Monday, December 19, 2016

New Video Series on Abortion [Clinton Wilcox]

Life Training Institute's Seth Gruber begins a series of pro-life training videos to equip you to respond thoughtfully and graciously to popular pro-choice arguments.

Below is the latest video in the series, Is Abortion the Responsibility of the Church?, and here's the link for the playlist to see past videos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Response to Richard Rowe's "Why Pro-Choice is Right" Article, Part III [Clinton Wilcox]

I've spent the last two articles responding to an article by blogger Richard Rowe, in which he asserts (without any good arguments but with a whole lot of unjustified arrogance) that pro-choice is the right position. I'm more than willing to consider somebody's arguments. I have read some of the best defenses of the abortion-choice position that is out there. Rowe's defense doesn't even come close to supporting his position. He would do well to study the issue before trying to write on it again. Here's part one in this series, and here's part two.

In this part of the series, I'll be responding to Rowe's last three arguments.

Argument 10: "Constitution, Not Opinion"

This is a common contention among abortion-choice people, that abortion is a "right" grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, this is complete hogwash. Abortion was legalized in 1973, with a few states liberalizing their abortion restrictions for a few years prior to that. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868. This means that the unborn were full persons under the law, protected by the Constitution until Justice Blackmun and the majority on the supreme court decided to redefine what a person is under the law so that they could specifically exclude the unborn. This amendment protects the rights of the unborn, but an unjust panel of Supreme Court activist judges changed that.

In fact, read the language of the 14th Amendment:

 All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (emphasis mine)
The Amendment reads "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." The text of the Amendment assumes that birth is an event that persons will undergo. It does not establish birth as the point when one becomes a person, but that one is already a person under the law. In fact, using Rowe's logic, a foreigner is not legally a person until they become naturalized in the United States. But this is obviously absurd. The 14th Amendment protects the unborn. Besides which, even if they weren't persons under the 14th Amendment, it wouldn't follow that we could then kill them, because we are not allowed to kill non-citizens in the United States just because they are not citizens. They still have natural rights, even if they don't have rights as U.S. citizens.

Argument 11: "Adoption isn't a Bottomless Option"

I have no idea where Rowe gets his statistics from, and he doesn't even attempt to adequately support them. For one thing, according to this site, the average number of people in a family is 3.14. If the couple is married, this would leave one extra person, meaning one kid. If a single parent, that would mean two kids. Yet Rowe asserts (without evidence) that the average family has three kids. He may be relying on outdated statistics for his argument, since it appears that around the time of World War II in the 1950's, the average woman had 3.8 kids. But now, the average woman is expected to have only two children in her lifetime (not the three that Rowe asserts). This even seems absurd on the face of it, since thanks to factors like legalized abortion, the United States is barely at the replacement rate, or slightly below it. Each family must have two children in order to keep the replacement level steady.

So Rowe's argument is based on false and misleading information. Plus, according to real statistics, there are currently 36 couples waiting for every one child to adopt. Additionally, Rowe here assumes that adoption is the only argument pro-life advocates make against abortion (it's not), and he also assumes that every woman who chooses not to abort will automatically choose to adopt (they won't). While adoption is certainly a good option for a woman who is considering abortion, it is not the only decision a woman can make if she decides to go through with her pregnancy. Many abortion-minded women choose to keep and raise their child if they decide not to go through with the abortion.

Argument 12: "Abortion Bans Kill"

Now Rowe is arguing that if we ban abortion, that will lead to dangerous abortions being performed. However, Rowe apparently thinks there haven't been any medical advances made since the time of ancient China. A woman who has an illegal abortion need not resort to "dangerous back alley" abortions. In fact, before abortion was legalized in 1973, abortions were mostly done by doctors in good standing in their communities, doctors who had access to better medical technology than a coat hanger, crowbar, or alcohol. See my article here on why making abortions illegal won't result in dangerous abortions.

Even now, though, legalized abortion doesn't guarantee sterile clinics. A Michigan abortion clinic was closed in 2014 due to unsterile and otherwise unsafe conditions, as well as a host of other problems. Abortion-choice advocates and politicians don't keep watch on these organizations, it takes undercover work and complaints by pro-life organizations to get these clinics shut down. Abortion-choice advocates aren't always as "pro-woman" as they would like us to believe.

The bottom line is making abortion legal hasn't made it safer, advances in medical technology, such as Penicillin, is what has made abortion a safer procedure.

Let's recap all of Rowe's arguments:

1) "Divine abortion" -- a non sequitur, mixed with a misunderstanding of the passage in question
2) "I knew you in the womb" -- not an argument to support his position
3) "A baby's worth" -- an assertion with no evidence, mixed with a red herring
4) "Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion" -- a red herring
5) "Responsibility and the last decision" -- Rowe doesn't understand the cause and effect relationship between sex which is a critical failure for this argument
6) "It's the economy, stupid" -- Economic reasons are not the sole reason that women abort, so solving economic problems will not reduce the abortion rate significantly, if at all
7) "The sanction of life" -- Rowe conflates "murder" with "killing", so this amounts to a fallacious equivocation
8) "Bans are the least effective solution" -- the information relied on here is simply inaccurate, so this argument fails
9) "The Second Amendment argument" -- this is a self-proclaimed non-argument

10) "Constitution, not opinion" -- this argument is based on a faulty understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment
11 ) "Adoption isn't a bottomless option" -- this argument is based on false, misleading, and outdated information -- plus, it assumes it is the only argument for the pro-life position
12) "Abortion bans kill" -- this argument is just false, as banning abortions don't necessarily make it more dangerous, and legalizing it hasn't guaranteed its safety

Richard Rowe is just another abortion-choice advocate who has no good argument for his position. This is unfortunately all too common among abortion-choice bloggers. If you want to read someone who makes a good case for their position, you need to read those who have written books, and even then, you have to be selective. For every good defense of abortion (by good, of course, I don't mean successful), such as David Boonin's A Defense of Abortion and Michael Tooley's Abortion and Infanticide, there's a bad defense of abortion, such as Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights and Eileen McDonagh's From Choice to Consent: Breaking the Abortion Deadlock.

Of course, making a good defense of abortion is a tall order because not only do you have to defend the indefensible, that it is permissible to kill an innocent human child for the sake of convenience, but you also have to defend highly counterintuitive ideas, such as that biological connectedness does not matter in the parent/child relationship, and that parents don't have natural obligations to their offspring. Richard Rowe's article severely misses the mark in his attempt to argue the abortion-choice position.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Response to Richard Rowe's "Why Pro-Choice is Right" Article, Part II [Clinton Wilcox]

This is my second part in a three-part series in responding to an abortion-choice advocate's article regarding why he believes "pro-choice is right." So far his defense of the abortion-choice position has been less than stellar. For part one in this series, click here. In the first part, I examined his first four arguments. Now I'll examine arguments five through nine.

Argument 5: "Responsibility and the Last Decision"

Rowe apparently thinks it "self-righteous" to hold women responsible for the life they create when they have sex. Of course we believe the man should be held responsible as well, but since it's the woman who gets pregnant, we'll be looking at her sense of responsibility. Rowe asserts that this doesn't hold up "in a philosophical sense."

