Rich: Hello and welcome to the Razor Swift. I am your host, Rich Christian. Today we have a debate on abortion, a debate between Clinton Wilcox and Chet Gaines. It will be a ninety-minute debate with ten-minute opening statements. And then from there we will have an open dialogue. So welcome to the show, fellas. Are you there?
Clinton: Yes. Yeah, thank you very much.
Rich: Okay, there’s Chet and there is Clinton. So what we’re gonna do here is I’m gonna read your bios here real quick and then we’re gonna flip a coin to see who goes first. And then we will proceed. So Clinton Wilcox is a professional musician from Fresno, California. He is a pro-life speaker and certified mentor through the Justice for All pro-life mentorship organization. He has been mentored by one of the leading young pro-life apologists in the nation, Josh Brahm. He has participated in pro-life outreach in a few different states and has been to several college campuses, and has given pro-life presentations at many churches and in front of philosophy clubs.
Chet Gaines is an anthropology student at Missouri State. He has also been researching technology, economics, religion, culture, and a few other topics. One of his main interests is theoretical economy theory called post-scarcity. Chet has a Tumblr blog dedicated to information regarding it. And that can be found at: postscarcityorbust.tumblr.com.
So without further ado, fellas, let’s go ahead and -- I’m gonna flip a coin. So who wants to call what?
Chet: Clinton can call it.
Clinton: I’ll call heads.
Rich: Clinton says heads. All right. Let me flip this here.” (sound of the coin hitting the desk) “It is heads. So Clinton, you will be going first. Let me get my timer out. You have ten minutes...as soon as I get this timer going.
Clinton: Sure. You’re not just going to count in your head?
Rich: No. (laughs) Unfortunately not.
Clinton: By the way, how’s the echo situation? ‘Cause I know there was sort of an echo last time I was on. Is it better this time?
Rich: It’s fine, yeah, it’s perfect.
Clinton: Okay. Excellent.
Rich: There’s no issues. So let’s go ahead and go ten minutes. Ready when you are. Go ahead.
Clinton: Okay. Well, first I would like to thank Chet for coming on and discussing this issue with me. The reason that I debate and discuss abortion is not because I consider it an interesting intellectual puzzle for us to solve. But it’s a very important issue that needs to have answers found. If pro-choice advocates are correct, then pro-life advocates are trying to remove a fundamental right from women to -- to their reproductive rights. But if pro-life advocates are correct, that the unborn is a valuable human being with the same rights and values that we have, then since Roe v. Wade has been legalized, some fifty-three million innocent unborn human beings have been killed, which is a travesty. So this is not just an issue that we can remain neutral on. This is an issue that we must come to some sort of -- not necessarily agreement, but just some sort of -- you need to know in your own mind which position you take. Because one of the sides is correct, and whichever one is correct, there are very strong implications for what that means.
So my pro-life case -- I feel that a very strong cumulative case can be made against abortion. So I’m going to actually address four arguments here. The first is that the unborn, from fertilization, are human beings; that is, of the biological species Homo sapiens. And therefore, it is wrong to kill them without moral justification. The second argument is from the Substance View, that basically sp -- and I’ll go into more detail here in a minute, but it essentially states that since we were the same essential substance in the womb that we are now, if moral justification is needed to kill us now, then equally strong moral justification was needed to kill us in the womb. My third argument is that the unborn are persons. Not just human beings, but they also qualify for the status of personhood. And my fourth argument is that as we have valuable futures, killing us robs us of those futures. Killing the unborn likewise robs them of a similar future. So killing them is wrong, as well.
So my first argument, being that the unborn are biological human beings. This is actually an uncontroversial fact of science. Embryologists consistently agree that the unborn are human beings from fertilization. We have embryologists such as Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller in their embryology textbook, Human Embryology and Teratology, which states that ‘although life is a continuous process, fertilization, which, incidentally, is not a “moment,” is a critical landmark because under ordinary circumstances a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.’ And I have literally dozens of quotes from embryologists who feel the same. And I’ve asked a lot of people to find embryologists who disagree with that, and no one has ever been able to find me even one.
But rather than just make an appeal to authority, I’ll briefly make the case that we know the unborn are alive because they grow. In fact, they exhibit three signs of living things: they metabolize food for energy, they respond to stimuli, and they grow through cellular reproduction. Now there may be some debate about whether something that lacks one of these qualities is alive, such as viruses, but there’s no debate that something that encompasses all of these qualities is alive. If you and I are alive, then the unborn, also, are alive.
Now we also know that the unborn are human because generally living things reproduce after their own kind. Dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans produce human offspring. There’s no injection of essential material sometime later in the development process that makes them human. They are human from fertilization.
So they’re living and they’re human, but we also know that they’re organisms. They are separate, whole, individual organisms on a self-directed path of development, developing themselves from within into a more mature version of itself along the path of human development. Some people kind of think that human development is like a car, whereas you don’t know when you have a car. Is it when you put on the fender, is it when you put on the wheels? In fact, you can’t just look at a hunk of metal and say that’s a car, because that hunk of metal could become anything. It could become a boat, a house, Christmas ornaments, what have you. But human development is different. Everything that the organism will become is already written in its DNA. It just has to develop and actualize those things. It already has its gender, its hair color, and everything already contained within its DNA. So it just has to develop those things. It develops all of those things from within itself. It doesn’t have a heart added at week three, it develops a heart from within itself.
So the unborn are living, human organisms. So my argument is:
1) Since it is prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being (prima facie meaning “on the surface” or “on the face”)
2) And if the unborn are living human organisms, human beings from fertilization (and again, this is biologically speaking)
3) Then, it is also prima facie immoral to have an abortion, because abortion kills an innocent human being.
And it’s not just immoral, but it’s the kind of immoral act that we make illegal. We make murder illegal, that is killing an innocent human being without moral justification. So we should also make abortion illegal because it kills an innocent human being without moral justification.
So my second argument is from the Substance View, which Frank Beckwith defends in his book Defending Life, and Patrick Lee also defends this. His argument says that:
1) The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community (and by full-fledged member, he means someone with the same intrinsic rights and values that you and I have).
2) It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3) Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4) Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.
