Typos p. 109: "higher considerations [= "higher considerations"]
Some Birth-Control Sophistry Exposed
In the argumentation to be found in Birth Control literature there is a good deal of inconsistency and sophistry, to which it is urgently necessary to call attention more particularly as it will be found, by anyone who is a careful reader of the books and pamphlets connected with the movement, that birth-controllers are so prone to copy one another, and to borrow each other's supposed big guns, that by sheer dint of finding some of their sophistries constantly repeated, the general public may begin to think that they are no sophistries at all.
We have already pointed to a number of false claims and invalid pleas which mar the convincingness of Birth Control propaganda; but here we shall be concerned with pure sophistries, which, although constantly and solemnly reiterated, cannot bear a moment's serious examination. For instance, one of the principal pleas of the birth-controllers is that, while we must limit our reproductive capacity if we do not wish to bring disaster upon the nation, we must also be able to find some expression for our sexual appetite. And they argue that only by means of their preventive methods can this double end be achieved. To this their religious and other opponents say: "What about continence?" "Yes,"
Well, supposing for the time being we grant this plea, and admit that incontinence is unnatural. (We at any rate can do this quite frankly, because we do not propose to argue in these pages that it is either natural or advisable.) If, however, we proceed to turn to another page of the average birth-controller's pamphlet, 2 we find that the charge made by the opponents of Birth Control, that contraception is unnatural, is cavalierly dismissed as not worth the trouble of being discussed.
The kind of argument that the birth-controller uses in reply to this charge, when he condescends to answer it, is that "all civilisation is artificial. The use of a toothbrush, a pocket-knife, a knife and fork, the wearing of spectacles and false teeth, the lighting of streets and houses by night, travelling by railway, steamer and aeroplane," etc., etc. 3 so that who can say nowadays what is natural or unnatural to human beings?
1 See, for instance, p. 54 of Dr. Blacker's book.
2 Ibid., p. 22.
3 See Ettie A. Rout, The Morality of Birth Control. p. 185. See also Population and Birth Control, by Dr. C. Killick Millard, where (pp. 467) the author argues in much the same strain concerning what is natural and artificial, and on p. 46 rejects the moral constraint alternative to contraception as "physiologically undesirable," which is almost as good as saying that it is unnatural. See also Harold Cox, The Problem of Population, pp. 1689, where he says: "The whole of
Clearly such methods are specious and indefensible,
human progress is due to man's interference with the normal processes of nature. It is not natural to wear clothes; it is not natural to use soap; it is not natural to ride in railway carriages," etc. And then on pp. 1756 he speaks of self-restraint as the "denial of a natural enjoyment" and calls this "impossible." See the same author's contribution to The Control of Parenthood, pp. 845, where he again argues in "a similar strain. See Marie Stopes, Contraception: Its Theory, History and Practice, p. 221, where the author argues against regarding contraception as "not natural" on almost the same lines as the others, after having on p. 101 condemned total abstinence for purposes of family limitation as "the most unnatural of all methods of contraception which can be used by a loving couple," and, p. 85, condemned the restriction of the coital act to a safe period in the month (tempus agenoseos): as "quite an unnatural method." She goes on, p. 85, as follows: "no natural female animal allows the male entry when she is not 'on heat.' It is also unnatural because it s prescribes the times at 'which a man is to approach his wife without any relation whatever to his feelings," etc. On p. 235 she again refers to the coitus intermenstruus, as "this most unnatural method."
As long as they deny the validity of the claim that contraceptives are wrong because they are "unnatural" they themselves must abstain from stigmatising as "unnatural" continence or (as in the case of Marie Stopes) the restriction of the coital act to the tempus agenoseos, as means of avoiding too frequent conceptions. And one of the chief indications of the looseness of thought with which their books and pamphlets are composed is the frequency with which even the best and most distinguished of them make use of this kind of sophistry.
If now we turn to the customary "sob-stuff" to use a piece of journalistic slang with which birth-controllers are wont to fill their pages, we find the same loose methods of reasoning manifesting themselves in a different direction. The scene is usually laid in a poor man's room in a tenement house in one of the poorest quarters of London. The wife is lying there in the seventh, eighth, or ninth labour she has had in seven, eight, or nine consecutive years. The man is usually a drunkard who "has as many children as time and the health of his wife (of which last he does not always show excessive consideration) will
And what is recommended as a means of preventing this harrowing situation? Of course Birth Control for all!
