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January 30, 2009

Comments

Occasional,
Let's try this again. The butcher analogy demonstrates that the opponents of an illegal act thought it no longer necessary to oppose that illegal act when they discovered the act's effects are actually good.

They changed their minds from opposing the act on the basis of desiring to protect the consumers to no longer opposing the act on the basis that the act actually benefits the consumers.

Is this fair and accurate?

Brett, this looks helpful. Note one small but important addition to your statement. The bovine biologists changed their minds about their need to intervene in that situation not just because they knew the illegal practice had good consequences. It's a vital part of the story that their intervention against the butchers would have compromised their very important research. It is only when they thought the illegal activity had such dire consequences that the biologists thought they had to prioritize it above their other project.

Here, then, is the suggestion: if abortion is in the best interests of the unborn, this should likewise affect the way one prioritizes it among the other very pressing social problems. (And this stands quite independently of the question of whether or not abortion itself is "justified" or morally permissible.)

And this is why the LPA threatens Brett's claim that "abortion is the greatest social issue of our time." If abortion is in the best interest of the unborn, then why should we prioritize it about those social problems that are disastrous for their victims?

Sorry, I meant "Jesse". Brett's the guy who posts extravagant claims without defending them.

Occasional,
Thanks for the clarification. The key is that, by interfering with the butchers, the researchers would compromise that which is most important to them: their research. Is this what you're saying?

>>Does he recommend asserting: "Your argument is utter foolishness" upon finding that you've run out of legitimate responses?

I think Greg would say there's a time to call a thing what it is and walk away. And there's a time for me to call it what it is, Jesse, and say you can walk away.

I'm curious, Occasional...How should one respond to something like this: "I propose we kill all the poor, needy Christians, particularly those who are very sick. After all, they're better off in heaven--it's in their best interest. And instead of using resources to help them, we could help lots of other people who won't be better off dead." I think "foolishness" is a completely legitimate response. In fact, I think it's pretty mild. This is precisely what you're saying.

Jesse, at some point, if moral intuitions don't kick in when a person says it's in the best interest of a child to kill it, there's no way to convince him of the value of human life. This becomes particularly impossible if he uses one Christian idea for his argument (like hell) in a vacuum, separated from all other Christian ideas about God, salvation, Christian ethics, sovereignty, etc. There's literally no way to argue a question about Christianity without using Christianity, and yet, Occasional keeps narrowing the focus of the discussion on his assumptions about hell and "best interests" as if nothing else is in play. And of course, I don't expect Occasional to accept a Christian argument because he doesn't buy all of Christianity, so no answer we could come up with (even legitimate ones) would suffice. He just wants to take on one idea in order to try to stump the Christians--in other words, to have his cake and eat it too.

I'll be posting a quote from one of Darwin's books later this month where he argues something similar to what I said in my question to Occasional--he says the big mistake we make in Western society is that we try to help those who are "weak in body and mind" instead of letting them die. Why? Because "the cost to society of such [people] is very severe." Because "they take from society" and are "cared for by the state out of public money." In other words, they're using up resources that society needs for other things.

Now, if Darwin demanded a debate, how would you argue rationally with Darwin that what he says is atrocious? The fact is, you can't. What he says rationally follows from an atheist worldview where human beings don't have intrinsic value. To respond to him, you'd have to argue for many other things other than simply "best interest." However, none of those things would he accept on purely logical grounds if he rejects the foundation for human value in the first place. In the end, all you can do is appeal to a person's moral intuition. Unfortunately, people can argue themselves out of moral intuition (see Peter Singer). And if someone has a completely twisted moral intuition and no objective foundation for human value, it becomes useless to try to convince him that killing groups of innocent people "for a good purpose" is a bad idea.

Amy,
Thanks. I had another argument with a pro-choice advocate that ended in a stalemate, because he simply did not see why human life should have intrinsic value. Answering to him that God has made us intrinsically valuable would be dismissed as 'irrational'.

Now I don't think Occasional actually believes human life is not intrinsically valuable. I get the feeling Occasional is fighting to demonstrate that Christians don't understand the logical outworking of their own beliefs.

At any rate, the entire discussion has been very frustrating for me, and I am left wondering whether my time would have been better spent elsewhere. Yet I find it hard to walk away. Maybe that's my pride I need to let go of.

Occasional, I'll let you have the last word on this thread; then I'm disengaging.

