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Jen Roth - Atheist Against Abortion
Posted: 02 October 2010 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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vidoqo - 01 October 2010 06:25 PM

Let me start by saying thank you - that’s at least an argument I can respond to.

But I disagree that moral intuition can be axiomatic. 

Thinking a bit about concepts of self-evidence and axiom prior to next posting.  One thing worth clarifying - Do you mean:

a) all moral intuition
b) just some moral intuition
c) more particularly, only those we are presently concerned with here?

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Posted: 02 October 2010 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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B9K9 - 02 October 2010 07:52 AM
vidoqo - 01 October 2010 06:25 PM

Let me start by saying thank you - that’s at least an argument I can respond to.

But I disagree that moral intuition can be axiomatic. 

Thinking a bit about concepts of self-evidence and axiom prior to next posting.  One thing worth clarifying - Do you mean:

a) all moral intuition
b) just some moral intuition
c) more particularly, only those we are presently concerned with here?

I think I’d go with a, until shown otherwise.  This wikipedia page on self-evidence frames the question in an interesting way.  Basically, that we can agree that certain things “ought” to be done, but that isn’t quite self-evidence.

As we don’t have a very clear understanding of the mind, what we mean by morality is difficult to gauge precisely.  But I think it’s fair to say that we, as humans, essentially have some universal desires.  Pain, for instance, is something we don’t enjoy.  Thus, stabbing someone is considered immoral - we wouldn’t like it done to ourselves, and we imagine other humans as having similar desires.  But stabbing someone is sometimes OK.  Maybe in self-defense.  Maybe as an operating surgeon.  Maybe as part of some weird twisted S & M ritual, rite of passage, etc. 

I guess I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some moral intuition could be self-evident, but I’m not sure what that would look like.  If you could give an example, and then describe how it is axiomatic, I’d be interested in hearing.

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Posted: 10 October 2010 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Firstly I endorse option b) namely, just some moral intuition.  While it seems somewhat likely that one might get good, not perfect, agreement regarding some MIs, it seems unlikely that everyone (who thinks reasonably rationally) will agree all propositions of MI.  I suppose this might be due to different prior cultural influences?

Can we in unison say that intuitively cannibalism is generally immoral, unless you are up an icy mountain in the wreckage of a crashed plane and face the choice of eating the dead or dying yourself.

To elaborate just a little, survival can and occasionally has trumped convention, but killing (and eating?) for pleasure is always immoral.

I had looked at the wikipedia articles on self-evidence and axiom, also at this excellent podcast:

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2009/12/podcast-teaser-why-rationality.html

and also:
http://www.miskatonic.org/godel.html

Though this last link is about mathematical theory, it seems to suggest that any moral theory with axioms may need another external moral axiom to justify it, so on and so on. Or, that everyone’s value systems have something doubtful, circular at their foundation. 

Therefore I don’t see a lot of benefit in arguing specific details of the rights and wrongs of abortion (to take but one example) when people may have even more fundamental differences in how they view reality.  At least these differences go a long way toward explaining why disagreements arise later on in the chain.  When you consider the nature of the debate thus far, it seems worthwhile to backtrack in this way.

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Posted: 10 October 2010 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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vidoqo - 01 October 2010 06:25 PM

But I disagree that moral intuition can be axiomatic.  While many of us can respect the idea that “all men are created equal”, etc., I’m not sure there is anything self-evident about it.  God certainly isn’t self-evident, nor are the wishes of a particular society.  It might be a good idea.  But good ideas aren’t axiomatic.  I could just as easily say that all women have the right to abort their fetuses.  But what have I said, other than that you are wrong, I am right, end of story.

I certainly agree that moral intuition is important.  In fact I already said as much more than once.  I’m not sure why you keep ignoring that.  was I? didnt think soSo, no, I don’t reason everything out in the abstract before I accept it.  But I do think I ought to be skeptical of my intuitions.  Moral intuitions are certainly not always correct.  Agreed. It could be argued that most evil in history has been done by people who were simply trusting their intuitions.  And not self justification? So I think that’s a dangerous way to approach life. Agreed - I do not suggest that intuition remain uncriticised

So, back to abortion.  The only thing we have disagreed on has been 3rd trimester abortion.  Why do your moral intuitions get to be axiomatic while mine do not?  You have essentially told me that “it feels wrong to you”.  Yet it does not to me.  The only interesting question to ask next is why?  Maybe we don’t have the answers.  But you can’t simply assert your view as correct because you “feel it”.  That’s ridiculous, right?  I suggest what you consider a moral intuition is less organic than you might wish to believe - that there are historical, cultural and philosophical traditions of which you are a part.  The founders’ statement was simple, to be sure.  But it was backed up by lengthy debate and critical analysis.

