Monday, October 27, 2008

Response to Jim Jordan

I do not have your intellectual certitude on this issue. Do you really think that I'm not telling the truth when I say that? Perhaps a study of the complete works of Frank Beckwith would convince me otherwise. I am even less sure that I would know how to produce a good legal argument against Roe v. Wade, because in a legal context you have ways of blocking the sorts of "err on the side of life" arguments that I would use if I were trying to talk someone I knew not to get an abortion.

And I have even more serious doubts about the standard conservative attack on Roe: that it involved judicial activism. It seems to me that the right of privacy is constitutionally grounded. But to defeat Roe, it seems to me that you've either got to make that argument, or make the argument that we can achieve a rational consensus that fetuses are persons from the moment of conception. Both seem to me to be difficult cases to make. (I wish I had Hasker's debate with Sullivan available to me now).

All you have with any political leader is their professions of Christian conscience.
The pro-life position is appealing in the sense that you don't get stuck with the problem of accounting for how fetal life comes to acquire the full rights of personhood. But to go from there to the conclusion that there is no moral difference between taking the life of a zygote and taking the life of a two-year-old looks like a stretch to me.

I think some of the considerations that support the right to life are some of the same ones that push me in the direction of the Democratic Party, the concern for the defense of the weak and disadvantaged against the powerful. (Probably the strongest moral theme in all of Scripture).

So I would very much like to move my party away from the sort of rhetorical position that really sounds like life in the womb doesn't matter. Perhaps after what I anticipate will be Obama's election victory, my post will be entitled "An Open Letter to Barack Obama" urging him to take fetal life seriously and to move away from the sort of Planned Parenthood party line we are so used to hearing from Democrats.

I really think that neither political party has enough power, with our two-party system, to push through a change in the Supreme Court sufficient to overthrow Roe and get us to the place where abortion is illegal in many states. So long as there is a partisan deadlock on this issue, no progress will be made.

I find this whole issue extremely difficult, and I have never tried so hard to me intellectually honest in all my life.

61 comments:

Ilíon said...

VR: "I do not have your intellectual certitude on this issue. ..."

Ah, yes, one of the favoréd dodges of "liberals" (and 'atheists') when they know that their position is illogical and/or irrational and/or immoral; in short, when they know their position is indefensible.

I had meant to say something about this particular class of intellectual dishonesty after your previous trotting out of it.

By some strange Magick of "reasoning" of the sort employed by "liberals" (and 'atheists'), when Mr Reppert contrasts his asserted lack of intellectual certitude, against Mr Jordan's clearly expressed certitude, Mr Reppert's lack of certitude triumphs! Always. Amazing, is it not?

And yet, for all this asserted lack of intellectual certitude, Mr Reppert is so certain that Mr Jordan cannot possibly be right that he refuses to even *engage* his argument(s).

Perhaps it would be well if those who are always trying to claim the moral high-ground based on nothing more substantial than their assertion of lack of intellectual certitude were to shut up. And learn.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I find this whole issue extremely difficult, and I have never tried so hard to me intellectually honest in all my life."

As with all the popular "difficult moral dilemmas," it is difficult precisely because you are trying to hold to two mutually contradictory positions.

But -- and we have it on good authority -- no man can serve two masters.

And if you're making such an effort to be intellectually honest, why are you such a steady patron of Noìli's? If you're making such an effort to be intellectually honest, why do you hide behind such flimmsy cover as your amusing post-modernist claim that you do not know where to find the truth? If you're making such an effort to be intellectually honest, why do you you pretend that your claimed inability to know the truth triumphs over another's claim (and argument in support of the claim) that he does know the truth?

In truth, you *embrace* intellectual dishonesty. Unless you turn back, you will soon enough revel in intellectual dishonesty; for no man can serve two masters.

Ilíon said...

VR: "... I think some of the considerations that support the right to life are some of the same ones that push me in the direction of the Democratic Party, the concern for the defense of the weak and disadvantaged against the powerful. (Probably the strongest moral theme in all of Scripture). ..."

Actually, no: you misrepresent Scripture to justify the unjust and anti-Biblical proclivities of the soft-left of the Democratic Party.

In actual fact, the "the strongest moral theme in all of Scripture" is justice -- "Justice, justice shall you seek" (the doubling of the word 'justice' in the original Hebrew being quite meaningful) ... "You shall not favor the cause of the poor/weak" ... "You shall not favor the cause of the rich/powerful" and so on. The moral theme of Scripture is equality before God ... from which follows equality before the law.

But the left seeks always to turn justice on its head, for if they can convince a society to accept their upside-down redefinition then they can rule and dictate. And you quislings who call yourselves Christians are always willing to act the role assigned you by the left: "useful idiots."

Randy said...

Victor, you've done a great job trying to deal with this in an intellectually honest way.

Unfortunately the anti-abortionists posting here have pretty much followed the usual course of not even trying to grapple with the possibility that they may not hold the morally correct position on this issue.

It is a little funny and sad to see such self-righteous behavior on their part. Funny because all of us fallible humans at times fall into that trap. Sad because they seem truly ignorant of how much they are damaging their own position by such behavior.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor: well put.

T'sinadree said...

Illion, in all seriousness, I was just wondering why you feel compelled to contribute to this blog. You seem to disagree with almost everyone, all the time. How can this be constructive to you personally? What are you getting out of it? Isn't it tiring after a while?

Jim Jordan said...

I'm flattered by the consideration. Thanks.
VR wrote---The pro-life position is appealing in the sense that you don't get stuck with the problem of accounting for how fetal life comes to acquire the full rights of personhood.

The pro-choice position creates the problem, or the confusion, that is. If I have a problem with my car, I can look under the hood to see what is the problem. Likewise, the abortion question requires that we take a look at it. That's where I base my decision; on the facts. What I see in abortion photos is as unequivocal as it is unacceptable.

They show deceased children with ten toes and ten fingers, all perfectly formed. By observation, the children are easily identified as the same as you or I, only smaller. On what do you base your "personhood" decision then? How would you even define it in such a way that abortion would be permissible?

Unsurprisingly, the only other time a person's "personhood" was questioned resulted in a terrible crime: slavery of African Americans (3/5 human) and the murder of Jews (not human) tio name two cases. Unfortunately, both were facilitated by some Christians who equivocated from the gospel and from the obvious truths their own senses told them.

No matter how many errors you can find with Republicans they don't compare with the injustice of abortion nor in it's debilitating effect it's had on our nation. We are weaker now as a result and getting worse. The pensions we have promised ourselves will not be there. Forty million workers are not here to pay Social Security and Medicare benefits.

From your post---So long as there is a partisan deadlock on this issue, no progress will be made.
Which is why the only acceptable response if you vote Democrat is to vote for pro-life Democrats for Congress and join Democrats for Life. But waffling on such an appalling injustice is not an option that "intellectual honesty" will guide you to. Either protest loudly from within or vote Republican.

I find this whole issue extremely difficult, and I have never tried so hard to be intellectually honest in all my life.

The only difficult thing is holding two opposing viewpoints: Christianity on one hand and Darwinism on the other. Ilion is correct, as was Jesus, that you can't serve two masters. Which makes me wonder, if Obama supposedly has a Christian conscience, how he can be absolutely sold out to something so awful.

Ilíon said...

T'sinadree: "[nothing much worth reading, really]"

While T'sinadree didn't say much, I am nonetheless able to offer the translation (to the tune of "Kumbaya"):

"Someone's misrepresenting-your-Word, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's misrepresenting-your-Word, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's misrepresenting-your-Word, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Ooooh, Lo-ord, And I don't care!

Someone's winking-at-murder, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's winking-at-murder, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's winking-at-murder, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Ooooh, Lo-ord, And I don't care!