Jesse, it seems that Amy Hall wants to save you from a conversation. It is perfectly reasonable if you think you must leave this conversation, problems unsettled (but you can’t really maintain that the LPA is incompatible with “the intrinsic value of human life”—that’s frustrating!). I would just ask one last small favor before you go. Please tell me, which of Ms. Hall’s criticisms do you find fair/accurate/compelling? (I would like to respond to these, even without any expectation of further answers from you. You have my full respect.)

I’ll respond here to the question she’s addressed to me.

Amy, you ask, I'm curious, Occasional...How should one respond to something like this: "I propose we kill all the poor, needy Christians, particularly those who are very sick. After all, they're better off in heaven--it's in their best interest. And instead of using resources to help them, we could help lots of other people who won't be better off dead." I think "foolishness" is a completely legitimate response. In fact, I think it's pretty mild. This is precisely what you're saying.

I would first observe that this is quite different from anything that I’ve been saying (though I can cut you some slack if you’ve only just now joined the conversation). I am nowhere proposing that we kill anyone. On this point, you should read the interchange with Nachtgold, who proposed a loosely similar case (but even there the issue wasn’t about actively killing anyone). I am also nowhere proposing that abortion is something we ought to do simply because abortion is in the unborn baby’s best interest. (The fact that you missed this shows me that you really haven’t been following the discussion. I mean, even the very first post should have tipped you off! You couldn’t have carefully read even these last few exchanges with Jesse!).

But secondly, there are an abundance of reasons why we should not “kill all the poor, needy Christians" which are entirely compatible with the Loving Parent Argument. But I should not let you get off so easily, especially as one of the crew at STR. Do a little reading of this thread first. Answers are plentiful. If you genuinely cannot find or think of any such LPA-compatible reasons against killing “all the poor, needy Christians…”, then let me know and I will list for you half a dozen.

Dear Lb,
Thank you again for the kind words of encouragement. Also, I understand your hesitation with the construction of the MLPA. My ultimate goal in doing so was to hopefully elucidate that I understood occasional reader's argument by simplifying it (in my opinion) and trying to accelerate it to the same end. Like I said, I did cringe a bit as I was typing it.

Dear occasional reader,
I don't plan on directly attending to your posts with Jesse, but I think I'll most likely cover them regardless (mainly the butcher argument).

Also this will be my last post for the weekend, as I am an anomaly in this technologically saturated society; meaning that I don't have affordable and adequately reliable access to the internet at my residence. I will gladly continue on Monday if that is the course our discussion takes.

Without further ado…
I am glad that you can agree with me on many things; we are growing common ground, and that is most beneficial in this marketplace of ideas.

You have a knack for pointing out my laziness. The desert thesis was something that I was not yet aware of and didn't have the time to research it satisfactorily. Thank you for elaborating on it and I think we can agree on the understanding goodness of Hell. I will contend, however, that if we are seeking after "The Greater Good," which seems to be the logical continuance of the concept of one's best interest, then the punishment of sin should be in one's best interest. Although, this contention is probably trivial in comparison to the meat of our discussion. As such, we can most likely agree to disagree and leave it at that.

I am glad that you can accept that the interests of God trump the interests of man. However, I respectfully disagree where we go from here. For the sake of brevity (which we both seem to respect), I will attend to the remainder of your post by addressing the conveniently provided summary and additional three questions. Please rest assured that I have read and digested the remainder of your writing.

You have arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion from my points than I have, so I will try to clarify. When I wrote that "the interests of the God…trump the interests of man," I did so with the express purpose of it invalidating the LPA.

Allow me to expound…

The fact that the interests of the God of the Bible [whom you are establishing in premise (1)] trump the interests of man doesn't rend man's best interests irrelevant. This fact rends man's best interest inadequate.
As we read in Isaiah 55:8-11 (New King James Version)

8 “ For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “ For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

And as Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:9-11 (New King James Version)

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

…etc., etc. (Thanks again to BibleGateway!) The God of the Bible makes it abundantly clear of Whose interests we should be concerned. This simple fact invalidates the LPA - not by rending the unborn's best interests irrelevant - rather, inadequate. The unborn's best interest is not what is best for it, instead its best interest is what God's best interest for it is. God's best interest is, by default, man's best interest. And as I have shown in previous posts, abortion/murder - ultimately, sin - is not in God's best interest.

Before I finish by directly (as directly as I can, as I tend to ramble) answering the three questions you posed for me, I will venture into hypothetical territory…

I am willing to concede that the conclusion of the LPA (and the MLPA) is valid if, and only if, the God established in premise (1) is not the God of the Bible.

Here's why:

For the majority of my life, I viewed God as the Eternal Chalkboard Checker. I hoped and hoped that by the time the buzzer sounded, I would have enough checks in the good column to outweigh the bad. This is a whole discussion unto itself, but for the sake of time, we won't go there.

