Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - February 20, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
Tuesday, February 20, 1973 - THE IETHBRIDGE HERALD - g France breaks free of old sex taboos Think about it! By Gail Marshall, freelance writer By Boris Kidel, London Observer commentator PARIS - France is slowly beginning to emancipate itself from its age-old sexual taboos. In what amounts to a revolutionary decision in a country where official hypocrisy about sex is still rampant, the education ministry has decided that the time has come to introduce sex instruction in secondary schools. At the same time the government has decided to set up an advisory council "for sexual information, birth control and family education." These long overdue decisions have been taken in face of bitter opposition from large sections of the French establishment. Abroad, the French may have the reputation of being lax and frivolous about sex but in fact, due to religious and conservative influences, society here remains still largely under the constraint of Victorian taboos. It was the case of Nicole Merrier, a 28-year-old philosphy Book Review teacher in Belfort lycee, that finally forced the education ministry to face up to the sex problem. At the request of her pupils, 16 girls and boys aged between 17 and 19, Mme. Mercier allowed a sex education pamphlet entitled Let's learn how to make love, let's learn to have fun, to be read in her class. Its author, Dr. Jean Carpen-tier, has been struck off the medical register for one year for writing it. The contents are explicit but not remotely pornographic. None of Mme. Merger's pupils objected when the pamphlet was read and discussed in the philosophy class. However, one of the parents, a liu-tenant-colonel, took legal action and Mme. Mercier found herself charged with an offence against public decency. Her case not only caused a furore in Belfort, where teachers and pupils staged protest strikes, but it won nationwide publicity. Suddenly French par- Literary abomination '"Confessions Of A Here^ tic" by Dave Hunt ($2.50, paper, 216 pages, G. R. Welch Co. Ltd.). The author of this book has penned a literary abomination. It is dull, at times trivial, and mostly irrelevant. One could even say it perpetrates a type of fraud on the unsuspecting reader. The cover promises "If you believe in God, this book will challenge you to the very ground and roots of your faith. If you do not believe in God, it will force you to honestly reevaluate why not." However, the book does not live up to the intriguing promise of its cover. The reader would almost think this cover was meant for another book altogether. The story itself is of a man in southern California with an unshakable faith in God, no, not unshakable, fanatical is more like it. His faith goes so far that when he has a runny nose, he won't stop to purchase a package of tissue because he figures God must have some reason for making his nose run so he shouldn't contradict God's will by blowing his nose. . While this is the most absurd statement in the book, it is only one of many and there is absolutely nothing between the two covers that is controversial, challenging or even thought-provoking. It is, from start to finish, one big public relations job for religion. It doesn't answer any questions, or even ask any. This book is, in my opinion, not worth the money it takes to buy it or the time it takes to read it. RON CALDWELL ents seemed to realize that something was drastically wrong with an education system where sex was taboo while the world was becoming increasingly permissive. Young people, most parents' associations agreed, needed proper guidance for sexual behavior in today's society. It was probably the public outcry of sympathy for Mme. Mercier which persuaded the Belfort magistrate investigating her case to drop all charges against her. The very next day the edua-tion ministry announced that from next autumn schoolchildren from the age of 11 onwards would receive instruction on "reproduction" within the framework of their normal biology classes. "The education ministry," an official statement said, "is aware of the difficulties which teachers encounter with young people who live in a world where morals are much freer than in the past and where eroticism is shamefully exploited for commercial purposes. These young people are liable to become very vulnerable if they are not properly prepared for their future family life." The exact nature of the planned sex instruction is yet to be defined. "Young people are not interested in anatomical illustration," Mme. de Boissieu, the head of a progressive parents' association, said in a recent TV debate. "What interests is how to make love satisfactorily, how to avoid venereal disease, how to react to masturbation and homosexuality." In the same debate the philosopher Francois Chatelet complained that French children were taught how to become good citizens and effective contributors to economic growth but they remained uninstructed on how to become good lovers. Under present conditions