Birth and Brain Control

With the explosion in the number of debates surrounding Planned Parenthood seeming to be biting at the heels of the Gay Right’s Debates, I wanted to share an article by one of my most cherished authors – G.K. Chesterton. It is not what he is arguing for which has brought this article to my attention, but what he is arguing against.

I wish to invite my readers not only to read his argument concerning Nature and Birth Control but to allow yourself to understand his argument and how it applies to Gay Rights and Birth Control. For I say this to all of my friends who marched with Gay Rights Activists upon the platform, “It is natural, therefore it is legitimate”, you have lost all rational basis to support Planned Parenthood’s attack upon “what is natural”.

Birth and Brain Control
by G.K. Chesterton

A correspondent has written to u last week complaining of the article signed “Heretic”, which condemned Birth Control not from a religious but a purely rationalist standpoint. The correspondent, Mr. Victor Neuburg, appears to give himself considerable airs of superiority because he is unable to believe in anything (except in Mrs. Stopes) and this is interesting, as illustrating a not g-k-chesterton1uncommon combination of the incapacity for believing with the incapacity for thinking. It will be quite sufficient to quote about four lines of his letter, which contain more complicated contradictions and inconsequences than we have ever seen in such a space; and which end with one of those abrupt abysses of the entire absence of humour which is more laughable than the best humour in the world.

He says that a man does not practice Birth Control “in order to indulge his passions, as a Heretic slipshoddly affirms; but in order that his quite natural (and therefore legitimate) sexual passion may have no unforeseen and undesired results.”

Why he should repudiate the indulging of his passion if his passion is quite legitimate, and why he should want to make the indulgence safe except in order to indulge it, the Lord only knows. He will pardon this theological expression; which we apologize for not putting in quotation marks, as he so haughtily presents all theological expressions. But the muddle is much more amusing than that. The passion, let it be noted, is not natural and legitimate; he distinctly says it is natural and therefore legitimate. So far so good. It is natural for a man to wish to rush out of a burning theatre, even if he tramples on women and children; it is natural and therefore legitimate. It is natural for a man called upon to face death or tortures for the truth (of Mrs. Stopes, let us say) to run away and hide; it is natural and therefore it is legitimate. That is quite understood; and so far we are all getting along nicely. But if everything that is natural is right, why in the world is not the birth of a baby as natural as the growth of a passion? If it is unnatural to control appetite, why is it not unnatural to control birth? They are both obviously parts of the same natural process, which has a natural beginning and a natural end. And Mr. Neuburg, who thinks all natural things legitimate, has no possible reason for interrupting it at one stage more than at another. As Nature is infallible, we must not question what progeny she produces. If Nature is not infallible, we have a right to question the passions that she inspires.

And then comes the joyous culmination and collapse; of calling a baby an unforeseen consequence of getting married. It would be entertaining to wander through the world with Mr. Neuburg, sharing all the unforeseen consequences of the most ordinary actions. Life must be full of surprises for him; he strikes a match and is indignant that it burns the sulphur; he throws a stone into a puddle and is irritated that it makes a splash; he keeps bees and is furious because they fertilize flowers; he breeds dogs and stands astounded before the unforeseen consequence of puppies. Wonder is a wonderful thing and, with less irritation, might be a beautiful thing. But we rather doubt whether anyone who argues like this has any right to a tone of such extreme intellectual arrogance.

* Bold is added by me for clarification.


4 thoughts on “Birth and Brain Control

    • Not a problem at all.

      I’m sorry to say that the book, Brave New Family, doesn’t include the references to the original publication (ie. Original source and date). However, G.K. Chesterton was quite a prolific writer during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. If you want the sources of his original publications I would suggest ‘The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton’ by Ignatius Press. I don’t own the entire anthology, but in the first two volumes I do own, they open with an introduction explaining the historical context, original publication source, and general impact of whatever is contained in that volume. So, for example, in Volume I, the book contains ‘Heretics’, ‘Orthodoxy’, and ‘The Blatchford Controversies’ (A Newspaper Debate in the Clarion which has never been formally published since then). The introduction goes explains each book, the origin, and context in which each appeared.


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