Sunday, September 27, 2015
Just watched the recent short clip of Bill Nye the "Science Guy” lecturing people on why they should support abortion rights. Nye shows, yet again, the amazingly shoddy ethical understanding these “science guys” often have. It's almost embarrassing to listen to him. (I’m not going to link the video. Go find it on Google yourself if you like.)
Nye argues that we shouldn’t insist an individual’s humanity begins at conception because, consider, many fertilized eggs don’t attach to the wall of the womb and thus don’t survive anyway. Nye apparently thinks this fact of human reproduction carries ethical weight. His point seems to be: “See, if these fertilized eggs die, why not just give ourselves the right to kill those other fertilized eggs that do in fact attach to the womb and begin to develop?”
The "Science Guy's" easygoing demeanor in this clip shouldn’t obscure the obvious: His ethical logic here is appalling.
That many fertilized eggs don’t attach to the womb is merely an accident of nature. It does not carry ethical weight of any kind and cannot direct us at all in assessing the ethical status of abortion.
One can see Nye’s logic in all its glory if one merely applies it to a test case.
Suppose there is a mountain village in Guatemala that suffers a landslide which kills 85 of its 102 inhabitants. Earth tremors triggered the landslide, burying most of the village in the predawn hours. The traumatized survivors wait for rescue.
That landslide, like Nye’s point about fertilized eggs that don’t attach to the womb, is an accident of nature. That 85 of the villagers didn’t survive tells us nothing about the value of the survivors or how we must treat them.
How would Nye’s “humane” thinking apply in this landslide case?
In fact, according to Nye’s brilliant ethical sense, we might give ourselves the right to go in and kill those survivors rather than rescue them. After all, they 1) could easily have been among the victims and 2) it will be difficult to rescue and care for them.
At the end of the day, Nye might argue, we should “leave it up to the rescuers” to decide, because, after all, it’s their country.
If you think this kind of ethical logic deserves respect, well, you’re living in the right century. Welcome to the “scientific” understanding of ethics.
Nye’s ethics is not ethics at all, but merely a smartish guy talking out of his bow tie, if not out of some lower area of his person. This is the problem with so many science types when they attempt to speak on ethical issues. They don’t recognize that ethics is a branch of philosophy that requires serious questioning of premises and logical implications. They think they can just make it up as they go along, which is to say: They are no more qualified to speak on such issues than any old drunk on the street.
Bill Nye: Proving again that “science guys” have precisely nothing to tell you about what is right or wrong.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Imagine the year is 2035. And imagine that in most American cities one can find branches of a new national organization called Planned Retirement.
Planned Retirement has many defenders, and many detractors.
The organization’s policies are progressive. With help from the federal government, they provide low cost housing, food and limited medical care to people over 65. When a resident has reached the ripe age of 77, the organization sends a doctor to the resident’s room with the medical equipment needed to crush the resident’s head, thus ending his or her life. Any salvageable organs are sold to research institutes, and residents’ bodies are buried in landfills.
Many Americans, especially Christians, are strongly opposed to Planned Retirement’s practices. They argue that killing the elderly in this way is a form of murder and that the difficulty of caring for elderly people is no excuse to end their lives. They also argue that mass burial in unmarked graves and the marketing of the dead’s organs as “research material” is an obvious ruse to avoid facing the painful truth--namely, that each of these elders was a unique human being with the inalienable right to life.
In Congress there is a new effort to defund the organization because of its snuff policies. But liberals are up in arms in support of Planned Retirement. They want to focus the debate on the health care and housing Planned Retirement offers elderly people, thus diverting the public's attention from the issue that led to the push to defund, namely: Planned Retirement's practice of terminating human lives.
And so: “This is just another attack on elderly health care!” the liberals scream.
Besides being an obvious attempt to change the subject, there's a second element of dishonesty in this cry. Liberals actually mean to imply that those seeking to defund Planned Retirement are somehow motivated by a disrespect for elderly people. Which is interesting, to say the least.
But consider another detail of Planned Retirement policy: If the family of an elder resident chooses to terminate Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa’s life before the age of 77, they can provide written consent for such termination.