sex education in schools is unlikely to be very illuminating. First, the Federation of National Education, the largest teachers' association, pointed out, outdated laws must be removed from the penal code so that teachers are protected against a repetition of the Mercier affair. The bitter parliaimentary debate about the new advisory council on sex information revealed the degree of resistance to sex emancipation still existing among members of the French establishment. The council will hardly be subversive: its main functions will be to co-ordinate the work of family planning and sex education centres. Five years ago the National Assembly abrogated the 1920 law banning the sale of contraceptives arid publicity about birth control. But since then virtually nothing has been done to implement the new legislation and to inform French women about birth control. The sponsor of the liberalized legislation, Lucien Neuwirth, a prominent Gaullist, has charged that his law had. been "deliberately sabotaged." Only six per cent of French women, mainly from the wealthier classes, use the contraceptive pill today and ill- egal abortions remain a national scandal. The purpose of the new council is to stimulate greater knowledge about education and birth control. ' Jean Foyer, the very conser- � vative health minister, was hotly opposed to the idea of the council. "Since France is a relatively underdeveloped country, it would be criminal and contrary to national interest to launch birth control campaigns," he said. Another MP, Emile Bizet, said Parliament was underwriting the destruction of the family unit, and hence the destruction of society as a whole. "Yesterday, we had the pills," he said, "today we have sex education office, tomorrow we will have free abortions and the day after tomorrow we will have euthanasia. It's a road which leads us to doom." In face of such opposition, it is something of a feat that France is slowly beginning to adopt more enlightened attitudes towards sex. "Here's another 'Mom and Pop store' forced out of business. Pop ran off with a Playboy bunny and Mom is pursuing a career as a singer!" Growth problems command attention By Nigel Hawkes, London Observer commentator For the past year opposing sides in the great argument about economic growth have been trading insults like prizefighters at a weigh-in. This month's battle seems to have begun. An entire issue of the British journal, Futures, to be published later this month, will be devoted to a fascinating argument about the future of mankind - and in particular whether the famous computer model of the world designed at Massachustets Institute of Technology really works. Public anxiety about growth has taken many forms, from frustration at overcrowded cities and increasing noise to wider concerns about the implications of increasing populations. In many cases people hardly need a computer to tell them that growth of population and consumption do not always equal greater happiness, comfort or security. But the MIT studies appeared to many people to have given an even greater legitimacy to such concern. Published almost a year ago by Professor Dennis Meadows and his colleagues as a slim paperback called Limits to Growth, the computer model BERRY'S WORLD suggests that the world system faces imminent collapse, either through exhaustion of its mineral resources, excessive pollution or rampant population growth - or, perhaps, a combination of all three. From the start, Limits to Growth was a huge success, selling more than one million copies and earning more than $100,000 for its sponsors, the Club of Rome. But does World 3, as the computer model is called, really represent the world system? Ever since its publication, a group at Britain's Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, led by Professor Christopher Freemen, has been taking the model apart, examining how it works and the assumptions it makes. Their work has itself now produced a large book, Thinking About the Future, to be published in Futures with a reply from Professor Meadows. Sussex have concluded that World 3 fails at almost every hurdle. It is, they say, really no more than an attempt to update the ideas of Malthus by decking them out with a spurious paraphernalia of selecitve data, dubious relationships and "I'll bet he's one of the men in Nixon's new Cabinet!" superficially attractive computer output. While Professor Meadows admits the imperfections of World 3, he says that the group at Sussex have not undermined its basic principles, nor even understood properly what it is saying. "The basic points of our modelling effort have been misunderstood or distorted by the Sussex group, ignored by them in their attention to non-essential details," he claims. The argument Is more than academic bickering. Limits to Growth has turned out to be one of the most important pieces of envh'omnental propaganda to be published since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. It has impressed many people not ordinarily open to environmental arguments and presented in stark outline the choices which, it says, face mankind - between continuing towards catastrophe or turning back before it is too late. The Sussex group have analyzed World 3 sector by sector, and are convinced that Professor Meadows and his colleagues, though honest, are wrong. Among their major conclusions are: 1. - The information on which World 3 is based is simply inadequate to support such shattering conclusions. This is not really the fault of the model-builders (who admit that data are scanty) but it ought to have imposed much more caution in interpreting the results of the model. 