bioethics

This tag is associated with 17 posts

Really Recommended Posts 9/27/13- Star Trek, stem cells, gears, and more!

postA Word of Caution Regarding Induced Pluripotent [Adult] Stem Cells– It is vastly important when debating any issue–but particularly those issues with much emotional attachment–to be careful to make proper distinctions. Here, Matt Rodgers makes a very important clarification regarding the successes and usefulness of induced pluripotent (read: adult) stem cell research. Is it something to be celebrated wildly by pro-life persons? He urges caution. Read the post for why.

Remembering When Star Trek Responsibly Dealt With Disability and Assisted Suicide– Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. In this post, Chelsea Zimmerman analyzes one of the episodes to look at how it thoughtfully deals with some really tough topics: assisted suicide and disability.

First mechanical gear discovered in a living creature– One of the most important arguments for biological design, irreducible complexity, relates to the analysis of systems within lifeforms which, it is alleged, cannot have arisen through undirected processes. The concept of a serious mechanical gear existing within an insect offers a case study for irreducible complexity. Is it the case that this presents a challenge to Neodarwinism? Check out the post.

Cutting the Baby in Half: A review of Neal Shusterman’s “Unwind”– Anthony Weber’s blog, Empires and Mangers, is simply a must-follow if you are interested at all in the relationship between Christianity and culture. Here, he analyzes a work which directly addresses issues related to abortion. What happens when the value regarding human life is shifted beyond recognition? Or… more startlingly, is the dystopia portrayed in this work really a value network which is beyond recognition?

Was there animal death before Adam’s sin?– One of the arguments used by young earth creationists most frequently is the argument that animal death before the Fall decisively shows that any other position is false. William Lane Craig answers this challenge briefly. For my part, I have argued that the young earth view is actually self-referentially false in my post: “Animal Death? A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism.”

The Epistemic Argument Against Abortion

demolitionEpistemology is the study of knowing. That is, it is the study of how we know something is true. Here, I will offer an argument against abortion which concerns the question: what do we know about the unborn?

An Analogy*

Suppose you are a demolition expert. You’re sitting outside a building you are to blow and you are about to hit the button. The area has been declared clear and so you have flipped the cover of the button up and you’re about to blow the building. Suddenly, someone cries out–a little red tricycle has been discovered outside the building. Fortunately, however, the people who spotted the tricycle tell you there is only a 20% chance that the child made his or her way inside the building. The equipment being used is expensive and your company is paying more Shrugging while thinking “Time is money,” you go ahead and press the button, blowing up the building. After all, you’re 80% sure there is no one inside.

…Wait a second. That’s horrible! Shouldn’t you check and be sure that there is no one inside the building? After all, that person’s life is worth so much more than the extra money your company will have to spend as the child is searched for.

The question then must be asked: what percent is low enough for you to press the button? Suppose you were 90% sure the child was not inside the building, would you pull the button then, confident that you gave your best effort? How about 95%? 98%? It seems to me the only morally permissible situation would be certainty. The building has been swept entirely from top to bottom and cordoned off, you are positive no one is inside. Then, you may press the button without moral culpability: you are certain you are not killing anyone whether directly or indirectly.

*I should note this example is from Kevin A. Lewis. I modified the scenario slightly.

The Argument Stated and Defended

The argument is actually very simple:

1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, we should not kill the unborn.

2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.

3) Therefore, we should not kill the unborn.

Premise one seems obviously true to me. In order to deny premise one, the advocate for abortion must claim that we may destroy “fetuses” even if it is possible that they are human persons. That is, the pro-choice position must hold that it is permissible to blow the building at 80%; or perhaps even at 98%. Given a similar situation: the doctor with the tools for abortion goes and destroys the fetus with the possibility that, like the red tricycle sitting outside the building, they may not know whether they are killing a child; instead, they go forward with the procedure, even though they may be murdering a baby.

Note that what I’m claiming here is a very small claim: it may be even a .5% chance that the fetus is a baby (of course, I am convinced that from conception, we have a human being, but for the sake of argument I will grant even .01% chance), but then the doctor, like the demolition expert, goes ahead and “blows the building” anyway.

Premise 2 also seems to be obviously true. In order to show me that it is wrong, the pro-choice party must make an argument towards the claim that the unborn is not a human person. Why must they try to prove a universal negative? Well, my claim is very broad: It is possible the unborn is a human person. I have argued towards this end multiple times, and would be willing to engage someone on those points. But the bottom line is, even if my arguments fail, I still think that it is possible the unborn is a human person. I just need reasonable doubt here, not epistemic certainty. Unfortunately for those who are pro-choice, their position must yield epistemic certainty, but it cannot.

