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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A valid question

A question from a not-really-religious pro-lifer in the UK: Why don’t atheists oppose abortion?

Denying the humanity of a 20-week foetus is as unscientific and irrational as denying the beef on your plate is a cow because you can’t hear it moo.

Now many atheists/agnostics do oppose abortion on scientific grounds…but they aren’t very vocal, that’s for sure. Too busy with bus ads, convincing people that there probably is no God? Or perhaps they can’t stomach an alliance with a largely religious crew? Who knows. But worth asking the question.

(cross-posted to ProWomanProLife)

Posted by Andrea Mrozek on April 14, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink

Comments

Given that personhood is a metaphysical concept, I think the answer is fairly obvious.

But I wonder, all the same, about the question. I suspect that quite a few atheists might still be sufficiently imbued with patriarchy to want to keep women in their place--which is really, underneath all the God-bothering, what this whole controversy is about.

Posted by: Dr.Dawg | 2009-04-14 11:18:41 AM


For the same reason that most moderate voices on a broad range of topics aren't heard: They actually have lives to live and jobs to work at. It is no secret and no coincidence that many radicals at either end of the spectrum have a great deal of spare time.

And Dawg, cut the male-guilt crap. The existence of life signs in an unborn infant is not the result of some patriarchal conspiracy to keep women barefoot and pregnant, nor is the quest to determine what is life and what is not. If you think men have done this world such wrong, you are entirely free to remove yourself from their numbers.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-14 11:40:26 AM


Dr. Dawg...so if the existence of personhood is a concept atheists have no interest in - why do so many donate and volunteer for human rights orgs? How can the Charter be defended whatsoever if one thinks a personhood worthy of individual rights is just some religious claptrap?

As an atheist and a woman, I find your argument completely lacking substance. 52% of feotuses are female and quite a lot of men favour abortion because they get guilt-free sex with no strings attached. There are two holes in your "argument".

I am strongly pro-life and abandoned religion at age 13. Dr. Dawg: watch NatGeo's excellent video special "In the Womb" and let me know if you still think it is just a patriarchal conspiracy­. You should also visit and read as much as you can at Andrea Mrozek's wonderful and much-appreciated site ProWomanProLife.

ps: watched the movie "Knocked Up" last night. They managed to have a very pro-life message with zero mentions of religion.

Posted by: Elizabeth | 2009-04-14 12:17:35 PM


Dawg,

I have to say, it's possible to reflect on metaphysical questions without espousing a belief in God.

But maybe there is some correlation. Atheists do recognize, perhaps more than most, that there can be deep, irreconcilable disagreement about metaphysical issues, like the existence of God. That, coupled with certain liberal sensibilities, might lead them to think that public policy (e.g. regarding abortion) ought to be neutral with respect to metaphysics.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-04-14 12:34:06 PM


"Denying the humanity of a 20-week foetus is as unscientific and irrational as denying the beef on your plate is a cow because you can’t hear it moo."

This is a weasel statement. Plain and simple. Of course I can't deny a 20-week foetus is a human. It's a biological fact.

What I can deny, is that it's a person or it's a valuable life. I can rationally and scientifically make these claims.

I can claim and many do, that a valuable life is one that is capable of valuing itself. This is an argument for rights based on a claim of sentience (in the scientific definition).

There was a blog I recently saw a baby who was born with severe hydrocephaly. The baby was born without the entire upper two-thirds of the brain. It is missing the entire isocortex and cerebral cortex, responsible for all higher-level brain function. Despite this: the religious pro-lifers were dancing around about how the doctors are "wrong" and how the baby has so much potential and life in it.

They act as if there's some kind of debate on the issue; that a baby born without 2/3 of it's brian, and it's entire cerebral cortex missing, can be a full person.

There's no debate. There's just ignorant people deluding themselves. The baby isn't just retarded. It isn't just brian dead. It doesn't have a brain. But don't let that stop you.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-04-14 1:18:51 PM


[quote]There's no debate. There's just ignorant people deluding themselves. The baby isn't just retarded. It isn't just brain dead. It doesn't have a brain. But don't let that stop you.[/quote]

What do you propose? Kill the child!

Posted by: DJ | 2009-04-14 1:34:39 PM


This is a weasel statement. Plain and simple. Of course I can't deny a 20-week foetus is a human. It's a biological fact. What I can deny, is that it's a person or it's a valuable life. I can rationally and scientifically make these claims.

Not without also supporting, or at least accepting, the following: capital punishment, termination of inconvenient elderly, and the gassing of undesirables in ersatz shower stalls. If you are childless and need not have remained so, I can rationally argue that yours is not a valuable life because you are not helping to perpetuate our species. Oh, and you can't deny it's a person, because a person is defined as a living human, and you've already agreed it's a living human.

I can claim and many do, that a valuable life is one that is capable of valuing itself. This is an argument for rights based on a claim of sentience (in the scientific definition).

