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« Warren & Politics | Main | Dead Sea Scrolls on the Web »

August 26, 2008

Comments

Whatever one's position on abortion you have to admit that Pelosi's statements in that interview are a salad bowl of nonsense sprinkled with a dressing of obfuscation. Even the interviewer called her on the fact that the Catholic church's position is crystal clear, despite her claims to the contrary.

Yes – I posted on this in the previous thread. Also, this may be unfair, but only Pelosi would almost call St. Augustine – Senator Augustine. The power of the STATE! Such an easy mistake to make!

Again, as I said, this could be unfair.

I would like to ask Archbishop Chaput of Denver and Auxilliary Bishop Conley a question that was raised in response to another thread on this blog: if human life begins at conception what does that say about twins or chimeras?

AaronSTL:

http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/
ChristianBioethics.pdf (pages 45-49)

Dealt with it.

FJB

Are any Catholic bishops in the US Refusing to commune polititions who are openly pro abortion? We had one bishop in Canada who said he would refuse one of our former Priministers Communion and it created a bit of a contrversey.

Francis Beckwith, I should have been more concise about my objection. I should have stated I see a problem with the theistic idea that an embryo is ensouled at conception. To my understanding it is the ensoulment at conception which makes us special and that makes a human embryo a human life which needs protecting.

If this is true what happens to a single soul that splits into twins. I see your paper only states "it seems that some zygotes have a basic duality prior to their
splitting...Thus, according to Hui, 'the two beings that emerge as
twins are in actuality two from conception, although in a ‘latent’ form..." How is this basic duality measured or perceived? What about the others that do not have a basic duality prior to their splitting.

Additionally, what happens to the soul which splits into twins and then recombines into a single soul as a chimera?

Also, a little off topic, what is the common answer to what happens to the souls of the roughly 20% of fetuses that end in miscarriage?

Aaron:

Actually, 100% of all conceptions result in death, eventually. :-)

The soul is not another part of the person, like a hand or foot. It is the form of the body, which means that as long as the body is alive there is a soul. This is why Aquinas believed that the early embryo had a vegetative soul, though not a human one. However, that view has been rejected by the Church since we now know that from conception that an individual human organism is present. The issue, then, is whether an early embryo has the power to do something--divide or recombine--that it lacks later on in its development. We know that it does. We also know that it is alive, which means it has a soul.

Remember that the debate over recombination and division has to do with whether pre-divided and pre-recombined embryos are single individual organisms with their own intrinsically-directed natures whose parts work in concert for the flourishing and maturation of the whole. I think I make a pretty convincing case that this is in fact so (see Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case for Abortion Choice [Cambridge University Press, 2007]). Of course, some will disagree with me. But that's life, pardon the pun. :-)

Hi again, Francis. I hope you would like to continue this conversation.

Actually, 100% of all conceptions result in death, eventually. :-)

Would you mind addressing the question I asked about the roughly 20% of embryos that which end in miscarriage?


The soul is...the form of the body, which means that as long as the body is alive there is a soul.

I can't say I clearly understand the point you're making as it seems to be circular. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I take you to mean humans are different than all other types of life because they have a soul. Humans have a soul because of the form of their body which is human. Also, how is defining the body to include a soul doing anything logical to augment the definition of the body which does not include a soul?

Doesn't the statement

The soul is...the form of the body
negate the reasoning that defends the theistic belief against materialist mind arguments such as damage to the material brain affect the mind, therefore the mind is a function of the material brain?

Something I forgot to mention in my last post

Of course, some will disagree with me. But that's life, pardon the pun. :-)

I don't think this issue is light enough to just rest on the idea that there will be disagreements. I think this issue highlights the point I've tried to make in other threads which is sometimes what is best for society is subverted by what is acceptable according to religious beliefs when those religious beliefs are allowed to affect public policy.

Aaron, what standard do you use to determine "what is best for society" ? Is it your opinion of what is best, or is there some other standard that you use ?


Hi CP,

Anything that results in the highest net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself is the standard I am using. Pertaining to this conversation having the right to choose to have an abortion has a higher net positive affect than not having that right.

That's your opinion. Thanks for the clarification.

Actually, cp, I should clarify further.

Having the rights which result in the legal ability to choose to have an abortion has a higher net positive affect than not having those rights.

It's a very specific distinction, I know, but it's important. Technically the Roe v. Wade decision stated laws which criminalized abortions were violations of women's Constitutional right to privacy.

So really I should have said pertaining to this conversation a government giving its citizens the right to privacy (to include the legal ability for a woman to choose to have an abortion) has a higher net positive affect than not having that right.

