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November 30, 2006


Steve, I think it's entirely reasonable of you to suggest this "cumulative case" approach is ad hoc reasoning, at best. There seems to be no logical rationale why the combination of these weak criteria would itself provide a solid case.

In order for the leaky bucket argument to be valid the underlying arguments have to be all inclusive. With SLED something is clearly missing.

Besides the previously uncontested thought experiments - abortion being capital murder and saving embryos vs. a born human - we have a real life experiment going on thanks to our fearless leader and the world's other totalitarians.

if there was no difference with organisms from conception on then we would expect similar results from the killing of said organisms regardless of their stage of development yet that isn't what we find.

Abortion has been legal and common in the US and many other countries for many decades. In one country, China, we have legally compelled abortions. Over the same period of time many parts of the world have experienced periods of lawlessness that involved the random and wanton killing of men and women, children and adults.

The results to the societies involved are not the same. Those with abortion only seem to do just fine. Even China with its policy of forced abortions is a prospering country. Meanwhile those countries with the uncontrolled slaughter of post birth humans, even in relatively small numbers, are unstable with declining living conditions.

There is clearly a difference.

… and Tony provided yet another disturbingly insurmountable retort with his (still hanging) question to Frank Beckwith:

Ask yourself this, why are the Panda and the Lake not an “integrated organism?”


How might we ascertain the rules of an “integrated organism”?


How does your example demonstrate anything other than the perceptions of those in the respective countries? On what basis do you attribute the difference in broader societal consequences to the actual nature of the two kinds of killing, rather than to the societies' awareness of the nature of the two kinds of killing?


Your question would be more effective if you chose an example with clear ecological connections.

To the gang at STR,

I think Tony's question is valid (or at least interesting): How can we describe (and defend) the rules of an "integrated organism" in a way that includes humans, pandas, dogs, birds, and bacteria, but excludes larger ecological systems? How would these rules handle arguably independent organisms like mitochondria being incorporated in the human body?

You said: "if there was no difference with organisms from conception on then we would expect similar results from the killing of said organisms regardless of their stage of development"

I see no reason to accept this claim, because the result of something in a society is directly related to that society's perception of that thing. If a soceity doesn't see the unborn as humans, then the ramifications of widespread abortion will be much different that the ramifications of widespread "random and wanton killing of men and women, children and adults".

You are confusing your categories - if there is no difference between a newly-conceived organism and a grown, post-natal organism, then you do indeed have the same results in *this* category - dead organisms (humans). To note that we don't see *societal* differences between those that kill people after birth and those that kill the unborn, one must look to, not if they *are* the same thing, but if the *society* sees them as the same thing. This would be logically consistent, whereas your move was not.

By the way, Alan, it is either forgetful or dishonest of you to claim that the "saving emryos vs. a born human" was uncontested, as I contested it on blog entry "Becoming Pro-life" on September 01, 2006.

Please be more careful.


You are a perceptive, intelligent individual. :)

Seriously, thanks for saying it more clearly than I did.

Thanks, Tim. We were posting at the same time, so I didn't see your comments first, but it looks like we saw the same problem.

It's good to hear that someone besides myself thinks that I'm intelligible :)

Hi Aaron and Tim (the artist?), I was more posting a question as opposed to a solid conviction.

First, Sorry Aaron, I had forgotten your post, which is why I didn't respond to it when you posted it. In one sense it has relevance and in another it doesn't.

The point of Greg's article is that violence would be counter-productive to your goals. This raises an interesting question which I will ask further down.

Your question about the perceptions of a given society is a valid one. A society with a lot of abortions, including forced ones, may not experience the disfunctionality that seems to always be associated with the deaths of equivalent numbers of post natal humans simply because they fail to understand the true nature of the pre-born. This is complicated by the theological underpinnings implicit in your positions.

My question is to what extent are we not only dealing with things with which we are hard-wired as humans but also as mammals and to what extent are we culturally hard-wired to accept abortions?

To recap; is there anyone who, being able to save only one set from a fire or flood, would choose to save 1000 frozen embryos over one child or adult? How many would assign the same penalties to a woman who hires a doctor to perform an abortion on her as to a woman who hires a hitman to eliminate her 14 year old? Added to those questions is the observation that societies experiencing a sudden and usually violent loss of born humans experience a great deal of dysfunction while societies with comparable numbers of abortion do not.

If we are genetically or culturally hard-wired to accept abortions then there are limits to what can be accomplished and an ideological approach is likely to lead to over reach and failure. You have already hit this with stem cells and Schaivo, which puts your project on thin ice. You may see this project as the equivalent of Abolition, but as views on abortion have gone back and forth over the ages, it may be more like silver at 16 - 1.

There may be better approaches. I found this and haven't checked it out but it suggests a strategy if it is true: "Sex education has been a compulsory subject in schools in Sweden since 1956, and today Swedish adolescents who are sexually active have a high rate of contraceptive use and a low number of abortions...Levels of fertility in Sweden have increased from a total fertility rate of 1.6 children per woman in 1978 to 2.17 in 1993. The most common explanation for this “baby boom” is the creation of a 15-month paid parental leave formula which can also be converted into a long-term, part-time arrangement. Other factors which have made parenthood a more attractive proposition include a doubling of the number of day cares in places of work and the availability of leave for parents of ill children. According to the Swedish Ministry of Social Affairs, the policy "is not to do with having more children born but about facilitating their social integration." http://www.cbctrust.com/history_law_religion.php

Back to the article Aaron referenced. It doesn't apply in the sense that it assumes the theologically driven nature of the unborn from conception and rejects violence due to tactical considerations. My examples and questions deal with voluntary choices and involuntary responses that transcend mere tactics.

