The Abortion (Argument) Thread

As it happens, I oppose abortion rights in general, although not in all cases, because I believe that at or, in any case, very shortly after conception the resulting member of the species Homo sapiens should be deemed a person. At least insofar as people are the sorts of beings we don’t go around killing without fairly significant justification. It does not, it saddens me to have to point out, follow that I must believe unborn human beings should have all the legal rights appurtenant to legal personhood any more than children have all the legal rights appurtenant to adulthood. I will give, without extensively arguing the points, my reasons in general for holding this position. Before we get there, however, a few preliminary points.

Obviously, there is no per se libertarian position on abortion. Probably the overwhelming majority of libertarians are “pro choice” because libertarians, after all, generally favor the most extensive range of individual rights and liberties possible. That isn’t the issue, however. The issue is what moral status it is appropriate to assign to a human being in its earliest stages of development. If the answer to that question is that the entity in question should be no more entitled to moral consideration than, say, the removal of a polyp, then it’s hard to see why there should be any legal restrictions on early stage abortions whatsoever. (I will defer the question of late stage abortions for another occasion.) If, on the other hand, the facts as we understand them and insofar as our moral intuitions and reasoning lead us, for whatever reason, to regard the human embryo / fetus as, at least in some respects, a person, then a different answer may obtain.

The second point I would make is that language matters. In fact, I think both sides to this argument are guilty of attempting to manipulate the language of the debate such that terms will be used not because they are the most precise or descriptive but because they are the most emotionally laden. I don’t mean to say that emotion should play no part in a discussion about matters of (possibly human) life or death, but we should at least take note of this rhetorical gambit on both sides. Thus, for example, the very notion of one side being “pro life” suggests the other side is “pro death” or “anti life,” which is not the case. So, also, the very notion of being “pro choice” suggests that those who oppose abortion rights wish to deprive women of their personal autonomy. Of course, all of us have our personal autonomy restricted in various respects, especially when the exercise of that autonomy would injure (or kill) another person. Mind you, I make these points here not because I think doing so leads to one position or the other but because I think it is important to see the rhetoric for what it is and not to be swayed on that basis alone.

My third point is that purely religious beliefs and arguments by themselves are insufficient to determine public policy. Which is to say that even if there were a majority or even a supermajority who were convinced on purely religious grounds that abortion was morally wrong (or, for that matter, morally right), imposing that position on those who do not share those underlying religious believes would be immoral. If by some bizarre quirk of fate Pastafarians should someday become the religious majority in American, their belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster says that abortions are okey-dokey is no more a sufficient ground to make (or keep) abortions legal than a majority of Festivus celebrators’, um, beliefs would suffice to erect an aluminum pole on public property for the ritual airing of grievances.

Fourth, although there is scant evidence that such behavior is even possible, let alone likely, I would ask that discussion here refrain from personal attacks, especially including accusations of bad faith from those with whom one disagrees. Doubtlessly, there are many who do argue from positions of bad faith on the question of abortion. Nonetheless, it is the arguments, not the proponents of those arguments, which should be the focus of our attention.

That all said, I will offer now in only the briefest of terms why I consider the pre-born to be persons or, at least, sufficiently endowed with the indicia of personhood that intentionally ending their lives should be considered a moral wrong and therefore, in most cases, a legal wrong.

First, I would argue that in such matters the morally preferable perspective is to give the living being in question the benefit of the doubt. What I mean is that insofar as there is legitimate question regarding the ontological and therefore deontological status of an unborn human being, and I believe that there is, we should lean toward granting personhood rather than denying it.

I will use some analogies here. All analogies fail if pushed too far and most analogies fail even if pushed just a little bit, so any response to my analogies to the effect that the facts involved in the abortion debate are significantly different will be met with a rather world-weary “sure.” Still, imagine you are hunting and you see something you cannot identify moving behind some bushes. It might be a deer and it also might be a hiker. Should you shoot? Consider the case of an unconscious adult about whom doctors have dispassionately concluded that while the individual in question is not in a permanent vegetative state, it may be months and perhaps even years before the patient recovers consciousness. Should you “pull the plug”? In fact, you are essentially unconscious approximately a third of your life. Does anyone seriously contend that you are entitled to a lower degree of moral (and therefore legal) regard when you are asleep than when you are awake?

I recognize not only that these sorts of analogies and comparisons are imperfect but even that they are at some level silly. Put it this way. I am not so much trying to persuade you that my position is the correct one as to give you some sense of how I came to hold it. Of course, what persuades one person will not persuade another person even when they share the same information. (Were that not so, jury trials, for example, would be completely pointless.) It is my position that the ontological and moral status of unborn human beings ultimately requires a decision, not a discovery; that is, that we know all we need to know about how (human) life begins and develops to answer that question and that it is whether, how and to what extent we give moral weight to the facts that drives our answers. So, here I offer analogies and such merely as ways of going about the process of giving those facts that moral consideration.

Which brings me to my next principal point. I am personally unconvinced that any particular developmental threshold is per se sufficient justification for using it as the point before which abortion is morally acceptable and after which it is morally objectionable or unacceptable. I am aware, of course, that the prevailing position is that some level of brain development is a satisfactory or at least the best available criterion, presumably because that level of brain development is at least suggestive evidence of the being’s incipient consciousness or, at least, ability to feel pain or to suffer. Indeed, among professional philosophers there is a very strong consensus in favor of a psychological rather than a somatic theory of personhood and personal identity over time. I’m not oblivious to that consensus, I simply think that it is wrong and misguided in the way philosophical theories and arguments, especially moral theories and arguments, go wrong.

My third principal point is that there is nothing logically or morally problematic in holding that a human being can have a present interest in the future enjoyment of, among other things, consciousness and all that it entails even though that human being is at a normal and natural stage of development prior to the emergence of such consciousness. Again by way of (admittedly imperfect) analogies, the law and especially the law of property routinely permits or recognizes present and enforceable personal rights in future interests. Sometimes these interests are merely contingent and sometimes, as the law phrases it, they are vested. The important point is that they exist and have existed for centuries without causing metaphysical conundrums. As always, I’m not insisting that others weigh this principle as I do. I merely argue that it is a legitimate point of consideration. (The notion of a present protectable right to a future interest is, by the way, almost never considered in the philosophical literature I’ve seen.)

Perhaps less importantly, I would make several other points. First, one factor that appears to influence those who argue for the psychological model of personal existence over time is that it provides a certain symmetry for purposes of determining both the beginning of morally significant life and the end of morally significant life. Such symmetry might, ceteris paribus, be a desideratum, but all relevant factors regarding the beginning and end of human life are not, in fact, equal and, as a result, the insistence on such symmetry is more of an aesthetic preference than a sound argument.

Secondly, the fact that human embryos frequently spontaneously abort is irrelevant to the question whether there are moral grounds to refrain from causing an abortion. You would think, I hope, that this point is too obvious to have to be made, and yet I have a close friend whose opinions I usually respect who has repeatedly advanced the fact of frequent spontaneous abortion as an argument against the notion that human fetuses should not be intentionally killed.

Moreover and apparently somehow relatedly, he argues that this fact belies any claims that such beings could be possessed of a soul. Whether and when human beings become possessed of a soul is, as far as I am concerned, utterly irrelevant to whether and when they should be recognized as persons for purposes of not killing them without very good cause. Beyond that, insofar as we all die sooner or later, it is difficult to see how dying of natural causes sooner rather than later is of any moral significance here.

Third, I am not indifferent to but neither am I persuaded by the argument that because a woman’s body is her own property she has the unilateral right to, as it were, “evict” the pre-born human being in her womb. To be sure, there are many cases in which the woman in question has done absolutely nothing to assume the risk of a pregnancy, and I find such cases far more sympathetic than those in which the woman in question sees abortion as a morally unproblematic form of birth control. And, tediously, I will once again acknowledge that it is possible to see abortion as morally no more problematic than contraception because of one’s belief that the entity being aborted is not, for moral purposes, a person. The point I am making here is that those of us who do regard it as a person can and should be aware of and sensitive to other factors, especially including those generally lumped under the rubric of “a woman’s right to control her own body.” Indeed, were it only her own body in question here, I cannot imagine how there could be any objection at all.

By way of short-stopping some other tediously predictable objections, there is nothing at all hypocritical about being opposed to unlimited abortion rights on grounds of the personhood of the pre-born human being and yet being willing to accept the notion of legal abortions not only in the case of the woman’s serious risk of physical harm or death but also in, e.g., cases of impregnation resulting from rape. Yes, moral and metaphysical consistency requires acknowledging that a (innocent) person would be killed in such circumstances. But politics is the art of the possible and of compromise. Surely, there is something wrong with the notion that because one cannot, say, rescue everyone in a burning building one should not attempt to rescue those who can be rescued.

Which leads me to my final point for now. Notwithstanding the final sentence of the preceding paragraph, there is no moral symmetry between failing to save a person and intentionally killing a person. We do not owe it to the unborn to save them from spontaneous natural abortion any more than we are obligated in general to save others from circumstances or events not of our own doing. That said, there are good and sufficient reasons why we do not in general permit one person to kill another person. The questions of abortion are (1) is that what an abortion does and, if so, (2) under what circumstances would doing so nonetheless be morally justifiable.

I have outlined (but only that) my own position on the topic. I will not engage in detailed and protracted arguments on this topic at this time. In fact, I will probably comment again on this thread only to clarify my position and perhaps not even then. I do not expect to convince others that I am correct and I certainly do not expect others to convince me otherwise. I have been thinking about and discussing this topic for nearly forty years now and I am more or less at the same point Mr. Hanley says he is on the question of same sex marriage.

Still, I thought it would be worthwhile here, if nothing else, to give evidence that the authors of this blog are by no means always in agreement with each other or that there is somehow some single, necessary position to take on such questions simply because one self-identifies as a libertarian.

Have at it.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Family and Children. Bookmark the permalink.

239 Responses to The Abortion (Argument) Thread

  1. pinky says:

    You certainly have put a lot into this.

    I wonder. Do you consider a dead body to be a person?

  2. D.A. Ridgely says:

    No. My somatic model of personal identity over time includes the condition that the body in question be alive. Again, as I don’t believe beginning of life and end of life questions require symmetrical answers, I’m okay with the fact that the conditions for determining the death of a person differ from the criteria appropriate to mark the onset of personhood. And I have no problem in the latter case using a flat EEG as evidence of brain death and brain death as a sufficient condition for the purpose of determining personal death.

    I do, however, believe that the mortal remains of what was a living person are appropriately accorded some deference, albeit on different grounds than those relevant here.

  3. Chris says:

    I will only say this for now, because I am on a cell.

    It is true that spontaneous abortions are not a case against medical abortions, but there is a gray area in between. Many (not most) spontaneous abortions are the result of the actions of the woman, many of which are known to increase the risk or even directly cause miscarriages. If abortion should be illegal (you didn’t really touch on the legal implications of your view), then are such cases criminal negligence of some sort?

  4. D.A. Ridgely says:

    No. However, there are damned few things in life about which there are no “gray areas” in between and yet the law must nonetheless routinely establish bright line tests, especially when prohibiting a certain act or activity. (Moreover, I have intentionally omitted discussion of what may or may not be the legal implications of my views as expressed here.) I don’t pretend to know exactly where such a line should be drawn. But to say that one cannot determine precisely where one sort of thing turns into another sort of thing is not to say that it is impossible to determine in many cases which is which.

  5. tom van dyke says:

    Which is to say that even if there were a majority or even a supermajority who were convinced on purely religious grounds that abortion was morally wrong (or, for that matter, morally right), imposing that position on those who do not share those underlying religious believes would be immoral.

    I do not know your basis for deciding what is moral and what is not. One could say it’s “immoral” to expect believers to pretend God does not exist or the Bible is not Divine Writ.

    Elsewhere, you speak—presumably approvingly—of “our moral intuitions” [guided by reason, of course] as legitimate means to determine moral truth. For the record, since the Bible does not unambiguously condemn abortion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster trope does not obtain. “Religious” opposition to abortion is the result of reason and “moral intuition,” and most world religions have grave reservations.

    [Indeed, what if there is a consensus of world religions on certain moral questions, so that the “authority” of any one scripture is not at issue? Tangential, but still relevant.]

    That said, DAR, I salute your approach that just because “moral” truth and “where to draw the line” cannot be be empirically ascertained, that doesn’t mean we should not try, and act upon our best conscience accordingly. It’s the nihilistic approach, taking fallibilism to a “religion” of inertia, that offends the intellect.

    Surely, by any yardstick of “morality,” we must muddle through as best we can. To abandon all moral responsibilities would be…well, immoral.

  6. James K says:

    I think what makes abortion such a vexed question is that human maturation is a continuous process, but we like to think of personhood as discrete (and legally we pretty much have to treat it this way). So we end up stumbling around in the grey areas, trying to paint a line in the fog. Of course, just because it’s a vexed question doesn’t change the fact it demands an answer. I think the best case scenario is to promote birth control and thereby lower the demand for abortions. To the extent possible one should address difficult questions by mooting them 😉

    tom van dyke:

    That said, DAR, I salute your approach that just because “moral” truth and “where to draw the line” cannot be be empirically ascertained, that doesn’t mean we should not try, and act upon our best conscience accordingly. It’s the nihilistic approach, taking fallibilism to a “religion” of inertia, that offends the intellect.

    Surely, by any yardstick of “morality,” we must muddle through as best we can. To abandon all moral responsibilities would be…well, immoral.

    I agree completely, uncertainty is a permanent feature of human existence. Any decisional model (moral or otherwise) that cannot function under uncertainty is useless.

  7. James Hanley says:

    While the terms chosen to define the primary sides in the abortion debate (there is, of course, a middle ground, upon which, in fact, most Americans stand) are, as DAR notes, chosen as much for the implications they create about one’s opponents, they have become fairly standard and, importantly, using them is generously granting to ones’ opponents the right to name themselves. So pro-choice and pro-life, whatever their failings, have the advantage that using them means you are beginning your argument with some basic honesty toward your opponent.

    So I must, I am sorry to say, stand by my accusation of bad faith. These are not obscure labels, and are familiar to any adult who has not been living in an abandoned coal mine. To use a label of one’s own choosing; a label that has a much more negative meaning, identifies one as somebody who is not engaging in a good faith debate. It’s like calling Christians “Christers” or calling President Obama, “Obamessiah.” It’s a very clear signal of bad faith.

    It’s certainly not Mr. Heidegger’s disagreement with me on abortion that causes me to make the accusation. DAR also disagrees with me on abortion, but only someone who is arguing in bad faith could advance the argument that DAR is arguing in bad faith. The reason to blog involves having good and intelligent conversations with people, whether they are in one’s own choir or not. Even raucous conversations are quite fun if they involve intelligent arguments. But even polite conversations, if they involve a persistent failure to be intelligent and honest, are worthless and make blogging a bore.

  8. Mark Boggs says:

    I have to agree with James K that we need to make abortion an extremely moot point through contraception and abstinence education. My concern has always been that many folks who oppose abortion also oppose any kind of education or equitable funding for contraception. This leads me to suspect that, for many abortion opponents, it has more to do with punishing sexual behavior that they find immoral, resulting products be damned. (Literally, one way or another, through abortion or an unwanted child or foster care) The abortion issue also touches on some other “culture war” issues such as gay adoption. Sometimes it seems like some people would argue that the quantity of the life of that child is more important than the quality of it, especially as they argue that they think it is better for a child to be a ward of the state than it would be to be raised in a home with two same sex individuals who want to love, care for, and nurture a child. These are some of the reasons why I’m often skeptical of abortion opponents’ motives in this debate.

    However, I also believe that there are lines that can be drawn where we decide that the fetus, unborn child, potential Beethoven, potential Stalin (just to cover all the bases of terminology) has rights that trump the mother’s. It probably isn’t twenty seconds after copulation that might lead to fertilization and it sure as hell doesn’t start mere minutes before birth. The devil is in the details here.

    What does bother me about the debate is the fact that the debate does seem to be driven by the extremes, and, as someone who is pro-choice, my example would be the folks who want to veto or vote down legislation that has exception clauses for the life of the mother because they’re so certain that this will be the crack in the levy that gives all these doctors the wiggle room that they’re apparently itching to have to get people to abort their babies en masse. And that may be an unfair generalization of all abortion opponents, but for the legislators voting against some of this compromise legislation, this seems to be a very real concern, imagined or not. (Imagined, I imagine)

    But I am curious as to what the opinion is of emergency contraception pills, or “day-after” pills.

  9. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Regarding Mr. van Dyke’s comments, I have no desire to “expect believers to pretend God does not exist” or even to argue that whatever they take to be “Divine Writ” is not. I do, however, expect them to understand that “I believe that God exists and that God want’s people to do (or refrain from doing) X and I am therefore willing on that basis alone to force other people who do not believe these things to do (or refrain from doing) X” is a morally insufficient justification for forcing people to do or refrain from doing X. I also expect him to understand that the fact that he believes something as a matter of faith is an insufficient ground to expect others to believe it or, given that they do not believe it, to accept its ethical and political implications. Finally, if he understands that second point, I expect him to understand that replacing “he believes” with “a majority of people believe” does not solve the underlying problem.

    Regarding Mr. Hanley’s comments, I am less interested in trying to ween people from using what I agree has by now become standard terminology in the abortion debate than in insisting that they recognize the connotations those terms continue to bear. I’m not at all sure, however, that one should “generously [grant] to ones’ opponents the right to name themselves,” especially when those terms have a poor signal to noise ratio. In any case, I stand by my own assertion (with which I hasten to add I do not think Mr. Hanley disagrees in the slightest) that rhetoric should not trump reason.

    Regarding Mr. Boggs’ question, and acknowledging that the distinction I am about to invoke is not as clear cut as it suggests, birth control methods fall into two general categories: contraceptive methods which prevent the process of conception from ever happening and abortifacient methods which induce an abortion at some point after conception. It is my position that the former do not involve the taking of a person’s life but that the latter do. It is further my understanding that RU 486, etc. are essentially abortifacients.

  10. ppnl says:

    My general problem is that there is the assumption that right and wrong are out there and we need to figure out (by moral intuition or whatever) what they are. I do not believe in right and wrong in that sense. As I am not equipped to have an abortion nor educated to perform an abortion so the question is largely theoretical for me.

    1)But do you feel strongly enough about this that you are willing to lock up substantial numbers of people who disagree with you? Both mothers and Doctors who feel every bit as strongly as you that abortion should be legal? You see there is a broken symmetry here. Prolife people are taking a position that requires them to lock up people who disagree with them. Prochoice people are not. That does not immediately mean that the prolife people are wrong but it does seem to require a much higher standard of certainty. Would you really take the position that people who disagree with you are being unreasonable? If not are you willing to imprison people who you admit are defending a reasonable position?

    2)Do you understand that making abortions illegal will have pretty much the same effect as making drugs illegal? It will go underground. It will fuel a “war on abortion” that will cost billions and abortion will still be as available as marijuana.

    3)Do you understand the moral complexity of the issues you are asking lawmakers to address while trying to get elected? Take a rape victim for example. What do they have to do to get an abortion? What if the rapist is let go for lack of evidence? What if there is not even any known suspect? What if the rape is not even reported until the pregnancy is discovered? Remember “Jane Roe” claimed to have been raped. Also you should look into the Byzantine complexity of the abortion laws she was operating under. And what about a fetus with birth defects? These decisions will inevitably by made by politicians running for office and implemented by an uncaring bureaucracy. Good luck with that.

    4)If I fertilize an egg in vitro is it still a life? Should that be a punishable offense?

  11. tom van dyke says:

    <i.Regarding Mr. van Dyke’s comments

    Please do reread them then, DAR. I nowhere suggest that anyone should be “forced” to obey the authority of what someone else considers to be Divine Writ. In fact, I took great pains to separate meself from any such suggestion. But apparently, I did not suffer enough pain. The fault is clearly mine.

  12. Jim51 says:

    DAR,
    You have made a very reasonable review of many of the issues that ensue in a discussion of abortion. And you have allowed that you do not expect or imagine “… that others weigh this principle…” as you do. In my consideration of these issues you outline, and many more scenarios, I have come to fundamentally take the pro-choice position with some reservations and a willingness to accept some structure around that choice. But more importantly I have come to view the divergence of views on it as substantially irreconcilable, particularly since much of the positioning on this is religious.
    So for me the cruxal quotes from your writeup would be…

    “I am personally unconvinced that any particular developmental threshold is per se sufficient justification for using it as the point before which abortion is morally acceptable and after which it is morally objectionable or unacceptable.”

    “But politics is the art of the possible and of compromise”

    What leads me to the first quote is the tendency of people to try and identify a magic moment which carries an aura of objectivity, implying, as such selections do, a certain scienciness. The easiest example is the ‘moment’ of conception meme. This, of course, is not a moment but a process. There are very few magic moments in biology, it’s all processes. I like your expression ‘developmental threshold,’ and, like you, I see nothing to convince me that the selection of one threshold (eg. the completion of recombination or the completion of implantation or the onset of certain types of brain waves) is a more correct answer than the selection of another.

    This leads me to the second quote. The large gray areas here notwithstanding, we still have to come to some decision that is possible. This necessitates some compromise. Those at the edges of each continuum will be left unsatisfied by whatever compromise is reached. I am uncertain that Roe v Wade is the best compromise that can be had, but it’s the one we have at the moment.

    Heidegger,
    I, too, must stand by my accusation of bad faith. For you to attempt to maintain your own chosen label of pro-life while pinning the pro-abortion label on those you disagree with is unacceptable. And your ‘Gosh, gee, why does that upset you?’ response doesn’t get you off the hook. Having read quite a few of your posts I think I can safely say that you are not that stupid and therefore have no excuse for engaging in that sort of bad-faith partisan hackery. My opinion of your capacity is such that I am surprised you thought you would get away with it here.

    Were you to argue in good faith, I think you might find (as you may have found in DAR’s post) more common ground here than you expect. The same might be said for our national discussion in general.

    Jim51

  13. D.A. Ridgely says:

    ppnl writes:

    You see there is a broken symmetry here. Prolife people are taking a position that requires them to lock up people who disagree with them. Prochoice people are not. That does not immediately mean that the prolife people are wrong but it does seem to require a much higher standard of certainty.

    On the contrary, insofar as there is any doubt whatever that what abortion amounts to is a sort of homicide, I should think those who wish to take the risk that that is what they are doing or permitting to be done should be expected to meet the higher standard. Bear in mind my initial point that, at least in my opinion, the benefit of the doubt should favor the human life being terminated.

    I understand there are numerous social costs associated with what would amount to a 180 degree shift in abortion law. Some of those you mention I believe I can answer perhaps even to your satisfaction. Most importantly, however, I am not interested in forcing the legal consequences of my position on others; I’m interested in convincing others that it is the morally correct position.

    Insofar as in vitro fertilization methods include the fertilization and abandonment to a certain death of a number of fertilized eggs / embryos in order to produce the implanted embryo, from that perspective it is a mass abortafacient technique. The same analysis obtains for in vitro fertilization for purposes of harvesting stem cells.

    Jim51, referencing my comment to ppnl that I am concerned with changing opinion before changing law, public attitudes do occasionally reverse themselves on major social and moral questions. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We live, as it were, in hope that we more often shift for the better.

    I do draw a distinction between what you refer to as the completion of recombination and what I would characterize as developmental processes thereafter. Acknowledging that the fertilization / genetic recombination process is not instantaneous, it nonetheless occurs in a relatively short period of time after which, to the best of my knowledge, biologists refer to the result as an individuated organism, albeit immediately thereafter in its earliest stages of development. And that is more or less the ontic crux of my argument. Prior to that particular point / process there is no genetically complete, individuated organism. aka living member of the species Homo sapiens. After that point / process there is.

  14. Mr. Ridgely,

    I agree with most of what you say, except that I would give much more deference to the woman, even to the point of giving her a special prerogative over life and death at least up to a certain point. Where that point is, I cannot (or at least refuse to) say. Therefore, at least for early stages of pregnancy, I believe in abortion on demand. I do not believe that this special prerogative, as I call it, extends to people who are not carrying the child. Therefore, I oppose embryonic stem cell research and those forms of in vitro fertilization that require the creation of more than one embryo.

    My biggest with my own position, beyond whatever logical difficulties and question-begging assertions that lead up to it, is that I have arrived at it in a rather ad hoc fashion. I “want” to conclude that abortions should be legal, and my “argument,” such as it is, is designed to facilitate this conclusion. In that sense, I suppose I am arguing in bad faith.

    (I think there is also a political argument about resource allocation: that it is better to spend valuable resources helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies than it is to make abortion illegal. But my “political argument” ignores the very questions you raise, and is not necessarily all that convincing anyway. We outlaw some things, like first degree murder, because they hurt innocent third parties, even if outlawing them and enforcing the law “wastes” resources and is less efficacious than if the activity had been legal. If something like a weregeld system proved more effective at preventing murder than, say, criminal prosecution, I would still be hesitant to decriminalize murder.)

    I don’t expect anyone to be convinced by my “argument.” In fact, I don’t expect anyone to be particularly interested in what I have to say about the matter. I just wanted to state my beliefs.

  15. James Hanley says:

    I’m not at all sure, however, that one should “generously [grant] to ones’ opponents the right to name themselves,” especially when those terms have a poor signal to noise ratio.

    Well, I agree with the caveat. I wouldn’t necessarily extend that generosity to the pro-life crowd if they settled on calling themselves “the holy forces of godliness against the evil Satanic baby killers” (although I know some pro-lifers do in fact think that’s the signal in the term pro-life). But as these terms pass into common usage, they come to be just team names, with as much serious internal meaning as “Wolverines” have for the University of Michigan (a school in a state to which wolverines were mostly non-native, especially in the region where the school is). The only meaningful signal in them, I think, is identification, not intellectual edification.

  16. ppnl says:

    On the contrary, insofar as there is any doubt whatever that what abortion amounts to is a sort of homicide, I should think those who wish to take the risk that that is what they are doing or permitting to be done should be expected to meet the higher standard. Bear in mind my initial point that, at least in my opinion, the benefit of the doubt should favor the human life being terminated.

    You see this is where we are very different. You assume that there is an underlying objective moral fact and those who are wrong can at some point be objectively shown to be wrong. To me it is a pragmatic choice. The only way to pick between the various pragmatic choices is to examine the effect of those choices on the individual and on society. The only valid argument against abortion for me is to show a negative impact on the individual or society. Going to hell does not really cut it.

