Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What is the unborn? A look at the scientific evidence

This is from National Right to Life.

Excerpt:

Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn—a moral question—we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology.

The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why “fertilized egg” is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.

Four features of the unborn (i.e., the human zygote, embryo or fetus) are relevant to his or her status as a human being. First, the unborn is living. She meets all the biological criteria for life: metabolism, cellular reproduction and reaction to stimuli. Moreover, she is clearly growing, and dead things (of course) don’t grow.

Second, the unborn is human. She possesses a human genetic signature that proves this beyond any doubt. She is also the offspring of human parents, and we know that humans can only beget humans (they cannot beget dogs or cats, for instance). The unborn may not seem to “look” human (at least in her earlier stages), but in fact she looks exactly like a human at that level of human development. Living things do not become something different as they grow and mature; rather, they develop the way that they do precisely because of the kind of being they already are.

Third, the unborn is genetically and functionally distinct from (though dependent on and resting inside of) the pregnant woman. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and her DNA is unique and different from that of any other cell in the woman’s body. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, central nervous system, etc. To say that a fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body is to say that the woman has four arms and four legs, and that about half of pregnant women have penises.

Fourth, the unborn is a whole or complete (though immature) organism. That is, she is not a mere part of another living thing, but is her own organism—an entity whose parts work together in a self-integrated fashion to bring the whole to maturity. Her genetic information is fully present at conception, determining to a large extent her physical characteristics (including sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, etc.); she needs only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of human life.

Thus, the unborn is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens, like you and me, only at a much earlier stage in her development. She is a human being.

That’s what they assert in the introduction. The rest of the article cites textbooks, scientists and even a Senate Judiciary report to substantiate the claims, then refutes common objections. Not many pro-abortion scholars are going to contest the full humanity of the unborn, but it’s still nice to review the science. In case this is your first time looking at this, might want to save it for later. Also, if you want a good introductory book on the case for the pro-life view, there’s none better than Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life“.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , ,

Must pro-lifers be more concerned about born children before they save unborn ones?

I was busily working away on a new project this week, mostly doing Oracle database stuff – schema stuff and trigger stuff. Our team lead and I were talking about the problem of fatherlessness and he said that pro-lifers ought to be more concerned with born children instead of being so lopsidedly concerned with unborn children.

So, I decided to quote this little illustration from Life Training Institute to make a point:

Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below. The girl lived. For his part, Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. The evangelical pastor asked if the time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator of the Catholic parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from corrupt corporations. The local Congressman asked if he supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk. Joe just kept looking at the girl.

Remember that next time someone gives you a similar objection.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , ,

Does abortion produce fewer out-of-wedlock births, less child abuse, and lower crime rates?

Here’s an article that commenter Scott sent me from the Public Discourse.

Topic snippet:

In the 1960s and 1970s, abortion advocates used a variety of arguments to advance their cause. Some emphasized women’s liberty and autonomy. Others tried to persuade people that easy access to abortion would benefit society as a whole. Consider just two representative quotations:

“A policy that makes contraception and abortion freely available will greatly reduce the number of unwanted children, and thereby curb the tragic rise of child abuse in our country.” (NARAL, 1978)

“The impact of the abortion revolution may be too vast to assess immediately. It should usher in an era when every child will be wanted, loved, and properly cared for.” (NARAL co-founder Larry Lader, 1974)

Legal abortion, advocates argued, would result in fewer out-of-wedlock births and less child abuse, and would ensure that every child was wanted. Over time, these arguments lost credibility because neither out-of-wedlock births nor child abuse was decreasing.

In the early 2000s, academics Steven Levitt (University of Chicago) and John Donohue (Yale University) published a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, titled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” claiming that legal abortion unexpectedly lowered crime rates in many American cities during the 1990s. Groups supporting abortion rights generally distanced themselves from this argument, fearing its eugenic implications. Though the findings have received some widespread credibility because of Levitt’s popular book Freakonomics, they have been much criticized by other academics.

In this essay I show that easy access to abortion during the past forty years has not benefited society as a whole. Legal abortion has not reduced out-of-wedlock births, child abuse, or crime rates.

And here’s a sample: (I chose one that I haven’t posted about before)

Abortion advocates frequently argued that legal abortion would decrease child abuse. Children who were wanted, they claimed, would be less likely to suffer from abuse than those who were unwanted. But social science data suggest that this logic is flawed. A landmark study of 674 abused children by Edward Lenoski (University of Southern California) found that 91 percent of the parents admitted that they wanted the child they had abused.  A 2005 study by Priscilla Coleman (Bowling Green University) showed that women who obtained abortions were 144 percent more likely to abuse their own children.

At a more theoretical level, Dr. Philip G. Ney, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Canada, has outlined why abortion can lead directly to child abuse.

  1. Abortion decreases an individual’s instinctual restraint against the occasional rage felt toward those dependent on his or her care.
  2. Permissive abortion diminishes the taboo against aggressing [against] the defenseless.
  3. Abortion increases the hostility between the generations.
  4. Abortion has devalued children, thus diminishing the value of caring for children.
  5. Abortion increases guilt and self-hatred, which the parent takes out on the child.
  6. Abortion increases hostile frustration, intensifying the battle of the sexes, for which children are scapegoated.
  7. Abortion cuts the developing mother-infant bond, thereby diminishing her future mothering capability.

Overall, American statistics paint a clear picture. Legal abortion did not reduce child abuse. In fact, the exact opposite happened. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has reported that child abuse has increased more than 1,000 percent since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to data from the US Statistical Abstract, deaths due to child abuse continued to rise after the Roe v. Wade decision and increased by 400 percent between 1972 and 1990. Obviously, child abuse is caused by a variety of complicated factors. Still, our experience in the United States provides no evidence that legal abortion reduces child abuse.

