Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Let Health-Care Apologists Get Away with Faulty Assumptions [SK]

As you can see, I'm away in London suffering for God (ignore the date on the pic), but, even here, the Democrats most recent appeal to Christians is making headlines. I dealt with the faulty nature of this appeal in a previous post, but here is Al Gore's latest example of Scripture twisting:

Playing off the focus of the Kennedy funeral on the Gospel of Matthew’s parable of Jesus taking care of “the least of us,” Gore thundered that the country has “a moral duty to pass health care reform. This year.”
I have just one question for Mr. Gore: Are the unborn whom we are permitted to kill under this health care plan included in 'the least of these?' For example, if the plan you reference allowed killing toddlers to benefit the health of others, would you still say we had a moral obligation to pass it this year?

With all due respect to the former VP, he needs to answer those questions before lecturing us about our alleged moral and Biblical obligations to help the poor. And while we're at it, Scripture doesn't come close to backing up his alleged case. If he'd bother to actually read the text, here's what he'd conclude:

1. All humans have value because they bear the image of their creator. (Gen 1: 26, 9:6, etc.)
2. Because humans bear God's image, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden. (Exodus 23:7, Provers 6:16-19, to name a few)
3. The science of embryology clearly teaches that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinict, living, and whole human beings.
4. Therefore the unborn, like all humans, bear the image of their maker and should not be killed without justification.

Still want to quote Scripture, Mr.Gore?

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Abortion "Health Care" Dilemma [Serge]

Scott has a great post here. However, I wonder if supporters of Obamacare have really considered what the inclusion of abortion means in that bill.

Supporters of a universal health care system assert that there is some form of intrinsic right to health care. This is not a right to not have disease (which would be ludicrous), but a right to have another human being treat your disease (and hopefully improve your health) when you get one. And, of course, have the public pay the person providing the treatment.

Whether or not such a right exists is another interesting discussion, but lets assume such a right does exist. Assume we need Obamacare because we have a right to be treated if we get sick. Where does abortion fit into all of this? In the vast majority of cases, a woman seeking an abortion is not sick. The fetus that she is carrying is most often completely and perfectly healthy.

Furthermore, unlike other medical treatments that serve the purpose of increasing the overall heath of the human beings it affects, abortion does the opposite. The abortion procedure does nothing to improve the health of the pregnant Mom, and is specifically designed to kill the child growing inside of her. Health care can usually defined as treating a disease or sickness to increase the overall health of the human that is being treated. However, in abortion , there is no disease. There is no sickness. The treatment does not increase overall health. In fact, an abortion can only be successful if it provides the ultimate failure of health, which of course is death.

So in order to assert our right to be treated in case we get sick, we need to support and fund a procedure which does nothing to treat disease or sickness, but is intended to provide the ultimate failure of health. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

Health Care: Should Pro-Lifers Overlook the Bad for the Good? [SK]

A Facebook message:

If you don't like aspects of the [House health-care] plan, offer some comprehensive alternatives. All you are doing is promoting the status quo. If your plan is to reject the whole plan because it has something you don't like, then no plan will ever get implemented. We will continue until the current plan collapses. There are far more indirect ways to kill people within the current situation than abortion. The unborn may be your priority, but the practical results of a stalemate will be a choice for others to die. And even if the state doesn't pay for abortion, abortion will continue. I don't think abortion is a good idea, but I also don't believe legislation against it is the best way to prevent it. I think your energies would be far more effective elsewhere. To me the anti-abortion issue and the gay rights issue is simply two ways to raise outrage among Christians to raise money.
It's true that despite President Obama's protestations to the contrary, the House health care bill (HR 3200) allows coverage for abortion. (See here and here.) Nevertheless, my critic says I should set aside my objections in favor of the overall good state-run healthcare brings.

I can't do it. Too much is wrong here.

First, notice my critic confuses moral claims with preference ones. He writes: "If your plan is to reject the whole plan because it has something you don't like, then no plan will ever get implemented." Problem is, pro-life advocates like me oppose this plan not because we dislike abortion (indeed, one could like abortion and still argue it's immoral), but because we think abortion is morally wrong. Now, if he wants to argue that we're mistaken about that, so be it. Let him make that case. But notice he does no such thing. He simply changes the kind of claim the pro-lifer makes.

