Disclaimer:The right-wing makers of this video have been accused of willful selective editing by the left-wing
There has been a flurry of outraged posts on the internet about the family planning doctor (see above) who was filmed talking about her work, macabre work involving the distribution of the body parts of the unborn children she aborts. I find the idea of abortion carried out for marginal reasons of choice abhorrent and oppose it. Loving parents who want to build a family form a bond of great love for their unborn child even at an early stage of development. For these parents the loss of that developing child would be a great tragedy for them: So, if an unborn child can on the one hand stimulate intense parental feelings why should love and protection be withheld from selected unborn children for quite marginal reasons? Are those parental feelings to be regarded as a fixation that signifies nothing?
Conscious cognition is unlikely to suddenly switch on during a child’s development and this means there is no clear cut demarcation to justify parental protection and love being withheld. Therefore except in dire circumstances I find abortion unjustifiable. There is no fundamental basis why an unborn child should receive less protection than a new born child. However, given the philosophical and social pathologies of our society that’s not to say abortion should be made illegal any more than divorce or prostitution should be made illegal. Moreover, I don’t automatically equate abortion with murder as do some, although I do see it as killing. (See below)
So having set that scene you might think I would have a basic agreement with many right-wing Christians on this subject. Think again. Here is how one member of the Intelligent Design community, Cornelius Hunter, puts it (“Darwin’s God” 15th July)
As predicted, evolutionists are desperately attempting to dismiss and delegitimize a several-hour long video of an evolutionist discussing the routine practice of crushing live babies to murder them in cold blood. Business Insider, for example, leads with an absurd headline labelling the video as “false.” No the video is not false. What is false is the evolutionist’s claims that humanity, and everything else for that matter, arose from a series of random chance events—what their Epicurean forefathers referred to as swerving atoms. And, as William Jennings Bryan foresaw, if the world is nothing but a happenstance accident, then what does it matter if we kill? And kill they do. In our country alone evolutionists have murdered more than 50 million babies. It is Bryan’s worst nightmare come true. Evolutionists have brought us this nightmare, and they will insist that it continues. What we are now seeing is how evolutionists conduct business—lies, more lies, and blackballing and delegitimization of anyone who points it out.
“Evolutionists have murdered…. Evolutionists have brought us this nightmare”. That’s a rather emphatic connection being made there between evolution and abortion. In order to avoid incriminating the innocent that really needs qualifying: Are all abortionists evolutionists? (probably, yes). Are all evolutionists abortionists? (probably, no) Where do the above accusations place evolutionist Christians like Francis Collins and Ken Miller? And what about Intelligent Design Guru William Dembski who is arguably a crypto-evolutionist? Evolutionists this, evolutionists that…..; IDists like Hunter (along with Christian fundamentalists) trace back many of society’s woes to evolution, from mass murders to the holocaust, from eugenics to abortion, from out of control gun owners to Islamic State…. did I just say Islamic State? I think I must have got that wrong: Islamic State are very likely to be anti-evolutionist*1 (But see footnote)
But evolution is not as well defined as Hunter’s sweeping accusations hints. In fact evolution is so ill-defined that it could conceivably cover intelligent design! See here for example:
So if evolution cannot in and of itself be implicated as determining one’s stance on abortion what is the underlying philosophy that leads one to have no problem with it? Hunter tries to express it by saying,
…..what their Epicurean forefathers referred to as swerving atoms. And …… if the world is nothing but a happenstance accident, then what does it matter if we kill?
Hunter is no doubt right in tracing heartless abortionism back to a world view, but ironically Hunter himself conspires to help along a debased concept of evolution. For as has been shown in this series of posts conventional evolution cannot work in an informational vacuum – it must itself tap into the givens of an a priori mathematical structure in configuration space. Therefore evolution is far from a happenstance process; in fact evolution is a thermodynamic analogue of embryo development, where in both cases up front but background information guides and biases the random shufflings of atoms. This is not to say that I believe evolution actually works like this. However, the intricate nuances of the evolution debate are pushed aside in the highly charged and polarized atmosphere in which Hunter is contending
Evolution in its distorted debased form is very readily infected with the virus of reductionist nihilist nothing buttery. This in turn is likely to affect the value people place on life: In such a context nihilism and extreme postmodernism find fertile ground. The hopelessness and purposelessness engendered by nihilism and demented fragmented postmodernist thinking*2 can even tempt suicide – the ultimate expression of a belief in an empty world. The grand narrative of atoms and the void has a hidden inner contradiction that is liable lead to a disbelief even in truth itself (See here). If antifoundational nihilism has the potential to depress to the extent that it increases suicide risk what chance does an unborn child have?
