Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pastors, The Pro-Life Argument Appeals to Smart People [Scott]

Philosopher Hadley Arkes details his recent conversion to Christianity (specifically, Roman Catholic) in this piece. The fact that Arkes was Jewish is interesting enough, but what caught my eye was how the pro-life argument influenced his thinking about Christianity. Speaking of his conversion, he writes:
It came through my involvement over many years in the pro-life movement. I've been moving in this direction for a long while, perhaps more than 20 years. The process is often the reverse of what is told in the media. The media suggest that we're pro-life because we're religious, when in fact, many of us are won over by the force of the moral argument and the evidence of embryology. Then we're drawn to the Church that defends that argument.
This fits with my own experience. When non-Christians encounter a Christian theist who graciously and persuasively makes a case for life, they're not repelled; they're drawn to look deeper. They reason that if Christianity has something intelligent to say on a key moral issue of our day, perhaps its other claims deserve a second look.

I say more about that second look here. For what I say to pastors, go here.

HT: Frank Beckwith

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stem Shell Game Exposed [Bob]

On Monday August 23, 2010, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. issued an injunction on the use of federal funding for embryo-destructive stem cell research. The New York Times’ (for one example) reaction to the announcement was one of stunned indignation:
"The ruling came as a shock to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and at universities across the country, which had viewed the Obama administration’s new policy and the grants provided under it as settled law." 
What the Times failed to note in its story was that Judge Lamberth was not the first federal official to strike a legal blow against President Barack Obama's stem cell policy and thereby block federal funding of embryo destructive stem cell research. The first such move actually occurred on March 11, 2009. That move was made by ... President Barack Obama.

The fact is that Judge Lamberth's ruling is perfectly consistent with the law. While the administration, with great public fanfare, claimed to have "lifted the ban" on ESCR with his March 9, 2009 Executive Order (EO), Mr. Obama quietly overrode his own EO just two days later when he re-signed (as has every president since 1996) the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to a federal appropriations bill (as Scott noted in his post on the subject). The Dickey-Wicker Amendment bans public funding of research that destroys human embryos. Mr. Obama signed it. He didn't call a big press conference to herald the occasion because doing so would not fit the narrative he is trying to sell about his forward looking faith in science as opposed to the Luddite opponents of ESCR.

The dirty little secret here is that the stem cell research EO Mr. Obama and those who are carrying his water have called "policy" and referred to as "settled law" is a hollow document that carries no legal force. His signing of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment into law is binding and the unquestionable basis on which Judge Lamberth rendered his decision.

The reality of that fact is something pro-lifers need to soak in. Though it is becoming a fading memory, it serves to remind us of another EO Mr. Obama issued during the health care debate. In exchange for the votes of so-called "pro-life Democrats," Mr. Obama issued an EO proclaiming there would be no federal funding of abortion in the health care bill. They bought it. He signed it. And now we are left with an EO on abortion that contains the same amount of legal power we find in his EO on stem cell research.


History of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Shows the Judge was Right [Scott]

As I point out in The Case for Life, the U.S. government began its own quest to fund embryo research in August of 1993. At that time, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), under direction from then President Clinton, requested panel discussions for the purpose of issuing ethically and legally appropriate guidelines for the controversial research.

In a bizarre twist of logic, the panel concluded that embryos are entitled to “profound respect, but this does not necessarily encompass the legal and moral rights attributed to persons.” Translation: We should respect human embryos, but we may kill them to benefit others. To hedge its incoherent position, the NIH panel condemned human cloning techniques like those eventually legalized in Britain and proposed instead that destructive harvesting of stem cells be limited to so-called “spare embryos” leftover from fertility clinics (or, as the NIH euphemistically called them, “embryos in excess of clinical need”). Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Institute writes, “I have always felt a nagging uneasiness at trying to rationalize killing something for which I have profound respect.”

In response to the panel’s convoluted logic, Congress outlawed federal funding for harmful embryo research in 1996. The ban, known as the Dickey Amendment, was broad based and specific: Funds could not be used for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” The intent of Congress is clear: If a research project requires the destruction of human embryos, then it is illegal to use federal funds for the project.

In clear defiance of the law, the Clinton Administration, working through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), authorized federal funds for destructive research on leftover embryos. The NIH argued that public funds would not be used to destroy the embryos, only to conduct research after the embryos are killed. This reasoning here was baffling. The deliberate killing of a human embryo is an essential component of the proposed federal research. “If we had a law that barred research in which porpoises were killed, no one would entertain for five seconds that a federal agency could arrange for someone else to kill the porpoises and then proceed to use them in research,” writes Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director for the National Right to Life. Clearly, the NIH’s determination to pursue human embryo research showed contempt for, and defiance of, the legislative will of the U.S. Congress.

Clinton, however, never got around to implementing his policy on stem cells taken from human embryos. Thus, when George W. Bush took office in 2001, he inherited both a no-funding policy and a proposal to allow funding. After taking several months to converse with experts on both sides of the funding issue, Bush announced his decision in a televised address to the nation on August 9, 2001. Contrary to popular belief, President Bush did not ban ESCR. In fact, he funded it, but only on stem cells taken from embryos killed before his August 9 speech. If researchers wanted to destroy more human embryos for research they could do so, but not with federal dollars. In short, the Bush policy neither bans nor funds the destruction of human embryos for medical research.

Fast Foward to March of 2009. President Obama announces new guidelines essentially putting in place the Clinton policy of using private money to kill the embryos, but public funds to experiment on them after the killing.

