Wednesday, December 01, 2021

A house divided

 Lincoln: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."


I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

Can we endure half pro-life and half pro-choice? 

Does it make sense for states to determine abortion law? Can we tolerate that level of division? 

100 comments:

Starhopper said...

Well, I personally think the USA is doomed to be split into several pieces within my children's lifetimes, but abortion will be only one of a hundred different reasons behind the breakup. We are no longer one people, and there are simply too many irreconcilable differences for us to remain one country.

My best guess would see the Northeast splitting off, the only question being does Virginia go with it or does it go with the South. The South is the obvious next new country, with the questionable areas being West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas (which could easily go it alone). The West and the Midwest would then have to decide who gets what, but the Great Plains states would likely go with the Midwest. If Texas decides to be independent, Oklahoma would probably join it. Lastly, I can see the Navajo and Hopi nations forming their own country.

But in any case, the USA is already well past its "best used by" date. If it were in my fridge, I'd have tossed out it by now.

bmiller said...

Does it make sense for states to determine abortion law? Can we tolerate that level of division?

Once the Supreme Court finds that the unborn are "persons" according to the Constitution there will be no division among the states.

Kevin said...

Starhopper is correct. We can't endure the abortion divide when combined with every other issue.

The common sentiment these days is that anyone who disagrees with us is stupid, ignorant, malicious, or a direct enemy of the country. And our government and media reflect and then exacerbate that divide. Rather than debate and compromise, we do everything possible to win elections to ram our views down everyone's throat and go judge shopping to ensure favorable nationwide injunctions.

The country will fall. What form it takes is anyone's guess, but in a country where elections and court cases are seen as virtual acts of war and existential threats, we don't stand a chance of staying unified.

bmiller said...

Lincoln and the federal government didn't let that happen 160 years ago when the it was much weaker. I doubt the federal government will let it happen now.

bmiller said...

And BTW, there were riots, bombings, the Vietnam War all going on in 1973 when Roe v Wade overturned all state legislatures. Today is nothing.

bmiller said...

Most people who only pay attention to American MSM don't even know that the Mississippi Law is mainstream in Europe. That's how screwed up the media is.

Victor Reppert said...

I have generally thought that if you wanted to go after abortion, arguing that fetuses are Constitutional persons would be the way to go about it. But the anti-Roe arguments used by people like Scalia don't go that way. They argue that since the Constitution does not absolutize the right to privacy in the way that Roe indicates (Substantive Due Process is a bogus idea) so it needs to be settled by democratic choice. And unless the federal government steps in, this will be a state decision.

Starhopper said...

"I doubt the federal government will let it happen now."

And I doubt it would do anything. I'm willing to bet real money that, if any state were to secede tomorrow, the federal government would not lift a finger to stop it. I believe the US could very well disintegrate with the same ease that the Soviet Union did 30 years ago. (Has it really been that long ago?!?)

While typing this, I just realized that this Christmas will be the 30th anniversary of the USSR's extinction. Boy, do I feel old. I spent 16 years of my life spying on that country. I like to think that, in my own small way, I helped to bring it down.

bmiller said...

Victor,

I have generally thought that if you wanted to go after abortion, arguing that fetuses are Constitutional persons would be the way to go about it.

The framework is already in place. 38 states already have fetal homicide laws.
But it would be less than useless to bring that type of argument before a Court that majority pro-abortion.

bmiller said...

And unless the federal government steps in, this will be a state decision.

So if this Court indicates it thinks the unborn have rights, and follows to the logical conclusion, then the federal government will have stepped in.

bmiller said...

And I doubt it would do anything. I'm willing to bet real money that, if any state were to secede tomorrow, the federal government would not lift a finger to stop it.

The federal government is not willing to let any citizen of any state refuse to even get vaccinated and you think they'll allow an entire state to secede? I disagree.

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One Brow said...

bmiller,

The federal government is not willing to let any citizen of any state refuse to even get vaccinated ...

You must be stuck in some sort of weird cave if you think that. OSHA will be setting standards that apply to large employers, and weekly testing is an alternative. No one will be forced to be vaccinated.

Starhopper said...

The problem with abortion being made a political issue (which it never should have been) is there is no middle ground, no room for compromise - which is the very life blood of politics. The two sides are irreconcilable.

Which is why it was a huge mistake to make abortion a political issue. It is a category error.

bmiller said...

Abortion could never not be a political issue if infanticide is considered a political issue.

bmiller said...

And BTW, it always was a political issue. Every society throughout history had laws pertaining to it.

Starhopper said...

No chance for compromise, no politics.

A good analogy would be slavery. Politicians tried for decades to come to a political solution, but ultimately the issue was settled by warfare. There was no middle ground, no possible compromise.

Are you suggesting we take up arms over abortion?

Overturning Roe v. Wade will accomplish nothing, just as Prohibition did not end drinking in America.

bmiller said...

I don't know what you're talking about. Abortion has always been a political issue. In ancient Rome, the law was that the pater familias got to make that decision and as Christianity spread, restrictions changed.

I'm suggesting we change laws to prohibit the killing of innocent human beings. Like I mentioned, there are laws to that effect already in 38 states. No arms necessary. I doubt angry feminists are going to start shooting people when they're told they can't kill their offspring. If so I doubt they could aim straight.

Overturning Roe v. Wade will accomplish nothing, just as Prohibition did not end drinking in America.

The 13th amendment worked pretty well for ending slavery, which as you point out is a more apt comparison. It's wrong to enslave another person in a similar way as it is to take their life. That's entirely different than regulating what can and cannot be sold.