Second, my critic's objection to pro-life concerns over the health care legislation is question-begging. More than once, he simply assumes the unborn are not human. For example, suppose the legislation in question was near perfect, but funded the destruction of two year olds to provide comprehensive health care for the rest of us. Can you imagine, even for a moment, him saying, "Well, let's not reject the whole just because of something we don't like." Never in a million years. The only reason he argues this way about a health plan that funds the destruction of the unborn is because he's assuming, without argument, they are not human like the rest of us. But that's precisely the point he must argue for his case to logically succeed.

Third, we get this odd claim: "And even if the state doesn't pay for abortion, abortion will continue." Of course it will, just like alcoholism continues even though the state doesn't provide free beers. The more precise question is will abortion rates remain unchanged when the state pays instead of the individual? For his claim to have any real force, he needs to advance some kind of argument suggesting that abortion rates do not change substantially when the public foots the bill. But I'm unaware of any analyst who makes that claim while some make just the opposite one.

My critic also says that he "doesn't think abortion is a good idea" but thinks legislation is not the best way to prevent it and that pro-lifers would be far more effective if they spent their energies elsewhere. Oh? Where might that be? Again, we're not told. But there are bigger problems. For starters, he never says why he thinks abortion is not a good idea. That is, if abortion doesn't take the life of a defenseless human, why be opposed at all? But if it does take the life a human without justification, why is legislating against it a bad idea? Again, we're given no answer. Moreover, pro-lifers are not out to merely "prevent" elective abortion. We want to make it unthinkable the way that killing toddlers is unthinkable to anyone with a functioning conscience. In other words, a society that has few abortions, but leaves it legal to kill unborn humans, would still be deeply immoral. In short, reducing abortion isn't necessarily pro-life. (See Frank Beckwith's piece on that point here.) Imagine a 19th century lawmaker who said that slavery was not a good idea and he hoped to prevent it, but nevertheless owning slaves should remain legal. If those in power adopt his thinking, would this be a good society?

Again, I think my critic can only argue that abortion is bad, but should remain legal, because he assumes the unborn are not human, like slaves are. But that's the question that must be resolved before trumpeting the virtues of this particular health-care bill.

Finally, there is this parting shot: "To me the anti-abortion issue and the gay rights issue is simply two ways to raise outrage among Christians to raise money." Forget for the moment that he offers no evidence for his claim. I can reply to his charge with one word: So? Maybe we do and maybe we don't use these issues to raise money. Either way, how does this refute pro-life claims that 1) the unborn are human, and 2) it's wrong to kill them with state cash? What we have here is a classic case of the genetic fallacy--that is, faulting an idea for its origins rather than its substance. Instead of telling us why pro-lifers are wrong about the humanity of the unborn, my critic jumps right to my alleged motivation for doing pro-life work. As Greg Koukl points out, this just won't work. "Psychological motivations give you information about the one who believes, but they tell you nothing about the truth of his beliefs."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Possibilities of Life [Elizabeth]

I pen this blog on the heels of a relaxing day spent in the mountains of north Georgia with my friend, Amy. Sunday turned out to be an uncharacteristically cool day. We enjoyed fellowship in a setting filled with evidence of God’s majesty.

The serene landscape was ironic when juxtaposed with my chaotic and emotional week. In my job as a crime reporter, I had to cover the sentencing of an 18-year-old who accidentally shot and killed his best friend on New Year’s Eve. The heartbreak in that courtroom was palpable. One family grieved the tragic loss of their only son, while another family rallied around a man who must come to grips with what he did and learn to live again.

Last week I also followed the story of a man who was physically abusing his 3-month-old son. That child is now in intensive care at an Atlanta hospital fighting for his life. The infant's father laughed about the situation in an interview with investigators.

One need not look far to see pain and suffering and tragedy. If we allowed ourselves to cry for all the pain in this world, we might never stop.

Despite this, the world is still a beautiful place with moments of grace, mercy, faith, hope and love.

I am grateful to be alive — grateful my parents allowed me to be born and that my Heavenly Father allowed me to be born again of water and the Spirit.

That said, I was angered this week by a Planned Parenthood podcast aimed at convincing women that abortion is “a very uncomplicated procedure” sought by women “wanting to be the best parent you can be and not feeling ready to do it.”

Is killing your unborn child so you don’t potentially mess them up later in life good parenting?

Last week in the world of pop culture, news exploded about reality star Kourtney Kardashian choosing life over abortion for her unborn child.

Kardashian gave an interview with People Magazine, and in it she spoke candidly about how she agonized over the decision about whether to keep her baby.