Someone's soul-is-in-peril, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's soul-is-in-peril, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Someone's soul-is-in-peril, My Lord,
And I don't care!
Ooooh, Lo-ord, And I don't care!

Someone's "politely"-winking-at-MY-sin, My Lord,
For that I care!
Someone's "politely"-winking-at-MY-sin, My Lord,
For that I care!
Someone's "politely"-winking-at-MY-sin, My Lord,
For that I care!
Ooooh, Lo-ord, For that I care!
"

Ilíon said...

Jim Jordan: "... slavery of African Americans (3/5 human) ..."

Actually, the idea you're echoing is a leftist misrepresentation of the facts.

Don't make our ancestors out to be worse than they were.

Mike Darus said...

The short range stategy should be to reduce the number of abortions with the ultimate (and unattainable)goal of eliminating abortions.

In the context of our culture, this will require defining abortion as unethical behavior. Our culture wrongly identifies legal behavior with ethical behavior even though we know that much that is legal is unethical. In our culture that will require making abortion illegal. This requires either a reversal of Roe vs. Wade or the dismantling of the misconception that whatever is legal is ethical.

The political process has some (although remote) hope of making abortion illegal. Only an incredible revival can replace the need for law with a hunger for righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to register my honest opinion. I think a lot of Conservatives are adamant about the primacy of the abortion issue because it saves them from having to deal with the clear moral superiority of Liberalism on most other issues. They don't have to think about the failings of their political convictions to line up with the Bible on issues like poverty, usury, war, etc., because the issue of abortion gives them a "get out of moral dilemma free" card.

That's not to say that abortion isn't actually morally wrong, but it is to say that's not the real reason some find compromise so unpalatable. Without the issue of abortion, it would be much more difficult for them to convince themselves that the party that believes in taking from the poor to give to the rich, preemptive wars of choice, torture, the death penalty, and guns for all is the "Christian" party.

Ilíon said...

Anonymouse,
That's not an honest opinion; that's just "liberal" self-puffery.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

"Perhaps a study of the complete works of Frank Beckwith would convince me otherwise."

Perish the thought. Just one book will do:
http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Life-Against-Abortion-Choice/dp/0521691354/ref=ed_oe_p/102-8610790-2075343?ie=UTF8&qid=1187576107&sr=1-3

Randy said...

Perish the thought. Just one book will do:

Thanks for the link.
So I gather from the reviews I read there that you would force a woman who has been raped to carry the fetus to term?

Randy said...

The only difficult thing is holding two opposing viewpoints: Christianity on one hand and Darwinism on the other.

What does the theory of evolution have to do with abortion?

Ilíon said...

Did the hypothetical child rape the hypothetically raped woman? Will murdering the child unrape the woman?

Randy said...

If I have a problem with my car, I can look under the hood to see what is the problem. Likewise, the abortion question requires that we take a look at it. That's where I base my decision; on the facts.

So you are claiming that making a moral decision is like the decision a mechanic makes when fixing your car?

Jim Jordan said...

I highly recommend Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice . A great book that ends the confusion both legally and morally.

Randy writes--What does the theory of evolution have to do with abortion?

Like..everything. The baby is eliminated because it is unfit. Margaret Sanger popularized the word "dysgenic". Google it.

Randy--So you are claiming that making a moral decision is like the decision a mechanic makes when fixing your car?

The analogy was about plainness and verifiability. All you have to do is look at it. Google "abortion photos" and judge for yourself.

Randy, I hope those aren't your best arguments.

Anon writes --They don't have to think about the failings of their political convictions to line up with the Bible on issues like poverty, usury, war, etc., because the issue of abortion gives them a "get out of moral dilemma free" card.

Good point, but who supplies that card? Liberals. In your own lingo, the Liberal just doesn't have the "Moral Authority" against a Conservative. You've ceded the high road to George W. Bush. How embarrassing that must be for a Lib!

Randy said...


The analogy was about plainness and verifiability. All you have to do is look at it.
.........
Randy, I hope those aren't your best arguments.


Actually, I wasn't really presenting any argument. Just trying to determine whether or not there is any merit to you view of morality.

If you think morality comes down to verification of facts, then I see little need to take it seriously.

Jim Jordan said...

Randy actually said ---If you think morality comes down to verification of facts, then I see little need to take it seriously.

What? So if my argument is factual, you can't take it seriously?

Ilíon said...

Well, you know, a "fact" is a proposition which is true, or at least, believed and/or asserted to be true.

So, one can see why persons of a certain mindset would avoid and/or disparage certain facts.

Randy said...

Jim,
What? So if my argument is factual, you can't take it seriously?

I can't take seriously your claim that morality is simply a matter of facts. That it is analogous to an empirical situation like fixing ones' car engine.

Of course we all need to use facts in order to make our moral decisions. But the moral decision is one of values.

If morality was simply factual then the fact that at one time most people thought slavery was ok makes slavery ok. Or the fact that at one time slavery was legal make slavery ok.

It is a fact that a zygote contains the human genetic code. That fact alone does mean it has the same value as a human child. Or that we have a moral obligation in all situations to treat it exactly the same as we would treat a person.

philip m said...

Randy, I think you meant to say, "It is a fact that a zygote contains the human genetic code. That fact alone does not mean it has the same value as a human child."

But should we not rather say, 'It is a fact that a child is a birthed body with a human genetic code. That fact alone does not mean it has *more* value than a zygote'?

Randy said...

That fact alone does not mean it has *more* value than a zygote'?

Yes, it is not facts alone, but the value judgements one makes about the facts.

I value a human baby much more than I do a zygote. Most of the pro-lifers here seem to think they have exactly the same value. And so are willing to force women to carry their prgenancy to terrm even if it is a result of incest or rape.

Jim Jordan said...

Randy,
You wrote--Yes, it is not facts alone, but the value judgements one makes about the facts.

Now I see wehat you're getting at. To paraphrase this, "Facts are whatever Randy says they are".

Randy said...

Jim,
Now I see wehat you're getting at. To paraphrase this, "Facts are whatever Randy says they are".

What a gross distortion of my position.
It is a fact that a zygote has the full human genetic code. Don't we agree on that fact?

But does that fact require one to place the same value on that zygote as one would a human child? On that we do appear to disagree quite strongly. But that disagreement is a value judgement.

philip m said...

Randy: I value a human baby much more than I do a zygote.

As I am certain most do But the question is whether you are placing the incorrect value on the zygote, since the value you place on it is less than that which would prohibit terminating it.

Most of the pro-lifers here seem to think they have exactly the same value.

When you put it like that you make it seem counter-intuitive. I believe the claim is that they each have a value that is sufficient to guard their rights to not be terminated by external interference.

And so are willing to force women to carry their pregnancy to term even if it is a result of incest or rape.

If a person is arguing from a pro-life position then they are not just referring to the woman when they talk about what should happen: there are two entities involved, not just one. We are not interested in what women do with their ears or feet or moles, which is their own personal issue. But when they have a living human person within them, then we can talk about what they are obligated to do.

Bill Snedden said...

Jim Jordan: "Randy writes--What does the theory of evolution have to do with abortion?

Like..everything. The baby is eliminated because it is unfit. Margaret Sanger popularized the word "dysgenic". Google it."

Um, in a word, NO. Evolution has nothing whatever to do with abortion. Neither does eugenics. Where in the world do these nonsensical notions come from? The only possible relation I can see is that you are mistakenly equating eugenics with natural selection, but there's simply nothing "natural" about eugenics as an organized program...it's an artificial selection by definition.

Jim Jordan: "The analogy was about plainness and verifiability. All you have to do is look at it. Google "abortion photos" and judge for yourself."