with the preamble concluded, your stated first disagreement may not be a disagreement at all.  that’s because you opted for interpretation a) and I incline to b).  One could argue that any MI is either intuition of an axiom, or an intuition of a process of reasoning.  An axiom can be said to only apply to mathematics, whereas self-evidence is a more proper name for some basic prohibitions don’t kill or steal or lie to harm someone else.  And it seems self-evident (again!) that there will be exceptions and limitations to these general rules.  A suggestion would be to assert that “killing the innocent is wrong” is a good principle, except that there is serious disagreement when it comes to war.  Countries justify unavoidable killing of innocents in war,  and many individuals assert its inexcusable, and still others say all is fair in war.  Are mothers in any credible sense at war with their unborn (third trimester) children?  Or do other exceptions to killing innocents exist?  While there may exist a distinction in law, I see no other distinction, and so conclude these killings morally equivalent.  Have you an argument that they are morally separate cases?

[ Edited: 10 October 2010 05:58 PM by B9K9 ]
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Posted: 11 October 2010 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Ah abortion.  One of the four horsemen of internet discussion groups.

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Posted: 22 November 2010 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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I am indebted to Ms. Roth for at least framing her opposition to abortion in a nonreligious way.  She must occupy a very lonely corner of the “pro-life” party, being both an atheist and philosophically against abortion, and I want to thank her for at least giving me a chance to consider an argument against abortion not based on religious nonsense.

That being said, however, I have to say that the antiabortion mindset is no less free from self-contradictions than she accuses the pro-choice mindset of being.  I have to quote George Carlin here: “If a fetus is a person, why doesn’t the census count them?  If a fetus is a person, why does a pregnant woman say, ‘We have two children and one on the way,’ instead of saying ‘We have three children?’”  Lastly, and perhaps most damningly, “If a fetus is a person, why is it that when there’s a miscarriage, there’s no funeral?”

I do not believe that a fetus is a person.  I do not believe that an acorn is an oak tree.  To suggest otherwise is the grossest example of biological reductionism., as PZ Myers points out. 

This is a point absolutely and solidly established in biology. The embryo is not the adult. It does not contain the full information present in the newborn—that will be generated progressively, by interactions with the environment and by complex internal negotiations within an increasingly complex embryo.

Neither is there a sharp, magical point at which the fetus does become a person.  I do not know enough about neonatal or embryonic development to be able to offer anything other than a barely-informed opinion about where it is that personhood is acquired.  But I do know enough to be able to describe it, I think, as a series of tiny, even insignificant changes from point A to point Z.  But saying that because these changes are tiny and insignificant, point A is no different from point Z is to commit the slippery slope fallacy.

It does not follow from the fact that there is no sharp, non-arbitrary line between “fetus” and “person” that there really is no difference between the two. A difference in degree is still a difference, and a big enough difference in degree can amount to a difference in kind.

[ Edited: 22 November 2010 05:36 AM by BenjCano ]
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Posted: 05 December 2010 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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I’m pro-choice - the choice of not having sex unless you can support and will support the child - there is nothing more noble than defending the weak and nothing weaker than a fetus - life is tough - unwanted babies are a burden - so are the disabled, elderly, the stupid, the sick, the lazy… put them up for adoption and suck up nine months of crap as a lesson learned -
As a believer I’m glad to see so many non-believers defending the unborn

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Posted: 25 May 2011 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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sobpatrick - 05 December 2010 10:02 PM

I’m pro-choice - the choice of not having sex unless you can support and will support the child - there is nothing more noble than defending the weak and nothing weaker than a fetus - life is tough - unwanted babies are a burden - so are the disabled, elderly, the stupid, the sick, the lazy… put them up for adoption and suck up nine months of crap as a lesson learned -
As a believer I’m glad to see so many non-believers defending the unborn

While I agree with these sentiments as a general moral principle, I disagree vehemently with the concept of outlawing abortion.  We went through the disaster of legislating morality with the alcohol prohibition era.  We are living through it and wasting vast resources on the failed war on drugs.  Women are dying and being tortured daily because of laws prohibiting prostitution… the list goes on.

One of the facts of human nature is that people will do all sorts of immoral things for various reasons.  We need to craft laws to minimize the total harm caused by this fact.  Instead of focusing on punishing the guilty, we need to focus on protecting the innocent.

