By now, everyone knows that Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, has opened his latest monument to human ignorance — Ark Encounter. Countless articles have already been written about Ham’s Ark Park, so there is no need for me to write another one. I do, however, want to post a video by the Liberal Redneck that hilariously explains Ark Encounter. I hope you will widely share this post/video, especially with your Fundamentalist friends. Enjoy!
This is the eighty-second installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Pat Robertson answering a question about polygamy.
I am politically progressive and liberal. I make no attempt to hide my democratic socialistic tendencies. I am a registered Democrat and a supporter of Bernie Sanders who will drink two or ten shots of whiskey and vote for Hillary Clinton come November. I am an inconsistent pacifist. I am of the opinion that the United States has fought not a just war since the two world wars. And even with these wars, the United States, with its immoral nuclear bombings of Japan and it firebombings of Germany, has shown itself to be as violently ruthless as its enemies. The same goes for the United States’ use of napalm during the Vietnam War. (Please read Napalm: An American Biography.) Americans love to think of themselves kind, goodhearted people who only resort to violence when backed into a corner, when in fact the United States, thanks to its colonialist, imperialistic, and nationalistic tendencies, is a nation whose history is steeped in the blood of innocents. (Please read The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America 1500-2000.)
Prior to the turn of the 21st century, I was a registered Republican — the party of my tribe. The reasons I am no longer a Republican are many. Let me list a few of them. These statements reflect my understanding of the Republican Party at the national level. I realize that not all Republicans believe/support the positions that follow.
The Republican Party is and I am not:
- Pro-big business
- Pro-Chamber of Commerce
- Pro-dark money political contributions
- Pro-unrestricted campaign contributions
- Pro-charter schools
- Pro-unregulated religious schools
- Pro-Pledge of Allegiance
- Pro-Christian nationalism
- Pro-American expansionism
- Pro-American imperialism and colonialism
- Pro-military as the world’s policeman
- Pro-Patriot Act(s) and other government intrusions into privacy
- Anti-Environmental Protection Agency
- Anti-Department of Education
- Anti-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Anti-affordable college
- Anti-separation of church and state
- Anti-affordable healthcare
- Anti-single payer option health insurance
- Anti-undocumented worker
- Anti-global warming/climate change
- Anti-minimum wage
- Anti-Black Lives Matter
And Best Hits of the Republican Party keep on playing.
And if these things aren’t enough, the Republican Party has committed the biggest crime of the modern era — presidential nominee Donald Trump.
And finally, with lips dripping with the blood of justice, fairness, and equal protection under the law, the Republican Party has called for an all-out war against the LGBT community. Just today, a Republican National Committee subcommittee — thanks to the work of homophobic bigot Tony Perkins, voted to add a plank to their 2016 platform supporting LGBT conversion therapy.
According to a New Civil Rights Movement article by David Badash:
Republican National Committee subcommittee members Monday voted to approve a plank embracing the use of harmful anti-LGBT conversion therapy, after it was introduced by the head of a certified anti-gay hate group. The plank will be voted on by a committee and then all RNC voting members before becoming an official part of the 2016 platform.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, an RNC delegate, Monday morning met with RNC chair Reince Priebus, reportedly to discuss including the call to support medically dangerous efforts that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Earlier on Monday, according to Badrash, subcommittees of the RNC:
voted for amendments that call for to the Bible being taught in schools, and transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, and voted to keep a call for a ban on same-sex marriage in their 2016 national platform.
It is for these reasons, and others, that I could NEVER, EVER be a Republican. They are the antithesis of everything I believe and stand for.
A letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, submitted July 11, 2016
Four or so hours away from Defiance, a man by the name of Ken Ham has built a $100 million monument to human ignorance — The Ark Encounter. This monument is a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. As one who was raised in the Evangelical church and pastored churches for 25 years, I heard and preached countless sermons about Noah and the Ark. Regrettably, I was in my forties before I learned that this story and many others were myths, having no basis in historical or scientific fact.
According to Ham and his fellow Evangelicals, the universe is 6,021 years old. Everything we see, both on earth and in the skies, was created by God in six literal 24-hour days. According to creationists, the book of Genesis is a science textbook, one that emphatically teaches young earth creationism. Indeed, the entire Bible is infallible and without error, and should be, with rare exception, interpreted literally.