This is a good one to bookmark, I’ll bet you will be able to use it in a debate. By the way, if you want more of a rebuttal of Freaknomics, you can check out John Lott’s book “Freedomnomics“. It has a whole section on abortion and crime.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Piper writes a pro-life article with broad appeal to everyone

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Previously, I have held Pastor John Piper accountable for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage in ways that would only be persuasive to Christians. I didn’t like the way that he would not use arguments outside the Bible to argue against same-sex marriage, so that non-Christians would also be persuaded. I wanted him to have arguments and evidence to offer people who are not conservative evangelical Christians. I also disagreed with him for doing the same thing on the issue of abortion.

Well, something changed. And now I guess it’s time for me to eat crow.

Take a look at his new reasons for opposing abortion:

4. Being small does not disqualify personhood.

The five-foot-eight frame of a teenage son guarantees him no more right to life than the 23-inch frame of his little sister in her mother’s arms. Size is morally irrelevant. One inch, 23 inches, 68 inches — does not matter. It is morally irrelevant in deciding who should be protected. We know what we are doing in killing the smallest.

5. Not having developed reasoning does not disqualify personhood.

A one-month-old infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, does not have reasoning powers. But only a few dare argue that infanticide is therefore acceptable. Most know better. Outside and inside the womb the infant cannot yet reason, but is a human person. We know what we are doing.

6. Being in the womb does not disqualify human personhood.

Location or environment does not determine a right to life. Scott Klusendorf asks, “How does a simple journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform the essential nature of the fetus from non-person to person?” We know what we are doing.

7. Being dependent on mommy does not disqualify personhood.

We consider persons on respirators or dialysis to be human beings. The unborn cannot be disqualified from human personhood because they are dependent on their mother for food and oxygen. In fact, we operate on the exact opposite principle: The more dependent a little one is on us, the more responsibility we feel to protect him, not the less. We know what we are doing.

(Those last four observations, #4-7, were summed up by Scott Klusendorf under the acronym SLED: Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependence — none is morally relevant for the definition of human life.)

8. The genetic make up of humans is unique.

The genetic make up of a human is different from all other creatures from the moment of conception. The human code is complete and unique from the start. Once that was not known. Now we know.

9. All the organs are present at eight weeks of gestation.

At eight weeks of gestation all the organs are present. The brain is functioning, the heart pumping, the liver making blood cells, the kidney cleaning the fluids, the finger has a print. Yet almost all abortions happen later than this date. We know what we are doing.

10. We have seen the photographs.

The marvel of ultrasound has given a stunning window into the womb that shows the unborn, for example, at 8 weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. Watch this four-minute video of the developing unborn child. We know that they are children.

Now note that he makes those arguments to non-Christians, and he has even more arguments to make to Christians:

For Christians who believe the Bible, we could add at least ten more reasons why we know what is happening in abortion, and why it is wrong. But the aim here is threefold.

    1. To make clear that we will not be able to defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.
    2. To solidify our conviction to resist this horrific evil.
    3. To intensify our prayer and our preaching toward gospel-based soul-renovation in our land, because hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage.

He’s not changing really, he’s adding more to what he already had said, by targeting a new audience, while still addressing the old one. It’s a both-and. It’s a win-win.

Scott Klusendorf and Life Training Institute

Pastor Piper credits some of his arguments to Scott Klusendorf in his article. Mr. Klusendorf is the top pro-life debater in the world, in my opinion. I recently wrote about an interview that Scott did with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, too. And I also posted a debate that he did with Nadine Strossen.

You’ll remember that I picked Scott’s “Life Training Institute” as my charity of the year for 2012. I really recommend LTI if you are looking for a charity to support. Scott is the William Wilberforce of our age, and that goes for all pro-lifers who can make the pro-life case to anyone, not just Christians.

If you’re looking for a good pro-life book, check out Scott’s “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”:

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My recommended charity for 2012: Life Training Institute

Unborn baby scheming about what to get WK for Christmas

Unborn baby scheming about what to get WK for Christmas

Scott Klusendorf, the best and most experienced pro-life debater in the United States, wrote this on Facebook:

Life Training Institute just received a $45,000 gift toward helping us reach 20,000 additional students next year! That’s half of what we need to complete the project!

The other half ($45,000) must come from concerned donors like you. Would you consider helping us get there?

We’ll use the money to get our speaking team into more schools than any year previous.

Excited to see our work growing,
Scott Klusendorf

Donate on-line at: https://www.prolifetraining.com/donate_general.asp

Scott is one of my favorite Christians, and I fully endorse his pro-life ministry. Some of you have asked how you could help me with the blog or donate. I am fully supplied already, so if you really want to send me a present, please consider making a donation to Scott’s pro-life ministry. They are absolutely solid in their use of evidence as well as in their theology. You couldn’t find a better group to support.

If you are more the kind of person who likes to buy books, then you can do that as well. Scott is the author of the #1 pro-life book at the popular level. It is call “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”:

And if you want to see Scott in action, here is a recent debate he did with Nadine Strossen:

Abortion can be a complicated issue, but the nice thing about Scott is that he cuts right to the core of the debate and makes sure to clarify what each side is saying. He strips away the rhetoric and gets down to the real arguments on each side and  the pro-life side comes out on top.

Recently, Scott taught two classes on the techniques that he uses when debating abortion.

The first talk was on Tactics. Here is the PDF. In the handout, Scott explains how to use questions to make your opponent give reasons for their views instead of just asserting them.

The second talk was on Relativism. Here is the PDF. In the handout, Scott explains what moral relativism is, and some of the problems with the view.

Filed under: Personal, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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