How and How Not to Use Psychological Research Regarding Abortion and Other Social Issues Be careful relying research as your authority in arguments — unless you know how to use it authoritatively.

How and How Not to Use Psychological Research Regarding Abortion and Other Social Issues Be careful relying research as your authority in arguments — unless you know how to use it authoritatively.

I was just looking at a Facebook battle over whether women tend to suffer emotional distress after an abortion. A secular psychiatrist said there’s no evidence; someone else insisted there was.

As Christians we are committed to truth. We need to know what we’re talking about, to make sure we’re speaking truth, before we engage in these kinds of arguments. I’m not sure the Christian in this discussion was succeeding in that. That doesn’t mean she’s wrong; in fact as a strong pro-life advocate I think she’s right in most ways, just not in the way she was standing for in this debate.

Even with a Master’s degree in psychology, I wouldn’t try to win the battle the way she’s trying to win it, for four reasons.

1. Research-Paper Wars Are Always Hard to Win

First, it’s difficult to win any war of this type, comparing research study with research study. That’s especially true for those who do not keep in close touch with the literature. It’s study vs. study, paper vs. paper, authority vs. authority; in fact, these arguments are technically arguments from authority. To make one’s case in any such argument, one must be establish that the authority he’s relying on really is authoritative. If the other side claims another study as authority, then it’s a battle to see who has more authority.

The debate I’m watching has one woman, not trained in psychology, pitted against the American Psychological Association. That’s like bringing a knife to an artillery battle. It doesn’t matter if your cause is right; you’re not winning that battle. Only those who really know the field stand any chance even of being listened to.

Remember, I say that as one who would like to say the pro-life view on women’s post-abortive emotional health is adversely affected. I’d like to be able to cite that kind research, too. I don’t, though, because research studies are like people: If you only look at one, you’re not getting the whole picture. Studies hardly ever all agree with one another; and when I look at a page linking to studies showing adverse effects, I don’t know whether these studies have been cherry-picked. If they have, then they don’t carry scientific authority. If I don’t know whether they have been, I can’t cite them with any authority.

2. Few of Us Have the Knowledge to Use it Authoritatively

For issues that have been studied multiple times, researchers have a tool called meta-analysis that’s designed to ferret out what they all agree on, if anything. Unfortunately in the debate I’m watching, I can’t take time to study the links offered. Two are freely accessible; they total 230-plus pages, which is too much for me to tackle right now. One of them relies heavily on meta-analyses. Both of them also use a different but also acceptable methodology: simple inspection of the studies, looking at the quality of the research and drawing conclusions only from the best. (Another one for which only an abstract is available appears to use the same method.)

Can you or I assess the quality of these analyses? Can we do it on the level that this secular psychiatrist has raised it? If not, then we really can’t answer. We can’t use the authority of psychological research unless we take that research seriously.

For pro-lifers who do have that knowledge, though, I say full speed ahead! But you didn’t need this article to tell you that, or to guide on the right way to do it. This is for those who don’t have that equipping.

3. Authorities Can Be Biased, and Research Flawed Regardless

Third, the APAs are both politically influenced. In the field I’m more familiar with, homosexuality and transgender, it’s very clear their research is politically biased (horribly biased, actually). I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if abortion-related research were likewise biased.

Meanwhile the social sciences have been suffering a serious crisis of replicability: Findings aren’t holding up when re-tested. Is that the case with post-abortion studies? It wouldn’t be surprising — although the research summaries linked above do cite an impressive number of studies, which reduces the likelihood of that flaw.

I cannot say more than that myself. I know neither the literature nor the history of abortion-related studies. I can say it wouldn’t surprise me if it were politically biased or otherwise flawed, but I cannot say that it actually is. In fact, if I were to say it without knowing, I’d be guilty of the same thing: Letting my bias determine my conclusions instead of the facts.

4. Guilt is Still Guilt, and God Still Has the Final Word

Fourth and finally, it’s also a mistake to suppose that psychological science knows all the answers. This secular psychiatrist says fundamentalists impose guilt. In fact guilt is an automatic effect following upon sin, and it can only be erased through God’s forgiveness.

Psychological science knows nothing of this. Women may or may not be able to ignore and suppress their feelings of guilt — and we do live in a world where many women can find strong support for suppressing those feelings — but guilt is what it is, regardless of whether one “feels it” or not.

In other words, most of us don’t have the resources to employ psychological authority in these discussions. But that doesn’t mean we have to bow to it. Psychological science is neither the only source of relevant knowledge, nor the most authoritative. Killing innocent young humans is wrong because it’s wrong, and God has the final word.

63 thoughts on “How and How Not to Use Psychological Research Regarding Abortion and Other Social Issues Be careful relying research as your authority in arguments — unless you know how to use it authoritatively.

  1. Thank you, Tom! You’re right, as usual, and at least in my case, it doesn’t matter who’s right in the battle you discussed. It wasn’t emotional harm that abortion did to me. It was realizing that in God’s eyes I had paid for murdering a human being! I immediately asked for forgiveness and am confident it was granted, but I’m still aware of the awfulness of my sin. I can only PRAISE GOD that He made me aware of my sin in time to ask for His forgiveness! (I used to rationalize that it wasn’t a child yet because it wasn’t born.) Greg Koukl corrected my thinking and the Bible confirmed he was right.

  2. Hi Ken. I’m an atheist and I’d like to understand how the bible confirms it was a child, as Greg Koukl said.

    Thanks.

    (In case you’re wondering, this is a serious request!)

  3. Len, good question! You made me look up the Bible verses that justify that statement because I don’t know them by heart. FIRST: Jeremiah 1:4-5 “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” To me that means God knows everyone of us even before conception! And it’s clearly a person He ‘knows’; it’s not just a lump of cells because the lump hasn’t been formed yet! SECOND: Luke 1:41 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb…” The baby in her womb was obviously a person and capable of sensing something. It doesn’t matter what he sensed or how; what’s clear is that he did! A lump of flesh doesn’t sense anything. THIRD: Luke 1:44 “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Elizabeth confirmed that the baby responded to Mary’s greeting. What else explains all 3 quotes from the Bible, except that a fetus in the womb is a person?

  4. Hi Ken, thanks for answering.

    Of the points you mentioned, the first (Jeremiah 1: 4-5) talks about God specifically knowing Jeremiah before he was even conceived (as you mentioned), so before the egg is fertilised. In other words, not the normal situation at all. The second and third cases are of a child that is quite well developed – it can hear and react, so it’s not even a candidate for abortion (too far along the way).

    This is not the place to do a full bible study of all the verses that could possibly be interpreted to be about abortion (and I really don’t have the energy 😉), but people more knowledgeable than I am have already done this. Here are a couple of links to articles that cover the verses you mentioned, plus several others. I recommend that you read the full articles there. There is some repetition as they’re both covering much of the same material, but it’s worth the read to see what the bible really says on this subject 😊

    One thing to note is that pretty much the only thing the bible actually says about abortion (not where you have to interpret this from a hidden meaning) is where it mentions how to initiate an abortion if a husband is suspicious of his wife’s pregnancy – ie, that another man might be the father (Israel being such a strong patriarchal society, it was very important that a man knew his children were really his). See Numbers 5: 12 – 31 (also covered in the articles in the links).

    http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/bible.shtml

    https://atheistfoundation.org.au/article/abortion-in-the-bible-what-does-the-bible-say-about-abortion/

  5. Just re-read my comment and realise it may come across as if I think everyone should have an abortion. That’s not the case but I think it should be available if the woman in question decides to have one. It’s her choice.

    But I think it’s even more important to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. If people are serious (and honest) about wanting to prevent abortions, then they should ensure that honest, accurate, medical/science-based information, and ready access to birth control is available. Otherwise they’re just play-acting.

  6. Len, do you really think that to prevent “unwanted” pregnancies through contraception is the only morally consistent way to stand for life?

    It doesn’t take more than 15 seconds worth of “medical/science” information to ensure people know where babies come from. They knew before anyone called it medicine or science,p. So I suspect contraception education is the only thing you’re talking about here. Or would you be open to other morally consistent choices such as sex within marriage only, or adoption, or marrying to raise a baby conceived out of wedlock, or raising a baby as a single mom?

    If someone prefers those solutions, does that make their pro-life position hypocrisy?

    Suppose I think that in the case that all those solutions fail, abortion is still murder and should be “prevented” by law. Am I a hypocrite for opposing murder if I didn’t support contraception education?

    This is all hypothetical. I’m not telling you where I stand on contraception education. I do know where any doctrinally consistent Catholic would stand, and it looks like you’re saying they’re all hypocrites.