I daresay Jeffrey Dahmer had ten fingers and toes as well. Does that mean it would have been wrong to execute him? No, for there are other facts to consider. Pictures showing aborted fetuses in various stages of development do not a rational argument make; that's a logical fallacy called appeal to emotion.

The question is, as Randy has framed it, one of value, which is a type of fact, but which, in this case, has nothing to do with pictures.

Let's assume arguendo that the fetus is a human being, with rights deserving of protection. Does this automatically make abortion murder by definition? No, it does not. We generally recognize that there are limited situations in which an individual may cause the death of another individual and yet no murder is committed (self-defense being the most common). Cases of pregnancy caused by rape clearly fall within this type of qualification (as the woman did not consent to be pregnant). Cases in which the pregnant woman's life or health are others as well as, arguably, other situations in which a woman becomes pregnant absent consent.

So even under the assumption that a fetus is a person with rights deserving of protection, it can be cogently argued that abortion isn't always murder and thus should be legal in some limited sets of circumstances.

Victor, I commend you on your willingness to "consider out loud", as it were, your opinion on what is to most thoughtful people a very difficult issue.

Jim Jordan said...

Randy,
Phillip nailed your fallacy perfectly. To destroy the zygote would mean it to be WITHOUT value. For your value system to have sense, a zygote would have to have some value but no value at the same time to be destroyed permissibly.

So your position is either to break the law of non-contradiction or, as I stated your case, that fdacts are whatever Randy says they are. You get to choose between nonsense or contradiction. You might want to reconsider your arguments.

Jim Jordan said...

BS,
I daresay Jeffrey Dahmer had ten fingers and toes as well. Does that mean it would have been wrong to execute him?

Dahmer was a mass murderer. Are you saying there is no difference between Dahmer and an unborn child?

Pictures showing aborted fetuses in various stages of development do not a rational argument make; that's a logical fallacy called appeal to emotion.


What? It's an appeal using an authority - physical evidence. How is that a logical fallacy? People showed photos of piles of corpses to convict the Nazis. Was that a logical fallacy? No. Was it an appeal to emotion? Could be, but only because it is such a horrible thing to witness.

Bill Snedden said...

Jim Jordan: "Dahmer was a mass murderer. Are you saying there is no difference between Dahmer and an unborn child?"

Of course not. This is where context is important. Read what I actually wrote: "No, for there are other facts to consider." Having ten fingers/toes and looking like a person does not mean that one is a person. Nor does being a person automatically mean that one's value is equal to or greater than the value of another person in a particular context. Dahmer was a mass murder; in the context of good and evil and human society, that fact ostensibly rendered him considerably less valuable than other, non-mass murdering individuals.

The difficulty for your line of argument should now be clear. We can't simply look at pictures of little dead people and declare their lives to be sacrosanct admitting of no exceptions sans context. Dahmer looked like a person too, but there were other facts to consider. And there are here as well.

Jim Jordan: "What? It's an appeal using an authority - physical evidence. How is that a logical fallacy? People showed photos of piles of corpses to convict the Nazis. Was that a logical fallacy? No. Was it an appeal to emotion? Could be, but only because it is such a horrible thing to witness."

The appeal is to emotion because your argument consists of "Look, dead babies! Isn't that awful?!?! Abortion is wrong!" But there's no necessary connection being made between dead babies and abortion being wrong. You're playing on the emotion of seeing dead bodies and expecting that to substitute for argument as to WHY it's wrong.

The piles of dead bodies used in war crimes trials aren't used as evidence that the killings were unjustified - everyone already beliefs that such killings are unjustified - they're used as evidence that the killings occurred or evidence of the horrific conditions or extent of the killings. There is a difference.

----------------------------------

philip m: "As I am certain most do But the question is whether you are placing the incorrect value on the zygote, since the value you place on it is less than that which would prohibit terminating it."

Saying "incorrect value" assumes without argument that there is NEVER any point at which the value of the zygote might NOT be greater than that of the woman in whose body it is contained. But why should we assume that to be the case? In fact, it seems rather obviously false to me. At the very least, one would expect some argument as to the point.

philp m: "When you put it like that you make it seem counter-intuitive. I believe the claim is that they each have a value that is sufficient to guard their rights to not be terminated by external interference."

It seems counter-intuitive because it is counter intuitive. An actual living breathing child would seem to be so obviously of greater value than a potential one. What's that old hypothetical situation? Burning room, screaming baby, briefcase full of fertilized embryos, only enough time to save one of them, which one would you pick? Do you mean to suggest that there's not a clearly preferable choice?

philip m: "If a person is arguing from a pro-life position then they are not just referring to the woman when they talk about what should happen: there are two entities involved, not just one. We are not interested in what women do with their ears or feet or moles, which is their own personal issue. But when they have a living human person within them, then we can talk about what they are obligated to do."

Very true. But there can be no obligation absent consent. A woman who has been raped has not consented to a violation of her body or her autonomy. She has not consented to be pregnant. She has no moral obligation to continue to be so.

There's also a well-known hypothetical here: imagine you wake up one morning to find that during the night, an extremely skilled and ethically-challenged physician has grafted onto your body that of a famous and particularly gifted violinist. You are told that while she is attached to you (let's say it's to be for about nine months), she will be using your heart to pump her blood, your lungs to oxygenate it and your digestive and lymphatic systems to nourish and sustain her. By extension, your systems will be compromised by her presence. Your health will certainly be affected and your life may be endangered as well (no guarantees). You are told that any attempt to remove the violinist will result in her death.

Are you obligated to allow this? Do you see the analogy to rape pregnancy?

Randy said...

Jim
Phillip nailed your fallacy perfectly. To destroy the zygote would mean it to be WITHOUT value. For your value system to have sense, a zygote would have to have some value but no value at the same time to be destroyed permissibly.

Not at all. As in Charlie’s imagined scenario, both the young child and the 50 fetuses do have value. But you must choose one or the other. Letting the 50 fetuses in the suitcase go up in flames does not mean they have no value. It simply means that you believe the child to be of more value.

(That reminds me, you still haven’t answered that question. If I truly believed, as you claim to believe, that the value of a fetus and a young child are equal, then I would choose the suitcase. I don’t understand why you aren’t able to follow through on the logical implications of your belief and say you’d do the same.)

If a woman has been raped by her uncle is she obligated to carry the pregnancy to term because we recognize that there is some value to the fetus in her body? Or suppose a stranger breaks into her house, kills her husband and rapes her. When she discovers that she is pregnant would you continue to insist that she has no moral right to end the pregnancy?

Is the value of the zygote or fetus of absolute value to you? Is there never a situation where you could admit to saying it was better to end the pregnancy than carry it to term?

Because one consents to the termination or destruction of something of value does not entail that the thing destroyed has no value.

Jim Jordan said...

BS,
What a mess. So what did the babies do to deserve to die that the piles of Nazi victims did not? You say, "Oh, look, not the same thing exactly" and move on. It seems you're saying the same argument someone said in a previous thread that a woman's wishes have more value than a baby's life. What difference is there than the wishes of the German government? You say we know one was wrong and the other we're not sure of.

What amazes me is that you want me to take this hairsplitting pinhead of a point to confuse the issue, then parade out June Thomson's ridiculous violinist baloney again to defend the mutilation that you say is a mere appeal to emotion.

You know where the error is? It's that you see the pictures of innocent Nazi victims and "know that's wrong", "But there's no necessary connection being made between dead babies and abortion being wrong". In the mind of BS I guess there is no connection.

