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Which is your favourite of the ST?

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What is your favourite?

Total votes : 54

Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby Mornche Geddick » 28 Dec 2008, 17:07

After having read that article I can say one thing: she's got her ecology wrong:
Dr Janet Smith wrote:The good news is that the food supply is wildly better off than Malthus ever dreamed. The United States could quite easily feed the rest of the globe. It's not a problem. Modern agricultural techniques have exponentially increased our food supply. And they say we haven't even begun to mine the ocean for food. And as for limited mineral resources, Malthus thought we would certainly run out of coal and copper and precious metals, but we actually have more coal and more copper now per person on the globe than Malthus thought we had at his time. We've discovered more resources and we need them less, because we have discovered such sources of energy as atomic energy.
About the modern agricultural techniques. From the late 1940s onwards, the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, new irrigation techniques and new high crop varieties caused yields to soar up to five times what they were. Unfortunately the process can't be repeated. You can only industrialise your agricultural system once. You can go on trying to breed higher-yield crops and developing more efficient irrigation systems (like drip irrigation) but eventually you run into a law of diminishing returns.

Without going into the other problems of industrial agriculture I have to mention the most important one: it depends on oil. The pesticides (like plastics) are mainly synthesised from oil hydrocarbons, and the chemical processes which produce the nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers are powered by burning oil. And oil production is likely to peak soon (2020, the experts consider). The problem of 21st century farming will not be how to increase our food supply, but how to keep the supplies we've got.

(There's still 300 years' worth of coal, but coal has its own problems, being much harder to extract, a worse polluter than oil and a source of acid rain which...damages crops.)

And they say we haven't even begun to mine the ocean for food.
We're not so much mining the oceans for food as strip-mining them. Many ocean fish stocks are in worse shape than our oil supply, thanks to decades of over-fishing, and environmental damage due to such practices as bottom trawling and the use of miles-long drift nets.

We've discovered more resources and we need them less, because we have discovered such sources of energy as atomic energy.
Oh dear. Forget the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear reactor meltdown, or the problem of storing used-up but still dangerous uranium rods, uranium for nuclear fusion is in limited supply. And we still have not been able to develop nuclear fusion as a viable power source.

So, after this serious error in reasoning I did not feel terribly confident in trusting the rest of her argument, either her evidence or her conclusions. A positive correlation between the overall divorce rate and the use of contraception in western society does not prove a cause and effect relationship between the two factors. What's more, in some studies of women in the developing world (reported by Family Health International), contraceptive use by individual women is negatively correlated with divorce. The use of contraceptives was actually improving the stability of marriage!
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby moogdroog » 28 Dec 2008, 18:11

Thanks for the information, Mornche :) (unusual name - may I ask the origin?)

I'm interested in what you said, and I think it is very relevant to considering the decreasing and increasing of a population. Could you point me towards further links so I can do more research?

I don't intend to get into a debate over this, although I realise I'm joining in on the tail-end of one. My point was only to provide a link to a Catholic viewpoint which I thought went through the various emotional and moral factors associated with using contraception in a kind of introductory, easy-to-understand fashion. I'm no expert on agricultural techniques, and I daresay Dr. Smith isn't either - I think her point is that we are able to sustain a growing population. There are techniques, there are resources - the key is managing them, just as you say. I think what she is saying is very relevant in terms of the content and message, although I'm sure there are areas to disagree on in terms of what kind of resources we can use in 2008/9 and beyond that.

Furthermore, the western world doesn't have the necessary birth rate for society to replace the elderly and retired in the workforce. Socially, we need more children. There's no getting around that fact. If you consider the vast amounts of wealth wasted in other areas by governments, I'm certain the wealth of the western world would manage to find ways to preserve, manage and develop new resources for the most important thing we can offer for the preservation of the human race - our children.

