Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming together on Abortion

Pastor Bill Shuler of the Capitol Life Church in Arlington, Virginia gives us a list of ten questions upon which, he claims, “we should be able to come together,” meaning that, in his eyes, we should all agree on his points.  Let’s take a look at his list and see if his claims are justified.

  1. Can we agree that the number of abortions needs to be reduced?
    No, we cannot because there is no consensus on the precise definition of “need” in this instance.  From a purely secular viewpoint, the only “need” is to preserve the ability of a society to function and there is no compelling evidence to suggest that the current abortion rate is in any way impairing the ability of society to function.  In fact, as Steven Levitt points out in his book, “Freakonomics”, there is at least some evidence to suggest that our current abortion rate is actually improving society’s ability to function. If a person is of the opinion that a government’s only responsibility is to provide a stable society on a secular level, then there cannot be a true perception of any “need” to reduce the number of abortions that is based on pure rationality.  This question presupposes that the opposition believes that governmental protection of life is important in and of itself rather than purely as a means of promoting social stability.

    Now, if the question is re-phrased as, “Can we agree that it would be preferable to minimize abortions?”, then I believe the answer could reasonably be “yes”.  However, as long as the word “need” is used, agreement is not possible.
  2. Can we border on caution when it comes to the question of when life begins?
    Carried out to an admittedly absurd degree, choosing “caution” in this question could result in the decision that life begins with the creation of individual gametes well before any potential zygote is created.  I admit that under this definition masturbation (in males) and menstruation (in females) would be, technically, murder since both involve the destruction of gametes that, again technically, contain the potential for human life. Still, I understand Shuler’s thrust with this point and I agree that there is a valid sentiment here.  It is possible to construct a secular argument that, since a fertilized egg (zygote) has a sufficiently reasonable chance of developing into a viable fetus it should therefore be treated as “alive” in the legal sense.  This is open to argument on the grounds that medical estimates suggest that anywhere between 50% and 70% of zygotes never make it to full term (for natural reasons).  That opposition can be countered through examples of other laws (e.g. drunk driving prohibitions) that restrict actions that are not guaranteed to be causative.

    In any case, at this point there is at least a legitimate and secular discussion possible and we have proven an ability to build a case against abortion that does not rest strictly on emotional/theological/moral grounds.
  3. Can we agree that inconvenience is not a proper reason for an abortion?
    Again, from a strict secular position, I don’t think this is an area where agreement can legitimately be expected.  Who defines “inconvenience”?  Is one month of bed-rest a mere “inconvenience” or is it something above and beyond?  How about two months?  Three?  I would agree that there are valid arguments against using abortion as a primary means of birth control (e.g. in lieu of condoms or the pill) inasmuch as abortion is more invasive and more likely to cause complications for the woman as well, but that’s not the only thing implied by “inconvenience”.

