The pro-life position on abortion explained in plain English

Now, you may think that the view that the unborn deserve protection during pregnancy is something that you either take on faith or not. But I want to explain how you can make a case for the right to life of the unborn, just by using reason and evidence.

To defend the pro-life position, I think you need to sustain 3 arguments:

  1. The unborn is a living being with human DNA, and is therefore human.
  2. There is no morally-relevant difference between an unborn baby, and one already born.
  3. None of the justifications given for terminating an unborn baby are morally adequate.

Now, the pro-abortion debater may object to point 1, perhaps by claiming that the unborn baby is either not living, or not human, or not distinct from the mother.

Defending point 1: Well, it is pretty obvious that the unborn child is not inanimate matter. It is definitely living and growing through all 9 months of pregnancy. (Click here for a video that shows what a baby looks like through all 9 months of pregnancy). Since it has human DNA, that makes it a human. And its DNA is different from either its mother or father, so it clearly not just a tissue growth of the father or the mother. More on this point at Christian Cadre, here.

Secondly, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the unborn that is not yet present or developed while it is still in the womb, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, it does not deserve the protection of the law.

Defending point 2: You need to show that the unborn are not different from the already-born in any meaningful way. The main differences between them are: size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. Once these characteristics are identified, you can explain that none of these differences provide moral justification for terminating a life. For example, babies inside and outside the womb have the same value, because location does not change a human’s intrinsic value. More at Stand to Reason, here.

Additionally, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the already-born that is not yet present or developed in the unborn, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, that it does not deserve protection, (e.g. – sentience). Most of the these objections that you may encounter are refuted in this essay by Francis Beckwith. Usually these objections fall apart because they assume the thing they are trying to prove, namely, that the unborn deserves less protection than the already born.

Finally, the pro-abortion debater may conceded your points 1 and 2, and admit that the unborn is fully human. But they may then try to provide a moral justification for terminating the life of the unborn, regardless.

Defending point 3: I fully grant that it is sometimes justifiable to terminate an innocent human life, if there is a moral justification. One of the best known justifications is Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “violinist” argument. This argument is summarized by Paul Manata, one of the experts over at Triablogue:

Briefly, this argument goes like this: Say a world-famous violinist developed a fatal kidney ailment and the Society of Music Lovers found that only you had the right blood-type to help. So, they therefore have you kidnapped and then attach you to the violinist’s circulatory system so that your kidneys can be used to extract the poison from his. To unplug yourself from the violinist would be to kill him; therefore, pro-lifers would say a person has to stay attached against her will to the violinist for 9 months. Thompson says that it would be morally virtuous to stay plugged-in. But she asks, “Do you have to?” She appeals to our intuitions and answers, “No.”

Manata then goes on to defeat Thomson’s proposal here, with a short, memorable illustration, which I highly recommend that you check out. More info on how to respond to similar arguments is here.

For those looking for advanced resources, Francis Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University, published the book Defending Life, with Cambridge University Press, 2007.

UPDATE: I found a neat video over at Tough Questions Answered of a 12-year old girl making the case for protecting the unborn. This is better than I can do!

How divorce laws discourage marriage

A friend notified me of this new article by the Canadian journalist Barbara Kay about a recent decision by a judge in Ontario, Canada. The article states that a Toronto judge has awarded custody of the 3 children from a dissolved marriage to the father, as a result of the mental trauma suffered by the children while they were in custody of the mother. The article notes that this is a “stunning and unusual family law decision”.

According the Government of Canada’s own numbers, sole-custody is awarded to the mother in nearly 80% of divorce cases:

In the majority of cases (79.3 percent), the mother had sole custody; the father had sole custody in 8.7 percent of cases. Shared custody (a child spends at least 40 percent of the time with each parent) and split custody (one or more children have primary residence with the mother and one or more children have primary residence with the father) were relatively infrequent at 6.2 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

In this particular case, Kay notes that the mother (K.D.) had pressured the children to distance themselves from their father (A.L.). She writes:

According to the judgment against K. D., she is denied all contact with the girls, even by telephone or text messages She has been ordered not to come closer to them than 300 metres. A. L. has been given the right to confiscate their computers and cellphones. This is necessary, Justice McWatt said, because the mother had so poisoned her children’s feelings toward their father that they had lost their capacity for independent judgment in relating to him.