    Is there any physical measurable fact of the universe that would settle the issue? If not then you are just offering a version of Pascal’s wager.

    Most importantly, however, I am not interested in forcing the legal consequences of my position on others; I’m interested in convincing others that it is the morally correct position.

    But that is inevitably what you will be doing if you use state power to enforce your moral convictions. If you are only interested in convincing others that abortion is morally wrong you might find a lot of support in the prochoice crowd. Prochoice does not mean you think abortion is a good idea or that you would ever have one under any circumstance. It only means that of all the pragmatic choices available to us as a society deferring to individual choice is the best option available.

    Remember even God allowed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and suffer the consequences of their choice. In that sense God was prochoice.

    Was it you who once said that the effects of global warming cannot be worse than the effects of empowering government to combat it? I can’t remember for sure.

  17. D.A. Ridgely says:

    ppnl:

    No, I don’t believe in the existence of “objective moral facts.” In fact, I lean toward noncognitivism. What I think does separate our perspectives is that you appear to be a thoroughgoing consequentialist, whereas I am not. (Thoroughgoing, that is.)

  18. ppnl says:

    No, I don’t believe in the existence of “objective moral facts.” In fact, I lean toward noncognitivism.

    Ok but what did you mean by this:

    On the contrary, insofar as there is any doubt whatever that what abortion amounts to is a sort of homicide, I should think those who wish to take the risk that that is what they are doing or permitting to be done should be expected to meet the higher standard.

    If there is no absolute right or wrong then what risk are you talking about?

    The problem I have with noncognitivism is that it seems to start with a surrender to intuition and end with an after the fact analytical justification for what was not arrived at by analytical methods. But since there is no underlying objective fact of the matter the use of analytic methods seem misplaced and even dishonest.

    Analytic methods are good for analyzing real world consequences. For example even if I believe global warming is unlikely I may still support measures to counter it because there are real world consequences and real world risk in being wrong. The real world consequences that can be derived analytically is how I avoid a reduction to Pascal’s wager.

    Take away the objective facts and analytic methods lose their grasp. If there are no objective facts of the matter then you are not risking anything objectively. At best noncognitivism seems to collapse into some version of Pascal’s wager and at worst simply become incoherent.

    In deciding how to use government to limit other peoples behavior I’m pretty much a consequentialist. In deciding my own behavior or forming mere opinions of other peoples behavior I reserve the right to be less of a consequentialist. I can justify this on both personal moral intuition and on consequentialist grounds. So I feel I’m covered.

    I call myself a pragmatist.

  19. D.A. Ridgely says:

    What I meant was simply that the burden of persuasion should be higher for those who seek to end what is arguably a person’s life. I’m disinclined to believe that normative statements are truth bearing, but it doesn’t follow that all normative claims are normatively equal. Further, although we are frankly getting farther and farther afield here, I’m suspicious of the fact/value dichotomy and the objective/subjective dichotomy and, thus, of most claims about “objective facts.” As the kids used to say, Your Mileage May Vary.

  20. James Hanley says:

    ppnl wrote:

    Prochoice does not mean you think abortion is a good idea or that you would ever have one under any circumstance. It only means that of all the pragmatic choices available to us as a society deferring to individual choice is the best option available.

    That’s pretty much where I stand. And it’s a common enough position that no intellectually honest person calling themselves pro-life could be unaware of it. Hence my objection that “pro-abortion” indicates someone is arguing in bad faith.

    DAR wrote:

    On the contrary, insofar as there is any doubt whatever that what abortion amounts to is a sort of homicide, I should think those who wish to take the risk that that is what they are doing or permitting to be done should be expected to meet the higher standard. Bear in mind my initial point that, at least in my opinion, the benefit of the doubt should favor the human life being terminated.

    I want to address the question about higher standards and benefit of the doubt. It certainly sounds intuitively plausible as stated, but I think the plausibility come primarily from the limited view of the subject as expressed in that statement. There is only consideration of the fetus–the pregnant woman is entirely absent from the statement, and, I think, absent from the analysis.

    But what if we look at it from the pregnant woman’s perspective? I would offer this: Because we know with certainty that the pregnant woman is a human life, a person in every meaningful sense of the word, while the fetus may or may not be, don’t those who would burden the pregnant woman with carrying another life and risking her own in childbirth bear the higher burden? Shouldn’t the benefit of the doubt be given to the person who is indisputably human?

    That’s not meant to be a dispositive claim. My point is that this issue is problematic because two irreconcilable values are at stake, and where one comes out in the end depends on which value one takes as the starting point. But since either one is a legitimate starting point, and either one can support a claim that it’s own side gets the burden of proof while the other must meet the higher standard, I am dubious about any claim that the other side must meet a higher standard.

  21. ppnl says:

    What I meant was simply that the burden of persuasion should be higher for those who seek to end what is arguably a person’s life.

    If there is no fact of the matter there then in what sense is it arguable? And again in what sense is this risk? Risk that you are wrong? But there is no fact of the matter here. Risk that God will punish you? Pascal’s wager. I don’t get it.

    I still think you are simply letting your moral intuition rule and all the rest is just an ad hoc justification.

    I’m suspicious of the fact/value dichotomy and the objective/subjective dichotomy and, thus, of most claims about “objective facts.”

    Ok but you are at serious risk of simply being incoherent here. Even if you avoid incoherence I would say that your argument reduces to some version of Pascal’s wager.

    This seems a strange position for someone in the objectivist political spectrum.

  22. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Mr. Hanley:

    Of course, whether and to what extent one places a higher burden on one side of a dispute or not will not only depend on a variety of factors but that decision must, itself, be acknowledged to be a moral judgment. (Should there be a question of who bears the burden of proof and persuasion in making that judgment?)

    Certainly, the pregnant woman’s burden and risks in carrying the pregnancy to term are significant factors. We might reasonably assume that how much burden and how much risk will vary from woman to woman, but it would be unreasonable to assume that such concerns would be negligible in any pregnancy. So the formula here is some risk to an indisputable person.

    By contrast, although the question is open whether the human fetus should be deemed a person, if the correct answer to that is that it should be, then the consequences of the abortion to that person are arguably far graver in most (but certainly not all) cases than the pregnant woman’s risks. So the formula here is indisputable harm to what may be a person.

    At the risk of being considered a churlish lout here, the nature of the trade offs arguably involved remind me of the old joke about how in a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is importantly involved but the pig is completely committed.

    Still and all, it seems to me that the best we can say is that there is no obviously correct answer to the question which side should bear the greater burden of persuasion here. As I stated originally, my considered belief is that the benefit of the doubt should go to the life irreversibly at risk of being terminated. Will reasonable people reasonably differ about this? Sure.

    ppnl:

    I understand your qualms. However, disputes and disagreements often persist where all the so-called objective facts are agreed upon. If you think my skepticism about such tidy looking dichotomies threatens my coherence, so be it. I think it frees me from several hoary philosophical errors. Finally, if by objectivist you mean anything even closely approaching Randian thought, you’ve clearly got the wrong boy.

  23. ppnl says:

    James Hanley,

    Hence my objection that “pro-abortion” indicates someone is arguing in bad faith.

    I actually was unaware of the discussion under the other post. I think both prolife and prochoice are far above average in their honest descriptiveness. And yes pro-abortion is pretty much a slap in the face.

    As for DAR, I’m afraid he has totally lost me. I can understand, respect and even agree with an instinctive dislike of abortion. But noncognitivism? That’s hard to forgive.

  24. buddyglass says:

    What a refreshing post. Some random comments follow. I should probably arrange these in paragraphs, but I’m lazy…so you get a bullet list. Blame Power Point.

    1. Agreed on the rhetoric issue. Both sides’ abuse of language gets on my nerves. The pro-choice side’s assertion that a woman’s personal autonomy should trump anything and everything seems silly on its face. Also the appeal to “fairness”, i.e. men don’t have to deal with the consequences of carrying a child so neither should women.

    2. Huge, huge agreement with your point that an activity being condemned by one’s religion is not sufficient grounds to support its criminalization. As an evangelical who is strongly pro-life and yet fairly socially liberal in other areas, I get into this argument all the time with right-leaning Christians. One thing I’d add: While I agree that one’s support for restricting abortion should be based on secular reasons, I feel like one’s secular support can be influenced by a view of “fetal worth” that is largely religiously informed. The question of whether a fetus is a “person” (or, at least, has worth that merits restricting abortion) is largely metaphysical rather than scientific. In my case I don’t oppose abortion because it’s “wrong” (even though I think it is), but because it infringes on the rights of a person (or, at least, an imminent person). However, at the same time, my view that the fetus is a person (or at least an imminent one) is largely informed by faith.

    3. I’ve made the “given the uncertainty, err on the side of caution” argument myself before. This is the first time I’ve heard it from someone else.

    4. Same thing regarding the concept of “imminent person-hood”. The fetus can be analogized to someone in a coma who is totally dependent on the care of others, but who is almost certain to make a full recovery in a few months.

    5. I also appreciate the argument that any “objective” determination of the point at which person-hood begins is inherently arbitrary. Say we use a threshold of brainwave activity. Why brainwaves? Why that particular threshold? Why not heartbeat? Why not the point at which the fetus exhibits a pain response? Why not the point at which the fetus has human DNA (i.e. conception)? Etc.

    6. I disagree strongly with the idea that rape presents a “special case” where your other points either fail to apply or are overwhelmed by a fairness principle. In fact, I find the “restrict abortion except in cases of rape or incest” position to be even more untenable than the “pro-choice” position. And I’m pro-life. Why? Because the folks who support a rape/incest exception typically also consider abortion as tantamount to murder. So you’re telling me murder is okay if the fetus was conceived via rape? Murder is okay if the fetus has an elevated risk of genetic abnormality due to the blood relation of its parents? Huh? Seems pretty blatantly contradictory.

  25. James Hanley says:

    DAR,.

    I’m still bothered by your claim about who gets the benefit of the doubt because it doesn’t seem to deal with probability (or perhaps assumes, without accompany justification, a very high probability) of personhood of the fetus.

    If the probability is .0000000001, does that probability still get the benefit of the doubt? It seems doubtful. If the probability is .9999999999999, then doubtless it should.

    When we have no agreed upon value, or even agreed upon range of values, there’s little for a benefit of the doubt claim (from either direction) to stand upon, it seems to me.

    But that’s where the public’s intuition, if I may use such offensive terminology, seems to, roughly, work well. The earlier in the pregnancy, the more doubtful personhood is, and the less benefit of the doubt the public gives it (i.e., the stronger the support for abortion rights). The later in the pregnancy, the more probable personhood is, and the more benefit of the doubt the public gives (i.e., the weaker the support for abortion rights).

    Of course uncertainty about when personhood occurs–or the allotting of a soul, or whatever–can never be resolved, so we can of course argue endlessly about whether the cutoff date for an abortion should be 8 months, 6 months, 3 months, etc., etc. But all in all the general structure of that approach seems more logically justifiable to me than a “fully human from the moment of conception, even before implantation” approach.

  26. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    So pro-choice and pro-life, whatever their failings, have the advantage that using them means you are beginning your argument with some basic honesty toward your opponent.

    So I must, I am sorry to say, stand by my accusation of bad faith. These are not obscure labels, and are familiar to any adult who has not been living in an abandoned coal mine. To use a label of one’s own choosing; a label that has a much more negative meaning, identifies one as somebody who is not engaging in a good faith debate. It’s like calling Christians “Christers” or calling President Obama, “Obamessiah.” It’s a very clear signal of bad faith.

    I don’t believe either group deserves their labels because they misconstrue reality and immediately start the debate off in bad faith. I far prefer labeling the entrenched movements advocates who are “pro-abortion rights” or “anti-abortion rights”.

    DAR – I’ve always thought the abortion debate could be easily settled with reasoned debate done in good faith where both extremes would end-up not getting what they wanted. Your argument here is convincing evidence you are the type of thinker that could get to such an agreement if the others argued as cogently and as respectful and considerate of the the pro-abortion rights as you do here. My hat’s off to you.

    It’s my personal position, very humbly held since I’m a man who has difficulty arguing this beyond the abstract, that we should provide wide latitude to the pro-abortion side on extenuating circumstances, e.g., legitimate health risks of mother or unborn, rape, incest. I also think we require a pervasive educational effort on birth control, pregnancy tests, and liberal even free (in some cases) supply of morning-after-like remedies. Such a position if competently enacted should allow an increasing restriction of on-demand abortions that gradually pulls prohibition of on-demand abortion increasingly closer to the point where morning-after remedies no longer have efficacy. Currently restrictions mostly begin in the 2nd trimester, keep it there with a gradual pull-in to a couple of weeks as you implement better family planning resources like we see in some countries in Europe who have more liberal abortion-rights than we do with far less abortions.

    I’m pretty confident this position would be found equally repugnant by both groups.

  27. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Mr. Hanley:

    Well, yes, that’s correct. I do, personally, assign a high degree of the probability of personhood for the reasons I’ve already stated. I’ve explained why I reject the notion that the probability of personhood is smaller in the first month than in the eighth month or, more precisely, why I have rejected the arguments in favor of that claim as unacceptably arbitrary. If you are unimpressed by those reasons, either individually or collectively, well, so be it.

    I’m not particularly interested in the current moral intuitions of the general public on this particular issue, not the least reason being the contemporary history of the issue. The prevailing positive morality of the general public is largely formed in this case on nothing more than their pre-reflective (or, more precisely, non-reflective) moral intuitions and/or their religious beliefs or lack thereof. (Why even bring up the “soul” here, by the way?) Put differently, the level of rational, non-religious consideration on the part of the general public on this issue is, to put it mildly, lamentable.

  28. ppnl says:

    James Hanley,

    Since DAR has already agreed that the personhood of a fetus isn’t an objective fact of the universe what exactly is your probability suppose to represent?

    If you say (as DAR seems to do) that a statement has no truth value and then use analytic reasoning as if it did well… that way lies madness that has little to do with the abortion issue.

    If I say failure to recite prayer in school causes natural disasters that kill children (as some religious leaders have) then I may wish to pass a law requiring school prayer. What evidence do I have that this is true? It isn’t an objective fact of the universe so looking for evidence is pointless. Nevertheless I assign a high probability to it being true. Whatever twisted meaning “true” has taken here.

    You can justify anything that you can get votes for.

    It reminds me of high school geometry class where we had to state the reason for every step in a proof. Sometimes there was a step that seemed intuitively obvious but we had trouble articulating the justification. As a joke we invented the ISS postulate. It just means “I Said So”.

    I cannot for the life of me see that DAR is doing anything more than this.

  29. tom van dyke says:

    It takes a lot of sophistication to obviate the concepts of right and wrong. But man’s reason and rationalization is capable of anything.

    I admire DAR’s honesty, although it obliges him to blandly—and I think unnecessarily—dismiss the religious conscience, even if it’s informed by reason. As Leo Strauss put it in the close of The City and Man, quid sit deus.

    The other casualty is the obviation of the concepts “normative” and even “moral,” as evidenced by the Tower of Babel that has ensued here, and of course the traditional game of “Hot Potato,” the shifting the burden of proof. But when one rejects “normativity,” it becomes impossible even to accept the burden of proof, or use “moral” meaningfully. Especially if one’s correspondent rejects normativity and morality as well [!]—you can’t even accept the burden of proof because they won’t let you, even if only arguing from fallibilism [we cannot know, so what is the “moral” way to “play it safe?”] as DAR does. As previously noted, empiricism demands our silence on what cannot be ascertained.

    But I do not see it as a flaw in DAR’s argument to appeal to a certain poetry, of something human that is not mere logic and reason. The existence of an “innate moral sense” was a feature of the Scottish “common sense” Enlightenment, which found Hume’s empiricism too stark and incomplete to account for the totality of man and his “moral” conscience. [I always feel obliged to put “moral” in scare quotes. I endeavor to avoid the term in fora like these. “Common sense,” of course, is an antiquated, obviated, and obliterated term in this sophisticated age.]

    I ran across this today, which isn’t dispositive, but I found helpful nonetheless:

    “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”

    That’s Hemingway, not a paragon of anything except maybe in his humanity. Poetry somehow touches a part of us that reason alone cannot. So, does DAR contradict himself? Very well then he contradicts himself, (he is large, he contains multitudes).

  30. But I do not see it as a flaw in DAR’s argument to appeal to a certain poetry, of something human that is not mere logic and reason.

    I agree with the sense of this statement, I’m not sure that’s exactly what Mr. Ridgely is appealing to (maybe he is, but it’s not entirely clear to me).

    At any rate, I’m no philosopher, but now that you mention the Scottish Enlightenment, I’m reminded of Hume’s admonition to “Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man….” All that ppnl says may be true and logically convincing–I don’t have the intellectual rigor to understand all his (or Mr. Ridgely’s, for that matter) philosophical points–but at the end of the day, we do choose to act in a certain way and to judge our actions, whatever be the process by which we get there.

  31. James Hanley says:

    Michael Heath–Nobody actually believes the baseball players in Cleveland are Indians, or that those in Detroit really are Tigers. For that matter, nobody ever bothers to think about what “republican” and “democrat” really mean. I think the labels pro-life and pro-choice have reached that kind of level, so that their innate dishonesty no longer really matters. I could be wrong, of course.

    ppnl & DAR: I’m not a philosopher, so I hesitate to answer ppnl’s question, but I’ll risk it. It seems to me that ppnl is right, and that my question about probability doesn’t logically relate to DAR’s claims, since he has admitted they do not relate to objective truth. But I went that route because I am unable to wrap my head around the idea that you can put the burden of proof on someone else after admitting your own claim has no truth value. It sounds to me like just a normative claim, followed by, “But I really really believe it, so if your preferred policy outcome conflicts with it you have to meet a higher standard.” A higher standard of what? Not proof. Not evidence. If there’s a logic there, I’m completely missing it.

  32. James Hanley says:

    when one rejects “normativity,” it becomes impossible even to accept the burden of proof, or use “moral” meaningfully.

    I agree that it is at least difficult, if not impossible, to use “moral” meaningfully once one rejects normativity, but surely it’s not impossible to accept the burden of proof? Scientists can work in particular venues where they utterly reject normativity,* but where they definitely accept a stringent burden of proof.

    I would actually argue that it goes the other direction–those who emphasize normativity over empiricism (tend to) reject the burden of proof when it comes to demonstrating that their normative claims have any basis in the reality of the world, and aren’t referencing an imaginary world.

    That’s not a veiled slam at anyone here (well, maybe at a couple of our commenters who haven’t yet appeared on this thread). It just struck me as odd to claim that non-normativists can’t accept the burden of proof, when empiricism sets the most stringent standards for burden of proof. But I may have misunderstood the meaning of the statement.

    _____________________________
    *That’s to say that scientists don’t necessarily reject normativity in all aspects of their life.

  33. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    Nobody actually believes the baseball players in Cleveland are Indians, or that those in Detroit really are Tigers. For that matter, nobody ever bothers to think about what “republican” and “democrat” really mean. I think the labels pro-life and pro-choice have reached that kind of level, so that their innate dishonesty no longer really matters. I could be wrong, of course.

    My experience has been the exact opposite. That people who belong to these two abortion movements have absolute confidence their labels accurately describe their positions (though not their opponents’). I’ve never met one exception on the so-called pro-life side.

    I also think your analogy buttresses my point; therefore I see you ducking into your own punch with comment I quote here. I agree with you regarding the names of the political parties, but am strongly confident that the two abortion groups’ members believe their labels are perfect descriptors of their positions where I think we’d both agree they most certainly are not valid for either.

    I also think the difference is that hearing the names of the political parties doesn’t motivate the audience to consider how political science’s understanding of the terms differ from the respective parties’ ideologies and positions, they have become mere names as you argue ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ have become. Our two parties could just as easily be named the Hanley and Heath parties or the Magneta and Mauve parties. However, unlike our political parties’ near-total lack of effort to buttress their names with meaning, these two abortion groups use their respective labels to explicitly convey what they believe is at stake in this debate, i.e., choice vs. life.

    When it comes to my respective labels, “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion rights”, I’m very comfortable with the former descriptor while a little uneasy with the latter since it arguably conveys “anti-abortion rights” as a pejorative relative to “pro-abortion rights” where a pejorative is not intended.

  34. Chris says:

    DAR, regarding gray areas, I agree, but part of my reason for bringing up that particular gray area is that it requires talk of the legal implication of pro-life views, which, unsurprisingly, are rarely discussed by pro-life view holders. I think this is because, as in the situation I was describing, the legal implications are often absurd, even for less “gray” areas. More often than not, when one is able to get some legal view out of pro-lifers, they tend to focus on the criminal liability of physicians, and appear to blanch at the idea of liability for the woman. Ultimately, I think, any pro-life position will be incomplete, and its motivations incompletely known, without discussion of the legal implications.
    More generally, I take the exact opposite view that you do. We both, it seems, take a generally (though perhaps not entirely) discursive approach to ethics. In my view, as the moral status of the fetus is highly ambiguous, the status of the completely unambiguous agent in question, the woman, should receive precedence. In that case, her right to control her body, even when another (potential) agent is dependent on it, trumps any fuzzy ethical standing that an embryo or fetus might potentially have.
    The evidence of an embryo’s status, prior to 12 days (when it may yet split, making its pre-12 day status as an individual person somewhat problematic both physically and metaphysically) is, I take it, overwhelming, to the point that there is no rational sense in which an embryo of that age can be said to be a person or to have anything like the ethical standing that personhood obtains, making the woman’s choice primary (this is not to say that one cannot consider the embryo’s future moral status, but that there is no sense in which that status can, legally or morally, be said to be greater than the woman’s right to choose). This should make things like the morning after pill (which in the vast majority of cases doesn’t actually destroy embryos, but that’s beside the point) uncontroversial. As the embryo develops, and becomes a fetus, the ambiguity grows, to the point where viability, the ability to sense (if not actually “experience” in the usual sense of the word) pain, and organized brain activity makes the fetus’s status as a person all but certain to me. It is at this point where the moral status of the fetus begins to challenge that of the woman. I remain sympathetic to the notion that the woman has a right to control her own body, even if someone else with the full moral status of personhood is dependent on it, but I admit that I’m genuinely conflicted.
    I do want to note that I’m not actually all that concerned with intact dilation and extraction procedures, as they are commonly used, because in almost every case there is no hope for the fetus (in most cases, the fetus is either not alive at all or is severely damaged with no hope of surviving at birth). I know many pro-lifers treat this procedure as the most heinous, but I think that, if they weren’t using it as mere emotion-inducing propaganda, most might even see it as the least ethically-problematic form of abortion (noting that morning after pills are not abortion in any meaningful sense).

  35. D.A. Ridgely says:

    No doubt, some of the frustration emerging here results from differing attitudes toward how to engage in normative discourse; that is, how to go about discussing ethical matters. It also seems to me that ppnl has misunderstood my various disclaimers. Perhaps not, but then I’m not too sure I understand what he, in turn, means by such phrases as analytical methods, absolute right and wrong or objective truth, so we’re probably at a standoff regardless without delving more deeply into questions of meta-ethics, epistemology, etc. I don’t care to have those discussions here. Too protracted, too tedious and too likely to lead to a confirmation of our impasse, anyway, albeit perhaps for different reasons. That said, a few final comments to help others not be misled by ppnl’s characterization of my position seems in order.

    To say that one leans toward noncognitivism; that is, to the view that normative statements are not the sorts of things that can correctly said to be true or false, doesn’t mean that meaningful ethical discourse is impossible. To say that there may well not be the rigid distinction between objectivity and subjectivity or between assertions of fact and assertions of value that some believe there to be is not to say that there are no facts or that there is no value whatever on either side of the objective/subjective dichotomy.

    Curiously, ppnl said one thing in his disparagement of my argument with which, properly construed, I agree: You can justify anything that you can get votes for.

    Now, I’ve already said that I think that in this particular case the public’s moral intuitions are even more suspect than usual. But there is a sense in which what moral discourse is about is “getting votes for” a particular moral perspective and conclusion, a matter of getting the other person to go “Oh yes, I see” even or especially when there are no facts in dispute. (This happens frequently, by the way, in legal reasoning: we know what Jones did but we don’t ‘know’ whether what he did constituted actionable negligence and what we are seeking is not a discovery of new facts that will settle matters but a decision based on how we weigh and value the facts we know.)

    So, here, it isn’t that I have admitted I have no facts — there are plenty of facts as we ordinarily understand such things and many of them are, I think, morally relevant and many that are not despite the fact that others think they are. But the way we go about (subliminally) deciding that other (adult, fully formed, talkative) human beings are persons in the moral sense — the paradigm case, as it were — informs our intuitions on the matter in some ways which I think hold up under scrutiny and in some other ways that do not. And while that is a consideration of facts, it is a normative consideration and therefore not, strictly speaking, a factual consideration. (“But DAR, didn’t you previously reject the fact / value distinction?” “Yes, but that was to claim — and is such a claim a normative or factual one? — that the line separating the two is often far less sharp than supposed, not to claim that they are always and everywhere identical. That would be silly.”) Again, I’m not claiming I have no facts, I’m claiming that all the facts we all have collectively have probative but by no means dispositive value in how we decide these questions.

    Finally (for now), I’ve been accused of, as it were, merely tarting up my crude, base, irrational, subjective — shall I go on? — moral intuitions and nothing more. Well, yes and no. Certainly, there are cases in which no matter how good the counter argument we nonetheless cling to our moral intuitions. (“Yes, I see that the reasoning behind your position that my children should be taken from me and used for spare parts — for the ‘greater good,’ or some such happy horsesh*t — is impeccable, but I’m afraid I’m still not giving them up, so go bugger off.”) Am I, at bottom, a prescriptivist? Yeah, sorta.

    But I’ve given a handful of reasons why, upon rational consideration, I have come down on the “person at conception” side of the debate and I fail to see why or in what way they can be characterized as post hoc rationalizations. Moreover, I’m dubious at the thinly veiled ad hominem nature of that particular line of criticism. But I’ll let that slide for now.

    Anyway, I started out saying I would outline but not argue my position in detail and I have, as the Baptists say, done some backsliding. Feel free to argue, if you wish, about what a worthlessly confused (or brilliantly insightful) position I’ve articulated (or incoherently blathered) here, but I’m going to bow out for a while.