Every reader of Birth Control literature must be familiar with this stock "sob-stuff." And yet has it ever
occurred to him to ask whether the scene depicted be any.in any sense be regarded as typical, or even as occurring with sufficient frequency to be used as an argument at all? Certainly it is moving. Are we to use such comparatively rare instances of thoughtless brutality as an argument for or against anything? We might, for instance, use them as an argument against marriage. Would that be reasonable? Or we might use them as an argument against marriage among the poor. Who would listen? Finally we
1 Blacker, op. cit., p. 37.
2 Ibid., p. 40.
3 Ibid., p. 40. See also p. 47, where, speaking of the type of man whose procreation it would be desirable to restrict, Dr. Blacker says of the child such a man procreates: "The child is usually begotten by such a parent when he is drunk." See on this point Dr. Katherine Gamgee's excellent paper (op. cit., p. 13).
Sir Arthur Newsholme, than whom no one is better qualified to discuss precisely this aspect of Birth Control advocacy, says:
"A common argument in favour of teaching the use of contraceptives at clinics for wage-earning people and elsewhere is that the average woman is exhausted or worn out by having a large family. There is little or no valid evidence to this effect, 2 though it is easy to quote 'hard cases' in which, on
1 After writing the above, I happened to come across the following passages in Mrs. Annie G. Porritt's address to the Propaganda and General Section of the Fifth Birth Control Conference. Mrs. Porritt said: "For successful publicity three principles must be adhered to: (1) The publicity must arouse emotion. . . . Pity and sympathy for the women and children victims of the present system, glowing hopes of family and race regeneration on the one hand, and resentment and hatred of change or criticism of moral standards on the other, furnish a gamut of emotions which can hardly be equalled. . . . (3) It must be intelligent, well-based, accurate and capable of withstanding hostile criticism. . . . It is, however, no use to be scientific, accurate and exact if no one is listening to us, and I assert without hesitation that our propaganda profits more from the words of the unlearned that are heard [sic!!] than from the wisest counsels of the most learned when these do not reach the ears, the minds, and the hearts of the people." (See Report, pp. 306, 307.)
2 The italics are the present writer's. Unfortunately the birth-controllers are not much concerned with real evidence,
Dr. Katherine Gamgee, in her excellent paper on "Some Modem Aspects of Birth Control," not only I says, "I think it cannot be too emphatically stated and repeated that the normal woman is not exhausted
provided that they can give a sufficiently lurid picture of the excessively fertile mother in a poor neighbourhood. See Mrs. Edward Cecil (Report of the Fifth Birth Control Conference, p. 34): "The great root cause of C3 motherhood amongst the poor is too much motherhood. By this I do not mean that there are too many mothers. . . . What I mean is that the mothers of the poor have far too many children." See Dr. C. V. Drysdale (same Report, p. 55): "It is quite common among the poorer classes for a fresh child to appear every year, and life then becomes one ever-increasing struggle against a hopeless conditions or an abject surrender." See Marie Stopes, Contraception, p. 7: "As so large a proportion of female ill health can be directly traced to an excessive number of pregnancies in too rapid succession, and to pregnancies under unsuitable conditions, it is obvious that the proper use of contraception as a fundamental health measure is the practitioner's concern." The present writer is always inclined to be more than usually,Suspicious when a birth-controller uses the expression "it is obvious." See also Prof. Sir Will. Bayliss's Introduction to Marie Stopes' book (p. xl) and the prominence she gives to excessively fertile women in Chapter III of her book. Innumerable other examples could be culled from Birth Control literature.
1 Medical Views on Birth Control, p. 142.
"in his evidence before the Special Committee appointed by the National Council of Public Morals," Mr. Cox maintained that "in practice, unless married couples employ methods of birth control, babies succeed one another so rapidly that the mother has no time to recover her strength and the children are deprived of the full benefit of a mother's care."
And she adds:
"This sentence is simply packed full of inaccuracies, and shows profound ignorance of the conditions under which our working-class population is living, as well as of the physiology of reproduction and the laws of fertility. . . . It is not in the least true that births succeed one another with unchecked rapidity."
