Friday, May 30, 2014

Arguing Over Terms [Clinton Wilcox]

Recently I was involved in an on-line discussion (it was more of an argument, really) regarding whether pro-life people should be using the term "unborn" in our discussion or "preborn" exclusively. The short answer is it really doesn't matter what terms you use. Arguing over terms is really just unhelpful -- it's best to use terms that both sides are comfortable with so that you can get on with the real discussion: abortion is immoral because the procedure kills an innocent human being. Arguing over terms is not helpful.

To make matters worse, I've even been told it's immoral to use the word "unborn" over the word "preborn," because the word "unborn" is an incorrect term and if you can save more children by using the term "preborn" over "unborn," then it would be immoral to use the term "unborn." But there is no possible way someone can support the proposition that using one term will save more children than the other. The reality is that everyone knows what we mean when we use the term "unborn." Most people may not understand what you mean when you say "preborn" because it's not a word that comes up very often, except usually from a pro-life person.

I sometimes do use the term "preborn." After all, the prefix "pre-" means "before." So "preborn" literally means "before birth." Pre- denotes movement, to me. Conversely, the prefix "un-" just means "not," so "unborn" literally means "not born." It's still a correct term, but it conjures up an image of stagnation to me, as if it's unborn and will remain that way unless acted upon. So I sometimes use "preborn" just because it conjures an image of the children progressing toward birth. But either term is correct, and using the term "preborn" may actually require more time because I have to explain what I mean by it, whereas anyone will know what I mean by "unborn."

So that's an even longer answer to say it really doesn't matter which term we use. Arguing over which term is better is an argument that we really shouldn't be engaging in, because it detracts from the overall issue: we are working to end abortion because it kills innocent human children. Arguing over terms is beside the point.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Lament Regarding Pro-Choice Bloggers [Clinton Wilcox]

There's a one-sidedness when it comes to abortion blogs. I see many pro-life bloggers who are using the science and philosophy well to support their position. And then when I look up pro-choice blogs, I usually see the following: "Hey, look at what this stupid anti-choicer just said [provides link]. This is bull!" Then they completely ignore all the evidence presented by said pro-lifer and high-five each other on how rational and logical they're being.

I'm serious. Go search out blogs about abortion and see the differences for yourself.

This makes it difficult for me to respond to pro-choice bloggers because I constantly feel like I'm going after the lowest hanging fruit of the pro-choice side. But I really don't have a choice, unless I want to respond to the academic writers (which I do, as well, but as a blogger I enjoy interacting with others in the blogosphere). I'm a big believer in the fact that if your position is the correct one, it can withstand the strongest objections of the other side.

So when I come across a reasonable pro-choice advocate, who talks about the need for information regarding the risks of abortion being needed, I feel it's worth pointing out. My friend Jonathon Van Maren, of Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, has interviewed a pro-choice columnist, Barbara Kay, who writes for the National Post, a Canadian publication. You can read the transcript here. You can also find the link to the interview there.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fallacy Monday: Non Sequitur [Clinton Wilcox]

Follow the following links to the different parts in this series: Introduction, Ad Hominem, Strawman, Begging the Question, Slippery Slope, and Equivocation.

The term "non sequitur" is a Latin term that simply means "it does not follow." A non sequitur is committed when an argument does not follow logically from its premises. This is obviously fallacious since in order for an argument to succeed, it must be both valid and sound (see the introduction for a refresher on the difference).

Let's take the following argument, that I found at this linked site: Maria drives a car. Maria must be rich. But it obviously doesn't follow from the fact alone that Maria drives a car that she must be rich. Perhaps she is poor but was given the car as a gift.

Here are a couple of examples of Non Sequiturs:

An argument a pro-life person might make would be: The only reason someone would be pro-choice is because they hate babies. But that doesn't follow at all: there may be some pro-choice people who hate babies, but one does not have to hate babies to be pro-choice. Many pro-choice people don't believe the unborn human being to be a baby, and some believe that it is a baby but that the mother's right to bodily autonomy trumps the child's right to life.

