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existential crisis

While I tinker with a new design, I’m also pondering how, what, and why I write here. I don’t know how long that will take, but you’re welcome to email me and see how things are progressing.

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)


proofs
Why abortion is irrefutably equivalent to murder

A simple 3-step argument that anyone can understand, showing that abortion is morally identical to murder.

Many people think abortion is a reproductive right, or at least merely a women’s health issue. But it’s simple to prove that abortion is morally the same thing as murder (and murder is neither a right nor a health issue!) Since it is murder morally speaking, we should treat it as murder legally speaking.

Here’s the reasoning:

  1. It is wrong to kill another human being for personal reasons (because it is murder)
  2. A human zygote or fetus is a human being
  3. Therefore, it is wrong to kill a human zygote or fetus for personal reasons

If [3] is a sound conclusion, then we can also strengthen the argument as follows:

  1. It is especially wrong to kill a human being (Harry) to the degree that [i] Harry is innocent; [ii] Harry is defenseless; [iii] Harry has more to lose; [iv] the killing is premeditated; [v] the killing is enabled by someone who is under a special duty to protect Harry
  2. A human zygote or fetus is [i] as innocent and [ii] as defenseless as a human being can be; a human zygote or fetus has [iii] the most to lose in terms of the life it could still live; [iv] abortion is always premeditated; [v] abortion is enabled by family members who have a special duty to protect the child at any early stage of development
  3. Therefore, it is especially wrong, to the greatest degree possible, to kill Harry if he is a human zygote or fetus

Obviously [5] would have to be built out for a complete and full defense, but I think it is pretty clear and unobjectionable as it stands.

You’ll notice the question of whether Harry is a person is irrelevant to the argument. Indeed, if he is not a person, then killing him is even worse, as per objection #4 below.

You’ll also notice the argument’s premises are very modest. They don’t require you to believe in God, or even in objective moral laws. Only that you have basic intuitions about murder, innocence, and familial duties which all people seem to share.

But you will object…

  1. “A human zygote or fetus is not a human being after all”
  2. “A blastocyst can twin, therefore it is not the same organism as the human being in its later stages of development”
  3. “It may be wrong to kill a more developed human being, but it’s not wrong to kill a zygote or a fetus”
  4. “The relevant distinction between myself now and myself as a zygote/fetus is that I am now a person, whereas I wasn’t back then”
  5. “40% of zygotes/fetuses spontaneously abort, so it can’t be wrong to abort them”
  6. “Although Harry is a human being, the mother is justified in killing him because he is using her body without consent or recourse”
  7. “The zygote/fetus isn’t properly alive because it can’t survive independently; therefore you cannot properly kill it”
  8. “But, but, rape, and, and, incest!
  9. “There are lots of personal reasons to kill someone that aren’t wrong—self-defense for example”
  10. “Experiences are what make us human, or at least what comprise human life, so Harry isn’t really human, or perhaps isn’t alive, or at least his life has less value than his mother’s”

1. “A human zygote or fetus is not a human being after all”

But how can this be true? To call something a human being is to say that it’s an organism of the species homo sapiens. I, for example, am a human being, because I am an organism of the species homo sapiens. But obviously I have always been an organism of the species homo sapiens, regardless of my stage of development. And that stage of development included being a zygote and a fetus.

If you want to deny that, you’ll have to show that I never was a zygote or fetus—perhaps that I was created spontaneously out of a fetus, which was a different organism to me. But that’s obviously biologically mistaken—so this objection is a failure.

This is also why the popular butterfly objection fails (ie, that if I’m right then killing a caterpillar is identical to killing a butterfly). The analogy breaks down exactly where it needs to hold up. A caterpillar is literally liquefied and destroyed, and then a new organism, the butterfly, takes its place out of the same material and genetic code. Obviously nothing like this happens for a zygote or fetus—these are not destroyed and then replaced by a baby.

The related frog objection—“well then, killing a tadpole is identical to killing a frog”—fails for a different reason: equivocation. The term frog is being used to describe both the organism, and its adult stage of development—and the objection trades on this confusion. But killing a baby is not identical to killing an adult either; yet both are identical to killing a human being.

2. “A blastocyst can twin, therefore it is not the same organism as the human being in its later stages of development”

But what relevance does the possibility of twinning have to whether I am the same organism as that blastocyst was? Even assuming that twinning involves the creation of a new organism (which is unclear, philosophically), I did not twin. Now, if you observe an amoeba for two hours and it doesn’t split in two, would you then conclude that the amoeba is a different organism than before, just because it could have split?

3. “It may be wrong to kill a more developed human being, but it’s not wrong to kill a zygote or a fetus”

This objection runs aground pretty quickly on premise [4], which seems to have a great deal of intuitive strength. And it’s obvious you can’t make a special exception for zygotes/fetuses, because I was once those things (as were you). If it is wrong to kill me or you now, then it was at least as wrong to kill us then, because the victims are the same. Unless you can come up with a relevant distinction between yourself as a victim of murder today, and yourself as a victim of murder at your earliest stages of development, there is just no reason to think it would have been morally permissible to kill you then, but not to kill you now.

4. “The relevant distinction between myself now and myself as a zygote/fetus is that I am now a person, whereas I wasn’t back then”

But this isn’t a relevant distinction. Indeed, if you really weren’t a person when you were a zygote and fetus, then premise [4-iii] is strengthened and the objection refutes itself—because not only would killing you have deprived you of the life you have lived, but also of the ability to develop into the person you now are.

5. “40% of zygotes/fetuses spontaneously abort, so it can’t be wrong to abort them”

Even if this figure is accurate, 100% of human beings die, so by this logic it can’t be wrong to kill any of them. It baffles me that anyone would raise this as a serious objection, yet I’ve seen it many times.

6. “Although Harry is a human being, his mother is justified in killing him because he is using her body without her consent”

I think this is the most staunchly-defended objection I’ve come across. The idea is that no one is entitled to make use of your body without your consent, and especially not for extended periods. Should someone violate your personal liberties and your bodily integrity in such a way, you’re entitled to take steps to prevent it, up to and including killing the other person.

I think this is quite plausible as far as it goes. An obvious example would be rape, which is a form of assault. It’s hard to imagine that a woman could never be justified to kill a rapist in self-defense.

But how can we get from being justified in killing a rapist, to being justified in killing Harry? There seem to be several insurmountable hurdles along that path:

i. No takesy-backsies

The first hurdle is that in nearly all cases, the woman gives implicit consent by having sex in the first place. She knows that sex is the means by which conception takes place. And she knows that contraceptives are not 100% effective. And even if she somehow doesn’t know these things, we don’t take ignorance to be an excuse for not accepting the consequences of your actions if you choose to engage in other kinds of risky activities. Rather, we think you should have educated yourself properly first. So it seems quite impossible for a woman to say that she consented to have sex, but she did not consent to the consequences of having sex—namely Harry. That is rather like saying that she consented to go joyriding, but not to spend 9 months doing community service after she accidentally drove through a fence. So we can see that except in fringe cases, the consent argument fails immediately.

ii. Excessive force

The second hurdle is the idea of reasonable force. I’ve already said a woman can be justified in killing a rapist. But what about a less extreme situation, such as being groped? Surely that does not justify lethal force against the perp—nasty as he may be. So clearly not every case of abuse or assault permits killing the perpetrator. Which raises the question: is it justified to kill someone who is in the process of causing you discomfort and inconvenience for nine months? Is that really a reasonable or proportional response? It isn’t at all clear to me that it is.

iii. Two wrongs don’t make a right

The third hurdle lets us go further in regards to reasonable force, by acknowledging the role of intent. In the examples I’ve suggested so far, the perp is intentionally imposing on another person’s body, while they have done nothing at all to bring on the imposition. But what if he were doing so unintentionally? What if it were her intentional action that had caused his unintentional imposition? What if, through no fault of his own, he was unaware of what he was doing and helpless to prevent it, while she had initiated it in the first place? Would we still feel justified in killing him? It seems very unlikely. Even in rare cases where the woman’s actions had not led to the perp’s imposition upon her, it still seems very difficult to justify killing him, and thus making him as much a victim as she is. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Yet some pro-abortionists are adamant, almost vindictive, about killing the perp. I wonder if, as with the prisoner’s dilemma on the ferries in The Dark Knight, they are all talk. If Harry were a child, would they really be willing to kill him themselves in order to defend their bodily autonomy and personal liberty? I think very few people really would—at least, I very much would like to believe that the pro-abortionists’ bark is worse than his bite here. If not, it would seem that pro-abortionists are largely sociopaths, or at least are inclined to act sociopathically toward human beings who are “out of sight, out of mind.”

iv. Maternal duty

The fourth hurdle is, I think the most significant, and that is the largely glossed-over social responsibility we are subject to in certain situations. Let me give an example: imagine you live in the arctic circle, and for several months of the year you are unable to contact the outside world due to weather conditions. One day, just as the weather is setting in, you discover a box outside. Upon opening the box, you find it contains a baby.

It seems extremely clear that although you have not consented to look after this baby—indeed, it is a significant imposition given your limited supplies and lack of preparation—you are nonetheless under a responsibility to do so, simply by being put into that situation. We would condemn someone who, rather than taking the baby inside to care for it, instead left it out on the doorstep to die of exposure or starvation. That is sociopathic behavior. And we would especially condemn someone who fetched a machete and hacked the baby to pieces, arguing that she was justified in doing so because she had not consented to look after the child (most abortions involve a similar method of destroying the fetus).

If even a stranger has an obligation to a child that cannot fend for itself, how much more does its own mother have such a responsibility when it is even less able to fend for itself? To deny this maternal duty seems plainly sociopathic—an ethical price so high that if you pay it to claim that abortion is “ethical,” your claim ends up saying nothing like what we take it to mean on face value.

v. Imposition is imposition

There is a fifth and final hurdle: I can find no relevant distinction between modes of physical imposition. In other words, why is it unacceptable for a woman to be imposed on via direct physical means, such as a fetus living inside her (or Judith Jarvis Thompson’s violinist being grafted onto her), but not via indirect means, such as having to prepare meals for her child, work to provide for him, drive him from place to place, care for him when he is sick, and so on? Both are obvious impositions on her personal liberty and her bodily autonomy.

You may say the difference in the case of pregnancy is that she has no other recourse. Once Harry is born she can adopt him out, or have willing family members help her, etc. But my analogy of the remote arctic location seems to put paid to that idea. It’s not permissible to kill someone just because you can’t fob your responsibility off on another person.

You may say the difference in the case of post-partum children is that, by consenting to give birth, the mother implicitly consents to everything which follows—even things like terrible diseases where she will be forced to give up great personal liberties and bodily autonomy for Harry’s sake. But this response immediately backfires by conceding my argument about implicit consent: that by consenting to have sex, the woman implicitly consents to everything which follows, including Harry’s conception. You can’t eat your cake and still have it, too.

And in fringe cases where sex is nonconsensual, the arctic analogy comes into play again. If non-consent doesn’t justify killing a human being in a similar situation post-partum, why should it justify it in utero?

When you combine these hurdles, what you get is a cumulative case showing that, rather than justifying a woman in killing Harry, the consent argument actually condemns her. To kill him on the basis of this argument seems to qualify as sociopathic behavior. In all the analogies pro-abortionists give, the perp is acting maliciously toward a woman who did nothing to merit his actions against her. But even if this were accurate, killing the perp seems like a staggeringly disproportionate response—it isn’t reasonable force at all. Yet in the vast majority of pregnancies, the “perp” is in fact acting helplessly toward a woman precisely because she caused him to do so! And moreover, she is not simply “a woman” and he is not simply “a perp”—rather, she is his mother and he is her child—with all the duties and responsibilities that entails. Again, denying these maternal duties, far from being enlightened and freeing, seems sociopathic. And finally, since there’s no obvious moral difference between a fetus imposing on a woman’s autonomy and liberties, and a toddler doing so, it seems to imply that a woman is justified in killing her toddler for the same reasons as having an abortion.

7. “The zygote/fetus isn’t properly alive because it can’t survive independently; therefore you cannot properly kill it”

This is admittedly the most bizarre objection I’ve come across to date, and one that’s obviously just balderdash. As a matter of definition there isn’t a creature in existence that can survive independently of the environment it depends on for life. So why should we think that the womb is a unique kind of environment in this regard? Or, if the objection is that Harry can’t survive independently of the physical systems of another organism (his mother), then why think this is relevantly different from people who can’t survive independently of the life support systems in a hospital? It’s also hard to find a principled way to exclude infants, toddlers, small children and the infirm from this logic, because they also rely physically on other organisms for their survival. Why should a physical connection be relevant to distinguishing whether they are properly alive? But once you realize the logic extends this far, it obviously extends to every organism possible, since every organism survives by physically eating other organisms.

8. “But, but, rape, and, and, incest!”

These are obviously awful things to happen to anyone. But I don’t see the connection between Harry being conceived in such situations, and there being a moral loophole to kill him. If my argument succeeds, then it succeeds regardless of the circumstances in which he is conceived, and regardless of how the mother feels.

This is obvious simply because I’ve shown there’s no relevant difference between killing Harry as a zygote/fetus, and killing him as baby, toddler, child, teenager or adult. And since it would be wrong for a mother to kill Harry at any of those stages of development—even if he was a constant reminder of a very traumatic event, or even if she hadn’t wanted him—it is also wrong for her to kill him before he is born.

9. “There are lots of personal reasons to kill someone that aren’t wrong—self-defense for example”

I don’t consider self-defense a personal reason, but a civil one, because it involves a duty to oneself or others to prevent injustice. The same applies to capital punishment. In fact, I think the “personal reasons” part of my argument is pretty robust precisely because we can see clear differences between the reasons for most abortions, and the reasons for killing axe-murderers or home invaders or enemy soldiers. The notion of personal reasons has a commonsense connotation which I think is quite clear to people who are willing to interact with the argument honestly.

But let’s say this objection goes through anyway. This would suggest that abortion is permissible in cases where the mother’s life is genuinely in peril from the pregnancy (assuming Harry can’t survive outside the body), or where justice demands that Harry be killed, or where Harry is an enemy combatant. Yet the first instance seems like an uncontroversial exception, since it is impossible to save Harry’s life here in any case, and it would be a greater wrong to let both he and his mother die. And the second and third instances are just absurd.

What this objection does not show is that, because it is permissible to kill Harry in self-defense, it is therefore permissible to kill him for any other reason. And so it fails to refute my argument.

10. “Experiences are what make us human, or at least what comprise human life, so Harry isn’t really human, or perhaps isn’t alive, or at least his life has less value than his mother’s”

This objection is so incomprehensible to me I’m honestly not sure I can recreate it in my own words—so here’s how one pro-abortion advocate put it to me:

I believe that experiences make up life. Touch, sound, sight, taste, the sun hitting one’s face, making memories with another person, etc. A fetus has had none of those things…it is being removed before it has a chance to have any experiences that would make qualify as “life.” We put SO much significance on this fetus that we ignore the rights and well being of a fully formed, functioning woman who has already breached the canal and had the experiences that make her “human”.

Now, obviously it’s mad to think that someone is “less human”, or perhaps even not alive or not human at all just because they’ve had minimal experiences. Either you are human or you are not. Either you are alive or you are not. I already dealt with this under objections #1 & #7. But what about the idea that maybe Harry’s life is less valuable, or he has less of a right to life, because he hasn’t had the quantity or diversity of experiences his mother has had?

Well clearly that’s wonky too, because nearly all young humans—babies, children, teenagers, and even younger adults—have fewer and less diverse experiences than older adults. Therefore, if this objection succeeds, all these people should have less valuable lives, or less of a right to life, than those older adults. Yet I doubt many people will agree with this notion, since it’s plainly mental. We especially don’t believe this about babies and children: most of us, if push comes to shove, have a very strong intuition that not only does a child have just as much right to life as an adult, but its right trumps the adult’s. For example, we think an adult ought to give up her life to save a child if only one of them can live, such as when having to deal with a lifeboat shortage on the Titanic.

This really comes back to premise [4-iii]. The objection is completely unresponsive to that premise. So if the premise is sound—and no one has yet found something wrong with it—then the objection is still-born.

Got any other objections? Feel free to share them in the comments.

79 comments

  1. speaktodragons

    If Roe V Wade is overturned regulation of abortion is returned to the states some states will be pro-choice and other will be pro-life, so what happens then when women go to pro-choice California to get an abortion from pro-life Nevada?

    What rights does a woman have? Will you make a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for a woman to have an abortion? If their is a federal law outlawing abortion then women can go to either Canada or Mexico. Will the TSA and border patrol start questioning pregnant women who leave the country. If Jane left the Canadian border 8 weeks pregnant and she comes back not pregnant is the border patrol going to arrest her for murder?

    What about illegal abortions in the country? Various medications can be used to terminate a pregnancy. Underground clinics will appear just like prior to Roe V. Wade, what then? Will you start jailing those pregnant woman based on behavior in to maternity prisons until they go full term and then just confiscate the baby because clearly she didn’t want the baby anyway.

    How will you ban abortion illegally in the first place?

    What kind of rights do women have if abortion and privacy is not one of them.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Speaktodragons:

    1. As a New Zealander, I don’t have a working knowledge of the American legal and medical systems, so I’m not qualified to suggest answers to your questions.

    2. Assuming I were qualified, and assuming I had difficulty giving satisfactory answers, what bearing would that have on my argument? Would my not having answers to difficult political questions in any way affect my clear answer to this simple moral question? If so, how?

    3. Your question, “What kind of rights do women have if abortion and privacy is not one of them” is nonsensical. One cannot have a right to do something grossly unethical like killing one’s own child. If my argument is sound, then abortion is grossly unethical in exactly that sense. You phrase your question in such a way as to suggest that if women can’t have abortions, then they have no rights to autonomy or privacy whatsoever. But that’s just obviously false, and also obviously very underhanded, since you haven’t shown in any way where you think my argument goes wrong.

    In other words, you are conceding that I’ve proved abortion to be grossly unethical, and yet you’re still talking as if suggesting women shouldn’t be allowed to do it is some kind of patriarchal plot.

  3. Snodgrass

    If you allow rape/incest pregnancies, you will be favoring the genes of those who commit rape and incest.

    If you think these things are “obviously awful” you shouldn’t favor methods that will lead to an increase of people inclined to commit them by allowing them to propagate their genes.

    And although the “violinist analogy” fails in the case of consensual sex, it succeeds in cases like rape or incest. If you disagree, does that mean you think the person does not have the right to pull the plug on the violinist and walk away? What is the difference between that and pregnancy due to rape or incest. And for the moment forget about “women being as strong as men”. The case I keep thinking of (admittedly an extreme case) was that 11 year old girl raped by her father, resulting in an abortion that the Vatican excommunicated the abortionists for performing. Should that girl have been forced to go through with that?

  4. Joanne de Verteuil

    Concerning objection #6, the maternal relationship, I would like to point out that this relationship is an instinct present in all mammals and that anyone can observe it in the animal kingdom. In fact, we usually admire the way females go to great extents to protect their offspring. Obviously this instinct is not rational and not moral. Evolution has simply found a superior way to assure the survival of the species (superior to egg-laying because the fetus is better protected within the womb and less liable to be a victim of predators during this vulnerable period).

    It is therefore easy to understand why an” unhappy to be pregnant” human mother who is offered an opportunity to abort her child will not be moved by the argument of “maternal relationship” because she has no maternal relationship with the fetus. She is a mammal and as with all mammals her maternal relationship with her offspring starts to kick in at the birth of the child.

    Our present day technology has short circuited nature’s ways. We can’t wait another 5000 years for evolution to correct the maternal instinct in humans so that it kicks in at conception rather than birth so I propose the following solution to this dilemma:

    The instinct can be coaxed into appearing at an earlier stage if the surrounding culture displays admiration, support, respect for the mother and the important role she plays in providing a safe place for this tiny human. Not just her immediate family but the entire community must be encouraged to acknowledge the importance of the mother.

    This change in the culture will come about with a lot of education. Ultrasounds of the fetus can also help to strengthen the maternal instinct, allowing the mother to bond earlier with the image on the screen.

  5. Rob

    Speaktodragons:

    Besides the points Bnonn has made, most objections including yours can be fairly easily addressed by imagining the foetus is a 3 year old child or even an adult – given you’ve effectively conceded that it counts as a human being. Plug your political and “it happens anyway” points into that and see what happens.

    It should be obvious enough, but for those reading I’ll provide an example. Conneticut decides to legalise homicide of three year olds in cases where the child was causing psychological harm to the parent by the fact of their existence. You’re saying that all the other states should therefore legalise this too because everyone will just go to Conneticut to kill their kids. Sound ridiculous? Funny that.

    The only pro choice argument that can work in theory is that the foetus is not human, or that human rights only apply to a “person”. Both of these approaches and their variants fail badly on a logical level. The only rational conclusion is that abortion is wrong.

  6. Richard

    I think this is a well laid out argument, and I agree with it.

    However, there is one point you did not cover, which is the most difficult point to argue.

    I am against abortion, because I am for life.

    There are cases of women who are at risk of dying if they come to full term and give birth. Thinking about Savita Halappanavar’s premature death in Ireland recently as an example.

    How do you choose which life to save?

    If I was a pregnant woman and I knew that the birth of my child would result in my death, do I choose to live or die?

    If it was my wife who was pregnant, and giving birth to her baby was likely to kill her, what would I do? I just don’t know.

    Would I feel guilty if she decided to abort? maybe. Would I regret the death of my wife as she died in child birth. Certainly.

    I am certainly anti-abortion, but I am also pro-life with regards to the mother keeping hers too.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  7. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Joanne:

    1. If the maternal duty to protect and care for her offspring is merely an evolved instinct, then presumably all moral duties are merely evolved instincts. But since, as you say, there is nothing actually moral or rational about an instinct, your objection seems to prove too much: namely that it is not wrong to kill a human being for personal reasons.

    In other words, you are rejecting the premises outright on the basis of evolutionary theory, combined with a fully materialistic worldview. But this just seems to give us good evidence that evolution+materialism must be wrong, since it seems obvious that the intuitive support for premise [1] is far greater than whatever support we might think there is for evolution+materialism.

    Of course, you’re free to disagree, but it doesn’t seem to be me who loses the debate by conceding that morality is an illusion.

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Richard:

    Very good point. I have revised the article to deal with the self-defense concern in objection #9, but I think the question of which life to save, if it’s an either/or decision, is a bit beyond the scope of this article.

    I would tend to prefer the life of the child, at least partly on grounds of premise [4]. But you also have to weigh the odds. Ultimately it seems to me to be a matter of conscience and faith.

  9. Ed

    Here is a question for you: Do you support socialized medicine? It is shown that women that can easily visit the hospital and talk to doctors have significantly less abortions. It is statistically shown that abortions would significantly drop if we implemented socialized medicine.

    Do you support this form of lowering abortions?

    Many conservatives I come across do NOT support this form of lowering abortion rates. It baffles my mind that they rate their “freedom” over the specific ability to lower abortion rates.

    Here is another option: free birth control. you don’t even have to include abortifacient ones. Free birth control is shown to lower abortion rates in poor communities up to 40 percent! FORTY percent!! Are you in support of this?

  10. Mea

    Ok, since we have jumped to Savita, She didn’t die becasue she was denied an abortion she died from an infection. I did some research on septicemia while pregnant and found that it increases your chance of miscarriage, however the first line of treatment is antibiotics. You treat both patients. Even if the baby doesn’t survive the mother must be treated first before they remove the deceased child. removing the body of the child puts the mother at greater risk. She would have died sooner if she “had an abortion.” She would have died anyway ,pregnant or not. I was informed by an OB/GYN that treating a pregnancy complication is not the same as abortion, becasue in an abortion it is premeditated. The intention is to kill the child. IN treatments, the intention is to save both patients but sadly there are times the baby dies. There is a significant difference. A “medically necessary abortion” is just something the pro-choice movement threw out there to slander the pro-life doctrine. Treating a pregnancy complication to save a mother’s life makes up less than 1% of abortions performed. A large majority of them are out of convenience, or to protect the criminal. Abolishing abortion does not mean pregnant women will be refused care, it means abortions will no longer be performed out of convenience. Sorry this wasn’t a question, just thought I would throw that out there. OH! and another answer to the abortion to prevent the spread of rapist genes, if you think about it, All the years we have been here on earth, all the wars fought and all the rapes committed, how many of us have the genes from a rapist? I am sure every single one of us does.

  11. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Ed, I don’t have a thoroughly considered opinion, but as a general rule I believe socialized medicine is worth the trade-offs, yes. That could include free birth control.

    That said, I don’t see why it should be baffling if someone values his freedom more than giving it up for an institution that would coincidentally lower rates of abortion. I don’t see that it is incumbent on anyone to make sacrifices just because it would lead more women to would avoid an obviously immoral choice. That seems to suggest they would be implicated in the immoral decisions of women, should they choose not to make that sacrifice, which I don’t think makes sense.

  12. Ray McIntyre

    Please feel free to show me where the bible ever deals with abortion.

  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Ray:

    1. Since my argument has nothing to do with the Bible, I’m not sure why you raise the question. Do you think one of my premises is wrong according to the Bible?

    2. Exodus 21:22-25 is the only passage that deals directly with abortion. Others deal with it indirectly.

  14. speaktodragons

    @Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I found this site through Reddit “http://www.reddit.com/r/prolife/comments/13k80i/a_simple_argument_against_abortion/”

    You Said>>> As a New Zealander, I don’t have a working knowledge of the American legal and medical systems, so I’m not qualified to suggest answers to your questions.

    I am not going to assume your qualified, because your not, the same I am not qualified in regards to New Zealand law or what civil liberties women have in your country.

    Abortion is a legal issue and each country has their own methodology in how to balance a woman’s right of privacy and protecting potential life.

    The history of NZ and the US are quite different as well as the internal struggles both countries have faced throughout the centuries.

    So thanks for replying…but I am going back to Reddit.

  15. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    speaktodragons:

    1. Abortion is not merely a legal issue, as my argument shows. It is also an ethical issue. Indeed, to say that something is a legal issue is to implicitly acknowledge that it is an important enough ethical issue to make laws about it.

    2. Abortion laws are not a case of balancing a woman’s right of privacy against protecting potential life. You speak as if you have already forgotten what I have proven in this very article: that a zygote/fetus is not potentially alive, but in fact is alive, and as such is a living human being; and that this is not a privacy issue, just as whether mothers should be allowed to kill their toddlers is not a privacy issue.