Again Sir John Robertson, C.M.G., M.D., "whose unique experience and known influence in public health render him an authority not lightly to be set aside," 3 writes as follows:
"A good deal of misapprehension exists as to the numbers of excessively large families among the poor. Quite recently,
1 p. 10. In dwelling on this point, it is, of course, always necessary for the reader to bear in mind that, where circumstances are so extremely adverse, through poverty, as to make it difficult for a woman to recover and nourish herself adequately after the birth of a child, child-bearing would prove exhausting. But such cases are much more rare to-day than they were say, in Dr. George Drysdale's time.
2 p. 11.
3 The quotation is from Sir Thomas Horder's Introduction to Medical Views on Birth Control, p. xi.
Meanwhile, quite apart from the views of the experts, it is known to most well-informed birth-controllers, who make such an important point of the evils of excessive and too frequent parturition, that among the most prolific section of the working classes in this country, the miners, the average number of children is only 3.58 as compared with the professional classes' 2.13.
The evidence of women doctors before the Commission of Enquiry into the Declining Birth Rate also does not lend much support to this "sob-stuff" of the birth-controller's propaganda. (And we would expect women to be only too ready to support it if it were based on a sufficiently large array of facts to represent a widespread evil.) But what did both Dr. Mary Scharlieb and Lady Barrett say before the Commission?
The former, in referring to women who have a child a year, said: "I do not think this is often so with
1 Medical Views on Birth Control, p. 153.
"It is often assumed that unless contraceptives are used, every woman who is married will have a child once a year or every two years at least. This may be so in isolated cases; but speaking generally it is very far from the fact." 2
In trying to make out a case in favour of the unrestricted spread of Birth Control practices, for the purpose of reducing population, it is here submitted that it is not either candid or convincing to imply that the harrowing spectacle of a brutally, or at least an inconsiderately treated exhausted wife of a poor husband (frequently represented as a drunkard) is sufficiently common to make an important part of the issue between the advocates and the opponents of Birth Control one of pure humanitarianism. Even if such a spectacle may have been common in Dickens' time (and there are statistics to show that it may possibly have been), it is certainly not common now; and the general use of this stock "sob-stuff" by birth-controllers, in order to make their movement appear in the light of a great humanitarian reform, is possibly the least respectable aspect of their propaganda. Because it makes their opponents appear like people who are indifferent to the agony of this army of women supposed to be exhausted by excessive pregnancies when all the while there is not necessarily any agony
1 See the Commissioners' Report, p. 270.
2 Ibid., p. 79.
According to the evidence given before the National Birth Rate Commission (19203), there has been "an immense increase in recent years of the proportion of completely childless marriages," and small families "have increased tremendously." Each of us is aware of the large number of families, of which we happen to know the circumstances, both among the poor and the well-to-do, in which there are only two children, or one, or none. Truth to tell, we have become so much accustomed to this that it no longer strikes us as odd. But in the pages of statistical works, the phenomenon assumes a more serious aspect. There we find, for instance, that, between 1851 and 1896, the
1 See, for instance, Harold Cox in The Control of Parenthood, where (p. 80) he says: "If a woman is called upon to have children as often as is physically possible, her life is one long illness." It is this kind of statement that too often vitiates the writings of the birth-controllers, for it is full of loose phraseology and unscientific assumptions. What, for instance, is the meaning of "as often as is physically possible"? To the superficial reader the meaning may appear obvious. But let me assure him that it is not. Again, what is the meaning of "her life is one long illness"? On whose authority does Mr. Cox claim that the life of a woman who has a child as often as is physically possible, is one long illness? Such statements reveal the emotional condition in which most writers and speakers on Birth Control approach their subject, and, moreover, betray the fact that the birth-controller is aware of the value of their appeal before an uncritical audience. See also Marie Stopes, Contraception, p. 9: "A modern humane civilisation must control conception or sink into barbaric cruelty to individuals" [!!!].
