The End of Monogamy? Real Couples with Open Relationships
The fact that Madeleine Maynard, a 31-year-old Toronto cross-stitch artist, uses the dating site OKCupid and the Tinder app to find men and women for hookups doesn't mean she's not committed to her long-term partner. In fact, she and George,* her boyfriend of four years, plan to marry.
Madeleine and George's romantic life might sound complex ' or even strange ' but they're part of a growing number of couples that are 'opening up' their relationships. The decision to choose consensual non-monogamy as a way to make a relationship work is experiencing a surprising uptick in popularity. As many as 10 percent of all committed relationships, including marriages, now identify as open, according to Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson in their book, The New 'I Do': Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels. The authors suggest that couples that are facing affairs or stuck in sexless marriages might benefit from long-term non-monogamy.
The conversation seems particularly timely in the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal last summer, when countless marriages were potentially shattered after the 30 million plus registered members' names were exposed online. Unlike in open marriages, Ashley Madison users were hiding their indiscretions from their 'loved ones' ' a betrayal that can be costly.
As the breach of the famous cheating site pointed out, extramarital affairs are more prevalent than many of us think. Statistics on infidelity vary, along with how people define infidelity (does watching porn, or sexting count?), but anywhere from 25 to 70 percent of people in committed relationships step out on their spouses, say Pease Gadoua and Larson. Since 30 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, with an affair often cited as a contributing factor to the downfall of a relationship,is it possible that people in open marriages are on to something?
Changing the rules of traditional marriage and monogamy isn't easy, though. Nor is it for everyone. With no social model for the most successful or most acceptable way to practise opening up a relationship and no one way of doing it, couples are left to carve out new territory.
AT no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided, with old people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries.
Much has been made of the challenges of aging societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.
The parable of our time might well be: Mind your young, or they will trouble you in your old age.
A fourth of humanity is now young (ages 10 to 24). The vast majority live in the developing world, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
Nowhere can the pressures of the youth bulge be felt as profoundly as in India. Every month, some one million young Indians turn 18 — coming of age, looking for work, registering to vote and making India home to the largest number of young, working-age people anywhere in the world.
Already, the number of Indians between the ages of 15 and 34 — 422 million — is roughly the same as the combined populations of the United States, Canada and Britain.
By and large, today’s global youth are more likely to be in school than their parents were; they are more connected to the world than any generation before them; and they are in turn more ambitious, which also makes them more prone to getting fed up with what their elders have to offer. Many are in no position to land a decent job at home. And millions are moving, from country to city, and to cities in faraway countries, where they are increasingly unwelcome.
Democratically elected presidents and potentates are equally aware: Aspirations, when thwarted, can be a potent, spiteful force. No longer can you be sure that a large swell of young working-age people will enrich your country, as they did a generation ago in East Asia. “You can’t just say, ‘Hey look, I’ve got a youth bulge, it’s going to be great,’ ” said Charles J. Kenny, an economist at the Washington-based Center for Global Development. “You’ve got to have an economy ready to respond.”
By The New York Times
“It is the big development challenge these countries face — more decent jobs,” he added.
A case in point are the caste protests that paralyzed a prospering North Indian state in recent weeks. They were driven by a powerful landowning caste whose sons can neither support themselves through farming nor secure the jobs of their choice. So the protesters took to the streets demanding caste-based quotas for government posts. They blocked rail lines and set trucks on fire; the police say 30 people died in the unrest.
This is just part of India’s staggering challenge. Every year, the country must create an estimated 12 million to 17 million jobs.
Worldwide, young workers are in precarious straits. Two out of five are either not working or working in such ill-paid jobs that they can’t escape poverty, according to figures recently released by the International Labour Organization. In the developing world, where few can afford to be unemployed, most young workers have jobs that are sporadic, poorly paid and offer no legal protection; women are worse off.
Youth unemployment is especially striking in richer countries. Across Europe, youth unemployment is 25 percent, not just because of a sluggish economy but because many young Europeans don’t have the skills for the jobs available, from electricians to home health aides; it explains in part the surge of anti-immigrant sentiment on the Continent. In the United States, nearly 17 percent of those between the ages of 16 and 29 are neither in school nor working.
That does not bode well. An increase in youth unemployment is a better predictor of social unrest than virtually any other factor, warned Raymond Torres, the Labour Organization’s research chief. “The social contract is weakened because of unfulfilled promises,” he said.
In some ways, the global demographic portrait reflects what we are doing right: Our babies are far less likely to die, and our grandparents live longer. Women have fewer children, and die less often in childbirth. More good news: Primary school enrollment has shot up in the developing world. In India, for instance, nearly all children are enrolled in school.
But even those gains are uneven. According to the latest survey carried out by a national nonprofit called Pratham, half of Indian schoolchildren enrolled in fifth grade are unable to read from a second-grade textbook, and half cannot subtract. They’re in school, but they are not learning much.
What’s more, even modest education fuels ambition. Yet it can also frustrate those who can’t find work. Across the Middle East, where authoritarian rulers invested in education, youth unemployment is soaring — along with unrest.
The global generation gap is widening. In Germany, the median age is over 46, and in Russia, 39. In the United States, the median age is over 37; in India, 27; and in Nigeria, just over 18. China is running out of young workers so fast that it ended its decades-old one-child policy last year to allow married couples to have two children.
The worldwide age divide makes migration — along with job creation in the global south — critical to balancing the world demographically, according to Rainer Münz, head of research and development at the Erste Group Bank in Brussels. Mr. Münz proposes what he calls a system of “demographic arbitrage,” with industrialized countries competing for talent from elsewhere. Even China, he maintains, will have to enter that race.
“A demographic arbitrage between aging societies with a shrinking work force and youthful societies would be good thing, if the whole thing could be managed,” he said.
Many politicians are making the opposite case. Just last week, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, told migrants not to come to Europe, which has sought to stanch the flow by offering development aid to the migrants’ home countries.