    P.S. — I posted this before reading Chris’s most recent comments. He raises interesting points (as he almost always does) that I’d like to get around to discussing, but I’m going to stick to my guns for now, lest I play Michael Corleone in Godfather III here and keep getting pulled back in.

  36. buddyglass says:

    Interesting. I’d never heard the “may yet split” argument against person-hood. Thanks for that. OTOH, it’s conceivable that in the near future it might be possible to clone me, even as a full-grown adult. That doesn’t lessen my person-hood.

  37. Heidegger says:

    Mr. Heath says:

    “I far prefer labeling the entrenched movements advocates who are “pro-abortion rights” or “anti-abortion rights”.

    Please, give this failed court jester who is so irredeemably valueless, bigoted, worthless, hateful, even a Shakespearean fool, a little credit. I said this exact same thing two days ago: Heidegger says:
    October 9, 2010 at 10:07 AM
    A solution. How about instead of “pro-abortion”, “pro-abortion rights”? Pro-abortion rights seems to be a reasonable and accurate characterization of someone who identifies themselves as, “pro-choice”.

    Of course, the biggest difference between the two statements, is the names of the authors. Michael Heath=immediate credibility. Heidegger=an ignorant clown.

  38. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I surrender…halfway. I admit you’re right that the two sides deeply believe in their own label’s meaning. But I do think that to the other side, the label is merely a team name. I’m not sure that many in the audience are motivated to think deeply about them, though.

  39. James Hanley says:

    Heidegger,

    Perhaps someone criticized your shift in position to “pro abortion rights,” but I certainly didn’t. And so far nobody has praised Michael Heath’s use of the term. So I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that you were condemned, and Heath adulated, for use of the same phrase.

    But if playing the victim gives you the energy to get through the day, by all means go to it.

  40. James Hanley says:

    DAR–OK, if you’re just using a basic normative argument, then I’m much less confused. Phew. But then I do think my critiques are relevant. you have to deal with probability, since you (because you’re being honest, rather than waging a political campaign) admit to non-certainty, and that requires that the other side’s claim to lower probability be taken into account. Not accepted, obviously, but recognized as making the claim of “they must meet a higher standard” something that they, with full intellectual honesty and good faith, can reject as in apropos. But that same logic applies also to them.

    The only way either side can get to “they must meet a higher standard” is by a) denying they have a legitimate counterargument on the probability of fetal personhood, and/or b) ignoring or downplaying the interests of the other party in the equation.

    I think resolution of the issue is impossible due to the vagaries of the very indeterminability of fetal personhood, but I think it’s best conducted without resort to what seem to me to be untenable claims that the other side bears the burden of proof (and I mean untenable by either side in the debate).

  41. Chris says:

    Interesting. I’d never heard the “may yet split” argument against person-hood. Thanks for that. OTOH, it’s conceivable that in the near future it might be possible to clone me, even as a full-grown adult. That doesn’t lessen my person-hood.

    I suppose if it becomes possible to clone people at any stage of development, this certainly creates issues for identity. Still, cloning and splitting as a part of the development of the embryo seem to me to be too biologically and philosophically separable things. If the embryo develops into two, it is difficult to say that it was a single individual person before hand. At least, this requires some serious thinking about the nature of personhood and individuality.

  42. James Hanley says:

    Chris,

    If we’re talking about the stage where the blastocyst could split into two, shouldn’t we double the value applied to it, discounted by the probability of such a split, rather than discount the value?

  43. D.A. Ridgely says:

    *sigh*

    Heidegger, if you’re going to take umbrage at my last remarks about you, at least get the gist of them right. I didn’t accuse you of being the blog clown, I told you that if you were shopping for that job here, I wouldn’t hire you. As for the rest, well, I can’t say I’ve read every comment you’ve made on this blog, so perhaps my generalization was unfair. If so, I apologize.

    Regardless, insofar as you made an appeal to the other authors of this blog, if you and Mr. Hanley have irreconcilable differences, we’ll all vote with him. And that’s not true merely in your case but in any commenter’s case.

  44. Heidegger says:

    James Hanley,

    No, but you obviously chose to fiercely zero in on the “pro-abortion” label, completely ignoring my attempt to use a more conciliatory label, “pro-abortion rights”. You ignored it entirely. I’m sure the opportunity to vent your seething rage at the “right-wing” hate monger elements of this debate was just too irresistible.

    Even minutes ago, in response to Mr. Heath, you expressed no reservations or criticism whatsoever of using the label, “team name”, “pro-abortion rights”. As DAR so eloquently put it, “words do matter.” DAR’s presentation was the most beautiful, eloquent, thoughtful, treatise on this subject I have ever read. It’s really quite brilliant. Of course, what would you expect? It’s DAR.

  45. James Hanley says:

    Heidegger,

    I zeroed in on “pro-abortion” because it is so obviously wrong, and dishonest to boot.

    I commented on neither your nor Michael Heath’s use of the term pro-abortion rights. I “expressed no reservations or criticism whatsoever of using [that] label” to you, either, so I treated you both precisely equally in that regard. But since it apparently matters to you, I’ll say that I think pro-abortion rights is an accurate enough label, whether used by you or Michael.

    “Seething rage,” eh? That one’s just too silly to even consider taking offense at. Methinks you’re just resentful that you got caught in an act of bad faith, so you’re projecting your error upon me. See, two can play at being armchair psychiatrist. I’m not sure exactly where it gets us, though.

  46. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,
    Trying to revise what you were excoriated for isn’t going to work for you either. You were dealt with harshly for trying to get away with pinning the ‘pro-abortion’ label on those you disagree with in this matter.
    Your attempt, subsequent to that, to suggest different wording simply didn’t catch on.
    Jim51

  47. Anna says:

    Heidigger – Even if the offer of the term “pro-abortion rights” may feel more accurate and conciliatory to you, the tone of the discussion had already been set by your usage and defense of the”pro-abortion” label earlier in the discussion. This is where the comments by you appear dishonest and at a point where I don’t have any trust or interest in your position.

    As a woman, for the sake of no better term – I am “pro-choice”, although I find it merely a term which counters the notion of “pro-life” which is also a poor and inaccurate descriptor. I have and would never describe myself as “pro-abortion” or even “pro-abortion rights” as both to me have negative connotations. Of course, I’m hard-pressed to come up with better terms, but in this case the most acceptable rule of thumb should be the terms that the groups themselves wish to use and not try to give them labels which we believe better suit them from our own perspective. If someone had entered the discussion using the label “pro-fetus over the rights of mother”, I’m sure no one would think that this person was someone interested in engaging in reasonable discourse. That is exactly how I feel about the term “pro-abortion”. The terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are what these movements have chosen for themselves so whether we agree or not, it is what should be used.

  48. Chris says:

    James, I just use the split as an example of the complications of starting at conception. There are other strange things that happen as well. I know DAR discounts spontaneous abortion, and I don’t think spontaneous abortion says much about medical abortion, but I do think the overwhelming number of spontaneous abortions before a certain date can say something about the moral status of the embryo prior to that date, for example.

    Again, though, my primary position is that the ambiguity of the embryo’s status is the biggest reason for favoring the non-ambiguous status of the woman. To say nothing of the freedoms — social, economic, and political — that accrue to women with the granting of reproductive freedom.

  49. James Hanley says:

    Chris,

    I do think the overwhelming number of spontaneous abortions before a certain date can say something about the moral status of the embryo prior to that date, for example.

    Taking the position that the soul is implanted at conception, it says God’s an abortion-provider on a scale that boggles the mind.

    my primary position is that the ambiguity of the embryo’s status is the biggest reason for favoring the non-ambiguous status of the woman.

    That’s precisely what I was trying to get at in Oct. 10, 5:26 p.m. post. I don’t think it’s a dispositive argument, but I think it’s strong enough to undermine any claim that the possibility of the blastocyst/embryo/fetus humanness gives it an automatic preference.

  50. Michael Heath says:

    Chris stated:

    my primary position is that the ambiguity of the embryo’s status is the biggest reason for favoring the non-ambiguous status of the woman.

    This is a compelling position early in the pregnancy (and one I hold partly for this reason); however the closer one gets to term the more it becomes a ludicrous position. I find that true on nearly all counts for all positions on both sides. The real crux of the matter has always been when does the unborn’s right to life become superior to the mother’s right to end the pregnancy when a common set of extenuating circumstances are not relevant (life of the mother, her health, rape, or incest).

    My reference point is that all of us have infinite rights, including the unborn. Therefore the question is really about when government gets involved with our rights, when government intervenes to defend the exercise of certain rights, and how government decides whose rights to protect, if either, when competing rights are at stake.

    From my perspective competing rights are always at stake when it comes to abortion in spite of the fact I’d argue that personhood doesn’t being until birth and then the protection of certain personhood/citizens rights remains limited as it does now (e.g., two absurdly extreme examples to make the point: an infants’ right to vote or drink alcohol is not defended but instead prohibited).

    I would argue each of the common extenuating circumstances argues for a different period when it comes to balancing whose right is superior and deserving of government protection where in some cases the “when” is extremely difficult and might be reliant on medical technology. Therefore the “when” will evolve closer to the date of conception IMO as science is better able to handle preemies.

    For me the hardest moral issue is the extent of the mother’s right to choose mid- to late-term to abort a baby who suffers from severe physical affirmities relative to the unborn’s right to life. When such determinations are tricky I strongly argue against government involvement; I think parents are far superior arbiters. A couple of years ago the SCOTUS allowed the release of an audio transcript where they argued at a hearing on the practicality of judges ruling in emergency room settings or even non-emergency scenarios as advocated for anti-abortion rights groups. The pro-abortion rights justices were easily able to extract testimony from counsel which frequently led to absurd results when it came to protecting the health of the mother. E.g., an emergency room doctor waiting for the authorization to abort from a judge as a woman’s blood pressure was quickly sinking (Scalia sided that the doctors should wait for a judge’s order).

  51. James Hanley says:

    The sliding scale of ambiguity, from really dubious personhood at conception to almost certain personhood at birth* is why it’s hard to come up with a compelling midway point as a political solution. Economist Thomas Schelling talked about “prominent solutions,” options that have no coherent internal logic to cause groups to settle on them, but that are very noticeable, so that the individual can be certain that not only does he see that option, but that others can as well. Conception is one such prominent solution, and birth another. In between, the possible solution points are less prominent. Implantation of the blastocyst? Not nearly as prominent as conception. When the heart starts to beat? Plausible, but the very fact that it’s never been a primary point of contention suggests it’s not a prominent solution. When brainwaves begin? That seems to have real internal logic, but again, apparently is not a very prominent solution, based on the fact that it is rarely emphasized as a possible solution point. Oddly, the trimester system ensconced in law by Justice Blackmun, with its almost total lack of internal logic, works fairly well as a solution because its simple and intuitive structure gives it a fair amount of prominence. But aside from that, the lack of obvious stopping points along the continuum is part of what causes the two sides to be unable to coalesce on an agreed upon solution. Once you move away from conception, the next clearly prominent stopping point is birth. Once you move backwards from birth, the next clearly prominent stopping point is conception. Perhaps if we still had the concept of quickening as part of our everyday vocabulary that might serve as a midpoint prominent solution, but it seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness as a meaningful moment.

    And so the twain shall never meet.

    ___________________________
    *As a biologist friend of mine points out, there’s almost no difference between an infant just prior and just after birth, or even for sometime after, so birth itself seems to be a non-certain signal of true personhood.

  52. Chris says:

    James, sorry, I missed it, but it’s what I was saying earlier too (after you, though).

    Michael, yeah, that’s what i said in my earlier, overly long comment. At some point, the two positions even out, as the status of the fetus becomes less ambiguous. It’s at that point (which I would place sometime around the 27th week, though some people put it at viability, realistically 24 or 25 weeks, 23 at the earliest) that I think the question becomes genuinely difficult. I still think the woman has a right to choose what to do with her own body, even if someone is dependent upon that body (there are all sorts of thoughts experiments you can do here, building on the violinist case, which I think is problematic, but has been improved upon).

  53. Chris says:

    I should add that I’m significantly less confident in my moral judgment after 27 weeks.

  54. Michael Heath says:

    James – regarding your possible juncture points after conception but before birth; some argue it should happen prior to suffering beginning. I believe it was this forum where a biologist claimed that started sometime after 25 – 27 weeks though we don’t known precisely when after that period.

    Suffering is probably a tenable premise for non-theists and when it comes to a secularist government setting a reasonable juncture. However I doubt it would work for theists who believe in a godly judgment. Personally I’m not a fan of this criteria but still think it should be considered.

  55. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    At the point where suffering begins is a logical point. But at least at present it’s not a prominent solution. That could be just because people’s attention hasn’t been directed to it enough.

  56. fyodor says:

    I haven’t read the whole thing yet (and no promises that I will!), but I commend you on your third paragraph assessment of the warring factions’ favored terminologies.

    I favor “pro legal abortion” and “anti legal abortion,” myself.

    Funny how no one wants to be “anti” anything!

  57. ppnl says:

    D.A. Ridgely,

    Perhaps not, but then I’m not too sure I understand what he, in turn, means by such phrases as analytical methods, absolute right and wrong or objective truth, so we’re probably at a standoff regardless without delving more deeply into questions of meta-ethics, epistemology, etc. I don’t care to have those discussions here.

    That is a shame because that would be a more interesting subject than abortion.

    Analytic methods are any process of logic that gets you from premise to conclusion. If your premise is not at least in principle an objective fact then analytic methods are misplaced. If I say something that is not in principle verifiable by empirical methods I cannot then turn around and talk meaningfully about the risk of it being wrong or place probabilities on its correctness.

    To say that one leans toward noncognitivism; that is, to the view that normative statements are not the sorts of things that can correctly said to be true or false, doesn’t mean that meaningful ethical discourse is impossible.

    In my personal life and deciding how I will live this is acceptable. When I decide that I don’t want an abortion I don’t have to insist that there is an objective fact or reason that requires this decision. I can have reasonable discussions with others as to why one choice is better. They can disagree and we don’t have to insist that there is a fact of the matter. The only person I’m trying to please is myself and neither rigor nor objectivity are required or at least the consequences of their lack is limited.

    When contemplating the use of state power to force a particular choice on others the standard of rigor and objectivity are very much higher. That’s why I ask if you were willing to lock up people who disagree with you. You are uninterested in punishing people who have abortions but only seek to convince people that it is wrong. In a sense you miss the point of the debate then. The debate isn’t the rightness or wrongness of abortion. The debate is exactly about the roll of government. In that sense you can be anti-abortion and yet prochoice.

    Finally (for now), I’ve been accused of, as it were, merely tarting up my crude, base, irrational, subjective — shall I go on? — moral intuitions and nothing more.

    Let me fix that for you:

    I’ve been accused of taking my reasonable intuition and tarting it up with crude, base, irrational and most importantly misplaced logical arguments.

    I have no problem with intuition. It is a product of a billion years of evolution and thousands of years of cultural evolution. You ignore it at your peril. What I object to is using analytic methods to justify rather than independently derive your intuitive conclusion.

    Again when using state power to make decisions in other peoples lives you need a stronger standard than intuition. If you can’t reach a higher standard of rigor and objectivity then you must consider letting evil be done rather than give power to government. Take free speech for example.

    Again I ask – are you the one who suggested that global warming cannot be worse than giving government the power to fight it? I am not asking to agree or disagree I simply want to point the similarity to my argument here.

    The difference of course is that with global warming there is a fact of the matter out there. Either co2 will drive temperatures higher than is reasonably acceptable or they will not. We may not know the answer but the answer is out there and we will eventually see it. We can meaningfully talk about probabilities and attempt to derive them analytically. The truth about abortion has no similar grounding in empiricism and analytic methods can have no grasp on the problem.

  58. buddyglass says:

    @fyodor: How about “pro-permission” and “pro-restriction”. Everybody’s happy. Your suggestion of “pro-legal abortion” doesn’t completely work given many pro-choice folks claim to prefer a scenario in which no abortions at all take place. So they consider themselves “anti-abortion” while still supporting its legality. “Pro-legal abortion” sounds like someone who wants legal abortions to happen for their own sake.

  59. ppnl says:

    Oddly, the trimester system ensconced in law by Justice Blackmun, with its almost total lack of internal logic, works fairly well as a solution because its simple and intuitive structure gives it a fair amount of prominence.

    As I understand it the trimester system pretty much follows an analysis of the risk to the mother on one hand and the viability of the fetus on the other. So I think it is a good heuristic solution. Since almost 90 percent of abortions happen at 12 weeks or less it isn’t exactly restrictive.

  60. Michael Heath says:

    A little off-topic but because we are discussing an issue that requires we consider morality on a controversial topic in an self-admittedly free society; is anyone reading Sam Harris’ new book The Moral Landscape? I am while admitting my preconceived biases are in favor of his argument given I’ve always dismissed both the religionists and the moral relativists and have never seen any good reason why science should avoid seeking objective truth on morality and well-being like it does many other subjects.

    From my perspective early in the book Harris’ argument, where he asserts morality is an objective truth, is freaking-out liberal relativists far more than religionists. His argument is based somewhat on rebuttals he’s already encountered and is now attempting to overcome in the book. I can imagine how religionists could reconcile their religious beliefs to what science describes as moral (if it ever does) given their belief morality is an objective truth. I believe if Harris is successful his approach would drives a stake in the heart of the relativists with no room for them to maneuver, at least that I can imagine.

  61. buddyglass says:

    I had a philosophy prof. in college who attempted to come up with an a-religious, objective, universal moral code. I didn’t buy it. And, honestly, I can’t imagine anything Harris could say that would change my mind now. If I say its immortal to wear pointy hats and you think its perfectly fine, how is “science” going to settle our disagreement?

  62. Heidegger says:

    I do hereby solemnly swear that, not with a gun to my head, not with a threat of being waterboarded, not with actually being waterboarded, will the words, “pro-abortion” ever be come from these lips again, so help me God.

    I know this hardly gives me a clean slate with regard to this discussion, but, if it’s okay with all of you, I just want to bury the whole incident. Admittedly, I knew it was not the preferred label of the pro-choice advocates, but didn’t know it would become the emotionally charged lightning rod it certainly became. Well, I was simply wrong, inexcusably wrong. My sincere apologies to all who were offended by my words.

    As this conversation goes on, I’ve never felt more pessimistic about how it could ever be resolved, that is, framing a resolution that would be acceptable by both sides of the debate. It’s an all or nothing kind of issue and we all know that’s never going to happen. I know DAR doesn’t want to get into legal issues and possible legal sanctions, but I think it’s of tantamount importance to the discussion. Even if the impossible were to happen and the pro-choice side were to be convinced that the morally correct position is no abortion rights, what then? The argument would be meaningless without legal ramifications for those who violate this position. And no matter what, there is no way it will be acceptable to frog march mothers and doctors in their orange jumpsuits to a waiting paddy wagon on their way to being charged with manslaughter or even first-degree murder. While certainly an interesting discussion, it’s also, ultimately, an exercise in futility.

  63. buddyglass says:

    So, replace “immortal” with “immoral”. In case that wasn’t obvious.

  64. Heidegger says:

    And I might add, nor do I believe mothers and doctors should be frog marched in orange jumpsuits to be charged…the dynamics entirely change with this argument if in the end there are real, serious legal consequences for people who violate any laws enacted because of this decision. Would anyone seriously feel comfortable about locking up a sixteen year girl for 10 years for manslaughter because she had an abortion? Outside of perhaps the Phelps loonies, I’d rather doubt it. Personally, I feel only partial birth abortion would cross the legal threshold for charges to be executed.

  65. ppnl says:

    Michael Heath,

    I have not read The Moral Landscape but I’m not buying it. Science and rational thought can inform us of the consequences of our choices. But despite the name of this blog there is no one best way.

    However while there is no one best way there are a whole bunch of really really bad ways so moral relativism isn’t really an issue for me.

  66. Michael Heath says:

    buddyglass:

    I had a philosophy prof. in college who attempted to come up with an a-religious, objective, universal moral code. I didn’t buy it. And, honestly, I can’t imagine anything Harris could say that would change my mind now. If I say its immortal to wear pointy hats and you think its perfectly fine, how is “science” going to settle our disagreement?

    Easily, by noting that in an enlightened society governments don’t restrict the right to wear pointy hats merely because someone else finds them aesthetically distasteful and that this process maximizes well-being. Your example is kind of ironic given it’s on a topic which has already been subjected to a certain secularist rigor where we’ve come up with a perfectly working solution.

    Dr. Harris covers your deeper point while also showing how absurdly extreme examples are well, absurd (he goes through a number of them and shows them to be strawmen). In fact his whole first chapter covers your exact point, how we decide whether a moral truth actually exists versus the relativism you appear to argue must always exist making such determinations impossible (if I understood your point where I concede I might not have).

    I would like to hear your argument on what process would best work in determining when its acceptable to impose restrictions and prohibitions on one person’s right to defend the superior rights of others or how to treat others on an inter-personal basis.

  67. Michael Heath says:

    ppnl:

    I have not read The Moral Landscape but I’m not buying it. Science and rational thought can inform us of the consequences of our choices. But despite the name of this blog there is no one best way.

    However while there is no one best way there are a whole bunch of really really bad ways so moral relativism isn’t really an issue for me.

    Dr. Harris never claims there is one best way for every considered point and in fact spends a considerable of time arguing why there can be timeless best answer and that even if what is measurably the best answer, we must hold it provisionally where conditions could easily change to the point where what was once considered the best answer may not be. He’s not even really at end result answers which is smart on his part, but instead arguing for an optimal process, in this case the scientific process. That methodological approach is already capable of juggling competing theories and holding their respective findings provisionally rather than a magic formula that always spits out one right answer.

    I’m disappointed at how quick some people are to reject an misrepresented argument when its based on scientific methodology. Given science’s record relative to other attempts at understanding I admit I’m inclined even biased in giving science a fair shake.

  68. ppnl says:

    I agree that using logic and reason are indicated when moral questions come up. I don’t think that is very controversial. My understanding is that he goes past this however. For one criticism look here:

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2010/04/about-sam-harris-claim-that-science-can.html

    As I said I have not read the book.

  69. buddyglass says:

    Easily, by noting that in an enlightened society governments don’t restrict the right to wear pointy hats merely because someone else finds them aesthetically distasteful and that this process maximizes well-being.

    I wasn’t even discussing criminality, just moral “rightness” or “wrongness”. I draw a sharp distinction between the two. That is to say, criminality and “wrongness”. You seem to be defining morality in terms of that which maximizes well-being, without defining well-being or establishing why I should even care to maximize it.

    That’s certainly one way to define a set of morals, but I don’t see why it’s any more compelling than another. And I certainly don’t see how it’s “scientific”.

    For any set of morals to be “absolute” it seems like it must be grounded in something transcending humanity. Something authoritative. Otherwise it’s just a set of rules assembled by one or more human beings in order to meet a particular goal. We can discuss whether one set is better suited than another for the purposes of meeting our goal, but that doesn’t yield “absoluteness” or “universality”.

    In the absence of religious faith, I feel like I’d pretty much be forced to adopt a position of total relativism. A sort of amorality (as opposed to immorality) in which there is no essential “right” or “wrong”.

    I would like to hear your argument on what process would best work in determining when its acceptable to impose restrictions and prohibitions on one person’s right to defend the superior rights of others or how to treat others on an inter-personal basis.

    With respect to inter-personal interaction, given where I’m coming from, it’s basically the new covenant template. Love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, etc.

    With respect to restricting rights, I mostly consider this to be advisable only when their exercise would do direct harm to the person or property of an unwilling second party. I realize that’s pretty vague, but it’s at least the guiding principle. I respect others’ freedoms not because I think it will maximize well-being, but because that’s the way God wants me to treat other people. Instead of bullying or patronizing them.

  70. James Hanley says:

    Heidegger,

    I respect your commitment to not using that phrase again.

    I, too, am pessimistic about ever resolving the abortion issue. But if we ever hope to, we need to begin by not using inflammatory labels that falsely represent the other side. So I sincerely appreciate your decision to refrain from using that particular label. While the debate may never be resolved, you have unilaterally taken a step toward a more civil discussion of the issue.

  71. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,

    Thank you for rejoining this discussion on a positive note. I had hoped that you would. And as far as I am concerned your slate is clean enough to move forward. We all need to be able to start again and anyone who maintains that they never said anything that they later wished hadn’t happened is not being completely truthful. At least I know that’s true of me.

    I think you are only in part correct when you say that it’s an all or nothing type of issue. Certainly it is true that those near the edges of the spectrum will not and cannot compromise. But there are many others, as I imagine myself, who are prepared to accept compromises. Yes, I am basically pro-choice, but I can and do accept that some restrictions on that choice are reasonable and, in fact, necessary. You, of course, are basically pro-life and I don’t know really where on the spectrum you stand.

    When you say… “The argument would be meaningless without legal ramifications for those who violate this position.” … you are certainly correct as regards the political discussion. In the end, the political discussion in the US on this issue is about legislative authority and the constitutional space to regulate abortion services. Having said that, I do think that it is possible to have the morality discussion while setting aside the political/legal authority issues. I thnk that this is what DAR is trying to do.

    I think I understand the source of your pessimism in viewing this discussion and you are again correct to suggest that very few would find it acceptable to prosecute and imprison doctors, nurses, and formerly pregnant women.

    In your view of this, can you allow any compromise? When you consider the moral/political/constitutional aspects of this is there any room to allow women some space to make that decision?

    Jim51

  72. Murali says:

    Damn I came too late to the argument. So here is my 2 cents

    1. Regarding personhood and the criteria determining when life starts and ends, merely saying that the criteria do not need to be the same does not cut it. Even if we were to concede that it would no be logically incosistent, it would not be parsimonious. Or maybe, more strongly, there would seem to be a difference that needed to be explained. I could even dredge up the principle of sufficient reason and start bludgeoning (metaphorically some others) i.e. if we are to take brain death as an indicator as an end of life… More strongly the following argument in its general form seems true. Namely
    1.life or personhood is characterised by certain marks (to use Leibniz’s archaic terms) i.e. the presence of these marks constitute life/personhhod.
    2. The beginning of life is constituted by the advent of these marks and the end of life by the disappearance of these marks. This may put the balance of reason on the side of a psychological view of personhood.

