Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dr. Dobson's Critics are Wrong [SK]

A small coalition of pro-lifers has accused James Dobson of abandoning principle in favor of legal positivism and moral relativism.

I'm still on vacation, so I'll make this brief. The charge is baseless.

As I have said previously, pro-lifers who make short-term, tactical moves to save some lives now until they can save more later are not choosing evil (as some critics of incrementalism maintain), but are pursuing the greatest moral good possible given current political realities. If I cannot advance the good, I'll move to limit the evil done. This position is not relativistic. It is not grounded in legal positivism. It is not utilitarian. It does not concede the legitimacy of any elective abortion. Rather, it's deontological in its foundation: It recognizes there are objective moral standards and does what it can to implement them insofar as possible. In reply, critics of Dobson insist they are standing on principle, but what moral principle justifies letting 1.3 million children die annually when we could have saved some of them? Their position amounts to this: Until we can legally protect all unborn humans we shouldn't protect any of them. Absurd.

As for Dobson being guilty of relativism and legal positivism, let's begin by defining terms. Relativism is the belief morals are either up to me or up to society to define. According to this view, there are no objective standards of right and wrong, only what we prefer according to our socially conditioned tastes and preferences. Meanwhile, legal positivsm, originating with enlightenment thinkers and later magnified by Hans Kelsen, states that the law itself is its own final authority. That is, there are no underlying moral principles that 1) give the law it's legitimacy, or 2) hold it accountable when it fails to uphold justice.

Please show me where Dobson has ever advocated either of those two views, properly defined.

Perhaps Dobson's critics think his moral reasoning is mistaken. (I don't.) Fair enough. But a relativist and a positivist he is not.

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