YET development aid can’t tamp down dreams. As poor countries prosper and their young become more educated, they are more likely to migrate. It explains in part why India has the largest diaspora in the world: In 2015, 16 million Indians were living outside India, double the number in 2000.
Perhaps most worrisome for some societies is the bachelor gap.
In China, where girls have been systematically culled from the population, there were 34 million extra men in 2010, according to census data. In India, there are 17 million more men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24. That makes the marriage market even more competitive, which puts a man without a good job at a major disadvantage. Many are bound to be bachelors for life — a potent formula for violence, some scholars say, especially against women.
Little surprise then that the recent caste protests in India took place in Haryana, the state with the sharpest gender imbalance in the nation, with 879 women for every 1,000 men in the population. This lopsidedness stems from a disdain for daughters. Technology and rising incomes have allowed expecting couples to pay for illegal sex determination tests, and female fetuses are often aborted. A result is a surplus of young men, making it necessary to import brides from other parts of the country.
And so the parable of our times may really be: Mind your daughters, or your future will come to ruin.
The phrase almost completes itself: Midlife … crisis. It’s the stage in the middle of the journey when people feel youth vanishing, their prospects narrowing and death approaching. So they become undone. The red Corvette pops up in the driveway. Stupidity reigns.
There’s only one problem with the cliché. It isn’t true.
“In fact, there is almost no hard evidence for midlife crisis at all, other than a few small pilot studies conducted decades ago,” Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes in her new book, “Life Reimagined.” The vast bulk of the research shows that there may be a pause, or a shifting of gears in the 40s or 50s, but this shift “can be exhilarating, rather than terrifying.”
Bradley Hagerty looks at some of the features of people who turn midlife into a rebirth. They break routines, because “autopilot is death.” They choose purpose over happiness — having a clear sense of purpose even reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. They put relationships at the foreground, as career often recedes.
“Life Reimagined” paints a portrait of middle age that is far from grim and decelerating. Midlife begins to seem like the second big phase of decision-making. Your identity has been formed; you know who you are; you’ve built up your resources; and now you have the chance to take the big risks precisely because your foundation is already secure.
The theologian Karl Barth described midlife in precisely this way. At middle age, he wrote, “the sowing is behind; now is the time to reap. The run has been taken; now is the time to leap. Preparation has been made; now is the time for the venture of the work itself.”
The middle-aged person, Barth continued, can see death in the distance, but moves with a “measured haste” to get big new things done while there is still time.
What Barth wrote decades ago is even truer today. People are healthy and energetic longer. We have presidential candidates running for their first term in office at age 68, 69 and 74. Greater longevity is changing the narrative structure of life itself.
The elongation of vital life has changed the phases of life. The most obvious change is the emergence of the odyssey years. People between age 20 and the early 30s can now take a little more time to try on new career options, new cities and new partners.
However, another profound but more hidden change is the altered shape of middle age. What could have been considered the beginning of a descent is now a potential turning point — the turning point you are most equipped to take full advantage of.
It is the moment when you can look back on your life so far and see it with different eyes. Hopefully you’ve built up some wisdom, which, as the psychologists define it, means seeing the world with more compassion, grasping opposing ideas at the same time, tolerating ambiguity and reacting with equanimity to the small setbacks of life.
By middle age you might begin to see, retrospectively, the dominant motifs that have been running through your various decisions. You might begin to see how all your different commitments can be integrated into one meaning and purpose. You might see the social problem your past has made you uniquely equipped to tackle. You might have enough clarity by now to orient your life around a true north on some ultimate horizon.
Lincoln, for example, found in midlife that everything so far had prepared him to preserve the Union and end slavery. The rest of us don’t have causes that grand, but plenty of people bring their life to a point. They dive fully into existing commitments, or embrace new ones.
Either way, with a little maturity, they’re less likely by middle age to be blinded by ego, more likely to know what it is they actually desire, more likely to get out of their own way, and maybe a little less likely, given all the judgments that have been made, to care about what other people think.
The people who find meaning at this stage often realize the way up is down.
They get off that supervisor’s perch and put themselves in direct contact with the people they can help the most. They accept that certain glorious youthful dreams won’t be realized, but other, more relational jobs turn out to be more fulfilling.
They achieve a kind of tranquillity, not because they’ve decided to do nothing, but because they’ve achieved focus and purity of will. They have enough self-confidence, and impatience, to say no to some things so they can say yes to others.
From this perspective, middle age is kind of inspiring. Many of life’s possibilities are now closed, but limitation is often liberating. The remaining possibilities can be seized more bravely, and lived more deeply.
China to protect migrant workers' 'left-behind' children
The Chinese government has issued new guidelines to protect children in rural areas whose parents have moved to cities to work.
An estimated 61 million children are "left behind" by their migrant parents.
Many people can only access public services in the villages they come from, so migrant workers' children stay behind to keep up their education.
Rural governments will be asked to monitor the welfare of children who live alone.
Parents will be encouraged to take their children with them when possible.
In 2013 a spate of sex abuse cases involving "left-behind" children shocked China.
Millions of migrant workers have moved from the Chinese countryside to cities in recent decades. The World Bank predicts that by 2030, up to 70% of Chinese people will live in cities.
WATCH: "They are not at home for us"
China children 'pesticide deaths'
Many children are left with extended family members but circumstances force some to live alone.
In June 2015 four "left-behind" siblings died of apparent pesticide poisoning. They were all under the age of 14 and their parents had left the village in search of work. The police did not rule out suicide.
World Population day, celebrated annually on July 11, was conceived in 1989 by the Governing Council of the United Nations with an aim to focus on urgent population issues. This year the U.N. has decided to focus on "investing in teenage girls." It's aim is to provide young girls with better education and healthcare, and empower them so they become agents of positive change in their communities.
We look at interesting facts about world population. (Pictured) Girls participate in morning school prayer in New Delhi, India.
Six wealthiest countries host less than 9% of world's refugees
US, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK accommodate just 2.1 million refugees, according to Oxfam report
The six wealthiest countries in the world, which between them account for almost 60% of the global economy, host less than 9% of the world’s refugees, while poorer countries shoulder most of the burden, Oxfam has said.
