Monday, February 15, 2010

The best anti-abortion argument: the deer hunter argument

To me, at least, is the deer hunter argument is the strongest pro-life argument. It goes like this.

It is difficult, perhaps, to look at the fetus and answer the question of whether it should receive a right to life equivalent to that of an infant. However, some take this situation as a reason for outlawing abortion, because of what I call the “deer hunter argument.” The deer hunter argument says that if you are hunting deer and you are in doubt as to whether something is a deer or a person, you are morally obligated to assume it is a person and hold your fire. You can be criminally liable if you don’t. Similarly, if you are considering allowing a fetus to be aborted, but you are not sure whether it is a person or not, you should refrain from killing it, and you should be criminally liable if you do.

What is the best pro-choice response. 

56 comments:

bossmanham said...

Have you heard the SLED argument?

Anonymous said...

Seems like one could construct a similar argument for supporting legislation that fights global warming ("if you don't know, then better safe than sorry, given the extent of innocent lives on the line"), which makes me think the typical Christian would rather reject the argument and be pro-choice than accept the parallel argument.

Victor Reppert said...

I haven't heard of the SLED response. But it is interesting that you can accept this kind of argument for abortion but not for capital punishment.

Mark Frank said...

Different types of uncertainty. It is not as though we might one day discover that a fetus is actually a person. It is more that we have different ideas of what a person is.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
the best pro-choice argument is not from theory or mind-games, but rather from an honest look at what has happened in reality in countries which have banned abortion. My favorite example is Communist Romania, where tens of thousands of unwanted children ended up in facilities scarcely distinguishable from a Nazi concentration camp. Same goes for today's North Korea. In Western countries where a legal ban is in effect, the result is hundreds of thousands (!) of women suffering severe physical harm or even death from botched procedures. Or, if you have the money, a trip to a neighboring country that is pro-choice. The visible, quantifiable, verifiable damage from anti-abortion laws, in my opinion, outweighs the purely theoretical good that comes from enacting them.

That said, I am very much in favor of education and persuasion for the "pro-life" position. That, plus access to good birth control, is the key to reducing or elimination abortion - not law.

Anonymous said...

Wow Bob, do you hear what you're saying? By that logic the red cross should be killing people instead of offering them aid. But I guess if you don't believe in the soul, who cares about who lives and dies, that was Hitlers philosophy at least.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
Well anonymous, I'm not sure which one of us loses this exchange. You were the first to bring up Hitler, which normally means you do, but I did use the word "Nazi", so it may be a draw. Anyone want to referee this one?

Doctor Logic said...

Most Christians have no problem with deer hunting because they don't think deer are persons. Why aren't deer persons? They're more sentient than a human fetus. Whatever the hunter answers as a defense, you can ask "Are you sure?"

Plus, what Bob said.

Shackleman said...

The deer hunter argument pretty much sums up why I'm pro-life (with exceptions made for self-defense, rape and incest), pro-GreenEarth, and anti-capital punishment.

I also think those are *the* consistent positions one should take as a Christian.

To Mr. Prokop: Are you really making the case that we should kill millions of baby humans because there is suffering in the world? More importantly EVERY ONE of your concerns can be mitigated if women simply didn't have sex.

Instead of killing baby humans we should educate people, use contraception ONLY if the risk of pregnancy is a risk willing to be taken without abortion as a fallback, and spend our time, riches, and resources eliminating these concentration camps you speak of. Killing baby humans does NOTHING whatsoever to stop the atrocities you mention. Not one thing. It just kills baby humans.

TD Hinkle said...

Victor,
Though I am pro-life, I don't think that this is a very good argument for the pro-life position for a couple reasons:

First, the deer hunter argument says that because we can't tell whether or not a fetus has a right to life (we can't be absolutely certain), we have a moral obligation to treat them as if they did 'just in case'. This appeal to uncertainty, if applied consistently, would lead us to some pretty counter-intuitive conclusions. Are you absolutely certain that animals don't have the right to life? Are you absolutely certain that the needy in the third world don't have a right to your excess income? It seems that if the pro-life position follows from this principle, then vegetarianism and morally obligatory wealth redistribution would follow as well.

Second, even if the pro-choice advocate granted for the sake of argument that the fetus does have a right to life, it still would not follow that the woman would not have the right to obtain an abortion. This point has been made very persuasively by Judith Jarvis Thompson in 'A Defense of Abortion' and more recently by David Boonin in his book of the same name. Their argument goes something like this: Imagine you wake up to find yourself in a hospital bed connected by a series of tubes to a famous violinist. You are informed by a doctor that his patient is in need of a bone marrow transplant, and you are the only suitable match. The transplant is a slow and painful process- it takes about 9 months to complete, and if you remove the tubes the violinist will die. In a case like this, it seems that even though the violinist does have a right to life, it does not follow that he has the right to make use of your body, and you would be perfectly entitled to remove the tubes even if his death is a consequence.
Thanks,
Travis

Shackleman said...