This change may be due to a large extent to the spread of Birth Control practices. But this does not modify the objection we are making to the Birth Control Movement. For there is a big gap between the woman exhausted by child-birth the woman who is represented as having children more often than is physically desirable and even the woman whose family is seven or eight. To speak of women exhausted by child-birth without more narrowly defining them, therefore, is merely to rouse prejudice and provoke tears in order to promote the Birth Control Movement; it serves no purpose in the cause of truth.
1 The term "completed fertility" in connection with vital statistics appears to mean that stage in a family's career when the mother has borne all the children she can hope to bear.
2 See Census of England and Wales, 1911. Vol. XIII, Part II, "Fertility of Marriage," pp. xliixliii.
We will attempt to make this point more clear. Suppose a normally healthy woman marries at the age of 25 and has six or seven children by the time she is 43 which would be not only normally possible, but perfectly right and satisfying, both from the standpoint of the natural expression of her own sex equipment, and the proper environmental conditions of the children she could easily do this without a trace of exhaustion and without a trace of illness (unless her doctors made her ill). Would the birth-controller condemn such a proceeding? Of course he would! He is committed to the obligation of condemning it by his own statements regarding the ideal family of three or four already quoted. 2 But he could not call it a case of excessive child-bearing. Indeed, the woman might have eight children before she was 43 and still he could not justifiably call her life one long illness or agony.
In fact, we might go further and say that most normal women would find (and have found) health and
1 For term "completed fertility," see footnote, p. 94, ante.
2 See pp. 52, 53, ante.
1 One eminent birth-controller himself, Dr. Norman Haire, estimates that the optimum interval between births is from two to three years (Hymen, p. 78), so that there is nothing either extraordinary or "physically" wrong about my calculation. Sir Arthur Newsholme in Medical Views on Birth Control (p. 142) maintains, moreover, that "the normal intervals of child-bearing, in the absence of all artificial preventives, are two years or over," and adds that this is clearly shown by the national experience in Scotland in its first year of registration, 1855. See also Dr. Katherine Gamgee (op. cit., p. 11): "Moreover, the woman who has a child every four or five years is far more apt to suffer both mentally and physically than the woman who has one every two or three years. The agreement of prominent obstetricians is almost universal on this point, and one's own observations tally with this opinion." See Appendix I.
But to appeal to the unthinking and the excitable by describing the horrors of excessive child-bearing, which is so rare as to be negligible, or by depicting the squalor of a drunken brute's home, is such transparent sophistry, that were it not for the mentality of the age, debauched by journalistic excesses and superficiality, he could not have hoped to make any headway by such methods.
The same remarks apply to the use made by birth-controllers of harrowing cases of illness associated with motherhood, in order to press upon the reader the need of spreading their doctrines. When all the while what is really important is the question whether the normal and healthy woman should be taught contraceptive methods and urged to use them, we submit that it is irrelevant to refer, as an argument in advocating the general spread of Birth Control know ledge, to cases of illness and extreme debility. Every one knows that where pathological conditions are present, morbid conditions have to be imposed for the
"All obstacles to the receipt of adequate and adequately responsible advice in such cases [he is referring to cases in which pathological conditions are present] should be removed in the interest of the common health. But these cases are exceptional and call for special individual treatment, rather than for the present raging and indiscriminating publicity which is responsible for widespread evil." 1
The pathological conditions for which contraceptive practices are indicated have been laid down by qualified authorities again and again, 2 and no reasonable person disputes that in such cases contraceptives serve a useful end; but the Birth Control Movement, in justifying its propaganda and its efforts to spread contraceptive knowledge throughout the whole nation, has no business to move the hearts of its prospective converts by references to these pathological cases; for quite apart from the fact that the real problem does not consist in determining whether contraceptives should be used in pathological cases, but whether they should be used by normal healthy people, it amounts to an unscrupulous exploitation of ignorance to lead the public to think that unless they accept the teaching of the birth-controllers, such pathological cases will be deprived of the remedies or morbid alleviations their diseased condition calls for.
Marie Stopes is a particularly bad offender in this
1 Medical Views on Birth Control, p. 142.
2 See p. 17, ante.
Another very serious flaw in the advocacy of Birth Control, to be found in all the literature of the subject, is the assumption, either tacit or avowed, that the complete expression of the sexual life for each sex is the same. It is assumed that, despite the reduction of the family to suit a particular need, either of economy, or of leisure for the wife, or of a reduction in population, the sexual life of the female will be left perfectly normal and unimpaired.