However, I'd be interested to know what you think of her other correlations - the emotional impact on marriages for example, or perhaps the consideration that contraception has contributed to a culture in which sex has been divorced from its emotional and physical impacts, which has contributed to an exponential increase in teenage pregnancy rate, abortion rate, STI rise, sexual coercion, women treated more as (the phrase is a cliché now!) sex objects.

Or - without this sounding like a 'call to arms' challenge - does the fact that you disagree with some of information on food resources render the consideration of all her other points invalid for you? This is what I'm getting from your post. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Or, in order to keep on topic: what about considering what Dr Smith says in the context of Jane Studdock and THS?
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby Mornche Geddick » 29 Dec 2008, 19:01

moogdroog wrote:Thanks for the information, Mornche :) (unusual name - may I ask the origin?)
It's my username on the ZBB, and derives from a conlang posted on that website.

I'm interested in what you said, and I think it is very relevant to considering the decreasing and increasing of a population. Could you point me towards further links so I can do more research?
The subject is vast. But for a good introduction to the topics of climate change, pollution and agriculture you can search the New Scientist website, which often has articles which explain the topics in a popular way for non-specialists. For example this article and its linked pages debates possible ways to increase agricultural yields, and this one discusses our civilisation's dependence on oil. For intelligent articles by an environmental campaigner, see George Monbiot's website. Some of the books reviewed in New Scientist and Scientific American may be available in your local library, or you may be able to use a service such as Inter Library Loans.

However, I'd be interested to know what you think of her other correlations - the emotional impact on marriages for example, or perhaps the consideration that contraception has contributed to a culture in which sex has been divorced from its emotional and physical impacts, which has contributed to an exponential increase in teenage pregnancy rate, abortion rate, STI rise, sexual coercion, women treated more as (the phrase is a cliché now!) sex objects.
I could go into detail about all the individual problems listed, but instead I'll discuss the overall picture. Correlation is the key term here; it is the argument Dr Smith mainly relies on, and it provides the key point of my reply.

Positive correlation refers to the observation of two phenomena observed to increase at the same time: i.e. reaction rate and temperature, day length and plant growth, rabbit population and fox population, price of rum and the salaries of Presbyterian ministers in Massacheusetts, urbanisation of China and the distance between Europe and America. Some of my examples, you will notice, are due to a direct relationship, where one factor causes the other. Other correlations indicate a third factor (the price of rum and the ministers' wages both being due to global increase in prosperity). And yet others don't indicate any relationship at all. The Mid-Atlantic ridge will go on adding ocean floor long after China's urban population has plateaued.

I cannot repeat this enough: correlation does not imply cause. For example, when Dr Smith claims that sexual vice and contraceptive use are positively correlated, even if her claim is verified, she has still not proved that the one causes the other. Contraceptive use might be a result of sexual vice instead of a cause, or it might be a minor factor, unable to cause sexual vice on its own.

In fact, there is good reason to suppose that sexual vice was a major social problem long before efficient contraceptives were invented. In the early 1900s, physicians were claiming that nearly three quarters of men were infected with STIs! Without believing them (they were probably sincere, but statistical science was in its infancy) we can be sure that STIs were a major public health hazard, especially to any woman who might unwittingly marry a man infected with syphilis. Moreover, prostitutes today often do not have access to any contraception, even condoms. They are trapped in prostitution by other factors; drug addiction, pimps, or simply a lack of skills makes them unemployable.

I would not place much reliance on Dr Smith's anecdotal accounts of marriage among her patients and friends unless a variety of non-Catholic and secular sources - magazines, Agony Aunt pages - were also reporting similar ones. But the best sources of information would be epidemiology surveys reported in the medical and psychiatric journals.

To prove that contraceptive use is a cause of marriage breakdown, you would need to demonstrate that individual couples who use contraceptives are more likely to split up than those who don't - and you would need to correct for other possible causes, such as alcohol abuse, or commuting. Research that has been done, for example by the Family Health International suggests that the opposite may be the case.

