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February 2013 Archives

February 1, 2013

1997: California doc. tries to starve former fetus to death

Aidan Peterson was born in 1997 in the civilized United States, in Modesto, CA, with a cleft palate. This wasn't long ago and far away. Some of you, dear readers, may have been born in the 1990's. And some of you probably live in California, maybe even in Modesto.

The doctor freaked out. I put it that way deliberately to emphasize the irrationality of the doctor's reaction to Aidan's existence. The doctor himself looked at the matter differently. According to him, it was Aidan's mother's feminine irrationality that made her resist the idea of murdering Aidan:

The day after he was born, Aidan was taken into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) because he was unable to breastfeed, and was becoming dehydrated and weak. The hospital did not have the type of bottles babies with a cleft use to feed. The hospital pediatrician called my husband into the nursery and advised us to sign Aidan over to the hospital. He told us that we were still young, we could still have other children, and that these kids (kids with cleft lip and palate) tend to have neurological problems, he would require many surgeries that could bankrupt us, and that if we were foolish enough to ignore medical advice and take our baby home he would end right back at the hospital as a “failure to thrive.”

The “treatment plan” the doctor told us was that they’d give our son pain medicine, and let him die (of starvation and dehydration). Jodi began to cry and refused, at which point the doctor turned to Quentin and said, “Get her out of here, she’s being irrational.” He thought he would have a better chance at convincing Quentin to leave the baby.

The poor doctor obviously didn't know how to use the Internet. (We had the Internet in 1997, right?) I can tell you now that if you Google "cleft palate" and "bottles" you get a lot of hits. That particular birth defect is common enough that it's already been well provided for, at least in first-world countries. But of course I'm being facetious. The doctor must have known that there are special bottles allowing babies with cleft palates to eat. He was just deliberately hiding that information from young and inexperienced parents, because in his eugenics-addled brain, Aidan was a drain on the resources of the human race and better off dead. The parents were simply an unfortunate obstacle to Aidan's death and had to be brought around, by deception by silence if necessary.

Aidan was saved both because his parents refused to sign him over to the murderous mercies of the hospital and because a nurse told the parents about the special bottles and got some for Aidan.

Now he's fifteen years old, homeschooled, a member of 4H, and loves to play paintball with his buddies.

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February 4, 2013

Science and abortion

In all of our public disputes concerning science, there is no instance more glaring of one faction flat-out falsifying the established facts of empirical science, than that of the pro-choice faction, which must deny the fact that embryos and fetuses are emphatically members of the human species. To conceal this denial of science, pro-choicers continue busily developing a bunch of wooly claptrap known as “personhood” theory. What this theory amounts to is a fraud: we don’t like the plain facts of human embryology, so it becomes convenient to introduce some supererogatory theorizing. The charlatanry issues in bootless distinctions such as that between a “human” and a “person.” Let it be noted clearly that science knows no such distinction. Science is very admirably innocent of these rationalizations.

Again, for clarity’s sake: no global warming “denier,” no brassbound boondocks legislator cursing evolution as a theory from the pit of hell, no scouter of the wisdom of scientific birth control made “free” by public subsidy, can come close to the anti-science ideology of supporter of legal abortion.

I propose a simple principle here: no pro-choicer may so much as mention, in the usual method of belittling conservatives, anything about empirical science, who has declined to confront his faction’s anti-science position on human embryology. If you're ever involved in a conversation where someone tosses out typical cant along these lines, call them out on it.

Alan Blinder and all that is "seen and unseen..."

I stumbled across this remarkable interview with the liberal economist Alan Blinder the other day and I had to share it with readers at What's Wrong with the World. It is remarkable for the arrogance on display and for the trap Blinder falls into -- the same trap he claims for his opponents. Here he is talking about President Obama's stimulus:

...The second example of that is the stimulus bill, which has been vilified by Republicans. It’s said it didn’t create any jobs, which if you think about it for 30 seconds, it’d be impossible to spend that much money without creating any jobs.

DM: How much of this do you think has to do with people’s difficulty with reasoning counterfactually? So you see the economy, which isn’t that great, and conclude “Well TARP and the stimulus must not have worked.”