Starhopper said...

It took a Civil War for the 13th Amendment to be even possible. Do you think they'd have gotten the necessary 2/3 state ratification if there were still 15 slaveholding states? So again, the issue was not settled politically, but by bloodshed (and a lot of it).

Politics did nothing to end slavery. Armed conflict did.

And I personally do not wish to see a second civil war in this country - over any issue. Not worth it.

The solution is not law, not politics, and not warfare. The only solution is education, and a greatly, radically expanded social safety net, to include at least 6 months of paid parental leave, NO taxes for families with small children who make less than a certain amount, and government sponsored free child care for all.

(Oh, but we can't have that. That would be (shudder) "socialism"!)

bmiller said...

There was no civil war when Roe came into effect and there will be no civil war when it is relegated to the dustbin of history.

The Civil War started because the Confederate States seceded from the Union. There is no radical feminist state unless you count crazy as a state. Exactly who would be shooting at who in your imagined civil war?

Aside from the fact that law is a product of politics, you are proposing a legal and political solution, things you claimed were not a solution. So it seems you agree with me that abortion is a political problem that requires a political solution just like it always has throughout history.

Starhopper said...

We really should be discussing this under Victor's posting about opinions. It is my personal opinion that a human fetus is a human being. But I understand the contrary opinion that it is not a human being until fully developed and "viable". Is an unassembled pile of parts an automobile? That is essentially the argument against personhood, and it is a good one. My belief (NOT knowledge) that the preborn child is still a child is fundamentally religious in nature. (I can demonstrate from Scripture alone that the preborn child is still a child.) And under our Constitution, religion has no place in our government.

If you wish to outlaw abortion in America, then you must first amend the Constitution to establish a state religion. Are you willing to do this, bmiller? Because I guarantee you, it won't be Catholicism.

Starhopper said...

Oh, and it is also my personal opinion that Catholicism is true. I do not know this; I believe it. It's why the Nicene Creed begins with "I believe in one God" and not "I know there is one God".

Starhopper said...

"So it seems you agree with me that abortion is a political problem that requires a political solution"

No, I most definitely do not agree with you on that. Politics requires the existence of common ground and the possibility of compromise. There appears to be neither common ground nor hope of compromise on the issue of abortion. Therefore it is not a fit subject for politics.

The solutions I mentioned are all capable of compromise, and are therefore appropriately political issues.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

Just because you can't make a good argument for you opinion doesn't mean that other people can't. Also, just because the only reason you have your opinion is because your religion says its so doesn't mean that the religion doesn't have any reasonable arguments.

So I'll ask you to please not assume I don't have anything other than a religious opinion, and I'd also wish you would pay attention to my actual arguments when I am not addressing Christians. I expect Christians to be open to Christian arguments but not non-Christians.

But just because I am a Christian that is arguing against abortion does not mean I'm insisting on a state religion any more than it means an atheist is insisting on abolishing religions by arguing for abortion.

But I understand the contrary opinion that it is not a human being until fully developed and "viable". Is an unassembled pile of parts an automobile? That is essentially the argument against personhood, and it is a good one.

Please see if you can follow this argument.
1) The scientific definition of the beginning of a new human being is at conception. This is not controversial nor a religious opinion.
2) A newly conceived being is not merely a pile of parts anymore than you are a bag of chemicals. It's the difference between a heap and a substance.
3) This can be known because the newly conceived is already either a human fetus, bovine fetus etc. There was sperm and an egg. There was conception. Then there is no longer sperm and egg, but a new being with the characteristics of the type of thing it is.
4) We know that the newly conceived human will not someday yearn to chew grass and develop an utter because the newly conceived human does not possess those characteristics at all. However we know that the newly conceived human will learn to say Mama, read, do math etc.
5) So the newly conceived must either already have those unique characteristics in some sense. If not, then where did those characteristics come from? It follows that they are inherent and already present.
6) So the difference between the newly conceived and you is only a matter of time and being allowed to live and grow so those characteristics can be fully expressed.
7) If it's wrong to kill you because you possess certain characteristics, well then you've always possessed them once the sperm and egg ceased to exist and you as a newly conceived human began to exist.

Does this look like a religious argument to you?

Starhopper said...

"So I'll ask you to please not assume I don't have anything other than a religious opinion"

I did not say that you didn't have anything other than a religious argument against abortion. I said that I don't have one. (Which is fine by me.)

"Does this look like a religious argument to you?"

Absolutely. Your first premise is 100% religious. (Which is not a bad thing, by the way. I myself believe in literally hundreds of things through revelation alone.) Just because you call it "scientific" does not make it so.

My opposition to abortion (and I am opposed to it) is solely on religious grounds, and I also oppose imposing my beliefs on others. I would not like to live in a country in which, for instance, Evangelical Protestantism was the official state religion. And I doubt that others would care to be forced to live under my religious beliefs. (Among other things, they'd have to give up gambling, smoking, divorce, and supporting the military.)

Kevin said...

Your first premise is 100% religious.

There is no religion in understanding that a fertilized egg is the beginning of life for a new organism. If the organism is a human, then it is the beginning of life for a new human organism.

Unless basic reproductive biology is a religious system, bmiller had no religious argument in his premises.

Where the religious argument might come in would be arguing that the new human life has value, which cannot be proven scientifically. But it can be logically proven that it requires ad hoc fallacies to attribute value to a human life at 23 weeks but not 22 weeks.

bmiller said...

Absolutely. Your first premise is 100% religious....Just because you call it "scientific" does not make it so.