According to a report released by the charity on Monday, the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK, which together make up 56.6% of global GDP, between them host just 2.1 million refugees: 8.9% of the world’s total.
Of these 2.1 million people, roughly a third are hosted by Germany (736,740), while the remaining 1.4 million are split between the other five countries. The UK hosts 168,937 refugees, a figure Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring, has called shameful.
In contrast, more than half of the world’s refugees – almost 12 million people – live in Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, despite the fact these places make up less than 2% of the world’s economy.
Oxfam is calling on governments to host more refugees and to do more to help poorer countries which provide shelter to the majority of the world’s refugees. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time yet poorer countries, and poorer people, are left to shoulder the responsibility,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB. “It is a complex crisis that requires a coordinated, global response with the richest countries doing their fair share by welcoming more refugees and doing more to help and protect them wherever they are.
“Now more than ever, the UK needs to show that it is an open, tolerant society that is prepared to play its part in solving this crisis. It is shameful that as one of the richest economies the UK has provided shelter for less than 1% of refugees.”
According to the UNHCR Globals Trends 2015 report, more than 65 million people have left their homes due to violence, war and human rights violations, the highest number since records began. Most of these (40.8 million) are displaced within their own country, with 21.3 million as refugees and 3.2 million awaiting asylum decisions in industrialised countries. The conflict in Syria has played a large role in this displacement, as have conflicts in Burundi, Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
Marriage Falls in China, Transforming Finances and Families
HONG KONG — Liu Zhenfeng got married at 25. The usual trappings of family life followed — a daughter, a home, furniture, toys.
That daughter, Song Zongpei, now 28, is taking a different path. Ms. Song shares a rented apartment in Beijing with two roommates and is focusing on her career and her finances. She does not see marriage or motherhood in her immediate future. “At this stage, the most important thing for me is personal development,” Ms. Song said.
Fewer Chinese people are getting married, a shift with profound implications for China’s economic and social life. The decline in marriages means a decline in the number of babies, and potentially less spending on homes, appliances and other family-related purchases — the kind of spending China needs to drive economic growth.
Already some businesses are thinking single. Jewelry makers are offering cheaper baubles for unmarried sweethearts. One appliance maker is selling smaller rice cookers. Foreign fertility services are advertising for Chinese women who want to freeze their eggs — a process that is prohibited for single women in China — to have children later.
But the marriage slump — caused in large part by China’s aging population and the legacy of its harsh one-child policy — has a silver lining. It also stems from the rise of an educated population of women. Specialists in economics, demography and sociology say some of those women are delaying marriage to build careers and establish financial footing, resulting in a more empowered female population that no longer views marriage as the only route to security.
“Because they are highly educated, they hold well-paid jobs, they lose the financial incentive to get married,” says Zhang Xiaobo, a professor of economics at Peking University’s National School of Development.
China continues to emphasize marriage in its official media, entreating women not to wait for Mr. Right. But demographics and changing social mores make that a tough sell.
Italy’s ‘Fertility Day’ Call to Make Babies Arouses Anger, Not Ardor
ROME — One ad pictured a woman holding an hourglass next to the words: “Beauty has no age limit. Fertility does.” Another portrayed a pair of baby shoes wrapped in a ribbon of the Italian flag. Yet another showed a man holding a half-burned cigarette: “Don’t let your sperm go up in smoke,” it read.
They were part of a government effort to promote “Fertility Day” on Sept. 22, a campaign intended to encourage Italians to have more babies. Instead, the ads set off a furor, were denounced as being offensive, and within days were withdrawn.
What they did succeed in doing, however, was to ignite a deeper and lasting debate about why it is that Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, and what can be done about it.
A government program has drawn the trainees from the vast population of rural Indian women who spend their lives doing chores. In 2012, the last time the government surveyed its citizens about their occupation, an astonishing 205 million women between the ages of 15 and 60 responded “attending to domestic duties.”
Economists, with increasing urgency, say India will not fulfill its potential if it cannot put them to work in the economy. They say that if female employment were brought on par with male employment in India, the nation’s gross domestic product would expand by as much as 27 percent.
Experiments like the one in Bangalore run against deep currents in India, whose guiding voice, Mohandas K. Gandhi, envisioned a socialist future built on the small-scale economy of the village. They also collide spectacularly with an old way of life, in which girls are kept in seclusion until they can be transferred to another family through arranged marriage.
The one per center next door
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You may be higher up the global wealth pyramid than you think
IF YOU had only $2,220 to your name (adding together your bank deposits, financial investments and property holdings, and subtracting your debts) you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world’s population, according to this year’s Global Wealth Report by the Crédit Suisse Research Institute. If you had $71,560 or more, you would be in the top tenth. If you were lucky enough to own over $744,400 you could count yourself a member of the global 1% that voters everywhere are rebelling against.
Unlike many studies of prosperity and inequality, this one counts household assets rather than income. The data are patchy, particularly at the bottom and apex of the pyramid. But with some assumptions, the institute calculates that the world’s households owned property and net financial assets worth almost $256trn in mid-2016. That is about 3.4 times the world’s annual GDP. If this wealth were divided equally it would come to $52,819 per adult. But in reality the top tenth own 89% of it.
That lucky tenth now includes over 44m Chinese, about 4.4% of the country’s adult population. A far greater number (almost half of China’s adults) cluster in the next three deciles down. Closer to the bottom of the pyramid, there is a similar bulge of Indians in the second and third deciles (with wealth between $30 and $603). Below them, the bottom tenth is a peculiar mix. It is populated by poor countries, where many people have nothing, and rich ones, where people can own very much less than that. It includes a surprising number of Americans (over 21m), whose debts outweigh their assets. But most Americans are much better off. Over 40% belong to the top tenth of the global wealth distribution (and over 18m belong to the global 1%). Some of those railing against the global elite probably do not know they belong to it.
