The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made headlines this week with the release of new guidance advising women who are sexually active to avoid consumption of alcoholic beverages altogether–or get on the pill. This kind of mechanistic view of the human experience is typical of progressive ideology and is antithetical not only to the dignity of women, but also to the pursuit of knowledge. This ideology has also been the cause of incalculable suffering and death over the past century.
Pope Francis famously criticized the goals of feminism as a kind of “female machismo” which ignores the indelible differences between the sexes. To take this one step further though, machismo itself is not only a flawed aspiration for femininity, but also a mistaken caricature of masculinity, and indeed, humanity. Whatever the physiological and psychological differences between the sexes, the delusion of control and determinism is universally harmful to all mankind, because it contradicts all our experience throughout history.
To cite one example, the push for bottle-feeding and separate sleeping arrangements for infants in the middle of 20th century was entirely without any precedent and more recent research has demonstrated that this was a misguided and harmful experiment in social engineering which has lingering and deadly consequences even today. It was based on supposedly scientific conclusions which turn out to have no basis in fact, but were instead the product of the ideological assumptions about individualism and efficiency that motivated the flawed research in the first place.
The dark history of progressivism is full of such tragedies, whether in the rise of infant death from SIDS, or in the forced sterilization of minorities and the mentally handicapped, or in the lawless and violent effects of the Prohibition Era, or in the destruction and decay of our inner cities, or indeed, in the ideological wars and genocides and famines which made the 20th century the deadliest time to be alive in the history of the world, with casualties caused by state actions numbering in the hundreds of millions. If progressivism were truly motivated by scientific rigor, the evidence of its failure should be conclusive by this point.
Progressivism is built on the assumption that risk can be eliminated, that the human condition is perfectable, and that with sufficient bureaucratic and technocratic oversight, every individual life can be guided (or more usually, forced) to some ideal optimal outcome dictated by proper application of rational and scientific principles. The main problem with this outlook is that scientists and bureaucrats tasked with its implementation are just as equally flawed and broken as the hapless individuals they are supposed to be lifting up to a more enlightened and fulfilling existence.
This is not to say that all progress is bad. Much good has been accomplished to ameliorate the human condition in the last century, but even if we could find angelic philospher-kings to rule over us, human nature is invincibly resistant to coercion and control. Whether in the food and drugs we consume, our social interactions, or in the laws of economics, the meddling and pompous prescriptions of politicians have reliably failed to accomplish their aims, while at the same time leading to a myriad of harmful unintended consequences.
We have an innate desire for predictable order and security, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, the only certainty of life is its very uncertainty. Risk is unavoidable. The elimination of risk is foolish and impossible. The careful consideration, mitigation, and tolerance of risk is wise and prudent. To be sure, moderation in all things is a virtue, but contrary to the puritanical and ideologically motivated recommendations of the CDC, women should not be ashamed to have a beer, have a baby, and enjoy life.