Blog: Being Better for the Next Generation

Being Better for the Next Generation
Being Better for the Next Generation
Date: 2018-Feb-03 06:04:01 EST

I recently read this article on Quillette on spanking in childrearing. I thought it was interesting; it's natural to think about how we were each raised and how we'd do it differently (some get the chance, some not).

For me, spanking and circumcision are two things I'd probably do differently; if there were demonstrated benefit to spanking and consensus on it being important, I might be swayable the other way although it's hard for me to imagine being comfortable with it. So articles like this feel like a happy resolution to an open question, although I likewise won't blame people in current or past generations that do/did it because they think it's good practice; that's a question on facts and something that can be relatively satisfyingly solved. At least, assuming good practice or its results are things we can agree on a foundation for resolving. For circumcision, it's my understanding that the health benefits are outweighed by the health harms, and I feel no particular cultural interest in doing it (and find such reasons pretty questionable). And yet again, my parents chose differently for me, perhaps because of hospital pressure, perhaps for health reasons, probably not for cultural reasons. For males, I don't see it as any kind of outrage or atrocity to circumcise, just something that's a bad idea. Female circumcision is a much bigger deal, in terms of effects; I would be comfortable with very harsh punishments for parents and doctors involved in such a thing.

More broadly though, I think we're continually getting data that helps us pursue any goals we might choose, and that helps us make better choices. I hope most of the time we don't feel overpressured to conform based on presumed unitary notions of the good, but likewise for things that are pretty close to unitary, we'll need to override that caution. An example that touches on cultural traditions but is also sufficiently harmful that we should probably override them would be playing some sports that involve repeated head impacts; the damage to the brain is now understood well enough that we probably should ban the standard form of some sports.