2. - The MIT group are far too pessimistic about the quantities of natural resources yet to be discovered in the earth's crust, and about the technological improvements in mining them. 3. - By averaging data from many countries the model blurs out the most argent characteristic of the world today, the sharp division between rich and poor. This "aggregation" of data from countries of vastly differing character could introduce serious distortions into World 3. 4. - The model is far more sensitive to changes in input than Professor Meadows admits. Making a few small changes postpones doomsday for another two centuries at least. While not all these criticisms are new, Sussex doe's produce new evidence in support of them. They have run the World 3 model, and its predecessor World 2, through their own corn-outer, making a few adjust- ments here and there and watching the results. These show, for example, that if you feed into the model the assumption that the amounts of known mineral and fuel reserves will increase by a modest 2 per cent a year and that pollution control technology will improve at the same rate, collapse in the system can be postponed indefinitely. Professor Meadows admits the truth of this, but says that it signifies nothing. If you assume that total known reserves are going to go on increasing indefinitely, he says, it is exactly the same as assuming that there are no limits to the reserves. If there are no limits, then there can be no catastuphes. "If the limits are removed," Meadows comments, "the system can grow for ever." Sussex did not need to alter and simulate our model to make this point." ~ Sussex also show that if you play the computer backwards from 1900, the year which is taken as the starting point for World 3, then there appears to have been a massive population collapse in about 1880. Outside its narrow limits, they are saying, the model runs awry "predicting" past catas-trophies which never happened. If it cannot even predict 1880 accurately, why should one believe what it says about 2050? This, too, says Professor' Meadows, is based on a misunderstanding of the model. "Backcasting" with a model like World 3 is "completely meaningless" he says. Professor Freeman and his Sussex colleagues make many other detailed criticisms of World 3, but I have perhaps conveyed the general gist of their attack. They are saying that Limits to Growth has seriously misled its many readers by errors of both omission and commission, and that to base policy decisions on it, as Professor Meadows wants, would be a great mistake. Professor Meadows, on the other hand, argues that the basic structure of the model is still intact. Although it cannot igive precise predictions of when the world system will collapse, he believes that the general trends predicted by World 3 are right, and that governments should start to act on its conclusions now. The conflict is total. "It � seems possible," as Professor Meadows comments, "for either side to look at the same world and find support for its view. Technological optimists see only rising life expectancies, more comfortable lives, the advance of human knowledge and improved wheat strains. Mal-thusians see only rising populations, destruction of the land, extinct: species, urban ugliness and increasing gaps between the rich and poor." But who is right? In essence, the argument comes back- to Malthus and the deductive elegance of his proposition. If population is increasing exponentially, Malthus said, and food production is increasing only arithmetically, then stai--vation is around the corner. Professor Meadows would argue that nobody has yet proved Malthus wrong, and that on a global scale his arguments still apply. If there are fixed limits, and they are in sight, then exponential growth cannot continue for very much longer. Nobody needs World 3 to work that out for them. But if there are no visible limits', or if they are so far away as to be beyond reach in the next 1,000 years or so, then Professor Freeman and his colleagues would argue that there is no need for panic measures. Of course, even 1,000 years is a short time compared with the history of the earth, or even with man's tenancy of the planet, but it would at least allow time for thought. I think it is fair to say that neither side establishes a clear advantage in the exchange in Futures. In terms of the technical argument, Sussex's firepower looks slightly the stronger, but environmentalists will argue, rightly, that it is not necessary to believe