Judge Lamberth didn't buy it. In his ruling last week, he upheld the Dickey Amendment, arguing that it makess no sense to claim that the act of destruction can be separate and distinct from the act of research. That is, ESCR is clearly research that involves killing a living human embryo and that act cannot be split off from the subsequent research that follows. The act of killing is integral to the act of research in this case. Thus, federal funding of ESCR violates the Dickey Amendment.

For all we know, Judge Lamberth supports the federal funding of ESCR. But he's right: His duty is to uphold the law and if the President's embryo destroying allies want federal funds for their craft, they'll need to repeal the Dickey Amendment.

Will Congress do it? Probably not, given the curent public disdain for Democrats. Instead, they'll do what liberals always do: find a judge who will let them do what the law of the land says they can't do. So much easier that way.

UPDATE: Bob Perry has a detailed ESCR policy timeline here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why the "Hostile Atheist"? [Jay]

Whenever we begin our Worldview class we do a role playing time with me pretending to be a hostile atheist. I am unapologetically dismissive of a belief in God in general and the Christian faith in particular. This is not a difficult role for me as I was exactly that type of atheist in my youth and can well remember encounters with Christians on my college campus. They were well meaning people who earnestly wanted to share their testimony but were woefully unprepared to defend their faith on the grounds from which I routinely attacked it.

In our role playing scenario, the students are aware that I am not really an atheist. It does not impact the outcome. Here are some of the lines of attack I use:

1 – There is no physical evidence for the existence of God.

2 – The bible, while important as a piece of literature, is no more authoritative than any other work of historical fiction.

3 – It is easier to understand the horrible manner in which we treat each other human beings and the terrible things that happen to innocent children by acknowledging that such things are incompatible with a “good and loving” God and consistent with the view that we are essentially evolved animals.

4 – The appeal to God is unnecessary as the naturalistic model is sufficient and consistent with scientific evidence. Ockham's Razor in principle tells us not to multiply entities when the evidence does not necessitate doing so and the evidence does not require us to appeal to God.

5 – The idea of an immaterial soul is incompatible with all that we know about neurobiology and creates absurdities in explaining how the immaterial (soul) interacts with the physical (brain) such that the soul influences my behavior.

It is fair to say that none of these positions are stupid and that all of them can either be defended or critiqued in a reasonable conversation, but we rarely have reasonable conversations. Students often fail to require that I further explain my claims and provide evidential support. Instead of asking me to specifically site which parts of the bible are fiction and my evidence to support that claim or if I have considered philosophical arguments as evidence for the existence of God, they begin justifying themselves and their beliefs. The substance of the claims, as well as the suppositions that underlie them, mostly go unchallenged.

Why? I suspect it is largely because of one comment that I always make at the beginning of the exercise. “I think your beliefs are silly.” And I reinforce this as we continue. For example, when they challenge me that the bible has historical facts that have been verified I counter that so do The Three Musketeers and Les Miserables, but that does not mean that I carry them around and treat them as authoritative. This encourages their worst argumentative impulses, and as a result I get away with huge leaps of illogic. All I have to do is feed the beast. Also, they, like the students that tried to share their testimony with me in college, are simply unequipped for this.

Megan and I both encourage the students that this class and our instruction is not about turning them into philosophers. It is about equipping them to engage conversations like the one we had yesterday without feeling overwhelmed. They need to develop an understanding about what rules govern our conversations when we enter into rational discourse and that those rules apply to all parties.

A supporter of LTI told me this week that he recently had a friend conversationally claim that she would probably abort any child that had serious physical abnormalities because she was older (almost 40) and would not want to take on that level of emotional and physical commitment at this point in her life. He struggled to effectively respond. Afterwards he remembered that he had The Case for Life and had never read it. Here is what sent me in an e-mail. “until I got caught flat footed in Tampa, I was thinking maybe this whole defending my view on abortion (as one apologetic example) might just be a waste of time. After starting Scott's book, I realized how 'easily' I can understand and begin to articulate the position I believe without having to be a Jay Watts!”

Our material is not intended to elevate us, but to equip people to defend their beliefs and the value of human life in a rational manner. We serve that mission in the hopes that when our students meet someone who challenges their views, they can be free to engage the person while giving reasons for the hope within them.

As an atheist, the single Christian that most impacted me was not the one who dismantled all of my beliefs in one fell swoop. It was the young woman who engaged me repeatedly in conversations without ever being personally threatened by my rejection of her beliefs. She shared her ideas and never let my off putting manner dictate the tone of our dialogue. One of my first attempts to shake her was a very aggressive declaration that she and every other Christian had no right to tell other people what they could and could not do with their bodies as it related to abortion. I asked her, “Who do you think you are?”

“I believe the unborn are human beings and it is reasonable to restrict other people's behavior when they are killing human beings. How do you respond to that?” And my life has never been the same since.

Bob Perry on The Bible Answer Man Program Today! [Scott]

Bob Perry of LTI will be on Hank Hanegraaff's show today discussing embryonic stem cell research. Check local listings for time or go to to listen on-line.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kids Do The Darndest Things [Bob]

The July, 2010 issue of Scientific American contains an article that Peter Singer and his fellow materialists may find in curious opposition to their infanticidal belief system as it relates to the (so-called) personhood -- or lack thereof -- of those they see fit to eliminate. In direct opposition to earlier research that described children's thoughts as "irrational and illogical, egocentric, amoral and with out any concept of cause and effect," new studies and techniques instead "look at what babies do instead of what they say." The results are fascinating.

Without going into detail here (you can access the entire article at: "How Babies Think"), I'd like to summarize a few of the discoveries that behavioral psychologists have previously "never thought possible."