The conclusion follows from the premises via modus ponens. Thus, the argument succeeds.

Objections

We can never be sure about anything

Perhaps the most thoughtful answer a pro-choice advocate might make for this argument is that we can never be sure of anything. After all, we cannot be certain that when we drive somewhere, a child might run in front of our car and get hit and killed. Indeed, in the case of a demolition expert, one could always have a helicopter drop a small child onto the building at the last second, or a child could tunnel underneath and get in, etc.

My response to this argument is fairly straightforward. In abortion, we are intentionally going in and killing the fetus (or dismantling it; however you want to put it). The analogy with driving simply doesn’t work. In order for it to be even close to accurate, the driver isn’t driving safely. Instead, it would be like driving drunk along a sidewalk in Chicago. You shouldn’t do it.

The problem with the ‘certainty’ objection is that while it is true we cannot be 100% of just about anything, it is also true that there are some steps we should take in order to give ourselves epistemic certainty. That is, there is a line between saying something is broadly logically possible and saying that it actually reduces one’s epistemic certainty of a proposition. Certainly, it is possible for a helicopter to parachute a child onto the building in the seconds before it explodes, but does that reduce one’s epistemic certainty pertaining to the situation? I do not think so.

You’re A Man

Unfortunately, I run into this argument far more often than one might think. It should be pretty obvious that this argument is completely fallacious. Whatever my gender happens to be, I am capable of reasoning.

Sometimes, the argument is put forth as “get out of my womb” or something similar. Well again, if the unborn is a human being, then I am attempting to protect a distinct human being. Thus, this objection not only begs the question, but it is also insulting. It is nothing more than a rhetorical device.

We can never be certain that the fetus is not a human being

A response like this basically grants my argument. As I have argued, if this is the case abortions should be impermissible. We shouldn’t just bank on uncertainty to gamble with lives. Of course, I am not going to merely appeal to uncertainty, I have positively argued that the unborn are human beings. Period.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Be sure to check out my other posts in which I argue for the pro-life position. Particularly relevant to the present discussion are “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons Chixoy.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 5/24/13

postOnce more I have gone to the ends of the internet to find some posts to recommend for you, dear readers. This week, the topics are, as ever, diverse. We have bioethics, parameters for debates, creationism, the Quran, and Nietzsche. As always, check them out. Let me know your thoughts.

Bioethics and Worldview– A fascinating post which shows how one’s worldview can guide one’s positions in bioethics. What do we value? That will come out in practice. Our society does not value life. I think that is obvious in our practices.

Convenient Explanations– Luke Nix offers some advice to Christians and non-Christians about respectful debate.

Biblical case for Long Days (VIDEO)– I found this short video informative. It gives some reasons that Bible-believing Christians hold to views other than young earth creationism.

The Bible or the Quran– A fascinating, worldview-level comparison of the Bible and the Quran. Which makes more sense of reality? Mike Robinson argues persuasively that it is the Bible.

Doug Groothuis – Nietzsche’s Evaluation of Christian Ethics– I found this very thought-provoking and insightful. Nietzsche is often seen as one of the more talented atheistic philosophers. How does his evaluation of Christian ethics play out? Is it sound? Doug Groothuis puts forth cogent arguments which must be considered.

Genetics and Bioethics: Enhancement or Therapy?

eps-cc

[Note: Revised and expanded 6/15/2015.]

Bioethics is an expanding field with direct implications for our lives. Here, we’ll reflect on the possibility and implications of gene therapy and enhancement. While I was at the Evangelical Philosophical/Theological Society Conference in 2012, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a talk about this very topic, and that will be the focus of this post. Unfortunately, the speaker had been switched around and was not listed in the booklet that I have. Furthermore, I never caught the speaker’s actual name (I tried to write it down when he was introduced, and got Gary Alkins, though I have tried searching online for that and haven’t come up with it), so if someone knows what it is, please let me know. I’ll reference the speaker as “speaker” throughout this post.

The central relevant moral question under discussion was: “Should genetic technology be used to not only heal but also to enhance the human condition?”