An argument a pro-choice person might make is: the unborn are not valuable because they cannot breathe on their own. But again, this doesn't follow. People on life support are still human, even though they can't breathe on their own (whether or not they have a good chance of recovery). The fact that someone is more dependent does not give us grounds to treat that person any way we wish. In fact, some might say that someone being more dependent gives us a greater obligation to care for that person.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Did Washington Post Check the Science? [Clinton Wilcox]

So Republican Senator Marco Rubio is in the public consciousness right now for some comments he made about the scientific consensus being that life begins at conception. This is true, but I'll get there in a moment. The Washington Post, taking Rubio at his word, decided to take him up on that challenge. Or at least they think they did. Now, Rubio's comments came after a question he was given regarding climate change. It is beyond the scope of this article to talk about that topic or Rubio's comments regarding it.

Now, it is scientific fact that human life begins at fertilization. Geneticist Jerome LeJeune, in a Tennessee divorce court in 1989, called in as an expert for a debate over frozen embryos, remarked "...I would say that science has a very simple conception of man; as soon as he has been conceived, a man is a man." In fact, embryologists consistently agree that human life begins at fertilization. In 1933, Alan Guttmacher (past president of Planned Parenthood) wrote the following: "We of today know that man is born of sexual union; that he starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge" (from Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p. 3, emphases his). In fact, from the official Senate report from the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to the Senate Judiciary Committee S-158 (Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981), it was stated: "Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being -- a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings." A prominent physician points out that at these Senate hearings, "Pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation. Only one witness said no one can tell when life begins" (Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence of Life Before Birth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), p. 113).

So yes, there is overwhelming scientific consensus that human life begins at fertilization. I have actually asked several pro-choice people to find me just one embryologist who disagrees and no one so far has been able to meet my challenge. And to be clear, I'm talking about embryologists, the experts on human embryos. Not scientists like PZ Myers who is either just not a very good biologist or is just incredibly dishonest.

In order to "look at the science" on the abortion issue, Philip Bump, the author of the Washington Post article, reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This was the statement they returned to him: "Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman's uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg -- which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse."

Now I don't know what specific question Bump used to ask regarding this. But notice that ACOG didn't answer the question regarding when life begins, only when pregnancy begins. Why is this? Bump asserts it's because there really is no scientific consensus on when human life begins, but that's obviously not true as I have shown above. It's because ACOG is a pro-abortion organization. So they have a vested interest in using flowery language, such as when pregnancy beings, to muddy the waters so that they don't give the impression to the general American public that they are supporting the deaths of unborn human children. They were being purposefully vague and misleading.

I have no problem with the definition of pregnancy beginning at implantation. But even if this is the case, that doesn't prove that the unborn are not human before that point. There is nothing about the act of implanting in the womb that would suddenly bestow humanity to the unborn child. But even if we take the ACOG's statement, this would still show that since pregnancy begins roughly a week after fertilization, all abortions past that point do, in fact, kill a human being.

So I applaud the Washington Post's desire to check the science for themselves. What I disprove of is that apparently they have no idea how research is done. Considering their shoddy research in this area, how can we possibly trust any of their other articles have been thoroughly fact-checked?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who is Misrepresenting Whom? [Clinton Wilcox]

My friend Kristine Kruszelnicki of Pro-Life Humanists fairly recently posted an article to Hemant Mehta's blog ("The Friendly Atheist") making a secular case for abortion. Since then, irrational atheists (note: I'm not calling all atheists irrational, I'm speaking of only the atheists who have responded to this article, in articles of their own or in the comments) have been illustrating that atheism isn't so much about free thinking as it is dogmatism. Ironic, no? Apparently one cannot be pro-life and an atheist. Any atheist who is pro-life must, apparently by definition, be religious in disguise, an accusation I see hurled at Secular Pro-Life pretty often.

That article has also spawned many diatribes against the pro-life position. This article is just one of many. In this article, the author, Ophelia Benson, asserts that pro-life people are misusing a quote from Peter Singer. The irony here is that they misrepresent SPL by calling us liars and cheaters, while accusing us of misrepresenting Singer's view. But there is no misrepresentation here on our part. Here is the quote that we use:

"It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo Sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” (Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.85-86.)