  16. speaktodragons

    @Rob

    Your analogy is incorrect. The only true analogy to abortion is miscarriage and stillbirths. If a woman’s body miscarries no one claims they her body murdered her child, but the result is the same a dead fetus. The only difference between a miscarriage and a abortion is choice, the woman made a choice to abort her fetus, then this becomes a issue.

    Rob instead of giving me unfounded hypothetical examples why don’t we work with a framework under the laws of Roe V. Wade and make your case against that supreme court case. Lets work with the facts, not the fantasy.

    I am more than happy to reply here!

    http://www.reddit.com/r/prolife/comments/13k80i/a_simple_argument_against_abortion/

  17. Christian Richter

    In my opinion, the main problem about your argument is that you make a very simple universal claim that many people would immediately agree with when hearing it (“It is wrong to kill a human being for personal reasons”) when reality is often much more complicated than this.

    This becomes especially clear on #8. You say your argument, if right, suceeds regardless how the mother feels (e.g. in case of a rape or incest or AIDS or whatever). This is actually the refutation of the argument! If the argument would be sound, it would be able to solve the rape case solidly, but it doesn’t: The solution “the feelings of the mother don’t change a thing” is not a good one in many people’s eyes (mine included). So the logical conclusion is that the premise was either wrong, too vague or doesn’t really apply to this case.

    In my humble opinion there are no easy one-liners for complex problems like this one. And my personal motto from what I learned from history and life is that giving people as much personal freedom as possible is always the best choice.

    I’ve now written “in my opinion” and “personal” a lot. You didn’t at all. I think that is the main problem behind this: You are searching for absolute universal answers for quite personal problems. But there aren’t any.

  18. Jim

    speaktodragons: Actually it is your analogy of miscarriage and stillbirth that is “incorrect,” that is, irrelevant. Every analogy has some points of non-comparison, but in order to be relevant must be comparable at the essential points. You acknowledge that your analogy is not comparable at the point of choice, and seem to treat that point as trivial, when it is, of course, essential to the debate. In fact, it would be senseless to speak of a woman’s body, operating involuntarily, as “murdering” her child.

    As for Rob’s argument, you neglect to articulate why you consider it “incorrect.”

    And as for Roe vs. Wade, among its many noted flaws is the fact that it contains the (already by then, i.e. 1973) desparately ignorant statement that it is uncertain when life begins — a statement which is, in fact, a fantasy.

  19. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Snodgrass:

    1. Since rape and incest are fringe cases, I take it you are conceding that my argument succeeds, and you just think that women should be excused of their moral obligations in these extenuating circumstances. But there are some obvious problems with your appeal:

    A. Allowing rape/incest pregnancies doesn’t favor the genes of rapists and incestuous men. Allowing a certain kind of pregnancy isn’t equivalent to favoring a certain kind of pregnancy.

    B. What evidence do you have that rape or incest are genetically-programmed behaviors?

    C. Even if they are genetically-programmed, what you seem to be implicitly advocating is eugenics. Ie, we should favor killing human beings who are related to people that don’t mean some standard, like criminals. Why should we accept your argument if it is predicated on the assumption that eugenics is an acceptable policy?

    D. In that vein, abortion is frequently used as a way to practice femicide in countries like India and China (and even in the US, to my understanding). Wouldn’t you say that banning abortion to eliminate the widespread destruction of girls outweighs the occasional chance for a rapist or incestuous person to transmit his genes (again, assuming gene transmission is even relevant)?

    E. Assuming that you subscribe to the theory of evolution, on what basis do you object to rape, specifically, as a means of transmitting genes. Isn’t that just survival of the fittest—what we are programmed to do?

    2. The violinist analogy breaks down regardless of the circumstances of the conception, because the circumstances of the conception are not morally relevant to issues such as (i) whether the zygote/fetus is a human being, (ii) whether it is wrong to kill a human being for personal reasons, (iii) whether the mother has an automatic duty to protect her child. I explicitly answered your question about the difference between the violinist and a pregnancy due to rape or incest, in my article, under objection #6:

    …that analogy breaks down at the crucial point: the relationship between the woman and the zygote/fetus is not of one adult stranger to another adult stranger, but of a mother to her child. This is conveniently glossed over—indeed, obfuscated—by the language often used in this debate (“woman”, “fetus” etc). Obviously the maternal relationship carries with it the duty to protect and care for the child, and this duty overrides autonomy. For example, we wouldn’t think a mother was justified in killing her infant just because she doesn’t wish to have to get up several times in the night to feed it. Neither would we think highly of a mother who refused to donate a kidney to her child, knowing it would lead to the child’s death. And so on.

  20. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Christian:

    1. You seem to not have noticed that if my argument goes through, there is no relevant difference between killing Harry as a zygote/fetus, and killing him as baby, toddler, child, teenager or adult. And since it would be wrong for a mother to kill Harry at any of those stages of development—even if he was a constant reminder of a very traumatic event, or even if she hadn’t wanted him—it is also wrong for her to kill him before he is born.

    2. It may be your personal motto that giving people as much personal freedom as possible is always the best choice, but the very fact we have laws rather than choosing anarchy suggests your motto is fundamentally mistaken.

    3. The fact that you personally don’t believe absolutes exist doesn’t in any sense indicate that they don’t. However, since my argument doesn’t require any absolutes, but merely basic agreement on some very modest moral positions, that’s quite irrelevant.

  21. Dave

    Hi Dominic,
    I find your argument quite solid but I’d like to play devil’s advocate since I am always open to new ideas. I enjoy hearing both sides of the argument so since your side is pro-choice I’d like to ask a few typical pro-life questions. Really I’m the fence with the whole thing and I don’t feel that there is an elegant solution in our day and age but I have changed my viewpoint to more pro-life recently. However I do have a few lingering questions that keep me from switching completely. Thanks in advance for your time. Here are my questions:

    1. What is your view on euthanasia? I feel that this is a personal reason to kill oneself but is entirely justified when death is near and suffering is great. The reason I ask is that your first (1) assertion is that killing for personal reasons is wrong. I feel that this argument is bordering on being subjective due to euthanasia being lumped into the ‘personal’ reasons for killing.

    2. Along the same lines as (1), what about suicide? I don’t have a very strong belief on this topic though I feel it is a tragedy in essentially every way. However I could see how it may be justified as the lesser of two evils as in the case of long-term kidnapping or torture situations.

    3. Do you think that humans need to stop having sex unless it is to procreate? Does sex for enjoyment have a place in society? If so, what solutions do you propose to keep pregnancies from happening?

    4. If you are working at an in-vitro fertilization clinic and somehow accidentally destroy an embryo, should you be prosecuted for manslaughter?

    5. Whenever abortion is outlawed, people suffer and die. What do you propose we do to end it if abortion is outlawed?

    I think sweeping changes in our way of thinking about human life are necessary before any move to outlaw abortion is made. Reality and our nature dictates that we will have sex as much as possible, and that means babies will be close behind.
    When people blindly want to ban abortion, I feel it shows that they haven’t taken into consideration the issues that will arise because of it. Yes, unborn children won’t die but most likely crime will go up as will child abuse and depression. Again in a perfect world we would have the resources both financially and emotionally to deal with the creation of a child each time we had sex, but we are not living in that world right now and people ignore it.

  22. James

    It’s interesting that you address the twinning issue, but I’d like to pose a further objection.

    What if you split the organism? Both parts COULD develop into twins. But what have you done? Have you taken a cell sample from the organism that you could legitimately do destructive testing on, in the same way you could give a skin sample to your doctor? Or is ANY destruction of even a single cell of the organism immoral, because even a single cell could keep splitting and become a twin?

    If you say, you can’t destroy even a single cell, why is a single cell sacrosanct, when a single cell of my body is not? How can that be consistent, if you want to equate a mature human with a human consisting of only a few cells? How can you be said to have killed a human in this case when no (other) human could be said to exist prior to taking the sample? If you take the sample for legitimate medical diagnosis, does it still deserve protection, even though there is no natural way for it to now develop into a separate human? Or does the mere existence of advanced technology and/or freezing mean you have to use such technology?

    If you say it is ok to kill the sample, then what if I split the organism, which half is the definitive half? If I split the ownership of the two halves, which owner is under moral obligation to protect it, and which is free to do destructive testing?

  23. James

    One further objection: if I split the organism such that it could develop into twins, if now left for nature to take its course. But then I push both halves back together again, such that they develop into only one human, have I killed anyone?

    If you say, yes I have, then I ask how can I kill without even a single cell encountering death?

    If you say, no I haven’t, then where was the harm in killing half, since killing half results in the same number of people developing as pushing them back together.

    Then if you say, killing half is OK, which half is the sacrosanct one that ought not be killed? Then, what if I split ownership, who has the moral obligation?

  24. Rob

    Speaktodragons has asserted my analogy to be incorrect without showing how it is, and then given his/her own analogy which is self refuting – given that if true it would mean that all murder is ok because people die horribly anyway and the only difference is a “choice”.

    Otherwise Jim seems to have addressed the same points I would.

    Christian makes a bold attempt but still fails to apply the adult argument. If you accept that the foetus is human, you admit that it is equivalent to any other human to kill it. Therefore it should only be ok to kill it in the same situations in which it would be ok to kill a grown human. Do rape, incest and AIDS justify killing an adult? I’d think not. If intuition doesn’t agree with this it’s probably because an unformed foetus lacks the empathic impact at least in the very early stages.

    Again as before the only way around this is to disprove premise #2, which Bnonn has supported well.

  25. Rob

    Dave I might as well have a go.

    1: At least in this case the person has a choice, but otherwise this is a big issue that needs its own article.

    2: Since someone who commits suicide is effectively punishing themselves, it’s not an issue that really affects us in terms of policy. I do find it ironic that we’ll do abortions almost at the drop of a hat while trying to talk people off ledges without knowing why they’re jumping.

    3: This is a separate issue given that no human organism exists prior to being procreated. The casual approach our society takes to sex does cause all sorts of problems, but these aren’t really in the same ballpark given we’re not talking about killing existing people. I personally have no issues with contraception.

    4: Technically, yes. IVF is essentially a selfish thing in any case, and so the thought of people farming and eugenics (only using the best zygotes, or choosing eye colour etc.) to achieve it is pretty distasteful.

    5: Do more people suffer and die than babies are aborted? In any case it’s debatable – Ireland has no abortion, but still manages a lower teenage birth rate than we have in NZ. The USA have some of the most relaxed abortion laws and yet also one of the highest teenage birth rates in the world. It’s therefore hard to argue that abortion fixes more problems than it creates, especially when one considers every abortion to be morally identical to murder.

    James:

    We say that destroying any cell that “could become” a human = killing. *Could* is the wrong word however – it already *is* human.

    A single cell of your body is not a human in it’s own right given that it is only a part of a complete organism. A cell from a zygote can function as a complete organism and naturally grow into an adult, a skin cell cannot and is not designed to. This seems fairly straightforward.

    Regarding splitting then putting back together, this is more complex. It would be much the same morally as fusing two adults or adult twins into one, like “Tuvix” (Neelix + Tovok) if you ever watched Voyager back in the day. Perhaps you’ve effectively killed both and ended up with an entirely new organism? It’s an interesting problem, maybe Bnonn has a better answer than I do. At very least that would belong in the “moral minefield” basket. Also, go watch Voyager :D

  26. Christian Richter

    In reply to #20

    1. No, I have noticed that, that’s my point! Your logic completely disregards the personal feelings of the mother, saying it just plays no role in the “right or wrong” decision. So you’re effectively saying that a raped 15y/o who became pregnant (to choose an extreme example) just “has to deal with it” although technically there is a way for her to stop the severe consequences of the rape. She has to give birth to the child she never wanted because that is “right”. I find this thought sickening. It does no good to force people to become parents if they don’t want to. The alternative is killing the fetus. While that is a hard decision, the fetus won’t complain about it, the awkward situation can be put to an end and the poor girl can try to get over it. It is not a perfect solution, but the world where that rape happened wasn’t perfect to begin with, so this seems like a plausible solution to me. Whether or not you consider a fetus a human being is just a question of definition. Whether or not the poor girl above gets a second chance or will be stuck in that situation forever is a political question. I’d prefer a world where she has a choice, you obviously don’t.

    2. The laws are put up to protect personal freedom as much as possible (at least in democracies). I guess you’re from the U.S., your declaration of independence starts with “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”as the unalienable rights it wants to protect. Maximising liberty and anarchy are vastly different things.

    3. The fact that you believe in absolutes also does not indicate they do exist. And it is not irrelevant as it seems to be the basis of your whole argument. “Killing a human being for personal reasons is bad.” Aftterwards you extent “human being” to “human being including unborn fetusses” and declare that this absolute just holds. And that’s where I disagree: If it comes to fetusses, it does not hold. As you see, there are no absolutes – The sentence is true for you and false for me. Who are you to force a rape victim to stick to your view?

  27. James

    “A single cell of your body is not a human in it’s own right given that it is only a part of a complete organism. A cell from a zygote can function as a complete organism and naturally grow into an adult, a skin cell cannot and is not designed to. This seems fairly straightforward.”

    Yes, but a single cell of a zygote is also not a complete organism in its own right.

    There is a potentiality once you split it off, but what exactly gives that potentiality enough substance to give it our attention? I mean, lost of things are potential. Potentially I could inject the DNA from my skin into an egg and it could become a person. A cell split off a zygote is closer to that potential, but still lacks a womb to grow in, and a whole lot of things have to happen before there mere potentiality can be realised. In other words you say that a single cell “can” grow into an adult. But that word “can” hides a lot “ifs”, “buts” and “maybes”.

    Let me pose another scenario. Our multi-celled zygote seems to develop an abnormality in some of its cells. The doctor decides to destroy some of its cells, in the same way an adult would have cancer cut out of them. Is it wrong to destroy some of its cells in this way? According to your previous statement, the answer would be it’s wrong, because those cells, in theory, could be cut out and grow into a new separate human being. But is that really a rational position, when an adult can have cells cut out of it, if it helps the overall organism? Not doing the procedure might result in the death of the organism. So how can it be wrong to treat it?

  28. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Dave:

    Thanks for your thoughtful critique. I think your point about euthanasia, combined with your point about suicide, highlighted a flaw in the argument as I had originally worded it. I’ve updated premise [1] to read, “It is wrong to kill another human being for personal reasons.”

    I think that closes the loophole, since euthanasia performed by another is not killing another human being for personal reasons, but for moral ones (ie, it would be a greater evil to allow that person to suffer needlessly than to kill them), and euthanasia performed by oneself—or even suicide in general—no longer falls under the argument.

    This isn’t to say I believe euthanasia or suicide are morally justified in any particular instances, although I do think that is possible. But I want to be sure this argument is as robust even when it comes under the scrutiny of people with quite different moral views to my own.

    Do you think that humans need to stop having sex unless it is to procreate? Does sex for enjoyment have a place in society? If so, what solutions do you propose to keep pregnancies from happening?

    I don’t hold that sex is purely intended for procreation; indeed, I think sex is largely intended for enjoyment. However, I believe that enjoyment is designed to be a physical expression of the marriage covenant. Biblically speaking, casual sex, or any kind of extra-marital sex, is morally impermissible.

    That said, I don’t think humans need to stop having sex, assuming “need” denotes a broad pragmatic necessity.

    If you are working at an in-vitro fertilization clinic and somehow accidentally destroy an embryo, should you be prosecuted for manslaughter?

    That seems like a logical conclusion of my argument. Naturally it seems more intuitive to think of this as a property crime—but our intuitions are often mistaken.

    Whenever abortion is outlawed, people suffer and die. What do you propose we do to end it if abortion is outlawed?

    Assuming this is true, I’m not sure why I need to have an answer to this practical question in order to show that morally speaking we ought to outlaw abortion. I’m not a utilitarian, so I reject the idea that we should not outlaw something obviously wrong just because it may have consequences we don’t like. I think we have an obligation to protect the weak and innocent, and an obligation not to take human life, which far outweighs those kinds of pragmatic concerns.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful questions.

    I’ll try to reply to everyone else later—I’m currently on holiday :)

  29. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    James:

    It is not that any particular cell of a human being is sacrosanct. It is simply that if the cell you currently have in front of you actually is a human being, then it is sacrosanct.

    I think this adequately deals with your thought-experiments. I don’t need to have all the answers here, and I’m willing to concede both your superior biological knowledge, and the lack of clarity in this area. However, if the governing principle shows us that even a zygote is a human being (at least under certain circumstances), then the huntsman analogy holds. Ie, you don’t shoot something moving in the forest if it might be a human being, even if it also might be a bear. You err on the side of caution.

  30. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Christian:

    Your logic completely disregards the personal feelings of the mother, saying it just plays no role in the “right or wrong” decision… Whether or not you consider a fetus a human being is just a question of definition.

    I find it chilling that you think the ethics of killing another human being changes depending on how you feel about them or define them. Do you think that if you hate someone enough, then killing them is permissible? Or, at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, do you believe the Nazis were justified in exterminating the Jews, since by their definition the Jews were sub-human?

    So you’re effectively saying that a raped 15y/o who became pregnant (to choose an extreme example) just “has to deal with it” although technically there is a way for her to stop the severe consequences of the rape. She has to give birth to the child she never wanted because that is “right”. I find this thought sickening.

    It’s very strange to me that you find this sickening. Since you haven’t refuted my conclusion, that Harry is a human regardless of his stage of development, look what happens when we alter the scenario a little:

    So you’re effectively saying that a raped 15y/o who became pregnant (to choose an extreme example), chose to have the baby, but then started getting PTSD when the child was three years old, just “has to deal with it” even though she could kill her child. She has to raise the child she no longer wants because that is “right”. I find this thought sickening.

    I think any well-adjusted person will think that killing your child to avoid your own suffering is “sickening”. So what you need to do is show me what the relevant difference is between a 3 year old and Harry the Zygote. Otherwise it would seem that it is your position that is sickening—not mine.

    The laws are put up to protect personal freedom as much as possible (at least in democracies). I guess you’re from the U.S., your declaration of independence starts with “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”as the unalienable rights it wants to protect. Maximising liberty and anarchy are vastly different things.

    I’m not from the US. However, why would you invoke the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when it is your position which denies these exact rights to millions of unborn human beings?

    Aftterwards you extent “human being” to “human being including unborn fetusses” and declare that this absolute just holds. And that’s where I disagree: If it comes to fetusses, it does not hold.

    You are quite welcome to disagree, but you need to provide a better reason than your opinion. My argument doesn’t leave room for opinion. If it is wrong to kill human beings at the stages of development outside the womb, then it is wrong to kill zygotes and fetuses also, unless there is a morally relevant distinction between these different stages of development. What you need to do is provide us with that morally relevant distinction, instead of just claiming that your personal feelings trump the argument.

  31. Sarah Tennant

    “It does no good to force people to become parents if they don’t want to.”

    Absolutely true, but in the case of a pregnant woman, that ship has sailed. She’s a parent already. The issue is not one of being a mother vs not being a mother; it’s an issue of being a mother who lets her child live, vs being a mother who kills her child.

    The rapist forced the girl to become a parent. No-one else. Forced parenthood is a rape issue, not a pro-life issue.

    It might seem like a minor point, but I’ve seen similar statements by pro-choicers often: they seem to define motherhood according to some fuzzy-wuzzy greeting-card sense, as if one only becomes a mother when one chooses to keep/raise/love one’s child. But that’s scientifically absurd. A woman carrying her own fetus is a mother; the fetus inside said mother is her child. (Not a “potential” child, either – nor some kind of Schroedinger’s baby – an actual, existant, fact-of-the-matter child.)

    It’s for the same reason that applying the term “reproductive rights” to abortion irks me. The right to reproduce or to refrain from reproducing is indeed worth championing, but once a woman is pregnant, reproduction has already occured – again, that ship has sailed. Killing the “reproduction” is a very different kettle of fish, as evidenced by the fact that doing it after birth is generally considered murder (and the comments section is still waiting on a valid moral distinction between pre- and post-birth killing).

    If people began campaigning for infanticide as a “reproductive right” it would no doubt be considered grossly euphemistic; I feel that calling abortion a “reproductive right” is similarly inappropriate.

  32. Edwin Crozier

    I have a question that stems from the response to objection #1 about the caterpillar and the butterfly. I’m assuming that someone has used this argument to say that killing a zygote/fetus is the same as killing the caterpillar while killing a human is the same as killing the butterfly.

    Are they suggesting that killing the caterpillar is okay while killing the butterfly is not? Or vice versa? That seems to me to be pretty shaky ground.

    I get your response and pointing out that it is a different kind of creature. But it seems to me that the argument they make is somewhat self-defeating. If the butterfly has a right to life, then so does the caterpillar even if it is a completely different creature. The fact that someone might try to make a distinction causes me to ask what is the distinction. Is it just that we can’t imagine killing such a beautiful creature as a butterfly but the ugly caterpillar is fair game? Is that really going to be a basis for why killing a zygote/fetus is okay? Are they truly suggesting the human is a beautiful creature that we love but the zygote/fetus is an ugly creature we can dispense with?

  33. Steve Farrell

    In response to Sarah Tennant, who refers to a pregnant woman thusly: “She’s a parent already. The issue is not one of being a mother vs not being a mother; it’s an issue of being a mother who lets her child live, vs being a mother who kills her child.”

    I’m of the opinion that gestation precedes the human’s life, not that conception equals birth and the remainder of gestation is some sort of biological afterthought. You criticize as “scientifically absurd” the notion that a fetus only constitutes potential life. However, this seems to minimize the changes that occur to the developing human in the months following conception. At conception, the zygote is merely a fertilized egg, and yet you appear to believe that the arbitrarily-chosen moment of conception is significant in creating a human being.

    I’m certainly not saying there’s a magic instant where a developing fetus “becomes human.” I have no problem saying that a baby just prior to being delivered by a mother in labor is human, but it’s my opinion that a zygote is not. I have no idea where we should draw the line, but I choose to err on the side of caution and allow women to choose what’s best for themselves and their families.

  34. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Steve:

    1. The fact you’re of that opinion doesn’t have any force against my argument, which shows that you are wrong. If you think the argument is flawed, you need to provide reasons why we should doubt its conclusion. Your opinion isn’t such a reason.

    2. Let’s say it is unclear whether the zygote. Nonetheless, to allow women to “choose what’s best for themselves and their families” is not to err on the side of caution at all, since it is also to allow them to kill something that is possibly their child! Again, the huntsman analogy holds here: if you are hunting in the forest and see something moving, you don’t shoot it if there’s the possibility that it’s a human being, even if there is also the possibility that it’s a bear.

    3.

    I’m certainly not saying there’s a magic instant where a developing fetus “becomes human.”

    Well, the only other possible implication of your position is that “becoming human” is a gradual process. Yet it seems equally absurd to say a fetus instantly becomes human at some point as to say it gradually becomes human over time.

  35. Steve Farrell

    “The fact you’re of that opinion doesn’t have any force against my argument, which shows that you are wrong. ”

    Oh, I see. Your opinion that a zygote is a human being isn’t open to question, only my opinion that conception doesn’t equal birth.

    “it seems equally absurd to say a fetus instantly becomes human at some point as to say it gradually becomes human over time.”

    No, there’s nothing absurd about saying that the entire process of sex, conception, and gestation is the gradual development of a human being. Perhaps you’re uncomfortable with such ambiguity, but there are very few clear divisions in nature.

  36. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Steve:

    You may have free reign on Live Action News, but you don’t here. If you continue to misrepresent the facts, your comments won’t be approved.

    I have argued for why a zygote must be considered human. I have given a clear defense of this under objection #1. You have said nothing that is responsive to my argument; you have simply asserted that a zygote shouldn’t be considered human despite the evidence I’ve presented that it should.

    If you want to pretend that an argument enjoys no more intellectual weight than an opinion, then you can go pretend elsewhere. This isn’t Neverland, and I’m not playing make-believe.

  37. megan T

    the opening, stating that abortion can be shown the be equivilent to murder by these arguments is falce. this is simply because of what murder is.

    the legal defenition of murder from the uk (the US system is built on the UK system, but i havnt studyed american law) is “the intentional killing of a reasonable creature in being without lawfull excuse under the queens peace”
    The second part is irrelevent, but the first part is, as “reasonable creature” means that it must be capable of indapendant life. (feel free to examine the case law yourself). therefore it cannot be equivilent to murder, as it is not capable of surviving independantly, regardless of if it is a human being or not. The UK has a fair ammount of case law on this matter, so you will have to refute hundereds of years of legal precedent to make your point of equivilency to be valid.

    with regards to a moral argument rather than a legal one, it is important to know that while interesting, ethical discussions have no meaning when one is discussing politics (as you seem to be doing by adressing liberals) as the political question is “should we make abortion illegal” not “is abortion moraly wrong or undesirable”. many thigns are moraly wrong that are not unlawfull, such as binge drinking, gambing and declaring wars on foreign soil.

    finaly if you wish to draw an equivilency between murder and abortion you must realise that all the points mentioned in 4 points 4 and 5 are irrelevent as to establishing murder, except for point 4 (iv) which could go to intention, while they are agravating factors once murder has been established, they are irrelevent when discussing if a murder has occured or not. as such they do not belong in this discussion at all, prehapse in the next one once you have proven beyond doubt that abortion and murder are one and the same when you wish to discuss what the punishment should be. however this would be permissable if this were a soley moral discussion, however if so it should be mentioned that it is politicaly irrelevent.

    in addition i object to points 5 (i) and 5(v), point 5(v) is irrelevent as a person cannot legaly or moraly be placed under a burden to protect anothers interests without agreeing to it, and legaly this sort of agreement cannot be enforced by common contract law, as it is presumed there is no intention to form legaly binding agreements between family members. also innocence as raised in 5(i) is irrelevent, as murder is murder, even if you kill a crime boss. while it may be emotionaly unpleasant to think one has killed an innocent, this has no moral or legal value.

    i also object to the first premise. my personal moral rule states that it is not permitted to deliberatly kill a person without medical or other lawfull justifcation. i use the word person deliberatly, as i would extend this beyond human beings, to anything which meets my criteria for personhood (for something at one point in the past, or be able to in the present pass the turing test) this could include ailiens or artifical inteligences if they ever exist or are shown to exist. i would be interested to hear your stance on the killing of a sentient alien or artifical inteligence, as you seem to arbitrarily restrict your morals based on an arbitrary genetic distinction. So i object to the first premise, as it uses human rather than person, thus unessesarily restricting it as an ethical rule, thus making it invalid and immoral. morality should not be based on genetics,it makes no sence. i suspect that you arbitrarily restict this rule deliberatly, to avoid using the word person, as your argument would fail if it was used. (as all of point 5 are irrelevent except as agravating factors, which have nothing to do with establishing murder)

    i would be verry interested in having a discussion on this, and would be interested to see what (if any) changes are made to attempt to meet these objections.

