November 22, 2006
Albert Mohler reported on Wired magazine’s latest cover article: “The New Atheism.” The author, Gary Wolf, aptly described this new brand of atheism represented by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris:
The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it’s evil. . . . Dawkins does not merely disagree with religious myths. He disagrees with tolerating them, with cooperating in their colonization of the brains of innocent tykes.
The new brand of atheism is not like the old. Old atheism was relatively passive. At worst the old brand of atheists would argue in the public square that religious belief is wrong, or intellectually inferior to atheism. But now atheists are being evangelistic and militant for atheism and against theism. They are arguing that religion is the cause of the world’s evils, and should be fought against as a social evil. Dawkins goes so far as to propose that the state should prevent parents from being able to teach their religion to their kids!
There is a war on religion in the West. This really hit home to me when I was walking through San Francisco with N.T. Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, in my hand. I thought to myself, I am more likely to be privately derided by passerbys for carrying this book than I would be if I were carrying Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Sam Harris wrote that “at some point, there’s going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God.” I think he’s right. That mood is already here. One of the main reasons for this shift is because people have become convinced religion is blind faith, unsupportable by reason. That’s why there’s a great need for Christians to become informed about their faith, learning the reasons that support their religious convictions, and then actively engaging non-believers and believers alike in the public sphere to share those reasons with them, persuading them of the intellectual viability of the Christian faith. Doing so will go a long way toward making Christianity a viable option in an increasingly educated culture that demands reasons to believe.
One quote appearing in Mohler’s article is from Daniel Dennett. Dennett argues that “if you have to hoodwink—or blindfold—your children to ensure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct.” I can agree with that!
P.S. Chad says there is a lot of anti-Christian sentiment at the new “On Faith” website.
November 22, 2006
Wesley J. Smith drew my attention to a short editorial Richard Dawkins wrote in the 11-19-06 edition of Scotland’s Sunday Herald, titled “Eugenics May Not be Bad”:
In the 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous – though of course they would not have used that phrase. Today, I suspect that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change.
Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular. The spectre of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from “ought” to “is” and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible. But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as “these are not one-dimensional abilities” apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.
I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?
These are the sorts of moral options within an atheistic worldview. You can’t tell me atheists have the same moral ethics as other religious believers. There may be some overlap, but there are considerable differences. Theism, particularly Judeo-Christian theism, makes a big difference!
November 21, 2006
You won’t hear about this in the American mainstream media, so I’m bringing it to you live from my room in my pajamas!
While many scientists and the mainstream media are hyping embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), the fact of the matter is that embryonic stem cell research is entirely unproductive at this point. There are no human trials using ESCs, and no treatments/cures coming from ESCR. The same cannot be said of adult stem cell research (ASCR). There are hundreds of human trials, and approximately 75 treatments/cures.
In the past few weeks several new breakthroughs using ASCs have been announced:
- Australian researchers used patients’ own stem cells to treat heart failure.
- Researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans injected human ASCs into mice suffering from Type II Diabetes. The ASCs increased their insulin production and even repaired their damaged pancreas. The next step is human trials.
- Other researchers have turned umbilical cord stem cells into lung cells.
- Nature published research involving adult dog stem cells used to treat the dog version of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease that affects human children. After a couple of treatments these severely disabled dogs were able to run faster and even jump. The researchers plan to use this technology to begin treating human children in the next year or two.
- Swiss scientists have grown heart valves using stem cells from amniotic fluid. The hope is to be able to use these to repair damaged hearts in newborn babies.
- University of London researchers restored vision in mice.
None of this progress can be credited to ESCR. Scientists who are making breakthroughs are using ASCs. Dr. Robert MacLaren of the University of London, who restored vision in mice using differentiated stem cells, went so far as to say, “We do not want embryonic stem cells because they are too undifferentiated.” So much for all the hype about the promise of ESCR. The real promise lies in ASCs, and they’ve proven it. The score is about 75-0.
November 21, 2006
I was listening to a lecture delivered by Michael Novak in April of this year on the topic of the universal hunger for liberty. He began by offering a basic, and yet perceptive explanation for why it was that a robust version of religious liberty first flourished in a society of people who held a Judeo-Christian worldview. According to the Judeo-Christian worldview God wants the friendship of man, but He gives us the liberty to choose whether we will accept His friendship. He does not coerce us into a relationship with Him. Each man bears the responsibility of making that choice. This duty is personal in nature. Neither family nor the state can bear this responsibility for the individual. Given the personal nature of this responsibility, the government’s responsibility is to allow each man to perform his duty toward God. This translates into religious freedom.