First, let's remember that Dr. Singer, in his book Practical Ethics, defends the parallel notions that newborn infants should not be considered persons until 30 days after birth and that, disabled newborns can be ethically killed on the spot by the doctor who delivers them. With that in mind, consider some of what the SciAm article reports:
  • Babies can detect statistical patterns of musical tones and visual scenes, and also more abstract grammatical patterns
  • Babies can understand the relation between a statistical sample and a population
  • Babies are not completely egocentric -- they can take the perspective of another person
But enough about babies. There is even more that has been discovered about infants:
  • Infants understand fundamental physical relations such as movement trajectories, gravity and containment
  • Infants are born knowing much of what adults know about how objects and people behave
And here's my favorite ... The author of the SciAm article (Alison Gopnik of Cal Berkeley) believes that "the most important knowledge of all is knowledge of other people." While I disagree with her -- the most important knowledge of all is knowledge of the truth -- I understand the point of view from which she makes the claim. In any case, Gopnik reports that Dr. Andrew N. Meltzoff of the University of Washington has shown that:

"Newborns already understand that people are special ..."

If only Peter Singer could re-connect with this innate knowledge that seems to have eluded him.

I have always appreciated Peter Singer for showing us the actual ends to which his naturalistic worldview leads -- speciesism, the moral neutrality of bestiality, justification for infanticide etc. Describing his views to people shocks them into considering not only the horrific conclusions to which his worldview leads, but that it may actually be wrong. But it turns out that the main premise on which he bases his justification for infanticide -- that infants are not sentient and therefore not "persons" -- is false. Newborns actually are sentient after all. They are so sentient in fact, they understand that other people are "special" to a greater degree than Peter Singer seems to.

Let me be clear. The findings reported in this Scientific American article have no bearing on the case we make at LTI. Our claim is that human beings at all stages of development are valuable simply in virtue of the kind of thing they are -- for their intrinsic value. What these newborns can do (their instrumental value) is irrelevant. I just find it satisfying to see that, even by Peter Singer's own dubious standards, his case collapses in light of the scientific evidence.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scientific Wishful Thinking: Ella's Effects on Implantation [Serge]

In a recent article in Slate, an "expert" for Ella's manufacturer, makes this claim:
Archer says there's no evidence that ella can interrupt an existing pregnancy or prevent implantation, and other experts point to the drug's 2 percent failure rate as proof. "At that point, it's just a microscopic ball of about 256 to 550 or 600 cells that will differentiate in the future," explains Archer. "You won't see a head or fingers or any fetal organs."
I'm not sure why he feels the need to describe the embryo if the medication he's pushing does not effect implantation, but more importantly, he is simply wrong. There is a number of instances in the literature in which low-dose anti-progesterone meds have shown to have a deleterious effect on the uterine lining, thus effecting implantation. All of my sources for this series will be from the pro-abort and contraceptive journals, and most of them are available in their entirety online. Here is an article from 2005 describing the effects of anti-progesterone medications, including ru-486. Ulipristal was not included in this paper, but is in the same category as the other anti-progesterones mentioned. Under the heading "contraception" as a possible future use for these meds, the authors state this:

Mifepristone and other PA also have contraceptive potential (Spitz et al., 1996Go, 2000Go; Bygdeman et al., 1999Go). They may act by several mechanisms. At low doses they inhibit ovulation by blocking the LH surge. Low doses also retard endometrial development by virtue of their antiproliferative action. As a consequence, the endometrium cannot support implantation. (emphasis mine)
Low dose anti-progesterones have definitely shown to have a deleterious effect on the endometrium. Even in the paper that was cited by the Slate article, we have Anna Glasier making this statement:

Progesterone-receptor modulators, including ulipristal acetate, given at high or repeated doses have an effect on endometrial histology and histochemistry that could theoretically impair implantation of a fertilised oocyte.29,30 Although an endometrial effect, and therefore an additional postovulatory mechanism of action, cannot be excluded, the dose of ulipristal acetate used in this trial was specifically titrated for emergency contraception on the basis of inhibition of ovulation and might be too low to inhibit implantation.
Let me explain what she is saying. She knows that at a certain dose there is absolutely no question that Ella has an endometrial effect. The experimenters have attempted to guess a minimal dose in which this effect may not occur. This is why it might not inhibit implantation at that dose. They have no evidence that it doesn't effect implantation - only their guess that it won't at this dose.

What should we go by? Experimental evidence that shows that anti-progesterones have a dose-dependent effect on an embryos ability to implant, or a guess by a researcher that it might not do that at a low enough dose. Anyone claiming that there no evidence of a post-fertilization mechanism for this drug is not basing their assertion on science. They are merely using wishful thinking.

Is it possible that ulipristal at low doses does not effect implantation? Sure - just like many things are theoretically possible. However, in order to show that is the case will require evidence, which is exactly what they do not have.

HT: JivinJ

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Question about Emergency Contraception [Serge]

I'm too busy to make a long post today, but I have a question to ask about the introduction of the new "EC" Ella. Supposedly, Plan B is 90% effective if taken within 48 hours of intercourse, and is available over the counter. Ella is twice as expensive and will never be available without a prescription. What is the market for this new drug? Who is supposed to buy it? What problem is it supposed to solve? Is it really for those unfortunate women who have had unprotected sex and have been unable to reach any of our nation's pharmacies for over 48 hours - so now they can go to their physician first, then the pharmacist to pay twice as much for a medication so they can use it up to 90 hours after sex? How many women does this accurately describe?

Or is there another reason that we can speculate about... Stay tuned.