So in this case, the unborn are essentially the same kind of organism that you and I are. They’re human beings with the same rights and values you and I have. I was the same -- in fact, let’s look at the toddler stage. I was the same as the toddler and as the newborn that was born from my mother, even though I can’t remember what it was like to be a toddler or a newborn, and I wasn’t even self-aware at the newborn stage. I was still that same individual. If you had killed me then, I would not be here discussing abortion with you and Chet now.
As such, I was also that same embryo that developed in my mother’s womb. I did not develop from an embryo, I was that embryo, even though I can’t remember what it was like and I did not actualize the same things that are in the human nature to actualize. So I was still that same entity. And since there’s no break in life or in my development, since I’m that same essential substance, and a substance being an entity that retains its identity through change, since I was that same substance, that same essential ‘me,’ even though I hadn’t developed or actualized things that are in the human nature to develop, I was still the same individual. And so an equally strong moral justification was needed to kill me then as it is now.
My third argument is that the unborn are persons. Now, I generally don’t like to discuss personhood too much, just because what people usually mean by the term ‘person’ is that a ‘person’ has rights and values, and that it has a right to life. And so essentially what you’re saying is that the unborn has the right to life because it’s a person. So it seems like arguing about personhood isn’t very illuminating because all you’re essentially saying is that a person has a right to life, and if the unborn is a person, the unborn has a right to life. But that’s what you’re trying to argue anyway.
And so that’s actually a point that pro-choice philosopher David Boonin brings up, and that’s actually something I agree with him on. So it’s not always helpful to argue personhood. Besides which, it actually seems to beg the question to me, because you’re assuming that persons have a right to life and that non-persons don’t. So that we can’t kill persons without moral justification, but we can kill non-persons. But I’ve never actually seen anyone argue that only persons have a right to life. So it seems like you’re assuming non-persons can be killed. But I still think it’s conceivable that if the unborn were non-persons, it might still be wrong to kill them.
But nevertheless, if we must discuss personhood, I would argue that the unborn, themselves, are persons. Because number one, the only reason to disqualify the unborn from personhood is if you want to justify killing them. Number two, every pro-choice argument used to disqualify the unborn from personhood works equally well to disqualify infants. So if you’re going to support abortion, you’re also going to have to support infanticide. And number three, many people try and argue that what makes a person a person is when you can perform certain functions. And different pro-choice people disagree on what functions makes one valuable. Generally, self-awareness and consciousness are the ones you hear the most. But as philosopher Stephen Schwartz indicates, this actually confuses being a person with acting as a person. For example, we can think rationally, not because thinking rationally makes us valuable, but we think rationally because we are persons. Thinking rationally is what persons do. You have to be a person before you can think rationally. So trying to indicate that our functions is what makes us a person confuses cause and effect. We can act as persons --
Rich: We have time.
Clinton: --because we are persons. Okay. I’ll go ahead and finish that --
Rich: Okay, go ahead and finish that.
Clinton: --argument in the next --
Clinton: I was gonna say when I get my response in, I can talk about the fourth thing.
Rich: Okay. All right, thank you there, Clinton. Chet, let me know when you’re ready.
Chet: Okay, whenever.
Rich: Okay, go ahead.
Chet: Okay. Basically, my position’s pretty simple. I’m mostly just interested in well-being. Actually, I was trying to sort out and congeal my thoughts on the topic because this actually isn’t a topic I talk about a whole lot. I’m even less familiar with radio. But my friend Stephan posted in the event group before-hand -- he posted a pretty summary from a very similar place. Basically, I’m concerned about suffering of conscious creatures, of the well-being of society. And I’m not so much interested in making some moral argument about a woman’s inherent right to an abortion, so much as I’m concerned about the effects of prohibition.
Obviously I’m coming from a place where I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to have an abortion. I definitely think there’s plenty of instances where it’s an appropriate choice. But what I’m more concerned about is whenever we legislate morality, we make things illegal that everyone doesn’t agree with. Like I think that we can all agree that we don’t want to be murdered. So maybe we can all agree that maybe murder shouldn’t be a legitimate move for anyone in society. But we can’t all agree that abortion is murder, something like that.
So we have to have a discussion about that and come to an understanding before we go about enforcing our different moralities with guns and jail time, and things like that. I actually posted an article in the event group just -- a recent study detailing the effects of abortion prohibition and unnecessary regulations and stuff like that. So I would encourage all the listeners to check that out.
But basically, where I’m coming from is that I think overall if this medical procedure is prohibited, then it will actually cause more suffering. You can guarantee that the people who choose to have this procedure are gonna be put at risk -- at a higher risk. And if pro-life means something, then we have to be concerned about the life of the women who actually do choose this procedure.
And so I think that it’s just another angle on the term ‘pro-life.’ Basically, just a -- I’m just concerned about overall social well-being as opposed to the possible suffering of this creature that we really don’t understand. You know, what the level of suffering might be -- it could be none at all. So, I don’t know. Anyway, there’s an opening statement.
Rich: Okay. If you don’t have anything else, we can just go ahead and go to open dialogue. So go ahead, whoever wants to speak. We’ll just try to keep it even on both sides, here. And I might even interject a little bit here and there, just depending upon the conversation. So go ahead there.
Clinton: Okay. Sure, yeah. If you don’t mind, I’d like to go ahead and finish my fourth argument, and then I’d like to actually address the claims that Chet has made. Because I definitely think that it’s important for us to address situations as well.
Just to add on to my argument from before, my fourth argument is that Don Marquis argues that what makes it wrong to kill us is not its effect on the person killing you. It’s not that it brutalizes you, because what that does is it basically -- it could make it habit-forming, but that doesn’t explain why that particular habit, in itself, is wrong. And it’s not wrong to kill us because of its effects on others because that doesn’t explain why killing a hermit is wrong, or why killing someone who has friends who can make friends easily is wrong. So what makes killing the unborn wrong -- what makes killing us wrong is that you’re robbing us of all of our future experiences. He calls this a Future-Like-Ours. If you kill the unborn, you’re robbing them of a Future-Like-Ours, too. A future of experiences like marriage, going to college, those kinds of things. So what makes [killing] them wrong is the same thing that makes [killing] us wrong. We’re robbed of all of our future experiences and things that are common to us as humans.