I am sure, just as Muslims who make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca, Evangelicals will flock to Kentucky to Ham’s monument to scientific ignorance. Adults will pay $40 for the privilege of touring Ham’s Ark, children $26. While there, Evangelicals will be taught “truths” about the historicity and reliability of the Bible and young earth creationism. I am sure most visitors will be awed by Ham’s Ark, ignoring that much of what Ham has constructed is built upon speculation. If Ham built a boat according to Biblical specifications, I highly doubt Kentucky officials would grant it an occupancy permit, and it is doubtful such a boat would safely float.
Ken Ham also operates the Creation Museum, another monument to ignorance. When it first opened, Evangelicals flocked to Kentucky to witness the wonders of the young earth creationism lie. Once witnessed, Evangelicals moved on to other entertainments, resulting in decreasing revenues for Answers in Genesis. Following the script of Field of Dreams, Ham built his Ark believing Evangelicals would visit if he did. And they will, for a time. The problem for Ham lies in the fact that Evangelicals easily bore. Once Evangelicals have seen the Ark, will they return? Probably not, especially if Ham continues to charge King’s Island-like admission prices. Perhaps Ham knows this, and this is why he is already planning a new entertainment venture — a replica of the Tower of Babel. Those who love reason and science can only shake their heads.
This is the eighty-first installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of a sermon preached by Donnie Romero, pastor of Stedfast Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Romero is the bosom buddy of Steven Anderson. Romero named his church STEDFAST instead of STEADFAST because the word is spelled STEDFAST in the King James Bible.
Guest post by Tristan Vick
I’ve always been somewhat of a pedant when it comes to terminology. Personally, I just think it’s better to know what you’re talking about when you’re pontificating on some cultural or social subject rather than, say, not knowing anything but thinking you’re the bee’s knees simply for having an opinion. I may not be a narcissist, but I certainly am a stickler for using correct terminology.
Often in the pro-life vs. pro-choice abortion debate, the pro-life side will make the hyperbolic claim that “abortion is murder!”
They also like to imply if you support abortion that you are in support of murder. They don’t seem to realize that the pro-choice side isn’t pro-baby killing. We don’t want unnecessary abortions either. But when it comes to the abortion debate, we pro-choicers have understood the fine nuances of the pro-life proposition which they clearly have failed to properly consider.
That’s what I want to examine today. All the nuances that the pro-life side has utterly, and completely, failed to properly consider let alone adequately address. So without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.
PART 1: The LEGAL TROUBLE with the Pro-life Stance
Of course, the short answer is, no, abortion is not murder. In most cases it’s a legal medical procedure. A necessary one even.
In my experience, what the pro-life side is attempting to say, rather poorly, is that they think abortion should be classified as murder.
But this is where things get tricky. Because murder is specifically a legal term with very specific meanings under very well-defined contexts. In fact, the law distinguishes between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree murder, understanding there is a scale to consider. Where premeditated murder, manslaughter, and involuntary / accidental manslaughter differentiate is no trivial matter. The law recognizes, rightly so, that there are different forms of taking a human life, and not all of them are equal in terms of culpability or even in punishment.
This is common sense to us, since we all know that a drunk driver accidentally running over some school children crossing the street is different from honestly not seeing a child jump into the street chasing a ball before it’s too late which is even more different still from raging out and mowing down a bunch of children crossing the street in your car.
These are different forms of killing. With different factors that apply. And the law must consider each and every one of the variables at play in order to be unbiased, just, and true. A law that doesn’t do this, well, wouldn’t be a very good law, I think you’ll find.
And that’s why I find is problematic when pro-life people claim “abortion is murder.”
What kind of murder would you like it to be? Just murder isn’t a thing. Not in the eyes of the law. So pro-life supporters have to be more specific.
Although they seem to suggest they want abortion to be classified as a form of murder, I’ve never seen any logical, moral, or philosophical arguments given to make that case. It seems most of the time it is used as a shock-tactic. A bit of hyperbole. It fits with the right wing narrative that demonizes all abortion as evil and equates it with the most heinous crime imaginable, taking another human beings life against their will.
But then, here we have a new problem. If you want to provide legal protections to an unborn fetus, in the same way you provide legal protection to an autonomous adult, you’d have to show their free will has been violated, and then, as you can imagine, this implies you must first prove an unborn fetus has a free will to be violated in the first place. Not an easy task, I can assure you.
You see, as with those who claim abortion is murder, they seem to be confusing legal rights of an autonomous individual with the rights of an unborn fetus, not yet a fully actualized individual, and are making the incorrect assumption that the fetus’s rights deserve broader legal protection, even at the sake of the mother’s rights being restricted.
