Reasoned Pro-Life Apologetics Meets Raving Atheist

I think it is unfortunate that many well-meaning pro-lifers defend their position by leading with the Bible. They attempt to ground their view in the authority of the Bible and expect their opponents to respect that authority because it is the Word of God. While I share their high view of Scripture and its unarguable support for all things pro-life, there are a couple tactical problems with this approach. For one, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the particulars of abortion itself. Though this “silence” in no way equals consent, it becomes difficult to make the case when you are left having to defend what opponents might call “tangential” evidence that the Bible finds the act of abortion deplorable. You end up in a debate about biblical inerrancy, or the proper translation of some specific word, or the cultural context of a passage — instead of defending the plain facts about the unborn’s value as a full-fledged member of the human family.

Secondly, and for more tactically important reasons, most of those who would justify abortion couldn’t really care less what the Bible says about anything anyway. They dismiss your argument with the wave of a hand and avoid even engaging it because they categorize your position as just another religious claim that has no bearing on reality.

For these reasons it is tactically advisable to first ask the question — “What is the unborn?” — and then offer scientific, philosophical and moral reasoning to answer it. That is what we do at LTI and that is why we do it.

But, beyond the obvious obligation we have as thinking human beings to clarify the status, and defend the value, of innocent, unborn human life, engaging in the pro-life project is also a way to make the case for the truth of Christianity in general. It stands to reason that if the scientific, philosophical, and moral arguments we offer in defense of the humanity of the unborn also happen to align exactly with the biblical notion of what it means to be a human being made “in the image of God,” then the Bible might also have something to say about other things of importance.

This is a point Scott Klusendorf makes repeatedly but it was recently driven home in a very concrete way by, of all people, a hard core atheist in the most recent issue of Salvo magazine. A secular skeptic, law school professor, renowned blogger, and mocker of deluded “Godiots,” the “Raving Atheist” attended a blogger party where he serendipitously sat next to a Catholic blogger named Benjamin. As the “Raving Atheist” explains:

At one point the conversation turned to abortion, and I asked Benjamin’s opinion of the practice. I was stunned. Here was a kind, affable, and cogently reasonable human being who nonetheless believed that abortion was murder. To the limited extent I had previously considered the issue, I believed abortion to be completely acceptable, the mere disposal of a lump of cells, perhaps akin to clipping fingernails.

This unsettling exchange spurred me to further investigate the issue on Benjamin’s blog. I noticed that pro-choice Christians did not employ scientific or rational arguments but relied on a confused set of ‘spiritual’ platitudes. More significantly, the pro-choice atheistic blogosphere also fell short in its analysis of abortion. The supposedly ‘reality-based’ community either dismissed abortion as a ‘religious issue’ or paradoxically claimed that pro-life principles were contrary to religious doctrine. Having formerly equated atheism with reason, I was slowly growing uncertain of the value of godlessness in the search for truth.

Though the “Raving Atheist” continued to rave, there was now a stone in his God-rejecting shoe, placed there by a reasoned defense of the pro-life view. He couldn’t disconnect himself from it and later admitted that the “selfless dedication [of pro-life advocates] to their cause moved [him] deeply.” Later, he met a woman named Ashli whose work in pregnancy care drew him to further consider the pro-life position. Soon thereafter, the “Raving Atheist” became, in part, a pro-life blogsite …

[This] stirred an angry mutiny among my readers. But I had become convinced that the secular world had it wrong on the very foundational issue of life … The tangible expression of pro-life work was life itself. It was becoming clear to me that people who lived out their Christian faith were happier and better people as a result … In June 2006 I saw [a] woman’s sonogram ripen into a baby. In honor of Ashli’s efforts, I vowed that the birth of the child would be the death of atheism on my blog. Late that month I announced that I would no longer mock God on my site.

And the rest, as they say, is history. The hard-core atheist became open to considering theism because of his encounters with reasoned pro-life thought. Today he is a Christian theist.

To be sure, there were other factors that contributed to the “Raving Atheist’s” conversion but the simple fact remains that it was the cogency of the Case For Life and the concrete reality of the injustice of abortion that led him to doubt his atheism and consider a worldview that offered a better explanation for the world as we know and experience it.