The famous violinist argument fails because it assumes there was no choice for the donor to be placed in that position.

With pregnancy, men and women *choose* to place themselves on the "donor table" by having unprotected sex, or even protected sex knowing there's a risk that they may wind up on the "donor table".

No sex = no donor table.

It's really not that complicated. If you don't want to make a baby human, then don't have sex.

Of course this only applies to adult consensual sex which is why I leave exceptions for my own pro-life position for cases of rape and incest.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing (to Shackleman):

Good Grief, how many ways is it possible for you to misinterpret what I wrote? Please show me where I said that "we should kill millions of baby humans"? What I DID write (and quite positively meant to write) is: "I am very much in favor of education and persuasion for the "pro-life" position." Gee, how does that translate into a case for killing millions of humans?

So I will reiterate, just to make my point crystal clear. Anyone who is against abortion should be so via persuation, education, and propaganda, but NOT via law.

And as for your final point, "EVERY ONE of your concerns can be mitigated if women simply didn't have sex.", I choose to live in the Real World, not some fantasy planet where everyone behaves as I would wish. Don't waste our time with things that will never happen.

Blue Devil Knight said...

One good response from pro-choicers would be they are clear that a fetus is not a person with rights. That is, the deer/person analogy doesn't work because it requires there to be a haze of uncertainty that doesn't exist in lots of cases.

Second best is to not even enter that debate about whether the fetus at point X has rights, to use Thomson's violinist example. Despite Shackelman's claims to the contrary, it is a good example, especially when a couple uses birth control in good faith. Because the government can't get in the business of trying to figure out if a couple used birth control, they must stay out of this decision.

(On the other hand, if we know there is a risk of being attached to a violinist in a part of the city, and that it is more likely to happen when you leave your windows unlocked, that still doesn't mean you can't unplug him just because you left your window unlocked. He is still an uninvited guest and has no legal recourse against you.)

Morning after pill is the best option to avoid all these issues.

Blaise Pascal said...

TD Hinkle: I dont think it is an appeal to uncertainty. The argument just shifts the burden of proof to the pro-choicers, making the presumption in favor of personhood. I think this is reasonable.

Now, the case with global warming is completly different. Here the burden of proof obviously lies on the side of those who support legislation against climate change.

Blaise Pascal said...

The violinist argument is really sick and perveted thinking. What it really justifies is the murder of all innocents who depend on another person to live and not just unborn babys. As soon as Parents have conceived a child they automaticaly assume the moral responsibility for their child.

Shackleman said...

Mr Prokop,

First, relax.

Second, I beg your pardon, but you said "The visible, quantifiable, verifiable damage from anti-abortion laws, in my opinion, outweighs the purely theoretical good that comes from enacting them".

And my point was while you seem to be well-meaning, you give only lip service to "education". The fact that millions of baby humans are being destroyed every year should really bother you AT LEAST as much as "quantifiable, verifiable damage from anti-abortion laws".

The solution to the atrocities you mentioned isn't to allow restriction-free abortions.

And the "real world" is what we make of it. You can sit by and do nothing because "that's the way things are" to your hearts content. My point wasn't wishful thinking...it was a COUNTER point to yours that atrocities happen in places where abortion is illegal.

*****MUCH***** of those atrocities happen because men and women have unprotected sex, NOT because of anti-abortion laws. Sheesh, talk about misinterpreting what someones says!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blaise: so if you were tethered to the violinist, the law should not let you say no? It should force you to stay attached?

On the other hand, the violinist example is slippery in that it focuses on the legal question to the exclusion of the moral question. Of course legally you should be permitted to unplug him. Morally? It isn't as clear. But throwing names like "perverted" around as if that is an argument doesn't get us anywhere.

At any rate, getting back to the point, I failed to mention that I think the deer hunter argument is fairly decent, especially for those cases where someone is on the fence the fence about whether the fetus in question is a person.

For instance, for me I have no problem with flushing a zygote, just a little bit more than about flushing sperm into a tissue. This is done all the time at fertility clinics and I'm fine with that.

However, when we get into the cases where the fetus has a nervous system with functioning synapses and such, things get more fuzzy for me personally and the deer hunter argument would be more compelling there.

So, even though many of us here will disagree on when things get fuzzy, few will say it is never fuzzy (except perhaps those who say parturition is the hard and fast dividing line, but they would probably be in the minority).

Hence, for the majority of people the deer hunter argument will work pretty well, at some stage of pregnancy.

And then we introduce the violinist, and that throws doubt on the very premise of the legal argument (if not the moral argument).

Blue Devil Knight said...

I tend to agree with Shackelman that just focusing on the negative consequences of antiabortion laws doesn't justify repealing them.

Just so I don't repeat all the stuff I wrote here, my reasoning for keeping abortion legal is here and later here.

I pretty much agree with my reasoning there for keeping abortion a legal and private decision between a woman and her doctor (in most, but not all, cases especially in first trimester).