However, this is problematic for several reasons.
First, in law there is no legal precedent for this strange usurping of an adult’s rights by an unborn fetuses rights since children’s rights are, and always have been, limited by the law until they become legal adults.
At most, a fetus could be granted the same rights as a child, but not being an individual where free will is recognizable, not even being born for that matter, seems to set strict parameters on what kind of rights that unborn fetus could have in a state of law. After all, in order to make a claim that their rights have been violated, they need to face their accuser in a court of law, and this can’t happen. Which is why in pro-life happy states the trick is always to grant the State the right to make the claim on behalf of the unborn fetus.
But this raises ethical concerns on the treatment of women, and by extension their unborn offspring.
For example, in El Salvador, women are frequently jailed for having miscarriages. Because, in their case, powers outside themselves control them through laws and regulations, deciding on behalf of the fetus, what the mother – viewed a property of the state – should be dictated.
Saying that others should make legal claims on behalf of the unborn fetus opens a whole can of worms that have proved to dangerously restrict, even endanger, the well-being of women. In a free and civilized democracy like America, arguing for such restrictions is Draconian.
Yet since 2005, there have been more than 380 cases in the U.S. alone – the so-called land of the free – where pregnant women have been jailed, arrested, and / or tried for crimes against their unborn fetuses.
Being charged for criminal conduct and jailed for a natural miscarriage is like having your house knocked down in an earthquake and being arrested and imprisoned for the destruction of private property. It’s beyond the pale, goes against all reason and common sense, yet there are policies in place which carry out these absurd and inconceivable policies gleefully and without question.
Where a fetus’s rights are has not been clearly defined, such policies always devolve into a legal mess, and the only people who suffer for it are the mothers – the women – whose rights the law conveniently forgets about the moment anti-abortion legislation enters the equation.
Even if you are pro-life, this should force you to give some serious pause and consideration.
And from a theory of law standpoint, this is a very slippery slope. A very slippery slope indeed.
Even though we can all probably agree that a lot more work needs to be done in this area, the clear fact of the matter is, you cannot expect a fetus’s legal rights to outstrip the mother’s when those rights, in point of fact, have not been clearly or concisely defined.
In fact, we probably shouldn’t expect an unborn fetus’s rights to even be comparable to a child’s, but, perhaps, that is a debate is better left up to the legal experts.
My point in all this is essentially this: this legal problem of defining the unborn fetus’s legal standing within society has NEVER been fully or adequately addressed by the pro-life side.
The best they have come up with is to make the woman into property, give the state control over her body and reproductive choices, and punish the mother – because all she is, is chattel after all – when she fails to abide by the reproductive guidelines forced upon her and which do not consider her best interests as a mother or human being.
It’s draconian in the worst sense of the word, I think you’ll find. Yet this is essentially what pro-life proponents call for when they claim “abortion is murder.”So, to make a long question short. Is abortion murder? Not in the legal sense. No. Thank goodness.
But this is only the first trouble area. There’s more to it. So please bear with me as I detail exactly why the pro-life position isn’t a valid position and why it’s so maladroit as a social and political stance with regard to abortion.
PART 2: The MORAL TROUBLE with Pro-Life Stance
The greater problem with the pro-life argument lies not on the legal side of things, but the moral and philosophical side of things.
You may have often heard it said that “abortion is evil.”
Whereas “abortion is murder” is a very specific legal claim, saying that “abortion is evil” is a very specific moral claim.
The way the pro-life side deals with this is to say that life begins at conception, with the added caveat that life is sacred — well, human life, to be specific.
Then there is the other problem of defining life.
Science says one thing. Pro-lifers say another.
Science says biological life has stages.
Science says it takes 2 weeks for fertilization.
This is where pro-lifers say conception begins – but the problem is, the fertilized egg hasn’t even attached to the uterus yet. It is also where most spontaneous abortions occur. 20 out of 100 women in America alone will have a spontaneous abortion / miscarriage before the age of 40.
That’s nearly a quarter of the female populate having to suffer a miscarriage through no fault of their own. This raises the peculiar question of whether or not defining life in this way would hold Mother Nature legally accountable for abortions where anti-abortion laws take effect. It also raises theological problems for right-wing believers who claim to use God as their moral guide, when believing in an all-loving, all-powerful, Supreme Being – since an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God would share culpability in NOT preventing the fertilized eggs abortion when they could have. It would be like a doctor refusing to save a patient when they had all the power to do so. It’s inconceivable, and it suggests that God is either malevolent, i.e. completely evil, or else entirely impotent.
