Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A response to Judith Jarvis Thompson’s violinist argument for abortion rights

Amy posted this on the Stand to Reason blog, and it got a ton of comments.

Excerpt:

The “Violinist” argument for keeping abortion legal is an illustration created by Judith Jarvis Thompson for the purpose of clarifying our moral intuitions about abortion by considering a parallel situation. The Violinist story goes like this (see the full, original story here): A woman wakes up to find she’s been attached without her consent to a famous violinist who needs the help of her kidneys for the next nine months in order to live. If the woman detaches herself from him, he will die.

According to Thompson, since it’s clear that the woman ought not be forced by law to remain attached to this man (though he is a person with rights), in the same way, the law ought not force a woman to remain attached to an unborn child who is similarly using her body to live (though he is a person with rights).

In response to this bodily rights argument, Stephen Wagner, Josh Brahm, and Timothy Brahm (along with others—see acknowledgments) have developed a new illustration that more closely parallels the situation of a pregnant woman (including those who are pregnant by rape), which they call “The Cabin in the Blizzard.” From Stephen Wagner’s paper, “De Facto Guardian and Abortion”:

Imagine that a woman named Mary wakes up in a strange cabin. Having gone to sleep in her suburban home the night before, she starts to scream frantically. She goes to the window and sees snow piled high. It appears she is snowed in. On the desk by the window, she finds a note that says,

“You will be here for six weeks.
You are safe, and your child is, too.
There is plenty of food and water.”

Since she just gave birth a week ago, she instinctively begins tearing through each room of the cabin looking for her infant son. She finds an infant in a second room, but it is not her infant. It is a girl who appears to be about one week old, just like her son. Mary begins to scream.

Pulling herself together, she goes to the kitchen area of the cabin and finds a huge store of food and a ready source of water. The baby begins to cry, and she rightly assesses that the baby is hungry. Mary sees a three-month supply of formula on the counter in the kitchen area.

Now imagine that the police show up at the cabin six weeks later, and Mary emerges from the cabin. After determining she is in good health, albeit a good bit frazzled, one policeman says, “We’ve been investigating this situation for some time. The Behavioral Psychologists from the nearby University of Lake Wobegon are responsible. We’ll bring them to justice. We’re so glad you’re okay. Is there anyone else in the cabin?”

Mary said quietly, “There was.”

“There was?” The police hurry past her to the cabin. They search the cabin and find the infant formula unopened on the counter. They find the infant dead on a bed. The coroner confirms that the infant died from starvation.

We can see that Mary was wrong for not feeding the baby in this situation, regardless of the fact that she did not consent to these demands being placed on her. As Wagner points out, our moral intuition tells us her obligation to feed the child exists even if her only option is to use her own body to breastfeed that child, causing her great discomfort.

Another problem with the violinist argument is that it neglects the fact that the baby is there as a result of the woman’s own decision to have sex without being ready for a baby. In the violinist example, the woman is a helpless victim of some group of music lovers. But in a real pregnancy, the woman had to have made a decision that resulted in the baby being born, (except in the case of rape).

Triablogue explains it thus:

Thompson seems to make a distinction between consent to pregnancy and consent to sex (as Beckwith and others point out). But it seems that pregnancy is the designed result of sex, even though it may not be the desired result. It would seem that our sex organs have the purpose of being ordered towards procreation. Applying this to the violinist then: What if I engaged in an activity, say, spelunking, that regularly created rare kidney diseases in violinists? Say that every time I dropped 50 ft into the cave, a violinist was almost sure to develop the disease that only I had the blood type to correct or fix. If I did so, should I not be hooked up to him, voluntarily or not? Say that there was protection, some kind of spelunking helmet. Say that it was not 100% effective. If my helmet ripped, should I be attached to the violinist? Or say I tried to “pull up” before I hit 50 ft. Unfortunately, it felt so good to decend that I pulled up a little too late and my right foot passed the 50 ft mark. Should I be attached to the violinist? I don’t see why not. Indeed, say that the statistical evidence was that the first two people that ever spelunked together would eventually cause 6 billion violinists to come down with rare kidney diseases, I dare say the Society of Music Lovers, and almost everyone else for that matter, would call for abstaining from spelunking unless you agreed to take care of the violinists until they got better. This seems fatal to Thompson’s argument.