Now, for good men, the thought of losing access to our own children after a divorce is a terrible thing to contemplate. Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women, often against the wishes of the men, under no-fault, (i.e. – unilateral), divorce laws. Additionally, there is the question of money. Alimony and child support payments can be high, and men can often be required to pay even if they lose their jobs!

In another related story, a Quebec judge overturned a father’s grounding of his daughter because the judge felt the grounding was too harsh! Men are not going to feel comfortable about getting married when the courts interfere with families in order to implement their politically correct agenda. Men want to be fathers, but it seems as if the courts are sending men a message: don’t marry, don’t have children.

Stephen Baskerville, a professor at Patrick Henry College, has written a cover story for Touchstone Magazine in which he explains the danger that faces men and women who choose to marry. This article summarizes Baskerville’s new book, and is highly recommended understand how and why the government discourages marriage.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Though obfuscated with legal jargon (losing “custody”), what this means is that a legally unimpeachable parent can suddenly be arrested for seeing his own children without government authorization. Following from this, he can be arrested for failure or inability to conform to a variety of additional judicial directives that apply to no one but him. He can be arrested for domestic violence or child abuse, even if no evidence is presented that he has committed any. He can be arrested for not paying child support, even if the amount exceeds his means (and which may amount to most of his salary). He can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or a psychotherapist he has not hired.

This can happen to women as well, according to Baskerville, in certain cases. Christians typically believe in marriage, and research indicates that a stable marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children. Therefore, Christians should be concerned by the government’s attempt to weaken the bonds of marriage by providing spouses with financial incentives to file for divorce, seize custody of the children, drain their ex-spouse of money, and prevent the ex-spouse from having a healthy relationship with the children.

Stephen Baskerville was interviewed on the Chicago-based radio show Extension 720 with host Milt Rosenberg. This interview is alarming, but required listening for men and women contemplating marriage, and for those who want to see marriage encouraged, and not discouraged, by the government and the courts. Here is another interview with Dr. Baskerville, but this one is from the Dennis Prager show.

Marriage is without a doubt good for children, for spouses, and for society. Shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to encourage people to marry, and to stay married, instead of having the government provide incentives to divorce or not marry at all?

UPDATE: Australian study shows that kids are safer when they live with their fathers.

Atheism, Christianity and the problem of evil and suffering

In Christian theology, a classical definition of evil is found in the work of Augustine of Hippo. He states that the evil is not a thing itself, and therefore is not brought into being by God. Instead, evil is the privation of right order. Or, to put it more simply, evil is the state of affairs when things are the way they ought not to be. So, if a mugger mugs you and steals your money, that was evil, because humans ought not to do that. And if a tsunami leaves thousands of people homeless, that’s evil, because the world ought not to be like that. (Let’s bracket why God might allow natural evil, such as the latter example, for another post).

The point is that when you talk about evil and suffering, it pre-supposes that the world is not the way it ought to be. But that means that the world ought to be some way. If the world “ought to be” any way other than it is, then that pre-supposes a designer, who had a purpose for the world, i.e. – a way the world ought to be.

But that’s not my point today. My point today is that atheists cannot use the apparently gratuitous evil in the world as a disproof that there is a God until they define what they mean by evil.

It seems to me that there are 2 choices for what evil could be on atheism. What is NOT open to atheists is the solution above, namely, that evil is a departure from the way things ought to be. Because the universe is an accident on atheism – it is purposeless – there is no way the universe ought to be. We are accidents on atheism. There is no way we ought to be.

So evil must mean one of two things on atheism:

  1. Evil means something that the atheist finds personally distasteful. It is a subjective preference that each person decides for themselves. Just as some people don’t like broccoli – some people don’t like murder or tsunamis. It’s up to each person. But that cannot be used as an argument against God, because who says that God’s moral purposes ought to be connected to the personal moral preferences of atheists? It won’t work.
  2. Evil is what society says is counter to the social conventions of a particular time and place. If we decide that murder is against our society’s conventions today, then for that time and place, murder is “evil”. But then, not signaling when you turn right at a stop sign is also “evil”. It’s all just made-up conventions. And again, it is difficult to see why God should be bound by a society’s conception of good and evil, they are just conventions of accidental people, on an accidental planet, in an accidental universe. (Again, we will bracket the problem of deciding what a society is for this discussion).