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gordon Knight said...

I thought B P and DL made good points.

Especially with respect to the deer. It always amazes me how someone can be so sure that a week old embryo has a right to life and yet feel confident taht hunting, animal ag. etc is okay.

you can make the case in reverse too. Why be cavalier about abortion when you care so much about baby seals?

I think the second arg. only works after the point at which the fetus in conscious, but apparently there are people who think consciousness does not matter much (what is the soul, if it is not the seat of consciousess, the referent of the "I")

And another thing, now that I am on a roll

If the belief that abortion is wrong is based on the belief in an immortal soul, then its hard to see how abortion is that bad. If there is a God and that God creates soul Joe, God surely can make it so that Joe, albeit aborted, can have a worthwhile life.

Of course you can make the same sort of case (with lots of complications) with respect to killing generally. Which goes to show that we should not base our morals on abstract metaphysics.

Let God deal with the souls of the unborn, we should stick with what is empirically believable: e.g. brains are connected with consciousness, conscious beings feel pleasure/pain. pain is bad etc.

Shackleman said...

"Let God deal with the souls of the unborn, we should stick with what is empirically believable: e.g. brains are connected with consciousness, conscious beings feel pleasure/pain. pain is bad etc."

I can't tell if you're being serious here. But if so, then why stop at the unborn? Empirically, 2 day old babies don't really feel pain either (I don't remember my own circumcision) and 2 day old babies are no more conscious than say an adult chicken (have no sense of self, no sense of time, no goals, no ideas). Heck, why even stop there? We could extend this logic to people in comas or even to people in deep sleep. Now, I know I'm being sensational here, and before I'm accused again of misinterpreting what others are saying, I'm just making the point that if we are to be consistent, and if the litmus test to determine if a being has a right to life is consciousness, then we will wind up doing some horrific things. And if we are *universally* incredulously revolted by such thoughts, then that really should stand as a some sort of guidepost that points the way toward an *objective* morality upon which we should be basing these difficult descisions. "Empirical belief" only gets you so far. It's subjective.

What's interesting to me is to hear all of these counter examples of how "personally" people believe "X" or think it's okay to abort at "Y" time. When one does this, one is missing the whole point of the deer-hunter argument. Since as BDK points out, for EVERYONE the issue of abortion gets fuzzy at SOME point during pregnancy (or early post-born for some insane individuals), then we should err on the side of caution and outlaw the practice.

There are probably arguments that can be made against the deer hunter argument, but appealing to personal fuzziness on the issue misses the point entirely.

Blaise Pascal said...

Blue Devil Knight: My problem with the violinist argument is that if the analogy applies to the unborn then it can also be applied to toddlers, small children and old and sick people.

Obviously, a toddler depends for his survival on his parents. Now, are his parents allowed to kill him, because he is a burden on them? Clearly not, however big this burden is! They have a moral responsibility for their child. For the same reason parents are not allowed to kill the unborn, because they have a moral responsibility for them. It doesnt matter whether it is a burden for them or not.

I also disagree with your distinction between the moral question and the legal question. If a law is immoral it cannot be binding on you. A binding immoral law is a contradiction, because immoral is that which is not allowed, which you are obliged not to do. Clearly, an obligation to do something and not to do it is impossible. The morality of a law is a precondition for an obligation to that law. An immoral law is null and void.

It all reduces to the question of morality.

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

Returning to Dr. Reppert's original post and question: "What is the best pro-choice response?"

I think the moral issue is settled by the deer hunter argument. But the legal argument is different.

If one agrees with me that exceptions should be made for cases involving self defense and rape, then the most powerful I can think of is that it would be unethical and impractical to delay abortions, waiting for a victim of rape to prove such in a court of law. Same for self-defense cases. We couldn't have women dying due to complication of childbirth while they waited for their day in court. Further, the longer the trial goes, the more unethical it would be to kill the baby. Therefore, despite the moral outrage, practically speaking we cannot outlaw abortions for these reasons.

Incest is a little easier, but not easy, to diagnose. 10 year old pregnant girls for example are victims of rape and/or incest. Period. And parents of those children should have a legal right to get an abortion. But even that causes me grave concern. Because from the perspective of the dead baby, it may not be okay even then. But at that point I'd agree with Mr. Knight---let God sort that one out.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blaise obviously morality and legality are different issues, with only a contingent relation between them. It is immoral to be a condescending jerk to everyone you meet, but not against the law.

As for your reductio of the violin case, there is a big difference between an unwanted violinist that has been attached to you uninvited, versus a child for which you have assumed custodial rights. Legally, and morally, these are very different things. A better analogy would be someone leaving a child on your doorstep. In that case, clearly it is also different as you can just give the kid to Social Services (which is not an option in the violinist case, by stipulation).

