Friday, March 30, 2018

The real argument of Roe v. Wade: Abortion and the burden of proof

People tend to assume (I used to) that the legal debate about Roe v. Wade parallels the moral arguments about abortion and fetal personhood. We typically think that those who support the decision accept arguments like those of Mary Anne Warren or Judith Jarvis Thomson that abortion is justified, and opponents of the decision advance arguments like those of John Noonan, or Francis Beckwith, or Scott Klusendorf that fetuses are persons and therefore Roe has to be wrong.

Actually, the debate over Roe doesn't turn on that. This is my best reconstruction of it.

1. There is a constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy, of which we can be certain.
2. In the case of abortion, the right of privacy must prevail unless there is a countervailing right of which we can be certain, such as the fetus's right to life. This protects a woman's right to consult with her doctor and decide whether or not to get an abortion. Just as it is a violation of privacy rights to make birth control illegal, it violates privacy right to prohibit abortion, unless a countervailing right can be established.
3. But the fetus's right to life cannot be established. Reasonable persons can disagree as to whether fetuses have a right to life or not. One may, based on one's religion perhaps, believe that they have this right, but this right cannot be demonstrated in the same way that the right of privacy can be demonstrated.
4. Therefore there is a Constitutional right to abortion.

All attempts to oppose Roe that I know of, starting with the Rehnquist dissent when the original case was argued, argue not against 3 but against 1. Scalia in one interview refused to refer to himself as a pro-life justice. All he argued was that the right of privacy on which the decision as based was made an absolute when it should not be, and that therefore abortion should be a matter of democratic choice.

It seems you can accept the Roe argument even if you, in your own viewpoint, believe that fetuses have the right to life and that abortion is always wrong. The question is not whether abortion is justified, the question is whether the fetus's right to life is as evident as a woman's right to privacy.

Is the right to privacy really in doubt? If not, do arguments like the SLED argument meet the requisite burden of proof? It would have to be so strong that it would be irrational to reject it.

See the discussion here.

Charles Colson's Argument from Watergate

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The elder board's dilemma

                In a large church in a major American metropolis, there were two candidates for head pastor. One was selected for the pastorate. Then, after a year in the pastorate, it is discovered that the chosen pastor had had an affair with a porn star 10 years before, but, more than this, just before the final decision, he paid the star $10,000 for her silence. But the elder board says, “God is a God of forgiveness. Let’s give him a mulligan, and let him remain the preacher of the church.”
                What elder board would say a thing like that?

Jeff Lowder on gun violence

Here.  The idea of repealing the second amendment has just been defended by former justice Stevens.  He has been criticized here. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

The President's First Duty

The President's FIRST duty is to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States. That comes before nominating pro-life justices, or cutting taxes, or supporting Israel, etc. Unless you have been looking at him through Fox-colored glasses, I think the answer concerning Trump is overwhelmingly NO. It was bad enough that many Christian leaders supported him at election time, but I think I can understand it up to a point. At that time there was the contrast with Hillary. With respect to his extramarital relationships, I think we have the right to ask him to just come clean, and either tell the country that he doesn't think he has a duty to be a faithful husband because he has considers that requirement to be an outdated religiously-based prudish moral rule, or to say that he is deeply repentant for the disrespect for marriage, in word and deed, that he has shown in the past and that he has amended his behavior in the meantime. This is especially true for Christians who look to a Republican President to support traditional marriage and who find same-sex marriage to be a treat to that institution. Don't such Christians have a right to know if the President they are supporting respects the institution of marriage as they understand it? And shouldn't such Christians demand such answers from the President they support? 

Someone willing to make a payment of amount a few times my annual salary to keep someone silent is someone who is liable to be blackmailed by a foreign government to keep other improprieties quiet. His ability to put the American people first and uphold the Constitution has to therefore be questioned. 

Evangelical leaders are getting up on TV and giving Trump a whole bunch of breaks that they wouldn't give Clinton or any other previous President. Worse yet they focus on the actual affair, when the attempt, in violation of campaign finance laws, to keep someone from talking about the affair is far more serious. And if he has people out making threats of physical violence, this is worse. 

I am tired of hearing that the public policy bottom line is all that matters. A President who can't uphold the rule of law, who is so compromised that we can expect nothing but scandal after scandal, is someone who the American people will sooner or later turn against. I liked a lot of John Edwards' public policy proposals. But his character was so compromised that I would be far more comfortable with Mitt Romney in the White House than him. I think those who voted for Trump should have seen the handwriting on the wall when they voted for him back in 2016, but this constant talk of "mulligans" and "we believe in forgiveness" is nauseating and with a lot of people yes, it damages the credibility of Christianity. The Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkinses, not to mention Paula White, who says its a sin to oppose our President since God raises up kings, (How come we didn't hear that when Obama was in office), yes, they do give opponents of Christianity ammunition. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What might undermine evangelical support for Trump

I suspect we will see a crisis in evangelical support for Trump, if, as I suspect, Stormy Daniels comes out and says that Trump paid for, and encouraged her to get, an abortion. That would make him in the eyes of the pro-life movement, a baby-killer not in the sense of being pro-choice and opposing government efforts to stop abortions, but actually being a contributing cause of an abortion, or even several abortions. Would THIS be a bridge too far?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Oppose the weakening of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Let's oppose the weakening of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is personal for me, as it affects my immediate family. Two family members suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention my late mother, who passed away in 1986 four years before the ADA was passed, and who spent many years on canes and crutches due to arthritis.

This explains the information about HR 620, which has already passed the House of Representatives. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rating ourselves as thinkers

What are the traits of a good thinker? Have you met people who you think are excellent thinkers? Have you read books by people you believe to be excellent thinkers? What makes them great? Then, we might ask, what makes a poor thinker.
Think about drivers for a minute. How many people, do you think, would rate themselves in the bottom half of drivers? What about the guy that cut you off in traffic today, or almost hit you? Do you that person would put himself or herself in the bottom half of drivers? If you think people overrate themselves as drivers, do you think also that people also overrate themselves as thinkers? And if this is so, what questions does that raise when you sit down and try to rate yourself as a thinker? 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Is sexual orientation immutable?


Born this way? Maybe not..

Religion is not responsible for most wars- can people stop repeating this nonsense?

Moreover, the chief complaint against religion — that it is history’s prime instigator of intergroup conflict — does not withstand scrutiny. Religious issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars. The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious. A BBC-sponsored "God and War" audit, which evaluated major conflicts over 3,500 years and rated them on a 0-to-5 scale for religious motivation (Punic Wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no religious motivation. Less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. There was little religious motivation for the internecine Russian and Chinese conflicts or the world wars responsible for history’s most lethal century of international bloodshed.

Scott Atran, atheist and anthropologist 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The case for the martyrdom of the apostles

Skeptics often criticize the idea that the apostles were really martyred. Sean McDowell argues that they were.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Willful ignorance, morality, and the right to our opinion

Is someone who is being willfully ignorant behaving immorally? If so, what happens the our so-called right to our opinion?