  7. Len,

    I would add that quote mining the Bible about abortion is hardly a definitive (if not a very poor) way to understand the Christian perspective about abortion. Looking at the Bible’s overall message, it is clear that life is God’s creation and that the sanctity of life is reinforced as a basic Christian/Biblical principal. From a historical perspective, one of the significant distinctives between Christianity and the pagan society in which it began was the attitude towards abortion. Remember, Roman husbands could not only demand abortions of their wives but even demand they kill their born infants. This kind of behavior was uniformly and diametrically opposed by early Christians. That the sanctity of life was apparent to even the earliest Christians speaks definitively to Christian/Biblical opposition to abortion.

  8. Hi Tom,
    I think that contraception (ie, what’s available and how it should be used) should be properly covered in education, and that contraceptives should be available when needed – for adults and for young adults. No religious-based impediments. I’m not going to say at what age they should be available for young adults because I know kids will experiment as they approach adulthood – no imposed rules will stop that. But they should understand what they’re doing and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And anyone being honest about the figures will admit that abstinence doesn’t work; areas where abstinence is the only option to prevent pregnancies (ie, where access to contraception is extremely limited) consistently show the highest rates of unwanted (usually teenage) pregnancies. Just ask Mary 😉

    However, if it becomes necessary, I think the woman should be able to choose. Foetuses aren’t aborted if they’re already viable (ie, can live outside the mother’s womb), and anyway the bible speaks of life starting at birth (eg, Adam started to live when God breathed life into him). But governments (local, regional, or national) should not put unnecessary steps in the way to prevent women from obtaining an abortion. For example mandatory (but unnecessary) waiting periods. This sort of impediment hits the poorer women much harder because, in addition to often having to travel far to a clinic for the first appointment they then also have to return for the actual procedure, incurring extra costs (eg, travel, time off work, and possibly also accommodation).

    Bottom line: basing any rules for someone else on your own religious views is not acceptable. I will support your right to do whatever you want that’s motivated by your religious views, unless it affects someone else. And yes, I know that abortion affects a potential person (ie, the foetus) but the rights of the actual person (ie, the mother) take precedence.

    Is it hypocritical to say you oppose abortion but you then don’t support policies that have been shown to help achieve that goal (eg, availability of contraception) because of your religious views? What do you think, Tom.

    As the saying goes: “If you say that you can’t do something because of your religious beliefs, then I’ll support you. If you say that I can’t do something because of your religious beliefs, then you I’ll oppose you

  9. Hi Bill,
    I’d say the bible (and the god it portrays) is not really so hot on the sanctity of life. He drowned near-enough everyone, he killed the first born (except those he passed over), and he actively prevented Adam & Eve from gaining eternal life after they’d acquired the same knowledge of good & evil that he had.

    I’d rather see abortions not being necessary but until all people have straightforward access to reliable ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies – that is, contraception that actually works (ie, not abstinence) they should remain an option for the woman, with no religious-based impediments.

  10. Bottom line: basing any rules for someone else on your own religious views is not acceptable. I will support your right to do whatever you want that’s motivated by your religious views, unless it affects someone else.

    1. What if my rules are based on truth that’s not merely religious?
    2. Why does your worldview have primacy over mine, anyway? Why do you have the right to make laws that affect someone else, based on your view of reality, but I do not?
  11. Len,

    The whole “God isn’t a nice guy” argument just doesn’t really pass muster as a reasonable understanding of the Bible and the portrayal of God in it. Your take on Adam and Eve completely misunderstands what happened both as far as when their life began or their eternal life.

    And as Tom said, what “religious based impediments.” Life begins at conception. That’s an irrefutable scientific fact that no Dr. anywhere wouldn’t affirm. The type of life that begins in human beings is human life. The taking of a human life is murder. My opposition to abortion is based on settled science and settled law.

  12. Hi Tom,
    In my comments below I use “I” & “my”, “you” & “your” as a short way of noting different views. I’m not trying to put words into your mouth 🙂

    What if my rules are based on truth that’s not merely religious?

    Do you have an example? Obviously other than the normal societal rules such as no killing, no stealing, etc, which have been known and understood by societies long before they were included in either version of the 10 commandments 🙂

    Why does your worldview have primacy over mine, anyway? Why do you have the right to make laws that affect someone else, based on your view of reality, but I do not?

    Other than the general rules for a good society (eg, no killing, no stealing, etc as mentioned above) “my” rules would generally give everyone autonomy – people choose for themselves, within the guidelines of what’s agreed by society to be good for that society.

    For example,
    I say “you may do x if you wish, as long as it doesn’t harm another actual (or potential and viable) person, and if another actual person is affected by it, then they must also explicitly consent”.
    You say “you may not do x at all”.

    Examples for x could include abortion or same-sex marriage.

    In other words, my way gives people the freedom to choose; your way does not allow people to choose.

    If you propose laws that allow people to choose and that don’t impose things based solely on your religious views, then assuming they’re good for society in general there’s a good chance that I’ll support them. Is it possible that religious views could lead to “acceptable” ( 😉 ) laws (other than as mentioned above) ? Maybe – why not try and suggest one.

  13. “Non-religious reasons” — for starters

    Rule 1: Don’t kill innocent human life.
    Rule 1a: Babies are human life from the moment of conception.
    Rule 1b: Unborn babies are innocent.
    Rule 2: Don’t commit violence for the sake of convenience (often an issue, though of course not always).
    Rule 3: Don’t kill anything if there’s a chance it might be a morally significant person (for example: a deer hunter doesn’t shoot without making certain it’s a deer, not a person)
    Rule 3b: You don’t have certain knowledge that the unborn child isn’t a morally significant person.
    Rule 3c: So don’t kill it; you might be wrong, you might be committing actual murder, and you don’t know that you aren’t. (See here for more.)
    Rule 4: Freedom to choose isn’t an absolute moral value. Respect for innocent human life always takes precedent.
    Rule 5: I fully expect, based on experience, that you’ll discount all this as “religious,” even though it isn’t.
    Rule 5b: You can feel free to prove me wrong on that.

  14. “my” rules would generally give everyone autonomy – people choose for themselves, within the guidelines of what’s agreed by society to be good for that society.”

    Len this explanation is circular because “the guidelines of what’s agreed by society ” are what we’re talking about. Who gets to decide what those are and on what basis are those rules made.

    “your way does not allow people to choose.” Your way doesn’t allow the unborn to choose. Who speaks for them.

  15. I do not believe American Christians care about the unborn at all. Instead they believe that American Jesus will punish the United States for allowing abortions to be legal and of course for the teaching of evolution. Even crazier is their belief that when they die and meet Jesus he will tell them, “I never knew you. You didn’t do enough to save those babies.” Christians stop pretending to care about others, the rest of us know you do not and only care about yourselves. We do, oh it’s true.

  16. Your beliefs and lack of beliefs are duly noted, Van.

    Maybe you know some Christians who don’t care. Maybe you know some who follow an “American Jesus.” Maybe you even know a handful with that truly crazy belief you ascribe to us all, about what Jesus would say when we meet him after death.

    If so, I regret and lament that you’ve had that experience of Christianity. The real thing — as at the pregnancy resource center where my wife works, for example — is authentically caring. Their actual interactions with actual women are caring interactions. Grace-filled, non-judgmental, non-condemnatory.

    That would be a good example for you to follow, in place of what you’ve done here, which is really quite judgmental, isn’t it? That grace comes from following the One, Jesus, who is “full of [both] grace and truth” (John 1:14, John 1:18).

    There is some truth in what you said about God punishing those who allow innocent lives to be snuffed out by the thousands, but again, what’s motivating my wife and her co-workers, and most of the rest of us, isn’t that fear of punishment. It’s that we grieve that loss of life.

    If you’ve seen a different Christianity than that, I’d invite you to look up the nearest crisis pregnancy resource center. Stop by. Show them this interaction, on screen or in print. Ask them to sit down with you a while. Find out what they really think and feel. Learn what really motivates them. Don’t judge from a distance, and for your own sake please don’t continue making the mistake of stereotyping.

  17. Your wife works at a fake women’s health center. All one has to do is read these stories to see the truth about these places:
    “l Was Tricked By A ‘Fake Reproductive Health Center.’ I Went To A Fake Women’s Health Center, & This Is What Happened” “I Went to a Fake Women’s Health Center, and Here’s What You Need to Know.” These fake women’s health centers only exist to lie to women about abortions and to intimidate women into not having them.

  18. That may be the most foolish thing anyone has ever said here in over 60,000 comments

    Van, you are a fool if you think you know my wife better than I do. You’re a fool if you think a few reports of questionable practices are proof that every center is guilty of the same. You’re displaying glaring confirmation bias.

