This morning I read for perhaps the third time since its publication last year, Helen Andrews’ Bloodless Moralism. Since first reading this article I have been unable to use the words “studies show” and other expressions of moral and civilizational uncertainty, without wanting to smack myself in the face and grovel in shame. Andrews writes:

It is one kind of madness to expect science to put a permanent end to war abroad and inequality at home, as the Progressives did, and another kind of madness to hope that science will someday find evidence suggesting that adultery is in fact wrong or drug addiction in fact undesirable.

It’s wrong to push an old man down the stairs, and if you need a study in order to affirm that, well then old men had best stay clear of you above the ground floor. That’s one issue anyway. Another is the professionalization of problems from which all these studies spring.

When professionals put such zest and seriousness into persuading people that they have a problem that can be solved, several things can go wrong. It may be that the targets of their attentions have a problem that cannot be solved. It may be that they do not have a problem at all. Or it may be that they do have a problem and it can be solved, but it would be better for them in the meantime to be able to appreciate, relish, draw from, or find the richness in their problem instead of simply deprecating it. The professionals’ response to each of these three possibilities ends in false hope, false despair, or false resentment for the sufferers, yet ever greater self-satisfaction for their would-be saviors.

Below is a picture of my great grandparents taken in Monroe County, Pennsylvania in 1894.  Would they have stood so proudly in front of their home with their horses had they been subjected to daily (if not hourly) reminders of the income inequality under which they lived? Also pictured are the first three of the twelve children they would eventually bring into this world, well before they could have considered the studies on sustainable family planning (let alone college tuition).

Millers large Helen Andrews, Studies show...