It’s very helpful illustration for dealing with pro-abortion people who admit that unborn children are human persons, but who still think that women should have a right to terminate their pregnancy.

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

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, , , , ,

Man brings 12-year-old rape victim to three abortion clinics, none report him

Life News reports.

Excerpt:

According to the group Life Dynamics out of Texas who just published a shocking report on how sexual pedophiles use abortion to cover their rapes, one rape victim was taken to three – yes three clinics who, according to Life Dynamics, failed to report the abuse.

As Life Dynamics reports, according to court documents, 40 year-old Joseph Coles (pictured right), began having sex with his stepdaughter when she was 10-years-old.

At 12, the stepdaughter became pregnant and her mother took her to the Cleveland Surgi-Center abortion clinic. The abortion was botched and the girl almost died from internal hemorrhaging.

Although not noted in the Life Dynamics report, this blogger discovered that Cleveland Surgi-Center is a National Abortion Federation (NAF) abortion clinic which claims to have funding available. Wonder if they helped pay for this victim’s abortion?

Life Dynamics points out that given that the assaults on the child resumed afterward, it is clear the clinic did not file a report.

Following the abortion, Coles persuaded the girl’s mother to put her on birth control; however, in 2004 the child again became pregnant by Coles and was taken to Planned Parenthood in Shaker Heights.

There she refused to submit to the abortion at that time but relented three days later and was taken to the Preterm Abortion Clinic in Cleveland.

As before, it is evident no report was made by either Planned Parenthood or Preterm since the assaults on the child resumed after the second abortion.

In June of the following year, police were made aware of the situation and Coles was arrested.

Oh, we are dealing with really ethical people, here, in these abortion clinics. I don’t think they need to be regulated at all, we should just let them operate freely. Look how well that worked with Gosnell.

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

Does holding to liberal social views automatically make you tolerant?

WARNING: This post contains strong language taken from actual messages sent by angry people. Reader discretion is advised.

I just want to quote some of the insults and death threats that social conservative Matt Walsh received. (H/T Melissa)

Excerpt:

To my leftwing friends:

Last night, someone sent me an email threatening to murder me because they disagree with my opinions. It read, in part:

“F*ck you… I will find a way to kill you. Make no god d*mn mistake, you filth.”

Concise. Eloquent. And now on file with the state police.

After I reported the threat to law enforcement, I didn’t pay it much mind. But then, a few minutes ago, I received this message from someone else:

“Matt, you are so filled with hate in everything you write. You are part of the reason why conservative teabaggers in this country are nothing but hate mongers and bigots. Do you want to know why I’m a “liberal”? Because liberals know how to make a point without being hateful and spiteful.”(Emphasis mine).

I laughed quite heartily when I read that. Perfect timing. Mere hours after someone called me ‘filth’ and announced their plan to end my existence all because of my beliefs, I’m informed that these are precisely the people who ‘know how to make a point without being hateful and spiteful.’

At first I dismissed this claim and concluded, as I often do, that the person who said it couldn’t possibly be serious. Does he really not notice the hate and hostility pouring like sewage out of his own ideological camp? Does he really think that hate is somehow a ‘conservative’ thing? No, I thought. Nobody is that oblivious.

Actually, kids on college campuses are being educated in such a one-sided way so that this kind of philosophical fail is not only common but almost universal. Brendan Eich lost his job for making a tiny pro-marriage donation. Pro-abortion terrorists vandalize pro-life displays in the name of “free speech”. Sometimes the pro-abortion activists go as far as assaulting you. Sometimes the gay activists just try to murder you outrightwith guns. Many people on the left have been indoctrinated to believe this sort of intolerance of others is logically consistent and even virtuous. They shout down any attempt to engage them with any view that is not their own.