1 Contraception, pp. 223.
2 Ibid., p. 24.
3 Ibid., pp. 245.
If, therefore, she has her three or four children early in her married life say in the first ten years, which is the best for her and for them, 1 she is condemned during the latter fifteen (from 35 to 50) to constant incomplete and therefore unsatisfactory
1 This point is well put by Lady Barrett, C.B.E., M.D., M.S., B.Sc., in Conception Control, p. 33: "The so-called advantages of a few years between one child and the next so that the parents may give fuller care and attention to each, are far outweighed from the child's point of view by the advantages of playmates in the nursery of nearly its own age, who are a source of education in the give and take of life such as no adult can supply. If parents wish to have only three or four children, it is to the advantage of the mother. as well as of the children, to have the little family early in life they are then all in the nursery together, and later all at school, and her life-work is in this way so arranged that she may give most service to the world in addition to carrying on the race."
This may be an inconvenient consequence of the immediate necessity of limiting population, and, as such, despite its serious disadvantages for the normal healthy female, may have to be bravely faced, and its consequences stoically endured. But the point is, that this distressing and very serious disadvantage of family limitation is never mentioned by birth-controllers as a possible objection to Birth Control. On the contrary, they invariably assume, tacitly or openly, that a normal sexual life for both parents can be secured by the use of contraceptives. So completely obsessed are they by their scarecrow, "excessive pregnancies," that they never conceive it as their duty to warn their listeners or readers against the evils of nulliparousness or at least against pauciparousness. In fact, if we only had their literature as a guide in these matters, we should be led to suppose not only that child-bearing is a tiresome and often dangerous disease, that should be escaped at all costs, but also that sexual congress is as complete a sexual expression of female as of male sexuality. And thus the birth-controllers avail themselves of an entirely false and unscientific analogy in order to conceal a further radical error in their teaching.
Child-bearing may, through our stupidity and the ignorance of our medical men, have become in the majority of cases a painful function; its painfulness and its dependence upon expert medical aid may in
As Dr. Leonard Hill says: "As the fulfilment of the sexual instinct is gained by man by the act of copulation, in woman by childbirth, the use of preventives tells far more against the woman." 2
This fact would appear hardly to require demonstrating, or to need an appeal to scientific authority. And yet even in the writings of medical advocates of Birth Control, no warning, no hint, of the falseness of the analogy between male and female, which is implicit in contraceptive practices, is ever allowed to emerge.
Havelock Ellis, for instance, discussing Birth Control and Eugenics in the Eugenics Review of April, 1917, 3 writes as follows:
"The method of birth control by the use of contraceptive measures is the one and only method which places in the hands of the whole population possessed of ordinary care and prudence, the complete power to regulate, limit, or, if necessary, altogether prevent, the production of offspring, while
1 For a fuller treatment of the question of pregnancy and parturition, and of the urgent need of restoring child-bearing to its proper place as one of the healthy and therefore pleasant functions (it is the only function which in health is not always pleasant a suspicious exception!), see the author's Lysistrata.
2 The Control of Parenthood, p. 51.
3 pp. 345.
Such a paragraph coming from a man who is alleged to be a scientist, and who, moreover, is regarded by many as an authority precisely on the subject which he is discussing, is possibly the worst example of the kind that could be found. For whereas the lay writer on Birth Control does not know enough to be either accurate or sound, either Dr. Ellis must know that he is deliberately misrepresenting the facts in the above paragraph, or else we must suppose that he is like many other birth-controllers, so carried away by the emotional aspects of his subject, that on writing on Birth Control he ceases to be altogether himself.
"While yet enabling the functions of married life to be exercised!" Whose functions? The man's or the woman's?
Contraceptives place in the hands of the whole population "the power to regulate, limit, or, if necessary, altogether prevent, the production of offspring," and yet they enable "the functions of married life to be exercised!" So that, while altogether
1 Before proceeding to examine the writer's own criticism of this paragraph, the reader is invited to study it in order to find out whether, quite unaided and without any special knowledge of the subject, he cannot see the fundamental errors it contains. If he cannot do this, he will realise with what ease the birth-controllers succeed in imposing upon the mass of the nation with their sophistry. He should remember, too, that he is not here concerned with some lay birth-controller's irresponsible vapourings, but with the words of one of the most scientific and most reputable of the whole of the Birth Control group.