Just for the record, what VR was responding to in his "Response to Jim Jordan" was my statement that as a Christian, if he is to vote Democrat then he still has a duty to protest the pro-abortion platform in his party. That means supporting pro-life Dems and joining Democrats for Life. I find that perfectly reasonable. I practiced that myself as a son of Democrats until the party lined up absolutely for abortion. It's an easy out for Mr. Reppert.

Unfortunately, he says he doesn't have the "intellectual certitude on this issue". I doubt C.S. Lewis would say the same. He wrote "Kindness cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.....Love would rather see [the loved ones] suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes". Likewise, in the KJV Jesus tells us "suffer the little children, that they may come to me".

It's a tragedy that we embrace, this "right" not to suffer as a parent. God sends these children so they may grow up to love Him and return to Him. Instead we turn them over to a butcher because we want to avoid suffering. We choose our own freedom from want over the life of a child. Abortion is anathema to the gospel. There is no defense for it that isn't based on lies, nonsense, or contradiction.

If you do not have "intellectual certitude" on the issue of abortion, you do not have intellectual certitude, period.

Jim Jordan said...

Randy,
Charlie's story was stupid. How would I even know I only have time for one or the other? I don't know if one dies and one lives until that's happened. My question to the question is "Why does one of them have to die?" I would try to save both. That's a legitimate answer.

And wouldn't I have to burn them deliberately to have the same analogy as, say, a saline abortion? Why are babies burned in the womb? Is there a fire somewhere in the clinic? No, they're murdered on schedule sometime after the one-thirty appointment.

And the abortion after rape argument doesn't weigh much. I think it's a wise compromise to make the concession initially that rape would be excepted if making abortion on demand illegal were to be accepted as a result. Abortion on demand accounts for 97% of abortions anyway.

So why are you making a case that only accounts for 1-2% of all abortions? What's your excuse for the other 97%?

And what is your opinion on women whose boyfriends and families force them to have an abortion? Is that moral?

I hope you realize that these arguments of yours are a losing battle. Please reconsider. If you believe there's a God up there watching us, keep in mind He can tell the BS from the truth.

Randy said...

Jim,
God sends these children so they may grow up to love Him and return to Him.

So the murderer who killed her husband and impregated the husband's wife would be an agent of God according to you?

You talk about certitude. But certitude does not guarantee truth or correctness. The Nazi's who participated in the Holocaust thought they had God on their side, too.

Sorry, Jim, but I find your position on this issue to be so extreme that it has distorted your moral perspective. I'm thanful I live in a country where most people don't share that distorted perspective.


And what is your opinion on women whose boyfriends and families force them to have an abortion? Is that moral?

In general, I'd say it would be immoral of them to do so. If the girl was only 13 and a victim of rape, I would tend to side with the parents if they thought it best for her to have an abortion.

My step-daughter has Down syndrome. If she were raped and became pregnant I would seek an abortion for her.


I hope you realize that these arguments of yours are a losing battle. Please reconsider. If you believe there's a God up there watching us, keep in mind He can tell the BS from the truth.


Since you do believe in a God, perhaps you should take your own advice. I really believe you are holding the immoral position here.

philip m said...

bill: Saying "incorrect value" assumes without argument that there is NEVER any point at which the value of the zygote might NOT be greater than that of the woman in whose body it is contained.

Here is a quick recapitulation:

Randy: A human genetic code does not entail zygotes have the value of a baby.
Philip: Rather, a human body does not entail having more value than a zygote.
Randy: I value a human baby more than a zygote.
Philip: Certainly. But do they not both have a value sufficient to prohibit their termination?
Bill: You are saying we could never terminate a zygote/fetus.

I don't think that follows from what I said, and I certainly don't think that; just as there are situations in which killing humans may be justifiable (war, self-defense, ethical dilemmas), there may be times where it is the lesser evil to terminate the developing fetus. What I am stating above is concerning the prima facie value of each of the referents.

"It seems counter-intuitive because it is counter intuitive. An actual living breathing child would seem to be so obviously of greater value than a potential one.

I am well aware of the emotional bond many people have for pretty much any baby, and especially of the special bonds between parents and their own children specifically. But an emotional connection does not entail the right to life. So a person not being stirred emotionally when considering a zygote does not affect our obligation to not terminate it. Yet people may be confused by the claim that they have the same value, because we value animated human bodies more emotionally than we do zygotes - but that does not mean the former has more of a right to life than the latter.

"She has not consented to be pregnant. She has no moral obligation to continue to be so."

I am not sure the latter statement follows from the former. We do not choose to be in many of the moral situations we end up in where there is a clear obligation.

Your bus breaks down on the way to work, so you have to get out and walk. You are an exceedingly strong man, and you walk right by an alley where you see someone much smaller than you mugging someone else. You did not choose to be in this situation, but there is a clear right thing to do; you have knowledge that if you intervene you will win and the save the victim from extra harm and the loss of goods. However, you may be late for work, or get a little hurt. There is a cost to you, but it doesn't seem you have sufficient reason to not help simply because it has a degree of inconvience to you.

Or a different situation. You have a brother who needs a kidney and you are the only person in the entire world with a matching kidney. In this case you had no choice in the matter of having him as a brother, or in having a matching kidney either. It will be an inconvenience - you will be at greater risk of health problems, and it will take time to recover. But is the choice not clear?

These are certainly not situations these people "consented" to be in - given the massive story of happstenance the world is, I'm not sure how much we ever are in a moral situation we deliberately went out of our way to be in - yet in them the people have clear choices. Consent does not seem to be the key factor.

If the mugger had a gun, or losing the kidney meant certain death, of course then the choice becomes one dependent on the supererogatory willingness of a person to lay down their life, but not before that.

Jim Jordan said...

Jim,
"God sends these children so they may grow up to love Him and return to Him."

Randy---So the murderer who killed her husband and impregated the husband's wife would be an agent of God according to you?


Now you use an even more remote example. What's the percentage of pregnancies where the man murders the wife's husband and protects her? Could it be .00001%? And that proves...? So I guess the other 99.9999% of abortions are OK because it's OK in that one-in-a-million context.

All tolled, your arguments cast doubts on a few percentage points of all abortions. Have you no argument to defend the other 97% of abortions that occur because baby might crimp the lifestyle?

Begs the question, how can you permit this abortion on demand without explaining why? Should we just take your word for it and shut up?

It was the right thing to raise your step-daughter btw. Down Syndrome people are a great blessing. I wrote on a DS boy who grew up at my church and had the most powerful and positive impact on the other children. I've seen God use Down Syndrome folks in far-reaching ways. It even makes me jealous. Your step-daughter is a precious gift.

Ilíon said...

Jim Jordan: "... Likewise, in the KJV Jesus tells us "suffer the little children, that they may come to me". ..."

Please! The word in this usage means "allow and no not prohibit" an action (cf. 'sufferage' meaning the voting franchise). In this usage, the word has nothing to do with suffering.

Bill Snedden said...

Jim Jordan: I'm unsure as to how to continue any discussion with you as you appear to be unable or unwilling to do so dispassionately. Your last response only seems to highlight more clearly that it is emotion, rather than reason, that drives your opposition. Case in point: you still refuse to answer the very simple hypothetical that's been posed to you numerous times because you seem to be unwilling or unable to come to grips with the reality that it is a hypothetical and as such requires reason rather than emotion. That you would dismiss the "violinist argument" so cavalierly (when it is in fact completely apropos to the issue) is yet further evidence that you haven't really considered the facts, just your feelings.

If you wish to address the issue rationally, I'm all ears. Otherwise, thanks and have a nice day.

Bill Snedden said...

philip m: "I don't think that follows from what I said, and I certainly don't think that; just as there are situations in which killing humans may be justifiable (war, self-defense, ethical dilemmas), there may be times where it is the lesser evil to terminate the developing fetus. What I am stating above is concerning the prima facie value of each of the referents."