————————–
For those who are interested in an eclectic approach to a defense of the Christian worldview that is far from the usual dry, stodgy material most people associate with topics like philosophy and Christian apologetics, I would highly recommend at least checking out an issue of Salvo — a magazine produced by The Fellowship of St. James, which also publishes Touchstone. For what it’s worth, I subscribe to both magazines and read every issue cover-to-cover. Salvo is targeted for a younger, more culturally connected audience. It is very well-written and often very, very clever.

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17 thoughts on “Reasoned Pro-Life Apologetics Meets Raving Atheist

  1. I just read your blog for the first time. I noticed that nobody commented on your post of August 20, 2011, even though today is September 9, 2011. So, to show that somebody actually paid attention to your thoughts, I decided I’d respond.

    Although you present the interesting story of a man who changed his mind from pro-abortion-rights to anti-abortion-rights (your favored position) and from “raving atheist” presumably to a Christian theist (also your preferred position), it is important to remember that changes in the opposite direction also occur. Consider for example any of Dan Barker’s books, especially Godless.

    However, here I’d like to focus on your continued misuse of language.

    You said "What is the unborn?" And you also said “But beyond the obvious obligation we have as thinking human beings to clarify the status, and defend the value, of innocent, unborn human life, engaging in the pro-life project is also a way to make the case for the truth of Christianity in general.”

    It is inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, deceptive, and propagandistic to use the terms “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life” to refer to human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. In misusing the term “unborn” you focus on only one potential outcome for the early stage human living organism (“ESLHO” for short). As you well know, an ESLHO may be miscarried, aborted, or born. (C-section delivery might even be considered a fourth potential outcome, extraction distinct from “natural birth,” but for now I will lump it with “born.”) You don’t call the ESLHO “the unmiscarried,” or “the unaborted,” or even “the unmiscarried, unaborted, and unborn.” Instead, you select only one of the potential outcomes. Why do you do this? Because you want the reader to think of the ESLHO as “just almost a baby.” You hope that the empathy which most people have for babies will be extended to the fetus, the embryo, and all the way back to the one-celled zygote. It is a deceptive strategy. A zygote is not a baby! An embryo is not a baby! And a fetus is not a baby. Please use the correct terms.

    Your other error is the use of “innocent” to describe an ESLHO. Why do use this term in this context? Because you wish to contrast the killing of the ESLHO with the killing of a murderer in the case of capital punishment, still in use in some states. You imply that killing ESLHOs is unjustified and killing murderers is justified. But, an ESLHO can be neither innocent nor guilty since it does not make decisions or engage in behaviors which can be judged innocent or guilty by the community as represented in the courts. Legal judgements about the innocence or guilt of zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are completely out of line. Calling an ESLHO “innocent” is like calling it “unmarried” or “inarticulate.” These terms are inappropriate.

    Is a sperm alive? Is a sperm human? Is a sperm unborn? Is a sperm innocent? Apparently you are not proposing that a right to life be assigned to sperm. This shows how inapplicable and misleading your term “innocent unborn human life” really is. Think about it.

    If you are going to argue against abortion and the right of women to have an abortion, then you have an ethical obligation to begin with a solid knowledge of human development and to use words correctly. In the current post, you have done neither.
    Gary Whittenberger

  2. Gary said:I just read your blog for the first time. I noticed that nobody commented on your post of August 20, 2011, even though today is September 9, 2011. So, to show that somebody actually paid attention to your thoughts, I decided I’d respond.

    Very nice passive aggressive intro coming from "he who demands civility" (among other things). I look forward to the thoughtful and evenhanded comments to follow …

    Although you present the interesting story of a man who changed his mind from pro-abortion-rights to anti-abortion-rights (your favored position) and from “raving atheist” presumably to a Christian theist (also your preferred position), it is important to remember that changes in the opposite direction also occur.