“For me, all the reasons why I wouldn't keep the baby were so selfish: It wasn't like I was raped, it's not like I'm 16. I'm 30 years old, I make my own money, I support myself, I can afford to have a baby. And I am with someone who I love, and have been with for a long time.”

I hope her testimony encourages people who might otherwise choose abortion to give life a second glance. But, I’m still disheartened by the image of immorality she endorses in her lifestyle — encouraging women to take the same path of promiscuity that leads to these difficult decisions.

Even the pro-life niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — Dr. Alveda King — weighed in on Kardashian’s news.

“The courage of Kourtney Kardashian and the hundreds of young women who are coming to similar conclusions regarding unplanned pregnancies is proof that abortion is not the answer for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for women,” said King.

It is indeed not the answer. Your pregnancy may be unplanned. Maybe you don’t have all your ducks in a row, and the thought of a baby is overwhelming.

At least consider your options.

If you do decide to keep your child and love him in the midst of an imperfect world, it will most assuredly change your life forever. He will get hurt. He will cause you heartache. He will struggle in a world longing for the salvation of Christ.

But that’s life. Give him the chance to live it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The "Abstinence" of True Feminism [Elizabeth]

An article in the latest magazine issue of First Things, a Catholic publication, introduces an unconventional concept worth contemplating.

In the article, “Her Choice, Her Problem: How Abortion Empowers Men,” Richard Stith builds on radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon’s argument that Roe v. Wade actually does little to liberate women and, instead, “frees male sexual aggression.”

MacKinnon argues in her essay “Privacy vs. Equality” that men control sexuality.

“The availability of abortion removes the one remaining legitimized reason that women have had for refusing sex besides the headache,” she said.

Which is why, she says, the Playboy Foundation has always supported abortion rights.

“Male responsibility really does end at conception,” Stith points out in his article. “Men these days can choose only sex, not fatherhood; mothers alone determine whether children shall be allowed to exist. Legalized abortion was supposed to grant enormous freedom to women, but it has had the perverse result of freeing men and trapping women.”

Stith writes that MacKinnon’s essay, which was given little credence when it was published, warrants further discussion. He argues that in a competitive sexual marketplace, the number of women willing to have an abortion “reduces an individual woman’s bargaining power.”

“As a result, in order not to lose her guy, she may be pressured into doing precisely what she doesn’t want to do: have unprotected sex, then an unwanted pregnancy, then the abortion she had all along been trying to avoid,” he said.

I think there’s some truth here. I for one have heard men admit they will never wear a condom during sex because there is no shortage of women who’ll oblige their demand for optimal pleasure. It’s sad, but it’s true.

It seems to me, following this logic — and contrary to what many feminists would argue — that the only way to be a true feminist is to make a man wait until marriage to have sex.

HT, Her Choice, Her Problem

LTI Podcast #17 - "Common Ground Part 2" [Serge]

Rich, Jay and Bob conclude their discussion on President Obama's appeal for common ground in the abortion debate. Rich continues his series on cultural cognitive dissonance by discussing the concept of informed consent. Why are women and girls seeking abortions not provided with the same information and opportunities that those seeking wisdom tooth extractions presently get? or subscribe with Itunes at (click the advanced tab, click "subscribe to podcast", and then copy and paste the bolded url into the field).

What's in a word? [Megan]

            Words are important.

            Other than Christ himself, the individual who has most profoundly demonstrated the importance of words in my life is my husband. He takes his words very seriously.

He uses gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) probing questions to force even me — the person he knows better than anyone — to carefully clarify my views. That practice — however frustrating it can be — has served to make me much more careful about making blithe or flippant statements, both in and out of his company.

            During a recent episode of “Renewing Your Mind,” (, Dr. R.C. Sproul explored the importance of words — vocabulary in particular, and benefits of the classical education model. Sproul said mankind’s ability to verbalize ideas and concepts is a major distinguishing factor between human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom. That distinction resonates theologically — our relationship with God is principally verbal, both in terms of the way He communicates with us (we have the written Word and the Word incarnate), and the way we communicate with Him (prayer is, more often than not, expressed in words).

            Sproul said humans were created with the capacity to communicate. More specifically, followers of Christ are called to communicate the truth as expressed in the Word. And, as Sproul so eloquently pointed out, truth and fallacies are often separated by a razor’s edge. In other words, communication is something that should be done with precision.