I think you're confusing the beginning of a new life with the beginning of personhood. Secular college embryology textbooks use the definition I provided. The definition is certainly not a religious one.

Perhaps the only part of the argument that can be considered "religious" is #7 since it pertains to morality.

bmiller said...

Kevin beat me to it.

Sorry to be repetitive.

Starhopper said...

I thank Kevin for weighing in. I hate 2 person dialogs on the internet. The more, the merrier.

If bmiller's 1st premise is not religious, then it is at the least "argument by definition", which is essentially the same thing. You have defined a fertilized egg as a human being, and how does one argue against that?

Keep in mind that I 100% believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, so we are in agreement there. But I don't fool myself into thinking there are "scientific" reasons for so believing.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

As I mentioned above the definition is used in college embryology textbooks like this one. But even if you don't want to believe using scientific definitions is "scientific", you can just read the rest of my bullet points where I lay out the logical reasons for that definition.

bmiller said...

Here's the abstract of a 2018 scientific survey of biologists on this question:

The results summarized:
A sample of 5,502 biologists from 1,058 academic institutions assessed statements representing the biological view ‘a human’s life begins at fertilization’. This view was used because previous polls and surveys suggest many Americans and medical experts hold this view. Each of the three statements representing that view was affirmed by a consensus of biologists (75-91%). The participants were separated into 60 groups and each statement was affirmed by a consensus of each group, including biologists that identified as very pro-choice (69-90%), very pro-life (92-97%), very liberal (70-91%), very conservative (94-96%), strong Democrats (74-91%), and strong Republicans (89-94%). Overall, 95% of all biologists affirmed the biological view that a human's life begins at fertilization (5212 out of 5502).

This looks about as firm a consensus that one can get in science. It's that strong for the reasons I pointed out.

bmiller said...

You should download and read the survey. It had 2 parts.
The first part was a survey of random Americans who were asked 4 questions regarding when human life begins and which experts would be best able to answer that question. That's why the second part of the survey focused on biologists:

In response to Q1, 87% of participants (2294 out of 2633) rated ‘when a human’s life begins’ as an important issue. In response to Q2, 84% (1983 out of 2355) agreed with the statement representing the view that Americans deserve to know when a human's life begins so they can be informed in their abortion positions and reproductive decisions. These results suggest that ‘when life begins’ is still perceived as a relevant issue in the U.S. abortion debate.
In response to Q3, 81% of participants (2336 out of 2899; 99% CI [79.1%, 82.9%]) selected biologists over religious leaders (7%), voters (7%), philosophers (4%), and Supreme Court Justices (2%) (Figure 1). This suggests the question is interpreted descriptively as ‘when is a fetus classified as a human’. Since most participants selected biologists, they likely understand ‘a human’s life’ as a biological concept that represents a member of the human species. Since few selected the groups whose selection would suggest a normative view, they do not likely understand ‘a human’s life’ as a metaphysical, value-laden concept that represents a person deserving of ethical and legal consideration.


So it seems that although people think more highly of religious leaders than philosophers (poke at Victor being intentional on my part 😜), they think even less of Supreme Court Justices having got it right.

It seems a lot of people don't actually know what scientists know.

Starhopper said...

The fact that 95% of scientists believe something does not make that thing scientific. I would imagine that if you polled 100 scientists, you could get 95% of them to say that the Beatles were a great band, but that does not mean that the saying so is scientific.

Now I happen to believe that human life begins at conception, but I do not believe this for any scientific reason.

And there's nothing wrong with that. To insist that all knowledge must be "scientific" is nothing less than "scientism" which, as I am sure you would agree, is antithetical to the Faith. Why are you so afraid to admit that your opposition to abortion is based on religious grounds? I have no problem with asserting that.

bmiller said...

Ha!

Guess we've reached the end of the road for reasonable discussion. I'll remember the Beatles when you bring up "climate change".

One of the reasons I interact here is that I learn new things. This was a very interesting survey and very cleverly done. It found out who Americans trust to answer an important question and then surveyed that group on that question. It actually fortifies my faith that the American people can come to reasonable conclusions when they have the facts. Maybe the media is the enemy of the people by suppressing those facts.

Starhopper said...

Did your survey ask the participants whether they based their conclusions on scientific grounds? Were there any experiments run? Did they test the hypothesis? Was the statement capable of being disproven? Were their conclusions predictive? If the answer to even one of those questions is "no", then their belief that human life begins at conception is not "scientific", but simply a matter of definitions.

And I reiterate - there is nothing wrong with holding a belief for religious reasons.

bmiller said...

No reason to respond to people who won't read.

For people other than Starhopper, the take-away is that the majority of the American electorate think we ought to trust biologists when the question is 'when does life begin?'. Biologists overwhelming affirm that life begins at fertilization. It follows then that if people actually knew what biologists know they would also believe that life begins at fertilization, which is the standard pro-life position.

bmiller said...

So in a sense, Starhopper is right.

People just need to be educated to see that pro-life position is the morally correct position on the question of abortion. That's why the media is the enemy of the people. They suppress the truth when their job is to report the truth.

Starhopper said...

Exactly. People do need to be educated to see that it is morally reprehensible to approve of abortion. We seem to be in agreement on this point. But you will never accomplish this by politicizing the issue. In this hyper-partisan environment in which we live today, doing so will only harden people in their positions.