November 21, 2006
Posted by jasondulle under Politics
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ABC’s Jan Crawford Greenburg recently interviewed Chief Justice John Roberts on a range of issues. Regarding the role of courts in our government Robert said:
Think back to the framers who drafted the Constitution. These were people who literally risked everything to gain the right to govern themselves, certainly risked all their material well-being and risked their lives in the struggle for independence. And the thought that the first thing they would do when they got around to drafting a Constitution would be to say, ‘Let’s take all the hard issues in our society and let’s turn them over to nine unelected people who aren’t politically accountable and let them decide,’ that would have been the farthest thing from their mind.I have enormous respect for the authority carried by the people across the street in Congress. Hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people have voted for them and put their confidence in their judgment.Not a single person has voted for me and if we don’t like what the people in Congress do, we can get rid of them, and if you don’t like what I do, it’s kind of too bad. And that is, to me, an important constraint. It means that I’m not there to make a judgment based on my personal policy preferences or my political preferences.The only reason I’m protected from those political pressures is because I’m supposed to make a decision based on the law. And so I don’t think it would be a good idea to turn all the hard issues over to the courts. Those hard issues belong in Congress, they belong in the Executive Branch.The courts have the responsibility to make sure both of those branches abide by the legal limits in the Constitution, but that’s it.
I couldn’t agree more. Thank goodness Bush appointed a chief justice with a conservative judicial philosophy.
November 20, 2006
As much as pro-lifers deplore the horror of abortion, on a practical level I think many pro-lifers think it is worse to kill a sentient human being (usually post-natal) than a pre-sentient human being (the unborn). Why? Because the sentient human being experiences pain the unborn does not (at least those who are aborted in the first trimester), and because it robs the person of his aspirations, hopes, and activity in the world.
I can understand this perspective; however, I think it locates the evil of murder in the wrong location, and underestimates the import of death to an embryo/fetus.
What makes murder wrong is not that it hurts. There are methods of killing that do not cause pain. Lethal injection is one. No one would suggest, however, that it is morally acceptable to kill your neighbor by lethal injection. A moral wrong would still have been committed even though the victim experienced no pain. What makes murder such an egregious evil is that it deprives someone of their most fundamental, and inalienable right: the right to life. Every other right is supported by this basic and foundational right. The right to live provides us with the ability to seek other moral goods: meaning, love, etc.
How could killing the unborn be worse than killing a 30 year old, then? Put simply the 30 year old had a past but is robbed of his future, while the unborn is robbed of his ability to have experience life at all. While the murder of a 30 year old is evil, at least he had a chance to experience life by pursuing its moral goods, and everything else it means to be human. When an embryo/fetus is killed, however, it is robbed of any chance to experience life’s moral goods.
November 20, 2006
Every one of us began our existence as an embryo. The embryo we were was not an entity distinct from us; it was us. Sure, as an embryo we did not exhibit the same properties we do today, but we did possess those properties intrinsically as part of our nature. This invites a question to the pro-abortion advocate: If it is wrong to kill me now (as a child/adult), how could it have been permissible to kill me then (as an embryo/fetus)? Both instances involve the same entity. The unborn differ from the born in their stage of development, not their kind, much the same way newborns differ from adults in their stage of development, not their kind. If we recognize the latter, why do so many deny the former?
To escape the force of this logic the pro-abortion advocate is faced with a couple of recourses. He could admit that the same entity is killed in both instances, but that the stage of development does matter when determining who the recipient of a right to life is and who is not. Killing a human entity in its earliest stages of development is morally permissible precisely because they are not yet fully developed. This response encounters many difficulties: (1) it would justify killing newborns and teenagers because they are not fully developed yet either; (2) it capitalizes on the ambiguity of what it means to be fully developed; (3) it begs the question as to how one stage of development can give someone value over another stage; (4) it falls prey to the problem of authority, because who gets to decide which stages of development are value-laden and which ones are not?
Most will take a different route. They will admit that the same entity is killed in both instances, but killing an embryo/fetus is justified because they do not yet possess the value-defining attributes of personhood. While they are human beings, they are not human persons. They claim value is found in function, not essence.
