Friday, December 28, 2007

You like Bush but Not Romney? [SK]

Ramesh Ponnuru:

Deal Hudson can't understand why Romney considers it "acceptable" to use embryos from fertility clinics in stem cell research. It is important to remember that Romney's position is exactly the same as President Bush's. He would ban stem-cell research involving human cloning and would refuse to fund, but allow, research on fertility-clinic embryos. I haven't heard any presidential candidate call for a ban on all embryo-destructive research, which would (unfortunately) be impossible to achieve in the current political environment. Romney stresses that he would allow privately-funded research on fertility-clinic embryos to continue, but his position is exactly what the pro-life movement has asked. It is the same position that Thompson and (I believe) Huckabee take, and to the right of the position that McCain and Giuliani take. But the way Romney talks about it creates needless confusion.

Links to Good Stuff [SK]

Robert George gives Anne Rice a lesson in moral reasoning, after the latter announced her support of Hillary Clinton for prez:

You have endorsed a candidate and a political party that believes that abortion, far from being an injustice, is a fundamental right. They are pledged to oppose any meaningful legal protections of the life of the child in the womb. They have even sought to protect the grisliest of methods of abortion–the “dilation and intact extraction” procedure. In this, they are promoting the greatest injustice and abuse of human rights to be found in our country today. It is this injustice that we should be most dedicated to fighting. If abortion is what you and I say it is–what we know it to be–then the issue must be given priority in our work as citizens. We should certainly not be tying ourselves to those who see it as no injustice at all. If we do that (and let me say this with the softest and humblest of voices), we are implicating ourselves–deeply–in the grave injustice being committed four thousand times per day against the tiniest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.
(HT: Jivin J)

Jay Lefrkowitz on President Bush's careful deliberations about stem cell policy. Note to liberals: The Bush policy wasn't a knee-jerk, politically driven decision as you carelessly assert:

On one day, he met separately with representatives from National Right to Life and then from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Although the recommendations made by each group were predictable, the discussions in both cases were substantive and at times very personal. “We’re here on behalf of our children,” one of the leaders of the diabetes foundation told the President. “I’m defending my family.” When a member of the National Right to Life delegation took out a public-opinion poll to bolster his claim that opposition to stem-cell research would be a winning issue politically, Bush swatted the paper away and replied with uncommon sharpness: “This is too important an issue to take polls about. I am going to decide this based on what I believe is right.”
Bush refused to accept the notion that we must choose between medical research and the principle of the dignity of life at every stage. He sought both to advance biomedical science and at the same time to respect the sanctity of human life. In the end he came to a moderate, balanced decision that drew a prudent and principled line. The decision was both informed and reasoned, based on lengthy study and consultation with people of widely divergent viewpoints. It was consciously not guided by public-opinion polls.

As I write these last words, I am aware that they may sound like political spin. That is far from the case. There were many other contentious issues on which I advised the President—affirmative action, gay marriage, contraception, offshore oil and gas exploration, international trade, patent protection, even veterans’ benefits. In each of these, political considerations and calculations played at least some role in the development of policy, as they always have and always will. What made our deliberations on the stem-cell issue unique was, precisely, the absence of that element. Bush knew that whatever his decision, it was bound to alienate millions of Americans. Their ranks would include both political supporters and many who, if the decision went another way, might be drawn to reconsider their aversion to him. Our discussions were focused throughout on reaching a coherent and consistent position where the President could stand with honor for as long as the facts on the ground remained as they were. We did not dwell at all on how that position would play politically.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From an Adoring Fan [SK]

An email:

Merry Christmas you compromising, incrementalist, legal positivist, Mormon-loving, pro-evil partial birth abortion ban supporter, Judy Brown-Hating, heretic-hugging, anathema-embracing, moral relativist, blight to the pro-life movement, and nut case from California.
She forgot to include that I'm also a Dodger fan. And yes, she's kidding about me hating Judy Brown.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don't Stigmatize Me Bro! [Serge]

Another claim by destructive ESCR proponents is that it is not the ethical restrictions themselves which are slowing the research, but the "stigma" that is now attached to this type of research because of people like me. Here is how James Thompson states it:

Unfortunately, under the policy President Bush outlined on Aug. 9, 2001, at most 21 stem cell lines derived from embryos before that date are eligible for federal funding. American innovation in the field thus faces inherent limitations. Even more significant, the stigma resulting from the policy surely has discouraged some talented young Americans from pursuing stem cell research.
His wording is important. The stigma attached to doing this work is actually worse than the restrictions that Bush has placed on the federal funding of this work. This is discouraging young scientists from entering this field.

My gut response, admittedly not exactly rational, is simply to state that this is one of the weakest, whiniest, childish arguments that I have ever heard. Those poor scientists that just want our taxes to destroy embryos are having their feelings hurt because there are some of us think it that human embryos have intrinsic value. Poor things.

Let me address this more rationally. First, I would like to ask what exactly stigma there is involved in this research. We constantly hear from destructive ESCR supporters that the majority of Americans support their research. Unlike almost all other investigators, ESCR scientists have the option of relocating to California or New Jersey where they will go through the stigmatizing process of applying for some of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money that has been aside for that purpose. Stigma? If someone offered me a huge grant to relocate to sunny California to take out wisdom teeth at huge taxpayer expense - I wouldn't complain too much.

Second, if there was stigma attached, maybe it is because of some actions of the scientists themselves. South Korea once put Hwang Woo-Suk's work on a stamp alongside with someone walking out of a wheelchair. The result was a national embarrassment and an example of one of the worst scientific frauds of this century. It would seem that he is more responsible for stigmatizing scientists that any of us.

Third, is it true that the scientists not only want our money and permission to do this controversial research - but they also demand our acceptance? Should we not ask important ethical questions regarding any research out of fear that we may hurt the feelings and stigmatize those interested in such controversial research? Are the intrepid trailblazers of this "revolutionary" technology so emotionally soft that they can't accept any ethical questioning at all?

Sorry guys, if you choose to do research that intentionally kills human organism, you will need to expect ethical concerns. If you are not strong enough to take the criticism, you may be smart enough to be a scientist, but maybe you just have the stomach for it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Make Up Your Mind, Dr. Morrison! [Serge] (Updated)

Sean Morrison of the University of Michigan Life Science Institute seems very confused about the prospects of finding stem cell researchers to recruit for our state. On one hand, he tells the Kalamazoo Gazette that the prospects are extremely dim:

`The law in Michigan puts us at such a disadvantage in embryonic stem cell research that people in that area don't even apply for jobs here,'' said Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, quoted last week in the Kalamazoo Gazette and The Grand Rapids Press.
However, in an in-house publication, Morrison explains that he recruited "the top young stem cell scientist" for his university:

Dr. Ivan Maillard joined the Life Sciences Institute as a Research Assistant Professor July 1. He is also an Assistant Professor Dept. of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology and the fourth faculty member of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology.

Ivan Maillard

Ivan Maillard

"Ivan was the top young stem cell biologist in the country on the job market last year. We had intense competition from other research universities that were also trying to recruit him," said Sean Morrison, Director of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology.

What a turnaround! Morrison went to not being able to get applications to netting the top stem cell researcher despite Michigan's restrictions. Interesting that when he is trying to convince the public about the desperate need to overturn Michigan's law he is so pessimistic. However, when discussing the issue in a publication that exists in part to raise money for his institute, he touts his ability to recruit the best.

Anyone still willing to "trust the scientists" about virtually anything in this field are dreadfully naive.

Update: Jason of Theosophical Ruminations adds in the comments:

I emailed Dr. Morrison to inquire about this apparent discrepancy between what he said to the media, and what he said in the U of M's LSI newsletter. He responded to my inquiry, noting that Dr. Maillard's work is restricted to adult blood-forming stem cells. He does not work with embryonic stem cells. It appears, then, that Dr. Morrison was not engaging in double-speak after all.
I suppose this clarifies things although the original wording is a bit questionable. I do feel good that it is Dr. Morrison's opinion that a scientist that only works with adult stem cells can be considered "the best young stem cell researcher in the job market last year." Furthermore, the fact that we are able to recruit the best adult stem cell biologists here despite our ethical stance is a very good thing.

Thanks Jason for your diligence in tracking this down.

A Simple Stem Cell Deception [Serge]

One of the first arguments that came from those supporting the destruction of human embryos is that Yamanaka's work came from previous work on ESCRs. James Thompson, the original discoverer of human ESCs and one who repeated Yamanaka's work, states it plainly:

In fact, work by U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirely on previous embryonic stem cell research.