Or - without this sounding like a 'call to arms' challenge - does the fact that you disagree with some of information on food resources render the consideration of all her other points invalid for you? This is what I'm getting from your post. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Not a call to arms at all - on the contrary I congratulate you on your calm and thoughtful reply - such a rarity in net postings! But I must say, while her ignorant remarks about the Earth's resources don't automatically invalidate her other points, they do suggest her intellectual standards are rather low.

It may be unfair to mention this, but one of her remarks frankly horrified me.
But if most every woman is contracepting, then most every woman is available in a certain sense and there is no real reason to say no. [My italics].
Honour, faithfulness, and decency aren't real reasons? Love for your husband and the desire not to break his heart isn't good enough? Does she think women only stay on the straight and narrow through fear?

P.S. I shot my bolt about Jane Studdock and THS earlier in this discussion, although I didn't mention contraception.

P.P.S. This social scientist she mentions, Robert Michael, may need a post to himself. But his inferences may be invalid, for the reasons I gave above. Incidentally, if he has evidence it should be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and Dr Smith ought to give us journal title, volume and page numbers, so we can check it.
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby rusmeister » 02 Jan 2009, 01:34

This is a great response to "birth-control" (and we have all been indoctrinated into accepting that euphemism as normal): ... m_B.C.html

Social Reform versus Birth Control

The real history of the world is full of the queerest cases of notions that have turned clean head-over-heels and completely contradicted themselves. The last example is an extraordinary notion that what is called Birth Control is a social reform that goes along with other social reforms favoured by progressive people.

It is rather like saying that cutting off King Charles' head was one of the most elegant of the Cavalier fashions in hair-dressing. It is like saying that decapitation is an advance on dentistry. It may or may not be right to cut off the King's head; it may or may not be right to cut off your own head when you have the toothache. But anybody ought to be able to see that if we once simplify things by head cutting we can do without hair-cutting; that it will be needless to practise dentistry on the dead or philanthropy on the unborn--or the unbegotten. So it is not a provision for our descendants to say that the destruction of our descendants will render it unnecessary to provide them with anything. It may be that it is only destruction in the sense of negation; and it may be that few of our descendants may be allowed to survive. But it is obvious that the negation is a piece of mere pessimism, opposing itself to the more optimistic notion that something can be done for the whole family of man. Nor is it surprising to anybody who can think, to discover that this is exactly what really happened.

The story began with Godwin, the friend of Shelley, and the founder of so many of the social hopes that are called revolutionary. Whatever we think of his theory in detail, he certainly filled the more generous youth of his time with that thirst for social justice and equality which is the inspiration of Socialism and other ideals. What is even more gratifying, he filled the wealthy old men of his time with pressing and enduring terror, and about three-quarters of the talk of Tories and Whigs of that time consists of sophistries and excuses invented to patch up a corrupt compromise of oligarchy against the appeal to fraternity and fundamental humanity made by men like Godwin and Shelley.

Malthus: An answer to Godwin

The old oligarchs would use any tool against the new democrats; and one day it was their dismal good luck to get hold of a tool called Malthus. Malthus wrote avowedly and admittedly an answer to Godwin. His whole dreary book was only intended to be an answer to Godwin. Whereas Godwin was trying to show that humanity might be made happier and more humane, Malthus was trying to show that humanity could never by any possibility be made happier or more humane. The argument he used was this: that if the starving man were made tolerably free or fairly prosperous, he would marry and have a number of children, and there would not be food for all. The inference was, evidently, that he must be left to starve. The point about the increase of children he fortified by a fantastically mathematical formula about geometrical progression, which any living human being can dearly see is inapplicable to any living thing. Nothing depending on the human will can proceed by geometrical progression, and population certainly does not proceed by anything of the sort.