There seem to be three reasonable responses to the violinist case from the anti-abortionist.
a) Bite the bullet and claim it should be illegal to unplug this unwelcome violinist.
b) Agree that it is OK to unplug (and kill) the violinist, but that this is disanalogous from abortion so can't be used to justify abortion.
c) Agree it is OK to kill the violinist, and realize that because this is a good analogy, so at least some cases of abortion (e.g., rape, incest at least) are justified.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman makes a great point.

For those that think abortion should be legal in cases of rape, does that mean we should make a woman prove she was raped before we allow her an abortion?

PatrickH said...

BDK: "As for your reductio of the violin case, there is a big difference between an unwanted violinist that has been attached to you uninvited..."

A lot of my difficulty with the violinist scenario is precisely that it involves tethering, attaching, you know, some unseen third party binding "you" to the violinist. But of course it would be more accurate to say that "you" had consented to do something that created the violinist and his dependent condition, neither of which would exist if you had not done whatever it was you had done to create the whole mess (ignoring the rape variant, which of course does involve a third-party act of "binding" a victim against her will, so to speak).


P.S. I'm checking out your other two arguments, and understand they're not the same as the violinist scenario. But I'm curious as to why you would ignore the bizarre third-party tethering this-and-that that seem to render the scenario complicated at least, if not entirely problematic.

Anonymous said...

"ignoring the rape variant, which of course does involve a third-party act of "binding" a victim against her will, so to speak"

And by that you mean ignoring the very situation that the violinist case was originally introduced to discuss...

Vic,
Why should we assume that we don't know that the fetus is not a person? I mean, I don't think it's difficult to look at the fetus and say that it simply doesn't have the moral status that an infant does. Correct me if I'm wrong, but some research suggests that the fetus cannot feel pain until pretty late in development.

Blue Devil Knight said...

PatrickH: you would also have to ignore the good faith of use of contraception variant.

Blaise Pascal said...

Blue Devil Knight: What i tried to say is that morality is a necessary condition for a valid law. Obviously, morality alone is not enough. The law also has to be enforcable by adequate means (a law against beeing a condescending jerk would be out of proportion. It is too trivial). If these conditions are met, i see no reason why not to enact a law that prohibts immoral behaviour. This is obviously the case with abortion. So again, the legal question of abortion is reduced to a moral question.

I think we agree that an abortionist could use the violinist analogy at best to prove that abortions are permissible in cases of forced pregnancy, if he shows that it is permissible to pull the plug. But if he used this to argue for the general permissability of abortion he would in effect promote eugenics of the worst kind, because this would allow the killing of all dependend persons.

Joshua Blanchard said...

I suspect that there's something more concrete underlying the deer hunter case, including the belief that there are real people roaming around who could be shot. From a strong pro-choice perspective, the analogy would be undermined at this point. According to their (metaphysical?) position, the fetus just isn't a person. So the "maybe" in the abortion case is "maybe my philosophical position is wrong," which doesn't really seem to underly the deer hunting case.

After all, if the deer hunting argument is presented in your way, it could be an argument against any action at all, since there is some chance, however small, that we're killing a person all the time.

Gordon Knight said...

Obviously there is a difference between never being conscious and having ones consciousness interrupted

I actually think third trimester fetuses feel pain. Maybe earlier.. I am not sure at the moment, but at least then.

This is the thing. I understand why its wrong to torture cats and poke babies with pins. I can undestand why its wrong to kill a person b/c they will be deprived of future experiences

But if there is no experience, no there, there.. I don't get it.

I really don't. I am open to persuasin but if x is and never has been conscious, how exactly is it different from a rock?

You can point the future, but on my view the future does not exist.

And why not treat deer and racoons who have a richer mental life than embryos (unless Descartes is rigth).. as being of no or little worth

If you are going to be pro life, be PRO LIFE for all sentient beings. This seems to be a consistent position.

amtheomusings said...

Where did you hear this argument?

Victor Reppert said...

It plays a role in Francis Beckwith's reply to Judith Thomson.

Shackleman said...

"Obviously there is a difference between never being conscious and having ones consciousness interrupted

What's the difference? It's not obvious to me.

"I actually think third trimester fetuses feel pain."

If a 3rd tri-mester baby has a response to pain, it's not a conscious response as evidenced by the lack of any memory whatsoever of one's own circumcision.

More importantly, you're just expressing a gut feeling. A notion. There is no empirical evidence that "pain", as defined by fully conscious persons is the same thing as any neuroreflex 3rd trimester babies feel.

I happen to agree that they probably feel pain of some kind, but then, I'm not the one advocating for consciousness as the benchmark for right-to-life. More importantly, you reveal the very force of the deer hunter argument. Because for *you* (it seems) 3rd trimester abortion starts to become not okay. I agree. But the point of the deer hunter argument is that there *could* be some semblance of humanity in fetuses earlier than the third trimester, so we therefore have a moral obligation to refrain from pulling the trigger. You're avoiding the deer hunter argument here.

"This is the thing. I understand why its wrong to torture cats and poke babies with pins. I can undestand why its wrong to kill a person b/c they will be deprived of future experiences."