Thompson's comment implies that Yamamaka used a technique developed originally by killing human embryos and extracting their stem cells. If this technique had not been developed by intrepid scientists working around Bush's virtual ban on ESCR, Yamamaka's work could not have progressed. The New York Times accepted this story without question, stating:

Dr. Thomson also stressed that neither his nor the Japanese work could have been performed were it not for the knowledge gained over the past decade in human embryonic stem cell research — the very research that Mr. Bush has striven mightily to limit.
The only problem is this line of reasoning is deceptive at best and untrue at worst. First of all, the description of the technique that Yamamaka has developed did not depend on killing human embryos at all. In fact, Yamamaka has admitted that he had never even worked with embryos or human ova prior to his discovery:

"Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary. I've never worked with either," says Shinya Yamanaka.
Yamamaka was not a researcher in ESCR. He developed his technique outside of those used by traditional ESCR methods.

There is a grain of truth in that having a source of ESCs allowed Yamamaka and other researchers to verify the markers that his pluripotent cells did act like ESCs. Furthermore additional ESCs will be needed to verify the results in the future. However, there should be no reason to kill embryos to get them. The lines that are federally funded should be very adequate to verify the pluripotency of the newly developed cells.

There is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Bush's policy of only funding ESC lines on embryos that had already been killed delayed Yamamaka's research at all. Clearly it did not effect his research on mice embryos which was reported in June - because there are no restrictions on ESCR in mice. There is no evidence that the very short six month window it took to repeat the results in humans would have been even shorter if we killed millions of embryos. There certainly is no evidence to suggest that easing restrictions of the destruction of human embryos will help this promising research at all.

These facts are easily verifiable, but once again the scientific establishment and the naive media accept the distortion wholesale.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A New Little J! [Serge]

Congratulations to JivinJ and his wife on the birth of their beautiful daughter!

Game Over? Not Exactly [Serge]

The biggest news that occurred during my short hiatus was the news that Shinya Yamamata had made pluripotent human stem cells by reprogramming somatic cells from the skin. In short, this changes the debate about destroying human embryos significantly. We have heard since the beginning that scientists needed to destroy human embryos in order to create cell-based therapies that would change medicine as we know it. We also have been told that cloning human embryos was the only way to get around the immune rejection problem. Throughout, scientists have made the claim that they only wish to destroy embryos because there was no other choice. You would think that this latest news would lead many to rejoice that they intentionally destroying embryos is no longer necessary.

Of course, this did not happen. Not surprisingly (nor surprising to Scott), there has been little movement in that direction. The reason is simple: it was not predominately about "finding cures" for patients in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that pro-embryo destruction proponents would be very pleased to find cures for degenerative diseases that up to this point could not be treated. They certainly used this argument to their advantage during the debate on the topic.

However, the main goal was not merely individual cures, but an ideology about science. Science as Savior. Scientific advancement as the only hope for humanity. The idea that ethical considerations could slow down the inevitable advancement of scientific is the enemy in our opponents view.

This is easily demonstrated by the response that many on the other side of the issue have had regarding this news. They used to claim that the destruction of human embryos was a necessity for any chance of amazing cures. Now that that argument has been taken from them, the veil has been lifted and their true reasoning is coming forth. Their argument have also become more desperate and deceitful. I plan on taking them down one by one in the next few posts.

In the meanwhile, I believe we should be relieved yet concerned regarding the future. It turns out that virtually all of the progress that has occurred in cellular science in the last few years has been accomplished using ethical techniques, while the destruction of human embryos has accomplished very little. Nevertheless, our opponents are still going strong, and showing their true colors in the process.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm Done! [Serge]

Mike Huckabee is taking a bit of heat for stretching the truth a bit in having earned a theology degree. I'm not sure it would exactly qualify as a "theology" degree, but I have finally finished my Master's in apologetics at Biola University. The main thing that this means is simply: more posting!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here I Stand [SK]

As an organization, LTI cannot and will not officially endorse candidates for public office. Thus, what follows is my own personal opinion, an opinion that in no way represents an official position of LTI, its staff, employees, or board of directors.

With all that legal stuff out of the way, let me end months of speculation for the two people who care and simply say that Scott Klusendorf, the individual, speaking strictly on his own and for no one else, likes the content of this article

That same individual will order a bumper sticker for his personal vehicle, but not one for the LTI limo or private jet.

Others within LTI will likely disagree with me. They are wrong, but they are free to disagree nonetheless.

For now...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Clarification on Rick Warren & Money [Jay]

In a recent post criticizing Rick Warren, I included amongst the preconditions that lead to Christian leaders going to what I described as “the bad place” a massive influx of money. Scott defended Rick Warren in this regard pointing out that Rick gives away most of what he makes through his publications. I clarified in my comment to his post why I brought up money:

“When I bring up money, I am not accusing Rick, Bruce, or Pat of greed. The simple fact of having a large stream of revenue coming in as a minister has an impact on your focus. It can be a huge blessing in that it frees your organization up to proactively pursue your mission. It can also expand your mission focus. The problem, as I personally see it, is that combination of financial freedom and power combined with an unusually large sphere of influence can confuse even the best people as to what their mission is.”

I want to clear that up. In the case of Bruce Wilkinson, if you wanted to live like a king you do not go to impoverished parts of Africa to do so. If Rick wanted only money, he certainly would not reverse tithe. He gives 90% of his income away to ministry work, takes no compensation from Saddleback, and paid back all of the money they ever gave him in salary. This is not avarice. My concern is not that he wants to live life in the fast lane and never was. As a professional fundraiser, I know that when revenue is not pouring in too fast to spend, then you have to be very intentional about your mission and how you are spending your finances to serve that mission. More money means more flexibility. With that, anyone can get off mission.

Also I said again:

“My point is this. People who have great success often lose focus on what they can practically accomplish. You were a huge success as a pastor, author, and church builder. Why shouldn’t you be able to tackle this AIDS thing now? But when the enormity of that undertaking becomes apparent, your zeal for results can betray your good sense. Pitch in and help, but keep your wits about you. I can not end abortion. It simply is not in my power. But I think I am a fair writer and speaker who is willing to use those talents to aid in the cause. If there were great success in ministry as a result of those abilities, I have to be careful that I do not forget that I am just a fair speaker and writer trying to do my part. Otherwise, I will be lumping my critics in with the Pharisees and dropping “do you know who I am” bombs all over the place.”

Dr. James Dobson once articulated the bad place that I describe like this; when you start out as a visionary you can begin to believe that no one truly understands what you are doing accept you and your wife. After enough time passes you will eventually start to think that even she doesn’t get it anymore.

I do not retract my astonishment at what Rick is currently doing in pursuit of his broadened mission to address the AIDS pandemic. I think it would be irresponsible not to address, what is in my opinion, his recent profoundly poor judgement and seeming insensitivity to criticism.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Links--Quotes from Romney, Moreland, and Beckwith [SK]

1) Check out these selected quotes from Mitt Romney's upcoming speech on religion and public life. If the rest of the speech is anything like this, he's going to belt a grand slam. Romney gets it--theology counts as real knowledge:

"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'" (HT: The Corner)

2) Francis Beckwith is interviewed about Defending Life:

Imagine, if I said, "Don't like slavery, then don't own one." If I said that, you would immediately realize that I did not truly grasp why people believe that slavery is wrong. It is not wrong because I don't like it. It's wrong because slaves are intrinsically valuable human beings who are not by nature property. Whether I like slavery or not is not relevant to the question of whether slavery is wrong. Imagine another example, "Don't like spousal abuse, then don't beat your spouse." Again, the wrongness of spousal abuse does not depend on my preferences or tastes. In fact, if someone liked spousal abuse, we would say that that he or she is evil or sick. We would not adjust our view of the matter and I say, "I guess spousal abuse is right for you, but not for me."

Let us apply this to abortion. When a pro-lifer says that abortion is wrong, he or she is not saying that abortion is unattractive, repugnant, or undesirable, though it may be all those things. Rather, he or she is saying that abortion is unjustified homicide, even if one finds it attractive, inoffensive, or desirable. Thus, when the abortion-rights advocate offers this slogan in response to the pro-lifer—"don't like abortion, don't have one"—he or she does not truly grasp what the pro-lifer is claiming. Of course, the pro-lifer has to make a further argument in order to show that the pro-life view is correct or at least plausible. But before the pro-lifer can do that, he or she has to make sure that the other side understands what the pro-lifer is claiming.

3) J.P. Moreland writes about media hypocrisy and abortion:

Question: Why won’t the media show pictures or video of abortions and aborted babies when they show the carnage of the Iraq war and the hideous dog fighting surrounding Michael Vick? Answer: It’s pure hypocrisy. The media is overwhelmingly secular and pro-abortion. The widespread use of ultra-sound pictures during pregnancy is decreasing the number of abortions. Similarly, if people were given the chance to view an abortion or its results on television, much of the abortion debate would be over. Media folk who get the importance of viewing graphic violence (dog fighting, brutality in war) to expose the real evil of certain acts and who won’t defend this right for abortion are hypocrites. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hillary 'Mainstream' on Abortion? [SK]

Hillary Clinton is blasting Barack Obama for voting 'present' (while a state senator in IL.) on parental notification, 'born-alive' legislation, and a ban on partial-birth abortion.