It is quite clear that no such evolutionary process has taken place, that the female's sexual function cannot be limited to the act of copulation, that, therefore, the functions of married life cannot be exercised when contraceptives are used to prevent altogether the production of offspring, and that Dr. Ellis, in his zeal to support the Birth Control Movement, has in this paragraph for a moment laid aside his cumbersome and inconvenient scientific equipment. But it is unfortunately just this kind of sophistry, first uttered by men of reputation and then echoed parrot-fashion by hundreds of imitators, that has made the whole literature of Birth Control so thick with error and false assumptions. And now the errors have spread so far that it is an almost hopeless task to make ordinary people aware of the extent to which they have been misled.
By such means, and by a like disregard for truth, it would be easy to make out a case for any innovation, however unsound; although in order to succeed along these lines, the essential pre-requisite must always be a reading public which is both emotional and uncritical, and wholly ignorant of the first principles of
Meanwhile, it would have been perfectly possible, in advocating their doctrine, for the birth-controllers to have come forward quite honestly and to have admitted that, while the functions of married life could not be exercised by both man and wife with the use of contraceptives, and that it amounts to arguing from a false analogy to suppose that they can, more particularly in cases where the production of offspring is altogether prevented, it nevertheless remained true that, unless some sort of violence were done to the sexual nature of the female, so as to render it similar to man's, it would be impossible to ensure a reduction in the population, and therefore to ward off the evils which a state of acute over-population would bring in its train.
This would have been more convincing, because it would have been more honest, and it would have been more dignified, because it would have amounted to a refusal to exploit popular ignorance.
But relying on the morbid and growing belief that all child-bearing is a form of disease, and a source of terrible agony a belief derived entirely from false notions about the matter, as I have already pointed out and by implying that any reduction of births, even to nil, must therefore constitute a reduction of misery, the birth-controller, whether distinguished or otherwise, thought that his misstatements and false assumptions would not be too closely examined.
Another typical example of the birth-controller's reasoning is his plea that Birth Control by facilitating
Now we do not say that Dr. Norman Haire is wrong, but, on the other hand, he cannot claim that he is right; for it seems to us that it would be just as easy to come to a conclusion precisely the reverse of his, by reasoning altogether as plausible. We might, for instance, point out that, while the sexual impulses in both young people have, in the past, driven them to marry as soon as possible because of the fact that (1) children might come if they consummated their love before marriage, and children "must have a name"; (2) the cautious and respectable girl would not, as a rule, run the risk of pregnancy without marriage; and (3) the young man knew he could not suggest the consummation of his love without marriage, without running the risk of forfeiting the decent girl's attachment for ever; now, with Birth Control there is nothing to prevent a couple from postponing their marriage sine die; for the gratification of passion, the
1 Hymen, p. 53. Dr. Haire is not alone in holding this view. But he states it compactly and succinctly in a way that plainly combines all the errors that the view involves.
2 Ibid., p. 86.
Sir William Beveridge has found a direct connection between Birth Control and the decrease in marriage which has occurred since 1880, especially in Holland, 2 and we have every reason to suppose that his reasoning
1 Even if it be true that Birth Control appears to facilitate early marriage, it is just as true that it facilitates pre-marital intercourse quite as much. Consequently, to argue that Birth Control, by facilitating early marriage, is likely to diminish irregular unions is at least perfectly gratuitous.
2 The Ethics of Birth Control (London, 1925), p. 168: "The fall of the birth rate has been accompanied in many, though not in all, countries by a fall in the marriage rate, equally sudden and equally inexplicable by economic change. The agreement of date and the analysis of certain Dutch statistics suggest the same cause in both phenomena, i.e. that the power of Birth Control in some countries at least (including Great Britain and Holland) has been used, and is being used, to postpone or avoid marriage rather than to encourage it."