    Don’t be a fool, Van.

  19. Tom,
    Quick question on your chat to Van before I get back to the previous discussion 🙂
    1) How many people at your wife’s centre are licensed medical professionals?
    2) How often does anyone at your wife’s centre say to a pregnant woman (or girl) “you really should get an abortion, here’s an address that can help you” (and then they give an address that can actually help in obtaining an abortion)?

  20. Hi Bill,
    Having read the bible cover to cover several times I’d say the god the OT portrays wasn’t kind at all. Apart from the points I mentioned, he was only looking out for the Israelites – ie, not all of his creation. As for Adam & Eve, what caring parent would leave his completely innocent children alone with the equivalent of a loaded gun, just saying “don’t play with the gun, don’t point it at each other, and don’t pull the trigger”? And when Adam & Eve’s curiosity got the better of them (thanks to the serpent, whom God allowed to talk to them) and they ate the fruit (not having knowledge beforehand about good & evil / right & wrong), God kicked them out of the garden specifically so they would not gain eternal life. Not a good parent and certainly not a loving, caring parent.

    And who ruined a good man’s life just for a bet with Satan? Not a good god.

    The life of a potential person begins in the womb at conception, obviously. But that life is not yet a viable person that could live outside of the womb. It is not known when mental and physical development is far enough that the potential person is “complete” – that they achieve personhood, if you will. Limits are placed on the age of the foetus beyond which abortion is no longer performed precisely because of this. Once the foetus is viable (including through the use of medical science – eg, incubators) it may not be terminated (except perhaps for some dire medical health/safety risk for the mother). That’s if it survives, as ~50% of fertilised eggs are aborted naturally anyway (I suppose you believe that God does this).

    I guess you believe that a soul is given at conception but souls have never been proven to exist – not from conception, not from birth, and not at death. It may be settled religious belief for some people (depending on which flavour of christianity you follow – assuming of course that the Christian view is correct) but it’s definitely not settled science.

  21. Len,

    Quick question before I answer yours in #20: Do you really want to associate yourself with that kind of utter foolishness?

    Now in answer:
    1. I’ll check when she gets home. And I’ll answer when you’ve answered this: How many licensed medical professionals does it take to qualify to do teaching, counseling, training, and to provide medical referrals?
    2. Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind?

  22. Len @#21:

    1. “God” in this context is capitalized. It’s a proper noun.

    2. “Bible” in this context is capitalized. It’s a proper noun.

    3. Many, many people who have read the Bible from cover to cover, and who have interacted with many, many others carefully and at length, say the God of the OT is a God of lovingkindness. In other words, that you’re wrong. You can have your opinion, but if we’re to accept it on your authority alone, forget about it.

    4. You draw a careless and false analogy between God and human parents. A closer analogy would be, what parent would never allow any of their children to make a single morally significant decision their whole lives long? (Do you see the analogy? I’ll explain further if you don’t.)

    5. Do you have any idea what God means by eternal life</em? Not just eternal existence, and especially not eternal existence in open rebellion against him. He means eternal life in full and complete relationship with him — which he restored through Jesus Christ, for those who choose it. It’s a lot better plan than you make it out to be.

    6. That wasn’t a bet with Satan. God knew the outcome, and there’s an eternal side to it that you seem unaware of. God more than restores all the pain, loss, and suffering his people experience. Job isn’t complaining right now. His life wasn’t ruined: It’s really, really great, right now and for ever.

    7. Are you arguing on your own authority again, regarding persons and “potential persons”? How on earth can you prove personhood is “complete” at any time whatsoever? How can you kill a child when you don’t know when he or she is a person?

    8. No one who knows the issues ever expected the existence of souls to be “settled science.” Why on earth should it be? What gives science any competence to discuss the issue?

    9. Souls have never been proven to exist, at least not to every person’s satisfaction. You’re right about that. Is that a good reason to kill anyone who might in fact be a living, God-created soul?

    10. “Christianity” is capitalized. It’s a proper noun.

  23. Hi Tom,
    My thoughts on #14:
    Rule 1: Don’t kill innocent human life. Good idea.
    Rule 1a: Babies are human life from the moment of conception. You say “babies”, which implies viability – ie, they’re pretty far along the way to being born. Otherwise (ie, directly after conception) they’re on the way to being foetuses, incapable of surviving outside the womb.
    Rule 1b: Unborn babies are innocent. Agreed. Just as a thought: at what point does original sin hit them?
    Rule 2: Don’t commit violence for the sake of convenience (often an issue, though of course not always).
    Rule 3: Don’t kill anything if there’s a chance it might be a morally significant person (for example: a deer hunter doesn’t shoot without making certain it’s a deer, not a person)
    Rule 3b: You don’t have certain knowledge that the unborn child isn’t a morally significant person. What does “morally significant” mean to you here? Do you mean a good person versus a bad person? Are you saying it would have been OK to abort someone like Hitler (assuming you consider him bad, even though he was a Christian)?
    Rule 3c: So don’t kill it; you might be wrong, you might be committing actual murder, and you don’t know that you aren’t. (See here for more.)
    Rule 4: Freedom to choose isn’t an absolute moral value. Respect for innocent human life always takes precedent. Who will look after the rights of the mother-to-be (who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to-be)?
    Rule 5: I fully expect, based on experience, that you’ll discount all this as “religious,” even though it isn’t. Your points are based on what you believe (eg, that God creates the life, gives a soul, etc), so that’s pretty religious (even if you say it isn’t 😉
    Rule 5b: You can feel free to prove me wrong on that. Thanks 🙂

  24. 1a. Whether they’re called “babies” or not, they’re still human life from the moment of conception.
    1b. Original sin is irrelevant. It’s wrong to kill innocent adults, too, by ordinary human standards of innocence; to kill innocent children is even more wrong.

    3b. “Morally significant” in general means that one’s actions with respect to that person, thing, object whatever has moral significance. “Morally significant person” means that the same moral significance attaches as to any human person.

    1. Who looks after the mother’s rights? Be careful which rights you’re assuming here. The right not to be pregnant, for example, is very much in question here.

    2. My points are not religious. “Belief” doesn’t make them religious; after all, you believe my points are religious; does that make your position religious? “Religion” is a meaningless word if you apply it that broadly.

  25. Hi Tom,
    #22: I’ve also read several of the types of stories Van mentions. That’s one of the reasons I asked my questions.

    Regarding medical professionals, if it were me and mine, then I’d definitely want a medical professional to be involved to tell me the truth about the procedure, what can happen, etc. Based on medical science, not religion.

    😉
    So I guess the only real advice they give at your wife’s centre is “have the baby”.

    #23:
    Where I use “God” as a proper noun, I capitalise the word. Where I use it as a noun (eg, the god of the OT) I don’t (typos excepted 🙂 ) . Similarly, if I were to write about the gods of ancient Greece, I would not capitalise “gods” because it’s not used as a proper noun.

    Capitalising the Bible is not something I usually do. Similarly, I don’t capitalise the Koran but I see that my spelling auto-correct does (and just did). I’ll try to capitalise the Bible in future if it means that much to you. I also capitalise significant words in other book titles (eg, the Lord of the Rings), so would be more consistent.

    I guess my auto-correct also missed “christianity”. I’ll try to capitalise that too in future.

    If people say the god of the OT is loving & kind, then I guess they were reading a different version of the Bible than I was.

    … what parent would never allow any of their children to make a single morally significant decision their whole lives long?

    Good point. But the parent in that case would know that the child had some life experience they could use to help them make that decision. Adam & Eve had none. They didn’t even know about good & evil until after they partook of the fruit. What parent would put their children in a dangerous situation with absolutely no experience or knowledge to help them make the right decision? And then punish them for having made the wrong choice.

    Regarding God testing Job (to show Satan): How do you know Job is better off now? You only have the story in the Bible. Do you also believe what’s written in other books? Maybe other holy books? How do you know the Bible is true? (And please don’t say “because the Bible tells me it is”, unless you also believe that the Koran, the Lord of the Rings, and the several Harry Potter books, are also true.)

    … How can you kill a child when you don’t know when he or she is a person?

    You keep using the word “child”. At the stage we’re talking about, it is not a child. It’s not a child until it’s born. I realise you get a better emotional reaction from your audience if you use that word but it’s not accurate.

    I spoke of souls in response to the comment from Bill about settled science – wrong discussion. But whether or not there’s a soul, it’s never a good idea to kill any person. But we’re talking about abortion, which occurs before the potential person is viable. Do I like the idea of abortion? No (as I already mentioned). Do I think it should still be the mother’s decision? Yes.

