Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bad Argument Against Incrementalism [SK]

Commenting on my earlier post ("Doing What's Right When You Can't Do What's Best"), 'drr' writes:

Let's suppose that Roe v. Wade legalized the killing of ten-year-old children rather than unborn children (who have exactly the same dignity as ten-year-old children). Would the "authentic 'pro-life' response" (to quote Dr. Charles Rice) "be to insist that no grade-school child may be stood up against the wall and shot except in special cases, such as where the mother threatens suicide if the child stays around, or if he puts a strain on her physical health or emotional equilibrium, or if the child's father is a rapist or a close relative of the mother, or if the child's grandmother has approved the execution? No way. The only authentic 'pro-life' response to such a decree would be to insist that the law may never validly tolerate the intentional killing of the innocent of any age, including grade-school children." So it is with abortion.
As a colleague of mine points out, the analogy is flawed, since it relies on the emotion of seeing a 10-year-old shot to overwhelm the reader’s reason, which is really cheap. He then provides a better analogy:

Imagine if 10-year-olds were being secretly, without much fanfare, taken to death camps where they were quickly and painlessly executed. Suppose you lived in a community in which a majority of citizens either supported or were indifferent to the killings. So, you know that you can’t ban the killing entirely or directly at this time. Also suppose that you can’t engage in civil disobedience to stop the killings, since you know that it will do no good in the long run. However, you realize that in your community people are aghast at one procedure that kills the 10-year-olds, one that consists of crushing their skulls and sucking their brains out. You know that you have a chance to ban this, even though it will hardly dent the killings. But it will serve to teach people about the nature of the children and why killing them is wrong. This is the best you can do given the situation you are in. It’s not clear to me what Rice’s problem would be with this. Is he actually suggesting that one either do nothing or everything? That is madness, not to mention a misapplication of natural law theory.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your well thought out posts on the folly of the "all or nothing" approach. One of the most vicious critics of the partial-birth abortion ban is Judie Brown, whose American Life League has been around FOR DECADES!
    It seems to me that if she had "THE ANSWER" to stopping all abortions, she would have implemented it by now. After all, she's been around much longer than Focus on the Family and almost as long as the National Right to Life Committee..two organizations that Judie Brown is publicly slandering.

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  2. Scott: You clarify the issue well here.
    "You know that you have a chance to ban this, even though it will hardly dent the killings. But it will serve to teach people about the nature of the children and why killing them is wrong. This is the best you can do given the situation you are in.".

    This is one point I have continued to try and focus on since this rift opened in the movement. The pictures from this debate showed the nation that PBA is a huge moral wrong, not simply a choice, because you saw a fully formed human being being killed. I really believe this began to bring about a cultural shift on the issue.

    Also, bringing Donna Joy's( the partial birth abortion ban poster child) face to the issue was a great way to show the humanity of the unborn and that the unborn were intrinsically valuable due to their very nature.

    It is true to say that this is only a baby step forward for us, but should we have done nothing?

    I have heard people like Dr. Rice, but I am not familiar enough with his writings to make a sound judgement, however, it does appear that he believes, from his analogy, that if we can't get a pure law, then we do nothing until we can. That's ludacris.
    Best, Lori V.

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  3. You are all willing to negotiate who lives and dies. You are willing to say that this unborn child will die if the grandparents say it's O.K., etc. Incrementalism denies the personhood of the unborn, it denies that life comes from God.

    With incrementalism, the state decides who lives and dies.......it denies the inalienable right to life of all persons. In Nazi Germany, the state decided who lived and died, and then of course Marxism did as well. With incrementalism, the state has become the god. Incremetalism is aetheism.

