When briefly discussing the abortion issue with a friend today, a glaring inconsistency in Christian thought became apparent. After an atheist confronts a Christian with the Problem of Evil, specifically the gratuitous amount of evil and suffering there is in the world, a Christian usually turns to the so-called free will defense. God gave humans free will, so it’s not his fault when a serial killer chooses to murder x amount of people. Setting aside that that doesn’t address evil and suffering that isn’t human-driven, an inconsistency becomes apparent if one opens discussions on other topics.
Take, for instance, abortion and euthanasia. Those on the side of choice will defend a woman’s right to choose and a person’s choice to die, but Christians very often oppose choice in these cases. They are basically going against god’s supposed decision to give us free will. They’re also forgetting a hallmark of their theology, namely humanity’s fall from grace. They are suddenly forgetting that humans are supposedly sinners and that they’ll often make choices that god finds reprehensible. Christians are essentially giving themselves an authority greater than the authority they themselves assign to god! God can’t do anything to overturn our free will; sure, he wants all men to be saved, but he can’t make you accept Christ. Christians, however, can force a woman to keep an unwanted pregnancy. Or they can force a terminally ill individual to continue leading a life they would much rather surrender. Perhaps this is because god is simply an idealization, a projection, an admission of their own basest cruelty and thirst to manipulate and control. God is made in man’s image.
This makes for a glaring inconsistency in the thought of most Christians. Abortion and euthanasia shouldn’t be vehemently opposed given the notion that we have free will, a will that isn’t even subordinate to god’s own will. Aside from being a glaring inconsistency, this showcases what Christianity is truly about: control. Christianity is a religion that has been jury-rigged for centuries with the primary goal being control over a person’s life: a person’s thoughts, actions, manner of speaking, and so on. Christians may act as though we have free will, but ultimately, Christians adhere to a religion that tells them what they can and cannot think, say, or do. In some denominations, the music you listen to, the way you dress, whether or not you can wear jewelry or get tattoos, and even who you can associate with are all determined by what the denomination deems acceptable.
The so-called liberal Christian might at this point chime in, but liberal Christianity is itself a modern invention borne out of sheer necessity, an attempt to secure a reversal of the religion’s demonstrable decline. That said, there are liberal Christians who are still vehemently opposed to choice as it concerns abortion and euthanasia. Ultimately, a Christian can’t conveniently recall free will when it benefits their argument and discard it when they want to maintain control over another person’s decisions or the manner in which an individual leads his/her life. Free will explains evil, but a woman can’t abort, a terminally ill individual can’t choose to die, and a homosexual can’t choose to love a partner of the same sex. Which is it?
The free will defense is itself an attempt to control someone’s thinking. It is a way of pretending to solve a problem that simply is without a solution that is reconcilable to Christian theology. On naturalism, death, disease, and all manner of what we call evil are unfortunate occurrences explainable by a number of naturally occurring factors like natural disasters, genetic predispositions, neurophysical abnormalities or anomalies, and so on. On Christianity, part of the problem is explained by humanity’s god-given free will and in fact, because of the Fall, the very existence of evil is the fault of the first man. The pretense of a solution is merely a means to control the thinking of believers in doubt; that is essentially what apologetics is in a nutshell: the equivalent of alternative facts and fake news designed specifically to create a narrative capable of (perhaps) temporarily extinguishing doubt and retaining control over such believers. At bottom, Christianity is designed specifically to control people and Christians, who are themselves under this dogmatic control, try their darnedest to control the lives of others and even the decisions they make, and this is made apparent in their views on abortion and euthanasia.
If I am free to be an atheist because god can’t make me be a Christian, then women are free to choose and terminally ill individuals can make the choice to end their own lives. You have no say over that per your own beliefs. Will you admit that consistency is really your concern? Will you admit that your endgame is control over other people?
There is no “glaring inconsistency” in the Christian worldview in regards to the Free Will Defense (against the PoE) and pro-life stances on abortion.
The only assertion a theistic apologetic is making with the Free Will Defense, insofar it is a philosophical rebuttal to the PoE, is simply “There is no logical inconsistency with the presence of evil in the world and [the Christian] God.”