Okay, that's a more nuanced understanding than I initially read into your response. However, I would still disagree that there are prima facie reasons to accord a zygote equal moral status to a living breathing child and I would argue that there are valid non-emotion-based reasons for placing such value, given the necessary characteristics of possessing moral agency (which a child has but a zygote does not). However, I would agree with you that a fetus (not a zygote) possesses value sufficient to warrant protection against casual termination. The question is going to be, of course, how do we define "casual"...

philip m: "I am well aware of the emotional bond many people have for pretty much any baby, and especially of the special bonds between parents and their own children specifically. But an emotional connection does not entail the right to life. So a person not being stirred emotionally when considering a zygote does not affect our obligation to not terminate it. Yet people may be confused by the claim that they have the same value, because we value animated human bodies more emotionally than we do zygotes - but that does not mean the former has more of a right to life than the latter."

Certainly, but the question was one of intuition which is often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) irrational.

philip m: I am not sure the latter statement follows from the former. We do not choose to be in many of the moral situations we end up in where there is a clear obligation."

I disagree with this statement. There is no moral obligation absent consent. To argue otherwise is to argue in favor of slavery.

philip m: "Your bus breaks down on the way to work, so you have to get out and walk. You are an exceedingly strong man, and you walk right by an alley where you see someone much smaller than you mugging someone else. You did not choose to be in this situation, but there is a clear right thing to do; you have knowledge that if you intervene you will win and the save the victim from extra harm and the loss of goods. However, you may be late for work, or get a little hurt. There is a cost to you, but it doesn't seem you have sufficient reason to not help simply because it has a degree of inconvience to you."

The question is not whether or not it would be good to help the victim, the question is am I morally obliged to do so. The answer is no. I have no moral obligation to protect strangers from harm regardless of risk to myself. I can certainly choose to do so and I think good arguments can certainly be made as to why it might even be in my own self-interest to do so, but am in in no way obligated to do so. I am not the slave of my fellow man, somehow obligated to serve them regardless of choice.

philip m: "Or a different situation. You have a brother who needs a kidney and you are the only person in the entire world with a matching kidney. In this case you had no choice in the matter of having him as a brother, or in having a matching kidney either. It will be an inconvenience - you will be at greater risk of health problems, and it will take time to recover. But is the choice not clear?"

That is the key word: choice. I'm not morally obligated to provide a kidney to anyone, brother or otherwise (although there would certainly be a good argument as to why, if anyone, a relation would be a better choice). His misfortune does not magically enslave me to his wishes. As with your other situation, good arguments may be made as to why I should choose to help him, but there is no moral obligation.

philip m: "These are certainly not situations these people "consented" to be in - given the massive story of happstenance the world is, I'm not sure how much we ever are in a moral situation we deliberately went out of our way to be in - yet in them the people have clear choices. Consent does not seem to be the key factor."

But it is. "Happenstance" does not enslave us to our fellow man. We are autonomous moral agents...indeed, that's redundant for without autonomy there can be no moral agency. Consent is always a factor.

philip m: "If the mugger had a gun, or losing the kidney meant certain death, of course then the choice becomes one dependent on the supererogatory willingness of a person to lay down their life, but not before that."

Irrelevant. Such factors may make choices more simple or complex, but choice is still key. Obligation without consent is slavery.

philip m said...

bill: Okay, that's a more nuanced understanding than I initially read into your response. However, I would still disagree that there are prima facie reasons to accord a zygote equal moral status to a living breathing child and I would argue that there are valid non-emotion-based reasons for placing such value, given the necessary characteristics of possessing moral agency (which a child has but a zygote does not). However, I would agree with you that a fetus (not a zygote) possesses value sufficient to warrant protection against casual termination. The question is going to be, of course, how do we define "casual"...

Which brings us back to the original point - a zygote and baby both have a unique human genetic code, surely having a body does not increase our moral obligation to not terminate it? That is, the event of birth does not amplify the fact that we ought not terminate it.

But let's not get confused - I am not saying that the moral statuses of destroying a fetus and burning a baby alive are equivalent. Our moral perception understands there is a hierarchy of evil and cruelty. Punching someone to hurt them is not as bad as shooting someone to kill them. What Hitler did is far worse than what an single-act murderer did.

But moral gravity does not comment on the discussion of whether something is right or wrong in the first place. So while a zygote may not have equal moral status to that of a human child, which we grok from comparing our moral perception of torturing infants to that of an early abortion, that does not entail it is not wrong to terminate the zygote in the first place.

It seems like you were stating just this point in pointing to the difference in their moral status, but then that is a rabbit trail from what I wanted to say to Randy in the first place, that assuming the form of a body doesn't establish the wrongness of eliminating the vessel carrying the DNA. Which brings us to your take on the matter, which is morality bursts on the scene at the sign of fetushood. For you, it is shapes and cell counts that determines moral facts; people like me aren't so gifted at understanding how that makes a difference.

"Certainly, but the question was one of intuition which is often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) irrational."

What I am saying is that people's intuition is that a human child is worth more than a zygote, or even a developing fetus, because they have a stronger emotional attachment to the child. So in the real world people do value living, breathing children more. But this has nothing to do with whether or not the child as well as the zygote are afforded rights to life. So it is counterintuitive to state that pro-lifers think, "The pro-life position is that they both have the same value." People will think that this is false, but pro-lifers don't want to know which people value emotionally. The claim is simply that it is true that we ought to terminate neither of them. Phrasing the statement in that counterintuitive manner misses the point.

"There is no moral obligation absent consent.

You will have to explain what you mean by this statement. A moral obligation is something imposed on us whether we like it or not. It doesn't make any sense to say we choose which moral obligations we want. I didn't choose my family, but I'm morally obligated to help them if they need it. Are you saying someone has to consent to be in the family?

"The question is not whether or not it would be good to help the victim, the question is am I morally obliged to do so. The answer is no. I have no moral obligation to protect strangers from harm regardless of risk to myself...I am not the slave of my fellow man, somehow obligated to serve them regardless of choice."

Whether it is good to help them is at least part of the question. The other part is whether you can and it is reasonable for you to do so. If it is a good thing to do, possible, and reasonable, then you ought to do it. And if you ought to do it, then you are morally obligated to do it; in fact, there is no meaningful distinction between those two statements.

You are not a slave of your fellow man, but that does not mean you do not have moral duties to fulfill. In fact, I would say that if you do not help the person, then you are a slave. For it may be that something is just a rule to us at first, something we must do - but it ceases to be a rule when we understand the reason for it, which is when we understand that things are better when we follow that rule. In that case we would do things that way anyway, because it is a good way to do them.

"That is the key word: choice."

You have a choice - that does not mean that one is not the right one and the other the wrong one.


His misfortune does not magically enslave me to his wishes. As with your other situation, good arguments may be made as to why I should choose to help him, but there is no moral obligation.

If humans are valuable things, things we should try to make happy and healthy, then we ought to do things that will brings about those ends. And when we can do those things, and it is reasonable in that it will set us back a little but help them extraordinarily, then we ought to do it. I am not privileged with some special orb of power in which if there is anything that will hurt me even a little, I have no obligation to do that thing. That is clearly crazy, for you can think of tremendous goods that can come about at a little harm to you - surely we ought to do such things.

What exactly is it that gives you the right to choice, instead of the person being mugged the right to his life and things? Or what makes it greater? What gives you the right to choice over your brother's right to life? What gives Oscar Schindler the right to choosing a successful business career and reputation over the rights to life that the hundreds of Jews he saved had?