    So what? Why is this "important to remember" in a story that is not about that topic. It is about an atheist who was convicted by the immorality of abortion to consider (and eventually embrace) Christian theism. Feel free to find and share the story of a theist who, blown away by the moral goodness of abortion, is convicted to convert to atheism. I'll look for it on your blog. Or, your being such an enlightened seeker of the truth and skeptic, maybe you should go read the raving atheist’s blog over at: ravingatheist.com

    It is inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, deceptive, and propagandistic to use the terms “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life” to refer to human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.

    Really? Are zygotes, embryos, or fetuses born? I could have sworn they were not born, which would make them “unborn.” Maybe you’d prefer “pre-born.” I could use that term if you'd prefer but I'm not sure why it would be different. Why is it "propagandistic" to accurately describe the pre-born state of any of these descriptions of a stage in the development of a whole, complete, living human being? Do you think zygotes, embryos and fetuses are something other than human? If so, what are they? Birds? Plants? Aardvarks? Please enlighten us.

    You are emphatic in demanding that each of these descriptions of a stage in the development of an unborn human being is "not a baby." I never said it was a baby. Please use the correct terms and don't put words in my mouth.

  3. As you well know, an [unborn human being] may be miscarried, aborted, or born.

    Correct. And which of those possible outcomes has any bearing on the intrinsic nature — the kind of thing — inherent in the unborn human being? Answer: None of them.

    Your other error is the use of “innocent” … Why do use this term in this context?

    Ummm. Because it is a human being that has not committed any immoral act. Therefore, it is innocent by definition. I commonly refer to innocent human beings as … innocent.

    Is a sperm alive?

    In a certain sense, yes.

    Is a sperm human?

    No, Gary. Biologically it only has half the DNA required to be fully human (see 6th grade biology book)

    Is a sperm unborn?

    Category error. Human beings are born or unborn. Since a sperm is not a human being, the question is inappropriate (and a little weird)

    Is a sperm innocent?

    No, Gary. Only human beings can be innocent or guilty. See above for whether a sperm is a human being.

    Apparently you are not proposing that a right to life be assigned to sperm. This shows how inapplicable and misleading your term “innocent unborn human life” really is. Think about it.

    No, I am not assigning the "right to life" to a sperm … because I am talking about human life and a sperm is only half of the show required to create a complete, whole, living human life. This shows how inapplicable and bizarre the point you are trying to make is. Which point, I am having difficulty identifying. I would think about it … if it had the potential to make any sense.

    an [unborn human being] can be neither innocent nor guilty since it does not make decisions or engage in behaviors which can be judged innocent or guilty by the community as represented in the courts. Legal judgements about the innocence or guilt of zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are completely out of line.

    Category error (a common problem with your comments). I am not talking about legal innocence or guilt, Gary. I'm talking about moral innocence. There is a HUGE difference between the two. See "ethics" in a philosophy book.

    If you are going to argue against abortion and the right of women to have an abortion, then you have an ethical obligation to begin with a solid knowledge of human development and to use words correctly.

    I agree. Which is why your random musings here, which betray your ignorance of even the most elementary understanding of human development, have absolutely no bearing on the issues I discussed.

  4. BP2 refers to the comment of Bob Perry on September 13, 2011 12:40 AM, GW2 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s response) to it.

    GW1: Although you present the interesting story of a man who changed his mind from pro-abortion-rights to anti-abortion-rights (your favored position) and from “raving atheist” presumably to a Christian theist (also your preferred position), it is important to remember that changes in the opposite direction also occur.

    BP2: So what? Why is this "important to remember" in a story that is not about that topic. It is about an atheist who was convicted by the immorality of abortion to consider (and eventually embrace) Christian theism. Feel free to find and share the story of a theist who, blown away by the moral goodness of abortion, is convicted to convert to atheism. I'll look for it on your blog. Or, your being such an enlightened seeker of the truth and skeptic, maybe you should go read the raving atheist’s blog over at: ravingatheist.com

    GW2: It is important to remember because it is a counterbalance to your story in the other direction. Also, your sarcasm is not appropriate for this type of discussion.

    GW1: It is inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, deceptive, and propagandistic to use the terms “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life” to refer to human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.