  38. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Megan:

    Thanks for your comment. Some thoughts in response:

    1. I’m not trying to establish an argument that abortion is legally equivalent to murder. As you’ve noted, that would run aground on the legal definition of murder itself. What I’m doing is showing that abortion is morally equivalent to murder. But I realize perhaps that was not clear, especially in my blurb for this post—I’ve now corrected that.

    2. There are a few problems with your comment that ethical discussions have no meaning when one is discussing politics:

    A. There is no clear distinction between ethical and political questions in many cases. If abortion is wrong in the same kind of way murder is wrong, then it follows that abortion should be illegal in the same kind of way murder is illegal. Now of course that raises other political questions, like how will we make it illegal, what penalties will be prescribe, and so on, but the underlying question is very much a question of ethics.

    B. Even in cases where a political view is clearly distinct from an ethical question, you seem to be implying that this views is not subject to moral scrutiny. But that seems both mistaken and even dangerous. Imagine if we didn’t subject political views like Neo-Nazism to ethical scrutiny.

    C. Sure, some immoral activities are not illegal (though I question your choice of examples). Nonetheless, the whole point of the law is to codify ethical conduct and prescribe reasonable penalties for violations. And one of the big reasons this is important is to protect the innocent. So it seems to me that if abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then abortion clearly should be outlawed. I think that follows necessarily, unless you can show some principled distinction between abortion and murder, morally speaking.

    3. You claim that premise [5-v] is mistaken: that a person cannot legally and morally be placed under a burden to protect another’s interests without agreeing to it. But it seems very plain to me—and I think most people—that:

    A. The mother in nearly all cases does give implicit informed consent by having sex in the first place (anyone who doesn’t know that sex produces babies and that contraceptives are not 100% effective probably has a reduced mental capacity).

    B. Parental duty seems obviously to transcend any kind of “agreement”. We would question the moral character of someone who, upon discovering a baby had been left on their doorstep, then proceeded to close the door and ignore its cries until it died. Even though that person never agreed to protect that baby’s interests, it is very clear that they were nonetheless placed under that burden simply by becoming aware of it. Their lack of consent to shoulder that burden does not excuse them, but rather condemns them. And if that is so for a stranger and a baby, how much more so for a mother and her unborn child?

    4. You claim that premise [5-i] is mistaken, but again this seems wrong. If the law disagrees, then it seems the law does not track accurately with our moral intuitions, because we can obviously see that if I am forced to choose to kill either a mob boss or a baby, I would be quite unjustified to choose the baby, all other things being equal.

    5. You object to the first premise, that it is wrong to kill another human being for personal reasons. You say you accept medical or other lawful justification for killing others. But at this point I’m finding your reliance on what is legal rather than what is right to be equivalent to abdicating your moral duty, deferring it instead to the state. No doubt many Germans felt the same way when they disclosed their Jewish neighbors to the SS. Yet I doubt even you would agree they were right to do so. Please try to keep in view that I’m discussing what is right, and not what is legal.

    6. You say I artificially restrict the argument to human beings, rather than human persons. But I explicitly covered this under objection #4 (and the argument of objection #1 also applies). If it is wrong to kill me now because I am a human being, then it was at least as wrong to kill me when I was a zygote (and plausibly far more wrong). I didn’t use the term “person” in my argument because I explicitly wanted to make as simple and as broad an argument as possible, and I know that some people disagree that a fetus is a person. Since it is irrelevant whether a fetus is a person, why weaken the argument by including that consideration?

    Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t think we could extend the argument to cover other species, or that I don’t think human fetuses are persons, or anything like that. I am simply choosing premises that are as agreeable as possible, to capture the broadest possible audience in my conclusion.

    7. As regards my stance on killing an alien or AI, I don’t think that’s relevant to my argument at all. My argument is specifically about killing human beings, because that is the issue I am concerned about. Now, if we were aborting alien babies left, right, and center, I would develop my argument along similar lines, assuming those aliens grew up to be self-aware and intelligent people like us. Mind you, I ultimately ground the right to life in the Imago Dei; but from a Christian perspective, a self-aware and intelligent person would have the image of God.

    That doesn’t extend to AI for at least two reasons: Firstly, from a biblical perspective, the image of God is immaterial; it is captured in what you would call the soul, and not in the body. Since we cannot create souls, it seems implausible to think a machine will ever have one. Secondly, and following on from this, since an AI by definition merely simulates the appearance of consciousness, and cannot in principle be conscious, it makes no sense to assign moral status to one. (If you’re interested in that topic you might like my novella, The Ash and the Air, which you can download free under the Books link).

  39. Sarah Tennant

    “I’m of the opinion that gestation precedes the human’s life, not that conception equals birth and the remainder of gestation is some sort of biological afterthought.”

    Well, science disagrees with you. A gestating human is not dead; it is demonstrably alive; so how can its gestation precede its life? How would the fetus develop and grow during gestation without being alive? I mean… say what?!

    Conception does not equal birth, and I never said it did. That’s a strange red herring. Birth isn’t relevant to the argument at hand, at all; it would be *very* strange to claim that a human being is only created at the moment of birth, and I’ve never heard such a claim.

    “You criticize as “scientifically absurd” the notion that a fetus only constitutes potential life. However, this seems to minimize the changes that occur to the developing human in the months following conception.”

    I don’t think you’re grasping my point. A fetus will continue to develop throughout gestation, yes; but how does that make the life it has *as a fetus* “potential” rather than “actual”? Show any scientist a living fetus under a microscope (assuming that were possible!) and say “Is this alive?”, and assuming his powers of observation are intact, he will say “yes”… not “potentially”. Show the same scientist a dead fetus, and he will describe it as dead. Neither one is “potentially” alive; that makes no sense. Even a frozen embryo awaiting IVF implantation is actually, genuinely, truly alive; if it were dead, scientists wouldn’t bother trying to implant it.

    “At conception, the zygote is merely a fertilized egg, and yet you appear to believe that the arbitrarily-chosen moment of conception is significant in creating a human being.”

    For one thing, I don’t hold to materialism, so I don’t believe any human being is “merely” the sum of his cells. Saying that a zygote is “merely” a fertilised egg is akin to saying a human is “merely” trillions of cells; it is a philosophical statement, outside the purview of science. And my comment was specifically addressing the *scientific* inaccuracy of referring to fetuses as potentially alive, etc, so I’d rather keep the discussion on those lines.

    For another, it’s hardly arbitrary to define conception as the creation of a human being! Once again, science is decidedly not on your side. Before fertilisation, there is no one “being”, but two cells belonging to two different individuals. After fertilisation, a unique being is created. It is human, it has its own DNA, and while it is at a very early stage of development, it is a complete entity (not, say, a body part, or a part of either parent’s body).

    Both the “human” and “being” parts of the equation are scientifically uncontroversial. I suspect you are actually arguing again the personhood of the fetus, not the “human being-ness”.

    “I’m certainly not saying there’s a magic instant where a developing fetus “becomes human.” I have no problem saying that a baby just prior to being delivered by a mother in labor is human, but it’s my opinion that a zygote is not.”

    What is it, then? A goldfish? If a zygote *becomes* human at some point during gestation, it must be something *non*-human before that; I’d be fascinated to hear what species you think that is.

    “I have no idea where we should draw the line, but I choose to err on the side of caution and allow women to choose what’s best for themselves and their families.”

    Again, scientifically speaking, a pregnant woman’s family *includes* her unborn child. I suppose you could argue that sometimes it’s best for the whole family to kill one of its members – I read once of a starving Third World family in which it was decided that the toddler should no longer be fed, because there wasn’t enough food to go around. Is that the line of thinking you’re going with?

    Also, given that your position on the humanity of a fetus goes against all mainstream scientific evidence, I wouldn’t say plumping for abortion is erring on the side of *caution*. Surely someone cautious would make *very* sure that their moral stance did not condone the killing of innocent human beings? But your “caution” hasn’t extended further than scientifically unsupported assertions.

  40. megan T

    Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    thank you for your responce to my coment, i do take issue with some of the things you said however.

    with regards to ethics and poltics in the law i belive you are in error. the law does not exist to codify ethics, rather it exists to law down a series of bare minimum rules for conduct to avoid infringing the rights or dignity of others. there is a verry wide gap between this and codifying ethical conduct. the main reason for this is that it is difficult to agree on what is ethical. for example some find being homosexual to be moraly objectionable, others dont. we dont criminalise it, regardless of what some poeples ethical views are.
    so we have the issue of “whos morality do we use?” remember, the majority is not always correct, not on issues of fact, or ethics., and your morality may not be in the majority.

    i personaly use two kinds of ethical analysis, one for me personaly, and one for the law. the legal standard is much much lower, reflecting its status as the minimum. the analysis i use for laws has more to do with respecting minimum rights rather than any ethical maxims. so in a sence there is a form of ethical consideration, but its at a for more legalistic, dispassionate level than normal ethics.

    with regards tot he points raised with regards premise 5(v)

    consent to sex is not nessesarily consent to protect the interests of the child, i agree, that almost everyone knows one results from the other, but there have been cases where a man had lies about being sterile and gotten a woman pregnant. also the issue of mental capacity is interesting, what do you think of cases where a woman has reduced mental capacity, do you think she has a duty to protect the intrests of the child then?
    if , as you seem to claim, to have sex was to agree to protect the interest of the child, then no one would want an abortion, as everyone would have already considdered and agreed that they wanted to protect any potentual child. i doubt anyone in such a situation thinks the situation out carefully enough to make such an agreement.
    any agreement to proect the interests of the child would need to be made with the child, who obviously cannot agree to such a binding contract.

    your second point is also interesting, that the parental connection is more important than any agreement requirment. your “baby on the doorstep” argument seems strange to me, as the doorstep baby is a stranger, there is no parental connection there. i would not condem a person for not caring for such a child, as they are under no obligation to do so. if the agreed to take care of the child it would be a different matter entirly. i dont totaly see the point of this illistration, i dont think it demonstrates what you want it to demonstrate. becoming aware of such a situation does not place a person under any burden, infact there are many cases that demonstrate it to be the case that such a burden does not exist. i honestly dont understand the point you were trying to make with this, it rings untrue given mu understanding of what is ethical and what is legal.

    with regard to point number 4. you you feel as moral intuition isnt realy relvant. in the eyes of the law they, if the baby has been born are equal when determining guilt. i understand emotionaly we want to protect the baby, and punish the unpleasant mob boss, buti belive that all people are of equal value, this is true both in the law, and in any ethical consideration. the point where we start saying “it is more ok to kill one person than another” is an incredibly slippery slope. i belive no one deserves to die, regardless of mob affiliation or age.

    with regard to your 5th point. firstly please do not invoke godwins law, it turns conversations sour quickly. secondly, i was discussing moral understanding, my personal moral understanding to be spesific. my moral understanding does incorporate some exceptions found in the law, but thats only because i understand and agree with them, due to having studyed them for several years. there are some i do not agree with, such as the legal defence of mistake, because as interpreted recently by the courts it is too borad, however i didnt want to fill the page with legal analysis and what i agree with. for the most part i agree with the lawfull exceptions. so i am discussing what is moraly correct, i onlyincorporate legal ideas because i understand them and belive that they reflect what i belive to be correct.

    with regards to the final point. if the rule is against killing persons, and a zygote is not a person, then the killing of zygotes is permitted, it is not an irrelevant issue. i know that you claim it is, because a zygote can become a person, and to deprive it of that chance is a greater moral wrong. i would like to ask a question. given that you belive that it is less wrong to kill a baby than a mob boss, would it be just as wrong if we knew that baby would become that mob boss?

    it is also worth noting, that preventing a person from being born, is not the same as killing a person, so the equivilency fails there. so personhood is not irrelevent, as it changes the nature of what happens (killing of a person vs preventing a person from being born), because the things are different, there can be no equivilency. (neither a factual or ethical equivilency)

    the issue of killing ailiens and AIs is relvent, because it shows that the statement about killing humans, its too narrow to cover a total ethical understanding of the issue of ending life, thus any statement about when it is wrong to kill also has to include consideration of when it may be wrong to kill non humans, unless you considerit could never be wrong to kill a non human (which i see you dont from your statement

    with regards to AI’s its an interesting side issue, but i find it strange that you would not find killing one wrong as it would lack a soul, when we have no test for a soul. there is no way to tell who has a soul and who dosnt, or what dosnt for that matter. so how can an ethical understanding be based on something that we cannot even identify.

    thankyou for reading my comment and responding to it, it would have been nicerif you haddnt added the nazi reference, it tends to antagonise people and make unpleasant reading, not to mention the issue of godwins law.

  41. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Megan:

    1. Your statement that the law “exists to law [sic] down a series of bare minimum rules for conduct to avoid infringing the rights or dignity of others” doesn’t seem in any way to contradict what I’ve said. I didn’t suggest the law is intended to codify all moral norms. But saying we should avoid infringing the rights or dignity of others is automatically to be making a moral pronouncement. I don’t understand your confusion in this area. For example:

    some find being homosexual to be moraly objectionable, others dont. we dont criminalise it, regardless of what some poeples ethical views are.

    But sodomy laws were commonplace not even a century ago precisely because people viewed it as an extreme moral perversion. I’m not sure what to say to the notion that laws don’t reflect the prevailing moral standards of society. They just obviously do.

    2. With regard to consensual sex, I’m not suggesting that consent to have sex is equivalent to consent to protect the child. I am saying that if the sex is consensual and informed, then that removes one excuse for not protecting the child, should the woman become pregnant. I don’t really want to get bogged down in side-issues like mental capacity and so on; I don’t see how that’s directly relevant to my argument.

    3. The baby on the doorstep is an a fortiori arugment. It shows that if even a stranger has the moral obligation to care for a child without consent in certain circumstances, then how much more does the mother have such an obligation under analagous circumstances.

    I find it chilling that you would not condemn someone who left a baby to die of starvation or thirst after discovering it. I don’t think there is any kind of agreement we will come to if your moral outlook is so depraved.

    4.

    the point where we start saying “it is more ok to kill one person than another” is an incredibly slippery slope. i belive no one deserves to die, regardless of mob affiliation or age.

    I assume then you agree that we should not kill unborn children, regardless of their age.

    5.

    if the rule is against killing persons, and a zygote is not a person, then the killing of zygotes is permitted, it is not an irrelevant issue.

    Since my argument doesn’t rely on the zygote being a person—indeed, it is only relevant to my argument in the sense that if the zygote is not a person then my argument is stronger—I don’t know why you bring this up.

    6.

    would it be just as wrong if we knew that baby would become that mob boss?

    How is this relevant to the soundness of my argument? Since this kind of foreknowledge doesn’t exist it’s a pointless diversion.

    7.

    it is also worth noting, that preventing a person from being born, is not the same as killing a person, so the equivilency fails there.

    This is just disingenuous. The only way to prevent the fetus’s birth is to kill it. It’s not as if the mother continues to carry the fetus indefinitely. You’re trying to eliminate death from abortion. That’s a pretty desperate ploy, if you don’t mind my saying so.

    8. I have no idea why you continue to think the issue of aliens or AI is relevant. Do you believe I am trying to canvass a total ethical understanding of the issue of ending life? Why would you think that when my argument is specifically targeted to the abortion of human beings?

  42. Michael

    I think another supporting argument to add to number (5) is that natural abortions aren’t pre-meditated. It’s like saying “40% of all deaths occurring because of a car crash happen ‘naturally’ (accidently), so it’s okay if I purposly run over someone who’s an annoyance to me.”

  43. Lloyd Evans

    Dear Dominic Bnonn Tennant,

    I have read your complete argument here, including all of your counter arguments to the commonly used objections, with a great deal of interest and attention. As a scientist myself, I understand very well that human life begins at conception (fertilization), that the zygote or any subsequent stage is most definitely alive, and therefore an abortion at any stage puts an end to that life.
    When viewed on their own, all of your arguments make perfect logical sense. It is obvious that you have constructed them in a way that makes it very difficult (if not impossible) for anyone to prove you wrong. So congratulations, you appear to have won. Abortion is murder, and is therefore morally wrong. You have made that abundantly clear, and we all get the point.

    However, I have also read the comments section, including all of your responses to the counter-arguments made by other people. This is unfortunately where I find your arguments less impressive.
    A recurring theme in many of your responses to comments is to point out that the respondent has failed to disprove your original argument – that he or she has failed to logically argue that abortion is not murder, or that abortion is not morally wrong.
    Another recurring theme in your responses is for you to repeat or reiterate sections of your original argument, as if you think the respondent needs to be told again what he or she has already read.

    I should not have to make the following clear to you, but having read your responses, this apparently does need saying:
    1. Just because a respondent has not succeeded in disproving your original argument, does not make their argument invalid, and certainly doesn’t discount all of the points they may raise.
    2. Repeatedly hammering out parts of your original argument is NOT a further argument, and also does not invalidate all the points made by your respondents.

    Now, here are some of the points I would like to make. I’m not going to argue that abortion isn’t murder, because as you correctly point out, it is. Neither am I going to argue that abortion isn’t morally wrong, because I cannot fault your logical arguments that it is.

    However, despite your arguments, there are several very good reasons why abortion should be allowed, even though it is murder and is morally wrong:

    1. Forced pregnancy (by preventing abortion) should NOT be used to punish a woman for having sex. Yes, we all know that sex can result in pregnancy. That is what contraception is for. Yes, we also all know that no method of contraception is 100% effective. Condoms split, an IUD may fail, the pill may not work, and so on. But when people use contraception, their intention is to enjoy their sex lives and not to have a child. If the contraception fails and a pregnancy results, then that pregnancy is by definition unplanned and unwanted. Just saying “Well she should have thought about that before having sex” or words to that effect is not helpful in any way, nor is it an answer to this problem. Such attitudes are typical of the kind of “punishment for enjoying sex” mentality that drives the true agenda behind most (if not all) anti-abortion campaigns. Which leads nicely onto the second point.

    2. Denying a woman an abortion when she has an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy will lead to an unwanted child. This is never a good situation, either for the mother or for the child. The “right to life” anti-abortion movement is quick to stand up for the rights of the unborn, but when it comes to the right of a child (and its mother) to have a good and happy life, they become mysteriously silent. An unwanted child is far less likely to have a good or happy life than a properly planned child, even if it is born into a family with the resources to care for it. But this is rare in itself.
    It is far more likely that an unwanted child would be born into a family which DOESN’T have the resources (financial and emotional) to properly care for it. After all, that is why it wasn’t wanted in the first place. It’s bad enough if the unwanted child is the first child a family has – that only wrecks two lives – the mothers and the childs (or three lives if the father is also present). It is even worse if an unwanted child brings emotional upheaval and / or financial devastation to a family which already has children. Because then the lives of the existing children are also adversely affected, and the life of the unwanted child will be further ruined by all the resentment directed at it.
    Forcing emotional and financial devastation upon a family (and upon the unwanted child) is a massive moral injustice in itself – one which has lasting consequences for the lives of all involved. The simple cure for all of that is to allow abortions when contraception fails. Yes, that abortion would be morally wrong. But forcing the consequences of an unwanted child upon said child and its family is arguably far more morally wrong.

    3. Rape resulting in pregnancy. Yes, I’ve read your argument against this objection. But respectfully, I disagree. You cannot simply dismiss the events leading to a rape-pregnancy as irrelevant. For a start, a rape is a horrific violation of a woman. Granted, it does involve sex, but NOT consensual sex. Also, it’s very unlikely that any rapist will use contraception. Which is why it does occasionally result in pregnancy. Neither can you blame a raped woman for not using contraception.
    Now, it is bad enough to deny a woman an abortion when her pregnancy was unplanned. But to deny a woman an abortion when the sex that led to the pregnancy was also unplanned (and forced upon her) is even worse. The situation which led to a rape-pregnancy could not be more relevant to the need for an abortion in this case. Denying a woman an abortion in a case of a rape-pregnancy is pure punishment of that woman, and is far more morally wrong than the abortion itself.
    Even if you don’t accept that, what about the child which would result from forcing a rape-pregnancy to continue? I’ve already pointed out that forcing an unwanted pregnancy to continue is bad enough, for all involved (not least the child itself). But in the case of a rape-pregnancy, the pregnancy itself was forced upon the woman by a decidedly immoral act (the rape). Forcing this to continue (by denying the woman an abortion) will result in a child which is a living reminder of the violent, horrific act which created it. As such, it won’t just be unwanted or unloved – it may also be hated and resented all it’s life. To force such a situation by preventing abortion is also far more morally wrong than preventing it by allowing an abortion.

    4. Cases of medical need. This includes all cases where an abortion is required at a late stage of the pregnancy. Why? Because any pregnancy which continues towards a late stage is by definition planned. So the only good reason for terminating in such a situation is when it is medically necessary to do so. If both the life of the mother and the unborn child are in danger, but abortion could save the mothers life, then preventing abortion equates to killing the mother. It is surely obvious that forcing the death of both mother and child is more morally wrong than allowing an abortion.
    What about a situation where bringing the child to term would result in the death of the mother while the child could survive? That one is perhaps less clear. By deciding whether or not to allow an abortion in that case, you are effectively choosing who you allow to live – the mother or the child. However, the only person who has the right to make that choice is the mother. Taking that choice away from her (by preventing abortion) is arguably more morally wrong than allowing the abortion to proceed.
    The other cases of medical need are when it is discovered late in the pregnancy that even though both mother and child would survive the birth, the child would not live very long afterwards. This could be due to some kind of life-threatening deformity, or genetic disease, or any similar reason. This also covers cases of incest, because incestuous pregnancies often have similar results. In such a case, if you prevent abortion, you are forcing a child to be born who would have not just a short life, but also likely a very difficult and painful life. That is also before you even think about the emotional damage that would do to the mother (and father if he is present), and says nothing about financial strain that would place on the parents. Forcing such a situation to happen (by preventing abortion) is again arguably far more morally wrong than than the abortion itself.

    I think you need to take the points above into account, because they show that in many cases, preventing an abortion can have results which are far more morally wrong than the abortion itself. I am not arguing that abortion is not morally wrong, or that it isn’t murder. However, I am arguing that abortion is often necessary, and while it is definitely morally wrong, it is often the lesser of two evils.

  44. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Lloyd, thanks for the detailed reply. Let me take a stab at throwing your objections into perspective:

    Forced pregnancy (by preventing abortion) should NOT be used to punish a woman for having sex

    I’m not advocating forcibly impregnating anyone. And I’m not arguing that women should be forced to keep their babies as punishment for having sex (indeed, it is perplexing that you would think I hold such a view).

    I am saying women should be prevented from killing their babies because that is an extreme moral evil.

    But when people use contraception, their intention is to enjoy their sex lives and not to have a child.

    I’m not sure how this is relevant. Enjoying your sex life still carries with it the possible consequence of creating a baby. If you’re not prepared to deal appropriately with that possible consequence then the moral course of action is to avoid having sex—not to murder your baby. Look at the relationship you’re trying to argue for here:

    • Taking responsibility and not killing the child you didn’t plan = punishment.
    • Enjoying your sex life at the expense of your child’s life = freedom.

    Do you think that women have a right to enjoy sex with no consequences—even if that means murdering their child? If so, why?

    Denying a woman an abortion when she has an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy will lead to an unwanted child. This is never a good situation, either for the mother or for the child.

    I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re going to have to cry me a river. Because you know what’s a much, much worse situation for the child? Murdering it.

    The “right to life” anti-abortion movement is quick to stand up for the rights of the unborn, but when it comes to the right of a child (and its mother) to have a good and happy life, they become mysteriously silent.

    There’s nothing mysterious about our “silence”. We simply hold that the right to life is more fundamental than the right to happiness. It’s also absurd to think that all, or even most situations of unwanted pregnancy will lead to traumatized families and unhappy kids further down the line. There are plenty of abortion survivors who will attest to that. And it’s further ridiculous to pretend as if abortion is the only option even when the mother really can’t support, or will not keep, the child—adoption is always a better option than murder. Lastly, you’re ignoring the mountains of evidence that abortion has a high likelihood of causing lasting psychological trauma for the mother. Maybe we should kill mothers who get abortions, since they’re likely to suffer emotional turmoil and be unable to live happy lives?

    Basically you are trying to argue that we’re justified in killing children who don’t have a good chance at a happy life. That’s just obviously absurd.

    You cannot simply dismiss the events leading to a rape-pregnancy as irrelevant.

    Actually I very much can, inasmuch as these events are irrelevant to the baby’s right to life. If you disagree, you need to show that how a child is conceived has a plausible bearing on whether the child has a right to life. But since the right to life is based on what a child is (a human being), not how a child came to be, that’s an impossible hurdle for you.

    Denying a woman an abortion in a case of a rape-pregnancy is pure punishment of that woman, and is far more morally wrong than the abortion itself.

    How? According to what moral standard is it “punishing” a woman who was raped when we require her not to murder her child? You’re not making any argument—you’re just trying to pull at my heart-strings. But while I am have the utmost sympathy for any woman who is so brutally violated, and I would wish to see any possible support given to her, that doesn’t include turning a blind eye to her murdering the child she was so painfully forced to conceive. Can you name any other situation where a crime against one person gives them license to murder another completely innocent person?

    If both the life of the mother and the unborn child are in danger, but abortion could save the mothers life, then preventing abortion equates to killing the mother.

    I’m not aware of any medical situation in the Western world where the only way to save the mother is to cut the baby to pieces. There are very rare situations where, if the baby were to remain inside the mother, they would both die. In those situations, the baby is delivered and every effort is made to save it.

    In such a case, if you prevent abortion, you are forcing a child to be born who would have not just a short life, but also likely a very difficult and painful life.

    Could you explain how the likelihood of short, difficult or painful life takes away the right to that life? If not, again, you’re not making any kind of real argument.

    I am arguing that abortion is often necessary, and while it is definitely morally wrong, it is often the lesser of two evils.

    I think you’re speaking of that which you do not know. Perhaps you should go out and find some people who were nearly aborted, or whose parents didn’t love them, or who grew up in poverty, and ask them if they’d rather have been murdered by their parents in utero. Or maybe you could do them a favor and kill them now, to save them any of the further suffering they’re likely to endure. By your own standard, wouldn’t that be the lesser of the two evils?