AB: I think that’s a very major part of it. In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, my colleague Daniel Kahneman has this concept he called WYSIATI – “what you see is all there is.” If you believe the only thing there is is what you see, what you see is that all these things were done and the economy went pretty poorly anyway. What you don’t see is how poorly it would have done without any of these actions being taken. A principal objective of this narrative [in the book] is to combat WYSIATI.

Now there is lot to unpack here, but I'm particularly amused by Professor Blinder's notion that "it’d be impossible to spend that much money [that we spent on the stimulus] without creating any jobs."

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February 9, 2013

Puncturing the sanctimony

Anthony Esolen puts biting irony to good effect in an essay for Public Discourse, in the course of which he turns Social Democracy’s favorite passage from Scripture on its head.

“The least of these,” words of Our Lord recorded in Matthew 25 that Esolen has ironically taken for his title, are often cited as evidence of a Christian obligation to build national bureaucracies of compassion to alleviate want. Liberal folks who, balking at the interference in public of Christian virtue or discipline or moral instruction, would usually be quick to adduce a certain secular scripture on separation of church and state, at once casually discard their vigilance against religious teaching if that teaching appears to support welfare or Social Democratic policies.

But it is the sanctimony that Social Democrats can get up to, that fever-pitch of self-righteousness conflating support for welfare policies with personal compassion, which invites the kind of searing irony the characterizes Esolen’s essay, especially its conclusion.

“You declared a War on Poverty, aimed at me, when you should have declared a War on Vice, aimed first of all at yourselves.

“You loved your vice more than you loved me. You could afford your vices, but I could not. Your vices made your lives, as you thought, more exciting. I did not have your cushion of wealth, so the same vices destroyed me.

“I was lonely, and you bought me a whore. My sisters were lonely, and you made them into whores.

“I needed the Church, desperately, because when a man is poor, he must face his helplessness every day. But the Church would restrain you, so, at every chance you had, you derided religious faith, and thus you snatched from me my most loyal friend.

“I had no job, and you overtaxed the man who might have given me one. Then you gave the job to someone on the other side of the world, or you winked while men left their families thousands of miles away, crossing the border to work at low wages, and you yourselves hired them, and ducked the taxes that you yourselves established. In this way you managed to do mayhem to two families at once.

“I was in prison, and needed to learn a trade, but you teamed up with union bosses to make sure I would not. You gave me dull and useless classes in communication, and television.”

[. . .]

“I needed a father to show me how to love women, and you gave me porn.

“I once had virtue, the poor man’s heritage, but you trained me in vice.”

[. . .]

“I needed a father, I always needed a father, and you turned your back on me, and told me what you knew was a lie, that a mother or two mothers or a mother and a boyfriend would do just as well. When it didn’t work out, you blamed everything but your own selfishness.

“I needed a father, and you were too busy with your sexual innovations to notice it.”

That is what we call the prophetic voice.

Or, as Clausewitz put it: “Direct annihilation of the enemy's forces must always be the dominant consideration.”

February 10, 2013

Custom and Law

One of the constant refrains of conservatives is “tradition.” (In the hands of Catholics, that even turns into “Tradition” sometimes). But either way, it is regularly a bone of contention between conservatives and liberals, or what might be more precise for this discussion, between conservatives and progressives. Many of the regular battles are over whether we should keep a practice that is current and has been practiced for many years, or whether we should change it. For example, the debate over whether we should have women in the army fighting in combat situations. Often enough, (because liberals are often better practiced in the arts of rhetoric) the debate is cast in terms that make it look like a matter of preference: you guys prefer the old way, we prefer to try a new way. But the old way isn’t written in stone, people can change it if they want. Women who want to fight shouldn’t be obstructed by some old bias that makes them out to be less than men, nor by some silly rule that enshrines men’s preferences and ignores women’s equal rights.