However, Rowe is just another abortion-choice advocate who doesn't understand the cause and effect relationship of sex and reproduction. It may be true that pregnancy is outside of a woman's control, but, barring cases of rape, sex is within a woman's control, and since sex is the act that results in pregnancy, we absolutely can hold her responsible for the new life she conceives because she chose to have sex. Rowe also asserts that we don't hold people responsible for chance events, but if the chance event is a result of a volitional act, then of course we hold the person responsible. As Frank Beckwith argues in his book Defending Life, if someone drives drunk, even though they didn't intend to hit someone with their car (or, to put it in language Rowe is using, hitting someone with your car while intoxicated is a "chance event"), we still hold them responsible for the person they hit with their car.

Rowe brings up women who get raped, which is, of course, a very tragic situation, but this is completely off-topic. No pro-life advocate argues from the responsibility of sexual intercourse in the case of rape because she wasn't responsible for having sex. I argue that abortion in the case of rape is still wrong elsewhere, but as it's off-topic, there is no need to rehash it here.

Rowe then mentions people who used birth control of some kind. Of course if someone tries to use birth control, they are indicating their lack of desire to get pregnant, but using birth control only adds a barrier to reproduction, it does not change the reproductive nature of sex. So even using birth control does not absolve a woman from responsibility for the new life that is conceived because she still chooses to have sex.

After that, Rowe mentions women who conceive a child with a man who lied about being there for her if she gets pregnant. This is another tragic situation, one in which the sexual revolution of the 60's has helped create. This is a tragic side-effect of telling people that sex is for fun, no procreation, but this is, of course, false. Sex is reproductive, and if a woman is lied to by her husband, we should hold him responsible for the lie (and in fact, we do have laws requiring a deadbeat dad to pay child support), but this, again, does not absolve her from the responsibility of the new life she has created.

Argument 6: "It's the Economy, Stupid"

Let's lay aside that an article with such poor reasoning does not justify any sort of hubris on the part of Rowe, his next argument is an economic one. His contention here is that "at least half of all abortions come down to one thing...[lack of] money."

This argument and the reasoning for it underscores Rowe's complete ignorance on the topic of abortion (which, again, shows that he ought not be writing on it). For one thing, while a large number of abortions are because of a woman's financial reasons, there are many diverse reasons a woman doesn't have an abortion. For example, a study done by Guttmacher Institute showed that while 73% of women cited economic problems, 74% of women cited said that "having a baby would dramatically change my life". Seventy-three and seventy-four percent. This means that a large number of women citing economic problems also cited that having a child would dramatically change her life. This indicates that simply solving all women's economic problems won't eliminate what, in their mind, is a need for abortion.

Plus, it is not the responsibility of government to cover a woman's child. They had no part in the conception of the child, the mother and father did. And taking money from the taxpayer (which, in any other context, would be called stealing) to give it to a woman who has not legitimate claim to it is an immoral way to try and solve this problem. We should be concerned about ethics when we talk about proposing bills and signing them into law.

Aside from educating himself in the abortion issue, Rowe also needs to educate himself on how economics works.

Argument 7: "The Sanction of Life"

In this section is one of Rowe's most ridiculous in his entire article (which is quite a feat):
Argue all you want with Pro-Lifers -- you're never going to convince them that abortion ISN'T murder. (emphasis in original)
 I'm a person who tries to be as open-minded as I can. If someone presents to me a good argument against my position, I will reconsider my position and possibly change my mind if there is no good response to their argument. So on the surface, Rowe's claim here is simply wrong. However, the reason that most abortion-choice people stand no chance of convincing me and other thoughtful pro-life advocates of their position is one main reason: they rarely address the pro-life argument, and when they do, they either rely on false information, bad science, or bad philosophy. Rowe certainly hasn't addressed the pro-life argument, that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being. If Rowe doesn't address that argument, then he has no hope to convince me.

Here, Rowe attempts to respond to the pro-life advocate on their own terms, saying "let's accept that abortion is murder for the sake of argument. What follows from that?" His response is that murder is acceptable as long as it's sanctioned by authorities. Soldiers can shoot people, executioners can kill prisoners, and pro-life advocates allegedly "actively applaud police for murdering unarmed men in the streets."

Of course, this last point is simply ridiculous. Pro-life people don't advocate miscarriages of justice. As for the rest of this, Rowe has simply committed an equivocation on "murder". Rowe has described one act of murder (police killing unarmed people in the street) and lied about pro-life people supporting that. However, the other acts are not acts of murder, even if they are acts of killing. Murder refers to unlawfully killing people, and abortion, unfortunately, is a lawful killing, which is why I don't say that abortion is murder (even if I argue that it is murder in a philosophical sense). There is a marked difference between killing an innocent child in the womb and killing a convicted murderer after a fair trial by his peers. One does not have to make the case that abortion is murder, though, to argue from the sanctity of life. Life is sacred, which is one reason why abortion is immoral. Abortion is not murder in a legal sense because it is legal, but it should be illegal because it is unjustified homicide.

Rowe continues to argue from lack of distinctions. It's wrong to kill a baby who "threatens to cost you your nice house, sports car, and lifestyle" because the baby is not a direct threat to that. The woman conceived the child (and can always put the child up for adoption if material things are more important than human beings to her). Additionally, the child, having been conceived by his mother, has a legitimate claim on her resources. An arsonist, however, does not and is a direct threat to your property and potentially life. If an arsonist is threatening your life, you have the right to kill him to protect your own, even if he's insane. But if an arsonist sets fire to your house, you do not have the right after the fact to kill him. You must turn him in to the authorities and let justice be served.

The analogy to drone striking is also absurd, but for other reasons. It is immoral to commit drone strikes on innocent people. This is not an argument against the pro-life position.

Rowe ends this section that if you condemn abortion based on "the sanctity of human life," you have to be consistent and condemn people bombing innocent people in drone strikes. But we do, so this amounts to more deliberate lies from Richard Rowe about pro-life advocates. He asserts that "killing innocent people for convenience and profit is a way of life for homo sapiens." All I have to say is I hope no one ever trusts their kids around Rowe.

Argument 8: "Bans Are the Least Effective Solution"

Of course, as is Rowe's habit, he doesn't support any of the claims he makes in this section. As a matter of fact (and contrary to what Rowe believes), restricting abortion does lead to reduced numbers of abortions. Michael New has done research in this area (see Michael New's article here for more information on this subject). Pro-life laws that restrict access to abortion do result in lower incidences of abortions. They also result in abortion clinics closing their doors, which is why Planned Parenthood, among other pro-abortion organizations, fight tooth and nail against common sense legislation restricting some abortions.

Of course, Rowe dismisses these laws as "deadly", "sociopathic," and "controlling," but this is just extremist caterwauling. All laws are controlling, in that they restrict what we can or cannot do, legally. So the fact that these laws are "controlling" is nothing more than a trivial fact. These laws also are not deadly, nor are they sociopathic. A girl's life does not end just because she has a child.

He also asserts (without evidence) that abortion and pregnancy rates are highest in deeply conservative, religious areas of the country. You mean like the super conservative state of New York? New York has the highest abortion rate in the United States, and it is also one of the most liberal states, while Utah, known for being mostly Mormon, has the lowest. Contraception is also widely available in New York. The use and availability of contraception may play a factor in reduction of abortion, but it is not the main factor. And whether it plays a factor at all is still slightly dubious, since a significant number of women who use contraception still wind up pregnant (either through contraception failure or simply not using it correctly), a full 51%, and the wide availability of birth control leads to more risky sexual behavior, so it may actually drive abortion rates up due to the increased number of couples (especially teenagers) having sex.