            With such a small margin of error, it seems communication in the “marketplace of ideas” should be taken much more seriously. I don’t think the majority of individuals willingly tout things they know are false, but such falsehoods are uttered frighteningly often. Some are wrapped in such intimidating language — “bigger vocabularies” — it’s easy to accept them. When truth is separated by the edge of a razor, a slip in the wrong direction can make the influence of one’s words dangerous. But then, we see it happen all the time.

            There is a missing element in the cycle. Even today’s “educated” circle from facts to some form of rhetoric, and forget to check their information at the gates of logic. Droves of high school seniors leave the classroom, for the most part, still in rote-memorization mode. Minds that naturally began to question ideas at the age of 12 or 13 discovered that such questioning was lost in the classroom. There were just more facts to memorize. It makes sense that minds so thirsty for logic turn toward authority figures and other curiosities with fervor. 

            Young people graduate with the notion that facts are out there to be memorized and parroted — not thought through. Sadly, that notion sticks for many if not most.

            It makes it difficult to blame those who hear and adopt enticing sound bytes like, “I am pro-choice. I would never have an abortion, but I believe the government should stay out of a woman’s private decisions.” Or “Women have the freedom to do whatever they choose with their own bodies.” And let’s not forget, “You’re just being judgmental. Even though you think it’s wrong, you shouldn’t force your views on others.”

            The same insidious cycle exists for many who want to further their pro-life views. Sadly, the statement, “The Bible says it’s wrong, so I think it’s wrong,” doesn’t hold much water with someone who rejects the Bible as valid to begin with because they’ve accepted someone else’s elegant-but-empty dismissal of it.

            The absence of logic is the reason a simple question stops so many in their tracks. They find themselves groping for a bridge they never constructed, and finding a chasm.

            The good news is — armed with the truth and a few well-directed questions — we can expose the chasms in people’s thinking about issues regarding the unborn. Equipping individuals to do just that is what LTI is all about.

            It’s a fact that we use vocabulary to express our thoughts and ideas, including those that shed light on the truth about abortion and other issues.

            How important are words, you ask?

            Logically speaking, words save lives.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Opponents of State-Run Health Care Don't Need a Bible Verse [SK]

An email:
Yo, how goes the war, skinny boy? I have been pondering universal health care.
Conservative evangelicals are opposed to it. When I ask them to site a Bible verse, they have none. Have you put your mental abilities toward this issue?

Would love to hear your take on it.

Yo, quick answer. They don't need to cite a Bible verse to make their case. They only need to show that the current House bill is not consistent with a Christian worldview either in specific content, reasonable inference, or both.

First, provisions in the current bill which allow the government to fund elective abortions violate Biblical commands against the shedding of innocent blood. (Exodus 23:7, Proverbs 6: 16-19, Matthew 5:21, to name a few.)

Second, section 1233--which is logical to infer promotes the rationing of care for the elderly and infirm--violates biblical principles of upholding justice for the weak and vulnerable. (To cite a few passages on justice, see Jeremiah 5:26-28; 9:24; Isaiah 1:16-17, 21-23; 58:6-7; 61:8; Psalm 94:1-23; Proverbs 24:1-12;Matthew 25:41-46.) In short, it is one thing to help the uninsured; it is quite another to interject a government bureaucracy between you and your health care.

Third, there's a moral concern about stealing. Is it right for the government to steal (in the form of heavy taxation) from the citizenry to fund debt-financed programs it cannot afford and will never repay? Biblically speaking, we're told it's evil to borrow and not payback (Psalm 37: 21). The national debt racked up by this proposed health care spending would be astronomical.

Thus, what really matters here is not whether opponents of national healthcare can cite a verse, but whether their cumulative case against the bill squares reasonably well with an overall biblical worldview. In this instance, I think it does.

Why are the Images Disturbing? [Serge]

Welcome to Megan and Elizabeth. I'm sure all will agree that you both are off to a great start.

Regarding Megan's first post about graphic images, I have heard a number of opponents claim that graphic pictures of aborted fetuses are offensive for the same reason that any "gory" pictures are offensive. Amanda Marcotte makes this clear:

Anti-choicers’ best weapon is exploiting the disgustingness of surgery, any surgery. (If you described root canals like they do early term abortions, and put up doctored photographs of the results, you could get half of American to freak out and agree to be “pro-tooth”, or whatever misleading phrase you want to use.)
Its easy to test to see whether this is the case. In fact, if you press the show/hide button, you will see a graphic, bloody image. I don't want to be accused of "doctoring" the image, so I took the picture with a ruler to show the correct size of the object in question. I have available an affidavit from the surgeon who performed the procedure signifying that the images are real and haven't been changed in any way.


