Monday, April 16, 2012

George Weigel reflects on the Pill

George Weigel in the Catholic Difference reflects on the social and psychological consequences of the widespread availability of birth control:

The differences the Pill has made
March 28, 2012 - Mary Eberstadt is my friend, but I’ll risk charges of special pleading and self-plagiarism by quoting my endorsement on the dust jacket of her new book, Adam and Eve after the Pill (Ignatius Press): “Mary Eberstadt is our premier analyst of American cultural foibles and follies, with a keen eye for oddities that illuminate just how strange the country’s moral culture has become.” That strangeness is on full display in the ongoing controversy over the HHS-“contraceptive mandate”—an exercise in raw governmental coercion depicted by much of the mainstream media (and, alas, by too many Catholics on the port side of the barque of Peter) as a battle between Enlightened Sexual Liberation and The Antediluvian Catholic Church. Anyone who thinks of this battle in those terms should spend a few evenings reading “Adam and Eve after the Pill.”

As the talismanic year 2000 approached, and like virtually every other talking head and scribe in the world, I was asked what I thought the history-changing scientific discoveries of the 20th-century had been. And like the rest of the commentariat, I answered, “splitting the atom (which unleashed atomic energy for good or ill) and unraveling the DNA double-helix (which launched the new genetics and the new biotechnology).” Today, after a decade of pondering why the West is committing slow-motion demographic suicide through self-induced infertility, I would add a third answer: the invention of the oral contraceptive, “the Pill.”

With insight, verve and compassion, “Adam and Eve after the Pill” explores the results of what Mary Eberstadt bluntly describes as the “optional and intentional sterility in women” the Pill has made possible for three generations. A careful analysis of empirical studies, plus a close reading of literary sources, leads Eberstadt to conclude that the “human fallout of our post-Pill world” has been severe. How? “First, and contrary to conventional depiction, the sexual revolution (which the Pill made possible) has proved a disaster for many men and women; and second, its weight has fallen heaviest on the smallest and weakest shoulders in society—even as it has given extra strength to those already strongest and most predatory.”
Elite culture has been in comprehensive denial about this fallout, argues Eberstadt—a claim reinforced in February by the lynch mob that attacked the Susan G. Komen foundation for daring to hold Planned Parenthood to account for monies Komen had donated to PP (chief guardian of the flame of the sexual revolution) and which PP had misused. Such public quarrels, however, touch the surface of the cultural implosion that followed widespread use of the Pill. Weaving her way through the social sciences and literature with equal dexterity, Mary Eberstadt digs deeper and describes the human costs of the sexual revolution: the “pervasive themes of anger and loss that underlie much of today’s writing on romance;” the “new and problematic phase of prolonged adolescence through which many men now go”; the social and personal psychological harm caused by the availability of pornography on a historically unprecedented scale; the “assault unleashed from the 1960s onward on the taboo against sexual seduction or exploitation of the young”; and the “feral rates of date rapes, hookups and binge drinking now documented on many campuses” (the direct result of a sexual revolution that has “empowered and largely exonerated predatory men as never before”).

“Adam and Eve after the Pill” also explores the cultural weirdness that has followed the Pill’s inversion of classic western and Judaeo-Christian values; in a particularly insightful chapter, Eberstadt analyzes the food taboos that have replaced discarded sexual taboos. The book ends with a telling, if ironic, judgment on the long-term impact of the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae”: “one of the most reviled documents of modern times, the Catholic Church’s reiteration of traditional Christian moral teaching, would also turn out to be the most prophetic in its understanding of the nature of the changes that the (sexual) revolution would ring in.”

Contrary to what you read in the papers, the “birth control debate” isn’t over. It’s just beginning.
In my view, the Pill is the most transformative event in modern history. It fundamentally changes the most intimate aspects of what it means to be human, and much of that change is deeply destructive the humanity. The scandal is not merely the Pill itself. There is also scandal in our refusal to consider honestly the ways in which birth control has changed us. The human and social and political ramifications of widespread intentional human sterility are deep and probably irrevocable. We have stepped off a cliff, and our eyes are still closed.

In any population, once birthrates are below replacement, that civilization is dying. And there is a point of no return, when the demographic aging and collapse impose such a burden on the few young women still willing to have large families that they are unable to reverse the loss. Many European countries (Italy, Russia) are probably at that point now.

The Pill will destroy the West, and will destroy any civilization that accepts it. Of course, not all civilizations will die, because not all civilizations will contracept.

Ironically, the Pill will ultimately lead to the ascendancy of radically conservative cultures-- precisely the cultures held is such disdain by the sexual revolutionaries of the 20th century who championed contraception.

The Imams are patient.   


  1. Excellent point. Each and every time I make this argument (a more condensed and less precise version) I get tarred and feathered by my opponents who claim I am some sort of caveman, and that I hate women.
    The truth is, I feel the women (and the docile males) in the west have been totally conned.
    We, collectively, have been sold the idea that our purpose is to 'seek pleasure and avoid pain' - thus voluntary sterility for the purposes of turning the sex act into 'harmless fun' for all becomes somehow reasonable.
    One might assume we have 'stepped off a cliff', but I suggest we were PUSHED. Evidence for this I find in the wide-spread effort to push this stuff in Africa and the Sub-Continent.
    Further I would suggest the 'Trojan Horse' concept of burying contraception in the 'women's rights' movement is another clear example of intent. Such long term tactic indicates planning to me. Planning for WHAT?
    That is the $64k Question.
    The social engineers knew what they were doing to us, but they did not envision how reluctant and impractical it would be to enforce this kind of thinking on other cultures they assumed were inferior. The real question is WHY.
    The only thing I can clearly discern is that it has to do with 'depopulation' and control. Perhaps engineered strife.
    Whatever the reasoning it has all the hallmarks of elemental evil; including the self destructive, self defeating futility associated with such efforts.
    As you wisely note Doctor, the Imams are patient.

  2. And yet countries that have easy access to contraceptives, comprehensive sex education programs, legalized abortion, and a permissive attitude towards sex have lower teen pregnancy rates, fewer abortions, and a lower incidence of STDs. Oh darn, I guess reality is interfering with your ranting again.

    1. How have those rates in those countries changed with the advent of contraception, sex ed, etc? What is the trend from say 1950 to 2012?