Rowe, of course, refers to "abstinence-only" education as "asinine", and "a terrible idea." By his logic, though, since kids are going to do drugs anyway, we should allow them to use drugs, just educate them on how to do it safely. I was a teenager once. It's difficult enough to navigate high school without having to worry about having sex. Our culture is largely responsible for that, because you see sex almost everywhere you look. But we should not be encouraging teenagers to have sex, only to "do it safely" (since there is really no such thing as safe sex). If we tell teenagers to abstain from sex, especially if they have parents who model a sense of morality for their kids, then like me, teenagers can avoid giving in to temptation. It's only if we glorify sex do we then run the risk of our teenagers having sex before they are ready to settle down.

Argument 9: "The Second Amendment Argument"

Rowe begins by telling us this isn't an argument -- which means he's trying to artificially inflate his list with more bad arguments.

Rowe repeats the tired old claim that making abortions illegal will not stop women from obtaining abortions, which, of course, is true, but this is a trivial point, since making rape, theft, and murder illegal hasn't stopped all acts of rape, theft, and murder. Rapists, thieves, and murderers deserve to be punished, and abortionists who take the life of an unborn human being deserve to be punished, as well.

Of course, Rowe's argument here amounts to a false analogy. Gun owners oppose gun control laws because good guys won't be able to protect themselves against bad guys with guns. But the act of abortion is not moral for anyone to obtain, so there is no parallel good to the bad that abortion does.

Nine arguments in, and Rowe is still floundering. Let's recap his nine arguments so far:

1) "Divine abortion" -- a non sequitur, mixed with a misunderstanding of the passage in question
2) "I knew you in the womb" -- not an argument to support his position
3) "A baby's worth" -- an assertion with no evidence, mixed with a red herring
4) "Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion" -- a red herring
5) "Responsibility and the last decision" -- Rowe doesn't understand the cause and effect relationship between sex which is a critical failure for this argument
6) "It's the economy, stupid" -- Economic reasons are not the sole reason that women abort, so solving economic problems will not reduce the abortion rate significantly, if at all
7) "The sanction of life" -- Rowe conflates "murder" with "killing", so this amounts to a fallacious equivocation
8) "Bans are the least effective solution" -- the information relied on here is simply inaccurate, so this argument fails
9) "The Second Amendment argument" -- this is a self-proclaimed non-argument

Any good argument for "why pro-choice is right" continues to elude Rowe in his article. In my next and final part, I'll respond to his last four arguments.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Response to Richard Rowe's "Why Pro-Choice is Right" Article, Part I [Clinton Wilcox]

This may come as a shock to some people, but no one is entitled to an opinion. The only opinion you have any right to is a well-informed opinion. If you can't reproduce your opposition's arguments in a way they would agree with and approve, you have no right to try to respond to their arguments. Now Ranker is not exactly a site one should go to if you want to find good arguments for controversial positions. This is another article that was shared with me, this time from Ranker, ironically entitled "Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice is Right" (ironic, because missing are the only good arguments for the abortion-choice position, bodily rights and personhood arguments). Richard Rowe has give us thirteen arguments for his position. I'll look at the first four in this part. I'll split this up into three parts and look at the other arguments in future installments. Unfortunately many people believe that because they can post up a blog article that gives them the right to write on any particular issue. However, the author of this article, Richard Rowe, has not earned the right to speak to the abortion issue. He doesn't even know the best arguments for his own position, and he clearly does not understand the pro-life argument.

Rowe begins his article by stating that abortion is a practice that dates back to early times, which is true. However, he is gravely mistaken when he says that the Bible takes a strong stance in favor of abortion. The Bible is a pro-life book from start to finish. God takes a pretty firm stance against taking innocent blood. Plus, ancient Jewish and Christian texts have said, in no uncertain terms, that abortion is immoral. The Didache, in fact, calls abortion murder and says it, among other sins, is "the way to death." Rowe takes one passage, Numbers 5:21-28, and asserts that the Bible is in favor of abortion.

I've responded to this passage elsewhere, but two things need to be said about it. First, even if this does have an abortion in mind, it doesn't follow that because God commanded abortion, we are, therefore, justified in having abortions and performing abortions in lieu of a divine command to do and have them. Second, an abortion is not in mind here. This was a curse proclaimed on adulterous women. We have to remember that children were a blessing to women, so this curse would shrivel up the womb of a woman who committed an adultery. This would only result in abortion if she was actually pregnant, but it would prevent her from ever getting pregnant again. An abortion is not in mind here. This was a test to see who committed adultery. A woman who didn't commit adultery would gladly drink the potion to exonerate herself. A woman who didn't would not because of the effects of the curse.

Now let's look at his arguments in turn and respond to them.

Argument 1: "The Biblical Argument 1 -- Divine Abortion"

Rowe asserts that there are three great flaws in using the Bible to justify a stance against abortion. Herein lies the second issue with his lack of credibility on this issue (the first being his lack of the good arguments for his own position) -- it's true that most pro-life people are Christians and are ready to make a Biblical defense of the pro-life position. However, most pro-life people make a non-religious case from human rights and the biological humanity of the child. There are also non-religious pro-life organizations, such as Secular Pro-Life. So how would Rowe respond to them?

The third issue that Rowe doesn't understand the Bible. He is wrong when he says Biblical arguments for the pro-life position boil down to cherry picking. In fact, from start to finish the Bible has pro-life themes in it (see my linked article above). It is the abortion-choice advocate, not the pro-life advocate, who cherry picks Bible passages to justify their own position on the matter. The abortion-choice advocate has to deal with some bothersome verses as "you shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17), that child sacrifice has "never even entered [God's] mind" (Jeremiah 19:5), and the fact that third trimester John the Baptist "leaped in the womb" when Mary, pregnant with first trimester Jesus, approached his mother, Elizabeth (Luke 1:41). They also have to deal with certain troublesome passages as the numerous ones in the book of Psalms in which the psalmist assumes a continuity of identity with himself from the womb (e.g. "in sin my mother conceived me", Psalm 51:5). We don't cherry pick verses because the Bible is simply a pro-life book through and through.

This argument is just rehashing Numbers 5 from Rowe's introduction. However, Rowe is mistaken when he says that she would then be stoned to death in the street for her crimes. The passage does not say that. In fact, the passage actually says "...and the woman will become a curse among her people." Still not very pleasant, but not the same thing as being stoned. Since Rowe is evidently familiar with this passage, the only conclusion we can reasonably draw is that he is purposely trying to mislead people with his article.

Since I've already responded to this argument, we'll move on.

Argument 2: "The Biblical Argument 2 -- 'I Knew You in the Womb'"

This next argument doesn't belong on this list because it is a negative argument responding to a pro-life argument. The way logic works is that you must make a positive case for your position to prove it. Merely responding to another person's argument does not justify your own position. So it does not belong on a list of arguments "showing why pro-choice is right".