Bmiller, I cannot read your mind, so please correct me if I'm wrong. But it seems to me that your unwillingness to acknowledge that your belief that human life begins at conception is a religious belief is because if you did so, you would have to admit that under our Constitution, the rights of those who do not share your religion must be protected and preserved. So you punt to a "scientific" rationale which you have no competence in defending (unless you yourself are a biologist).

And I note that you said "morally correct" and not "scientifically correct". We are making progress here!

bmiller said...

please correct me if I'm wrong
You're wrong. There, you're corrected. Now please stop with the ad hominem mind-reading and respond to the secular argument if you can.

If you think the logic of my argument is wrong then give me reasons for why you think they are wrong rather than telling me what you think my motives are because that is irrelvant.

Likewise it is irrelevant to the point I just made whether the American public is right to trust biologists, whether biologists are "true" scientists, whether biologists are right or wrong about their overwhelming belief that life starts at fertilization or whether I am a biologist or not.

The point is that Americans believe that biologists have the best answer to the question of when a new life begins and it would affect their own personal opinion. Consequentially, if they had this knowledge it would affect their opinion on abortion.

Now I wouldn't believe it was homicide to kill something that wasn't a human being and neither does any religion. It is the scientific, objective and observable fact that a new human life starts at conception that causes religions to seek to protect that new human being.

Starhopper said...

"Guess we've reached the end of the road for reasonable discussion."

Your last comment proves your own point.

bmiller said...

Beatles, Beatles, Beatles! ��

bmiller said...

🐞🐞🐞

Kevin said...

But I don't fool myself into thinking there are "scientific" reasons for so believing.

The good news is you don't need to fool yourself, because it's the case!

A human zygote comes into being when a sperm and an egg, reproductive cells of the parents, come together. It contains unique DNA that is possessed by no other individual, including the parents. It is a fully unique biological entity.

A human zygote is alive, because it is a cell, and a cell is the basic unit of life. It takes in nutrients and energy and uses that energy toward its own survival as it develops beyond a single cell.

A human zygote, assuming no health mishaps, will continue to develop into embryo - fetus - infant - child - adult. These terms are broadly used to describe various age ranges, but all of them refer to different stages of the life cycle of a single organism. If rewound, the organism would cease to exist when the zygote split into a sperm and egg.

Based on biology, we thus know that a human zygote is the very first stage of a new human organism's life cycle. A zygote is when the organism comes into being as a distinct entity with unique DNA. It is in fact the first stage of a human life.

Is there anything in there you find to be at odds with biology?

bmiller said...

It appears he finds biologists at odd with biology.

Starhopper said...

Better the Beatles than the Stones, any day!

One Brow said...

Kevin,
There is no religion in understanding that a fertilized egg is the beginning of life for a new organism. If the organism is a human, then it is the beginning of life for a new human organism.

Scientifically, it's not the beginning of life, it's the continuation of life. Sperm and ova are not dead. It's the merging of two lives into a shared existence, not the start of a new one.

One Brow said...

Kevin,
A human zygote, assuming no health mishaps, will continue to develop into embryo - fetus - infant - child - adult.

A human zygote, with no health mishaps, that fails to bury itself into a womb will shrivel and die. This is the natural course of a zygote. This is why carrying such a life is gift, not a chore: it breaks the normal, most frequent end for the zygote (more zygotes end up dead that as embryos).

Is there anything in there you find to be at odds with biology?

I'm sure you understand there is a vast gulf between 'not at odds with biology' and 'supported by biology'.

One Brow said...

One more thought on this:

If there were a scientific reason to say we have a unique human life at fertilization, and not after, than scientifically identical twins are actually the same human life, and killing one of the two twins does not end a human life.

Starhopper said...

One Brow,

Your posting reminds me of a humorous incident in my own life several decades ago. My now 34 year old younger daughter was then in the 6th grade, and one day I got a phone call from her Catechism teacher. I was informed she had "disrupted" the class by arguing with the teacher about when human life begins. Apparently my daughter had raised the question of twins. What she said went something like this:

"You're telling me that once an egg is fertilized, there's a new human life. Well, what about twins? They start out as a single cell, but at some point, the developing fetus breaks in two, and each half continues to develop independently, and we end up with two babies. So, were there two human beings crammed into that initial cell, or did a second one pop into being after the split? And if so, which of the two was the original person?" (I'm obviously not quoting after so many years, but that was the gist of her argument.)

End result? I was drafted to teach 7th grade Catechism, with my daughter in my class (I guess so I could keep her in line). Years later, I ran into one of my students, who greeted me with "Mr. Prokop. I just wanted to tell you that you were my best teacher ever!" (I'm still savoring that moment.)

Limited Perspective said...

It's amusing Victor posted not long ago (if I remember right) about his dislike when arguing politics as the arguments evolve into debates about abortion. Then abortion!

Aw, 2016...when I posted my real name, David Duffy and Star was Bob, before I got spooked by the cancel culture. I miss the Bob-Illion accusation-counter accusation. It reminds me of being an Episcopalian before some of us split off into the Anglican Church of North America.

Starhopper said...

I changed my moniker, not for privacy reasons, but because my computer had gotten hacked. I changed everything - passwords, credit cards, screen names.. I even closed my bank account and opened a new one.

But keep in mind, debating abortion is not arguing politics, since abortion is not a political issue (unless you think religion is a political issue).

Limited Perspective said...

Good grief, I realize I posted my comment in the wrong conversation. My comment was meant for the previous post. I am spending too much time on the internet and not enough time being productive.

Starhopper said...

I too miss Ilion's contributions. I wish he'd come back. He could be maddeningly wrong at times, but he was never uninteresting.

Limited Perspective said...