So I’ll go ahead and address the points that Chet made. He wasn’t too specific on some of these things, so I’ll just try and address them generally. Let’s start with his comment about that he cares about the well-being of society. I think we all care about that, pro-choice and pro-life people alike. What we disagree with on some issues, for example on abortion, is how to go about attaining the well-being of society. Whereas a pro-choice person would think, ‘okay, we don’t want children to grow up in poverty so let’s allow the mother to abort them because that will prevent them from coming into an existence of poverty.’ The pro-life advocate, because they believe that the unborn are valuable human beings, believes that once a woman conceives, she already has a child that’s in poverty. So abortion takes a poor child out of that poverty situation.
And this is why I think it’s important to address the topic of ‘what is the unborn?’ before we can address whether or not we can kill it. Because -- let’s say that there are children who will grow up in poverty. Well, I don’t think that we can allow abortion in those situations and we can see that because, would we allow a woman that has a two-year-old child in poverty, would we allow her to kill the child? Let’s say that she just lost her job and can’t afford to feed her older children. Would we then allow her to kill her two-year-old child to make feeding her other children easier? Well, I don’t think anyone would agree, not even pro-choice people. So if the unborn are human beings like the two-year-old child, I don’t think that we can also justify abortion for that situation.
Neither, I think, can we justify it because prohibiting it will have negative effects. Mary Anne Warren, who is a pro-choice philosopher, reminds us that murder is wrong -- that we should legislate against murder regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it because it’s wrong, because you’re killing innocent human beings. So while pro-life people do want women to be safe, we can’t fault the law for making it more difficult or more dangerous to kill innocent human beings.
So let’s talk about conscious creatures, ‘cause he brought up a point about, he’s concerned about the suffering of conscious creatures. Pro-life people are, too. But I’m not entirely sure what he meant by the suffering of conscious creatures. If it’s that they might grow up and suffer, or that -- does he believe that we should allow abortion before they can actually suffer physically? So I might like Chet to go into more detail, as far as that.
Just a few more points that he brought up, that we can’t legislate morality. For the most part, that might be true. Obviously there are things that are personally moral, that we can’t legislate. It wouldn’t necessarily be right for a Jewish person who abstains from pork to try and force legislation that makes everyone abstain from pork. But the thing is that killing innocent human beings is something that we make illegal. We make murder illegal. And so if the unborn are human beings like people outside the womb are, then making abortion illegal is not a case of legislating someone’s morality, it’s a case of -- it’s actually a case of being consistent. that if you believe that killing human beings without moral justification is wrong, then it’s not legislating morality to make abortion illegal in those same situations. And then --
Rich: Do you want --
Clinton: -- just one more point -- I’m sorry?
Rich: I was just gonna say, after that we’ll give Chet a chance to address some of that, definitely. Go ahead, what’s your last point?
Clinton: Just that, here’s the other thing: That to be pro-life, we need to be concerned about womens’ life. And I agree with that, too. The pro-life position is not about, you know, forcing women to be breeders, as you commonly hear from pro-choice people. Or we’re not trying to force them to remain pregnant. What we’re trying to do, is we’re trying to protect unborn human beings who are being killed, usually for reasons that would not justify killing someone outside the womb. So it’s not about oppression, or trying to keep women, as my friend Josh Brahm says, keeping women barefoot, in the kitchen, breastfeeding twins. It’s about protecting innocent human life. And that’s what the pro-life position is really about. And there may be some consequences about women going and having dangerous abortions, although that claim is dubious because that even wasn’t going on for ten or so years before Roe v. Wade was being passed. It was still being done by doctors in good standing in their communities.
But even though there are bad consequences, such as some women may perform a dangerous abortion, that doesn’t justify leaving it legal because there’s still innocent human life that’s at stake. I think that was the last point that I wanted to address.
Rich: Okay, go ahead, Chet. Do you want to address what he was saying on that stuff?
Chet: Sure. I’m trying to -- he’s covered quite a bit. So I’m trying to gather my thoughts on it. There was a question about what I meant by the suffering of conscious creatures. And it’s basically not only whether or not the fetus is able to experience suffering, it’s a more holistic consideration than that. So it’s also the suffering of the mother who is probably already in a traumatic situation. The future suffering, of course -- like whether this is going to create greater conditions of poverty. Indirect suffering, people who grow up in these situations often reflect that behavior in their actions. So we should be trying to produce the healthiest children possible.
I’m trying to also review the -- also, one thing -- I’ve noticed this argument a couple of times in the event chat and also Clinton’s presented it. That whether or not we allow mothers to kill their two-year-old child as opposed to, you know, we couldn’t allow abortions. I think that there’s a giant difference between something that’s able to sustain itself by -- that’s actually dependent physically on the mother, like biologically connected to her.
You know, the mother is basically -- I mean, it’s inside of her. It’s a part of her body. I have a hard time understanding how that comparison can be made. I don’t know, maybe we can go over that a little bit. Also, I wanted to point out that we extinguish life, even human life, for a variety of different reasons. One thing I was thinking of earlier is that we pull the plug on people. Sometimes we can’t get their consent, so that it’s non-consensual. They are humanly innocent, if that’s a quality that matters to the audience. You know, people that can’t sustain themselves. And I’m not saying that I think that any of these things should be policy, or anything.
I just wanted a larger conversation about these things. Some of the rhetoric is obviously predisposed to one angle. And I think it doesn’t help communication across sides. Whenever we say that the fetus is innocent of -- it’s -- I mean, I understand that the fetus didn’t kill anybody, so it’s not guilty of murder. But let’s say if someone did kill someone else. Is that all of a sudden justification to kill them as well? Personally, I’m not a fan of capital punishment and things like that. So I have a hard time understanding how some of the rhetoric is composed. So I don’t know, maybe -- also, I jotted down a few notes.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the concept of personhood, just in general. It gets abused. I know there are -- you’re probably all familiar with corporate personhood. That notion. There’s also people that wish to extend personhood to animals, to ensure that they have rights and such. And these are sort of legalistic mechanisms for solving our social problems. I don’t think they’re very effective. The notion of personhood in general is kind of a frustrating one for me. I think it more confuses us about who we are as opposed to clarifies.