However, even in responding to a pro-life argument, Rowe misses the mark entirely and shows that he doesn't understand that which he is trying to criticize. To begin, Jeremiah 1:5 is not a verse I typically use in a Biblical defense of the pro-life position. I think if we are to take the words literally that "before I formed you in the womb I knew you," this would lend itself to the Mormon position that we exist spiritually before we are conceived in the womb. This is not speaking of fetal personhood but of God's foreknowledge. But let's look at Rowe's subpoints.

A) Misattribution: Rowe says that Jesus never said this. It was Yahweh speaking to Jeremiah. Rowe is correct on this point, but incorrect on another. I have never heard a pro-life Christian say that Jesus says this. Jeremiah is an Old Testament book, so of course it wasn't Jesus speaking. Rowe can't even get this basic point correct, and doesn't link to any pro-life person claiming these are the words of Jesus.

B) Misquote: Rowe claims that pro-life people misquote this verse as saying "in the womb I knew you," rather than what it actually says, "before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." This is, of course, correct in how the verse reads. However, again, I have never heard a pro-life person claim that God said "in the womb I knew you," at least not if they were quoting Jeremiah 1:5. Take the meme to the right of this paragraph, for example. This is by Ohio Right to Life, and it is certainly not a misquote. Again, Rowe doesn't link us to any pro-life Christian who misquotes this verse.

C) Out of context: Of course this verse is taken out of context. All quotes are taken out of context, which is why it's the responsibility of anyone using a quote not to misrepresent it when they take a quote out of context. Rowe is correct in that Yahweh is not speaking to Jeremiah's personhood here, but that's an irrelevant point. Yahweh could be assuming Jeremiah's personhood in the womb, just as Yahweh assumed that Moses was a prophet without making the case for Moses' prophethood every time He spoke to him.

Finally, Rowe states that this passage is God "bragging about his omniscience and power" "as usual", again indicating that Rowe is clueless about what is actually going on here. God is not bragging; he was explaining to Jeremiah since he had selected Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Again, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that Rowe is simply lying about pro-life people for the sake of his article.

Argument 3: "The Biblical Argument 3 -- A Baby's Worth"

More lies from Richard Rowe. First, he provides absolutely no evidence to support his contentions here about a "baby's worth" in Jewish law. Second, this isn't a Biblical argument at all. The Talmud is a book of Jewish civil and ceremonial law. It is not considered part of the Hebrew Scriptures. Considering this basic error, Rowe should not be taken seriously on his understanding of this issue.

Now, even if the Jews disagreed with Christians regarding abortion, this is not cause for alarm. The Jews also disagree with Christians about other things, such as Jesus being the Messiah. So while this kind of argument might work with Jews, it would not work with Christians. I am not Jewish, I am Christian, so looking at the Talmud would not convince me to take a different interpretation of Scripture. However, it is difficult to see how Rowe's interpretation of the Talmud could be correct regarding how the Talmud sees the fetus and infant, considering that abortion was absolutely forbidden after the point of viability, and if killed at even one day old outside the womb, the transgressor was guilty of murder (Nid. 5:3).

Argument 4: "Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean Pro-Abortion"

This really is a non-argument. It's true, of course, that most abortion-choice people do not consider themselves pro-abortion because they consider abortion a "necessary evil". However, Rowe is incorrect that there isn't an "abortion fan club out there". There are those in the abortion-choice community who really are pro-abortion and think that abortion-choice people should start adopting pro-abortion rhetoric, such as this person, who understands that the term "pro-choice" is inherently misleading, or this person who believes they should be painting abortion in a positive light to have an impact on the culture and "remove the stigma".

So while most abortion-choice people would not consider themselves pro-abortion, there is a subset of the abortion-choice population that embraces the term instead of shying away from it. They may be in the minority, but you should not pretend they don't exist.

At any rate, this is a debate over semantics which has nothing to do with whether or not abortion-choice is the correct position on the matter. So this is simply a red herring.

To review Rowe's first four arguments:

1) "Divine abortion" -- a non sequitur, mixed with a misunderstanding of the passage in question
2) "I knew you in the womb" -- not an argument to support his position
3) "A baby's worth" -- an assertion with no evidence, mixed with a red herring
4) "Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion" -- a red herring

It is clear that Rowe has no understanding of the intellectual climate of the abortion issue, or of the positions of those he wants to criticize. He also has not done an adequate job of supporting his own position, with three arguments that don't even address the topic at hand. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I'll look at his next four arguments in the next part of this series.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Different Type of Abortion [Clinton Wilcox]

A friend shared an article with me from someone named Catherine Deveny about what she calls "financial abortion", the idea that if a woman can decide she doesn't want to be a parent and opt out through abortion, men should be able to do the same. I didn't know who Deveny is but after doing a little research I discovered that she's an Australian comedian.

The idea behind "financial abortion" is that if a man indicates to a woman before they have sex that he does not want to have a child, and the couple uses contraceptives to try and ensure that she doesn't get pregnant, then if the contraceptives fail and the woman winds up pregnant, he has the right to opt out during the early parts of pregnancy. This means he can essentially sign all his rights, responsibilities, and privileges of fatherhood away, cutting all financial and emotional ties with the child. She says a "financial abortion" is also known as a "paper abortion" or "statutory abortion", but this is literally the first I've ever heard of this idea. I'm left to wonder how there can be so many other people who call this idea by other names. It's certainly not an idea that's gained any traction in the abortion literature. Deveny indicates that the idea came from sociologist Francis K. Goldscheider in 1998. David Boonin, however, has argued that even though (he believes) women have the right to an abortion, it does not follow that a father has the right to opt out of pregnancy since the question of whether or not to have an abortion or whether or not someone should pay child support are two different questions, and a legal obligation to pay child support does not necessarily translate into a moral obligation to pay it (see Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, Cambridge University Press, 2003, 4.11). I may respond to Goldschedier's article in the future, because it rests on very problematic assumptions.

As I have heard it said, if you get your philosophy from comedians don't be surprised if it's a joke. Her article is, as one might expect, poorly reasoned. Comedians have never been bastions of critical thinking, from Rosanne Barr's screed that the pro-life movement is just a bunch of old, white men who want to control and enslave women, to Whoopi Golderg's fallacious rant that pro-life people should shut up and adopt all the unwanted children who are conceived and not aborted, to even the late George Carlin's ridiculous diatribe that pro-life people care about the unborn but "you're on your own" once you're born. Comedians are not critical thinkers not just because they have no specific training in logic and philosophy (although I did catch a recent routine by Jerry Seinfeld that impressively incorporated metaphysics), but also because comedy is based on logical fallacies (most commonly, the fallacy of equivocation). Only those who are not skilled in logic would put forth an argument by a comedian as a serious critique of an intellectual position.

To be honest, I do, at least, think that Deveny's position is consistent. I agree with her, that if you allow a woman to opt out of parenthood through abortion, then it's inconsistent (in fact, one could say it's sexist) to prevent men from doing the same, opting out of having to pay child support and give up tens of thousands of dollars in raising this child. However, it should be obvious that the fact there is child support is a result of schizophrenic thinking on the part of our country, since it does show that parents (namely, fathers) inherently have responsibilities to their children, even though it seems to indicate that mothers don't have an inherent responsibility to their child because abortion is legal. Additionally, allowing fathers to "financially abort" their child raises a moral hazard because it might actually leave a woman thinking that she can't raise her child alone and make it more likely she'll pursue an abortion. So while it's inconsistent, it might lead to fewer abortions by forbidding a man from "financially aborting" his own child.