Is it Okay to Let Daddy Die? [Scott]

Here's a variation on a question I've been asked more than once, and one we'll cover in the graduate course I'm co-teaching next month at Biola:

My father is nearing the final stages of terminal cancer. He’s refusing further aggressive treatment and is content to die. His physician tells us that food and water may soon be an unnecessary burden and will only enhance his discomfort. At the same time, the doctor said that without increased doses of morphine (pain control), dad will suffer greatly as death approaches. Two questions: 1) Is it ever morally permissible to remove food and water? 2) Isn’t increasing his morphine levels tantamount to hastening his death, perhaps a gentle form of euthanasia?

In both cases, it comes down to intent.

1) Concerning nutrition, we must distinguish between euthanasia and the justifiable withholding of treatment. That is, are we withdrawing treatment because we intend to kill the patient or because it no longer benefits him? Agneta Sutton makes a great point: A truly medical (as opposed to quality of life) decision to withdraw treatment is based on the belief that the treatment is valueless (futile), not that the patient is so. So while doctors are indeed qualified to determine if a treatment is futile, they are no more qualified than anyone else to determine that an individual life is futile. In the case of your dad, food and water should only be withdrawn in the final stages when they no longer benefit him and will only cause additional suffering. On this understanding, the withdrawing of treatment is not intended to kill, only to avoid prolonged and excessive agony for the patient. True, death will come, but it comes as the result of the illness not my direct action.

Gilbert Meilaender puts it well: “The fact that we ought not aim at death for ourselves for another does not mean that we must always do everything possible to oppose it.” Thus, rejecting a treatment that is burdensome is not a refusal of life. But here the physician must be both careful and honest. Instead of asking, “Is the patient’s life a benefit to him?” the physician should inquire “What, if anything, can we do that will benefit the life that he has? Our task, writes Meilaender, “is not to judge the worth of this person’s life relative to other possible or actual lives. Our task is to care for the life he has as best we can.”

2) Regarding morphine, we must again draw careful distinctions, this time between euthanasia and sufficient pain relief to dying patients. Put differently, Meilaender says we must distinguish between an act’s aim (intension) and its foreseen results. A patient in the final stages of terminal cancer may request increasingly large doses of morphine to control pain even though the increase might (though not necessarily) hasten death. In this particular case, the intent of the physician is to relieve pain and provide the best care possible given the circumstances. True, he can foresee a possible result—death may come slightly sooner—but he does not intend that. He simply intends to relieve pain and make the patient as comfortable as possible. Thus, instead of directly killing the patient with a heavy overdose, he provides a carefully calibrated increase in morphine aimed at controlling pain, not bringing about a quicker death. Though death is foreseen it is not intended.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The shift from Moral Realism to Moral Subjectivism [Scott]

I was asked about this earlier this week...

(Adapted in part from Scott Klusendorf’s book The Case for Life, Crossway, 2009. For a more complete analysis of this shift, see R. Scott Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006) pp. 23-33; see also Smith’s lecture notes “Ethics and the Search for Moral Knowledge,” Biola University, March 2004. I owe much of my insights here to Smith’s work.)

Western culture has undergone a dramatic shift from moral realism (the conviction that objective morals exist even if I don’t recognize or acknowledge them) to moral non-realism (the belief that morals are merely subjective opinions). The following sketch of moral knowledge from the ancients until now, though by no means complete, highlights this shift.

We begin our history with the moral realism of the Old Testament, where moral truth is both real (objective) and knowable. From Moses forward, biblical texts point to objective moral truths that exist independent of my thinking they exist. That is, my believing them to be real does not make them real. Instead, moral truths are grounded in the character of God and accessible to all His people. (See Deut. 30: 11—“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.”) At times, these objective moral standards take on a utilitarian application, as in Deuteronomy. 30: 19--“Choose life, that you and your family may live.” However, this utilitarian application does not cheapen the objective truth standards, but instead shows their practical benefits.

Even secular thinkers like Plato and Aristotle recognized these objective moral truths. For Plato, universal morals are grounded in the world of ideas (forms) but are nonetheless real. For Aristotle, objective morals are rooted in the nature of man, namely, his immaterial soul or essence. Moreover, man can know what’s right and wrong through the rational faculties of the soul. Man’s duty, then, is to cultivate virtuous habits so that he acts and behaves in a manner consistent with (and proper for) his nature as a human being. Both man’s nature and the standards he is obliged to obey exist objectively.

Moral realism continues with the New Testament writers, but with one significant addition. Not only is moral truth real and knowable, it is also transforming. That is, while ethics are deontological in their foundation, they do not end with “duty for duty’s sake.” Rather, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, God’s objective truth radically changes the Christian disciple more and more into the image of his Master. However, even the non-believer can know certain objective moral truths and act upon them without the aid of special revelation. The moral law, rooted in God’s general revelation, is something all men know intuitively. True, that intuitive knowledge is not sufficient to save non-believing men from their sins, but it doesn’t follow from this that they can’t recognize right and wrong—even if they work overtime to suppress that recognition. (See Romans 1: 18-32.)

During the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas combined Aristotle’s ethics with Christian theology, preserving the moral realism of the Biblical writers. However, there’s a slight twist. While the Biblical writers grounded objective morals in the character of God, Aquinas grounds it more or less in man’s unique nature as a rational being, a substance made in God’s image with both a body and a soul. Unlike the Protestant Reformers who come later, Aquinas is confident that human reason, unaided by special revelation, can know moral truth (an idea known as natural law).