every word of Limits to Growth in order to believe thaf growth ought to be limited. Even Sussex admit that the book has had the valuable effect of focusing world attention on environmental problems, which they admit are serious and urgent. The very success of Limits to Growth, indeed, says something significant about the public mood, even if its details can be faulted. It is a tract, a polemical statement of a par* ticular view of the future, which has found a powerful public echo. That may in the long run turn out to be more important than the literal truth of everything it says. COUTTS - The contemplation of evolution provokes the imagination as well as the intellect. It is interesting to survey the biological progressions of the past to discover that the frontal fins of the former fish evolved into the forelegs of the later reptile. But being committed to evolution in the past, we must accept the process as it is affecting the present and will determine the future. This raises the mind-boggling question: Where are we going? A study of evolution, from the lowest form of animal, which is one-celled, to the highest form, which presently is man, reveals a fairly consistent improvement in the structure and function of the nervous system. In the higher animals, brains developed to more efficiently co-ordinate the increasingly complicated nervous systems. These brains* in turn, gradually acquired amazing capabilities. Learning, thinking, memorizing, imagining, and dreaming are just a few of the mysterious and wonderful powers attributed to the brain of man. Though there is evidence to show that monkeys are capable of elementary "thinking" it is probably safe to say that no monkey ever dreamed of flying to the moon, nor could he devise such highly technical means to do so. That man resembles the monkey in outward appearance, may irritate our sophisticated vanity, but the similarities become more obvious as we dress monkeys in human clothing and put them in human situations. Man's features are certainly more refined and show the effect of his greater ingenuity but the primary difference between man and his predecessor, the monkey, is that man's brain is capable of far greater things. But the question arises, as man evolved from the monkey, what will evolve from man? A recent television program shed light upon the subject. Isaac Asimov, associate professor of biochemistry at Boston's University Medical School, was discussing the advancement of computers and robots and their increasing importance in society. He pointed out computers have "memory" stores unbelievably vast and are being "taught" to talk. Robots can respond to their environment in such a way as to overcome obstacles in their paths. A computer can play a brilliant game of chess, even though 'as yet, it cannot always win. This information interests me in the preposterous idea of the evolution of the computer; a thought that triggers the imagination and shoots the composure! Man contributes what he can of his most distinguishing characteristic, intelligence, in the hope that the computer will do what he cannot do with his own brain. This is, in fact, saying that the computer is at times and in some ways more capable than the brain of man. It would certainly be interesting to see what answer a properly programmed computer could give to the perplexing question being considered here. The argument for sanity is that computers do not actually "think". The reply is that the process of "thinking" is debatable anyway. Is it the function of the brain merely to think, or is it to provide the right answer? Perhaps this is^the key to the success of the evolution of the computer. Its brain could bypass the irrelevancy of thinking, not to mention emotion, and so take its supreme place in the hierarchy of brains. Naturally, such evolution would take a very long time to mature. At this stage, the computer still depends upon man for its existence. But suppose computers started winning all chess games. Suppose they started creating their own computers by supplying a "code of life" similar to, but much greater in detail and ingenuity, than the programs supplied by man to our infant computers. What then? Computers could then function independent of man, with robots as faithful and efficient servants at their command. The total picture is a bit frightening, but there is one consolation. If, indeed, our hypothetical age of computers evolves, man need not be exterminated as an enemy. We would simply be subordinated. Don't forget that monkeys still existl Report to readers -by Doug Walker Variety of commentary Soon after I started work at The Herald a tradesman had occasion to be in my office for brief periods almost every morning during a week. Finding me reading each time he entered he finally said, "Don't you have anything to do?" It is pretty hard for some people to understand that reading constitutes work. In my case, as editor of the editorial page, it consumes a fair part of the day. The reading I was doing when the tradesman came into my office was the commentary received by