I can claim, as others have, that you're an idiot, an imbecile, and a complete asshole. Saying something doesn't make it true. When are you narcissistic chattermuckers going to learn that universal reality does not wait upon your word?

There was a blog I recently saw a baby who was born with severe hydrocephaly. The baby was born without the entire upper two-thirds of the brain. It is missing the entire isocortex and cerebral cortex, responsible for all higher-level brain function. Despite this: the religious pro-lifers were dancing around about how the doctors are "wrong" and how the baby has so much potential and life in it.

The baby has life. All else is secondary. If you want it offed, get a court order, and then go ahead and off it. Go ahead. We'll watch.

They act as if there's some kind of debate on the issue; that a baby born without 2/3 of it's brian, and it's entire cerebral cortex missing, can be a full person.

And what about people with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, congenital defects, amputees, senility, mental illness...Are they less than "full" people too?

Mike, if ever there was call for an exception to Godwin's Law, you are it. Feminists sneer when people compare abortion to the Holocaust. But arguments like yours draw strong parallels.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-14 1:38:50 PM


A valid question? Ok, but the answer is not exactly mysterious. In fact, the answer is not exactly news to anyone who has actually bothered to listen to what people who express views on abortion have been saying for decades. If Ed West seriously has to write a column to get the answer to his question, then he's just not that bright. It's been 38 years since Judith Jarvis Thomson published her much anthologized argument for the legitimacy of abortion even when we grant that the fetus is morally a person and a valuable life. Maybe Ed should read a bit more before he writes. Andrea too, for that matter.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-04-14 1:41:37 PM


It's been 38 years since Judith Jarvis Thomson published her much anthologized argument for the legitimacy of abortion even when we grant that the fetus is morally a person and a valuable life.

And we should care about her opinion because?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-14 1:55:28 PM


Not without also supporting, or at least accepting, the following: capital punishment, termination of inconvenient elderly, and the gassing of undesirables in ersatz shower stalls.

Your command of logic is... lacking, Shane. Your ability to erect false dichotomies is striking.

When are you narcissistic chattermuckers going to learn that universal reality does not wait upon your word?

I'm not even really sure what you mean by this. My best guess is that you're proposing that I claim a monopoly over truth. I most certainly do not.

You don't, either. You claim that a book written thousands of years ago, filled with fancy, mythical stories, has a monopoly on truth.

The fact that "people like [me]" would have the tenacity to seek real knowledge through the application of reason, as opposed to accepting moral and universal tenets as a matter of faith, frightens or angers you, or both.

I understand that you don't like having these beliefs and convictions attacked, and that you think people who attack them are evil, but I think it's evil that you would have me beholden to them.

I don't seek to persecute religious people. I have defended Boisson and Catholic Insight on the free speech issue. But I don't grant religion any special respect, and I will not give it.

If religion is to make a metaphysical, ethical, moral, or political claim, then I feel religion's credibility itself is on the table. It is part of the debate.

Far too long has religion enjoyed special respect.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-04-14 2:18:54 PM


Your command of logic is... lacking, Shane. Your ability to erect false dichotomies is striking.

Accepting the notion of non-valuable life logically invites the classification of all life into valuable and non-valuable categories, and those are, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the least valuable classes. Round one to me.

I'm not even really sure what you mean by this. My best guess is that you're proposing that I claim a monopoly over truth. I most certainly do not.

From your habit of repeatedly stating that you think this, you think that, you can claim this, you can claim that. It doesn't matter what you believe, mirror-kisser. It only matters what you can prove. Round two to me.

You claim that a book written thousands of years ago, filled with fancy, mythical stories, has a monopoly on truth.

Where did I claim that, exactly? You have fallen into the same trap the author's friend did, blinded, as she was, by your own biases.

The fact that "people like [me]" would have the tenacity to seek real knowledge through the application of reason, as opposed to accepting moral and universal tenets as a matter of faith, frightens or angers you, or both.

No, what angers me is your belief that you can write off whole swathes of humanity, regardless of guilt or innocence, based on your idea of "valuable" life. What makes you think others won't then do the same to you? What conspicuous "value" do you add to our race?

I understand that you don't like having these beliefs and convictions attacked, and that you think people who attack them are evil, but I think it's evil that you would have me beholden to them.

What. You. Think. Does. Not. Matter.

I don't seek to persecute religious people. I have defended Boisson and Catholic Insight on the free speech issue. But I don't grant religion any special respect, and I will not give it.

What. You. Respect. Does. Not. Matter.

If religion is to make a metaphysical, ethical, moral, or political claim, then I feel religion's credibility itself is on the table. It is part of the debate.

What. You. Feel. Does. Not. Matter.

Far too long has religion enjoyed special respect.