    BP2: Really? Are zygotes, embryos, or fetuses born? I could have sworn they were not born, which would make them “unborn.” Maybe you’d prefer “pre-born.” I could use that term if you'd prefer but I'm not sure why it would be different. Why is it "propagandistic" to accurately describe the pre-born state of any of these descriptions of a stage in the development of a whole, complete, living human being? Do you think zygotes, embryos and fetuses are something other than human? If so, what are they? Birds? Plants? Aardvarks? Please enlighten us.

    GW2: Are zygotes, embryos, or fetuses miscarried? I could have sworn they were not miscarried, which would make them “unmiscarried.” Maybe you’d prefer “pre-miscarried.”

    GW2: Are zygotes, embryos, or fetuses aborted? I could have sworn they were not aborted, which would make them unaborted.” Maybe you’d prefer “pre-aborted.”

    GW2: Or maybe you’d just like to talk about “the unmiscarried, unborn, and unaborted” in your reference to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. But that wouldn’t suit your misleading and propagandistic purposes. I think you should refer to these things by their correct names – zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. They don’t always end up being born, and therefore for you to apply an adjective to them (and convert it to a noun) which emphasizes only one of their three potential outcomes is misleading. Human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are human. “Human” identifies the kind of organism they are. This does not excuse your use of the term “the unborn.”

    BP2: You are emphatic in demanding that each of these descriptions of a stage in the development of an unborn human being is "not a baby." I never said it was a baby. Please use the correct terms and don't put words in my mouth.

    GW2: Of course, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not babies! They are also not properly called “unborn human beings” for the reasons I have given. Please use the correct terms. I don’t think you have yet used the term “unborn baby,” but other anti-abortion-rights activists have done so. Your use of the terms “the unborn” or “unborn human beings” is bad enough.

  5. GW said:"Although you present the interesting story of a man who changed his mind from pro-abortion-rights to anti-abortion-rights (your favored position) and from “raving atheist” presumably to a Christian theist (also your preferred position), it is important to remember that changes in the opposite direction also occur … It is important to remember because it is a counterbalance to your story in the other direction.

    You've said this twice now, Gary. So, since you're insisting that this point "is important to remember," I have to insist that you cite a single example where a Christian theist, blown away by the moral goodness of abortion, has been compelled to convert to atheism.

    Please be specific and don't give me, "I heard about a guy …"

  6. Gary,
    Instead of continuing this back-and-forth semantics exercise in the definitions of zygote, embryo, fetus, unborn etc., I am going to state my position and then ask you specific questions for which I would like direct answers.

    MY POSITION: A human being is created at the moment of conception and develops from that point until the day it dies. For that reason, each of these (zygote, embryo, fetus etc.) are different stages in the development of the same thing — namely a living human. This is not my "religious opinion." It is the clear position of the science of embryology. Because I believe human life is valuable, I believe it is morally wrong to kill that living human prior to birth for the same reason it is morally wrong to kill it after birth. A change in location does not render a change in moral worth.

    MY QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

    1) What is the entity (or "organism" as you like to call it) in question? Is it human or not? If not, what is it?

    2) Is it alive? If not, please tell me specifically what "state" it is in.

    3) If you're answer to 1) is that it is human, and 2) that it is alive, then what is the moral justification you defend for ending that human life?

  7. Gary,
    You accused me of using "propagandistic" language by referring to the unborn as a "baby." When I pointed out that I had NOT referred to it as a "baby," you replied:

    GW2: Of course, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not babies! … I don’t think you have yet used the term “unborn baby,” but other anti-abortion-rights activists have done so …

    Do you think it is fair to hold me accountable for terms "others" have used, even after I point out (and you admit) that I did not use the term?

    If you want to continue this discussion, I will insist that you address the arguments I actually make and not the ones you wish I was making. It's called being intellectually honest.

  8. Great stuff, Bob! The original post was wonderful, and the Comments foil, Gary, offered a stunning example of the vacuity of the position of the average thoughtless atheist on this issue. Please tell me he wasn't a plant. Was there really a person behind those comments, believing himself to be making reasonable points?