Then comes the decisive empirical (modern) shift of the 17th and 18th centuries. For empiricists like Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and David Hume (1711-76), all true knowledge is restricted to what we can observe through the five senses. Since morals are immaterial things that cannot be observed empirically (i.e., we cannot taste, smell, feel, or see them), they are not items of true knowledge. Instead, they are passions and feelings, mere preferences if you will. Human nature is also diminished. Hobbes, for example, disputes that man possesses a unique immaterial nature (soul) that bears God’s image. Instead, human beings are just heaps of physical parts. Morals are reduced to self-interest and only a dominant ruler (a “Leviathan”) can keep self-interested humans from tearing each other apart.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) attempts to rescue objective moral truth from empiricism, but his solution is problematic. For Kant, we cannot know things as they truly are (the noumena), only as we perceive them through our senses (the phenomena). We are trapped behind our sense perceptions. However—and here Kant takes a bizarre leap—we must act as if an objective moral law-giver exists (i.e., God) and trust our transcendent minds (or universal ego) to get at the truth. While morals themselves may not be objectively knowable, at least our transcendent minds are universally so. Problem is, does Kant really know this or is he trapped behind his own sense perceptions?

The influence of Hobbes, Hume, and Kant is still felt today. If morals are not real and knowable, who are you to push your views on me or anyone else? Morality is reduced to mere preference, like opting for chocolate ice cream over vanilla.

For the most part, Christians in the 18th and 19th centuries did not respond to these empiricist attacks with anything like a vigorous intellectual counterpunch. At first, they simply surrendered. The father of Protestant liberalism, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), proposed a strict dichotomy between faith and what’s really true. The historical reliability of the Christian faith, along with its doctrines, could be set aside. What mattered was individual religious experience. Thus, even if the resurrection and other doctrines were disproved scientifically, faith could survive as feeling.

Later, those believers who resisted liberalism grew suspicious of intellectual ideas altogether, retreating first into revivalism—where emotional, simplistic preaching produced converts with no real grasp of Christian ideas—and then into fundamentalism, where Evangelicals committed to Biblical truth withdrew from the universities to form their own Bible colleges and seminaries. While evangelical fidelity to theological orthodoxy was truly commendable, the retreat from the marketplace of ideas further marginalized Christians.

Finally, we arrive at the post-modern turn of the 20th century and its leading analytical philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). The preceding modern view (Kant) said that we were trapped behind our sense perceptions and therefore can’t get at the truth. For Wittgenstein, truth can't be known because we are trapped behind language. Sure, we can talk about truth all day long, but there is no correspondence between what we say is real and what actually is real. We must therefore construct morals and religion through our various language communities, just as we do law.

Postmodern thinking had a near-catastrophic impact on religion and ethics. If there is no truth in religion, why should anyone take seriously a worldview that’s just a construct of the Christian language community (or any other community)? If the postmodern view is correct, it follows the Gospel can make no real truth claims whatsoever on a Muslim or Hindu who comes from a different faith (or language) community. Privately, gospel teaching may enhance the Christian’s personal life, but we should never think of it as genuine knowledge.

Ironically, that hasn’t stopped Christian postmodernists from making sweeping (universal) knowledge claims of their own. According to Brad Kallenberg, we are indeed trapped behind language and can’t get out to the real world. Thus, language does not represent reality; it constitutes reality. Question is, how can Kallengberg know this given his claim that no one has privileged access to what is real? Is it true that we are trapped behind language or is that just the view of his community? If it’s just the view of his particular language community, why should I accept it? Attempts to ground the truth of Christianity in postmodernism are bound to fail. Again, why should anyone take the Christian worldview seriously if it’s just a construct of our own language?

Meanwhile, the postmodern turn fractured the concept of moral truth in countless ways. We’re now told the Christian language community socially constructs Christian morality while Islamic and Jewish communities socially construct their respective moral rules (and so on and so on). What’s true according to one community’s article of faith may not be true for anyone else. Hence, one community should not impose its moral views on another.

Christians cannot accept this postmodern turn. Simply put, credo matters more than experience. The Corinthians had all kinds of religious experiences, yet Paul says that absent the gospel he preached, their faith was in vain. Put simply, Christianity has to mean something specific or it ceases to be Christian, no matter what one may feel. At a minimum, it means four things. First, Christ atoned for our sins. Second, he was buried bodily. Third, he was resurrected bodily. Fourth, we can know it really happened—there were witnesses. Deny any one of these and you no longer have Christianity, no matter how “authentic” you feel. Yet deny is precisely what some “Christian” authors do when they insist we can’t know anything objectively, including theological truth, because we are trapped behind language. Setting aside the self-refuting nature of their claim—namely, is their own view true or just a construct of their language community?—the Bible presents a radically different picture.

I like how one of my Biola professors, Dr. R. Scott Smith, once put it when he said that God has indeed spoken, as a fact of reality, and that he is making a universally true claim. That claim is that all should repent, and that Jesus will judge them. And, most significantly, He actually has raised Jesus from the dead. For Paul, these are facts about the way things really are, and they are true for all people. In short, Christian postmodernism nullifies the gospel.

Ella: the Anti-Plan B [Serge]

Elizabeth and Scott have awakened me from my slumber (thanks guys). There is a lot of confusion regarding the new "emergency contraceptive" Ella (ulipristal), and hopefully I'll be able to provide some clarification in the next few posts.

Let me contrast Plan B and Ella. Plan B is basically synthetic progesterone, and is merely a larger dose of a form of oral contraceptive that has been used for years. Ella is a progesterone antagonist, which means that it works by blocking the effect of progesterone. The only other progesterone antagonist on the market at this time is mifepristone, otherwise known as RU-486, the abortion pill.

Its seems a bit strange that the proposed mechanism for both of these drugs is to suppress ovulation, and the evidence is clear that both of them do that. The concern is with any other effects the medications may have on a developing embryo and its ability to attach to the uterine lining.