If we are to consider the rewards of our life to be based on the good outweighing the bad (remember, the Bible is not relevant in this hypothetical point), then it would be most beneficial for all of us to never leave the womb.

I won't take the time to refute this hypothetical point as I believe we both could do so quite quickly.

However, we've repeatedly established that the God of premise (1) has to be the God of the Bible to be relevant to our discussion. And this fact invalidates the LPA.

To answer your questions:
(a) This post has answered this pretty directly.
(b) Actually, I don't find the view that preventing a man from masturbating is just as important as preventing a man from torturing orphans absurd. I've heard that in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer (sp)(and other men like him), you could easily argue that preventing a man from masturbating would actually prevent a man from torturing people (orphans). He revealed that his porn addiction eventually escalated to the heinous acts he committed.

Concurrently, I'd argue that porn and self-gratification are far from victimless crime. Ask the families of men who have suffered addictions of this manner. For those who are all alone, the act provides revenue, or at least motivation, for the porn industry to stay in business. The victims of this business are innumerate (including users and producers).
However, this is another issue for another day.
(c) Again, this post has answered this question rather directly.

occasional reader, thanks again for the lively debate. Have a great weekend and we'll hopefully pick this back up come Monday!

Occasional,
As a favor, I'll respond. The most compelling reason I found to discontinue this debate found in Amy's words:
"at some point, if moral intuitions don't kick in when a person says it's in the best interest of a child to kill it, there's no way to convince him of the value of human life."

I close with,
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom 1:21).

Am I any better? No. Occasional, I am no better than you.
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23)

This includes me. But God has offered a remedy,
"and [all] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24).

Thank you for your gracious closing remarks Jesse. It is always comforting when someone in a position of respect, like a pastor or staff member at STR, re-affirms one’s convictions. Since I hate to trouble that peace, feel free to read no further.

But if indeed it is the love of truth that you’ve received, you will read further.

Amy Hall writes, "At some point, if moral intuitions don't kick in when a person says it's in the best interest of a child to kill it, there's no way to convince him of the value of human life."

As if it is not enough to accuse me of not recognizing the value of human life, Amy continues after this quote to accuse me of trickery, shortsightedness, and refusals to consider relevant considerations (all this, mind you, after grossly misrepresenting my position). Now, however welcomed her words may feel to you, on second examination you won’t find in her remarks any supporting evidences. She demonizes her opponent without grounds, attacking a straw man while either failing to consider, or willfully choosing to avoid, the real argument.

Consider the very quote you found comforting. Amy writes, “there’s no way to convince him of the value of human life.” But how can Amy assume anything about how I value “human life”? But more to the point (and so as to interpret Amy not as proliferating her ad hominem fallacies), we should ask whether the Loving Parent Argument itself involves any denial of the value of human life. Recall that simple argument:

(1) God sends some people to Hell.
(2) Hell is a place of eternal suffering.
(3) God (presumably) does not send unborn babies to Hell.
(4) Therefore, the abortion is (presumably) in the unborn baby's best interest.

Can you see in it any denial of the value of human life? The denial is clearly not in the premises. Amy must be thinking that the conclusion in (4) involves the denial of the value of human life. But, then, by “human life” Amy must be thinking of the life in this world. Now beyond all doubt, such is valuable. However, is a person’s life in this world of such value to her that she should risk her eternal soul for it? Should a Christian value earthly life more than eternal fellowship with God? Isn’t this precisely what is implied by the Amy’s view, which apparently maintains that it is better to risk eternal separation from God in Hell than to give up earthly human life?

How does Amy’s view accord with biblical attitudes? Not very well. The apostle Paul writes as follows of the earthly life:

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

And,

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

That is, for instrumental reasons, and to help others in particular, Paul valued his earthly life. For himself, however, death was gain. Would Amy say accuse the apostle Paul of not valuing human life appropriately?

The author of Hebrews writes approvingly of those who “were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned[f]; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.

In the Revelation some are honored with the description “they loved not their lives unto the death.”

So within a biblical framework, what exactly could it be about the Loving Parent Argument's conclusion which denies the value of human life? (I suspect that an answer to this question won’t be forthcoming.)

Jesse, if you’ve read this far, you are indeed a lover of truth. Paul says that it is the love of truth that can save a person, and which can keep a man from delusion/deceit (2 Thess 2:10). You can learn a lot of great things here at STR, but guard against seeking quick refuge in the agreeable words of someone in a position of respect. Test all things.