  26. Tom,
    #25
    You’re again talking about killing children. I’m not – I’m talking about abortion.

    I questioned the phrase “morally significant” because I thought you said you couldn’t know whether or not someone would be morally significant. Which implies that someone might not be. I just wanted to understand how that could be.

    The right to not be pregnant is also protected by contraception. Do you agree with contraception being available?

    Tom, your points are shaped by what you believe and what you believe is shaped by the religion you follow. So when you say “no-one should be able to have an abortion”, it’s because your religion has shaped your view. I say “the (future) mother should be able to choose”. Her religious views (if she has any, that is) may prohibit her or they may not but it remains her choice.

  27. Len @26

    So you’ve read some of the same stories Van’s read. Do you also jump to the same unwarranted conclusions? I don’t mind questions such as you’ve asked, but if were you I’d run as far and as fast as possible from the false and foolish generalizations he’s made. You do believe in basing conclusions on evidence, right? Unlike Van, that is?

    If it were you, and you had no regard for religion, you could still learn a lot about your pregnancy from people who have training in how to communicate it. Medical issues specific to your case would take a medical professional.

    So I guess the only real advice they give at your wife’s centre is “have the baby”.

    Do you realize how insanely, rudely, prejudicially dismissive that attitude is? Here’s a partial list of services.

    It’s as if you don’t think the people working there are people. Even the ones who have been born already. Attitudes like yours are incredibly dehumanizing: “Gee, they don’t do anything but say, ‘have the baby.'” As if. Good grief. You’ve got an incredibly dismissive view of Christians. That’s wrong, on multiple counts.

    Whether you like it or not, I have guidelines for capitalizing “God” that are part of your agreement for commenting here. See the note on discussion guidelines in the sidebar.

    If people say the god of the OT is loving & kind, then I guess they were reading a different version of the Bible than I was.

    That’s possible — if you were some non-standard, heavily corrupted version. But if you’re saying you read a standard translation, then you’re simply wrong on that.

    Regarding God testing Job (to show Satan): How do you know Job is better off now? You only have the story in the Bible. Do you also believe what’s written in other books? Maybe other holy books? How do you know the Bible is true? (And please don’t say “because the Bible tells me it is”, unless you also believe that the Koran, the Lord of the Rings, and the several Harry Potter books, are also true.)

    There’s a simple answer to that. Take my answer as previously stated, and prepend it with the words, “According to what Christianity teaches …. ” Problem solved. That’s what you were asking about, wasn’t it? Christianity’s teachings?

    … How can you kill a child when you don’t know when he or she is a person?

    You keep using the word “child”. At the stage we’re talking about, it is not a child. It’s not a child until it’s born. I realise you get a better emotional reaction from your audience if you use that word but it’s not accurate.

    You get a better emotional reaction for your view by avoiding the word child. Planned Parenthood very, very carefully trains its people to use words like “tissue” instead. Just look at how careful you are: “But we’re talking about abortion, which occurs before the potential person is viable.” That’s just as loaded as “child,” only in the other direction. We all do it. But notice that I was able to make the same argument without relying on that language.

    But this one’s easy to solve, too. “How can you kill living organism that may or may not be a person when you don’t know whether it is or not?”

    Don’t “wrong discussion” me. I’ll take part in any discussion I want here.

    Do you think abortion should be the mother’s decision? Yes. And that’s supposed to carry how much authority? I want reasons, and yours aren’t holding up.

  28. Len @27

    Are you saying it’s not morally more wrong to kill innocent children than innocent adults? My comment there applies to people anyone would call children. Even you.

    I have no problem with contraception. Why do you ask.

    Just because my religion has shaped my view does not make every view I hold a religious view. You asked for non-religious reasoning. I gave you answers that do not depend on any religious belief, but on beliefs that are widely held regardless of persons’ religions. Doesn’t that qualify as non-religious reasoning?

    If that’s not what you wanted, then what were you looking for? I mean, this is quite a double-bind you place me in. In order to give “non-religious views,” based on the principle you seem to be using here, I can either give you (a) views I hold, but which have nothing to do with views that I hold, or (b) views that I don’t think are true. Which of those did you want?

  29. Her religious views (if she has any, that is) may prohibit her or they may not but it remains her choice.

    That’s your opinion, based on your dismissive, dehumanizing, double-binding assertions proceeding (as I’ve argued above) from
    (a) your authority, which carries no weight,
    (b) your misunderstanding and distortion of reasons I’ve presented, and
    (c) arguments for your position, of which you have presented none that I can recall (though I’m not taking time to re-read the post so I might be wrong on that; feel free to refresh my memory).

  30. Almost 200 women die every day from botched abortions in nations where abortions are still illegal. This is the holocaust that Tom Gilson and the rest of the religious fundamentalists want to bring to this country. Their ideology is more important to them than public safety. One of the reasons this evil religion is disappearing quite nicely. Christianity nauseates people.

  31. How foolish!

    You haven’t responded to what I wrote about your last foolishness here. Ignoring it? Hiding from it?

    Women choose those procedures. Either that, or else you have no grounds to call it a matter of women’s choice, which is undoubtedly true in many cases, but undermines the most common argument for abortion where that happens.

    Babies don’t choose the procedure when it’s done on them.

    WHO estimates about 125,000 babies aborted every day. Still want to call your 200 “the holocaust”?

  32. You say, “Christianity nauseates people.” The billions of humans who follow Christ — are we not people? First you take personhood from unborn humans, are you now denying it of us as well?

    Try to excuse it as some kind of slip of the pen if you like. It’s still dehumanizing. It’s still stereotyping, prejudicial, and bigoted.

  33. And may I remind you — the first step to the Nazi Holocaust was denying the Jews’ full humanity? You’re on the same slippery slope, if you’re not careful. Be wise. Not merely savvy, not just cagey, but truly wise, expressing the full humanity you have been endowed with, and not denying others’. Please.

  34. Tom, You haven’t made a case that anything I have posted is foolish. I don’t have a problem with anyone trying to talk someone out of getting an abortion as long as they are honest. We know the people who work at fake women’s health centers are not doctors and they don’t tell the truth. They just won a court case that says they don’t have to tell the truth. They don’t even provide any form of birth control. If a person is opposed to birth control then whatever they say about abortion is irrelevant. It’s sex that they are against and especially the fact that other people are enjoying it, many of them not even married. Birth control is a more effective way to reduce abortions than trying to convince people not to have sex.
    Women choose these procedures because they are desperate, especially in the places where they have to risk their lives. You can call it choice but most of the time when a woman seeks an abortion it’s because she feels she has no choice. 125,000 babies aborted? More miscarriages than that happen every day. Babies don’t get to choose that procedure either do they? Now you believe in God Tom. How do you reconcile that may I ask? The magic of “Intelligent Design” perhaps?

  35. Van, you say,

    Tom, You haven’t made a case that anything I have posted is foolish.

    Earlier you said, “Your wife works at a fake women’s health center.” Your evidence for that at the time was
    a) It’s a pregnancy resource center
    and
    b) Some pregnancy resource centers are fake women’s health centers.

    I asserted earlier that it’s foolish to suppose you know my wife better than I do, and foolish to generalize from the cases you’ve heard of to conclude that the same is true for every pregnancy resource center.

    (The latter is simple science, by the way: Never draw a general conclusion from a small and selectively chosen sample. If you believe in science, you should recognize you shouldn’t be doing that.)

    Now you’ve doubled down and said I haven’t “made a case” that anything you’ve said is foolish.

    Now I wonder, am I supposed to continue trying to have a rational conversation with someone who says that isn’t “a case”? For it most certainly is.

    You’ve dismissed, stereotyped, and dehumanized billions of people who are not in fact nauseated by Christianity but actually claim to follow Christ. You ignored me on that.

    Am I supposed to continue speaking with someone who sees me (as far as I can tell) as less than human? I don’t see you that way, Van, but I see reason to think that’s how you see me.

    All your questions have answers. I had a conversation on Facebook recently about the miscarriage question, and I don’t shy away from the question. I do make it a point, though, not to continue conversations with people who don’t hear everyday reasoning — scientific reasoning, in fact — and who dehumanize me. I’m out of here.

  36. Almost 200 women die every day from botched abortions in nations where abortions are still illegal.

    And according to WHO, every day there are an estimated 125,000 unborn children murdered in nations where abortions are legal.

  37. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your feedback. I’ll try to address the main points you made – I’m doing this on my phone so it’s not always easy to find the comments (and we’ve chatted quite a lot 🙂 ).

    Regarding capitalisation, I couldn’t find the notes on discussion guidelines in the sidebar of your homepage. Maybe it presents differently on a phone compared to a tablet or PC/Mac. But I’ll try to adjust my style while writing here.