Since human beings are intrinsically valuable from the moment they become human beings, any medication that serves to end the life of a human being after fertilization is morally wrong. This is true whether or not the medication has a direct effect on an implanted embryo or if it adversely effects that uterine lining to make implantation more difficult. I would oppose any medication that has been shown to have either effect.

In the case of Plan B - there is no direct evidence that it decreases the receptivity of the uterine lining to an embryo that is attempting to implant. There is some indirect evidence that has concerned many in our movement, but there is also evidence from both animal studies and human studies that indicate no post-fertilization effects from Plan B. In the absence of clear evidence, I urge caution, but cannot state that using Plan B is wrong because of its post-fertilization effects. Lots of my older posts on this topic can be found here.

This may seem like a win for the pro-EC crowd, but in truth it is an epic fail. If EC only works before fertilization, than its effectiveness will be far less than the stated 90%. In fact, the evidence now supports this. There have been over 14 studies that have tried to show that taking EC will decrease pregnancies within a certain group. The number of the studies that showed a decrease in pregnancies for those taking Plan B have been a whopping zero.

What about Ella? I will show in following posts that just about everything that I stated about Plan B is completely different than Ella. Ella has been shown conclusively to have an adverse effect on the uterine lining. Investigators admit that if taken in higher doses, Ella will cause an abortion just like her sister RU-486. This is not an emergency contraceptive drug - it is a low dose abortifacient.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Plan C

NOTE! Please accept my apologies for any confusion the original post below may have caused. In fairness to Elizabeth, I failed to communicate to her the LTI position on Plan B (Emergency Contraception) and the Pill in general. Elizabeth, noting what many pro-life groups have said about Plan B, understandably concluded that our position was similar. The burden was on me to explain why we differed from those other groups and I overlooked doing that in her case. Thus, any confusion her post caused is my fault not hers. To clarify, LTI takes a cautious view on Plan B and the Pill in general while we await further evidence. That is, while we don’t think there is sufficient evidence to say for certain that Plan B (or the Pill) functions as an abortifacient in the event of breakthrough ovulation, we do think there’s sufficient evidence to indicate it may function that way. Thus, we should err on the side of caution while we await further evidence, meaning we do not endorse its use. Ella (Plan C), however, appears to function much like RU 486 abortion, thus Elizabeth is correct to raise concern. I have taken the liberty of modifying the post to reflect our position. Again, I apologize for the confusion, which is fully my fault.
--Scott Klusendorf

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new form of "emergency contraceptive" pill that works as many as five days after unprotected intercourse. Plan B worked up to three days following intercourse.

Read all about the prescription "ella" in Friday's New York Times.

The company manufacturing the drug insists that it does not cause abortion, but this so-called birth control method appears to function much like the abortifacient RU-48; therefore, LTI does not endorse its use.

On a side note, I found it interesting that the article points out that some "religious groups" are opposed to the pill because of the perception that it causes abortion. I think the author here has overlooked groups like the Life Training Institute that base their arguments on science and philosophy. It's insulting to imply that opponents who espouse religious beliefs are incapable of reaching a logical conclusion.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Focus for Impact [Jay]

Last night we launched the first of a 10-week series of classes at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church on The Case for Life. As we introduced the manner in which we will be discussing engaging our culture on the issue of life, we first set out to simplify the debate. I wrote two questions on the white board:

1 – What is wrong with abortion?
2 – Why is abortion wrong?

When I asked the class to address the first question we soon realized that we could list things all night. There is a lot wrong with abortion and cataloguing every evil related to it and how it impacts our society from the pain and suffering endured by many women to the general devaluing of human life is an overwhelming endeavor. And this is how many pro-life advocates approach engaging our culture on the issue of abortion. They overwhelm their audience with information in an attempt to supply as full an answer as possible to question one.

In this class we will not be doing that. We will be addressing question two and only question two. I informed the class that we will also explore how that type of singular focus helps the pro-life advocate engage their opponent. Our concentration on number two in no way minimizes the importance of all of the issues that are brought up by question one. We simply recognize that our main goal is to understand and articulate why abortion is wrong to those who disagree with us.

Why is abortion wrong? Because abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. That answer is so clear and so obvious that a simple test can demonstrate why it is the only answer to question two. If no woman ever suffered emotional and spiritual pain from a past abortion would abortion still be wrong? If no woman ever faced an increased risk of breast cancer as a result of abortion would elective abortion still be wrong? If there were absolutely no negative secondary effects on our society from the killing of innocent unborn human beings would that killing in and of itself still be wrong? Of course it would.

We must simplify the issue in our discussions because time is short. Scott once wrote an article entitled "No More Rambling Monologues" where he persuasively made the argument that we get very little time to present our case so we must focus our presentation. Instead of exhausting ourselves and our listeners by trying to answer question number one we should persuasively and winsomely build a case for our answer to question number two. The unborn are human beings, human beings matter, and it is morally wrong to kill innocent human beings without extreme justification. We still have some work to do to support our claims, but it is focused work and we have a compelling case.

If the unborn are fully human, then abortion is a great evil. Great evils produce terrible consequences beyond the immediate offense, but the evil itself is the willful destruction of innocent human life for elective reasons. That is our wheelhouse and that is where we will focus our energies for the next 9 weeks in this class. If you are in the area, please feel welcome to join us.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Don't be Silenced! [Scott]

Are pro-life advocates unfairly imposing their religion? Get your answer and read about our new outreach to graduate students in the latest LTI Newsletter.

Please give. We'll use every penny to equip more pro-life advoctes for a persuasive defense of life.