A Vital Distinction

An important aspect of this discussion is the distinction between gene enhancement and therapy. Gene therapy is the use of genetic research and information to cure illness. Speaking very hypothetically, suppose that we were able to discover the exact genetic code for illnesses like sickle cell anemia, isolate it, and replace it with a non-anemic code before a person was even born; that would be gene therapy. Genetic enhancement takes this a step further. It allows for modifying people genetically to enhance certain features such as physical strength, endurance, mental aptitude, and the like. It would, in a sense, create “super humans.”

Therapy

Using our knowledge of genetics for therapy, the speaker argued, is perfectly justified. We are called by Christ’s example to treat illnesses, and gene therapy can be seen as an extension of this. There was little time spent defending the moral permissiveness of gene therapy, as the primary question was whether genetic enhancement is morally permissible.

Enhancement

There are several arguments for genetic enhancement. These include:

1) The “natural lottery” argument: if we have the capacity to genetically enhance humans but do not, that means we are, effectively, just playing a genetic lottery to see if our children turn out well. Parents have a moral duty to act against the natural lottery.

2) We encourage environmental enhancement (i.e. seeking better education, putting children in brain-stimulating environments, encouraging sports for their physical well-being, etc.), why is genetic enhancement any different?

3) We already manipulate chemicals (caffeine, vitamins, etc.) for our well-being, why not genetics? In the end, what matters is human well being.

4) Genetic enhancement is simply the next logical step for humanity. If we agree that therapy is good because it stops genetic defects, should we not also hold that enhancement is good because it pushes people to fill their greatest potential.

Against these arguments, the speaker argued [updated section 6/15/15 with some counter-responses]:

A) Genetic enhancement could never match the ideal outlined in these arguments, wherein every human being is enhanced on a number of levels. Instead, it would very likely increase the split between the haves and have-nots by allowing those who have much to increase their dominance over society. The haves could afford to continue enhancing and remain a kind of super-human society while the have-nots would never be able to catch up.

However, a possible counter-argument to this reasoning would be to note that there will always be people who are advantaged and people who are disadvantaged. It’s unclear as to how this should serve to undermine the moral base for genetic enhancement.

B) There is a great good in letting humans accomplish things which stretch their skill set. Think about the steroids controversy in sports. We intuitively know that those who used performance enhancing drugs had an unfair advantage over those who did not. Similarly, those who would be genetically enhanced would have an unfair advantage over those who were not enhanced in almost any conceivable area of human achievement.

It is unclear, though, whether genetic enhancement would undermine the good of accomplishment and human achievement. Indeed, one could argue that genetic enhancement, in fact, bolsters human achievement by widening the scope of possibility for humans. From a pragmatic perspective, though, it sure would make it hard to keep on top of sports records and the like! We’d have to build bigger baseball parks to make home runs harder to hit! But seriously, the argument from human achievement does not seem sound to me.

C) What of bodily autonomy? Who’s to say that it is a good for parents to meddle with their children’s genes. What if a child does not want to be extremely strong, or what of their parents choose to give them giftedness in music, but they simply don’t like to do music? What if the children hate what their parents chose for them: hair color, eye color, etc.? Unlike the “natural lottery,” such attributes related to enhancement actually do have blame to assign to someone. Is there no bodily autonomy involved?

However, as Elijah argues, parents violate “autonomy” of their children all the time. This means there is some difficulty with determining how genetic enhancement would be a qualitative, rather than quantitative difference for this violation of autonomy. The opponent of genetic enhancement must establish that there is an objective difference between enhancement and other forms of violating autonomy, and must also show this difference is enough to ground a rejection of enhancement.

Enhancement and Theology

There are numerous theological issues involved in the debate over genetic enhancement. First, what might it mean for the image of God? Humans were created as “very good” and in the “image of God.” What does it mean to be in that “image of God” and does enhancement change that in any way?

For Christians, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan comes in the New Creation. The notion that humanity needs a genetic upgrade reflects the worldview of naturalism. Christians do not hope in their own ingenuity but rather in God’s plan for creation. That does not mean we cannot get actively involved in healing, but it does mean that we do not need to violate persons’ humanity by enhancement. One might argue that the assumption involved in enhancement is that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to improve them. However, such an assumption is not the only possible basis for enhancement. One could argue, instead, that enhancement is based on the notion that we are to keep fighting against the impact of sin in the world and one way to do this is to become stronger, smarter, and the like through the tools God has given us through scientific research.

Although we are fallen creatures, that does not imply that we are creatures capable of getting out of our own fallenness. No enhancement we can do can bring us ultimate salvation.