So, now I am going to ask you atheists. When you say that there is gratuitous evil in the world, (i.e. – a state of affairs that is apparently pointless, apparently without morally sufficient justification for God to permit it), what do you mean by evil? Does not the invocation of a standard of right and wrong that applies to God himself imply an objective morality? (a moral standard that is independent of personal or cultural preferences) And if there is an objective moral standard like this, where does it come from, on your atheistic worldview?

It seems to me that pressing the problem of evil is inconsistent on atheism. There is no moral standard to hold God accountable to in an accidental universe. You have to pre-suppose an objective moral standard, and a designer of the universe who makes that standard and makes it applicable, before you can proceed to hold God accountable to that standard. But then, you have already assumed God in order to argue against him.

Here is a short paper that contains a summary of everything I know about the problem of evil, (deductive/ logical, as well as inductive/ probabilistic). If you can only read one short paper on the problem of evil/ suffering, this is what you need to read. Do not pass this paper up – it is pure wisdom and will make you effective on this issue in the public square better than anything else out there.

Also, to see these arguments in action, check out the debate here, with William Lane Craig and Kai Nielsen.  If you want a book, here is one between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, published by Oxford University Press, 2004, (audio of one of their debates here). One of my favorite scholars on this topic is Doug Geivett. If you can listen to the audio from his lecture on evil, that is pure wisdom. It’s up on the Academy of Christian Apologetics, (audio). I love the use of “noseeums” in his examples.

UPDATE:

I was over on triablogue.com, and they were commenting on a post over at Victor Reppert’s blog C.S. Lewis’ Dangerous Idea, on the topic of morality on atheism. Also, there this debate between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens is fantastic for understanding why morality is irrational on an atheistic worldview.

Obama’s anti-free-trade policy angers the world

Well, I thought that Obama was too smart to enact protectionist policies, but it looks like he does indeed mean to try to plunge the USA into a new depression, just like Hoover did when he signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930. What protectionism says to consumers is this: working families must pay more for inferior products manufactured by government’s favored special interest groups, (e.g. – unions). The standard of living of consumers of those protected products will be reduced, because consumers are overpaying for something that they could get cheaper elsewhere.

What this means that those of us who prefer to use our dollars for purchases that are important to our worldviews (e.g. – Christianity), is that we will have less purchasing power to spend on charity, private schools, apologetics resources, or anything else we want to buy to express our values. Money is the fuel that people use to live out their worldviews in the public square. The more money is wasted by government, the less money we have for our individual priorities. And the way that a secular government spends money is never as good as the way an informed Christian individual will spend it.

Reactions to Obama’s “Buy American” plan worldwide have been swift and alarming:

Over at Pat Toomey’s Club for Growth, Andrew Roth notes that India is angered at the prospect of having their exports taxed. The headline from Reuters India is “Policymakers sound alarm over protectionism“. We can expect to pay more for goods imported from other countries, because they will retaliate against our tariffs. More consumer purchasing power is lost!

Over at William J. O’Neill’s Investors Business Daily, an editorial describes how firms such as GE and Caterpillar faces job losses because they are denied access to cheap foreign steel. By the way, if you haven’t clicked on the IBD podcasts over there on the rightmost column, what are you waiting for? Those are the best podcasts on the Internet!

Over at the Cato Institute blog, Daniel Ikenson notes that the American Steel industry has been enjoying record profits, and that the steel tarrifs supported by Obama’s plan cause other companies to lose exports to foreign nations, because businesses here are forced to pay too much for steel that they could get cheaper abroad.