These are philosophical assumptions that needs to be demonstrated. One cannot simply presuppose that one can be a human being without being a human person, or that value is determined by function. Do these ideas stand the test of reason? No. Some of the difficulties associated with this view are as follows: (1) it suffers from the problem of authority, because who is to say which properties are value-defining and which are not?; (2) it is circular in its reasoning because the criteria for personhood are defined in such a way so as to exclude the unborn from the start, but then used as justification for abortion; (3) the criteria not only deprives the unborn of his value, but the newly born as well, making infanticide morally acceptable; (4) it undermines our intuitive notion of human equality because if value is defined by function, and humans exhibit different levels of functioning, then it follows that humans possess differing levels of value. It seems best to understand personhood—and hence value—to be a property that inheres in human beings from the moment they begin to exist onward.
It stands, then, that to kill the unborn is morally equivalent to killing the born. If the latter is evil, so is the former.
November 18, 2006
NASB (New American Standard Bible)
Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 3:9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain, 3:9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless. 3:11 Likewise also their wives must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)
Notice the difference in the two translations (the bold-faced words in particular)? The underlying Greek word behind these two different renderings is gunaikas. The word can be translated as “women” or “wives” depending on the context. There is considerable scholarly debate over which choice is the proper translation in this particular context. Most translations translate it as does the NET Bible: wives. Some, however, translate it as “women.” Many translations note that it could be translated either way.
Why does this matter? It is important to the doctrine of ecclesiology. If gunaikas refers to “women” in general this is positive proof that the office of deacon can be held by women as well as men. If “wives” is the correct translation, however, it is not.
New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger argues that the proper translation is “women” and thus Paul is referring to women deaconesses. You can read his arguments here.
The NET Bible offers the following footnote that summarizes some of the same arguments presented by Kostenberger et al, but argues for the superiority of translating gunaikas as “wives”:
Or “also deaconesses.” The Greek word here is γυναῖκας (gunaikas) which literally means “women” or “wives.” It is possible that this refers to women who serve as deacons, “deaconesses.” The evidence is as follows: (1) The immediate context refers to deacons; (2) the author mentions nothing about wives in his section on elder qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-7); (3) it would seem strange to have requirements placed on deacons’ wives without corresponding requirements placed on elders’ wives; and (4) elsewhere in the NT, there seems to be room for seeing women in this role (cf. Rom 16:1 and the comments there).
The translation “wives” – referring to the wives of the deacons – is probably to be preferred, though, for the following reasons: (1) It would be strange for the author to discuss women deacons right in the middle of the qualifications for male deacons; more naturally they would be addressed by themselves. (2) The author seems to indicate clearly in the next verse that women are not deacons: “Deacons must be husbands of one wife.” (3) Most of the qualifications given for deacons elsewhere do not appear here. Either the author has truncated the requirements for women deacons, or he is not actually referring to women deacons; the latter seems to be the more natural understanding. (4) The principle given in 1 Tim 2:12 appears to be an overarching principle for church life which seems implicitly to limit the role of deacon to men. Nevertheless, a decision in this matter is difficult, and our conclusions must be regarded as tentative.
While this is only an introduction to the debate, I think these two sources present some of the most compelling arguments in behalf of each view. You be the judge as to which is correct.
November 16, 2006
A couple of days ago I reported on how The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology petitioned the Nuffield Council on Bioethics to consider the option of infanticide for severely disabled newborns. I am happy to report that the Nuffield Council responded Wednesday November 15th by publishing a set of recommended guidelines that clearly rejected the suggestion:
The Council has concluded that the active ending of life of newborn babies should not be allowed, no matter how serious their condition. The professional obligation of doctors is to preserve life where they can. If doctors were to be permitted actively to end the lives of seriously ill newborn babies, there is a risk that the relationship between parents and doctors would be negatively affected. It would also be very difficult to identify an upper age limit beyond which actively ending life would not be allowed.
I guess every once in a while bioethicists actually uphold good ethics!
HT: Wesley Smith at Secondhand Smoke
November 16, 2006
Michael Medved has an article on Townhall.com about Elton John’s “I would ban religion” comments. He points out how religious adherents are much more tolerant of homosexuality than he, and many on the Left are of religion:
[R]eligious leaders actually express more tolerance to homosexuality (and non-believers) than Sir Elton expresses toward organized faith. Imagine the indignation if a religious leader suggested that we need to “ban homosexuality completely” — or urged an outright prohibition on atheism? It’s true that many believing Christians want to persuade gays to overcome their same-sex urges, or try to get non-believers to replace their doubt with faith, but no factions in the varied array of conservative religious groups has called for “banning” ideas with which they disagree.
