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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is Philosophy Useless in the Pro-Life Argument?

Last week, LiveActionNews published an article from Olivier Lindor called "Four Non-Religious Reasons to be Pro-Life". In that article, Lindor made the claim that science is all you need for the pro-life argument. Philosophy is (presumably) unreliable as a source of truth. Science is the only reliable source of truth, so science should be the standard we turn to when we make public policy. He gave three other arguments, but my purpose for this article is to specifically respond to Lindor's first argument from science. To be clear, I enjoy LiveActionNews. This is not a diatribe against them, but merely my intention to respond, as a pro-life educator, to an idea that I find detrimental to the pro-life argument and worldview, in general.

Lindor is right that there is a significant non-religious portion of the pro-life movement. He is also right that we do not have to specifically present a religious argument to justify the pro-life stance. However, he does not have to throw philosophy under the bus to do so.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Review: Aborting Aristotle: Examining the Fatal Fallacies in the Abortion Debate by Dave Sterrett

Special thanks to Dave Sterrett for the free copy of the book to review.

There are a lot of great books out there defending the pro-life position. There are also some great books to help you get started in pro-life apologetics. Dave Sterrett's book really functions as a pre-starter book, whereas in introductory books the information you learn about are the basics that you need, Aborting Aristotle gives a grounding, the sort of metaphysical basement, for our pro-life views. You won't learn how to defend the pro-life view, that's not its purpose. You'll learn about why the pro-life position works and why pro-choice thinkers fail to justify abortion by jettisoning an Aristotelian framework.

There is a lot of great information contained in this book. His discussions on how naturalistic metaphysics is self-refuting is especially important to understand. His chapter on personhood was also very good. Usually discussions of personhood certain around who counts as persons, but it seems that rarely do these discussions get to the heart of what the concept of "person" actually means. Sterrett shows admirably that our personhood, while different than our humanity, cannot be separated from it. He even talks about some common ground that we can find with pro-choice people in his concluding chapter, which is an excellent thing for pro-life people to keep in mind when talking to pro-choice people.

The only main problems I had with the book are:

1) There was no real discussion about substances and why humans count as substances. It really seems like you'd need at least a basic familiarity with Aristotle in order to know what he's talking about, even in his excellent rebuttals of naturalistic philosophy.

2) There was no real discussion about potentiality and actuality. It was mentioned, but not really discussed. This does seem like a glaring omission, since not knowing what potentiality actually means leads even modern philosophers to make bad arguments against the personhood of the unborn. Two examples are when Michael Tooley, in his book Abortion and Infanticide, argues about injecting a rationality serum into cats, and when Singer, I believe in his book Practical Ethics, argues that potential presidents don't have the same privileges and duties as actual presidents. If Sterrett does a second edition, I think a chapter on potentiality vs. actuality would be in order.

3) The 17.00 price tag is a bit steep for a 120-page book. Granted, this is not the fault of the author, the publisher sets the price tag.

There are a couple of other minor issues that should probably be corrected for future editions. In at least a couple of the chapters, I felt the endings weren't tightened up. They seemed to just end abruptly. Additionally, for many of the quotes regarding Aristotle, he used secondary sources, not the primary sources, themselves. This may affect credibility.

I am an Aristotelian/Thomist in my view of metaphysics. As such, I think this is an important book to add to the discussion. It's a helpful primer on the metaphysical grounding of the pro-life position.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Responding to a Video From Bill Nye, the Anti-Science Guy

I've seen a video being shared on Facebook from a website called Big Think, in which Bill Nye (heralded as "The Science Guy" because he plays one on TV) condescendingly tells pro-lifers that we should not tell women what to do, and that the pro-life position is based on "outdated" science. That is, the science that Alan Guttmacher, in 1933 said is "so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn't part of the common knowledge" (see Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation). The science that every embryology textbook of the 20th and 21st centuries supports. This science is "outdated" to Bill Nye. Perhaps most egregiously he tries to pit science against religion in this video, which belies a severe ignorance of how science actually developed.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How Not to Argue Pro-Choice: Eleven Completely Misguided Arguments

I was recently introduced to an article written by one Seth Millstein, called How to Argue Pro-Choice: 11 Arguments Against Abortion Access, Debunked [sic]. Let's ignore the misplaced comma for a moment. Actually, let's comment on it. That comma doesn't belong there. I was once like Millstein, haphazardly placing commas with abandon, putting commas where they don't belong. My college English professor called me "comma happy" because of it and soon broke me of the habit. But I digress.