But the point is here, that Malthus meant his argument as an argument against all social reform. He never thought of using it as anything else, except an argument against all social reform. Nobody else ever thought in those more logical days of using it as anything but an argument against social reform. Malthus even used it as an argument against the ancient habit of human charity. He warned people against any generosity in the giving of alms. His theory was always thrown as cold water on any proposal to give the poor man property or a better status. Such is the noble story of the birth of Birth Control.

The only difference is this: that the old capitalists were more sincere and more scientific, while the modem capitalists are more hypocritical and more hazy. The rich man of l850 used it in theory for the oppression of the poor. The rich man of 1927 will only use it in practice for the oppression of the poor. Being incapable of theory, being indeed incapable of thought, he can only deal in two things: what he calls practicality and what I call sentimentality. Not being so much of a man as Malthus, he cannot bear to be a pessimist, so he becomes a sentimentalist. He mixes up this old plain brutal idea (that the poor must be forbidden to breed) with a lot of slipshod and sickly social ideals and promises which are flatly incompatible with it. But he is after all a practical man, and he will be quite as brutal as his forbears when it comes to practice. And the practical upshot of the whole thing is plain enough. If he can prevent his servants from having families, he need not support those families. Why the devil should he?

A Simple Test

If anybody doubts that this is the very simple motive, let him test it by the very simple statements made by the various Birth-Controllers like the Dean of St. Paul's. They never do say that we suffer from a too bountiful supply of bankers or that cosmopolitan financiers must not have such large families. They do not say that the fashionable throng at Ascot wants thinning, or that it is desirable to decimate the people dining at the Ritz or the Savoy. Though, Lord knows, if ever a thing human could look like a sub-human jungle, with tropical flowers and very poisonous weeds, it is the rich crowd that assembles in a modern Americanized hotel.

But the Birth-Controllers have not the smallest desire to control that jungle. It is much too dangerous a jungle to touch. It contains tigers. They never do talk about a danger from the comfortable classes, even from a more respectable section of the comfortable classes. The Gloomy Dean is not gloomy about there being too many Dukes; and naturally not about there being too many Deans. He is not primarily annoyed with a politician for having a whole population of poor relations, though places and public salaries have to be found for all the relations. Political Economy means that everybody except politicians must be economical.

The Birth-Controller does not bother about all these things, for the perfectly simple reason that it is not such people that he wants to control. What he wants to control is the populace, and he practically says so. He always insists that a workman has no right to have so many children, or that a slum is perilous because it is producing so many children. The question he dreads is "Why has not the workman a better wage? Why has not the slum family a better house?" His way of escaping from it is to suggest, not a larger house but a smaller family. The landlord or the employer says in his hearty and handsome fashion: "You really cannot expect me to deprive myself of my money. But I will make a sacrifice, I will deprive myself of your children."

One of a Class

Meanwhile, as the Malthusian attack on democratic hopes slowly stiffened and strengthened all the reactionary resistance to reform in this country, other forces were already in the field. I may remark in passing that Malthus, and his sophistry against all social reform, did not stand alone. It was one of a whole class of scientific excuses invented by the rich as reasons for denying justice to the poor, especially when the old superstitious glamour about kings and nobles had faded in the nineteenth century. One was talking about the Iron Laws of Political Economy, and pretending that somebody had proved somewhere, with figures on a slate, that injustice is incurable. Another was a mass of brutal nonsense about Darwinism and a struggle for life, in which the devil must catch the hindmost. As a fact it was struggle for wealth, in which the devil generally catches the foremost. They all had the character of an attempt to twist the new tool of science to make it a weapon for the old tyranny of money.

