Monthly Archives: May 2010

Pragmatically pro-life

In an article “Libertarians Realizing Rand Paul Is Not One of Them“, there was an interesting section on Paul’s extreme anti-abortion views.  The quotes from the article are originally found in this Reason.com article by Jacob Sullum.  Rand Paul supports “any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion,” including “a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.”

Part of the power of the pro-life position is in its rhetorical positioning of supporting “life,” and of course it sounds good to say “life begins at conception.”   There’s even rhetorical power in claiming that “abortion is murder” and that all such procedures should be banned — but what does it PRACTICALLY mean to hold such positions?

Sullum quotes this report by Ari Armstrong:

The logical conclusion of abortion bans is that government agents should forcibly restrain women to prevent them from getting abortions. After all, if abortion is murder, as advocates of abortion bans routinely claim, then driving down the street to obtain an abortion is morally and legally equivalent to driving down the street with a loaded shotgun to blow your neighbor’s head off. Police have every right to arrest and forcibly restrain threatening individuals. If abortion is murder, then a woman who declares her intent to get an abortion has threatened murder and must be strapped down if necessary to ensure delivery.

But a fertilized egg is not a person. A fertilized egg does not properly have the legal rights of a born infant. Abortion is not murder. Women have every right to take birth control drugs or obtain an abortion. Abortion bans place a woman’s body under the control of the government and threaten to unleash a heavy-handed police state.

This is the tack I like take when I’m talking to people who are anti-choice — mainly because I think it’s important for anyone to be able to recognize the logical outcomes of the position you hold.

I also like to point people to this NYTimes article Pro-Life Nation, that describes the quality of “life” for women in the country of El Salvador (the only country in the world whose Constitution codifies “life begins at conception”).

I’m not out to change people’s minds when it comes to this issue — but I am out to make sure people understand the reality behind the rhetoric they’re spouting.

My kind of church

I spent my Sunday morning, in my pajamas, watching this debate:

(part 1 of 11)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering?
Description: A panel discussion and debate on the meaning of evil and suffering from theists Dr. William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias, atheist Dr. Bernard Leikind (a plasma physicist and senior editor of Skeptic magazine), and Hindu Dr. Jitendra Mohanty (one of India’s most distinguished Hindu philosophers and professor at Emory University).

These are the kind of debates/discussions I enjoy the most — why waste time arguing over the existence of something unprovable, one way or another?  It’s far more interesting to talk about the problem of evil. These kinds of discussions confirm for me why I rejected Christianity.  In this debate, the explanations provided by Craig and Zacharias for the evils allowed (condoned?) by an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God fell FLAT.  It basically boils down to “trust God to work things out in the end,” which doesn’t answer the question (not to mention it’s unsatisfying).

One thing interesting to note when watching this debate (and it’s a trait I’ve noticed when talking with believers) is how quickly Zacharias and Craig divert themselves away from specific examples/questions of evil or morality and rush back to the generalized platitudes of their faith.  For example, in the debate above, when talking about absolute morality, at one point the naturalist asked the theists whether they thought divorce was immoral.  Faster than you could bat an eyelash, Zacharias diverted away from the question into generalizations.

And I suppose I can’t blame ‘em, because the rhetorical power in saying you have absolute objective morality lies in being able to make the statement without having to provide specific examples to back it up.

A final lesson learned from the above debate: I think Ravi Zacharias is far more of a jerk than William Lane Craig (and this is saying a lot, because I am *not* a fan of Craig’s snarky delivery).  In the debate, watch how Zacharias first responds to the naturalist (Dr. Leikind), and you’ll see why I award Zacharias the “asshole apologist” award.

What he said:

Science isn’t everything. We don’t use science to appreciate a piece of art (although, fundamentally, it is a material object and our brains are similarly natural); we don’t break out beakers and bunsen burners to determine if we’ve fallen in love; calculators have limited utility in writing poetry. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that religion fills in all the spaces! I don’t consult a priest to find out what I think of a painting, prayer has bugger-all to do with love, and there is better poetry in the world than what we find in holy books. You don’t get to simply assume that if science does something poorly, religion must do it well, and that the universe has to be neatly divvied up into these two mutually exclusive domains.

PZ Myers

What this poem said:

I woke up to an empty room

No more angels watching over me.
No more demons to be held at bay
by the invocation of
an Anglicized version
of a Hellenized version
of a Hebrew name

I woke up to an empty room:

Just a room. Four walls, ceiling, floor.
Just a room. Nothing more.

I woke up to an empty room
and embraced the solid air.

I woke up to an empty room and knew myself

awake.

Copyright © 1999 Secular Pagan

via

The “he” is always lowercase.

“Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” by Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers

What he said:

re: “Poverty and the Pill” by Nicholas Kristof

America’s widely respected Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health, says that 215 million women around the world are sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant — but are not using modern forms of contraception.

Making contraception available to all these women worldwide would cost less than $4 billion, Guttmacher said in an important study published last year. That’s about what the United States is spending every two weeks on our military force in Afghanistan.

What’s more, each dollar spent on contraception would actually reduce total medical spending by $1.40 by reducing sums spent on unplanned births and abortions, the study said.

If contraception were broadly available in poor countries, the report said, more than 50 million unwanted pregnancies could be averted annually. One result would be 25 million fewer abortions per year. Another would be saving the lives of as many as 150,000 women who now die annually in childbirth.

More here.

I still think the best “pro-life” argument out there is to provide women with the means to control their fertility.

Because nothing is sacred.

Happy first annual Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!

We don’t need to be perfectly consistent philosophically or historically or theologically to assert what is special and unique not just about the United States, with its bizarre and wonderful articulation of the First Amendment, but the greater classical liberal project comprising not just the “West” (whatever that is) but human beings in whatever town, country, or planet they inhabit. And at the heart of the liberal project is ultimately a recognition that individuals, for no other reason than that they exist, have rights to continue to exist. Embedded in all that is the right to expression.

No one has a right to an audience or even to a sympathetic hearing, much less an engaged audience. But no one should be beaten or killed or imprisoned simply for speaking their mind or praying to one god as opposed to the other or none at all or getting on with the small business of living their life in peaceful fashion. If we cannot or will not defend that principle with a full throat, then we deserve to choke on whatever jihadists of all stripes can force down our throats.

from “Why We’re Having an Everybody Draw Mohammed Contest on Thursday May 20” by Nick Gillespie

in a free society, every day is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”