  45. Lloyd Evans

    Dear Dominic Bnonn Tennant,

    I think there are a few aspects of my previous comment that you may have misunderstood a little. In order to clarify this, my reply is necessarily much longer than my original comment, so let me apologise for that in advance.

    To begin with, it’s good to know that you are not advocating forcibly impregnating anyone. However, that isn’t quite what I was suggesting in my previous comment.
    If a couple take all precautions against becoming pregnant by using contraception, but the contraception fails and a pregnancy results, then that pregnancy is by definition unwanted. Now, thanks to modern medical technology, we have the ability to test for and abort that pregnancy at a very early stage, without harming the mother.
    Thus, modern technology has provided women with a choice that they did not previously have. You might well argue that this is a choice that should be denied to women, since exercising it involves ending the life of the zygote / embryo / foetus (or whatever term you choose). However, in the real world, this choice does exist.
    If you prevent access to abortion, you are effectively forcing that pregnancy to continue – you deny women a choice which technology has provided them with. This then denies women the right to choose what happens to their bodies. That is a regressive step.

    You say: “Enjoying your sex life still carries with it the possible consequence of creating a baby. If you’re not prepared to deal appropriately with that possible consequence then the moral course of action is to avoid having sex”

    As I said before, that argument is not in any way helpful. Neither is it a realistic answer to the problem. That you have made such an argument is precisely why I think you hold the view that women should be forced to keep their babies as punishment for having sex. Neither is it really all that perplexing that I think you hold that view. Because as I pointed out, this is the true agenda that drives most (if not all) anti-abortion campaigns. How do I know this? Simple. Because the groups which are the most vocal and persistent anti-abortionists are precisely the same people who also campaign against provision of no-nonsense explicit sex education and open, unrestricted access to contraception. Now, I admit that I may have judged you unfairly – you might not be a member of such groups and you might not hold the same attitudes and opinions as they do. But considering the manner of your responses and the nature of your arguments, I find it hard to believe that you don’t fall into the same camp.

    Holding the view that abortion should never happen in any circumstances may well be the moral high ground. But unfortunately, that is unrealistic. A compromise position, which takes reality into account, is to try to make abortion as rare an occurrence as possible. However, simply banning or otherwise preventing access to abortion is not a realistic or effective answer. A much better way – and one which has been proven to work very well – is to reduce the need for abortions in the first place.
    The best way to do that is to provide clear, explicit sex education in schools, available and accessible to all children both before and during puberty. Coupled with this must be completely unrestricted access to any and all methods of contraception.
    There are several countries where this is done, namely Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. These countries have the lowest rates of abortion and of teenage pregnancy on the planet.
    This may seem morally distasteful, because it seems to encourage teenagers to have sex. However, the reality is that teenagers are going to have sex anyway no matter what policy you try to push on them – the hormonal desires at and around puberty are simply too strong to be denied. But if you measure the results by observing the teenage birth rate, explicit sex education and promotion of contraceptive use is clearly the way forward. In births per 1000 teenagers, Finland scores 8, Sweden and Denmark 7, and the Netherlands only 5. These are official figures collected by UNICEF – feel free to look them up.
    At the other end of the scale are countries where contraception is less available and promotion of sexual abstinence policies is much stronger. Such as the UK, which has a teenage birth rate of 20 (again in births per 1000 teenagers). Or consider the USA, where the promotion of abstinence is even stronger and rates of contraceptive use are even lower, where the teenage birth rate is 53 on the same scale. This is worse than many third world countries!

    The reality of the situation is clear. Policies of “just say no” to sex are unrealistic and ineffective. If you lower the rate of unwanted pregnancy (which teenage pregnancy is a very good indicator of), then the need for abortions also drops. This is something that we can all agree on, no matter what our opinions on the morality of abortion may be.

    Do women have the right to enjoy their sex lives with no consequences? The short answer to this is yes, they damn well do. Men have had that right (or perhaps that privilege) for far longer, so it’s about time that women had it too. This is a right which has been provided for women by the development of modern contraceptives. If there was a method of contraception which was 100% effective, then there would be no argument on this point. But the reality is unfortunately not so simple. As we all know, there is no 100% effective method of contraception, which is why abortion is sometimes necessary.

    Further to that, I am well aware that abortion can be very emotionally and psychologically traumatic for any woman who has one. It is true to say that nobody wants to have an abortion, because most people understand only too well what you are so eager to preach – that abortion is indeed morally equivalent to murder. However, the women who choose to have an abortion do so because they find it necessary, for all manner of reasons, only some of which I outlined in my previous comment. The very last thing any woman considering abortion needs is people like you, telling them that abortion is evil and cannot be allowed in any circumstances. That only makes their decision harder, and does them far more psychological and emotional harm than people like me, who are well aware that abortion is morally wrong, but also accept the reality that it is a necessary evil and as such, will fight for a womans right to make the choice for herself.

    Speaking again of womens rights, I must again return to the issue of pregnancy caused by rape. Now, I will concede that for the purposes of sustaining your argument on paper, YOU could consider the events which cause a rape-pregnancy to be irrelevant. However, when we move away from the hypothetical and into the real world, these events become extremely relevant. You claim to have the utmost sympathy for a woman who is violated by rape. However, given that you advocate forcing a raped woman to continue her pregnancy by denying her an abortion, your claim to have sympathy is hard to believe.
    Why not practice what you preach? Go and find a pregnant woman whose pregnancy was caused by her having been raped. It happens, so you should be able to find one. Go and tell her that no, she absolutely cannot have an abortion, because the right of her rape-baby to live takes precedence over everything else. Tell her that the fact that she was raped is irrelevant – and use your logic to explain why. See how long it takes before you get a slap or are strongly encouraged to go away.
    Your argument may well be logically sound, but in the real world, it is also completely and utterly unrealistic. A woman who has been raped was not simply subjected to a violent attack. Her rights were also severely violated – most importantly her right to choose whether to have sex or not. If that non-consensual sex results in a pregnancy, then that is by definition a forced impregnation. Forcing her to continue that pregnancy by denying her access to an abortion is a second violation of her rights – in this case, her right to choose what happens to her own body. This adds insult to injury and makes you no better than the rapist – that is the punishment, that is why the rape itself is relevant, and that is why denying her an abortion is unrealistic.

    Am I trying to tug on your heart strings? Why yes, of course I am, because if you are human, you have emotions like everyone else, so I would hope you have heart strings to tug upon. Besides, your entire argument is based not just on logic, but also on a massive tug on the collective heart-strings of everyone who reads it. You often refer to murdering children and killing babies, both in your arguments and in your replies to respondents. You also refer to hacking or cutting babies to pieces to assert that the process of abortion, as well as being immoral, is also violent and grisly. The latter is particularly pernicious and bizarre, because contrary to what you may claim or believe, abortions do NOT include hacking or cutting babies (or embryos or foetuses) to bits when they are carried out properly and legally.

    For example, in your reply to my previous comment, you say:
    “I’m not aware of any medical situation in the Western world where the only way to save the mother is to cut the baby to pieces.”
    Replace “cut the baby to pieces” with “abort the foetus / embryo” please, because they are NOT the same thing. Also, in response to that comment, perhaps you have never heard of an ectopic pregnancy? This is what I was referring to in my previous comment – I apologise for not having clarified that. An ectopic pregnancy is when implantation of the embryo takes place outside the uterus – most often in the fallopian tubes, occasionally in the cervix. But sometimes the embryo can migrate into the abdominal cavity and implant on the intestines or another internal organ. In either case, it is highly unlikely that the embryo / foetus will survive to full term. Also, there is a high risk of severe haemorrhage (internal bleeding), which could cause the death of the mother. An abortion is often required in cases of ectopic pregnancy to save the life of the mother. You don’t have to take my word for it – look it up if you like. I’m sure that even you can agree that this is a case where abortion is not just the realistic option, but the morally correct option.

    In your response to my previous comment, you also suggested that I go out and find some people who were nearly aborted and ask them if they would rather have been murdered by their mother(s) in utero.
    Well, I have already done that. As a case in point, I present myself and my younger brother. Both of us could have been aborted had our circumstances been different. How so? Well, my mother was in her late 30’s when she was pregnant with us – 36 in my case and 39 for my brother. As you may know, women who become pregnant after the age of 35 have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to children with Downs Syndrome – an incurable genetic disorder. You can look that up to get a complete definition, but basically, it involves mental and physical retardation, coupled with a variety of other physical problems such as thyroid disorders, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of leukaemia, and many other complications.
    Therefore, both my mother and father agreed that during the pregnancy of both myself and my brother, they would have an amniocentesis carried out. This involves the extraction of a small quantity of amniotic fluid, which contains foetal cells. These (after cell culturing) can be subjected to genetic testing, either to determine the sex of the foetus, or to test for genetic disorders, including Downs Syndrome.
    When my mother informed me that this test had been carried out on me (and on my brother), I of course asked why. She then told me about the risk of Downs Syndrome and some of the problems it can cause. I then researched it myself to find out exactly what it was. I then asked her what she would have done if I had tested positive for Downs Syndrome. She then told me that she would have had an abortion, to prevent me from being born with the disorder and being forced to live my entire life with it. I thought about this for a long time, but I eventually came to the conclusion that if I had tested positive during pregnancy, and she had aborted me, that would have been entirely justified in her decision to do so. I understood (and still do understand) the situation perfectly well – she would have been justified in making that decision because it is the ethically correct decision.
    Consider that immoral, warped or tragic if you like, but above all else, it was a realistic approach to the situation. Yes, the realistic approach often differs from what you might consider to be morally correct. But that (unfortunate as it may be) is a fact of life.

    So what, you may say – I still haven’t proved that abortion isn’t immoral or doesn’t constitute murder. A zygote, embryo or foetus at any stage is still a human life (or can become a human being), and since abortion involves ending that life, it is still evil and morally wrong.

    Yes, of course you are right. But why not go one step further?
    In order to form a zygote, you don’t just need an egg cell. You also need a sperm cell. Since sperm cells are produced by men, and men are of course human, every sperm cell is also by definition human. A sperm cell is both human, and alive, so for moral purposes, a sperm cell is also a human life. Is it not therefore just as immoral to intentionally kill a sperm cell as it is to kill a zygote, embryo or foetus?
    A single ejaculation contains (on average) 100 million sperm cells. If this ejaculation happens within a condom during protected sex, then all of these sperm cells will be discarded, and will subsequently die. Likewise, if ejaculation happens as a result of masturbation, then the sperm will also all be discarded and will subsequently die. How many million men use condoms for protected sex every day and therefore intentionally kill sperm cells? Even if you don’t have sex, you still masturbate – any grown man who claims to have never masturbated is an obvious liar. Whenever you do, you intentionally kill sperm cells.
    Just as modern technology has enabled pregnancy tests and abortion, it has also enabled processes like in vitro fertilisation (IVF), cryogenic storage of sperm, and artificial insemination. Therefore whenever a man wishes to masturbate or have protected sex, he is surely morally obliged to save the sperm he will produce and store it for future use?

    Why not go a step further still? Why limit our morality (with respect to killing) to human life alone? If it is morally wrong to kill a human life, surely it is also morally wrong to kill any other form of life on this planet?
    If you eat meat or fish, then you implicitly agree that your own dietary needs are more important than the right to life of the animal you want to eat. Is this morally correct?
    Even if you are vegetarian, you still kill other life forms every day. Every time you wash your hands with antibacterial soap, or pour bleach down a toilet, or carry out any number of mundane tasks around the home, you are intentionally killing millions or perhaps billions of bacteria. Who is to say that your life is more important than theirs? Likewise, if you have ever taken antibiotics, antiviral or antifungal medications, you are again intentionally killing millions or billions of bacteria, viruses or fungi. Is this morally acceptable?

    You may now say something like: Hold on, that is not the same. You may say that killing an animal, a plant, or a bacterium is not the same as killing a human being. You may also say that killing a sperm cell (or even an egg cell) is not the same as killing a human. There may not be a moral difference, but there are many practical differences.

    To which I would say: Yes, you’re absolutely right. In the real world, there are many practical differences which we realistically must take into account, in spite of what we may perceive as morally correct.
    Likewise, there are practical differences between preventing implantation of an embryo by the use of abortifacient drugs such as mifepristone (the morning-after pill), and the surgical removal of an already implanted foetus. There are also many practical differences between abortion of a foetus and the killing of a child or adult.
    The success of your entire argument relies upon ignoring the very real differences between a zygote, embryo or foetus and a child or developed human. Likewise, the success of my arguments involving sperm cells or bacteria also involves ignoring the very real differences between a sperm cell and a developed human, or between a living bacterium and a living human.

    So while on paper, your argument is logically flawless, as soon as you enter the real world, where you have to take practical differences into account, your argument falls down, or at very least encounters many significant problems. Reality involves far more than what is dictated by morality. Real life is much more complex, which you are intelligent enough to know, and whether you like it or not, you have to accept.

  46. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Lloyd, no problem about the long comment. It’s just a pity that so much of it is based on an obviously bad premise—namely, that a mother is justified in murdering her children if their existence causes her emotional distress or infringes on her bodily autonomy.

    Since you’ve given no justification for that premise aside from the observation that in the real world, people are evil and will murder their children for these reasons, there actually isn’t much to respond to.

    That said, I think it’s worth exposing your mistakes more explicitly; if not for your sake (I don’t hold out any hope of convincing someone with such obvious moral myopia) then at least for those who may be reading…

    I find it hard to believe that you don’t fall into the same camp.

    These comments about the “true agenda” behind anti-abortion campaigns are just comical. For the record, I support abstinence—because fornication is immoral. I also support proper sex education (not what is taught in schools today, which is largely ideological rather than scientific). That said, your effort to draw a connection between these issues and “punishing women for having sex” is just an obvious example of the genetic fallacy, coupled with some remarkably flagrant question-begging and strawmanship in regards to these supposed “underlying” issues.

    Thus, modern technology has provided women with a choice that they did not previously have.

    And the invention of roofies has provided men with a choice they did not previously have.

    Holding the view that abortion should never happen in any circumstances may well be the moral high ground. But unfortunately, that is unrealistic.

    Holding the view that rape should never happen in any circumstances may well be a the moral high ground. But unfortunately, that is unrealistic.

    A compromise position, which takes reality into account, is to try to make abortion as rare an occurrence as possible. However, simply banning or otherwise preventing access to abortion is not a realistic or effective answer.

    A compromise position, which takes reality into account, is to try to make rape as rare an occurrence as possible. However, simply banning or otherwise preventing access to rape is not a realistic or effective answer.

    Basically, you’re arguing that since people are going to be immoral, we might as well not have laws against that, but rather just try to engineer circumstances which encourage them to be immoral as seldom as possible. But such a morally compromised position would logically lead to the abolition of all law. Why should I even consider such foolishness, let alone accept it—especially given that you have offered no argument in support of it at all?

    However, the reality is that teenagers are going to have sex anyway no matter what policy you try to push on them – the hormonal desires at and around puberty are simply too strong to be denied.

    In that case, parents should also make sure to find good sources of heroin, cocaine, meth and other hard drugs for teens to experiment on. After all, peer pressure at and around puberty is simply too strong to be denied.

    This is just obviously bollocks. I’m amazed to see an apparently intelligent person spouting such gibberish. It would be funny except that you so obviously don’t give a crap about what is best for kids, and are willing to compromise your moral principles for the sake of being “realistic”. I suspect most parents feel similarly, which is why so many teens these days do have sex and experiment with drugs. Yet amazingly, at other times in history, the majority of them were able to resist these supposedly overpowering urges quite effectively.

    Your approach is to gradually concede ground to immorality. Thus society gets more immoral, and so you concede even more ground. That is the opposite of a genuinely morally pragmatic approach, and is obviously immoral in its own right.

    Do women have the right to enjoy their sex lives with no consequences? The short answer to this is yes, they damn well do.

    You’re just making an assertion in lieu of an argument. When the ability to enjoy your sex life with no consequences comes at the cost of your child’s life, the obvious answer is actually no, they damn well don’t. If you want to argue that women have the right to enjoy sex at the expense of their children’s lives, you have a heavy burden of proof to carry. So instead of making inane comments like this, why don’t you pick it up and start carrying it?

    Men have had that right (or perhaps that privilege) for far longer, so it’s about time that women had it too.

    Misplaced feminism-induced guilt aside, men do not have the right to abandon their children, regardless of how those children came to be. So your comparison fails at the crucial point.

    The very last thing any woman considering abortion needs is people like you, telling them that abortion is evil and cannot be allowed in any circumstances.

    It’s telling that you are more concerned about the emotional wellbeing of murderers than the lives of their children.

    people like me, who are well aware that abortion is morally wrong, but also accept the reality that it is a necessary evil and as such, will fight for a womans right to make the choice for herself.

    Forsooth, you are the very embodiment of the noble hero, standing up for the “rights” of mothers to choose to murder their children, regardless of how difficult that decision is for them.

    f womens rights, I must again return to the issue of pregnancy caused by rape. Now, I will concede that for the purposes of sustaining your argument on paper, YOU could consider the events which cause a rape-pregnancy to be irrelevant.

    Translation: you agree with my conclusion that killing a child is evil regardless of how that child came to be, but you lack the moral cajones, and the respect for the emotional hardiness of women, to hold them accountable for murder. Women, in your view, are just too fragile to be held to the same moral standards as us men. We have to make glaring concessions to their emotional feebleness, even to the point of allowing them to commit murder to make themselves feel better.

    Go and tell her that no, she absolutely cannot have an abortion, because the right of her rape-baby to live takes precedence over everything else. Tell her that the fact that she was raped is irrelevant – and use your logic to explain why.

    So, your argument is that…if we try to take the least effective approach to persuasion possible, we will fail…? Or maybe that people often cannot be turned aside from their decision to murder other people…? I don’t get your point here.

    In either case, it is highly unlikely that the embryo / foetus will survive to full term. Also, there is a high risk of severe haemorrhage (internal bleeding), which could cause the death of the mother. An abortion is often required in cases of ectopic pregnancy to save the life of the mother.

    True—I had forgotten about ectopic pregnancies. That is a clear-cut case in which the only medical option is to remove the baby to save the life of the mother. Since that is the only ethical option available, however, it doesn’t have any bearing on my argument.

    I thought about this for a long time, but I eventually came to the conclusion that if I had tested positive during pregnancy, and she had aborted me, that would have been entirely justified in her decision to do so.

    The doting parents of thousands of Downs children would disagree. Why should we simply take your word for it? Because you “thought about it” for a “long time”?

    she would have been justified in making that decision because it is the ethically correct decision.

    Only if you think people with Downs syndrome have no right to life. There’s a fellow with Downs in my church. Do you think I would not be guilty of murder if I strangled him to death next Sunday?

    Consider that immoral, warped or tragic if you like, but above all else, it was a realistic approach to the situation. Yes, the realistic approach often differs from what you might consider to be morally correct. But that (unfortunate as it may be) is a fact of life.

    When you explain this to Jesus on the day of judgment, what do you think he will say?

    Yes, of course you are right. But why not go one step further?
    In order to form a zygote, you don’t just need an egg cell. You also need a sperm cell. Since sperm cells are produced by men, and men are of course human, every sperm cell is also by definition human. A sperm cell is both human, and alive, so for moral purposes, a sperm cell is also a human life.

    Wow, what you were saying about the need for sex education was no joke huh. I guess high school biology ain’t what it used to be. (High school logic neither—if only they taught such a thing at all you might have noticed the brazen composition fallacy and category error you made in this little syllogism.)

    For the record, a human being has 46 chromosomes (all going well)—23 from the mother and 23 from the father. A sperm cell is haploid, having only 23 chromosomes, and is not a human being at all. You can tell because, left to its own devices, it does not turn into a baby and then into a child and then into a teenager and then into an adult, which is what human beings do.

    The success of your entire argument relies upon ignoring the very real differences between a zygote, embryo or foetus and a child or developed human.

    On the contrary, the success of your counterargument relies on creating non-existent differences between a zygote, embryo, fetus, child, and developed human. They are all human beings, and as such they all have a right to life.

    So while on paper, your argument is logically flawless

    In other words, while I am actually right about this…

    as soon as you enter the real world, where you have to take practical differences into account, your argument falls down, or at very least encounters many significant problems.

    People being willing to murder their children for selfish reasons is a presupposition of my argument, not a problem for it.

  47. Lloyd Evans

    Dear Dominic Bnonn Tennant,

    Again, apologies in advance for an even longer comment than before. This is evidently necessary for adequate clarification and to obviate confusion.

    You don’t have to tell me what the differences are between a haploid cell (sperm or egg) and a diploid cell are. As I told you in my first comment, I am a scientist, so I know the differences very well. In my previous comment, I left these differences out only to illustrate a point. That point being that if you ignore certain critical differences between a sperm cell and a zygote, it is possible to equate the killing of one with the killing of the other. Likewise, if you ignore the differences between a zygote, embryo, foetus and child, you can also equate the killing of one with the killing of another.

    Please try to understand: I am NOT trying to argue that there is no MORAL difference between killing a zygote / embryo / foetus / child. Because as you have made abundantly clear, there is no moral difference.

    What I am pointing out is that there are definitive and undeniable PRACTICAL differences, which are relevant and important. Why? Because if you really do seriously care about the rights of the unborn, you (or someone at least) will eventually have to translate the logic of your argument into a real world policy or law code. When that happens, there are going to be many complications, which you cannot escape from.

    The first difficulty you have to deal with is differentiating abortion (early term at least) from recognised methods of contraception. It may seem that this is easy to do, but in reality is more complicated than you might think.

    For example, consider the IUD (Intra-Uterine Device). As you may know, these are small implants which can be fitted within the uterus to act as long term contraceptives. Some types are copper based, such as the copper cross. These have a spermicidal effect – they kill or deactivate sperm before it can reach the egg, thus preventing fertilisation. So you could consider copper IUDs to be true contraceptives.
    However, non-copper IUDs work in an entirely different manner. A non-copper IUD does not prevent fertilisation. Instead, it prevents embryo implantation. So whenever a woman with a non-copper IUD has otherwise unprotected sex, if fertilisation occurs and an embryo is formed, it will automatically be flushed out of the uterus without implanting, and will of course subsequently die. So does this count as contraception, or does it count as abortion? If a woman is unaware of how the IUD works (but just knows that it does), does it count as premeditated abortion or not?
    Are we going to ban non-copper IUDs? If so, are we going to round up every woman who currently has one and forcibly remove them? Or are we going to mandate that any woman with a non-copper IUD always uses condoms or femidoms whenever she has sex, in order to prevent sperm from reaching the egg in the first place? Or mandate that she must always use the pill in combination with the IUD to prevent ovulation?

    Another example for you – emergency (pharmaceutical) contraception. By which I mean the morning after pill. This contains a small dose of mifepristone, which acts to prevent ovulation. So in that respect, it is a contraceptive. But if ovulation has already occurred, the small dose used cannot have any effect. In which case a larger dose of mifepristone (either alone or in combination with misoprostol) can be used. In a larger dose, mifepristone has another effect – it prevents embryo implantation. Again, does that count as contraception, or abortion?

    This leads nicely onto the key difference between an embryo, which has not implanted yet, and a foetus, which has. Before implantation, the embryo is a cluster of cells, floating freely in either the fallopian tubes or the uterine cavity. Implantation is the formation of a direct physical link between the embryo and the uterus. To begin with, the link is somewhat tenuous – nutrients are transferred from only a few capillary blood vessels from the endometrial tissue.
    At any time within 6 weeks after implantation, abortion can be effected pharmaceutically, again using mifepristone, but this time in combination with misoprostol. Mifepristone is a progesterone antagonist – it reverses the effect of progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone which maintains a pregnancy by interrupting the menstrual cycle – hence preventing the uterus from shedding the endometrial layers. If this effect is reversed by the antagonist, the menstrual cycle is restarted – the endometrium is shed as normal and the foetus (implanted embryo) is flushed out with it.

    You may think the answer to this is simple – just ban the manufacture and distribution of mifepristone, misoprostol and other abortifacient drugs. But hold on there – both of these drugs have other bona fide purposes, completely unrelated to abortion. So you can’t really ban them – not that doing so would really prevent anyone from getting hold of them anyway. Even if you could ban them, there are many natural substances which have historically been used as abortifacients. Some are really very mundane and trivial to obtain, such as pomegranate, saffron, nutmeg, papaya and many others. They are somewhat less reliable than modern synthetic drugs, but can be effective nonetheless. Some are common herbs which anyone could grow as a houseplant or in a garden. You couldn’t possibly outlaw them all – not effectively at any rate.

    Later still is the development of the placenta and umbilical cord. Once these have developed, the connection between foetus and uterus is much more substantial. At this stage, drugs alone cannot reliably be used to effect abortion. Physical intervention is required. The most common physical method is vacuum aspiration – simply sucking out the uterine contents. This is the least invasive physical method, which rarely (if ever) causes medical complications and hence causes the least risk to the mother. Surgical methods are only employed if vacuum aspiration is not possible or has not been effective – even then, the use of surgical methods for abortion in modern medicine is now rare. Hence your repeated implications that abortion involves “hacking babies to pieces” are overwhelmingly irrelevant and false.
    The vacuum aspiration method doesn’t necessarily need a skilled physician to perform it. Anyone with access to the equipment and a modicum of training could probably do it. It doesn’t even need access to electricity – it can be (and often is) done with hand operated pumps. This makes it cheap, reasonably easy and efficient. Therefore not too much of a problem for any potential black market clinic to provide.

    Which leads onto my next point, which I have already alluded to in my previous comments, so apologies for the repetition. As I previously pointed out, nobody really wants to have an abortion. When abortion is performed, it is overwhelmingly done out of necessity. I don’t just mean when it is medically necessary. There are many reasons why women choose to have an abortion. The most common is of course that they aren’t prepared (financially or emotionally) to have a child at whatever stage of life they are at. This is especially true in the case of teenage pregnancies – the consequences of which are most damaging to a young girls life. No, this doesn’t automatically mean that abortion is morally justified. But for those who choose to have one, it is still a necessity.

    As such, simply criminalising abortion will not stop it from happening in the majority of cases. This does not necessarily mean that abortion shouldn’t be illegal. I’m just pointing out the fact that unless you ALSO tackle the underlying problems and address why abortions are necessary, just banning them isn’t going to make much difference.

    Now surely, if you really do care about the rights of the unborn, you will want to make an actual difference. If abortion really is the most fundamental moral crime, then you would surely want to implement whatever policies are most effective at actually reducing the rate of abortion. Please explain what could possibly be wrong with such an approach?