Don't Like It, Don't Have One Pt. III [Megan]

Check out parts I and II to get the full response to a recent article in the Birmingham Atheism Examiner.

I’ll begin by posting two key paragraphs from the author, numbering the sentences so my responses will match.

1. Personal religious convictions toward abortion do not constitute legal opposition to the right to an abortion.”

2. (a.)“Laws should not exist to enforce morality, (b.) and history should show us the problems that inevitably arise when we attempt to legislate it, especially biblical morality.”

3. (a.) “Murder and abortion were in existence before the advent of Christianity and the canonization of the Bible, and so were laws prohibiting murder. (b.) We need laws against murder to regulate behavior to allow the civil function of human society. (c.) A god is not needed to regulate murder, because if left unregulated, civil society could not exist. (d.) Abortion does not have an equal effect on society as murder.”

My responses, corresponding to the numbers and letters above:

1. I agree. Legal opposition to abortion should not be on grounds of any kind of personal preference (which is the author’s understanding of the nature of religious convictions); but it should be grounded in the acknowledgement of the objective wrong of taking the life of a defenseless human being without justification.

2. This segment was divided into two parts:

a. All laws enforce morality (of which dictionary definitions generally read: “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior”). In claiming that laws “should” not exist to enforce morality, the author is stepping on his own foot. In other words — Is that a law he is proposing should exist?

b. What specific examples can the author give from history in which attempts to legislate morality have gone wrong? One has to wonder if any example given is one in which a moral good was properly enforced. This is a claim that demands solid evidence, and there are several factors involved.

3. This segment was divided into four parts:

a. To this assertion, I think the proper response (to borrow Greg Koukl’s favorite two-word reply) is a gracious “So?”. What exactly does this prove — that murder is universally wrong? If this is an attempt by the author to debunk God, it is unsuccessful. God exists long before the advent of Christianity and the canonization of the Bible. If you’re going to argue against Christianity, you have to play in bounds, so to speak. This statement’s universal claim about the prohibition of murder might make a strong premise in the moral argument for God’s existence, but it does little to help the author’s case.

b. Key words here: “We need laws against murder…” See the author’s assertion in 2-a. The two statements are contradictory.

c. This is a premise and conclusion that don’t really work. Premise: If murder is unregulated, civil society can’t exist. Conclusion: God is not needed to regulate murder. This in itself is a non sequitur. Even if the author’s statement in 3-a is meant as a premise to this conclusion, we’ve already seen why that premise doesn’t work.

d. Here, the author (once again) begs the question. He assumes the unborn are not human beings. He has done an insufficient job of defending that view.

Taken as a whole, #3 is meant to argue, I believe, that because both abortion and murder existed prior to the advent of Christianity, and murder (understood as the unjust taking of a defenseless human life) has, for that span, been universally regulated, abortion and murder do not affect society in the same way. A read back through my response to each part of #3 should show that the insufficiency of the premises dismantles the conclusion.

Furthermore, Life Training Institute makes a compelling case to show that from the beginning, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. We make our case by appealing to science (which is where you go when you want to find out what kind of thing the unborn is), and philosophy (to answer the question of human value). On those grounds, I would argue that murder and abortion have exactly the same effect, in that each takes the life of a defenseless human being without justification.

As I said in the first post, by stripping away some of the rhetoric, the core of the arguments are exposed, and they’re answerable.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Case for Life class at Johnson Ferry Baptist [Jay]

This coming Wednesday evening, August 11th, I will begin my 10-week series on Scott's book The Case for Life at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in East Cobb County. The class will begin at 6:30PM in room 353.

In addition, I will be blogging the material from the class as well as any discussions that come up in the Q & A time. If you are in the area, we would love for you to join us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Word About Comments at LTI [Jay]

I felt it necessary to post this for those who wish to argue with our bloggers here at LTI Blog. As a ministry that works with students of various ages, we intend this blog to be safe for a broad range of users. As a result, we moderate all comments and reject any and all comments that contain obscenity. All of the bloggers on this site are working during the day so comments must wait to be approved until one of the site administrators is available.

We welcome respectful dissent, but when commenters begin with an ad hominem attack (personal insults), as a comment I just rejected did, we will not evaluate the full content before rejection. If a comment is sufficiently off the topic of the post or demonstrates a greater desire to troll than to engage a dialogue that comment will also be rejected.

We realize that this violates the desires of many internet users to freely comment, but as a ministry we feel that we have standards that we must uphold and that requires some measure of control. So please feel free to comment and to disagree, but do so respectfully and productively. Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't Like It, Don't Have One II [Megan]

Note: See the first installment of this thread from last week regarding an article in the Birmingham Atheism Examiner.

The author begins the fifth paragraph as follows: “With very few exceptions, the pro-life argument is a theological one…” There is more after that regarding legislation and morality, (I’ll address it in my next entry). By “theological,” the author means that pro-lifers make their arguments based on religious grounds. In other words, the pro-life argument does “metaphysics,” which deals, in essence, with the ultimate grounding of things (beyond the physical).

A few paragraphs later, the author gives a detailed description of the unborn’s earliest development, from the zygote’s division into blastomeres to the blastocyst’s production of hormones that become detectable. The author walks the reader through the next weeks of development, until around the two-month marker.
Meanwhile, he inserts some noteworthy claims:

He suggests to those who consider a “fertilized egg” to be “sacred” that God is “the most prolific abortionist in the history of the universe,” because “a vast majority” of zygotes do not make it to the two-week marker.