Deveny starts out by arguing that if a man has not indicated before having sex that he wants to have a baby with the woman, it is fair to assume that he doesn't. Unfortunately, Deveny has it backward here. She's ignorant of basic biology (more on that below), but as sex makes babies, and this has been known from time immemorial, it is quite fair for a woman to assume that if a man has sex with her, and sex makes babies, he wants to have a baby with her. Only by divorcing sex from reproduction can Deveny's argument make sense, but it is logically impossible to separate the two (though it doesn't stop people like Deveny from trying).

Aside from her misunderstanding of the causal link between sex and pregnancy, Deveny's article also rests on another misunderstanding that clouds the issue. She says that women need abortion because they need to have the right to decide when to become parents. It is, of course, true that everyone should be able to decide when they want to become parents, but the time to decide is before having sex -- after sex, if the woman becomes pregnant, the man and woman are already parents, and now deciding "when to become parents" means deciding whether or not to kill their children to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

One section of her article caused me to nearly laugh out loud. Following a paragraph in which she talked about the "what ifs" of technology being able to aid in men having "financial abortions," she wrote the following paragraph:
A topic like this also raises anecdotes about women "lying" about their contraception in order to "trap" men into having babies, and of men who agree to having children then abandoning them. But these "what ifs" muddy the discussion.
Did you catch that? Apparently considering "what ifs" are appropriate when it comes to defending her position, but when it comes to having to deal with legitimate possible criticisms, they should be avoided because they only "muddy the discussion". We should just agree with Deveny, no matter how outlandish her position is. This kind of double-think is all too common among abortion-choice advocates (see Joseph Dellapenna's book Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History for more on the topic of "abortion distortion").

An argument Deveny uses to bolster her case is that allowing "financial abortion" would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child and more empowering for the woman.

Her argument that it would be more empowering for women is that she would have sex with a guy in full knowledge of what his intentions are (despite the fact that she brushed away possible objections that a man could deceive her into having sex with her as "muddying the discussion"). As I've argued time and again, abortion is not empowering for women. In fact, it treats women as less than human because we don't hold her responsible for her actions (i.e. conceiving a child), and it allows men to treat women as sex objects and then get "rid of the consequences" of their sexual exploits. So arguing that this would be empowering for women is completely off the mark (and surprising for someone who considers herself a feminist).

Her argument that it would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child is that abandoning the child early in life would "surely" (another "what if") be less traumatic and disruptive to abandon the child early in life than later in life. Disruptive, sure, as the father who abandons the child later in life is abandoning all the child has worked for and done in school, sports, band, etc. But she offers no evidence that it would be less traumatic for a child to be abandoned early in life than later in life. Also, to say something is "less traumatic" is not to say that it is not traumatic at all, so shouldn't it be seen as morally obligatory for a father not to traumatize his child at all?

The section after this one contains the most laughably poor reasoning in the entire paper (and that's saying something). She wrote that when she put this idea out on Facebook, the response she received was "surprisingly archaic" (not "progressive"). What is this "archaic" view? The fact that since sex creates babies, whoever engages in sex must take responsibility for the children that result. Of course, anyone who understands biology knows that there is a causal link between sex and pregnancy: The man and woman have sex, this results in the male ejecting his sperm into the woman, the sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube, an embryo is conceived (as a single-cell zygote), the tube pushes the embryo along with tiny hairs called cilia, and the embryo ends up in the uterus and implants itself there. Why am I having to explain eighth grade biology to a grown woman?

Deveny commits not one, but two logical fallacies in this section: First, poisoning the well by dismissing this point of view as "punishing people for pleasure," and two, chronological snobbery, the idea that because this is an "old" idea, it is therefore wrong and we should "move past it". But as Chesterton says, saying that truth is dependent on what year it is no less arbitrary than saying Christianity is true on Monday, Islam is true on Tuesday, and atheism is true on Wednesday. She might as well say "isn't the belief that the earth revolves around the sun an archaic position, and we should move past it?" Sex has not changed in the long history of human interaction. Sex created Pebbles when Fred and Wilma had it, and sex created Deveny when her parents had it. Sex creates children, and engaging in an act that creates children grounds an obligation to care for those children. Deveny doesn't even attempt to give a good argument here, just dismissing people like me as "backward cavemen" (though not in so many words). In this case, Fred and Wilma have the intellectual upper hand.

Additionally, it would be nice if every child was wanted and every parent was willing. But unlike Deveny and many abortion-choice advocates who repeat this mantra, I don't believe in killing unwanted people.

Her next section is arguing against the "archaic notion" (her words) of men providing for women. I think she's mistaken in this section, but it's not critical to my response to address it.

Deveny's following section is regarding whether or not abortion is dangerous to women. She starts off with a logical fallacy, the hasty generalization by pointing to herself as having had an abortion that didn't damage her, so abortion is not inherently dangerous. Aside from being fallacious, there are many documented cases of abortion being dangerous for women. Of course, she doesn't back up any of her claims so we should take them with a grain of salt. However, her section here does highlight the danger of focusing on abortion's effect on women as a pro-life argument (rather than just something to bolster the idea that there is something wrong with abortion). All the abortion-choice crowd has to do is produce women who haven't been damaged or emotional scarred by women and you lose the whole impact of your argument. At any rate, it's not critical for me to support the idea that abortion harms women, because I believe we need to stay focused on the real reason abortion is immoral -- it intentionally and directly kills an innocent human being.

Of course, Deveny continues harping on the idea that a woman can choose what she wants to do: abort, adopt, joint parent, or sole parent. This shows that she, like many abortion-choice advocates, is not focused on what's best for the child (for let's face it, abortion is never best for the child). The only equation Deveny cares about is who is going to parent, not about what the best situation is for the child to be raised. The best thing for children is to be raised by both parents in a low-conflict environment. If Deveny cared about children, sole parenting wouldn't be in her equation as to how a woman might choose to parent (and that's, of course, ignoring that abortion should never be on your mind if you care about what's best for the child).

Deveny ends her piece by saying that her life is much different than women who have come before because she had the "freedom" to decide when to become a mother. Of course, that is true -- but as should be blatantly obvious, "different" does not equate to "better". Society is worse off because they are killing innocent human children, and women who support this idea are not only supporting a cause that goes against their very nature, but also a cause that gives men more freedom to treat them as sex objects. This is unbecoming a feminist, and it's unbecoming a human being.

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Analysis of Arrival (from a pro-life perspective) [Clinton Wilcox]

I recently saw the movie Arrival in my local theater. Some have been touting this movie as a pro-life movie, and one of the protagonists, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), as a pro-life ion. I'll be examining this movie from a pro-life perspective, but for an excellent analysis of the themes in the movie, check out this review from J.W. Wartick.

Obviously there will be spoilers in this review, since I'm going to be analyzing it. So if you haven't seen the movie and don't want it spoiled, go and see it before you read this review. It's an excellent film, well worth your money.

Arrival is a film about a group of alien spacecrafts that reach earth and hover over various locations around the globe, such as the United States, China, and Russia. Nothing is known about the aliens, so the United States brings in a linguist, Banks, and a physicist, Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), to see if they can learn how to communicate with the aliens. Banks eventually starts to learn their language (as well as linguists from the other powers which have their own alien spacecraft), but human paranoia starts to take over and the temporary alliance between these powers as they study the aliens starts to fracture. It becomes a race against time to understand the aliens' language well enough to learn why they are here.