As to be expected though, the pro-life side chooses to ignore these unfavorable consequences and go straight for the throat of people’s moral consciences by claiming killing a hapless child is evil! Well, it’s not even a potential child yet, since the not-even-baby will likely self-abort anyway. And this scientific fact show that defining life as beginning at conception isn’t only problematic, but entirely nonsensical.
Why nonsensical? Because…
Science says it takes 3 weeks for implantation.
Still, not yet a human embryo even. So we have only a potential for human life. A potential is not a certainty. It is a possibility. Which is why defining it as a life is problematic. It’s like me saying that I might possibly go to the gym today, and you saying I’ve already went to the gym today. That doesn’t actually make any sense. And so it doesn’t make any sense to say this fertilized egg which has the potential to become a human fetus is already a human fetus.
The pro-life claim that life begins at conception is simply nonsensical for the above reasons.
But if that wasn’t enough to convince you…
Science says it takes at least 4 weeks for the embryo to officially form.
Now the potential is maximized, since an embryo can turn into a fetus. But the problem is, to come back to this issue, miscarriages. The majority of miscarriages occur within the first 20 weeks of embryonic development. So, even though we have an embryo, unlike Katniss from the Hunger Games, the chances are not in its favor. There is still the 20 in 100 chance that it will spontaneous self-destruct.
If new cars driven off the dealers lot self-destruct 20 out of 100 times, would you feel safe driving a new car off the lot? Probably not. You’d want better security than that. Which is why there are strict manufacturing and safety guidelines for the automotive industry. Yet Mother Nature is much more sloppy, a lot less predictable, and so trying to stronghold mother nature and force it to fit a definition is the wrong way to go about it. What we must do is be mindful that things are never so clear cut and dry. Not where Mother Mature is concerned. Which means are definitions of life have to, at the very least, take this fact into account? The pro-life definition of life does not.
Some pro-life sites, like Abort 73.com, although cataloging many useful abortion statistics, make suspicious claims like “Growth in the womb is a rapid process, all systems are in place by week 8.”
Although this notion that “all systems are in place by week 8” is not entirely accurate. In fact, it’s a half-truth slanted to make the pro-life position seem more scientific than it really is, and by extension more reasonable than it is too.
Thankfully, the science it quite clear on the matter.
By week 8 the human nervous system is only beginning to develop. The neural pathways haven’t even been developed yet, so there’s still no “feeling any pain” since the fetus isn’t well-developed enough to even process pain. This is about the time breathing tubes develop from the throat to the lungs, and the fetus is roughly the size of a kidney bean.
According to Guttmacher Institute, the primary source for all abortion research and policy analysis, it is reported that two-thirds of abortions occur at approximately eight weeks of pregnancy or earlier. This is long before the baby is an actual fully functioning organism. In fact, the tiny kidney bean doesn’t even feel any pain!
Which begs the question, why would anyone give a not yet developed, non-functioning, kidney bean the same legal rights as a well-developed, fully-functioning, form of the fully formed organism?
Please, don’t mistake my question as being callous. Calling a fetus at 8 weeks a kidney bean is probably more accurate than calling it a human baby. We know human babies breath and feel pain. Human kidney beans do not, or in this case, embryo’s only 8 weeks into its fetal development.
And it’s not like we’ve stripped a kidney bean of its individual rights. First of all, it’s not yet an individual anything. It cannot feel. It cannot think. It is a collection of cells still undergoing development. It’s a potential human being, but not yet anything. This is a distinction many pro-lifers seem to deliberately choose to ignore. By ignoring this point of contention, they can state that abortion is evil because it is taking a human life. But that’s simply not the case. The science doesn’t support their view, because the pro-life view ignores the science.
No less important is the fact that we are not talking about a handicapped individual here. We aren’t stripping somethings rights away which already had rights. We are talking about a stage of development. A stage of development where if the fetus doesn’t go beyond this particular stage it doesn’t becoming anything at all.
Re-read that last sentence again and let that sink in.
And that, basically, is what pro-life supporters want to give full legal rights to. A potential something, but not yet anything, maybe lifeform. Perhaps worse than this is the fact that they want to allow this not yet anything, maybe lifeform to supersede the rights of its host mother. And mothers, as we all know, do have rights.
This kind of reasoning is so muddled, so convoluted, that the best we can do is to say, sorry, but your position is unreasonable and trespasses on the absurd.