This isn't an argument. What don't you get? Just curious, do you have your own children?

I really don't. I am open to persuasin but if x is and never has been conscious, how exactly is it different from a rock?"

You're the one arguing for consciousness as the benchmark for right-to-life, not me. Therefore the burden of proof is on you.

"You can point the future, but on my view the future does not exist."

Huh? Did you not just say "I can undestand why its wrong to kill a person b/c they will be deprived of future experiences"? You contradict yourself here.

"And why not treat deer and racoons who have a richer mental life than embryos (unless Descartes is rigth).. as being of no or little worth"

Who said they have no or little worth? That we eat them does not mean they have no worth. I happen to pray to God before every meal, thanking Him for providing me sustenance and I even sometimes overtly pray to the little souls of those creatures, thanking them for giving their life so that I might live. All living things, having been created by a loving God, have value and worth, and are demanding of one's utmost respect and reverence. You paint a caricature of Christian values.

"If you are going to be pro life, be PRO LIFE for all sentient beings. This seems to be a consistent position."

Ya gotta eat. It sounds as though you're a vegetarian. I was once too. Ate nothing with a face. But my capacity to be a vegetarian was a direct result of modern convenience. Stick me in the middle of an unfamiliar forest and I wouldn't know what plants were safe to eat. But I'd know that unidentified rodent was safe to consume meal.

It's ironic that it's ash Wednesday when we're reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Animals are dust. People are dust. EVERY single living thing, sentient or otherwise will die and return to the dust from which they came. Every single one of them. The question people must answer for themselves is, might there be something in *you* or about you that is more than dust? Is that "thing" which is more than dust present only via consciousness? Does it disappear when we sleep? Might it be present in the tiniest of brand-spankin' new humans? If so, we shouldn't wantonly kill them.

kmisho said...

But...it's OK to shoot the deer if you do know. I can accept the deer-hunter argument as an "err on the side of caution" argument. But not if it's to be interpreted as "you must give up hunting forever because you never know if anything you shoot at is a person." The argument tries to bite off a lot more than it can chew.

Tom said...

Shackleman you agree with the deer hunter argument because you feel that the lines between no person fetus and personhood are blurred. But how come you are very clear on the personhood of children conceived in case of rape or incest? What makes them clearly nopersons or undeserving to live?

Also since when memory is the standard for consciousness? Ever heard of forgetting?

Shackleman said...

"Shackleman you agree with the deer hunter argument because you feel that the lines between no person fetus and personhood are blurred."

Do you dispute that the lines are blurred? I think a read through of this thread pretty much shows that for most people, not just me, the line *is* blurred.

Some argue that it begins to get fuzzy sometime around when pain receptors in the brain are realized. Others argue it begins to get fuzzy around more generally the 3rd trimester. And others imply it gets fuzzy based on the "looks" of the fetus (whatever that's supposed to mean). The point of the deer hunter argument isn't that the lines are clear----it's the opposite....the fact that they are *unclear* suggests we have a moral obligation not to shoot the baby.

"But how come you are very clear on the personhood of children conceived in case of rape or incest?"

I think you meant a negative in there, but either way, you misinterpret what I'm saying. *I* think that "personhood" happens at a time that is undetectable and maybe even undefinable by humans. I believe that point in time occurs when God deems it so. Again, some argue that that isn't until full consciousness is reached. Others when partial consciousness is reached. Others from the moment of conception itself.

As for children conceived from rape or incest, I'm consistent that the point at which their "personhood" is established is still at issue and the fuzziness factor still applies. However, in those cases there are *other* moral considerations to contend with beyond just the question of their personhood. Further, when I weigh those *other* considerations, I've determined that abortion is an option that should be allowed. And, I'll concede that I haven't thought through that conclusion as thoroughly and cannot articulate it as clearly as the other cases, especially those cases where abortion is used as birth control for no other righteous or moral purpose. In those latter cases, the moral question is much clearer and there are fewer questions to answer. This is why for now, I'm left to give the incest question over to God to sort out, and I admit that is a weakness of mine. I feel ill equipped to juggle the myriad of moral considerations in cases of rape and incest. Do you feel equipped to contend with them? All of them? Perhaps you could share your own views and how you've arrived at them. Perhaps I will learn how to better articulate my own position when it comes to those other more morally ambiguous cases of rape and incest.

What makes them clearly nopersons or undeserving to live?
You misinterpret. Their personhood is still in dispute and undefinable. It's the other moral considerations which weigh on those particular cases which cause the scales to tip in favor of allowing abortions in those cases.

"Also since when memory is the standard for consciousness? Ever heard of forgetting?"

Well, why don't *you* define then for us what consciousness is and show if/how a 2 day old infant has it. Or how a 2nd trimester fetus has it (or doesn't). The burden of proof, if you're going to use consciousness as a litmus test for abortion rights is on YOU to define it, not me. I couldn't care less about consciousness in this case. If I did, I could make the case that we should kill people in comas too.

