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July 20, 2009

Comments

Resident Atheist

I'm confused. Didn't Sra. Bousada just bring two precious little potential beings into this world? Aren't you elated that she was able to save those eggs from the possible evil of non-fertilization? John, I thought you felt every potential being has value? By not fertilizing every available egg, aren't women doing the equivalent of abortion? I thought you were Pro-LIFE?

Also-I've noticed you often make the assumption that people make decisions you disagree with out of ignorance. "If only he/she had thought it through..." I would argue that often the decisions were not made from a lack of knowledge, but from a different set of priorities. It may seem like mincing words, but there is an important distinction; by assuming that others are acting out of ignorance, you devalue the other person's point of view and don't have to delve deeper into other worldviews.

In this case, I'm pretty sure at some point during the pregnancy, it might have crossed Sra. Bousada's mind that she might not live to see her kids graduate. It's not that she didn't understand the consequences of her actions. It's that she didn't care. And that is a wholy different problem to solve.

John

RA,

You are right that I am pro-life, but you have made an assumption concerning my views about Sra. Bousada's decision. You seem to assume that either one must believe that she should have fertilized those eggs or someone is not pro-life. Being pro-life does not mean pro-life whatever the cost. There are multiple ways to promote a culture of life in scenarios that are more responsible than the route she chose.

As for her ignorance, I suppose I opted to give her the benefit of the doubt, rather than categorically suggesting that she was simply selfish. Candidly, I do think she was selfish in her decision, and I believe that selfishness stemmed from some of the core values she possessed in her worldview. Then again, selfishness could be the arguable motivation for many of the decisions made in these kinds of bioethical scenarios (be it abortion, euthanasia, cloning, etc.) And you're right, if she really didn't care about the long-term consequences of her decision, than the problems are very different, and much worse, in my opinion.

Resident Atheist

You're absolutely right that is my assumption. Otherwise, you are being inconsistent. It seems to me you aren't as much PRO-life as ANTI-abortion, as you have shown here (and on capital punishment and -I think- birth control) that life-no-matter-what, is not a reasonable position. My point being that I don't think it is fair to use the argument that abortion is wrong because every potential life has value, because you obviously aren't willing to pay that price in all cases. (That doesn't mean there aren't a number of other reasons to object to abortion.) If you think someone should be forced to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, then you should be willing to have 66 year old mothers and murderers getting life in prison because that's the price you pay to have all these wonderful people running around. A life is a life is a life.

I understand you give people the benefit of the doubt, and in this case her rationale is hard to justify on any grounds. But, I believe it is always a healthy exercise to sincerely try and morally justify another person's actions to really identify that very specific delineation between the two points of view. Plus, it's a lot more entertaining when you just come out and call someone a jerk.

John

Again, RA, you are assuming that PRO-life = an absolute "life at any cost" standard, which is certainly one way to interpret it. But not the only way, any more than being PRO-2nd Amendment means "gun ownership at any cost". For example, I believe responsible citizens should have the right to keep and bear arms as our founding fathers determined, but if a citizen breaks certain laws of this country (what we have determined as felonies), he/she forfeits that right to keep and bear arms. But being PRO-anything does not necessarily equate to an unwavering absolute. There is certainly room for a graduated scale where PRO-anything is concerned based on any number of factors.

There are a number of reasons to be against abortion, certainly. And one of them, as Christians are apt to defend, is the inherent value of innocent human life, as determined by the Creator God. One of the recognitions that has been clarified in my mind on this issue of life (thanks to your prompting regarding the death penalty) is that while a person from birth is made in the image of God, and has, therefore, immeasurable worth, that designation is not without adjustment. The standards of God's moral law, combined with the ability of people to make choices against that law (e.g. murdering another innocent human being), means that those who have committed such heinous crimes, forfeit that inherent right to life. One might use the designation that they have moved from the category of "innocent human life" to "guilty human life". And the punishments are applied accordingly.

It seems your attempt to analogize the 66-year old mother with a murderer doesn't necessarily correlate. The mother, after all, died, and her children lived. She did not take the life of another human being, as a murderer has. The real question then is, "Should a mother who takes the life of her child be put in the same category as a murderer?" This is where these issues get complicated, no matter what one's worldview is. After all, people are already being charged with murdering children, both outside the womb, as well as, inside the womb. That is why I repeatedly include the examples of people who have killed a pregnant mother and then have been convicted of a double homicide. This course of action, which presumably is deemed acceptable for those who are pro-life, seems quite inconsistent for those who are pro-abortion.