It's called the sacred, and every society has it. Of course, every society has individuals for whom the only thing that is sacred or special is one's own self. Your stubborn attempts to define the terms of the debate according to your own precepts strongly suggests you are one of them.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-14 3:09:44 PM


The fetus has a heartbeat at week 3 and a nervous system by week 7. If it has a heart and a functioning nervous system then isn't it alive? I am not a biologist. However, I have never heard of life being produced from an inanimate object! It is a human being and not a piece of playdoh. It has committed no sin or fault of its own. Doesn't it have the same right to life as you and I? Does someones life only become valuable when they are outside the womb? Whats next? Are we going to say that a persons value depends on their age? Maybe a persons life has value only once they start to talk. Also, maybe they lose value when they become a senior citizen. Has abortion really made the U.S. and Canada such a better place? Has abortion really strengthened women or simply emboldened "players"(guys that sleep around and see abortion as a birth control measure)? Has it helped women or added to the coarsening of our societies? Has abortion really freed women or taken the tensions between the sexes to a whole new level? No one is calling for a ban on abortion when the mother's life is in danger or in events like rape or incest. However, don't you see that this Pandora's box has been opened way too wide. It is killing babies and just as bad it is having a corrosive effect on our societies.

Posted by: David | 2009-04-14 3:26:15 PM


Beyond the abortion issue, the Latimer question still remains unanswered. What does Master Brock propose to do with a "life unworthy of life"?

Posted by: DJ | 2009-04-14 4:08:09 PM


Accepting the notion of non-valuable life logically invites the classification of all life into valuable and non-valuable categories, and those are, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the least valuable classes. Round one to me.

Sure it does. But that's not the dichotomy you set up, now is it?

I can live with this characterization you present here. But the problem with your statement is that you make it as if it's self-evident that it's wrong. And it's not self-evident.

But you think by saying that, I automatically open myself up to justifying the Holocaust or some shit, which is the false dichotomy.
From your habit of repeatedly stating that you think this, you think that, you can claim this, you can claim that. It doesn't matter what you believe, mirror-kisser. It only matters what you can prove. Round two to me.
Since you're the self-appointed referee of argument, I'd invite you to make a more full-bodied explanation as to the rulebook you're using to score this.
Where did I claim that, exactly? You have fallen into the same trap the author's friend did, blinded, as she was, by your own biases.
Maybe I'm projecting, but you seem to defend religious truth henceforth in this discussion, so I'll just proceed onward.
No, what angers me is your belief that you can write off whole swathes of humanity, regardless of guilt or innocence, based on your idea of "valuable" life. What makes you think others won't then do the same to you? What conspicuous "value" do you add to our race?
Objectively speaking, I just want to know, what is the point of keeping a person alive who doesn't have a brain? Really? You say because it's "life", which is really a metaphysical statement. It has some higher, universal value.
But one might ask why say, a chimpanzee with a fully functional brain, isn't worth more than a human body with no brain.
You simply assert that it is. I assume that's coming from a religious metaphysical place. Correct me if I'm wrong.
It's called the sacred, and every society has it. Of course, every society has individuals for whom the only thing that is sacred or special is one's own self. Your stubborn attempts to define the terms of the debate according to your own precepts strongly suggests you are one of them.
No, asserting sanctity as untouchable is defining the debate to specific terms. Not what I'm doing. What I'm doing is saying everything should be on the table, including what you think is sacred.
There's not intellectual dishonest or inconsistent about my position.
Using a sanctity defense to take something out of the debate is a special pleading. It is not a logical position.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-04-14 5:38:42 PM


"What. You. Feel. Does. Not. Matter.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-14 3:09:44 PM"

Wow, this is exactly the type of thinking I use to deal with you these days! Did we just bond? Aw.

Posted by: Janet | 2009-04-14 8:25:54 PM


To suggest that only religious people oppose abortion when it is not a case of putting the mother's life at risk or possibly a rape victim, is rather ridiculous. Atheists and other non believers are able to understand that it is a human life that is being destroyed. There are those who do not value life, unless it is their own, who support abortion. However, the biggest supporters just happen to be men who want free access to sex without responsibility. To argue that it is not a human being is silly and a non starter.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-04-14 8:57:19 PM


Andrea, worth asking the question for sure!

Dr.Dawg, women were not legally people not too long ago. Yet most men, who wanted to love and be loved, knew they were. Most of these men treated them right, regardless of the opnions of others, including the law. Today, the unborn are not considered people. Maybe one day they legally will be. Until then many people, Christian or athiest, will regard the unborn as people no matter what the law says.

Posted by: TM | 2009-04-14 9:02:42 PM


Atheist bus ads should be encouraged for two reasons:

1) The louder they are the quicker their views are discredited.

2) During a time of worldwide recession atheists are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations not in order to help anyone but in order to purchase bus ads and billboards attempting to demonstrate just how clever they consider themselves to be—need anymore be said?

Posted by: Mariano | 2009-04-30 8:19:25 AM



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