The email press release from Clinton--as cited by Kathryn Jean Lopez--reads as follows:

Present, Present, Present, Present, Present, Present, Present: As a State Senator, Barack Obama voted 'present' on seven choice bills, including a ban on 'partial birth abortion,' two parental notification laws and three 'born alive' bills. In each case, the right vote was clear, but Senator Obama chose political cover over standing and fighting for his convictions. Illinois NOW President Bonnie Grabenhofer says: "When we needed someone to take a stand, Senator Obama took a pass. He wasn't there for us then and we don't expect him to be now." Read more:
Let me see if I got the straight. Obama lacks "conviction" because he 1)failed to vote in favor of parents having no say over their under-age daughter's abortion, 2) failed to vote in favor of keeping it legal to stab a baby in the back of the head and suck out its brains, 3) failed to vote in favor protecting babies that survive an abortion procedure.

Presumably, Hillary would vote to allow all those barbaric practices.

And she wants to paint herself as "mainstream" on abortion as she works overtime to convince evangelicals that she's okay to vote for?

Rick Warren, are you paying attention?

HT: The Corner

Beckwith's Substance View of Human Persons [SK]

Defending Life, Chapter 6 Summary:

(For previous chapter review, go here.)

In their quest to dehumanize the unborn, abortion advocates often ignore the all-important distinction between substance things and property things. Living things are substances that maintain their identities through time while property things, such as cars and machinery, do not. A property thing, like my car, is nothing more than the sum total of its parts. Change the motor or replace a tire, you technically have a different vehicle. There is no internal nature (or essence) that orders its development and grounds its identity through change.

By contrast, a substance maintains its identity over time and change. What moves a puppy to maturity or fetus to an adult is not an external collection of parts, but an internal, defining nature or essence. As a substance develops, it does not become more of its kind, but matures according to its kind. It remains what it is from the moment it begins to exist. A puppy does not become more of a dog as it matures. Consequently, a substance functions in light of what it is and maintains its identity even if its ultimate capacities (for example, the ability to bark) are never realized.

Put differently, a substance is an entity in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the whole contains the internal nature that gives it unity and cohesiveness. Substances maintain their identity through change, while property things do not. A substance will develop accidental properties (such as self-awareness, size, and physical structure) as it matures, but these properties are non-essential and can be changed without altering the nature of the thing itself. This is why a person can lose a body part and yet retain his personal identity through that change.

Applied to the pro-life case, the substnace view says that you are identical to your former fetal self. You were the same being then as you are now, though your functional abilities have changed. From the moment you began to exist, there's been no substantial change in your essential nature.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charming, Winsome, and Attractive Ambassador for Life [SK]

...that's how I would describe Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform. I think this video clip proves the point.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Please, Rick--Say This! [SK]

Jay, your post about Rick Warren raises some important points. One small adjustment: I'm almost certain Warren donates most if not all of his book royalties to further the gospel. Thus, I don't think money is getting to his head as it does to some.

But you (as well as Brett Kunkle at STR) are right to feel uneasy about Warren's Hillary connection. The problem isn't that he partners with the likes of Obama and Clinton fighting AIDS, it's that he doesn't loudly qualify his cozy relationship with them. As a result, it's hard not to think they're using him for political gain. Indeed, when some of his own church members say they will now vote for Hillary (based on one speech about one issue), pastoral leadership must step in to provide clarity. To borrow from what I wrote last year, I think Warren could clear things up if he'd say the following:

I make no apology for partnering with Senators Obama and Clinton fighting AIDS. I value their friendship and hope we can work together to relieve human suffering. But a partnership is not an endorsement. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have yet to recognize that all human beings regardless of size, level of development, location, and dependency have a God-given right to life that cannot be infringed upon. Their failure to grasp that truth is regrettable and it's why, I believe, they wrongly voted to allow partial-birth abortion and the funding of destructive embryo research. Their position on these issues cannot be rationally or theologically supported. In the past, we discriminated on the basis of skin color and gender, as Senators Obama and Clinton know full-well. Now, however, with elective abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, we discriminate on the basis of size, level of development, location, and dependency. We've simply swapped one form of discrimination for another. As their friend, I'm hopeful both Senators will come to see that.
I have no ax to grind against Warren. In 2006, I defended his Saddleback AIDS Conference, namely, his invite to Senator Obama. Though some Christians saw it as theological compromise. I didn't. There's a huge difference between giving a non-believer the pulpit and working with him to fight disease. Rick Warren did not ask Senator Obama to preach at Saddleback Church or otherwise present theological truth. He asked him to participate (along with Senator Brownback) in a church-sponsored AIDS conference. The goal of the conference was not theology, but rescue: Lives are being lost to a deadly disease and Christians should work together with others to stem the tide. Indeed, I have no problem working with non-believers fighting abortion so why can't Warren work with them fighting AIDS?

But as you point out, Jay, things have progressed beyond that...

Future Christmas Present [SK]

Just once, before I die, I want to be here on Christmas eve.

Rick Warren is off the Reservation [Jay]

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County California has gone to the bad place. The bad place is easy to get to in the evangelical world. Take a pastor or Christian leader with some insight or gift of communication, give them book with an idea that takes off on a grass roots level, and a best seller is created. Christians love “the latest book” more than anything else, so the more it sells, the more the book becomes required reading. The pastor is flying all over the place answering questions, giving interviews, and receiving big fat royalty checks. And then they go to the bad place.

In this world, they are no longer satisfied being a pastor or a mere leader in the Christian community. In this place, they are more important than that. The bad place calls to them the same way American presidents immediately start to tinker with Israel after short runs of success. These people have done very well in the public eye and so they assume that they are here to tackle the big problems we mere mortals dare not address. AIDS, peace in the Middle East, and poverty are mountains that must be assaulted. They are there. The immensity of these issues entice the successful like an itch that must be scratched. AIDS is only a problem because Bono and Rick Warren have yet to address it. Poverty in Africa will be eliminated once Bruce Wilkinson goes there and pitches in. Why shouldn’t Pat Robertson be President of the United States? After all he is the host of the 700 Club.

To be certain, it is Christian to be concerned about those issues and more specifically the children of God all over the world that are afflicted by the climates created by devastation due to poverty, disease, and war. I do not insult these men for wanting to make a difference. I am warning them and all those that follow their leadership to be mindful of the fine line between a passionate desire to productively engage this world and hubris. Recognizing the terrible and destructive force of the AIDS pandemic is good, but listening to Rick Warren’s interview closely demonstrates some signs of something deeper. For instance:

“You know, I have to admit the Church was late to the table on this AIDS issue. And we had to repent on it. We just -- I just personally had to repent on it. I didn't get it for years. But once I understood, I said, okay, we're in, and we're in for the duration. This is not flavor of the month. This is not, you know, fad of the week for us. We're in it for long term because it's part of our mission, we believe.”

What does Rick mean that the Church was late to the table on the AIDS issue? What Church is he talking about? What organization repented? I assume he means more than Saddleback? This is the germ of the bad place. Who speaks for the Church and our terrible ills? What specifically had the Church failed to do universally? AIDS is most commonly spread through activities that both my home church and traditional Christian doctrine publicly recognize as poor decisions with sometimes terrible consequences up to and including contracting a deadly disease. We have not failed to inform people that promiscuity, adultery, and drug use are bad. In fact, Christians are often mocked and insulted for being so prudish and puritanical. Perhaps we have ignored people who are struggling and dying? I know that this is not universally true. Good Christians have been serving AIDS victims for years all over the world. I have missionary friends that see the devastation of it in Africa every day and have forsaken living here in the United States to serve God there. They are not alone and they host mission trips from American churches all year long. Christian Americans that have taken vacation from work and left their protected homes to go out into the world and help other people in desperate need. If Rick thinks we can do more, then great! Help us to see what that is and if we agree that your plans make sense we will join in and help. But that is not what he is doing. Rick behaves as if this issue is so vital that it supersedes other concerns.

I know what you some of you are thinking. “Oh, Jay, you are just worked up that he is inviting pro-choice politicians to address his church.” You are absolutely right, but not because he has one pet project that contradicts my own. I know a minister here in Marietta that has been moved by God to love and care for the homeless. Abortion is not on his radar, and that is fine with me. That said, would his passion for one particular area translate into supporting and promoting people that are opponents of other ministries? Absolutely not!! That God has moved Rick to a passionate level of interests is obvious. That Rick has subsequently become reckless and a touch arrogant as a result of his past success is equally obvious. Listen to this response:

SMITH: You know, there are people within the Evangelical movement who heard about Hillary Clinton speaking at Saddleback today who said this is a huge error and that just by inviting her you send the wrong message.