"Anything that results in the highest net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself is the standard I am using."

Unless you are omniscient, how do you know what will result in the highest net positive effect?

Also, different people have different views of what would be positive. I think that preventing abortions would result in the highest net positive. Why does your standard carry any more weight than mine?

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the questions.

Unless you are omniscient, how do you know what will result in the highest net positive effect?

On the legal level, because the choice is between two finite options, a society in which the government gives its citizens the right to privacy (the result of which gives women the legal ability to choose to have an abortion)and a government that does not give its citizens the right to privacy, it is easy to determine which would result in the higher net positive affect on the ability for the society to sustain itself. Compare the governments that give their citizens this right to those that do not.

Also, different people have different views of what would be positive. I think that preventing abortions would result in the highest net positive. Why does your standard carry any more weight than mine?

By which metrics are you making your judgment?

The positive-negative argument here is drifting into relativism. As far as being human persons, the jury has been back for some time now. For the intellectually honest, it never had to hear the case in the first place. Science, here, is on our side...but is being ignored as the pro-choice mentality has become so pervasive no elected official will engage it with any significant veracity. Vanity and convenience...in the name of "me"... always trump morality and common good. And morality is a public positive. The whole notion of choice here with regard to whether "Do I let my baby live or do I kill my baby? continues to stagger me. I'll never "get it" unless I am willing to sacrifice most of what I hav ebecome as an ethical and moral being.

The general notion that more rights equals more common good (if I'm reading you right) is a slippery slope. What if I have a right to pummel you for disagreeing with my view? That certainly isn't in your physical common good...even though it would be an additional right for me. Would my having that right be in interest of the common good? Why should I have this right and not you? "Because I am a woman" and I can use "my body" (in this case my fists) to harm you if you disagree with me. See how ludicrous and asanine that scenario is? Yet what we have with the pro-choice position is much, much more severe and diabolical. The wickedness and vanity of the human heart has no fences.

Hi David,

The general notion that more rights equals more common good (if I'm reading you right) is a slippery slope.

Hmmm...let's change that up a little.

More equals rights means more common good.
What if I have a right to pummel you for disagreeing with my view? That certainly isn't in your physical common good...even though it would be an additional right for me. Would my having that right be in interest of the common good?

Instead of looking at this issue as a single individual being bestowed with this right you have to consider that in our society rights are given equally. I don't think the argument can be made that giving everyone in a society the right to pummel each other for disagreeing with thier views would cause a greater net positive affect on the ability for the society to sustain itself than not giving that right.

Aaron,

If I modify what you wrote:

"On the legal level, because the choice is between two finite options, a society in which the government gives its citizens the right kill the unborn and a government that does not give its citizens the right to kill the unborn, it is easy to determine which would result in the higher net positive affect on the ability for the society to sustain itself."

You see it as a privacy issue, while I see it as an issue of preserving what may or may not be a human life. I don't think we can come to an agreement (except to disagree).

"Compare the governments that give their citizens this right to those that do not."

At one time, the most enlightened governments in the world gave people the right to own slaves. I don't believe that just because everyone else is doing it is adequate justification.

"By which metrics are you making your judgment?"

Why does this matter? If I was a secular humanist, do my reasons count more than a theist's would?

Ah well... Are you a Rams fan (I see the StL in your name)? Maybe we can agree on something else...

You see it as a privacy issue, while I see it as an issue of preserving what may or may not be a human life. I don't think we can come to an agreement (except to disagree).

Aside from the Supreme Court ruling on privacy (Roe v Wade) there is the question of when does life begin. If an abortion occurs after life has begun it is also a legal issue but now of the civil rights of the fetus. We conclude differently as to when life begins. Disagreement agreed :)

At one time, the most enlightened governments in the world gave people the right to own slaves. I don't believe that just because everyone else is doing it is adequate justification.

Ah you see my point exactly. The current nearly worldwide justification against slavery is not based on governments following each other's lead but is based on the fact that slavery does not cause a net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself.

Why does this matter? If I was a secular humanist, do my reasons count more than a theist's would?

Oh absolutely not. I was just trying to assess how you believe preventing abortions would result in the highest net positive for society.


I should note I'm probably not making the argument most would assume I am. I'm not pro-abortion. I don't think all abortions are moral. But I think the government's role should be limited to being allowed to intervene when the public is unequipped make well informed decisions. I think it is important that we have our privacy but as a result of it we have to allow the choice of abortion. Although the choice exists necessarily we work to encourage women to not need to exercise it. We can teach our children about sex, encourage abstinence, the use of contraception, encourage adoption, etc...but to protect ourselves we have to allow the choice.

Are you a Rams fan?