Well said! Then he turned his attention to the general intolerance of secularists towards religion:
The controversies about public display of religious symbols nearly all center on secular demonstrations of militancy and narrow-mindedness, involving attempts to remove or suppress expressions of faith (like crosses in parks, or Ten Commandments displays in public buildings, or the words “under God” in the pledge) that have existed innocuously for decades. Very few of these disputes involve efforts by the faithful to impose new symbols in prominent places, or to “ram their faith down the throats” of the unwilling public at large. It’s the secular left that’s consistently intolerant of American society as it’s existed for years, not religious conservatives who express unwillingness to allow public disagreement with their convictions. In the bitter debate about teaching our children about the origins of life on earth, religious activists make no attempt to block the teaching of Darwinism or random natural selection, but it’s pro-evolution fanatics who fanatically resist any messages or questions that even hint at Intelligent Design.
Very well said. The article is worth reading.
November 16, 2006
South Africa, in compliance with a court ruling in December 2005, legalized same-sex marriage on 11-14-06. They are the fifth nation to do so (the others are Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Canada).
November 16, 2006
There’s a good post at Right Reason addressing when we should stand up and fight for a particular religious liberty and when we should not. Given the direction of our society, this is a very relevant piece.
November 16, 2006
The UK is now testing for more than 200 genetic diseases on pre-implantation embryos created by in vitro fertilization. Those who test positive will be discarded. Many are concerned that this is the first step in creating designer babies. Dr Fishel of CARE Facility insists that this is not true. He said: “We are providing a healthcare option for diagnosing and selecting out affected embryos so couples have the opportunity of embarking on a pregnancy with a healthy child. The alternative is testing at 16 weeks when they may choose an abortion or, in many cases, seeing their baby die from some of these horrendous diseases. In my opinion, it is unethical not to offer couples the chance of a disease-free child.”
Utilitarian ethics are at play here. But there’s also financial considerations. Dr. Fishel described a conversation he had with the NHS over funding these tests: “‘I had a phone call from a primary care trust after a couple applied for funding, asking what it was all about. ‘When I explained, the manager said, ‘So this technique means we spend £20,000 and avoid the possibility of having to spend between £1 and £2 million caring for a disabled child. It’s a no-brainer.’”
It may be a financial no-brainer, but it’s not a moral no brainer. We are living in a world that values perfection to such an extent that we are willing to kill any nascent human being who does not exemplify it. Rather than valuing life, we want to eliminate it whenever it might strain our pocketbook.
What I find more scary than the fact that this is going on is how it is being portrayed as the morally superior thing to do. Dr. Fishel says it is “unethical not to offer couples the chance of a disease-free child.” The moral high-ground is being turned upside down wherein those killing embryos are the good guys, and those wanting to protect them are the bad guys. We are living in a confused world.
November 14, 2006
Senior Vatican cardinal, Renato Martino, condemned the building of a fence between the U.S. and Mexico as an “inhuman program.” Whatever your views on immigration policy and the building of this fence, shame on the cardinal for belittling the word “inhuman.” No one is being harmed in the least, so how can he legitimately use the word inhuman to describe it? Inhuman is what Hitler did to the Jews. Either Martino doesn’t know what inhuman is, or he is just using rhetoric. My guess is the latter, and I find it despicable.
I find it ridiculous to say a sovereign nation cannot define and protect its borders by building a fence. Apparently, the cardinal thinks it’s wrong to prevent anyone from entering the country who may want to come here. Indeed, if we can’t have a fence, I don’t see how we can have border agents either. In either case we are preventing people from coming into this country illegally (one method is simply more effective than the other). Martino thinks we should just open up our doors, and allow millions of poor people from Mexico and South America flood into our country, overwhelm the job market, and overwhelm our social services until we become bankrupt. I wonder if he would feel the same about the Vatican City?
November 14, 2006
Attorney, Tracy Mehan III, wrote a good article on partial birth abortion. One paragraph is of particular note: “And consider the first time you and your spouse saw the ultrasound pictures of your child, pre-viability. One of you didn’t say, ‘Oh look, Honey, it’s our fetus!’ No one calls an unborn child a fetus except when the subject of abortion comes up. Then the mental filters go up, screening out the humanity of the being about to be destroyed.”
