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