I had some email correspondence with Illion. I liked the guy.

Kevin said...

Scientifically, it's not the beginning of life, it's the continuation of life.

It's the beginning of life for a new organism. Otherwise all of us are just big sacks of fertilized eggs and we are all the continuation of the life of the very first living thing. Which, while true from a certain point of view, isn't how biology classifies us.

A human zygote, with no health mishaps, that fails to bury itself into a womb will shrivel and die.

I would call that a health mishap. A stuntman who misses his net will most certainly suffer a health mishap as a result. Also, death from both interior and exterior sources can hit anyone at any stage of life, so the danger faced prior to implantation is more an external hazard than a commentary on the status of the zygote itself.

As a related aside, from what I read of historical studies, around a quarter of infants and up to half of children did not survive to reach adulthood in past times.

If there were a scientific reason to say we have a unique human life at fertilization, and not after, than scientifically identical twins are actually the same human life, and killing one of the two twins does not end a human life.

If you clone me and then kill me, you still ended a human life despite the unnatural existence of the clone, because we were distinct individuals. Identical twins are natural clones in a way, two (or more, heaven help the parents) individuals who arose from an identical genetic source, a single zygote, which was the first cell of both of their lives and the beginning of their biological existence.

Kevin said...

Ilion is quite active on other blogs still. Never a moment of uncertainty present in one of his posts, that's for sure.

Starhopper said...

This is the only "debate" blog I ever visit. All the others are astronomy-related (for that matter, including my own). And I'd probably not be here as well, were it not for the fact that Victor is an old friend of mine (since the 1970s).

One Brow said...

Kevin,
It's the beginning of life for a new organism ...

Scientifically, there is no such bright line. You could arbitrarily pick one point where the new life starts (sperm-head penetration), bmiller could choose another (sperm nucleus merges with ova nucleus), and science would say nothing about which is correct.

As far as science is concerned, we could all be "big sacks of fertilized eggs" and we are all the continuation of the life of the very early (not necessarily the first) living things.

I would call that a health mishap.

I didn't realize you were using the term so broadly. In that case, it's truer to to say that, absent a health intervention, the zygote will shrivel and die.

If you clone me and then kill me, you still ended a human life despite the unnatural existence of the clone, because we were distinct individuals. Identical twins are natural clones in a way, two (or more, heaven help the parents) individuals who arose from an identical genetic source, a single zygote, which was the first cell of both of their lives and the beginning of their biological existence.

To be clear, I agree with you here legally and morally. I'm only commenting on what has been said to be a scientific claim. The zygote stage was obviously not the beginning of an independent existence for either twin.

Kevin said...

Scientifically, there is no such bright line.

Even if it was a fuzzy line, it's right around there.

The zygote stage was obviously not the beginning of an independent existence for either twin.

It is for the vast majority of people. And even for twins it's the beginning of biological existence for both of them, with a unique separation that occurs later when the single splits into two.

Even at maximum concession, twins separate in the first week or two after fertilization. So sometime between the sperm penetration and the two week mark, a new organism comes into being. Particularly once a blastocyst separates the embryonic mass from what will become the placenta.

bmiller said...

Kevin,

How in the world do you think all of your religious argumentation will persuade people who don't have the same religious convictions as you? Are you actually advocating a Theocracy?

Harrumph indeed!

Kevin said...

Caught all my religious dogwhistles, did you?

bmiller said...

Oh no! If I could hear the dogwhistle I must be one of you!

Woof!

bmiller said...

Which kind of makes me ponder.

It seems leftists can hear racist dogwhistles when non-leftists can't.

Kevin said...

I reject the concept because it requires mind reading, which just so happens to always confirm what is already asserted. If you want me to think something, then prove it.

bmiller said...

You're the one that brought up dogwhistles. I've heard that phrase often but never gave it much thought.

When I first heard it used, and the context it was used in, I got the picture in my head of a police whistle. Like Bull Connor using a police whistle to call his troops to beat protesters. I know that impression is wrong, but it's stuck now and it takes a bit of effort to remember why that phrase is really used.

You apparently never had the same problem and you cleverly used it this exchange. It was my effort to overcome my reflexive concept and respond to the true concept with "Woof" that triggered my pondering.

The phrase is used because a dogwhistle creates sounds that a dog can hear but humans can't. Leftists routinely use the phrase to accuse their opponents of secretly communicating racist ideas under the cover of conveying benign ideas. Only other racists can hear what is really being said just like only dogs can hear a dogwhistle being blown while humans can't. That's why the analogy is used.

Like I said, while I was formulating my response to your "religious dogwhistle" and my being able to hear that dogwhistle it made me think of the origin of the analogy. Only dogs can hear a dogwhistle and so if you hear it you must be a dog. So logically if you hear a "racist dogwhistle" you must be a "racist".

One Brow said...

Kevin,
It is for the vast majority ... will become the placenta.

I just wanted to confirm: are you still saying this is a scientific conclusion? Because I have problem with this as a moral/legal position.

Kevin said...

bmiller,

I was also using the term dogwhistle like you. I just followed up saying I reject the concept. I used it mockingly.

Kevin said...

I just wanted to confirm: are you still saying this is a scientific conclusion?

I feel like there is no right answer here because I'm not sure we are employing science in the same manner.

For example, you ask if what I wrote was, in my opinion, a "scientific conclusion". My grasp of reproductive science is obviously not as keen as a fully trained scientist, but I am personally unaware of anything in the scientific literature that disputes what I said. So in the way I believe you are asking, I would say that I find it to be a scientific position so far as my understanding of the biology resources available to me goes. But as a not-scientist I lack the authority to claim that I speak for it.