    2. That said, the mere fact that a body is not currently a person does not imply that the person (future or past) has no interests in the body. i.e. all that stuff about estates and wills etc is correct

    3. However in the case of future persons, the presumption falls on the antecedent probability of the person existing. Which is why the rate of spontaneous abortions seems relevant. A non-implanted embryo has comparatively little chance of ever being a person. Therefore the probability of such a person existing is very small. Therefore we multiply this probability with the value we attach to human life (i.e. the kind of presumption we would carry against killing, say, an infant). This incidentally also covers the point Hanley was making about an increasing presumption against abortion as the embryo matures. It would also have the upshot of varying from woman to woman depending on how well she is able to carry a pregnancy to term. A woman who tends to miscarry is not a multiple muderer if she keeps on trying.

    4. @ ppnl: On the truth aptness of statements that are not empirically verifiable, well obviously I’m not an empiricist. So I have much to take issue with you. Of course the debate will be friendly

    5. On the truth aptness of moral statements, am I the only secular moral realist left around here?

    i.e. if it makes snese to say that we should be libertarians/liberals/conservatives/whatever because…then whatever follows the because cannot be along the lines of I like liberalism or socialism is yucky or even progressivism has consequences that are injurious to things I happen to care about (which is not really that much different than saying it is yucky). The only kind of reason that would fit is because libertarianism is good for things we ought to care about or something else along those lines.

  73. James Hanley says:

    Murali,

    well obviously I’m not an empiricist.

    That’s it, you’re banned. *grin*

    Actually, I’d recently been thinking that we hadn’t heard from you lately, so I’m glad to see you join in, even with comments like this that are a knife to my heart. (grin, again)

  74. J sub D says:

    Obviously, there is no per se libertarian position on abortion.

    Truth. One makes an assumption on the personhood of a fetus and the rest follows. Different assumptions = different conclusions. FTR, I am uncomfortable with the rabid pro-life, the rabid pro choice and the split the difference based on development position that I myself hold.

  75. ppnl says:

    Murali,

    4. @ ppnl: On the truth aptness of statements that are not empirically verifiable, well obviously I’m not an empiricist. So I have much to take issue with you. Of course the debate will be friendly

    Non-empiricism is fine with me as long as you accept the limitations of the form. You cannot say “This is not quantifiable.” and then proceed to quantify it. Attempting to quantify the risk of a non-empirical statement is doing just that.

  76. Murali says:

    You cannot say “This is not quantifiable.” and then proceed to quantify it.

    I may have to reread the thread carefully, but I’m not sure that anybody has been saying this.

  77. OFT says:

    My third point is that purely religious beliefs and arguments by themselves are insufficient to determine public policy. Which is to say that even if there were a majority or even a supermajority who were convinced on purely religious grounds that abortion was morally wrong (or, for that matter, morally right), imposing that position on those who do not share those underlying religious believes would be immoral.

    Then what of the people who formed this nation? Are they immoral also? You are basically calling every great mind that ever lived immoral; from: Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton to George Washington and C.S. Lewis. All of these men believed the Laws of God is superior to man’s laws.

    The very foundation of Republicanism is that the majority rules.

  78. James Hanley says:

    OFT,

    Will you please stop saying things that are demonstrably wrong?

    First, believing God’s law is superior to man’s laws does not mean a person makes laws based purely on religious beliefs. Even if you believe God’s laws are superior to man’s, the fact is you have to make some laws of man, and you can use wholly non-faith based reasons, or a combination of faith-based and non-faith-based reasons. Religious belief has no bearing on my city’s decision to ban parking on the streets between 3 and 6 a.m., or Santa Fe, New Mexico’s decision to require all buildings to have an adobe look. Laws against murder may in part be based on the idea in the ten commandments that murder is a sin, but that complements an understanding that there are secular reasons for banning murder, too. So your first contention is wholly a non-sequiter, completely meaningless.

    Second, majority rule is not the foundation of republicanism. Go read Madison’s Federalist #10, where he explicitly contrasts republicanism and majority rule.

    While you’re at it, forget you ever found this blog.

  79. Mark Boggs says:

    The very foundation of Republicanism is that the majority rules.

    And when the majority is Muslim and votes accordingly, you’ll no doubt support this majority vote?

  80. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Is it just me, or didn’t we use to get a better class of religious fanatics around here?

  81. James Hanley says:

    Must have been before my time.

  82. Heidegger says:

    James Hanley says,

    The sliding scale of ambiguity, from really dubious personhood at conception to almost certain personhood at birth* is why it’s hard to come up with a compelling midway point as a political solution. Economist Thomas Schelling talked about “prominent solutions,” options that have no coherent internal logic to cause groups to settle on them, but that are very noticeable, so that the individual can be certain that not only does he see that option, but that others can as well. Conception is one such prominent solution, and birth another. In between, the possible solution points are less prominent. Implantation of the blastocyst? Not nearly as prominent as conception. When the heart starts to beat? Plausible, but the very fact that it’s never been a primary point of contention suggests it’s not a prominent solution. When brainwaves begin? That seems to have real internal logic, but again, apparently is not a very prominent solution, based on the fact that it is rarely emphasized as a possible solution point. Oddly, the trimester system ensconced in law by Justice Blackmun, with its almost total lack of internal logic, works fairly well as a solution because its simple and intuitive structure gives it a fair amount of prominence. But aside from that, the lack of obvious stopping points along the continuum is part of what causes the two sides to be unable to coalesce on an agreed upon solution. Once you move away from conception, the next clearly prominent stopping point is birth. Once you move backwards from birth, the next clearly prominent stopping point is conception. Perhaps if we still had the concept of quickening as part of our everyday vocabulary that might serve as a midpoint prominent solution, but it seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness as a meaningful moment.

    And so the twain shall never meet.

    Sorry,James–this is just so good I didn’t want a word left out–you really nailed it. There’s not a word here that I disagree with. There does not exist a moment from conception to birth where one can declare, Eureka!, this indisputably shows zygote/embryo/fetus is not quite human enough to be entitled the inalienable right to life. If OFT want to go by the “majority rules” standard, he won’t be happy to know 57% percent of Americans want abortion to remain legal. The status quo rules the day for the foreseeable future.

  83. Heidegger says:

    Jim51,

    Thanks so much for the reply. To be a blusterous, no-nothing fool, is no way to go through life, and certainly no way to debate issues at this site, so appreciate the stay of execution!
    As far as compromises go regarding the abortion debate, the immovable, insurmountable impasse seems to be in identifying when precisely a fetus possesses enough “human” characteristics to be classified a full member of the species entitled to the same rights and liberties as anyone else. It really is an impossible task, I think. At for the underlying legal dimension of this debate, I find it so intertwined, that it’s almost impossible to discuss the issue separately. The pro-life side would come to entirely different conclusions if they were convinced the legal consequences of their actions would lead to long-term incarceration for both mother and physician. James Hanley wrote a great post that I entirely agree with, regarding these exact points. So, in that sense, I guess there’s hope!

  84. D.A. Ridgely says:

    By way of stirring the pot a bit more:

    Most of ppnl’s criticisms remind me of a well known article by Milton Friedman claiming that economics can be either prescriptive or descriptive but that it properly should be only descriptive, followed by an observation by Ronald Coase that the article, itself, was almost entirely prescriptive.

    I think on further reflection, however, that he has one good point. I think I did give the impression by use of sloppy language that I believed one could measure or assign probabilities to whether the characterization of the unborn human is more properly or less properly that of a person. I think that was behind much of Mr. Hanley’s consternation, as well.

    It would be better to phrase the point I am trying to urge in terms of the assignment or denial of personhood being more or less plausible, more convincing rather than less convincing, etc. I don’t think using words like “possible” or “probable” in this context are wrong, per se, but I do see how they can be construed as an attempt on my part to reify an abstraction or, as ppnl describes it, a non-empirical entity or object.

    I would continue to urge, however, a sense of “benefit of the doubt” as suggested in the sorts of analogies I advanced originally. I think how one behaves in situations where the life of another person is, dare I say it, possibly involved (as in, say, the rustling behind the brush), the prima facie preferable moral principle is to proceed with great caution.

    I agree entirely with all those who are concerned that the social, political and especially legal implications of my position raise real and serious problems and require careful attention. I simply disagree that they require immediate attention in this discussion. Ppnl’s supposed pragmatism, aside – by which I do not expect he meant he is a follower of Pierce, Dewey, James, etc., (golly, do even technical words often have multiple uses?) – the practical consequences in a shift in moral perspective is important but not controlling in deciding whether that moral perspective is right or wrong.

    I can do little more than reiterate my objection to considering the high rate of spontaneous or natural abortions as evidence against considering the human embryos to be persons, and that is that the length of a person’s life strikes me as entirely irrelevant to the question. If there was a vastly higher infant mortality rate, it would strike me as absurd to suggest that because many or even most infants died before their first birthday they were not persons.

    So, also, Chris’s observation that an embryo is capable of dividing into two separate organisms up to, what? twelve days? seems irrelevant to me, as well. I understand that these sorts of both real and fanciful considerations (the latter including, e.g., adult cloning, Star Trek transporter hypotheticals, downloaded, stored and later transplanted “minds”) all serve as intuition pumps tending to support a psychological and not a somatic model of personal identity, and that’s another long discussion. But we have no difficulty saying of organisms that reproduce by binary fission that at Tsub0 there was one such organism and then at Tsub1 there are two. I simply don’t understand how the mere fact that this can and does occasionally happen in the early stages of human development supports denial of personhood.

    Indeed, at base that remains my primary objection to consciousness or the ability to experience pain or viability (a significant part of the Court’s rationale in the Roe trimester schema), et cetera, constitute better, um, “empirical” support for granting or denying personhood than the primary fact conception; namely, that where there previously was not another genetically complete living member of our species, after conception there is. Mind you, I understand why we might want to find some other dividing line – although I will note here that some of those reasons are entirely reasonable, disinterested, etc. and some are, well, less so – but motives are not sufficient reasons. And neither are consequences. Not, at least, to me. I think I’ve been abundantly clear in the past that I am not a pure consequentialist. If your approach to ethical questions is entirely consequential; that is, if you do not see persons (for the moment, just the unquestionable ones like you and me) as per se worthy of moral regard such that more than the mere consequences of one’s actions affecting them must be considered in determining what is right or wrong, then we are at an impasse.

    Of course, women are persons per se worthy of moral regard in a way that transcends mere consequences, too, and I want to reiterate that the position I have attempted to articulate and defend is not intended to obviate or undermine the legitimate interests and moral claims of women who perforce as a purely contingent empirical fact bear the overwhelmingly greater reproductive burden. But if, as I believe to be the case, all rights and interests are at some point contingent upon the effect of their exercise on the rights and interests of other persons – a long-winded way of saying that rights and interests conflict and that conflict must be justly resolved – it becomes of primary importance to determine insofar as we are able to do so whether, indeed, other persons are involved in that moral calculus.

    Murali says “Regarding personhood and the criteria determining when life starts and ends, merely saying that the criteria do not need to be the same does not cut it. Even if we were to concede that it would no[t] be logically incosistent, it would not be parsimonious.” To which I respond “Pish-posh!” As I stated previously, at some point an insistence upon symmetry is a purely aesthetic desideratum, not an ethically or metaphysically significant one. This is true, as well, for such hoary principles as Occam’s Razor; that is, all other factors being equal, the simple or more elegant explanation or principle is preferable. But (1) all other factors almost never are equal in the real world, and (2) even then it is more of an aesthetic preference than a substantive one. There are all sorts of differences between people at the beginning of their lives and at the end. They are, for example, almost always bigger when they die. Should that matter? No, not necessarily. But an insistence on symmetry here in the face of the (actually almost infinite) differences between the newly alive and the newly dead is the sort of insistence that demands the terrain be just like the map because the map is so doggone pretty. (Oh, and since I’m no more a rationalist than an empiricist, quoting Leibniz, etc. is unlikely to sway me.)

    There is no point in attempting to reply substantively to OFT’s comments.

  85. Chris says:

    DAR, perhaps a better analogy would be forcing a person to remain strapped to a bush for 9 months, because the rustling within the bush may be evidence of a person residing in it, with the added requirement that, should there turn out to be a person in there, the next 18+ years of the strapped person’s life will be spent taking care of the bush-rustler, at the expense of any pre-rustling career or social life or other freedoms they might have had that would get in the way of taking care of the rustler.

  86. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Golly! Reductio ad absurdum! Who’da thought?

  87. Chris says:

    It’s not Reductio ad absurdum; it’s simply adding the other element to your analogy. If it looks absurd, well, it’s your analogy. And when we make it a full one, I think it serves quite nicely.

  88. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Yeah, yeah it is. Perhaps you failed to read in my original post where I said:

    I will use some analogies here. All analogies fail if pushed too far and most analogies fail even if pushed just a little bit, so any response to my analogies to the effect that the facts involved in the abortion debate are significantly different will be met with a rather world-weary “sure.”

    So, sure.

  89. Chris says:

    No, I read that. I just thought it’d be a good idea to put your analogy in context by filling it out. Like I said, I like the filled out version better, since my position is that the certainty of the personhood of the person strapped to the bush should trump the uncertain personhood of the bush rustler.

  90. D.A. Ridgely says:

    No doubt you do like your version and your context better. But it’s an informal reductio, nonetheless.

    You are, of course, free not to play. But my approach (as I think you already know) is to come at the issue in a variety of small ways, in effect saying consider this and that way we go about dealing with uncertainty, risk, etc. Of course, any one of these considerations is only in some small ways similar to the questions we really want to answer, and I’ll simply stipulate (actually, already have stipulated) that every one of them can be extended as you have done to reach absurd results. No, being asleep isn’t all that much like being “pre-conscious,” but they are somewhat alike, nonetheless. So insisting they aren’t all that much alike doesn’t gainsay the limited but real similarity.

    So, once again, sure. Pushing the analogy to the breaking point is rhetorically useful but not so useful as a rebuttal of the points actually being made.

  91. Chris says:

    I didn’t mean it as a reductio. It was more of a turn around, though in an absurd way I suppose.

  92. OFT says:

    How can I forget this blog when you write this:

    Will you please stop saying things that are demonstrably wrong</i.?

    "On the one hand, the judiciary was pronounced to be stripped of its capacity to enforce the laws; crimes, which reached the very existence of social order, were perpetrated without controul, the friends of government were insulted, abused, and overawed into silence, or an apparent acquiescence; and the yield to the treasonable fury of so small a portion of the United States, would be to violate the fundamental principle of our constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail.
    -George Washington, SIXTH ANNUAL ADDRESS TO CONGRESS
    United States, November 19, 1794.

    “Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals.”
    –Thomas Jefferson to Garret Vanmeter, 1781

    “The fundamental principle of [a common government of associated States] is that the will of the majority is to prevail.”
    –Thomas Jefferson to William Eustis, 1809

    “It has been shown … that all provisions which require more than the majority of any body to its resolutions have a direct tendency to embarrass the operations of the government and an indirect one to subject the sense of the majority to that of the minority. ….And the history of every political establishment in which this principle has prevailed is a history of impotence, perplexity, and disorder.”
    -Alexander Hamilton, March 26, 1788 (Federalist No. 75)

    “….more than a majority of a quorum [would be required] for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitate and foster the baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shown itself even in States where a majority only is required; a practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular government; a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us.”
    -James Madison(Federalist No. 58)

    “If the measures which have been pursued are approved by the majority, it is the duty of the minority to acquiesce and conform.”
    –Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811

    Even if you believe God’s laws are superior to man’s, the fact is you have to make some laws of man, and you can use wholly non-faith based reasons, or a combination of faith-based and non-faith-based reasons.

    According to the Founding Fathers, majority rule is to commence if the Scriptures are silent on an issue, the point concerning does not violate the Moral Law. Hamilton clearly enumerated this while promoting the Bank of the United States. Hamilton following Blackstone deferring to Scripture.

    There does not exist a moment from conception to birth where one can declare, Eureka!, this indisputably shows zygote/embryo/fetus is not quite human enough to be entitled the inalienable right to life.

    If you are looking for absolute truth, I doubt you will find it. Correct me if I’m wrong, absolute truth remains in apodictic logic, and mathematics.

    If OFT want to go by the “majority rules” standard, he won’t be happy to know 57% percent of Americans want abortion to remain legal. The status quo rules the day for the foreseeable future.

    Can you provide the primary source for that? Abortion violates Natural Law, and would appear to violate the Scriptures, as God knew us all as a person before conception. However, the hebrew word, “kavod” means: substantial, impressive, and valuable. Hosea wrote this about the conception of man. It isn’t absolute proof, but it is evidence supporting.

  93. Mark Boggs says:

    And the question still remains: When Muslims make up a majority of the United States and start to vote accordingly you will acquiesce and conform?

    Or does their majority not count because they don’t have the right God?

  94. OFT says:

    Mark wrote:And the question still remains: When Muslims make up a majority of the United States and start to vote accordingly you will acquiesce and conform?

    Or does their majority not count because they don’t have the right God?

    If Muslims or atheists make up the majority, so be it. This is the system the FF’s set up. You and James Hanley make not like it, but the FF’s believed the Scriptures rule, then majority rules where they are silent.

    Acts 5: 28-29:
    “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

    The context is Peter preaching the Gospel. If Muslims prohibited preaching, I would disobey. Even a cursory examination of the koran and hadith will prohibit Sharia Law from reigning in this country. Caliph Uthman destroyed 1/3 of the koran at the beginning, and look how insane it is right now.

  95. Mark Boggs says:

    OFT,

    You sound very knowledgeable about certain things. But the idea that the Scriptures trump the Constitution is just…well, crazy.

    And help me with this, if Atheists and Muslims make up a majority and vote on things that are antithetical or even deleterious to your Scriptures, you say that’s OK despite the fact that you also argue the Founders set it up so that all things are subservient to Scripture and you see no inconsistency in that? Especially if you argue that the Founders set up a system that would allow that to happen given their (according to you) obvious insistence that the Bible rule the day.

    I’m confused.

  96. tom van dyke says:

    DAR points out the nature of analogies—they’re only useful when both sides agree on their validity. And they certainly reach the breaking point either sooner or later.

    The analogy I think of re abortion, at least when pregnancy is a result of consensual sex, is bumping someone off the edge of the Grand Canyon [we assume accidentally]. On the way down, he grabs your leg.

    Can you “morally” shake him off, especially when if you tough it out, help will arrive in 9 hours [or even 9 days] and you both live, no worse for the wear?

    Surely there’s a “moral” responsibility on the part of the “bumper,” since the “bumpee” is in his predicament through no fault of his own; indeed, the fault is in the “bumper’s” action or carelessness, albeit inadvertent.

    Further, is it within a society’s or a polity’s purview to absolve individuals of their moral responsibilities, or in the case of the abortion doctor, help shake the bumpee off the bumper’s leg?

    [The usual provisos about rape, incest and threat to the “bumper’s” life are in force.]

    [And we could make the analogy more interesting and more closely match DAR’s scenario if a rope had wrapped around the “bumper’s” leg, and he is uncertain if the “bumpee” on the other end is alive or dead.]

  97. Jon Rowe says:

    “You and James Hanley make not like it, but the FF’s believed the Scriptures rule, then majority rules where they are silent.”

    The problem is they forgot to write this in the DOI, US Constitution and Federalist Papers. Another problem is even were it true, determining what the Scriptures mean is even harder than interpreting a US Constitution (or any other document) means without adding to it a very thick complicated book.

    For instance, Gregg Frazer and John Mac. are smart as guns and know the Bible as well as anyone I’ve ever come across. And when they synthesize all of the competing texts (that on their surface seem to contradict one another) on how to interpret what the Bible teaches on rebellion they end up with the Declaration of Independence as an anti-biblical document.

    There may be more than one way to “literally interpret” the Bible but theirs is certainly as valid any other.

  98. OFT says:

    Mark,

    You sound very knowledgeable about certain things. But the idea that the Scriptures trump the Constitution is just…well, crazy.

    Mark, believe it or not, this very subject is one reason, if not the only reason, for Judicial Review. Here is the greatest Founding Father quoting their greatest legal authority besides the Scriptures; Judge William Blackstone:

    Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.
    This is what is called the law of nature, “which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original.” Blackstone.

    -Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted.

    Another problem is even were it true, determining what the Scriptures mean is even harder than interpreting a US Constitution (or any other document) means without adding to it a very thick complicated book.

    You keep saying that. Give me one example of a complicated text that has to do with Salvation? Earlier you made the assertion I didn’t know the Bible to that of Frazer of Macarthur. This is totally without foundation, unless you believe a seminary degree determines someones knowledge of the Bible.

    And when they synthesize all of the competing texts (that on their surface seem to contradict one another) on how to interpret what the Bible teaches on rebellion they end up with the Declaration of Independence as an anti-biblical document.

    Rebellion has nothing to do with salvation. It appears you are making a straw-man argument by infering the texts on rebellion with Christianity. You know the fundamental doctrines of the faith more than most. However, even if I do agree with Frazer on this point, he is out of line calling the DOI an anti-biblical document, as he has no perfect proof of this statement. The O.T. says rebellion may be ok, with many great Reformers adhering to that view, but the N.T. seems to say no to rebellion in all cases whatsoever except specific instruction from God. This is a complicated issue, but has nothing to do with salvation. You are writing like it does.

    When verses are interpreted in the correct context, there isn’t much of a problem in its understanding; including the Trinity, and Deity of Christ.

  99. Jon Rowe says:

    OFT: You are the one now raising the issue of salvation; I did not. Rather, I noted the Romans 13/rebellion dillema to illustrate how difficult the Bible can be to interpret. And the notion that such a complicated text has anything to do with the constitution or con. interpret is not just false, but would be a terrible idea if someone suggested it.

    Blackstone was not a Founder (and even Hamilton’s quote conveniently leaves out Blackstone’s dithering on reason v. revelation) and was a Tory to boot — but there is a reason why the FFs leaned towards the naturalistic and rationalistic view of God given natural law, as opposed to verse and chapter scripture proof texting. And that’s (probably) because they saw verse and chapter prooftexting as a dead end in terms of getting consensus need to make rules.

    As John Adams said:

    “To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason.”

    – John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson’s, “The Founders on Religion,” p. 132.

    If there is to be any kind of religious underpinning to con. interp., it’s THIS, not the Bible.

  100. OFT says:

    And help me with this, if Atheists and Muslims make up a majority and vote on things that are antithetical or even deleterious to your Scriptures, you say that’s OK despite the fact that you also argue the Founders set it up so that all things are subservient to Scripture and you see no inconsistency in that?

    This is a great question. I’ve read enough of the FF’s to know the answer. There is no no contradiction in the above options. The FF’s established Christianity as the religion of the nation, yet gave the freedom to posterity to establish hinduism or whatever the people want:

    “It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans (Muslims), pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, [unless] first the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.”

    -[Elliot’s Debates, Vol. IV, pp 198-199, Governor Samuel Johnston, July 30, 1788 at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention]

    Freedom of choice is paramount to our republic. These guys believed what they wrote, and did not write in a spirit of subterfuge.

  101. OFT says:

    OFT: You are the one now raising the issue of salvation; I did not.”

    Jon, you wrote this:

    The problem is they forgot to write this in the DOI, US Constitution and Federalist Papers. Another problem is even were it true, determining what the Scriptures mean is even harder than interpreting a US Constitution (or any other document) means without adding to it a very thick complicated book.

    You mentioned the Scriptures, then, subsequently, mentioned Romans 13. Let’s try not to mix that up.

    Blackstone’s Commentaries were the foundation for Law in this country for one hundred years. Just as the secularist George Bancroft declared, John Calvin virtually founded America, so, William Blackstone just the same, albeit not being a FF.

    <i.Blackstone was not a Founder (and even Hamilton’s quote conveniently leaves out Blackstone’s dithering on reason v. revelation) and was a Tory to boot

    Was not John Locke also a Tory? Blackstone specifically enumerated Revelation superior to reason, of which Hamilton was all to kind to oblige by relegating reason second fiddle.

    but there is a reason why the FFs leaned towards the naturalistic and rationalistic view of God given natural law, as opposed to verse and chapter scripture proof texting. And that’s (probably) because they saw verse and chapter prooftexting as a dead end in terms of getting consensus need to make rules.

    Areas of theology were off limits to politics. Natural Law is flawed, which is why the FF’s could believe Revelation was superior to it. The fundamentals to salvation had nothing to do with operating the Federal Government. Their denial to make an issue out of it, is less due to an affinity to rationalistic tendencies, than a mixture of theology and government. What other moniker can be given to Civil Religion than a clear understanding of fundamental doctrines?

  102. Jon Rowe says:

    No John Locke was not a Tory, but a Whig and yes I did mention Romans 13 after mentioning scripture because … Romans 13 is part of scripture! If the FFs believed “Scripture” was superior to natural law discovered by reason, they should have said so with a univocal voice; they did not. Even Hamilton when he quoted Blackstone did not, but left that part of Blackstone’s ditherings OUT of The Farmer Refuted. Hamilton could have, in the Farmer Refuted said “Scripture” was superior to God given natural law discovered by reason but he didn’t. And I think it’s in large part because Hamilton was not a Christian but a theistic rationalist when he wrote The Farmer Refuted.

  103. tom van dyke says:

    Was not John Locke also a Tory? Blackstone specifically enumerated Revelation superior to reason, of which Hamilton was all to kind to oblige by relegating reason second fiddle.

    Just because Hamilton cited Blackstone approvingly on natural law doesn’t mean he agreed with everything Blackstone said. Moreover, many scholars point out that Blackstone mentions scripture’s authority only briefly. If scripture were so authoritative and informative, they wouldn’t have needed all the [unwritten] volumes of “common law” that comprise the lion’s share of Blackstone’s work!

    You’re taking too much out of a narrow width of some quotes, man, and this is coming from someone who frequently cites The Farmer Refuted.

    The one thing you could argue is that the Biblical sensibility on most matters was taken for granted and was reflected in the laws of the states without them thumping chapter and verse. You have a point that the entire Bible isn’t a Rorschach Test, only parts of it. [Although with 34,000 Protestant sects today and just about every view about everything under the sun is held by at least one of them, on any given issue, you might find yourself a minority in your own religion!]