I sure am. I live in Saint Louis. I hope Steven Jackson performs this season after all we've been through with him lately. I wouldn't mind seeing a strong defensive line for once too.

Aaron, I'm curious also: what is the standard of measurement for a 'net positive effect?'

Also, you made a change here:

"Instead of looking at this issue as a single individual being bestowed with this right you have to consider that in our society rights are given equally. I don't think the argument can be made that giving everyone in a society the right to pummel each other for disagreeing with thier views would cause a greater net positive affect on the ability for the society to sustain itself than not giving that right. "

The right in question wasn't giving everyone in society the right to pummel each other; it was giving everyone in society the right to pummel YOU.

It would seem to me that using your standard of measurement this could be considered a 'net positive effect,' as the only one being adversely affected is...you.

And yet, many of us would argue that people having the legal right to choose to pummel you wouldn't make it right if they did indeed exercise that choice. We would argue that you were endowed by your Creator with certain unalienable rights (which supercede rights given by any government), including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and that being pummeled at will by people exercising their rights would be violating yours.

You make the statement "that in our society rights are given equally," yet your entire thought process is based on denying those rights to the most vulnerable in our society.

Just some random observations. If anyone does try to pummel you, let me know and I'll back you up...

Go Rams and Cardinals!

"The opposite of Pro-Life is not Pro-Choice..."

"I was just trying to assess how you believe preventing abortions would result in the highest net positive for society."

I don't know that it would. I can't possibly know. Even if it would have a negative impact on society (overpopulation for instance), couldn't the argument be made that we still did the right thing? If a firefighter dies while trying to rescue someone from a burning building, wasn't an attempted rescue still the right thing to do? I'm just coming from the viewpoint that if human life begins at conception, then there can be no justification for abortion.

Thanks for clarifying your position BTW.

"I sure am. I live in Saint Louis. I hope Steven Jackson performs this season after all we've been through with him lately. I wouldn't mind seeing a strong defensive line for once too."

That's funny. I'm in Pennsylvania, so it's rare that I meet any other fans. I've liked the Rams since they were in LA. They've gotten my hopes up by scoring some touchdowns against the Ravens, so surely they can squash those hopes once the regular season starts.

There are a few key points being missed.
One: The right to life doesn't come from the government, it isn't a 'civil right', it is an endowed right from the Creator.
Two: The main authority that the court relied on for Roe is a clause in the 14th Amen. ....born or..... The rationale completely misses the "Legislative and regulatory" purpose of the amnedment. That was to give 'stateless persons' (3 million former slaves) civil rights that mirrored the rights of the state citizens of the time.
The former slave states enacted
'The black codes' which made it impossible for former slaves to even hunt for their families. What the 14th amendment did was
(give the former slaves civil rights) not take them away.
What we have is the result of the
"Living Constitution" mind set. The court found language it could take out of context and eisogeted that into Roe. Even liberal Constitutional scholars were
embarassed about the pathetic grounds for the Roe decission.

As far as the science goes, the genetic information (programming) for a person is trnasferred at conception. I'm not going to comment on whether that entitles it to live or not, but it clearly is distinguished genentically as human.

Theologically, in Psalm 51, David said ..: and in sin did my mother conceive me. There's no evidence that his mother was an adultress, so he was making a statement that he was a moral creature, 'concieved' with a sin nature. It would appear that any appeal to the Bible would require one to consider conception to be the beginning of life. BTW, child sacrifice was one of the top three reasons God sent Israel into captivity. Jer 32:35 calls it an abomination in God's eyes.

The social liberals can 'try to find common ground' all they want to. The fact remains that we all will stand before a righteous and Holy God to give an account. I don't think 'word smithing' is going to carry any weight in God's eyes. And it doesn't mater if you believe in God now or not. A universal truth doesn't require anyone to believe in it to be true. But the most important fact of all, is that Jesus died even for the sin of abortion. So even if you've had an abortion, or performed abortions, forgiveness is still there. The payment has already been made at the cross.

>>The current nearly worldwide justification against slavery is not based on governments following each other's lead but is based on the fact that slavery does not cause a net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself.

Aaron, as far as I know, no country uses this justification for not having slavery. The South was sustaining itself quite well with slaves. The justification has to do with rights, and that's a different question. Whole societies can sustain themselves, even when they take away the rights of a specific minority (slaves or unborn). There has to be a deeper question of right and wrong and rights that must be addressed beyond merely determining if it sustains a population.

I haven't read the entire thread, but AaronSTL's starting point struck me as odd:

"...what is best for society is subverted by what is acceptable according to religious beliefs when those religious beliefs are allowed to affect public policy."