But many pro-lifers have bought into the abortions is murder / abortion is evil propaganda hook, line, and sinker. They believe, for whatever reason, that those alarmist anti-abortion videos of doctors ripping out baby fetuses from bloody vaginas with metal tongs, then chopping them up on a silver platter and throwing them into dumpsters is, somehow, an accurate reflection of real life abortion.
It’s pure propaganda. A fiction meant to scare people into thinking abortion is a vile practice that only immoral barbarians would carry out rather than what it really is – a live saving medical procedure carried out by medical professionals in hospitals.
Besides this, in most cases, and abortion requires merely taking a pill before the end of the first trimester. No drama required.
As it turns out, those third trimester abortions you see in videos taken in Mexico, or some such place, are the rarest of the rare.
The Guttmacher Institute states that third trimester abortions are less than 1.3% of the entire populace and are reserved for extremely rare medical conditions where there will be serious complications to the mother, fetus, or both.
And if you don’t think there are valid medical reasons for late-term abortions, chances are you’ve never heard of anencephaly.
Yeah. Anencephaly. Look it up.
At the same time, the Guttmacher Institute reminds us that 91% of all abortions happen in the first trimester, before 11th week of pregnancy, more than 65% occurring before the 8th week of pregnancy. Remember, that’s the time where we have the unfeeling kidney bean not yet anything maybe embryo.
And let’s not forget that spontaneous abortions/miscarriages occur all the way through the 20th week of pregnancy regardless. And that’s the cold hard reality of it.
As for those alarmist videos, they are just that, alarmist propaganda. And that wouldn’t be so bad if such propaganda only duped fools into believing it, but as it happens it can dupe otherwise reasonable people into believing it as well. And that’s dangerous, I think you’ll agree. Dangerous for the very reason that it weaponizes our ignorance and then seeks to use it against us.
When all is said and done, the facts are the facts and are readily available for anyone who wants to educate themselves on the truth of the matter. And the fact remains, second and third trimester abortions are extremely rare. *Extremely* and *rare* being the key words here.
So setting an arbitrary definition for the definition of “life” — one which conveniently aligns precisely with their pre-selected worldview, but which seems to habitually butt heads with the science — is all the pro-life side has to offer us. And I think you’ll agree, that’s simply not good enough to convince anyone that abortion ought to be considered murder or that it’s inherently evil. This is a black and white, overly simplistic view that doesn’t understand the first thing about the complexities and nuances involved in addressing the major ethical concerns permeating this debate.
So we’ve learned two things so far.
- The pro-life side’s legal claim of unborn fetuses having rights is nowhere in evidence and needs to be developed into a viable argument before being put into law.
As it is, the pro-life side has offered a non-starter. It’s a poorly thought out position based on political biases and emotional prejudices. It hasn’t considered any of the relevant material, which is why it relies on emotional pleas and alarmist tactics while vilifying the other side’s position, offering only propaganda instead of facts, to try and persuade others of the worthiness of their cause. It’s an ill-informed opinion masquerading as fact. And it’s dangerous.
- The pro-life definition of “life” is deeply flawed if not completely nonsensical.
Furthermore, it conflicts with what the science shows to be fact. At the same time the definition being offered deliberately ignores competing definitions and attempts to overrule them by making moral platitudes designed to manipulate people’s emotions into giving up these other well-defined definitions for vague, an nebulous ones which only seek to sow further confusion rather than bring any clarity to the issues at hand.
These are not trivial concerns, mind you. These are serious objections to the pro-life position. Damning, you might even say.
The entire pro-life side of the debate must first overcome these major obstacles and objections in order to become a viable argument. Only once it has been formalized as a real argument can it be worthy of consideration and debate.
Right now, all they have is an opinion. And it is on this lofty opinion that so much anti-abortion legislature hangs. Which is quite frightening to anyone with half a brain. I don’t say this to be divisive. What is shows is that pro-life supporters simply haven’t thought through the issues, have no solutions for the problems, yet want their position to carry the same moral weight. It doesn’t.
On the other hand, the pro-choice side succinctly avoids these same pitfalls and therefore is the sturdier position. It does this because it is offered, not as a fully independent argument, but as a contra-argument to what the pro-choice side offers, or in this case, fails to offer. The pro-choice side, by design, sides with reasonable and just policies based on our current scientific, legal, and moral understanding of what abortion really is. A valid medical procedure. As such, it’s not pushing an agenda in the same way the pro-life side is clearly pushing an agenda. It’s a counter-offer to that agenda, which says that you cannot arbitrarily strip a woman of her civil liberties simply because you have arbitrarily selected and random definition of “life” which you wish to impose on everyone else regardless of the consequences. Hence the pro-choice stance can be viewed as a push-back against the inherent illogicality of the pro-life stance.