""Happenstance" does not enslave us to our fellow man. We are autonomous moral agents...indeed, that's redundant for without autonomy there can be no moral agency. Consent is always a factor."

With only autonomy there can be no moral agency. For if something is good to do, and you can do it, then you should do it. For you, this doesn't exist: there is only what you choose to do. That means there is nothing good. For if something is good and you can do it, why aren't you obligated to do it?

Irrelevant. Such factors may make choices more simple or complex, but choice is still key. Obligation without consent is slavery."

These factors are essential to understanding whether we have a moral duty to do something. If one of my little siblings is beating up the other one, and I just sitting there watching television, I obviously should intervene. To you, I can do whatever I want, and thus there is no right or wrong action in the case. But I think it's clear that I should stop the stronger one from beating up the other one, since I am much stronger than them both. But if a sibling is being held at gunpoint, I do not have to risk my life to save them. That would be going beyond the call of duty.

It seems crazy to me that you think since "Consent is always a factor" I could simply plead to my parents when they get home, "I didn't choose to be in this family, to live in this house, for these two to be my siblings, for her to steal his toy, and for him to get angry in return and for him to start hitting her - so I didn't have to do anything." That is clearly a non-sequitur.

"Obligation without consent is slavery."

We are slaves of what we obey. When we serve our own interests, only thinking of ourselves, we are slaves to our selfish desires. But if we do what is right in helping others, and thus understand that it is good to do so, then we are free.

The last episode of Seinfeld is instructive here.

Jim Jordan said...

Bill---That you would dismiss the "violinist argument" so cavalierly

It's an argument from a paper in 1972 and it's been sliced and diced so much it's a mere pulp. Look at the previous threads on this blog. You arrived late here and presented stale arguments. If I seem curt with you, sorry, I am impatient sometimes when the same hackneyed arguments come up. I won't engage you further. Cheers.

Randy said...

Phillip m,

Randy: I value a human baby much more than I do a zygote.

As I am certain most do But the question is whether you are placing the incorrect value on the zygote, since the value you place on it is less than that which would prohibit terminating it.


I obviously don’t think the value of a zygote is such that one is always obligated to seek that its potential to become an autonomous moral agent be realized.

If the zygote has been artificially produced outside of a woman’s body there is no moral obligation to place that zygote in the body of a woman, for example.


If a person is arguing from a pro-life position then they are not just referring to the woman when they talk about what should happen: there are two entities involved, not just one. We are not interested in what women do with their ears or feet or moles, which is their own personal issue. But when they have a living human person within them, then we can talk about what they are obligated to do.

The zygote has the potential to become a living human person. It is not yet a living human person. So our moral obligations toward it are not equivalent to our moral obligations toward a living human person.
Can you make a convincing case that one is always morally obligated to seeking the realization of a zygote’s potential to become a human person?

I am well aware of the emotional bond many people have for pretty much any baby, and especially of the special bonds between parents and their own children specifically. But an emotional connection does not entail the right to life. So a person not being stirred emotionally when considering a zygote does not affect our obligation to not terminate it. Yet people may be confused by the claim that they have the same value, because we value animated human bodies more emotionally than we do zygotes - but that does not mean the former has more of a right to life than the latter.

The fact that we are more emotionally attached to a human baby than a zygote does not entail that we are morally obligated to ensuring that the zygote can become a human person.

Bill Snedden said...

philip m: "Which brings us back to the original point - a zygote and baby both have a unique human genetic code, surely having a body does not increase our moral obligation to not terminate it? That is, the event of birth does not amplify the fact that we ought not terminate it."

Well no, but there's certainly a cogent argument to be made that a decision to do so is not morally wrong. See here.

philip m: "It seems like you were stating just this point in pointing to the difference in their moral status, but then that is a rabbit trail from what I wanted to say to Randy in the first place, that assuming the form of a body doesn't establish the wrongness of eliminating the vessel carrying the DNA. Which brings us to your take on the matter, which is morality bursts on the scene at the sign of fetushood. For you, it is shapes and cell counts that determines moral facts; people like me aren't so gifted at understanding how that makes a difference."

I never said the difference had anything to do with "shapes and cell counts". In fact, it has to do with the ability to form moral judgements; to be a moral agent. The earliest possible time for that would be at some point during brain development and that's where I would draw the line for so-called "on-demand" abortion.

philip m: "You will have to explain what you mean by this statement. A moral obligation is something imposed on us whether we like it or not. It doesn't make any sense to say we choose which moral obligations we want. I didn't choose my family, but I'm morally obligated to help them if they need it. Are you saying someone has to consent to be in the family?"

The statement "A moral obligation is something imposed on us whether we like it or not." is simply wrong. No one can "impose" moral obligations on us; to do so would be to play the part of a slavemaster or a king and neither has any sort of moral authority. I mean exactly what I said: there is no moral obligation absent consent. I have no moral obligations toward my family that are generated by their mere existence or the happenstance that they are my family. My parents chose to have me, which obliges them to care for me; I'm certainly grateful to them for all they've done for me, but I owe them nothing in return for it. In turn, should I choose to have children I will be obliged to care for them and will expect nothing in return. One doesn't have children as an investment, expecting some kind of payoff.

By choosing to remain a part of a family I certainly create obligations of behavior toward my parents and siblings. But the crucial factor is one of choice.

philip m: "Whether it is good to help them is at least part of the question. The other part is whether you can and it is reasonable for you to do so. If it is a good thing to do, possible, and reasonable, then you ought to do it. And if you ought to do it, then you are morally obligated to do it; in fact, there is no meaningful distinction between those two statements."

You must check your premises. You are assuming that helping others is in and of itself a moral good, but is that the case?. We choose and act in accord with our values. I believe that it is possible to serve my own enlightened best interest (my highest value) by helping others and therefore that it can be good to do so. I do not help others because I am obligated to them, but because I am obligated to ME, which choice I have made by remaining alive.

Indeed, by choosing to live in a society, I accept certainly obligations toward others, but it is my choice that creates the obligation and not the mere existence of others.

philip m: "What exactly is it that gives you the right to choice, instead of the person being mugged the right to his life and things? Or what makes it greater? What gives you the right to choice over your brother's right to life? What gives Oscar Schindler the right to choosing a successful business career and reputation over the rights to life that the hundreds of Jews he saved had?"

Your questions are backward. What exactly is it that obligates me to obviate a stranger's misfortune? What does my brother's "right to life" have to do with my choice? What obligation did Schindler have to save those people?

You're assuming that which you wish to argue. Namely, that the mere existence of other people somehow obligates me to serve them. No man can live for another. Man is an end in himself and not a means to a further end.

There also seems to be an odd definition of "right" in play here. Properly understood, a right is a principle that defines an individual's freedom of action within a social context. That is, what I may or may not do, not what I must do for others. Rights place no obligations on us with respect to other individuals outside of requiring us to acknowledge and respect that others possess the same rights.

That said, as I've indicated I believe there is an argument to be made that by choosing to live in a society, we obligate ourselves in certain ways to the other individuals within it. Even so, however, the obligation hinges upon our choice, not upon some claim on our lives that the mere existence of others supposedly presents.

philip m: "With only autonomy there can be no moral agency. For if something is good to do, and you can do it, then you should do it. For you, this doesn't exist: there is only what you choose to do. That means there is nothing good. For if something is good and you can do it, why aren't you obligated to do it?"

I never said or intimated that autonomy is SUFFICIENT for moral agency, only that it is NECESSARY. Without autonomy there can be no moral agency, but obviously there are other factors that come into play. But those factors are irrelevant absent choice.

philip m: "These factors are essential to understanding whether we have a moral duty to do something. If one of my little siblings is beating up the other one, and I just sitting there watching television, I obviously should intervene. To you, I can do whatever I want, and thus there is no right or wrong action in the case. But I think it's clear that I should stop the stronger one from beating up the other one, since I am much stronger than them both. But if a sibling is being held at gunpoint, I do not have to risk my life to save them. That would be going beyond the call of duty."