The goal conservatives take on is to make the case for customs, traditions, and “the old way” that isn’t based just on preference, but on something a lot more solid, substantive, determinative than that. Fortunately, such cases can be made. But there are two ways to approach that. One way is to defend the specific custom at issue, point out all the definite goods that attach to that custom, and argue the matter in piecemeal. This is good and necessary. Yet it cannot the whole effort, and it won’t be very successful without a separate kind of argument – the wholesale defense of custom in general.

Certain conservatives, like Richard Weaver, put it near the heart of their thesis that tradition isn’t merely one option up for consideration. It is, rather, an essential, core human good, and thus to damage it or destroy it is to damage humans and their fulfillment. Humans are social beings, always forming communities at many different levels. Because men are designed to be integrated, this aspect of their natures is not inherently at war with the rest of human nature – which implies that while there are necessarily tensions involved in settling individual needs and community needs together, there are forms of working out such tensions that can satisfy both when placed in their proper order. Humans are not monsters made to be frustrated in their very essences, but rather are beautiful, integrated wholes made to be fruitful in their entire range of capacities.

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February 13, 2013


One part of the excellent quotation Paul Cella gives below from Anthony Esolen goes like this:

“I needed a father, I always needed a father, and you turned your back on me, and told me what you knew was a lie, that a mother or two mothers or a mother and a boyfriend would do just as well. When it didn’t work out, you blamed everything but your own selfishness.

“I needed a father, and you were too busy with your sexual innovations to notice it.”

In illustration whereof I present this story of despicable selfishness.

Two lesbian women in Florida wanted a baby. Since their union was by its very nature necessarily sterile, they couldn't have a baby together (of course). So one of them made a deal with her homosexual hairdresser to donate his sperm wherewith to generate a child. Then followed a custody battle after the biological father decided that he wanted paternal rights. The final decision, recently handed down by a Florida judge, is that the baby's birth certificate will list all three as parents, including among them the other lesbian woman who is simply the sexual partner of the child's biological mother.

As far as I'm aware (legal eagle readers can correct me if I'm wrong) this is the first time in America that three people have been listed as "parents" on a birth certificate.

One legal irony that I haven't seen anyone point out yet: The AP story calls the lesbian women "married," but the custody case is occurring in Florida, where the state constitutionally cannot recognize either homosexual "marriage" or civil unions. So what gives? Since the AP authors were too lazy to look up the status of homosexual couples in Florida, or else were deliberately concealing the fact that this "marriage" isn't recognized in the state where they live, this point isn't brought up in the news story. One guesses that they got "married" in some other state and then moved to Florida. If the Florida judge's decision is based on their "marriage" in another state, a type of "marriage" which is expressly not recognized in Florida state law, this by itself should cast doubt on the legality of his decision. But, now that the custody battle has been resolved, who has standing to object? Not the baby. She's not even two years old yet.

Another legal question arises from the fact that this apparently amounts to an adoption on the part of the lesbian partner of the biological mother. Was this adoption carried out in the normal way, though? Was there a home study? Was the woman who wanted to adopt made to jump through the usual hoops? Or was that process short-circuited by a custody battle and the judge's decision?

But let's not make any pretense about who the victim is, here. It's the little girl, whom they have named Emma. Her biological mother and her partner have made up their little familial charade, and various people, including Emma, have an assigned role to play in it. The lesbian couple actually got what they wanted out of this, even though the biological father is listed on the birth certificate. The judge has given the lesbian partner full parental rights but has given the biological father (the homosexual hairdresser) only visitation rights. Here is their smug summary:

"We're trying to do the right thing for Emma," Filippazzo said. "We want Emma to have it all, and we believe by doing it this way, including him in a birthday or Thanksgiving, it'll be a nice addition for her."

"We believe the best interest for Emma is for him to have a role in her life, but not as a parent," she said. "The role is this is mommy's good friend who helped your moms have you because they wanted you so badly."

They want what is in Emma's best interests? That's a lie. They want Emma to have it all? That's a lie.

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Habemus Blogpost! (About Pope Benedict XVI)

As one of the resident Catholic Christians at What’s Wrong, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up a few comments about the unexpected retirement announcement of Pope Benedict XVI. If you have any interest at all in who the next Pope might be, the best place to start thinking about the possible candidates is this blog post from Michael Brendan Dougherty (complete with odds!)