Sure, sometimes. And sometimes what is best for society is subverted by what is acceptable to secularists when their secular views are allowed to affect public policy. All people make mistakes. So what?

In other words, you've given us no reason to believe that it's the "religious" that subverts the public good. You've just said "sometimes people make the wrong decision." Of course they do. So?

And then, of course, the question of "what's best for society" in fact assumes a philosophical commitment that includes the conclusion ("right to choose abortion") that it purports to reach, and is thus circular. Who said we need to make laws with an eye toward "what's best for society," as though that were ours to judge, and as though we were even capable of judging it? We ought to make laws with an eye toward what is moral, what is right, what is decent. We have no means to measure what's good for society, except in retrospect, and even then we can only judge by the measures of moral good, not by some ethereal societal calculus. We presume that the good of society is the end result of adhering to the morals we've received, but even if it were not, we're still obliged to the morals, not to the good of society.

Aaron wrote:

The current nearly worldwide justification against slavery is not based on governments following each other's lead but is based on the fact that slavery does not cause a net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself.

And Amy wrote:

Aaron, as far as I know, no country uses this justification for not having slavery.

Quite right, Amy. In fact, Aaron has it exactly backward. Net good to society was the basis on which slavery was defended in every instance in the West that I know of. Slavery was opposed entirely on the basis of its offense to God, because all men bear His image and are inherently dignified by it. Every time slavery was defended in the West, the terms of the defense were that society would collapse without it; the challenge against slavery was always in terms of what was inherently right, in spite of the net loss to society.

Plumb Bob and Amy Hall,

Am I understanding you both correctly as saying you cannot fathom a single negative impact slavery has had on society that completely negates the short term positive impacts slavery has had? Do you not understand what a net value is?

I understand the religious justifications against slavery but they are still valid with the religious parts removed. Can't say the same about the religious justifications for slavery, can we?

Seriously, are you both telling me without the bible telling you slavery is wrong (which it doesn't) you can't see a single way people have been able to figure it out on their own?

This blog is becoming equally silly and annoying. I might be reaching my end of subscribing to it....beliefs more in tact than ever.

I'm finding this discussion of giving more "rights" to people as being synonymous with leading to a greater common good, as a statement that cannot support itself.

If I understand Aaron correctly, he is saying that giving people more privacy leads ultimately to a greater good. So several questions arise for Aaron,
"What do you mean by privacy?"

To expedite this discussions, if by privacy you mean the ability to do whatever you want with your body then I would have to ask you if you can possibly support this statement? Giving us the "right" to whatever we want with our bodies is NOT synonymous with a greater common good, that is synonymous with chaos. A society where people are free to commit suicide, free to drug themselves and drive cars, free to murder people is they feel the desire (or because it might make their life easier), all of these things follow if you are equating giving people complete freedom to do whatever they want with their bodies.

More rights of privacy doesn't follow that it leads to a greater common good. Your argument is seriously flawed from the very beginning.

>>Am I understanding you both correctly as saying you cannot fathom a single negative impact slavery has had on society that completely negates the short term positive impacts slavery has had?

No, you are not understanding me correctly. You claimed that the justification nations gave for outlawing slavery was that slavery "does not cause a net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself." My claim is that you can go back through the arguments given against slavery in England, the USA, wherever, and I don't think you're going to find that argument. You'll find arguments about human dignity and rights. You may think now that slavery reduced our country's ability to sustain itself, but that has nothing to do with the arguments--the justification--that was actually made at the time.

The biggest damage slavery does is moral (it's wrong, it damages a country morally and hurts people), not in the larger society's ability to survive. A society could oppress a small group of people and still have great success. That doesn't make it right. This is why you can't determine morality merely by what causes the greater society to continue and grow.

(BTW, Plumb Bob is absolutely right that the South used this argument, as did people in England in Wilberforce's time. They were absolutely convinced that outlawing slavery would devastate their economy and hurt the greater society, and they argued that this should determine the issue. I often hear the same type of argument against abortion, but as with slavery, we must determine what is morally right first. As it happens, what's morally right ends up being what's best for a society's survival--but if you look at survival before morality, you can easily be fooled into making a mistake about what's best, as we've seen.)

Aaron,

I recommend Beckwith's book, Defending Life, if you are serious about answers to your questions. It covers most all issues.

Off Topic

AaronSTL said: "But I think the government's role should be limited to being allowed to intervene when the public is unequipped make well informed decisions."

This is an interesting view of government! Can this view be found in the founding principles of our nation?

