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Thread: Christianity Today Op Ed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    OK Sam, you say you are Pro Life. So does Oxmixmudd. Yet the arguments you both have been putting forth are arguments for why a fetus isn't a human being and sound an awful lot like Pro Choice arguments.

    Therefore, I challenge you both to switch arguments and tell us why abortion is wrong and why it should be eliminated.

    Thanks.
    Apologize first. I'm not going to dignify a "challenge" from someone who deliberately accuses me of being something I am not and then, when corrected, responds with "if it walks like a duck".

    --Sam
    "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    Apologize first. I'm not going to dignify a "challenge" from someone who deliberately accuses me of being something I am not and then, when corrected, responds with "if it walks like a duck".

    --Sam
    I'm sorry, Sam.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    I'm sorry, Sam.
    Thank you; I accept the apology.

    So far, we've been talking about the what makes for a "person", how one can categorize and define properties of personhood, and what constitutes the philosophical foundation for a legal argument and justification. The scope of that discussion includes issues of morality but cannot rest on moral qualms.

    In the realm of ethics and morality, though, we do not need such foundation to make determinations. We can, for example, hold that the virtue of temperance forbids excessive consumption of food and drink. We can hold that the virtue of fidelity forbids extra-marital affairs, physical or emotional. We can hold the virtue of charity forbids the practice of even petty usury. We can hold these ethical and moral positions while recognizing that drunkenness, gluttony, adultery, and usury are all constitutionally protected private decisions.

    So, too, for the issue of abortion. Both Jim and I believe that even if a zygote, embryo or fetus is not a person, under a consistent and rational philosophical framework, it is a potential person. Not only is it a part of Creation, to be respected and preserved to the greatest reasonable extent, but it is a part of God's special creation -- a rare species able to mark the wonder of Creation itself and the God who sustains it. There are extenuating circumstances that can make an abortion ethically sound or neutral but abortions performed for selfish or unsound reasons are immoral.

    The pro-life American who wishes abortion to be eliminated but agrees with the constitutional protections allowing pregnant persons access to abortion either A) must argue that a constitutional protection for an intimate private decision must be overturned or B) must argue in favor of mitigating or eliminating those factors that help drive pregnant persons to abortion. I've argued on this board that the same people who champion anti-abortion legislation turned around and attacked some of the best policy measures at our disposal to ensure fewer abortions: most notably the provision of no-cost LARC contraceptives through the ACA. It continues to show a deep contradiction in the pro-life movement -- if not an outright exposure of ulterior motive -- that measures which would dramatically reduce abortion in the USA are fought tooth-and-nail.

    --Sam
    "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    Thank you; I accept the apology.

    So far, we've been talking about the what makes for a "person", how one can categorize and define properties of personhood, and what constitutes the philosophical foundation for a legal argument and justification. The scope of that discussion includes issues of morality but cannot rest on moral qualms.

    In the realm of ethics and morality, though, we do not need such foundation to make determinations. We can, for example, hold that the virtue of temperance forbids excessive consumption of food and drink. We can hold that the virtue of fidelity forbids extra-marital affairs, physical or emotional. We can hold the virtue of charity forbids the practice of even petty usury. We can hold these ethical and moral positions while recognizing that drunkenness, gluttony, adultery, and usury are all constitutionally protected private decisions.

    So, too, for the issue of abortion. Both Jim and I believe that even if a zygote, embryo or fetus is not a person, under a consistent and rational philosophical framework, it is a potential person. Not only is it a part of Creation, to be respected and preserved to the greatest reasonable extent, but it is a part of God's special creation -- a rare species able to mark the wonder of Creation itself and the God who sustains it. There are extenuating circumstances that can make an abortion ethically sound or neutral but abortions performed for selfish or unsound reasons are immoral.

    The pro-life American who wishes abortion to be eliminated but agrees with the constitutional protections allowing pregnant persons access to abortion either A) must argue that a constitutional protection for an intimate private decision must be overturned or B) must argue in favor of mitigating or eliminating those factors that help drive pregnant persons to abortion. I've argued on this board that the same people who champion anti-abortion legislation turned around and attacked some of the best policy measures at our disposal to ensure fewer abortions: most notably the provision of no-cost LARC contraceptives through the ACA. It continues to show a deep contradiction in the pro-life movement -- if not an outright exposure of ulterior motive -- that measures which would dramatically reduce abortion in the USA are fought tooth-and-nail.