Arrival actually snuck up on me. I hadn't heard about it until my friends were already going to see it in the theaters. I hadn't seen any trailers for it and hadn't heard any talk about it. So while this was a surprise for me, it was a very pleasant ones. Considering how many classic films there are in the science fiction genre, especially those in which humans discover they are no longer alone in the universe (e.g. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek: First Contact, and numerous others), it doesn't seem to me that first contact films have much of a punch anymore. I'm not even sure it will come as much of a shock to anyone if we one day do discover there are other forms of intelligent alien life because the oversaturation of these films will have probably prepared us for such an event. However, what set Arrival apart from these other films was that it really focused on the communication aspect of it and the challenges we would face if we did encounter an alien race. So like much excellent science fiction, the "science fiction" stuff was a backdrop to make a larger point. We don't just get a good science fiction story, we get a story that outlines the philosophy of language, and how it is that language helps us to communicate with others. Banks, a linguist, used her knowledge of linguistics to help humanity communicate. A physicist, Donnelly, was also there, but he was useless. It was Banks' show. (Though it was admittedly disconcerting to hear Hawkeye drop an "f" bomb).

Arrival is not a perfect movie. It leads to an unbelievable climax, that mastering the aliens' language can manipulate how you perceive the passage of time. Speaking of perception of time, the aliens are a race that don't perceive time linearly, as we do. Since Banks is learning their language, she begins to perceive time differently than we do, and as the movie progresses we discover that what we thought were flashbacks were actually flash-forwards, and we are seeing events from the future that have yet to unfold. An interesting concept, but as much science fiction does (especially as regards time travel), it takes many liberties with it and even ends up being unrealistic in its execution. A glaring example of this is when Banks needs to contact a Chinese representative to give him some crucial information, but she doesn't have his phone number. She gets his phone number because he reveals it to her at a future event in which they are celebrating their new worldwide peace brought on by a gift given to them by the aliens. But of course, if she had never had his phone number this event would never have taken place (since she would not have been able to contact him), and she would not have been able to get his number in the future. This really felt more like a cheap cop-out to progress the story rather than any sort of insightful comment about the non-linearity of time.

This brings us to the alleged pro-life theme in this movie. Essentially, we learn that Banks' daughter, Hannah, had a rare form of cancer that took her life at a young age. These scenes of Banks' home life are interspersed throughout the present events of the movie. We later learn that this condition was discovered while Hannah was in the womb. Banks' boyfriend/husband (it's not made clear if they were married) wanted to abort Hannah but Banks chose to give her life. This resulted in her boyfriend/husband leaving her to raise Hannah alone. We later discover that these scenes were not flashbacks, but flashforwards, due to the alien language allowing Banks to perceive time differently. So these events have not happened yet. We also learn that Donnelly is the father of Hannah, apparently becoming attracted to Banks through working with her, and this is Hollywood, who haven't quite learned that men and women can work together without hooking up. Since these are flashforwards, and Banks and Donnelly have yet to conceive Hannah, this leaves Banks with a choice: does she still pursue a relationship with Donnelly, thereby causing the events that would conceive Hannah only to watch her die, or avoid a relationship and avoid conceiving Hannah, a girl with a short life span. She eventually decides to let the events play out as she saw them, getting together with Donnelly, since she reasoned that a short time with Hannah is better than no time at all.

I'm always hesitant to try and see pro-life themes in a film or television show, unless I know for sure what the political leaning is of the writer(s) and/or the producer(s) (e.g. see my pro-life analysis of an episode of Doctor Who). This is no different here. I don't know anything about the people behind this film, so my default position on this is to not read too much into what may seem to be a pro-life message (one conservative commentator called Arrival the most pro-life science fiction ever made, even if it was unintentional -- a claim I would disagree with, partially for the reasons outlined below). In fact, broadly speaking, science fiction in general can be seen as pro-life, since many science fiction stories revolve around trying to broaden our conception of what counts as persons, and shows like Star Trek have tackled the question of pregnancies in difficult circumstances and seem to say that giving life to the unborn child is preferable). But that doesn't mean that just because they have loose pro-life themes that they are pro-life as we are, i.e. anti-abortion.

My contention is that given the information we received in the film, I don't think we're justified in calling Banks a "pro-life heroine" (as I've seen from some on social media). I first need to point out that what Banks did wasn't heroic -- giving her child life is not the heroic thing to do, it is the morally obligatory thing to do. She is not a hero because she refused to kill her child who had a fatal illness. She did what any parent is obligated to do. So she's not a hero in that respect. Additionally, we can't say for sure that she's pro-life. All we know is that she chose to have her child in a difficult circumstance. Assuming that she must be pro-life because she chose to keep her child, and calling this a pro-life film, is to tacitly imply that a pro-abortion-choice person wouldn't do that.

In fact, Donnelly, the guy who left Louise and Hannah when Louise decided to keep her, was a likeable character in the film. After he leaves them, Louise still takes great pains to tell Hannah that he's a good man. So it didn't seem like, to me, the movie believed he actually did anything wrong, like it was her choice to have the child and his choice to leave, and both were perfectly fine choices.

Finally, given the time aspect in the film, that raises other questions. First of all, we see that Banks decided to conceive and have her child because of all the wonder and love Hannah brought to her life. But what if Hannah didn't become a dancer, or any of the other things we saw in the flash-forward scenes? What if she, in fact, was confined to a bed for her entire life, or something like that? Would Louise, then, have chosen to conceive her child? In fact, while pro-abortion-choice people erroneously refer to an unborn child as a "potential" person, in the case of Hannah, she really was a potential person in that sense of the word. So really, unless we hold to a B-theory of time (the theory of time that states that all points in time are equally "real" and time passing is just an illusion), Hannah didn't yet exist. If we *do* hold to a B-theory of time, then Hannah already exists and none of the choices Louise made would matter (so all we have to look at is her intent, and in that case her intent would have been determined, so she didn't make a conscious choice). However, if we're talking about the A-theory of time (the theory that states that the past no longer exists and the future doesn't yet exist), then since Hannah didn't yet exist, would it have been wrong to prevent Hannah from coming into existence? At the very least, this doesn't seem nearly as wrong as killing her after she comes into existence. So in this case, we need to have a discussion of whether or not we have any sorts of obligations to future persons, and that's an issue that I haven't looked into too closely. My instinct is that we don't have obligations to future persons, but I don't have a firm opinion on that yet.

At any rate, those are my thoughts on it. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Response to Joshua Stein's critique of Christopher Kaczor [Clinton Wilcox]

If you haven't yet read The Ethics of Abortion by Christopher Kaczor, you should definitely consider reading it. However, I was asked to give my thoughts on a critical review written by Joshua Stein about Kaczor's book. Ordinarily, reading over this review, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. It doesn't present any serious challenges to Kaczor's book, and he mainly complains about the methodology of the book rather than actually responding to any of Kaczor's arguments. But since I was asked, I'll respond to Stein's claims below.

