Friday, March 18, 2011

Tough Questions: The Legality of Incest

This personal debate with myself started with a Young Turks clip on youtube a while back about Switzerland thinking about legalizing incest. Of course, when I first saw the title, my gut reaction was crazy fucking Swiss. Now I must admit I had the slightest biased against the Swiss government, simply with the issue I have on them portraying such a forward progressive attitude when in reality a lot of the government's policies are really backward, like their ridiculously xenophobic immigration policy and the fact that their women didn't have the right to vote until 1971. So initially, to me this seemed to fall into this category.

But then I watched the video. First of all, the law in no way condoned the rape of children or any such off-balance power dynamic. Pedophilia is outlawed in many different ways so that was not even the question. The question was whether or not someone should go to jail because of a fully consensual relationship between adult family members, like a brother and a sister.

Now I'm an only child, but still the idea of a brother and a sister going at it grosses me out. But still, does something that grosses me out have to be illegal? People that pee on each other gross me the fuck out too, but I'm not going to tell them that they should spend up to four years in jail because of it!

So why is it really illegal in the first place, in a country like the US?

There seem to be two prevailing arguments that people will automatically blurt out when confronted with such a seemingly odd and yet very simple question.

Excuse #1: It goes against people's Christian values

OK so apart from the obvious fact that Christians have absolutely no right to condemn incest considering that the Bible is riddled with it (see this video for a hilarious spoof on this), countries like the US and other European countries are supposed to have separation of church and state, so there should not be any laws made based on a religious belief or feeling. So in that case, this law would have no merit.

Excuse #2: The family members might have children, and those children would have a much higher chance of being born with malformations and genetic diseases.

Yes that is true. But here's my big problem with that argument: there is no other case in which it is illegal to have children based on such a risk. Let's go with an extreme example first. There is a drug on the market called Accutane, a very good drug for people with severe and disfiguring acne. The only problem is that, if taken while pregnant, this drug will lead to extremely severe birth defects, in which the child will be born with head, nervous system and heart defects, many times resulting in death. Of course female patients are warned of these enormous risks and told to use birth control while taking it. HOWEVER, if a woman gets pregnant, continues to take the drug and gives birth to the baby, causing it immense pain and suffering, there is no law to stop her. She will not spend one day in jail. So how can you say that there can be a law against a practice that might cause the birth of a child with congenital defects, when there is no law against a practice that will almost definitely produce a child with congenital defects? The argument simply does not hold water.

So the real question becomes this: legalize (or at least decriminalize) incest, or introduce more laws against practices that could lead to the birth of children with severe congential disorders?

At this point I have to point out the potential disaster of option 2. Yes incest can lead to birth defects, but you know what else can? Alcohol. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the number 1 cause of mental retardation in the States, and yet it is not illegal for a pregnant woman to have a drink. Well why stop there? Older women have a significantly higher chance of having a baby with Down's Syndrome, are we going to have an age limit on getting pregnant? It all gets a little too much for my taste. I say educate women on the risks involved, offer safe and legal abortion if it doesn't go to plan, and let adults make up their own adult minds. Pro choice all the way!

Well this was my logical train of thought. If you have any conflicting ones, or any other point to add or consider, do let me know!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts on: Crazy Evolution

This is where my weird weird thoughts start coming in to play. Leave me somewhere on my own without a book, and things start to get odd.

I was waiting to get my hair cut the other day, and I thought something that I hadn't thought of in a while; isn't hair fucking weird? I mean, we're predominantly hairless creatures, and then we have this huge mat right on top of our heads. Not only that, the freaking thing grows indefinitely, and we take so much care with it and pull it and dye it and do all kinds of stuff to it but what is it really? A mop of very long body hair right on top of our heads.

How in the hell did it evolve?

Now I know that we lose a lot of heat from our heads, so of course it would be normal for us to keep hair there. But how did it go from being a patch of body hair to something that grows so freaking long? What other animal has hair that can grow that freaking long? Don't say lion's mane. Even though it can grow quite long, its an exclusively male characteristic, which could be selected for through sexual selection, more analogous to how a man's beard could have evolved. Both sexes of the human race have indefinitely growing hair, and there is nothing to suggest male selection for females with long hair viable, since that really never happens in evolution (except occasionally in those animals that have solely paternal care for young) as it is evolutionarily stable for males to impregnate pretty much any female that will have them. So how was it selected for?