PART 3: The PHILOSOPHICAL TROUBLE with the Pro-Life Stance
The pro-life position is plagued with legal problems as well as moral problems. But it is also riddles with practical philosophical problems. That’s just a fancy way of saying, if you were to give it a deeper consideration, the pro-life position is philosophically unsound.
There are two distinct philosophical failings of the pro-life side of the debate.
The first is how one gives autonomy to individual with no identity.
The second problem arises when you give the right to autonomy to two individuals inhabiting the same body and place their identities in opposition thus into conflict.
First, for the sake of argument, let’s concede to the argument and agree that life begins at conception.
We can grant pro-life proponents this much, because even if this is the definition we are using, the bigger moral problems are yet to come. In fact, you might even say the pro-life side still has all their work ahead of them.
In order to explain the problem, I first have to make everyone aware of a philosophical riddle that has baffled philosophers for centuries.
It’s called The Ship of Theseus paradox.
Now, the paradox has been discussed by ancient philosophers such as Heraclitus and Plato, and more recently by heavy weight thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The paradox, according to the Greek historian Plutarch, is as such:
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
— Plutarch, Theseus
Essentially, the problem asks you to imagine Theseus’s ship. It is uncovered by modern archeologists on some Grecian beach. Unearthing it, they take the ship to a museum and, low and behold, discover some of the ship’s wood planks have rotted away. Subsequently, they replace those planks.
Now, here’s where the philosophical paradox comes into play. After a few years of sitting in the old museum, a few more of the ships planks rot away. Those too get replaced. Another few years crawls by, and another couple of planks get replaced. This continues on for many years until, finally, we come to the last original plank. It too has rotted beyond repair, and therefore gets replaced.
The paradox asks us, at what instant did Theseus’s ship change from one thing to another?
Some would say that it stopped being Theseus’s ship after 50% of the planks were replaced. Others would say it was still Theseus’s ship right up till the last plank was replaced. After that, no longer. But others would argue that it was still Theseus’s original ship even after all the planks were replaced because some of those new planks had been a part of the original at one time and thus carried with them the essence of Theseus’s ship.
Now, there’s not need to wrack your brain. There’s no actual solution to the riddle.
What the paradox is designed to show us is that things have recognizable forms, but these forms change. Because of this changing forms, whether the original or a facsimile, a thing has a kind of identity unto itself whereby we recognize its form as either Theseus’s ship or not Theseus’s ship.
The reason this becomes important in the abortion debate is this. When you define life as beginning at conception, you still haven’t identified when the life is a person. The essence of being a person is quite different from simply being a living thing. Single celled amoebas are living. Nobody rights laws protecting them. A multi-celled bacteria is a living thing. But we recognize it as either a bacteria or not a bacteria. But when you have a human embryo, we know it is a human embryo because it’s not a full-grown child. And then, we know and fetus is not an embryo.
So the problem with defining life at conception is that you’re trying to define one thing as another thing. You’re trying to define the single-celled amoeba as a multi-cellular bacterium, and as we all know – this isn’t possible. It’s nonsense. A thing is a thing is a thing. And that thing cannot be some other thing… until… well, it is. And that’s the Theseus Ship paradox in a nutshell. Or should I say bottle?
Simply put, to say life begins at conception and then giving that embryo legal rights would mean ONLY that embryo has legal rights. Not the fetus. You would have to write a separate law to say that the fetus has legal rights, apart from the embryo, if that’s what you want to say. And, to compound matters, you’d have to write yet one more set of laws to distinguish the rights of a fully living child apart from both a fetus and an embryo.
And this is a basic philosophical consideration which one would need to take into account before writing laws, since something as complex as biology involves changing forms.
Yet the pro-life side would rather not think about it in this detail. Again, probably because they aren’t offering a formal argument for their position. They aren’t offering reasons. They are offering mere opinions and then telling you, often times quite passionately, how they feel about their own opinions.
Well, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but an opinion doesn’t make a valid argument.
Of course, you will recall I mentioned there were two parts to the identity problem.
The second part is more subtle, but also that much more damaging to the pro-life stance.
Even if we grant the pro-life definition of life, and even if we grant them that an unborn fetus is entitled to certain legal protections, what they seems to be forgetting in all of this is… the MOTHER.