Greg's article does raise a question about strategy and tactics. If shooting abortion doctors and blowing up clinics is counterproductive, what about a political strategy that ignores corruption and incompetence?

Our friend William recently posted a link to Touchstone that continues to advocate a rigorous single-issue focus. As more innocent people have died as a result of the hope that Stevens, Bryor, Ginsberg, or Souter will retire then have been killed by direct anti-abortion violence is there not a possibility of a bit of blowback here?

I am unsure of the extent to which we are "wired" into any of this, if at all, just wondering.

Hi Alan,

You said, "if there was no difference with organisms from conception on then..."

This is not the claim of pro-lifers (it's not my position, anyway). I would never make the claim that there is "no difference." However, I don't need to show that (for example) killing a pregnant mother of two is morally equivalent to killing her unborn offspring, just to show that abortion is wrong. Another way, I don't need to show that shoplifting is equivalent to grand theft auto to say that shoplifting is immoral.

"Even China with its policy of forced abortions is a prospering country."

While my saying so doesn't really affect your overall point (I suppose), this statement is simply not true. Well, it might be "prospering" in one regard, but its social structure is a mess (as it will continue to devolve unless they change their policies). China will soon face a gender imbalance in their population that will create all sorts of problems. This is because:
1) Families are only allowed one child (or are severely financially penalized otherwise).
2) Boys (in their culture) provide more (financial) stability for the parents as they get older.

Girls are, thus, abandoned (or aborted) at an alarming rate (which is why so many outsiders are adopting Chinese girls). The typical grade-school classroom there has only a few girls to the score of boys.

"... what about a political strategy that ignores corruption and incompetence."

Like when Pelosi nominated Hastings?

Sorry for the triple-post...

"Greg's article does raise a question about strategy and tactics. If shooting abortion doctors and blowing up clinics is counterproductive..."

Yeah, I'm not real wild about Greg's argument against blowing up abortion clinics. My reason for not doing so is not primarily tactical (because, as Tony has pointed out, it seems like Christians could just "get organized and get the job done"). My reason is that we live in a society of laws, and I don't have the freedom to violate some laws because I dislike others. "What about civil disobedience"? The key word there is "civil" -- Rosa Parks didn't kill the bus driver.

Now, you could frame a more compelling question by raising the spectre of Nazi Germany or the slavery in the early history of the U.S. -- "at what point do you say that the government is doing more evil than good, and must itself be overthrown (or radically, even violently, reformed)?". I don't have a clear answer to that, but I don't think we are at that point in our country.


>> I think Tony's question is valid (or at least interesting): How can we describe (and defend) the rules of an "integrated organism" in a way that includes humans, pandas, dogs, birds, and bacteria, but excludes larger ecological systems?

Ya, if I was a Christian I don’t know how I would argue against me. You can see the way Frank Beckwith tried in the last post. He said we are able to know when an organism starts and when it ends because:

“This power is fundamental to our nature as persons, and thus seems perfectly adequate for the task at hand: making distinctions between things.”

So I guess Tim, he is arguing that you have the power to parse eco systems in your noodle somewhere. So Tim, if you look inside yourself you already know the answer to your question above.


Ya Frank’s a bright guy he could have done better.

Compare his statement with another quote he used earlier on:

“…French geneticist Jerome L. LeJeune, while testifying before a Senate Subcommittee, asserted: "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence."

This is of course a ridiculous statement. Jerome L. LeJeune is revealing his “taste and opinion” merely by uttering it - it is equivalent to saying:

“I Jerome L. LeJeune believe that (material_assembly_x = a human) when material_assembly_x is in the shape of totipotent_1 and, in my research, I have found that, of the billions of chemical reactions that go into building material_assembly_x, the one that is most important to me is fertilization. All other opinions are invalid. Everyone should use my criteria for defining a human.”

The universe has no ability to reveal facts about when a material construct becomes one thing or another. It looks like Frank realized this later on which is why he backshifted to this bollocks about “your human nature reveals blah blah blah.”

The ability to ascertain when a construct is human cannot be done via biology and science. There is no reason why the matter in the blue circle is the panda and the matter in the blue AND red circle is not:


if anything, this is a question for the Philosophy of Biology – a relatively new branch of philosophy that most aren’t used to dealing with.


Paul A,

Ya why they ought NOT commit abortion violence I think is a troubling question for Christians. As nicely revealed here if I do say so myself:


Most Christians say Paul Hill STILL did the wrong thing – even when presented with strategic evidence to the contrary.

Curiously though, when you ask the exact same question, except this time put Paul Hill outside a southern plantation that was “disposing” of slaves that couldn’t work, and have him shoot a the guy in charge of offing slaves, or, if you put Paul Hill outside a Nazi death camp, and have him shoot the Nazi that was offing Jews, most will say Paul Hill did the RIGHT thing.

Hi Paul, for what did Pelosi nominate Hastings?

Besides wrong paul, you need to show that the means you would use to correct the wrong are appropriate. So far this isn't working out so well. (BTW, I have to note the irony of Steve's post above. Complaining about the problems with free speech and association in Canada while backing the undermining of Constitutional rights here is the US of A would be funny were not the stakes so high.)

Shoplifting and GTA aren't so far apart. Both are basically passive crimes. If a person is a person from conception on then there is no difference from the POV of standing before the law - this seems to be Greg's position, at least.

I agree that China is headed towards a crisis but until they reach it they will probably continue to experience growth and increasing prosperity. My point re: the effects of abortion as opposed to wanton and random murder still is valid. Selection for males is a separate issue.

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