Peter Singer is saying exactly what we say he is saying: the unborn are biological human beings, one of us, from fertilization. This is just a recent case in which pro-choice people conflate philosophy and science. There is a difference between a human being in the genetic sense and a human being in the moral sense. Singer is making a statement toward the former (the genetic sense), and that is why we use his quote, among others. Because despite the fact that many pro-choice people do accept that the unborn are living human beings, we still encounter people who argue against this simple and evident biological reality.

I personally own and have read Singer's book. I try to make it a policy to see the quotes I use in the context of the work it appears in and not rely on third-party quotations. So Benson's statement that we need to include the rest of the quote or we're cheating is simply ridiculous. The rest is not relevant and quoting the rest would not fundamentally alter Singer's meaning. In fact, including the rest of the quote only works in our favor: "...and the same is true of the most profoundly and irreparably intellectually disabled human being, even of an infant who is born anencephalic -- literally, without a brain."

So Benson tries to nitpick the punctuation used (Singer's sentence ends in a semicolon, not a period), so at most she could accuse pro-life advocates of not being careful enough. We should end with an elipsis ("...") instead of a period, since the sentence does continue. But nothing is changed by leaving that out.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fallacy Monday: Equivocation [Clinton Wilcox]

For the previous parts in this series, see the Introduction, Ad Hominem, Strawman, Begging the Question, and Slippery Slope articles.

The fallacy of equivocation is essentially made when you use a term in the premises in your argument in two different ways. For example, take the following argument from the linked webpage:

P1: Brad is a nobody.
P2: Nobody is perfect.
C: Therefore, Brad is perfect.

The fallacy here is apparent: In the first premise, you are using the word "nobody" to mean "someone unknown." In premise two, you mean "nobody" to mean "absolutely no one." You are switching terms illegitimately to prove your conclusion.

This is a fallacy of ambiguity. In order to make a convincing logical argument, you must use all the terms in the same way in all of your premises and make your arguments as specific as possible.

Examples of equivocation in the abortion issue:

A pro-choice equivocation I hear very often goes something like this: "Human beings have basic rights. Fetuses cannot drive or vote. (From 1 and 2) Therefore fetuses do not have basic rights. (From 1 and 3) Therefore fetuses are not human."

This equivocates on the term rights. The person making this argument is failing to make a distinction between natural rights, rights that human beings have by virtue of being human (the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, bodily autonomy/integrity, etc. fall into this category) and legal rights, rights that the government bestows on its citizens and can rightly take them away (the rights to vote, drink, drive, etc. fall into this category). So the equivocation is obvious here: The first premise talks about natural rights, but the pro-choice advocate appeals to legal rights in their second premise to lead to their conclusion.

Pro-life people tend to be accused of equivocation with the standard argument, that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, fetuses are innocent human beings, therefore it is wrong to kill fetuses. Mary Anne Warren, in her essay On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, made this charge fairly famous. The charge is that in the first premise, the genetic (biological) sense is in mind, and in the second premise, the moral sense is in mind. However, this is a mistaken charge. The term "human beings" is used in the same sense in both premises, as a full-fledged member of the human species. One could mean the genetic sense in both premises and arrive at the same conclusion without equivocating. Then Peter Singer may accuse you of speciesism, but of course, it is not wrong to hold that the human species is special among all the animals on Earth because it is not merely belonging to the biological species, but the kind of thing that species is, that grounds their value. Human beings, all human beings, have the inherent nature as rational, moral agents, and that grounds their value.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Being Pro-Life Requires Action [Clinton Wilcox]

I was watching a video today by Hemant Mehta, who goes by the moniker "Friendly Atheist" on his blog. The gist of his video is whether or not one can be pro-life and atheist. I've heard many atheists claim that one can't be pro-life and be an atheist, and when Kristine Kruszelnicki of Pro-Life Humanists wrote an article for Mehta's blog last month, atheists went bananas in the comments section, offended at the very idea one could be an atheist and pro-life. How do atheists expect me to believe that atheism isn't a religion or a belief system if they keep adding rules for atheism? I thought the only thing one needed to be an atheist was to not believe in God or gods.