They’re not saying all incidences of evil are justified, such as the murder of an old man or rape of a young girl, simply because they occur within the human parameters of Free Will.
Apologetics argue that Free Will could be used in bad ways just as much as they are used in good ones, to state it with simplicity. You are either completely ignorant of what the Free Will defense states or you are strawmanning the entire field of professional Christian apologetics.
Christians defer to abortion as akin to murder. Hence, they find no problem in attempting to thwart an abortion of a child – which they would consider an abuse of free will/using free will in a wrong way (like free will being used for rape or murder). Christianity makes an attempt at regulating the motives and decisions of humans via Christian morality, which tells people “what to do/what not to do/what is allowed” within the parameters of their (supposedly God-given) Free Will.
There is no inconsistency for a Christian to tell a pregnant woman not to get an abortion. There is no inconsistency in a Christian telling a terminally ill patient not to utilize euthanasia, as that would be likened to suicide (to the Christian).
“Free will explains evil.. but a woman can’t abort, a terminally ill individual can’t choose to die, and a homosexual [can’t choose a same-sex partner]. Which is it?“
Wow, you don’t get it, do you? Free will explains evils, but never posits that they are morally justifiable in occurring, or that an individual should allow them to occur or facilitate them. Rather, the opposite. The Bible discriminates between amoral and moral behaviors– hence, a Christian must operate with their Free Will according to the parameters set by the Bible.
I.e.: “Thou shalt not murder”.
The act of “murder” may be plausibly done by any one of us able-bodied people. We can murder, but that does not mean we should. The Bible makes the “ought” declaration of “you ought not slaughter people”.
The “abuse” of this Free Will– choosing to do what you shouldn’t do– is what a Free Will Apologetic declares is the cause of evils (or at least, well accounts for the man-made evils). Christians don’t want Free Will to be abused in such a manner, but they acknowledge that is happens and purport it as the cause of evil and suffering.
A Christian doesn’t let Ted Bundy run amok raping and killing, and says, “Well, it’s his free will”.
The Free Will Defense essentially goes:
“It’s not a contradiction to believe in an omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God and still see suffering in the world. The suffering is on people abusing their Free Will.”
Never does it say that the abuse of Free Will (which is what Christians see as assaulting/murdering innocents, rape, abortion, etc.) is justified. Christians vehemently argue that you shouldn’t abuse your Free Will because it leads to suffering.
Really. Revise your philosophy and your understanding of apologetic defenses/theodicies.
There’s no need to revise my philosophy nor my understanding of apologetic theodicies given that you’ve made a category mistake in conflating abortion with murder. Of course, the only time I would agree with putting limitations on someone’s will, assuming a person really does have volition, is when their will threatens someone else’s. Young girls do not want to be raped. People don’t want to be murdered. So if anyone has the desire to do either, any moral person would want to stop them. That’s why we have laws.
Abortion, however, isn’t murder, and your whole spiel relies on this unsubstantiated conflation. You straw man my entire argument to make it sound as though I’m okay with the sort of wills that want to murder and rape people. Clearly, I’m not. What I’m against is the Christian’s desire to control people, i.e., the fascism that is taking shape here in the US. Christians want to control how one votes, what one believes, what entertainment one enjoys, and per this post, whether or not a woman stays pregnant. That is not your choice!
It is only you choice if you were able to prove that abortion is murder, but since you can’t prove that, then it isn’t your choice. What a woman chooses to do with her body isn’t your choice. Moreover, if you actually cared about this issue, you would know why women continue to abort pregnancies. You would get behind the issue and address abuse in relationships, poverty, lack of employment opportunities, educational and literacy gaps, and so on. You wouldn’t be falsely accusing women of committing murder.
The facts are as follows. Most abortions happen at or prior to week 16. This means that embryos and early fetuses are aborted. The organisms aborted are human embryos and early fetuses, but they are not persons. Read the following carefully because you’re clearly not informed on the science relevant to this matter.
