A Quick Thought on Abortion

There are many arguments given for the permissibility of abortion. Most of them seem to be concerned with the rights of the mother to have control over what happens to her body. I personally find these arguments to be callously cold and inhumane in their thinking towards unborn children. However there are also some arguments that appeal to the rights of the unborn child – the right not to live a life that would not be worth living.

This kind argument came out pretty loud this week with Richard Dawkins’ tweets saying that it would be “immoral” to bring a child into the world if you knew it had Down’s syndrome. I take it that he is not worried about the child being more of a cost than a benefit to society – I think he is worried about the suffering the child is expected to go through if it is allowed to be born and grow up. Of course, this argument isn’t limited to concerns about children with Down’s syndrome but extends to other diseases, as well as socio-economic conditions that would mean the parent is unable to provide what we might consider an adequate life for the child.

I just think this is the most absurd argument; it surely cannot stand up to scrutiny. Here’s what I don’t understand. We’re saying that it would be cruel to bring into the world a child whose life would be so full of suffering that it wouldn’t be worth living, right? Have we ever thought of asking the children what they want? Well of course, the children we’re talking about can’t speak; they’re fetuses. But we can speak to the millions of people who have been born with diseases, or born into poverty, and have grown up into adults. Here’s what’s so remarkable: there are millions of these people whose lives pro-abortionists say would are not worth living, and yet for some reason, the overwhelming majority of them choose to continue to live. Don’t you think that’s noteworthy? I mean, if their lives really were so much more painful than they were pleasurable that they would have been better off not to have been born, wouldn’t they just go ahead and kill themselves? But they generally don’t kill themselves, do they? In fact many of them, particularly those born into poverty, go to extreme lengths just to survive. The fact that so many people born in life’s unfair circumstances wind up living lives of crime is so often given as a reason why they shouldn’t have been born. But really I see it as a testimony to just how desperately these people wish to continue living. They will do almost anything, it seems, to stay alive.

Of course, you will probably say that this is just the result of natural instinct: it is incredibly unnatural for a person to end their own life – they generally have to be experiencing an incredible amount of suffering for them to consider it better that they should die. And I would say… Ah, yes; precisely. Maybe that should make you reconsider how lightly you are willing to end someone’s life. Let’s not forget – it’s very, very easy to kill oneself. There’s nothing physically hard about it. What makes it so rare is that people almost never want to die. It’s simple logic: If people actually didn’t consider their own lives worth living, they would kill themselves. And thus, given the enormous sample size of empirical evidence showing that people born in disadvantaged circumstances usually choose to continue living, the rational thing to do is to assume that an unborn child with Down’s syndrome will most likely prefer to live.

Doesn’t it seem tremendously paternalistic to decide, before someone has the capacity to choose for themselves, whether someone’s life is worth living? If what you’re really concerned about is the quality of life for the unborn, why not let the child be born, and then if they decide that their life isn’t worth living, let them kill themselves? How presumptuous, how autocratic, that we would think we know better than someone whether their own life has enough joy that it would be worth continuing, given that whenever we actually give a fetus in a disadvantaged position the chance to live, they almost always take it, holding on to it like nothing else! It is unthinkable to me that our assumption would be that they wouldn’t want to live when everything we know about real life tells us the exact opposite.

Almost everybody who’s ever been born with Down’s syndrome, or with difficult economic circumstances, has chosen to keep living. How about we give them a chance to make that choice.

On the Progressiveness of Science and Conservatism of Religion

We all know how often science and religion are pitted against each other. And it happens in so many ways. Various inherent differences are suggested between these two enterprises. They say that science appeals to reason while religion appeals to authority; science improves society while religion hinders society’s progression. We’ve all heard the fairy tales – you might not call them fairy tales, but I do. Anyway. There’s one particular difference that I commonly hear suggested as existing between science and religion, which I want to address here. And that is that science is inherently progressive, while religion is inherently stubborn or static.

Continue reading

We have been taught to believe that world history turned its big corner in the late 18th Century with the birth of modern democracy and the rise of modern science.

The Christian claim is that world history turned its corner when Jesus came out of the tomb.

– N.T. Wright

Atheist, unimpressed with Dawkins

“As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins’s conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people’s beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn’t care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people’s attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another.”

This is the conclusion of an article about Dawkins’ newly given reasons for refusing to debate William Lane Craig.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/oct/22/richard-dawkins-refusal-debate-william-lane-craig

Tears of Tyrants: letter to a postmodern world

Let us teach our people that there is no God.

Let us teach our people that they were not made with intention or purpose.