As an already fully actualized, autonomous, individual she has legal rights. Thus had legal standing in cases brought against her by her unborn fetus. Which is technically impossible, which, inevitably, explains why pro-lifers always argue for legal involvement in such cases when erecting anti-abortion policies. They NEED to control the mother’s rights, because what they are doing, in this case, is putting the mother’s rights in opposition to the unborn fetus’s rights.
This creates a big moral problem. Because the only way to resolve this issue, in a court of law, is to demote a woman to the status of property.
In the case of abortion, what the pro-life side is seeking to do is say that the unborn fetus resides inside the host mothers, as a tenant resides inside an apartment building, and that the mother cannot unlawfully evict the fetus because the fetus has every right to live there – and has nowhere else to go.
The problem isn’t that a fetus cannot pay its rent, but that the mother has been made into property in order to imbue the unborn fetus with the same legal rights and standing as the woman mother.
I’m sure you can see how making a person into property is not only ill advised but, all things considered, completely amoral. Yet, this is what has to happen when you place an unborn fetus’s legal standing on par with its autonomous mother’s. A conflict of identity which pits individuals against each other in both legal and moral terms – which is a huge philosophical problem.
And, no, saying “life begins at conception” does not solve this problem. It only exasperates it. It presupposes all life is sacred, but for mysterious reasons that aren’t justifiable and only muck up the discussion with unnecessary metaphysical considerations that have no place in the discussion.
Saying abortion equates to the same thing as murder simply isn’t true. It’s not even a logical consequence of “life beginning at conception” because the law does not automatically imbue all forms of life with equal rights, let alone state that preventing a thing from gaining a life is the same thing as taking it. Another reason saying that “abortion is murder” is simply incorrect.
And, finally, stating rather matter-of-fact like that “abortion is evil” is simply a failure of moral reasoning of the highest order. Quite frankly, it is the embarrassing admission that you’re not yet ready to have a sophisticated discussion on the finer, highly complex, aspects of human rights and ethics. It is the happy display of one’s failure to reason through the issues well – and it’s not deserving of any special kind of consideration – at least not until a better argument is made.
The bottom line is this. Right out of the gate the pro-life stance is indefensible. Consequently, it fails to meet the challenge of justifying itself and making a valid case on numerous fronts, including the legal, moral, and the philosophical.
Worse than this stupendous failure, however, is that the pro-life position seeks to jeopardize a mother’s rights, a woman’s civil rights, and places her at the mercy of policy makers who haven’t the first clue as how to address the complicated bio-ethical concerns something like human biology and abortion raise. Meanwhile, the pro-life side continues to defer all responsibility of a rigorous examination of the relevant concerns and continues to deride the pro-choice side and offer only the wailing lamentation that “abortion is murder” and, in their mind, “abortion is evil” even though these claims are nowhere in evidence and are often found to be in opposition of the truth.
Needless to say, a lot of work needs to be done first developing their argument before the pro-life side can carry any relevant weight in civil rights discussion. As it is, it’s not even close to being a valid, let alone viable, argument. At most it’s an opinion which deliberately seeks to fortify itself behind the walls of ignorance. Then asks us to use this ignorance to lash ourselves senselessly with it – because feelings. I think you’ll agree with me that this simply isn’t good enough. Especially when it comes to import hot topic issues like women’s rights and human rights.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice stance doesn’t suffer these same flaws and isn’t in conflict with science or legal theory in the appalling way the pro-life stance clearly is. The pro-choice side honors the woman’s autonomy and doesn’t fall into the same trap of pitting her identity and rights as an individual against those of her unborn fetus’s. And it certainly doesn’t seek to make her into chattel or the property of the state by placing her at the mercy of the courts and ignorant politicians and policy makers who ask her to lash herself with the biting tendrils of their ignorance as well – because feelings.
As a rationalist, I can only see the pro-life position as a non-starter. Indeed, it appears that at this time, the pro-choice position is the only valid position in the whole abortion debate. And that says a lot about why this debate never seems to be able to be resolved. The side that needs to argue their case, the pro-life side, continually fails to do so. Yet relying on the strength of their propaganda alone they have convinced thousands to take their side – because feelings – and despite the fact that it defies all reason to do so. And that’s the sorry state of affairs as they are today, in 2016, I’m sorry to report.