WARREN: Yeah. You know what? The greatest criticism Jesus got, he got not from political people or from secular leaders. He got it from religious people. And it's amazing to me that sometimes the people who understand grace are the least gracious people on the planet. And so, you know, we don't do things for cheers or jeers, for what I call strokes or pokes. We do it because we think it's the right thing to do. And we know that we need to be speaking up about this issue.

(See also here, here, and here for a WorldNet Daily Joseph Farah article)

Rick, are you telling me that inviting in a woman who has promised to repeal any and all Executive Orders that protect the unborn as her first priority in the White House to address the flock God called you to shepherd is the right thing to do? Why, because she has a favorable position on AIDS? Am I a Pharisee for questioning your wisdom? Am I one of the least gracious people on earth for thinking this beyond unwise? Are you now beyond reproach?

Rick is in the bad place. You may have noticed that I have referred to him this entire post by his first name. I do not know Rick Warren personally and do not want to give that impression. I do that to remind myself of something that perhaps Rick should consider. He is just some guy who God blessed with a great ministry. That blessing can affect us ordinary guys in odd ways. Let us hope that Rick realizes that soon. If not, we can only speculate how long until the next politician that is actively working to protect the state-sanctioned killing of 1 million innocent lives every year will be given the mic at Rick’s church.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Planned Parenthood makes us proud again [Jay]

A woman identified as Jane Doe in the court documents has sued a Planned Parenthood in Nebraska. Her uterus was perforated during an abortion and as a result she had to undergo a hysterectomy. She claims that she told the medical professionals during the procedure that something was wrong and that she was in pain and they did not stop the procedure.

Here is the Planned Parenthood defense as articulated by their lawyer, James Snowden. This woman was warned that a perforated uterus was a risk in abortion. She squirmed and the nurses told her that if she did not stop this would happen. This was not her first abortion. You can not stop a procedure once you have started it just because the patient is in terrible pain because you perforated her uterus.

Let me get this straight. Medical and surgical procedures hinge on whether or not everyone who gets one is capable of staying perfectly still of their own accord during the procedure. If a woman seems unusually jumpy and afraid, the Planned Parenthood response is to go ahead and stick sharp object in her uterus. Heck if she moves and has to get a hysterectomy as a result, we warned her. This is not Jane Doe’s first rodeo, folks. It is not like she is Snow White. She is very familiar with abortions. (Wink, wink)

My barber used to warn me that if I fidgeted too much he was going to cut my ear off. I guess Mr. Snowden thinks that cleared him of any responsibility if he had actually severed my ear from my head. After all, I had been to the barber before.

Planned Parenthood ladies and gentleman!! Get those end of year checks ready people!! Our tax dollars at work!!

HT: Jivin Jehoshaphat

Question for Mrs. Clinton at Next Democrat Debate [SK]

Why is it okay for the woman in this story to kill her unborn child but if her boyfriend wants to do it, it's first-degree murder?

Not that I expect CNN to have the guts to ask it....

Peggy Noonan on the Question Democrats Won't Have to Answer [SK]

Justin Taylor posts this gem from Peggy Noonan. She writes:

I will never forget that breathtaking moment when, in the CNN/YouTube debate earlier this fall, the woman from Ohio held up a picture and said, "Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards, this is a human fetus. Given a few more months, it will be a baby you could hold in your arms. You all say you're 'for the children.' I would ask you to look America in the eye and tell us how you can support laws to end this life. Thank you."

They were momentarily nonplussed, then awkwardly struggled to answer, to regain lost high ground. One of them, John Edwards I think, finally criticizing the woman for being "manipulative," using "hot images" and indulging in "the politics of personal destruction." The woman then stood in the audience for her follow up. "I beg your pardon, but the literal politics of personal destruction--of destroying a person--is what you stand for."

Oh, I wish I weren't about to say, "Wait, that didn't happen." For of course it did not. Who of our media masters would allow a question so piercing on such a painful and politically incorrect subject?

I thought of this the other night when citizens who turned out to be partisans for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards asked the Republicans, in debate, would Jesus support the death penalty, do you believe every word of the Bible, and what does the Confederate flag mean to you?

It was a good debate, feisty and revealing. It's not bad that the questions had a certain spin, and played on stereotypes of the GOP. It's just bad that it doesn't quite happen at Democratic debates. Somehow, there, an obscure restraint sets in on the part of news producers. Too bad. Running for most powerful person in the world is, among other things, an act of startling presumption. They all should be grilled, everyone, both sides. Winter voting approaches; may many chestnuts be roasted on an open fire.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kinsley Still Wrong on ESCR [SK]

Journalist Michael Kinsley thinks the pro-life case against embryonic stem cell research is bogus because pro-lifers are inconsistent. That is, because pro-lifers do not oppose IVF technology the way they do ESCR, it follows the case against ESCR collapses.

Steve Weimar gets to the heart of Kinsley's faulty reasoning:

Kinsley makes the dubious claim that not speaking against in-vitro fertilization makes embryonic stem cell research justified. The logical conclusion though from his line of reasoning is that both in vitro and ESCR are wrong, not that both are OK. Secular people argue this way all the time. They try to find an inconsistency and then claim that everything is permissible.

An example of this faulty reasoning is justifying bad behavior (such as sexual promiscuity) for women because men get a pass on the same bad behavior. But just because men do something immoral, doesn’t justify women doing the same immoral activity. Seems to me that the solution is to hold men to the same standard, rather than lowering standards for women.
For Kinsley to win, he must show the human embryos in question are not really human. His latest piece does nothing to advance that proposition; it only clouds the real issue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Liberalism as Secular Religion [SK]

Jonah Goldberg nails it:

As someone who subscribes to the view that liberalism is a secular religion, it is very frustrating that liberal politicians do not offer up a paper trail for people to scrutinize the way conservatives do. Liberalism has a dogma as rich and serious as conservatism, but you can't go to a liberal politician and ask: Are you loyal to John Dewey? Richard Rorty? John Rawls? You can't ask what their bible is because they are acolytes of the bookless faith of good deeds, the cult of do-goodery. So when they argue for keeping "religion" out of politics they are saying "keep your religion out of politics." When they say that we need to "get past ideology" they are saying we need to get past your ideology. This means that conservatives must constantly defend their own territory rather than demand a similar accounting from liberals.

Unfortunately, our political culture is ill-equipped with dealing with this fact. This wasn't true before Woodrow Wilson and the New Deal cemented a new conception of the primacy of government in our lives. The assumption that the state should be an all-purpose problem solver is a deeply ideological — I would argue religious — position. But we have been trained not to see it that way. And so we don't ask the right questions.

Watch These! [SK]

Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason has posted some great video clips defending the Christian worldview. Most are three minutes or less.

Surely you can afford three minutes to better equip yourself to engage, right?

Depressed? Need a Lift? [SK]

Try this to jump start your recovery

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Re: God Foundational? [SK]

Good post, Jay. The Brian McLaren example you cite is chilling. That alone should disqualify him from leadership. (Thank God he wasn't around in 1940 to instruct Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Neimoller on so-called single issues.)

Call me a simple man, but I've never understood the fascination with MacLaren and those like him.

First, given their belief we are trapped behind our own language communities and therefore can't know things as they really are, who in the heck are they to lecture us about anything--including our alleged need as Evangelicals to "change everything?" That is to say, how have they escaped their own language communities to tell us what's really true? Do McLaren, et al, think their views are true objectively or are they just constructs of their language communities? If the former, why can they get beyond language to see things as they really are but I can't? If the latter, why should I care what their language community thinks? Maybe I'm part of a different community and thus can't connect with their preaching. In short, I find their whole enterprise self-refuting.

Second, McLaren attacks a strawman when he says that foundationalism (the philosophical view that we can build our beliefs on a set of 'foundational' or basic beleifs) is dead because Christians don't have "bombproof" certainty for their basic truth claims. Since when do we need certainty to have genuine knowledge? I'll bet McLaren doesn't have "bombproof" certainty that his wife isn't having an affair with Michael Jackson, but does that mean he should doubt her fidelity? In the same way, Christians aren't required to have certainty before claiming their beliefs are true and reasonable to believe. They only need to demonstrate that their worldview is more plausible than alternative explanations. Thus, while I cannot prove God exists with bombproof certainty, it's still reasonable for me to say He exists provided the evidence for His existence is more compelling than the evidence against his existence.