    One of  main issues seems to be the language we both use. As I see it, the language you use is very emotionally charged, trying to induce guilt in the pregnant woman during a time of mixed and possibly volatile emotions. Your goal is to get them to decide to not have an abortion. My language is as emotionally neutral as I can make it to allow the woman to make the decision without my (or anyone else’s) influence. I see it as entirely her choice. Once the foetus is viable, things change – but not before then.

    You mention that for Planned Parenthood (for whom, as I’m sure you know, abortion is only a small part of the women’s health services they offer) the staff are trained to use non-emotional words like “tissue” to reduce the emotional response. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that the staff at your wife’s centre are also very carefully trained to use words like “child” and “baby” to amplify the emotional response.

    But notice that I was able to make the same argument without relying on that language.

    I must have missed that argumemt you made – what I noticed was your repeated use of the word “child”.

    I didn’t mean to be insulting about your wife’s pregnancy centre, but to say they offer much more than “have the baby” is a bit rich. Even the text at the bottom of the home page says they’ll not help with the procedure nor with acquiring anything to do with an abortion (at least that’s honest). I’m sure they do offer advice and counselling that is caring and compassionate – and sometimes that might be all that’s needed. But the bottom line is always “have the baby”. Please tell me what other advice they provide for the mother and future baby that isn’t based one way or another on that approach (especially as the homepage – as I mentioned – specifically says they won’t countenance an alternative).

    Her religious views (if she has any, that is) may prohibit her or they may not but it remains her choice.

    That’s your opinion, based on your dismissive, dehumanizing, double-binding assertions proceeding (as I’ve argued above) from
    (a) your authority, which carries no weight,
    (b) your misunderstanding and distortion of reasons I’ve presented, and
    (c) arguments for your position, of which you have presented none that I can recall (though I’m not taking time to re-read the post so I might be wrong on that; feel free to refresh my memory).

    Is it dehumanising to say that someone must decide for themselves? It looks as though you’re saying that the woman should have no say in things that directly affect her and her future. Granted that’s also true for the foetus but the rights of the actual person beat those of the potential person. Moreover, that line and level of thinking is also found in very conservative Muslim countries, where women are very much second-class citizens (or virtually even property), as well as in orthodox Jewish countries. Then again, the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) follow the same God, so I guess it’s pretty much expected to see the same attitude displayed in all three religions. But does it belong today, in the free world where women and men are equal? I don’t think so.

  38. Thanks for the reasoned tone of your discussions, Len.

    You wrote,

    As I see it, the language you use is very emotionally charged, trying to induce guilt in the pregnant woman during a time of mixed and possibly volatile emotions.… My language is as emotionally neutral as I can make it to allow the woman to make the decision without my (or anyone else’s) influence.

    We’re not talking to the women making that decision here, Len, but if we were, I’d still be constrained by my own convictions to call the unborn human a baby. You, for your part, want to call that human a foetus, which is accurate as far as it goes, but it, too, has its own emotional effect, which is to depersonalize and dehumanize.

    You admit as much when you say that one reason you use that word is to “allow the woman to make that decision…. I see it as entirely her choice.” But that decision and that choice, which you use that word “foetus” to “allow,” is precisely what’s in debate here.

    Your language assumes and “allows” or supports your conclusion. My language assumes mine, too. We both do it. Both of us choose to use words that we think accurately convey the status of that unborn life, and that support the policies we think are correct. I think that’s fair for both of us to do. We need to be quite clear, however, in recognizing that’s what both of us are doing. (See below for a further reminder of a previous reminder.)

    You say that for Planned Parenthood, “abortion is only a small part of the women’s health services they offer.” That’s directly traceable to their practice of counting simple tests or routine birth control delivery as equal to the surgical procedure of abortion. Abortion is PP’s flagship business. They do less than 1 percent of Pap tests, less than 2 percent of clinical breast exams, and almost a third of abortions in America. Their core business is abortion.

    You said you had trouble finding a certain argument, which I’ll come to in a moment. Let me remind, you, though, of the context, from #28:

    Just look at how careful you are: “But we’re talking about abortion, which occurs before the potential person is viable.” That’s just as loaded as “child,” only in the other direction. We all do it. But notice that I was able to make the same argument without relying on that language.

    In other words, this isn’t the first time I’ve noted your use of language that’s loaded in your own preferred direction. Again, I think it’s fair for you to use it, just don’t suggest I’m the only one doing it, okay?

    I must have missed that argumemt you made – what I noticed was your repeated use of the word “child”

    I came back later (#25) and said we could do the same argument with “unborn human life” in place of “unborn child.”

    I didn’t mean to be insulting about your wife’s pregnancy centre

    Then don’t be.

    … but to say they offer much more than “have the baby” is a bit rich.

    You read the page. You say they offer:

    • Parenting Programs for men and women
    • Adoption information
    • DREAM (A new way of owning your sexuality)
    • Silver Linings Miscarriage & Infant Loss Support Group
    • Abortion Recovery
    • Journey of Hope Perinatal Hospice
    • Discipleship
    • Programs for Local Schools

    That’s just the list. Doesn’t that suggest a little bit more than telling the woman to have the baby?

    Even the text at the bottom of the home page says they’ll not help with the procedure nor with acquiring anything to do with an abortion (at least that’s honest).

    What, you think they’re hiding something? They exist to support life. They’re anti-abortion. Is this news to you? Is it wrong that they have a set of principles to operate by?

    How many young women get adoption referrals from PP? Do they offer options? Careful: I know the answer. It’s <a href=”https://www.liveaction.org/learn/3percent/#numbers>once for every 160 abortions. You think you can complain about an openly pro-life women’s center failing to offer the abortion option, when PP fails so consistently to offer any option but “the procedure”?

    Is it dehumanising to say that someone must decide for themselves?

    Heavens, no. Whatever gave you that idea?

    I wasn’t the least bit unclear as to what I said was dehumanizing (and dismissive and double-binding, too). Yet you’ve gone and said I was talking about that? Not everything you wrote was dehumanizing, but that which was, was. I suggest you read it again, and re-think your actual dehumanizing ways, rather than deflecting onto something else you can posture more positively.

    (The sidebar moves to the bottom on mobile screens.)

  39. Len,

    Just a side note. Is it a surprise to you that a pregnancy support center is there to support pregnancy not end it. Do you think the women that go there don’t know what services are being offered as opposed to a Planned Parenthood. Don’t you think there should be places that offer alternatives to what Planned Parenthood offers. And you’re mistaken if you think “abortion is only a small part of the women’s health services they offer.”

  40. I like to try and persuade in terms that secularists and atheists can also understand. Just as we should all agree we are happy we have not been killed or murdered, we should be happy we had never been aborted. Personally I regard those murdered babies as “more important”than myself (Phillipians 2:3)

  41. Hi Tom,
    Thanks – I found the comment guidelines this morning 🙂  Good guidelines, nicely written.

    But that decision and that choice, which you use that word “foetus” to “allow,” is precisely what’s in debate here.

    Yes, that’s exactly my point. People should be free to make their own decisions about their own bodies, not restricted in choice by someone else’s religion. But I understand your point, that you see the foetus as a child (as if it were already born) pretty much from conception, so consider abortion to be an abomination. As you say, we both use language that supports and promotes our viewpoint – and you’re absolutely correct about that. The difference is that you want restrictions, I want freedom.

    They [PP] do less than 1 percent of Pap tests, less than 2 percent of clinical breast exams, and almost a third of abortions in America.

    They may do a third of the abortions in America, but what percentage of their own work do abortions make up? Much less. That’s just a question of using the “correct” figures to get the impression you want. I can illustrate further with an example if you like. And yes, women go to PP when they have no other choice because they know they’ll be helped. However difficult and painful it may be to take that first step towards a PP clinic.

    I agree with you that your wife’s centre has a long list of help and support during the pregnancy and after the birth. And as Bill mentions, it would be strange if a pregnancy support centre didn’t do just that. But I disagree with taking the choice away from the woman. I guess that’s where our worldviews differ too much to find common ground. That said, if a pregnant woman has already decided that she wants to have her baby but needs some support with whatever is troubling her, then I’m sure your wife’s centre would be a good place to ask for that advice.

    Tom, you and Bill questioned earlier which version of the Bible I read through to get the impression that God was not as good as Christianity would have us believe (notwithstanding that the Bible and Christianity say that God condemns me to burn for all eternity in a lake of fire for using the brain that God supposedly gave me and asking for some kind of evidence for what Christianity claims – amid the various contradictions that the Bible contains). The version I used was the RSV although I sometimes prefer the KJV now. So not a badly mutilated or badly translated version.

