Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


presentations
Should I save a zygote over a baby?

If I don’t, then obviously it’s not murder to kill a zygote, lol.

An atheist troll confidently poses the following scenario which supposedly devastates my argument that abortion is morally equivalent to murder.

Imagine the following hypothetical scenario – one which is intensely relevant to your argument. In one hand, I hold a foetus (or a zygote, or embryo). In my other hand, I hold a baby. One of them is going to be killed – you decide which.

Now, if the killing of one really is morally equivalent to the killing of the other, then deciding which one dies should be impossible. It should be reduced to pure 50/50 chance – a flip of the coin – that’s how impossible such a decision should be.
But let’s take a guess how you decided: You saved the baby. Because you are aware that there is actually a difference. You can argue forever over what that difference might be, but there is one, we all know it, you only need to admit it.

The real trouble I have with this is actually where to start. It is so embarrassingly terrible that I am a little spoiled for choice. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo…

1. Non sequitur

I guess if there is a beginning to start at, it’s in calling attention to the structure of the argument—or more pertinently, the lack of it. Careful reasoning has been replaced with a story that is designed to elicit a non-reflective intuitive response—short-circuiting our rational faculties and avoiding critical analysis. We’re supposed to feel that our instinctively saving a baby over a zygote is somehow damning to our belief that killing a zygote is morally equivalent to murder.

But why? Which premise in my argument does this scenario refute?

Obviously not a one of them. So what we have here is the atheist’s modus operandi for reasoning: a logical fallacy known as the non sequitur.

2. Strawman

Not only does the story fail to refute any premise of my argument, but it misrepresents my entire thesis. I have claimed that:

(AM) Abortion is morally equivalent to murder

But notice how this is “modified” in the atheist’s story as follows:

(AB) Abortion is morally equivalent to killing a baby

But those aren’t equivalent statements by any stretch of the imagination. It is not my thesis that abortion is morally equivalent to killing a baby. Why do I need to refute an argument against a position I don’t hold? So add strawman to the list of logical fallacies.

3. Question-begging

To see how fundamentally this misses my argument, notice the implied reasoning between AM and AB above. To get from one to the other, you need something like this:

(MiM) Murder is murder—if killing a human being is wrong, it is equally wrong regardless of who is killed.

But no reason is given for believing this. And no argument is made in the scenario the atheist posted—he leaves me all the work of building an argument and reasoning through it, perhaps in the hopes that I am as lazy and incompetent at it as he is. Presumably we’re supposed to just accept MiM as obvious, and then the argument will run something like this:

  1. If killing a human being is wrong, it is equally wrong regardless of who is killed (MiM)
  2. But it is not equally wrong to kill a zygote as to kill a baby (it is less wrong)
  3. Therefore, killing a zygote is not wrong, or a zygote is not a human being

What is truly baffling is not that someone would make this kind of argument, but that they would make it to me when I took the falsehood of MiM as an obvious moral truth to bolster my original argument. I noted there that we would save a child over an adult; the principle of saving one person over another in extreme circumstances is a feature of my argument, and contributes to my conclusion that it is especially wrong to kill those who are more innocent, more defenseless, and have more to lose.

So the atheist’s argument is not only unsound, but its first premise assumes the falsehood of a key premise in my argument. Thus we can add begging the question to the growing pile of logical fallacies.

4. Reductio ad absurdum

With MiM articulated, we can start having a bit of fun with the atheist’s story, by showing how easily it reduces to absurdity. Let’s have him reprise his role as a psychotic killer forcing me to choose between two people (a curious role to assume, given the story could work equally well in a burning hospital where I can only save one person—but let’s leave that by the by). This time, instead of a zygote and a baby, we’ll swap in another baby who is guaranteed to die peacefully of a terminal disease within the next 12 hours.

Obviously I choose for the healthy baby to live. If you think this is not obvious, there is something wrong with your brain.

But, “if the killing of one really is morally equivalent to the killing of the other, then deciding which one dies should be impossible.” Conclusion: killing terminally ill babies is not morally equivalent to murder. Good luck getting that one past a judge.

Of course, we can rerun the same scenario with all manner of different people being coldly executed by the atheist, and probably end up concluding that it is not morally equivalent to murder to kill just about anyone, since there will always be someone we would prefer not to die. It’s not a coin toss for me to choose my own baby over someone else’s; therefore, killing other people’s babies is not murder. It’s not a coin toss to choose a baby over an octogenarian; therefore, killing people in old age homes is not murder. Etc. If you even devote a couple of moments’ thought to the atheist’s scenario, you realize how laughably absurd it is. To even come up with it in the first place suggests either a complete lack of reflection on basic moral questions, or a moral compass that is swinging so wildly that no amount of thoughtful consideration will have any effect at all.