An embryo in an ectopic pregnancy is a living organism and genetically human. On your view, it is a person. On your view, when ectopic pregnancies end – and they all do through injection or laparoscopy – the mother is complicit to murder. The simple reason your conflation falls woefully short is because these organisms aren’t persons. Your implicit definition of person intentionally omits data and that’s precisely why you don’t seem to think of the brain, consciousness, and theory of mind. A human person is a living organism, genetically homo sapien, and has a human brain and consciousness; on the latter, once a fetus registers EEG waves at around the 22nd week and becomes fully conscious at around the 32nd:
GB Gertler proposed 22-24 weeks gestation, on the basis that the neocortex begins producing EEG waves at this time. Underlying this proposal is the view that human cognition is the beginning of cognitive capability and the point at which protection of personhood should begin. In similar fashion, Burgess and Tawia defined functioning brain as one where there is identifiable activity of the kind that normal adult brains (cortices) indulge in. They argue that what is required is a critical minimum level of structural organization, with functional components present and mature enough to perform. On the basis of EEG readings, they conclude that a fetus becomes conscious at 32-36 weeks gestation.1
Once this is in place, self-awareness, problem-solving capacities, and a theory of mind are inevitable. Notice that this criterion doesn’t exclude people with cognitive disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers, and Down Syndrome; it doesn’t exclude anyone with mental illness or physical disabilities because even people who are blind, deaf, mute, schizophrenic, bipolar, and dissociative have levels of self-awareness, problem-solving abilities, and theories of mind. That’s why I agree with Michael Gazzinga who says:
Clearly, I believe that a fertilized egg, a clump of cells with no brain, is hardly deserving of the same moral status we confer on the newborn child or the functioning adult. Mere possession of the genetic material for a future human being does not make a human being. The developing embryo that becomes a fetus that becomes a baby is the product of a dynamic interaction with its environment in the womb, its postnatal experiences, and a host of other factors. A purely genetic description of the human species does not describe a human being. A human being represents a whole other level of organization, as distinct from a simple embryo as an embryo is distinct from an egg and sperm. It is the dynamics between genes and environment that make a human being. Indeed, most of us are willing to grant this special status to a developing entity long before it is born, but surely not before the entity even has a brain.2
The killing of a conscious person is murder. Embryos and early fetuses are, in no way, conscious persons. This is precisely why I’m against abortion beyond week 20-22 or as is more often called, late-term abortion. So yes (!), you are attempting to control what women do with their bodies. You are attempting to control the decisions they make and you’re doing this in a very underhanded manner, namely with the false accusation that they’re guilty of murder. What you are guilty of is a lack of empathy! If you cared for the hardships women who choose to have abortions are facing, you wouldn’t be leveling such an accusation. That accusation is hurtful! If the Jesus of the Gospels were a real person, it’s highly likely he would not have leveled this accusation himself. Think on that and do away with your false accusation! These women aren’t murderers!
1 Jones, D Gareth. “The Problematic Symmetry Between Brain Birth and Brain Death”. Journal of Medical Ethic Issue 24:237-242. 1998. Print. Available on web.
2 Gazzinga, Michael. “The Ethical Brain”. The Dana Foundation. 1 Jul 2005. Web. 21 Nov 2014.
My original argument was that you did not understand the Free Will Theodicy and your post does not relevantly address whether the given Christian’s “philosophical worldview” is inherently contradictory. Note that I say, specifically, that it’s the worldview we’re discussing here.
What I found ludicrous about your argument is that it supposes a pro-life Christian (who, by virtue of their beliefs, believes that a fetus being killed is comparable to a fully formed human being killed) is somehow self-contradicting when they attempt to thwart abortions. Unless you logically abnegate the Christian’s belief that a fetus is equivalent to a human, there is literally no contradiction, and that was the only assertion I was making. In your original post, you never made this move.
But you did do it in your response to me.
“Abortion, however, isn’t murder, and your whole spiel relies on this unsubstantiated conflation…”
If you had put that– and the following dialogue and references you cited to support the contention– in your original post, I probably wouldn’t have made my ‘whole spiel’ in the first place. Your argument was contingent on abortion not being murder, and my only issue was that you neglected to even mention why it wasn’t murder initially, when it mattered in your argument.