Tom said...

Shackleman so you concede that it's acceptable in some cases to kill innocent persons and let God sort it out.
Why not use this principle more broadly? Why are these cases special?

Do you feel lines are blurred on incest and rape? Is sex with a cousin incest? Brother? Step brother? Step father? Can somebody be coerced into having sex through non violent means? Misrepresentation, blackmail, drugs, money, authority?

I am not saying that I have a clear definition of what consciousness is I just know that we don't generally consider forgetful people unconscious.

Tom said...

From biological perspective abortion is perfectly ok. Animals abort on purpose all the time (it happens to humans as well, when under stress). They even abandon the newborns or babies when it's to their advantage. Kangaroos dump their joeys when pursued to distract the predator. If you look at this from a religious point of view you must conclude that God designed animals with abortion as a valid option.

In contrast to animals we have morals. I let God sort it out.

Shackleman said...

Tom,

In order to have this discussion, you must try to listen carefully. I'm not always going to express my thoughts as clearly as I should. It's human nature. So you're going to have to try to be a good audience member here and give me your best effort in trying to comprehend what I'm saying and give it your fairest treatment possible.

So, I'm going to assume that you're not playing games here and that you're really trying to understand my position. I'm also going to assume that if you think my reasoning is flawed, that you'll try to *help* me correct it instead of just arguing for argument's sake. If you're not doing this, and you're just being contrarian for entertainment, that's fine too, but then I'll probably not discuss this very much further with you and let readers come to their own conclusions.

So with that in mind you say,

"Shackleman so you concede that it's acceptable in some cases to kill innocent persons and let God sort it out."

Here's where you weren't very careful in listening to what I was saying. I said it's still of grave concern when abortions happen as a result of incest or rape. That it's still wrong from the perspective of the unborn baby. So now, does that sound like I'm saying it's "okay to kill innocent persons"? Again, listen carefully. This is an example of moral ambiguity....this is not cut and dried. At least I'm not arguing that it is.

I said abortion should remain an *option* in these cases because of the additional moral considerations in these cases. An act of vile, unfathomable, horrific evil was perpetrated against an innocent woman or child. This, if you're sane, should cause you some moral angst. This, if you're sane, should cause you to have a moral * dilemma* while you wrestle with weighing and balancing the moral conscequences between forcing the innocent woman or child to carry the product of that evil inside their womb for 9 months, versus killing an innocent child. This is a horrific choice.

Because sane people are in moral *dilemmas* in these cases, and because we are fallible creatures without perfect knowledge of what is right and wrong, then in this case, it's my position that abortion should remain an *option* (not a requirement). And, thankfully, through God's grace, he will forgive us if we make a good-faith, honest, decision to the best of our abilities and with an eye to our best moral efforts. So yes, he'll sort it out in these cases.

Perhaps you don't like that that is not a clean cut example...that it's not an open/shut yes or no to the question of whether it's "okay" to kill innocents in this case, but that's my answer. Were you listening carefully? Maybe it would help if you read that twice, just to be sure.

Why not use this principle more broadly? Why are these cases special?

These cases are special because grave, horrific acts of evil were perpetrated upon the victims, making the moral considerations different than other cases of abortion which do not carry with them these moral considerations. Is this difficult for you to understand?

I am not saying that I have a clear definition of what consciousness is I just know that we don't generally consider forgetful people unconscious.

Unless you're arguing for consciousness being the litmus test of right-to-life issues then it doesn't matter. If you *are* arguing for consciousness to be said litmus test, then YOU, not I, have the burden of defining what you mean by consciousness. Again, were you listening carefully?

Tom said...

Like you said, I am trying to understand your position more clearly, that's why I am asking follow up questions. I may not necessarily tell you what's right and what's wrong but I may point out inconsistencies in your position.

You did say that from rape babies perspective being terminated seems unjust. But a baby's perspective (if it can have a perspective) is besides the point here. Any person being killed, innocent or not, feels wronged. We are talking about our perspectives here and you seem to be saying that from your perspective it's ok. Am I correct, just checking.

I read your post several times and I still don't understand how a horrible crime of rape or incest justifies a murder of an innocent person. Can you clarify your moral calculus here? By the same principle would it be ok, if robbed to go ahead and rob a random person? Should it at least be an option?

How is killing an innocent person your best moral effort. To me not killing an innocent person would be an even better effort. How is that a moral dilemma? On one hand not killing an innocent person is just and moral, on the other hand killing an innocent person is.... (what? could you finish this sentence so I can understand the dilemma?)

Also, how horrible does the crime have to be for the principle of "wrong justifies wrong" to kick in? I asked about some specific cases in my post. How about if a girl is drunk or drugged and raped but does not remember anything the next morning. Was the crime horrible enough? What if she gets to like the guy who raped her but still doesn't want the baby? Does the Bible offer any guidance? (I think it says to stone the mother with the baby, but I am not sure)

I am not arguing for consciousness being the litmus test. I am simply pointing out that memory should not be the litmus test for consciousness.