    What of couples who use a condom or the pill (or even both) and still conceive?  Is an abortion still a mere “convenience” then?  From a purely secular view these questions are not easily answered.  A rational discussion is certainly possible, but again this seems to be a clear case where, as the saying goes, honorable men may differ.
  4. Can we speak to those of an opposite viewpoint without using hate speech?
    Absolutely.  But this is a two-way street and someone needs to get the message out to the people who think it’s acceptable to bomb clinics or harass doctors who perform abortions.
  5. Can we choose to promote a culture of life?
    What is a “culture of life”?  Is it a culture in which the needs of people who have been raped are considered?  Is a a culture in which the needs of those whose life is at risk from carrying a pregnancy to term are considered?  The term “culture of life” is a pleasant-sounding platitude but it’s not a meaningful definition of anything.  The only purpose is to create the (patently false) impression that our current culture is somehow a “culture of death”.  Empty rhetorical devices such as this do nothing to improve an argument’s perception.
  6. Can we encourage adoption, recognizing the many parents who would love and cherish a baby?
    Absolutely.  But does this question imply that adoption is somehow currently discouraged?  Because I don’t believe that is true.  Most people, even those who support legalized abortion, already agree that adoption is preferable in cases where there are no extenuating circumstances (e.g. mother’s health in danger, rape, etc) but that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that abortion should be reduced in availability as an option.
  7. Can we help teens see that abstinence is the best option and clearest way to avoid STDs, regret and abortions?
    I don’t think that there is any teen of at least moderate intelligence who doesn’t know, intellectually, that abstinence is the single most effective means of preventing STDs and pregnancy.  However, to promote abstinence-only plans is to willfully disregard reality.  Educating teens about their options in addition to abstinence is a necessary component of sex education and we ignore it at our own peril.
  8. Can we agree that there is no greater gift than life?
    Calling life a “gift” presupposes a religious, or at least “spiritual”, understanding of the universe.  To a purely secular mind, life is an “occurrence” and not a “gift” because life is not conceived of as being “bestowed” upon an entity by any supernatural force.  This statement is meaningless when addressing a secular audience.
  9. Can we agree that this is ultimately an issue that transcends politics?
    Unarguably it does.  Which is precisely why it should remain legal.  Politics are concerned exclusively with a country’s secular existence.  If the arguments against abortion are primarily religious, ethical, or moral in nature then they are irrelevant to legal and political decisions.  If there are cogent secular arguments against abortion, they should, by all means, be considered.  However, if opposition to abortion depends upon religious principles then it is reckless to an extreme degree to allow those religious convictions to become codified in secular law.
  10. Can we agree that you and I wouldn’t be able to have an opinion on this issue if we had been aborted?
    Cute, but far from anything resembling a cogent secular argument.

To be sure, I am personally opposed to abortion and, were I asked for counsel by a woman who was considering one, would recommend adoption instead assuming that the woman’s life was not in danger and that her pregnancy was not the result of a rape.  Neither do I believe that the government should directly fund the practice.  However, I likewise do not believe that I would be right to impose my own morality upon others in the absence of a valid secular reason to do so and, so far, I have found no compelling secular argument against the practice of abortion.  I don’t like that I haven’t, but the truth is often uncomfortable like that.

posted by Zenmervolt at 10:35  

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ego Boosting: Or Taking the Roundabout Path to an Observation

Yes, it’s juvenile, but it’s still nice to know that there are women out there who think conservative men are hot.  To be fair, Ms. Stuart doesn’t include me on the list, but if Stacey McCain’s speedo shot made it, then I figure I’ve got a fighting chance simply by virtue of being fully clothed.

Suzanna Logan hits nail squarely on the head in her analysis of what makes many conservative women attractive, but those traits are hardly reserved for conservatives.  I’ve met (and have as my closest friends) some phenomenally intelligent and articulate women who are quite liberal, though they are not officially members of either political party.

Still, Ms. Logan is spot-on about independent thought and intelligence being key components of a person’s attractiveness, and this is precisely why I find women like Meghan McCain to be more attractive than Ann Coulter.  Sure, Coulter’s delivery is more polished and her positions tend to be more nuanced, but Coulter’s penchant for provocative phraseology is predicated on preaching to the choir while McCain’s delivery is clearly much more welcoming and unoffensive.  It is one thing to tell the truth as you see it and do so unflinchingly (as I believe that both Coulter and McCain do), but it is quite another to deliberately phrase one’s positions in the most inflammatory of manners and expect to win people over as Coulter apparently does.  Harsh phrasing is a great way to achieve notariety, but McCain’s gentler language does far more to legitimize the conservative position in the minds of liberals than Coulter’s barbs.  It is primarily in this regard that McCain displays true independent thought as Coulter clings firmly to the tradition of producing tracts that have no appeal outside of the conservative echo chamber.

One of the most influential books in my life contains the following advice, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Those conservatives who are truly independent thinkers would do well to take such advice to heart.

posted by Zenmervolt at 10:01  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

If you would be perfect…

21Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

It’s a hell of a leap.

posted by Zenmervolt at 22:13  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Protected: Conviction comes from the oddest places.

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posted by Zenmervolt at 00:19  

In ignorantia confidenter praegredi.