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  4. Anon,

    Your claim that "incrementalism denies the personhood of the unborn..." is false. The personhood or humanity of the unborn is recognized in laws like the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act", or the "Fetal Pain Awareness Act". You'll notice I said "recognized", not given, leaving one with the conclusion that the rights of the unborn already exist as soon as they come to exist. So the state is not granting these rights. The first recognizes the unborn's rights as the victim of a crime. If the unborn is a victim, how can it not be a person? If the fetus is a patient, deserving pain relief in the second law I mentioned, how can it not be a person? This is why the pro-aborts fight these laws tooth and nail, because they know it sets precedent for future case law. Recognizing the "personhood" of the unborn. We know that the right to life comes from our Creator, and that the unborn are human, making them valuable by the very nature of what they are. However, you must take in to account the role of "Roe" in the federal courts, as well as the fact that not all share in the belief that .....A) truth is true, and B)the unborn are members of the human family deserving our protection. One good thing that seems to always come from any public debate on any pro-life law, how ever small the step, is that it brings the issue once again before the people. Giving us the chance to educate them on the only real issue.....What is the unborn?
    My next problem with your argument:
    "With incrementalism, the state decides who lives and dies.".
    The state has already decided that abortion is legal, all we can do now is try to limit the evil as much as we can. You have not given any alternative to incrementalism, what will you do?
    Picture this:
    You are walking past a home for unwanted infants when you notice it's on fire. Through the choking, blinding smoke you see one baby near the entrance and you know you can save him. The other babies are upstairs and not reachable because you have no equipment and the flames have overtaken the stairwell. You can't save them all, but you can reach in and save the one. what do you do? Stand there and let them all die, or save the one you can most easily get to? It does'nt sound so good when you take the purist spin off of it. Does it?
    "Incremetalism is aetheism."
    Since when does doing things one step at a time make anyone an aetheist? God is a God of order, see Genesis. In our walk with Christ, we grow spiritually with each new experience, we grow incrementally, we do not grow all at once.
    Bottom line, knowing that "Roe" in entrenched in federal law, knowing Pelosi is now in power, and not being for the incremental approach, I leave you Anon with one question......Can you do better? Best, Lori

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  5. Dr. Klusendorf,

    The kind of ban proposed in your colleague's analogy (a ban that would prohibit one procedure of killing 10-year olds, a procedure which people in the community are aghast at) would not serve to teach people about the nature of children and why killing them is wrong. Why? Because what most people in the community are aghast at is not the murder of innocent human persons itself but the gruesome procedure in which that murder is carried out. Killing children is wrong no matter how much it is done, but a ban like this simply makes it appear that what is wrong is not the killing of the 10-year olds themselves but the manner in which it is done. Thus, the ban still denies an inherent right to life that in human nature itself, a right which every one of the ten-year olds possesses regardless of the way in which he is killed.

    Only the truth saves; error kills.

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  6. Anonymous said:

    In Nazi Germany, the state decided who lived and died . . . .

    By your argument, since Oskar Schindler couldn't save the millions of Jews who died in the camps, he was wrong to help the 1,100 he did save.

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  7. Anonymous said:

    In Nazi Germany, the state decided who lived and died . . . .

    "By your argument, since Oskar Schindler couldn't save the millions of Jews who died in the camps, he was wrong to help the 1,100 he did save. ".

    Good catch Ransom! Lori V.

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  8. Re: "By your argument, since Oskar Schindler couldn't save the millions of Jews who died in the camps, he was wrong to help the 1,100 he did save."

    That is a different scenario. What is at stake is the active promotion of laws that make compromises on the killing of innocent persons (and thus make the moral statement that unborn children are non-persons), not specific situations, separate from the passing of laws, where one is physically unable to save all innocent victims but saves as many as he can. Did Schindler actively promote laws permitting the murder of Jews whose fathers were rapists, close relatives of the mother, or whose grandparents gave consent to their killing, but prohibiting the murder of all other Jews? Or did Schindler actively promote laws prohibiting only certain procedures of killing Jews while allowing all others? That is what is at issue.

    Re: laws prohibiting "fetal homicide, i.e. killing an unborn child by causing injury or death to the mother."

    This is not a case of compromise, counterproductive legislation; such laws affirm the personhood of the unborn child. Charles Rice endorses such legislation in his book The Winning Side.

    Re: Fetal Pain Awareness Act

    This kind of legislation, however, affirms the non-personhood of the unborn child. The mere acknowledgment that a being experiences pain and should be killed in the most painless way is not an affirmation of personhood at all. After all, hunters try to kill their prey in the most painless way possible, not because animals are persons but because causing unnecessary pain is contrary to reason. Therefore, such legislation as this affirms that unborn children are essentially no different than animals. As Rice has pointed out, such legislation might actually make late-abortion appear more humane in the eyes of the public; after all, the abortions will now be less painful to the victims.