    For the record, abortion is NOT the same as date-rape by rohypnol (roofies), or rape of any type for that matter. They are separate issues. You do yourself a disservice and damage your own credibility by confusing or equating them.
    The only area where abortion and rape cross paths is when pregnancy results from rape. I’m sorry to have to bring this up once more. Let me be clear: I perfectly understand the logic of your argument with respect to rape-pregnancy. You don’t need to repeat it for me again. You may well find some people who agree with you. However, most people (men and women alike), if told that you were not going to allow abortion in cases of rape-pregnancy, would consider you a bit mad or perhaps completely insane. At the very least you would be considered someone with extremist views. The fact that your logic is flawless is therefore more or less irrelevant, because any policy banning abortion in cases of rape-pregnancy is simply not going to become law anywhere in the civilised world. So you may as well accept the rape objection and move on.

    There is overwhelming evidence (some of which I provided in my previous comment) that the truly effective ways of minimizing rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, are as follows:

    1. Explicit sex education both before and during puberty. Repeating it again after puberty can’t hurt either. This must of course include education about all the possible methods of contraception, how they work, how effective they are, which can be safely used in combination for the greatest effectiveness, and so on.
    2. Coupled with sex education MUST BE completely unrestricted access to ALL available methods of contraception, for girls and boys. It doesn’t necessarily have to be provided for free (although that wouldn’t hurt), but there must be absolutely no stigma associated with it, nor any embarassment or shame associated with requests for contraception.

    As I pointed out in my previous comment, there are several countries where this has been done for many years, and these countries have the lowest rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy on earth. If you actually want to reduce abortion rates, this is the way forward.

    But hold on – doesn’t explicit sex education and freely available contraception encourage people to have sex?
    Well yes, perhaps it does. But, pray tell – what exactly is wrong with that?
    Oh right, of course – fornication is immoral.
    Seriously now? You’ve got some explaining to do with that one. Why is sex immoral? Because the Bible says so? Sorry – not good enough. Because sex is fun – and God forbid anyone has fun? That is outright Calvinism, which is ridiculous.
    If you’re going to invoke religion to explain why sex is immoral, then I am surely permitted to use more fundamental parts of the Bible to prove you wrong. Go back to Genesis. Do you believe that God created Man? That God created Woman? Yes? Then surely EVERY part of man and woman was created by God, including of course the manner in which we procreate, which is of course sex. If you’re going to argue that sex is immoral, then why not take that complaint directly to the creator of it, which is of course God. How can something that God himself designed be immoral? Answer: It can’t be. Next.

    At this point we are also in dire need of an important point of clarification: illegal drug use is NOT the same as sex. Just because they are often lumped together, does not make them the same. Sex and drugs are not even equivalent – not in terms of morality or anything else.
    For a start, illegal drug use is – well – illegal. Consensual sex, at least above the age of consent, is of course not illegal.
    More importantly, illegal drug use unquestionably causes a great deal of harm to many people. Whereas consensual sex, if appropriate contraception is used, harms nobody.
    Finally, and perhaps this is most relevant, sex is essential to the continuation of the human species. The drive to have sex is one of our most basic instincts. It is more than a simple desire to have fun. It is part of our biological programming, hard-wired into our bodies and brains. Denying or suppressing our natural desire for sex causes nothing but trouble.
    None of which is true for illegal drug use.
    Once again, by confusing or equating the two, you are doing yourself a disservice and damaging your own credibility.

    The regressive methods, which actually do more harm than good, are as follows:

    1. Promotion of sexual abstinence – either with or without religious motivations.
    2. Lack of explicit sex education – specifically, the lack of education about all methods of contraception and how they work.
    3. Restricting access to contraception.

    How then does abstinence do more harm than good?
    The logic of the abstinence position is undoubtedly sound and very simple – if you don’t have sex, then you can’t transmit STDs, can’t get pregnant, and therefore won’t need an abortion. Fine so far, at least in principle.
    In practice however, the situation is very different. You may well be able to convince some teenagers to abstain from sex. Some might even take their virginity with them until they are in a position to have a family. But the reality is that those that succeed in adhering to any abstinence program will eventually be a minority.
    Sooner or later, the majority of teenagers or young adults will fall off the abstinence wagon and start having sex. You might disagree – but consider that even if only a minority fail to abstain (which is bound to happen) then the policy is a failure for them.
    So what? Well, if those who fail to abstain from sex are in an environment where access to contraception is restricted, or if they lack the knowledge to use it properly, then problems will develop. Unprotected sex causes transmission of STDs. It also causes unplanned and hence unwanted pregnancies. Some of which (or many of which) will be teen pregnancies. As a result, the need for abortions will ensue.
    In short, you end up with precisely the problems which the abstinence policy was intended to prevent. This isn’t just theory. Industrialized nations where abstinence policies are strongest (such as the USA and UK) are in fact those where the rates of teenage pregnancy, abortions, and STDs are the highest.
    This is why sexual abstinence policies are regressive and counterproductive. If you support such policies, then you are (without knowing it, perhaps) part of the problem.

  48. Jens Nordmark

    I think you have an assumption in your argument that is not a basic intuition. This is an assumption of what gives humans moral value. You seem to assume that being a living organism with human DNA is what gives us moral value. This is actually quite counterintuitive I would say. The intuitive answer would be that our mental capabilities give us moral value. Human as in “member of the human species” is just a word in biological taxonomy. DNA is just a sequence of nucleotides. It is the properties of humans that give us value. The properties could be the capability to feel pleasure and pain, sentience, self-awareness, personhood, rationality, or whatever. It doesn’t really matter for my objection to your argument which property is important.

    The human zygote lacks any mental capabilites at all and can thus not have value. As for the fetus, it is a gradual issue. But bear in mind that human minds only differ gradually from those of other mammals, so there are implications on animal rights here. If a fetus at the same mental capacity as a frog has moral value, then the frog also has the same value. Anyway, moral value can only increase gradually since human development is gradual.

    Now, add some utilitarianism which was not required for my main point. At birth the child gains an immediate increase of moral value as it is put into a social context, it would be missed if it died for instance. Feelings of protectiveness kick in that makes the childs survival important for the wellbeing of adults in its vicinity, and thus the childs life gains an indirect increase of value. Now no more utilitarianism.

    Regardless of wheter we accept utilitarianism or not, The childs intrinsic value still is lesser than that of an adult because it lacks some mental capacities. However, the magnitude of that difference is highly dependent on which mental capacities we value. I would say sentience and self-awareness are key steps that increase value, and sentience is probably achieved at birth, although maybe it is earlier or later, but certainly not before the later stages of pregnancy.

    I don’t see how the purely taxonomic concept of belonging to a species could be more important than actual properties.

  49. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Jens:

    The intuitive answer would be that our mental capabilities give us moral value.

    I already dealt with this in objections (3) and (4). While I deny that it is our mental capabilities alone which give us moral value (since then it would be less immoral to kill less intelligent people), it actually makes no difference to my argument. Indeed, if you take this view, my argument is strengthened by merit of premise [4-iii].

    But bear in mind that human minds only differ gradually from those of other mammals

    An assertion devoid of argument. What evidence do you have for this that doesn’t beg the question of whether the mind is reducible to the brain?

    If a fetus at the same mental capacity as a frog has moral value, then the frog also has the same value.

    Since that’s obviously an absurd conclusion, this furnishes us evidence that your antecedent assumptions are faulty, and that human value is not merely a factor of mental capacity.

    Anyway, moral value can only increase gradually since human development is gradual.

    We’re not talking about moral value. We’re talking about intrinsic value which it is immoral to destroy. If you deny the existence of God, how do you account for the intrinsic value of human beings (whether you measure it by mental capacity or otherwise)? On the other hand, if you affirm the existence of God, why are you trying to measure human value by a different standard to him, and excuse the destruction of humans made in his image?

    Now, add some utilitarianism which was not required for my main point.

    Since utilitarianism begs the question of what is good from the outset, that’s not a very promising ingredient to mix into your argument.

    The childs intrinsic value still is lesser than that of an adult because it lacks some mental capacities.

    It’s striking that the people who object to my argument consistently lack basic moral discernment. By your logic, a serial killer who kidnaps, rapes and murders toddlers is performing less morally heinous actions than a serial killer who does the same to adults.

    sentience is probably achieved at birth, although maybe it is earlier or later, but certainly not before the later stages of pregnancy.

    Bluntly, you’re just pulling an opinion out of your ass. Do you have any evidence at all for this? Why at birth specifically? Is there something about the process of birth that causes sentience? You need to think more carefully and critically.

    I don’t see how the purely taxonomic concept of belonging to a species could be more important than actual properties.

    Since I never claimed taxonomy was the basis for value, you’re barking up the wrong tree. On my view, a human being has intrinsic value because it is made in the image of God. Conversely, on your view, why should mental capacity be valued at all?

  50. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Lloyd:

    What I am pointing out is that there are definitive and undeniable PRACTICAL differences

    There are also definitive and undeniable practical differences between killing an able-bodied man with an ax, and killing a cripple with a gun. What’s your point?

    A non-copper IUD does not prevent fertilisation. Instead, it prevents embryo implantation.

    You’re trying to make it sound like there is some kind of gray area here, as if I should be having trouble with saying non-copper IUDs are unethical. But why? Any form of contraception that deliberately prevents implantation is unethical.

    If a woman is unaware of how the IUD works (but just knows that it does), does it count as premeditated abortion or not?

    This is why I strongly support proper sex ed in schools. Imagine learning that you might have accidentally killed your child before it could even implant in the womb. Imagine, for argument’s sake, that Christianity is true, and that on the last day there will be a final judgment in which everyone’s lives are laid bare before everyone else. Imagine the unimplanted embryo that died went to heaven and developed into a person in his own right. What will his mother say to him on the last judgment? “I didn’t realize” seems quite weak, doesn’t it? (But at least it’s better than “I did realize.”)

    The rest of your comment just illustrates that when you create a fundamentally sexually immoral culture, you lose any practical way to systematically protect unborn human life. That’s not exactly a surprise. But neither does it mean we shouldn’t take steps to outlaw common ways in which the unborn are killed.

    both of these drugs have other bona fide purposes, completely unrelated to abortion.

    So your argument is that we shouldn’t ban good drugs just because some people use them for bad purposes? Why would you expect me to disagree with that? You seem to think I want to systematically control every woman on the planet so we can eliminate all forms of abortion. But all I’ve done in this post is articulate why abortion is wrong, and suggest that it should therefore be outlawed in a general sense—rather than funded by the taxpayer. That includes abortion clinics, and directives in the US like HHS. Sure, abortifacients shouldn’t be government-sponsored over-the-counter drugs given out to anyone who wants to live an immoral lifestyle. That doesn’t mean their active ingredients should be completely outlawed for legitimate purposes. I mean, you realize I’m pro-guns, right…even though criminals use guns too?

    Hence your repeated implications that abortion involves “hacking babies to pieces” are overwhelmingly irrelevant and false.

    The only time I ever used the word “hack” was in an analogy involving killing a child. The fact that you failed to note this doesn’t bode well for your assertion that my comment was “overwhelmingly irrelevant and false”. Since most vacuum cleaners won’t disintegrate a baby, and are therefore not perceived as a weapon, the closest analogy that came to mind was a machete. If I were speaking of the process of vacuum aspiration, I would instead say something like, “tearing the baby to pieces”. Which is largely what abortion doctors do—and abortion is a booming trade. So your comment here is overwhelmingly irrelevant and misplaced.

    nobody really wants to have an abortion.

    When you’re willing to discuss the real world, instead of your puff-candy fantasy land, let me know.

    When abortion is performed, it is overwhelmingly done out of necessity.

    Nobody really wants to murder anyone. When murders are performed, it is overwhelmingly done out of necessity.

    As such, simply criminalising abortion will not stop it from happening in the majority of cases.

    Simply criminalizing murder will not stop it from happening in the majority of cases. Rather than relying on your suppositions and pontifications, maybe you could provide actual evidence to back up your position. That would be a nice change.

    unless you ALSO tackle the underlying problems and address why abortions are necessary

    I’ve already acknowledged that we should address the underlying problems—problems like viewing sex as a right or as a recreational activity, and the terrible sex education young people receive. Overturning no-fault divorce would go a long way to solving the problem too; as would widely debunking feminist theories which have led women to think that being promiscuous is freeing, and led men to adopt a responsibility-free attitude to sex and families. Teaching men to value and respect women, and to expect to have to lead their families by serving and providing for them at the expense of their own desires, would certainly be helpful. Teaching women that children are a blessing, not just an impediment to their selfish ambitions, would no doubt be a boon as well.

    If abortion really is the most fundamental moral crime

    When did I say that? I’m not even sure what that means, or if there is such a thing. Abortion is simply the most widespread and unrecognized crime—a modern-day holocaust of sorts.

    then you would surely want to implement whatever policies are most effective at actually reducing the rate of abortion.

    Since I am not a pragmatist, I don’t want to implement immoral policies in the hope of preventing immoral actions. You don’t uphold moral principles by sacrificing them.

    For the record, abortion is NOT the same as date-rape by rohypnol (roofies), or rape of any type for that matter. They are separate issues. You do yourself a disservice and damage your own credibility by confusing or equating them.

    It is you who is confused. I simply inserted a different crime into your argument to demonstrate its patent absurdity. Apparently you are too obtuse to pick up on the use of elementary logic.

    However, most people (men and women alike), if told that you were not going to allow abortion in cases of rape-pregnancy, would consider you a bit mad or perhaps completely insane.

    Again, you seem to live in a fantasy world. My own experience is quite different. When I ask people whether we should be allowed to kill toddlers conceived in rape, they think no. When I point out that there is no moral difference between that an abortion for rape, they typically realize that I’m right, and that supporting abortion for rape victims actually compounds one grossly immoral act with another, and creates another victim without healing the first one.

    So you may as well accept the rape objection and move on.

    Your willingness to capitulate to whatever moral blindness you think exists in the world would be comical if it weren’t so disturbing.

    Seriously now? You’ve got some explaining to do with that one. Why is sex immoral? Because the Bible says so? Sorry – not good enough.

    I didn’t say sex was immoral. That was your incompetent gloss—and a new low for my blog, I must say; even village atheists tend to realize that Christians believe sex within marriage is a good thing. I said that non-marital sex was immoral. And it is immoral for the same reason that abortion is: it violates God’s design for us.

    By what moral standard are you going to claim that extra-marital sex is moral? How are you going to build any kind of morality in a purely physical universe that lacks moral properties as objective features of reality?

    Because sex is fun – and God forbid anyone has fun? That is outright Calvinism, which is ridiculous.

    Haha, by all means, furnish evidence that one of Calvinism’s distinctives is the doctrine that God doesn’t want anyone to have fun. What kind of scientist are you, anyway? One who just makes shit up? (I’ve heard that’s popular in science these days.)

    Whereas consensual sex, if appropriate contraception is used, harms nobody.

    An assertion desperately searching for an argument. A real scientist would look into the evidence and discover ample proof that sexual permissiveness is correlated with all kinds of mental health issues, social issues…not to mention abortion.

    Denying or suppressing our natural desire for sex causes nothing but trouble.

    By that logic, men should be free to rape women whenever the desire arises.

    Once again, by confusing or equating the two, you are doing yourself a disservice and damaging your own credibility.

    Ironic on a seriously deep level.

  51. Jens Nordmark

    I already dealt with this in objections (3) and (4). While I deny that it is our mental capabilities alone which give us moral value (since then it would be less immoral to kill less intelligent people), it actually makes no difference to my argument. Indeed, if you take this view, my argument is strengthened by merit of premise [4-iii].

    My examples of mental capabilities did not include intelligence. Of course we could choose that to be the source of moral value, but I wouldn’t. Sentience, for instance, is common to people of all intelligence levels and thus would give us all equal value.

    An assertion devoid of argument. What evidence do you have for this that doesn’t beg the question of whether the mind is reducible to the brain?

    We know that the mind is situated in the brain. We cannot prove that there is something more, and since it is not known for something more to be necessary the burden of proof rests on those who claim there to be something more. There is no observable sign of any other difference than a gradual one.

    Since that’s obviously an absurd conclusion, this furnishes us evidence that your antecedent assumptions are faulty, and that human value is not merely a factor of mental capacity.

    It is not at all absurd. It is only absurd because you have the prejudices of agricultural society in general and Christianity in particular. It is not a human universal to consider humans special among life on earth. I, for example, have thought that idea absurd as long as I can remember, so have many indigenous populations.

    We’re not talking about moral value. We’re talking about intrinsic value which it is immoral to destroy. If you deny the existence of God, how do you account for the intrinsic value of human beings (whether you measure it by mental capacity or otherwise)? On the other hand, if you affirm the existence of God, why are you trying to measure human value by a different standard to him, and excuse the destruction of humans made in his image?

    All value is assigned by us, since we are the most powerful known entities in the universe. Morality exists to resolve conflicts of interest between moral agents. Of course, if there was only one mind on earth, morality could not exist since it is only concerned with interactions between different minds.

    I have suggested some mental capacities that might be universally recognized across cultural boundaries. My list was not complete since the specifics are not essential to the issue at hand. Morality needs to be universal to fulfill any purpose, but it need not be objective. It need only be based on some human universals so that it can be as widely agreed upon as possible. Human nature is probably contradictory, so one might have to favor certain intuitions at the expense of others to contruct a fully consistent moral system.

    Since utilitarianism begs the question of what is good from the outset, that’s not a very promising ingredient to mix into your argument.

    Well, so does any moral system except nihilism, which is the default position. Also, utilitarians are often less reluctant to redesign their utility functions than christians are to redesign their Bible, so utilitarianism has better prospects of being self-improving.

    It’s striking that the people who object to my argument consistently lack basic moral discernment. By your logic, a serial killer who kidnaps, rapes and murders toddlers is performing less morally heinous actions than a serial killer who does the same to adults.

    Sure. But the magnitude of the difference in value depends of course on the definition used of moral value. You seem to assume that your very culture-specific moral intuitions are somehow universal. What is the probability that of all conceivable human cultural arrangements, exactly yours have got it right? To find any reasonably unmiversal morality one must try to dismantle ones cultural prejudices, as per the values of the age of reason. Also, while the intrinsic value is determined by mental capacities it is still possible but not necessary that indirect effects on the wellbeing of adults actually can justify a higher total value of a small child than an adult. I’m not saying that it does, that would require a lengthy discussion separate from this one.

    Bluntly, you’re just pulling an opinion out of your ass. Do you have any evidence at all for this? Why at birth specifically? Is there something about the process of birth that causes sentience? You need to think more carefully and critically.

    Well, it was a guess. I thought that was quite clear. Sentience requires the presence of a continous identity of some kind, and thus the ability to form memories. Also, it probably requires sensory input, otherwise there would be no information to process. I do not claim to know when these capacities as well as other prerequisites for sentience are present, but obviously they are not present in the embryo since it lacks a nervous system. In the fetus, it would be a scientific question that i would assume has an approximate answer.

    Since I never claimed taxonomy was the basis for value, you’re barking up the wrong tree. On my view, a human being has intrinsic value because it is made in the image of God. Conversely, on your view, why should mental capacity be valued at all?

    The concept of human being is purely taxonomic. It is based on species, not on actual properties of the being in question. But then you postulate a property of being made in Gods image, a property that can not in any way be determined to exist in humans. It then seems it is more than taxonomy involved in your case. But it also seems you derive your moral intuitions from Christianity then use them to justify Christianity. Then they are not really intuitions at all, and give little guide to what is universally human. Of course, that is quite consistent with Christianity, where humans are just the Creators toys. A Christian would defend Gods morality regardless of any clash with human nature or well-being, which in my view is enough to write off religion as absurd.

    I myself am open to many types of consequentialism in the face of new knowledge of human nature. I do not claim the existense of moral values independent of humans. It is we who decide what to value. Human nature could be a guide to achieving consensus, but it is obviously not pre-programmed with a consistent moral system, then there would not be any moral discussion in the first place. That morality would be a property of the universe is a statement that is neither verifiable nor falsifiable, and seems quite contrary to human experience. Everywhere morality is observed that fulfills some kind of social function, no otherworldly influence is required to explain it. Just as with the processes in the natural world. Do you not see how artificial it seems to postulate a property of “being created in Gods image” to override observable characteristics of lifeforms?

  52. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Sentience, for instance, is common to people of all intelligence levels and thus would give us all equal value.

    Fair enough. So why, in a world comprised purely of physical matter and energy, should we value sentience?

    We know that the mind is situated in the brain. We cannot prove that there is something more, and since it is not known for something more to be necessary the burden of proof rests on those who claim there to be something more.

    If you’re not even aware of the existence of a problem here, then you are unqualified to be making a comment like this. You need to acquaint yourself with the various arguments from reason, and the hard problem of consciousness, before you starting making embarrassingly ignorant claims about where the mind is “situated” and who carries the burden of proof. Here’s a good, concise place to start: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/can-consciousness-be-explained-dennett-debunked.html

    There is no observable sign of any other difference than a gradual one.

    Either one has sentience, or one does not. It’s a categorical distinction. How do you get a gradual difference between binary options?

    All value is assigned by us, since we are the most powerful known entities in the universe.

    If value is assigned by us, it is meaningless, since we are ourselves meaningless. In a universe comprised only of physical matter and energy, there is no objective value. We are simply atoms in motion. One set of atoms doesn’t have any priority over another.

    Well, so does any moral system except nihilism, which is the default position.

    How does Christianity’s view of morality beg the question?

    Also, utilitarians are often less reluctant to redesign their utility functions than christians are to redesign their Bible, so utilitarianism has better prospects of being self-improving.

    How can it be self-improving if you don’t already have some standard of good to compare it to? And why should we want to “redesign” truths revealed by God? How would replacing them with falsehoods be an improvement?

    What is the probability that of all conceivable human cultural arrangements, exactly yours have got it right?

    Since my arguments are not culturally derived, but scripturally derived, your question is misplaced.

    To find any reasonably unmiversal morality one must try to dismantle ones cultural prejudices, as per the values of the age of reason.

    How would that get you closer to universal morality? The only way to know what is actually moral is to go to the source.

    But then you postulate a property of being made in Gods image, a property that can not in any way be determined to exist in humans.

    This is just obviously mistaken. If God has revealed it to be a property of humans, then it can be determined with certainty.

    that is quite consistent with Christianity, where humans are just the Creators toys.

    If you lack a basic understanding of the Christian view, you shouldn’t try to describe it.

    A Christian would defend Gods morality regardless of any clash with human nature or well-being, which in my view is enough to write off religion as absurd.

    It’s interesting that you consider it absurd to even contemplate the idea that human well-being might not be the standard for moral judgments. In what sense is it absurd? Does it commit some logical fallacy? Is it somehow inconsistent or irrational? To be honest, this just sounds like standard village atheist rhetoric. You seem to be talking about what you do not know. You don’t reject religion for rational reasons, but rather for emotional ones.

  53. Lloyd Evans

    Dear Dominic Bnonn Tennant,

    Oh dear – it seems that no matter how hard I try to clear up your confusion over my comments, you only seem to get more confused.

    But never mind – I’ll carry on anyway. I’ll try and clear up what I can and answer some of your questions.

    There are also definitive and undeniable practical differences between killing an able-bodied man with an ax, and killing a cripple with a gun. What’s your point?

    My point was not about the differences between killing able bodied people or cripples. Whether you do so with axes or guns, that is illegal ALREADY, so I’m not quite sure why you would bring that up.
    My point was initially about the differences between abortion early in a pregnancy or later in a pregnancy. As I explained very clearly, the methods used differ greatly. Which means that if you are going to criminalise all abortions at any stage of pregnancy, then the law will have to recognise the necessarily different methods and be properly worded to account for them all. If you had properly read and understood all of my previous comment, you should understand why that is necessary.

    You’re trying to make it sound like there is some kind of gray area here, as if I should be having trouble with saying non-copper IUDs are unethical. But why? Any form of contraception that deliberately prevents implantation is unethical.

    No, I’m not implying that there is any gray area at all. In fact, to quote myself, I did say that “non-copper IUDs work in an entirely different manner.” Definitions are very important in this respect. For example, IUDs of any sort are currently defined as contraceptives. But despite this, non-copper IUDs work by preventing implantation. If you are going to define any method of preventing embryo implantation as equivalent to abortion, then OK – be clear about that. Any law to criminalise abortion will have to take this into account and also be clear about it.
    Simple enough, you may think. But hold on a minute. IUDs are used for long term contraception – for as long as 10 years, perhaps more – and they rarely fail. So if and when abortion is made illegal, there will be many women who already have an IUD fitted. Passing a law which criminalises the use of non-copper IUDs will not stop them from working in any woman who already has one. So again, if such a law is passed, are we going to round up any women who have IUDs fitted and remove them by force? That is a complication which cannot be ignored, and a question which you can’t really avoid answering.

    So your argument is that we shouldn’t ban good drugs just because some people use them for bad purposes? Why would you expect me to disagree with that?

    Yes, that is precisely my argument. If you agree with that in a general sense for all drugs then why not also apply the same argument to drugs of abuse? Most of them also have proper bona fide purposes too. Heroin in the purest form (diamorphine) is used in hospitals as a painkiller. Cocaine is a very effective local anaesthetic, and is also used in surgery to immunize the body against physical shock. MDMA was first developed as an empathogenic drug for use in therapy. Amphetamines were common ingredients in decongestant inhalers not so long ago – an application for which they worked extremely well. Marijuana and extracts from it are making a big comeback as antiemetics for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and are also used for treating chronic diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.

    Sure, abortifacients shouldn’t be government-sponsored over-the-counter drugs given out to anyone who wants to live an immoral lifestyle. That doesn’t mean their active ingredients should be completely outlawed for legitimate purposes.

    Most of the currently illegal drugs (with the exception of LSD and other psychedelics) have legitimate uses. But that is clearly a different subject.
    But of course even if you only make one use (effecting abortion) of certain drugs illegal rather than banning them completely, that still isn’t going to have much of an effect. If mifepristone and misoprostol (for example) can still be obtained for other, legitimate purposes, then there isn’t much you can do to actually stop people from using them as abortifacients. Just because the government wouldn’t be providing them to people for effecting abortion, doesn’t mean they would never again be used for that purpose.
    Hence why I expected you to disagree with respect to abortifacient drugs precisely because they can be used to effect abortion. Which, as you have made abundantly clear, is equivalent to murder.