The reasons people give for wanting their parents’ termination are various: “We don’t have time to visit her any more.” “We have a right to live our lives as we choose!” “The fees to keep Mom there are too much for my budget.”
In a widely shared rant in defense of Planned Retirement, liberal senator Elizabeth Warrick argues: “How can we dare interfere with these families when they are making what is probably the single most difficult decision of their lives? How can we dare?”
Senator Warrick seems think that the moral difficulty individuals might face in deciding to kill their parents or grandparents should carry more weight than the lives of those whose heads are to be crushed.
Again: Interesting argument.
If in the current American debate about defunding Planned Parenthood you’ve found yourself arguing that “This is an attack on women’s health care!” or “Abortions only account for 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services!” or “It’s a difficult decision! We shouldn’t presume to judge!”--well, congratulations: To me, as a Catholic, you sound precisely like those future liberals above arguing in support of “Planned Retirement”. Your arguments ring equally hollow are are equally beside the point.
The fact is that Christians and others are not opposed to Planned Parenthood because of some vague lurking misogyny. No, they are opposed to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers because of one obvious truth: Just like the unfortunate elders in the above future scenario, the unborn are each unique human beings.
This is not merely Christian teaching, or some religious teaching, it is a scientifically demonstrable fact. Each unborn person has an integral human body and unique human DNA. As such, she or he is a unique human person and deserves the defense of the law, regardless of whether or not she or he has a name.
In terms of the ethics involved, my above dystopian tale of “Planned Retirement” offers a precise parallel to what the real organization Planned Parenthood is doing right now. Planned Parenthood serves the “health” of young mothers and their children in the same way that my fictional Planned Retirement serves the “health” of the elderly and their families. In both organizations, when people are judged to be inconvenient, they are snuffed.
Because of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, we already live in a dystopia. Defunding is the least they deserve.
What kind of wool is it, of what thickness, do American liberals have to keep pulling over their eyes to avoid seeing this? It must be morally exhausting to have to defend, for decades on end, such an Orwellian vision of humanity. Women's "health care"?
Last year Planned Parenthood ended the lives of an estimated 165,000 women, tossing their broken bodies, or at least those parts that couldn’t be sold, into the trash bin.
American liberals really don't get it. That wool must be damn thick.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
to school claiming it was an "invention"?
When I first heard the story, I thought it was sad, but also somewhat inevitable: a Muslim teen got arrested for bringing a bomb-like device to his school. But now I'm starting to wonder if we all haven't been had. Consider the details.
Indeed, Ahmed Mohamed’s "clock invention" story is looking more and more like a clock and bull story. It turns out the invention, in any case, was no such thing. It was just a disassembled digital clock from the 1980s, with the parts oddly rearranged in a pencil box. A smart teen would never claim this was an “invention”, though a 5-year-old might. You could do the same thing by taking any old digital clock apart and splaying out the pieces in a box. But why would you ever do that?
Likely answer: Because there's a digital readout on the device, just like there is on many Hollywood bombs.
Yes, it is definitely possible that Ahmed very well knew what this object looked like and that what he was up to was not showing off an “invention” to his teacher so much as bringing something to school that looked like a bomb. I'm not saying he did this to cause a bomb scare. Rather: Knowing teenage boys, such an object would look "cool" and get them attention.
But though I wouldn't claim this teen brought his device to school to cause a bomb scare, that doesn't mean the possibility shouldn't be considered. Indeed, some are beginning to suspect that the whole event might have been designed to cause just the reaction it did, a kind of set-up to “prove” that Muslims are discriminated against. This interpretation, in my view, gains more ground as a possibility when one considers Ahmed's family situation. The boy's father is an anti-Islamophobia activist. There's nothing wrong with that, and this might all just be coincidence, but note how quick this family was to stage press conferences, etc., after the event happened.
Honestly, as more details emerge, the more our president looks like a moron for inviting this kid to the White House. In my view, the "clock invention" story is totally bogus. The best interpretation one can put on this event is that Ahmed was pulling a gag with something he knew looked like a bomb. If that is true, the arrest and subsequent public attention were not expected, but came as an unintended result. But in fact, if the father was at all "in on" Ahmed's little project, I think there's a strong possibility liberal America has been had hook, line and sinker in its rush to stage Ahmed as a "young scientist" victimized because of his background. We'll likely never know.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Do you believe in religious liberty and freedom of conscience? Do you believe American law is obliged to protect citizens’ religious liberty?