The mistress whisperer
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Divorce is on the rise in China
And so are imaginative schemes to prevent it
China has a long history of adultery. In imperial times wealthy men kept multiple concubines as well as a wife; prostitution was mostly tolerated, both by the state and by wives (who had little choice). Married women, in contrast, were expected to be chaste. After 1950 concubines were outlawed and infidelity deemed a bourgeois vice. Even in the 1980s few people had sex with anyone other than their spouse or spouse-to-be.
Over the past 30 years, however, sexual mores have loosened and more young Chinese are having sex, with more partners and at a younger age. Some clearly continue to wander after marriage. Some 20% of married men and women are unfaithful, according to a survey of 80,000 people in 2015 by researchers at Peking University.
In many respects growing infidelity is a predictable consequence of economic development. Individuals are increasingly willing to put their own emotions or desires above familial obligations or reputation. Improved education and living standards mean they have more financial freedom to do so. Most Chinese couples previously had few chances to meet members of the opposite sex in social situations after marriage, but migration means that many couples live apart. Even if they live together, the pool of temptation has grown larger and easier to dip into, thanks to social media.
After One-Child Policy, Outrage at China’s Offer to Remove IUDs
Then last year, confronting an aging population and a shrinking work force, President Xi Jinping relegated the one-child policy to the Communist Party’s scrap heap of discarded dogma. And without so much as an expression of regret or an admission that it had perhaps made a mistake, the party pivoted from punishing couples for having a second child to encouraging them to get on with reproducing.
To that end, an official said at a recent news conference that 18 million women would be eligible for the free removal of IUDs in the next three years so they could bear a second child.
“Our country provides support in terms of law, finance and service systems to ensure citizens’ access to the free removal of IUDs,” said the official, Song Li of the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s department of women and children.
But the head-spinning reversal, the paternalistic attitude, the failure to accept any culpability — for some, it was too much. Within hours of the news conference, the internet was fuming with indignation.
With the death last month of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman at age 91, the intellectual world lost a thinker of rare insight and range. Because his style of work was radically different from that of most social scientists in the United States today, his passing is an occasion to consider what might be gained if more members of our profession were to follow his example.
Mr. Bauman wrote scores of books and taught for many years at the University of Leeds, in England. He became a scholar to be reckoned with relatively late in his career. A major success came in 1989, at age 64, when he published a landmark study, “Modernity and the Holocaust.” Against the widespread view that the Holocaust reflected an anti-Semitic madness that had seized civilized Germany and thrown it back into an atavistic state, Mr. Bauman described the genocide as an all-too-characteristic creature of the modern era.
The early 20th century, he noted, had brought us large-scale factories, efficient systems of transport, huge enterprises with disciplined work forces and pseudoscientific ideologies like eugenics. These were essential elements, alongside anti-Semitism, of Hitler’s mass slaughter. Mr. Bauman argued that we must not celebrate the achievements of the modern age without also paying attention to its dark side.
“Modernity and the Holocaust” was a work of theory and synthesis. He collected no data and had no methodology to speak of. That didn’t make it any less of a powerful contribution.
A Polish Jew by birth, Mr. Bauman left his homeland in 1939, after the German invasion, escaping to the Soviet Union. There he joined the Army, fighting the Nazis on the eastern front. After the war he returned to Poland, embarking on an academic career.
Behind the Iron Curtain, being a sociologist meant being an expert on all things Marx. Mr. Bauman jumped right in. But while his commitment to the left never faded, his enthusiasm for communism did. When he lent his support to student dissidents in the 1960s, he lost his teaching post and was told to get out of the country.
He moved to England, where the work of the sociologist Max Weber became his touchstone. Though Mr. Bauman rejected Weber’s idea that social scientists must strive to keep personal values out of their scholarship, he found compelling Weber’s account of modern society, which emphasized the central role of bureaucracies.
Weber saw bureaucracies as powerful, but dispiritingly impersonal. Mr. Bauman amended this: Bureaucracy can be inhuman. Bureaucratic structures had deadened the moral sense of ordinary German soldiers, he contended, which made the Holocaust possible. They could tell themselves they were just doing their job and following orders.
Later, Mr. Bauman turned his scholarly attention to the postwar and late-20th-century worlds, where the nature and role of all-encompassing institutions were again his focal point. Craving stability after the war, he argued, people had set up such institutions to direct their lives — more benign versions of Weber’s bureaucracy. You could go to work for a company at a young age and know that it would be a sheltering umbrella for you until you retired. Governments kept the peace and helped those who couldn’t help themselves. Marriages were formed through community ties and were expected to last.
But by the end of the century, under pressure from various sources, those institutions were withering. Economically, global trade had expanded, while in Europe and North America manufacturing went into decline; job security vanished. Politically, too, changes were afoot: The Cold War drew to an end, Europe integrated and politicians trimmed back the welfare state. Culturally, consumerism seemed to pervade everything. Mr. Bauman noted major shifts in love and intimacy as well, including a growing belief in the contingency of marriage and — eventually — the popularity of online dating.
In Mr. Bauman’s view, it all connected. He argued we were witnessing a transition from the “solid modernity” of the mid-20th century to the “liquid modernity” of today. Life had become freer, more fluid and a lot more risky. In principle, contemporary workers could change jobs whenever they got bored. They could relocate abroad or reinvent themselves through shopping. They could find new sexual partners with the push of a button. But there was little continuity.
Mr. Bauman considered the implications. Some thrived in this new atmosphere; the institutions and norms previously in place could be stultifying, oppressive. But could a transient work force come together to fight for a more equitable distribution of resources? Could shopping-obsessed consumers return to the task of being responsible, engaged citizens? Could intimate partners motivated by short-term desire ever learn the value of commitment?
In a 2003 book, “Liquid Love,” he posed this last question as a paradox. Today, he wrote, people are “despairing at being abandoned to their own wits and feeling easily disposable,” and are therefore “desperate to ‘relate.’ ” At the same time they’re “wary of the state of ‘being related’ ” because they fear it “may severely limit the freedom they need — yes, your guess is right — to relate.”