Lack of access to legal abortions kills more fetuses and women than do legal abortions by a huge margin.  Few things protect the unborn like allowing mothers free choice in all phases of their lives—especially in regards to birth control and matters of when and with whom to have sex.

When people are free to make life choices, they are more likely to make good ones.  When they are slaves of religious doctrine or constrained by bad laws, they make bad choices.  When the legal system restricts choices, often only bad choices remain.

To paraphrase the quote:  I’m pro-life.  Pro every life, not just the lives of fetuses. 

I’m also against the death penalty, not because murderers deserve to live, but because I don’t see anyone wise enough to make correct life-or-death decisions for every case—and the injustice of turning a single murder into a double murder by wrongly executing someone is a much worse thing than allowing a murderer to live a restricted, hopefully miserable smile continued life.  That way, when the exculpating DNA evidence is finally analyzed, the wrongfully convicted can be freed and compensated for their time.

[ Edited: 25 May 2011 06:34 AM by ullrich ]
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Posted: 25 May 2011 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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ullrich - 25 May 2011 06:29 AM
sobpatrick - 05 December 2010 10:02 PM

I’m pro-choice - the choice of not having sex unless you can support and will support the child - there is nothing more noble than defending the weak and nothing weaker than a fetus - life is tough - unwanted babies are a burden - so are the disabled, elderly, the stupid, the sick, the lazy… put them up for adoption and suck up nine months of crap as a lesson learned -
As a believer I’m glad to see so many non-believers defending the unborn

While I agree with these sentiments as a general moral principle, I disagree vehemently with the concept of outlawing abortion.  We went through the disaster of legislating morality with the alcohol prohibition era.  We are living through it and wasting vast resources on the failed war on drugs.  Women are dying and being tortured daily because of laws prohibiting prostitution… the list goes on.

One of the facts of human nature is that people will do all sorts of immoral things for various reasons.  We need to craft laws to minimize the total harm caused by this fact.  Instead of focusing on punishing the guilty, we need to focus on protecting the innocent.

Lack of access to legal abortions kills more fetuses and women than do legal abortions by a huge margin.  Few things protect the unborn like allowing mothers free choice in all phases of their lives—especially in regards to birth control and matters of when and with whom to have sex.

When people are free to make life choices, they are more likely to make good ones.  When they are slaves of religious doctrine or constrained by bad laws, they make bad choices.  When the legal system restricts choices, often only bad choices remain.

To paraphrase the quote:  I’m pro-life.  Pro every life, not just the lives of fetuses. 

I’m also against the death penalty, not because murderers deserve to live, but because I don’t see anyone wise enough to make correct life-or-death decisions for every case—and the injustice of turning a single murder into a double murder by wrongly executing someone is a much worse thing than allowing a murderer to live a restricted, hopefully miserable smile continued life.  That way, when the exculpating DNA evidence is finally analyzed, the wrongfully convicted can be freed and compensated for their time.

*clap,clap clap—stomp, whistle*  grin

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Posted: 04 June 2011 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Jim Lippard - 22 September 2010 06:01 PM

Was Jen Roth ultimately arguing that personhood is something that a human organism has for its entire lifecycle?  At what starting point?  Conception, implantation, or something else?

I find it completely implausible that an organism at a life stage with no capacity for perception, let alone reason, counts as a person.  Nor that a particular genetic code is either necessary or sufficient for personhood.

I think every point that she made was brought up in a debate I had with a Christian blogger on the topic of abortion, who similarly argued for an equation between personhood and human organism.  I wonder if she has any better rejoinders.  Does she think that IVF and therapeutic cloning are immoral?  IUDs?

http://lippard.blogspot.com/2009/12/vocab-malone-on-abortion-and-personhood.html

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.  smile

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Posted: 04 June 2011 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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ullrich - 04 June 2011 09:15 AM

Jim Lippard - 22 September 2010 06:01 PM

Was Jen Roth ultimately arguing that personhood is something that a human organism has for its entire lifecycle?  At what starting point?  Conception, implantation, or something else?

I find it completely implausible that an organism at a life stage with no capacity for perception, let alone reason, counts as a person.  Nor that a particular genetic code is either necessary or sufficient for personhood.

I think every point that she made was brought up in a debate I had with a Christian blogger on the topic of abortion, who similarly argued for an equation between personhood and human organism.  I wonder if she has any better rejoinders.  Does she think that IVF and therapeutic cloning are immoral?  IUDs?

http://lippard.blogspot.com/2009/12/vocab-malone-on-abortion-and-personhood.html

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.  smile

yea, ‘argument from incredulity’ and ‘argument from ignorance’ make great bedfellows!