November 14, 2006
Elton John displays the sort of intolerance we find so often among the Leftist preachers of tolerance. He would like to ban religion completely.
November 14, 2006
Last Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gonzalez vs. Carhart, one of two partial birth abortion cases. I am opposed to partial birth abortion, and I am persuaded that the Supreme Court should give deference to Congress’ decision to ban the practice. Having said that, some of the oral arguments offered by the government’s lawyer, General Paul Clement, were logically torturous. I actually found myself agreeing more with the logic of Justice Ginsberg (extreeeeme leftist) than I did with the guy representing my point of view. Here’s a reproduction of their exchange:
GENERAL CLEMENT: Congress was entitled to make a judgment in furthering its legitimate interests that they were going to ban a particularly gruesome procedure that blurred the line between abortion and infanticide.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: General Clement, couldn’t a similar record be made with respect to what is the more common procedure, the D&E that involves dismemberment of a fetus inside the womb. So assuming you’re right that it is constitutional for Congress to ban the D&X proceeding, wouldn’t the same reasoning apply, couldn’t Congress make similar findings with respect to what is the most common method for second trimester abortions?
GENERAL CLEMENT: I don’t think so, Justice Ginsburg, and I think that this Court’s precedence, in particular the Danforth case, would stand as an obstacle to that piece of legislation, because in Danforth, this Court struck down an effort to ban what was then the majority method of inducing a second term abortion. And I think in the same way, there is quite a different situation when Congress comes in and tries to deal with the primary abortion method in the second trimester. Here, though, Congress didn’t go after the dog, so to speak, it went after the tail. This very aberrant procedure, atypical procedure. And the numbers are hard to come by, but I don’t think anybody suggests that the D&X procedure is anything more than a very small minority of second trimester abortions. And so I do think -
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Even though we are told by some of the medical briefs that the procedure is basically the same, they start out in the same way and that the difference — the differences are not large in particular cases.
GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, Justice Ginsburg, let me make a couple of points in response to that. I think — taken at the broader level first, I think there is one very important difference between these two procedures that led Congress to ban one and allow the other to stand. And that is whether fetal demise takes place in utero, which is, of course, the hallmark of all abortions, or whether fetal demise takes place when the fetus is more than halfway out of the mother.
. . .
JUSTICE SCALIA: Would it, would it be lawful or would it be infanticide to deliver the fetus entirely and just let it expire without any attempt to keep it alive?
GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, in the post-viability context it would clearly be, it would clearly be infanticide. I think in the pre-viability context, if you have a complete delivery but the child isn’t going to survive, I don’t think it would be infanticide to necessarily let the child expire -
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Mr. -
GENERAL CLEMENT: But I do think by contrast if somebody tried to, with the fetus, you know, perfectly alive and in the hours that it might have to live, if somebody came in and ripped its head open, I think we’d call that murder, and in fact Congress passed another statute -
JUSTICE GINSBURG: General Clement, that’s not what this case is about, because I think you have recognized, quite appropriately, that we’re not talking about whether any fetus will be preserved by this legislation. The only question that you are raising is whether Congress can ban a certain method of performing an abortion. So anything about infanticide, babies, all that, is just beside the point because what this bans is a method of abortion. It doesn’t preserve any fetus because you just do it inside the womb instead of outside.
GENERAL CLEMENT: Justice Ginsberg, that’s right, but I don’t think that’s to trivialize Congress’s interest in maintaining a bright line between abortion and infanticide. And the way I would illustrate it is that line, even if you might think it has a temporal line, in the sense that viability versus previability is relevant, it clearly has a spatial dimension as well and the best illustration of that I think is think about a lawful post-viability abortion. There is a problem with the mother’s health, there is a problem with her life so it’s a lawful post-viability abortion. I don’t think that anybody thinks that the law is or should be indifferent to whether in that case fetal demise takes place in utero or outside the mother’s womb. The one is abortion, the other is murder. And I think that just recognizes that even in the post-viability context you have a very important line which is a spatial line, and that line is basically in womb, outside of womb, and what Congress tried to do in this statute is to draw that line and differentiate between one procedure where fetal demise takes place in utero -
JUSTICE GINSBURG: But if this case were limited to post-viability abortions it would be a different matter. But isn’t it so that the vast majority of these abortions are going to be performed pre-viability?