Also, the notion of people being robbed of their future. In that, I see more rhetoric that I can’t really make sense of. It just doesn’t really mean anything tangible to me. I understand if I was, like, incarcerated or something, I would definitely feel like I was robbed of my future. So I kind of get the meaning of the phrase but at the same time, I’m not sure how my future is my property, or the whole notion of robbery, in this case. I guess I don’t see how that applies. I see it more as a rhetorical turn-of-phrase. So I’ll let Clinton respond to some of that.
Clinton: All right. So Chet brought up one of the differences between us and the unborn. And that is that the unborn are biologically connected to the mother. They’re much more connected than we are. And we agree with this. Obviously, the unborn for most of the pregnancy can’t survive outside the woman’s body. But I’m not convinced that being more dependent makes one less valuable to where we can kill you. Because as we know, newborns are completely dependent upon their mother’s body, also. A good number of them are breastfed, which is where the mother has to use her body to feed the child. In fact, some newborns are not actually disconnected from the mother right away. They leave the umbilical cord connected for -- I hear, for up to an hour after birth sometimes so they can make sure that the unborn gets all the nutrients from the mother’s body before disconnecting them.
So in that case, if the unborn is still dependent on the woman’s body for survival, would we then say that it should be able to be killed until the umbilical cord is cut, and if not what is it about the change from being inside the womb to being outside the womb that makes it not okay to kill the unborn child even though it’s still connected and still drawing nutrients from the woman’s body before they disconnect it? And then they can live as a separate organism from the mother’s body.
I know a lot of pro-choice people make the argument that it’s just a part of the mother’s body. But I don’t exactly think that’s true. The unborn organism is a separate organism, it’s just connected to the woman’s body. It’s not a part of it. Otherwise, you’d have to make the argument that pregnant women have two heads, four arms, four eyes, two noses, and half the time they have male genitalia. So I don’t think that it’s scientifically accurate to say that it’s just a part of the mother’s body, even though it obviously is inside the woman’s body and connected to it. It’s just not a part of her body like her appendages.
Then he brought up the topic of extinguishing life. In fact, this is why we say that it’s prima facie wrong to kill innocent human beings. Because there are some times in which it might be justified. Now, I don’t know if I’m prepared to make an argument that it would be, but sometimes in just war there are innocent casualties. Now obviously killing an innocent person would still be wrong in the time of war. But sometimes you have innocent people that are killed without intention. So you have to ask yourself if innocent loss of life is reasonable in a time of war. Because I don’t support war, but I do believe that it is sometimes necessary.
Then when we talk about capital punishment -- in fact, let me just define my terms real quick because Chet also asked what I meant by innocent. By innocent I do mean someone who has committed no crime, certainly not one deserving to be killed for it. So in that case the innocent human being inside the womb has done nothing to deserve being killed. In fact, it’s not even correct to say that the unborn -- that the human zygote caused the pregnancy. In the vast majority of pregnancies, it was the act of consensual sex that caused the pregnancy. So it’s through a consensual act between the mother and father that the unborn human entity exists there in the first place. So when we talk about capital punishment -- again, that’s not killing an innocent person, although sometimes innocent people have been killed through the process of capital punishment. It’s gotten a lot more difficult to do that with the advent of DNA testing. In fact, some innocent people have been released because of DNA testing. So when we talk about capital punishment, it’s not necessarily inconsistent to be pro-life, to want to protect innocent life in the womb, and to be pro-capital punishment, at least in theory, where you’re putting to death a convicted murderer after a fair trial by his peers. So the two are not really morally relevant situations. So I would say it’s not inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment.
But even if it was, then the sword cuts both ways. You would have to say that it would be inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment. So if you don’t think that it’s inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment, then neither is it inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. Especially since the two situations are very different situations.
Then he talked about personhood. And this is actually something where we have common ground on, because I have the same thoughts about personhood. Our country is certainly not an expert on personhood. I mean it considers corporations to be persons. And there have been times in the past where our government has disqualified people, such as Africans and women, from personhood in any meaningful sense of the term. So that’s just another reason why I think debating personhood is not always helpful in this issue. And I should mention also that there are people like Peter Singer who believe that some animals do qualify for personhood. And so I definitely think we have some common ground there on the personhood issue.
That’s all I had to say there.
Rich: Do you have anything to that, Chet?
Chet: Sure. Just the notion that somehow it would be okay to end the life of a newborn baby because it’s still connected by the umbilical cord. It’s not so much -- I think that it’s splitting hairs a little bit. In my unqualified opinion, because I’m not a doctor, and I’m not a woman, but in my opinion it would be inappropriate to have an abortion in the later part of a pregnancy. She should probably have the decision made relatively quickly. As quickly as possible, I would say. But that’s just my feelings on the topic. So I wouldn’t even be pushing that scenario. And it’s not even necessarily because the baby is biologically connected that then I think it’s the mother’s choice so much as during the pregnancy -- I mean, the mother has to carry it around. To me, it changes the issue. Prohibiting -- if you’re forcing her to do that -- I guess I sympathize with the notion that it’s a sort of slave of the state if the woman is forced to continue her pregnancy the whole way.
Just on the notion of just war, I just don’t subscribe to the notion of a just war. I know wars happen for a variety of reasons, but I’m not aware that there’s ever really been a just war. And it’s kind of off-topic. It’s not a main point. But I believe (unintelligible) has a really good lecture. You can Google about the three major wars -- I forget the title of it, where he reviews the idea of a just war. I find his arguments convincing.
I didn’t really understand the bit about if someone is pro-choice then they should also be anti-capital punishment. Or, that they should not be anti-capital punishment. I just didn’t follow it through. I got lost at some point. Also, the notion that innocence or guilt has anything to do with the process of abortion. The process of abortion doesn’t relate to the child deserving or not deserving to be killed, at least in my opinion. It relates to a number of social conditions, the particular instances that the mother, the parents find themselves in. I just don’t think it has anything to do with guilt or innocence of the unborn. So I guess I didn’t follow that argument either.