It's not my intention to respond to all of Mehta's video, but to respond to one key point. He mentions that he doesn't care if an atheist is pro-life as long as they don't act on their convictions. He says it's okay if you try to dissuade other people, but don't vote for legislation that would restrict abortion. There's something very wrong with that. He's essentially saying that if you believe children are being slaughtered in our country, don't do anything to actually try to end the slaughter.

He made a comparison to animal rights. But if someone claims to believe that animals deserve rights and that it's wrong to kill them, but doesn't actively try and stop the killing, I'll tell them point blank "I don't believe you." If you really think it's murder then you would do something to try and stop the killing. If someone claims to be pro-life, if they claim to believe that abortion kills an innocent human child but don't even lift a finger to help stop the killing, how on earth can I take them seriously?

Being pro-life requires action. If you truly believe that the unborn are innocent human children, since they are being legally and brutally slaughtered in our country, we must do something to end the slaughter of these children. And as far as I'm concerned, all are welcome in the pro-life movement, whether or not we agree on religious or metaphysical views.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Waiting for Eli by Chad Judice [Clinton Wilcox]

Full disclosure: Arcadian House Publishing has sent me a free copy of this book to review.

Waiting for Eli is the story of a father, Chad Judice, and his wife, Ashley, who is pregnant with their second son who has spina bifida, a debilitating disorder which often causes the person with it to be paralyzed, develop water on the brain, etc., and many are miscarried during pregnancy. More distressingly, more than 50% of children given this diagnosis are aborted. This is a story of the journey that Eli's parents took through the entire pregnancy, preparing for Eli's birth and for his life with spina bifida.

Throughout the book, Chad, his friends, and the faculty and students at the high school he teaches at, St. Thomas More in Lafayette, New Orleans, continually prayed to God for a miracle. Believing that all things happen for a reason, Chad realizes that one of the miracles that God worked during this entire ordeal through Eli, short for Elijah, was bringing his students back, or closer, to God, many of whom had either given up on their faith or weren't taking it very seriously, through their corporate prayers to God.

A couple of things need to be said. First, Chad is very much Catholic and takes his Catholicism seriously. This is a book that atheists and agnostics probably won't get much out of, though I think it would be beneficial for Protestants to read, if they can overlook all the Catholic events.

Additionally, I am very skeptical about claims that people can heal, even through the Holy Spirit. I believe that God works miracles, but I am very skeptical about whether humans, in the modern era, are meant to work miracles. Yet he constantly speaks of a "healing priest" (especially throughout chapter 5) whom he saw to "heal" his son. But it is not within the scope of this review to discuss this view, I wanted to point it out so that I wouldn't be seen as endorsing this view.

I greatly appreciated the honesty that I found in the book (in the opening chapter Chad talked about answering a student's question regarding his greatest fear, which was having a child that was disabled, and at one point his wife admitted to briefly entertaining the thought of having an abortion). Reading this book can help give someone an idea of what it's like to go through this, to struggle with questions and your faith as you are going through a very difficult time.

Chad spoke of a miracle regarding Eli. To be honest, aside from the miracle I mentioned earlier, I'm not really sure what the miracle was that Eli was talking about. His son wasn't miraculously healed of the spina bifida, but perhaps he meant that his son's disability wasn't worse than it was when he was born (the hole in his spinal column was quite small, which surprised the doctors and nurses present).

The book is well-written and easy to get through. It shouldn't take you very long to read, but the story is compelling enough that you want to know what happens to Eli and his family considering that this is an autobiography from real people.

So I believe that the book is definitely worth reading, for the fact that we can read a first-hand account of how God strengthens his children through adversity. There are some elements that gave me pause, but for more Charismatic or Catholic believers it won't be an issue.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fallacy Monday: Slippery Slope [Clinton Wilcox]

It's been two weeks since my last part in this series. The month of April was incredibly busy for me but now I'm back with a new installment in this series. Here are the links to the introduction to this series, to the Ad Hominem fallacy, to the Strawman fallacy, and to the Begging the Question fallacy.

