Skeptimus Prime » Abortion One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Mon, 11 May 2015 01:55:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Catholic priest blames dualism for contraception and moral decay. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:10:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This is one of the stranger articles I’ve ran across lately.

Contraception: The Gateway to Moral Decay

It starts by accurately quoting some statistics from a Gallup poll.

At the top of Gallup’s list of 19 issues was contraception, of which 90 percent of Americans approve, followed by divorce at 69 percent and premarital sex at 66 percent. Others making the top ten were embryonic stem cell research (65%), childbirth outside of marriage (58%), same-sex unions (58%), euthanasia (52%) and abortion (42%).

No disagreement here except that I don’t feel these statistics are an example of how far American society has fallen the way the author clearly does. One caveat, he points to these statistics as evidence that people are moving away from his positions, but the numbers on abortion have stated fairly static in America since Roe v. Wade.

Of course he brings up all the buzz words and ideas, blames “relativism” and the “sexual revolution” then goes on to say this has been a developing trend for hundreds of years.

Of course, it goes back more than a few decades. As is often the case, what seems like a sudden explosion was really the logical outcome of hundreds of years of growing confusion about who we are as persons.

No surprise here, what does surprise me is where he places this, more distant, historical blame, and why.

René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French scientist and philosopher who many credit with helping to launch what later became known, somewhat ironically, as “the  Enlightenment”. Among his contributions to the way people thought was to place body and soul in opposition to each other, later leading to the idea that the human body could simply be seen as an object one could manipulate according to one’s desires. Simply put, you are your mind, and you have a body; as opposed to the traditional Christian view that you are both body and soul. In this, Descartes followed Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who believed that the goal of human knowledge should be to successfully achieve not stewardship of, but domination over, nature.”

I’ve certainly seen my fair share of derision launched at the enlightenment by conservative religious apologists, but his attack on Descartes seems particularly odd since he was both a Christian and a Catholic. He is at least as well known for an ontological argument for God’s existence as he is for his work in dualism. He also ties Descartes’ philosophy to Bacon’s even though the history of philosophy tends to place each of them in the opposing camps of rationalism and empiricism respectively.

However, what strikes me as most odd is blaming of Cartesian dualism on the sexual revolution. For one thing, people who reject theism generally also reject Cartesian dualism, in fact it would seem that materialists are required to reject Cartesian dualism. Furthermore, most Christians are dualists of some kind though they may not know or agree with Descartes particular formulation. It is technically possible to reject mind/body dualism and be a Christian but most, including Catholics, do believe that the soul or mind can and does separate from the body upon death, only to reunited with it in the second coming. This is why I find statements in this article like this so odd.

Books are still being written about what became known in philosophy as mind/body dualism, a view that is rejected by the Church. This dualistic view is assumed by most today, even though most don’t realize it or see how it informs even their most basic assumptions about reality, and other people.

It should also be noted that Descartes formulated his version of dualism to deal with what he saw as a fundamental epistemic problem so trying to connect this in some way to modern sexual mores in American is tenuous at best.

The contraceptive mentality, so identified by the Church, is a perfect example of what happens when we embrace dualism. Notice how the promoters of contraception promise a consequence-free control over our lives if we could just control our fertility with their drugs and devices. All the pleasure, none of that inconvenient fertility. My body is not me, exactly, it is an object for me to control for whatever reason I want; so sex is just about my pleasure, maybe someone else’s too. It is not necessarily about giving myself to the one I love with the possibility of creating new life as a result of that gift.

And later in the article

To go against our true nature is to fracture our natural sense of responsibility towards another. Does anyone not see this happening today?

While he has been critical of our use of Cartesian dualism to justify contraception, he is quick to make use of an even older argument to justify why we shouldn’t do this. For those who don’t recognize it, this is an example of a teleological argument, which can be found in both Plato and Aristotle. The argument can also be found being made in a famous example by the great philosopher “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

“Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.
“First of all, he said to himself: ‘That buzzing-noise means something. You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is that you’re a bee.’
“Then he thought another long time and said: ‘And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.’
“And then he got up and said: ‘And the only reason I know of for making honey is so I can eat it.’ So he began to climb the tree.”