I've interacted with Stein some on Facebook. From what I've gathered, he's a philosophy professor but to my knowledge, hasn't done any work in the field of philosophy, itself. Other than that I don't know much about him, but you can read his critique on Goodreads here.

The first thing I noticed is Stein's complete lack of engagement with Kaczor's book. He doesn't provide any page numbers so you can see if he's correctly understanding Kaczor's arguments, and he doesn't even seriously engage with any of them. Compare Stein's critique with one of my critical critiques on Amazon.

Stein begins his critique by stating that Kaczor's book is not "good" or "interesting", whereas his own views are based on "good" and "interesting" philosophy. Of course, this is mistaken, as while many pro-choice thinkers are careful thinkers, the philosophy that undergirds the pro-abortion-choice position is not good (and Stein doesn't begin to tell us what he means by "interesting"). The pro-abortion-choice position is grounded in ideas that are highly counterintuitive and easily refutable. If you come at the pro-choice position from a position of bodily rights, the only way this succeeds is if (as Thomson argues) parents have no natural obligations to their offspring. This is clearly absurd. If you arrive at your pro-choice views from a position of functionalism (i.e. the unborn must be able to perform some function before it is considered a person), then your argument is grounded in the same idea that led to human atrocities like the Holocaust and chattel slavery. You are grounding human value in arbitrary criteria to justify being able to kill them.

So what are the alleged problems with Kaczor's book that leads to Stein dismissing it as "not...a very good piece of professional philosophy"? He gives us four major reasons.

1) Stein's first point is Kaczor's Aristotelian assumptions. Now, Stein says that Kaczor's assumptions insert themselves in weird ways into the discussion. Then he tells us that it's perfectly fine to do this in professional philosophy, given that you acknowledge these biases. Then he tells us that Kaczor does this! So Stein's point here is really a non-argument. He's just complaining about Aristotelianism and offers no reason why we should reject it. As someone who also holds to Aristotelianism, Stein's argument from incredulity is not a serious charge against Kaczor's book.

2) Stein's next complaint is that Kaczor switches methods throughout the book. However, he gives us no examples of this. He says there's nothing incoherent in doing this, but he personally finds it annoying. So again, this is a non-argument. He's just complaining about the changing methodology in Kaczor's book while not giving us any examples to make his case. Even if Kaczor does do this, a likely reason is since Kaczor is responding to numerous pro-abortion-choice arguments from a number of different pro-choice thinkers (and not all of them philosophers), Kaczor needs different methods to respond to them because the arguments he is responding to do not all come from the same methodological procedure.

3) Next, Stein says that Kaczor's case is philosophically weak but, again, he provides no evidence of this. He simply says that Kaczor's case isn't sufficiently developed to give a rigorous criticism to. This is clearly false. In the acknowledgements, Kaczor thanks none other than Peter Singer, Jeff McMahan, Michael Tooley, and David Boonin for looking over his manuscript. In fact, Kaczor writes, "David Boonin...also deserves special recognition and gratitude. David read through the entire manuscript twice, the second time providing me with 23 single-spaced pages of comments, questions, objections, and challenges. I am especially indebted to him for this great service." (Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion, 2nd ed., Routledge, New York, NY, 2015.) (This is the first time I've ever actually quoted the acknowledgements section from a book.) Considering the caliber of pro-choice thinkers who were reviewing the manuscript and providing helpful comments, I think it much more likely that Stein either did not understand the case Kaczor made, or he did not care enough to give the book a fair read.

Stein asserts that Kaczor "basically draws the assumption that [his positive case for development at conception based on the concept of identity] is most plausible based on the failure of psychological theories of identity." This, of course, leads me to wonder if Stein actually read the book, since Kaczor has an entire chapter titled "Does Personhood Begin at Conception?" and defends what he calls the Endowment view. Kaczor writes, "The endowment account holds that each human being has inherent, moral worth simply by virtue of the kind of being it is." (See chapter six in Kaczor's book.) He then spends the rest of the chapter comparing the endowment view with the performance view of personhood (what I referred to as functionalism, above). Stein is simply being unfair to Kaczor in his critique of Kaczor's book. If his critique is that Kaczor didn't spend enough time defending the endowment view, he can certainly look elsewhere for a fuller treatment of the issue (e.g. Ed Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics or David Oderberg's Real Essentialism).

4) Finally, Stein asserts that Kaczor does not have a sufficient or proficient enough grasp on the positions of his pro-choice interlocutors to be able to comment on them. He asserts that the cases of pro-choice thinkers are not presented passably. He specifically mentions Mary Anne Warren and Peter Singer. But considering I already mentioned that Singer read Kaczor's manuscript, this objection is just silly. If Kaczor didn't understand Singer's arguments, Singer certainly would have set him straight on the arguments. Saying that Kaczor didn't have a good enough grasp on Singer's arguments when Singer reviewed the manuscript is just a lack of awareness of what he, himself, is trying to critique. Considering all the other pro-choice thinkers who also reviewed the manuscript, I think Stein is the one who needs further education on these arguments.

In fact, David Boonin, who I mentioned above, had this to say about Kaczor's book (from the back flap): "This is one of the very best book-length defenses of the claim that abortion is morally impermissible. It is clear, thorough, thoughtful and carefully argued. I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the subject to read it and study it." David Boonin teaches ethics at University of Colorado, Boulder, and does do work in philosophy (specifically the abortion issue; Boonin's book on abortion, A Defense of Abortion, is a book I encourage anyone wanting to educate themselves on pro-choice arguments to read). Boonin would not encourage anyone to read and study this book if he did not have confidence in it. Considering the high praise Boonin has for the book, I would take his word over Stein's regarding the usefulness of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amanda Marcotte is At it Again [Clinton Wilcox]

And by "it", I mean completely frothing off at the mouth about the "evil" "misogynistic" "anti-choice" movement. Ruth Graham over at Slate wrote a surprisingly well-balanced article about the more alternative pro-life advocates, such as Kelsey Hazzard (of Secular Pro-Life) and Aimee Murphy (of Life Matters Journal). Her article is called The New Culture of Life. This article also led the United States Library of Congress to contact various organizations mentioned in the piece, like Life Matters Journal and New Wave Feminists, informing them they've selected these organizations' webpages for inclusion in the Library's web archive focusing on public policy topics. Seriously, give it a read (note that I don't necessarily agree with all the statements made by the pro-life activists in that article).

True to form, Amanda Marcotte of Salon is not happy that someone would present pro-life people in a positive light, preferring to live in her fantasy world that pro-life people are all stodgy old men who want to control women's bodies. So she wrote a hit piece about the pro-life movement in response to Graham's article, called Hip to be Square: Is there really a feminist, secular anti-choice movement? (Spoiler: no). Clever, right? Not only is it a completely dishonest article, devoid of any serious research, it is also borderline libelous. Seriously, don't give it a read.

Marcotte's piece truly is painful to read. Not only is she completely dishonest about pro-life people, her lack of serious research is astounding. A number of pro-life people were mentioned in her article, including me. I'm going to set the record straight on Marcotte's claims about myself (and Rebecca Stapleford, who was mentioned along with me). I'll leave it to my friends to respond to Marcotte if they so choose.