Let's start with the fact that when Millstein wants to indicate someone says something embarrassing, he points to an unrelated case of Piers Morgan not being politically correct when talking to a transgender person. It's not hard to find a video of Piers Morgan trying to come off as educated when he's clearly not. Here's a video of Michael Brown educating Piers Morgan on what the Bible actually says about same-sex marriage. But as I said, this is irrelevant anyway.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is Abortion Equatable to Circumcision?

A friend on Facebook posed a question to me that he had received from a pro-choice person. The question was, "if the unborn feel pain, should we, then, outlaw circumcision?"

Now, it's not my desire here to get into the circumcision debate. I actually don't have a firm view on it one way or the other. What I do want to comment on quickly is the inability of many people to understand what is good for a person, and/or to think critically about their arguments and reject them if they are bad. This one is a really bad argument.

I understand the person who posted this likely doesn't consider abortion to be bad. But he/she should have at least been able to understand that since my friend is pro-life, he would consider abortion to be bad. Which means that there is a difference between abortion and circumcision -- one that is meant to kill the child, and one that is meant for the child's own good. Whether or not the infant feels pain or can consent to it, since circumcision is meant for the child's good, the doctor and parent has a moral right to make that decision on behalf of the child. There might be an argument that circumcision really does not do the child good. I don't know enough about the debate to make this determination. But if circumcision does have good benefits for the child, then it is certainly moral to circumcise a child.

So there is a huge difference between a procedure meant to kill a child, abortion, and one meant for the child's own good, circumcision. The inability of many people to be able to distinguish between good and bad (or moral and immoral) is but a sad commentary on the state of our society.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Should Men Be Able to Back Out of Pregnancy?

I'd like to take a moment to respond to a meme that I have seen floating around Facebook:

Essentially, this meme is stating that if women can't back out of pregnancy, then men shouldn't be able to, either. This is one of those arguments that pro-choice people should be able to immediately recognize as a bad argument, but it still gets traction anyway.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Human Cloning

I recently made an appearance on the Atheist Analysis podcast to talk about stem cell research and cloning. In this podcast I decided to focus on non-religious reasons for my position since I was talking to two atheists. However, I recently received a follow-up e-mail from a listener regarding what the theological response to cloning would be. I was informed that this would make a good topic for an article, so here it is. Most of the information contained in this article was influenced by Edwin Hui's fantastic book, At the Beginning of Life: Dilemmas in Theological Bioethics. I don't agree with absolutely everything in the book, but that's only a small minority. If you are interested in more information on cloning, or most other topics relating to bioethics, you should read that book. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "do it! Do it now!"

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Politically Correct Human Inequality

Last weekend, I spent time in Ventura and Los Angeles speaking at seminars for Justice for All, then went out to UCLA for two days of pro-life outreach. One of the arguments used at JFA is regarding human rights, and whether or not all human beings deserve those rights. We ask whether or not people with darker skin deserve equal rights, whether females and males deserve equal rights, and whether or not unborn and born humans deserve equal rights. Most people treat the first two questions as if they're patently obvious, and then either hesitate on that third question, or are quick to answer that no, born and unborn human beings don't deserve equal rights. It seems absurd and evil now to assert that blacks don't have the same equal rights that whites do, or that women don't have the same equal rights that men do. But 100 years ago, it would have seemed obvious to a lot of people that blacks don't deserve equal rights to whites. Two hundred years ago, it would have seemed obvious to most that women don't deserve equal rights to men. The unborn are the current politically correct group of people to deny equal rights to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

John Reasnor Fails to Show That Incrementalism is Unbiblical

To review, the resolution of the current debate is as follows: "Incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture." John is affirming that resolution. I am denying it. Since John is affirming the resolution, he bears the burden of proof in our exchange.

