Sunday, April 14, 2019

"Women and children first"

In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank, having struck an iceberg hours earlier. In 2010 Albert Mohler in an article on his site compared its sinking with that of another liner only three years later:
The great ocean liner that was built as unsinkable struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank early the next morning, taking 1,517 of 2,223 lives on board. The RMS Titanic became a parable of modernity — of the limits of technology and the hubris of humanity. It is also a subject of enduring fascination because of the stories of those who lived and died, known to us because of the fame and fortune of so many on the Titanic.

Less known to many is the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, taking 1,198 of 1,959 lives on board. The sinking of the Lusitania was a major factor in bringing the United States into war against the German Empire in World War I, but it plays a much less prominent role in the American imagination — largely thanks to Hollywood and its fascination with the Titanic.

But more is at play here, for the two sinkings were notably different in one crucial respect. The Titanic took hours to sink, leaving time for a remarkable human drama on board the sinking ship. The Lusitania sank in just eighteen minutes, leaving far less of a human trace in the imagination. ....

Aboard the Titanic, the men generally behaved with great concern for women and children, doing their best to get the women and children into the precious and insufficient seats in the lifeboats. Hundreds of men died with the Titanic, demonstrating a commitment to put the welfare and lives of women and children above their own.

Aboard the sinking Lusitania, the scene was very different. Women and children were less likely than men to survive that disaster, because the men used their natural strength and speed to take the spaces on the lifeboats, with women and children forced out of their way. ....
Another article that I quoted elsewhere but no longer can find online, from the now defunct Weekly Standard:
...[T]hird class women passengers had a far better chance of surviving (49 percent) than first class males (34 percent). Yes, first and second class women had a much greater chance of survival (97 percent and 86 percent, respectively) than did third class women (49 percent). But the corresponding figures for men were abysmal, even in first class–and, curiously enough, second class men fared even worse than those in third class (8 percent to 13 percent).
Back to Mohler:
What accounts for the difference? The researchers looked at several factors, but settled on one that appeared more obvious as they considered the question — the length of time it took the ship to sink. As the report explains, on the Lusitania "the short-run flight impulse dominated behavior. On the slowly sinking Titanic, there was time for socially determined behavioral patterns to reemerge."

Put plainly, on the Lusitania the male passengers demonstrated "selfish rationality." As TIME explains, this is "a behavior that's every bit as me-centered as it sounds and that provides an edge to strong, younger males in particular. On the Titanic, the rules concerning gender, class and the gentle treatment of children — in other words, good manners — had a chance to assert themselves." ....

Aboard the Lusitania, young males acted out of a selfish survival instinct, and women and children were cast aside, left to the waves. Aboard the Titanic, there was time for men to consider what was at stake and to call themselves to a higher morality. There was time for conscience to raise its voice and authority, and for men, young and old, to know and to do their duty. ....

A secular worldview has little at its disposal to explain all this, and is left with some argument based in evolutionary survival behaviors or socially constructed morality. The feminists are in even worse shape in this. They call for a world like the Lusitania, but must hope against hope that the world is really more like the Titanic. ...

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