  104. Heidegger says:

    OFT, while I admire your tenacity, I think ultimately you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m speaking of your attempt to use Scripture to prove various theological points as they relate to the issues being discussed. I’m pretty sure Mr. Hanley and DAR are both agnostics–not 100% sure, but that’s my guess. And therein, you are up against an immovable object. Moreover, if you were to show up at DAR’s house with a full-blown case of stigmata, the most you would ever get from him are a few band aids for those nasty wounds to your hands and feet. He’s quite an impenetrable chap, and it seems to me, you put way too much effort in trying to convince him, otherwise.

    Mark, when this happens “When Muslims make up a majority of the United States and start to vote accordingly…”
    I’ll know I’ve died, the end of the world has happened, and I am in HELL!

  105. Mark Boggs says:

    OFT,

    I’m not anywhere close to being on the level of knowledge that you are to argue every jot and tittle, (especially with tangential quotations)but I have to concur with Jon Rowe about the idea that, if the Founders had believed as you do, so fervently in your type of Christianity and the infallibilty and authoritative nature of Scripture, why the hell would they not have written it into the documents that govern the nation? I find it hard to believe that these guys toiled on this problem for the amount of time that they did and neglected to put into writing the kind of assertions you seem to make with such certainty. They did not craft this thing on a bar napkin after a long night in the pub. Why would they have left out what is arguably “the meat” of every contention you make?

  106. Heidegger says:

    OFT, I forgot to add that unless you want to be verbally “caned” (think Singapore) to within an inch of your life, DO NOT ever use “the majority rules” argument. You’ll regret it forever.

  107. Heidegger says:

    Jim51, make that, “know nothing”. Wasn’t there a Know Nothing party? Normally, to quote the great Groucho, “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member,” but that one has potential…

  108. tom van dyke says:

    but I have to concur with Jon Rowe about the idea that, if the Founders had believed as you do, so fervently in your type of Christianity and the infallibilty and authoritative nature of Scripture, why the hell would they not have written it into the documents that govern the nation?

    Well, for the record, it would be because they felt it unnecessary, since “Biblical sensibilities” were completely reflected in the already-existing laws of the states, and also in every “jot and tittle” of the unwritten [until Blackstone] English common law.

    Now, Jefferson maintained that Christianity was not in the common law, a position vehemently opposed by post-Founder SC Justice Joseph Story, who wrote the first authoritative book on the Constitution. [I think Story gets the better of the argument, especially since I find Jefferson’s sophistic.]

    Further, there is little affirmative evidence where the laws of the states—or even the Constitution—were consciously in conflict with the Bible. As another SC Justice, James Wilson, a Framer who also signed the D of I wrote:

    The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them…

    [The legalist can argue that not every broach of the Bible was criminally punished; this is true, however, neither did normative Judaism itself punish all the sins listed in the Bible as prescribed. Common sense must be given some seat at the table, even as an occasional guest.]

    OFT is not all wet, although he overreaches with the evidence he presents here. But there is more evidence for his thesis. In our adversarial age, with an addiction to courtroom dramas, we too quickly conclude that a flawed argument is necessarily false.

  109. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Gentlemen:

    Much of this blog — so much that it has soured some readers, though I do not for a moment fault Mr. Rowe in that regard — natters on and on and on and on about the, um, Faith of our Fathers (or lack thereof and yadda, yadda, yadda).

    I started this thread to discuss the ethics of abortion.

    Get a room.

  110. Heidegger says:

    Chris says,

    “If the embryo develops into two, it is difficult to say that it was a single individual person before hand.”

    Why would that be? If you cut an apple in half, that doesn’t change the fact that it was a single, whole apple before it was cut.

    Partial birth abortion is illegal as if 2003—upheld by SCOTUS in 2007. You said this: “I do want to note that I’m not actually all that concerned with intact dilation and extraction procedures, as they are commonly used, because in almost every case there is no hope for the fetus (in most cases, the fetus is either not alive at all or is severely damaged with no hope of surviving at birth).” I’m not sure what you mean by this statement–of course the fetus is going to be dead if their brains have already been sucked out by the attending physician. In almost every documented case, the fetus was ALIVE and capable of feeling great pain in this procedure. I’m not aware of any medical circumstances that make this IDX or partialBA the only safe alternative available to protect the health of the mother. And 85% of the fetuses aborted by this method were 90% normal.

  111. Heidegger says:

    Chris,

    I might add, perhaps you were referring to extracting an already dead fetus. Of course, this has nothing to do with abortion since it was already dead.

  112. Heidegger says:

    James Hanley, see what happens when you leave the site for only a short while?? All out mutiny! Chaos! Anarchy! Thomas Jefferson, with the help of John Adams, and Ben Franklin personally hang abortionists!

  113. Chris says:

    Heidegger, making up percentages is not a very good discussion strategy.

  114. Heidegger says:

    No Chris, it isn’t. So I’ll throw a few in your direction. Are maintaining that a significant percentage of partial birth aborted fetuses are healthy? Or done for the health of the mother?

    I could very easily provide you with a tsunami of facts and stats about both the health of the mother and fetus who undergoes this procedure….hopefully, that won’t be necessary.

    “Dr. Martin Haskell, an abortionist who specializes in these late-term abortions, has admitted to performing over 1,000 of these abortions. He stated in a recorded interview with the American Medical News (the official newspaper of the AMA) that: “In my particular case, probably 20% (of these procedures) are for genetic reasons. And the other 80% are purely elective.” That translates into 80% of IDX aborted fetuses are 100% normal.

    “In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along, Fitzsimmons said.” (The New York Times, Feb. 26, 1997, p. A11.)

    “Although usually used in the fifth and sixth months, the partial-birth abortion method is also used to perform abortions in the third trimester — that is, the seventh month and later. In Kansas, the only state in which the law requires separate reporting of partial-birth abortions, abortionists reported in 1999 they had performed 182 partial-birth abortions on babies who were defined by the abortionists themselves as “viable,” and they also reported that all 182 of these were performed for “mental” (as opposed to “physical”) health reasons. See page 11 of this state report: http://www.kdhe.state.ks.us/hci/99itop1.pdf

    What do you know—that looks like a 100% to me. 182 partial birth abortions performed on 182 healthy fetuses. I could go on and on. In any case, the stats are not “made up”.

  115. Heidegger says:

    Chris,

    “Are you maintaining that a significant percentage of partial birth aborted fetuses are healthy”—I obviously meant, “not healthy”.

  116. Pingback: Divorcing Morals from Religion « Notes From Babel

  117. Heidegger says:

    To DAR, with best Longhorn wishes dear friend–GO RANGERS!

    George W. Bush

  118. tom van dyke says:

    I started this thread to discuss the ethics of abortion.

    I was interested in intelligent thoughts or rebuttals about the Grand Canyon scenerio. Especially the rope around the leg, since it illustrates your original post, DAR.

    But if a thread dissolves into nonsense around Comment #100, that’s 90 comments later than the usual internet standard.

  119. Jim51 says:

    It is unfortunate that this discussion has been sidetracked by OFT. He has a considerable library of copy and pastable quotes that he incessantly claims prove “The Founding Fathers believed…” or “The Founding Fathers intended…”
    But his comments vassilate between obsessive compulsive and frighteningly incoherent. He’s a one trick pony.
    As Mr Rowe knows, and so do I, any statement that starts “The FFs believed…” will be of necessity a false statement. The Founders managed to disagree on almost everything at one point or another, and it has nothing whatever to do with the reasonable discussion that was ongoing here about the abortion issue. I am unaware of the Founders even having a discussion of abortion as an issue. Admittedly, I have only read 50 to 60 thousand pages of their writings to date, but one would think that with a sample of that size I might have seen something on it.
    It’s too bad. Once we got past all of our own barking at each other we actually started to communicate, even if we don’t agree. Such discussions are too rare and too valuable to allow them to be sidetracked.
    Jim51

  120. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,

    I think that the stats on abortion are somewhat surprising to many. A few years ago I was teaching Social Studies in a high school and one of my courses was “Law and Society.” One assignment I gave them was to select a social issue and research it for facts and legal issues to present to the class. Two young women in the class chose abortion and they were quite strongly pro-choice. In their presentation they mentioned the average number of abortions each year in the US- one million. I almost fell off my chair.
    “What did you say?” I asked.
    “One million?” she said.
    “Are you sure about that?” I asked.
    Indeed she had two references for it. I had had no idea of the scale of it.

    Earlier in the discussion you said that you thought many pro-life folks would have some second thoughts about the particulars of their position if they understood that doctors and women could face long imprisonments. I suspect that many in the pro-choice camp would also be somewhat stunned (as I was) if they really looked into these numbers.

    Jim51

  121. Mark Boggs says:

    TVD,

    I was going to comment that I enjoyed your analogy except that the difference is that, with the bumpee in your analogy, he or she has a history of experience and relationship. Not to say that this is the criterion by which we settle the issue, but I think it is a vital point. Trying to compare a 35 year old or 5 year old to a two week old cluster of cells or even a 6 month developed fetus is a bit difficult (as DAR pointed out would be the problem with analogies).

  122. Scott S. says:

    I’m coming in very late to the game, but I think I have a different perspective to offer.

    DAR’s post and many of the follow-up comments have assumed that the salient moral question is the definition of personhood. While that may appear to be a good starting point, I contend that it is a morally deficient means of argument about abortion.

    (Just to be clear, this isn’t ad hominem or any such thing. I’m not attacking DAR, but going to attempt to show his premise is wrong. I may fail utterly to make my point; hence, this disclaimer.)

    Another sensible moral place for libertarians in particular to start from is to assume the moral equality of men and women. Note that we don’t really have to assume this as an axiom–there are plenty of valid ways of getting to this moral statement. I’ll assume it for the sake of the abortion argument.

    If men and women are to be held as morally equal in any real sense, we must attempt to establish a system of laws which grants them equal control over their own bodies. This is relatively non-problematic until we get to the subject of procreation, in which men and women are so obviously physically unequal.

    Note that, overwhelmingly, traditions of human cultures have solved this problem of physical inequality in procreation by saying that, because only women can bear children, and because societies need children to be born, then women belong to society in some capacity. Either they are chattel, or they must remain virgins until they marry, or coverture, or whatever. I bring this up only to ask readers to consider any intuitive thoughts about this topic in light of our long-standing traditions of not treating men and women as moral equals precisely for reasons that bear on the topic of abortion.

    So, back to my argument: If men and women are morally equal in the conception and bearing of children, yet physically unequal in the roles they play, we must try to treat their actions as having equal weight where possible, and balancing weights when not possible, preferably using criteria that obtain in other circumstances. So, for example, if a child is born, we hold the mother and father equally morally responsible for the care of the child, and we reflect that to the greatest extent possible in our law. That responsibility, we say, was morally produced by both participants in the physical coupling that produced the child.

    In actually carrying the child to term, however, there is no way to equate the physical burdens of the father and mother. The mother will undergo risks to physical and mental health, to be sure. She will also often undergo changes to her body that will change her physical shape and constitution forever. Men undergo no such changes during gestation.

    So, the consequences of sex are intensely different for women than for men. Improving birth control availability, educating adolescents about these consequences, and encouraging abstinence are really good ways our society attempts to reduce this disparity, but the nature of the human adult is such that unwanted pregnancies still occur.

    It is immoral, being contrary to our assumed premise, to expect the woman to bear a greater responsibility for what is present in both sexes. Women are not somehow better endowed with an ability to resist sexual temptation than men. The unavoidable conclusion of my assumption is that abortions, though they may be discouraged for the reasons DAR gives, must be allowed. The entire basis for social mores is the moral agency of adults, not children, and certainly not unborn children. So, the moral value of adults must be the starting point of any ethical question.

    Analytical attention paid to the personhood of the unborn child serves only to draw attention and importance away from the personhood of the woman involved, even though such effect may not be intended or even desired. To the extent that these ideas about the personhood of the unborn child are generalized, they serve to reduce the moral worth and dignity of women generally. I cannot think of the unborn child as a moral person in any sense, at any point.

    There are other implications to the moral equivalence of men and women. Can a fetus that is viable outside the womb be aborted? (I would say no, that this is need not be allowed in our day and age, so long as we consider the woman not liable for any expenses incurred in giving birth when she chooses. We don’t currently allow this, which probably results in more mothers choosing abortions earlier, so they can avoid the costs of childbirth.) Should men have a say in whether their child is aborted? This isn’t as clear as the conclusion that abortions must be allowed–I think men can’t be allowed to legal enforce a decision one way or the other, but how much responsibility they bear for coitus if the child is born should ideally be balanced against the mother having the right to choose whether or not to abort.

    I know at least one commenter has dismissed this argument out of hand, but I encourage a careful consideration of the basic implications of an ethics based on moral equality of adults vs. an ethics based on forced preservation of any object belonging to the difficult-to-define moral class of “personhood.”

    (I would note that arguing for the personhood of the fetus actually exposes oneself, by reversing my argument above, to arguments against same-sex marriage. This is not to threadjack–just an aside.)

  123. tom van dyke says:

    Thx, Mr. Boggs. I did want to give the analogy a road test with this estimable assemblage of minds.

    To attempt to save the analogy from a D&C, I would offer that most pro-choice folks do not accord the fetus zero status, it’s only that they hold the mother’s have primacy. I believe the question holds, whether the mother has a moral responsibility toward the product of her actions [we assume the pregnancy is inadvertent, albeit the product of consensual sex]; and secondly whether a society or polity can absolve her from it.

    Also, if we add the “rope around the leg” dimension, of a simple uncertainty about the “personhood” status of who/what is at the other end per DAR’s argument, what is the moral thing? Is the “bumper” free to cut the rope? Is a third party free of “moral hazard” in cutting it because it’s the “bumper’s” choice?

  124. OFT says:

    [DAR here. See my comment below.]

    D.A.,

    I made a comment on your Third Point and the dialogue changed. It was not my wish. I too have an opinion on abortion, that is apropos with this thread. My position is based on the foundation people who formed this nation believed; the Bible. It is just as valid as any other argument supporting pro-life. A theological statement when life began was not made in the 18th century, nor could be; but by what Blackstone, the general Christian consensus, and by personal observation:

    “Constitutional scholar Walter Berns states, “[Founding Father, James]Wilson, when speaking on the law, might be said to be speaking for the Founders generally.” Here is what Wilson wrote: “With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. “In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.” [quoting Blackstone]By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.” [bold face mine]

    -“Lectures on Law,” Ch. 12, p. 597 in The Works of James Wilson. ed. Robert G. McCloskey (1967).
    http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/tay/tay_03foundingfather.html

    Jim51 enjoys ad hominen attacks; especially against me, when he cannot successfully refute my position. Based on his lonely quote, he is also fond of straw man arguments illustrated by the following:

    It is unfortunate that this discussion has been sidetracked by OFT. He has a considerable library of copy and pastable quotes that he incessantly claims prove

    I’ve never claimed to prove anything, nor prove the Scriptures enumerate life at conception. But only what the text and the Church appear to say. If my view on anything I have posted here was without solid foundation, I would have been banned already.

    In spite of what Jim51 writes, George Washington, et al., called Christ “The Divine Author of Our Holy Religion” so how could Jim51 write this:

    “The FFs believed…” will be of necessity a false statement. The Founders managed to disagree on almost everything at one point or another, and it has nothing whatever to do with the reasonable discussion that was ongoing here about the abortion issue.

    If there was one thing the FF’s agreed on, it was morality; the morality from Christianity. Abortion was a part of this morality, given the fact it was to be punished, evidenced by the FF’s’ foremost authority on Law; James Wilson quoting Blackstone.

    TVD,

    Maybe the quote’s context in the Farmer Refuted is Natural Law, however, there is no doubt AH viewed the Scriptures superior to reason, given that he viewed man’s reason “worthless” only 7 years after the Farmer Refuted. Would you agree with that?

  125. D.A. Ridgely says:

    OFT writes, “If my view on anything I have posted here was without solid foundation, I would have been banned already.”

    On the contrary, you grossly underestimate the tolerance we have demonstrated regarding your and several other readers’ comments in the past.

    Now, I’m going to tell you this one last time. I don’t care who started it, I’m ending the Founding Father discussion on this thread. Look up at your last comment and you will see that I am capable of editing your comments as I choose. This means I can use your originally posted comment as my sock-puppet and have it appear you posted in praise of Satan.

    I’d hate to have to do that. Really I would. So if you can’t help yourself in your comments, and I don’t think you can, you can at least take them to a different thread.

    I trust we understand each other.

  126. OFT says:

    It is your blog, so it is what it is. Regarding the thread, I think all of us, at the least, would agree to limit abortions where the baby feels pain. I know it is up for debate, and may not be concrete, but what do you think of this research, of when pain is felt:

    “Pain can be detected when nociceptors (pain receptors) discharge electrical impulses to the spinal cord and brain. These fire impulses outward, telling the muscles and body to react. These can be measured. Mountcastle, Medical Physiology, St. Louis: C.V. Mosby, pp. 391-427 “Lip tactile response may be evoked by the end of the 7th week. At 11 weeks, the face and all parts of the upper and lower extremities are sensitive to touch. By 13 1/2 to 14 weeks, the entire body surface, except for the back and the top of the head, are sensitive to pain.” S. Reinis & J. Goldman, The Development of the Brain C. Thomas Pub., 1980.’
    http://www.abortionfacts.com/online_books/love_them_both/why_cant_we_love_them_both_14.asp#By%208%20weeks?%20Show%20me!

  127. Heidegger says:

    Something is rotten in the state of Denm…er. I mean, One Best Way. Who and why was Tim Kowal’s post deleted from thread? It’s a great, great post so here it is again.

    Notes From BabelDivorcing Morals from Religion
    with 19 comments

    Though again mired in 14 hour days with little time for reading let alone writing blogs, I came across this post by D.A. Ridgely on abortion. The post seems interesting in that Ridgely, a libertarian, takes on a defense of laws limiting abortion. However, in the preamble to his argument, he includes this ghastly disclaimer:

    My third point is that purely religious beliefs and arguments by themselves are insufficient to determine public policy. Which is to say that even if there were a majority or even a supermajority who were convinced on purely religious grounds that abortion was morally wrong (or, for that matter, morally right), imposing that position on those who do not share those underlying religious believes would be immoral. If by some bizarre quirk of fate Pastafarians should someday become the religious majority in American, their belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster says that abortions are okey-dokey is no more a sufficient ground to make (or keep) abortions legal than a majority of Festivus celebrators’, um, beliefs would suffice to erect an aluminum pole on public property for the ritual airing of grievances.

    This brand of profound nonsense is becoming more and more prevalent among contemporary hyper-secularists. Ridgely assumes here that some morals may be used as a basis for legislation, just not religion-based morals. What is the implication here? That morals based on well-established, deeply ingrained belief systems are not permissible, while morals based on “moods” or shallow, fleeting, loose-knit, pseudo-intellectual models are? Why should religion be disqualified as a source of “legitimate” morality? Because its adherents take their belief systems seriously? Because it is part of their culture? Because they believe morals are tightly knit with their view of man’s relationship to the world and those who share it with him? Can this possibly form the basis for barring their views from the political system?

    Enough. Here’s Richard Weaver on the matter:

    That it does not matter what a man believes is a statement heard on every side today. The statement carries a fearful implication. If a man is a philosopher in the sense with which we started, what he believes tells him what the world is for. How can men who disagree about what the world is for agree about any of the minutiae of daily conduct? The statement really means that it does not matter what a man believes so long as he does not take his beliefs seriously. Anyone can observe that this is the status to which religious belief has been reduced for many years. But suppose he does take his beliefs seriously? Then what he believes places a stamp upon his experience, and he belongs to a culture, which is a league founded on exclusive principles. To become eligible, one must be able to say the right words about the right things, which signifies in turn that one must be a man of correct sentiments. This phrase, so dear to the eighteenth century, carries us back to the last age that saw sentiment and reason in a proper partnership.

    Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences 23 (Univ. Chicago Press 1948

  128. Mark Boggs says:

    Heidegger,

    As Kowal pointed out on his own site, he was merely linking back to this article in his criticism of D.A.’s point. He left no comment here other than to reflect that he had linked to D.A.’s post.

  129. Heidegger says:

    Mark–is that it works? I know I read it on this site and on this thread, but just noticed it had been “removed”, or disappeared. Okay, looks like nothing nefarious is going on.

    Hey, how’s life in the PGA going? If you ever come to Michigan, it would be great to meet you and have a few beers–of course I know, the feeling is probably not at all mutual, but nonetheless, I think it would be fun.

  130. D.A. Ridgely says:

    I didn’t remove the link to Mr. Kowal’s blog and I do not know why it does not appear above.

  131. Heidegger says:

    Forgot to mention, Mark—really enjoy reading your posts. You don’t miss anything and while I think you sometimes slant way too leftward at times, so what–that’s what makes for good conversation. So, keep it up!

  132. Mark Boggs says:

    Actually, DAR, it’s there…right above Heidegger’s Lawrence Welk video. It calls itself a “Pingback”.

    Heidegger,

    There are some awesome golf courses in Michigan. Would love to be able to come back and play some, but Utah is miles away, and with small children, any extended trip away is usually occupied with their entertainment. Besides, if I came all the way to Michigan, my mother would make me stop in Iowa to see her. Just kidding…Hi, Mom.

  133. D.A. Ridgely says:

    So it is. Thank you, Mr. Boggs. I searched using “Kowal” as my search term and thus didn’t find it. (Gawd forbid I should have to read these comments all over again!)

  134. Heidegger says:

    Sorry DAR to have jumped to conclusions–thought immediately you must have taken it off the thread in an attempt to run all of us right-wing conservative crackpots (especially me) off of your site. As much as you might want to do that, censorship just doesn’t seem to fit in with libertarian your values. By the way, what kind of music do you like?

  135. D.A. Ridgely says:

    If I censor something here, Heidegger, you can be damn sure I’ll state exactly why.

    Good music.

  136. Heidegger says:

    Well, that’s good to know, and considering our words become your property, fairer than necessary.

    I’m guessing your a contrapuntal guy, a Bach, Art of the Fugue type guy. The only thing that puzzles me, is how one could love this music and still doubt the existence of God. Who needs faith, when you have this music? This music that does not come from mere mortals. Did you know that Bach regained his eyesight the day he died? It’s a very interesting story. And he never, for a moment, thought his music would ever go beyond Leipzig. Imagine the surprise if he knew his music is travelling through space on the Voyager Golden Record…if encountered by an extraterrestrial, I have no doubt they would be as moved as we are by such exceptional beauty of sound. Any possible run ins with ETs is only a mere 40,000 years away.

  137. Scott S. says:

    I agree with TVD’s assessment that most pro-choice folks accord the fetus some status. I do myself, and I am in fact one of those anti-abortion, pro-choice people. I accord the fetus moral status commensurate with its ability to accept moral responsibility and take appropriate action. Since it cannot do any such thing in the present, only in the future, and only depending on successful gestation within an adult human, that moral status is one of value in moral consideration, but holding no claim of rights against strong claims of rights by adults.

    Consider the moral status of children. Newborn infants have only to be nurtured by someone–anyone–who will take good care of them, and they will become full and thriving adults in time. They therefore have rights claims in accordance with their nature: they have not only a right to not be hurt, as adults do, but a positive right to be nurtured, even to the point of taking them away from their biological parents if they fail in that responsibility. And if so nurtured, it takes very little time–just a few years–before the child starts to learns the roles of a responsible moral actor. We grant more and more rights and responsibilities to our children as they mature, in accordance with their ability to understand and accept their autonomous moral status. (I know our law doesn’t do this, but it does seem to be the dominant method of parenting and mentoring children in most cultures.)

    The not-yet-viable fetus may be understood, as DAR does, to have some claim to the future ability to be a moral being. I would say the difference, in light of my earlier comments on the primacy of the moral equality of adults, is that any adult, male or female, can parent a particular child once s/he is born. The child can claim this right from society, as we have said we grant that right. The fetus, on the contrary, must insist on the care of one specific person, and that person will always be a woman. Every fetus depends on a woman to carry it to term, and so every fetus will have great demands on a woman. Never a man, even when their actions in producing the fetus were identical in moral consideration (e.g. proper use of birth control, being married) . So, though I think every abortion should be regretted, the woman who decides her body should not go through the process of gestation over the next particular several months a particular fetus will require must be allowed to abort.

    If there are any alternative suggestions that preserve the moral status of women as autonomous adults, I would like to hear them. That is, in fact, a big reason I made my comments.

  138. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,

    Regarding your post of Kowal and Weaver (neither of whom do I know). I think there is a bit of recharacterization going on there that isn’t reflective of what many really think when they say that a purely religious view alone isn’t sufficient. To refer to such suggestions as ‘profound nonsense’ is to suggest that the rights of conscience of those who do not see the religious issue the same way are less important than I would insist upon having them be. Nor did I see DAR suggest that ‘it doesn’t matter what a man believes.’

    One of my primary ethical considerations in all of this, which drives me to basically sit in the pro-choice camp, is a stringent respect for rights of conscience which adhere to individuals. And that does not have to mean that anything someone claims to believe under the mask of religion must be allowed. Abortion is not a fringe case, has been with us for a long long time, and many people of various religious sensibilities have found it ethically and morally acceptable under various circumstances.

    Having said that, I will note that DAR said early in this conversation, “public attitudes do occasionally reverse themselves on major social and moral questions.” Such a change in the religious views of many could also occur on this question, just as they have on other issues over the centuries. So I am not suggesting that because people once found something acceptable that they must always do so.

    Jim51

  139. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,
    Regarding Bach– I have been to his church in Leipzig and listened to his organ.
    Mindblowing, simply mindblowing.
    Jim51

  140. Jim51 says:

    Scott S.

    At what point does the autonomy argument fail for you? It does seem to me to be reasonable to say that the mother-to-be, and the father-to-be, at some point need to surrender some of that autonomy to the child they have created, and commit to its care. Isn’t there still a magic moment question to be answered?

    Jim51

  141. Chris says:

    Jim, notice Heidegger picked a 30 year old study (there has been a bunch of recent research on this with technology not available in 1980), and a bunch of statistics from pro-life websites. It’s probably better to just let him go on.