Shackleman said...

Tom,

If you're trying to understand my position, then it seems you're not trying very hard. When you say things like "We are talking about our perspectives here and you seem to be saying that from your perspective it's ok [to kill innocent people]." you are either willfully over simplifying my position in an effort to undermine my position, or you're simply not thinking hard enough about the positions I present and are being lazy.

Killing an innocent isn't "okay". I've outlined the reasons why it's not "okay" and yet I maintain that there's still reason to provide for the *option* *****BECAUSE OF THE OTHER MORAL CONSIDERATIONS IN THESE CASES***** . There, perhaps if I yell it you'll actually read it this time. It's not a simple case, no matter how much you pretend it is. If it helps, read my previous comments again. I've articulated it quite clearly already.

"...I still don't understand how a horrible crime of rape or incest justifies a murder of an innocent person. Can you clarify your moral calculus here? By the same principle would it be ok, if robbed to go ahead and rob a random person? Should it at least be an option?"

You're being ridiculous, and I'm beginning to assume you're playing a game here. But, I'll give you one more benefit of the doubt.

Do you have a daughter, Tom? Can you imagine a case where she was an early maturer and began menstruating when she was 9 yrs old? Can you imagine Tom that she was brutally beaten and raped by an utter monster? Can you imagine Tom that that act caused her to become pregnant? Now Tom, if you can imagine this scenario, would you not be in a moral dilemma yourself? Would you feel a sense of horror at the impossible decision before you as her father? You must either kill the innocent child inside her, or force her to carry this product of the most vile evil imaginable inside her body for 9 months, and, considering her not yet fully formed anatomy could even put your daughter's life at risk should she carry it full term. Now Tom, I'm not saying this is an easy choice. And by NO MEANS am I saying that EITHER choice before you is "okay". What I'm saying is that when faced with nearly impossible choices, then one must do the very best one can. God will forgive you either choice, if you do so with the mind toward justice. Are you getting it yet? Are you still not seeing the dilemma? If not, then frankly, I'd question either your integrity, your sanity, or both.

"Also, how horrible does the crime have to be for the principle of "wrong justifies wrong" to kick in? "

Tom, here you go again, forcing simplicity onto an impossibly complicated and difficult scenario. Wrong doesn't justify wrong. Again, we have an imperfect perception of what "wrong" and "right" mean. Only God is morally perfect. We must do the best we can, and our laws should reflect our best moral efforts as well.

"I asked about some specific cases in my post. How about if a girl is drunk or drugged and raped but does not remember anything the next morning...Does the Bible offer any guidance? "

I'm not going to spend too much time arguing over specific trees when I can't even get you into the same forest as I am. Once we can agree that there are such things as moral dilemmas with respect to this topic, then perhaps we can together examine more specific cases. So far, you deny there is such a thing as a moral dilemma when confronted with two impossibly difficult and horrific choices. (Notice, I did NOT say either of these choices are "okay" as you like to say so simply and demeaningly).

"I am not arguing for consciousness being the litmus test."

Good, then you can stop quibbling over specific details within the definition of consciousness then.

Shackleman said...

Let me put it another way, Tom. It's wrong to kill. Jesus was very clear on that. And yet if someone breaks into my house, kills my family, and attempts to kill me too, you bet your sweet ass that I'll try my best to kill the bastard with my bare hands. I'd feel REALLY horrible afterward, but in the moment, I'll be trying to kill the SOB. I am, after all, a sinner and I'm morally imperfect.

Our LAWS call this self defense. And I'm good with that.

If when I die, I'm forced to account for these actions and face God with what I've done, I feel confident that, considering that He is a being of pure love and boundless mercy He will forgive me.

Tom said...

Shackleman don't think I don't read your responses, I do, very carefully. I maybe simplifying what you're saying but that's how humans understand the world and expose contradictions.

You keep repeating that you never said that it's ok to kill innocent persons yet in the same breath you say that it should remain an option. I don't know about other people but this confuses me. What part of "it should be an option" says that it should not be ok to choose that option. If one were to choose that option would they be morally wrong? If so why not take that option off the table. I can't see how you can have it both ways.

You are being dishonest when you say that you are making the best moral effort here. I just told you that not killing an innocent person would be a better choice, most people would agree but you reject it off hand. What are your arguments against it? Many women make the choice of not killing their rape baby. Did they make a wrong choice?

You say let God sort it out. Are you being serious here? That is probably what suicide bombers are telling themselves before the mission. How can morality exist if you relinquish the decisions to God?

God gives clear instruction on how to deal with similar situations. From what I remember the Bible commands the woman to marry the rapist or she and her unborn baby be stoned. I take it you don't agree with that solution. Is it immoral?