Pretty underwhelming, huh. I really don't have an affidavit, by the way, for I extracted these third molars an hour ago. In fact, the patient wasn't too overwhelmed by the teeth - she elected to take them home with her.

The truth is that there is far more "gore" in an average episode of CSI than the graphic pictures that we show. However, if it is not the gore that makes the picture offensive, then what is it?

I believe the answer is simple. When confronted with graphic images of aborted fetuses, there is something in anyone with a functional conscience that cannot deny what abortion actually is. The public would like to live their lives without confronting the truth that we allow the intentional killing of innocent human beings on a daily basis. They would rather that we simply hide the evidence of what is really happening in a medical waste bag rather than confront the truth. When carefully confronted with images that tell the truth about abortion, it is far more difficult to deny what we can't not know.

We Are Right to Be Worried [Elizabeth]

Like many Americans, I’m confused about President Obama’s proposed health care plan. Congress is in the process of shaping the bill, and quite possibly the future of America. Around the country, heated debate is taking place in town hall forums. This is democracy at its best.

I see a lot of people screaming as we’re being inundated with media coverage of this issue in real time — but what I’m not seeing are the facts. And how can we?

At this point, we don’t know what final provisions will be included in this important piece of legislation. I’m fairly confident that even some of the congressmen who will vote on it won’t grasp it in its entirety. This is why I’m left scratching my head while pondering an editorial in Tuesday’s Desmoines Register.

The op-ed piece attempts to “clarify” the facts of health care reform legislation for pro-life groups. "Anti-abortion-rights groups either don't have the facts about health-care reform, or they're intentionally distorting them,” it reads.

The paper, however, is actually guilty of the very crime it’s accusing its opponents of committing. The paper says reports that the public health care plan will pay for abortion are flatly erroneous, then it delves into an “explanation” — I use that word loosely — of the public option for health insurance. The alleged explanation clearly misses the point. We don’t want Health Care 101, we want answers to our specific questions.

It seems to me that what the author gives with his left hand, he quickly takes away with his right. Since I’m a reporter and a logophile — “lover of words” — some of the paper’s word choices raise some red flags.

The Register says that the proposed legislation “does not require coverage for specific procedures — including abortion.” But it doesn’t exclude the possibility that my tax dollars might directly or indirectly spring for someone to unjustly take the life of a defenseless human being.

Here’s the kicker. The paper admits that at this stage we only have drafts of legislation and — “obviously, details have not yet been determined, so there is no way of knowing whether or not abortion will be covered.”

Then, why did the editorial claim pro-life groups are wrong?

Now we’ve come to the point of the editorial. The article has already systematically refuted each of its own points, and so it’s on to the next task: flatly attack the pro-life cause rather than dealing with our arguments against abortion. The paper accuses pro-lifers of “latching on” to the health care reform legislation to draw attention to our “agenda” through propaganda. Yet, what it’s doing is no different. The author just used the pages of the Desmoines Register to tell readers to push health care reform through regardless of whether abortion is directly or indirectly funded in Obama’s health care bill.

Why are they right and we’re wrong?

“No one should let a wedge issue derail efforts to help millions of Americans secure affordable, comprehensive health insurance,” he concludes. And what of the millions of Americans who are killed every year by abortion? Why should some Americans be given rights and not others? The author is begging the question by assuming that the unborn are not human and should therefore not be a consideration in this national debate.

Truth is, we don’t know what the final bill will entail. In the meantime, we have every right as Americans to question it. And we don’t need newspaper editorials misleading the public.

Considering Obama’s track record on abortion, we have every right to be worried.

Welcome, Elizabeth! [SK]

I'm pleased to announce that Elizabeth Richardson has joined the LTI Blog team.

A graduate of Winthrop University with a degree in mass communication, Elizabeth is a staff writer for The Times Herald and also writes for two local magazines in Newnan, GA.

Elizabeth enjoys Christian apologetics and is passionate about defending the pro-life view in particular. She has her hobbies, too. "I'm a runner and outdoor adventurer. In my spare time, I love antiquing and refurbishing old items — especially anything made of wood."