As you continually articulate in different ways, all of these issues are not as straight forward as we would wish them to be. That is all the more reason, as you also pointed out, for us to try to understand the worldview/perspective of others. More than that, we must also seek to better understand our own worldview--and the various implications of each worldview.

The biggest difference in these particular discussions, for example, is that those who hold to the evolutionary idea that we are all here by random chance anyway have to come up with their own set of criteria for determining why life is valuable. And often, that criteria manifests itself in the utiliterianism of people like Peter Singer. Once we start attempting to put a price tag on the lives of innocent people, however, we lose the solid foundation by which to truly value anyone. Because, at the end of the day, we are all expendable if the price is right. And we have sown the seeds for tyranny of the powerful majority.

Resident Atheist

I realize that most people who deem themselves Pro-life don't actually mean life-at-any-cost. That is precisely the hypocrisy I'm trying to point out. And unless you do mean that, then I don't think it is fair to use that argument when debating abortion. Because it just means that the person doing the abortion draws their value line at a different place then you do--but you DO have a line, too. (This is the same vein as people who are Pro-life except in the case of rape or incest. To me, putting a caveat on the act just means that you have a price at which you are willing to halt a potential life...so the only fair solution is to let each person decide that for themselves.)

I think you misunderstood my intent on the 66 year old mother. I made no correlation to a murderer. I really just think she was selfish, but no more so than many. I just don't understand why you would condemn her behavior when you should be having a parade in her honor for saving two more 'innocent' lives. Seems to me you're saying lives aren't worth much if they don't have a good chance of living to adulthood with a biological mother. Funny, that's the same logic I use in support of abortion.

'Guilty' human life. Smells fishy to me. But couldn't that person repent? Aren't you allowing man to play god? Sounds like one of those slippery slopes you're always talking about.

John, I think the thing I've gotten most from these discussions is a new found appreciation for the depths to which the human mind will go to make all of the pieces fit for an already pre-defined world view. It has made me much more self-aware of when I am doing this, and I thank you for it.

Finally, I don't disagree with your final point. We are all expendable. The majority does rule. I don't know if you've noticed, but there are a few billion of us. In 100 years, no one will care if I was here, and that's ok. Let that wash over you and sink in. It's liberating. Do I value others? Not really. Do I expect them to value me? Nope. I just want for all of us to do our own thing without hurting each other. And although most people would never admit it, that's exactly the way they live their lives, and it's ok.

andy

"Do I value others? Not really. Do I expect them to value me? Nope."

yikes dude. At all?

Resident Atheist

Don't get me wrong, I don't like to see others suffer, but I'm honest enough with myself to admit that if I really cared a great deal for my fellow man, I would donate all my possessions to charity and spend all my time trying to help others. But, like most people, I'm basically a selfish person and worry mostly about myself and those around me. The biggest difference between me and the general population is that I acknowledge I'm selfish, and I'm ok with that. I think people should be self-reliant; I expect little from others and wish everyone was the same.

andy

"if I really cared a great deal for my fellow man, I would donate all my possessions to charity and spend all my time trying to help others."

How did you come up with that conclusion? Or better yet, why does one have to equal the other? Why does "great care = ALL to charity and ALL time helping"?

Resident Atheist

Have you ever been asked the question 'What is the value of a human life?' If you believe that others are valuable, then the answer to that question can only be 'immeasurable', and you should be willing to pay whatever you can to save any life.

Considering the number of lives that can be saved for 'just pennies a day' (thank you Sally Struthers), anyone who isn't giving ALL they can ALL the time must not care very much.

That is why I respect the lives of those who choose a life in service of their religion. They actually do that calculation, come to the same conclusion as I, and have the guts to act upon it.

In my opinion, if you have a nice car or clothes, watch cable, go on vacations, etc. then you are selfish and don't value others that much. And considering most people fall into that category, I don't consider it a character flaw.