Finally, brief reference must be made to that other favourite plea of birth-controllers, which, like an Alpine call, gets echoed from valley to valley, and is found repeated in more or less different terms in every one of their books the plea that the moral conduce which is brought about by fear is neither of a very exalted type nor of great value from the point of view' of its effects upon character, and therefore that to remove the fear of consequences in all illicit sexual relations by means of contraception will not necessarily prove deleterious to the moral life of the nation.
This argument is used, almost without exception, by all birth-controllers when trying to meet the objection that the spread of contraceptive practices will lead to a great access of immorality among young unmarried people. (It is not proposed for the moment to argue that the spread of contraceptive practices either will or will not have this effect. What is interesting is the kind of shifts to which birth-controllers will go to defend their position against such an attack.)
In its typical form the piece of sophistry is as follows:
"In any case a morality which is based upon and upheld by a fear of consequences is not of a very exalted type, nor of great value from the point of view of its effects upon char-
This is one of the many paragraphs in Birth Control literature which, the more closely it is examined, the more wholly devoid of sense it becomes. We may ask, first of all, who is Dr. Killick Millard to tell us what "true" morality is? What is "true" morality? We challenge Dr. Killick Millard to explain the term.
Since he appears to repudiate the Church's teaching about morality, what are these "higher considerations which are to make us moral, if they are not a knowledge and a dread of the consequences of immorality? How does mankind acquire the idea of morality? Dr. Killick Millard knows as well as we do. The morality of a people consists in their written and unwritten rules about their customs. What, therefore, is immorality? It is an infringement of a people's customs. How is it met by all peoples? By various forms of penalties, from ostracism to hanging. Why is Dr. Killick Millard's car and other property kept by him in more or less perfect security? Precisely because it is not customary, but a breach of accepted custom in England, to rob or steal. And how is this custom enforced against the natural covetousness and wickedness of mankind? By the threat of adequate penalties if it is broken.
Thus do the laws of England impose a certain form of social morality on all, and the fact that such an
1 This passage is taken from Dr. C. Killick Millard's Population and Birth Control (p. 47), which all birth-controllers consider as quite a brilliant and valuable contribution to their subject.
There is, however, another form of morality that observance by us all of a certain set of rules which are imposed by the laws of Nature, and the infringement of which leads more surely than the infringement of human laws (because in Nature there is no mercy) to condign punishment. Nature does not allow even the purest and most beautiful child to take deadly nightshade without punishment. It does not allow people to abuse their bodies, or any function of their bodies, without ultimate suffering. Would Dr. Millard maintain that the dread of infringing such natural laws is not of the utmost value in maintaining, at least among the majority of people, a healthy sense of caution against intemperance and excess in regard to most of their impulses? A man or a woman may have a high ideal of what a human body should be like in health, beauty and strength. The dread of falling short of that ideal the dread of the consequences of falling short might make them observe a certain strict code of morality. Would Dr. Millard maintain that in that case the morality is not based upon "higher considerations"? Would Dr. Millard reply that this is not what he is pleased to call "true morality"?
There are other relations, besides those to society
When, therefore, the opponents of Birth Control maintain that the broadcasting of knowledge concerning contraceptive methods and expedients, and the unrestricted accessibility of such expedients, may, and most probably do, lower the standard of morality among young people, by removing the dread of the consequences of their act, they are not adequately met by the pseudo-pious remark that "a morality which is based upon and upheld by a fear of consequences is not of an exalted type, nor of great value from the point of view of its effect on character." Nor are they adequately answered by being told that "true morality" is surely based upon much higher considerations.
Doctors themselves are constantly being referred to in all this Birth Control literature as a body of men who are so highly desirable that it is regrettable that they have such small families as compared with the unskilled labourer class. And yet, how does the Medical Association proceed in its endeavour to main tain a high standard of morality among these self-same highly desirable people? Precisely by enforcing rules by means of a threat of a penalty if these rules are
Are we, then, to expect all classes of the community to be moved by "higher considerations" than are these highly desirable and educated people known as the members of the medical profession?