Foundational but not Important? [Jay]

Does God exist? If we reason that God exits, then how do this God and I relate to each other if at all? That question is more important than any other that we can possibly consider. It goes to the very root of, “What is this life I find myself in and why am I here?” If there is a creative force that sustains or at the very least can destroy at will all of the universe, then it might behoove me to consider how active this being is in my daily life. These questions are quite simply more vital to address than any other in importance. But the irony is, they are at the same time of less immediate importance to most people that I talk to. Most of the men that I ask spend more time concerned with the details of their workweek than any other matter. Their job presents immediate challenges and so the questions and problems of the moment that are subordinate in overall importance to the questions of God dominate their thought life. The most vital and transcendent questions are left either rarely considered or altogether ignored. One man told me point blank, “I just don’t have time to care about those big questions during the work week.”

I think honest reflection leads me to conclude that the sanctity of life issue suffers in much the same way. People will concede that the unborn are living human beings and that abortion is morally wrong, but they are too busy to stop addressing immediately pressing personal issues to reflect on the issue much beyond that concession. Passionately pro-life people have work, PTA fundraisers, children’s events, or whatever. Now, throw in a healthy fear of Islamic terrorists and the overwhelming belief among conservatives that the war in Iraq trumps all other political issues and you have the environment that we now find ourselves in. Pro-life is important, just like so many other things are important. But other things are taking our immediate attention right now. Even when the majority of people look upon abortion as a negative, they fail to see what that negative has to do with what concerns them most right here right now.

A good example of this was seen at the Stand to Reason blog back in October. Brett linked to a Brian McLaren promo for his new book Everything Must Change. In the promo piece McLaren waxes rhapsodically about the dissatisfaction of many people with what he characterizes as status quo Christianity. He then drops the bomb that more and more Catholics are tired of seeing their rich tradition and heritage hijacked by a single issue voting block, something McLaren later describes as shallow. Frank Beckwith caught this and responded with the following:

"I sat through the video with my mouth hanging open in utter amazement that this pastor presented the profundity of the sanctity of life by disguising it (calling it a"single issue") and then dismissing it by characterizing those who hold this view in an uncharitable way.

The view that human beings are made in the image of God and ought to be protected by our laws and the wider community is not a "single issue." It is the principle that is the point of justice itself: to love our neighbors as ourselves; to exercise charity; to help the vulnerable and the weak."

The importance of the sanctity of life as an issue confronting our culture today can not be overstated. We are at a point in time where we must ask ourselves what kind of people we wish to be. We are empowered with awesome destructive capabilities and armed with a long list of rationales as to why our use of this destructive power is better for ourselves, the sick, the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, and the unborn human lives we so cavalierly dispose of every day. We can accept the idea that a little destruction of life results in a great deal of good for everyone around us, or we can decide that whatever challenges we face we desire to be a moral people that would not kill innocent others incapable of defending themselves no matter how great the benefit of doing so. Are we relativists and consequentialists, or do we regard what we are doing as important as the results that we derive from our actions? The answer to that question sets the table for how mankind will deal with our ever increasing scientific ability to alter the very structure of humanity on a physical and genetic level.

But the average person does not appear to feel like this is that important. The average person that I talk to identifies with McLaren. Evidence you ask? Pro-lifers can claim to be as responsible for reelecting Bush as much or more than any other voting block. Without us, Bush is watching President Kerry ramp up his reelection bid. The current leading candidate for the Republican party is openly pro-choice. He is however strong on the war in Iraq, dealing with Iran and Muslim terrorists, and conservative fiscal policy. We are in a recession and afraid of terrorism. The felt needs are surpassing the foundational issues as we speak.

How then do we help people to see that this is “That Important?” How do we take the pro-life message beyond voting cycles and into the daily life of America? How do we convince the man who has a meeting with his boss in an hour, the mother that is trying to work and raise two kids, and the company president that is worried about covering payrolls that in the midst of all of this responsibility they must engage the sanctity of life question as a matter of foundational importance? If people are too busy to consider God, what is left for pro-life?

I heard a sports radio talk show host recently say that we, meaning Americans, solve problems that are important to us. If we have not solved it, he reasons, we just don’t really care all that much. As arguable as the point is, there is a grain of disturbing truth in that observation. It is like the Sex and the City observation, “He is just not all that into you.” The information is upsetting and liberating all at the same time. When we start to honestly admit that the American people are just not engaged on this issue right now, we then have to start to ask why and how do we change that. If life is of inherent value as a result of what we are and our relationship to our creator, then doing nothing is NEVER an option.

Is Incrementalism Wrong? Part 10 Billion [SK]

That was the subject of my radio interview on Issues Etc., yesterday.

Summary: Pro-lifers can make a moral impact by legislating to protect as many lives as we can given the judicial restrictions currently imposed on us. “The wise statesman,” writes Harry Jaffa, “will act to achieve the greatest measure of justice the world in which he is acting admits.” Doing so does not constitute an illicit cooperation with an unjust law. It does not concede the legitimacy of any abortion. It does not collapse into moral relativism. Rather, it recognizes current legal and political obstacles and works within them to save as many lives as possible.

Meanwhile, Jivin J brought to my attention this National Review piece by Clark Forsythe and Dennis Burke. The authors convincingly explain why, given the current judicial climate, state human life amendments are not the best way to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yes, It's Great News, But...[SK]

Yuval Levin writes of a major scientific breakthrough that gives us embryonic stem cells without creating, then killing, embryonic human beings:

Two prominent scientific journals—Science and Cell—are each today publishing papers that demonstrate extraordinary success with a technique called “somatic cell reprogramming.” Working separately, and using slightly different methods, these two teams (one of which is led by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, the original innovator of human embryonic stem cells) have each successfully taken a regular human skin cell and transformed it into what appears to be the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell—all without the need for embryos, or eggs, or any other ethically controversial methods. The resulting cells (which they call induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells) have passed all the tests for “pluripotency” and seem to function just like embryonic stem cells. Again, they’ve done this in humans, not just in animals. Thomson’s team puts the matter plainly in the usual scientific deadpan: “The human iPS cells described here meet the defining criteria we originally proposed for human ES [embryonic stem] cells, with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos.” In other words: embryonic stem cells not from embryos. A "significant exception" indeed.
This is incredible news that should excite everyone, regardless of one's view about ESCR. But don’t think for a moment that advocates of destructive embryo research are going to just go away. True, they say they want cures, but given their rhetoric on adult stem cell research, it seems they also want dead embryos. In short, this new (and indeed, exciting!) breakthrough will not resolve the bitter worldview conflict over what makes humans valuable in the first place. Are we valuable for what we are intrinisically or only valuable for what we can do instrumentally? We will still have to fight that battle, no matter what science gives us.

Is The Pro-Life Movement Politically Weak? [SK]

Hadley Arkes argues "the nomination and election of Rudy Giuliani would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics. And that would be the case regardless of whether pro-lifers respond to his nomination by refusing to vote for Giuliani, forming a third party, or folding themselves into a coalition that succeeds in electing Giuliani."

Arkes then suggests it might be better to lose to Hillary Clinton than to win with Rudy Giuliani. "The Republicans might be diminished, but they would be essentially intact as a pro-life party; and, when the electoral winds shift again, they have a chance of coming back with their character intact."

Yes and no. True, we'd still be a pro-life party, but the one thing Arkes does not mention in his otherwise stellar piece is what Hillary's federally-mandated health care system might do to pro-lifers. As I commented over at Justin Taylor's blog, once a national health care system is put in place that includes abortion services (as a Hillary plan most certainly would), a susequent pro-life president is not going to waltz into the White House in 2012 and simply undo all that. Even if we score big and elect a GOP congress to support the new prez (a big stretch by any political calculation), it's unlikely lawmakers would have the backbone to reverse what Hillary did. I can just hear the press coverage now: "Senator Jones wants to take away your health care and let your children die from disease, all because he wants to impose his religion on you."

In short, there are some things worse than losing the GOP as a pro-life party. "Hillary Care" might be one of them. Federal Courts jammed with pro-abortion justices is another. In the end, Arkes himself concedes the latter point, though not without a chilling observation about just how weak the pro-life movement truly is:

"Faced then with the possibility of a Democratic presidency determined to weave the ethic of abortion rights more firmly into our law and to have its judges install same-sex marriage, a Giuliani candidacy could offer some slender grounds of hope. Under those conditions, I might bite my lip, vote for him, and indulge those hopes. But they would be the hopes of the supplicants. And they will be affected at every point by the awareness of just who has the upper hand, and just who, in this party newly reshaped, does not matter all that much."

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

This Is NOT What I Meant [Bob]

Beside his penchant for blaming natural disasters, both past and future (like an America-directed-tsunami or what residents of Dover, PA should expect after the defeat of ID there) on the immorality and misdeeds of humanity, Pat Robertson has also made some pretty outrageous public gaffs -- like musing about the assassination of Hugo Chavez -- that, even when "clarified," have succeeded in rendering him irrelevant in the mainstream political debate.