  142. Scott S. says:

    Jim51: I made a much larger (maybe too long?) post earlier (post #123 I think) that addressed this question in part, and then this second post I tried to develop it. The point at which society can say to a pregnant woman “No, you cannot destroy that fetus” is the point at which she can answer “OK, then, you take care of it.” In other words, when the child can claim its right to nurturing and support from someone willing to volunteer (or be paid, as with foster parents), then the mother can’t say “Well, no, I want to abort anyway.” It’s like those old jokes about getting an abortion in the 10th trimester. Of course the mother mayn’t kill her baby, but she can certainly take the child to a nurturing home if that’s what she decides she absolutely has to do.

    We recognize that some parents just can’t take care of a child successfully. It should be even better when the parent himself or herself recognizes the fact. Our adoption laws are mostly constructed to allow people to make that choice. There are lots of programs for helping parents through tough spots, and programs for helping pregnant women to understand the real psychological outcomes associated with abortion. These programs are good because they improve the overall chances for the kids, born or unborn, involved.

    But to tell a woman “No, you can’t have an abortion, and you have to keep carrying that child, even if you’re going to give it up for adoption,” well, that’s treating her like a breeding animal. Disgusting, really. And it fails to allow her the chance to make that choice a beautiful gift to the child, which many, many women choose to do.

  143. Scott S. says:

    I’d like to strike the “Disgusting, really. ” sentence from my previous comment. It has no place there. The analogy to a “breeding animal” is useful, in my mind, but not strong enough to characterize the situation as “disgusting.”

  144. OFT says:

    Heidegger,

    Bach is awesome! His son is excellent as well. Nothing is better than baroque. Handel, Bach and Vivaldi are my favorites.

    Scott S. says: “I accord the fetus moral status commensurate with its ability to accept moral responsibility and take appropriate action. Since it cannot do any such thing in the present, only in the future, and only depending on successful gestation within an adult human, that moral status is one of value in moral consideration, but holding no claim of rights against strong claims of rights by adults.”

    In lieu of time being the qualifier, I would not wish to deny the right to life to anyone, especially if they can feel pain in the third month. If a baby feels pain in the third month, are they not a person? Does not a person have rights? Furthermore, can a person feel pain and not have a soul?

    The lack of responsibility by a woman, gives her no right to take a life. The moral status of a woman is reserved for her only, not for the individual she carries to term.

  145. Jim51 says:

    Scott S,

    Thanks for the response. You’re right you did make that point earlier. I had forgotten it in this now long but interesting thread.

    So, OK. I understand the reasoning and I think it holds together. You and I seem to get to approximately the same destination but by quite different roads.

    Jim51

  146. Scott S. says:

    Jim51:
    Great! I like making sense. Like you (based on your earlier “one million?!?” comment) I am also disappointed by the number of abortions that occur. I come from a particular perspective: One of a parent who loves his adoptive daughter, and who can’t help but sometimes think of abortions as being little girls like her. I recognize that current law in the U.S. is more strict than my morally-principled lines. This bothers me not because I want to go out and change things, but because I don’t. Still, I mistrust the impulse of me, a man, who is tempted to want restrictions on the use of a gestating human, a woman, of her body, as men have always, always wanted more and more control over women’s bodies.

    OFT and others of his brand of faith would place all the blame on the woman in instances of unwanted pregnancy. His faith has said for millenia that women deserve that burden, after all. She did the deed, and she knew that the consequences were worse for her. Honestly, I think this is part of the whole narrative about human sexuality that says “Men are horny bastards, and women tame them, with marriage, to procreate only in appropriate circumstances.” This is BS. If women were any less horny than men, some other species would rule the Earth. Our society forces women to be the “gatekeepers” (Ghostbusters II, anyone) of sex because it conveniently allows men to have sex with women whenever and however they can manage it, and if there’s an unwanted pregnancy, it’s the woman’s fault.

  147. D.A. Ridgely says:

    There already was a Ghostbusters II and it was terrible. There will be, I’m sad to report, a Ghostbusters III and it is going to be far, far worse.

  148. Scott S. says:

    Ah jeez, you’re right. With the slime that made Winston try to kill everyone. How could I forget? I mean, why couldn’t I forget? It was sort of like all the pink Jell-O left over from Poltergeist needed an outlet, and so they used Manhattan as a sprinkler.

  149. Heidegger says:

    OFT and Jim51–how heartening to know that passionate Bachophiles are still out there! There is hope, indeed. Getting the chance to play an all-Bach piano recital (Partita #2 and the Goldberg Variations) was the most enjoyable and beautiful experience I’ve ever had in my life. Of course, I still have complete adoration for Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Brahms, etc. I think music is the most powerful and transformative experience any human being can have. There is no other ecstasy that seems to have such a multidimensional aspect to it, such immediacy, dare I say, such a living, breathing manifestation of God’s eternal nature. I know expressing such sentiments will open me up to endless ridicule here, but so be it. You guys know what I mean. There are no stats, logical edifices, proofs, philosophical theorems, neurological data, rigid quantitative analysis, etc. to ascertain this reality, but really, who cares? And Jim, wow, oh my God, you got to experience Bach in his church in Leipzig?? What an experience!! I’m in awe (and jealous)–I long so, to one day go the the musical Holy Land. One day, one day….uh-oh–seriously going off topic here. Although, one could use Bach as an example of someone who didn’t kid around when it came to being fruitful and multiplying–he had 20 kids! I’m not sure how it broke down, but his first wife died and he remarried. Imagine, having all that to deal with and still being able to knock off a cantata a week, 300+ compositions for organ, hundreds for the Klavier, masses, orchestral suites, passions, and every single composition was inscribed with the words, “Soli Deo Gloria”…to God, all the glory.

    And Beethoven’s mother had many (7?) miscarriages.

  150. Heidegger says:

    Scott S. says,

    “But to tell a woman “No, you can’t have an abortion, and you have to keep carrying that child, even if you’re going to give it up for adoption,” well, that’s treating her like a breeding animal. Disgusting, really.”

    Whoaaaa, where did this come from? You really have thrown me for a loop with this, out-of-blue remark. Nothing proceeding it led up to the dropping of this bomb. Are you really saying that any abortion restriction is tantamount to treating a woman like a “breeding animal”? You focus 100% on the woman and her inherent right to abort the fetus and ZERO rights for the unborn and its innate right to life. Oh god, this subject is so hopeless….it’s becoming very depressing, personally.

  151. Heidegger says:

    Sorry Scott—just saw that you had struck, “Disgusting, really.” It’s struck.

  152. Heidegger says:

    Regarding evolution, could it be possible we have it all backwards? Maybe, instead of homo sapiens evolving from monkeys, why couldn’t monkeys evolve from us?

  153. Michael Enquist says:

    Heidegger,

    Even if you are writing tongue-in-cheek, that is not an impossible scenario, per se.

    There is no “direction” to evolution. Descendants do not necessarily have to be “more complex” than their ancestors (however one is defining biological complexity). They can be “less complex” or “equally complex.” Cave dwelling species are an example of animals that at least do not express all of the genes of their ancestors – it all depends on the environment. And domestic versions of animals seem to be “underdeveloped” relative to their wild counterparts.

  154. Michael Enquist says:

    Take a look at Bach’s works: If the ink is fading and the paper is crumbling, does that mean they’re decomposing?

  155. Michael Enquist says:

    Heidegger,

    By the most amazing coincidence, Razib Khan anticipated your question, modified it with respect to civilizations, and found an important new paper that discusses the idea:

    The rise and crash of civilizations

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/10/the-rise-and-fall-of-complex-societies/

  156. Scott S. says:

    I guess another way of seeing the difference between my and DAR’s views on this is that, for DAR, the fetus, at conception, is the telos of procreation, whereas for me, the child is the telos of procreation and of the fetus. The fetus is already, naturally, a means to an end. One consequence of this is the following distinction: For DAR, fertility methods that create many embryos in order to produce one or more children for an infertile couple are morally wrong, and I think this is an unavoidable conclusion from his other statements. But, since I see the child as the goal in procreation, it’s actually a wonderful thing that our technology is capable of producing multiple embryos to help create a new human life in a family where none was possible before.

  157. Heidegger says:

    Michael says,

    “Take a look at Bach’s works: If the ink is fading and the paper is crumbling, does that mean they’re decomposing?”

    HA!! That’s very funny—did you just make that up? Very clever. And no, it (comment on evolution) wasn’t tongue-in-cheek. Embarrassing to say so, but your reply, thank you, at least gave it some validity. I always take great delight in turning thoughts upside down.

    Chris, why would a “bunch of statistics from pro-life websites” be any less valid than a bunch of statistics from pro-choice websites? The source is entirely irrelevant. The origin is of primary concern, and you were not able to refute a single fact from any of the comments sited. Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re such a passionate and devoted member of the Tea Party movement. I understand you’re even to address several Tea Party gatherings before the all important, Nov. 2 elections. Good luck, Comrade! Great to have you on the side of Liberty!

  158. Heidegger says:

    Jim51,

    For me at least, the only possible “magic moment”, is when a fetus is viable–able to exist if removed from the uterus, or outside the mother’s womb. Any other “moment” is so heavily ladened with unresolvable ambiguity, that no matter how much reasonable debate occurs, it will ultimately prove fruitless. Would this be a possible concession from the pro-choice side?

  159. Heidegger says:

    Michael–great link–thanks! It looks like evolution is not all a one-way street–at least one-way in respect to one-direction. Interesting.

  160. Jim51 says:

    Heidegger,

    Viability was used in the Roe v Wade decision. I would have several comments on that topic.

    Viability is a moving target as our medical technology and abilities continue to improve. I think this makes it a bit problematic.

    Having said that, I have been willing to live with Roe v Wade even though as our jurisprudence handles it, it seems to be quite a permissive standard. Perhaps this is particularly so because we insist upon an exception for life threats to the woman. We also have exceptions for issues related to the long term health of the woman. I think those exceptions are important but many pro-life folks look upon that as an all purpose excuse that can be used at almost any time.

    I find it a little surprising that someone in the pro-life camp would offer a discussion of viability as a possible compromise point. In general, pro-life folks seem to hate Roe v Wade. If you haven’t read that decision yet, I recommend it to you. It is very well written, erudite, and wont overwhelm you with legal jargon.

    The unresolvable ambiguities that you mention are what has prompted me to stop trying to find a fully satisfactory philosophical/ethical solution to the problem. I try to approach it pragmatically. This is not to disrespect anyone elses approach. I understand Scott S’s approach, although I wouldn’t come at it that way. And I understand DAR’s precautionary principle. A precautionary principle is often a good one to employ in a wide variety of situations. There is much to be said for it.
    If I sound conflicted, it is probably because I am. But I cannot find sufficient justification to completely close the window of opportunity for a woman to make her own choice.

    So, sure. I could work with viability as the point where the window closes. But isn’t that quite close to what the current situation is? I would have guessed that you would not be amenable to such a ‘compromise.’

    Jim51

  161. Heidegger says:

    Jim51, very interesting reply–thanks. And to think after this long, but interesting, discussion, we’re back to square one. Sigh. I should be shot for igniting this firestorm with what I thought was a harmless question–“what is the libertarian position on abortion” or something like that. Egads. My “concession” was more a throwing up of my arms in the air in frustration than a heartfelt gesture. There really is no answer, I’m afraid. The sides are dug in so deeply that trench warfare will likely be fought over this issue until long after we’re gone. As grotesque and gruesome the procedure of partial birth abortion is, back alley abortions done with metal hangers hardly represents a more moral or humane alternative, which would necessarily be the result of making it illegal. This is unfortunate. I have certainly very much appreciated your thoughtful replies. Ultimately, I guess the, “if you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one” will be the law of the land for the foreseeable future. Hey, it hasn’t been a total waste of time—just loved your Bach story!

  162. tom van dyke says:

    Yes, it has been a total waste of time except for DAR’s original post. Sorry, and thank you all for playing.

  163. Chris says:

    I’m glad Tom gets to decide whether these threads are worthwhile, especially when his contribution is a barely half-assed violinist-type analogy (and half-assed is being kind). It’s good to know we have an arbiter of such things who contributes so much himself. On the other hand, there were at least a couple people who seemed to have gotten something out of the discussion, at least if their own words to that affect are to be believed, so I suppose it wasn’t a total wash, even if Tom is a bit frustrated due to no one dignifying him with a real response.

    Tom, I wonder if you’ve read Thomson’s paper (if not, it’s here). The analogy has suffered, in the literature, over the last couple decades from what I can tell, but it’s still a pretty good intuition pump, as philosophers say (and let’s face it, these sorts of issues are decided by emotion and intuition rather than rational deliberation anyway, even if that’s not what philosophers mean by an intuition pump). If nothing else, it might help you build an analogy that’s a.) not easily flipped on you, and b.) at least maintains some structural similarity to the actual domain you’re attempting to map your analogy onto.

  164. tom van dyke says:

    Mr. Boggs had minor objections to my analogy, which I answered. It was not “flipped;” it’s disingenuous to say it was.

    How does Thomson’s paper address DAR’s argument? You have the floor. It’s empty.

  165. D.A. Ridgely says:

    In no particular order:

    Chris refers to what was once a leading article among academic philosophers on the ethics of abortion. Insofar as the thrust of Jarvis Thomson’s paper is that a person’s right not to be killed is not absolute, I agree. To paraphrase H.L.A. Hart, I suspect our only natural right is the right to be left the hell alone. Ordinarily, that entails not being killed. But as Jarvis Thomson argues, the pregnant woman’s right to be left alone must also weigh heavily in how we reconcile conflicting rights even if we are agreed the human fetus is a person in the moral sense. (I’ll note in passing I’d have been more convinced by Jarvis Thomson’s article if she’d hooked the woman up to an accordion player and less so if she’d chosen from among a handful of jazz trumpet and sax players I could mention.)

    Chris writes, “[L]et’s face it, these sorts of issues are decided by emotion and intuition rather than rational deliberation anyway….”

    True. However, Hume aside, it seems to me that rational deliberations can influence one’s pre-reflective intuitions, which can in turn influence one’s emotions. What may at first have struck us as strange or different and therefore instinctively or intuitively to be distrusted, disliked or feared can come to be seen as less strange, etc. when considered as dispassionately as possible.

    However, what we will count as ‘evidence’ in those rational deliberations also requires close consideration. I may have been too snippy rejecting Chris’s proffered analogy revision. I did so, however, not only because I want to try to control this particular conversation (a not entirely noble desire) but also because I think I have good reason to prefer real life analogies to the sorts of “intuition pumps” both his example and Jarvis Thomson’s exemplify.

    There is, by the way, a rich historical literature on analogical reasoning, which in my opinion begins at least as early as Socrates’ dialectic and Plato’s theory of the Forms, through Medieval attempts to distinguish between the attributes of God and somehow analogous attributes in this world, to such contemporary concerns as linguistic philosophy, legal reasoning and fuzzy logics.

    In any case, I tend, all other factors being equal, to be persuaded more by a series or collection of smallish real world analogies than by hypothetical scenarios removed from actual human experience. (It’s a bit of a digression, but this is one of the reasons I continue, against the currents, to favor a somatic model of personal identity over time.) Academic philosophers, who should be suspicious of their intuitions precisely because they are academic philosophers, seem to me too often inclined to believe without sufficient justification that their thought experiments are well enough connected to actual human experience to be of probative value. To be sure, for example, we could and might call a disembodied or transplanted human consciousness the “same person.” Even so, what we will be doing in that case is extending the permissible range of a concept currently confined in its application, science fiction aside, to living organisms. That is, we will be deciding (if we do so decide) to extend the concept, not discovering that its extension is larger than we previously thought.

    I suspect most readers will find much of the discussion above a bit on the tedious side. While I fully expect him to continue to disagree, I thought I owed Chris a more thorough statement of how I would characterize much of that disagreement.

    The question was raised whether viability might serve as a, um, viable criterion separating mere embryos from persons. My position remains that no post-conception developmental stage or threshold, per se, is dispassionately and disinterestedly as intuitively acceptable as conception. Viability, however, does raise at least a different sort of concern than, say, brain waves or some evidence of some level of consciousness or a sufficiently developed nervous system to permit the experience of pain.

    Viability goes to the question whether the pregnant woman’s reproductive freedom extends not only to terminating her pregnancy but to her freedom to do so by killing an unborn child putatively capable of surviving outside her womb. Admittedly, this is something of an oversimplification not only medically but also societally in as much as it leaves unaddressed questions such as responsibility for the support of the child. I am fully aware, for example, that the current state of the art effectively requires what amounts to intensive care and life support technology until the child has grown to a point of more independent viability and that these procedures are, bluntly, outrageously expensive.

    Still, assuming those concerns were adequately met, if the moral crux of the pro-choice position is viability, it is hard to see how it could reasonably be insisted that the woman’s choices should continue to include ending the life of the unborn child at that point. Not, at least, if the woman could as easily end her physical and societal burden without harm to the fetus.

    Such viability is, of course, a function of the state of medical science. I have read that the fetus was not viable until approximately the 28th week at the time Roe v Wade was decided but that medical advances now make it possible for a fetus at approximately 22 to 23 weeks to survive outside the womb. I can only assume that this trend will continue. Given advances in both in vitro fertilization methods and fetal medicine, for all I know – and, yes, this is just wide-eyed speculation – the day may come when viability, as such, effectively begins at conception.

    Here’s the thing, though. I understand a certain reasonable moral calculus when it is necessary to sacrifice one life for another or, as in the case of triage, forsaking patients whose chances of survival are slight to nil so to focus medical resources where they can do the most good. In only one set of such circumstances, however, does it seem even facially plausible to say that the life in question is not the life of a person. Those circumstances are various end-of-life scenarios in which it would be miraculous (pick your own definition here) for the patient to ever recover consciousness or lucid awareness. Contra Murali, I contend that this difference; that is, the difference in one’s reasonable prospects for the future, is a morally significant factual difference distinguishing the ethics of beginning of life and end of life questions.

    Deathbed cases aside, regardless of how unlikely a person’s chances of surviving whatever life threatening situation he faces, we do not deny that it is a person’s life in question. We do not say, “Well, since he can’t survive baring a miracle, he is not (no longer, etc.) a person.” Ceteris paribus, how can the fact that an early stage human fetus is not viable somehow suffice to conclude that the being in question is therefore not a person?

    This ties in with my rejection of the rate of natural abortions as evidence against my position. Everyone dies. Some of us die sooner than others. The length of our lives, however important to us individually, is simply not relevant to whether we are people. Or, at the very least, it has not been shown to me how it should be considered so. Which, to avoid confusion, I should repeat at this point is an entirely different consideration from whether, having acknowledged the personhood of the being in question, it still makes sense to ask if and under what circumstances taking that person’s life is morally justifiable.

    Scott S holds that the brute biological fact that it is women and not men who bear the physical burden and panoply of risks involved in pregnancy, granting their sex the unilateral right to decide, presumably on an individual basis, whether to have an abortion is necessary to ensure what he calls moral equality. This is problematic on several grounds. First, while sex is by no means an irrelevant fact of a person’s life, it is irrelevant as to whether one is a person. Another way of phrasing that is that whatever moral rights a person should be considered to possess should not accrue to that person because of demographic differences. Third, if, as a general principle, looking at unequally shared burdens and risks among various groups on accidental grounds (in the sense that it is purely accidental whether a person is male or female, tall or short, this color or that, etc.) suffices to divvy up rights differently among those groups, then it is reasonable to ask what other differences might augur different rights. This is a very slippery slope, indeed.

    That said, and however difficult it may be for some here to believe, I am genuinely sympathetic to the underlying concern. The history of men’s behavior toward and treatment of women is not one of unblemished honor and glory. The same sort of thing could, of course, be said

    On another point, and with all due respect to Scott S., it can only be said that nature and the things found in nature have a purpose (telos) as a matter of faith. Artificial objects, e.g., the keyboard I’m using to type this, have purposes because we give them purposes. Teleology, let alone the teleological argument, are part of the legacy of conceptual confusion the Classical Greeks bequeathed us.

    I don’t expect the likes of Mr. Kowal ever to quite understand, let along agree with my point regarding the moral insufficiency of religious beliefs, either by themselves or as indispensable premisses in whatever argument is advanced, to restrict the freedom of those who do not share those beliefs. To me it is fairly obvious that if this principle is not enforced, religious freedom is an illusory right, dependent entirely on the whims of whatever religious group happens to have enough votes. And it is not a legal, let alone a constitutional principle; it is a moral principle. If this position makes me a hyper-secularist – and, by the way, is a hyper-secularist more or less secular than an ultra-secularist? – at least it doesn’t interfere with my religious beliefs.

    OFT is no longer with us. That was not my decision; however, I have no problem with the decision being made. In any case, because he cannot respond here, I think it would be improper for me to respond further to his comments above.

    I’m sure I’ve missed some points and, for that matter, probably misrepresented some readers’ comments. I apologize in advance.

  166. Chris says:

    Tom, I said your analogy was flippable, not that it was flipped. Dad’s fetus in the bush analogy was flippable too, but unlike yours, was not meant to stand alone.

    The violinist is an example of a serious attempt at analogy in the abortion domain because it not only attempts a thorough correspondence (which, among other things, makes it difficult to flip), but because it begins with the opponents’ assumptions. It’s flawed, but it’s a serious attempt.

    DAR, coincidentally, my dissertation and masters thesis were on analogy (including some computational modeling), as has been the bulk of my experimental research.

    Anyway, I agree with you on the purpose of rational deliberation, though on issues like this, where opinions are generally formed, and emotions and intuitions well primed, this purpose is extremely difficult to achieve (and I was thinking more Haidt and Greene than Hume).

    On viability, as it’s a numbers game, with the numbers firmly stacked against the fetus until around 25 to 27 weeks, I tend to see it as problematic, in the sense of perpetuating the ambiguity in question, when taken by itself. That’s why I prefer a neurological marker (around 27 weeks, well after the earliest possible viability date): it’s unchanging, consistent with other ways of approaching personhood at other life stages, and unambiguous. I have issues with aborting viable fetuses after 27 weeks. I know neurological criteria for personhood at the beginning and end of life are not likely to be s intuitively salient for most people, but I think they represent an empirically salient point, and for that reason, with enough cajoling, a significant number of informed people cn potentially be brought around.

  167. Heidegger says:

    I am sincerely saddened that Oft has been exiled—to where, Devil’s Island? Elba? Alcatraz? Damn. While I certainly had my disagreements with him, he seemed like an extremely good-natured zealot, and one who obviously put in a lot of work to dig up all those scriptural references to try and prove his points. He was never insulting, vulgar, hurtful with his words–almost always kind-hearted. Doesn’t sincerity, even if somewhat misguided, count for anything? I am very upset with this decision. I would gladly offer my head on platter for the return of the one and only, OFT. I’m serious. And to really make your day, I will no longer participate in any further discussions on this blog. I know that will undoubtedly cause thunderous applause, joy, and great relief with Chris, James Hanley, and most of all, DAR, although I’m sure there are several others here I’m missing. Good luck and all the best. Will miss all of you! Sincerely and with deep regrets, Heidegger

  168. tom van dyke says:

    Chris, flip away. I parked it here in front of a largely hostile audience with a great motivation to flip it in order to roadtest it. So please flip it rather than characterize it as “flippable.” I like it better than the violinist because the “bumper’s” moral responsibility figures in, even if their fault is inadvertent.

    [Before the world went insane, “moral” theory contemplated the conundrum between rights and duties. We do not choose which “moral” duties we accept and those we don’t; they come with the whole enchilada of humanness.]

    I skimmed the Thomson essay, where the person secures all the windows and screens, but still something gets in.

    If it’s only a bug, you kill it. If it’s a bird, you try everything to shoo it out.

    If it’s a dog, you feed it and try to get it adopted, and if that fails, you take it to the doggie orphanage!

    I was happy to see DAR defend his thesis some more, as there are many implications for moral reasoning still not touched.

    [Still don’t buy that “morality” requires we neuter the religious conscience in the public square. And the practical circumvention is a “don’t ask, don’t tell”—one’s opposition to abortion is, well, “noncognitivism!”]

  169. tom van dyke says:

    And BTW, Chris, I do find “the neurological criteria for personhood at the beginning and end of life” salient, and that’s not necessarily the viability question. Didn’t get into it as it goes farther afield than DAR’s OP.

    I also find the moral agency of third parties [or second parties, if we don’t count the guest of honor] even more salient, perhaps most salient. It is not self-evident that even the party of the first part is not harmed by the “procedure.”

  170. James Hanley says:

    The decision to ban OFT was mine. He was banned due to a reverse Midas effect–every thread he touched turned to dross.

    I’d have no objection to accepting Heidegger’s head on a plate (if not for the legal problems entailed in disposing of a human head), but would not offer OFT’s return in response as he would only need to be banished again in the future, as he reportedly has been from multiple other blogs. But if Heidegger sincerely intends to protest the decision by boycotting this blog, I’ll count the decision as a two-fer. On the other hand, I’m starting a pool on when he’ll renege and return.

  171. Chris says:

    Tom, the analogy is flappable because it’s incomplete, it only maps onto its target domain partially. As a result, unlike the violinist, by filling in the rest anyone can turn it around. For example, I could change the time standing there to nine months, add great risk to and sacrifices of health, finance, career, and more, suggest that the person who’s knocked something (let’s add the ambiguity, too), potentially a person, over the edge be responsible for whomever is hanging over the side, should they turn out to be a person, in every way, for eighteen years after it’s all over, and what’s more, unlike a person dangling over the edge, no one can help by pulling the potential person hanging over the edge up until they’ve been hanging there for at least 7 months (and even then it’s a big risk, only to be taken if we learn that the potential person hanging over the edge, or the person holding on, has some serious health problems that necessitate an early retrieval). There are myriad possibilities, all of which will make the person who’s left there keeping whatever it is over the side of the cliff from falling look much more sympathetic.

    I too am concerned about the moral agency of third and second parties (the potential harm to the first party, by whom I assume you mean the mother, by terminating a pregnancy has been greatly exaggerated by pro-life groups), but again, the way I approach it, the agent with certain moral agency trumps the agent with possible or potential moral agency.

  172. tom van dyke says:

    Well, you limned the “rights” part but not the duties.

    If we exclude the duties, then of course there’s an unlimited right to abortion.