  9. I agree, Rick. Sadly, Gary is not a plant. If I were making stuff up, I could never have been as good at being morally bankrupt as that. But, if you think it can't get worse, check out the discussion over at the Life Training Institute Blog re: Scott Klusendorf's latest article in CRJ. The blog posts are here: http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2011/09/challenging-scott-on-walking-dead.html

    and here: http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2011/09/critiquing-deadly-view-of-world-bob.html

    You will be amazed …

    Thanks for stopping by

  10. Part 1 of GW3 to BP3

    BP3 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 13, 2011 12:40 AM, and GW3 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    GW1: As you well know, an [unborn human being] may be miscarried, aborted, or born.

    BP3: Correct. And which of those possible outcomes has any bearing on the intrinsic nature — the kind of thing — inherent in the unborn human being? Answer: None of them.

    GW3: If the three outcomes have no bearing, then why do you continue to use the adjective “unborn”? I’ll answer that – because you are misleading people. Again, your use of the term “unborn human being” is inappropriate. The thing we are talking about is a living organism. The kind of organism is human. We agree on that much. A zygote is a living human organism when it is one-celled. Please use the correct terms!

    GW1: Your other error is the use of “innocent” … Why do use this term in this context?

    BP3: Ummm. Because it is a human being that has not committed any immoral act. Therefore, it is innocent by definition. I commonly refer to innocent human beings as … innocent.

    GW3: No, it is not a human being; it is a human organism. It is either a zygote, an embryo, or a fetus. A fetus cannot commit any immoral act, so you are making a category error to call it “innocent.” You can call things “innocent” or “guilty” only if they have the capability of engaging in immoral acts. A zygote is not “innocent by definition” by any process of rational thinking. It is also not married or unmarried; it has no capacity for this.

    GW1: Is a sperm alive?

    BP3: In a certain sense, yes.

    GW3: In what sense is it not alive?

    GW1: Is a sperm human?

    BP3: No, Gary. Biologically it only has half the DNA required to be fully human (see 6th grade biology book)

    GW3: Yes, Bob. Biologically it is human, even though it has only half the DNA required to produce a human organism. The reason for this is that the human sperm can be distinguished from the sperm of other primates and mammals through its DNA. “Human” tells us type of animal we’re talking about. You are confusing the term “human” with the term “human organism.” They are not the same thing. You are making another category error.

    GW1: Is a sperm unborn?

    BP3: Category error. Human beings are born or unborn. Since a sperm is not a human being, the question is inappropriate (and a little weird)

    GW3: Yes, a little weird like “unborn fetus.” A sperm is a human-DNA-carrier which has one potential trajectory in which it will be born. But it has other potential trajectories, and so we do not characterize it as “unborn” because we are aware of these trajectories. To single out one potential trajectory is misleading, just like you are misleading when you refer to a zygote, embryo, or fetus as “unborn.”

    GW1: Is a sperm innocent?

    BP3: No, Gary. Only human beings can be innocent or guilty. See above for whether a sperm is a human being.

    GW3: The term “innocent” in inapplicable to a human sperm because it is incapable of engaging in behavior which a judicial system might call “innocent” or “guilty.” But the same is true for a zygote, an embryo, and a fetus. And so, you should not use the term “innocent” to describe any ESLHO – early stage living human organism. Zygotes can be neither innocent nor guilty, same for embryos and fetuses. You are making another category error.

  11. Part 2 of GW3 to BP3

    BP3 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 13, 2011 12:40 AM, and GW3 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    GW1: Apparently you are not proposing that a right to life be assigned to sperm. This shows how inapplicable and misleading your term “innocent unborn human life” really is. Think about it.

    BP3: No, I am not assigning the "right to life" to a sperm … because I am talking about human life and a sperm is only half of the show required to create a complete, whole, living human life. This shows how inapplicable and bizarre the point you are trying to make is. Which point, I am having difficulty identifying. I would think about it … if it had the potential to make any sense.

