Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What If?

I used to read a lot of science fiction.  Many of the stories were what if? stories.  Sometimes they were interesting, but after a while, I got tired of what if?  Besides that, after a while it seems as though all of the new what ifs? are recycled versions of the old ones.

Earlier this evening, I was reading a collection of essays selected by Demos regarding human enhancement technology.  It is a thought-provoking body of work, but the questions again seem to have been drawn from the recycle bin.  The answers have not, which is why the collection is worthwhile.  But it was interesting questions that I was really looking for tonight.

Alas, sometimes you march off to the essay with the question you have, not the question you wish you had.

So the question I have is this: what would it do to our society (in the USA) if the Supreme Court always consisted of exactly one woman, and one man, and all decisions had to be unanimous?  Notice that I am not asking whether it would be a good idea or not.  Also, I am not particularly interested in what effect this would have on case law, except to the extent that those laws would change society.

Would this change our concept of gender equality?  If so, would it be more polarizing, or would it promote an end to the gender wars?  Would we use the same criteria for nominating and approving the male judge and the female judge?  Or would we unconsciously think that the male judge should somehow have a different role in the deliberations, compared to the female judge?  If so, how would we define the role of the female judge as compared to that of the male judge?  

If the court rendered a decision that you personally did not like, would you find yourself disliking both judges equally, or would you feel differently about them, depending upon their gender?  Would you ever find yourself believing that one gender "gave in" to the other, and how would you feel about it?  Would you ever feel that one of the judges "betrayed" his or her gender, by making a particular decision?  

If, in this hypothetical court, both judges were required to prepare written explanations of the reasoning for their decisions, would we be able to read those opinions without stopping to think about the gender of the author?  How often would we say, that's not how a woman/man should think?

It does seem likely that there would be a lot said and written about the influence of gender on the process of decision-making in the Supreme Court.

Would the endless discussion of gender issues make us all so thoughtful and considerate, that gender conflicts would disappear entirely?  Or would all that discussion seem threatening to our already-entrenched beliefs?

Would religious leaders feel compelled to speak out about the structure of the court, and the proper roles of men and women in society?  Would anyone listen?  Would evolutionary psychologists be able to explain to us the differences between the brains of male judges and female judges?