Today however, I can only say that I hope he is as irrelevant to most of America's "values voters" as he is to me. That's because today Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president.

We here at the LTI blog have engaged in legitimate (and cordial) debate about our differences concerning a Giuliani presidency and what it would mean for the pro-life agenda. Our "disagreements" have always been about long-term strategy. But, as one who believes a vote for Giuliani in the general election is better than any alternative from the other party, I have tried to make it clear that I would in no way support Giuliani during the nomination process. For that reason, I see Robertson's endorsement as being detestable.

For all his bluster about immorality invoking the wrath of God, it is beyond me how Robertson can look past Giuliani's positions on abortion and homosexual rights to only see his fiscal conservatism and stance on the War on Terror. This is a move that flies in the face of the morality Robertson claims to hold in such high regard. He should be ashamed. I just hope that Robertson's past actions have rendered his endorsement a whispered call to a crowd that isn't listening.

"Hardly Better than Wild Guesses" [Serge]

My light blogging has been the result of me trying to finish up my last term at Biola University - not from a lack of blogable material. Choosing the most disingenuous argument from those in favor of the destruction of human embryos for research is challenging. However, I believe the argument that a state should borrow money to fund the killing of human embryos as a sound, profitable economic policy is the worst. The idea that we should spend tax dollars on highly speculative research as an economic investment is simply wrong.

I'm not the only one who believes so. I believe I would disagree with almost every thing that author Russel Korobkin states in his book Stem Cell Century, but even he agrees that this line of reasoning is mistaken. Guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, he says this about the economic estimates from destructive ESCR:

How much of a return will the investment provide for New Jersey? To say the answer is uncertain would be an understatement. The projections that have been published ($2 billion is bandied about by supporters of the bill) are hardly better than wild guesses. Direct tax revenues and potential revenue-sharing from the developers of blockbuster inventions will return only a small portion of the expenditure to state coffers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Graphic Videos! How Abhorrent! [Jay]

Okay I am being a little deceptive here. It is not graphic videos of unborn children that have been aborted. It is the slaughter of dolphins/pilot whales in Taiji, Japan. According to the Breitbart TV report, as many as 23,000 of the creatures are killed every year. The report says that the Japanese believe that the dolphins should be treated just like any other fish, which immediately makes me hope that this is a translation problem and not that the Japanese think that dolphins and whales are fish. That nit pick aside, in the video the reporter says that, “this is what the Japanese fisherman do not want you to see.” They then show dolphins being slaughtered. (Also see article here)

Why do they think seeing the graphic images will move us in a way that reading or hearing about the killing otherwise would not? Why would they use the graphic images of a cove filled with blood and baby dolphins being piled up with other dead and dying animals? Isn’t this emotionally manipulative? Of course it is! And that is okay.

I remember reading Charles Finney, the revivalist preacher of the 19th century Second Great Awakening.
He was defending the revival service as an emotional appeal. Instead of saying that it was not so, he embraced it. He said that the world used emotion every day to drive a wedge between Christ and his people, why shouldn’t the church use it to fight back and save lives. He argued that emotion was perfectly legitimate within the greater fight to save lives. He was not defending blind, unchecked, irrational emotion. He was defending the idea that preaching the truth of Christ with passion and looking to appeal to the emotions of those who are lost or back slidden was not only permissable but essential. We are rational and emotional beings.

Graphic images that augment rational argument and other emotional appeals complete the pro-life message. They can not become the sole method of communicating, but when used in a constructive context they help appeal to the entire being. It is fair when trying to save dolphins and it is fair when trying to save the unborn. The world uses all sorts of emotionally manipulative methods to steer people to the pro-choice position. It will take a healthy dose of our own emotion infused with a sound rational core of argument to win the whole person to our side.

Anecdotally, I work in a pro-life ministry and BLOG for LTI. I am immersed in the pro-life cause most of the hours of my days. I was recently reading a brochure here at CPS and I saw a graphic image of a trash can filled with unborn children that had been aborted around the 20th week. It was shocking. It also reminded me what my life is about and why. I needed the emotional appeal, and the imagery worked. I just came off of reading Defending Life by Frank Beckwith and rereading Hadley Arkes Natural Rights and the Right to Choose. I am currently reading Leon Kass’s Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics. The intellect was being fed just fine, but it is not enough. The pictures injected the necessary cooperative feeling to go with the intellectual certainty and outrage.

Do not apologize for appealing to emotion. As long as it is centered in a well-rounded message and argument, the use of emotional appeal is entirely legitimate. We are fighting an emotional battle for whole human beings. To abandon the emotional appeal is to leave a powerful tool sitting in the shed not because it is ineffective but because some find its use distasteful.

HT: The Drudge Report

Coburn and the Morality of Deficit Spending [Jay]

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has asserted that deficit spending is a moral issue that now surpasses abortion. To be clear, he has been saying this for years and this new attention is probably as much a product of a slow news cycle and Coburn’s current commitment to hold the Senate hostage to his agenda. But lets give Coburn the benefit of the doubt that he is not a raving loon and examine what he is actually saying to see if it has merit.

I assume that by framing deficit spending in moral terms he is trying to craft the argument that deficit spending is immoral. His basis for this is that it “is robbing the next generation of opportunity…you are going to save a child from being aborted so they can be born in to a debtors prison.”

The immorality of deficit spending is defined by the future financial climate that we will create based on bad fiscal decisions. Arguable but lets stipulate the point to move on. It surpasses the abortion issue in moral importance because even if we were able to curtail or eliminate abortion the lives saved would be born into a system that robbed them of opportunity. Now this argument is not novel. It is just odd to see it pop up in fiscal policy discussions.

Coburn is arguing that a negative financial situation is such an impediment to a quality of life that it is of higher importance to address the financial climate than it is to preserve life. This is the same pro-choice argument that we have heard for years in a whole new venue. It only works if you agree that it would be better for people to be aborted than to be born into desperate financial situations.

Again, this fails to recognize a fundamental difference in assessing a situation and the measures that are taken to address it. If you honestly believed that allowing a child to be born into difficult financial circumstances guarantees a loss of opportunity and a life of struggle (this is both NOT obvious and is time and again confounded by people who live incredibly successful and fulfilling lives after being born into a harsh financial climate) it does not morally justify killing them to prevent that loss of opportunity. What are we doing and why? That is always the question. If the unborn are not human beings with a value inherent in the type of being they are, then abortion is not a moral issue at all. If they are human beings with value, then comparing an arguable financial policy to the widespread unnecessary destruction of innocent human lives shows a lack of understanding of moral issues that borders on the imbecilic. Would he assert this if we started killing 8-year olds living in households struggling with poverty and debt? Would he still say that the financial climate itself surpassed what we were doing in moral weight and urgency? I hope not.

This is an indication that Coburn either clearly does not see the unborn as human beings with a natural right to life or that he does not see abortion as something that is being done but as some natural part of our policy discussion. People propose and debate radically different fiscal strategies all of the time. Some of them work better than others and some lead us into recessions and weak economies. People also kill an average of 1.3 million unborn lives in the United States through surgical abortion alone since Roe v. Wade in 1973. It is hard to see how a doctor and a Senator could be so daft and insensitive as to not see the moral difference between those two.

HT: The Drudge Report

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bob and Jay Making Good Points [SK]

I'm way too busy to get involved in the political brawl between Bob and Jay, other than to say I'm glad to see some spirited, but graciously delivered, discussion on the topic. Seriously, I'm not sure you guys disagree all that much. As for me, they'll be no Rudy yardsigns at my house until the primaries end.

But should Rudy get the GOP nod, pro-lifers need to take a deep breath before sitting the election out. Consider that Hillary, with overwhelming support from a Democrat Congress (does anyone seriously doubt the Dems will have HUGE majorities in 09?), will likely force the American public into a nationalized health-care plan that includes funding for ESCR, cloning, and elective abortion. Even if she's only a one-termer, and I think she would be, I don't think we can easily undue nationalized health-care with a new pro-life president in 2012. We're stuck with tax-funded destruction of human life! (That's almost as bad as SCOTUS stacked against us.)

So, before saying NEVER to Rudy--even if the primary voters select him-- imagine the 09 State of the Union Address with Hillary beaming at the podium, Nancy Pelosi still seated in the Speaker's chair, and a cheering lefty Congress eager to fund the destruction of countless human lives. Rudy won't save all unborn humans, but he might save some. Thus, if I can't promote the good with my vote, I'll at least work to limit the evil insofar as possible.

Right now, I'm swamped with speaking duties that won't let up until November 17. Please don't take offense if I don't respond to comments before then. (Jay and Bob are doing just fine!) At that time, I'll also continue my blogging tour of Beckwith's Defending Life.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Quick Response to Bob [Jay]

This is in response to Bob's previous post and the comments that followed.