I don't see how the robbery scenario is analogous here. We are not talking about punishing the rapist in the heat of the moment. A better analogy would be, a robber enters your house and flees but leaves behind your son, bound and gagged. After hours of deliberation you form a posse and decide to burn the whole house down because you just can't live with the thought of the robber touching all your things.

You didn't finish the sentence that I thought would help me understand your position. Would it be fair to say that you would finish it this way " On one hand not killing an innocent person is just and moral, on the other hand killing an innocent person is an acceptable option when I feel angry. God will forgive me no matter what I'll do." Feel free to correct it.

Shackleman said...

Oh Tom,

It's clear that you're not being serious here and that you're playing games for your amusement. It's clear because you relentlessly attack my positions, wielding a semantic scalpel looking for the smallest crack or fissure in my presentation and then erect giant straw men and attempt to burn them down. I mean seriously....you compare my position on what the law should be with respect to victims of rape and incest to.....suicide bombers???! Really?! Good gravy, there's just no point in discussing this with you any further. So that's fine Tom, you can believe that I'm a moral monster or intellectually lazy. Whatever floats your boat. But after this response I'll leave you to find someone else to play your games with.

Yours are examples of unsophisticated thinking. It's quite binary. Yes/no. Either/or. Black/white.

My positions are examples of both/and thinking. Evidently you're not capable of understanding this kind of thinking.

It is *both* wrong to kill innocent people, *and* wrong to force, by law, a victim of rape or incest to carry the baby to term.

If I haven't made my case, that's fine. I've given my best effort.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tom, Thomson's violinist allegory should be enough to convince you in cases of rape it should be permissible. Seems like many here aren't familiar with it, so here goes from her original paper:

================
You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says, "Tough luck, I agree, but you've now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person's right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him." I imagine you would regard this as outrageous...
=================
That's from:
Judith Jarvis Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion," Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1 (1971).

Note her last name is spelled Thomson, not Thompson.

People who don't address her argument are not addressing the argument.

Tom said...

Shackleman now you are misrepresenting. I don't compare your position on the law to suicide bombers. I compare your willingness of accepting the collateral damage and relinquishing your moral responsibility to the position of a suicide bomber. I used the suicide bomber analogy even though I knew it would stir controversy, but I thought it illustrated very well the moral thinking.

So me mentioning the "suicide bombers" automatically made you blind to the rest of my arguments? Are all of them totally ridiculous and invalid?

It is *both* wrong to kill innocent people, *and* wrong to force, by law, a victim of rape or incest to carry the baby to term.

But it is the law in the Bible. I take it you think the Bible is wrong in that place.

So your moral dilemma is that you are faced with two bad choices. Having to choose between the two evils you choose to err on the side of killing the innocent people. Is the opposite choice immoral?

One more question. Do you advocate the death penalty for rape (every rape)?

Tom said...

Blue Devil Knight I am familiar with the argument from the earlier posts.

From the religious perspective one would have to accept being stuck with the violinist even if it was done by mistake or violence. The choice is your comfort versus somebody's death. Life is of the highest value in religion. God doesn't always give us easy choices.

Shackleman said...

"Are all of [my "arguments"] totally ridiculous and invalid?

(scare quotes on "arguments" intended)

The answer is yes. In the *full* context of this discussion, they are all ridiculous and invalid, and I'd add disingenuous as well.

Enjoy hunting for the next victim of your semantic game-playing.

Good bye.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tom: fine, but what about the law? You should also love your neighbor, morally speaking, but should there be a law forbidding you to do otherwise?

And on the moral question, if you were a single mother of eight kids under seven years old, husband just died, you'd stay attached to this guy? I say that would be the immoral thing to do, that he sadly need to be unplugged to fulfill other moral obligations. The immorality of plugging into you, without your permission, of effectively taking your life away and your children, has to be absorbed.

Tom said...

I agree. Sticking to religious principles leads to some contradictory and uncomfortable conclusions as Shackleman showed. From religious point of view you don't really need the law. Your morality is the law and the law that's written down is just a reminder of that internal, God given code.

As for the woman with kids, again from a religious perspective, God put her in that situation perhaps to test her moral resolve. Of course she will be forgiven no matter what she does but that doesn't make her choices equally moral. In the end she needs to trust that God will provide.

Tom said...

Shackleman I thought about the semantic game accusation and finally I think I figured it out. I hope you didn't feel like I was putting words in your mouth by extrapolating from "abortion should be an option" to "it's ok to kill innocent people". Obviously, to me, I didn't mean it's ok to kill innocent people willy nilly. I mean only those innocent people of the violent origins that you mentioned, rape and incest. I didn't think I needed to repeat that qualification every time I mentioned killing innocent people, I thought that was understood from the context.

If that's what arouse your ire, then I apologize for the misunderstanding.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Vic,

Isn't a better question...

IF deer were in the process of evolving into sentient beings at what point in the future of such evolution would you OUTLAW ALL DEER HUNTING ENTIRELY?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, perhaps one response is that we should outlaw deer hunting. :)

Tom said...

From deer's perspective hunting is evil...