Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anesthetizing The Conscience

It had to happen. Someone on the pro-death Left simply had to make this argument explicit, sooner or later:

The “life” conversation is often too a thorny one to even broach. Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice....

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always....

When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand – first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?...

But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other countries. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.

[Applause to Sister Toldjah for the citation.]

Mind you, this is only what the pro-death crowd already believes: "We make choices about [human] life all the time." If it's okay to go to war in a just cause, or to execute a convicted mass murderer, or to take a brain-dead patient off life-support, or to attend to one accident victim before another, then it should be quite all right to kill an innocent unborn baby whose prospects for life are as yet uncompromised and unblemished!

As you read these words, Aristotle is rotating in his grave fast enough to power all of Europe.

There is nothing quite as appalling as the rationalization of evil on entirely specious grounds...nothing non-violent, at any rate. But such rationales present a great advantage to those of us who want to refute them: Once they've been made explicit, they can be shredded as completely as they deserve.

BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS WARNING: When a proponent of an evil position makes such an argument, he's attempting to serve a covert agenda: an evil covert agenda. As Ayn Rand put it most memorably:

"When men fall for some piece of vicious insanity, with no way to make it work and no reason to explain their choice -- it's because they have a reason they do not wish to tell."

Evil covert agendas aren't all the same. Some are merely personal and selfish. Others are about the exercise of power over others.

Some time ago, I wrote about the Left's anti-life checklist:

  • Abortion without restrictions.
  • Assisted suicide.
  • Involuntary euthanasia of those deemed untreatable or having "no quality of life."
  • Compulsory surrender of the organs of the deceased for transplantation.
  • Creation of embryos for research and therapeutic purposes.
  • Government-enforced "triage" to conserve medical and financial resources.
  • Compulsory acceptance of specified therapies.
  • Procreation licenses.
  • Government eugenics programs:
    • At first, as subsidies to couples with favored genetic characteristics;
    • Later, as compulsory donations of gametes for use in government-supervised breeding programs.
  • Conscription for military purposes.
  • Conscription for non-military purposes.

Peruse the items on that list. Ponder which of them are already upon us, and which are nearing reality. Then ask yourself, "How many of those measures would Mary Elizabeth Williams, the author of the Salon article, be willing to defend?"

I'd venture that she'd get behind the majority of them: perhaps all but one or two. Her support for unrestricted abortion might be grounded in pure selfish desire not to have her slutteries "punished with a baby" [Barack Hussein Obama], but the underlying premises that make support for unrestricted abortion possible would also support all the other positions in that list.

The core premise behind all such positions must be stated baldly to such persons:

Human life has no intrinsic value;
A human being has no intrinsic rights.

It must be stated baldly to them because then they must either defend it or back away from it. As they cannot defend it without putting their own lives at risk, they immediately reveal the insincerity in their absurd defenses of unrestricted abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and so on.

That's how one puts the merchants of death -- retail or wholesale -- to rout.

It's possible that Miss Williams didn't originate the argument she advanced in her article. She might have been given it as a "talking point" by someone higher up the chain of command in the Left's death cult. Indeed, most Americans who willingly advance such noxious nonsense received the "logic" as a gift from someone else. There aren't that many clever folks on the Left.

However, the point of Williams's argument, whoever might have originated it, isn't to convince. It serves the Left's need to anesthetize the uneasy consciences of its followers about the evil they promote.

It has another point, as well: to bludgeon the opposition with an ancient rhetorical tactic. The classical Greek debaters called that tactic "Many Questions:" to assail the opponent with so many semi-relevant and irrelevant questions posed so swiftly that he loses the thread of the argument and thus, the coherence of his statements.

We who cherish innocent human life must endure such storms and remain focused on the key to the argument: the refutation of the Left's core premise. Now that it's on open display, voluntarily advanced by someone who claims to hold it sincerely, our task should be easier than ever.


Unknown said...

While I support your premise (that all human life is sacred), I must point out that your justification (that humans have "intrinsic rights") is erroneous. In fact, humans have no rights at all, intrinsic or otherwise. "Rights" are a fiction of the Enlightenment and are not part of orthodox Christian thinking.

