The Briefing 05-12-15

The Briefing 05-12-15

The Briefing


May 12, 2015

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Tuesday, May 12, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) In opposition to abortion restrictions concept of ‘baby’ disappears

Late last week on The Briefing I discussed an article that appeared at the New York Times. The article had to do with scientific and medical studies indicating that the age of viability for an unborn human baby had been pushed back in terms of effective medical treatment. Most interestingly we found out that the age of viability, which is the age in which a baby can live outside the womb, had passed backwards in terms of medical progress from about 30 weeks to 26 weeks to 24 weeks. And the big news last week was that studies indicated that at least a good number of babies at 22 weeks of gestation could live outside the womb if they had the appropriate medical treatment.

And the central importance of the article, other than the health of these babies, was the fact that they were referred to in the article as babies. We’re talking about a front-page story in the New York Times. Interestingly, the headline of that story was: Preterm Babies Can Be Viable at Earlier Birth; the subhead of the article was “a study could affect the abortion debate.” I came back to the fact that our nouns reveal us, especially when we’re talking about the inhabitants of the womb. And the big thing, in terms of this article, is that time and again the inhabitant of the human womb was referred to as a baby over and over and over again. As if of course, and this is the highly revealing issue, that we would refer to that inhabitants of the womb as a baby – because after all that’s what it is. And especially it’s a baby when you’re talking about medical treatments that would allow the baby to live even outside the womb. And were talking about an article that again and again and again referred to the unborn human being as a baby, and appropriately.

But there was one paragraph in that article last week that referred to the baby as merely a fetus. I quote from the article again,

“The Supreme Court has said that states must allow abortion if a fetus is not viable outside the womb, and changing that standard could therefore raise questions about when abortion is legal.”

In that paragraph the babies referred to as a fetus, elsewhere the baby is a baby. I raise that article because of the central issue that the biblical worldview affirms that every unborn child is indeed not only a baby but a full-fledged human being deserving of human dignity, understood to possess the sanctity of human life simply because God has said let there be life. And we talked about the dignity and sanctity of life extending to every human being at every point of development all along the continuum of life. But that now is a very revealing issue and it’s especially revealing when just a few days later that very same newspaper, the New York Times, on Sunday ran an important article that has the headline, With Flurry of Bills, Republican Legislators Make Abortions Harder to Get.

The article that appeared on Sunday is by Frances Robles, and she’s writing about the fact that an increasing numbers states are passing an increasing number of rules and laws restricting access to abortion. That’s clearly something that the New York Times finds to be bad news. In her article she writes about 37 new rules adopted in 11 states that, in her words, are

“…part of a strategy accelerated by abortion opponents in 2011, when provisions restricting abortion access began sweeping state legislatures. More than 200 such laws have passed in the last four years, with Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas leading the charge,”

One of the first things we should note is that the abortion issue in America is hardly settled. The fact that after you have Roe V Wade a generation ago you now have 200 new laws put into place in multiple states restricting abortion indicates that the American people are not settled on abortion on demand. That’s a very clear issue. Now keep that in mind when we’re being told that on the issue of same-sex marriage we have to get – you’ve heard this argument – on the right side of history. Well if you go back to 1973 a good many pro-lifers are being told they had to change their position in order to be on the right side of history. Well guess what, history didn’t end up where the pro-abortion movement thought it would.

But once again I bring up this article that was published just a few days after that other article because of the noun that is employed here – the noun that used over and over again is not baby, it is fetus. We’re talking about a human being at the very same point of development, we’re talking about a human being that is defined in one article in the same newspaper as a baby one day and as merely a fetus the next. It comes up first when we’re told that one state is requiring a woman who might be seeking an abortion to receive information “about fetal development.”

It’s clear that from the worldview of the New York Times it’s a very bad thing that abortion would be restricted in any way, but the really revealing thing is how the baby is defined in this article. We’re not only told about fetal development and the unborn child is not only therefore merely a fetus, but in the saddest paragraph in this article I read:

“Several states targeted the clinics themselves by instituting costly ways to dispose of fetal remains and requiring doctors to have admitting privileges,”

Not just consider what we’re being told here, here we have a complaint that is embedded in a news article that some of the restrictions placed by some states on abortion include restrictions on the disposal of what is described here merely as “fetal remains.”