Put simply, John must show from Scripture that incrementalism -- the legislative strategy of saving every life we can right now while working to save all children as soon as possible -- is impermissible. He can do this one of two ways. First, he can point to direct commands in Scripture that have incrementalism in mind and subsequently foreclose on it. For example, the Apostle Paul references sexual ethics numerous times in his writings, most notably the commands that believers "flee sexual immorality" and "glorify God" with their bodies (1 Cor. 6). In this case, no guesswork is required. The instructions are clear to anyone who can read the text. Second, in the absence of direct commands, John can argue from inference that Scripture forbids incrementalism. That is, he might say there's a distinction between words and concepts. Although Scripture doesn't use the term incrementalism, it nevertheless repudiates the concept by inference.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Incrementalism Debate Opening Argument


The resolution as laid out before us is this: Incrementalism is a strategy incompatible with Scripture. As John is arguing the affirmative, he has the burden of proof. This means that John has the burden of proving his case. I will make a case negating the resolution, but even if I fail to make my case sufficiently, if I have managed to cast sufficient doubt on John’s position such that he has not affirmed the resolution, the debate goes to me. Additionally, John has posted AHA graphics with arguments on them. As they are not part of the body of John’s argument, I will ignore them (and you should, too).

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Do We Fundraise?

The following post appeared on Jill Stanek's blog.

On one hand, a favorite punching bag of T. Russell Hunter is pro-life fundraising.
11122396_916351231756876_1989993906_nOn the other, Hunter's group Abolish Human Abortion is incorporated, has a for-profit arm through which it sells t-shirts and other wares, and rents office space. (Regarding office space, click to enlarge screenshot right; the original post has been removed from AHA's Facebook page.)

It was these contradictory positions Hunter had to balance in his April 25 debate against Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's Gregg Cunningham.

Hunter contended (1:06:10 on the video) that one reason Christians aren't actively involved in anti-abortion activism is because they donate money to pro-life organizations to do the work for them. (See also 1:14:24-1:16:26.)

Nevertheless, from timestamp 1:39:55-1:41:31, Hunter alleged he wasn’t opposed to fundraising per se.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Should Christians Involve Themselves in the Legislative Process?

It is an honor to be able to contribute to Jill’s frankly devastating critique of T. Russell Hunter’s performance in his “Immediatist vs Incrementalist
against Gregg Cunningham.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Note on Human Dignity

I came across a question over the internet. I'm not a user on Tumblr, but this came up on Google. Someone had asked this question: What's the main reason you think abortion is ok? The answer, which is indicated as the best one, is: "Because forcing someone to continue with a pregnancy against their will is awful and a violation to one's dignity."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Importance of Making Distinctions

There are many important distinctions that need to be made in the abortion issue that are often overlooked. I don't know how our culture got to a point in which people are generally incapable of making basic distinctions, but it seems we've gotten to this point. Making distinctions is absolutely critical to clear thinking. Aside from the distinction I mentioned earlier, here are two more that need to be kept in mind in our discussions about abortion...

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Are Unborn Children Just Like Born Children?

I was reading a pro-choice blog in which the author had an experience with a pro-life woman. The author asked this woman if a child who dies in a car accident is just like a child who is aborted. Incredulous that the woman would believe this, the author says, "I them [sic] pointed to my boyfriend's aunt who lost her child in a car accident last her [sic] and told her to tell that woman that people that make the decision to have an abortion is [sic] on the same level of her losing the child she raised and loved for sixteen years."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Words Matter

Language is one of the most important aspects of being human. It's what sets us apart from animals. Language is how we communicate our desires and our needs. Language helps us understand and make sense of the world around us, and it lets us make distinctions so we can know how one thing differs from another.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Abortion Book for the Kiddos

You may have heard by now that there's a children's book written by Mary Walling Blackburn called Sister Apple, Sister Pig. It's a children's book about abortion. A book about a very adult topic written to children that you wouldn't yet talk about the event that preceded the abortion (the birds and the bees, and all that). You can find the book for free at the link provided, though at free the book is still highly overpriced.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What's in a Category?