    GW3: A human sperm is human life! But it is not a human organism. A human sperm and a human egg are required to make a human organism. My point is neither inapplicable nor bizarre. “Sperm” and “egg” are terms we use to identify stages in the development of a human-DNA-carrier. You have said that you do not use “stage of development” as a basis for valuing, but actually you do and don’t yet know it. You just haven’t been thinking about the entire human life cycle, which begins with the production of eggs and sperm. You value the zygote more than you value the sperm, and so you are willing to assign a right to life to a zygote but not to a sperm. So, you and I both use “stage of development” as a foundation for valuing and assigning rights; we just pick different stages. Neither of our choices is arbitrary; mine is just a better nonarbitrary choice than is yours.

    GW1: an [unborn human being] can be neither innocent nor guilty since it does not make decisions or engage in behaviors which can be judged innocent or guilty by the community as represented in the courts. Legal judgements about the innocence or guilt of zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are completely out of line.

    BP3: Category error (a common problem with your comments). I am not talking about legal innocence or guilt, Gary. I'm talking about moral innocence. There is a HUGE difference between the two. See "ethics" in a philosophy book.

    GW3: You are the one making the category error, whether we talk about legal innocence or moral innocence. But let’s consider the latter. Zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are incapable of engaging in behaviors which can be judged as “morally innocent” or “morally guilty.” These judgements just do not apply to ESLHOs, and so you should stop using the term “innocent” to refer to them. It would be just as inaccurate and inappropriate for you to call them “guilty” as it is for you to call them “innocent.”

    GW1: If you are going to argue against abortion and the right of women to have an abortion, then you have an ethical obligation to begin with a solid knowledge of human development and to use words correctly.

    BP3: I agree. Which is why your random musings here, which betray your ignorance of even the most elementary understanding of human development, have absolutely no bearing on the issues I discussed.

    GW3: My musings are neither random nor ignorant. And they have total relevance to the issues we are discussing. Just take some time to think about the points I presented this time, and they will eventually sink in. You need to re-examine your whole conceptual framework, because you are making numerous category errors and are misusing language. This is part of the reason why you are reaching the wrong conclusions on abortion rights. You aren’t thinking rationally about these things.

  12. GW4 to BP4

    BP4 refers to Bob Perry’s comment on September 17, 2011 9:35 AM, and GW4 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it

    GW said [in GW1]: "Although you present the interesting story of a man who changed his mind from pro-abortion-rights to anti-abortion-rights (your favored position) and from “raving atheist” presumably to a Christian theist (also your preferred position), it is important to remember that changes in the opposite direction also occur … It is important to remember because it is a counterbalance to your story in the other direction.

    BP4: You've said this twice now, Gary. So, since you're insisting that this point "is important to remember," I have to insist that you cite a single example where a Christian theist, blown away by the moral goodness of abortion, has been compelled to convert to atheism. Please be specific and don't give me, "I heard about a guy …"

    GW4: Actually, from what I can tell by examining the record, I said it only once (in GW1), and you’ve quoted it twice (in BP2 and BP4). (You like to quote me, but you don’t like it when I quote you.)

    GW4: I presented you with an example of a Christian theist who became an atheist; it was Dan Barker. Also, I am an example of a person who went from being an anti-abortion-rights Christian to a pro-abortion-rights atheist. Those two examples support the point I made.

  13. Part 1 of GW5 to BP5

    BP5 refers to the comment of Bob Perry made on September 17, 2011 10:09 AM, and GW5 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP5: Instead of continuing this back-and-forth semantics exercise in the definitions of zygote, embryo, fetus, unborn etc., I am going to state my position and then ask you specific questions for which I would like direct answers.

    GW5: If you continue to use terms in an inaccurate, misleading, or propagandistic way, I will point it out to you. Rational thinking requires careful attention to clarity.

    BP5: MY POSITION: A human being is created at the moment of conception and develops from that point until the day it dies. For that reason, each of these (zygote, embryo, fetus etc.) are different stages in the development of the same thing — namely a living human. This is not my "religious opinion." It is the clear position of the science of embryology. Because I believe human life is valuable, I believe it is morally wrong to kill that living human prior to birth for the same reason it is morally wrong to kill it after birth. A change in location does not render a change in moral worth.