Using some of your words, Amy, here's partly what I'm trying to convey.

slavery reduced our country's ability to sustain itself...[because slavery negatively affected] human dignity and rights

Isn't it apparent that a society in which the government that does not grant equal dignity and rights to people is less likely to sustain (think long term here) than a society in which the government does?


I think there might be a simple confusion here in terms. I believe when I say "society" many are taking it to mean the individuals that collectively create it. I actually am referring to society as a biological term; an adaptive function that supports a species. Oh well.

outlawing slavery would devastate their economy

plus

[slavery] damages a country morally and hurts people

equals

net negative value

Unpack your second term with the idea of the social contract in mind. In case you've never heard of it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract


I've never been told I'm right so many times while being equally told I'm wrong.

Well, I don't think I'm getting anything from this blog. (I'm sure many responses to that statement is going to be something similar to "your heart is hardened to the truth" (blaming the victim) or "you just want to have your way so you can sin" (blatant strawman)

But because I'm a skeptic I'm open to listening to all sides. I'll leave the door open by leaving my email address....again...aallison@my.stlcc.edu. I can't promise I'll respond to anything but I promise I'll read everything I get.

Later taters.

Am I understanding you both correctly as saying you cannot fathom a single negative impact slavery has had on society that completely negates the short term positive impacts slavery has had?

I regard this as a thoroughly disingenuous reply. You're surely better able to interpret clear prose than to infer my inability to see any negative impact of slavery.

Please go back and reread what I wrote, 'cause I'm not interested in playing games with someone who's not going to make the effort to understand his opponent. What I'm arguing is both man's inability on the whole to be able to assess the net impact of any policy until long after the fact, and an imperative to base public policy on clear morals.

I understand the religious justifications against slavery but they are still valid with the religious parts removed.

You think so? Then prove the inherent dignity of man without reference to a theistic god. I've never seen this done in any way that's even remotely convincing.

Seriously, are you both telling me without the bible telling you slavery is wrong (which it doesn't) you can't see a single way people have been able to figure it out on their own?

I don't recall mentioning the bible, but if that's the culture's source of moral instruction, that's as good a source as any, and better than most. I said "morals." Every culture in history has had those.

However, there have been, according to British historian Arnold Toynbee, 27 civilizations on the planet in the history of civilization, and the only one that outlawed slavery was the one that used the Bible as its source for moral guidance. Not only that, but all public attempts to ban slavery based their activism specifically and explicitly on the Bible.

So, empirically, nobody WAS able to figure out that slavery was wrong without the Bible. That's just a fact of history, one that your point of view is completely unable to deal with -- hence your utter lack of a single fact rebutting the claim.

You can feign incredulity as long as you like, but the facts will remain against you. Be honest and deal with them.

"Well, I don't think I'm getting anything from this blog. (I'm sure many responses to that statement is going to be something similar to "your heart is hardened to the truth" (blaming the victim) or "you just want to have your way so you can sin" (blatant strawman)"

(opening a can of worms and then running from it when you don't like the taste)

I recommend everyone treat Aaron with patience and gentleness. Yes, his opines are often sophomoric and lacking reason. But everyone is entitles to their opinions, regardless of whether they are logical. Have patience with this youngster.

Isn't it apparent that a society in which the government that does not grant equal dignity and rights to people is less likely to sustain (think long term here) than a society in which the government does?

Um... Rome lasted more than 600 years, and had slaves. The Greek civilization lasted more than 1000 years, and had slaves. The Assyrian empire lasted close to 1000 years, and had slaves. The Minoans lasted about 1500 years, and had slaves. The early Indian civilization lasted perhaps 2000 years, and had slaves and castes. And so on...

I think Aaron would be hard-pressed to prove his thesis from history.

Plumb Bob,

You are absolutely right. Aaron would be hard-pressed to fit any of these facts into his presuppositions. But cp has (if I may say so) a very wise point. You've got to walk before you can run; AaronSTL has not yet begun to engage the broad range of facts with real intellectual candor. He begins his journey going in the wrong direction (a rather thoroughgoing and strict prior commitment to Darwinian evolution and philosophical naturalism), and everything that follows from there takes him farther from the universe outside. He's looking at simple reasoning and clear facts across a very great distance, and they all bear little resemblance to the single biological theorem that governs his worldview. When we reduce myriad complexities to one definitive statement ("Anything that results in the highest net positive affect on the ability for a society to sustain itself is the standard I am using"), we have long ago left the world of bare facts and rigid reasons leading inexorably toward some existing truth.

He's not really at the point of grappling muscularly with divergent positions. He's holding his single unified standard up to all the world, fully expecting to see how everything fits seamlessly together, acting with unquestioned assurance. He's got some work cut out for him.

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