Below, I'll quote the two paragraphs in Marcotte's article that directly relate to me:

As [Matt] Dillahunty pointed out to me, a "good chunk of [Secular Pro-Life's] blog posts are written by Christians/Catholics", showcasing exactly how difficult it is to drum up much interest among the non-religious for a cause devoted to meddling with other people's sex lives. A perusal of the Secular Pro-Life blog seemed to confirm this observation, with several blog posts being written by Catholics like Rebecca Stapleford and Clinton Wilcox.
Wilcox is one of the two Secular Pro-Life representatives that Dillahunty has debated. On his personal blog, Wilcox argues, "I, myself, have met people who said they did not come to Christ until after they became pro-life" and writes that anti-choice arguments are a good way to lure people into converting to Christianity.
There are at least a half dozen inaccuracies in just these two paragraphs, alone. Let's start with the fact that neither I nor Rebecca Stapleford are Catholics. I am Protestant. Rebecca is also a friend of mine. While she became pro-life as an agnostic, she is now an Evangelical Protestant.

Now let's talk about how she "perused" (does she even know what this word means?) the blog at Secular Pro-Life, found "several" articles by Rebecca and me, and apparently that was enough to conclude that a "good chunk" of SPL's blog posts were written by "Catholics". First, how much is a "good chunk"? If he means a lot, then sure. But what does this prove? It certainly doesn't prove that the majority have been written by religious people. In fact, most of the writers for SPL are non-religious. Instead of looking up how many articles Rebecca and I wrote, maybe she should have looked at who the writers are and compare their religious affiliation.

Now let's talk about her calling me a "representative" of SPL. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a representative of Secular Pro-Life. I do write articles for their blog and I walk with them whenever I attend the Walk for Life, but I am not a representative of their organization. Marcotte is confusing their willingness to work with religious people as their actually being religious.

I also made it very clear to Dillahunty before we debated that I am not a representative of SPL; I write for their blog and was interested in debating him. At no point did I claim to represent SPL. Whether Dillahunty told Marcotte this or Marcotte is assuming it is unclear. Either way, someone is being dishonest here.

Two more inaccuracies to note. She points to an article I wrote on my "personal blog", but the blog she pointed to was the Life Training Institute blog, not my personal blog. Additionally, she claims that I am deceiving people into becoming Christian by first making them pro-life. This, of course, is blatantly false. She is taking my words out of context and paraphrasing them to mean something I obviously didn't mean to any honest observer who reads my article. What I actually said is that my discussions on abortion naturally lead into questions of ultimate reality and human value, and that while sometimes you can convert an atheist to Christianity without talking about the pro-life issue, sometimes atheists need to know that we have reasonable answers to other issues before they take Christianity seriously.

Salon has never been a paragon of critical thinking, but it's truly mind-boggling that they would allow such a deceitful piece to be posted to their website. In just two paragraphs, Marcotte bungled many facts that would have been easy to verify. She also seems intent on painting the pro-life movement as inherently religious, but I wasn't aware the proposition "murdering a human being is wrong" is an inherently religious one. At least we can take comfort in knowing that they can't refute our argument that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being, so they have to resort to name-calling and alarmist caterwauling.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Q&A: What Do You Say to the "Keep Your Religion to Yourself!" Objection? (Jay Watts)

This past weekend I was speaking to a group at Northwestern University from Students for Life of Illinois as part of that organization’s annual summit. I made the case for life appealing to the three-step strategy that I generally outline:

1)   Simplify the issue by focusing on the single most important question concerning the right or wrong of abortion, what are the unborn?

2)   Argue our case using science and philosophy. The science of embryology tells us that from the moment of fertilization the unborn are a whole, distinct, and living human organism. Philosophy tells us that there is no essential difference from the embryo or fetus that we once were and the more mature human we are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence do not do sufficient philosophical work to explain why it was ok to kill us then, indeed it was a Constitutionally protected right, but that if someone did the same thing to us at this stage in our life it would be the worst moral offense one human being could commit against another human being.

3)  Argue well, in a way that aims to win people with good arguments and not merely to beat people down with information.

During Q&A, a young woman asked the following question: What do you do when someone says this all just your religious view and shouldn’t be pushed onto others that do not share your religion?

My answer:

As I understand that objection, it claims that the belief that all human beings share a common intrinsic dignity by virtue of what we and are owed basic duties and obligations, not the least of which is to refrain from killing them, is by its nature a religious argument. My response has three parts.

First, it isn’t clear that this is true. None of the arguments that I provided are religious by nature. There are atheists that would reject the suggestion that objective moral values require a theistic worldview. Sam Harris appeals to objective morality when he condemns the practice of female genital mutilation in certain Muslim cultures. He isn’t arguing that those cultures violate a western cultural norm, but that the practice itself is objectively wrong for all cultures. Atheists like Sam Harris and Michael Martin have worked hard to ground objective moral values in a non-theistic worldview precisely because they acknowledge the existence of those values. Whether I believe that they can succeed in doing so is irrelevant to this point. It can be accepted that an appeal to objective morality is not religious by its nature.

This leads me to my second point; I never mentioned my faith or personal beliefs as part of my argument. It is true that I am passionately and unapologetically Christian and that my faith informs every area of my life. So what? I never said abortion is wrong because God said so. People objecting to our case need to address the science and philosophy, not my faith. This argument commits either the Genetic Fallacy (the pro-life argument was birthed out of religious communities) or amounts to a plain old Ad Hominem attack (Jay is religious therefore he is wrong). Objectors have a responsibility to interact with the arguments presented regardless of who is presenting them or what motivation I may have for putting forth the arguments.

Dr. Condic presented the case for the identification of early human life as a new independent organism from fertilization. (Maureen Condic was also at this event. See her article here). I presented the philosophical case that the best explanation of our experience of a shared universal human dignity that transcends cultures and subjective interests is that our dignity and value are grounded in our humanity. Replying with, “Yeah, but religion..” hardly addresses either of those arguments. Put them back on the hot seat and make them answer the question, “What are the unborn?”

Finally, why do they get to decide without argument what considerations are allowed into the marketplace of ideas? Who empowered them to declare that secular humanist reasons and materialistic naturalistic reasons can be publically advocated, but so-called religious reasons cannot? I have the right to advocate for my beliefs and try to convince others that my views offer the best explanations and solutions to the questions we experience in our world. If they want to argue that their worldview is superior then they need to make that case, but they don’t have the right to make it in a vacuum where other competing worldviews have been shut out of consideration. 

In truth, they are inconsistent in their objection to religious reasons informing advocacy. Where is the handwringing when Bono dedicates his considerable influence to acquiring help for people in Africa suffering from Aids and poverty? He clearly states that his desire to help is born out of his Christian faith, and yet he is applauded for those efforts. When HBO’s documentary program VICE ran a story about George W. Bush committing U.S. aid to help Bono establish programs that transformed the manner that some African countries fought Aids, no one cried foul when Bush stated his and Bono’s shared Christian values were his motivation for action. It is only when we stand up against one of the sacred pets of the progressive culture like abortion that they suddenly demand a litmus test for having a public voice on issues.

In a nutshell, I will talk about what I want, when I want, wherever I want, and they better come with more than “Shut up because you are religious!” if they wish to stop me. They had better be ready to make their case, because I won’t be deterred from making ours.

(Note: This is the answer as I gave it. It was heavily informed and influenced by the works of Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Greg Koukl, and Scott Klusendorf. All credit where credit is due.)