Nevertheless, those who strongly deprecate the spread of the knowledge of contraceptive expedients among young unmarried people, for fear lest it should lead to a lowering of moral standards by removing the dread of consequences, are repeatedly met, both on public platforms and in the Press, by sophistry of the kind we have quoted from Dr. Killick Millard's pamphlet. 1 And such is the low level of intellectual
1 See, for instance, the contribution by H. Crighton-Miller, M.A., M.D., in Medical Views on Birth Control (p. 15), where this medical man writes, in reply to those who deprecate the diffusion of knowledge in regard to contraception lest it should be used by the unmarried for illicit intercourse: "They [the opponents of Birth Control] forget that a morality based on fear has no ethical value for the individual though it may have considerable practical worth for society." It is difficult to find any sense in this remark; but if "ethical value for the individual" means the value of conduct which is based on hopes of reward in Heaven, or hopes of ultimately attaining: to a high ideal of manhood, or what not, it is obvious that such conduct must still be based upon fear of a sort, although it is fear of deferred, and not immediate, evil consequences. Otherwise the sentence is pure sophistry.
Thus, in this chapter alone, we have been able to call attention to six important examples of sophistry, constantly to be found in the writings of birth-controllers engaged either in advocating their doctrine or else in meeting attacks directed against it. The space devoted to these sophistries frequently occupies quite a considerable portion of almost every book or pamphlet that can be read in support of contraceptive practices, and yet we have not, either in the Press or elsewhere, hitherto come across any serious attempt at ex posing them. The astonishing feature about it, and the fact that proves how completely a heated controversy may dull the wits even of trained scientists, is that most of the writers whom we have quoted in this chapter people like Dr. Havelock Ellis, Dr. Killick Millard, Mr. Harold Cox, Dr. Blacker, and Dr. Norman Haire would probably, when rested from their controversial labours, or when engaged on a less emotional subject, scorn to misstate the length of a bee's sting by the hundredth part of a millimetre.
Be this as it may, it is as well that the public should be aware of the way in which the more reputable advocates of Birth Control depart from the customary rules of strict scientific discussion from their usual "methodology" in fact in advocating this new doctrine, for it is perfectly legitimate to measure the strength and soundness of a cause by the extent to which such sophistry as we have just examined can be dispensed with in advocating it.
Conclusions from Chapters III and IV
1. The unfit are not always the undesirable. To eliminate the unfit of to-day might mean a great waste of valuable human material.
2. The unfit must be distinguished from the undesirable. This is not understood by birth-controllers; with the result that the poorly remunerated are constantly and unjustifiably identified with the undesirable.
3. The means of determining the undesirable must be sought elsewhere than in the relative degrees of material success. They must be sought in the extent to which each man or woman can or cannot guarantee the survival of the race in a desirable form. Those who can are desirable, those who cannot are undesirable. This distinction cuts vertically right through society, and does not stick fast, snobbishly and unscientifically, in the lowest levels of the materially unsuccessful.
4. It is not, therefore, proved that the "differential birth rates in different classes" is necessarily dysgenic, as birth-controllers claim. It is the only dysgenic result of Birth Control which they acknowledge, and it is not actually a fact.
5. The desirable cannot, in the present state of knowledge, be selected. But in the stigmata of degeneration we have a rough and ready criterion for selecting the undesirable.
6. There are reasons for supposing that it will always be difficult to induce the poor to adopt contraception, although this has already been achieved to some extent.
(a) They argue that continence is unnatural, and yet deny the use of the word "unnatural" to their opponents when these attack contraception as an "unnatural" practice.
(b) They set up the fictitious, or uncommon, evil of excessive pregnancies and of masculine lust as one of the principal evils against which Birth Control is directed, thus, quite unjustifiably, giving their movement the appearance of humanitarianism and their opponents the character of callous enemies of human kind.
(c) They use diseased conditions in the mother in the same way, although the important question is to determine whether contraceptive practices should be spread among the normal and the sound.
(d) They assume that the complete satisfaction of the sexual impulse in the male and the female is the same the orgasm and sexual congress.
(e) They argue that Birth Control by facilitating early marriages will diminish irregular unions, when, all the while, it is just as evident that by facilitating irregular unions it will help to postpone marriage sine die and diminish the number of marriages.
(f) They argue that their opponents have no right to object to the spread of contraceptive practices on the score that these will lower the standard of morality, particularly among young people, because they say that the moral conduct that is brought about by fear is not of an exalted type, or of great value from the standpoint of character, or based upon the highest considerations. But the fact is that almost all moral