    As for the harm to the mother, think it’s the pro-choice folks who underplay that. I grab this from a conservative website:

    But there are significant negative health effects associated with induced abortion. By 2008, for instance, 59 studies had shown a statistically significant increase in the risk of pre-term birth and low birth weight in future pregnancies for women who have had induced abortions. Increased risk of placenta previa in future pregnancies is also well established. And much to the chagrin of the abortion-is-no-big-deal crowd, there is a substantial body of medical literature indicating that induced abortion leads to increased risk of negative mental-health outcomes, including suicide ideation, alcohol dependence, illegal-drug dependence, major depression, and anxiety disorder. The anecdotal evidence is strong as well, as a visit to http://www.afterabortion.com, a politically neutral forum for women mourning abortions, will quickly make clear.

    and do not offer it as fact, but as at least potentially factual, and there is little evidence that abortion providers are the least bit concerned with sharing this information with their clients. And anecdotally, Patricia Neal’s obituary noted that she regretted her the abortion [the father was Gary Cooper] every day of her life.

    Do you think young girls are warned of such a possibility? I doubt it.

    Nor, on the abstract level, is it self-evident “third parties” get a “moral” pass.

  173. Chris says:

    Do you think young girls are warned of such a possibility? I doubt it.

    In some states, they are by law, regardless of the severity or incidence of those risks.

    On the issue of abortion and mental health, I’ll point you to this. It’s consistent with the bulk of the literature, as you’d expect from a meta-analysis. There’s also this.

    It is true that induced abortions are associated with pre-term births, according to most (but not all) studies, though this association is quite small (smaller than the association between pre-term births and smoking, getting pregnant when older, and even being single). Again, these are the sorts of risks that physicians are legally required to disclose in some states, and which are readily available even in standard Planned Parenthood literature.

    The association between abortion and low birth weights is less clear (see, e.g., this paper.

    As for “rights” vs. “duties,” I’m all for someone arguing that women have a “duty” not to abort a fetus, so long as they have the legal right to. I’d disagree, but my goal is keeping abortion legal and giving women the right to control their own bodies and lives, so if some people blather about their “duties” while abortion remains legal, I’ll say more power to ’em.

  174. James Hanley says:

    there is a substantial body of medical literature indicating that induced abortion leads to increased risk of negative mental-health outcomes, including suicide ideation, alcohol dependence, illegal-drug dependence, major depression, and anxiety disorder.

    Oh, boy, without some citations I’d be dubious about whether they haven’t reversed the arrow of causation with this. I would expect every one of those things to be significantly correlated with abortion, but at least as likely to cause a decision to abort as to be caused by such a decision.

    And, yes, young girls are frequently warned of the dangers. Conservatives have fought hard in many states for required pre-abortion counseling, and the Supreme Court has, I believe, upheld such requirements.

  175. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Mr. van Dyke writes:

    And anecdotally, Patricia Neal’s obituary noted that she regretted her the abortion [the father was Gary Cooper] every day of her life.

    I like to think it happened something like this:

  176. Chris says:

    James, the article I linked shows that the mental health portion of Tom’s quote is bullshit.

  177. tom van dyke says:

    Chris, can you behave yourself at least when the topic is important? http://www.afterabortion.com is not bullshit.

    As for the “59 studies,” I didn’t offer them as proof as I haven’t checked them out. I did offer them as a questioning of the prevailing narrative, so uncritically accepted by pro-choicers. the knee-jerk rejection of them—again, by people who have not examined them for themselves—suggests an unconcern for the truth of a very difficult matter.

    What we have seen here, however, is a reduction of “moral” reasoning to modern “rights talk.” This is the prevailing mindset, and why I use scare quotes around “moral” most of the time. What Roe did was preempt a very necessary discussion and examination of what is “moral.”

    As for the legalisms—which DAR said at the outset he was not getting into, my own position is pretty much what’s thought to be our consensus—not banned, not unrestricted. I believe in consent of the governed, and that’s actually the realistic position taken by most opponents of Roe, that “moral” decisions are not signed over to the judiciary by the Constitution.

    That pre-abortion counseling has been made law kicking and scratching against the absolutist pro-choice position [and upheld by the judiciary] is somewhat comforting. However, I can point you to “undercover” exposes that reveal the young girl is reassured the fetus “is just a bunch of cells.”

    But there is no point. If the “59 studies” were waved away summarily, it just the same boring epistemology wars.

  178. James Hanley says:

    We all know how Mr. Van Dyke feels about the social sciences, so it’s not surprising that he’d reject a peer-reviewed research article in favor of mere anecdotal evidence that suits his predispositions.

    It’s really quite perverse. The essential framing of Mr. Van Dyke’s general argumentative approach is, “Social science isn’t true science, so I reject it. In it’s place I prefer something that’s even less scientific.”

    And to be pedantic, Chris didn’t specifically say that website is bullshit. He said the claim that abortion causes mental health problems is bullshit. Two substantively different things that you’ve managed to conflate.

  179. Chris says:

    Tom, it is bullshit. If you don’t like the data, and choose to run with your own opinion (formed from reading pro-life websites), well, then that’s pretty much the definition of bullshit.

    What’s also bullshit is your insistence that the “prevailing narrative” doesn’t include acknowledging that there are risks associated with abortion. As I noted, the research shows that the mental health risks are very small, and likely not a result of abortion (instead, they’re likely the effects of pre-existing mental health conditions). The physical health risks are real, though small, and well known to providers and anyone who walks into their office seeking an abortion (as I said, Planned Parenthood has no problem talking about this stuff).

    Oh, and the reason that “pre-abortion counseling” has met so much resistance is not because the pro-choice crowd is afraid of the facts, but because the pro-life crowd, as you are so ably demonstrating now, likes to distort the facts.

    So, Tom, I promise to behave so long as you do, and ignoring the facts in favor of your own prejudices is certainly a more serious form of misbehavior than calling bullshit what it is.

  180. Scott S. says:

    DAR responds:
    Scott S holds that the brute biological fact that it is women and not men who bear the physical burden and panoply of risks involved in pregnancy, granting their sex the unilateral right to decide, presumably on an individual basis, whether to have an abortion is necessary to ensure what he calls moral equality. This is problematic on several grounds. First, while sex is by no means an irrelevant fact of a person’s life, it is irrelevant as to whether one is a person. Another way of phrasing that is that whatever moral rights a person should be considered to possess should not accrue to that person because of demographic differences. Third, if, as a general principle, looking at unequally shared burdens and risks among various groups on accidental grounds (in the sense that it is purely accidental whether a person is male or female, tall or short, this color or that, etc.) suffices to divvy up rights differently among those groups, then it is reasonable to ask what other differences might augur different rights. This is a very slippery slope, indeed.

    I’ll address the three points in order:
    1. No contest. I believe we are then agreed that men and women, being equally “persons,” are equal moral agents.
    2. I think the moral rights and duties a person has depend strongly on the physical capacities of the person. Black parents and white parents have the same duties to care for their biological children, but since black children need a modicum more sunlight than white children do, the moral value of certain behaviors, such as how much outside playtime is enforced by the parents, may be slightly different. The moral differences accrue because of differences in physical needs, not merely because of demographics, that is, because we describe one child as white and another as black.

    So it is with the particular rights and responsibilities of women towards their fetuses. There is no way to equate the moral agency of men and women when considering gestation. Therefore, I hold that to the extent any argument against allowing abortion focuses on the equal moral agency of the parents in the sex act, it is flawed in its failure to recognize the unequal moral agency in gestation.

    3. I think my response answers this concern as well: It is not the accident of being male or female that confers different rights and duties, but the physical differences in abilities and needs. There is no slippery slope. If a person can’t see, they aren’t allowed to drive. If a person can’t hear, we do not discharge any duties of warning them of something by shouting at them from behind. If a man can’t carry an unborn child to term, he can’t physically force a woman to do so.

    Abortion may be a moral wrong, but denying women the right to abort is a greater wrong.

    As for the telos comment, I should have left the Greek out of the matter and just used the word “purpose” instead. Because I think I correctly characterize your stance as holding the fetus has no purpose established by someone else–it is a person in its own right. I hold that anything that is physically and wholly dependent on one particular person cannot be a moral person in its own right, because no moral person has an absolute claim on another specific person. Instead, the embryo is a thing which has as its purpose the creation of a new person, and, if inside her body, the mother can do with it as she thinks is moral.

  181. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Chris writes:

    Oh, and the reason that “pre-abortion counseling” has met so much resistance is not because the pro-choice crowd is afraid of the facts, but because the pro-life crowd, as you are so ably demonstrating now, likes to distort the facts.

    Well, yes and no. As in a trial, admitted facts can be argued to be so emotionally provocative as to outweigh their probative value. Thus, for example, there has been significant opposition from abortion rights advocates over viewings of actual abortion procedures. Say what you will about the motives behind the push to have such viewings, the dispute there isn’t over facts.

  182. D.A. Ridgely says:

    I’m not sure where Scott gets his data regarding the sunlight needs of children of different color, but I’m sure there are “white” kids with darker skin than “black” kids, so such generalizations are, politely, bogus. Individuals have rights (and needs), not groups.

    Regarding the third point, however noble the desire to impose some ideal vision of equality among individuals, whether because of perceived inequalities among demographic groups or between equals, it is indeed not only a slippery slope but an impossible goal necessitating oppressive measures. We don’t disable the able so that the “differently abled” achieve some sort of equality. We do impose varying duties and restrictions on people, however, based not only on differences beyond their control (e.g., not permitting the blind to drive) but also based on what they have undertaken and the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their actions. Whether that does or should apply in the case of (1) merely being capable of becoming pregnant and / or voluntarily engaging in behavior that bears the risk of becoming pregnant goes to the heart of the discussion. Scott is, of course, entitled to decide these questions differently than I do, but I find his rationale mostly conclusory.

    His principle that “no moral person has an absolute claim on another specific person” (itself, a moral conclusion) is also problematic. The mother with infant who, for whatever reason, finds herself alone with her child for an extended period of time cannot, I think, morally say “This infant is currently physically and wholly dependent on me, but I prefer to protect my autonomy by not feeding and sheltering it.” Most of us are at varying points in our lives entirely dependent for our survival on someone else (an airline pilot, for example). Such occasions do not negate our personhood, so it remains to be shown how the case of pregnancy differs.

  183. Anna says:

    DAR – His principle that “no moral person has an absolute claim on another specific person” (itself, a moral conclusion) is also problematic. The mother with infant who, for whatever reason, finds herself alone with her child for an extended period of time cannot, I think, morally say “This infant is currently physically and wholly dependent on me, but I prefer to protect my autonomy by not feeding and sheltering it.” Most of us are at varying points in our lives entirely dependent for our survival on someone else (an airline pilot, for example). Such occasions do not negate our personhood, so it remains to be shown how the case of pregnancy differs.
    An infant is not necessarily dependent on the biological parent. The care for that infant can be from someone else. Putting your life into the hands of another willingly is not a fair analogy. While I understand your point, it does not address the fact that only the pregnant woman is responsible for the fetus while in utero. The fetus is soley dependent upon her for survival. If we don’t give the woman the choice to be a willing participant, how is that not giving fetus is given a higher moral status than she?

  184. James Hanley says:

    I’m sure there are “white” kids with darker skin than “black” kids, so such generalizations are, politely, bogus. Individuals have rights (and needs), not groups.

    Whether the information is bogus or not, Scott isn’t talking about group rights. If, indeed, kids with darker skins need more sunlight time (whether they are African-American, Latino, Filipino, or white), it’s not a group or collective right that he’s talking about, it’s an individual right based on a need that person has. That there are other people with the same need, allowing us to talk casually about “X people are…, does not mean there is a group right underlying the claim.

    Whether the need translates into a right other individuals without that need don’t have is a legitimate question (as a very white individual, do I actually have less right to time in the sun than my darker-skinned friend?). But claiming Scott is talking about a group right is a mischaracterization of the argument that leads us away from the more serious question.

  185. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Anna does not address the proffered analogy; namely, a situation in which there is, literally, no one else to care for the infant. Such situations, however rare in a largely urban / suburban society, are hardly unimaginable or incredible. A person need not have “higher moral status” to have in any particular situation a higher moral claim than another person. Rights conflict and their conflict must be resolved in some cases by giving priority to one person’s claim over another.

    I suspect Scott can defend his own point and correct my misunderstanding if that is, indeed, the case. However, rereading the paragraph in question, I see that Mr. Hanley’s reading is reasonable. Perhaps I placed too much emphasis on the beginning of that paragraph without giving due deference to its final sentence.

  186. James Hanley says:

    A person need not have “higher moral status” to have in any particular situation a higher moral claim than another person.

    Couldn’t this potential–although certainly not inevitably–bolster Scott’s claim? Even if a woman does not have a higher moral status, she might have a higher moral claim?

    Of course that could be turned around as well, to say that the fetus has a higher moral claim, even if it has no higher moral status, which is how I think you would prefer to use it (please correct me if I’m wrong on that).

    It seems like an important construct to keep in mind, but not one that clearly leads to one outcome or the other. Rather, an important foundational assumption that needs to be filled in with specific claims.

    Which is all neither an argument for nor against your position, but just the thoughts you happened to stimulate in my mind.

  187. Chris says:

    I think DAR’s response to Anna is spot on, and one possible (though not necessary) implication is that the right to life is a higher moral claim than the right to control one’s own body, and therefore the fetus has a higher moral claim than the woman. This implication rests on the fetus having equal moral status, or at least a difference in moral status that is proportional to the difference in the moral claim. This, then, gets us right back where we started.

  188. Chris says:

    Throw a few ceteris peribuses (peribi?) in there to keep that paragraph from being too absolutist.

  189. tom van dyke says:

    Tom, it is bullshit. If you don’t like the data, and choose to run with your own opinion (formed from reading pro-life websites), well, then that’s pretty much the definition of bullshit.

    Not atall. The “59 studies” raise questions in my mind. In other minds, they are summarily waved away.

  190. James Hanley says:

    Here’s a hypothetical that I think is analogous. Imagine conjoined twins, connected in such a way that one is entirely dependent on the other. X could live if they were separated, but Y could not.

    Would it be wrong for the parents to have a pre-birth surgery that removed the dependent one? Would it be wrong for them to do so shortly after birth? At five years? Would it be wrong at age 21 for the non-dependent one to demand full independence through separation?

    In each case it would mean the death of twin Y.

  191. James Hanley says:

    TvD,

    Are you absolutely certain that the “59 studies” claim in this case isn’t analogous to creationists’ “lots and lots of research”? Given that you’re citing from a source that is clearly politically biased, I can’t shake that suspicion. On the other hand, not having looked at them myself, I recognize that my suspicion could be totally off-base.

    Chris has linked us to a peer-reviewed study demonstrating no harm. Can you link us to a peer-reviewed study–as opposed to a claim that there are a bunch of such studies–showing harm?

  192. Chris says:

    Not atall. The “59 studies” raise questions in my mind. In other minds, they are summarily waved away.

    Tom, I’m going to assume you’re not talking to me, since a.) I actually know the literature pretty well, b.) your 59 studies, not linked or referenced, even in the article you took the quote from, are explicitly not limited to the topic of mental health, and c.) I provided you with a meta-analysis performed by actual researchers of well over 59 studies on the mental health issue, along with a longitudinal study on quality of life, and d.) I conceded, knowing the literature as I do, that there are negative health outcomes (particularly those related to future pregnancies), but that the changes in risk levels are relatively small. So you can’t be talking about me. Wait, you were quoting me, so you must be. I can see that you neither know what the hell you’re talking about nor are you capable of discussing this beyond the level of “I know you are but what am I,” so I’m just going to ignore you from now on. If anyone else has read this paragraph down to this point, I recommend they do the same.

  193. tom van dyke says:

    Springfield, IL (August 13, 2008) – The credibility of a new report on the mental health effects of abortion from the American Psychological Association is tarnished by the fact that the lead author, Dr. Brenda Major, has violated the APA’s own data sharing rules by consistently refusing to allow her own data on abortion and mental health effects to be re-analyzed by other researchers.

    Major, a proponent of abortion rights, has even evaded a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to deliver copies of data she collected under a federal grant. Because her study of emotional reactions two years after an abortion was federally funded, the data she collected is actually federal property. But in Major’s response to 2004 HHS request for a copy of the data, Major excused herself from delivering the data writing, “It would be very difficult to pull this information together.”

    However, a researcher familiar with Major’s work, David Reardon of the Elliot Institute, has seen portions of Major’s unpublished findings. Reardon, who has published over a dozen studies on abortion and mental health, believes Major is withholding the data to prevent her findings supporting a link between abortion and subsequent health problems from coming to light.

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/aug/08081307.html

    Sure, that’s from a pro-life website. But one does not need to accept the validity of the charge to perhaps back off the uncritical acceptance of the study. Funny business happens all the time.

    And yes, I do have a suspicion of the politicization and honesty of the social science academy. They are human like everyone else. One can also find one’s career endangered if one deviates from prevailing orthodoxy. This would [and did] apply when the academy was in “conservative” hands as well.

    But sure, Chris, I do prefer you ignore me if you cannot speak civilly. Calling bullshit makes you look like a brute, not this interlocutor. Your uncritical acceptance of the study as if it ends all inquiry is dogmatic, if not “Biblical.” You have nothing on the fundies.

  194. Chris says:

    Tom, I will just say this: if you think presenting actual research, with significantly more than 59 studies on one topic, and treating it with significantly more weight than 59 unnamed studies is “uncritical acceptance of a study” (again, it’s not one study, it’s a meta-analysis of multiple studies, all of which are cited, so you can even go in and look at them individually), while you seem to dismiss it out of hand because of the presence of the words “59 studies” without any citations, on a right wing website, then you’ll have a hard time speaking civilly to you. Quite frankly, I take your approach to be much less civil. But if you need me to call it “unequivocally wrong and bordering on a complete disregard for facts,” then I’ll do that (there’s a book out there called Bullshit on exactly this sort of thing, lest you believe I’m not using a technical term). The fact is, there is no real evidence that abortion leads to an increased incidence in mental health issues, and as that second study I linked shows, relative to unwanted births, it may actually improve mental well being over the long term. The “59 studies,” despite your continulally implying otherwise (except when you originally cited it) are not all about mental health (though we have no idea how many are, since they don’t give us any cites), so if you want to keep citing the number 59, you’re going to have to start seriously qualifying it, as in saying, “I don’t have a clue how many of these were about mental health, or what they showed, but I do know that at least some of them were about mental health issues.”

    Anyway, I was irked earlier, but I will say this: if you decide to contribute something to the discussion other than “59 unknown studies” and “the pro-choicers do this thing [that they don’t actually do], and refuse to admit this other thing [which they readily admit],” then I will pay attention to you. Otherwise, what would be the point?

    Oh, and I challenge you to find a non-pro-life site that mentions the issue with data sharing. You won’t find one, because it’s not an issue, particularly since she cites all of the articles (i.e., the data) in the paper. Anyway, I await your adding something rather than vague accusations of not caring or hiding stuff that’s not hidden, and “59 studies.”

  195. tom van dyke says:

    I’m not as certain about things as you, and do not trust the academy as much. The lead researcher on your “proof” is a pro-choice advocate. If this does not give you pause, you are incapable of questioning your own presuppositions.

    So for me to question your presuppositions serves no purpose.

    I do think Hume—if not John Calvin—is quite relevant here. We are more rationalizing creatures than reasonable ones. I’m beginning to warm up to “non-cognitivism.”

  196. Chris says:

    Tom, do you know what a meta-analysis is?

    Relatedly, since I am not actually relying on one study (hell, I gave you two), I am not worried about the opinions of one of several authors of one study. I gave you that cite because it contains references to so many other studies (because it’s a friggin’ meta-analysis!).

    And by the way, since when do conservatives oppose things because they might lead to slight risks of somewhat bad things happening to the people who do them? I look forward to your comments in favor of outlawing cigarettes, transfats, guns, and Jonas Brothers music.

  197. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Social conservatives of my acquaintance oppose marijuana, pornography, violence on television, etc. substantially on the grounds that those who indulge in such things harm themselves directly or consequentially. For what it’s worth.

    It probably doesn’t need to be said, but of all the various sorts of arguments claiming negative consequences, the sort that impress me the least are arguments about the pregnant woman’s harm to herself.

    I should think anyone who argues for the moral autonomy of women to obtain abortions because “it’s her body” would not only readily agree with me on that point but also be willing to generalize that principle, and yet there are all sorts of liberal abortion rights advocates who nonetheless wish to use the power of the state in all sorts of ways to keep us from harming ourselves. Go figure.

  198. James Hanley says:

    Chris–I suspect TvD does not know what a meta-analysis is. I doubt most people outside the academy do, so I’d actually be surprised and impressed if he did.

    TvD–A meta-analysis is an analysis that reviews a large set of literature on a particular subject (which is why Chris notes that it includes more than the 59 (unnamed) studies you refer to). In statistics, we normally accept a 95% confidence level as being acceptable, meaning that about 5% of the time the findings are actually wrong. (Actually, it’s becoming more common to demand a 98% confidence level, but that still leaves a 2% chance of being wrong). By reviewing a large number of studies, you can more or less crunch them all together, offsetting the studies that are right with those that are wrong, and coming to more accurate understanding of where the truth lies.

    This is one of the reasons why the claim of not revealing the data rings a bit hollow. If that claim references the meta-analysis, anyone can access the same data just by looking at the studies they used in the meta-analysis, and if they have the skills they can double-check the analysis for themselves. The “data” is already reported, known, and readily available to anyone who can access JStor or a major university library.

    It’s fine for you to say you distrust the academy, but foolish to follow that up by placing any trust at all in a political website’s claim of 59 un-named and un-cited studies. I can’t quite fathom the logic by which you reject an imperfect institution’s claims in favor of the claims of a far far more flawed institution. You might as well say, “I don’t trust the Catholic Church, and anyway, the Church of Scientology says…”

    Whatever the imperfections of the academy, at least they cite their damned sources so you can double-check them!

  199. Chris says:

    DAR, I am not sure I see abortion as of the same genus, so I don’t think the same principles apply, making at least this case poor evidence of liberal inconsistency (which is not to say there aren’t other pieces of evidence).

    And the social conservatives I know usually argue using harm to society with those things.

  200. tom van dyke says:

    Thank you, Mr. Hanley. I do know what one is, but thank you for kindly explaining in case I didn’t. I shall try to avoid the tall weeds of your only area of expertise, but meta-analyses have their weaknesses [and Chris, the better objection to Dr. Majors’ study was not the data-sharing per se, but the difficulty in repeating her results without access to the raw data].

    Meta-analyses are not necessarily preferable to, say, a solid 25-year longitudinal study, which at least can be assessed for its rigor. Speaking of which:

    Despite his own pro-choice political beliefs, [David M.] Fergusson responded to the committee with a letter stating that it would be “scientifically irresponsible” to suppress the findings simply because they touched on an explosive political issue.

    In an interview about the findings with an Australian radio host, Fergusson stated: “I remain pro-choice. I am not religious. I am an atheist and a rationalist. The findings did surprise me, but the results appear to be very robust because they persist across a series of disorders and a series of ages. . . . Abortion is a traumatic life event; that is, it involves loss, it involves grief, it involves difficulties. And the trauma may, in fact, predispose people to having mental illness.”

    Fergusson told reporters that “it verges on scandalous that a surgical procedure that is performed on over one in 10 women has been so poorly researched and evaluated, given the debates about the psychological consequences of abortion.”

    Following Fergusson’s complaints about the selective and misleading nature of the 2005 APA statement, the APA removed the page from their Internet site. The statement can still be found through a web archive service, however.

    http://www.afterabortion.org/news/Fergusson.htm

    I do not share your trust of the academy. I am sorry to use a pro-life site as my source, but as Dr, Fergusson notes, there is a certain suppression by “trusted” sources. Fergusson casts himself as an “honest broker,” however, if being atheist and pro-choice counts.

    His study itself, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, and Elizabeth M. Ridder, “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1): 16-24, 2006.

    Perhaps someone will read it. Not that I can play the methodology game in such expert company as this, but it is interesting to see the shoe on the other foot. In the end, empiricism rides on epistemology, and where there are humans involved—as subjects or observers—most every “truth” is suspect. Social science is often more social than it is science.
    ___________

    DAR wisely distances himself from my argument on harm to the mother in libertarian fashion, but is still faced with the conundrum of “moral” responsibility vs. modern “rights talk.” I do not envy him the task of sorting it out.

    My argument of harm to the mother is more directed at the moral agency of the abortion provider. Few wish to prosecute the mother—a human being in a very bad spot—but there are many with ideological and financial commitments to “choice” who are not morally vaccinated against the consequences of their actions.

    One not reduce morality to “consequentialism” to see that we are indeed responsible for the consequences of our actions, after the consequences are clear and not theoretical.

    What perhaps began as a humane avenue of relief for the unintentionally pregnant woman, away from the back-alleys and coat hangers, which were alleged to result in 5000-10,000 deaths, but was actually perhaps as low as a few hundred. [See Nathanson.]

    Not that these few hundred deaths are below our moral radar. But attitudes have changed toward the unwed mother and her child. We have not re-examined our presuppositions, however.

    Now there are now 1.2 million-1.4 million abortions in the United States every year. In making abortion “safe and legal,” we have made it anything but rare, nor have we necessarily alleviated human suffering a whit.

    There is more, but we’re at comment 200 or so, and I’ve tried to respect DAR’s original premises. I have not followed the abortion issue closely, nor examined the evidence of late, so at least for me this has been a productive inquiry. Not that I expected to change anyone’s mind, or even get them to re-evaluate their own positions. I’m most interested in seeing how or if DAR attempts to resolve his own conundrum, and I have a new appreciation for David Hume. If not John Calvin.

  201. James Hanley says:

    TvD,

    You relentlessly fall back on, “don’t trust the academy,” and “there are weaknesses with” as justifications for relying on even less reliable sources (e.g., political websites). Despite your pretensions, you increasingly appear to not even rise to the level of a pseudo-intellectual but to be a mere anti-intellectual.

    As to your preference for longitudinal studies, Chris pointed to one of those, along with the meta-analysis. Curiously, the one he pointed to had the same lead author as the one you pointed to. The earlier study which you point to concludes (according to the online abstract–I can’t access them from home): “The findings suggest that abortion in young women may be associated with increased risks of mental health problems..” The later study, pointed to by Chris, concludes: “even after adjustment for confounding factors, young women who had abortions had higher levels of subsequent educational achievement than those who became pregnant but did not have abortions.” “May be associated with” is not a strong claim for a finding. It’s very tentative. “after adjusting for confounding factors…had higher levels” is a much less tentative, much stronger, claim. It also undermines to some extent a claim of causing mental harm, since those with substantial mental problems have lower rates of educational achievement.