Some other thoughts from around the web can be found at National Review Online (NRO), where they had a mini-symposium on the subject; Crisis Magazine, where Sean Fitzpatrick has some wise thoughts about Benedict’s old fashioned “radicalism”; First Things, where Rusty Reno, Joshua Gonnerman, and Russell Moore all have brief, interesting things to say about the Pope and his legacy; and even “PJ Media” where the Jewish writer David Goldman (i.e. Spengler) weighs in with some interesting thoughts.

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February 15, 2013

Bad news in Bioethics link roundup

I've been a bit tied up with other things and have not done much blogging (for me) lately, so I've fallen behind. Wesley J. Smith, however, has not fallen behind, and several of the pieces of news he has been reporting are very important. So here goes:

--Quebec has put a stacked commission onto the question of assisted suicide. Predictably, the commission has produced a set of truly awful recommendations. These include, inter alia, the requirement that doctors who refuse to murder their patients, that is, to assist their patients to commit suicide, must refer the patient to a doctor who will do so. In this case, the assistance provided would probably be significant, because doctors are often reluctant to cooperate in assisted suicide, so the patient might otherwise have trouble finding one. Assisted suicide clinics, unlike abortion clinics, aren't yet the norm in Canada or in the U.S. Such a referral would definitely be direct and knowing material cooperation in evil, akin to knowingly telling a suicidal person where to find a loaded gun. And this is the commission's notion of accommodating doctors' conscientious objections! I'd hate to see what their idea is of being coercive.

Occasionally our cousins up north get a tiny bit defensive when Americans say, "Oh, Canada!" and assume the worst. And it is fair to point out that often the United States isn't all that far behind in some disastrous social experiment. Yet the fact remains that usually, and in a number of areas, the Canadian provinces tend to push the really bad experiments before we down here do, and that our own "progressives" watch their buddies up north for inspiration. As far as I know, even in Oregon doctors are not thus forced to refer for assisted suicide, so the Hemlock Society has to "help" suicidal patients to find willing doctors.

It remains to be seen whether Quebec's lawmakers will accept the commission's recommendation, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they will.

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Environmentalism and abortion

Consider the extraordinary position of the liberal. Most liberals are environmentalists; and most liberals pro-abortion (at least in the sense of favoring a law that, in effect, permits abortion with impunity).

Now, most liberals are, to their credit, not the sort of environmentalist who openly regards human beings as a cancer upon the earth. That hard-core anti-humanist is to all appearances confined to a fringe of lunatics.

Accordingly, liberals usually ground their environmentalism on some notion of obligations to posterity. Almost no liberal preachment neglects to feature prominently appeals to the welfare of “our children and grandchildren.” We are told must preserve the natural resources available to us, and reduce their extraction, refinement and disbursement, in order to provide for future generations.

Thus (though the premise is not frequently propounded in full candor) the usual liberal prescription for environmental policy is to make that extraction, refinement and disbursement more expensive. Make these things more expensive and we’ll get less of them. The President himself was once heard, in an unguarded moment, talking of energy prices that would “necessarily skyrocket” under his policies. His Energy Secretary has spoken with even more startling, impolitic frankness.

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February 20, 2013

The "Reality-Based" Community Is Divorced From Reality

There has been much written recently in the blogosphere about the minimum wage given President Obama's call to raise the federal minimum from $7.25 an hour to $9.00. This follows the President's call for federal funding for universal preschool programs in the United States, supposedly because we "know" that such programs produce beneficial outcomes in kids who are in the programs versus kids who were never enrolled. Never mind that the evidence shows no such thing -- all we know is that a few, well-funded and unique preschool programs have been able to help a select group of kids -- no massive federal program has ever been shown to do the same.

Likewise, when it comes to the minimum wage, for some reason politicians, writers for magazines like The American Conservative Liberal, and even some economists insist on arguing for a minium wage even when both theory and evidence repeatedlty demonstrate that raising the wage will only hurt the employment prospects (and earnings potential) of teenagers and the low-skilled in general.