But the way I am using it is in response to the claim that the "life begins at conception" position is inherently religious. For some it may be, but for me and many others all we need is biology. All of my arguments come from biology books and none from religious books.

bmiller said...

I just followed up saying I reject the concept.

Got it. Thought you were responding to my pondering. But now I've pondered further.

As you mention, you are making scientific arguments to show that one can defend the pro-life position without even mentioning religion at all. Some people think they hear a religious "dogwhistle" in those arguments nevertheless and will have none of it.

Maybe they think that everyone secretly thinks the same way they do even though pro-lifers claim they are making rational arguments. So, since everyone really thinks the way they do, they project onto pro-lifers their own thoughts on how they would go about hiding their own religious motivations if they were to be dishonest about it.

It's probably the same thing with "racist" dogwhistles. If you think everything is about race, then of course math is racist. If the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world starts looking like a forest of nails.

Starhopper said...

A statement is not "scientific" unless it has been arrived at via the scientific method™.

It must have begun as a hypothesis, then tested through experimentation, and must be falsifiable. (The dictionary definition of the term actually includes several more mandatory steps, which I have omitted for brevity's sake.)

"Human Life begins at conception" satisfies the first of those requirements, but fails at the second two. Therefore, by definition it is not a "scientific" statement.

But there is nothing wrong with that! Unless you are an adherent of scientism, you ought to be comfortable with some statements being a-scientific (not unscientific!). I am totally comfortable with believing in many things (the above statement included) on religious grounds alone.

bmiller said...

Of course I could be overthinking things and some people may just be extraordinarily ignorant. I'm highly dubious that's the case here though.

Kevin said...

"Human Life begins at conception" satisfies the first of those requirements, but fails at the second two. Therefore, by definition it is not a "scientific" statement.

Were I to concede the above, my point would still stand. The pro-life position I am arguing is based entirely on biology, even if the conclusion itself is not the result of a scientific experiment. It is entirely secular, has nothing to do with religion, is not a violation or imposition of religious belief, and is therefore by no means constitutionally invalid as a policy.

Starhopper said...

Kevin,

Your argument sounds like someone saying "Well, I didn't do the classwork, but I still deserve an A."

But your last sentence is most revealing. You have an admitted vested interest in the proposition being scientific, and that has clouded your judgement as to whether it actually is. For if it is not, then your constitutional argument fails.

And "based on biology" does not make something scientific. The flat Earthers base their reasoning on (very selective) astronomy, but their conclusions are anything but scientific.

The ONLY thing that makes a conclusion "scientific" is if it has been arrived at via the scientific method. Otherwise, it is mere opinion - even if every scientist in the world agrees with it... and they would be the first to say so.

bmiller said...

This is too looney for the Babylon Bee to even do a satire on it. No one would believe that there are actually people that would argue that the science of biology is not science.

Starhopper said...

Of late, I have loved the season of Advent more than Christmas day itself. Being only a short time away from 70 years old and in absolutely wretched health, I fully realize that far more of my life is behind rather than in front of me. I would be very surprised to see my 80th birthday.

I no longer worry about whether I will ever read a favorite book again (I am an obsessive re-reader) or whether I will ever get to one of the many places on my "bucket list" (Chile, the Australian Outback, the Trans-Siberian Railroad). I do each day what I can, and don't worry about what I cannot. And I am assured that one millisecond after my personal demise, I will know all that I have struggled to comprehend in this life, and be forever freed from whatever misconceptions I may have held.

So the Advent emphasis on expectation, on quietly waiting, on getting ready... speaks to my heart. Too often, people have an almost post partum reaction to Dec. 25th, which is a shame, because properly celebrating Advent ought to be an anecdote to such feelings. Especially since Advent reminds us that Christ didn't just come once in History (although He very much did), but that we will all see Him again, either at the Last Day or at our own, very personal death - whichever comes first.

Against such a glorious event, all of our disputes, squabbles, arguments, and even fights (especially over the internet) pale to insignificance, seem like small trivialities indeed, too petty to even think about. "The lion will lie down with the lamb..."

Maranatha !

bmiller said...

May God have mercy on your soul.

Starhopper said...

...on all of ours.

Kevin said...

Your argument sounds like someone saying "Well, I didn't do the classwork, but I still deserve an A."

Yes, if the assignment was to perform a scientific experiment and present it on this blog.

No, if the assignment was showing that the pro-life argument is not inherently religious and is thus not a violation of the Constitution.

No government policy is scientific, but many of them are informed by it. Nothing different about the pro-life argument I presented. So unless you can show how my argument is any more religious than any other secular argument, then kindly hand me that "A"!

bmiller said...

OK, A+.

Really though, it's a canard that the Constitution prohibits arguments based in a religious point of view. We wouldn't have a country at all if we didn't believe that God gave us our rights.

Kevin said...

But that is Starhopper's premise. He says

If you wish to outlaw abortion in America, then you must first amend the Constitution to establish a state religion.

Keep in mind that I 100% believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, so we are in agreement there. But I don't fool myself into thinking there are "scientific" reasons for so believing.

Why are you so afraid to admit that your opposition to abortion is based on religious grounds?

My aim in the thread has been to show that a solid pro-life argument can be made, and is made, using nothing except information out of a biology textbook. Nothing religious involved.

All policies that can be informed by scientific findings ought to be. This is no different.

bmiller said...