Now in the article publishes just last Thursday on the fact that there are some babies at 22 weeks of gestation who are surviving, it refers to the babies who survive as babies, but it also refers to the babies that do not survive as babies. It is not then explained that somehow there will be the challenge of disposing with fetal remains, rather there was an open acknowledgment that we are talking about babies. But the baby disappears in the article that appeared on Sunday. Now all we have is a fetus demonstrating fetal development and abortion clinics dealing with the disposal of fetal remains.

As I said last week, our language reveals our worldview. I can only wonder how the editors and reporters of the New York Times, looking at these two articles that appeared just a few days apart in their own newspaper, can explain straightforwardly why a baby is translated into merely a fetus. And why the unborn child that was celebrated as living at 22 weeks of gestation in one article is then translated into nothing but fetal remains just a few days later? The culture of death, including the abortion industrial complex, tries to move forward on euphemisms of language. But as is demonstrated in these two articles put together, that effort breaks down in terms of their own usage of the nouns. This much should be abundantly clear, if a baby is ever a baby, it’s always a baby, and never under any circumstances anything less.

2) Gender neutral title proposed presents impossibility of honorific titles in such a society 

Next, from Great Britain the Telegraph indicates that in the latest transformation of our language we have a new prefix, neither for males or females, but for both and neither. That is the prefix Mx – rather than Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Mrs. – Mx, or pronounced, at least in some suggestions, ‘Mux.’ But ‘Mix’ appears to be the prevailing pronunciation.

The article that appears in the Telegraph is by Olivia Goldhill and she writes that the prefix Mx has become,

“…the honorific of choice for those who don’t want their title to define them as male or female,”

As Goldhill writes,

“Half a century ago, the word ‘Ms’ made us question why a woman’s title should signal her marital status. Today, a growing number of people are asking why honorifics should reflect gender at all. So, what’s it like to be known as Mx?”

Goldhill goes on to identify one person sourced in the article who is “non-binary,” which according to the article,

“…means they doesn’t recognize themselves as male or female, but part of a third, neutral gender. (Instead of using the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’, the word ‘they’ is a common gender-neutral alternative.) The word ‘Mx’ was first suggested in the late-1970s as a feminist word for those who didn’t want their gender to be revealed in their title, and there are many men and women who use Mx for similar reasons today.”

I’ll simply inject, I haven’t seen it until now as it appears in the Telegraph. But the article goes on to say,

“However, the title has also become popular among those who identify as non-binary – though there are no official figures, non-binary people make up around 0.4% of the population, according to a Equality and Human Rights Commission survey of 10,000 people in the UK.”

Hold on for a footnote on that issue. We’re looking here at one of those very revealing transitions in the language, it is not at all clear to me that Mx is going to become a substitute in terms of widespread acceptance for Ms. or for Mrs. or for Miss. or for Mr., but it is clear that in this sexually and gender confused age there are people trying to find a language that will somehow replace the language that is rooted in human nature, rooted in human identity, and rooted in that so-called binary system of male and female. But there’s another issue to raise here and that’s why in the world we would have these honorific titles at all. In the Soviet Union they were all eliminated by force of law, everyone was reduced to Conrad. How long will it be before you don’t have to be Mrs. Smith or Ms. Smith or Mr. Smith or even Mx Smith, but simply Smith?

One of the things that will simply evaporate in terms of this sexual and moral revolution is the very idea of courtesy titles at all because they are going to become impossible to anticipate and impossible to use. And furthermore, given the explicit logic of the transgender movement anyone can decide to use any one of these pronouns or to demand the use of them and then change it any point in any different context – that’s absolute insanity of course, but that’s why of course we have articles like this suggesting that the way out of it is to change Ms., Miss., Mr., and Mrs. simply to Mx. But one of the essential points to make is, if you can’t use Mr. and Mrs. or Ms. or Miss, you really don’t need Mx either, and only a very mixed up society would come up with something so confusing as this.

3) Amazon removal of gender specific toy categories will not pass muster with children

And speaking of that moral revolution and the gender confusion that follows in its wake, the Telegraph is also reporting along with other major international media that Amazon has decided to remove the category of boys and girls from its sales category of toys. Radhika Sanghani reporting for the Telegraph tells us,

“Amazon appears to have taken a stand against sexism by reportedly removing its ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toy categories.

