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Mixed, undeclared intentions detract from an otherwise valuable work
on December 26, 2009
This book combines two priorities, on the one hand it is an interesting summary of psychological, neurochemical and imaging medicine for lay readers. It is well referenced and easy to read.
On the other hand it seeks to justify and defend traditional family values, the judicious choice of a life partner and particularly focusses on the emotional havoc done by multiple short term sexual relations. In this it is plentifully furnished with short testimonials, has a gentle, persuasive and sympathetic tone.
There are plenty of illuminating sociological statistics which highlight just how caustic an amoral lifestyle is:
*80% of unwed teen fathers don't marry the mother of their baby.
*20% of 12-18 yr oral contraceptive users get pregnant within 6 months.
*cohabiting couples show much more violence than married couples, are more likely to divorce if they do marry after cohabiting than those don't cohabit first, most cohabiting relationships break up or end up in marriage after 2 year.
*Unfaithfulness is reported 4 x more often by cohabitees than married couples.
*in one sample (NCPT 2007), 70% of female and 55% of male high school students wish they had waited rather than rushed into sex.
So far so good, but the problem is that very often the science is used to justify the ethics in a way that seems stretched and speculative. The retrospective claim about the development of the brain is used to justify waiting till personal judgement is better settled in the 20s - good sense, but is this conclusion really vindicated by MRI and PET studies per se? The overemphasis on the importance of oxytocin and vasopressin in bonding is claimed to justify not rushing for a 'quick fix' - is this really demonstrated by case control studies with behvioural correlation? - I don't see the evidence here if so. Dopamine is described rather simplistically as the risk/reward hormone, and promiscuity to a kind of addiction to a 'dopamine rush'. All this looks tendentious, and may mislead parents into simplistic and mechanistic discussions.
This book is illuminating, sympathetic and well intentioned, but it also suffers a serious flaw. There are vital moral grounds for the sanctity of marriage. These need to be championed vigorously, and our societies have vandalised them at tremendous cost to our children. However trying to sneak these precepts in under the guise of over-extrapolated science alone is unnecessary and needlessly gives detractors legitimate fuel for criticism.