OpinionMon Mar 19, 2012 - 12:58 pm EST
A tale of two sex hormones
March 19, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - In 1999, at the ripe old baseball age of 35, Barry Bonds, one of the five or six greatest players ever to carry the bat, was finally beginning to wear down. Even aside from the effects of aging, the long baseball seasons take their toll on the body: nagging little injuries, a pulled muscle here, a sprain there, a touch of arthritis, a fractured bone that never quite healed right. The muscles don’t contract with the same old lightning speed. You’re smarter, and you make fewer mistakes, but your batting average drops, you lose range in the field, and you’re out of the lineup more often. So it was with Bonds that year. He batted just .262 and played in 102 games, his lowest figures in a decade. What with his power and his batting eye, he was still a great player, but his best years were behind him.
Except that they weren’t, not exactly. Bonds arrived in camp the next year with a new body. He had put on weight, but lost body fat. And his bat speed was breathtaking, so much so that pitchers were afraid of leaving the ball anywhere over the plate. In 2001, the 37-year-old Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, 24 more than he had ever hit before, and slugged .863, almost 200 points more than his previous high. From 2000 through 2004, Bonds’ records are wholly unlike those of any other player in baseball history, as witness his unimaginable 232 walks in 2004, when he was 40 years old.
Well, we know the reason for these strange results, and for the sudden ability of otherwise ordinary infielders to slam the ball over the fence to the opposite field. It’s “steroids,” the popular term for artificial testosterone, ingested to repair and build muscle. Some of these steroids may be legally prescribed for certain medical conditions, normal aging not among them. Similar drugs that were legal at the time, like the androsterone taken by Mark McGwire in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs, meet with the reproach of fans anyway. Lovers of baseball have, with remarkable unanimity, decried these years as the “steroid era.” They accuse the players of a kind of cheating that goes far beyond the gamesmanship, say, of a pitcher “cutting” the ball on his belt buckle, or a man on second stealing signs from the catcher. In fact, they seem unwilling to elect any of the cheaters to the Hall of Fame, at least until many years pass by.
They are also not going to accept the argument that the ingestion of testosterone is a matter of individual choice. That is because of the nature of the game. It would give an advantage to the players who “juice”—a considerable advantage, as it turns out. It would also compromise the venerable history of the game, making it impossible to judge the worth of contemporary players against that of players past. In other words, to allow the use of testosterone would immediately immiserate those who do not use it; and it would alter the game itself. It would do so, moreover, by means of a tissue-growing hormone that poses obvious medical risks: the growth of cancerous tissue, for instance.
Yet, when one compares this sex hormone, testosterone, to the sex hormone now in the news, estrogen, it is hard to see why, on medical and social grounds alone, the one would be severely restricted and the other so freely dispensed that people are ready, not simply to affirm its legality, but to mandate that people and institutions violate their religious faith to purchase it for women who want it.
There are some medical uses for estrogen, as there are some medical uses for testosterone. These are not at issue. The Catholic Church does not oppose the use of estrogen to treat a disease. But there is also an immediate health-related benefit that testosterone secures. It builds and repairs muscle. That is, taken by itself, a good thing. If it helped Barry Bonds to swing a bat, it would help Barry the Miner to swing a pickax, or Barry the Infantryman to climb up a cliff, or Barry the Roadworker to heal from the battering his frame takes when he spends a day with the jackhammer. Yet we judge, correctly, that these Barries should not be ingesting testosterone. As I see it, we do so for three reasons: the benefit is not necessary; the benefit is outweighed by the risks of the drug; and the use of the drug by some men would put others at an unfair disadvantage—it would immiserate them. The first two reasons have to do primarily with the individual; the third, with society.
Now compare this drug to estrogen. Unlike testosterone, estrogen does not confer any obvious medical benefit upon a woman who ingests it. Its use when ingested for non-medical reasons is to fool the body into the condition of pregnancy when it is not actually pregnant. If anything, the drug is attended by a host of troubles, from minor annoyances to those severe enough that some women cannot use it. Testosterone will help Barry lift things up and put them down, and that, considered alone, is a good thing. We need strong men to lift things up and put them down. But estrogen enhances no such practical performance.
Someone might justify the use of testosterone on the grounds that our bodies are always repairing muscle; indeed the only way to build muscle is to tear it down and “persuade” the body to compensate by building even more. I do not buy the argument. I only note that it makes at least a superficial claim to being medical in nature: it has to do with a bodily function that needs repair. But the use of estrogen as contraception is not medical at all. Quite the contrary. A couple who use estrogen to prevent the conception of a child do not ingest the drug to enhance the performance of their reproductive organs, or to heal any debility therein. Their worry is rather that those organs are functioning in a healthy and natural way, and they wish they weren’t. They want to obtain not ability but debility. They want not to repair but to thwart.