Evaluation

It seems to me that the arguments against enhancement may seem initially sound, but each one has its own problems.

It seems that if parents select for certain attributes, then parents can be held morally culpable for the genes their children develop. Thus, if the child dislikes an attribute, they could feasibly hold their parents responsible for that selected attribute. Interestingly, this may work both ways too: a child could hold their parents responsible for not changing an attribute. Yet this latter argument seems to make a mockery of parenthood, holding parents responsible for nature. I’m not sure, though, that this culpability is enough of an argument against genetic enhancement.

In the theological sphere, one may wonder whether someone could just as easily argue that because we were created initially “very good,” a pursuit of bodily perfection could be viewed as a fight against the Fall and the curse. I tried to ask this as a question, but there wasn’t time at the end to get to all the questions. The speaker did an excellent job noting possible counter-arguments to their points, and I thought gave a very fair presentation overall. It seems that the best argument against genetic enhancement may be the bodily autonomy argument, but this one has its own significant problems.

I’d like to know what your thoughts are on this topic: Do you think enhancement is moral? Why or why not?

Links

I have written on a number of other talks I went to at the ETS/EPS Conference. I discuss every single session I attended in my post on the ETS/EPS Conference 2012. I also discuss a panel discussion on Caring for Creation, and a debate between a young earth and old earth proponent.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

A violation of God’s Will: Abortion- or why no Christian should be pro-choice

dietrich_bonhoefferDestruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 174
The foresight which Dietrich Bonhoeffer showed in this passage from his book, Ethics, is astounding. Bonhoeffer was a pastor who stood up to the Nazi regime and was martyred–hanged by the Nazis–for his activism on behalf of the innocent lives being slaughtered by Hitler. His view on abortion lines up exactly with his views on preserving human life in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer’s argument anticipates and cuts off a number of pro-choice arguments for abortion. Let’s see how.

Bonhoeffer’s argument does not depend whatsoever on whether the unborn is a human being or not (and the unborn is indeed a human being). His argument instead is based upon God’s will for that unborn entity. Examine once more what Bonhoeffer said: “The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of life.” The focus here is not so much on the status of the unborn as a human or not, but rather the focus is upon God’s will for the unborn. Why is it that God set the world up in such a way that the nascent (developing) human being grows into a toddler, adolescent, adult, and senior? Bonhoeffer focuses the argument directly upon God’s will. God has willed that from conception, a plan for a human life is set into motion. Thus, to terminate a pregnancy is to destroy part of God’s plan, a plan for a human life.

For Christians, this logic is binding. The pro-choice objection that the fetus is not a human person is a rabbit trail at this point.  Another objection must be thrown out the window as well: namely, the notion that even if the unborn is a human person, the mother has an absolute right to bodily autonomy. For the Christian, God’s will trumps any supposed absolute autonomy. God’s will is absolute. It must be obeyed. To go against God’s will is to sin.

Is there a way for Christians to avoid the implications of Bonhoeffer’s argument? It seems the only way to do this is to deny that God wills for there to be a human being as the result of a pregnancy. I confess that I do not see any possible way for this argument to be convincing. The objector would essentially have to say that God’s will for the unborn is based entirely upon that of the parents’ will. For, after all, if God did not will for there to be a human being as the result of a pregnancy, what would God’s will regarding the conceived being be? It seems that it would have to be arbitrary. But this would seem to be untenable given the doctrine of the nature of God as perfection.

Therefore, Bonhoeffer’s ingenious argument leads to the inescapable conclusion: no Christian can endorse abortion. The fact of the matter is that God so set up the world that the process of human growth begins at conception. Unless there is a complication in the pregnancy or there is an outside source intervening to terminate the pregnancy, the result of conception is a human being.

All Christians say in chorus: Let God’s Will Be Done!

Links

Abortion: The Holocaust of our Day– I explore more reasons to reject the pro-choice position for both Christians and non-Christians at length.

Pro-Life– check out my numerous posts on the issue of abortion.

Sources

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Crossing the Most Dangerous Line: How some bioethicists undermine humanity

Our point is only that there is nothing bad about death or killing other than disability and disabling. (Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller, cited below)

The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice [after birth abortions] as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborn’s. (Klimas, emphasis mine, cited below)

These are not quotes from a dystopic sci-fi epic; these are quotes from a journal article about murder and a news story about bioethics. The disturbing reality is that there are a number of people working in the field of bioethics today whose positions undermine basic human rights.