More Matt:

“Matt, f*ck you. I seriously hope you die.”

F*ck you and your entire website you f*cking douche. I have known I am transgender for a long time… You are very sick in the head and I hope you rot in hell. I will pray Lucifer himself finds you.

“Hey f*ck you. Die. That’s all.”

“You’re a f*cking bigot piece of sh*t…”

“I’ve decided that I’m going to block any friend who reposts your trash on Facebook. You are the worst human being on the planet and the world would be better if you weren’t part of it.”

“Dear Matt, you’re horrible. Kill yourself.”

“Oh, like you don’t already know you’re a piece of sh*t. F*ck you.”

“Matt, I saw a Tweet that said you’re a flaming bag of dogsh*t on the doorstep of the internet. I thought it was great but kind of insulting to dog sh*t.”

“Matt, shut the f*ck up with your hate and homophobia. You are the biggest assh*le I’ve ever seen. Go crawl into a f*cking hole somewhere and die.”

“Anytime someone retweets or shares your posts I die a little inside. Your like a cancer on the internet. You’re an embarrassment bro. Seriously, you’re the worst.”

Look, see? Hatred.

Loathing, despising, detesting, hating.

Not just hatred of my ideas or my actions, but hatred of me personally. A boiling, ungodly rage. A yearning to see me burn in Hell for all eternity. Malicious feelings targeted at me, the human being. A desire to see me dead, hurt, dehumanized. A wish to kill me because of my ideology.

Hatred. Let me assure you that it is a huge problem in the liberal ranks. I experience it everyday. Before you spend another minute lamenting the perceived ‘hatred’ of conservative bloggers and media personalities, I suggest you look into your own souls. I have seen and felt the cold, stinging hatred that lives there, and it is surely the nastiest and most brutal sort.

Personally, I think that this is part and parcel of the embrace of secularism. Look, let’s call a spade a spade. If you think there is no God, then you can’t ground morality rationally, you can’t ground moral duties rationally, you can’t ground human rights rationally, you can’t ground human dignity rationally. Your purpose in life is to have a good time. If someone tells you that you are doing wrong and harming others, then there are no restraints – within the worldview of atheism – on what you can do to stop them from even disapproving of your selfish, destructive behavior.

Matt offers this conclusion about his real motives for standing tall for traditional moral boundaries:

Sometimes I get very angry at the legions of progressive nihilists who stand as staunch advocates for some of the greatest evils mankind has ever witnessed (like abortion, for instance), but beyond anger I always feel pity. I believe that you’ll destroy yourself with your philosophy before you destroy anyone else, and I sincerely wish for you to avoid that fate.

If I truly think that my views are correct, and that the rejection of neo-liberal cultural dogma will lead you to greater joy and fulfillment in life, ultimately bringing you out of the darkness and into the light of truth, why would I try to help you in that process if I hated you?

I wouldn’t. I’d let you drown and die. I’d watch and relish the sight.

That’s how a hateful person would handle the situation. He’d keep his opinions to himself. He wouldn’t bother. He’d let society run headfirst over the cliff, and he wouldn’t care as long as he personally remains standing at the top. The real hateful conservatives and Christians are the ones who say nothing. They see the same truth that I do, and that so many others do, yet they have no interest in opening anyone else’s eyes to it. In fact, they are examples of something worse than hate: indifference.

[…]Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.

What we are seeing now is the resurgence of a worldview of selfishness that will lead to barbarism against the weak. You can see it in the acceptance of abortion, no-fault divorce, gay marriage, and so on. There is no reason to think that it will slow down unless those of us who have rationally grounded beliefs in human rights and objective morality speak out now, while there is still time. This is not a game for the timid, though, so buckle up. Innocent lives, born and unborn, are depending on you to succeed. When you go out to defend the truth, make sure you’ve prepared your arguments and evidence with excellence, at the highest level. Make sure there is love for your enemy in in your heart and the sounds of your prayers for them still echoing around you.