Also, something that popped up from earlier. The notion -- I guess this was Clinton’s second point. That -- and this was a little bit abstract, though, but the entity, if it retains its same identity, then it’s the same substance. And that somehow the unborn is a full-fledged member of the human community. These are all kind of abstract notions. So I’m not really sure -- I don’t know what a full-fledged member of the human community is. What are the requirements to that? Or if somehow Clinton were to not retain his identity would he become a different substance? Say if he woke up tomorrow with amnesia or something? Would he be of a different substance?
Just the way that the arguments were phrased didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. I believe that’s pretty much all I had. Also, I wanted to point out that as to personhood, we have some common ground there. I think that one bit of common ground that almost always gets lost in this discussion is that I think both sides do want to see less abortions occur. As I said, my concern earlier -- as I said earlier, my concern’s with well-being, with social health, and I think an abortion, or really any medical procedures probably -- I’ve had a medical procedure, myself. It wasn’t a good time. It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as an abortion might be. I can imagine that’s a very emotional process. I can imagine, especially treated as a topic, that there would be all sorts of conflicts and difficulties, emotionally, with it. And I don’t think it’s an indicator of social health to be having tons of abortions. And I think if you can look at ways to address this socially through education, I’m definitely in support of access to various methods of birth control. Things like that.
We can reduce the instances of these and, you know, ideally there would be no abortions. Everyone would be in a position where they intend to have their children. And they’re in a position financially where they can take care of them. But unfortunately our society functions in a rather unideal manner, so you end up with these things. So I guess I wanted to point out the common ground that we can live together in the goal of imagining these instances, because it’s not an indicator of social health to have that high rate of abortions. That would at least be my assumption. I’d like to talk about that a little bit.
Clinton: Okay, so, yeah. When we started off with ten-minute opening statements, that wasn’t a whole lot of time to really go into much detail for the arguments. So I’ll try to expound on those a little bit. First, when I made the statement that if it’s inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment, the sword would cut both ways because if it’s inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment, then it would be inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment. I’m trying to think of how to make that a little bit clearer. But essentially if you’re trying to say that it’s inconsistent -- well, regardless of the arguments in favor or against both, if it’s inconsistent to be one and not the other, then it would also be inconsistent to be not one but to be the other. It’s just a situation of where the sword just kind of cuts both ways. If one is true, then the other would be true, also. So if it’s not inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment, then it would not also be inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment. So it’s just a situation of that it works both ways, essentially.
Regarding Frank Beckwith’s statement about being a full-fledged human being, being a full-fledged human being means not just in the biological sense, but that it is deserving of all the rights and values that we have. So if it’s a full-fledged member of the human species, not just biologically, but if it’s a full-fledged member of the human species like we are, then it deserves all the rights and values that we have. And that’s where he goes into a Substance View. And it seems a little abstract at first. It’s not really when you think about it.
When I was born, I was that same entity, that same toddler, I was the same human being I was then as I am now, even though I can’t remember what it was like to be a toddler, I didn’t exhibit many of the same functions I can do now. But I was still that same toddler. That was still me, even though I hadn’t yet attained many of the things I can do now. So there’s a continuity of human development from fertilization until natural death. And that there’s no break between that development. You start off as a zygote, you move to the embryo stage, fetus, newborn, toddler, adolescent, teenager, et cetera. So there’s a continuity of existence there. There’s no break, and there’s no point where that wasn’t me, and then that suddenly was me. That was still me developing from the very beginning until now.
So all the Substance View indicates is that since that was still me, way back when, if a morally justifiable reason is needed to kill me now, an equally strong morally justifiable reason was needed to kill me then. So it’s wrong to kill the unborn because of that continuity of human development. They are still a valuable full-fledged member of the human community, even though they haven’t yet developed the functions that you can do later in life, such as your rationality, your ability to talk, to speak, to walk, things like that. So that’s essentially what that means.
And when Chet asked if you get amnesia and wake up with your memories gone, that actually kind of helps support the Substance View because whereas someone who believes that what makes us human is our experiences, if you suddenly get amnesia and lose your experiences you would have to say that you actually become a brand new person when you wake up because you’ve lost all those experiences. You’re essentially starting over from scratch. Kind of like you would be if you were just an embryo or a newborn, or something of that nature. So the fact that someone can get amnesia and lose their memories but still wake up, that would still be the same person because who they are is not gone. But they’ve just lost their experiences and they just have to regain them.
So a person retains his identity even through change. Now I can also illustrate that -- I believe Frank Beckwith uses the example of a deck. Like if you have a wooden deck, and you replaced all the wooden planks on the deck, when you replace all of the wooden planks, do you have the same deck? Well, I think we don’t. I think we have an entirely new deck because it’s made of entirely new materials, new wooden planks. But a human being can lose something -- you can lose a limb, you can have your appendix taken out, you can have your tonsils taken out, things like that. But you still remain the same “you,” even though you’re undergoing certain changes. So that’s kind of an illustration of the Substance View.
So when Chet talks about our common ground, as well, on having less abortions, I’m totally there with him. I do agree that both pro-life and pro-choice people want to see less abortions. But we just disagree on how to go about that. Pro-choice people constantly argue that all we need to do is continuing giving out free contraceptions and things like that, and that will reduce the abortion rate. And pro-life people take a different tactic. You know, we try to make abortion illegal which will reduce some abortions. Not all. You know, we don’t make the case that it will just magically go away once you make it illegal. But it will reduce the instances of abortion because women are generally law-abiding citizens.
We also talk about this on a person level, where we go out and have these discussions, to try and show people what the reality of abortion is. So we just differ on how we want to see less abortions and I’m not convinced that contraception will help reduce abortions because as we can see in New York, contraception is widely available. I mean, from what I understand, you can pretty much get it on any street corner. But it still remains one of the states with the largest incidences of abortion in the United States. So I’m not convinced that pushing contraception alone is the way to reduce the instances of abortion in the United States.
Rich: Okay, we’re gonna stop right there, fellas. We’re gonna take a quick station break and on the other side we’ll give out the call-in line if people would like to come in and ask either Chet or Clinton a question. They are free to do so. So we’ll be back, folks, in just two minutes.