    You seem to think I want to systematically control every woman on the planet so we can eliminate all forms of abortion. But all I’ve done in this post is articulate why abortion is wrong, and suggest that it should therefore be outlawed in a general sense

    Right – so you aren’t really interested in preventing abortion from happening. You just want it to be illegal so that we can punish anyone who has an abortion. Which of course means punishing women, because women are the abortion-enablers.
    But of course in order to need an abortion, a woman must have had sex. Which means I wasn’t entirely wrong about you after all. You do want to punish women for having sex – but the punishment isn’t to force them to continue an unwanted pregnancy. The punishment only comes after they have had an abortion to eliminate the unwanted pregnancy. Yes, you can pretend that the punishment is for the abortion, not for the sex which led to it. But we all know that you are really punishing them for both.
    I understand now – thanks for clearing that up.

    I mean, you realize I’m pro-guns, right…even though criminals use guns too?

    Now THAT really is ironic on a seriously deep level.
    If abortion is equivalent to murder, then the reverse is surely also true – murder is equivalent to abortion. The number one use of guns (by criminals or otherwise) is for shooting people. Which of course often results in the death of the people who are shot, and therefore guns are used for murdering people.
    The conclusion to this is obvious: If you are pro-guns, then you are implicitly (if not explicitly) pro-murder with guns. I’m afraid that is inescapable.
    If you are pro-guns but anti-abortion, then there must therefore be a moral difference between murdering someone with a gun, and killing a zygote / embryo / foetus by aborting it. Would you care to explain what this moral difference might be?
    Would you also care to explain how a deeply moralistic Christian person (which it’s pretty clear that you are) can possibly be pro-guns without being ludicrously hypocritical?

    Perhaps you might use the argument which goes along the lines of:
    “Criminalising guns won’t really stop anyone who wants to have a gun from having one – it would just turn anyone who has a gun into a criminal.”
    I have seen that argument (or similar) used by many pro-gun people. If you are going to use that same argument, then you can hardly criticise me for using a similar argument with respect to abortion. In both cases, the same truth holds – criminalising abortion will not stop it from happening – it would simply turn people who need abortions into criminals in order to obtain one.

    It is you who is confused. I simply inserted a different crime into your argument to demonstrate its patent absurdity. Apparently you are too obtuse to pick up on the use of elementary logic.

    Oh, I understand the logic perfectly well. What you DON’T seem to understand is that by inserting a very different crime (rape instead of abortion, or drugs instead of sex), you irrevocably CHANGE the argument. Making the same argument with a very different crime does indeed make the argument absurd. But it makes the CHANGED argument absurd, not the original one. So by trying to make my arguments look absurd by changing them, it is you who is being obtuse.

    Nobody really wants to murder anyone. When murders are performed, it is overwhelmingly done out of necessity. Simply criminalizing murder will not stop it from happening in the majority of cases.

    Yes – very true. But murder is already illegal. Abortion isn’t – at least not yet.
    As you have repeatedly pointed out, murder and abortion are morally equivalent. So abortion is really just a type of murder. Now imagine that there were some policy which you could implement which had been proven to reduce how often some types of murder happened. If you implemented that policy, you would be preventing some murders from happening, rather than having to react with punishment once they had happened.
    Again, let me be clear: I’m not arguing or even implying that murder should be legal. Neither am I arguing or implying that people shouldn’t be punished for murder. But if you could implement a policy which would prevent some types of murder, why not do so?

    supporting abortion for rape victims actually compounds one grossly immoral act with another, and creates another victim without healing the first one.

    Nope. Sorry, you’ve got that backwards. Rape is undeniably a moral crime, because it is a horiffic violation of a woman. It isn’t just violent. It’s also a severe violation of her basic right to choose whether to have sex or not. It’s bad enough when rape doesn’t result in pregnancy. But when it does, then the rights of the same woman are violated AGAIN by forcing her to become pregnant against her will. By denying her an abortion, you are forcing her to continue being pregnant against her will – violating her rights a THIRD time.
    In a case of a rape-pregnancy, the woman has not consented to have sex in the first place. So therefore she cannot give any consent at all to be pregnant, or to any of the consequences of being pregnant. Which is why abortion is clearly justified in such a case.
    Neither your arctic analogy or isolated desert island analogy are really relevant at all. If you are in the arctic or on an isolated desert island and someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, that is hardly the same as being forced to be pregnant through rape. A violent act is not perpetrated against you. Your right to choose whether to have sex or not isn’t violated. Your right to choose whether to have a pregnancy imposed on you is also not violated. Having a baby left on your doorstep is an inconvenience. A large inconvenience perhaps, but not a violent revocation of your rights. So using that kind of analogy to argue against abortion in cases of rape-pregnancy is ridiculously irrelevant. Also, that analogy ignores the person who would leave the baby in the middle of nowhere in the first place, without knowing what might happen to it. That person, whoever they may be, has left the baby to die. If nobody takes care of it and it does die, then it is the fault of the person who left it there, not anyone elses. So the analogy is fatally flawed anyway.
    You might not agree – but consider this: It’s going to be difficult enough for you (or anyone else) to get abortion criminalised at all. If it were easy, abortion would already be illegal. But getting abortion criminalised in ALL cases, even in cases of rape-pregnancy? Some people might agree with you, but the majority will not. By persisting in arguing that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape-pregnancy, you are most definitely fighting a losing battle, and more to the point you know it.
    Accepting the rape objection and moving on, which you would have to do if you actually cared about getting abortion criminalised, does not mean “capitulating to moral blindness”. It simply means accepting a small concession in order to win the larger argument. Compromise may be a dirty word when it comes to making perfectly sound moral arguments. But for actually achieving what you want in the real world, it is essential.

    The rest of your comment just illustrates that when you create a fundamentally sexually immoral culture, you lose any practical way to systematically protect unborn human life.

    No it doesn’t, and no you don’t. If you really think that you are going to stop abortions from happening by making them illegal, then it is you who lives in a fantasy world. Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the USA, had nobody ever had an abortion there before? Somehow I think not. People still had abortions before they were legal – the only difference is that they were criminals for doing so.

    As I have pointed out TWICE so far, with data to prove my point no less, the way to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies and hence reduce the rate of abortion, is as follows:
    1. Properly educate people about all the available methods of contraception, including which methods can be combined for greater effectiveness and so on.
    2. Ensure that there are no restrictions whatsoever on provision of all types of contraception. This includes ensuring that there is no stigma , shame or embarassment associated with requests for contraception.

    The reasons why this works are very logical and reasonably simple. Why do people need abortions? Because they have unplanned pregnancies. Why do people have unplanned pregnancies? Because they either haven’t used appropriate contraception, or they don’t know how to use it properly. Yes, there will be occasions where contraception is used and it fails. But these are actually quite rare – especially when two forms of contraception are combined. The most common combination is for the man to use a condom and the woman to be on the pill. The condom is the first line of defence – against pregnancy and against STDs. In fact condoms are the only really effective method of protecting against STDs, and should therefore always be used.
    Educating people about contraception naturally increases the rate at which it will be used. Higher rates of contraceptive use equals lower rates of STD transmission, and lower rates of unwanted pregnancy. If you don’t have an unwanted pregnancy, then you don’t need an abortion. Simple, and effective.

    What is NOT effective or realistic is telling people to abstain from sex. Because although some might, the majority won’t. Plus, when those that don’t abstain do start having sex, they will not be prepared for it properly. As such, they are unlikely to be safe by using contraception, meaning that they are likely to have many unwanted pregnancies. Meaning that they will need abortions.
    Abstinence programs simply do not work. Worse than that, they are counterproductive and compound the very problems they are intended to solve. If you support any policy of sexual abstinence, then you are most definitely a part of the problem as far as abortions are concerned.

    I didn’t say sex was immoral. That was your incompetent gloss—and a new low for my blog, I must say; even village atheists tend to realize that Christians believe sex within marriage is a good thing. I said that non-marital sex was immoral. And it is immoral for the same reason that abortion is: it violates God’s design for us.

    Ok, fair enough. You said that fornication is immoral. The technical definition of fornication is extra-marital sex. So yes, I was wrong about that one.
    But what exactly is the difference between sex within marriage and sex outside of marriage? Granted, the former is done between married couples and the latter isn’t. But apart from that, is there really any difference?
    Why is sex within marriage good, and sex outside of marriage bad? Because God says so? Because the Bible says so? Because it violates God’s design for us?
    Sorry, but none of those are good enough reasons. In fact, they aren’t reasons at all. If you want to argue that fornication is immoral, you will have to come up with an actual argument for why, not just something out of religious scripture.

    Related to that, what would you say about other forms of sex? Such as gay sex, or oral sex?
    Neither gay sex nor oral sex can possibly ever result in pregnancy, and hence could never lead to an abortion being required. So what is wrong with either of those?
    There’s still the chance of transmitting STDs. But there’s nothing stopping anyone from using condoms for anal sex – in fact there are stronger and thicker condoms on the market for exactly that. There’s also no reason you can’t use condoms for blowjobs. Cunnilingus is a different matter, because dental dams are not as easily available as condoms, but again it can be done in a protected manner and hence be entirely safe.

    By that logic, men should be free to rape women whenever the desire arises.

    When I said that denying or suppressing our natural desire for sex causes nothing but trouble, of course I didn’t mean that anyone should be free to rape anyone else. That would be taking it to an unwarranted extreme.
    What I meant (and I apologise for not making this clear) is that sexual repression causes nothing but trouble. Being embarassed about having sex or requesting contraception, for example. Or disapproving of people who enjoy their sex lives. Or people worrying about having sex entirely legally because they worry about what other people (particularly deeply religious people) might think of them.

    As long as you are having consensual sex, and using proper contraception, then there’s nothing wrong, never mind illegal, about enjoying sex. More to the point, it is none of anyone elses business.
    To ensure you don’t misinterpret that, I did say “consensual sex”. Consent is very important, because without consent, sex becomes rape, and hence becomes very wrong and very much illegal. I also said “using proper contraception”, by which I mean both parties using contraception. Such as the woman using the pill, and the man using a condom. Which minimises the risk of unwanted pregnancy or passing on STDs.

    What kind of scientist are you, anyway? One who just makes shit up? (I’ve heard that’s popular in science these days.)

    Brilliant! That kind of audacity is to be commended. A deeply religious Christian accusing not just one scientist, but all scientists, of making stuff up? Really?
    There isn’t room in your entire blog, never mind in one comment, to explain all the reasons why that is both ironic on a seriously deep level, and incredibly hypocritical.

  54. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Which means that if you are going to criminalise all abortions at any stage of pregnancy, then the law will have to recognise the necessarily different methods and be properly worded to account for them all.

    As I understand it, simply repealing Roe v Wade would take care of this. All the law needs to do is recognize that unborn human beings are not intrinsically different than born ones in regards to the right for life. You’re fabricating difficulties that don’t exist.

    So again, if such a law is passed, are we going to round up any women who have IUDs fitted and remove them by force? That is a complication which cannot be ignored, and a question which you can’t really avoid answering.

    Since I’m not involved in the drafting or execution of laws, actually it is a question I can avoid answering. Indeed, it is a question I should avoid answering until I can do the requisite study to offer a qualified opinion on how this should be addressed. And it goes without saying that criminalizing abortion will be a messy and imperfect process. But since the ethics of the issue are clear, the fact remains that we plainly should criminalize it.

    Heroin in the purest form (diamorphine) is used in hospitals as a painkiller.

    And it is available as such. So my position is perfectly consistent. I am not arguing that drugs should be available for any use whatsoever, but for legitimate uses. And since diamorphine is available for legitimate uses, there is no problem.

    If mifepristone and misoprostol (for example) can still be obtained for other, legitimate purposes, then there isn’t much you can do to actually stop people from using them as abortifacients.

    The same is true of weapons. What’s your point?

    Right – so you aren’t really interested in preventing abortion from happening. You just want it to be illegal so that we can punish anyone who has an abortion.

    You need to stop trying to pigeonhole me and start listening to what I’m actually saying. I get that you have a deep-seated prejudice against anyone who thinks murdering their unborn children should be a punishable offense, and that it compels you to offer bogus psychoanalysis of my motivations. But try to resist the urge. You’re drawing an absurd false dichotomy. The reason we criminalize things and make them punishable is because (1) we want to prevent them happening in the first place (deterrent factor) and (2) we want to be able to execute justice when they do (retributive and restorative factors).

    Mind you, even if criminalizing abortion did nothing to prevent it, the fact that it is murder entails that it should be illegal. So although I get the strong impression your comment was aimed at making my position look shameful, the fact is that it actually just reveals your shameful lack of moral principle (once again). Your position, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, is that we shouldn’t punish evil if doing so won’t prevent the evil in the first place. So you are opposed to justice.

    Yes, you can pretend that the punishment is for the abortion, not for the sex which led to it. But we all know that you are really punishing them for both.

    Were you raised by violently abusive Amish or something? I’m trying to figure out where your obsession with the notion of punishing women for sex comes from, and why you seem incapable of accepting the motivations I have revealed, rather than imputing some puritanical psychology to anyone who thinks women should be punished for killing their children. Needless to say, if a married woman has an abortion, there is no sense in which punishing her for that is equivalent to punishing her for having sex, since her having sex was in no sense immoral.

    If abortion is equivalent to murder, then the reverse is surely also true – murder is equivalent to abortion.

    No. Like nearly every scientist I’ve ever met, you desperately need some lessons in basic logic. The relation between abortion and murder is one of implication, not equivalence:

    • Abortion → Murder
    • ¬Abortion ↔ Murder
    • ¬Murder → Abortion

    The conclusion to this is obvious: If you are pro-guns, then you are implicitly (if not explicitly) pro-murder with guns. I’m afraid that is inescapable.

    Honestly, the only thing I can do here is laugh. This is just so embarrassing. It’s like watching Michael Scott earnestly and obliviously make an idiot of himself on an episode of The Office.

    there must therefore be a moral difference between murdering someone with a gun, and killing a zygote / embryo / foetus by aborting it.

    Nope. But there is obviously a difference between murdering someone with a gun and killing them with one in self-defense. Just as there is an obvious difference between most abortions and terminating an ectopic pregnancy.

    What you DON’T seem to understand is that by inserting a very different crime (rape instead of abortion, or drugs instead of sex), you irrevocably CHANGE the argument. Making the same argument with a very different crime does indeed make the argument absurd.

    Again, this is just embarrassing. You need to look up what a reductio ad absurdum is. You just admitted that I have shown your position to be absurd—but you’re too dense or ignorant to notice.

    Rape is undeniably a moral crime, because it is a horiffic violation of a woman. It isn’t just violent. It’s also a severe violation of her basic right to choose whether to have sex or not.

    And abortion is undeniably a moral crime, because it is a horrific violation of a child. It isn’t just violent. It’s also a severe violation of the basic right to life.

    then the rights of the same woman are violated AGAIN by forcing her to become pregnant against her will.

    Of course, I have already agreed that forcible impregnation is a violation of a woman’s rights.

    By denying her an abortion, you are forcing her to continue being pregnant against her will – violating her rights a THIRD time.

    The only reason this sentence even reads as being sensible to you is because you are so accustomed to thinking of abortion as something other than murder. But since killing your child is undeniably immoral, while protecting it is undeniably a moral duty, it is obvious that forcing a woman to become pregnant is one and the same thing with forcing her to carry a baby to term, because once she is pregnant she is bound by both a negative and a positive moral obligation toward her child (don’t kill it; protect it).

    To speak of forcibly impregnating a woman is simply to speak of forcibly making her a mother. But a mother doesn’t get to abdicate her maternal duties, and she certainly doesn’t get a free pass to murder her child, just because she was forced to have one. I have already covered this ground more than adequately in the original post. You’re adding nothing to the discussion except your own moral confusion.

    If you are in the arctic or on an isolated desert island and someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, that is hardly the same as being forced to be pregnant through rape. A violent act is not perpetrated against you. Your right to choose whether to have sex or not isn’t violated. Your right to choose whether to have a pregnancy imposed on you is also not violated.

    This is actually a strength of my argument. You need to get a basic grasp on logic again. The analogy creates an a fortiori case against abortion being justified in cases of rape. To defeat that case, you need to show that being placed into a situation of maternal obligation violently and against one’s will somehow obviates that maternal obligation. How do you propose to do that?

    Some people might agree with you, but the majority will not.

    I love how you’re able to speak for the majority of people. Maybe you could cite some kind of study next time, though. It would carry more weight. Mind you, what the majority thinks isn’t really the issue. If the majority of people think it’s okay to murder one’s innocent child in order to help oneself cope with being violently assaulted, then the majority are just obviously wrong.

    What is NOT effective or realistic is telling people to abstain from sex.

    I have no idea why you keep harping on about this. I’ve already made it clear that I don’t think pragmatism trumps moral principle.

    But what exactly is the difference between sex within marriage and sex outside of marriage? Granted, the former is done between married couples and the latter isn’t. But apart from that, is there really any difference?

    This isn’t really the place to get into the theology of marriage. It’s pretty off-topic.

    Sorry, but none of those are good enough reasons. In fact, they aren’t reasons at all. If you want to argue that fornication is immoral, you will have to come up with an actual argument for why, not just something out of religious scripture.

    You’re assuming what you need to prove. Objective moral values and obligations are grounded in the existence and commands of God. If you want to claim that something is moral or immoral without God, you need to show how that is even a sensible idea, let alone possible.

    Or disapproving of people who enjoy their sex lives.

    I don’t disapprove of married couples who enjoy their sex lives. On the contrary, that’s an objectively good thing.

    As long as you are having consensual sex, and using proper contraception, then there’s nothing wrong, never mind illegal, about enjoying sex. More to the point, it is none of anyone elses business.

    You act as if this is some kind of brute fact—something that doesn’t require explanation or defense. But I’m going to have to ask you to explain and defend it, since it is factually wrong. What makes it moral for unmarried people to have consensual sex?

    Consent is very important, because without consent, sex becomes rape, and hence becomes very wrong and very much illegal.

    Why? Under your own view, in which God does not exist and therefore we are presumably just atoms in motion, what makes it “very wrong” for one collection of atoms to interact with another collection of atoms in the way we subjectively describe as “rape”?

  55. Lloyd Evans

    Dear Dominic Bnonn Tennant,

    In fairness, perhaps I have misunderstood the motivations behind your argument. I can only apologise for that. I can also see how from your perspective, my arguments may show a sense of moral confusion. But from what I can see, your combined position (original argument plus your responses to my comments) lacks logical consistency in some places. I’ll do my best to try and explain both perspectives.

    All the law needs to do is recognize that unborn human beings are not intrinsically different than born ones in regards to the right for life. You’re fabricating difficulties that don’t exist.

    When it comes to the essence of the law, you’re right – it would only need to treat unborn human life as equivalent to every other human being. Meaning that ending an unborn human life would necessarily be treated as equivalent to ending the life of any other human being. As you say at the very beginning of your original argument, “abortion is morally (if not legally) equivalent to murder.” Should you get your way, you may in future be able to remove the “if not legally” caveat from your argument.

    When it comes to the application of the law though, then difficulties very much do exist, as you well know and I have amply demonstrated. The question about IUDs is a very good example of that. Your claim to be unqualified to answer that question is irrelevant, because the facts are clear. As we both know, non-copper IUDs work by preventing implantation. Although this is technically not quite the same as abortion, it still results in the intentional killing of an embryo. That much is clear. As we also both know, IUDs are used long term, which means that if and when abortion is made illegal, there will be many women who still have them. So the only way to prevent these women from effectively committing murder whenever they have sex will be to remove their IUDs. This is a simple fact. It needs no study. So I’ll ask you again: Are we going to round up every woman who has a non-copper IUD and remove them by force?
    I’m not just asking that question out of my own interest. I’m asking on behalf of every woman who currently has an IUD fitted. So even if I don’t deserve an answer, THEY DO. So please don’t cop out of answering the question this time. Also, please don’t just say that they should avoid having sex until they have their IUDs removed, because that is NOT an answer.

    The reason we criminalize things and make them punishable is because (1) we want to prevent them happening in the first place (deterrent factor) and (2) we want to be able to execute justice when they do (retributive and restorative factors).

    Quite right, apart from the penultimate part. Restoration (by which I think you mean rehabilitation) is of course important. But retribution (revenge) should be kept quite separate from the rest of the justice system, because it is very different. Of course it is vitally important for justice to be done and perhaps most important that justice is SEEN to be done.
    Of course the first part – the deterrent factor – is intrinsic to the effectiveness of any system of punishment. But of course in order to meter out a punishment, you first have to find the perpetrator of the crime. Which means you need evidence that a crime has been committed in the first place.

    I get the strong impression your comment was aimed at making my position look shameful

    No, not really shameful (although I can see why you might think that). Merely pointless and ineffectual. Now hold on a minute – wait before you reply to that sentence – read the next few paragraphs for an explanation so you understand the context of my point.

    Your position, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, is that we shouldn’t punish evil if doing so won’t prevent the evil in the first place. So you are opposed to justice.

    Wrong again, I’m afraid. Although again, I can see why you might think that. I’m not opposed to justice at all. You can make abortion illegal if you like. Although as I have made abundantly clear, doing so is not going to stop it from happening for the most part.
    As you said before, the fact that murder is illegal will not stop it from happening in the majority of cases. However, there is a major practical difference when it comes to metering out justice for the crime of murder. Which is that on the whole, it is usually possible to find evidence that a murder has been committed. Even if a murderer has been exceptionally good at covering his or her tracks, there will still be one vitally important piece of evidence for murder: The victim.
    In fact, just about every murder is discovered because of the victim. Either the dead body is discovered by someone, in which case the police will be informed. Or the victim in question goes missing, which leads to the police being informed of a missing person. Which often leads to their dead body (or at least some evidence that they are dead) being discovered at some later time. In either case, a person going missing or the discovery of a dead victim is always the first stage of a murder investigation. From that point on, more evidence will lead to suspects being identified, and if there is sufficient evidence, the perpetrator can be caught.
    Only then can a punishment be applied. Which then serves two functions: if the punishment is severe enough (life in prison without parole, for example) then it serves to deter others from committing similar crimes. But it also serves a vital public protection function – if a murderer is kept in prison, then he or she is prevented from murdering again.

    When it comes to abortion (particularly early term abortion), the problem isn’t just that you can’t stop it from happening. A more important factor is the extreme difficulty (verging on impossibility) of finding the victim. Because if you can’t find a victim, you won’t have any evidence that a crime has been committed. Hence you won’t be able to find the perpetrator of said crime, and won’t be able to meter out any punishment at all.

    To illustrate this problem, we need a few examples. Which unfortunately means going over similar subject matter to what I have already commented on. So apologies for that.

    Example 1.
    Consider prevention of implantation by an IUD. When the embryo is formed, it will only be a matter of time before it is flushed out of the uterus and subsequently dies. Because it didn’t implant, the menstrual cycle will not have been interrupted much, if at all. The embryo will simply be flushed out with the rest of the menstrual fluid, at a stage where it cannot be seen without a microscope, no matter how hard you look. So you can’t know if an embryo was formed in the first place, and even if it was, you can’t find it. So although it is possible that an embryo has been killed, you have no evidence of it. Unless you are aware of the existence of a victim and can find it, you will have no knowledge of the crime.

    Example 2.
    Consider abortion by pharmaceutical means – a dose of mifepristone or misoprostol or both in combination. As we both know, even if you restrict access to this drug, it will still be available on the black market. And of course it is very difficult to find evidence of a black market purchase of any restricted drug. So if a woman discovers that she is pregnant (either by pregnancy test or missed period), she will be able to obtain drugs to effect abortion. She will likely take those drugs at home, in seclusion, so that nobody else knows what she is doing. When the embryo or foetus is aborted, it is likely to be very small. If the abortion happens early enough, it may well be too small to be seen with the naked eye. But even if it can be seen, the woman in question will be the only person to see it. Also, at any stage when drugs alone are enough to induce abortion, the embryo or foetus will rapidly die once aborted. Since it will be very small, it will be easily disposed of – it could be flushed down the toilet for example. I agree that this would not be a nice thing to do, nor would it be a dignified end for an unborn life. But it wouldn’t be much different from what is currently done for early term abortions – the embryo / foetus is treated as medical waste and is incinerated.
    Whether burned or flushed, there would be no victim, and hence no evidence of a crime. The only person to know about it would be the woman involved, who is unlikely to tell anyone about her crime. So again, you aren’t going to find a victim, and you would be very unlikely to find the perpetrator.

    Example 3.
    Consider abortion by vacuum aspiration. Now, for a start, if abortion is made illegal, anyone who needs one is very unlikely to leave it so late that physical intervention is the only option – most people would take care of it before this stage if possible. But let’s say that the pharmaceutical method failed, or for some reason abortion by vacuum aspiration became necessary. As I pointed out in one of my previous comments, this method is very efficient and reasonably easy. The apparatus required doesn’t even need electricity to function – the pumps can be hand operated. Anyone with a modicum of training could do it – it wouldn’t necessarily need a skilled physician. More to the point, since it doesn’t involve surgery, there wouldn’t be much evidence of it having been performed.
    Only the woman and the technician who performed the procedure would know that a crime had been committed, and neither of them are likely to tell anyone about it. Also, just like a pharmaceutical abortion, the embryo / foetus plus other uterine contents would be easy to dispose of. So once again, you are unlikely to find a victim, and you are also unlikely to find the perpetrator(s).

    All of which means that unless you actually do start systematically controlling every woman on the planet, you won’t be able to find evidence that abortions have happened. Much less are you going to stop most abortions from happening. Unless you forced every sexually active woman to have regular pregnancy tests – and then closely monitored every woman found to be pregnant, then you wouldn’t have hard evidence that abortions had been carried out.
    In short, without draconian, intrusive levels of state intervention, not only would you be unable to prevent abortion from happening, but you would also be unable to locate the culprits when it did happen. And of course if you can’t find the culprits, then you can’t execute justice or implement any sort of punishment. Which means the deterrent factor of the law will not be effective.

    Again, let me be clear: I’m not against justice at all. I’m certainly not against punishing evil, even if that punishment doesn’t stop further evil from happening. But in order to punish a perpetrator for an evil, you have to find evidence that the evil has been done in the first place. You have to find the victim and / or the criminal. Which in the case of abortion, certainly early term abortion, will be exceedingly difficult (verging on impossible) to do.

    So go ahead and make abortion illegal if it makes you feel morally superior. But that is all you will actually accomplish. In every other respect, it will be a waste of time.

    I’m trying to figure out where your obsession with the notion of punishing women for sex comes from, and why you seem incapable of accepting the motivations I have revealed, rather than imputing some puritanical psychology to anyone who thinks women should be punished for killing their children.