But these forces, though powerful in a diseased industrial plutocracy. were not the only forces even in the nineteenth century. Towards the end of that century, especially on the Continent, there was another movement going on, notably among Christian Socialists and those called Catholic Democrats and others. There is no space to describe it here; its interest lies in being the exact reversal of the order of argument used by the Malthusian and the Birth-Controller. This movement was not content with the test of what is called a Living Wage. It insisted specially on what it preferred to call a Family Wage. In other words, it maintained that no wage is just or adequate unless it does envisage and cover the man, not only considered as an individual, but as the father of a normal and reasonably numerous family. This sort of movement is the true contrary of Birth Control and both will probably grow until they come into some tremendous controversial collision. It amuses me to reflect on that big coming battle, and to remember that the more my opponents practise Birth Control, the fewer there will be of them to fight us on that day.

The Conflict

What I cannot get my opponents in this matter to see, in the strange mental confusion that covers the question, is the perfectly simple fact that these two claims, whatever else they are, are contrary claims. At the very beginning of the whole discussion stands the elementary fact that limiting families is a reason for lowering wages and not a reason for raising them. You may like the limitation for other reasons, as you may dislike it for other reasons. You may drag the discussion off to entirely different questions, such as, whether wives in normal homes are slaves. You may compromise out of consideration for the employer or for some other reason, and meet him half-way by taking half a loaf or having half a family. But the claims are in principle opposite. It is the whole truth in that theory of the class war about which the newspapers talk such nonsense. The full claim of the poor would be to have what they considered a full-sized family. If you cut this down to suit wages you make a concession to fit the capitalist conditions. The practical application I shall mention in a moment; I am talking now about the primary logical contradiction. If the two methods can be carried out, they can be carried out so as to contradict and exclude each other. One has no need of the other; one can dispense with or destroy the other. If you can make the wage larger, there is no need to make the family smaller. If you can make the family small, there is no need to make the wage larger. Anyone may judge which the ruling capitalist will probably prefer to do. But if he does one, he need not do the other.

There is of course a great deal more to be said. I have dealt with only one feature of Birth Control--its exceedingly unpleasant origin. I said it was purely capitalist and reactionary; I venture to say I have proved it was entirely capitalist and reactionary. But there are many other aspects of this evil thing. It is unclean in the light of the instincts; it is unnatural in relation to the affections; it is part of a general attempt to run the populace on a routine of quack medicine and smelly science; it is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands; it is ignorant of the very existence of real households where prudence comes by free-will and agreement. It has all those aspects, and many of them would be extraordinarily interesting to discuss. But in order not to occupy too much space, I will take as a text nothing more than the title.

A Piece of Humbug

The very name of "Birth Control" is a piece of pure humbug. It is one of those blatant euphemisms used in the headlines of the Trust Press. It is like "Tariff Reform." It is like "Free Labour." It is meant to mean nothing, that it may mean anything, and especially some thing totally different from what it says. Everybody believes in birth control, and nearly everybody has exercised some control over the conditions of birth. People do not get married as somnambulists or have children in their sleep. But throughout numberless ages and nations, the normal and real birth control is called self control. If anybody says it cannot is possibly work, I say it does. In many classes, in many countries where these quack nostrums are unknown, populations of free men have remained within reasonable limits by sound traditions of thrift and responsibility. In so far as there is a local evil of excess, it comes with all other evils from the squalor and despair of our decaying industrialism. But the thing the capitalist newspapers call birth control is not control at all. It is the idea that people should be, in one respect, completely and utterly uncontrolled, so long as they can evade everything in the function that is positive and creative, and intelligent and worthy of a free man. It is a name given to a succession of different expedients, (the one that was used last is always described as having been dreadfully dangerous) by which it is possible to filch the pleasure belonging to a natural process while violently and unnaturally thwarting the process itself.

The nearest and most respectable parallel would be that of the Roman epicure, who took emetics at intervals all day so that he might eat five or six luxurious dinners daily. Now any man's common sense, unclouded by newspaper science and long words, will tell him at once that an operation like that of the epicures is likely in the long run even to be bad for his digestion and pretty certain to be bad for his character. Men left to themselves gave sense enough to know when a habit obviously savours of perversion and peril. And if it were the fashion in fashionable circles to call the Roman expedient by the name of "Diet Control," and to talk about it in a lofty fashion as merely "the improvement of life and the service of life" (as if it meant no more than the mastery of man over his meals), we should take the liberty of calling it cant and saying that it had no relation to the reality in debate.