Murder as Causing Disability

Why is murder wrong?

There are a number of answers generally given to this question which generally focus on the wrongness of ending life or terminating consciousness. However, a recent article by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Franklin Miller denigrates this position as “traditionalist” (note the subtle choice of the word to create an opposition: “traditionalists” are opposed to what? apparently they are opposed to “innovation” “reality” and the like; they are stuck in their mores and these bioethicists must free us from the stone age). They argue that it is causing disability which makes murder wrong; not the wrongness of killing itself.

Murder is wrong, on their view, because it causes “total disabling.” The authors draw out a thought experiment in which a woman, Betty, is incapable of controlling her thoughts, has no motor control, and the like. Essentially, she is completely disabled and cannot do anything, has no awareness of her actions, and the like. Then, the authors ask:

In this case, is Betty any better off totally disabled than dead? If so, then death must involve the loss of something valuable beyond the loss of all abilities forever. If not, then death does not involve the loss of anything valuable beyond what is lost in total disability. Death is still distinct from total disability, but it is no worse.

It is fascinating to see that the authors apparently take this to be a decisive blow to the “traditionalist” position. They write, “We see nothing to make Betty’s death worse than her total disability. This intuition seems to be widely shared, since many people dread death no more than and for the same reasons that they would dread total disability.”

Yet there is something fairly obvious that is just waiting to be pointed out: namely, that Betty’s death does “involve the loss of something valuable beyond the loss of all abilities forever”–what it involves losing is one’s life.

Yes, that’s right, some people make the apparently not-so-obvious claim that life itself is valuable. See, articles like this by Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller don’t interact with their opponents’ positions as much as they try to claim they have refuted them; rather, they simply assume their opponents are wrong. But these authors seem to have anticipated this point (despite their total rejection of the alternative in their thought experiment–they use the experiment as though it seals their case and then only later, once the reader has been led to believe they are absolutely correct, do they deal with this objection). They write:

 Of course, opponents will claim that life is sacred or that killing her violates God’s commandment, but why would God forbid us (or have any reason to forbid us) to do something that does not make Betty worse off? Similarly, secular theorists might claim that life has sanctity or intrinsic value (cf Dworkin), but why is life valuable in this extreme case when it includes no ability (or pleasure, as we are still assuming)?

But this is the end of their response! After these lines they turn to attempting to justify their consequentialist assumptions. Surely, however, this is an extremely insufficient response. Nothing in this response undermines the position that life is  valuable. Rather, they just ask a question: why is life valuable? But of course the authors are the ones making the claim here. They are claiming life itself is not valuable. If that’s the case, the burden of proof is upon them to show that their position is correct. And note that the way they try to justify this position is by simply assuming their position is correct. They ask why God would forbid something that doesn’t make Betty any worse off… but the point the “traditionalist” is making is that it does make Betty worse off because killing her deprives her of life! There is a subtle question begging occurring throughout the article because the authors simply can’t seem to fathom that life is valuable in itself. Instead, they assert that what is valuable is ability and then sift all moral statements through that assumption.

One who reflects upon this position should be not just appalled but also outraged and fearful. Why?  Well Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller, by suggesting that what makes killing wrong is the causation of disabilities, imply that disabilities significantly reduce the value or worth of persons. Consider this: the authors repeatedly point out that it is not the deprivation of life that harms Betty, but rather the causing total disability. The grounding of Betty’s value is therefore based upon her abilities. If that is the case, then as Betty suffers disabilities, her value is decreased. Suppose Betty goes from being totally “able” with nothing wrong to becoming paralyzed. Does that mean she is less valuable? “Traditionalists” like me would say no, she is no less valuable. However, the authors of this article have grounded human value on ability. Again, it is the deprivation of  capabilities which is wrong with murder, not the deprivation of life on their view. A consequences of this position is that the more “disabled” one becomes, the less valuable they become. Such a position is rightfully horrifying, but it is exactly what such a position entails. If humans’ value is grounded not simply in their being, then whatever standard one grounds this value will imply a sliding scale. Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller suggest that abilities  ground value; therefore a disabled child is less valuable than one who is not; a man with Down Syndrome is less valuable than one who does not have it. These are the horrifying implications of their view.

One wonders if it is worth embracing such a position when it entails such blatantly immoral consequences. When one notices that the argument produced therein is based simply upon begging the question and assuming that life itself is not valuable, one finds little reason to commend this position.