    GW5: No, a “human being” is not created at the moment of conception. A human organism begins at that time. No, zygote, embryo, and fetus (along with infant, child, adolescent, young adult, middle aged adult, and senior) are all stages in the development of the same thing – a living human organism. A “human being” is the same as a “person.” A human organism does not become a person until approximately 24 weeks in the womb. You have some misunderstandings about the sciences of embryology, biology, psychology, and philosophy. Your incorrect assumptions are: 1) Human life has intrinsic value. 2) We should assign the same value to the human organism at all stages of development. 3) We should assign the same value to a zygote as to an 18-year-old person. I agree with you that location is largely irrelevant. However, stage of development is relevant. We should assign a high value to the 24+ weeks fetus, whether it is inside or outside the host woman.

  14. Part 2 of GW5 to BP5

    BP5 refers to the comment of Bob Perry made on September 17, 2011 10:09 AM, and GW5 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    MY [BP’s] QUESTIONS FOR YOU [GW]:

    BP5: 1) What is the entity (or "organism" as you like to call it) in question? Is it human or not? If not, what is it?

    GW5: We’ve been over this before. The entity is a living human organism at an early stage of development (ESLHO). It is a human zygote, or embryo, or fetus.

    BP5: 2) Is it alive? If not, please tell me specifically what "state" it is in.

    GW5: We’ve been over this before. Of course, it is alive. It is alive until it is dead.

    BP5: 3) If you're answer to 1) is that it is human, and 2) that it is alive, then what is the moral justification you defend for ending that human life?

    GW5: “Human” is an adjective used to describe the particular kind of animal we are discussing. The zygote, embryo, and fetus are ESLHOs – early stage living human organisms.

    GW5: You have not given a moral justification for a prohibition on ending the life of an ESLHO before it becomes a person. I expect you to give one, but for now I’ll offer some thoughts on why I think it is morally permissible to kill the ESLHO under most circumstances when this is considered by women.

    GW5: 1) Prohibiting the killing of the ESLHO would interfere with the host woman’s right to control her own body, i.e. put into her body and take out of her body whatever she wants. It would interfere with her personal sovereignty. She has a right to control her body, just as you do.

    GW5: 2) The ESLHO is using the resources of the host woman who is morally entitled to decide that this should cease.

    GW5: 3) The ESLHO before about 24 weeks is not a person. It cannot perceive, think, feel, communicate, remember, or decide. It is not conscious or sentient. Its brain development does not support these processes of a person.

    GW5: 4) Sometimes women make a mistake and get pregnant. They should have an opportunity to correct their mistake by removing the ESLHO from their bodies. From the latest time at which they usually become aware that they are pregnant around 8 weeks until the time the fetus becomes a person at 24 weeks, they have 16 weeks to correct any mistake they have made by getting an abortion.

    GW5: 5) We define the death of the person to be coincident with the death of the brain, and so in analogous way, we should define the beginning of the person to be coincident with the dawn of consciousness in the developing brain of the fetus.

    GW5: Ok, now it’s your turn to present a moral justification for a prohibition on ending the life of an ESLHO before it becomes a person. Also, do you propose that the moral prohibition on abortion be made into a law? If so, what penalty are you wishing to impose on the woman who then gets an abortion?

  15. GW6 to BP6

    BP6 is the comment of Bob Perry on September 17, 2011 10:15 AM, and GW6 is my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP6: You accused me of using "propagandistic" language by referring to the unborn as a "baby." When I pointed out that I had NOT referred to it as a "baby," you replied:

    GW2: Of course, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not babies! … I don’t think you have yet used the term “unborn baby,” but other anti-abortion-rights activists have done so …

    BP6: Do you think it is fair to hold me accountable for terms "others" have used, even after I point out (and you admit) that I did not use the term?