Rich: And we are back. You’re listening to The Razor Swift on Grok Radio. Today we’re having a debate about abortion between pro-life advocate Clinton Wilcox and pro-choice Chet Gaines. So for those of you out there that are listening and would like to ask a question for either one of our guests, the number is (714) 242-5180. Once again it’s (714) 242-5180. Now, Clinton, before the break you were finishing up your statement. Chet, would you like to address what he said, and then we’ll have some callers come on here and hopefully we can get a couple of people to mix it up a little bit.
Chet: Yeah. Regarding his second opening point, the substance argument, I guess I don’t know what he means by identity, then. If he’s talking about a person having amnesia and retaining their identity -- and again, it’s kind of an abstract point, so it’s a tangent that doesn’t really need to be followed up. But I find it interesting. From that person’s point of view, they would be someone else. They wouldn’t be themselves.
Also, I guess I don’t know -- I still didn’t follow the (unintelligible) of being a full-fledged member of the human community and be simultaneously undeveloped. Because to me, full-fledged would relate to -- to me that means being developed. And again, I don’t mean to just get attached to phrases or anything, But it’s just another argument that isn’t really making sense to me. I still don’t see why someone couldn’t be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment. And I agree that the two topics aren’t necessarily related. It seems to me that the qualities of a fetus and an adult that has been convicted of a crime are just inherently different.
And also, I really don’t see any -- if you look at Dr. James Gilligan’s work, he works with some of the most brutal criminals in America. They’re very -- I don’t know. Like people you find on death row. And his opinion after working with these people for decades is that there’s no one that can’t be turned around. And I would hope that that would be in line with the theology of any various sect of Christianity. It seems like that’s part of the message that there’s always hope for people to be turned around. To hold that as true and simultaneously hold that, “well, there’s hope for you to be turned around but we also need to kill you for everyone’s good” seems contradictory in my mind. So I don’t know if that’s too far off on a tangent, or if you want to address that or not.
With regards to New York, I’m sure there’s a variety of social influences that result in a large number of abortions, comparatively. I don’t see how you can draw a causation there from a large amount of birth control being available with the abortion rate. To me, the two just -- I don’t see how that works.
Also, one last point. I caught part of one of Clinton’s prior podcasts where he was talking about various arguments for abortion. He mentioned that there are exceptions, or at least if I remember correctly, it seemed like there were some exceptions in which an abortion would be okay. If that’s the case, how does that work alongside with advocating prohibition? It seems to me that the prohibition is a pretty solid stance. And so if there are exceptions to that, I’m curious as to what they are. I know one of the usual ones is like in cases of rape or incest. I know there are other exceptions sometimes people make. But to me if it’s inherently wrong to kill the so-called “innocent fetus,” why would there ever be exceptions? So anyways, there’s some thoughts.
Rich: (laughs) Just to let you all know, real quickly, we have a caller, too. So go ahead and address that, Clinton, and we’ll see about this caller, what question they have.
Clinton: Okay. I won’t go too much because I did start, so I don’t want to monopolize the time. But I did want to just real quick address a couple things. It wasn’t my intention here today to make an argument for capital punishment. I was just illustrating how it’s not necessarily inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. So the discussion about capital punishment is really for another day.
But when it comes to exceptions, as I stated in my opening, that I believe that abortion is immoral and we should make it illegal. And that an equally strong justification is needed to justify abortion as it is to justify killing someone outside the womb. And so the only exception I take is if the pregnancy is truly life-threatening. Because in that case, then abortion can be justified because of self-defense. That if her life is at stake, even though the unborn child is innocent, she has a right to defend herself. We can see this -- I know Josh Brahm uses this example. I think it came from someone else, but consider someone at a bar, or club, or something, and his drink gets spiked. He doesn’t know the drug is in there, he didn’t put it in there, but he drinks the drink and winds up going into a drug-induced rage. And five or ten minutes later, he’s pulling a gun on five different people. Now he’s what you would call an innocent aggressor. But if the police are called, and they have a clear shot to take out the gunman, I believe that they are justified in doing so to protect those innocent people. So I believe that abortions in the case of a life-threatening pregnancy can be justified because of that reason. So that’s really the only exception I take to that.
Some people do talk about the fact -- I would probably be remiss if I didn’t mention this. But I do know some pro-life people who do take exception to the case of rape also. But that’s not necessarily my position. So the exception that I do take is when it comes to the life of the mother being in jeopardy.
Rich: Okay, guys. We have a caller. Two-three-nine, you are on the air.
Tim: Hi. I’ve got a question for Chet.
Tim: I’m wondering, what do you think makes someone morally valuable? That is, what gives someone the right to life, which means they cannot be killed?
Chet: I just wouldn’t phrase it that way. I mean, obviously everyone can be killed. I think even if we ascribe to each other that we had some inherent right to exist and to (unintelligible) the future and things like that. That doesn’t mean it’s true. So I don’t really subscribe to a “rights” consideration of morality.
Tim: So you reject the idea of rights?
Chet: I’m sorry?
Tim: You reject the idea of rights?
Chet: I think as a society, we should come up with a more effective way. I think that a right is something that proclaims, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it occurs in effect. So even if I have a so-called “right” to my life, it can still be taken. So I don’t see that right as an effective way of ensuring that I live.
Tim: Let me put my question this way: what generates a presumption against killing me? What makes it so that you ought not kill me, or anyone else, for that matter?
Chet: A consideration of social well-being. Basically, it doesn’t generate health. It doesn’t -- it’s just not a, I don’t know, that measurably a way to have a healthy society.
Tim: Well, you bring up terms like “well-being.” A “healthy society.” Why can’t those include the well-being of the unborn? It seems like you’re not defining those terms very clearly.
Chet: Okay. And they are kind of blanket terms. So I’ll definitely admit that. Well-being is related to suffering. Basically if something can’t experience suffering, then I’m not really sure what well-being means in that case. I don’t know if we have any accurate measuring tools that can allow us to understand the suffering of the unborn. But I know a lot of that system, the nervous system, the brain development, and all that, it takes time for that system to develop. So basically if it can’t suffer, then I don’t really understand what the problem is.