Killing Our Children

Bioethicists have not stopped at the line crossed above, however. Recently another pair of bioethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, have argued for what they are terming “after-birth abortions.” In layman’s terms, they’re arguing for murdering one’s own children.

What could possibly ground this? Well, these bioethicists argue that, “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’… Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.”

What exactly constitutes something which could justify killing a newborn? Again, “The circumstances… where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an ‘acceptable’ life.” The authors go on to cite Down Syndrome as an example of these circumstances. Honestly, there is nothing to distinguish this form Eugenics. Let’s kill off those we deem unsuitable for life. It’s abhorrent.

I predicted this very consequence of the pro-choice position not too long ago. Pro-abortion arguments which aim to redefine what it means to be a “person” lead inevitably to infanticide. Fortunately, most pro-choice advocates do not realize this consequence of their position and still find infanticide and the like abhorrent. But those who have carefully reflected on the topic–bioethicists who research the issues involved–have come to realize that if an unborn human being is not worth being called a person, then it is hard to see why a newly born human being is a person either.

Bioethics: A brief reflection

The two case studies provided in this post provide examples for why it is so important to defend a proper view of the value of persons and worth. Once we start to define worth as things which can become a sliding scale (abilities vs. disabilities); once we allow that human beings are worthless if in one location (the womb) but valuable in another (outside the womb); once we seek to redefine terms in order to win a debate; that is when our world will collapse around us. These bioethicists are literally trying to say that it is permissible to kill people if they are totally disabled; they are literally telling us that a child with Down Syndrome might have a life worth living, but is such a strain on their family that the family should be allowed to kill their own child. I wish I were making these things up. These are our times: times in which we’ve allowed people to redefine rights and values in order to allow us to kill our children; times in which the people writing our ethics books argue that murder isn’t wrong because it takes a life but because it disables someone; times in which we can read discussions in medical journals about permitting the killing our own infants because they have certain defects.

God help us.

Sources

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Franklin Miller, “What Makes Killing Wrong?” Journal of Medical Ethics, January 2012. Accessible here: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/01/19/medethics-2011-100351.full

Liz Klimas, “Ethicists Argue for Acceptance of After-Birth Abortions” The Blaze, February 27, 2012, accessible here: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ethicists-argue-in-favor-of-after-birth-abortions-as-newborns-are-not-persons/.

Picture credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinedap.JPG

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Abortions rates are lower in countries where it is legal- some thoughts on recent pro-choice comments

 Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is high, at 29 and 32 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and Latin America, respectively—regions where abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. In Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds, the abortion rate is 12 per 1,000. ( Sedgh G et al. cited below)

There it is in black and white. Countries in which abortion is illegal have higher rates of abortion in most cases. What does this mean for the pro-life argument? Some have argued that pro-life advocates should work to make abortion legal. For example, Margot Magawan writes, “It’s clear that top Republican candidates are being short-sighted and ineffective, rushing off in precisely the wrong direction if their goal truly is to reduce abortions.” The argument seems to be quite simple. After all, if the goal of the pro-life advocates is to reduce the number of abortions, then if making it legal reduces them, they should argue to legalize abortions.

There are a number of problems with this argument, however, and I’ll briefly list them before examining them in turn.

1. Those making this argument seek to compare countries unilaterally based on a situation with all kinds of factors which cannot possibly be weighed fairly.

2. The argument reduces the goal of the pro-life movement to reducing abortions only; but the movement has a broader range than that. The argument is susceptible to a reductio ad absurdum which shows that the premise on which it is based is absurd.

3. The argument begs the question against the pro-life position by assuming the position itself is false.

3. The argument assumes consequentialism as a metaethical theory without argument.

1. Comparing Countries Unilaterally

It seems strange to me to compare the situations of different countries unilaterally on an issue like this. For example, it seems to have been shown that many things cannot be compared in this way. Installing democracy into random countries does not have a stabilizing effect. Comparing the economic situation of Rwanda with that of the United States seems almost grotesque. I’m not disputing the results of the study cited above; rather, I’m disputing the application of those results to a moral sphere. Think of all the factors which must be weighed: economic status, education, career choices, etc. To then take the raw data and apply it to a moral sentiment is quite a stretch. After all, it doesn’t take into consideration all the factors that those countries in which abortion is legal may have.

I do not want to make this the focus of my rebuttal, however, because I think the next 3 points are much stronger. To those we shall now turn.