Let us teach our people that their actions will not ultimately be judged.

*                      *                       *

Let us teach our people that there is no such thing as truth; that there is no right way.

Let us teach our people that they should believe any doctrine, except for the doctrine of objectivity, so long as it makes them happy.

Let us teach our people to let the self reign supreme.

Let us be our own dictators over truth.

*                      *                       *

Let us then be shocked and disgusted when individuals refuse to behave according to our moral principles.

And let us panic as we find ourselves powerless to convince them into obedience.

Let us shout out words of which we have stripped all meaning and power.

Let us compose arguments with no atmosphere through which to transmit them.

Let chaos silently sweep the nations as we observe at a helpless distance, locked inside our vacuous void, having successfully removed the possibility of human connection.

*                      *                        *

Let, then, our blood boil with anger as we strike down our enemy.

Let us lock him up for his crimes against us,

And weep tears of tyrants.

friendlyatheist:

The foundation of morality, reason.

—————————————————————————————————

Dawkins makes a staggering number of mistakes in this argument.

First, he doesn’t actually answer the question that he’s asked. He is asked about how it is that an atheist would establish a framework within which to decide between right and wrong without believing in any sort of divine moral law giver who can bring rational basis to concepts of right and wrong.

Instead of answering that, Dawkins simply critiqued the specific moral lawS that certain religions have apparently suggested, and said that our modern ones are superior. But he has failed to give any rational account of what makes something right or wrong. By saying that modern morality is superior to ancient morality, he presupposed the very thing he was asked to prove – that there is such a thing as right and wrong. He was asked a metaethics question, and provided a normative ethics answer. It wins applause. But that’s it.

The other main one is that he doesn’t seem to understand what absolute morality really means. He says that because the specific religious moral laws are unsatisfactory, he doesn’t want absolute morality. He seems to think that absolute morality means a moral law that you are not allowed to question and reason about. And if that was what was meant by ‘absolute morality’, I think I wouldn’t want it either. But that is not what absolute morality means – not when philosophers talk about it, and I highly doubt it was what the questioner meant by it.

Absolute morality simply means that there is an absolute truth (not relative truth) as to whether something is right or wrong. It means that you can reason and debate about it as much as you want, but in the end there IS a truth about whether or not it is wrong to rape someone; that the truth about it is not relative to people’s opinions. It is this type of moral reality that he was asked to give an atheist’s rational account for. Instead he presumed this type of morality exists in order to blast religious people.

I find it strange that he would do this considering that I’m pretty sure, on other occasions, he has admitted that there is no rational basis for morality under atheism.

This is some pretty dodgy rhetoric on Dawkins’ party I must say.

The final end of Science is to tell us what will happen. But the end of History is to tell us what did happen. “That is physically impossible” is a scientific statement. It will not suffice as an adequate refutation within the field of History.

On Human Value.

– Written 25th July 2010


What makes a human life valuable? Well. God does.

Not only is it God who does, but it is only God who can make human life valuable.

Let’s slow down.

Let me tell you, there is no such thing as intrinsic value. That is to say that everything that has value only has it because there is something external to it that benefits from it in some way. Value is placed upon something. It is located in the mind of the valuer, not within the thing itself.

Continue reading

An exercise in reduction.

– Written 13th June 2010

——————————————————————————————————-

I like thinking about what you can reduce things to.

Take your computer for example. At glance we can reduce a computer to its components of either hardware or software. Where the hardware is stuff like the screen, the speakers, the hard drive, the circuit board – all the “physical” things, the things you can hold. Then there’s the software, which is stuff like Windows, iTunes, internet browsers, and all the programs, which you can’t touch. They seem to be composed of information, as if they have some other mode of existence compared to the solid hardware components. But really they’re both reducible to material substance. All the information in a computer – the images, the text, the sound – exists according to the physical state of the computer; in the various switches turning on and off and whatnot, or the code imprinted on the CD being read by the laser. Everything that we see on a computer can be explained by some physical component located in that computer.

But further than that, all these components can be reduced to things smaller and smaller; everything in a computer can be reduced to the substances (plastic, silicon, metal) they are made out of. And then, all those substances can be reduced to their molecular structure, and all those molecules reduced to the different atoms that compose them. And all these atoms are only differentiated by the number of protons, neutrons and electrons that form them. That all means that a computer, with all its capabilities, can be explained by as little as its exact arrangement protons, neutrons and electrons.

It is clear that almost everything in the world we see is reducible to physical matter. In fact the only thing that might not be is the mind. Philosophers and scientists alike are asking the question these days; is human consciousness reducible to the physical states in the brain? Continue reading