If a pro-choice person you're talking to understands the distinction between the question of biological humanity and philosophical personhood, he/she will undoubtedly attempt to find some property/properties that persons must possess in order to be a person. Some common ones are consciousness, self-awareness, sentience (meaning the ability to sense and feel pain), and desires.

While the person is attempting to locate personhood grounded in these properties, they will usually support their criteria by arguing from analogy. Rocks are not conscious things, and it is not wrong to destroy rocks. The unborn are not conscious, so it is not wrong to destroy the unborn. This can be a common comparison, such as one being made by this individual whose article I came across. Even professional philosophers engage in these kinds of comparisons, although unlike those at the popular level they make a better comparison. They don't compare the unborn to inanimate objects like rocks, but will compare them to other living things, such as when Mary Anne Warren, in her essay On the Legal and Moral Status Of Abortion, argues that the unborn, in the relevant respects of consciousness, are less personlike than the average fish.

The problem with this argument is that it commits a lesser known logical fallacy called the category error fallacy (or category mistake). A category error is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category.[1] For example, the statement "the number seven smells like pine trees" is a category mistake because numbers are abstract objects and don't produce odors.

So what's the category error being made here? By comparing unborn human embryos/fetuses to objects like rocks or living things which do not possess consciousness in the relevant sense to have personhood attributed to them, these pro-choice people are attributing the category of non-consciousness to the unborn human embryo/fetus, when in fact the unborn are not non-conscious, they are pre-conscious. This is an important difference. It is not wrong to destroy rocks because they are not the kind of thing which has a serious right to life. Nor are fish the kind of thing that has a serious right to life (and if they were, it would be just as wrong to kill immature fish as it is to kill mature ones). Your intrinsic value and rights depend on the kind of thing that you are. Since the unborn belong to a conscious species and they are self-directed entities who will develop the present capacity for consciousness if not prevented from doing so, they are in a different category than rocks and guppies.

So whether or not the active potential to develop along the path of human development is morally relevant to the unborn human's intrinsic value (as I argue it is), comparing unborn human beings to non-conscious entities does not do the work of arguing against it.

[1] Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 58.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Pro-Choice Activist Spent Two Days as a Pro-Life Activist, Part II

I recently wrote an article about Robin Marty, a pro-choice journalist who attended the East Coast Walk for Life and then wrote about her experience. You can read part one here.

My reason for writing these articles is not just to give my thoughts on her experience, but also to emphasize the fact that I think it takes a lot of courage to attend an organization with people who disagree with you on a controversial topic in an attempt to get to know the people on the other side better. If more of us took the time to do that, we'd probably be able to have better conversations more often.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Regarding PZ Myers' Unsophisticated Diatribe on Kristan Hawkins

PZ Myers is at it again, this time ranting about pro-life apologist Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America. I've taken Myers to task before for his dishonest argumentation when he railed against Scott Klusendorf when Scott appeared on the Issues, Etc. podcast. Kristan gave a pro-life presentation at UMM College called "The Ugly Truth About Abortion: How it Does More than Just Kill Babies." Myers apparently attended the presentation, then decided to dismiss Kristan's entire case and write about it on his blog. You can view the article here. Let's take a look at Myers' response.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Pro-Choice Activist Spent Two Days as a Pro-Life Activist, Part I

Pro-Choice journalist Robin Marty was invited to the Walk for Life in Washington, D.C. by Jill Stanek to see what it is pro-life people do at these events. She wasn't infiltrating; she wasn't pretending to be pro-life to deceive people and "collect dirt" on pro-life people. She was openly pro-choice at this event using this as a way to gather information about pro-life people in their element. I personally think she was very brave for doing this. If pro-life people would do the same, they might realize pro-choice people are people, too, not demons.

I've never been to the Walk for Life in DC. It may not be feasible until such time as I find a rich pro-life benefactor (or get hired to speak there). However, I did attend the Walk in San Francisco. Follow this link if you'd like to read my brief thoughts on that event. Now I'd like to offer my thoughts on some of the things Marty mentioned in her article.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflections on the West Coast Walk for Life

Saturday, January the 24th, I attended the West Coast Walk for Life with more than 30,000 other pro-life people (and about a few dozen pro-choice protesters) in San Francisco, CA.

Read the rest at the Life Training Institute blog.