Finally, he worried, wasn’t there a risk that those whom “liquid modernity” had not treated well would turn to a strongman, a leader who promised to restore certainty and send cosmopolitanism packing?
Any sober appraisal of Mr. Bauman’s work would conclude he spread himself too thin. Much of his writing was scattershot, aphoristic and repetitive. He knew nothing of disciplinary boundaries, veering into philosophy, literature, anthropology; it could be fruitful or dilettantish. Empirical evidence was equally unknown to him. Imagination and acumen counted for everything.
American social science doesn’t have much room for thinkers like Mr. Bauman. Our leading researchers prefer the concrete to the abstract, the causal claim you can rigorously test to the flowery theoretical description you can’t. And there’s clearly a lot to be said in favor of such a fact-based approach.
But we could do with more of the broad intellectual sweep and vision that Mr. Bauman brought to the enterprise. His writing — eagerly consumed by European audiences, especially — helped readers think about the times, and their own lives, in entirely new ways.
Neil Gross is a professor of sociology at Colby College.
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A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 12, 2017, on Page SR8 of the New York edition with the headline: Social Science Without Data. Today's Paper|Subscribe
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Economic shocks are more likely to be lethal in America
New research shows the mortality of middle-aged whites continues to rise
AMERICAN workers without college degrees have suffered financially for decades—as has been known for decades. More recent is the discovery that their woes might be deadly. In 2015 Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two (married) scholars, reported that in the 20 years to 1998, the mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans fell by about 2% a year. But between 1999 and 2013, deaths rose. The reversal was all the more striking because, in Europe, overall middle-age mortality continued to fall at the same 2% pace. By 2013 middle-aged white Americans were dying at twice the rate of similarly aged Swedes of all races (see chart). Suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse were to blame.
The authors suspect more amorphous, long-term forces are at work. The fundamental cause is still a familiar tale of economic malaise: trade and technological progress have snuffed out opportunities for the low-skilled, especially in manufacturing. But social changes are also in play. As economic life has become less secure, low-skilled white men have tended towards unstable cohabiting relationships rather than marriages. They have abandoned traditional communal religion in favour of churches that emphasise personal identity. And they have become more likely to stop working, or looking for work, entirely. The breakdown of family, community and clear structures of life, in favour of individual choice, has liberated many but left others who fail blaming themselves and feeling helpless and desperate.
The rest of the country, and large swathes of Europe, will face similar problems in future
WERE it not for the graffiti on abandoned buildings, Bitterfeld-Wolfen, two towns north of Leipzig joined as one in 2007, would seem devoid of young people. Pharmacies, physiotherapy surgeries and shops selling garden gnomes line the sleepy streets. In its heyday the place had a booming chemical industry. Today “the air is much cleaner and we can finally hang out laundry,” says an elderly local out on a morning stroll. “But many jobs were lost and so few children are left.” He points out a building that was once a school; today it is one of many care homes.
Despite an influx of 1.2m refugees over the past two years, Germany’s population faces near-irreversible decline. According to predictions from the UN in 2015, two in five Germans will be over 60 by 2050 and Europe’s oldest country will have shrunk to 75m from 82m. Since the 1970s, more Germans have been dying than are born. Fewer births and longer lives are a problem for most rich countries. But the consequences are more acute for Germany, where birth rates are lower than in Britain and France.
If Germany is a warning for others, its eastern part is a warning for its west. If it were still a country, East Germany would be the oldest in the world. Nearly 30 years after unification the region still suffers the aftershock from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when millions—mostly young, mostly women—fled for the west. Those who remained had record-low birth rates. “Kids not born in the ’90s, also didn’t have kids in the 2010s. It’s the echo of the echo,” says Frank Swiaczny from the Federal Institute for Population Research, a think-tank in Wiesbaden. The east’s population will shrink from 12.5m in 2016 to 8.7m by 2060, according to government statistics. Saxony-Anhalt, the state to which Bitterfeld-Wolfen belongs, is ahead of the curve.
Carrying a child for someone else should be celebrated—and paid
Restrictive rules are in neither the surrogate’s interests, nor the baby’s
THE earliest known description of surrogacy is an ugly biblical story: in Genesis, the childless Sara sends her husband to bed with her maidservant, Hagar, and takes the child as her own. It is this exploitative version of surrogacy that still shapes attitudes and laws today. Many countries ban it outright, convinced that the surrogate is bound to be harmed, no matter whether she consents. Others allow it, but ban payment. Except in a few places, including Greece, Ukraine and a few American states, the commissioning parents have no legal standing before the birth; even if the child is genetically theirs, the surrogate can change her mind and keep the baby. Several developing countries popular with foreigners in need of a surrogate have started to turn them away.
These restrictions are harmful. By pushing surrogacy to the legal fringes, they make it both more dangerous and more costly, and create legal uncertainty for all, especially the newborn baby who may be deemed parentless and taken into care. Instead, giving the gift of parenthood to those who cannot have it should be celebrated—and regulated sensibly.
Getting surrogacy right matters more than ever, since demand is rising (see article). That is partly because fewer children are available for adoption, and partly because ideas about what constitutes a family have become more liberal. Surrogates used to be sought out only by heterosexual couples, and only when the woman had a medical problem that meant she could not carry a baby. But the spread of gay marriage has been followed by a rise in male couples turning to surrogates to complete their newly recognised families. And just as more women are becoming single parents with the help of sperm donation, more men are seeking to do so through surrogates.
The modern version of surrogacy is nothing like the tale of Sara and Hagar. Nowadays, surrogates rarely carry babies who are genetically related to them, instead using embryos created in vitro with eggs and sperm from the commissioning parents, or from donors. They almost never change their minds about handing over the baby. On the rare occasions that a deal fails, it is because the commissioning parents pull out.