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Posted: 07 September 2011 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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What about spontaneous abortions (AKA miscarriages), which I’ve read occur to about 50% of pregnancies.  Does a pro-every-human-lifer think we ought to save all those unborn humans?
Do they also oppose policies like China’s one-child policy?  And how would they respond to arguments like Shook’s (http://humanistcanada2011.ca/talks/planetary-humanism-must-evolve-enlightenment-humanism):

A deliberate plan to overpopulate the earth could not do better than apply selected ethical principles from Enlightenment and 20th century humanism: human values are supreme; every human life is a life worth saving; having offspring is an exclusively parental matter; and the like.

And the natural results? The utilitarian application of improved technology so that “Above all, nobody dies” is yielding an ever-bigger crop of people depleting even more natural resources. Although this path is unsustainable, at least this utilitarianism’s universalizability avoids hypocrisy. First-world humanists now calculating how poorer countries should limit their family sizes and energy consumption are not very different from global financiers dictating how those countries should control their economies.

Is there anything salvageable in the humanist tradition to construct a planetary ethics that prioritizes global sustainability in a just manner?

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Posted: 03 October 2011 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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I am against abortion as a method of birth control.  I will tell a life experience story that will hopefully illustrate my position:

I worked at Whole Foods Market in the 1980s after college.  A young woman who worked in the Deli was quite promiscuous, not that I mind that all too much.  But I know of 3 instances where she “forgot” to use birth control and terminated her pregnancy all 3 times.  I find that appalling.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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adamrsweet - 03 October 2011 07:23 AM

I am against abortion as a method of birth control.  I will tell a life experience story that will hopefully illustrate my position:

I worked at Whole Foods Market in the 1980s after college.  A young woman who worked in the Deli was quite promiscuous, not that I mind that all too much.  But I know of 3 instances where she “forgot” to use birth control and terminated her pregnancy all 3 times.  I find that appalling.

I find it appalling that people are promiscuous.  I am an atheist against promiscuity—and men refusing to wear condoms.  So what?  Does that mean we should legislate against promiscuity?  Do you want to criminalize abortion?  Would you have forced the woman to give birth?  What about allowing her to end her pregnancies by taking the embryos or fetuses out and keeping them alive?  Would you fund research for allowing such abortion-without-death?

Jen Roth doesn’t support legislating against individual sexual or reproductive behavior.  Her opposition to abortion takes the form of arguing against it and supporting methods for pregnancy prevention—the latter of which I’ve been doing.  (Note: Roth and other pro-lifers have not supported abortion-without-death, which I find hypocritical to their arguments against elective abortion-with-death.)

One of the main problems with birth control today is lack of access to hormonal contraceptives, which have the highest typical-use effectiveness rates.  First, it requires a prescription, which requires (on top of the usual costs of visiting a doctor) an annual pap smear and woman’s health examination.  Then, you have to go to a pharmacy, unless you go to a place like Planned Parenthood where the doctors and contraceptives are all under one roof.  The costs and logistics of all this is more than most humans can afford—and this is all BEFORE using the contraceptive correctly. 
Possible changes: don’t require a Pap smear for a hormonal contraceptive prescription; don’t require a prescription (consultation with a pharmacist may be required).  So, instead of just saying you’re against abortion, how about encouraging your doctor to stop requiring Pap smears for contraceptive prescriptions and encouraging your government to stop requiring prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives?  Meanwhile, you can also shame people for promiscuity and not using inexpensive contraceptives, like abstinence and condoms.

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Posted: 04 October 2011 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Nala - 03 October 2011 03:47 PM
adamrsweet - 03 October 2011 07:23 AM

1 Does that mean we should legislate against promiscuity? 
2 Do you want to criminalize abortion? 
3 Would you have forced the woman to give birth? 
4 What about allowing her to end her pregnancies by taking the embryos or fetuses out and keeping them alive? 
5 Would you fund research for allowing such abortion-without-death?

1.  No but we should educate against it
2.  No I do not want that
3.  No I would not
4.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
5.  I have to think about that

Honestly the key is education.  Most abortions/unwanted pregnancies appear in areas where there is abstinence-only sex education.  This woman was a devout Christian and taught that the only way to not have a baby is not have sex.  Of course she learned about condoms and the pill later in her adult life, but as a child she was brainwashed into believing in the immaculate conception and later that babies come from God.  I spoke with her casually about it at one point and she said basically that if God had wanted her to have the babies, he would not have allowed her to abort them.

Education is the key

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