A "right", by nature, must be inalienable. That is, it must by nature be something that cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor. Once this is grasped, the fantasy of "rights" becomes obvious.

Let's use the "right to speak freely" as an example:

1. The ability to speak freely is a right, and as such cannot be taken away
2. The government (inter alia) can take away one's ability to speak freely
3. Therefore, no "right" to speak freely exists


In like manner, there is no "right to life":

1. Life is a right, and as such cannot be taken away
2. The government (inter alia) can take away the life of any person
3. Therefore, no "right" to life exists


Sadly, there is only one "right", and that is "Might Makes Right". The person or group who hold power in any given situation determines which "rights" are enjoyed by the others in that situation. For example, the "right" to free association on private property that Americans once enjoyed was taken away by the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Now, you can still claim the right of free association on private property -- by setting up a Whites-only lunch counter, say -- but if you try to exercise that "right" you will discover very quickly that no such "right" exists. An officer of the government will come and force you to either admit all comers or close your lunch counter. So much for that "right". You have no "right" to free association on private property because the government can take that "right" away from you, at gunpoint if necessary. Might Makes Right.

The same applies to abortion. The people in this country have empowered the government to guarantee the ability of women to procure legal abortions. The "right to life" of a given unborn child does not exist because the government has taken it away. They can do this because most people want to live in a country where children can be legally murdered prior to birth. They can enforce this preference because the government can imprison or kill any person who disagrees with this sentiment. Might Makes Right again.

Want to guarantee the "right" to free speech? The only way to do so is to obtain enough Might ( = guns, and the will to use them) to enforce that "right" against those who wish otherwise. Want to enforce the "right" to life of unborn children? The only way to do so is to obtain enough Might ( = guns, and the will to use them) to enforce that "right" against those who wish otherwise.

Christians know human beings have no natural rights, Instead, we recognize our duties before God: to speak the truth, to defend ourselves an our families, to worship the True God, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, slake the thirst of the parched, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Unlike the phantasmic "rights" of the Enlightenment, these duties are built into the structure of the universe itself, and are ignored at our collective peril. The sooner we stop thinking in terms of Enlightenment "rights" and resume our traditional vision of a duty-based social order, the happier we will be.

Francis W. Porretto said...

I must disagree completely, Mr. House. (That wouldn't be Norman Niblock House by any chance, would it?) You start from the premise that if a claimed right can be violated, it is therefore illusory. But without a conception of rights independent of human action, there can be no conception of justice, which is the maintenance of rights and the redress of their violation. We descend at once into Cthulhu's maw. Unacceptable.

Rights need not be inalienable, but they must be natural. That is, they must proceed from the nature of the creature that claims them. "Inalienable" was a poor choice of words by Jefferson, one of a very few. (To be natural they must also be defensive -- they must not assert a privilege of enforcing claims on others that would violate their rights -- which is an implicit recognition that they can be violated.)

Next, the notion that right and wrong are strictly a matter of decrees from God: If that were true, then God could decree that murder is right -- morally acceptable -- and thus make it right. But that would contravene the nature of Man, which is the only independent standard by which we can know God or His Will. It would put the Creator at odds with his creatures: Herbert Spencer's reductio ad absurdum of God-as-Devil worship.

As for what "Christians know," you are aware that I'm a Catholic, aren't you? You might want to reconsider such a blanket statement in the future.

Finally, this matter of a social-political order based on "duties before God:" God has already decreed those duties via the Ten Commandments, which were restated by His Son when He was personally present upon the Earth, and reinforced with His most memorable statement:

"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and your whole soul, and your whole mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

God's prescriptions and proscriptions are co-extensive and coterminous with Man's natural rights. A law code that violates them is itself immoral and unworthy of respect. However, the notion of an explicit social-political order thus based violates freedom of conscience, which renders it inherently unacceptable. More, historically it has given rise to classes of persons that arrogate the privilege of "proclaiming God's Will:" the union of Throne and Altar. That, too, is unacceptable, unless you're a Muslim, and if you are, you have no business here.