Welcome, Elizabeth. It's great to have you on board!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beyond the Obvious Darkness [Jay]

Our counselor services manager was conducting a training session here at the pregnancy center where I work part-time and they were in the midst of a particularly tough role playing activity. The scenario was of a hardened mother that had steeled herself to do what is “best for her” no matter how many alternatives are offered and one of the trainees commented on how tough this mock counseling was.

The trainer then told about a young woman whom she recently counseled. The young woman did not want to get an abortion, but said that when she told her mother she would be forced to do so. She left committing to carry her child to birth and to parent her child. When the counselor followed up with the young lady she was told the child had been aborted. The young lady told her mother about her pregnancy and her mother convinced her to get the abortion, drove her to the doctor, and paid for the procedure. My stomach turned as the story unfolded.

Women, even young women, cannot technically be forced to get an abortion they do not want. They can however be threatened, bullied, lobbied, manipulated, and strongly encouraged. The father of the child can and often does threaten to leave her. The grandparents of the child can and often do threaten to kick the mother out of the house. Friends can and often do assure the mother facing an unexpected pregnancy that not getting an abortion will ruin her life, restrict her future, and make it impossible to live the life they want to live. For all of the talk about abortion empowering women I have seen plenty of young women harassed into abortions by those people they think love them the most. More than I care to recall.

As the story about Coach Rick Pitino’s marital infidelity has come out and the fact that he paid for his mistress to abort the child that came as a result of their drunken tryst in a closed bar, it occurs to me that abortion seems so easy. It is such an easy answer for the unfaithful husband looking to cover his tracks. It is such an easy answer for the boyfriend not wanting to stop the party to be a father to his child. It is easy for the parents that see the future they dreamed for their child threatened by an unexpected grandchild. That is one of the hardest parts about convincing the world abortion is wrong. People can be intellectually convinced that the unborn are human beings of moral worth but when the chips are down and it is their life being affected abortion seems so easy.

You see abortion is more than 1.3 million mothers per year in the U.S. paying a medical professional to surgically destroy their child. It is also fathers persuading the mothers to kill their children. It is often grandparents bullying their child to kill their grandchild. It is a culture and a society that sees a path that seems so easy and cannot help but continue to venture down that path no matter how many polls say that more people are pro-life than not. It is unimaginably evil and its dark shadow is cast over our culture well beyond the women, the doctors, the unborn, and the intellectual arguments on either side of the debate.

As is so often the case, the seemingly easy choice exacts a cost that is profound in ways we never imagined when we set ourselves to the path of least resistance. Before we know it, we are a generation and a culture that is killing our offspring at a chilling rate and stopping means admitting we have participated in the violent deaths of our own children and grandchildren.

I will be doing a second post on how being aware of this fact must impact how we fight this battle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The Cove" and Graphic Abortion Pics [SK]

Megan, Great post yesterday regarding abortion pictures. As I read it, I thought of the movie The Cove, a graphic docu-drama that uncovers the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Once the slaughter was secretly filmed, the images were shown to random people on the street via a hand-held digital player. The secular left, of course, applauds this tactic. I'm not troubled by it either, frankly. Why not get the truth out there?

The flim makers are smart. Let's face it: When it comes to moral persuasion, many times images of death work better than images of life.

To cite a parallel example, the modern environmental movement got its start with graphic pictures in the late 1960's. As activist Jerry Mander points out in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, initial attempts to mobilize public support for preservation of the giant redwoods produced a giant public yawn. Breathtaking photographs of majestic trees, though inspiring, did little to incite public anger at the timber industry. So, activists took a lesson from the Vietnam War. Instead of showing pictures of pre-cut trees in all their glory, environmentalists began circulating before and after photos. "We started carrying around photos of acres of stumps where hundreds of redwoods had been cut down. I don't know if you have ever seen a field of tree stumps, but it is a horrific sight, not unlike a battlefield."

The public outcry was immediate. "At that moment," Mander concludes, “I realized that death is a much better subject for television than life. Images of life--whether of trees themselves or the finely-tuned Vietnamese culture--accomplished nothing. They only put people to sleep."

The same can be said of abortion. The use of graphic pictures, though often decried by our critcs, is not manipulative, but consistent with other mainstream campaigns of social reform. Shocking pictures have traditionally been used by social reformers to dramatize the injustices of child labor, racial violence against African Americans, U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, etc. What has changed is that pro-life groups (see here, here, and here, for example) are once again using this tactic to reform an abortion-tolerating public.