Initially you could say well, more hair more heat retention. OK. But that only really works up to a point. Imagine primitive man trying to get about its day with hair down to its ass, not really all that useful and not any warmer than hair that is shoulder length. Also it would knot up and catch all kinds of nasty dirt and bugs that is in no way helpful. So how could it have come about?

Now to be honest, I haven't even attempted to research any possible theories that evolutionary biologists have come up with, if there are any (and there probably are). This is just the kind of thing that I will often ponder, and then I'll have a eureka moment if I think of something that might work, logic at its best. If anyone knows, or thinks of something, do tell me! Its a great way to flex your reasoning muscles, to hash out what could and could not work and for what reasons, and its even more fun when you're not just doing it by yourself!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Hi. My name is Crys, and I'm a scientist.

Well, I suppose that's not entirely accurate. I'm actually doing my PhD at the moment, which puts me in a limbo between being a student and a full fledged scientist. I still get a student card, but I also get paid to do my research. Well, kinda. I was supposed to get paid, but thanks to the fact that the entire world is going to shit, my fair country of Italy included, I now have to work for free for four months before I get paid anything, which isnt the greatest news for someone who moved to a new city with rent to pay explicitly for this job.

Hi. My name is Crys, and I'm Italian.

Well that isnt 100% accurate either. I was born in the United States, only to move to Italy when I was a tiny little baby. My mother is American and my father is Italian, and I was raised in Italy and went to an international school that followed first the British then the American curriculum. I used to identify myself as both, until I moved to Ireland for college. This was in the height of the Bush years, and everyone had had just about enough of American obnoxiousness. Then there's me with my American accent, and identifying myself as Italian-American only made them raise and eyebow and assume that I was from Jersey. Those few that gave me a second chance to explain myself told me the term was not accurate for what I really am, and since I have forever refused to use the ponzy title they came up with for the international children of my generation "Citizens of the World" (barf), I have since then started to refer to myself as Italian. Also the scholarship that I was using to be there was exclusively for EU students, so there was that. Now, I suppose you can think of me as the best English speaking Italian that you will ever come across.

Hi. My name is Crys, and I'm broke.

Luckily I'm not as close to broke as I could be, but I'm getting there. More then anything I feel so screwed by the system that this whole situation has made me feel like no matter what I do I will forever be struggling to keep my head above water. Coming from a middle class family, I have only now realized that despite the chances I have been given with my education, I can still end up failing miserably and never be able to give my children the same things that were given to me growing up. I know how ridiculously spoiled and pig-headed that sounds. Many will read that and think "pfft look at this little bitch, didn't you know life was going to be hard? Did you think everything would be handed to you on a silver platter? Life is a struggle." Of course I knew that. And I am no stranger to working hard. I earned my scholarship. I have worked every single summer since I was legal. I worked my ass off and graduated top of my class. I have lived on beans and rice for months when the money wasn't coming in in college. I suppose it's just different when you're a student, there's always the naive belief in the back of your mind that once studying is over things will work themselves out. Knowing something and really understanding something are two completely different things. It's like when you're a kid, and you know you're going to die one day, of course you do, but its only until your mid to late-teens that you really start to understand your own mortality. It stops being something that is going to happen eventually and all of a sudden you understand that your actions can have mortal consequences. I remember when it happened to me because, as a result, I developed a fear of flying that I never had before, especially since I flew maybe 4-8 times a year. So yes, I knew that life is hard and you have to work to get what you want, but it took me getting to this point to understand that sometimes you can work really hard and really deserve it, but still constantly get the short end of the stick.

The unbelievable thing is that, were I to have the opportunity to go back in time and have a do over, there is no other place that I would rather be in this point in my life. I have no regrets as to the choices I've made, but rather it's the circumstances I find myself in that I wish were different. On the one hand, I suppose that's a comfort. On the other, it really drives home how little control you actually have over your own life.

Hi. My name is Crys, and I'm scared, confused, yet hopeful, optimistic, with an enormous jumble of thoughts in my head that I suppose it's time I start getting them out.