I think there are some issues with your demarcation between fetus and person and what makes the killing of one morally permissible and the killing of another the opposite, but I’ll answer that later in this post.
“You straw man my entire argument to make it sound as though I’m okay with the sort of wills that want to murder and rape people. Clearly, I’m not.”
I had not suspected that you were..?
My point was that the Christian likens abortion to murder insofar both things are “morally wrong”, and ergo has substantial drive to thwart such “moral wrong”s. We are, after all, discussing the Christian thought.
Let’s look at it this way:
If something is morally wrong, it is therefore obligatory to neither participate in it or allow its facilitation by others (to the extent of one’s power).
X = Morally wrong.
Christians are instructed by their Bible, the source of their morality, to neither participate in X or allow it (again, to their power). Let’s substitute murder for X. The Christian now believes murder should not be done or facilitated. Now let’s substitute abortion for X. Well, now our Christian believes abortion should not be done nor facilitated.
We can put just about anything there, so long as the Bible says so (and therein is the problem with Divine Command theory…), but you probably get the point.
You attempt to suggest the Christian’s worldview regarding the amorality of abortion is contradictory by ragging on the Free Will Theodicy:
“They are suddenly forgetting that humans are supposedly sinners and that they’ll often make choices that god finds reprehensible. Christians are essentially giving themselves an authority greater than the authority they themselves assign to god! …”
“This makes for a glaring inconsistency in the thought of most Christians. Abortion and euthanasia shouldn’t be vehemently opposed given the notion that we have free will, a will that isn’t even subordinate to god’s own will…”
Your argument, as far as I can glean, is that given the fact we have free will (and regularly abuse it)… it doesn’t make sense for Christians to thwart the will to have an abortion? What? Regardless of the fact that we’ve already established the Christian worldview views abortion as wrong and thus justified in thwarting? Regardless of the fact that thwarting amoral desires is not at all see in the free will theodicy or Christian theology as related to “giving themselves a [greater] authority”? Regardless of the fact that the Christian worldview never deems amoral things as permissible in happening just because humans are naturally sinners and it’s expected of them to make wrong choices (a large part of Christian theology is “turning away from our sinful selves”)? Where on Earth are you getting this from?
I already gave my lengthy reply to this in my original reblog, and I don’t know how else to elaborate myself without being duly repetitive, so… moving on, I suppose.
It is only you choice if you were able to prove that abortion is murder, but since you can’t prove that, then it isn’t your choice.
I argue that thwarting the development of a genetically human embryo/fetus that is in the process of maturing into a cognitively autonomous human being is wrong, yeah. Given your definition of a person:
A human person is a living organism, genetically homo sapien, and has a human brain and consciousness
You clearly value cognition and consciousness as integral to what gives a person value, at least a value greater than that of a simpler animal’s. I’d have to ask at this point why you feel that, say, an infant human should be granted the same level of moral consideration as a person instead of as a simple animal, given the fact that infants have a similar level of sapience to animals like dogs/cats/etc. Infants often develop their person-hood and sapience over time, rather than develop it rapidly post-natally. Is there something that demarcates infants from other animals? Is it the fact that the infant is in a state of maturation towards becoming an adult human capable of higher levels of sapience, and since we place value to sapience, it gives the infant itself value?
Other than all that, the only other real issue I took with your criticism of the Free Will Theodicy was that it did not cover everything.
From my experience of researching the arguments of Christian apologetics, The Fall of Man Theodicy is usually referred to in conjugation to the FWT as to why evil exists. The Free Will Theodicy is used to explain why “man-made evils” occur, while the Fall of Man Theodicy was used to explain why natural evils occurred. There’s also Plantinga’s excuse for the existence of natural evil, which is that the free will of supernatural beings (i.e.: demons) was why we had natural evils. Which is a thoroughly terrible defense, if you ask me, given the fact that God could very easily strike down those demons if he cared to, and thus he either wants them to punish us or has a greater reason for doing so.