    --Sam
    OK thanks, but basically are you saying it is wrong for those who believe it is wrong but OK for those who think it is OK and we should just try to convince them otherwise, while keeping it legal? I am a simple guy Sam, and those are a lot of words that seem to beat around the bush. I just want a clear and simple answer that you can go into detail later.

    Why is abortion wrong? Not just for Christians but for anyone. OR do you believe it is only wrong for those of us who think it is wrong or who believe in a soul?

    Should on-demand abortion be illegal? I am not talking about abortion to save the mother's life. But abortions that are purely for personal reasons and if there is no abortion but the mother and baby will be healthy.

  5. Amen RumTumTugger amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    OK thanks, but basically are you saying it is wrong for those who believe it is wrong but OK for those who think it is OK and we should just try to convince them otherwise, while keeping it legal? I am a simple guy Sam, and those are a lot of words that seem to beat around the bush. I just want a clear and simple answer that you can go into detail later.

    Why is abortion wrong? Not just for Christians but for anyone. OR do you believe it is only wrong for those of us who think it is wrong or who believe in a soul?

    Should on-demand abortion be illegal? I am not talking about abortion to save the mother's life. But abortions that are purely for personal reasons and if there is no abortion but the mother and baby will be healthy.
    I ... think those questions were answered in my post.

    Think about it this way: is a pro-fidelity Christian saying that adultery is wrong only for those who believe it is wrong or are they saying there's a moral and ethical standard that applies to everyone, regardless of what constitutional protections allow them to legally do? Is a pro-temperance Christian saying that drunkenness and gluttony are only wrong for people who believe in temperance or wrong for everyone, regardless of what the Constitution allows?

    --Sam
    "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    I ... think those questions were answered in my post.

    Think about it this way: is a pro-fidelity Christian saying that adultery is wrong only for those who believe it is wrong or are they saying there's a moral and ethical standard that applies to everyone, regardless of what constitutional protections allow them to legally do? Is a pro-temperance Christian saying that drunkenness and gluttony are only wrong for people who believe in temperance or wrong for everyone, regardless of what the Constitution allows?

    --Sam
    1. OK, but what would your argument be to convince some secular person who wants to have an abortion to not have one? You seem to have dismissed any argument based on biology or science. And many secular people believe that morals are subjective.