A test case: Let’s say there’s a Muslim-owned print shop in Illinois and a man comes in wanting to print 500 copies of a pamphlet he wrote. Rashid, the owner of the shop, sees that the pamphlet attacks Islam as a false religion and specifically attacks Muhammad as a false prophet. The shop owner refuses to print the pamphlet, saying it is blasphemous.
“Get your pamphlet printed somewhere else!” Rashid says. “It’s against my religion and my conscience to take part in spreading such blasphemy.”
Do you support Rashid’s right to refuse to print that pamphlet? I do. Were our laws to force him to print it, I’d consider it an offense against his dignity and an offense against our American idea of religious liberty.
Would you say Rashid is unjustly discriminating against the man who wrote the pamphlet? Though I strongly believe in freedom of speech, I wouldn’t consider this a case of unjust discrimination. Rashid isn’t saying the man has no right to print his pamphlet, only that he, as a Muslim, refuses to take part in such printing.
Last week a Christian woman in Kentucky went to jail because she refused to take part in licensing same-sex marriages. I’m not personally a fan of Kim Davis’ way of making her stand, but I do believe strongly that our law should allow some route for people such as Ms. Davis to recuse themselves from taking part in gay marriages. That she ended up in jail is an offense against religious liberty.
Though same-sex marriage has great support at present in many Western countries, the fact remains that there are tens of millions of citizens who firmly believe such marriages are an offense against God’s law. One can work to convince these believers they are wrong to think as they do, but one cannot simply discount their convictions, which are clearly grounded in long-standing religious traditions.
In Kim Davis’ mind, her taking part in legitimating same-sex marriages would be a form of blasphemy--hardly different from Rashid’s printing of anti-Muslim pamphlets. You can think Kim Davis is being petty or silly or even bigoted for believing such blasphemy is real, but that is the thing about religious liberty: It’s not up to you to decide what is and isn’t valid in her religion.
If you support Rashid’s right not to print those pamphlets, you should likewise support laws defending the rights of religious bakers, caterers and even county clerks in their refusal to take part in legitimating or providing work toward the celebration of same-sex marriages.
Really, the two cases, that of Rashid and that of the Christian marriage traditionalist, are almost precisely similar. But for some reason, in our current cultural climate, it's become impossible for otherwise intelligent people to see this.
Why is it so difficult for people to see that religious liberty is being offended against when bakers and florists get run out of business or when county clerks are not given a legal route to recuse themselves from taking part in gay marriage?
Too many liberals, weighing in on this issue, show no sense of balance. There's a rising liberal fundamentalism, which, if its proponents had any historical sense, they'd recognize as a contradiction in terms.
Were a customer to come into that hypothetical Muslim print shop asking to print menus or pamphlets on zoology, and were Rashid to proclaim “Get out of here! I don’t serve atheist Jews!”--that would be a case of illegal discrimination. And the customer would be right to take Rashid to court. Likewise were a restaurant owner to refuse to serve a gay customer simply for being gay, we would be talking about real and harmful discrimination. But Rashid, and the Christian bakers too, have the right to refuse to take part in things they consider blasphemy. It's as simple as that.
American liberals are committing egregious mistakes in the way they're trying to integrate same-sex marriage into the culture. What we need are sane and balanced RFRA laws. We need them now.
(Personal note: As a Catholic with great respect for my Church's teachings, but also with an active and critical intelligence, I would not define myself as "opposed to" gay marriage. At the same time, however, I am definitely not a fan of the absolutist tactics of the marriage equality movement, which is now cheerleading one witch hunt after another. I remain engaged in the theological debate over the issue and see routes for changing doctrine, and I'll pursue these routes in dialogue with fellow Catholics. But simultaneously, the sight of so many liberal friends eager to betray fundamental liberal principles is depressing to say the least.
As a strong pluralist, I would insist that America is failing here. There is room for everyone under the tent, and our law should be protecting both sides in this important debate. Because, regardless of the Obergefell decision, the debate is far from over.)