2. Is Pro-Life About Reducing Abortions?

Another problem with the argument is that it assumes the pro-life position is dedicated to reducing abortions. That sentence may seem strange on a first reading, but read it this way instead: “the pro-life position is dedicated to reducing abortions only.” That is where one of the major difficulties arises for those making this argument. The pro-life position is not only about reducing abortions. In fact, while reducing the number of abortions is a goal of the pro-life movement, that is not the only goal or even, perhaps, the highest goal.

Suppose that reducing abortions was the only goal of the pro-life candidate. In that case, one way to reduce abortions would be by eliminating all human beings. If, after all, not a single human being were alive, there would be no abortions! This is, of course, patently absurd. Why? Not just because it seems obviously wrong to murder everyone on earth (or to murder anyone) in order to reduce the number of abortions, but also because this is a gross reduction of the pro-life position.

The pro-life position isn’t just about reducing the number of abortions. It is about advocating for life. In other words, those in the movement are making a factual and a moral claim: the entities aborted are human persons and it is wrong to kill them. But those who want to make the argument that pro-life advocates should legalize abortions in order to reduce them are, on a pro-life view, essentially arguing something similar to this:

Suppose that making murder legal reduced the number of murders. If you are against murder, you should then legalize murder.

The absurdity of this argument becomes clear because no one but a psychopath wants to legalize murder. But then it becomes clear that those pro-choice people making this argument have begged the question against the pro-life person. Let’s turn to that.

3. The Argument Begs the Question

If the pro-life position is correct, then it makes a mockery of this argument. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the advocate of the pro-life position is right: the unborn are not merely embryos (and other stages of development) but are rather human persons who deserve the same rights as people outside of wombs. Now, granting these assumptions, suppose one finds that legalizing abortions reduces them. To then argue that “we should legalize abortions to reduce their number” is exactly equivalent to arguing that we should legalize murder to reduce the number of murders. Note here that I’m not saying legalizing murder does reduce the number of murders; I’m arguing that if the pro-life position is correct, these arguments are exactly analogous. One who argues we should legalize abortions would be the same as one who argues we should legalize murders, if the pro-life position is correct.

Thus, it becomes clear that those who make an argument like that of Margot Magawan have begged the question against the pro-life position. They simply assume that it is morally permissible to have an abortion, and combine that with the false position that the pro-life position is only about reducing abortions. Thus, the argument fails because it begs the question. Without argument, the pro-choice advocate has caricatured its opposition and argued against this false image.

4. It assumes consequentialism.

The last rebuttal is more technical, but I want to keep it brief. Consequentialism is, basically, the position that it is not the status of actions themselves which are judged as moral but rather the consequences. If one takes an action which has morally good consequences, that action is deemed good.

Now consider once more the argument, “If your goal is to reduce abortions, you should legalize them [because if abortion is legal, the number is reduced].”

This argument doesn’t take into consideration the moral status of an abortion [again, see above: they’ve already begged the question]. Rather, it assumes that because the consequences (fewer abortions) are considered by pro-life advocates as morally good, they should take the action (legalizing abortions) which open the door for these consequences.

Without too much strain, it becomes clear that most pro-life advocates do not hold to consequentialism as a metaethical theory. There are many alternative metaethical theories which are preferable for any number of reasons. If a pro-life advocate holds to a deontological theory of ethics, for example, he will argue that the wrongness of abortion is outweighed by the benefits of reducing the number. Such examples could be multiplied almost beyond comprehension. Thus, the pro-choice advocate has assumed, again without argument, a controversial position and then utilized that position to argue against pro-life advocates. Therefore, the argument fails.

Conclusion

The argument which has been considered here is that “if the goal of the pro-life advocates is to reduce the number of abortions, then if making it legal reduces them, they should argue to legalize abortions.” I have rebutted this argument in four ways. First, it seems to trivialize the enormous amount of factors which must go into consideration of comparing abortion rates across countries. Second, it reduces the pro-life position almost beyond recognition and is susceptible to a reductio ad absurdem. Third, it begs the question. Fourth, it utilizes a controversial metaethical theory to justify its premise. For these four reasons, I conclude that the argument is unsound.

Source

Sedgh G et al., “Induced abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008,” Lancet, 2012. (accessible: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2961786-8/fulltext); summary: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/presskits/abortion-WW/statsandfacts.html.

Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prolife-DC.jpg

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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