    Back then (I was a lot younger) I used the RSV mainly because I wanted clarity & understanding, not prose & poetry. I guess the Bible is correct in one thing though: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 😉

  42. Len, you say I want restrictions, you want freedom. Note how difficult it is for you to escape your impulse to load your language. On their own, those words carry Western-culture freight that makes them sound like I’m anti-liberty. But when you consider that I want the impulse to kill to be restricted, and you want to allow the freedom to kill, that changes it.

    Now, was my language loaded, too? Actually, it depends on whether my language is true or not. We’re in debate about that, so that’s undecided between the two of us.

    But the same goes for your language, too. Don’t think you can tip the moral or emotional scales your way by using “restriction” and “freedom” as buzzwords. They tend to evoke quick emotional associations, but that’s only because we tend to use them in a particular context and place certain predicates on them almost instinctively.

    For these words need objects, or predicates, in order to mean anything at all. “Restrictions” aren’t bad, if it is, for example, restrictions against driving on the wrong side of the road, doing surgery if you’re not trained and licensed for it, picking up someone else’s child from school, hitting your spouse with a fireplace poker, and so on.

    Don’t be fooled by the emotional freight your own language carries. It’s meaningless on its own. It shouldn’t be counted as carrying any weight in any debate.

    What percentage of their own work do abortions make up?

    It is their flagship business. They are, above all, an abortion provider. Ask them.

    But I disagree with taking the choice away from the woman.

    And I disagree that anyone is taking any choice away. Women freely go to these centers, and they are not handcuffed there until the baby is born. Sheesh!

    Besides which, these centers support life, and you don’t have to agree with it. What difference does your opinion make, in view of the fact that we are absolutely convinced it’s wrong?

    You mention reading the RSV, and say it’s not a badly mutilated version. But remember where that question first arose? You said,

    If people say the god of the OT is loving & kind, then I guess they were reading a different version of the Bible than I was.

    That was in answer to my statement,

    Many, many people who have read the Bible from cover to cover, and who have interacted with many, many others carefully and at length, say the God of the OT is a God of lovingkindness. In other words, that you’re wrong. You can have your opinion, but if we’re to accept it on your authority alone, forget about it.

    I stand by that. I don’t care which version you read; if you found a horrible God in the OT, then you found something different than many, many, many others have found there. Did I say “many”? I meant orders of magnitude more than that. Both Christians and Jews. Don’t you think it’s possible you read it wrong, in view of that?

  43. Hi Tom,
    I agree that our language contains words which are heavily loaded to favour our side of the discussion and to generate an emotional response to that effect in the reader. I’d say that’s pretty normal (it’s the main goal of discussion and debate). And once you recognise that, as we both do, the impact on us is reduced to virtually zero. I don’t think we’ll get any closer to an agreement on the subject. That’s fine with me.

    As for PP: yes, they perform a lot of abortions – because very few others offer that service to women.

    Regarding the RSV or KJV: you can ask any number of atheists who used to be believers (like me) what helped push them away from Christianity and the answer you’ll often get is that they actually read the Bible – without the interpretations and preaching / “teaching” from their church elders. Just actually reading what it says should be enough to convince anyone that God is not the good guy.

    By the way, how many people does the Bible say God killed compared to Satan? And in the flood, how many? Not just nasty, evil people but innocent men, women, and children (including the unborn) – everyone died except one man and his family. Were they super duper deserving of life – more than all the others?

    Considering all the stories that you can read in the Bible about what God did, I don’t understand how anyone can still say that God is good. Unless you’re not actually reading what it says but just interpreting it according to your pre-formed beliefs. But that’s up to you of course. I know what it says because I can read it for myself (and my reading comprehension is pretty decent 😉 ).

  44. Hi Tom,
    You wrote:

    Now, was my language loaded, too? Actually, it depends on whether my language is true or not.

    Of course your language is loaded. That you even consider it might not be surprises me but obviously it plays well to your audience. Using words like “child” and “baby” in this situation elicit an emotional response regardless of whether or not they’re true (for whatever meaning you wish to assign to the word “true”). The words I use (eg, “foetus”) also elicit a response, just one that I hope is not so emotionally driven. Cold-hearted? Maybe (I’ve been called worse 🙂 ) but I’m trying to keep emotions out of it. This is a very serious decision for the future mother to make.

  45. That you even consider it might not be surprises me…

    With all I’ve said about this in other places, it surprises me you’d think I’d think that. You really ought to read in wider context. I have frequently recognized that both of us use words with emotional freight attached. And here I said whether it’s loaded depends on whether it’s true or not, so your answer amounts to saying, “That you even consider it possible your position is true surprises me.”

    …but obviously it plays well to your audience.

    As does your language to your audience. But you don’t seem able to acknowledge it. You’re trying to keep emotions out of the debate, when the debate is about whether mother are killing their own children. Sorry, but no go. It isn’t that kind of issue.

    And clinical language implies the decision is a clinical decision, and that emotion is irrelevant. So in reality you, too, are using words chosen for the kind of emotional effect you desire. You’re not using any less than freighted language than I.

    Over and over and over and over again you keep repeating yourself, “This is the mother’s decision,” as if by saying it many times, you’re building your argument. You aren’t. Refresh my memory, please, since I’m not taking time to re-read the thread just now: have you even made an argument? Have you put forth any actual reason to believe your position is true?

  46. Apparently you think your reading of the Bible is authoritative. Apparently you think you can interpret it “without … interpretations.”

    I have previously answered the questions you’re asking here. More than once, on other threads. To do it again would require starting over a whole new topic, so I’ll pass on that for now.

    If you really want to think it through, though, here are some topics for you to consider. According to the Bible,
    1. God’s justice, and the justice of his actions, isn’t limited to what we see in this world. What you see isn’t all God does for people.
    2. God’s justice means giving both evil and good their due.
    3. People aren’t all good. In fact we all rebel against God, who is the source of good.
    4. The trouble we get in traces back ultimately to that rebellion.
    5. God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were still sinnsers, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8).

    That context changes everything. Secularists forget that God isn’t just another human actor on the stage, writ somewhat larger. He is our good and holy Creator, Sovereign, Judge, and Redeemer.

    These are topics for you to consider on your own. I really don’t intend to start a whole new discussion on this here. I just want you to realize that what you sneer at as “interpretations” and “preformed beliefs” are actually a matter of reading the Bible in its entirety, putting things in their whole context instead of reading things piecemeal and divorced from context.

    And if you answer, “How do you know your view of God is true?” I’ll be disappointed in you. This question in this context isn’t whether it’s true, it’s whether the Bible is internally self-contradictory.

  47. Hi Tom,

    And here I said whether it’s loaded depends on whether it’s true or not, so your answer amounts to saying, “That you even consider it possible your position is true surprises me.”

    What I think of your position is not the issue. I said

    Of course your language is loaded. That you even consider it might not be surprises me

    That you consider your position true doesn’t surprise me at all. Your language is loaded, as is mine. I have no problem admitting that.

    …but obviously it plays well to your audience.

    As does your language to your audience. But you don’t seem able to acknowledge it.

    Your audience is reading this blog and our exchanges. I doubt very much that many atheists are reading this blog. We’ve both admitted and accepted that we each use loaded language to make our points. No real surprise there – it’s how discussions and debates work.

    I believe in personal, bodily autonomy. People should have the right to choose for themselves what happens to their bodies. Do you think people shouldn’t have that right?

    That’s obviously assuming they’re not incarcerated for something – but even then it should only be their freedom that’s curtailed. Their bodies should still be inviolate.

    Apparently you’ve already answered the questions I asked about God being good or evil and what the Bible actually says. I’ll maybe look up those items if I get the time.

    As for interpretations of what the Bible says – I try to just stick with what I read. And if you think that there are contexts where it could be justified that a loving, caring God drowns everyone or (through Moses) tells the victorious soldiers to kill all those they defeated (men, women, and male children) except the virgin girls (keep them for yourselves!), then maybe you might want to re-think your reading comprehension and justification skills.

    We can read in the Bible that we (people) understand good & evil as well as God. Some of what the Bible tells us that God says and does is evil.

    And if you answer, “How do you know your view of God is true?” I’ll be disappointed in you.

    To know whether your view of God is true first requires one thing: to show that (your) God exists. That has been asked by many non-believers of many believers for many years. So far to no effect – no-one has ever given any evidence to anyone that any god actually exists. If they had, it would have been trumpeted from the rooftops by all believers (assuming, I suppose, that they’re in the same denomination as the one who produced the evidence – out of the current 45,000 or so and counting). Please feel free to provide such irrefutable evidence 😉

    … it’s whether the Bible is internally self-contradictory.