Right. Most people who've taken a high school biology course are educated enough to understand that once a sperm cell and and egg cell fuse they become a new type of biological organism that remains that type of organism throughout the remainder of it's life-cycle.

But his first premise is absurd and hypocritical since he thinks it's perfectly constitutional to pass laws to help the innocent poor based on his religious beliefs. Twisted really that one argues for laws to help the innocent financially but against laws that prevent them from being killed.

Starhopper said...

I am in no way arguing either for or against any laws here. I am simply saying we should be honest with ourselves, and admit that the reason anyone supports such laws is because of their faith (a.k.a., "religion").

I have no quarrel whatsoever with anyone advocating for laws inspired by (but not based on) their faith. In fact, I applaud them for doing so. But I do have a quarrel with people who deny that they are doing so.

But laws inspired by faith must never be coercive, especially in a constitutional democracy. I have twice taken an oath (once when I enlisted in the Army, and again when I joined the federal workforce) to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. That oath is recognized as a lifetime obligation - you're not released from it once you leave the service. And the constitution does not allow for a state religion, and prohibits the state from imposing the beliefs of one religion upon anyone. Religiously inspired laws must be simultaneously cognizant of the general welfare and actually be effective. (And thus, Prohibition, although laudable in its intent, was nevertheless "bad law", since its only effect was to encourage crime.)

Just like you, I would LOVE to see abortion disappear (we are in total agreement there), but overturning Roe v. Wade will do nothing to make that happen. As with Prohibition, the only people who will benefit by its repeal will be the mob. The reported number of abortions may fall, but that will be only because the practice has gone underground. The unreported cases will without doubt skyrocket, as will grievous physical harm to women. It that what you really want?

I've said this more times than I can count, but the only solution to this problem is education, and changing people's hearts. In this case, laws will get us nowhere.

Kevin said...

I am simply saying we should be honest with ourselves, and admit that the reason anyone supports such laws is because of their faith

If your position is that the only reason someone values human life is because of faith, then I would have to let atheists argue that one.

Starhopper said...

Atheism is a faith. Perhaps not a "religion" but definitely a faith.

One Brow said...

Kevin,

That should have been "no problem" above.

But the way I am using it is in response to the claim that the "life begins at conception" position is inherently religious. For some it may be, but for me and many others all we need is biology. All of my arguments come from biology books and none from religious books.

I agree that your position does not conflict with any sort of science, and I agree you are not making a conclusion based strictly on your religious belief.

However, even science books are full of interpretations of science. A conclusion from a scientific interpretation is not necessarily a conclusion of science itself. Most likely, almost all of the protoplasm that I had as a zygote is gone. In some sense, I am a completely different person. We could also point to the continuity of existence, in a Ship of Theseus type of argument, to say I'm the same person despite a different material composition. Both positions are scientifically accurate; neither is a conclusion of science alone.

So, if you are saying that your position is compatible with science and one straight-forward interpretation of it, I agree. If you are saying your position is the conclusion of science, I disagree.

One Brow said...

Starhopper,
A statement is not "scientific" unless it has been arrived at via the scientific method™.

It must have begun as a hypothesis, then tested through experimentation, and must be falsifiable. (The dictionary definition of the term actually includes several more mandatory steps, which I have omitted for brevity's sake.)


Most scientists, and philosophers of science, would make statements a little less strong than that. The whole point of a scientific theory is to knit together these falsifiable statements into a credible explanation that accounts for them all. For example, despite the occasional snippet, the Theory of Evolution is not truly falsifiable. If we found new data that disagree with some substantial part of the ToE, we would revise the ToE to use all the data, new and old.

Something like determining the moment an organism begins goes even further afield, though. Now we are talking about taking six trillion cells, in various degrees of cooperation and competition, and referring to them as a unit. It's a convenience to make discussing the conglomerations easier, but that is a scientific tool, not a result.

Starhopper said...

I will grant you that, One Brow. A "statement" is not necessarily a conclusion, but it could be a shorthand way of expression to move the conversation along. But that still does not make it "scientific".

For instance, we often talk about "the laws of physics" but what we actually mean is "the way we observe things to behave." We even concede that these so-called laws do not apply to extreme circumstances, such as inside a black hole, or in the first instants of creation.

In fact, the very concept of the human organism is quite vague. The cells of my body are vastly outnumbered by the microorganisms that live at this moment within me. I could not survive without these microorganisms, because they enable me to properly digest my food. If they all suddenly disappeared, I would die in short order. So... are these microorganisms part of me, or are they independent beings? Also, the waste matter in my large intestine - is it part of me now, but no longer so after it is expelled? What about the blood I donate? Was it me before donation, but then somebody else later on? What if I accidently chop off my finger while carving a turkey? Is the finger no longer me, even if it is still alive for many minutes after separation? And if it is later reattached through the miracle of modern medicine, is it once again me, or was it me all along?

(Theological question: At the resurrection of the body, do the trillions of microorganisms within me also get resurrected, or will we no longer require them?)

bmiller said...

You said you taught a Catechism class (and, I assume, took high school biology classes) and you don't understand either the biological or Catholic perspectives on these questions?

Starhopper said...

From today's Mass readings: "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment." (Philippians 1:9)

You see? Paul is speaking to Christians, "partners in the Gospel" he even calls them. And yet they are still said to not possess all knowledge, but are rather to seek it out "more and more". The "Catholic perspective" on things is not a dead letter, but a living spirit, forever growing and deepening. No one (in this world, at least) could ever be said to "understand" (as to be in no further need of learning) it. Even St. Thomas Aquinas called his own understanding "straw" compared with a true knowledge of God.