    I thought I had made this clear, but apparently not. Let me try again to explain why I doubt your motivations. Again, apologies in advance for repeating subject matter.
    As you and I both know, the groups who are the most vocal in their opposition to abortion tend to be religious fundamentalists. You are a very good example of such a person. Such people also tend to be in favour of sexual abstinence policies. Which as I have shown, are counterproductive when it comes to reducing the rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and spread of STDs. Such people also tend to oppose free and unrestricted provision of contraception – a method which is demonstrably proven to reduce rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and spread of STDs.
    Which means that such people are behaving in a wholly illogical manner. They campaign against abortion, but they also resist policies which would actually prevent it from happening. Therefore it is difficult to believe that preventing abortion is their true motivation.
    When you also throw in the fact that as fundamentalist Christians, they believe fornication to be immoral, their true motivations become more clear. If fornication really is immoral, then it stands to reason that they would seek to prevent it. Which explains their opposition to providing contraception, and their adherence to sexual abstinence. It also stands to reason that they would seek to punish people who fornicate. Since extra-marital sex is not illegal (and isn’t likely to be made illegal any time soon), they obviously can’t push for punishment through the criminal justice system. Not directly at any rate.
    The only option open to them for punishing fornication is to force people to suffer the consequences of it. Denying people contraceptives is an effective means of punishment. People who fornicate, if denied contraceptives, are likely to have unwanted pregnancies. Forcing the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy could easily be construed as a punishment. Also, in the absence of available contraceptives, people who fornicate are likely to contract STDs – a punishment if ever there was one.
    You may think this ridiculous – but punishing those who have immoral sex with sexually transmitted diseases is a prior tactic by some Christian fundamentalists. In the 1980’s, Jerry Falwell, leader of the self proclaimed “Moral Majority” movement in the USA, regularly appeared on television to inform everyone that HIV / AIDS was a punishment metered out by God – a retribution delivered to homosexuals and those who fornicate against God’s laws.

    As I have said before, I may have judged you unfairly. However, you have already stated your support for sexual abstinence policies. You have already shown your disapproval for reducing rates of abortion by free and unrestricted provision of contraceptives. You can hide behind arguments like “I don’t think pragmatism trumps moral principle”, if you like. But in the real world, away from your perfect moral arguments which only work on paper, pragmatism very much does trump moral principle. Which means your motives are open to question.
    So you’ve got two choices really. You can admit to being an illogical idiot – which I don’t think you are. Or, and this is vastly more likely, you can admit that your motives behind wanting to criminalise abortion are, at best, not entirely what you claim them to be.

    No. Like nearly every scientist I’ve ever met, you desperately need some lessons in basic logic.

    Oh dear, not again. Now you’re accusing scientists of failing to understand basic logic? Really? By their very nature, if there is one thing that all scientists are good at, it is logic. For the simple reason that our jobs require it.
    It is remotely possible that every scientist you’ve ever met has been an abysmally bad scientist. But even if this is so, I do not fall into this category. Believe it or not, I have both a degree and Ph.D to my name, in Chemistry to be specific. I know you probably won’t take my word for it. I don’t have a copy of my certificate online, and even if I did, you could claim it to be fake. However, what is online and available are the three scientific journal articles I wrote during my studies, which I can link you to. Unless you subscribe to said journals, you can only see the abstracts, but that should be proof enough. Here you go:
    Article 1
    Article 2
    Article 3
    I would not have been able to write these articles even, much less achieve a doctorate in Chemistry, if I were in need of lessons in logic. It would in fact seem much more likely that the scientists you have met understand logic just fine, and that your skills are in fact lacking. Evidence of this is that you have (in a vain effort to ridicule me) argued against yourself:

    An almost painfully simple argument (just 3 parts, and 3 extra bits if you want them) showing unequivocally that abortion is morally (if not legally) equivalent to murder.

    The relation between abortion and murder is one of implication, not equivalence

    So which is it? Make a decision please. Is abortion equivalent to murder or not? Until now, you have consistently argued that it is. You have said that there is no intrinsic difference between unborn human beings and born ones. Morally speaking, you’re right of course. You have said that abortion is morally equivalent to murder, because abortion always results in the killing of the unborn child. Which again, is true.
    Whether you like it or not, equivalence works both ways. So when I said “If abortion is equivalent to murder, then the reverse is surely also true – murder is equivalent to abortion.”, that statement was and is factually and logically correct, again whether you like it or not. If you disagree, then you clearly don’t understand what equivalence means.

    Honestly, the only thing I can do here is laugh. This is just so embarrassing. It’s like watching Michael Scott earnestly and obliviously make an idiot of himself on an episode of The Office.

    Well, I’m glad I’m providing you with some amusement. But that doesn’t make what I said any less true. If it did, then you could have provided an actual argument to refute what I said, instead of a rather transparent attempt at ridicule, which is NOT an argument at all.
    You have admitted to being pro-guns, even though criminals use them too. Which is fair enough. I understand the pro-gun argument entirely – I even agree with most of it. It generally goes along the lines of “Criminalising guns won’t solve anything, it will just make anyone who has a gun a criminal.” Or, “Banning guns won’t stop criminals from having them.” Or, “You have to allow guns so that ordinary people can protect themselves.”
    Yes, I know you didn’t specifically say any of that. But those arguments are commonly used by pro-gun people. We all know that they are all true to some extent. So it’s reasonable to assume that you might agree.
    If you are going to allow guns, then you also have to accept (whether implicitly or explicitly) all the consequences of a society where everyone has (or can have) a gun.

    there is obviously a difference between murdering someone with a gun and killing them with one in self-defense

    Yes, very true. If every time a gun were used, it was in self defense, then there would be no problem at all. But again, we all know that this is not always the case. One of the undeniable consequences of a society where guns are permitted is that sometimes, innocent people will be killed by them. Which means that if you are pro-guns, then you have to accept that fact at the very least, if not be implicitly supportive of it. No amount of laughing or ridicule is going to make that untrue.

    I’m not at all arguing that guns should not be allowed. Because I accept most of the pro-gun arguments. I also accept the fact that banning guns won’t make much of a difference. So I take the pragmatic and realistic viewpoint on the subject of guns.
    The difference between you and me is that I am not a moralistic Christian (I’m not religious at all), so I don’t claim to have any moral authority or superiority. However, it’s pretty clear that you are (or at least you consider yourself to be) a deeply moralistic Christian. And yet you have admitted to being pro guns. In doing so, you have forfeited the right to claim any kind of moral superiority, and disqualified yourself from making moral arguments on the subject of abortion, or anything else for that matter.
    Or, to put it another way: If you are capable of bending your moral principles with respect to weapons, why are you incapable of doing so with respect to abortion? It’s confusing to say the least.

    I love how you’re able to speak for the majority of people. Maybe you could cite some kind of study next time, though. It would carry more weight. Mind you, what the majority thinks isn’t really the issue.

    Of course I can’t speak for the majority of people. But what I do know is that any position which seeks to ban abortion even in cases of rape-pregnancy is an extremist view. You know this too, even though you don’t want to admit it. Extremist views are by definition those which are NOT held by the majority of people.
    Plus, when it comes to actually achieving what you want (getting abortion criminalised), what the majority thinks is very much the issue. Because if you persist in arguing that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape-pregnancy, then you are not going to win the larger argument. So as I told you already, if you actually care at all about really getting abortion criminalised, then you will have to accept the rape objection. Perhaps the incest objection too, if you want most people to take you seriously.

    You’re assuming what you need to prove. Objective moral values and obligations are grounded in the existence and commands of God.

    If you could somehow prove the existence of God, then fine. But you can’t. You can’t even prove that anything written in the Bible represents the “commands of God”, because the Bible was written by humans, and humans are flawed and fallible by our very nature. Of course, I also can’t prove that God doesn’t exist – but then I’m not basing my arguments on the existence of God or the words written in any religious text. So really, YOU are the one assuming what you need to prove, not me.

    If you want to claim that something is moral or immoral without God, you need to show how that is even a sensible idea, let alone possible.

    Why? Under your own view, in which God does not exist and therefore we are presumably just atoms in motion, what makes it “very wrong” for one collection of atoms to interact with another collection of atoms in the way we subjectively describe as “rape”?

    Really? You’re going to trot out the tired old argument that morality can’t exist without God or religion? Please don’t bother – not if you want anyone to take you seriously.
    Morality can and does exist in the absence of God or religion. For the simple reason that we do not need faith to assert that we are people, and that people have rights. As you have said yourself, abortion is wrong because it denies the right of the unborn to live. Does that right to live exist in a world without God? Well, since you can’t prove the existence of God, then yes, of course it does.
    We don’t need religious scripture to tell us what is right or wrong. If you want to use the Bible as a basic guidline, then fine – go ahead. But if I don’t follow the Christian faith (for example), then I don’t have to accept what’s written in the Bible. More importantly, you don’t have the right to force me – or anyone else – to accept it either. In the same way, if I happened to be Muslim (for example), then I would have no right to force you – or anyone else – to accept the writings of the Qu’ran.
    At the most basic level, determining whether something is right or wrong depends on the effects of that something on the people involved. Effects which hurt people or deprive people of their rights are objectively wrong.
    If you’re doing something which hurts nobody and impinges on the rights of nobody, then you are neither right nor wrong.
    If you’re doing something which helps a person (or people) and / or strengthens the rights of people, then you are right.
    All of these basic definitions can and do exist in the absence of God or religion, and as such do not require God or religion.
    So in answer to the question of why rape is wrong: Well, rape is usually violent, so it hurts people, specifically the women involved. It also deprives said women of their right to choose whether to have sex or not, so it would still be wrong even in the absence of violence. Simple really.

    You act as if this is some kind of brute fact—something that doesn’t require explanation or defense. But I’m going to have to ask you to explain and defend it, since it is factually wrong. What makes it moral for unmarried people to have consensual sex?

    No, it isn’t factually wrong at all. Again, if you want to prove that sex outside of marriage is somehow wrong, then you will have to come up with an actual reason for why. Which means a reason which doesn’t depend on religious scripture.
    To be clear, I don’t support ALL extra marital sex. Irresponsible sex is of course wrong, for many reasons. One type of irresponsible sex is non-consensual sex – rape. I’ve already covered why that is wrong.
    Irresponsible sex is also that which is done without the use of adequate contraception. Unless a couple is actually trying to get pregnant on purpose, then this is also wrong, for two main reaons:
    1. It can result in unwanted pregnancy. Which of course lead to an abortion being required – and we’ve already thoroughly covered why that is wrong.
    2. It can spread STDs, which is objectively wrong because diseases hurt people. Some STDs, such as HIV-AIDS or syphilis can be fatal without treatment.

    However, if a couple (married or not) is having sex responsibly, meaning with consent and with adequate contraception (which means both parties using contraception), then who is being hurt? Whose rights are being infringed?
    I’m not necessarily arguing that they are doing anything right. Although if they are boosting their own pleasure and happiness, and therefore strengthening their own physical and emotional relationship, then that could be regarded as a good thing. But equally, if they are not hurting anyone or infringing on the rights of anyone, then they are also not doing anything wrong. Which IS a brute fact, whether you like it or not.

    I don’t disapprove of married couples who enjoy their sex lives. On the contrary, that’s an objectively good thing.

    Ok, so why is it a good thing? Specifically, why is sex only good if done within marriage? You made the above assertion, so it is hardly off-topic.
    A related question: Are married couples allowed to use contraception to make their sex about enjoyment instead of making babies? If not, why not? If non-married couples do the same, then why exactly is that wrong?
    If you can’t answer the above questions without referring to religious scripture, then you have no right to make judgements either way.

  56. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    So I’ll ask you again: Are we going to round up every woman who has a non-copper IUD and remove them by force?

    Do you know if we can even get a reasonably exhaustive list of every woman using a non-copper IUD? If not, why even ask?

    I would think that simply making the continued use of non-copper IUDs illegal would be sufficient to eliminate the problem in a majority of cases.

    So please don’t cop out of answering the question this time.

    It’s not a cop-out to admit I don’t have all the answers. My position is a principled one. We derive pragmatic laws and protocols from such principles. That doesn’t mean simply having the principle means I must have worked out all the pragmatic implications and how to deal with them.

    But retribution (revenge) should be kept quite separate from the rest of the justice system, because it is very different.

    Unsurprisingly, we have very different ideas of what justice entails. Since you have no standard to which to appeal, I’m not sure how you plan to argue that your definition is correct.

    Although as I have made abundantly clear, doing so is not going to stop it from happening for the most part.

    You’ve made it “abundantly clear” with opinionated speculation. All the empirical evidence I’ve seen shows that abortion rates go down when abortion is criminalized—as you’d expect.

    Only then can a punishment be applied. Which then serves two functions: if the punishment is severe enough (life in prison without parole, for example) then it serves to deter others from committing similar crimes. But it also serves a vital public protection function – if a murderer is kept in prison, then he or she is prevented from murdering again.

    So actually paying for the crime is not part of justice as you see it. Sad, but unsurprising.

    All of which means that unless you actually do start systematically controlling every woman on the planet, you won’t be able to find evidence that abortions have happened.

    Since I’ve never suggested that criminalizing abortion is predicated on the likelihood of punishing a majority of culprits, I don’t really get why you’re devoting so much virtual ink to this issue. I’ve already made it abundantly clear that my position is a principled one. In particular, I’m concerned about the government funding the murder of children. That is something that no sane person would think should continue.

    So go ahead and make abortion illegal if it makes you feel morally superior.

    It’s these sorts of comments that betray your fundamental attitude problem. “Go ahead and make murdering babies illegal if it makes you feel morally superior” is an example of a sentence that would be comical if it weren’t so disturbing. You try to take the moral high ground by being “moderate” about killing children, and suggest that because we can’t catch everyone who kills their children, the only reason to criminalize the activity is to make some people feel “morally superior”.

    There’s obviously no point arguing with such a smugly depraved person.

    Which means that such people are behaving in a wholly illogical manner.

    You’re incapable of grasping the concept of moral principle. No surprise there, since you obviously have none of your own. You don’t uphold moral principles by sacrificing them at the altar of pragmatism.

    They campaign against abortion, but they also resist policies which would actually prevent it from happening.

    Yes, imagine the illogical madness of resisting two kinds of immorality instead of just one, and being unwilling to sacrifice one set of moral principles to achieve another set. Imagine the illogical madness of holding to a high standard of moral conduct across all aspects of society, instead of being happy to just get people to stop killing their babies. Crazy.

    Therefore it is difficult to believe that preventing abortion is their true motivation.

    Do you think that preventing abortion is the highest moral good in our worldview? That’s the only way this incredibly jejune response can possibly make sense. But speaking for religious fundamentalists in general, our true motivation is loving God and neighbor. It’s genuinely sad that you’re so blinded by your moral turpitude that you can’t even understand the concept, and instead project your base prejudices onto us.

    I would not have been able to write these articles even, much less achieve a doctorate in Chemistry, if I were in need of lessons in logic.

    So how do you square that with the embarrassing sophomoric error you made in regards to equivalence versus implication?

    So which is it? Make a decision please.

    The fact that you’re unable to pick out the obvious distinction between moral and logical equivalence doesn’t bode well for your claims about your logical prowess.

    Which means that if you are pro-guns, then you have to accept that fact at the very least, if not be implicitly supportive of it.

    Accepting the fact and implicitly supporting it are completely different things. You’re just back-pedaling because you realized you’ve made an idiotic mistake.

    Or, to put it another way: If you are capable of bending your moral principles with respect to weapons, why are you incapable of doing so with respect to abortion? It’s confusing to say the least.

    I’m sure it is confusing to someone so obviously unable to follow a basic argument. I’ve presented a principled and consistent position with regards to guns and with regards to drugs that can be used in abortion (or more generally for that matter—I support the use of morphine but the criminalization of heroin for instance).

    If you could somehow prove the existence of God, then fine. But you can’t.

    The arguments for God’s existence, and for the falsehood of physicalism/naturalism, are fairly persuasive. I can’t help it if you’re too prejudiced to entertain them with an open mind.

    Please don’t bother – not if you want anyone to take you seriously.

    I think you mean, not if you want any wildly-prejudiced ignorant New Atheists to take you seriously. People who are well-educated on this topic tend to agree that objective moral values require ontological grounding, and that God is the best (and probably only) possible source of such grounding.

    For the simple reason that we do not need faith to assert that we are people, and that people have rights.

    Really? Particles in motion have rights? How and why? Please answer in terms of particles in motion, since that is all that actually exists in the final analysis. I’d like to see the equations for rights. Are they carried by a rights particle? Is that sort of like a boson?

  57. Kevin

    I understand why someone who achieves much in a scientific field would project that self-assurance into the only tangentially related fields of philosophy or Ethics. Unfortunately, in the West we tend to equate the two, and end up praising the most pedantic tripe as gospel. “Well he’s really smart about fossils, or grey holes, or multiverses, so I guess he knows all about God and the True Nature Of Man and my purpose in life too … ”

    Its an object lesson in this sort of thing that someone hold advanced degrees in science will argue, essentially: “I agree it is evil and its murder, but you know, kids will be kids…” and merely repeat (almost verbatim) the 40 year old party line concerning abortion — it is apparent that the hoary, enshrined pro abortion selling points have not been given more than a moment’s critical thought. How else could one come to this contortionist synthesis of pragmatism, sexism, feminism, and ethics?

  58. Chaud

    [“A HUMAN ZYGOTE OR FETUS IS NOT A HUMAN BEING AFTER ALL”]
    “But how can this be true? To call something a human being is to say that it’s an organism of the species homo sapiens.”

    Not really. A “human beigh” is a *mind* in a homo sapiens vessel. If there’s no mind (aka, no brain), then, there’s no human in there. It’s just skin, bones and blood. A “dead person” isn’t a “human being” anymore, but certainly it’s still a homo sapiens.

  59. Ricardo

    “And that stage of development included being a zygote and a fetus.”

    Why are you excluding the fact that before you were a zygote or a fetus, you “were” a sparmatozoid and an egg? They’re both necessary on any stage of human development, therefore, should masturbation or menstruation be illegal?

    This is not a sarcastic question! I really think that your argument leads to this kind of thought.

    If i’m wrong, i’ll be happy to read why.

  60. Gilberto

    I live in Brazil and here abortion is illegal, yet. But the society is discussing every now and then and there are groups that fight for what they call the “right” of abortion.

    So, I ask: do you mind if I translate your text to portuguese and send it to my friends and post it on facebook? I will make reference to this site.

  61. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Chaud, that’s a rather idiosyncratic definition of a human being. Three questions:

    1. How would you go about defending it?

    2. How would you go about demonstrating it applies to a fetus at any given stage of development?

    3. How would you evade the force of premise (4) given that fetuses always develop human minds?

  62. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Ricardo, simply put, sperm and eggs are separate beings. It is only when they combine that a new being is formed out of them. You were not once a sperm, nor an egg. Before the joining of sperm and egg, you didn’t exist at all.

  63. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Gilberto, you are most welcome to translate and share this post wherever you think it will be helpful.

  64. Tomek K.

    Wow, it was nice evening thanks to you. Even, if that is possible that one day I will find that there are things on which we do not agree, glory be to God Almighty. We will meet in heaven to praise Him forever.

  65. Dominic

    You say,

    ‘It seems extremely clear that although you have not consented to look after this baby—indeed, it is a significant imposition given your limited supplies and lack of preparation—you are nonetheless under a responsibility to do so, simply by being put into that situation. We would condemn someone who, rather than taking the baby inside to care for it, instead left it out on the doorstep to die of exposure or starvation. That is sociopathic behavior.’

    Read this:

    Ancient sources convey the impression that the enslavement of exposed babies was an unexceptional event. While impossible to quantify, this practice may conceivably have been the leading domestic source of free-born slaves in the mature Empire. Its numerical significance depends in part on the overall incidence of child exposure, a rather intractable issue that cannot be discussed here. Suffice it to say that the latter is consistently portrayed as a widespread custom, and that ethnic groups that raised all their children were considered exceptional. The raising of foundlings as slaves is well documented in Roman Egypt, especially in wet-nursing contracts: crude calculations suggest that given known levels of adult slave prices, it made economic sense to rear foundlings despite the considerable risk of premature death.26 In an exceptionally rich papyrus cache of over 700 contracts recorded in the Fayum village of Tebtunis in AD 42-47, out of 30 cases that involve slaves are wet-nursing contracts arranging for the raising of slave children, as opposed to a mere 5 slave sales (P.Mich. 121, 123, 238). While we must allow for villagers’ unknown purchases at urban slave markets, this ratio strongly suggests that the enslavement of foundlings played a major role in the local slave supply – although it may be inadvisable to generalize too broadly from this one example. In Roman law, neither exposure nor enslavement of foundlings were illegal per se; however, in formal legal terms, these acts did not affect the free status of the child, and surviving children technically remained in patria potestas: in principle, such persons could always be reclaimed later, although compensation could be due
    to their de facto owners.

    Here’s the link:https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/050704.pdf

    One’s moral position changes, dependent upon the circumstances within which one finds oneself living. You may not like this. Indeed, every fibre of your being may rebel against it. But it is true.

    Oh, and we’ve been blaming women – ‘The first hurdle is that in nearly all cases, the woman gives implicit consent by having sex in the first place.’ – for all that time too:

    Quae prima instituit teneros convellere fetus,
    militia fuerat digna perire sua.

    Ovid amores 2.14

    You know, at heart, I’m with you on this. Abortion is wrong. But it happens. You’ve said nothing here, however, that’s particularly new or interesting philosophically speaking, while your absolutist moral position – doubtless comforting – is an affront to the millions of women who’ve wrestled with this dilemma for thousands upon thousands of years, with any support, or indeed its lack, coming from the menfolk, extended only so far as it serves their needs.

    Whatever your objections to abortion, however pure and principled, you’ll not stop it writing stuff like this.

    Dominic

  66. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    One’s moral position changes, dependent upon the circumstances within which one finds oneself living.

    You state this obvious fact as if you think it is an argument for something. But an argument for what—and how?

    Oh, and we’ve been blaming women

    Are you suggesting we shouldn’t blame mothers for executing their own children/paying someone to do it for them?

    You’ve said nothing here, however, that’s particularly new or interesting philosophically speaking

    Again, you state an obvious fact as if you think it is an argument for something. And again I’d want to know, an argument for what—and how?

    Abortion is wrong … your absolutist moral position – doubtless comforting – is an affront to the millions of women who’ve wrestled with this dilemma

    You seem to be extremely confused. Are you siding with me by taking an absolutist moral position (“abortion is wrong”), or are you siding with the women who are “affronted” by that position? If you agree that abortion is wrong, why does it matter that women are “affronted” by that? Do you think it is meaningful that Nazis would have been “affronted” at your absolutist moral position about the extermination of Jews?

    with any support, or indeed its lack, coming from the menfolk, extended only so far as it serves their needs.

    Your bogus white male guilt narrative is unbecoming. Excuse me if I refrain from wringing my hands and giving women a free pass for killing their babies because it’s all men’s fault.

  67. Dominic

    ‘You state this obvious fact as if you think it is an argument for something. But an argument for what—and how?’

    Your proof is titled, Why abortion is irrefutably equivalent to murder. The adverb at least connotes a sense in which the peripheral circumstances may be considered to be largely irrelevant. And yet, in the second sentence of your statement above you admit that the ability to change one’s moral position is an ‘obvious fact.’ Despite your inconsistency, I am glad you recognise this. To free oneself from Christian bondage one must first be prepared – if I may borrow a distinctly colourful metaphor – to walk up to the edge, and stare into the abyss.

    ‘Are you suggesting we shouldn’t blame mothers for executing their own children/paying someone to do it for them?’

    Absolutely I am, yes. We could start blaming the fathers too. I have occasionally wondered what sort of world we would live in if the custody of children was something that happened to men (irrefutably so, so to speak) rather than something controlled and administered by them. I’m guessing there’d either be a lot less (unprotected) heterosexual sex outside the bonds of marriage, or state-sanctioned abortion would be safely and freely available to all the women who needed it. Perhaps some combination of both. I certainly doubt there would be too many men, faced with the penury and opprobrium attached to being a single parent in the modern age, who would countenance much else.

    ‘Again, you state an obvious fact as if you think it is an argument for something. And again I’d want to know, an argument for what—and how?’

    It’s interesting that you freely admit your philosophical position, vis-a-vis abortion, is neither new or interesting. Would it not therefore be reasonable to suppose, given that you wish to secure particular outcomes, that you might explore some other positions?

    ‘You seem to be extremely confused. Are you siding with me by taking an absolutist moral position (“abortion is wrong”), or are you siding with the women who are “affronted” by that position?’

    One of the (many) curious things about contemporary Christian apologists is their seeming complete inability to hold, or to balance, contrary viewpoints at the same time. Why is this so hard for you guys? My best guess to date is that the endless finessing of all those logical proofs for the existence of (the Christian) god into the rhetorical equivalent of WMDs has so completely infected their thinking as to render sensible decision making virtually impossible. I welcome your views on this.

    ‘Do you think it is meaningful that Nazis would have been “affronted” at your absolutist moral position about the extermination of Jews?’

    Forgive me, for it is most certainly not my intention to mock you personally, but it is something of a standing joke amongst the active atheist community as to the certainty and speed with which Christian apologists everywhere mention Hitler. You managed it in your first response. He was a BAD MAN. I get it.

    ‘Your bogus white male guilt narrative is unbecoming.’

    Now, to the meat of it. My guilt is not bogus, it is quite genuine, and you’ve upset me (a little) for suggesting otherwise. The strength of it is, in part, the reason I have taken the time to read your article, to respond to it, and now to reply to you. We must both of us, as men, take some share of the responsibility for the unwarranted deaths of millions. The difference between you and me, I assert, is that I feel it. I feel my impotence, my rage, my inability to do a damn thing about it, in this, the 21st century, an age of great wealth and powerful medicine.

    In seeking to read about, to learn about, abortion, I look for understanding, for new ideas, for fruitful discussions, for ways out. In reading your work, I found none of these things. You have, it seems to me, occluded your guilt in a cloud of sophistry that has enabled you both to excuse yourself and to blame the victims. This is a neat trick, but it is only a trick.

