Thursday, 3 September 2009



-----Drove by----saw a coterie of protesters thrusting their ugly signs at the public---no doubt feeling very righteous in their anti choice cause. It baffles them that half of Americans don't agree with them----indignant with any opposition---asking: When does life begin? Are you in favor of murder? Even Obama stammered when quizzed in this fashion. (during the campaign--remember?)

My fury rises---I park my rig nearby and bicycle back---carrying pro choice info--I will answer their challenge.
What's wrong with this picture? It does not show proportionality---it needs a giant human thumb the size of the baby next to it to be accurate. But they are more than dishonest--they are fanatical and fundamentally mistaken.
I soon discovered that they are mostly Catholic and also opposed to family planning--birth control of any kind (except the "rhythm" method) as well as safe and legal abortions. (Note the Planned Parenthood sign) The suffering their kind have imposed on the world is incalculable.
I quickly locate the coordinator of this demonstration and give him my material---and invite him to sit down with me and discuss the pro's and cons of the issue. He accepts---we adjourn to a coffee shop.
Here we are two hours later. I listened--he listened. He has his rosary in hand, I brought two of Sam Harris" books: LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION and THE END OF FAITH. If he looks a bit non plussed, it's because I let him feel the outrage our side sometimes feels at the cruelties his side wants to impose. Here in summary is what I told him:

1. Human life TAPERS into and out of significance. A fertilized egg is not as important as a baby about to be born; and therefore expendable for good cause: rape, incest, deformity or simply because the woman does not want it. A fertilized egg, hardly visible to the naked eye is very low on the significance scale---- certainly not as important as a 3 year old child. To prove this to yourself, imagine an emergency situation where you must choose between saving a petri dish with 10 fertilized eggs or one 3 year old child. Only a fanatic would choose the petri dish.

And consider a similar dilemma at the south end of life---someone very near death or a 3 year old child---which one would you save. (Interestingly, our society IS IN FACT MAKING THIS CHOICE---WRONGLY--IN THE WAY WE ALLOCATE MEDICAL RESOURCES---spending fully one third of our medical budget on end game treatment to the detriment of our children---and only the pro life fanatics don't "get it")

2. So where along the spectrum of significance should we draw the line and declare even human life expendable for the greater good? The Nation and the courts have answered this question: 22 weeks of fetal development. (and even beyond that for special situations) Yes, that line is arbitrary. And if you don't like arbitrary lines, then you don't like civilization---because arbitrary lines are largely what defines a civilization: Speed limits, age limits for voting, alcohol consumption, driving, marriage, military service etc.

3. The fundamental mistake of the anti choice movement is in assuming they have access to moral certainty; That right and wrong are revealed by God and therefore certain and unchangable. (Oh the trouble when "certainties" clash.)

Pro choice people generally believe that notions of right and wrong grow out of human experience---and slowly evolve over time--refining themselves. In our lifetime we have seen the moral code evolve with regard to women's rights, civil rights, gay rights, animal rights etc. Anti choice people are just dead wrong about where ethics come from and wrong about any ethical code being certain.

4. Unrestrained reproduction will wreck our world. Overpopulation is the root cause of most of humanities' current problems. (global warming, hunger, resource depletion, deforestation, etc.)
Unrestrained reproduction overpopulated India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philipines and Mexico. Each attempts to export its surplus to first world nations. Thus, the Muslim world, the fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian world, and the Mormon world are leading humanity into catastrophe. They are the community equivalent of a crazy "cat lady" who lets her pets breed unlimitedly.
5. It is sheer stupidity to think that humans are a "special case"----exempt from the MATHEMATICS OF EXPONENTIAL GROWTH. Have we learned nothing from the rabbit and cane toad situation in Australia? From lemmings? Here is another thought experiment: What if oak trees thought that "every acorn is sacred," and that oaks are more important than other trees, AND HAD THE POWER TO ENFORCE ITS VIEWS?--Soon there would be only oak trees in the world. ( and incidentally, believing that a fertilized human egg is a person is EXACTLY like believing that an acorn is an oak tree----Only religious people are capable of such thought)
6. Human brainpower has put us beyond any feasible predator to keep our numbers in check. We must self limit if we are to survive. Birth control and abortion can serve as artifical, voluntary and fairly benign "predators" to control our numbers. We have a place in the web of existence but we are ripping the web---We do not know the limits of possible human population---but if we find the limit it will be too late----like finding out how much water a balloon can hold before it bursts.

7. Abortion is a regretable but necessary backup solution to unwanted pregnancies. Unless it is safe and legal, it will be unsafe and illegal---imposing tremendous cruelties on women. Forcing the victim of a rape or incest to carry a child to term is a cruelty only religious fanatics would support. (as the Republican Party Platform advocates)
8. Finally, I took off the gloves and let him feel some of my personal rage: I told him: Waging war against birth control and abortion is where STUPIDITY HAS MORPHED INTO EVIL. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE NEED TO GROW UP AND DEVELOP A TOLERANCE FOR AMBIGUITY. YOUR VIEWPOINT IS AS UNSUSTAINABLE AS A PONZI SCHEME.

9. Though I didn't say this--I wish I had: Pro-life fanatics are guilty of what I call VALUE TRUMPING: Embracing one value (human embryo life)--declaring that it TRUMPS--(is-greater than )other values like: THE OVERALL GOOD OF THE HUMAN RACE OR THE ENVIRONMENT OR CONCERN FOR SPECIES BALANCE. A FERTILIZED EGG DOES NOT TRUMP HUMAN FREEDOM, DIGNITY NOR THE PROBLEM OF GRINDING POVERTY. (read the book ISHMAEL) The Quakers, for example, took the value of non violence and let it trump self protection--They whimpered to Benjamin Franklin in the French and Indian war to defend them.
I call on my fellow philosophers to speak out against the religious crazies and help Obama and the American public face the awkward questions about abortion and come to a sensible clarity.

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