I do not share any of your optimism about RG. All of your arguments are based on the belief that you can trust him to mean what he says about his intentions in nominating judges. There is no moral basis for this trust as RG is not morally opposed to abortion, he just has a vague idea about the type of judges he would like to nominate. I also am inclined to find his early shifts in public message on abortion as an indication that he is campaigning and as full of nonsense as anyone.

That said, Hillary made it clear at her recent address to Planned Parenthood that her first day in office will be dedicated to an all out assault on all of the progress that was made in policy under Bush, as limited as that is. So I am in the position of holding her at her word and believing she will do what she says. That means that my objective is to make certain that I do everything in my ability not to allow Hillary into office through the power of vote that I have been given. I would vote for RG if forced to not because I believe for one moment that we can predict what he will do, but because HC has dedicated herself to being an active enemy to all I hold dear. I could not in good conscience allow my actions to assist her in aqcuiring the office that will help her maximize the damage that she can do to the unborn. RG is largely an unkown with elements I despise. Hillary has promised to be a force for the opposition from day one.

I find the idea of voting for RG just slightly less detestable than the idea of doing anything that would ultimately help HC. Now I will resume praying that this is not actually the future choice that we are facing. It is way too early to crown either of them the candidate. This time last cycle it looked like Howard Dean was on his way to a face off versus Bush. Things change. And HC v. RG is terrible for all of us who cherish the sanctity of life.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Practical Pro-Life Politics [Bob]

Yesterday, in USA Today, Michael Medved made the case ("Abortion's Shades of Gray") that today's abortion beliefs "are much more nuanced ... [and that] it's no longer a black-and-white debate." While I may agree with him about today's beliefs and arguments, that does nothing to change the black and white facts about abortion. As Jay pointed out yesterday, there are clear distinctions between all the nuanced arguments, justifications and beliefs that people put forth and the simple issue of the moral status of an unborn, innocent human being. But that is not what I want to address.

Before I make my point, I want to make it crystal clear that, as a pro-life advocate and voter, I will do everything in my power to defeat Rudy Giuliani in the Republican primary process. I will do this for many reasons, not the least of which is his stance on abortion. But, when it comes to electing someone like Giuliani to the presidency (if it does come to that), all the talk of abandoning the Republican party to demonstrate our disgust for his views, or of launching a third-party in protest, are not only inane, but genuinely destructive to the pro-life cause. Let me explain.

Medved points out the key differences between Giuliani's platform and those of the leading Democratic candidates. Here's the list:
  • Giuliani has committed to preserve the Hyde Ammendment, banning taxpayer money for abortions ... the top Democrats urge repeal and favor federal funding.
  • Giuliani applauded the recent SCOTUS decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion ... all leading Democrats condemned it in harsh terms.
  • Giuliani supports tougher rules on parental notification for underage girls seeking abortion ... Clinton and Obama oppose such legislation.
  • Giuliani has specifically cited strict-constructionists like Scalia, Alito and Roberts as his models for future appointees to SCOTUS ... top Democrats regularly express conempt for the conservative jurists Giuliani admires and worked against all three of these.

In other words, when it comes to the abortion issue, a Giuliani presidency would look no different from that of George W. Bush. In fact, given the likelihood that the next president will appoint one or more justices to SCOTUS, positive (though incremental) steps toward the possibility of overturning Roe would move noticeably in the right direction. The alternative would be an utter disaster.

Along those lines, some have expressed dismay toward the seemingly opportunistic late change in Romney's abortion views. Point granted. But my sources tell me that Romney convened a meeting of several pro-life advocates and asked them to make their case. After that meeting(s), his view was changed. Given that organizations like the Life Training Institute exist to "persuasively communicate the pro-life message," does it make sense to chastise those for whom our message may actually have been persuasive? Can we not consider the fact that our arguments may be working? I have no way of knowing Mitt Romney's motivation for seeing the pro-life light. But motivations are irrelevant if his policy stance agrees with ours. Romney has never given any indication (that I know of) to doubt that point.

So, at risk of re-igniting the wrath of the purists out there, I simply propose that we keep our collective eyes on the mission at hand and take every practical and effective step we can to achieve it. As a former Marine, I hate the idea of losing tactical skirmishes. But, more importantly, I refuse to submit to strategies that have no hope of winning the war.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Terribly Sad, but Not Justification [Jay]

This article by Rowan Pelling for the Telegraph is well meaning, heartfelt, and completely misses the point. She is writing simultaneously the day before she goes for a 20-week check up on her unborn child and during the week of the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act in Great Britain. She shares several scenarios where friends or acquaintances were forced into a dilemma where they had to choose between a poorly timed pregnancy and some other option that was gut wrenching and terrible. For example:

"Take the young woman whose mentally unstable boyfriend said he would kill himself if she continued with her pregnancy, or the wife who felt it would be injurious to her own health and her familial responsibilities to have another child in her late forties?"

I have no doubt that these situations were emotionally trying and difficult. That said, is she arguing that the emotional instability of the father gives us sufficient cause to terminate the life of an innocent human being? Does she believe that a woman who is pregnant at an unusually advanced age is morally justified in destroying innocent human life, much less the life of her own child? She must believe so, because barring the acknowledged humanity and value of the unborn it is completely unnecessary to justify abortion at all. If the unborn life does not matter and has no value as a being, then you do not have to come up with such compelling arguments to defend legalized abortion. If the unborn human life is intrinsically valuable, then the examples, though difficult, are nowhere near the neighborhood of compelling enough.

How about these?

“What about a friend of mine who fell pregnant when she had just started her own company and knew her colleagues' jobs and investors' return depended on her being chained to her desk for the next two years?

I know of several families where three or four children arrived in almost as many years and the parents felt an already strained marriage couldn't survive a precipitous extra arrival.”

Do you see the insanity that is underlying in these anecdotes? They appeal to emotion, but they create a system that is terribly dangerous. My coworkers will suffer financially if I do not abort this unexpected life?! Well that is life in the grown up world people. We lose jobs (believe me I know), the market changes, economies go in the tank, and people unexpectedly leave positions which results in income loss and unemployment for others. That is what we call life. What it is not is justification for ending the life of an innocent unborn human. As for the marriage, are you seriously suggesting that destroying children is a morally acceptable path to marital reconciliation? Why not kill some of the ones that you already have? If getting rid of the unborn life is helpful, think of how much more helpful picking off one of the older ones will be. Pick the one you like the least. If you think I am being ridiculous and insensitive then tell me why it is any different. Because the older child is alive? So is the unborn child. Because the older child is a person? Now we are getting to the point. As Scott would say, AHHH! Then if the unborn child is also a person/human being with intrinsic value, it is equally wrong to kill them as well. This means the emotional anecdotes are really not helpful. They may tell us why people have abortions, but they never explain why it is morally right or even acceptable for them to do so.

Here is the strange logic of the pro choicer in all its glory, though. In the same article she writes both of the following:

“Women who have abortions for social rather than medical reasons also often face tough dilemmas. While I don't doubt there are a small number of callow young females who will abort a foetus with less thought than they give to their manicure, I have yet to meet or hear of one.”


“All the women involved in these cases revered the miracle of life, but they also had to acknowledge the miracle of getting pregnant when you're, variously, on the Pill, using a condom, having a period or over 45. The consequences of owning a womb and wanting a sex-life aren't always tidy.”

These women revere life and she has never heard of a woman so insensitive as to not agonize over the need for her abortion. But then later she writes:

“The scale of public disquiet over the hideous irony of killing 24-week-old babies in one ward while trying to save them in another demonstrates a widespread demand to engage with the ethical dilemmas.

Although I am theoretically pro-choice, I was horrified by this weekend's statistics detailing foetuses aborted in the South-West between 2002 and 2005 for having club feet (54) and extra or webbed digits (26).”

Why so horrified? Why the scale of public disquiet? Because no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, abortion is a bloody awful mess. Emotions run high and lives are irrevocably changed by unexpected children, but we must stop being a people that sees permanently killing life as an answer to temporary problems. We need it legal for the really tough cases, and then also if the child is physically inferior, and in case it disrupts my financial planning, and if it is a girl and I wanted a boy, and ah hell I just don’t want to have a baby. Let me have sex and live free. The callousness grows because without extreme justification, all of these decisions are in the same moral family. And Rowan just does not get that point.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dr. Beckwith Comment Jackpot! [Jay]

I sometimes wonder why I bother reading the comments at so many blogs and websites. Most are information dumping and silliness. I have personally ceased to comment on other sites after finding out through some considerable effort that people are not listening. Occasionally I will be moved to contribute, but only when I feel like the thread is so missing the point that a new thought needs to be introduced just so that it is there in the midst of the mess of argument. Then I find stuff like this at STR Blog and I remember all over again that you never know who you are going to run into.