Teleological arguments are usually a poor justification and represent lazy thinking. One of the reasons for this is demonstrated in the previous quote, people assume, not only that a final purpose exists, but that it matches whatever they personally happen value most, in the authors case this is clearly reproduction. I should also point out that we don’t need mind/body dualism to justify premarital or non-reproductive sex.

He closes with this.

Obviously, seriously bad ideas have seriously bad consequences. Father Paul Marx, the founder or Human Life International, affirmed the Church’s point in his autobiography based on his broad experience in traveling the world:

Having traveled and worked in 91 countries, I find no country where contraception has not led to abortion, to increasing fornication among the young, to divorce, and to all those other evils we see today that make up the international sex mess.

And it is quite a mess, isn’t it? The Gallup poll should serve as a wake up call. If we are serious about strengthening the family, promoting the well-being of children, reversing the growing number of broken marriages in our nation, ending abortion, upholding the dignity of the aged and ill, and promoting purity and chastity, then let’s be honest about where the moral breakdown begins.

I can’t speak for every country Marx has visited, but abortion rates have been falling in the U.S. steadily since the 1980’s. Promoting the well being and dignity of all people means that you have to actually listen to them, and consider the facts. Deciding for them, irrespective of their wishes, is not respect. Forcing an elderly person to suffer for months from a illness they cannot recover from, after they have requested they they be allowed to die, is not respecting them or their dignity. This article is clearly filled more with pejorative language and emotional manipulation than with factual information. With questions like this, like always, I highly recommend the use of well documented research like this paper, (conclusion quoted below)

Empirical study of the aggregate relationships between contraceptive use and induced abortion has to be limited to the few countries where reasonably reliable information exists on both. Despite this severe limitation, our review of the evidence provides ample illustration of the interaction between these factors. When fertility levels in a population are changing, the relationship between contraceptive use and abortion may take a variety of forms, frequently involving a simultaneous increase in both. When other factors—such as fertility—are held constant, however, a rise in contraceptive use or effectiveness invariably leads to a decline in induced abortion—and vice versa.

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Why Gosnell’s abortion clinic convinces me we need to to protect abortion rights. Sun, 14 Apr 2013 22:06:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> For anyone unfamiliar here is a link to the story.