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February 21, 2013

The U.S. Govt. pursues German home schoolers

The usual caution about my not being a lawyer applies in spades to this entry, because it is related to asylum law, which is an area that is new to me even as an interested layman.

Germany outlaws home schooling across the board. As a patriotic American, when I hear of such cases, and knowing (ahem) how generous America is with its immigration policy, I often say, "Get out! Come to America! Be free!" Is that not what many people have done over the decades when faced with totalitarianism?

Well, not anymore. Our government, which is eagerly pursuing amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, is also actively appealing a case in which a German home schooling family, the Romeike family, was granted political asylum in the United States by a federal court ruling by Judge Lawrence Burman. Apparently this is the sort of thing that the Obama administration considers really important to pursue: Making sure that persecuted Christian German home schoolers are not granted political asylum in the U.S. Why, if we did that, more of them might manage to come here and ask to stay on similar grounds! And that would be a Bad Thing, for some reason.

I fully admit that the law of asylum as it has been worked out has, shall we say, some fuzzy edges. It seems to be based entirely on the question of whether you would, if you returned, face personal persecution because of your membership in an identifiable group of some sort--because of your membership in a social group, your race, religion, or political opinions. That seems to allow a lot of leeway, and Judge Burman's opinion that religious people persecuted simply for home schooling their children (not for being educationally negligent) fall under one or more of these categories is by no means manifestly unreasonable. So the federal government's determination to have the decision overturned is all the more disturbing. All the more so since the German government has been absolutely explicit that its total ban on home schooling is meant to prevent the rise of "religiously and philosophically motivated parallel societies." In other words, if you are not what the German government considers a part of ideologically mainstream society, forcing you to send your children to school is intended to make sure that you don't pass on those non-mainstream views too successfully to your children. Predictably, it is people who do have somewhat different views of the true and the good who are most likely to run afoul of this intentional indoctrination and therefore to be punished by the government. It is hardly implausible, then, to say that this amounts to persecuting people for their religious and/or political views: The government wants to prevent their conveying their worldview to their children; the parents are resisting this attempt at absolute standardization and indoctrination and are being punished for doing so. The parallel to the persecution of Baptists in Soviet Russia for taking their children to church and for holding Sunday Schools and religious youth camps for children is instructive.

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February 22, 2013

New Contributor

What’s Wrong with the World is honored to announce a new Contributor, Sage McLaughlin. His incisive comments over the years attracted the attention of the ill-defined and ill-remunerated Editorial Board, and after some cajolery from Lydia, he signed up for the 10th Crusade.

The Editor, upon reading his lively bio (see below), felt a pang of despond amidst his general merriment to learn that Sage is a Southerner bereft of the accent. The Editor (if marrying a Southerner and siring Southerners is sufficient to become one) laments that he, too, is a Southerner with no accent. Alas for blind and blundering mobility of America, which despite many benefits may one day efface the marvelous regional dialects of this great country.

Mr. McLaughlin unites with us to resist such things: the dictation of homogeneity from distant decadent capitals; the crushing of human variety, like the unique culture of the South; the regimentation of life by bureaucrats, monomaniacs, and nanny statists; the leveling of localism and its tradition whenever in conflict with the fashions and obsessions of cultural centers; the suppression of Christianity by energumens and the embrace of Islam by self-loathers; above all the assault upon reason, liberty and charity by the culture of death.

Sage McLaughlin is a Southern-born Irish-Ashkenazi Catholic with no accent. He is also a chastened one-time libertarian whose whole outlook on the right ordering of social life might be said to begin with G.K. Chesterton’s observation that, “Man’s most pragmatic need is to be something more than a pragmatist.” His concern for the fate of Christendom imposes on him the duty to proclaim the truth amidst this present endarkenment, as well as to recall the things of beauty and wisdom which are the inheritance of every Man of the West.

Mr. McLaughlin’s professional calling as a teacher is, as yet, unrealized. He is a wanderer whose stops over the last decade and a half have included Indianapolis, Denver, Charlotte, Washington, DC, and Columbia, SC. His vocation as a husband and father has slowed his wandering and inspired a more devoted interest in productive hobbies such as cooking and wine collecting (as opposed to the unproductive kind, which has in the past included Uzbek and Azeri language, and the authoring of unpublished works of fiction). His other interests include geography, competitive card games, and Irish folk music.