UPDATE: I recognize that there are some secular pro-life people. Here is a good post from Secular Pro-Life. (H/T Well Spent Journey) But they are in the minority – most secularists support abortion, which is, I think just morally and rationally indefensible. If moral goodness means anything, it means protecting the weak from selfish destructiveness. We have to give up our hedonism for the benefit of little defenseless children in the womb. That’s just Morality 101. If you can go all the way, and not engage in sexual activity that puts unborn children at risk, do that. I’m a virgin, and I value love and romance above recreational sex. Follow me.

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

Is it possible to have a civil, productive debate about abortion?

I saw this post on Josh Brahm’s blog and had to blog on it. It shows the kind of relationship that leads to a changed mind.

Excerpt:

I want to bring relational apologetics to the pro-life movement. I’ve written and spoken previously about my dear friend Deanna Young. I’d encourage you to check out one of those two links to get the beginning of the story that I’m going to continue here. I’m so excited to tell you why Deanna now calls herself pro-life.

In case you didn’t click either of those links, Deanna was a pro-choice, atheist lesbian in Canada who befriended me in February 2013, through a YouTube message. Deanna was one of the most intelligent pro-choice bloggers I’d ever read. We exchanged nearly 120 philosophical emails, then started Skyping together.

I’m eager to share with you how my relationship with Deanna has progressed and the ways that her thinking has changed, but there’s a danger in this. It’s possible that some people would read this and interpret it as me telling you about a project of mine. It’s very important to me that you know that Deanna is not an object to me, a mind to be changed so that I can get another notch on my pro-life belt.

I have no shame in telling you that I love Deanna.

[…]When I say that I love Deanna, I mean what Jason Lepojärvi means when he defined love this way:

Love says that it is good that you exist and insofar as I am able I will contribute to your happiness, your existence, your flourishing.

Some of my pro-choice friends have not changed their thinking about abortion very much, but Deanna has. I want to share with you some of the changes in her thinking. Don’t read these as the reasons I’m friends with Deanna. Deanna will always be my friend, regardless of her views on abortion, her religion or her sexuality.

[…]Deanna would tell you that two things were necessary conditions for her conversion: rigorous philosophical arguments and a loving friendship with someone on the other side. The intellectual arguments were very important. I haven’t written very much about our initial email exchanges yet, but we got very philosophical, going back and forth on issues like bodily rights arguments, rape, the concept of intrinsic human value, concepts of harm and taking away the dignity of people in temporary comas, moral objectivism, utilitarianism, stem cell research, the “after-birth abortion” paper, and the use of graphic pictures.

It was through those lengthy emails that Deanna and I first became close. And after Deanna believed that most of her philosophical arguments had been defeated by better arguments, she completed her conversion upon realizing that a pro-life person loved her, even while she was an actively pro-choice blogger. I took my cue from Jesus, who, while I was yet a sinner, loved me anyway, and adopted me. (Romans 5:8.)

In the rest of the article he talks about their conversations about various arguments like the Judith Jarvis Thomson violinist argument.

I don’t think this would work with just any pro-choice person, you would need someone smart to argue her view strongly and have it answered strongly. I think when you get two smart people together for a long period of time, and there is mutual respect being built up, that’s when changing a person’s mind becomes possible.

I believe in one-on-one mentoring of people who are engaged in finding the truth about the issues that divide us. But I don’t know if I would be brave enough to form a loving friendship with someone so far on the other side. I would like to be able to do that, but it’s just really scary unless you are sure the other person can tolerate your honest views. I do believe in his definition of love, but it’s hard to find someone same who is very different from me. I think it’s easier with men than women, for a man.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

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