First, let me say that what Gosnell has done is immoral and criminal. It’s why he is on trial after all. He not only killed infants after they were born, he preformed illegal procedures, used dirty or faulty equipment and used underage poorly trained staff that resulted in women dying from botched abortions. No pro-choice advocate is in favor of protecting or excusing what Gosnell has been accused of. 
It is interesting then that there are so many conservative, pro-life groups claiming that the liberal pro-choice groups are trying to cover up the news story to as to protect the reputation of abortion. When I goggled the topic I found many articles on it, even excluding the articles written about how many other people weren’t writing articles about it. One wonders about the irony of people writing about how no one writes articles about a subject while those same people fail to write any articles about the subject they are complaining no one writes about. 
I’m not convinced there is any attempt to avoid the subject, but I’m more interested in how pro-life proponents always take stories like this one as evidence we need to make all abortions illegal. It should be immediately apparent why this is absurd because what Gosnell was doing was already illegal. He should not have gotten away with it as long as he did, and there is evidence there were serious failures in the system that should have worked to shut him down, but you can’t use Gosnell’s actions as an argument against legal abortions anymore than you can use people who attempt to incite violence through speech as an argument against all free speech of any kind.
The problem is that I think most pro-lifers have a basic misconception about the pro-choice movement. That is to say they believe that pro-choice advocates like abortion. We don’t like abortions; this is why, for instance, pro-choice advocates fight so hard for easy contraception access especially for the poor.  I have never personally met anyone who is pro-choice who would be bothered by the number of abortions being zero if all of the reasons people got abortions went with them. If you want a world without abortion then give us a world without birth defects, pregnancy related health issues, rape and incest, birth control failures, and the failures of sex education which often cause people to have unprotected sex when they do not want children.  Give us that world and abortion will disappear because no one will want one.
Is such a world hard to provide, Impossible perhaps? Then we will never have a world with zero abortions and because of this we must therefore focus on how to make the number as low as possible. Which brings us back around to Gosnell. Pro-life advocates act like it is legal abortion that allows people like Gosnell to exist, but this is completely and totally wrong. In fact is the the pro-life movement that allows people like Gosnell to exist.  Don’t believe me? Check out these facts.
There are two important facts here. One, the areas of the world who generally outlaw or restrict abortions have the highest abortion rates, often 29-32 out of 1,000 or higher. While areas with the most permissive abortion laws like Europe have the lowest, 12 out of 1,000. On top of that, the areas that outlaw abortion have the highest rates of unsafe abortions. I.E. they have the highest rates of people like Gosnell. 
Now, I’m not claiming that the abortion restrictions themselves raise the rate of abortions though they almost definitely raise the rates of unsafe abortions. Many of these countries that outlaw abortion do so based upon religious sanctions they have on sexual behavior and with those laws often go restrictions on access to birth control safe sex education. They also have little if any social services to help women who have a pregnancy they cannot afford. What we can take from this is that making abortion illegal has little to no affect on how many people seek abortions, the only thing that affects that number is making sure unwanted pregnancies don’t happen in the first place as well as providing adequate health care to women who are pregnant or think they might become so. 
Yet on these fronts we see pro-life advocates standing in they way almost every time. Arizona is an abstinence only state who refuses to fund Planed Parenthood because of pro-life advocates. People in Africa are told not to use condoms by pro-life advocates. Every time I turn around pro-life groups claim they want to end abortion but then they do things are are guaranteed to increase it. It turns out that we pro-choicers are better at being pro-life than the pro-life movement is, and it’s about time we started letting people know that.
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Abortion debate. Mon, 22 Oct 2012 23:17:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Ok, so the abortion debate is up now.

Before reading any of my thoughts here, I suggest listing, otherwise a lot of this won’t make any sense.

In most debates one realizes after it there were ways in which they could have responded or things that should have been said that were not.  This is even more true when the debate topic is complex and the discussion time is short.  So I am writing out my thoughts on the debate a few days after it, I will save this and post it after the debate has been put up because otherwise it would be unfair to both my readers and to Vocab.

So during the debate several things were brought up I want to comment on.

First, Vocab’s use of what I think may rightfully be called a deepity.  He says that someone’s rights should not change simply because their location has changed.  First off, it is a gross oversimplification of the issue to refer to the woman’s uterus as just another location.  It’s as if he saying, “I’m at the store”, or “I’m in my home” or “I’m in a woman’s uterus” are logically indistinct.  I’m sure there are some women out there who would be willing to point out that they are very different.

In addition to this, Vocab calls abortion murder as part of the same argument.  The problem is that he seems to be treating all killing as equal, but most rational people already admit that there are valid contexts in which we can kill another human being.  If I run out onto the street and shoot a random stranger I’ll be charged with murder, but if that same stranger breaks into my house and I shoot him people think I’m a hero who defended his home from an intruder.  Odd that one of the main differences in these two scenarios is the other persons location, and another is the question of permission.  Context matters, and the pro-life groups seem to want to selectively pretend it doesn’t.

My argument is that even if you treat a fetus as a human (Which I’ll address this in a bit) the context of pregnancy justifies the abortion, now if one wants to argue that this particular context does not justify said action we can have that discussion, but this was not the argument Vocab made as far as I can tell, and would require him credit the issue with being more complex than most pro-lifers like to admit.  He seemed to be making a blanket statement that context doesn’t matter at all when you kill another human being. This seemed bizarre to me, since I can think plenty of contexts in which society would say that killing a person is justified and therefore not actually murder.  I suppose it would be consistent if he takes the absolute position of a pacifist, but he never alluded to that and it would my first time meeting and evangelical who was also a pacifist.