It was Adam Smith who first explained so long ago:

It is a maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes but employs a tailor.… What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II)

A more complete explanation of the effects of imposing tariffs on imports can be found in Robert P. Murphy’s new introductory book to free market capitalism, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. A review of this book is here. Another good book analyzing free market capitalism applied to a number of different areas including crime and abortion, is Freedomnomics by John R. Lott. A review of this book, by the eminent economist Walter Williams, is here.

The war between science and atheism, part one

Note: Part two of the series on the fine-tuning argument is here.

I was recently reading over at Colliding Universes, and I noticed that Denyse O’Leary was commenting on this post by Christian apologist Frank Turek at TownHall.com. Turek recounts his experiences in his debate (audio, video), with atheist Christoper Hitchens on September 9, 2008 at Virgina Commonwealth University. In particular, Turek describes his use of cosmological argument, and the scientific confirmation of that argument provided by recent discoveries in astronomy and physics.

And suddenly it struck me: atheism is dead. The big bang has killed it. And it is safe to say that in this day and age, if you meet an atheist, then that person is either ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). And I think that is worth talking about the discoveries that led up to this theory, since this theory is the most accepted theory of the origin of the universe in astrophysics today. All Christians should be able to discuss these discoveries and explain how God created the entire physical universe from nothing – and we can know this. The creation of the universe in the Big Bang is as confirmed as the theory that the Earth goes around the Sun.

First, here is the syllogism for the argument for a supernatural cause that brings the entire physical universe into being:

  1. Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe requires a cause.

Second, let’s review the 6 fairly recent discoveries that confirm premise 2 with scientific observations. These discoveries reversed the atheism-friendly theory of an eternal universe, and led to the theory of the creation of the entire physical universe out of nothing.

  1. Einstein’s theory of general relativity
  2. the red-shifting of light from distant galaxies
  3. the cosmic background radiation (which also disproves the oscillating model of the universe)
  4. the second law of thermodynamics applied to star formation theory
  5. hydrogen-helium abundance predictions
  6. radioactive element abundance predictions

Why do atheists deny these findings? Probably for emotional comfort – they desire autonomy and so they invent a worldview that allows them to feel good about jettisoning moral constraints and accountability . But for those of us who do constrain our worldviews using scientific discoveries, I recommend the book “God and the Astronomers” by agnostic scientist Robert Jastrow. His book is the best introduction that I have seen on the 6 discoveries that led to the Big Bang theory.

Here is the best quote from the book, (p. 116 of the second edition), where Jastrow, the former director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute, explains how atheistic scientists were forced, against their wills, to accept the big bang theory.

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

The acceptance of the big bang is just another example of how the progress of science whittles away at the gaps in our knowledge. These gaps are leveraged by atheists in order to cling to the delusion that the material world is all there is. But we now know that the physical universe had a non-physical, supernatural, cause that brought it into existence, just like the Bible says in Genesis 1:1.

Turek unpacks how the creation of the physical universe is best explained by a supernatural creative act.

Why couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang—nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural.  It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:

  • spaceless because it created space
  • timeless because it created time
  • immaterial because it created matter
  • powerful because it created out of nothing
  • intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
  • personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).

Now, I would never take the faith of atheists away from them, because it gives them comfort, and hope that no one will ever hold them accountable. It is also important for them to have some privatized, subjective way of looking down on other people, so that they can feel better about themselves, despite their flight from science and reason. I really admire the way that by sheer force of will, they are able to believe things without a shred of objective evidence. But, when we discuss these matters in the public square, I think we should insist that we limit our discussion to the available public, testable evidence.

A research paper written by William Lane Craig, and published in a peer-reviewed journal of astrophysics is available here. This paper contains thorough refutations of all naturalistic rivals to the big bang theory.

UPDATE 1: Welcome, visitors from The Anchoress. Thanks for the link, Anchoress! 300+ hits and counting… WOW!!!

UPDATE 2: Welcome, visitors from Triablogue. Thanks for the link, gentlemen!

UPDATE 3: Welcome, visitors from Post-Darwinist! Thanks for the link, Denyse. First-time visitors, please take a look around the blog. There are many varied topics here, and most of my posts are not nearly as snarky as this satirical one!

UPDATE 4: Part two in the series on atheism’s war against science has been posted here.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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