GENERAL CLEMENT: I think that’s probably right, Justice Ginsburg, but I think the point I would make is that Congress has an interest in maintaining the spatial line between infanticide and abortion, even with respect to pre-viability fetuses and that’s true for at least two reasons. [Clement was interrupted at this point, and from my reading of the transcripts, I do not see where he ever returned to his point.]
This dialogue evokes a question. What is the government trying to preserve: the definition of “infanticide” or moral sensibility? If the former, why should we be overly concerned? Definitions commonly change with use over time. If the latter, how can the government argue D&X abortions are wrong while D&E abortions are permissible? Justice Ginsberg nailed Clement on this point.
Clement said partial birth abortion (D&X) is a “gruesome procedure” that should be banned. Ginsberg asked why the D&E procedure should not be banned as well. Is dismembering a fetus from limb to limb in utero any less gruesome than partially delivering the fetus, puncturing a whole in its skull, and sucking its brains out? In each case the same “thing” is being killed. The harm done to the fetus is about equal (arguably the D&E procedure is more gruesome because the baby is chopped up in pieces, wherein the D&X procedure there is just one quick puncture to the head). The only real difference between the two procedures is the location of the fetus when it is killed. But how is the location of the fetus morally relevant? If I kill a man on the street by stabbing him in the head, is that any less evil than if I killed that same man in his house by cutting him up in pieces? Hardly! In either case an innocent human being has been killed. The location and manner of his death is irrelevant. Likewise with abortion.
Of course, this assessment hinges on whether the unborn are human beings in the same manner as the man in my example. Ironically that was the one question Roe never answered. But science has answered this question, and without controversy the unborn are human beings. If they are human beings, the unborn should not be killed in any manner whatsoever, regardless of their location and size.
How did Clement respond to Ginsberg’s question? By saying the spatial line between D&E and D&X abortions is vital to maintaining a bright line between abortion and infanticide. I agree in principle, but I think this is a rather weak justification. Indeed, the journey down the birth canal is the last remaining conceptual barrier between traditional concepts of abortion and infanticide. If that barrier gives way, the distinction between the two will give way as well. But how significant is this logically speaking? Why is the line important to begin with? If you can kill a baby in the womb one day before it is born, why can’t you kill that same baby one day after it is born? Has anything changed except its location? Birth may be a simple and practical demarcation line to distinguish between legal and illegal killing, but there is no biological or philosophical basis to see it as anything more than that. Nothing magically happens to the unborn in its journey down the 8” birth canal that magically turns it from non-human to human, non-valuable to valuable, and having no right to life to having a right to life.
Is killing a two month old baby outside the womb any less evil than killing a two month old baby inside the womb? It may not be as emotionally outrageous, but the two are morally equivalent because in both cases the same thing is being killed: a valuable and innocent human being. The only difference between the two is their location and level of development at the time of death. Just because they are small and hidden behind a veil of flesh does not mean they are any less valuable, or that the taking of their life is any less evil.
To argue against partial birth abortion on the grounds that it’s important for us to maintain a bright line between abortion and infanticide assumes abortion and infanticide are two different things—not by definitional convention (which is true), but ontologically and morally. But why should we accept that distinction? Who’s to say killing the baby in the womb using the D&E method should not be considered infanticide (particularly when we are talking about a post-viability fetus)? Who says infanticide only applies outside the womb to post-viable fetuses? Maybe the definition of infanticide should be expanded to include the unborn, rather than expanding the definition of abortion to include the partially born. To say the killing of an embryo/fetus in the womb is abortion—not infanticide—begs the question. If abortion is a form of infanticide because it kills an immature human being, then we don’t need to maintain a bright line between abortion and infanticide because there is no line to be had in the first place (and remember, I am arguing logically and morally, not legally).
Of course, it could be that General Clement understands this. It could be that he knows D&E is just as barbaric as D&X, and that the logic of his argument should apply to both D&X and D&E. It could be that the government is doing exactly what I blogged on a few days ago: using the incremental approach to morals legislation. I can’t be certain. Either way, I hope Clement wins the case for the U.S. government.
One final remark. Did you notice the euphemism being used to describe all of this?: “fetal demise.” Oh how we can make something so ugly sound so benign. What’s next, gunning down a man on the street will be known as “adult demise”?