LM, I’ll respond to your last post in terms of the three questions I asked you last.

(a) Isn't everything you say compatible with the claim that abortion in the best interests of the unborn?

You answer, “The God of the Bible makes it abundantly clear of Whose interests we should be concerned. This simple fact invalidates the LPA - not by rending the unborn's best interests irrelevant - rather, inadequate. The unborn's best interest is not what is best for it, instead its best interest is what God's best interest for it is. God's best interest is, by default, man's best interest. And as I have shown in previous posts, abortion/murder - ultimately, sin - is not in God's best interest.”

This view commits you to the claim that eternal separation from God is in the best interests of some people. Is that right?

(b) Doesn't your response to the LPA make it difficult for you to deny this absurd view: preventing a man from masturbating is just as important as preventing a man from torturing orphans?

For this you insist that masturbation has victims beyond the perpetrator. We can both agree that sometimes masturbation has additional victims. Do you insist that masturbation always has other victims? Can you think of any sin that is not necessarily connected to harming other people?

(c) Aren't you making the following paradoxical claim: the interests of the unborn baby are irrelevant, but "we do not believe that anyone's interests are irrelevant"?

You distinguish between “inadequate” and “irrelevant.” If this distinction has any significance, in what sense can an inadequate interest be a relevant one?

Good morning, occasional reader,

I will answer likewise.

(a) No. My view simply asserts the that God's interests should ultimately be our own. That doesn't mean that they are. Remember that the God of the Bible does not wish for people to perish. Read 2 Peter 3 (highlighting 9) and 1 Timothy 2 (highlighting 4) for a couple of examples. As always, C.S. Lewis sums it up nicely: There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'.

(b) All sin is an affront to God, so it always has at least one other victim. I can't make the claim that masturbation always affects another human. But, the vast majority of the time it does, and this fact shows that it isn't a victimless crime.
Yes: Cursing or using God's name in vain usually doesn't directly harm other people. However, all sin will ultimately (not necessarily directly) affect other people.

(c) The interest that we are arguing about is a great example of an inadequate yet relevant one. A person wanting to go to Heaven (immediately) is a relevant and worthy interest. However, it may be inadequate in light of God's interests for that person's life (leading others to a relationship with Christ before that individual's life is spent, for example).

Allow me to provide another example of what I am now labeling "Conflict of Interests."

Let's say I've had a rotten day at work and in order to refresh myself for tomorrow and to best serve my family, I want to spend some time alone to unwind and calm down before I continue my evening. That is a worthy and relevant interest.
However, the moment I step in the door my wife comes to the door in a panic, as my son has just tripped down the stairs and broken his leg.
My interests of refreshing myself for the next day and my family are still relevant as I should always seek to be in my best form for those around me. Unfortunately, my son has just broken his leg and his interests (getting him to the emergency room as quickly as possible) will trump mine, rendering them inadequate.

I was pressed for time in my last post and couldn't address your "Butcher" argument. A flaw I see in the argument is that, in the end, what the butchers are doing is illegal according to the EPA, but not immoral. However, the LPA doesn't follow suit. The end is something that is legal, and even though it is proposed to be in the best interests of the unborn, is still immoral.

Finally, I appreciate your desire to have me further clarify my arguments. But the fact of the matter remains that the arguments that I have posed have invalidated the LPA. I believe we need to move on accordingly. Would you agree?

Thank you, as usual, for your time and thoughtful responses.

It doesn't MATTER is it's a "human being". Even if it is, the question is this-does a human being have the right to occupy a woman's body for nine months, changing her life in every way possible? Anyone who doesn't hate women will say no. You may say "but she chose to have sex!". However, this is like saying that by choosing to open your window you are inviting a burglar into your house.

"I propose, then, that we grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. . . . But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you -- we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you.

To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you." Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says, "Tough luck, I agree, but you've now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this: all persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons.

Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person's right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him." I imagine you would regard this as outrageous. . . ."
-Judith Jarvis Thomson

anonymous' kidney analogy is quite intriguing. However, to make it more accurate we would have to make the following modifications:

1) There were no doctors that kidnapped the host and connected the violinist. It's just that the violinist has always been attached, since the conception of the violinist.
2) The very existence of the violinist is rooted somehow in the host's body.
3) The violinist hasn't suffered from some sudden kidney failure. From conception, the violinist hasn't had working kidneys; they'll be taking about 9 months to form.

Anonymous,

"However, this is like saying that by choosing to open your window you are inviting a burglar into your house."

I have been away for a little while and don’t quite understand if you are agreeing with the citation in your post or are you making some other point?

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