    2. Should we pass a law against on-demand abortion? [overturn Roe v Wade]
    Last edited by Sparko; 01-24-2020 at 01:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    There are two fronts here Chrawnus. On the spiritual front, we cannot 'know' what the spirit is or when it appears. But unless we accept reincarnation as a reality, we have to accept that the soul of a person emerges or is created for the person sometime at or after conception. Whatever that soul or spirit is, and whenever it happens to be created, is a matter of religious belief. It does not enter into the law about what a fetus is in terms of whether or not aborting it should or should not be legal because codifying religious belief into law violates the establishment clause.
    No it's not, at least not entirely. It's just as much a matter of philosophy/metaphysics. Discussing the philosophical aspect of the question of the soul and whether it should play a part in the legal debate seems to me to circumvent the whole issue with the establishment clause.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    From a scientific point of view consciousness is related to brain activity but there is no clear way to fully isolate it. (There is an interesting announcement on that here)
    Most neuroscientists are physicalists and presuppose a reductive view of the mind. What you call a "scientific point of view" is not a pure scientific view at all, but the view of the scientists who bring their preconceived notions about how the data/information they study should be interpreted. They do not begin from an unbiased starting point and let the evidence guide them to the most likely conclusion, they bring their physicalist viewpoint with them when they practice their science and interpret all the data they study through that physicalist lense.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    But if consciousness resides solely in the brain, it can't legally be deemed to exist without it. So from a legal point of view, which can't be based on religious suppositions, there can't be a human being with any sort of consciousness in there till there is a brain. And so - from a secular, legal point of view - there is no reason to ascribe personhood or rights separate from the mother of any real sort to the fetus prior to that - unless we delve into the realm of potential. The potential to gain a consciousness exists, even though the consciousness (from a legal/scientific point of view) doesn't/can't exist yet.
    As I mentioned above, what you call a scientific point of view is in fact not "scientific" at all. It's a philosophical viewpoint (namely physicalism and reductionism) trying to disguise itself as "pure" science.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    Scripturally, we have Exodus which clearly does not assign the same person-hood to the fetus as to the mother. If the fetus dies from the blow, there is no life for a life. But if the mother does, there is. If we accept this law as being from God, then that is a clear indication that a fetus does not yet have the status of person. Now if we take the view this was a purely cultural manifestation based on the Jewish culture's connection of the breath with the soul, believing that since the baby had not yet breathed it did not have a soul, then you could argue the Bible is neutral on the issue. But such a view then must turn to science to define when the fetus becomes that which would be a person, and that leads us where I have been arguing. (One could use John leaping in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's presence to indicate the soul was present by 6 months, but that would be consistent with the idea of quickening for ensoulment and would not be contrary to the idea the soul comes after conception or anything I've been arguing). Ideas that focus on that God knows a person at birth or before birth are irrelevant since God knows us before we were born, even from the beginning of time, which means that is not talking about when our soul appears but God's infinite knowledge of all that was, is a and will be.
    The problem here is that your supposition that "Exodus . . . clearly does not assign the same person-hood to the fetus as to the mother" is not clear at all, and despite your assertions to the contrary, (and your previous attempt to poison the well when it comes to the supposed ideological reasons for the NET translators to translate the passage the way they did) the idea that the punishment of lex talionis is meted out both in cases of harm to the woman and her child is not far-fetched at all. In fact, the passage itself names some injuries located at specific parts of the body (eye for eye, tooth for tooth) that would have been more likely to be inflicted on the fetus than on the mother. Most kinds of violence that would induce labor (or miscarriage) in a pregnant woman is more likely to have caused damage to the above mentioned body parts of the fetus than they would have caused them to those body parts of the woman. A hit to the womans eyes or teeth are not likely to induce labor, but if a blow hits her belly and induces labor (or miscarriage) it's not farfetched at all to think that the blow could also have damaged the fetus in some way.

    With regards to the connection between breathing and the soul I think the issue is actually between breathing and being a living being, not between breathing and having a soul. Breathing is the way we aquire oxygen which allows our cells to break down the food we eat in order to aquire the necessary energy to function and is also the way the body gets rid of the waste product (carbon dioxide) of that cellular process. So it's not the process of breathing itself that's vital for determining if an organism is a living being or not, it's the function of that process. So if there is an equivalent process that fills the same function for the fetus while it's still incapable of breathing (and there is, namely the transportation of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood via the umbilical cord between the mother and her fetus) there is no reason to regard the fetus as less of a living being simply because the way it's process of taking in the oxygen necessary for cellular function is different from someone who has already been born.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    Beyond the above mentioned classes of discussion in scripture, is there anything else in scripture you believe implies the soul is present at conception?

    The summary below reflects my current understanding. I am open to any scriptural or scientific argument you can make contrary to it (but not 'what if' speculation):
    I think dismissing "what if"-speculations on matters such as this are far more likely to cause serious wrongdoings in matters such as this as opposed to taking them seriously, even if they end up being factually incorrect in the end.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    In the end, in terms of defining whether abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, AFAIK, all the religious and scientific evidence we have* points to 'not at first'. That there is some time after conception that the fetus takes on its newfound personhood, and at that point it becomes en entity worthy of lex talonis, a life for a life. And at that point, abortion is murder.