One more final remark (smile): Justice Stevens said, “Whether the feet are more than halfway out, and some of these fetuses I understand in the procedure, are only four or five inches long. They are very different from fully formed babies.” This is why the Court needs to stick to interpreting the law rather than making it. Biologists and philosophers are cringing everywhere. What a foolish statement.
November 14, 2006
Posted by jasondulle under Apologetics
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I recently visited Lee Strobel’s website and discovered an amazing library of short video clips providing answers to tough theological and apologetic questions from all the big hitters. It’s worth a visit.
November 14, 2006
Bisexuals present an interesting dilemma to advocates of same sex marriage. They argue that people should be allowed to marry according to their natural preferences: men who naturally prefer relationships with men should be allowed to marry a man; women who naturally prefer relationships with women should be allowed to marry a woman. But in the case of bisexuals, they naturally prefer both men and women. Given the principle of their argument, how can they deny bisexuals the right to marry two people (polygamy)? If they deny them that right they do so only by contradicting their guiding principle. If they are consistent and grant them that right they risk being ostracized by the moral majority of this country who think polygamy is wrong. Heads they lose, tails they lose.
Bisexuals present yet another challenge to the arguments advanced in favor of same-sex marriage. Many same-sex marriage advocates argue that gays should be able to marry someone of the same sex because their sexual desires are not chosen, and it would be unfair to deprive them of the good of marriage given that fact. Dennis Prager asks a fair question to those who make this argument: “Should a bisexual be able to marry someone of the same-sex?” If the person answers in the negative they are violating their principle that people should be able to marry according to their natural preferences. If they answer in the affirmative they reveal that their argument is a front. One cannot argue that same-sex couples should be able to marry because they have no choice in their sexual desires, and argue that those who do have a choice (bisexuals) should be able to marry someone of the same sex as well. Either the ground for same-sex marriage is the lack of sexual choice or it is not. The fact of the matter is that the “no choice” argument is typically a front for a more basic, libertarian view that people should be able to do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But if that is the basis for promoting same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage advocates would do well to just say so.
November 14, 2006
Things keep getting worse across the pond. Britain, a world leader in bioethical depravity, is edging closer to the Brave New World. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has made an inquiry to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics to allow the active euthanization of severely disabled newborn babies. They argue that the option to actively euthanize these babies (infanticide) will promote the overall good of families by sparing them the emotional and financial burdens associated with raising these types of children, and will prevent some late-term abortions. They wrote in their submission, “We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns.”
Medical advocates are turning the moral question on its head by asserting that it would be wrong to allow certain children to live. Joy Delhanty of University College London said, “I think it is morally wrong to strive to keep alive babies that are then going to suffer many months or years of very ill health.”
Bioethics professor at Manchester University, John Harris, justified the idea on the basis of existing abortion logic: “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” Harris is absolutely right. The logic of those who support abortion up to birth but not immediately after birth is unprincipled. The correction, however, will not be found in permitting the killing of newborn babies as well as the unborn, but in prohibiting both.
Thankfully there are still some morally sane intellectuals left in England. John Wyatt, a consulting neonatologist at University College London spoke out against the proposal saying, “Intentional killing is not part of medical care. . . . The majority of doctors and health professionals believe that once you introduce the possibility of intentional killing into medical practice you change the fundamental nature of medicine. It immediately becomes a subjective decision as to whose life is worthwhile.”
The Netherlands have already sanctioned the practice in what they call the Groningen Protocol. There was international outrage when the Protocol was proposed. Like so many other issues, the first time it happens there is outrage. The second and subsequent occasions there is silence. So far there is silence on Britain’s proposal.
I wonder if we—both Americans in general and the church in particular—really understand what is happening in our world. Do we really understand that doctors are wanting to kill newborn babies they deem unworthy of life, and where the philosophy that allows this leads? We’re making some of the same intellectual and political moves as Nazi Germany. We want to rid our world of the undesirables: the old and sick, the unwanted unborn, and the severely disabled. It’s a pursuit of perfect humanity in a perfect world. Ideological utopias always end in death of untold millions. When will we wake up to see what is happening, and that we are allowing it to be done in the name of science? I am truly afraid for the future of our world. Moral depravity is picking up momentum. What was once called evil is now called good, and what was once called good is now called evil. God warned us of this day. It is here.
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