John

RA, I wanted to jump back in sooner to first of all thank you for candidly admitting the logical conclusion of an atheistic worldview, where the value of life is concerned. Unfortunately, many people (Christians certainly included) are not willing to admit some of the more difficult aspects of their worldview. And I have always appreciated your willingness to evaluate your own worldview as objectively as possible in that respect.

Like Andy, your comments about not valuing others also caught my attention, particularly because you went on to say, "I just want for all of us to do our own thing without hurting each other." The very fact that you would qualify your contention that we should be able to "do our own thing" with the fact that we should not hurt eachother, seems to suggest that you actually do value people to some degree. After all, to suggest that we should not hurt others implies that there is something in other people that is of value and worth protecting. The related question then is, "*Why* should we really be concerned about hurting one another?", especially if, as you suggest, we are all expendable anyway. (This was the point I was trying to press with Peter Singer when he suggested that we should help the poor. It doesn't seem to make sense. It is not a logical conclusion from an atheistic presupposition.)

You're right, that we won't be here in 100 years, but that reality doesn't necessarily help us determine how we should be treating one another now. And more than that, it hardly serves as the rationale for an expendable attitude toward one another.

I agree with Andy, and would question the same thing about your attempt to reconcile your view of caring for others with 100% charitable living. We certainly have a more natural bent toward selfishness. But just because we may not have exercised charity toward others at ALL times doesn't necessarily mean that we don't care for them at all. I would bet that you care for others much more than you appreciate (even if you have that natural bent toward selfishness with which we're all afflicted).

Resident Atheist

Please don't confuse my point of view with the atheistic point of view. While my views tend to mesh nicely with your interpretations of the worldview, I am hardly mainstream. I'm sure many atheists see value in others for a variety of reasons; perhaps what they could give or have given humanity (large or small). Perhaps they feel just having the experience of life is valuable in and of itself. You calculate that if one doesn't believe in god, one must not value others. Many atheists value others for what they are; an amazing being capable of amazing feats. I, unlike most, just realize that the amazing isn't that uncommon. And THAT is the rationale for an expendable attitude (summed up by my 100 years comment).

I was wondering if one of you would take the bait on my 'without hurting one another' statement. The only reason I put that caveat in there is not because I care for others, but I fear what others would do to me. It is purely self preservation. Although atheist, my one rule is the golden rule.

If you aren't willing to spend a few cents to save someone's life, then how can you possibly say you value someone? Is there any less you can do that would mean more to someone? You can try and tell yourself that you care because you gave $50 and a night at a homeless shelter, but when you spend that next dollar, you have to ask yourself 'Do I value this Starbucks Carmel Macheado more than feeding 10 people today?' And when you buy that Macheado, you have your answer. If that value is less than $3.81, then is that really much value at all?

Jean

You're right about the struggle re. spending money on anything other than charity. I often do feel convicted that Starbucks is such a luxury- and I easily spend money on coffee over giving extra to hungry children in other countries. But at the same time I don't think that makes me cold-hearted toward those in need. I don't think giving 100% of my money to help others is the only way to be a caring person. That's like saying, "do I love John if I sometimes say mean things to him or act selfishly, instead of selflessly toward him?" I think a person can still love their spouse, even if they don't show that love 100% of the time. Actions do back up words, but i don't think 100% perfection is expected.

Resident Atheist

I don't think I've ever said that acting selfishly automatically means you don't care for others. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

My points were merely:
1) People, in general, are more selfish than they like to believe they are
2) People, in general, don't value other people as much as they like to think they do.
3) Being selfish is natural and ok (which you concede if you think 100% perfection is not expected)

Does that mean you don't have more compassion than the average Joe? I suspect you probably do, but as far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty low hurdle.

The question is how much do you value others. That value is what you are willing to pay on your worst day. (For example, I can't say I value my wedding vows today, but tomorrow, not so much.) So take a deep breath and give yourself an honest answer as to how little we actually care about one another.

Resident Atheist

I think part of the confusion here is that because I'm selfish and don't particularly value others that much, it appears that I believe any selfishness requires one to absolutely and completely devalue others. That is not the case. I think most other people are both frequently selfish and occasionally compassionate. Where I worry about the wellfare of my fellow man maybe 1% of the time, most are probably around 10%, and a rare few do it 100% of the time.

andy

Wow, what rare people worry about others 100% of the time? ... and what drugs are they one to control their anxiety? HA!

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