If I were required to show that every philosophical worldview were “inherently contradictory,” that would imply that one has warrant to hold to any worldview given that it’s not inherently contradictory. That is a presuppositionalist way of thinking and I reject it. I reject it because it is logically possible for there to be a philosophical worldview that contradicts another even though both views are inherently consistent. Now, to demonstrate which view is wrong, you would need to look outside of the worldview. This is why any worldview must be measured against what’s the case, the truth, the facts, or, at the very least, the evidence.
I didn’t need to “make that move” in my original post because it’s obvious to any pro-lifer that I’m a pro-choicer. Given that, Christians know that I don’t equate abortion with murder. It’s tacit in the post, but implied strongly enough given my stance on abortion. I know of no pro-choicer that equates abortion with murder. If abortion were murder, then it’s likely most of us would be against abortion.
I don’t take my moral cues from Christian thought, so I don’t care much for the overview. My point is simple: abortion, in reality, is not murder and therefore, when a Christian tries to interfere with a woman’s choice to have one, they are infringing on her free will. It isn’t enough for them to state that abortion is murder; they, even under their own worldview, have to demonstrate that it is. If worldviews were based on mere assertions, then everyone would be entitled their own truth. If you are in favor of such epistemic subjectivism, then this conversation won’t go so well for you. I’m going to safely assume that you don’t believe everyone is entitled to their own truth and as such, everyone has to go through the same motions to demonstrate the veracity of their position. So as I do, the Christian must do also. If they refuse to, then all they have is the bare assertion that abortion is equivalent to murder; what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
My original point stands. The Free Will Theodicy is employed as a solution to the Problem of Evil. I wouldn’t stop at Plantinga; all such theodicies are awful because given the aforementioned motions to establish the veracity of one’s position, a Christian has to demonstrate that Libertarian free will is operative in human psychology. Compatibilism won’t do. Hard determinism pretty much damns the entire enterprise of such theodicies. That is, once again, something they’d be hard pressed to do. So once again (!), they’re back to a bare assertion and nothing more. But assuming people can make choices of their own volition, it is still the case that abortion isn’t murder. We may not have answered whether we have free will of the sort, but we have thoroughly demarcated abortion from murder. Therefore, a Christian infringing on a woman’s choice to have an abortion isn’t actually keeping her from committing murder. Rather, they are forcing her to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term. This is what was done in the case of an 11 year old girl in Chile.
As for your pro-life view, you are employing the often repeated and just as often refuted Argument From Fetal Potential. I can just as easily say: have it your way then! Make every woman carry their children to full term! Let’s see what comes of it, yes!? One woman will give birth to a dictator that’ll make Hitler and Stalin look like choir boys. Another will give birth to a psychopath that’ll give Manson a run for his money. Another will give birth to a boy who will become a priest; he will help run a child trafficking ring within the Church. In other words, why do you special plead for favorable potential? Who’s to say these maturing embryos won’t turn out to be criminals? Who’s to say they don’t end up dead at the age of five, victims of childhood lymphoma or some other fatal illness? Who’s to say they don’t end up stillborn? Who’s to say they don’t die of SIDs? You can’t speak of potential as though it’s all positive and you can’t write off the negative by arguing something along the lines of “oh well, it’s better to wait and see.”
We have done plenty of “wait and see,” and what we end up with are orphans who pro-lifers don’t give a damn about! We end up with parentless children in foster systems, children who, at worst, get physically and sexually abused, and children who seldom find a secure and stable place to call home. We end up with feral children. We end up with children continuing a cycle of rampant poverty. We have tried the restrictive way. It doesn’t work!
What we also end up with is higher maternal mortality because women who can’t access abortion legally seek illegal solutions, and one of those solutions is the services of a person not qualified or trained to perform any safe procedure. Approximately 64,000 abortions in the Philippines are on minors! That’s where restrictive policies have gotten us. I’m writing a book on this very matter and trust me, I can bury you in facts from London, Northern Ireland, the US, the Muslim World, Brazil, and Chile. Restrictive policies are not a solution, but that is exactly where the Argument From Fetal Potential leads us.