A modern surrogacy law should recognise those intending to form a family as the legal parents. To protect the surrogate, it should demand that she obtain a doctor’s all-clear and enjoy good medical care. And to avoid disputes, both parties should sign a detailed contract that can be enforced in the courts, setting out in advance what they will do if the fetus is disabled, the surrogate falls ill or the commissioning parents break up.
Laws should also let the surrogate be paid. Women who become surrogates generally take great satisfaction in helping someone become a parent. But plenty of jobs offer rewards beyond money, and no one suggests they should therefore be done for nothing. The fact that a surrogate in India or Nepal can earn the equivalent of ten years’ wages by carrying a child for a rich foreigner is a consequence of global inequality, not its cause. Banning commercial surrogacy will not change that.
Better to regulate it properly, and insist that parents returning home with a child born to a surrogate abroad can prove that their babies have been obtained legally and fairly. Becoming a parent should be a joy, not an offence.
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline "The gift of life"
Millions of poor children and teenagers grow up without their biological father, and often when you ask them about it, you hear a litany of male barbarism. You hear teens describe how their dad used to beat up their mom, how an absent father had five kids with different women and abandoned them all.
The children’s tales often reinforce the standard image we have of the deadbeat dad — the selfish cad who spreads his seed and leaves generations of wreckage in his wake.
Yet when you ask absent fathers themselves, you get a different picture. You meet guys who desperately did not want to leave their children, who swear they have tried to be with them, who may feel unworthy of fatherhood but who don’t want to be the missing dad their own father was.
Marriage before children is no longer the norm in the United States.
More than half — 55 percent — of parents between the ages of 28 and 34 were not married when they had their first child, according to a new analysis of federal data. Some of these millennial parents later married, while others remain unmarried.
Either way, it’s a stark change from the past. The question that inspires heated debate is whether this trend is a problem.
Docs find ‘very steep’ decline in sperm count in North American men. Here’s why
Men, scientists have noticed a drastic change in your swimmers and fertility. A new study is warning that there’s been a “significant ongoing decline” in the sperm counts of Western men.
Men’s sperm concentration and sperm counts have decreased by more than 50 per cent between 1973 and 2011, according to a new study out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Levine’s findings stem from a meta-analysis of 185 studies published between 1973 and 2011. Turns out, in that timeframe, they found a 52.4 per cent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 per cent decline in total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
He calls the decrease “very steep.”
What does it look like? It’s about 99 million sperm per millilitre in a fertile man in 1973 to 47 million sperm per millilitre in a man by 2011.
It’s worth noting that the “steep slope” is showing no signs of letting up either.
Levine and his team are chalking it up to a handful of factors: exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, smoking, obesity, and stress, for example. What happens in-utero, from maternal smoking or maternal stress, may even have a hand.
“We don’t know why this is happening but our findings should drive massive scientific efforts to identify the causes, and modes of prevention…male reproductive function is very sensitive to environmental impact throughout the lifespan,” he warned.
More and more Westerners have no kids. They should not be criticised for it
ONE by one, prejudices are tumbling in the West. People may harbour private suspicions that other people’s race, sex or sexuality makes them inferior—but to say so openly is utterly taboo. As most kinds of prejudiced talk become the preserve of anonymous social-media ranters, though, one old strain remains respectable. Just ask a childless person.
They are not subject to special taxes, as they were in Soviet Russia; nor are they driven from their homes, as they still are in some poor countries. The childless nonetheless come in for a lot of criticism. “Not to have children is a selfish choice,” Pope Francis has intoned, perhaps forgetting what the Bible says about motes and eyes. Others point out that non-parents are failing to produce the future workers who will pay for their pensions. Childless politicians are charged with not having a proper stake in society. “He talks to us about the future, but he doesn’t have children!” complained Jean-Marie Le Pen, co-founder of the National Front party, of Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win the French presidency. Similar attacks on Theresa May and Angela Merkel also failed—but researchers find that many voters quietly agree.
The charges against the childless should be thrown out, along with other social calumnies. In many rich countries, between 15% and 20% of women, and a slightly higher proportion of men, will not have children. The share is rising (see article). Some have medical problems; others do not meet the right person in time; still others decide they do not want them. Falling sperm counts in rich countries may play a role, too. Whatever the cause, the attacks on the childless are baseless.
If non-breeders are selfish, they have an odd way of showing it. They are more likely to set up charitable foundations than people with children, and much more likely to bequeath money to good causes. According to one American estimate, the mere fact of not having children raises the amount a person leaves to charity by a little over $10,000. The childless are thus a small but useful counterweight to the world’s parents, who perpetuate social immobility by passing on their social and economic advantages to their children.
The fact that so many senior politicians lack offspring ought to put to rest the notion that they do not care for society. Five of the G7 countries are led by childless men and women. Mr Macron, Mrs May, Mrs Merkel, Shinzo Abe and Paolo Gentiloni have their faults, but they are not notably less able than Justin Trudeau (who has three children) let alone Donald Trump (who has five). Their opportunities for nepotism are limited. And they spare their countries the spectacle of dynastic politics, which can lead to mediocrity. The BJP in India has a brighter future because Narendra Modi is childless; for proof, look at what has happened to the Congress party.
The charge that childless people fail to pull their weight demographically is correct, but is less damning than it appears. Those who do not have children do put pressure on public pension systems. Faced with a deteriorating ratio of workers to pensioners, governments have to do unpopular things like making pensions less generous, as Japan has done, or accepting more immigrants, as some Western countries have done.
But to sustain public pensions in the long term, countries do not actually need more parents. What they need instead is more babies. It is possible to combine a high rate of childlessness with a high birth rate, provided people who become parents have more than one or two children. That was the pattern in many Western countries a century ago. Ireland, yet another country with a childless leader, still manages it today.
The childless also do everyone else a favour by creating wonderful works of art. British novelists have been especially likely to have no progeny: think of Hilary Mantel, P.G. Wodehouse and the Brontë sisters. In September Britain will put Jane Austen on its ten-pound note. That decision has been controversial, though it is hard to see why. Few people have written as shrewdly about money or about families—even though Austen did not marry, and had no children.