Mr. McLaughlin is cantankerous, argumentative, and lazy. He holds a B.A. with High Distinction in History from Indiana University, an M.S. in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University, and an M.S. in Geographic and Cartographic Science from George Mason University.

February 25, 2013

Belgium child euthanasia

I mentioned this situation in Belgium once before but am highlighting it again. Wesley J. Smith is often pointing out that surprisingly enough the Belgians are turning out to be the leaders in going completely off the cliff in the areas of suicide and euthanasia. The latest: Child euthanasia. The new proposal would also include euthanasia of people with Alzheimer's.

So much for choice. Belgium got tired of all that choice stuff, which requires that the person be of mature years and compos mentis. So the heck with it. And besides, we're told, doctors were already bumping off children without guidelines, and we can't have that. We have to put some "guidelines" in place. (As Smith says, in that case let's legalize bank robbery so that we can have "guidelines" for it. It's happening anyway.) Bioethicist Erik Parens should take notes. Remember him? He was the guy who says we "need to try" to justify euthanizing people with Alzheimer's. Well, heck, just do it! Don't bother with all this ethical finicking. And include children while you're at it.

Let's make no mistake about a couple of things: When people say, "X is going to happen anyway" as an argument for making X legal, they don't really think X is all that bad. Rape happens. Torture happens. Slavery happens. Heck, for that matter, workplace discrimination against mascot groups happens! Yet you'll never hear a liberal saying we should give up on those things. Nor should we, at least not for the first three. So when your liberal interlocutor says, "Abortion is going to happen anyway" or, now in Belgium, "Euthanizing children is going to happen anyway," what he really means is, "That doesn't bother me too much. I think there's a place for it. That's why I advise you to give up on trying to stop it altogether."

Second, choice always devours itself. Euthanasia was supposed to be a choice that people needed to have available. That's because it was seen as a benefit. But if it's beneficial, why restrict that benefit only to those who can choose it? It should be "available" even to those who can't choose it, because they are too young or mentally incompetent. And for that matter, if they are misguided enough not to choose it (dammit!) they should still be given the benefit. Those who were supposed to be the beneficiaries of this choice eventually become its forced recipients.

February 26, 2013

The Price of Progress is Truth

[My inaugural post at What's Wrong with the World is unusually long. Leave us say that after many years away from blogging, I have a lot on my mind.]

“It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this ‘progressive’ age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what is progress are the most ‘progressive’ people in it.” GK Chesterton, Heretics

“We have mixed up two different things, two opposite things. Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to suit [a] vision. Progress does mean (just now) that we are always changing the vision…” GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The advanced liberalism of our age combines a remarkable zeal for what is called Progress with a rejection of any standards superseding Man’s desires. I intend to use the words liberal and progressive in a somewhat sloppy way in this post, because for all practical purposes the liberalism of the mid-20th Century has been replaced in America by the Progressivism to which it owes its original existence, and in fact that “regress in Progress” was in my view necessary. It was necessary not only because the problems which liberals attempted to solve could never be solved by their preferred means and were therefore bound to be judged, at some point, to be insufficient half-measures; but also necessary because of what Jim Kalb identifies in his book The Tyranny of Liberalism as the absence of any internal or intrinsic limiting principle to political liberalism.

It is often said that the problem with progressives is that they don’t clearly know toward what they are progressing, and in the case of most flesh-and-blood liberals, this is certainly true. But it would be a mistake—indeed, it is a mistake often made on the right—to leave it at that and to suggest by our silence that the problem with Progressivism simply is a lack of vision. In this respect the quotes I’ve cited by Chesterton leave out something crucially important, which is that liberalism does advance according to a discernible logic and a working set of core assumptions. Thus it would be more appropriate to say that the vision is left largely unstated—and must be, because the whole rhetorical appeal of liberalism is that it promises the end of any external constraints on the human will—but that the workings of Progress move toward a definite goal or end state is observably true.

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