    GW6: No, that would not be fair if that is what I did, but I didn’t do that. I held you accountable for misusing the specific terms you used — “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life.” Fortunately, we can look directly to the record. Here is what I said in GW1:

    GW1: It is inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, deceptive, and propagandistic to use the terms “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life” to refer to human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. In misusing the term “unborn” you focus on only one potential outcome for the early stage human living organism (“ESLHO” for short). As you well know, an ESLHO may be miscarried, aborted, or born. (C-section delivery might even be considered a fourth potential outcome, extraction distinct from “natural birth,” but for now I will lump it with “born.”) You don’t call the ESLHO “the unmiscarried,” or “the unaborted,” or even “the unmiscarried, unaborted, and unborn.” Instead, you select only one of the potential outcomes. Why do you do this? Because you want the reader to think of the ESLHO as “just almost a baby.” You hope that the empathy which most people have for babies will be extended to the fetus, the embryo, and all the way back to the one-celled zygote. It is a deceptive strategy. A zygote is not a baby! An embryo is not a baby! And a fetus is not a baby. Please use the correct terms.

    GW6: As you can see, I never said that you referred to a zygote, embryo, or fetus as a baby. I implied that when you use terms like “the unborn” and “innocent unborn human life,” you have the same motivation as those who use the term “unborn baby.” You are being propagandistic and deceptive. You have an ethical obligation to use the correct terms – zygote, embryo, or fetus – to indicate the stage of the early-stage living human organism (ESLHO) which you are talking about. Please use the correct terms!

    BP6: If you want to continue this discussion, I will insist that you address the arguments I actually make and not the ones you wish I was making. It's called being intellectually honest.

    GW6: I have addressed what claims you have made. I don’t think you’ve really given any arguments yet. For example, what is your justification for saying that a human life has intrinsic value? I showed you why the concept of “intrinsic value” is invalid, but you have not responded to me on that.

    GW6: Isn’t it intellectually dishonest to call a zygote “the unborn” or “innocent unborn human life”? Yes, I think it is.

  16. GW500 to RG500

    RG500 refers to the comment made by Rick Gerhardt on September 20, 2011 12:35 AM, and GW500 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it

    RG500: Great stuff, Bob! The original post was wonderful, and the Comments foil, Gary, offered a stunning example of the vacuity of the position of the average thoughtless atheist on this issue. Please tell me he wasn't a plant. Was there really a person behind those comments, believing himself to be making reasonable points?

    GW500: I can assure you that I am not a plant. My position is not vacuous or thoughtless. And I’m not an average atheist, whatever that would be.

    GW500: Neither Mr. Perry nor you have presented any reasonable argument for your position. All he has been doing is making outrageous and unsupported claims, such as the claim that all human life has intrinsic value. I have shown this to be invalid. If you’d care to present a counterargument, I’m willing to listen to it.

  17. Gary insists that I refer to an innocent, unborn human being with a term he prefers: ESLHO. His continued reference to human beings in the earlier stages of their development as "organisms," and his continued insistence that they are not "persons" and therefore not valuable is based on valuing human life for what if can do not for what it is. I reject this empty, dangerous and morally bankrupt philosophical reasoning.

    At the moment of conception, a distinct, whole, living human being comes into existence. This is a scientific fact that can be found in any embryology textbook. It has a human nature from that point until the point it dies a natural (or unnatural) death. The "trajectory" of its life is irrelevant to the nature of the thing it is. Adding instrumental value based on things it can do later in its life does absolutely nothing to alter the intrinsic value it has due to the nature of what it is.

    The result of these views is that Gary continually demands that human life has no intrinsic value. He goes into great detail about this on another blog here: http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2011/09/critiquing-deadly-view-of-world-bob.html (if you can wade through all the verbiage to find it), and there demands that both his wife and a chicken are nothing but different kinds of "organisms," either of which would be materially and morally sufficient in satisfying his appetite. He never answered when asked if he had informed his wife of this little tidbit.

    Finally, as a scientific materialist (SM) and determinist, Gary seems unaware (actually, he vehemently denies) that his SM leaves him no basis for making moral judgments, and leaves us no reason to accept any argument that exudes from the gray matter, electrical impulses, and their subsequent physical movement of his fingers as they type meaningless characters on his computer screen. His protestations to the contrary are meaningless on his own worldview but he makes them anyway, unaware that doing so betrays the very determinism he defends.

    This last point (not to mention the moral vacuousness of his views) gives me no reason to take him seriously. So, though I am indebted to him for so distinctly clarifying the emptiness of his philosophy, I will no longer pretend to do so.

    Thanks for the example, Gary. All the best …