The global retailer has updated its option list on the ‘toys’ page so that customers can no longer search by gender,”

Sanghani reports

“The news comes as campaigners have been drawing attention to so-called sexist toys such as Fisher-Price learning sets where girls are offered a purse complete with lipstick while boys are offered a toolset. Some retailers, according to the reporter, have consciously responded, such as Mattel which “created an entrepreneur Barbie complete with her own LinkedIn page.”

Andrew Griffin reporting the same story for the Independent in London said,

“Backlash against gendered toys has grown in recent years, with campaigners saying that there is nothing about girls that should make them any more welcome to play with Barbies than cars. Both retailers and manufacturers have responded, offering gender-neutral toys or changing their gender-specific ones so that they can be more empowering.”

Well there is so much to look at here; one is the fact that it is simply impossible to defy human nature to this extent. Among the most resistant to the gender-neutral approach being suggested here are young children, just watch them. They understand the crucial distinction between girls and boys and the vast majority of them understand that it does break down over toy categories whether parents or marketers or retailers intended to do so or not. By the way, I can only wonder how many of these entrepreneur Barbies Mattel’s going to sell. But the very fact that they still understand that Barbie is for girls who must, in their view, be empowered by entrepreneur Barbie tells you that they understand regardless of what they’re saying that they still expect girls to buy Barbies and not boys.

Oh, and by the way the Telegraph tells us that there are still many pages embedded in Amazon that divide toys between girls and boys and it’s estimated that it will take a very long time for the website to be able to turn all of its pages in terms of toys into a gender neutral format, but that’s just a pointer to an even more basic issue. It’s going to take longer than that to convince boys and girls that is no inherent difference between boys and girls – even when it comes to the toys they choose to play with.

4) Reality TV industrial complex creates redefinition of celebrity and reality

Up to this point on The Briefing I have carefully and strategically refrained from uttering the name Kardashians, but now comes today. And the reason is that a major article on the Kardashian’s appeared in the New York Times magazine, not in terms of an entertainment tabloid, but rather in one of the most elite publishing formats of the country. And the point being made in this article entitled Mother of Invention about Kris Jenner or Kris Kardashian Jenner, is the fact that this family has created a whole new definition of celebrity and the fact that it is, in the words of the New York Times magazine, metastasizing to the rest of the culture.

It is one of the signs of an imminent cultural collapse that I utter the word Kardashian, but I do so because this New York Times magazine article really does have a very important point and it’s not necessarily the point the article intends to make. Taffy Brodesser-Akner writing about Kris Jenner says and quoting her,

“‘I don’t think we’re going to be digging for dirt,’ she told the crowd, and they chuckled in agreement. ‘I think that that is going to come find us.’”

The New York Times magazine goes on to say,

“There are still people who dismiss Kris Jenner, 59, and her family — Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, all in their 30s; her son, Rob Kardashian, 28; and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 19 and 17 — as ‘famous for being famous,’ a silly reality-show family creating a contrived spectacle. But we have reached the point at which the Jenners and the Kardashians are not famous for being famous: They are famous for the industry that they’ve created, the Kardashian/Jenner megacomplex, which has not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it, with the family members emerging as legitimate businesspeople and Kris the mother-leader of them all.”

I’m not going to give much more attention to the article, nor to the family, but the important thing in this article is how this idea of celebrity has been spreading throughout the culture and how many people seem to be deluded into believing that they are watching some kind of reality when they’re watching a reality TV show. Because as this article in the New York Times magazine makes very clear, this is a family that is by no means normal and the reality is by no means real. And furthermore, by the time you read this article you come to understand that the kind of family that would be demonstrated in reality TV is the kind of family that would allow themselves to be filmed for so-called reality TV. And the people who would watch and enjoy reality TV are evidently the kind of people who would watch and enjoy so-called reality TV.

The New York Times is concerned with the redefinition of celebrity, that’s not a minor issue when you consider what it reveals about the culture. But from a biblical worldview perspective the bigger issue is the redefinition of reality because the Bible prizes reality – authenticity, human identity, and human dignity, the very things this family is, in its own controversial and highly documented way, forfeiting and giving away and subverting in their reality TV celebrity industrial complex.