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  9. Attempting to debunk PBA legislation, drr writes,"... Attempting to debunk PBA legislation, drr writes,
    "...what most people in the community are aghast at is not the murder of innocent human persons itself but the gruesome procedure in which that murder is carried out."

    Okay, but WHY are they upset at the gruesome nature of the procedure? Having your appendix surgically removed is also gruesome, but no one seems morally troubled by that. The obvious reason they're troubled about PBA is precisely because the graphic nature of the procedure is reawaking their moral intuitions about right and wrong--namely, that human beings should not be treated that way. Their repulsion at the procedure assumes the humanity of the fetus in question. Wilberforce (see the "Amazing Grace" film) did the same thing with slavery, taking parliamentarians up river to view a slave ship. His guests were repulsed at the gruesome sight not because the ship itself was filthy and stinky (most cargo ships were) but because that ship was used to torture innocent human beings. Focusing on the ship didn't ban slavery that day, but it got the ball rolling. The same is true with PBA. Indeed, every pollster in America from 1995-1999 cited the PBA discussions as eroding support for late-term abortion in general. If you are going to dispute this, I need to see some evidence. Raw assertions won't do.

    FYI, the PBA debate accomplished several important things for pro-lifers. First, it focused the debate on the act of abortion itself instead of the abstract question of choice. Second, abortion advocates were caught lying, thus, undermining their credibility. Third, public opinion shifted modestly in our favor regarding late-term abortion. Fourth, the recent Carhart decision put important premises into our legal code that may help us later on. (I've already written about that point here on this blog.)

    Let's be clear: No pro-lifer that I know claims that partial-birth abortions are any more immoral than other killing procedures. They're all equally immoral. But this hardly establishes that it's irrational to prohibit PBAs. A prisoner of war is just as dead if he's dropped into a pot of boiling oil or given a lethal injection, but it's not unjust for anti-capital punishment advocates to press for the most human method possible until they can ban the killings outright. It's also not unjust for them to draw attention to a barbaric practice as part of their overall case against capital punishment.

    Finally, you keep asserting that PBA bans deny the inherent right to life. Seriously? Have you not read Roe and Doe? To refresh your memory, the Supreme Court, not pro-lifers attempting to ban PBA, said that no fetuses have a right to life and can be killed for any reason. The Court denied that inherent right to life. Given that brutal reality, all the pro-lifer is trying to do is limit the evil insofar as possible given the constraints placed on him by the courts.

    If you are powerless to stop all of the evil, why is it wrong to stop some of it?

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  10. Scott, in response to drr, claimed that the first visit to the slave ship got the ball rolling on ending slavery, it brought the issue out in the open.....
    "The same is true with PBA. Indeed, every pollster in America from 1995-1999 cited the PBA discussions as eroding support for late-term abortion...."
    Scott, you hit it right on the head! Here's something just in this morning that supports your post.....From an article that says...."....pro-life strategies are working.".
    Lifenews:

    "A new study shows that the pro-life position on abortion has been gaining ground over the least fifteen years as more people identify themselves as pro-life. The new report shows a change in the public's attitude on abortion at a time when then strategies of the pro-life movement shifted away from aggressive protesting. ".

    "The first national laws limiting abortions -- such as the partial-birth abortion ban -- are on the books.".

    "The number of states adopting pro-life legislation has increased and, in states such as South Carolina, Mississippi, and Michigan, abortions have dropped as much as 50 percent or more BECAUSE OF THOSE PRO-LIFE MEASURES.". (emphasis mine)

    "The growth in the number of people who considered themselves pro-life didn't stop in 1997, but continued as the debate on partial-birth abortion continued and the pro-life movement increased its emphasis on new approaches.".

    "The growth in the number of people who considered themselves pro-life didn't stop in 1997, but continued as the debate on partial-birth abortion continued and the pro-life movement increased its emphasis on new approaches.".

    How can anyone say we should have done nothing? Lori

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