No, they (the factors that you mentioned) are not. The only thing necessary to determine if a moral duty exists is to ascertain if consent was given for the existence of that duty.

When you speak of siblings fighting, it sounds as if you're talking about children. Children are not in possession of complete moral agency. Until they reach an age of majority, they're wards of their parents or guardians. There are obviously different rules that apply in such situations, rules that are not applicable in the cases of adults.

philip m: "It seems crazy to me that you think since "Consent is always a factor" I could simply plead to my parents when they get home, "I didn't choose to be in this family, to live in this house, for these two to be my siblings, for her to steal his toy, and for him to get angry in return and for him to start hitting her - so I didn't have to do anything." That is clearly a non-sequitur."

As a child it certainly would be. As an adult it certainly would not be. But as an adult, you could in fact choose not to be a member of the family and therefore have no obligation to stop your siblings from fighting.

philip m: "We are slaves of what we obey. When we serve our own interests, only thinking of ourselves, we are slaves to our selfish desires. But if we do what is right in helping others, and thus understand that it is good to do so, then we are free."

So under your moral view, pursuing your own dreams and desires is "slavery" and living to serve others is "freedom". And war is peace, and hate is love. I'm very sorry, but changing the meanings of words doesn't help your argument. One cannot be a slave to oneself; that's simply nonsense.

philip m: "The last episode of Seinfeld is instructive here."

Indeed, but not in the manner you seem to believe. The "law" under which the Seinfeld characters was punished was foolish and unjust. Granted, they were extremely boorish, crude, even poor citizens, but they were under no moral obligation to help that man simply because he was in need.

Randy said...

bill,
I never said the difference had anything to do with "shapes and cell counts". In fact, it has to do with the ability to form moral judgements; to be a moral agent. The earliest possible time for that would be at some point during brain development and that's where I would draw the line for so-called "on-demand" abortion.

I don't think we can really ascribe moral agency to humans until well past their birth date.

Having a brain is a necessary component to being a human moral agent but it is not a sufficient one.

Bill Snedden said...

Jim Jordan: "It's an argument from a paper in 1972 and it's been sliced and diced so much it's a mere pulp. Look at the previous threads on this blog. You arrived late here and presented stale arguments. If I seem curt with you, sorry, I am impatient sometimes when the same hackneyed arguments come up. I won't engage you further. Cheers."

Jim, even though I don't comment often, I'm a pretty regular reader of this blog. I've read your previous comments on Thomson's argument and far from "slicing and dicing" it, you completely failed to address it. You argue that it's a dis analogy, but you also seem to acknowledge that it has force in the context of rape (i.e., absent consent). As that's exactly one of the main points Thomson was intending to make, it seems possible that you've not really understood the argument being made.

Also, saying that someone who chooses to have sex has also chosen to be pregnant seems to me to woefully misunderstand the nature of consent. When you drove your car down the street and the brakes failed and you accidentally killed a pedestrian, did you "choose" to hill him? You certainly chose to drive the car. You chose to navigate a 1500 pound metal box down a street where you knew people were likely to be walking. Even though you'd recently had them checked, you knew that it's possible for brake lines to leak or seize. You took every precaution to prevent an accident, but one still occurred. Are you morally responsible for it?

How is this different from the man and woman who used a condom and spermicide, or the man who had a vasectomy or the woman who had a tubal ligation and yet somehow still got pregnant anyway? Answer: it's really not.

You also seem to think that thought experiments like Thomson's (and the "briefcase or baby?") fail simply because you refuse to play the "hypothetical scenario" game. Well, that's wrong as well. Hypothetical scenarios in moral philosophy aren't created to play games, they're created to assist us in thinking through to the core values that support our moral choices. OF COURSE the choices presented are supposed to seem impossible and the scenario unreal. THAT'S THE POINT. Considering how and why you would make a choice in the given situation helps you to recognize the values that you actually hold.

Whether or not you choose to continue this discussion is up to you, but at the very least it appears that you're attempting to do so dispassionately. Thanks for that.

Bill Snedden said...

randy: "I don't think we can really ascribe moral agency to humans until well past their birth date.

Having a brain is a necessary component to being a human moral agent but it is not a sufficient one."

I don't disagree with your latter point, however the reality is that ANY developmental checkpoint we assign will be somewhat arbitrary. The real fact of the matter is that development is an INDIVIDUAL matter - some take more time, some less. Indeed, it's clear that some ADULTS aren't full moral agents.

Still, I think there is good reason for attaching moral value to the first point at which the potential for sentience (and thus the capacity for moral agency) develops and that's a point during brain development. I admit to a similar lack of "intellectual certitude" on the issue as Victor has (although not over the same issue): it seems clear to me that a zygote has no "right to life" and yet it also seems clear to me that a 6 or 8 month fetus does. Where in that transition does the fetus attain personhood status (if not actual personhood)?

I attempt to set a limit as early as it seems possible for the developing embryo to possess the minimum characteristics necessary for moral agency. That capability, I would argue, renders the embryo worthy of protection.

Victor Reppert said...

I should re-emphasize that whatever my doubts about the pro-life position are, they arise almost exclusively in the context of criminalization. I view abortions as dreadful, and even if you can argue for a differential value between early pre-natal life and later pre-natal life or even post-natal life, the death of something that grows into a human being is still a loss of considerable moral concern.

Jim Jordan said...

Bill
I attempt to set a limit as early as it seems possible for the developing embryo to possess the minimum characteristics necessary for moral agency.

You can't wait too long, can you? The baby at 4 months is the same body as the zygote. In fact, a three-month waiting period for abortions would end abortion-on-demand.

Bill--Your last response only seems to highlight more clearly that it is emotion, rather than reason, that drives your opposition.

This was a hypocritical statement. Pro-choicers take the year-old baby in the hypothetical game. They leave the embryos to die. Why? Is it reason? If it were reason, you'd take the 50 potential babies, the "Snowflake" children, and leave the one to die. But in the One-Issue thread, only Charlie gave a reason to save the baby: "Yes, there could be scenarios where we do, like the one I gave you. Your views imply that you would leave poor little Eddy to burn alive -- that's why you don't want to answer the question." If my pictures of dead babies are an "appeal to emotion", what's that?

You could cut to the chase. Why don't you simply ask whether a baby is more important than 50 embryos? Really, the answer only says something about the person's character. It does not bring to the table an objective truth.

Last, Why don't you admit that all your "thought experiments" do is deal with the 3% of rare cases of coersion? The only hypothetical that even came close was the mechanical failure, but that's all wrong. The brakes went out and the car killed the pedestrian. You compare that with the condom broke and the child was conceived. It actually shows your "up is down" confusion here. One example resulted in accidental death and the other resulted in life. Now if you tack on the last leg of the aborted fetus's journey, you end not in an accidental death but an intended death. CHOICE! for goodness' sake. Life is the opposite of death and choice is the opposite of accident. Just a thought.

Ilíon said...

Bill Snedden (to Jim Jordan): "If you wish to address the issue rationally, I'm all ears. Otherwise, thanks and have a nice day."

Translation: "When you're willing to pretend that *my* irrationality is rational, when you're willing to pretend that my illogic is logic -- in short, when you're willing to surrender to me -- then we can talk."