He suggests that at two weeks, the embryo is “still an extremely small cluster of undifferentiated tissue.” At three weeks, the embryo “is about the size of a pen point and looks like a worm;” and at four weeks, “it looks like a tadpole, complete with gill-like structures which is normal given our evolutionary beginnings.” Finally, “By seven weeks, the embryo has lost its tail, which is another point of reference to our evolutionary beginnings.”

To wrap up the section of the article subtitled “A little scientific background…,” the author tells us a lot about the “nots” of the unborn: the brain has not developed higher function; there are not pathways to transfer pain signals; “the embryo does not appear to be fully human;” “not yet developed the capacity for consciousness;” “not yet sentient;” “not defined as a fetus until the tenth week.”

At thirteen weeks, the author shares, the fetus is only around three inches long and weighing in at about an ounce.

My responses:

By eloquently describing the process that takes place in the early days and weeks of the unborn’s development, the author has done…just that — describe the early development of the unborn, “development” being the operative word. His mistake is confusing development with construction. As philosopher Richard Stith points out, the unborn is not constructed piece by piece like an automobile on an assembly line, it directs its own development from within. From the beginning, the unborn are whole, distinct and living human beings. For more information, read Stith’s article, “Does making babies make sense? Why so many people find it difficult to see humanity in a developing foetus.”

Secondly, the author uses the physical appearance of the unborn as grounds to assign the unborn value as human beings. Phrases like “cluster of cells,” “like a worm,” “like a tadpole,” “around an ounce,” and so forth tell us what the unborn looks like at certain stages of development. Aside from the fact that the author is doing some metaphysical acrobatics of his own to make his case, size and physical appearance are not sufficient grounds for killing anyone (the “S” in SLED).

When you throw in the author’s appeal to “evolutionary beginnings,” it becomes evident that the author misses the religious nature of his own claims. Even if he believes his appeal to be one to science, he cannot escape the metaphysical nature of Naturalism et al., as a worldview — the rules of science, as it were, are ultimately grounded somewhere. As Scott writes in Chapter Six of The Case for Life, “Everyone does metaphysics.”

When the author notes that many zygotes do not make it to the two-week mark for natural reasons, he misses a key difference between his example and abortion — intentionality. While nature may take its course, the sad occasion of the loss of life naturally is a different matter from intentionally taking that life, as abortion does.

Finally, in informing us on many things the unborn is “not,” or not able to do, the author begs the question of what the unborn is. Not only that, he makes the mistake of (once again) granting human beings value based on physical appearance and ability. Take that claim on a test drive and see where it leads — but you’d better hope the people calling the shots look a lot like you and can make use of your skills.
I’ll wrap up with a final entry shortly…

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dr. Grossman's Magical Moms [Jay]

When asked when life begins, he said, "Personally, I believe in the strength, intellect and fortitude of women. When a woman says a fetus is a person, I think it is one. I believe the woman empowers the fetus."

Dr. Richard Grossman, abortionist, as quoted in The Durango Herald

I firmly support Dr. Grossman's right to believe what he wants and his freedom to express those views however contrary they are to my own beliefs. But here is the problem; the central question in the issue of abortion is not, “What do you believe about the unborn?” The question is, “What are the unborn?” What we believe is often a matter of personal opinion and our opinions can be freely held and even expressed (though once expressed we risk public correction for flawed ideas). But our opinions should not govern whether or not another life form can be violently destroyed, for that sort of authority we need to know substantively what that life form ACTUALLY IS not what I think about it. So in order to be free to terminate the lives of unborn human beings for matters of convenience we must objectively answer the question, “What are the unborn?”

Dr. Grossman's explanation demonstrates his presupposition that the unborn are NOT intrinsically valuable human beings. He shares with us his own ideas about how they attain value, and in his opinion the mother's attitude toward the unborn make it valuable or valueless. This fails on multiple levels to address the pertinent question. First of all, it is a complete dodge of the question that was put to him. As medical doctor, he is fully aware that life begins at conception and so he is changing to a philosophical discussion of personhood and value. In addition, he does not address the unborn life in any real way at all. When asked to identify the moment that life is present, he punts to the mother. His honest answer is that he does not think that the unborn have any value at all, unless his reasoning is based on the bizarre metaphysical assumption that when a mother cares about her unborn child a magical metamorphosis occurs that substantively changes the identity of the unborn. The mother says it is now a person and Voila! a person magically appears. This magic can happen at any point in pregnancy and can even be reversed. The mother changes her mind and says it is now not a person and presto/chango the person is gone again and a valueless life has returned. That would be truly bizarre, but we must conclude that this is not what he is saying.

What he is saying is that the only thing that makes the unborn worth preserving is the opinion of the mother, and that is the very definition of extrinsic value. The value comes from the desires or needs of another and not from the identity or substance of the unborn human life. The unborn have no value in this view. The mother's opinions or whims are all that matter and all considerations end with her choice. The unborn is simply nothing of worth without the mother's desire to preserve her.

The very terrifying reality is that this rubbish is the justification that Dr. Grossman uses to explain why he performs abortions. I have repeatedly said that the abortionists are different from all other pro-choicers in that they not only believe the rhetoric of that view, but they profit by directly applying those beliefs to a gruesome end. I would hope that they would have a more rigorous defense of their actions than this, but we are a fallen people. We need few excuses to seek evil. Dr. Grossman needs to answer the first question honestly. The question is, “What are the unborn?” If his answer truly is that they are nothing of consequence then we need to know when we become something of consequence as human beings. I will help him out a little bit here, if his answer is that we only matter when other people say we matter then we do not really matter at all.

If you find someone comfortable with that position I would give them a wide berth, and certainly don't employ them to deliver your child.

HT Jivin Jehoshaphat