5. Self-refutation

Let’s have a bit more fun to finish. The atheist claims that I wouldn’t save a fetus over a baby. Let’s test that theory.

The atheist has kidnapped two people again, and is forcing me to choose who lives. One is a baby. The other is a pregnant mother.

All other things being equal, I choose for the pregnant mother to live. And I think many atheists would have the same instinct. Especially atheists with children. But why? If the woman were not pregnant I would choose for the baby to live instead—and so would many atheists. That seems comically inconsistent.

Could it be that we want to protect the pregnant mother because we know that killing two people is worse than killing one?

5 comments

  1. Russell Crawford

    A person should never, under any circumstances, force the birth of a fetus. There are more born humans dying than can be saved. So a choice to save a fetus is a choice not to save a born human, and that human dies.

    There is also no proof the zef is human or capable of living as a human. So to save a zef one must value non human life more than human life.

    Your entire thesis is invalid and will lead to the death of human life.

    I don’t mean to imply you are stupid, you are just ignorant of the facts of science.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    There are more born humans dying than can be saved. So a choice to save a fetus is a choice not to save a born human, and that human dies.

    Firstly, we need to correct your scurrilous use of language. One does not “force” the birth of a fetus or “choose to save it”; a fetus will live and be born naturally without any intervention. So you are mendaciously reframing the issue from the start to stack the deck in your favor by obfuscating the actual state of affairs.

    Secondly, there is an obvious false dichotomy between preventing a woman from killing her child, and allowing the death of someone else. The two events are simply unrelated. It’s hard to imagine you actually believe the nonsense you are spouting.

    There is also no proof the zef is human

    Again, simply false. You were once a “zef”. Are you not human? Have you not always been human?

    or capable of living as a human.

    What does this even mean? It is living as a human. That is how humans live at that stage of development.

    Your entire thesis is invalid and will lead to the death of human life.

    What is freely asserted may be freely denied. Especially when it is so ironically the exact opposite of the truth.

    I don’t mean to imply you are stupid, you are just ignorant of the facts of science.

    That’s very flattering. I don’t think you are stupid or ignorant either, actually. Unfortunately that only leaves one other reason for promoting obviously evil falsehoods, and that is that you are malicious.

  3. Russell Crawford

    “One does not “force” the birth of a fetus or “choose to save it”; a fetus will live and be born naturally without any intervention.”

    That is a false statement in two senses. First, most zefs die. Being ignorant of that fact is not excusable. Secondly, intentional induced abortion ends the life of non human zefs when it suits the woman. Until you can prove all zefs are human and alive, you are placing human life below non human life.

    So your other arguments are simply psychobabble.

    Why not first prove that all zefs become human life and then we can move forward.
    As it stands you are just another pro life murderer looking for an excuse.

  4. Russell Crawford

    “Secondly, there is an obvious false dichotomy between preventing a woman from killing her child, and allowing the death of someone else. ”

    Mis-stating my claim is not going to work for you bub.

    I said you have a choice to save a human being or to let it die and save a fetus. I know you are ignorant of the scientific facts here, but you need to learn to follow what I am saying. Or stop playing ignorant.

    “The two events are simply unrelated. It’s hard to imagine you actually believe the nonsense you are spouting.”

    You believe what I am saying yourself. You are just looking for an excuse to murder babies.
    What I say is very clear and will be very difficult for you to disprove. Both babies and zefs are dying. You have a choice to save either. Your choice to save a zef is a choice not to save a baby, child or adult and so it dies. You choose non human life over human life. That is a really insane choice on your part.

  5. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    That is a false statement in two senses. First, most zefs die.

    I said fetuses, not zefs. So my statement is actually true. You’re just not paying attention.

    Until you can prove all zefs are human and alive, you are placing human life below non human life.

    Actually, the burden of proof rests on the one making an absurd claim. The claim that humans are not human if they are young enough certainly qualifies as the most extreme kind of absurd.

    As it stands you are just another pro life murderer looking for an excuse.

    This is a blog, not a garbage disposal. So if you keep posting shrill soapbox trash-talk, I won’t publish your comments.

    I said you have a choice to save a human being or to let it die and save a fetus. I know you are ignorant of the scientific facts here, but you need to learn to follow what I am saying.

    Oh I see—you’re trying to relate this back to the hypothetical scenario in the OP. You probably should say so next time, rather than throwing in what sounds like a blanket comment in the middle of other blanket comments. How are we supposed to follow what you’re saying when there is no valid logical inference between your various statements, and you express yourself so poorly?

    You choose non human life over human life. That is a really insane choice on your part.

    On the contrary, what is insane is thinking that there is some mysterious kind of “life” that is not any species at all, but somehow “becomes” human after it is born. That’s some weird woo-woo right there.

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