    There are enough websites out there which discuss in detail the internal inconsistencies and outright contradictions (which anyone can read in the Bible for themselves) that I don’t have to go into that. But of course, to see them it means you have to read what it actually says 😉

  48. Len, your first answer simply ignores the reasoning I gave. If you want to try again, fine. If you want to tell me I wasn’t clear, fine. If you want to ignore it, not fine. I won’t engage with your answer unless you engage with mine.

    You may believe people have the right to do what they wish with their own bodies, but this debate is over what people do with discrete organisms living inside their bodies.

    So you still haven’t presented any argument for abortion, other than your personal preference for bodily autonomy, which you failed to recognize doesn’t cover the whole territory. I’m starting to think you don’t have one.

    I’m not going to continue the discussion over the Bible, since it’s a side matter and I’ve already indicated I would keep it short.

    I am disappointed, though, that you went in to the discussion over whether God is real. That’s another new discussion altogether.

    I’ve read it all the way through, multiple times. I’ve studied it in depth. I’ve also studied the alleged and apparent contradictions. To understand them accurately you have to read the Bible in context of the whole, along with the historical context. So don’t play this superiority-mocking game of “you have to read what it actually says,” smiley faces and all.

  49. the Bible and Christianity say that God condemns me to burn for all eternity in a lake of fire for using the brain that God supposedly gave me and asking for some kind of evidence for what Christianity claims

    Though this is off topic a bit Len, this is another example of your loaded language. The reality is that what God gave you is more than just a brain. He gave you the free will to decide whether you want to spend all of eternity with him or without him. Seems you’ve decided you don’t want to spend all of eternity with him so he is giving you the option to do just that. He also gives you fair warning that living all of eternity without him won’t be a pleasant experience but that is your choice.

  50. — Operational again after a bit of a problem with the webserver. First I memorized tech support’s on-hold music, then I started doing jazz improv vocals to it. Then at last they came and fixed it. The website, not the vocals. —

  51. Hi Tom
    It looks like we’ll never get on closer ground. I don’t accept the Bible, nor the God you follow, as an authority (however authoritative you try to make your arguments – and it is, after all, your blog). You don’t seem too bothered about personal bodily autonomy (for women at least).

    The several times I read the Bible from cover to cover I was as keen and eager a believer as any you can find. I did read “the Bible in its entirety, putting things in their whole context instead of reading things piecemeal and divorced from context.” (That’s a quote from you from #47, telling me how I should read the Bible – where you use quotes and conclusions from the Bible to try and convince me that the Bible and your view are correct and authoritative.)  And if you state “that God isn’t just another human actor on the stage, writ somewhat larger. He is our good and holy Creator, Sovereign, Judge, and Redeemer.” then it behooves you to provide at least some level of evidence that isn’t circular in nature. While your normal audience probably doesn’t need that evidence, you were in that case talking (writing) to me. Your regular readers will likely think “good point, Tom”. I think “I don’t believe in your invisible friend”. And saying something like “I’ve already covered that somewhere else” doesn’t make what you wrote there correct.

    Atheists typically view the Bible as, at best, a nice work of poetry & prose – nothing more – and at worst as the rantings of a bunch of bronze-age shepherds and fishermen about an invisible friend, with no relevance in today’s real world.

    As Isaac Asimov is credited with saying, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” I agree with that.

    However there’s one item that caught my eye, especially when you tried to deflect my comment to be about whether or not your view is true. It’s the topic of loaded language.

    The exchange I mean was:

    [you]

    Now, was my language loaded, too? Actually, it depends on whether my language is true or not.

    [me] Of course your language is loaded. That you even consider it might not be surprises me…

    Do you really think that the truth (or lack thereof) of what you say affects whether the language you have used is loaded (ie, designed to trigger an emotional reaction)? If so, then you really surprise me now. You say that I have difficulty accepting that I use loaded language (“freight” you called it – sounds heavier!) even though I have repeatedly said that I know I do, and that you do too. But now you say that language somehow becomes neutral (ie, not loaded) if it supports a position that is true. No, it doesn’t.

    But maybe it was a typo or a thoughto (like a typo is a mistype, a thoughto would be seen as a badly expressed thought 🙂 ). I make them too – we all do from time to time, especially when discussions go on so long 😉

  52. Of course you don’t have to follow me or the Bible to accept the non-religious reasons I’ve given for supporting fetal life. It’s strange you’d even bring it up, since I never did, except in response to some challenges you raised, mostly on other topics.

    Am I concerned about personal bodily autonomy for women? Yes, but I hold murder to be a greater offense than being pregnant.

    And if you state “that God isn’t just another human actor on the stage, writ somewhat larger. He is our good and holy Creator, Sovereign, Judge, and Redeemer.” then it behooves you to provide at least some level of evidence that isn’t circular in nature.

    The only reason I brought that up was to show that the Bible isn’t internally inconsistent. For that purpose, internal evidence isn’t circular evidence.

    I have spent many, many, many hours developing and explaining evidence for the God of the Bible. My most significant new contribution to that study is still posted high on the blog’s home page: “Jesus is too good to be false.” I’m not going to re-write all that here, though, since that’s not what this post was about, and I try to keep conversations fro trying to cover everything.

    And saying something like “I’ve already covered that somewhere else” doesn’t make what you wrote there correct.

    Well, good grief, no one would think that! Why bother mentioning it. What makes it correct is that I was explaining that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, not trying to prove its objective truth.

    I summarized a list of reasons to view its morality as consistent, in context of God’s character as explained in the Bible, and my summary can be shown to be accurate. I didn’t do all that work there, but “I’ve covered that somewhere else” is perfectly appropriate to prevent a blog comment from becoming a book. You wouldn’t have read a book-length reply anyway.

    Atheists including Asimov can have their opinions. Yours is duly noted.

    As to your last point about loaded language: If the human life in the womb is indeed a morally significant individual person, then it’s not “loaded” to call that life a baby. It would just be true.

    “Loaded” isn’t merely equivalent to “emotionally freighted.” It’s “emotionally freighted” plus “not necessarily true,” and usually also “chosen for persuasive effect rather than strictly for its truth.” If I say 9/11 was tragic, that’s an emotionally freighted assessment, but it’s not a loaded assessment.

    Likewise, it’s not “loaded” to call a one-month-old a baby, even though that term has emotional associations. It’s emotionally freighted but it’s not in the category of “not necessarily true,” and it’s not chosen for persuasive effect, but just because it’s the right word. So if my language is true, then it’s arguably not loaded. I did say it depended on that, didn’t I?

    Yes, it’s still chosen for persuasive effect, but it’s no different from using the word “baby” in the cry, “You can’t steal my baby!” — which is different from, “You can’t steal this human organism!”

    But now you say that language somehow becomes neutral (ie, not loaded) if it supports a position that is true. No, it doesn’t.

    I don’t think it’s “neutral.” It’s still freighted, just not loaded.

  53. If you have a different definition for “loaded,” though, I could very likely be wrong on that definition. I’ve just explained how it makes sense based on how I understand the word.

  54. no-one has ever given any evidence to anyone that any god actually exists.

    Len had made this statement in a number of ways. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. But Len, like other atheists we’ve seen here, misconstrues the words “evidence” to his own benefit. Len believes the “evidence” for God as physical or scientific type evidence. That is what is known a category error. That is, erroneously introducing a subject into an argument that doesn’t apply to that subject. Len says he wants evidence but either doesn’t understand the type of evidence is relevant to the discussion or wants to limit the discussion to subjects he knows don’t apply.

    The question of the existence of God and the evidences for it are philosophic in nature. There are dozens of those kind of evidences which quite properly exist as arguments for the existence of God. There are Aquinas’ Five Ways . Here’s a list of 20 good arguments for the existence of God. Also, there is the argument from the fine tuning of the universe.

    So Len’s statement that “no-one has ever given any evidence to anyone that any god actually exists.” is wholly without merit. If we’re going to talk about something that no-one has ever given any evidence for I’d suggest Len’s belief that God does not exist. I’ve yet to hear a really cogent argument that supports that view from the many atheists who have posted here. At least not as good as argument as the couple of dozen I’ve just linked.

  55. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I have considered at least a few of the arguments you noted. They can all pretty much be summarised as:
    1) Assume God or use special pleading to keep him out of the rule I’m about to state.
    2) Waffle a bit.
    3) Ergo God.

    As for the fine tuning argument, it’s not the universe that’s fine-tuned for us, it’s us that’s fine-tuned for the universe thanks to evolution making us fit in here. Just like a puddle would think that the hole fits it perfectly but it’s the puddle that fits the hole.