And there the matter must rest. Oh, by the way, leave quod erat demonstrandum and its more common acronym to us mathematicians, would you please? Especially since your syllogisms are founded on a premise virtually no one would accept.

Xealot said...

I partly agree, but I also partly disagree. Please bear with me.

Abortion is a thorny issue, in that the Left is correct. Yet, it is also correct to say it is most often used as a way of not growing up and slutting around. Why are children thought of as punishment? Because they require the parents to be responsible. This woman would have to grow up, stop wasting her money on Gucci bags, concerts and cocktails and join the adult world.

But that said... I still must argue that abortion should remain legal, or at the very least, be delegated to the states. I agree with you that Abortion is morally reprehensible in all but the most bizarre cases. I also think this woman's blatant disregard for human life is appalling. Yet, we can't stop abortion. It will continue, in the back alley, with the coat-hanger, with the designer drug cocktails whipped up by your local street drug dealer. And, indeed, it may wind up killing the mother, too. We will only succeed in driving the practice underground. Certainly, we shouldn't be supporting it with tax dollars. Certainly we shouldn't encourage people to do it. But can we stop them? No, we can't. So let it remain legal -- but as you say here, let us not kid ourselves as to the terrible thing that it is. We don't get a moral pass because the child is "less human." That child is no less a human than you or I. That we might have to sacrifice them to the Gods of Practicality may be an unpalatable truth... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still recognize the practice as the Hellish thing it is.

Anonymous said...

Xealot -

Francis and I have had squabbles every now and then, although he remains a daily read. But I am completely on his page on this one.

In so many words - what in the dickens did you just say?

Plug in the words "rape" or "murder" and what you wrote is logical mush.

Your want to keep something that, in your own words, is morally reprehensible, because some might do it anyway?

Is there an emoticon for "HUH?"


Xealot said...

The problem with making abortion illegal is practicality. Abortion would be practiced illegally at a rate FAR outstripping rapes or murders, by orders of magnitude. It becomes an unenforceable law. Unenforceable laws are poor laws, and diminish the stature of laws that can be enforced reasonably.

The real root of our abortion problem in America isn't the legality of it, it's a culture which is, in large measure, becoming degenerate. It's a culture that would rather kill a child than raise a family. That's the conflict that must be fought -- the culture war. In time it might be possible to win their hearts and minds, we do have the moral high ground on this one. But government fiat would only make it worse. THAT is my logic.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Xealot has the right of it: An unenforceable law weakens respect for the law in general, which produces more strife than it can possibly quell.

OCS students are told, early on in their curriculum, "Don't give an order that won't be obeyed." It's the same principle.

Some aspects of abortion can be outlawed usefully: definitely third-trimester abortions, and possibly second-trimester as well. But a law that purports to ban all abortions would be asking for trouble...right up to the day when, our culture having turned back in the direction of life, we would no longer think we need such a thing.

Anonymous said...


Lee Katt said...

I appreciate that at least one person has explicitly and accurately stated the pro-abortion position. It is an enormous relief. She has conceded the point; a fetus is human life. I hope that all pro-choicers go down this road.

This takes us out of Orwellian news-speak and into the English language. We are talking about the same things. Sorry if I find that a happy moment. We now all agree we are talking about killing. OK, let's discuss that ...

Anonymous said...

The problem with both House and Xealot is simple... They ignore the potential moral consequences of the action. The phrase "Go slow and be wise" comes to mind. Strictly from a scientific standpoint we have no direct, observable, physical evidence for the existence of the soul. However we at one point also had no direct observable evidence for neutrons & protons. They existed anyway. Our ability to see or not, does not in any way remove or invalidate a fact. Someday one of our scientists may discover a way to observe the soul (an energy signature or other phenomena that gives it away). If or when this happens, there will be tremendous rammifications. Go slow and be wise. If there is no soul then the only people who will suffer are a few women who clearly chose of thier own free will to undergo a dangerous and illegal procedure. If however the soul is a reality (as I believe) then if we continue to allow abortions we become responsible for the murder of tens of millions. It is always better to go slow and be wise...