    *Extra-biblical speculation about maybe the soul is ... - is just that - extra-biblical. Unless you know of something I don't, what we have in the Bible doesn't really support the idea the soul is attached at conception. The entire Jewish culture in fact tends towards the idea that the soul doesn't exist till birth itself. The idea the soul comes at conception is more an opinion that originated (quite long ago in fact) with the Greeks and became part of Catholic teaching about 150 years ago - per my link in the previous post.
    As I mentioned previously, just because it's the view of Judaism it's not likely to make me uncritically accept that view as incontrovertible fact. In view of what we know now of the function and reason for the process of breathing in human beings (and animals) the passages that are speaking of breathing as connected to being alive are not likely to have much of anything to do with the concept of a rational soul, but more with being biologically alive just as the passage in Genesis 9:4ff about the life of humans being their blood, which we now know is because of the important function it serves in transporting the oxygen to the cells of the body in order to facilitate vital cell activity. In short, the concept of breathing being an indication of a living being is intrinsically connected with the blood being the life of a living being. But if what makes blood the "source of life" for a living being can be gotten through other means than breathing, then breathing itself is not a necessary aspect of a living being, as long as the function of breathing is fulfilled by another, equivalent process.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    As I said - AFAIK, Biblical texts (what little there is) point to the idea the soul comes or emerges after conception. As does science. So spiritually, I don't see any reason to presume anything else. And I tend to think rank speculation about spiritual things is dangerous. Go with what the Bible teaches, incorporate scientific understanding where appropriate. And on this the Bible teaches very little.
    Science itself doesn't say squat about the issue of when the soul is formed. It can give us an indication of when the soul can start interacting with the external world, but it tells us nothing about when it is actually formed. And the idea that the Bible teaches that the soul emerges after conception is an interesting idea, but not one that I have found much support for, being that I find that the people who hold to this notion usually interpret the passages that supposedly supports this idea in a manner which I find lacking.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    My absolutism in this conversation is based on the fact we are talking about legally treating abortion as murder, and there is nothing that can or likely will ever support in a physical/material sense (on which our laws are based) the idea of any sort of mind in the fetus prior to the formation of the brain. And without some sort of mind, legally (and for all practical purposes in any other sense) there is no person there.
    Well, that's the issue isn't it? Assuming for a moment that the laws of the US are based on a view point that concerns itself only with the physical/material (and I'm not really convinced of that) I don't really think that physicalism/materialism holding the legal debate in a stranglehold and that dismissing every view that has it's basis in a philosophical standpoint that conflicts with the viewpoint of aforementioned philosophies is a good thing at all.

  9. Amen Cow Poke, RumTumTugger, Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    1. OK, but what would your argument be to convince some secular person who wants to have an abortion to not have one? You seem to have dismissed any argument based on biology or science. And many secular people believe that morals are subjective.

    2. Should we pass a law against on-demand abortion?

    I have decidedly not dismissed arguments made on biology or science. I have, in fact, used biological science in arguments concerning when and how organisms can become defined as persons capable of obtaining the rights associated with personhood.

    Most secular people are knowing moral agents and act as such. You believe morals are subjective, as does everyone here: there are often conflicts about which morals are subjective and how subjective those morals are but Christians are not operating on a completely different ethical or moral plane from others. We're every bit as much "in the soup".

    If somebody wanted to have an abortion and wanted my opinion, I would seek to understand their reasons and circumstances. Where I believed that their motivation was immoral or unethical, I'd argue that position from the framework I've outlined here. Same as I would for someone who wanted to divorce his wife or cheat on her with a friend. I'd appeal to universal values, the wonder and sanctity of Creation and life. I would relate personal experiences and stories and seek to revive a sense of that moral standard.

    We do have laws against on-demand abortion but:

    1) What makes abortion unethical or immoral, in some situations, is not its being "on demand". It's the motivation for terminating a pregnancy.

    2) Such bans can only be supported where they do not supersede the legal right to access an abortion. Just as we cannot ban alcohol or adultery (and should steer clear of theocracy in general), we cannot ban abortion much far beyond what Roe and Casey already allow for. 20 weeks would be the extent I could possibly justify on legal and philosophical grounds, at least for the foreseeable future.

    --Sam
    "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    No it's not, at least not entirely. It's just as much a matter of philosophy/metaphysics. Discussing the philosophical aspect of the question of the soul and whether it should play a part in the legal debate seems to me to circumvent the whole issue with the establishment clause.



    Most neuroscientists are physicalists and presuppose a reductive view of the mind. What you call a "scientific point of view" is not a pure scientific view at all, but the view of the scientists who bring their preconceived notions about how the data/information they study should be interpreted. They do not begin from an unbiased starting point and let the evidence guide them to the most likely conclusion, they bring their physicalist viewpoint with them when they practice their science and interpret all the data they study through that physicalist lense.



    As I mentioned above, what you call a scientific point of view is in fact not "scientific" at all. It's a philosophical viewpoint (namely physicalism and reductionism) trying to disguise itself as "pure" science.