    In truth, I didn’t come here to argue with you, it was simply to read your article and to see what you had to say. That said, it, and your subsequent response to me, were just too tempting to ignore, and for that I’m sorry. Debating with an apologist is rather pointless: they exist not to be persuaded, only to persuade. Further, and if I may paraphrase Dr Craig, no single fact or argument yet to be discovered, once isolated, understood and agreed upon by all parties, and which incontrovertibly disproved the existence of (the Christian) god, would under any such circumstances ever be successful in bringing about a concomitant loss of faith (in the Christian god). Against such an implacable position, what hope have I, has anyone, concerning abortion?

    Dominic

  68. Kevin

    Hi Dominic (not Tennant),

    You have indeed wasted your time and considerable vocabulary. The title of this post contains the word “irrefutably.” This suggest logical arguments, formal or otherwise, should be presented.

    Your response is more along the lines of: “Christians are mean because they don’t believe in relativism.”

    Actually, this is what almost every response I’ve seen to any anti-abortion argument amounts to.

    Abortion is widespread for no other reason than this: Humanity has chosen to believe first that morality is relative, secondly that personal responsibility is should be mitigated into non-existence, and thirdly that sound thinking is an enemy of empathy. This last is simply an outworking of the pseudo-catharsis of surreptitiously induced social guilt that such extreme social institutions such as Abortion On Demand provide.

  69. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    And yet, in the second sentence of your statement above you admit that the ability to change one’s moral position is an ‘obvious fact.’ Despite your inconsistency, I am glad you recognise this.

    You need to come out and explain what your argument is instead of just asserting that I’m being inconsistent somehow.

    I have occasionally wondered what sort of world we would live in if the custody of children was something that happened to men (irrefutably so, so to speak) rather than something controlled and administered by them.

    You’re joking right? Fathers have severely limited parental rights (at least in the US) in comparison to mothers, largely due to the “empowerment” of women via the sexual revolution. Your narrative seems to be straight out of Bizarro World.

    We must both of us, as men, take some share of the responsibility for the unwarranted deaths of millions.

    You mean billions. If you’re going to claim responsibility for deaths, you could start with the billions of pre-born babies killed since 1970.

    One of the (many) curious things about contemporary Christian apologists is their seeming complete inability to hold, or to balance, contrary viewpoints at the same time.

    So your response to me pointing out that your position appears confusingly self-contradictory is to complain that Christians are not confusingly self-contradictory?

    it is something of a standing joke amongst the active atheist community as to the certainty and speed with which Christian apologists everywhere mention Hitler.

    And it’s something of a standing joke among Christians how atheists will do anything they can to deflect attention away from issues they can’t answer—such as making sociological pseudo-commentary on questions that expose the moral bankruptcy of their position, instead of answering the questions themselves.

    It should hardly come as a surprise that I use Hitler as an example, given the obvious parallels between abortion and the Holocaust.

    I look for understanding, for new ideas, for fruitful discussions, for ways out.

    You mean, ways out of having to accept that it is morally identical to murder.

    In reading your work, I found none of these things.

    Shocking. It’s almost as if the issue is quite clear-cut and doesn’t require any particular depth of thinking or philosophical exploration to understand—just basic moral discernment.

    You have, it seems to me, occluded your guilt in a cloud of sophistry that has enabled you both to excuse yourself and to blame the victims.

    Sophistry is repurposing the word “victim” to describe a mother who murders her child, while quietly dropping any mention of the child itself.

    Debating with an apologist is rather pointless: they exist not to be persuaded, only to persuade.

    If you wanted to persuade me that murder isn’t murder, maybe you should have started by showing which premise or inference in my argument was wrong, and why. Kevin has summed up your “argument” pretty well. Pretending to have the moral and intellectual high ground while slopping about in the mud isn’t as impressive as you think it is.

  70. Dominic

    ‘You need to come out and explain what your argument is instead of just asserting that I’m being inconsistent somehow.’

    I already did. ‘Step up to the edge, look into the abyss…’

    ‘You’re joking right? Fathers have severely limited parental rights (at least in the US) in comparison to mothers, largely due to the “empowerment” of women via the sexual revolution.’

    You’re (wilfully?) missing the point, referencing, as you do, the negotiated, variable, processes governing custody that currently exist in the West, and which, incidentally, you obviously don’t like. Your position on abortion meanwhile presupposes that mothers looking after their children is in accordance with the natural order (whatever that is) – premise 3, add. support 5. How infuriating it must be for you, having dumped the responsibilities governing pregnancy and child rearing so firmly in women’s laps, to find that some object.

    ‘You mean billions.’

    OK, billions. Although I think you’re trending towards hyperbole here. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘since 1970’ – Roe vs. Wade was ’73. Of course, abortion happened before this judgement, and in countries like yours and mine where most vocal Christians, upon consideration, would happily agree that theirs was a nation founded upon ‘Christian principles.’ Are you going to have your cake, and eat it too?

    ‘So your response to me pointing out that your position appears confusingly self-contradictory is to complain that Christians are not confusingly self-contradictory?’

    Again, I don’t see what the problem is with this. I accept that abortion is wrong. I understand (or at least I try to) why it happens. How hard can this be?

    ‘It should hardly come as a surprise that I use Hitler as an example, given the obvious parallels between abortion and the Holocaust.’

    Please, no more Hitler. I’m guessing you’ll be a big fan of Leviticus, so let’s choose instead a more biblical view of a child’s worth: ab uno mense usque ad annum quintum, pro masculo dabuntur quinque sicli: pro femina, tres. (27:6)

    ‘You mean, ways out of having to accept that it is morally identical to murder.’

    No, I mean a society so ordered that abortion is either unnecessary or maximally preventable. You knew this from the context of the statement, I think.

    ‘If you wanted to persuade me that murder isn’t murder, maybe you should have started by showing which premise or inference in my argument was wrong, and why.’

    Did you read the article? It was why I sent you the link. I suggest you read it (again?) and review your premises.

    ‘Pretending to have the moral and intellectual high ground while slopping about in the mud isn’t as impressive as you think it is.’

    I pretend neither.

    One of the primary goals of the contemporary Christian apologist is to control the terrain of the debate. The ultimate aim, for its more aggressive exponents, being to force the non-Christian (not always or necessarily an atheist) into some kind of self-defeating solipsism.
    And yet, you have a much harder task, in my view, which is to justify your own truth claims. ‘…slopping about in the mud…?’ hmmmm

    ‘Kevin has summed up your “argument” pretty well.’

    And as for Kevin…

    ‘Your response is more along the lines of: “Christians are mean because they don’t believe in relativism.”’

    The presumed corollary – ‘Christians are mean because they do believe in absolutism.’ – is then, I take it, a position about which we may both be in perfect agreement.

    ‘Abortion is widespread for no other reason than this: Humanity (‘humanity’ – capitalisation is not needed after a colon, unless of course you’re using a proper noun)

    …has chosen to believe first that morality is relative, secondly that personal responsibility is should be (pick one…)

    …mitigated into non-existence (I’m quite happy to admit that I don’t really understand this clause),

    …and thirdly that sound thinking (hyphenated, compound, abstract noun – ‘sound-thinking’ – can sound think?)

    …is an enemy of empathy (I don’t properly understand this, either).

    This last is simply an outworking of the pseudo-catharsis (so delicious a combination, I just had to google it. Here’s the best link:

    http://josepmfericgla.org/2012/cathartic-respiration-from-biology-to-culture

    containing, amongst a few other less purply passages, this little gem,

    ‘Nowadays one can accordingly observe pseudo-cathartic experiences which are based on phoney cleansing of fundamental emotional tensions, through anomalous behaviour expressing political, religious, racial and ethnic radicalisms. Another outlet is compulsive behaviour associated with the consumption of psychoactive drugs—whether legal or illegal—or with sexuality, work or even gambling (slot-machines). (Is this what you meant?))

    …of surreptitiously induced social guilt that such extreme social institutions such as Abortion On Demand (Why is this capitalised?) provide (I definitely don’t understand this clause).

    Please don’t hate me, and take heart in Ephesians 4:18 ‘tenebris obscuratum habentes intellectum, alienati a vita Dei per ignorantiam, quæ est in illis, propter cæcitatem cordis ipsorum’

  71. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Dominic, until you’re ready to engage with the actual argument I’ve made, don’t bother posting. This isn’t a soapbox for you to ramble on about your pet peeves. If you think my argument fails, show how. Otherwise, shove off.

  72. Dominic

    Ok.

    So, your argument states:

    ‘It is wrong to kill another human being for personal reasons (because it is murder)
    A human zygote or fetus is a human being
    Therefore, it is wrong to kill a human zygote or fetus for personal reasons’

    Briefly, the syllogism is valid, but not true. It fails at the major premise. Allow me to re-phrase:

    Killing another human being for personal reasons is wrong
    A zygote or foetus is a human being
    Therefore, killing a zygote or foetus for personal reasons is wrong

    Now that we’ve clarified things a little, let’s look at the major premise. The obvious question arises, what inferences are present in the phrase ‘personal reasons?’ Unfortunately for the premise there are plenty; self defence, self preservation, the preservation of others, medical emergency, extraordinary unforeseen circumstances of some sort, etc., etc. You’ll make an argument, doubtless, to redefine and exclude every exception, but the mere fact that you have to…

    The minor premise is that species of argumentation so beloved of contemporary Christian fundamentalists which seeks to enshrine within secular law codes some religiously-oriented tenet or other. One irony here is that the many writers of the Bible, and in fact the peoples of antiquity in Europe and the Levant generally, didn’t regard foetuses, or very young children for that matter, properly as human beings at all – although perhaps one should say, ‘persons.’

    In the modern age, however, this is becoming a hugely complicated area, yet to be fully explored, and we could argue for months about the most esoteric details. Suffice it to note, it is a very simple thing to say, ‘A zygote or foetus is a human being,’ and regarding this issue, not being a biologist, I won’t presume to comment on something I do not properly understand. However, the consequences that flow from that statement are potentially dire, and extend far beyond the nonetheless perfectly legitimate intention to provide adequate protection for the unborn. Some examples for you to think about. Does an IVF doctor commit murder when he/she discards unimplanted embryos? Are the parents accomplices, if they give their consent? Is it tantamount to GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm) to freeze them? Would it be manslaughter if you accidentally dropped them?

    More generally, I am not entirely clear on the precise distinction you aim to achieve between ‘human being’ and ‘person.’ If you read through your argument, you’ll find that they’re pretty much interchangeable. The best sense I can make of it, is that a ‘person.’ as you perceive it, exhibits learned characteristics of some sort, whereas a ‘human being’ does not, necessarily. It’s a bit wooly.

    I would be most grateful if you would take one thing from our brief exchange. One need not be a Christian apologist, nor a moral absolutist, to have firm opinions about abortion.

    Dominic

  73. Kevin

    Hi D-not-BT. Thanks for proofreading my little post. I’ll have stet those changes, however, except for the hyphenation thing — good catch!

    Also cool that you found that “pseudo…” quote. Yep, that is close to my meaning, but extrapolated beyond the individual. I hadn’t read that. I guess pseudo-brilliant minds think alike.

    I don’t hate you, man. I can’t. Jesus loves you. I know that cause da Bible done told me so ;)

  74. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Dominic, I addressed the expression “personal reasons” in the article (see point #9). If you’re going to try to weasel around the argument, at least bring something to the table that I haven’t anticipated and already dealt with.

    Does an IVF doctor commit murder when he/she discards unimplanted embryos?

    If my argument goes through, yes. You can’t refute my argument by pointing out that it has inconvenient consequences.

    More generally, I am not entirely clear on the precise distinction you aim to achieve between ‘human being’ and ‘person.’

    The definition of a person, and whether a fetus is one, is simply irrelevant to my argument. You keep chasing red herrings. It’s almost like you have nothing to say that actually shows where my argument goes wrong, so you’re just haphazardly picking at any point you can think of in the hope that it will have the effect of making the argument look haphazard. Needless to say, your smoke and mirrors aren’t very effective.

  75. Dominic

    Dominic,

    One need only demonstrate the defeasibility of the premises. You are, remember, attempting to construct an argument that is both valid and true IN EVERY case. You haven’t done that.

    I did read your supporting arguments, yes. They don’t invalidate the objections to the premises. Stating that you regard self defence, for example, as a ‘civil’ matter does not necessarily make it so. Recourse to legalistic terms does not get you off the hook, either. Your opponents may play the same game.

    You betray yourself with the phrase, ‘…the reasons for most abortions.’ Most abortions happen in the developing world, their ‘reasons’ radically different to the lazy tropes implicit here.

    Seeking precision in terms, especially for so morally assertive a presentation, is essential. In fact, during my first read of your argument the elision of ‘human being’ and ‘person’ struck me as significant.

    Objecting to conclusions that entail perverse or potentially catastrophic consequences is simply learning from the argument.

    The one ‘fact’ we may freely share here, is our common understanding that there is nothing – no thing – I, or anyone else for that matter, could say which is going to alter your stance. That great, unspoken, irony of the absolutist: you are not amenable to reason. The question is, in what way do you think that attempting to formulate a logically consistent and irrefutable argument against abortion will serve your purpose?

    I read your ‘about’ section. You came to faith, I abandoned it. From the dawn of time, God knew this: Ephesians 1:4, ‘sicut elegit nos in ipso ante mundi constitutionem, ut essemus sancti et immaculati in conspectu ejus in caritate.’
    I am, to paraphrase you, no more than an imperfect pot waiting to be discarded, and all to His greater glory. You know, I made pots at school, in art class – I couldn’t draw to save my life, and my teacher decided to let me have a go. I was proud of every last one of them.

    Take care.

    Dominic

  76. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    “I’m deliberately misinterpreting a key term in your argument differently than you intended. Therefore, your argument is wrong. Bam!”

    Yeah, no. Try again.

    Seeking precision in terms, especially for so morally assertive a presentation, is essential.

    Needless to say, since I was writing a popular-level defense of my position, and not intending to submit it to a philosophical journal, your objection is misguided at best. I picked the terms that had the best chance of being understood perfectly well by most people.

    Objecting to conclusions that entail perverse or potentially catastrophic consequences is simply learning from the argument.

    Begging the question isn’t very convincing.

    The one ‘fact’ we may freely share here, is our common understanding that there is nothing – no thing – I, or anyone else for that matter, could say which is going to alter your stance.

    Sure there is. You could actually interact with my argument and show me a premise that is unsound or an inference that it invalid.

    That great, unspoken, irony of the absolutist: you are not amenable to reason.

    The irony is palpable.

  77. Lloyd T J Evans

    I know it’s been some time since my last comment, but I hope you won’t infer anything from that. I wanted to try and clear my mind a bit, and to let others have their say. Which some have, I’m pleased to note. But unfortunately, I do have more to say.
    I’ll respond to some of your objections to my last comment later on. But first, I’m going to paraphrase a meme which has been around reddit, imgur and facebook many times:

    Imagine the following hypothetical scenario – one which is intensely relevant to your argument that abortion is morally equivalent to murder. 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.

    This puts the issue of the morality of abortion in admittedly simple terms. But reverting to simple terms is sometimes useful in order to make sense of what is a complex argument.
    For a moment, let’s go back to the very top, where you state that abortion is irrefutably equivalent to murder. To quote the other Dominic in the comments section:

    That great, unspoken, irony of the absolutist: you are not amenable to reason. The question is, in what way do you think that attempting to formulate a logically consistent and irrefutable argument against abortion will serve your purpose?

    He’s got a good point there. After all, if your argument really is “irrefutable”, then why even bother having a comments section? Is it merely to reassert your arrogance in response to any challenge to your argument? In fact, considering that many of your responses to comments (especially to my own) are more about semantics than anything else, the answer to that question may well be “yes”.
    I know I’ve said this before, but it apparently needs saying again: Re-iterating (or referring to parts of) your original argument does not constitute further argument. Also, it’s probably true to say that nobody so far has managed to prove your argument wrong from a purely moral perspective. However, that doesn’t in any way invalidate any of the arguments made. Arguments from the perspective of reality are just as valid (if not more so) than arguments from the perspective of pure morality. Just because you claim them to be irrelevant, doesn’t make it so. More to the point, even if what a commenter has said is irrelevant to your main argument, that doesn’t make what they have said untrue or invalid.

    Now, let me respond to your criticisms of my previous comment, among other things:

    Really? Particles in motion have rights? How and why? Please answer in terms of particles in motion, since that is all that actually exists in the final analysis.

    To take the view that “particles in motion are all that actually exist” is to revert to the abstract in the extreme. It isn’t representative of reality, which is where we all live and where things actually matter. To argue from the perspective of pure morality (which you seem to like doing) is similarly abstract, and also not representative of reality. So even if I could present an argument purely in terms of particles in motion, it would be both ridiculous and entirely irrelevant.

    People who are well-educated on this topic tend to agree that objective moral values require ontological grounding, and that God is the best (and probably only) possible source of such grounding.

    Ah, the oft quoted notion that morality cannot exist without God. Which is silly. Really silly. Many of the articles of Christian morality are equally applicable either with or without the existence of God. One might even call them “morality” and leave all trappings of Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter) out of it entirely.
    Such as: “Thou shalt not kill.” Which, somewhat disturbingly, comes in at number 6 on the ten commandments, below some rather morally ambiguous notions such as not worshipping any other gods (is that really important?), not making graven images (whatever that means), keeping the sabbath holy (why?), not committing blasphemy (again, why?), or honouring your mother and father – a good notion to be sure, but hardly more important than not killing people.
    I would like here to enter a quote from Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame):

    The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me raping all I want? My answer is: I do rape all I want – and the amount I want is zero. I also murder all I want – and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person (God) watching over them then they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.

    He has a point there. Why do you need God to tell you what is moral or immoral – right or wrong? Why do you need the threat of eternal damnation to prevent you from committing rape and murder? Atheists (yes, even village atheists) are perfectly capable of not committing such crimes without the threat of going to hell. Given that, who is actually more moral?
    There are many things prohibited by the Bible which are ridiculous in the modern world. Take a look at the following pages for a comprehensive list:
    http://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2012/06/13/76-things-banned-in-leviticus-and-their-penalties.html
    http://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2015/01/27/37-or-so-things-banned-in-exodus-and-their-penalties.html
    Yes, there are some parts which are relevant to morality-without-God, but just as many (if not more) which are downright silly. So I would argue, with considerable justification, that using the Bible as your basis for morality is not any better, or more justified, than any other religious text or system of thought. You might even conclude that abandoning religion as a source of morality makes eminent sense.

    You don’t uphold moral principles by sacrificing them at the altar of pragmatism.

    Yes we do. We do it all the time. There are countless examples in politics and law, which do actually matter. It would be a waste of time to list them all here.

    Yes, imagine the illogical madness of resisting two kinds of immorality instead of just one, and being unwilling to sacrifice one set of moral principles to achieve another set.

    Indeed, imagine such madness. In fact, we can find solid examples of such madness in the Bible itself. Such as:
    1. Bestiality (Leviticus 18:23 and Exodus 22:19). The penalty for which is death.
    2. Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14). The penalty for which is being stoned to death.
    3. Homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22). Also penalized by death.
    In all these cases, the Bible sacrifices what really should be the most important moral principle (not killing people) to achieve the lesser goals of preventing bestiality, blasphemy or homosexuality.
    This was in the context of allowing safe, responsible sex (safe meaning both parties using contraception, responsible meaning with clear consent from both parties) in return for achieving lower rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and STD transmission.
    I’m sorry to keep banging on about this, but I will keep doing so until you get this into your skull: Abstinence programs DO NOT WORK. They especially do not work when access to contraception and explicit sex education are restricted – which seems to go together with abstinence programs when they are proposed and supported by religious people. The data (which I presented in previous comments) speak for themselves. Countries which promote abstinence programs and restrict access to contraception have much higher rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and STD transmission than those which practice the opposite principles.
    Like I said before, if you actually care at all about preventing abortion, then you would be fully in favour of policies which make it un-necessary. But you aren’t, which makes no logical sense whatsoever. So what if free provision of contraception promotes fornication? If safe, responsible sex is the result, please explain how anyone is hurt by this? So far, the only refutation you have been able to offer is that fornication, according to the Bible, is somehow immoral. Which is not an argument.
    Yes, you are sacrificing one rather dubious moral principle (the supposed immorality of extra-marital sex) to satisfy a rather more clear cut moral principle – actually reducing abortion rates. As is made clear above, the Bible clearly does allow you to sacrifice one set of moral principles to achieve another.
    While we are on that subject, let’s apply the same principle to another point:

    All the empirical evidence I’ve seen shows that abortion rates go down when abortion is criminalized—as you’d expect.

    The rate at which abortion is REPORTED goes down, that much is certain. And yes, the true rate of abortion might go down a little – but not much. Again, before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, did nobody have an abortion?
    Actually, criminalizing abortion leads to MORE deaths than keeping it legal. How so? Because making abortion illegal doesn’t in any way make it un-necessary. So women are forced to seek abortion on the black market, where the procedure is unregulated and much more dangerous. This causes women to die due to botched, illegal abortions – women who would survive if the procedure was performed properly and legally.
    The clear conclusion is that criminalizing abortions kills more people than it saves. Yes, if abortion is legal, unborn children still die, but less women die. So legalizing abortion actually saves lives. From a moral perspective, any policy which saves lives is a good one. Yes, you are sacrificing one moral principle for another – but as I already mentioned, this happens all the time, and the Bible clearly allows this.

    So actually paying for the crime is not part of justice as you see it.

    Not sure where you got that idea from. In what sense does a prison sentence (especially a life sentence) not constitute paying for the crime? Being confined to prison deprives a person of most of their rights, especially their freedom. So it is definitely a punishment.
    Retribution or revenge is not merely a different form of justice. It is by definition NOT justice at all. This is especially true with respect to the death penalty. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to violent crime. See here – watch this video in full:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kye2oX-b39E
    This raises an important question: If someone is guilty of a horribly violent crime, and the family of the victim want the perpetrator executed, do we want to live in a society which gives that to them? If we do, then we are saying that revenge (which the death penalty is nothing but) is perfectly OK. We are also saying that revenge equals justice, which it patently doesn’t.
    Never mind the fact that executing someone costs 10 times more than keeping them in prison for the rest of their life – money that comes out of taxes, and therefore your pocket. Never mind that it is clearly racially motivated – far more black people get the death penalty than whites, despite being a minority of the population. Never mind that the death penalty is irreversible, whereas you can let someone out of prison. Which matters if there’s the possibility of convicting an innocent person – which demonstrably does happen. I think we can all agree that killing an innocent person is immoral, and it is even more immoral for this crime to be committed by the justice system itself. Which has happened more than 300 times in the USA alone.
    No – according to many passages in the Bible, the death penalty is just fine, even for offences which are not even criminal in the modern world and are far less heinous than murder. Again, I think I’ll steer clear of the Bible as a source of morality, thank you very much.

  78. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I know I’ve said this before, but it apparently needs saying again: Re-iterating (or referring to parts of) your original argument does not constitute further argument. Also, it’s probably true to say that nobody so far has managed to prove your argument wrong from a purely moral perspective.

    So you complain that I haven’t advanced my argument, but then in the same breath admit that no one has refuted it to begin with. Why would I need to make further argument when my existing argument remains untouched?

    Arguments from the perspective of reality are just as valid (if not more so) than arguments from the perspective of pure morality.

    What is freely asserted may be freely denied. Moreover, it is obviously absurd. We don’t think that pragmatic concerns trump moral concerns in other situations. If a child is lost in the woods we don’t say, “Well, it will be a huge expensive effort to find him, so we’ll just let him die out there.”

    To take the view that “particles in motion are all that actually exist” is to revert to the abstract in the extreme. It isn’t representative of reality, which is where we all live and where things actually matter.

    Actually, it is representative of reality. The “reality” we all live in is just a delusion, if in fact all that ultimately exists, all that is ultimately real, is particles in motion.

    Ah, the oft quoted notion that morality cannot exist without God. Which is silly. Really silly. Many of the articles of Christian morality are equally applicable either with or without the existence of God.

    When you’ve mastered the elementary distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology, feel free to return. Until then, your comments are just an excruciating exercise in missing the point and begging the question.

    You might even conclude that abandoning religion as a source of morality makes eminent sense.

    You might…if you were very obtuse and fundamentally misunderstood the issues you nonetheless felt compelled to waste thousands of words writing about.

    Abstinence programs DO NOT WORK.

    Don’t work for whom? People who already think that sex is a right and that abortion is not morally equivalent to murder? Sure. How does that affect my point in the slightest?

    If safe, responsible sex is the result, please explain how anyone is hurt by this?

    Leaving aside the obvious, ongoing harms caused by the sexual revolution, why are you presupposing that morality boils down to not hurting anyone? I don’t grant that absurd premise. Indeed, I don’t grant you the right to assume morality at all given that your worldview has absolutely no ontological grounds for it.

    This causes women to die due to botched, illegal abortions – women who would survive if the procedure was performed properly and legally.

    A narrative asserted with the confidence of someone who inferred it from his ideology. Where’s your empirical evidence?

    Of course, even if this were true, am I supposed to feel sympathy for people who die trying to murder their children?

    Retribution or revenge is not merely a different form of justice. It is by definition NOT justice at all.

    Yet just before you said that being deprived of your rights constituted payment for a crime. If it isn’t retributive to deprive someone of his rights for committing a crime, what is it?

    There is no credible evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to violent crime.

    So what? Supposing that’s true (and I have no reason to trust your partisan sources), I don’t endorse the death penalty because I think it deters crime. I endorse it because I think it is just.

    If we do, then we are saying that revenge (which the death penalty is nothing but) is perfectly OK.

    You’re confusing personal vengeance with judicial retribution. Why should I take that conflation seriously?

    Never mind the fact that executing someone costs 10 times more than keeping them in prison for the rest of their life

    Not in Israel it didn’t.

    Never mind that the death penalty is irreversible, whereas you can let someone out of prison.

    Letting someone out of prison doesn’t reverse the penalty they paid. A time machine would. Do you have a time machine? If not, the penalty of imprisonment is also irreversible.

    Which matters if there’s the possibility of convicting an innocent person – which demonstrably does happen.

    Obviously I want to avoid false positives. But the danger of false positives doesn’t overcome the requirement for justice.

    Again, I think I’ll steer clear of the Bible as a source of morality, thank you very much.

    Since you have no source of morality, that’s an empty gesture. Spitting defiantly into the wind.

  79. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I’ve responded to your grossly inept effort to illustrate that killing a zygote isn’t equivalent to killing a baby here:

    http://bnonn.com/should-i-save-a-zygote-over-a-baby/

    Maybe next time you should try thinking for yourself, instead of regurgitating Reddit memes as if they constituted serious arguments. Kinda shows the level you’re at.

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…