Further comment: isn't this Snedden fellow being a hypocrite (of course he is, silly!) in playing the irrationality card? I don't mean something as simple or as obvious as the accusation in light of his own "argumentation." I mean something a bit more interesting and important: this Snedden fellow is one of those foolish persons begging VR to ban me. And what is my "sin?" It is, of course, that my primary targets are irrationality and illogic -- and I do not shy from calling them what they are.

Does it not seem that -- unless he is a hypocrite, of course -- this Snedden fellow ought to:
1) admit his error in joining the pile-up attack on me
2) ban himself from this blog.

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

VR: "[multi-level incoherency]"

You're still trying to have it both ways, and that will never work: you are in the wrong -- your position is immoral, on top of being illogical -- and you know it.


"I should re-emphasize that whatever my doubts about the pro-life position are, they arise almost exclusively in the context of criminalization."

What possible doubts can a rational and moral being, possessing knowledge about the matter, *really* have in regard to abortion?

Abortion *kills* a human being. The human being who is killed during an abortion is innocent of any crime. Except in one exceeding rare circumstance, the abortion procedure is undertaken for the express and sole purpose of procuring the death of this legally innocent human being.

In short, almost every abortion performed is an act of premeditated murder. And here you are, wanting to pretend that the horror of criminalizing abortion is a valid objection to the "pro-life" position [the quotes are because I've always detested that bit of marketing strategy: I'm anti-abortion, and not at all ashamed to be "anti-" anything at all].


"I view abortions as dreadful, ...."

Not so dreadful that you dread continuing your active (and illogical) support of the abortion regime. Not so dreadful that you dread trying to convince those who are opposing the abortion regime that they are in the wrong -- immoral -- in doing so.

Yet not so dreadful that you dread to face God for your continued and active support of the abortion regime.

Of what use is a "dread" which appears to be mere rhetorical flourish?


"I view abortions as dreadful, and even if you can argue for a differential value between early pre-natal life and later pre-natal life or even post-natal life, the death of something that grows into a human being is still a loss of considerable moral concern."

If abortion results in merely "the death of something that grows into a human being," then it does not result in the death of something which actually is a human being, and thus this death would *not* be "a loss of considerable moral concern."

You're trying, as always, to have it both ways. That strategy won't work in the here and now, and it won't work when we stand before God.

Randy said...

Jim,
Why don't you simply ask whether a baby is more important than 50 embryos? Really, the answer only says something about the person's character. It does not bring to the table an objective truth.

I thought that the point of the hypothetical was to highlight the rational consequences of one's position.

A baby or a child or an adult is of more value than any number of embryos.
But I'm speaking from a pro-choice pov. So to me it would seem irrational to choose the suitcase containing the embryos.

If were were a a pro-lifer then the rational choice would be to choose the suitcase. Isn't that the only rational conclusion one could draw from an assumption that an embryo is morally equivalent to a child?


You do raise a good point that Charlie's comment highlights our emotional attachment to little Eddy. But I fail to see why that should undercut the reasonableness or rationality of choosing little Eddy over the embryos.

Randy said...

Jim,
The baby at 4 months is the same body as the zygote.

That is not true. A zygote cannot even be said to have a body.

Ilíon said...

J.Jordan: "The baby at 4 months is the same body as the zygote."

Randy: "That is not true. A zygote cannot even be said to have a body."

What amusing -- and utterly irrationaly -- lies you "pro-choice" folk need to constantly tell yourselves.

Bill Snedden said...

jim jordan: "You can't wait too long, can you? The baby at 4 months is the same body as the zygote. In fact, a three-month waiting period for abortions would end abortion-on-demand."

That wouldn't be an issue for me as I'm not concerned with preserving abortion-on-demand.

jim jordan: This was a hypocritical statement. Pro-choicers take the year-old baby in the hypothetical game. They leave the embryos to die. Why? Is it reason? If it were reason, you'd take the 50 potential babies, the "Snowflake" children, and leave the one to die."

Your statement only makes sense if one assumes that they are of equal moral worth. I do not. Thus emotion has nothing to do with it.

jim jordan: "But in the One-Issue thread, only Charlie gave a reason to save the baby: "Yes, there could be scenarios where we do, like the one I gave you. Your views imply that you would leave poor little Eddy to burn alive -- that's why you don't want to answer the question." If my pictures of dead babies are an "appeal to emotion", what's that?"

Charlie was pointing out an emotional reason YOU might have for not answering the question, NOT his rationale for choosing the living child over the briefcase.

jim jordan: "You could cut to the chase. Why don't you simply ask whether a baby is more important than 50 embryos? Really, the answer only says something about the person's character. It does not bring to the table an objective truth."

Okay. Is a baby more important than 50 embryos?

jim jordan: "Last, Why don't you admit that all your "thought experiments" do is deal with the 3% of rare cases of coersion?"

Well, not ALL of my "thought experiments" deal with "coercion". In fact, only ONE of them (violinist) did.

jim jordan: "The only hypothetical that even came close was the mechanical failure, but that's all wrong. The brakes went out and the car killed the pedestrian. You compare that with the condom broke and the child was conceived. It actually shows your "up is down" confusion here. One example resulted in accidental death and the other resulted in life. Now if you tack on the last leg of the aborted fetus's journey, you end not in an accidental death but an intended death."

That fact that the accident resulted in life is irrelevant. The salient point is that consent was not involved. Would it be a good thing for a woman in such a position to decide to carry the child to term? Certainly, and I think such decisions should be encouraged and supported. But to obligate her to do so through force of law is to enforce slavery, and that I cannot condone.

jim jordan: "CHOICE! for goodness' sake. Life is the opposite of death and choice is the opposite of accident. Just a thought."

Indeed, and people are not morally responsible for accidents, even good ones. Just a thought.

c.k said...

Randy said: 'Letting the 50 fetuses in the suitcase go up in flames does not mean they have no value. It simply means that you believe the child to be of more value.'

well, how could they exist being outside the mother's womb? frozen embryos (being outside the mothers womb) is better left untouched even if science argue it would be a waste not to experiment on them, because they are like 'children trapped in a fire without way of escape, while scientists can send a robot who can 'use' their body parts still undestroyed by the fire'. therefore, the fetus in the suitcase is like those embryos - and the child who is already a developed human being is more valuable to save. It doesn't however take away the sanctity of life because that is an extreme case where a necessary evil is to occur. Abortion based on choice is not about 'extreme cases' but due to 'convenience'.

c.k said...

*well, how could they exist being outside the mother's womb?

exist = live on

c.k said...

"Jim,
God sends these children so they may grow up to love Him and return to Him.

So the murderer who killed her husband and impregated the husband's wife would be an agent of God according to you?"

such things are really deplorable and evil and hard to fully explain; But then again God sent his only begotten Son, to die and suffer a miserable death on the Cross'... my point saying this is the mystery of suffering - and why God permits evil, to produce a greater good (in his Divine Wisdom) not orchestrate it.

c.k said...

'It seems to me that the right of privacy is constitutionally grounded. '

somehow the child in the womb has no right of privacy that it is ok for medical scissors to open the baby's skull and suck the brains out.

somehow that medical procedure is just as good for those babies that was delivered to full term and have not experienced this butchery.

c.k said...

the problem with Pro Choice (abortion on demand) is that its pitting the mother and the child as enemies, or a threat to one another. How Satan fooled us all, for that is not the natural way how things should go: it is anti-Love and anti-God. Rich, well-developed countries such as those in the western world should make all efforts to assist the woman and her unborn baby. In places like Russia there is a serious depopulation going on and the gov't HAS TO PAY its citizens money to encourage them to have a family/children. Because for years they (as well as the rest of the world) bought into the lie that the baby is a threat to the mother. No matter how much money a gov't is willing to pay: if the citizens do not understand the value of life especially of the unborn - people wouldn't think it is worth keeping.