It is sheer arrogance for anyone to claim that they possess understanding of the "Catholic perspective" on anything. The day will come when we are, as the old hymn says, walking the Streets of Glory, and we will realize that we never really knew anything. That at best we had glimpses of the truth, and certainly no understanding of it. And that's OK, because Jesus is not only the Truth, He is also the Way... and the Way is a journey, not a place. It is enough for me that God knows me, not that I know God. Jesus Himself said that "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." (John 1:18)

So, bmiller, I am not impressed by your claiming to speak for the Church. Only Pope Francis can do that.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

I never claimed to speak for the Church. I'm not authorized, but I can point to authorized teachings. And no, Pope Fransis is not the only one authorized to do so. You were authorized when you taught that Catechism class. I'm just asking if you drew from authorized sources or did you just wing it? Looks to me that you were just winging it.

bmiller said...

It fits into my theory that it was a bad idea to let uneducated laity teach CCD rather than educated nuns and priests.

David Brightly said...

I read the article linked by BM. Do commenters think that the American people are exceptional in that they have not reached the sort of compromise on this issue that has been reached elsewhere? That doesn't seem likely to me. What does seem exceptional to me is that in the US this issue can be decided by the Supreme Court. This turns its politics into a zero sum game. Both sides prefer to wait for an opportunity to win outright rather than do a deal which gives each of them something of what they want, if not all.

I recently found the following quote in an article primarily about British politics.

The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions and affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

bmiller said...

David,

Thanks for your perspective. Lot's of people thought it was a mistake for the Supreme Court to override the legislatures on this decision including the very liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

If the Court has the final say in everything, then the only thing the electorate can do is to elect a president that will appoint justices that will rule the way they want. That pretty much makes the House and Senate spectators.

David Brightly said...

Why do you think the House and Senate are content to stand aside on this issue and let the SC make the law? Reading the WP accounts of Roe v Wade and PP v Casey you can see the Court making it up as they go along, like a proverbial wise law-giving king of old. Is the legislature funking its responsibility on a difficult and divisive issue? It could not happen like this in the UK because the only way to make law is to bring a bill before Parliament. If the public is crying out for a legal remedy for some ill the pressure on the governing party to propose a bill can be immense.

Victor Reppert said...

Congress is split down partisan lines and the Senate has a filibuster rule which requires a lot of legislation to achieve a supermajority. There are exceptions allowed through what is called a reconciliation process, but that only works on some things. So, the Freedom of Choice Act, which would turn Roe v. Wade into a law through Congress, cannot pass even though right now there are Democratic majorities in both houses and the President is a Democrat. Similarly, the Republicans, if they held Congress and the White House, which they did in 2017 and 2018, would not have been able to pass a pro-life bill if Roe had been overturned in 2017.

bmiller said...

David,

Something that Victor failed to mention was the Constitutional role of the Federal government as opposed to the governments of the individual Atates. The Constitution would not have been ratified by all the states unless the first 10 Amendments were added (known as the Bill of Rights). Freedom of Speech, Assembly, Religion and so on. The 10th Amendment makes sure the Federal government's power is limited to what the Constitution and Bill of Rights says it is and no more:


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


So laws regulating various things can be different from State to State. Before Roe v Wade, abortion was illegal in almost all States but that started to change in the 1960's as more States changed laws to allow abortion. That changed with the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973 which outlawed abortion in all States and overruled their legislatures. I doubt it would be Constitutional for the Federal legislature to pass any laws wrt abortion since those powers are reserved to the States barring a Constitutional Amendment (which requires 3/4 of the State legislatures to ratify).

I like your analogy of the Court making things up as they went along like "wise" kings of old.

David Brightly said...

I hadn't realised the extent to which congressional opinion fractures along party lines. Is this what SH means by 'politicising' the issue perhaps? The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was passed by free vote under a Labour government. I guess the past half century has seen increasing polarisation as new legislators have replaced old. A bit like those films of cell mitosis.

That changed with the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973 which outlawed abortion in all States and overruled their legislatures. Did you mean that? I thought RvW limited the extent to which state and federal law could constrain abortion?

Thanks, I wasn't very clear how federalism worked in the US. Much more like the EU from which we have recently seceded :-) But I do find it odd that the SC, like a team of archaeologists, can somehow exhume the RvW and PPvCasey rulings from the constitutional documents. I guess I'm not used to living under a written constitution.

Not wishing to change the subject, I'd like to know what you gentlemen think of this recent article.

Starhopper said...

I believe bmiller meant to write "which outlawed abortion laws in all States and overruled their legislatures."

And yes, here in the states, congressional opinion does indeed fracture along party lines. "Fracture" is an apt word, since my country is splitting apart before our very eyes.

bmiller said...

David,

Yes, Starhopper corrected my mistake. Sorry about my sloppy typing.

It's gratifying to see someone from the UK looking objectively on those SC rulings and tell us what he thinks about them. I like your analogy of archaeologists. No one knew the Constitution outlawed abortion laws for a couple hundred years until the robed oracles examined the emanations and penumbras.

I read The New Criterion article. Seems pretty accurate. And yes, very little of it makes sense if we are to think that our elected officials and elites want what is best for our country. Maybe they don't, but if not, then what is the end game?

Is wokeness being imported to the UK?

bmiller said...

Related to the article.

This Bangladeshi geneticist has been getting veiled threats for taking to close a look at his interests of history, geography and ethnography. Apparently this type of study threatens some sacred narrative.