    Considering that we can’t live on most of the surface of our own planet without assistance (eg, breathing apparatus, heat protection, etc) the fine tuning of our environment (by God) didn’t work too well. Never mind going off this planet and into space. We can only survive in a very tiny, miniscule piece of this vast universe. No, that’s not fine tuning. That’s us fitting in where we evolved to be.

    So, like I say, no-one has provided evidence to anyone of any god. Ever.

  56. Len, this is complete intellectual irresponsibility. Stop it — you’re embarrassing yourself! You’ve misrepresented the arguments, you’ve proved you know nothing — nothing! — about the fine-tuning argument, you’re ignorant of the meaning of the size of the universe, and you’ve completely ignored BillT’s evaluation of your understanding of “evidence.”

    And you’ve done most of that without argument or explanation, other than an ineffectual and wrong-headed dismissal of fine-tuning based on ignorance of what fine-tuning actually claims.

    This isn’t thinking. It doesn’t belong on a thinking blog. It’s an embarrassment.

  57. In a word — just so you know — the fine-tuning argument takes it as demonstrably remarkable that chemical complexity of any kind whatsoever could exist anywhere in the universe. It takes it as especially remarkable that evolution would be possible anywhere.

    So evolution can’t explain fine-tuning, as you suppose it can, because fine-tuning must precede evolution.

    This is standard, mainstream science. You can find it anywhere. Here’s a reference to a discussion at the very secular Discover Magazine, for one easy-to-reach example. Such examples abound.

    No scientist on earth would say evolution explains fine-tuning. None. So stop parading your ignorance!

  58. Len, I shall try to explain why I think you are mistaken about abortion. Suppose that there was a virus which could completely arrest the mental and physical development of a child. If a two-year-old contracts the virus, he may continue to live for many years but he will not develop beyond the level of a two-year-old. That would be a tragedy. If someone deliberately administered the virus to a two-year-old, it would an act of great evil. The moral of the story: potential matters.

    You seem to be judging things solely in terms of the current level of development that a human life has reached. Of course, current development matters – the murder of a 90-year-old is still murder in spite of the limited opportunity for future development. But potential matters as well, and depriving a human life of the opportunity to realise its potential is a serious issue.

    By the way, Len, suppose that the expansion of the Universe was so rapid that no stars could form, or that the expansion was too slow to prevent the Universe from collapsing before any stars could form. How do you think evolution could allow life to flourish in those circumstances?

  59. Hi Bill & Tom,
    You try to dismiss my comments as if I don’t understand what I’m jabbering on about. That’s not correct – I don’t show my working (several years worth), just the conclusion. But that probably won’t bother you either.

    You try to use philosophical proofs to show God exists but you then expect him to exist in the real world, with real world consequences (eg, religious based laws and restrictions). If you want to show God in the real world, then please provide real world evidence.

    But even if your philosophical arguments could show a deity (which obviously I contest) that doesn’t make it the Christian God. Believers attempt to link the Christian God to these proofs but that’s cheating – see my step “1) Assume [your] God”. And wrong.

    Tom, regarding your analysis of the universe: Most atheists would likely agree (as I do) that the universe is awesome, stunning, and incredibly beautiful (as well as extremely hostile almost everywhere to life as we know it). As far as we know today we’re the only ones in it – although it’s so immensely huge that purely by chance there must be other intelligent life in it somewhere. Will we ever find that other intelligent life? Unfortunately, due to the vastness of space, the chance is vanishingly small that we’ll ever encounter another civilisation that exists when we find it. One may have existed and is now extinct or it may not yet be sufficiently advanced, or life may not yet even have evolved on the planet that will eventually sustain it. Maybe one day it will (and if you look at how simple it is to kick off a process that produces amino acids in what we think was a primeval sea, then it’s virtually inevitable). But will we ever meet and be able to interact? Almost certainly not.

    As for fine tuning of the universe, I see you didn’t understand my comment – I should have been clearer. Basically, if one or more of a group of specific physical constants in the universe had been more than a little different, then we would not have been able to exist. That’s in line with your comment that “fine-tuning must precede evolution”. I don’t think I implied otherwise in any of my comments, nor that evolution explains fine tuning – that would be ridiculous. But you don’t need fine tuning, which pre-supposes a process by a fine tuner (ie, a watch-maker by any other name), which implies that it happened just to benefit us (before we evolved). You just need the physical/chemical constant values to be right. Are they right? We know they are because we’re here. Does that imply a fine tuner? No, it does not.

    I think you were probably confused by my statement “it’s not the universe that’s fine-tuned for us, it’s us that’s fine-tuned for the universe thanks to evolution making us fit in here.” I meant that we evolved in a universe that already existed (with all the physical & chemical laws already long in place), so evolution followed those laws (survival of the fittest – ie, those most fitting to the environment). The result (up to now) is us. In other words, the universe was not fine tuned for us, we were fine tuned (ie, we followed the existing physical & chemical laws) for the universe (our planet).

    You like to think there’s a creator (the fine tuner) who’s in charge of everything (confirmation bias, anyone? 😉 ) but there’s certainly no real world evidence that you’re correct. And if some of those constants had had very slightly different values, then the life on this planet would probably have evolved very differently because of the different physical laws that life might then be subject to. Like the puddle fitting the hole, rather than the hole being super-specially made for the puddle. A slightly different shaped hole leads to a similarly different shaped puddle to fit it. But it’s still driven by survival of the fittest (ie, the best fit for the environment).

    Sorry I only provided my overall summary conclusions for the “proofs” that Bill gave, not the working of how I arrived at them. I leave that to you, if you can drop the pre-supposition that God exists (any god), and subject your own beliefs to the same level of critique (including the need for evidence) that you apply to other religions and their beliefs – their gods, their miracles, their saviours & saints. Try to see the sleight of hand, bait & switch, or sophistry used to prove the Christian God exists (or any god that is then claimed by the “prover” to be the Christian God). But I admit it’s not easy when you’re in the middle of the belief bubble (as I used to be).

    Tom (from the earlier discussion – slightly more in line with the OP)

    Likewise, it’s not “loaded” to call a one-month-old a baby, even though that term has emotional associations.

    Agreed, it’s not loaded, just accurate. But if you called the group of cells at one month after conception a baby (or a child – as you do) then it would be loaded because the term baby/child implies some level of independence from the host (the mother), which those cells do not have. But it could become a baby by growing in the womb and eventually being born. Even one month before term it could usually survive outside the womb (ie, there is already a lot of independence), so calling it a baby or a child could be appropriate. But no abortion would be performed one month before term.

    Your definitions of baby/child and of truth differ from mine, so we see each other as using loaded terms. The difference is that I know it of myself and have repeatedly said so in our discussion, while you try to circumvent admitting it by saying your view is true so your language is not loaded.

  60. I stand by my observations on your handling of the arguments. Your explanations here help, but not enough.

    You imply that philosophical arguments lack real world reality, for example; that’s erroneous.

    You mistake the manner in which believers move from general theistic arguments to more specific Christian ones.

    You wrongly suppose that these arguments make circular assumptions; they do not.

    Your riff on intelligent life is irrelevant to anything we’re discussing here.

    You misunderstand the implications of fine tuning, and seem unaware even of secularistic explanations for it.

    You think life would have evolved differently if some values had been slightly different, where no living scientist would agree with you.

    You falsely believe we apply different standards to Christianity than to other belief systems, demonstrating that you haven’t taken even my own article (previously mentioned) into account in that assessment.

    You fail to realize that at least two American states now allow abortion up to the moment of birth.

    You fail to notice that I have agreed we’re both using freighted language, and that I’ve specified quite clearly that mine is not loaded if it is accurate; in other words, I’ve never said mine simply isn’t loaded, I’ve said it’s not loaded if it’s true. Now, do I think my conclusions are true? Of course I do! Therefore I don’t think my language is loaded. But I haven’t expected you to follow me all the way there.

    Meanwhile you say that “baby/child” implies some level of independence from mother. Really? Do you expect me to go all the way there with you? Why not admit that this depends on your own belief being true?

    Overall, Len, this is proving distressingly repetitive and fruitless.

  61. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your reply. I agree with that last part – it’s getting repetitive and it’s pretty fruitless. We disagree about some things, you don’t understand my comments (sorry, couldn’t make them simpler), you accuse me of misunderstanding or not understanding yours (both wrong, by the way 😉 ), and neither of us are convinced by each others arguments. We’re not getting any closer, as I already mentioned in an earlier comment.

    I haven’t had the chance to read your article about too good to be false (nice play on words by the way) but I’ll try to have a look at it sometime soon.

    To all who engaged with me in the discussion, thanks for playing and maybe we’ll chat again some day.

    Take care and I hope your belief gives you everything you want it to, without it taking anything away from anyone else.

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: