Is Incest Wrong?
In Britain a young lady was ‘caught’ having sex with her brother. The brother is 21, while his sister is 18. According to the law, they should be convicted for incest.
+ Firstly, the old, tired argument that “It’s not natural”.
+ Secondly, people claim that incest creates ‘deformed’ children.
+ Thirdly, and oddly, people exclaim it’s “just” repugnant.
In my time teaching students about making choices, especially moral ones, based on sound reasoning and evidence, we often range into areas many have not thoroughly considered. After all, everything deserves scrutiny if we are to be fairly sure an idea (or belief) is worth pursuing, defending and so on. If this idea is worth our support, it will pass tests of reasonable scrutiny; if it does not, it either means we must strengthen the idea by addressing its failings or discard it altogether. For example, there is no good reason to justify the oppression of gay people or women – though there are plenty of reasons people do. Thus because there are no good arguments to support oppressing gay people, the idea should be discarded and indeed opposed where it arises. In an effort to battle bad ideas, we should scrutinise (or at least be willing to scrutinise) every view, belief and idea we have.
Nothing is sacred in my class (indeed, we’ve debated the merits of sanctity itself). We engage with questions that focus on real-life matters, which tend to evoke knee-jerk reactions of dismissal and/or disgust.
With this in mind, my students asked whether incest or necrophilia is wrong. Since in many countries, both of these are automatically crimes, I think it’s important to consider what arguments there are for considering these as automatically wrong. However, just because something is right or wrong does not mean that the law follows suit. Something can be legal and be wrong by a moral standard, and vice versa. Here we are mainly considering the morality of these two supposedly taboo types of sexual conduct. Are they, by definition, wrong?
In Britain, when a young lady was ‘caught’ having sex with her brother, both siblings blamed the other, citing alcohol, desperation and so, on as motivations. This is not of concern. What is of concern is that “the pair were convicted of committing incest under section 1(1) of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995”. The brother is 21, while his sister is 18. Now, according to the law, they should be convicted.
However, laws are not perfect. What should matter to us, firstly, is whether they’ve done something wrong.
Often when people hear incest, they assume rape or paedophilia, too. But here it’s clear that neither rape nor paedophilia are the problem in the recent case, since both siblings are adults and both consented – in the same way any other drunken couple implicitly consent, since neither partner was forced into it.
Assume they were not brother and sister; is the sex act wrong? Given the implicit consent and their ages, it’s not clear that this would be any different than other sexual engagements where, after the fact, one or both (or all three) regret the act. However, neither one feels the other was violated in the sense of calling it rape. So that’s not the issue.
Notice, though, that even if one of these two was violated – whether because s/he was too young or raped – then it would be the violation through rape or paedophilia that made it wrong, not the fact that they’re brother and sister.
So, we’re clear that what makes this wrong is solely the fact that it’s incest – that is, the fact that they’re brother and sister. But why does this make it wrong?
This seems entirely based on mere repulsion. To try articulate why incest should be viewed as inherently wrong is difficult and there’s no clear argument. Here are a few arguments that my students and others have offered.
Firstly, the old, tired argument that “It’s not natural”. This argument must, like cancers and earthquakes, disappear from our planet. Cancers and earthquakes, by the way, are also natural. The philosopher Julian Baggini has correctly said that something being natural tells us no more about its moral property than if you said something was red. Good and bad things are natural, so not everything that is natural is good (or bad). (Considering that humans are part of the natural world, I see no reason for the distinction in most instances anyway. ‘Natural’ is not part of my vocabulary, since it seems largely useless.)
Secondly, people claim that incest creates ‘deformed’ children. This is not entirely true. There is a greater risk of various handicaps, true, due to a closer sharing of genetics. But there is a danger in every form of child creation that the child might be handicapped. There might be a difference in degree of risk in incestuous sex acts but certainly not in kind. And, similarly, if we continued with this logic, it seems that any person who has an increased risk of having children with disabilities ought not to reproduce (or should be condemned). The fact that we don’t condemn or restrict people with a verified increased risk of producing disabled children indicates that even this reason isn’t solid.
So, this view doesn’t work either. Furthermore, this assumes sex acts are solely for having children, whereas this is nonsense, since we have effective contraceptives and other measures to prevent pregnancy.
Thirdly, and oddly, people exclaim it’s “just” repugnant. We will examine this more closer later. Nonetheless, why should the sexual activities of two consenting adults concern us? This is the same question we can ask those who are ‘against’ homosexuality (which is like being against having blue eyes). It is none of our business what two consenting adults wish to do (as long as no one else is harmed/involved without consent).
Repugnance helped many things we now consider wrong to continue in the past, such racial and sexual inequality. We can’t rely on repugnance to justify our social policies, since our repugnance is simply that: our own. Besides which, people are repulsed by different things – and we cannot leave it up to the whims of our emotions to implement policies and laws which could, unnecessarily, cause suffering to other people, as is the case with gay people, women, and indeed the current brother-and-sister couple.
So these arguments fail. But if these arguments are sound, then this has a further implication.
What makes the case unfortunate is the young lady in question has been attacked and threatened by members of the public. Because of her ‘disgusting’ acts, she has been forced to flee her home. This seems to me unjustified. Violence is almost never the right response. Furthermore, as the arguments above have indicated, it’s not entirely clear what makes incest wrong when we are dealing with consenting adults. If we agree that consenting adults are allowed to have sex, then what makes these two people different, besides sharing parents? Why should sharing genetics make it a crime – or rather, something so monstrous that this young lady deserves to be treated like a diseased monster?
In considering this case, we are not encouraging incest, nor do we have to say we ‘like’ it. We don’t even have to say it is good or right. However, incestuous acts certainly need not be worth condemning a young lady over, nor does she deserve to be treated like someone requiring therapy. There is little justification for thinking she’s done something wrong.
What’s occurring here is inflating outrage – I don’t think there is such a thing as “moral” outrage – and personal disgust at an act, which has not harmed anybody else, to the point of having a lady’s life threatened for no good reason. Whatever the political situation, if we respect an adult’s right to engage freely in sexual acts with other consenting adults, it’s not clear why we draw a line based on genetics.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
Eastern traditions have complex views on how karma affects your life.
- Karma is not simple retribution for bad deeds.
- Eastern traditions view karma as part of a cycle of birth and rebirth.
- Actions and intentions can influence karma, which can be both positive and negative.
Thanga Wheel of LIfe
Credit: Adobe stock
Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life~ Samsara Cyclic Existence<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c84ca072d61d5303c11f6290102a63ea"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5m6Vge2JBFs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A persistent barrage of information is not the best method for getting through to someone with a different point of view.
- When you want someone to see things differently and to abandon their previous stance, sometimes persistence is not key.
- "Too often we think change is about pushing," says Jonah Berger, author of the book The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, and a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "We think if we just come up with one more way people will eventually come around."
- Through speaking with people who have successfully changed minds of others, Berger identified five common barriers and created the REDUCE framework for finding the catalysts needed to break through: reactants, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and corroborating evidence.