There’s still a worthwhile task in what you wrote: infants are more like animals than like adult people, you argue. While this maybe true, infants, unlike embryos and early fetuses, are protected by law. In my country, they have birth certificates and social security numbers. They are recognized citizens given that they’re born in the states. On top of that, the child presumably means something to conscious persons: a mother and/or a father, whatever siblings the baby has, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, and so on. No family, no matter how tightly knit, feels so close to an embryo. No one, save for perhaps the would-be mother, has any aspirations for the embryo or early fetus. These thoughts for its future are put on hold, for the most part, until it’s born.
The very fact that the child is protected by the law and belongs (for lack of a better word) to a family is enough to distinguish it from an organism aborted prior to week 16 and from most animals; there are animals, like household pets, that are also protected by the law and belong to a family. In either of those cases, one can’t harm someone else’s family member, be it an infant child or a pet dog. What you seem to be attempting to do is disingenuous. You want to say something like, “an infant isn’t fully matured yet, so what’s to stop anyone from killing infants?” Most pro-lifers equate abortion with infanticide because a) they’ve failed to demarcate, by way of the relevant scientific facts, embryos and early fetuses from viable fetuses and infants and b) they have no understanding of the pertinent laws in their respective countries. I have accomplished both a and b, and therefore, I’ve successfully drawn a line between abortion and infanticide.
Markers of consciousness are important demarcators of a viable fetus, but they aren’t necessarily significant demarcators in what you’ve ask, namely what distinguishes infants from animals. Abortion beyond week 20 is illegal in most states. While I’m not necessarily against the 20-week ban because the very few abortions done beyond that point are due to fetal abnormality, I do agree with the following:
Legal experts believe these laws are unconstitutional on their face because they undermine a key provision of Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion in the United States up until fetal viability, generally determined by doctors to be around 24 weeks’ gestation.
I would back a 22-week ban, so that viability informs the law here in the US. In any case, these kind of debates are absolutely pointless and I will indulge this no further. I have what should be a simple request.
You may have defended the Christian worldview, but you are a self-described atheist. You’re also a pro-lifer. I ask that you be better than your Christian counterpart. Set aside your highbrow philosophical defenses of the pro-life view and instead, give true meaning to your position. Pro-life means anything but! Pro-lifers are better coined pro-birth as they generally don’t care about a child post-birth. Whether it is loved by its parents or ends up in an orphanage or in foster care matters not to them. Never mind that maternal mortality is something they don’t even pay attention to.
If you either equate abortion with murder or you see that “thwarting the development of a genetically human embryo/fetus” is wrong, address what comes before the decision to have an abortion. The decision to have an abortion isn’t made on a whim. Nor is it a decision made lightly. The decision is made for existing reasons that discourage a woman from carrying her fetus full term. Those reasons are known and aren’t attended to by pro-lifers.
Why not do something about poverty in women and children? Why not figure out why such poverty exists in the first place? Why not do something about domestic violence? Why not do something about the educational and literacy gaps that may exist in young girls? Why not do something about the lack of employment opportunities some women have? Why not address gender-based income inequality? To put an end to a thing or to slow it down, the same steps must be taken. Perhaps you want to put an end to abortion altogether; or perhaps you have a more realistic goal and you want there to be less abortions either in your country or the world. To accomplish either of those goals, you have to get behind the decision to have an abortion.
Restrictive policies have tried to stop abortion by sheer force. Hell, abortion has been criminalized in many countries throughout history and even today, it is criminalized in some parts of the world. Yet that still doesn’t deter a woman who doesn’t want to stay pregnant. That should have been seen as a cry for help! These brave women have risked their freedom and even their lives just to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The question people like you failed to ask is this: what can drive a woman to make a decision that carries such consequences? Women like her need your help to feed their impoverished households. They need your help to secure income equality. They need your help to have stability in their relationships. They need your help in curbing domestic violence. They need your help in keeping them from being forcefully impregnated before they’re of legal age. Sitting here with your highbrow arguments accomplishes nothing for two reasons: you can’t win here, for one; but more importantly, you aren’t really helping what you claim is your cause! Are you really pro-life? As it stands, you’re no different from your Christian counterparts in that pro-life is merely nominal and holds no real weight.