    The problem here is that your supposition that "Exodus . . . clearly does not assign the same person-hood to the fetus as to the mother" is not clear at all, and despite your assertions to the contrary, (and your previous attempt to poison the well when it comes to the supposed ideological reasons for the NET translators to translate the passage the way they did) the idea that the punishment of lex talionis is meted out both in cases of harm to the woman and her child is not far-fetched at all. In fact, the passage itself names some injuries located at specific parts of the body (eye for eye, tooth for tooth) that would have been more likely to be inflicted on the fetus than on the mother. Most kinds of violence that would induce labor (or miscarriage) in a pregnant woman is more likely to have caused damage to the above mentioned body parts of the fetus than they would have caused them to those body parts of the woman. A hit to the womans eyes or teeth are not likely to induce labor, but if a blow hits her belly and induces labor (or miscarriage) it's not farfetched at all to think that the blow could also have damaged the fetus in some way.

    With regards to the connection between breathing and the soul I think the issue is actually between breathing and being a living being, not between breathing and having a soul. Breathing is the way we aquire oxygen which allows our cells to break down the food we eat in order to aquire the necessary energy to function and is also the way the body gets rid of the waste product (carbon dioxide) of that cellular process. So it's not the process of breathing itself that's vital for determining if an organism is a living being or not, it's the function of that process. So if there is an equivalent process that fills the same function for the fetus while it's still incapable of breathing (and there is, namely the transportation of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood via the umbilical cord between the mother and her fetus) there is no reason to regard the fetus as less of a living being simply because the way it's process of taking in the oxygen necessary for cellular function is different from someone who has already been born.



    I think dismissing "what if"-speculations on matters such as this are far more likely to cause serious wrongdoings in matters such as this as opposed to taking them seriously, even if they end up being factually incorrect in the end.



    As I mentioned previously, just because it's the view of Judaism it's not likely to make me uncritically accept that view as incontrovertible fact. In view of what we know now of the function and reason for the process of breathing in human beings (and animals) the passages that are speaking of breathing as connected to being alive are not likely to have much of anything to do with the concept of a rational soul, but more with being biologically alive just as the passage in Genesis 9:4ff about the life of humans being their blood, which we now know is because of the important function it serves in transporting the oxygen to the cells of the body in order to facilitate vital cell activity. In short, the concept of breathing being an indication of a living being is intrinsically connected with the blood being the life of a living being. But if what makes blood the "source of life" for a living being can be gotten through other means than breathing, then breathing itself is not a necessary aspect of a living being, as long as the function of breathing is fulfilled by another, equivalent process.



    Science itself doesn't say squat about the issue of when the soul is formed. It can give us an indication of when the soul can start interacting with the external world, but it tells us nothing about when it is actually formed. And the idea that the Bible teaches that the soul emerges after conception is an interesting idea, but not one that I have found much support for, being that I find that the people who hold to this notion usually interpret the passages that supposedly supports this idea in a manner which I find lacking.



    Well, that's the issue isn't it? Assuming for a moment that the laws of the US are based on a view point that concerns itself only with the physical/material (and I'm not really convinced of that) I don't really think that physicalism/materialism holding the legal debate in a stranglehold and that dismissing every view that has it's basis in a philosophical standpoint that conflicts with the viewpoint of aforementioned philosophies is a good thing at all.
    This doesn't really get us anywhere on the legal questions involved because you can't legislate something on the basis of belief in a soul.

    Indeed, even as a philosophical question, questions about a "soul" involve lengthy debates between substance dualists and materialists (including Christian materialists) that simply do not resolve. To move beyond those debates to legislation, one would have to presume substance dualism, which cannot be evidenced.

    --Sam
    "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    This doesn't really get us anywhere on the legal questions involved because you can't legislate something on the basis of belief in a soul.

    Indeed, even as a philosophical question, questions about a "soul" involve lengthy debates between substance dualists and materialists (including Christian materialists) that simply do not resolve. To move beyond those debates to legislation, one would have to presume substance dualism, which cannot be evidenced.

    --Sam
    And presuming physicalism/materialism, which has just as little scientific evidence in its favor, is preferable for what reason?

  13. Amen Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.

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