They're smart to do so, given we live in a culture that thinks and learns visually. As Neil Postman points out in Amusing Ourselves to Death, with the advent of television, America shifted from a word-based culture—with an emphasis on coherent linear thought--to an image-based one where thinking is dominated by feeling, intuition, and images.

Postman’s point (and mine) is that visual learners have short attention spans. They make decisions based on intuition, feeling, and images. That doesn’t rule out the presentation of facts and arguments, but it does change how they are communicated. It means we must change how people feel as a predicate to changing how they think. Disturbing images change feelings in ways that words cannot.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Does "Offensive" Equal "Inappropriate?" [Megan]

Considering I can barely navigate my way through making a phone call using a cell phone — let’s not even get into my “texting” deficiencies — my interest in Facebook surprises many of my friends. Granted, it’s only a novice interest. I avoid most of the “apps” because I have no clue how to use them. But it is fun to read my friends’ updates and see their latest photos.

The quizzes, however, never fail to amuse me. Things like “Find out which movie best represents you,” or “Which alcoholic beverage are you?” Just think of a topic, odds are there’s a quiz — or a poll — for you on Facebook.

One recent poll took me by surprise. The heading read, “Do you think abortion should be legalized? Yes or No.” Other than the confusing wording — abortion is already “legalized” — the subject wasn’t that surprising. Political polls pop up every now and then. But the accompanying photo was a different story. Just a thumbnail, the image wasn’t immediately recognizable. When I did recognize it, the shock factor was off the charts. There, beside the poll, was an image of the bloody, separated remains of an aborted fetus for all the Facebook world to see.

My emotional response was something of a strange dichotomy — part of me grieved deeply for that baby, and others who meet or have met the same fate. The other part wanted to stand up and applaud such a stark revelation of the truth. Curious to find out the origin of the poll, I clicked on the image, and read: THIS POLL HAS BEEN DISABLED BECAUSE IT CONTAINS EITHER OFFENSIVE CONTENT OR INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE AND/OR IMAGES.

My reaction? Long sigh. Can’t argue with the offensive part. Such an image should be sickeningly offensive to any and all who see it. Offensive in the way images of drug-or-drinking-related car accidents serve as an incentive to keep people from making poor decisions. Offensive in the same way stories of accidental shootings by children remind grown-ups to store their firearms safely. Offensive in the same way Emmett Till’s open-casket funeral shocked the nation with the realities of racism and prejudice. Offensive in a way that ensures such a brutal and tragic end will not be met by any more human beings.

It’s worth mentioning here that the three examples I offered, however offensive, are or were used as deterrents on a regular basis, with good ends in mind — a desired outcome that ends a kind of evil. Perhaps the difference is the desired outcome. The end of killing unborn humans would cause inconvenience for many. It would cause some to feel real pain and suffering about a decision to have an abortion. An offensive truth perhaps, but true nonetheless, in the same way that image of the result of abortion was both true and offending.

Is that what made the image inappropriate? I understand that images of violence are not necessarily suitable for audiences of a certain age and cognitive level, though it might be worth mentioning that young people are exposed to all manner of violence-depicting images while studying the history of our nation. What confuses me is how a thumbnail image of a true reality is inappropriate in comparison to a 10-year-old learning that if she were an alcoholic beverage, she would be a Sex On the Beach or a Martini. One exposure serves as a deterrent from taking the life of an innocent human being, the other gives a fourth grader bragging rights and a curiosity about the flavor and “cool factor” of a drink she shouldn’t legally consume until she’s nearly out of college.

By removing the poll, a subjective decision about the “inappropriateness” of an image was made regarding an objective and true reality.

Just something to think about.

I, for one, was grateful that more than 21,000 (according to the poll’s voting numbers) were exposed to the ugly truth before it was made unavailable.

Welcome, Megan! [SK]

Megan Almon joins our LTI blog team starting today. Megan is a journalist with the Newnan Times-Herald and a graduate student in theology and Christian apologetics. She's also a former member of the University of Georgia gymnastics team. She and her husband Tripp have a daughter, Neely, age 3.

In the weeks ahead, you'll notice the LIT website undergoing a major upgrade, which includes adding new bloggers. (Serge, Jay, Bob, and I will continue posting as well.) Megan is the first of several you'll soon be seeing here.

It's great to have you on board, Megan!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lifting the "Ban" -- Or Obfuscating the Truth? [Bob]

I know this is a little dated (March '09), but it hasn't been addressed on the blog directly so I'm bringing it up again.