Next, I tried to structure my own argument to avoid biology as much as possible.  One because biology is complex and can’t really be adequately addressed in 45 minutes, but mainly because neither I nor Vocab are biologists and any thing either one of us say is going to sound the least bit intelligent to actual biologists. 

Of course he was determined to bring this topic up since it is basically the main argument the pro life stance has that isn’t mired in religious dogma.  I think he believed he scored a major victory in this arena, but he seemed to do it by speaking about one thing in embryology and then stopping at that because it seemed to support his argument and ignoring the rest of the science.   Of course the point he brings up is that the fetus has DNA unique to either one of the parents.  Of course I was not going to be able to lay out the actual complexities of fetal development in five minutes and he seemed to treat that as a victory, which is because short sound bytes work better than evidence in debates quite often.

As an example there is a debate about whether or not a fetus is even conscience until the point of actual birth.  Many seem to think that the oxygenation level in the brain of the fetus is too low to support conscience thought in utero.  Any movements made by the fetus are easily attributable to autonomic responses, and as it has never been conscious the fetus can’t possibly feel pain.  Also as a being that has never been conscious it is difficult to refer to them as alive.  Of course this may get into the rather hairy question of defining what consciousness (and what life) is, but neuroscience has certainly give us more insight into this question than religion ever did.

Further, studies have found that the neurological connections needed to be conscious or feel pain are not present until after 24 weeks.

One thing I brought up at the end was the need for a more reasonable approach, and that making abortion illegal would do little to stop abortions from happening.  That being the case I presented a case for several things which have actually been shown to lower the number of abortions (wider access to birth control, and better sex education for teens) and mentioned that I support those things and would certainly have no problem with the number of abortions going down, and that I thought it was odd that so many fundamentalists oppose those things given their proven effect. 

I felt he pretty much dodged the question entirely by just basically reiterating that he thinks abortion is wrong and failing to address my point at all.  The best way of putting it, which of course I didn’t think of at the time, was if the pro life groups got exactly what they wanted and abortions were totally illegal would this stop abortions?  No, in fact, statistics show that the numbers don’t seem to change much.  Further, evangelicals have more recently been taking a strong stance against birth control as well, which will almost certainly increase abortions even with them illegal.  So is that it? Make abortion illegal and then pat yourself on the back and go home?  If your main goal is to decrease abortions why not do something that will actually do that, irregardless of the legality of the abortions?  I don’t consider it my main goal to decrease the number of abortions but that number decreasing would not bother me if it was done in a way that respected women’s rights and intelligently engaged the topic of sexuality.

Understand while I’m not accusing Vocab of this, my hypothesis is that evangelical’s antagonism towards both abortion and contraception is part of a bigger issue.  They want everyone to act in accordance with the sexual values of their religion (even though statistically most of them don’t measure up to those either) and they think by preventing access to anything that might negate the real world consequences to sexual behavior will push people to have less sex.  Mind you, they think this despite evidence that access to birth control and abortion does little to change the sexual behavior of the average person.  Oddly enough this ends up creating a situation where children are seen as one of the punishments for “immoral” actions like premarital sex, which is not exactly pro family.

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Sandra Fluke is the real misogynist according to Tue, 11 Sep 2012 08:27:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  Sandra Fluke’s war on womanhood

So Sandra Fluke made a speech at the Democratic National Convention.  I didn’t really watch much of the DNC myself because I generally have better things to do, but when I ran across this article on LifeSiteNews, a super pro life site.  I decided to check out her speech, since according to them the speech was full of “venom” and Fluke was “disgruntled and disillusioned.” So I decided to look up the video and see for myself.

You can see it here:

It didn’t really strike me as that bad. 