A slippery slope argument is an argument that you start with one thing, and another, related thing will happen, and eventually it will snowball into something horrible. The reason that this type of argument can be fallacious is because it is often just a form of fear mongering. But like most fallacies, this type of argument is not always fallacious. What's important is whether or not you have warrant for the slippery slope.

An example of the slippery slope fallacy is one I am drawing from this linked website: If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment, eventually the government will ban all cars. So we should not ban Hummers.

Do you see how that argument is nothing more than fear mongering? There is absolutely no warrant for the fear that the government will ban all cars, especially since most cars are not as bad for the environment as Hummers. They're invoking fear of banning all cars because they don't want their Hummers to be banned from operation.

Here is an example of a pro-life argument that is not a fallacious slippery slope, though it is a slippery slope argument: Legalizing abortion will lead to legalizing other forms of killing, like killing infants or the seriously disabled. The reason that this is not fallacious is because there is warrant for it, especially regarding the philosophers who argue that the unborn are not persons due to lacking some property that, in their view, grounds personhood. It's simply following their logic to its natural conclusion. And we can see that this type of argument is warranted because there are, in fact, philosophers who are advocating infanticide and euthanizing the seriously disabled.

An example of a pro-choice slippery slope argument that is fallacious is that if pro-life people have their way, women will be back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. Many pro-choice people argue that taking away the legal right to an abortion will take us back into the dark ages where men are able to oppress women. This is clearly not a good argument and is merely fear mongering because they don't want their freedom to abort their unborn children taken away. But pro-life people do not want to oppress women, we just want our government to stop allowing the legalized slaughter of unborn human children.

So don't be fooled if someone tries to argue that your slippery slope argument is fallacious. Depending on what the argument is, if you can show that there is warrant for it then the argument is not fallacious.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Do Aborted Babies Go to Heaven? [Clinton Wilcox]

I see this argument thrown around occasionally, especially by atheist pro-choice people. It's not a serious objection. It's merely meant to trap religious pro-life people. The argument goes like this: If babies who are aborted go to Heaven, then why do you oppose abortion if those babies are going to a better place? I've even seen one atheist pro-life person assert that if she was religious, she wouldn't have any reason to oppose abortion because they went to Heaven. She'd find some other cause to join because abortion wouldn't be that bad. Needless to say, there is absolutely no substance to this argument at all.

It's not absolutely clear in Scripture that children go to Heaven. I believe that they do, because I believe that God is just and I feel it would be unjust to hold someone accountable for their actions if they were incapable of understanding right from wrong. Also, after David's seven-day-old child died, he was confident that he would one day see his child again (see 2 Samuel 12). And we know that Jesus loves children, even to the point of telling us that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as them (Matthew 19:14). I think there is good Biblical support that children go to Heaven, but there are those who disagree. The problem is it's just not explicitly spelled out in Scripture, so we can't take a dogmatic position on it. At least not one in which we should feel confident enough in having an abortion because of where we think the child will end up.

God has also commanded us not to murder. This surely includes those who are bound for Heaven. In fact, if this was a good argument, why not take it a step further and say that as soon as someone converts to Christianity, we should kill them to speed their journey along, or to make sure they don't fall away? We are not justified in murdering someone to get them to Heaven.

We are to stand up for those without a voice (Proverbs 31:8). It's the right thing to do. Jesus even said that we have an obligation to be the "good Samaritan," to help those who cannot help themselves, even if other people think that their personal business is more important (Luke 10:25-37).

This is one of those arguments that someone who is seriously invested in the abortion issue wouldn't make. It's as bad as some of the other ones we hear, like "why don't pro-lifers adopt all the unwanted children." Not only is it unsubstantive, but it's also a red herring. Abortion is wrong because an innocent human being is killed. That is reason alone to oppose it.