Here it is usually argued that the drug is medical because it prevents a disease. But that is to invert the meaning of words. When the reproductive organs are used in a reproductive act, the conception of a child is the healthy and natural result. That is a plain biological fact. If John and Mary are using their organs in that way, and they cannot conceive a child, then this calls for a remedy; that is the province of medicine. It is also the province of medicine to shield us against casual exposure to communicable diseases—exposure that we cannot prevent, and that subjects us to debility or death. Childbearing and malaria are not the same sorts of thing.
Moreover, estrogen, like testosterone, is a tissue-growing hormone, and therefore subjects the woman who ingests it to a much higher risk of developing cancer, not to mention other serious medical troubles. Indeed, if it were not dangerous, drug companies would not be struggling to keep the dosage as low as possible. So the widespread use of estrogen actually involves widespread and grave medical harm. In a country as large as ours, with breast cancer as common as it is, even a smallish increase in the risk of cancer would mean thousands of deaths; and the increase in risk is not small.
And this brings us to the heart of the matter. The argument for the use of this drug is not medical (since it does not remedy anything, it does not shield against communicable disease, and it actually subjects the user to medical risk). It is social. It is simply this: Without the drug, many millions of sexually active women would become pregnant who do not wish to be so. But now we are not in the realm of individual choices alone. We must address the whole of society. We must address the common good.
Here is where the comparison with testosterone helps clarify matters. Again, if Bonds uses the drug, that immediately immiserates those who do not wish to use it. It helps this player, here, turn on the inside fastball. But no player is an island unto himself. The drug hurts everyone, because it hurts the game itself; it is destructive of the common good.
The same is true of the artificial estrogen. It “helps” this couple, here, do the child-making thing, without making a child. It “helps” that couple, there, do the marital thing without being married. But it immiserates all those couples who, in a healthier age, would not wish to do so. It alters everyone’s view of what marriage and sexual congress are for. The result is, as anyone with a little common sense could predict, that there are far more children born out of wedlock now than there were before the artificial estrogen changed the whole nature of the game. We have produced now generations of people who have never known an intact marriage. The sexual revolution has devastated the lower classes, and renders us ever less willing to practice the difficult and self-denying virtues, while we are ever more willing to surrender genuine liberty for the illusions of license.
(Click “like” if you want to end abortion!
Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.
View CommentsClick to view or comment.
Share this article
Princeton’s Robert George: Are you ready to pay the price? The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over
ORLANDO, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- “It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel,” said Princeton Professor Robert George to a large crowd at the Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Professor George added that people can still safely identify as “Catholic” as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.”
He said “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness,’” will still grant a comfort to a Catholic ashamed of the Gospel, “or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed.”
The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded his audience of Christ’s words: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” “We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now,” he remarked.
Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.
For Catholics, and Evangelicals in America, he said, “it is now Good Friday.” To a rousing standing ovation Professor George concluded:
The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded. Yes, he had been greeted—and not long ago—by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King. But all that is now in the past. Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.
Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to ‘fit in,’ to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak. Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire: ‘Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.’
The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union….
The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are you this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife? These teachings are not the whole Gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation. But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable. To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life. And it is a Gospel of family life, too. And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.
One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. …
One thing alone will matter: let me say this with maximum clarity—whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?
If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.” If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him—even to Calvary.
But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming. Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did—that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup. We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in him, our hope in his resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of his heavenly Father can conquer fear. By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. Never be ashamed of the Gospel.
View CommentsClick to view or comment.
Share this article
Planned Parenthood investigator Daleiden refuses plea deal: ‘What we really want is an apology’
HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This morning, Harris County prosecutor's office offered David Daleiden a plea deal. His legal team, in turn, made a counter-offer.
"The only thing we're going to accept right now is an apology," said Terry Yates, one of four attorneys who flanked Daleiden down the corridors of the courthouse as he visited two court rooms to face felony and misdemeanor charges.
He confirmed an offer had been made but was unlikely to be accepted.
Instead, Yates said that a hearing before Judge Brock Thomas of Texas District 338 had been scheduled for March 28. "At that time, we anticipate filing a couple of motions" asking that all charges be dismissed at once. "We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient."
"The old Texas expression 'all hat and no cattle' - that's what we believe these indictments are. There's not much to them," he said.
Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society reiterated that stance during a press conference co-hosted by LifeSiteNews at 11 a.m. local time.
When asked if Daleiden would plead guilty to lesser charges offered by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Breen replied, "At this point, no."
"What we really want is an apology," Breen said, standing next to fellow counsel Briscoe Cain, Texas attorney for Operation Rescue. "He deserves an apology...He is innocent."
His legal team felt certain he would prevail on the substance of the charges without admitting guilt to any of them.
"The reality is David is a modern day hero," Jared Woodfill, another Daleiden attorney, told LifeSiteNews inside the courthouse. "He has exposed the wrongdoing that has been occurring at abortion clinics all across this country. And the fact that he's here today is a miscarriage of justice."
"He will be vindicated," he said.
The 27-year-old Daleiden appeared unflappable - smiling, well-groomed, wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, and black tie as he spoke briefly with reporters, including LifeSiteNews.
"I'm very grateful for all the support from the public, especially from the people of Houston," he said, some of whom held handmade signs that said "I Stand with Sandra and David" as he presented himself for booking and paid bail this morning.
Attorneys did not disclose the terms of the agreement prosecutors had offered. If convicted, Daleiden and fellow pro-life investigative journalist Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
However, the charges could be dismissed at any time. LifeSiteNews delivered the first batch of signatures, more than 106,000, on its petition to the DA's office asking that all charges against Daleiden be dropped at once.
If that fails? "We're ready to go to trial," Woodfill told LifeSiteNews.
First 100K petitions to drop charges against Daleiden delivered: ‘let’s double that’
HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Pro-life leaders have presented more than 106,000 signatures to the Harris County district attorney's office, demanding that charges be dropped against David Daleiden.
It was the first batch of signatures to be dropped off in LifeSiteNews' ongoing petition. It asks prosecutor Devon Anderson to dismiss the charges facing Daleiden and his fellow investigator Sandra Merritt, which could result in 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
"Houston, we do have a problem," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time.
"We are standing in solidarity and say, 'When you attack David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, you are attacking us and our community,'" Rev. Mahoney continued. "Do not proceed with these unjust indictments."
Congressman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, sent a statement to the gathering saying, "Instead of society persecuting the truth tellers, Planned Parenthood needs to answer for their gruesome practices," as well as apologizing to adoptive families like his own, which the abortion provider has "prevented from being whole."
The local indictment, made by the Houston-area grand jury last Monday, has drawn national coverage as the first skirmish in a war between Planned Parenthood and those who sought to expose their practices.
"In delivering these petitions, I am representing more than 100,000 people who demand that these charges against this 27-year-old man and his fellow investigator be dropped at once," said LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne.
"The next move is up to the Harris County DA's office," she said, reading a statement prepared by LifeSiteNews. "These petitions prove that the world is watching."
"The indictment is another example of Planned Parenthood's bare-fisted intimidation tactics," she added, similar to campaigns taken against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Andy Parrish, PR director for LifeSiteNews, who was in Houston with Bourne, said he was honored to tell David of the 106,000 LifeSite petition signers who were standing with him. "These signatures are just the beginning. The coalition standing behind David is growing. We've got 100,000, but let's double that."
David Daleiden addressed the crowd alongside two of his attorneys, Peter Breen and Briscoe Cain, and thanked all those who showed their support for him during his latest legal showdown.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone at LifeSiteNews and everyone who shared the petition, who signed it, and made it possible to deliver that today," Daleiden told LifeSiteNews. "It means a lot to me, and to Sandra, and to the Center for Medical Progress. Thank you for your faithfulness and for standing up for us."
He hoped everyone would remain united in demanding justice be done - and, like Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, hopes that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be indicted.
"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about a day when there is no longer a price tag on human life," Daleiden said.
During the windy 45-minute-long press conference, speakers at the rostrum defended Daleiden's undercover journalism tactics in the face of sometimes hostile questions from the established press.
"No one can deny that this was the number one investigative journalism story of 2015," Rev. Mahoney said, citing statistics of the story's impact on the mainstream media.
In the new media environment of 2016, someone does not need a degree from Northwestern or Columbia to be a journalist, he said.
"He broke one of the biggest stories of the year," agreed John Hawkins of Right-Wing News, who sent in a written statement to the conference. Pressing charges against him sends a message to conservatives and Christians: "Sit down and shut up, or this just might happen to you."
"If this were a meat-packing plant investigation, there would be no question about his integrity," said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "He would be universally lauded as a hero. I think he's a hero...for getting the truth out."
"In the meantime, we're going to do everything we can do to stand with David," she said, "and see justice prevail."