Frank Beckwith decided to post a small rant in reference to this post and this story in Newsweek about a shift in the evangelical mindset toward a greater tolerance for homosexuals. The answer is pure gold and the type of comment searching jackpot that will keep me mining for intellectual gems.

This story is the secular equivalent of the naive, though well-meaning, white person who refers to his black friend as "well-spoken." It reveals, in other words, the latent bigotry harbored by secularists who have come to believe the stereotypes about Christians that they helped to perpetuate over the past thirty years.

Admittedly, we don't help ourselves, at times. Nevertheless, it is clearly the case that Christians are far more tolerant of their moral deviants than are secularists. Christians have ministries to those struggling with sexual identity; secularists have "sensitivity classes"--quasi-fascist re-education sessions--for those who challenge their orthodoxy. Christians can sit through college classes for 15 weeks hearing their faith attacked, and they pray for their professors, and often inquire with folks at places like STR on how to best address these attacks in a winsome manner. Secularists alert the thought-police and scream "hate crime," homophobe, intolerant, etc. Christians put up with incessant media attacks upon their virtue. We can't even get a soda or haircut or go to a doctor's appointment without being forced to listen to some trashy music or subjected to some ridiculous soap opera. In fact, I am at Starbucks right now with a coffee cup that includes some crazy "wise saying" by some pontificating half-wit. We are confronted by entertainment options that include scores of sit-coms and dramas where nobody goes to church and their are more homosexuals than southern Baptists, though in the real world it is quite different. We put up with some s**t that we should be put in the tolerance hall of fame (if there is one).

When was the last time you heard of a Christian group requiring the state to conduct church services in a gay bathhouse? Yet, if an elderly Christian couple does not want to rent a room to a an unmarried cohabiting same-sex couple, the PC police will scream discrimination and force these Christians to have sin take place under their roof. All in the name of "tolerance."

Rant over.

But it was not over, because another commenter jumped in where fools rush in and mistakenly challenged Frank on the rights of Christians to discriminate in the use of their private homes as rental property. It must be noted the commenter later claimed that he thought the discussion was over a public business and not a private home, but the response from Dr. Beckwith is classic none the less.

I didn't get the memo in which the secular society was given the metaphysical power to be the arbiter of the parameters of Christian belief.

The couple in my illustration own their home--their private domain; so private, in fact, that the Supreme Court has asserted that the government cannot tell them whether or not they can use contraceptive devices, engage in sodomy, or arrange for an abortion at the local clinic. And yet, if they want to exercise their religious liberty by forbidding the occurrence of sin on their property, the government will intervene and force them to disobey conscience.
It is beyond me how anyone cannot be disturbed by this state of affairs.

A brief postscript, I know it is superfluous in the pro-life movement to say that Dr. Beckwith has been influential in our thinking. That said, I consider it a privilege and an honor to be on the same side as such people as he and Dr. William Lane Craig, whom God has blessed me to know personally. The writings and presentations of those two men helped usher me into the modern Christian philosophical movement. I am constantly amazed that the Christian family has such as these that have dedicated their considerable intellectual resources to engaging the culture for the Kingdom. That they both freely interact on the Internet and field questions and comments is a testament to the tremendous hearts that God has given them to compliment their minds. This is not hero worship, but just honest appreciation for brothers in Christ who have helped make me more than what I was.

HT: Stand to Reason Blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trounson's Group Being Investigated for Scientific Fraud [Serge]

Alan Trounson is the incoming director of the $3,000,000,000.00 California Stem Cell Agency. While he chooses how to divy up such an amount for "scientific" research, it should be noted that his group in Monash University, Australia is being investigated for scientific fraud.

This report from the very pro-ESCR California Stem Cell Report pretty much sums up the attitude among those committed to get the "truth" about this issue:

Trounson Reports Not Appearing in American Mainstream Media

For the California stem cell agency, the good news is that the Australian stories about an investigation linked peripherally to its incoming president, Alan Trounson, have not really surfaced in the United States.

The usual online searches today failed to turn up any significant stories on the matter in the mainstream American media.
Business as usual.

HT: Wesley Smith

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What are We Doing? [Jay]

There will be no links to other articles on this post. I will not be analytical in the academic or philosophical sense. I sat down to write this because I am sad tonight. Scott does not often share his feelings on this blog, but as most of you are aware, I am not Scott. The emotional aspects of the pro-life movement are central to my expression because I am an emotional man. And tonight this emotional guy is sad because I have been studying and reading and meandering about the internet and I was struck again with the simple question that drives me to write and speak and advocate for the pro-life movement in the first place. What are we doing?

That is the meat of the matter right? What are the unborn and what are we doing to them? All of the clever arguments for those who support the rights of cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion amount to explanations as to why we are allowed to do something to another life, but this is the simple question that addresses the ultimate morality of bio-ethics. The unborn may not feel pain, they are not self aware, the embryo lacks any physical characteristics that look human, the terminally ill are often depressed and in pain. I understand that many of the things that others say about the objects of our actions are true. I also grasp that there are benefits to the deaths of these human beings. A frightened pregnant teenage girl gets to have a brief surgical procedure and move on with her life. The unused embryonic humans can be a benefit to our research and help produce therapies and cures for children all over the world. Families anguishing over loved ones suffering and cognitively absent get to release that loved one from the terrible agonizing prison of their broken body and begin to pick up the pieces of their lives. But what are we doing? Without explaining anything to me about the condition or context of the object of my actions or the positive end results of those actions, what are we doing?

There is very little argument that the unborn, the terminally ill, the severely brain damaged, and the extreme elderly are not human beings. Some others may wish to quibble over their utility or their inclusion into the moral family of personhood, but no one really argues that they are not human beings. So what are we doing? In the case of abortion, we are terminating the lives of human beings in gruesome procedures because we find ourselves pregnant as a result of sex. Who cares that we all know that sex is the leading cause of pregnancy? We end the lives of human beings on a massive scale because the natural and expected human life that was begun as a result of our actions is not wanted. I know that there are hard cases such as rape and incest, but only an idiot would pretend they represent abortion. About 95% of the time, we just don’t want the baby. And so we kill the unborn human being. All of the rest of the arguing is to explain why that is okay. What we are doing is ending human life for convenience.

How about the terminally ill? My mother was telling me about her living will. She said that she wants all measures to prolong her life removed in extreme cases so that I would not be burdened to make the decisions I made with my father for her. She said that this included artificial feeding tubes like those removed from Terry Schiavo. I asked my mother if she understood that whatever her wishes were, I had no intention of dehydrating her to death. They will have to drag me off to jail before I will be a party to that. What we did to Terry was deny her basic human necessities. We stopped feeding her. I respect my mother’s desire to not be kept alive by invasive and extreme medical measures, but I will not be a party to dehydrating her or anyone else to death. Nor will I be a part of poisoning them to death by an overdose of prescription drugs. That is what we are doing.

Finally, what about embryonic stem cell research and cloning? We are creating little human lives and then quickly destroying them or harvesting them for their stem cells. We are endlessly lectured that taking these liberties with a human being will produce great cures to terrible maladies. We are assured that this stage of development does not physically resemble anything that would be likely to incite emotional responses similar to the well formed aborted fetuses in graphic images used by pro-lifers. We are told that these lives that hold no potential of progressing to being a person can rescue us from all sorts of terrifying illnesses. I am reminded of a scene from the movie Extreme Measures where Hugh Grant has been confronted by Gene Hackman. Hackman’s character has been secretly experimenting on the homeless to produce a cure for spinal chord injuries. He tells Grant’s character of the courage it would take to kill one innocent human being if it meant ridding the world of cancer. Here is the end of the exchange:

Hackman: Helen hasn't walked for years. I can cure her. And everyone like her. The door's open. You can go out there... ...and put a stop to everything and it'll be over. Or we can go upstairs and change medicine forever. It's your call.

Grant: Maybe you're right. Those men upstairs, maybe... ...there isn't much point to their lives. Maybe they're doing a great thing for the world. Maybe they are heroes. But they didn't choose to be. You chose for them. You didn't choose your wife... ...or your granddaughter. You didn't ask for volunteers. You chose for them. And you can't do that. Because you're a doctor. And you took an oath. And you're not God.

I agree with the next line as well. I don’t care if you can cure every illness in the world. Who and what we are is at least or more important than the results that we can achieve through our scientific efforts. They promise a world free of so much horror, but at what cost? I know what we are doing. They may yet accomplish all that they say they can, and then the world that my son and daughter live in is suddenly free of some terrible things while grimmer all the same. Because what we are doing is shaping what we are becoming. And what we are becoming if we continue to terminate the lives of innocent human beings as an answer to medical, financial, emotional, or research needs is as terrible as what we are already doing every day. And that makes me sad tonight.