The Mistake

The fact is, I think, that I am in revolt against the conditions of industrial capitalism and the advocates of Birth Control are in revolt against the conditions of human life. What their spokesmen can possibly mean by saying that I wage a "class war against mothers" must remain a matter of speculation. If they mean that I do the unpardonable wrong to mothers of thinking they will wish to continue to be mothers, even in a society of greater economic justice and civic equality, then I think they are perfectly right. I doubt whether mothers could escape from motherhood into Socialism. But the advocates of Birth Control seem to want some of them to escape from it into capitalism. They seem to express a sympathy with those who prefer "the right to earn outside the home" or (in other words) the right to be a wage-slave and work under the orders of a total stranger because he happens to be a richer man. By what conceivable contortions of twisted thought this ever came to be considered a freer condition than that of companionship with the man she has herself freely accepted, I never could for the life of me make out. The only sense I can make of it is that the proletarian work, though obviously more senile and subordinate than the parental, is so far safer and more irresponsible because it is not parental. I can easily believe that there are some people who do prefer working in a factory to working in a family; for there are always some people who prefer slavery to freedom, and who especially prefer being governed to governing someone else. But I think their quarrel with motherhood is not like mine, a quarrel with inhuman conditions, but simply a quarrel with life. Given an attempt to escape from the nature of things, and I can well believe that it might lead at last to something like "the nursery school for our children staffed by other mothers and single women of expert training."

I will add nothing to that ghastly picture, beyond speculating pleasantly about the world in which women cannot manage their own children but can manage each other's.
But I think it indicates an abyss between natural and unnatural arrangements which would have to be bridged before we approached what is supposed to be the subject of discussion.
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby AmyS. » 10 Mar 2009, 05:47

I am new to this forum, and well getting back on topic of the original thread, my favourite of the Space Trillogy by far is That Hidous Strength, with Out of the Silent Planet a close second place. :smile:
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby Sven » 10 Mar 2009, 19:17

Welcome, Amy!
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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You might also enjoy...

Postby Kanakaberaka » 10 Mar 2009, 19:23

AmyS. wrote:Hello-
... my favourite of the Space Trillogy by far is That Hidous Strength, with Out of the Silent Planet a close second place. :smile:

Stanley Anderson agrees with you on that, Amy. You might want to check out the book study on THS I'm doing on another forum here. Nice to have another C.S. Lewis fan aboard.
so it goes...
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Re: Which is your favourite of the ST?

Postby Brian » 11 Mar 2009, 22:33

I am a latecomer to Jo's question. Her question to me is like trying to choose between three amazing gems, each with its own unique qualities.

If I am forced to choose - I choose Perelandra for reasons also stated by Larry W and Kanakaberaka. I am still entranced by the concept of an unfallen world, (which when all Biblical prophecy is fulfilled, we will finally have the unfallen world God desired in the first place), the wonder of the floating islands as Lewis richly described them, and the present reality that sin can be resisted as it was in the form of the Green Lady and Ransom with Maleldil enabling both of them in different ways to resist the sin urged through Weston/Unman.

Unlike some who felt lost with Lewis' description of the worship of Maleldil by Tor, Tinidril, Malacandra, Perelandra and Ransom, I found in that sequence a 'lostness' of self without losing individual identity in worship of the only being worthy of true worship - "Blessed Be He!". I suspect this losing of oneself in true worship is part of what Lewis wanted to convey in a celebratory manner after passing the temptation by Unman. I also think Lewis was attempting to stretch the limits of the English language to convey the paradox of subtlety and sheer magnitude of Maleldil (Christ) as God Almighty.
In Christ alone,

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain
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