To say that Thomas Robert Malthus was unpopular would be putting it mildly. His 19th-century contemporary Percy Shelley, the revered poet, called him a eunuch and a tyrant. The philosopher William Godwin dubbed him “a dark and terrible genius that is ever at hand to blast all the hopes of all mankind.” As Malthus’ biographer later put it, he was the most abused man of his age. And that was the age of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The catalyst for this vilification was the 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population. In it, Malthus—a curly haired, 32-year-old curate of a small English chapel—attacked the claims of utopian thinkers like Godwin, who believed that reason and scientific progress would ultimately create a perfect society, free of inequality and suffering. Malthus took a more pessimistic view. Using United States census data compiled by Benjamin Franklin, he predicted that the “passion of the sexes” would soon cause human populations to outstrip their resources, leading to poverty and hardship. If unchecked, people would continue to multiply exponentially, doubling every 25 years. Agricultural yields, however, would at best increase linearly, by a similar amount each year. In 100 years, Great Britain would have 16 times as many mouths to feed (112 million), but less than half enough food.
Millennials want a different kind of suburban
development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.
The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.
Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.
They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.
Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made clear that, especially in suburbs, the United States desperately needs better drainage systems to handle the enormous amounts of rainfall expected from climate change.
They also made clear that new, sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.
Modern families and differing national laws mean opportunities for companies
Fertility is a sizeable industry; commercial sperm banks are a crucial and profitable part of it. The global sperm-bank business could be worth nearly $5bn by 2025, according to Grand View Research, a market-research firm in California. Demand has risen strongly. That is partly because people in rich countries are postponing their childbearing years; they struggle to conceive as a result. But an even greater reason is that in more places, it is both legal and increasingly acceptable for lesbian couples and single women to have children. These groups make up 60% and 90% of clients at Cryos and SSB, respectively.
As demand rises, politicians and regulators are trying to exert more control. That has created a patchwork of rules that affect sources of both supply and demand. In some countries, such as Britain and the Netherlands, anonymous donation of sperm has been outlawed, contributing to sperm shortages; in others, such as France and Spain, donors must be anonymous. In Canada, donors cannot be paid; in most European countries they can be compensated only for expenses; in America there are no limits on remuneration.
As for buyers of sperm, many head for jurisdictions where waiting times and prices are lower or the level of testing or information about the donor greater, or because restrictive rules at home prevent them from receiving donor sperm altogether. In Hong Kong and Switzerland, for example, only married, heterosexual couples are eligible for treatment with donor sperm. In France lesbians and single women are excluded. This legislative hodgepodge represents opportunity for those that can export sperm. Thanks to dry ice, the internet and DHL, good-quality sperm has become highly tradable.
Where did you guys gamete?
The industry has not always been in the hands of businessmen. For much of the 20th century, infertile couples would see a doctor who would pull his best-looking student from the corridor and use his freshly volunteered sperm to inseminate the woman, recalls Rene Almeling at Yale University. No records were kept. The HIV epidemic of the 1980s ended such shenanigans. Freezing, quarantining and testing both sperm and donors became crucial.
Worried about rising costs and legal liability, medical clinics left the business and commercial sperm banks filled the gap. The market has become highly competitive. Many customers need between six and ten vials to conceive, and with lots coming back for siblings, the business is all about the first sell. Cryos’s sales department is bigger than the science lab.
Australians are currently deciding whether our laws should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, and the debate is proving to be only one degree more civilized than a cage fight. Surveys have been mailed to voters all over the country by the government, asking them to tick yes or no to this proposal.
Understandably some people are nervous, given that same-sex marriage has been introduced only in Belgium, Canada, Argentina, France, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Britain and a bunch of other countries. We do not yet have long-term data on whether same-sex marriage will cause these societies to collapse, or the gates of hell to open.
Australia’s same-sex marriage survey is not compulsory and the result is not binding on the government. And yet it is having a profound effect on the national mood and conversation, as the kind of ideas that might usually be voiced only by a racist old uncle after a few too many Scotches have become legitimate topics of public policy debate.
Last week on a national current-affairs program, a business leader put the argument for the “no” case using race as an analogy, saying, “A black man and a white man are equal, but they’re clearly different. A black man will never be a white man, and vice versa.” Airtime has been handed over to plaintive warnings that same-sex marriage will usher in a gender-fluid fascist state, in which boys can wear dresses to school and homophobic bakeries are forced to produce lesbian wedding cakes. Nice work, Australia.
As the conversation ranges — hurtfully for so many same-sex couples — over gender, marriage and parenting, let’s imagine for a moment that there is value in examining such issues unflinchingly, free from the yoke of political correctness, no matter how hurtful it might be to the sensibilities of some. In this spirit I would like to consider frankly an aspect of the debate not adequately covered so far: heterosexuality.
inda Trim, Director of FutureSpace, a joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap that offers high end shared working, office on demand, space in Sandton, said: “The data shows that freelancing is on the rise worldwide.
“And that’s partly because of the ‘gig economy’, people working independently for companies like Uber which is a relentlessly evolving phenomenon.”
In OECD countries, studies show that freelancers individuals work chiefly in the services sector (50% of men and 70% of women). The remainder are everything from online assistants to architects, designers and photographers.
A recent study called “A snapshot of today’s on demand workforce” by software firm Xero, showed that the majority of freelancers in OECD countries are “slashers”, meaning that their contract work supplements another part-time or full-time position.
These additional earnings can vary considerably. Those who spend a few hours a month editing instruction manuals from home may earn a few hundred euros (R3 to R4k) a month. Freelance occupational therapists may pull in ten times that working full-time (R30 to R40k/month).
Said Trim: “Perhaps the most glamorous face of freelancing are the ‘creative classes’ an agile, connected, highly educated and globalised category of workers that specialise in communications, media, design, art and tech, among others sectors.
“They are architects, web designers, bloggers, consultants and the like, whose job it is to stay on top of trends.”