Tim: So if I could ask a follow-up, I’ve got two potential worries with that. Suppose that you have someone who doesn’t have a functioning nervous system. There are, in fact, people who have this type of disorder and are unable to feel pain. Would it be wrong to kill them, even though they can’t feel pain? Or you can just take someone who’s under anesthesia. They can’t feel pain. Would it be wrong to kill them? And may I also add that many animals do feel pain. So under your criteria, animals would count as moral agents, which is something that you weren’t advocating earlier.
Chet: Yeah, I wouldn’t use the term “moral agent.” And I’m not necessarily opposed to eating animals. I, myself, am omnivorous. So I enjoy cheeseburgers, like everyone else. Everyone else, at least, that enjoys them. It’s more a question of how we can understand suffering in relation to each other. So if -- I don’t know. I would take the suffering of a human more seriously than the suffering of any other animal. Or more seriously than the suffering of an insect. Basically, we’re more complex systems. We can experience a greater amount of suffering. If somehow it were -- and also, we’re basically the dominant species on the planet. And I don’t necessarily enjoy those terms, but we’re the ones that are kind of responsible for arranging things. So basically our societies have to be healthy in order for us to treat everything else as it should be treated.
Tim: Okay, that’s fair enough. But what about a human that is either under anesthesia or who has congenital insensitivity to pain?
Chet: I would assume there would be other types of suffering. I mean, maybe suffering isn’t only in the nervous system. But I would still think, even if I were impervious to pain, that I would have a certain type of suffering associated with being killed, so...
Tim: Then it becomes (unintelligible) suffering, because if you define suffering so that it means someone can be harmed, even if they don’t feel it, then why can’t we include the unborn in that community?
Rich: Hey, hello? Caller?
Rich: We’re gonna move on. We’ve got a few more people behind you here.
Rich: What’s your name, by the way? I didn’t catch your name.
Tim: My name’s Tim.
Rich: Tim. Thank you so much for calling in, Tim, and for your questions. We really appreciate it.
Tim: No problem.
Rich: Okay, we’ll talk to you later.
Rich: Okay, we have another caller, it looks like for Clinton. Two-seven-six, you’re on the air. What’s your name?
Luke: My name’s Luke.
Rich: Hey, Luke, how are you doing?
Luke: Pretty good. I have a question for Clinton.
Luke: Earlier, I -- Clinton, I’ll say conceded that abortion could be morally justifiable in situations where it was for what he called “just defense.” Preservation of life in a situation where the mother’s life was at risk. However, self-defense is not limited to just a life or death scenario. There are plenty of times when a person’s physical health could be at risk, but not their life. And if we can say that abortion should be okay when the mother’s life, or even health, is at risk, then I think that’s only a decision that can be made between a mother and a doctor. Not necessarily a decision that we can summarily say is always gonna be this case. And if we allow doctors to make those decisions with their patients, then pretty soon what we have is what we have right now. Mothers who request abortions, and I do say “mother,” if we’re going to allow for this thing to be called human life, then we can call it a mother. And if we’re gonna allow for the mother in the situation to have a health issue that she presents to her doctor, and if she and her doctor decides that it’s in her best interest to act in self-defense and to terminate the pregnancy, then there should be no problem with that. And that’s basically what we have right now, is it not? What’s the problem with what we have right now, I guess, is the question.
Clinton: What do you mean by “what’s the problem with what we have right now?” Are you talking about abortion-on-demand, or...?
Luke: Abortion as it stands right now. When I go to an abortion clinic now, obviously I don’t go, but --
Luke: -- when a woman goes to an abortion clinic with her pregnancy, she’s early in her pregnancy, and she says, “Doctor, I believe this -- carrying this child to term is going to negatively affect my health in these ways.” And the doctor says, “Okay, I think you’re right. I think it could negatively affect your health. We can terminate this pregnancy.” I mean, that’s basically the way abortions are done now. There’s not a lot of what you call “abortion-on-demand,” or abortion as a form of contraceptive. I think it’s much more rare than you would like to believe. And even if it is the case, there are occasions when abortion-on-demand is what’s happening. What you’ve effectively done is taken away everyone’s ability -- every woman’s ability to defend her health for the sake of a few people who are misusing abortions. That would be like banning all pharmaceuticals because some people abuse them. That doesn’t seem like a very fair moral standpoint.
Clinton: Okay. Well, let me ask you a quick question, Luke. What health considerations do you think would justify an abortion?
Luke: Well, again, I think those health considerations would have to be made by a doctor. I’m not a doctor. However, anything from physical health, to mental health, to financial health are all considered as justifiable reasons for termination now. And I don’t have a problem with any of those.
Clinton: Okay. Well, first of all, I really don’t think elective abortions are as rare as many pro-choice people think they are. In a 1993 interview with AM News, abortionist Dr. Martin Haskell said, ‘I’ll be quite frank. Most of my abortions are elective in that 20-24 week range. In my particular case, probably 20% are for genetic reasons and the other 80% are purely elective.’ That’s in 20-24 weeks’ gestation. So I think there still is a concern there. But here’s the problem -- and that’s essentially what we have right now, that health -- you know, we talk about Roe v. Wade all the time. But its sister case, Doe v. Bolton, defined health so broadly that a woman can get an abortion for just about any reason. There’s no real obstacle for a woman obtaining an abortion at any time during her pregnancy, for any reason.
So like I said, I do believe that if her life is genuinely threatened, abortion is justified. I don’t think I would consider that a concession, because I’m not simply conceding it. I made a reasoned case for why that’s justified. But I really don’t think that most health reasons are justified. For example, you talked about financial health. Well, again, would we consider a woman to kill her toddler, who just lost her job, so that she could find it easier to feed her older kids? Well, we wouldn’t allow that. So I don’t think that we can allow abortion in that situation, either.
So I think for most health reasons that abortion is allowed now, I don’t think would justify an abortion.
Rich: Excellent. Hey, thank you for the question, Luke. We’re gonna move on to another caller here. We’ve got a number of callers lining up.
Clinton: It’s a popular show.
Rich: (Laughs) Popular topic.
Chet: Could I --
Rich: What’s that?
Chet: Could I jump in for a minute? I just wanted to respond to the last caller. I think his name was Tim. Not the last, but previous one before him. I just -- to the notion of if a fetus is suffering greatly or not, I would be open to proof of that, and that would be something that we could understand empirically. But that’s just not the way I understand it to operate currently. Just to answer a question that was left hanging.