Of course they choose to quote Kirstin Powers statement about how women should “visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and then see how she feels about how the US treats women”  A statement I find ridiculous.  Treating women better than Saudi Arabia is a pretty low standard.  I would like to think our country would aim a bit higher than that.  Also, Fluke’s statements were pointedly directed at the senates failure to include women on a panel discussing contraception issues, so it is not as if she was simply tilting at windmills, she had a concrete example to point to.

However the article gets even more bizarre.  The writer of the article (most likely a man given the name Peter) seems to have decided that a woman cannot truly be a women unless they are having children, and somehow allowing them to decide when and if they reproduce makes them sexual servants of men.  Does he really think that atheists and feminists are just having one non stop orgy? 

A couple of quotes:

Women like Fluke who accept this detestable lie, have thereby rejected the glorious beauty and radiant splendor of what is really at the core of a woman’s being, namely her profound ability to procreate

This is downright creepy, and are not even necessarily accurate.  Did this guy actually ask if Fluke ever intends to have children?  I don’t personally know, but I do know the choice should be up to her and perhaps the man she has sex with.  Not some random person on the internet who has decided that not reproducing is some black mark on a woman’s reputation.

Women like Fluke are not fighting against the alleged “War on Women”; they are in fact its biggest perpetrators. Contraception and abortion have separated women from their true selves. Depraved men, capitalizing on this unnatural separation, have used and abused women’s bodies like never before. Women are commonly degraded as objects for recreation, pleasure, and profit.

This quote is dripping with weird sex negativity, he seems to think that any sex that is not purposed to be procreative is dirty.  It seems to bother him that women might have sex for any other reason.

He seems to fail to understand that each woman is an individual, if one wants to have children that is fine, but it is also fine to not have children. No matter how he tries to spin it, he is ultimately saying that he will let women choose as long as they make the choices he has already predetermined are right for all women. 

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Arizona passed a law banning funding to Planed Parent hood. Sat, 05 May 2012 04:30:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> So a law was just signed into law banning any funds from going to places preform abortion including Planed Parent hood.

Sometimes I am so disappointed in my state, all they have done is cut funding that helps many poor women get health care.

I particularly like the part where Jan Brewer says:

By signing this measure into law I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.

This is a complete misrepresentation since there are already laws in place that prevent public funds from paying for abortions, the money given to planed parent hood by the state went to other services, but way to go supporting your narrow interpretation of your religion over the needs of the people in the state you serve.

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Uh….you do know that you said that out loud right? Fri, 27 Apr 2012 03:55:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Mississippi Gov. Says Democrats ‘One Mission in Life Is to Abort Children

I will honestly acknowledge being a liberal, though like most liberals I don’t always agree with the democratic party…but this, I am honestly speechless.  I get the abortion is a controversial issue but suggesting that the goal of your opponents is to entirely eliminate the human race is just insane.
Of course I know that is is political rhetoric meant to engender an emotional response not a logical one, but it seriously amazes me that they believe their constituency would take this kind of nonsense seriously, it sounds like a conspiracy theory right up there with people who claim 9/11 was an inside job or big pharma wants to keep you sick.  (of course there are people who actually believe those things too)
The governor is selling the bill in question as necessary for the safety women. However, the bill that is being creates a set of rules governing abortion clinics which would cause the one clinic in the entire state to shut down, which would, in effect, eliminate abortion as an option for most women.  Which is, of course, the point of the bill, and the smoke screen about women’s health is just a thin veneer to cover up their goal.
The argument that the bill’s requirement that the abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital is about women’s safety doesn’t even make sense.  Are there any cases where a doctors lack of admitting privileges in a hospital resulted in a serious problem for a person being admitted?  I certainly don’t know of any case where that has been an issue.  The goal seems to be much the same as the dozens of other bills that have been passed over the past several years on abortion.  Since Roe V. Wade prevents states from outright banning abortions they are trying to pass laws that make it nearly impossible to get one.  
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