I don’t expect what I will say will change very many minds. But it’s worth noting, that whenever an advocate for pro-life says that “abortion is murder” or that “abortion is evil” they clearly haven’t thought things through. People who understand the finer details and all the nuances of the problem would simply not resort to emotional appeals. They’d approach the problem more thoughtfully and with deep consideration.
At the end of the day, if it were up to me to decide, I would strongly urge pro-life supporters everywhere to stop making moral platitudes and proclamations based on their emotional knee-jerk reactions to some alarmist anti-abortion propaganda videos on the Internet and get to work making their case as solid as they can in order to win the uphill battle of tackling the scientific, legal, and moral problems of their unrefined, ill thought through, largely illogical, and frequently damaging position.
Tristan Vick is a published author who writes both fiction and non-fiction. In 2014 he sold the rights to his zombie novel series BITTEN to Permuted Press and Winlock Press. In addition to this, he also has published the cult hit paranormal detective novel The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston: Rough Justice, also by Winlock Press. His next major novel will be the cyberpunk techno-thriller Robotica, published by Regolith Publications. In addition to his fiction work, Tristan Vick has published numerous books in the area of religious history and philosophy. He co-edited the critically acclaimed book Beyond an Absence of Faith with the philosopher Jonathan M.S. Pearce, which collected the de-conversion stories of religious apostates from a variety of religious faiths including Islam, Christianity, Hindu, and two cult survivors. More recently, Tristan Vick published a critical examination of the work of Christian apologist Randal Rauser and Christian apologetics in general in his book The Swedish Fish, edited by the religious scholar and historian Robert M. Price.
You can learn more about Tristan Vick and his other works by going to his official author blog: www.tristanvick.com
You may find his religious and philosophical writing online at www.advocatusatheist.blogspot.com
Tristan Vick’s Amazon.com author profile can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Tristan-Vick/e/B005359NBO/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
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Several weeks ago, Lauren Seitz, 18, traveled with her church youth group to North Carolina to sing at churches and nursing homes. Seitz, a member of Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church in Westerville, Ohio’s youth music ministry team, planned to attend nearby Denison University in the fall. Instead, thanks to Seitz contracting primary amoebic meningoencephalitis — an infection caused by a rare “brain-eating” amoeba, Seitz’s parents are forced to bury their daughter. (Channel 4 report) I can only imagine the heartache such a loss must cause. No parents ever want to face the death of their child. My heart aches for Seitz’s parents, sister, and extended family.
When I read stories such as this one, I ask myself, where is God? In Lauren Seitz’s case, I ask, where is the Creator God who created the brain-eating amoeba that cost Seitz her life? While I have no doubt that Seitz’s parents, family, and fellow church members will find great comfort from the countless religious platitudes that will be uttered, I hope they will dare to ask hard questions about God’s culpability in Seitz’s death. If the Christian God exists, he created the amoeba that caused the infection that killed Lauren Seitz. This same God is supposedly the supreme sovereign over everything, yet he allowed a rare “brain-eating” amoeba to enter Seitz’s brain and kill her. Surely, it is a fair question to ask WHY? What could possibly be gained from snuffing out the life of Lauren Seitz, or any other child for that matter.
All the standard answers will be given:
- We must never question God.
- God’s ways are not our ways.
- God plans to use this death to test and try Seitz’s parents, family members, or fellow church members.
- All things work together for good.
These and other shallow, meaningless answers will be brought forth, all meant to exonerate God from culpability in the death of Lauren Seitz.
If Christians dare to push beyond these empty answers, daring to shake an angry, questioning fist at God, perhaps the silence they hear will tell them all they need to know about their God. The Christian God, according to the Bible, does not owe anyone an answer. When the Apostle Paul dealt with this issue in the book of Romans, he stated, who are you to question God. He is the creator and he can do whatever the fuck he wants to do. Okay, Paul didn’t say fuck, but his message is clear, God is the Creator. He does not owe us an explanation for what he does. He is the Almighty and we are but cretins who will soon be turned into worm food or dust.
But perhaps God’s silence tells us something else. Perhaps this God is a figment of the imagination, a relic of days when humans had no explanations for what happened in their lives. We now know better. Scientists can tell us exactly what killed Lauren Seitz and why. What we are then left with is the fact that life can be cruel, causing untold suffering and death. For Seitz, she inhaled water that allowed an amoeba a quick pathway to her brain. Wrong place, wrong time — a wonderful, thoughtful young woman dies. Heartless, I know my words here are harsh, but they reflect life as it is, not as Christians, by faith, hope it will be.
This is the one hundred and twentieth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is I Love Jesus by Tim Minchin.