Freelancers constitute a diverse population of workers – their educational backgrounds, motivations, ambitions, needs, and willingness to work differ from one worker to the next.
“In addition to the rise if the gig economy, the search for freedom with income is another huge motivator. Freelancing is increasingly a choice that people make in order to escape the 9-to-5 workday.”
Trim added that many of the clients that have signed up at FutureSpace work for themselves and are developing their business or have worked for big businesses for years and are now independent consultants.
“We have also noticed that many large corporates are hiring freelancers and are wanting to use shared spaces like FutureSpace for specific projects or innovation drives rather than have them in the established where they will be exposed to how things have always been done.”
Trim noted however that full-time, company-based work is still the standard for employment in most countries, including South Africa.
“But with the rise of telecommuting and automation and the unlimited potential of crowdsourcing, it stands to reason that more and more firms will begin running, and even growing, their businesses with considerably fewer employees.
“This does not necessarily mean an increase in unemployment. Instead, it likely means more freelancers, who will form and reform around various projects in constant and evolving networks,” Trim concluded.
Australia Votes for Gay Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization
MELBOURNE, Australia — A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.
Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.
“The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ for marriage equality,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party’s far-right faction. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love.”
The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia’s most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.
Transgender activists v feminists
Making sense of the culture war over transgender identity
As more people change gender, they are sparking a debate that enrages some and confuses many
A BEAUTIFUL man with high cheekbones, fluttering eyelashes and a galaxy of silver glitter in his hair strides into the room. He is wearing a wedding dress and dirty trainers. The gender-bending at this club night in east London is not new: Shakespeare’s comedies are filled with cross-dressers; Gladys Bentley stomped the boards of 1920s Harlem in a tuxedo; Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s ambiguous interstellar alias, landed in the 1970s. What is new, though, is that convention-defying statements of gender identity are moving from stage and dance floor to everyday life.
The word “gender” is used by prudes to avoid saying “sex”, and restricted by purists (and, until recently, The Economist’s style guide) to speaking about grammar. In the 1970s feminists described the restricted behaviour regarded as proper to men and women as “gender roles”. But in recent years “gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, as distinct from biological sex or sexual orientation. Growing numbers of young people describe themselves as “non-binary”. Others say gender is a spectrum, or that they have no gender at all. Facebook offers users a list of over 70 gender identities, from “agender” to “two-spirit”, as well as the option to write in their own.
Doctors ought to be women’s greatest allies in the fight for contraceptive and reproductive rights. And yet many of them are failing one subset of women — those, like me, who know they never want to have children.
Five years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I complained to my gynecologist about long, heavy, unpredictable periods that left me anemic and were poorly controlled by various birth control pills. I requested an endometrial ablation, a brief, minimally invasive procedure that destroys a thin layer of the uterine lining. An accepted treatment for heavy periods, it would also make it very unlikely for me to become pregnant and medically inadvisable for me to carry a pregnancy to term even if I wanted to. As I saw it, this was another benefit, as I have always known that I did not want children.
My doctor refused. “You’ll change your mind,” she said, not without condescension. She added that no doctor would consider performing the procedure on a woman in her 20s.
This turned out to be true: When, over the next few years, I sought the procedure in deep-blue New York City, I was met by doctors who, it seemed, thought they knew me better than I knew myself.
As I continued to call doctors around the country, my online research introduced me to the “childfree movement,” whose members, like me, are resolute in their desire not to have children. Through them, I found that my situation was far from unique.
Humanity has peaked and we're on the decline, scientist claims
We had a good run, but it's all downhill from here for humanity.
At least according to a new study, which looked at 120 years of data and came to a rather depressing conclusion: we've peaked as a species.
Professor Jean-François Toussaint of Paris Descartes University says there appears to be "maximum thresholds" of age, height, strength and sporting ability that we have now reached.
"These traits no longer increase, despite further continuous nutritional, medical, and scientific progress," he said in a new paper published in scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.
While more people reach these thresholds as incomes and technology improve, none appear to be able to break them.
"This suggests that modern societies have allowed our species to reach its limits. We are the first generation to become aware of this."
Sporting records are taking longer to break than they used to - no one has beaten Usain Bolt's 100-metre and 200-metre records of 2009, for example. Before 2008, the 200-metre record went unbroken for 22 years.
Science has revealed how arbitrary racial categories
are. Perhaps medicine will abandon them, too.
African-Americans, who on average have about 20 percent European ancestry, suffer from high blood pressure more often than whites do. Some studies indicate that among African-Americans, the darker one’s skin, the greater the risk of high blood pressure. The pattern could indicate that African ancestry is responsible.
Yet Africans in Africa don’t generally have high blood pressure. So some argue that the experience of having dark skin in the United States — of experiencing racism — is what’s raising blood pressure. In this case, Dr. Burchard says, even though race is a social construct, the best way to talk about the associated disease risk may be to use the labels, since the societal baggage that comes with them may be causing the problem.
But the hope is that one day we can use modern genetic tools to bypass the quagmire of race entirely. Consider the research of Alan Wu, a lab director of the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Dr. Wu is working to improve a basic blood test that measures red blood cells, white blood cells and so forth.
Currently, when it comes to ancestry, the test compares everyone’s blood against a single standard. This is a problem because what’s “normal” probably varies according to ancestry. Dr. Wu hopes to devise a version of the test that accounts for variations in blood count according to ancestry. But instead of using self-reported race as a way to specify this variation, he is trying to determine patients’ backgrounds directly with genetic testing — looking at what proportion of a person’s DNA comes from East Asia, say, or Europe.
Science seeks to categorize nature, to sort it into discrete groupings to better understand it. That is one way to comprehend the race concept: as an honest scientific attempt at understanding human variation. The problem is, the concept is imprecise. It has repeatedly slid toward pseudoscience and has become a major divider of humanity. Now, at a time when we desperately need ways to come together, there are scientists — intellectual descendants of the very people who helped give us the race concept — who want to retire it.
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