    In the game of dueling 25 year longitudinal study reports (about the very same longitudinal study), I’ll call it a draw. That still leaves Chris with the edge on research reports, by the margin of one meta-analysis.

    empiricism rides on epistemology

    Well, duh, as does non-empiricism, of course. How dishonest is it to imply that empiricism is somehow specially disadvantaged by dependence on epistemology.

    , and where there are humans involved—as subjects or observers—most every “truth” is suspect.

    Which is of course true also for the natural sciences, philosophy, and theology–perhaps most especially for theology, where the certainty of referring to anything beyond our own imaginations is at its weakest. In any case, like your reference to empiricism and epistemology, you are actually referring to a general truth–because humans are involved as subjects or observers in every field of study (including philosophy and theology)–but you again dishonestly imply that the social sciences are uniquely disadvantaged this way.

    There is no legitimate basis for your applying these general limitations only to our field of study, and not to your own favored approaches. That you do so demonstrates only the rank dishonesty of your approach to intellectual debate.

  202. tom van dyke says:

    You relentlessly fall back on, “don’t trust the academy,” and “there are weaknesses with” as justifications for relying on even less reliable sources (e.g., political websites).

    I question your trust of your trusted sources, James. The rest is ad hom. Take it up with Fergusson’s paper and pls leave me out of your way. You’re the empiricist here; you asked for a cite and now you have one, from an atheist pro-choicer. Deconstruct and delegitimize away. I’m not really interested, except as you prove your prowess at your area of expertise. Rock on.

    And if you are utilitarian or consequentialist in any way, you must also answer for thousands of abortions turning into millions, even if the original motivation was humanitarian/compassionate, whatever your “moral” standard is.

    And I do not “dishonestly imply” anything. That is a slander, James. I ask we reconsider our presuppositions. I certainly I question Chris’ pontification that anything that disagrees with Dr. Majors’ study is “bullshit.” [He is also invited to take up Dr. Fergusson’s paper. Educate us.]

    One need only look at the human suffering of Patricia Neal or Jennifer O’Neill

    http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/testimonies/jennifer-oneill.html

    to perhaps take a breath before continuing. Human beings are not mere data.

    No, I do not trust the academy, James. We are not mere data. Even if there is no God and no afterlife, we still have souls, man. Some things feed our souls and others harm them. The counterfactuals I offer document the harm. They are empirical, not theoretical or abstract. We must deal with them.

  203. James Hanley says:

    TvD

    Once again you do it. You re-emphasize your claim not to trust the academy, but what do you suggest in place of it? Mere anecdotes from political websites. I will reiterate–you recommend that we rely on even more unreliable sources than the academy. I question your trust of untrustworthy sources.

    And when you do dishonestly apply a general principle, it’s no slander to point it out. You might want to look up the definition of slander–it’s just one more of the increasingly large number of things which you’ve made a hash of in commenting here.

    I did ask for a cite. You present one that says there “may” be some affect. And I pointed out that Chris has presented more citations suggesting there is not much effect at all. Simply pointing to one research article that makes a tentative claim does nothing to prove your point.

  204. Scott S. says:

    James correctly assessed my point about white and black children. In fact, I purposely used those identifiers because they can be physically descriptive, in which case they line up exactly with the needs of the children, or demographically descriptive. So, it was meant to spark the same confusion as the male/female difference, but then clear it up at the end.

    Here’s a link on the physical needs point. we were taught this as part of our adoption training.

    I find a right to life is meaningless without a right to autonomy over one’s body. The example of the infant solely, but temporarily, in the mother’s care is interesting. I need to go to work now, so allow me to put that of for a bit.

    If my assessment of the moral value of the fetus is conclusory, so is the statement that all fertilized eggs are moral persons. Here lies the impasse. I appreciate DAR providing this forum and for interacting with me to give my thoughts a full airing.

  205. Chris says:

    James, what I find most interesting is that Tom keeps suggesting that we’re the ones who are biased, while he selectively chooses sources and quotes to counter research. It’s sort of like living in Bizarro world.

    Tom, the meta-analysis I linked was published in 2009, not 2005. What’s more, even in Fergusson’s work, the picture is different from what you seem to think is, as this article shows. I look forward to seeing what pro-life website quote you use to counter Fergusson’s finding that “nearly 90% of respondents believed that the abortion was the right decision.”

  206. James Hanley says:

    Chris,

    It’s hopeless. TvD is one of those folks who is quite bright, but incapable of really grasping the concept of intellectual honesty. I couldn’t begin to speculate as to the causes, but the symptoms are unmistakable.

  207. stuartl says:

    TvD,

    Do you really think that the long term health benefits of abortion are a useful factor in advocating for or against abortion rights? If women should have the right, then it is a useful factor for them, and them alone, to determine whether or not to actually get an abortion.

    There is evidence that allowing women to destroy their fetuses cuts down on long term crime rates, making the world a safer place and thereby benefiting society. Is that a good argument for allowing abortions?

  208. Scott S. says:

    I think extreme thought experiments, such as the trapped mother with infant, can be really enlightening in hashing out fine distinctions in ethics. That said, in those rare real cases of moral extremity, the determination is usually in the details.

    Ultimately, the question of the infant being solely dependent on its mother (or father, as the case may be) in a situation of isolation turns on how responsible the mother is for the infant being in that position in the first place.

    Are both mother and infant starving to death, and she is going to abandon the child in the forest? Well, she should have allowed someone else to take care of the child before heading out there of her own volition, and is therefore in the wrong. Is she is not directly at fault for their isolation? She still probably brought the infant into some situation that caused their current predicament, so she bears some responsibility to the infant to get them both out alive, and not just try to save her own skin. Perhaps she and the baby were thrown out of the house by a violent father. He’s clearly the bad guy in that situation, and she may have no responsibility at all for their predicament. In that case, it still seems pretty clear that she should keep trying to help the baby as long as there’s no terrible choice she has to make that means they either both probably die, or just the baby probably dies. I think, in the end, the baby still does not have an absolute claim on the mother, just a very strong one. If the mother dies, the baby almost certainly will die, too.

    In the case of conception, though, the man is as responsible for the creation of the fetus as the woman. Therefore, she cannot carry 100% responsibility for conception. So, I’d say the fetus has an even weaker claim on the mother than the isolated infant does on its mother. Even if it is a full person, which I still don’t grant. (I didn’t expect to get to that conclusion, but that’s why writing about this stuff to think about it is good.) If moral rights do not accrue to a person because of the accidents of birth, like sex, then neither can moral duties. Therefore, responsibility for the creation of a fetus is not more the mother’s than the father’s, and so, the mother owes no more to the fetus than does the father.

    Perhaps this is the best reason for insisting that the fetus is not a person equal to children or adults: Fathers cannot interact with and support the fetus. They can only support (or attempt to control) the pregnant mother, meaning the male half of the human race is incapable of treating the fetus itself as a full moral person. Therefore, neither should the female half have to treat the fetus as a full person, unless they choose to themselves.

  209. James Hanley says:

    Is requiring a mother to carry a fetus to full-term treating her as a means, rather than an end? Was that part of Kant’s ideas? Does it have any relevance here?

  210. tom van dyke says:

    Do you really think that the long term health benefits of abortion are a useful factor in advocating for or against abortion rights?

    No. I’m not speaking of the legalities. But I do see now why the recent law in Nebraska was passed, opening abortion providers to liability for harm to the mother, though. I have not followed the issue closely, having shrugged my shoulders after Roe. It’s good to see that reality is drifting into the absolutism, however.

    Ultimately, the question of the infant being solely dependent on its mother (or father, as the case may be) in a situation of isolation turns on how responsible the mother is for the infant being in that position in the first place.

    Yes. I disagree with the rest of your analysis, Scott, but at least the moral question is more properly framed. I maintain that whether one gender has babies or if theoretically both did, the moral dilemma would remain the same.

    I look forward to seeing what pro-life website quote you use to counter Fergusson’s finding that “nearly 90% of respondents believed that the abortion was the right decision.”

    I used Fergusson as an example of how unpopular conclusions are suppressed, to open that line of inquiry. You certainly may argue that “only” 10% of women are harmed by the procedure. However, it could be more. The subjectivity of asking women who had abortions is tantamount to asking them to defend their decision. As rationalizing animals, we will tend to do that.

    And it’s very clever to talk to each other about me in the third person, but that does not enhance your arguments. Until you take your scalpel equally to studies that support your position, you have not inquired, only debated.

    I’m raising questions—I have doubts about all the “facts”; I have no prescriptions. What I do know is that Roe preempted this soul-searching national discussion, if I may use “soul” non-religiously, but in some “non-cognitive” sense.

  211. D.A. Ridgely says:

    In his second to latest comment, Scott writes: “If my assessment of the moral value of the fetus is conclusory, so is the statement that all fertilized eggs are moral persons.”

    No. I’ve sketched out an argument based on two points. First, as a general rule, when we have any reason to believe that our actions may result in the accidental or unjust killing of another person, our moral intuitions are to proceed with greater care and to err, if it is error, on the side of not killing that person. Second, I’ve offered reasons why pegging personhood to consciousness, experiencing pain, etc. does not withstand close inspection insofar as those stages are claimed to be meaningfully related to the issue; that is, insofar as it is claimed that consciousness is a capacity a human must have at present to be deemed a person. I have explained why I reject consequentialist arguments insofar as they reduce to denying personhood to the unborn human being because treating it and its life as means would result in some desired end whereas treating it as an end in itself would not. Others may not be persuaded by these points, they may weigh their importance differently, they may ascribe to the sort of consequentialism to which I object, etc. ; but you can’t say I haven’t offered an argument for my conclusion.

    By contrast, the assertion of Scott’s I called conclusory is: “It is not the accident of being male or female that confers different rights and duties, but the physical differences in abilities and needs.” If I missed his supporting argument, I apologize in advance and ask that it be restated.

    In his most recent comment, Scott elaborates my analogy of an isolated woman and child and points out correctly that the devil is often in the details. No doubt we can tweak the ‘facts’ of the hypothetical either so as we would generally agree the woman had an obligation to care for the infant or she didn’t. I have never asserted anything even closely resembling absolute rights, so I’m not sure why that point is stressed again. Rights are relative, they come in conflict and must be sorted out. The question, as always, is whether the unborn human has moral rights and why or why not. If not, well, end of story. If so, then we have to balance those rights against the mother’s rights.

    I am frankly confused by his discussion of the relative rights or responsibilities of both the biological mother and the biological father. Regardless of who else might bear some moral responsibility for the survival of the infant, the question is whether the mother bears at least prima facie responsibility when no one else is there. If a parent’s child was standing in a street with oncoming cars and the child would have to be moved four feet to avoid being hit, I don’t think the one parent on the scene could satisfy his duty by pushing the child a mere two feet. But, as I said, I’m not sure I understand that part of his comment.

  212. James Hanley says:

    And it’s very clever to talk to each other about me in the third person…

    Ah, moral grandstanding. Well, now I’m convinced.

    I’m raising questions—I have doubts about all the “facts”

    Ah, the old, “I’m only raising questions, so you can’t critique me” dodge. That’s become a favorite of conservatives since the rise of talk radio.

  213. tom van dyke says:

    Everytime you pull this stuff, James, you admit you lost again.

    What we have seen is that the bland assertion of Brenda Strong’s meta-analysis is called into serious question by Fergusson’s longitudinal study, that as many as 1 in 8 women [and perhaps more] are harmed by their abortions. You’re quite right that my task was simply to uproot Chris’ [and yours, perhaps] certainty that abortion is a relatively benign procedure, that the Brenda Strong meta-analysis closes the question.

    And I daresay that’s still what the young women are being told by the abortion-providing establishment, per Strong’s study, that abortion is relatively benign, unless they are legally required to do otherwise.

    I have accepted more burden of proof than you, your tactic being your usual negation of contrary evidence, usually featuring your area of expertise, academic statistical studies. But the facts are simply not on your side. There are other corroborating studies, but this has devolved into the usual empty duck hunt, where you fire away from behind your duckblind but hit nothing.

    What we have also learned here is that for some people, modern “rights talk” has replaced genuine moral philosophy, indeed the very vocabulary of what is “moral” is being lost in our enlightened age. So now all pretense of principled argument has been abandoned, and you’re back to ad hom and other dirty play, the utility of this discussion is over.

    Thx to everyone for their thoughts and to the blog—well, DAR’s posts anyway—for a chance to roadtest some thoughts.

  214. Scott S. says:

    DAR: [On the “conclusory” stuff, I was mainly confused about what you were saying was conclusory. Since I myself saw reason to fill out my thoughts on the statement you meant to object to, and since you’ve properly defended your statement, I’ll be happy to leave that as closed.]

    My comments about the equal duties of the biological mother and father to the fetus are only meaningful in the context of abortion. They do not apply to the abandoned infant scenario as effectively, indeed because the details are so important, whereas the details of conception are relatively simple. I do not think the mother has any prima facie duty to her fetus, but she does to her infant. I do, in fact, think a mother may have some considered duty to her fetus.

    In fact, I long ago carefully considered how I would view my fetus were I a woman. (Yeah, ladies, I’ll never feel childbirth, morning sickness, etc. I actually regret that.) My conclusion was pretty close to your stance. Provided I wasn’t raped, I would regard the child growing inside me as something I had foreseen as a possibility, and as an at least “potential” person. I would have to be in difficult circumstances to opt for abortion. If I proceeded and the pregnancy continued, I would have to find my situation increasingly dire as time progressed to change my mind and opt for a later abortion. The whole time, it would be my own feelings about my personal responsibility for the child’s current state that would inform my decision.

    So, it may be we’re arguing only on the edges of any real-life situation. I appreciate the structured plea for considering the consequences of sex for all parties and potential parties involved. What I felt was missing from the discussion when I jumped in was any challenge to the idea that anyone but the mother herself has good reason to think of the fetus as a person. I have trouble seeing any reason for that. The pregnant mother may have increased rights regarding her person and “fragile” state (scare quotes are because I’ve known some pregnant women who were anything but fragile). My ideas were nascent. I initially tried to draw a distinction between the possible moral actions available to fathers as a group as opposed to mothers as a group, and the probable physical consequences as they fall entirely on mothers and not on fathers. That got confused as some kind of declaration of rights for men as inherently different from those of women. My later comments focused more on how the fetus can demand duties only from the mother, and not from the father, despite the father having equal, or, as is sometimes the case, more, responsibility for the act that caused conception. Just as equal rights entail equal responsibilities, so do unequal responsibilities entail unequal rights. Contrapositive: If A=B => C=D, then C~=D => A~=B. We can disagree about what C equals and what D equals, but all the discussion was ignoring that the rights of the mother cannot possibly be equal to those of the father.

    I need to wrap this up. Please allow me to ping you on a vaguely related thought (you may refuse the ping, of course). As the Constant Viewer, you must have seen Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For those who haven’t, Liz Taylor and Charles Burton had an imaginary son that they talked about only between the two of them, but Liz gets drunk and blabs to houseguests about him, which was against the rules. Their imaginary son had become a real person in Taylor’s character’s mind. When her husband exercised his only power under the rules and killed him, she accused him of being a murderer. But of course he wasn’t. Yet, it was still a difficult decision for him…one he undertook after hesitation to save his wife as well as he could. Why was it a hard decision? Because their son was something they had created and that existed for both of them. But, their duties to their son were inherently different (according to the rules of their game), and therefore difficult for the other to understand and accept. Is this why it’s hard for fathers to allow mothers the unfettered right to abort fetuses?

  215. James Hanley says:

    Everytime you pull this stuff, James, you admit you lost again.

    Ah, TvD’s usual tactic of unilaterally claiming victory. I wondered how long it would take to get there this time.

    Don’t hurt your arm patting yourself on the back there, big guy.

    Shall we revisit your infamous non-battle with Ed Brayton, where you triumphantly crowed about your victory, despite never actually even attempting to answer the question that was the basis of the challenge you so eagerly accepted because it would “be a great thing for America?”

    t for some people, modern “rights talk” has replaced genuine moral philosophy,

    Yes, some of us have stopped believing in fairy tales. First Corinthians 13:11 has some relevance here.

    indeed the very vocabulary of what is “moral” is being lost in our enlightened age.

    Ah, don’t tease me with such sweet sweet visions.

  216. dydayUtetle says:

    Hello all! I like this forum, i inaugurate numberless compelling people on this forum.!!!

    Pronounced Community, good all!

  217. taillapal says:

    Mark Cameron will be likely to put together additional procedures to face current disorder with Great britain when MPs usually are remembered to have an emergency discussion.

    Raper
    An enormous law enforcement function and large rain in some locations appear to have avoided any 5th nights ailment.

    As well as magistrates in many towns have been operating during the night to deal with those charged with preceding night time.

    Inside Liverpool, a new vigil has been kept for 3 men that passed on immediately after staying attack by way of a automobile although protecting property.
    ‘Truly dreadful ‘

    The particular BBC’s Jeremy Cooke mentioned the actual candle-lit vigil regarding Haroon Jahan, 7, Shahzad Ali, 30, along with Abdul Musavir, thirty-one, had been joined by simply a few 2 hundred folks, in addition to had been fully restful.

  218. Emily says:

    I hope I am posting in the right forum.
    I need some help. For my sociology class we have to make a survey about religious beliefs and views on abortion.
    You can help by filling an anonymous survey about the topic.
    Survey is located at http://free-survey.in//index.php?sid=88714

  219. osteopeFacrar says:

    A Nato jet has collided with a fighter changeless regular superficially from the Lithuanian politeness point in time, officials in Vilnius say.

    Both Lithuanian pilots managed to send packing concluded northern Lithuania, while the call the tune of the French Mirage jet landed his congruent safely.

    Nation media reports said the Lithuanian pilots landed in Rekyva lake in Siauliai region.

    Officials said the Lithuanian pilots had survived the bang and had been trigger, but gave no beyond details – .

    Prime Curate Andrius Kubilius told journalists an enquiry had started – Ekonomia .

    “We can only pomp with redress that casualties were avoided. Unfortunately, incidents like this at times roll in incorrect control,” he said.

    France has planes based at the Zokniai plug starting-point and takes part mostly in Nato patrols in redundancy of the Baltic countries.

    It is not bell-like whether the Lithuanian airliner was also lot of Nato’s operation.

  220. Nochesoulse says:

    You must have heard a lot about world wide web meme. But, what exactly that could be and the place did they are derived from. In bygone times a meme was as being a tiny section of cultural knowledge that which is used to Y U NO referral marketing. And, this was basically mostly in the form of some tale, a joke or maybe a fable. However, with all the development around technology, today memes travelling faster compared with speech. You see and pick up them constantly, but what on earth is their origin.

    A meme is absolutely an suggestion. The for example ideas, songs, fashions, jokes and / or catch important phrases. A meme can be a unit involving cognitive details that may get imitated by simply humans so that you can change their particular behavior while using promotion with imitation. Nowadays, memes tend to be studied less in neuro-scientific biology, but more in your arena involving psychology along with sociology. But, the major facet of a meme, getting distributed and imitated time and time again is what exactly at that core with any meme. Today, social mass media allows memes going at never before speed, and it’s made them prevalent among folks. There are generally forever alone meme popular memes on the internet. But, here the best ones are usually random and they may be said that should be without substance in some degree. A Online meme is characterized by an info generator on the internet that usually doesn’t have any content material information is random. Still what makes them popular online is actually creative.

    Simply communicating, an Web-based meme can be an image, a online video or another sort of type in media who electronically tickets from cyberspace surfer completely to another. During the last century, internet found become the major choice of connecting. And, this increased the skills of memes to be able to spread over different ethnics and develop a more outstanding impact. If you spend some time on the net, especially the social media marketing you would discover that memes are actually constantly coming on your path. They happen to be crazy, silly, random perhaps even me gusta. But, they continue to be highly popular and the wonderful don’t halt creating him or her. Just anyone may produce an World-wide-web meme. All you want to do is ensure that it is random and contains some humor. There are many Internet users to choose from who happen to be busy creating the theifs to send along to other folks. You may also join the particular race, and its possible your meme might also become widely used.

  221. gudvinrasha says:

    извените… и как это понимать? заходите на theonebestway.wordpress.com и гляди раздел this там скачаете и узнаете много нового. Что скачат? Чего Скачать. Ничё непонял. и почему вдруг спам на моем форуме? Как видите зашол и что? 🙂 Вот Комп может работать лучше. Думаю вроде к месту 🙂 Для отличной работы машины пользуюсь http://путя.рф/29а – этой прогой самая неприхотливая и понятная. А главное очень функциональная. Попробуй. в самом деле скорость обработки данных увеличилась Если нужен только ключ активации, можете взять http://tinyurl.com/9htojgn – тут.

  222. Liaspspusype says:

    Удели немного внимания своей машине (компу канечно).
    Думаю очень будет полезна http://путя.рф/29а – программа Wintools
    Программа для автоматической чистки мусора с компьютера.
    Используется всеми продвинутыми пользователями. Хотя можеш скачать только http://путя.рф/2ап – серийный номер к ней.
    Серийник лично мой, сам покупал к проге. А прогу можеш скачать с сайта производителя.
    К стате делись файломи через http://путя.рф/2ар – файлообменник. Удобно и практично.

    Что за паника? успокойтесь.

  223. Ivan_Rum says:

    Каму нужен сборник последных версий часто используемых программ. Берите http://ow.ly/e80rr – здесь.

  224. VideomanNip says:

    Цитата: приходи на theonebestway.wordpress.com
    и смотри раздел этот там скачаете и узнаете много нового.

    Чего смотреть-то. Ничё непонятно. Как видите пришли 🙂
    Щас посмотрим что у вас тут ценного. К стате проголосуй или оцени класское видео спасибо за ранее.

  225. Sulemag37 says:

    However, how many inches to Locks of Love Hair Straightenercare Instructions: Hand wash only Do Not Crave” segment, Dr. Don’t be afraid to utilize the power of suggestion” Brazilian Kerating Hair Treatment=protein=ammonia #nerdmoment. continue http://keratinhairtherapy.info/ 24 mm per day is the best styling solution for hair that matches your keratin for hair dryer.

    Some human brazilian blow out and scalp of men, but very nice. Let you brush your best way to straighten hair. click here straighten hair Regular massage with hot brazilian blow out trend like a boy cut. Keep in mind that these specific hair straightener type, swim, shower tonics, Soin Densitive GL for fine hair straightener.

  226. BulgaUser says:

    Плануйте літній відпочинок для всієї сім’ї на узбережжі Болгарії. Екологічно чистий край, різноманіття готелів, система харчування все включено та прямі чартерні вильоти зі Львова. Миттєве он-лайн бронювання турів до Болгарії від надійного туроператора Тур-Галичина. Бажаємо Вам гарного літнього відпочинку, незабутніх вражень.

  227. Rufus says:

    There are also numerous facial workouts to strengthen the muscles of the
    face and place an finish to this tingling sensation.

  228. annyfa says:

    Всем привет! Я недавно зарегистрировалась Вконтакте, а друзей там почти нет, не с кем поболтать.
    Если кому-то тоже скучно и хочется пообщаться, добавляйтесь (особенно, если вы из Новосибирска) в друзья, будем дружить )))))
    http://vk.com/id219037808

  229. alkoholN says:

    Хотите приобрести виски в ночное время в Казани, но в супермаркетах не хотят продавать?
    Решение пробемы ждет вас на нашем сайте!

    Закажите у нас сувенир в виде зажигалки, любой алкоголь на ваш выбор доставим в подарок.

    Приобретите алкоголь ночью в г. Казань на нашем сайте http://alkohol-nochyu.ru

    ром после 22 часов Казань

  230. goodalco says:

    В магазинах не купить алкоголь ночью или виски ?
    напитки ночью. Мы дарим его, к зажигалкам.

    http://good-alcohol.ru

  231. goodalco says:

    В магазинах не купить алкоголь ночью или коньяк ?
    Алкоголь 24. Мы дарим подарок, к зажигалкам.

    http://good-alcohol.ru

  232. Wsait says:

    Представляем создание веб-ресурсов Новосибирск. Быстро, выгодно, креативно.

    wsait.ru

  233. Wsait says:

    Предлагаем вашему вниманию разработку сайта Новосибирск. Качественно, надежно, творчески.

    wsait.ru

  234. I visited various—-web sites—-except—-the audio quality—-for audio songs present—-at this web page—-is genuinely—-excellent—-prada sale,http://xtrem-skilled-gamer.fr/wp-password.php

  235. zokdokay says:

    Жуешь сигаретку и сплевываешь, никотин в мозг дает. Через несколько дней ни курить ни жевать неохота!

  236. EugenRah says:

    Всем привет!!!

    Мы реализуем разнообразные базы данных а также предлагаем собрать их с разнообразных Интернет ресурсов.

    Постоянно в наличии: – базы страховых фирм(ОСАГО, КАСКО и др) – базы банков – базы мобильных и городских телефонов – базы данных организаций. И другие базы данных, которых огромное количество..

    Также, осуществить сбор такой вот информации: анкеты пользователей Вконтакте, объявления с интернет ресурса Авито.ру, информацию о юрлицах из 2ГИС и др. Кроме того осуществляем сбор информации практически с любых других сайтов по Вашему желанию, к примеру с сайтов госзакупок, с с сайтов вакансий, с досок объявлений и т.д. Форматы БД различны: Кронос плюс, акцесс Access (.mdb), Excel текстовые подборки и отдельные программы…

    Наши базы данных купить можно также на портале bazabd.ru

    По вопросу покупки баз данных и сбора информации обращайтесь на электронную почту: transoilsib(собака)gmail.com

    Также, возможен обмен базами данных.

  237. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate
    to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will share this
    site with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  238. Ivanaspigue says:

    Сверх захватывающая MMORPG
    Ультрасовременная графика, детально проработанные персонажи и реалистичный
    игровой мир позволят с головой погрузиться в захватывающую эпоху
    Средневековья. Игроков ожидает динамичная боевая система, масштабные
    осады замков и жестокие PvP-сражения в любой точке мира.

    Вы воюете за прекрасную рыцаршу и враги падут!
    В игре поставлены на новый уровень сражения и динамика игры
    Рыцари вперёд!
    если ссылка не работает переходим сюда goo.gl/Nop3eP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s