5) Sexuality statistics used by media often unreliable due to nature of subject matter

But after uttering the name of the family I didn’t think I would ever name I then go on to an article that appeared over the weekend by Tim Harford known as the undercover economist for the Financial Times, one of the world’s most authoritative financial newspapers published in London. The headline of this article is, The Problem with Sexed-Up Statistics and what we have here is extremely revealing. Tim Harford writing as an economist wants his readers for the Financial Times to understand that they should have very little confidence in most of the statistics that are brought forth in the media and in popular culture about human sexual behavior.

He quotes with approval a new work by statistician David Spiegelhalter in which he basically takes apart many of these polls that are widely reported on human sexuality. In terms of the moral revolution, many of the revolutionaries claim to have science and statistics on their side and they pointed to things such as the work of Alfred Kinsey back in the 1950s as evidence of why sexual morality had to change. But we now know several things, including the fact that Alfred Kinsey was involved in very immoral research in terms of what he was actually doing. And furthermore we know that his research to produce those statistics, well we now know the statistics were absolutely fundamentally untrustworthy.

Explaining this Tim Harford writes and I quote,

“Kinsey was on the lookout for interesting sexual case histories and so sent his researchers to prisons and to bars famous for being gay meeting places. He may well have captured a broader range of sexual behaviour as a result but at the cost of a representative sample.”

Well, that if anything, is a profound understatement. Since these reported statistics are so often thrown out in terms of those who are arguing for the sexual revolution, it’s important that here we find an economist and a statistician saying, ‘now, wait just a minute. There are huge problems with these numbers.’ But one of the most important issues of analysis from this article goes right back to the New York Times article on the Kardashian’s – there I said again. It turns out that sexual surveys tend to be weighted towards the response of those who will fill out sexual surveys and that in itself is the problem.

The vast majority of people in the United States are never asked these questions, it’s not a representative sample, most of these most famous or infamous studies are not based in terms of a widespread statistical sample, they are unrepresentative and yet there being presented as evidence for the moral revolution. You’ll not that when I mentioned a footnote just a few stories back that when it comes to some of the issues of gender identity the very article he cited said there are no official statistics and then it went on to cite an unofficial statistic which we are supposed to take at face value.

Tim Harford goes to some of the most influential the sexual surveys and says,

“…the underlying research was politically groundbreaking we cannot have too much confidence that these numbers are correct,”

But when you’re trying to force and to feed a sexual revolution you can’t worry about whether the numbers are correct, you make statistical claims and you simply put them out in public. And, as we now know in retrospect of the sexual revolution over the last several decades, these numbers did lead many people to believe that sexual morality is changing and must change. And so just in terms of keeping the argument honest, it’s very important to cite this article that comes from across the Atlantic in the Financial Times, telling us in essence that the kind of people who fill out the information on sexual surveys are the kinds of people who will fill out the information on sexual surveys. Keep that in mind the next time someone throws one of the statistics out in public. Just because someone reduces a moral equation to numbers doesn’t mean that the numbers are correct. In my experience that’s true at least four out of five times.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to Remember we are taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question, in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) In opposition to abortion restrictions concept of ‘baby’ disappears

Premature Babies May Survive at 22 Weeks if Treated, Study Finds, New York Times (Pam Belluck)

State Legislatures Put Up Flurry of Roadblocks to Abortion, New York Times (Frances Robles)

2) Gender neutral title proposed presents impossibility of honorific titles in such a society 

What’s it like to be a Mx?, Telegraph (Olivia Goldhill)

3) Amazon removal of gender specific toy categories will not pass muster with children

Amazon appears to remove its ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toy categories, The Telegraph (Radhika Sanghani)

Amazon drops gendered listings for toys, customers can no longer search for items for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, The Independent (Andrew Griffin)

4) Reality TV industrial complex creates redefinition of celebrity and reality

Where Would the Kardashians Be Without Kris Jenner?, New York Magazine (Taffy Brodesser-Akner)

5) Sexuality statistics used by media often unreliable due to nature of subject matter

The problem with sexed-up statistics, Financial Times (Tim Harford)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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