wire and mail from which I make the selections for the pages (page four, six days a week; page five, three days a week) which are my responsibility. An average of 10 or 15 pieces of commentary arrive every day plus a lot of other material which I must read before making the selection of what can be accommodated in the space at my disposal. FP Publications provides commentary from a number of writers: Maurice Western in Ottawa; Bruce Huchison in Victoria; Dave Humphreys in London, England; Paul Whitelaw hi Washington, D.C.; Shaun Her-ron in Winnipeg; Gordon Holland in Melbourne' Australia; John Burns in Peking, China. Western writes two or three columns a week; Hutchison seems to write in bursts; the rest are less prolific but write with some consistency. In 1972 I selected 220 columns by the FP writers, which is a slight increase over the 205 used in 1971. Western's column was used 80 times with Hutchison following at 42, Humphreys 30, Herron 25, and so on. The people with whom I shared a clinic at the American Press Institute in New York were very much impressed by these Canadian writers, none of whom they had read before - not even Bruce Hutchison, the dean of Canadian columnists. American papers, with rare exceptions, seem to carry only U.S. columnists and often only those based in their own country. As a member of the FP chain, The Herald shares in the cost of receiving the London Observer service of two or three dozen commentaries weekly from writers stationed all over the world. In 1972 I used 125 of these commentaries by 49 different writers, which is an increase of 40 over the previous year. The Observer writers whose columns were used most frequently were Colin Legum who writes on African affairs; James Neilson on South America; Dennis Bloodworth on Southeast Asia; Charles Foley on U.S. (especially California) affairs; Roland Huntford on Scandan-avia. The Herald also subscribes to the New York Times service and to several syndi- cated columns. The New York Times service was started in September and it makes available at the rate of about two columns daily the output of James Reston, Tom Wicker, C. L. Sulzberger, Anthony Lewis - and other commentators occasionally. Forty-two of the NYT columns have been used since the inauguration of the service. It may be of interest to note that the NYT columnist used most often (just slightly ahead of Reston) was Sulzberger who is the Times' peripatetic commentator. For several years The Herald has used the commentary by the highly rated U.S. syndicated columnists Joseph Kraft and Carl Rowan both of whom write three columns a week. I use roughly a third of the output of these two writers. In 1972 I used 50 columns by Kraft and 60 by Rowan, which is almost identical to what was used in the previous year. In the case of these writers The Herald has to pay for what is received whether or not it is used. The exception to the usual syndication rule is the case of the two Toronto Star writers, Peter Desbarats and Anthony Westell, whose columns are only paid for if used. In 1972 I used 64 of Debarats' columns and 21 by Westell, which is also similar to what was used in the previous year. Near the end of 1972 a contract was made with a new Canadian writer, Bruce Whitestone, five of whose columns appeared in The Herald. Contracts are also in effect with two offbeat commentators: Art Buchwald in Washington and Eric Nicol in Vancouver. Eacli of these writers puts out three columns a week. We had space for less than half the columns: 63 by Buchwald and 74 by Nicol. Russell Baker of the New York Times also writes an off-beat column which I started to use occasionally last year. A different kind of syndicated column altogether is that of Theodore Bernstein on the use of words which was used 37 times but which increasingly was squeezed out toward the end of the year. Another kind of commentary that is free to The Herald is that written by staff people of other newspapers which is not syndicated and which can be reproduced with suitable credits. In this class in 1972 I selected 122 unsigned editorials and 73 by-lined pieces. This represents � a reduction from other years due largely to the fact that mora locally produced material was used last year. I intend to deal with this in a separate column. Next week I will discuss what lies be-behind the choice of material included on the editorial pages. Easy choice By Doug Walker Certain' noises drive me nearly crazy. Dripping taps and running motors (especially automobiles outside the house) have an eerie capacity to upset my equilibrium. Elspeth, on the other hand, has a low tolerance level for the sound of boys arguing and scuffling. And to Paul, who carries drum sticks about the house and breaks into rhythmic tapping on anything handy, she is highly allergic. "Stop that drumming," she cried one day, "you are destroying me." Then she" confronted the offender and posed a tough question: "would you rather keep your mother or those drum sticks?" It wasn't a tough question at all, apparently. The response was immediate; "the drum sticks," said Paul.