Rich: Okay, cool. Thank you. Yeah, it’s sometimes hard to keep up here with the different callers. Okay, we have -- let me see here and look at the switchboard. We have a 903. Caller, go ahead. What’s your name? 903? Sam? Hello? Go ahead, 903...Okay, I guess we’ll go ahead and skip down. We have a 559, for Clinton. 559, are you there?
Andrew: Yes. I was interested -- my name’s Andrew.
Rich: Thank you.
Andrew: I was interested in an argument for abortion that does not result in speciesism, a secular argument. Kind of on that topic. Expound on that, if you could, please.
Clinton: Okay, so you’re asking for an effective argument against abortion that doesn’t rely on speciesism?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s not a speciesism argument. One that’s not religious.
Clinton: Okay. Well, first of all, I don’t know if any of my arguments are religious. I haven’t actually brought religion into any of the topics. I think that my pro-life case is one that most people kind of agree with regarding their intuitions.
But I think that Don Marquis’ argument, that the reason that killing us is wrong is because you’re robbing us of a future of value, future experiences that we would have been able to experience. But now we won’t because you just killed us. And so it’s also wrong to kill the unborn because like us they have that future of valuable experiences. That is an argument that does not rely on speciesism. If it can be shown that other animals or alien races, or whatever, also exhibit futures like ours, then under that argument it would be wrong to kill them, as well.
Andrew: See you tomorrow, Clinton.
Clinton: (Laughs) Okay, thanks. I was wondering who that was.
Clinton: Are we going to move on to another caller, or...?
Rich: Yeah. We have about ten minutes left in the show. Thanks for calling in, there, Andrew. You guys want to dialogue just a little bit more? We’ve got probably just about five minutes worth of dialogue, then we can do a closing, real quick, of how we can get ahold of you fellas.
Clinton: Okay, well, I pretty much said all that needs to be said, unless Chet wants to add something?
Chet: Actually, I don’t know if I skipped over this earlier. I was trying to make notes and they’ve been kind of scattered. You mentioned a new deck argument, that if you replace all the planks in a deck then it would not be the same deck. Something to that effect.
Clinton: Did you have a question about that, or...?
Chet: Yeah. Well, as far as I understand, we go through that process periodically. Basically every cell in your body is replaced by a new cell. So, in effect, you are a new deck. I don’t know if the period is seven or fourteen years, something like that. But if I understand you correctly, that actually does occur.
Clinton: Yeah, from what I understand, we actually get all new cells in our body every seven years or so. The difference between that is that the deck is made up of wooden planks, and if you replace those -- it’s not a unified, whole organism like we are. If you replace all those planks, you can’t really say that you have the same deck because all the parts are different. Human development is different from being constructed like a car or like a deck. You’re developing yourself from within. You’re not having parts added, even though we do go through a cycle of different cells. The “me” who was there seven years ago, is still the same “me” now. I was the same individual fourteen years ago, even though I've gone through two changes of cells, if you will.
So the person that I am has not changed. I’m still the same “me,” what you consider “me,” even though my cells have changed, and even though I may have gone through some changes: gaining weight, cutting my hair, things like that. So who I am doesn't change, even though certain parts of me do.
Chet: Okay. I guess I’m just still a little hung up on that one. I mean, I see that we’re definitely a lot more complex than, say, an automobile or something of that sort. But you still operate under the same physical laws as the car. It’s at least, you know, in my assessment of things.
Clinton: Okay --
Rich: Okay, fellas. Did you want to address that? We’ll have one last comment from you, Clinton, then we’ll go ahead and give out -- if you guys have any website -- of course, we already mentioned Chet’s website earlier. We can mention that again. Go ahead and address that, and then tell us how to get ahold of you there, Clinton.
Clinton: Okay. Yeah, I guess what separates us from the car is that while we do have individual parts to our body, there’s still a unified whole. And this is probably more of a metaphysical concept, but we are actual living organisms. Whereas the car is just a car. You can replace a certain part on a car with a third party object, and it pretty much won’t be the same car because it’s got different parts. It might run better than cars of that sort do because you’ve replaced the engine or something. So I guess what really separates us -- I guess it is a little difficult to define, because it is more of a metaphysical concept, I suppose, but it’s just that there is something that makes us “us.” There’s a continuity of human development. That whenever we go through cycles of changing our cells, or if we cut our hair, or maybe lose a limb in an accident or something, who “we” are, the person that “we” are, does not change. We’re still the same person that we were even before that change occurs. And so I think that’s pretty much what the fundamental difference is, is that there’s no change in identity, even though we go through changes ourselves.
Rich: Excellent. Okay, Clinton, for those who would like to get ahold of you, how would they do so? What’s your e-mail and do you have a website?
Clinton: Yeah. My e-mail is all one word. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. No hyphen in “pro-life,” just one word. And then you can find me on Facebook, too. It’s www.facebook.com/petraphonic. And that’s P-E-T-R-A-P-H-O-N-I-C.
Rich: Excellent. And how about you, Chet? Do you have an e-mail so that someone can contact you if they’d like to ask you any questions?
Chet: Yeah. Actually, it’s really simple. It’s email@example.com. Hopefully you can remember that if you need to send me a message, or anything like that. And as I mentioned earlier, I run a blog about economics. I’m interested in a variety of topics. You can look me up on Facebook, and I’m pretty much willing to chat with anybody. I’m also on Twitter, twitter.com/strawprophet.
Rich: Alrighty. Well, thank you so much, fellas, for coming on, both of you, and for the mature dialogue and debate. We know sometimes that debates can get heated, and people can do low blows, and things like that. But both of you gentlemen were very professional about it and I really do appreciate that. So we will talk to you later. Thank you.
Clinton: Yep. Thank you very much for having us.
Rich: Okay, bye now. Okay, folks, you have been listening to the Razor Swift on Grok Radio. Next week we have a show with Sarah Geis. She’s a philosopher, and she will be dealing with centering prayer, also known as the Emergent Movement. That should be an interesting topic. We will be live at 5:00 PM Pacific. Have a good night, everyone. Take care.