And yet it is true that from the third person perspective that a close look at matter only reveals swerving atoms. In fact if we look very closely at a human being all we see is, apparently, swerving atoms, even though those atoms follow some very sophisticated swerves. What is lacking here is the first person perspective of conscious cognition. Any human being, born and unborn, is more than the third person perspective – it is also a first person perspective: If abortionists don’t perceive the unborn child as a unique and sacred first person and instead just as atoms and the void then within the parameters of that perception, however wrong that perception is, abortion will been viewed as just killing and not murder. A necessary (but not sufficient) condition of murder is knowing that killing ends the life of another first person perspective. To those who only see the unborn child as atoms and the void it is unlikely they would see that child as another conscious being; in fact there are some ultras out there who even express doubt about the existence of consciousness. Therein lies the problem: Abortionists can’t be accused of murder if they simply don’t perceive it as anything to do with murder; to those with such an arid view of the fetus, abortion is just the disposal of a molecular machine and so their conscience is clear.
Appendix: On polarisation and my wariness of evangelico-fundamentalists
It is probable that someone like Hunter leans toward the political right-wing. Evidence for this comes from the kind of supporting comments he gets. The text below was extracted from comments on his post of July 14. Notice the way moderate commenter “William Spearshake” is thought of as a liberal-leftist devil’s advocate and the rightists do their best to push him in that direction. That the liberal-leftist abortionists are “evil” rather than simply working out a fallacious world view is axiomatic to these rightists. Inevitably the gun-owning issue gets thrown into the inflammatory mix. Hunter’s fulminations are very much part of this highly charged debate. This kind of behaviour is the main reason why I avoid contact with fundamentalists and some evangelicals: They see the world almost exclusively through moral spectacles: This means that those who disagree with them are likely to be viewed as willfully disobedient to moral principles and an affront to a sense of morality. All too often, then, one finds evangelico-fundamentalists accusing detractors of moral defect. I have experienced this myself and that’s one reason why I avoid contact with them. We can see some of the antecedents of this type of conduct below. We can also see an almost organic join between evangelico-fundamentalists and the gun owning small government rightists; this I believe traces back to the American Revolution. (See here). And for good measure I suppose I ought to mention the rightist susceptibility to conspiracy theorism (See here). The US needs to get back to its progressive Whiggish roots.
Joe G July 15, 2015 at 7:08 AM
How do you losers justify the killing of millions of unborn children? Why do you scream bloody murder at gun violence when the deaths caused are less than 1% of the deaths caused by abortions?
William Spearshake July 15, 2015 at 9:56 AM
And for the first century of its existence, the NRA was in favour of more restrictive gun control laws. The motives and focus of organizations change over time.
Joe G July 15, 2015 at 10:48 AM
The NRA responded to the liberal attacks. In order to keep what they had they had to pull far to the right.
William Spearshake July 15, 2015 at 11:11 AM
I wasn't criticizing the NRA, although there is much to be critical of. I was merely pointing out that you can't judge a long standing organization based on the motives and philosophy of its founders. These things often change considerably over time, as was the case with the NRA.
Joe G July 15, 2015 at 5:45 PM
The NRA had to change due to liberals.
Tokyojim July 15, 2015 at 7:15 PM
Wait William, you are trying to compare PP with the NRA? PP was born out of this type of a worldview! That was the whole purpose of the organization from the get go. That is a whole different thing than saying some of it's policies have changed over time. The founder was an evil person and had evil motives in beginning the organization! This is not a fair comparison at all. You only try and justify it because you too are a leftist.
William Spearshake July 15, 2015 at 7:41 PM
Have I said anything justifying PP?
The above is a video response by Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In spite of Hunter's accusation I suspect that Ms Richards is telling the truth in good conscience: She does not deny that her organisation carries out abortions and distributes "fetal tissue" for research purposes, but she does deny that the organisation is profiting from this distribution; rumor has it that the rightists edited their video to give this false impression. Ms. Richards reels off the work Planned Parenthood is involved in "Cancer screening, birth control, STD detection and treatment and abortions"; reading Hunter you'd think that abortions was all that PP do! There is no real murder here and my feeling is that Ms Richards is doing what she feels to be right in good conscience. That's not to say I agree with abortion. For Planned Parenthood killing fetuses is just a job of work among others, comparable perhaps to the professional executioners task. Although I would not want to say that all of Planned Parenthood's clients have unjustified abortions, that troubling question remains in my mind: How many of those unborn children are aborted for quite marginal reasons and treated as unwanted parasitic machines fit only for experimental scrutiny?
In the above video uber-feminist Rebecca Watson weighs in on the debate and takes exception to the term "baby parts" when used of something as small as a bean; better she thinks is "tissue". In this debate connotationalism looms large.
*1 It is possible that extreme Islam is in part a reaction to the mind boggling open ended freedoms and choices of Western secularism.
*2 Postmodernism is a bit like very hot spice: In moderation it can season and mature our epistemology, but too much of it can be a killer.