Listen to this speech (the first 4 minutes should suffice) and then check out the timeline (below) of what really happened. The methodical deceit involved here is incredible to behold ...

If you pay attention to the news at all, you are probably convinced that stem cell research will eventually solve every medical challenge our society faces. The blind will see. The paralyzed will walk. Cancer will be cured. All this will be possible if the anti-science zealots in the pro-life wing of conservative politics would just get out of the way. President Obama repeats the mantra here.

George W. Bush in particular thwarted all advancement in scientific research because he placed his anti-scientific, Neanderthal faith ahead of the more reasonable desires of those who wanted to find cures. Thoughtful depictions like the one at right were offered to make the point. But there's just a minor problem with all this. It is complete nonsense

Over the last several weeks I have been doing some research on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) for a project I'm involved in. Along the way I realized that some of the legal/political meanderings surrounding this issue have become so muddled that, for my own sake, I decided to put them in the form of a chronological chart just to make things easier to follow. Though these were all things I was vaguely aware of, seeing how the issue has played out was so stunning to behold so I thought I would share the facts here:
  • 1996 Congress passes, and President Clinton signs, a rider to an appropriations bill, titled the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which makes it illegal for the federal government to fund research that destroys human embryos. This rider has been re-approved by Congress and signed by the President in office every year since then.

  • 1998 President Clinton signs an Executive Order (EO) enforcing the ban on federal funding for ESCR that destroys human embryos. He bases his decision to do so on the restrictions created by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.
  • 2000 After six years of taking a position against taxpayer funding of the destructive research, and on his way out of office, President Clinton flip-flops and announces his support for new federal guidelines that would allow taxpayer funding of embryo-destructive research. This apparent set up for the incoming Gore administration backfires when Gore loses the election.
  • 2001 -- August 9th: President Bush signs an Executive Order meant to compromise on the restrictions that had previously been placed on ESCR. This order continues the restrictions put in place by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment but allows an exception for more than $200 million in federal funding for 21 existing stem cell “lines” that had previously been created (through IVF). Thus, President Bush becomes the first president to allow federal funding of ESCR.
At this point, federal funding for ESCR is restricted to these 21 lines.

It is not “banned.”

There is not, and there has never been, a ban on privately funded research.
  • 2007 -- June 20th: President Bush issues Executive Order 13435, which requires the government to fund research into alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells -- methods like Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSC) -- that do not require the destruction of embryos but instead "induce" regular adult skin cells to act like pluripotent cells.
  • 2008 “Scientific researchers hail the development of IPSCs as the biggest scientific breakthrough of the year.”
  • 2009 -- March 9th: President Obama rescinds Bush’s August 9, 2001 EO with his own EO entitled, “Removing Barriers To Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells.” The revocation of Bush’s EO is heralded as “lifting the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).” (this is the event found in the video offered above)

  • This EO simultaneously revokes Bush EO # 13435 which has provided federal funding of successful IPSC research. This aspect of the order is not mentioned at the press conference.
  • 2009 -- March 11th: President Obama signs and renews the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which continues the ban on federal funding for ESCR that Obama claims to have lifted 2 days earlier. No announcement is made and no press conference is called.
Whatever one’s politics, it is hard to deny the purposeful deceit and tactical shenanigans that have gone on with respect to ESCR. During his speech, Mr. Obama claimed to want to honor both the scientific promises of stem cell research and the ethical issues some hold toward the research. He did neither.

He refuses to ever acknowledge a difference between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. The effects of his policies have been:
  • Creating cloned embryos with the purpose of letting the created person live is illegal and outlawed.
  • Creating cloned embryos for the purpose of tearing them apart for research purposes is approved.
  • Though he claims to have "lifted the ban of the last 8 years" (a direct shot at Bush), two days later he knowingly and quietly re-signs the amendment that overrides his own Executive Order.
  • He claims to approve of "promising research" yet touts the very kind of research that has led to exactly ZERO cures (ESCR) and actually undermines research with adult cells that has, up to this point, shown 73 successful therapies.
And, most importantly ...
  • He claims to seek compromise with those who have ethical reservations about ESCR but (again quietly and underhandedly) removes federal funding for IPSC that does exactly that -- and never mentions it.
All this to reiterate what has been said here before: When it comes to pro-life issues, President Obama's actions shout louder about his actual position than any of the words he speaks. Given the chance to seek true common ground on ESCR, he apparently has no intention of doing so -- though he doesn't have the courage to say so out loud.