response, based on her words and tone in her reply back to me. What I was able to gather was that a huge number of people were terribly rude. She didn't agree that my wife and I shouldn't have kids, but she also didn't press the issue. The way she phrased it, I was happy that we could agree to disagree. [...]

So come on people, cut her some slack. Emily is a human being with real feelings. If you want to send her a hurtful note, keep in mind that she may be getting hundreds of such notes, and that getting such a strong response can be somewhat upsetting, especially considering the volume. Keep the tone civil and respectful, and I assure you she will do the same.

Many readers seem to find the topic of parenthood quite personal (go figure). The Fray abounds with testimonials of the precious antics of toddlers and the accomplishments of the childless. But, as wif notes, personal experience makes for a poor rhetorical tool in such discussions:

Without hesitation, I can say that having children is the best thing I have done in my life. I am all for reinforcing and encouraging people who need it to take the step. But what's great about the experience cannot be conveyed in short, simple anecdotes which often grate like cell phone ring tones. It is a series of small often forgettable, often unnoticed details and psychological repositionings that add up to a rich, full life. In miniature it requires the talents of a poet. Expanded, it takes the sensitivity of a novelist.

Like kolmogorov,who finds evangelizing the childless "like trying to convince someone that life-after death is better than life—just follow me across the threshold on faith," many readers express frustration at their inability to persuade the childless that a change of mind will lead to a positive experience. But, as with lee63, many of those who have opted not to breed resent the idea that they are ignorant of what they've forsaken:

I was angry by the response Prudence provided because I know how it feels to have EVERYONE second guess my decision. I don't understand why people think the decision to not have children is this sudden thing that came about with no thought. Sometimes I think I'll scream if I hear one more person tell me I can adopt, or tell me a story about a 45+ women who had a baby. I know what's available out there, but I also know me and having a child is not the right thing for me. When someone goes on and on about why I should have kids, it's the same as coming out and saying "you are wrong" and I find that offensive. I say hats off to all the parents in the world AND to all those who will not have children. There are ups and downs either way.

Some posters make a valiant effort to shift the discussion into a more neutral gear. rufus thinks the whole debate is pretty bizarre:

There is a middle ground between loftily deriding childraising as a mountain of diapers and insisting on its being an extremely expensive exercise in providing only the best and purest to an extension of oneself. It is actually possible to take it easy, push a baby around in a ratty old stroller, avoid worrying about the purity of every particle that comes into the baby's airspace, and not spend every night worrying about whether Junior will make it into Harvard. The child often enough ends up healthy, without allergies to every earthly substance, and relatively free of neuroses. [...] The whole Breeder/Proud Singles problem is pretty exclusively American, perhaps a product of everybody's need to justify exactly why they've chosen their way of life. But who really asked for a justification?

switters, who is pretty bizarre, captures a central irony of the whole debate:

Having children today could quite possibly be the most pure, unadulterated form of optimism, hope, and belief in our inherent goodness, and, in another sense, the closest we approach the divine in all of us. Or it could just be a broken rubber. Jury's still out.

For many other posters, the debate over child-rearing is political. 3dogs suggests licensing parents. Jaque argues that those without children should  pay more to society. By contrast, yerevan believes he's subsidizing middle-class brats:

People who have had children should not place the burden of their personal choices on the rest of us. We should not have to work overtime because they want to go to a kid's school play. We should not have to pay extra to cover their family's health insurance. And if people get rebates from taxes to pay for private schools for their kids, then singles should get a rebate as well for having NO kids in the public school system. [...]

I'll be damned if I should support the personal lifestyle of the middle classes. You want the kid - then pay for the kid - with your time and money.

One of the stranger lines of argument is that parents must breed their politics into the next generation. Chauncy writes:

My wife and I are not "mindless breeders" We are educated, well-traveled, and involved in the community. Those that would judge me for having children remind me of the morality police from the right wing. Just because the decision to remain childless is not based on the Bible does not make it any less offensive to impose your beliefs on the rest of society. [...]

[Besides]; who is going to carry on the fight against environmental destruction and conservatism if the Republicans are reproducing like mad and the self righteous left quits making babies? I'm not saying that you should have kids just to win a few seats in congress, but political opinions are shaped in the formative years just like anything else. The world isn't going to get less lousy if you let the other side have all the kids and shape the values of our young people.

Xando finds such talk  patently silly:

I can't tell you whether or not you should have children. But I can tell you that if your list of reasons for not having children contains silliness like social policy analysis, you need to seriously reconsider how you're making such decisions.

There are also many threads that elude easy categorization, such as the parenting insights of Caromer:

I agree somewhat with the characterization of us reproducers as breeding morons. Why do we do it? Because we are programmed to do it. For the future, not for us. For our children.

Children are one of the creations that people put their lives and hearts into; art, the house, a love affair, a piece of carpentry or music. But unlike those things, which are made to have some purpose defined and centered around you, the creation of a child is mainly a gift of life to the child. So, the motivations of the creator are secondary. That is why reproduction is truly selfless and somewhat moronic. Sane people do not create things unless they have a purpose to them. The main beneficiary of a child is not the self, but the child. Sure, there are joys, but there is heartache too. There may be another hand to work on the fields, but there's two more mouths to feed; the child and the pregnant spouse. And the child does not serve the parent. It's a constant one way pouring of effort.

If you have the time, you should check out some of the other excellent posts in the Hey Wait FrayGA 2:30am EDT

Adam Christian is co-editor of the Fray.

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Dec. 18 2014 4:49 PM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 17 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked a middle school principal about his workday.