I promise, I am not trying to pick on Alyssa. But she is representative, so I am going to use her as an example of what frustrates me and others as we attempt to have a pseudo-socratic dialogue about abortion.
If you missed the discussion (or if you want the unedited, unfiltered conversation to compare to my summary here), read the comments on the last post.
[Alyssa's words here are in red.]
Essentially, Alyssa knew that we would challenge her ideas, and then she asked, quite reasonably:
Any chance you'd be willing to have your ideas similarly challenged?
Yes. Absolutely. Challenge us with some questions. Make your case that the unborn are not human beings and/or not deserving of the right to live.
But none of that happened as far as I can tell.
What I believe happened is that we got a lot of pro-"choice" talking points, sort of removed from anything we were actually saying. For example, Alyssa started by asserting that, although science and morality were considerations in law,
...the overarching point of a law is to maintain and protect peace and cooperation within a group.
JoAnna pointed out the massive (and obvious!) flaw in that view by pointing out that, by that logic,
...both the Holocaust and slavery were just. The Holocaust "maintained and protected peace and cooperation within" German society. Slavery "maintained and protected peace and cooperation within" the South.
This legitimate point (which shows the logical consequences of Alyssa's premise) was answered by Alyssa with sarcasm.
No real discussion of the implications of Alyssa's premise was ever undertaken.
In fact, when JoAnna and jrfjosh both posited Natural Law as the basis for just law, Alyssa dismissed it:
You bring up a very tired, fallacious argument. By that incredibly useless token, I bet you agreed with how England was run in the Dark Ages because they were all about "natural and moral law".
When jrfjosh discussed Martin Luther King, Jr.'s position on just and unjust laws based on Natural Law, Alyssa said:
I also agree with MLK that we should be enforcing and following just laws.
... but she did not address the fact that MLK's entire basis for determining just vs. unjust law is based on the natural and moral law!* So how could she agree with MLK, when she had already rejected the very premise of his argument? She did not follow up on that when asked to clarify.
Alyssa had a standard narrative about Catholic pro-lifers when discussing our (supposed) approach to the law:
You're working from a flawed premise (that your Catholic faith and values should dictate not only the behavior of others, but the laws of a diverse and secular nation), so the logic that proceeds from it doesn't wash.
She tried to claim, more than once, that we were using a "because my God said so" foundation for our position.
And she was corrected more than once. She was told that we Catholics, in fact, do not work from that premise and we never have. Nubby put it to her clearly:
Alyssa: No one—Not a person—here has ever “proceeded from a religious foundation” as pertains to law...
...We never say, “Because God said so.” We go about 10 steps previous to that.
...We back track and start at the same “zero” as any secularist. So bring it. All day. Bring it. Let's reason forward. Catholics actually propelled that kind of thinking.
And yet Alyssa says again later:
The issue I take--particularly on a blog so focused on doctrine--is that there is no other reference point. Everything can be explained or justified by the doctrine. And that is a closely-held Catholic belief, and I respect and appreciate it. But that can't be a factor in deciding laws.
(Cue every Catholic on the board pulling out his/her hair.)
Alyssa expressed a desire for our enlightenment on the issue of abortion (emphasis mine):
I'm introducing an alternative premise--one that aligns more closely with how the majority thinks in order to inspire a little understanding.
There is a bizarre, inexplicable implication that we pro-life Catholics do not know about any "alternate premise" -- that we somehow need to be inspired to understand the popular opinion about abortion in America.
And just what are we supposed to be "inspired" to "understand"? What "alternative premise" is Alyssa "introducing"?
Nothing other than the same, tired pro-"choice" talking points that we have heard for over 40 years. They are hardly inspired, and often they are ideas that many of the pro-life commenters on this blog once held themselves, in their pro-"choice" pasts.
In her words:
The fundamental difference in our arguments is that you believe that a sperm and egg have human dignity and rights from the moment they meet. I disagree with that, so we can't meet from the same premise. All we can do is reason from our own. If it helps, your logic is sound if we're in agreement that a fertilized egg has equivalent dignity to the woman carrying it. However, we're not. My logic can't justify your premise and vice-versa. It's a circular argument.
But it's not circular. It's linear. First, we must know the facts before we can embrace our values and positions. First, we must establish if the unborn is a human being. Thankfully, that doesn't take long. Science says "yes" (read here for quote after quote from science textbooks). Objective truth: A new human being is begun at conception/fertilization.
"Reasoning from our own premise" is not "all we can do" if we have not backed up and examined our premise in the first place. If the premise is flawed or subjective, then we must not base life or death decisions upon it. Back up and examine the premise. Alyssa, we ask you to meet us there!
But she wouldn't.
In fact, she skipped the science and went to the metaphysical:
That [when a "cluster of cells" becomes a "person"] is not something science can measure, and therefore can't comment on.
...science can't even agree when "human life"--a nonscientific concept that implies an emotional/spiritual element---begins
And yet science can and does comment on when a new human comes into existence. Unfortunately, Alyssa breezily bypasses the objective, scientific facts, and uses only subjective premises to justify the killing of the unborn:
I would prefer to live in a world where women have the choice.
[I disagree] that a sperm and egg have human dignity and rights from the moment they meet.
^ Subjective. (And note carefully the wording she uses.)
Regarding the difference between a "premature baby chopped into pieces" versus an abortion: you're overlooking an essential piece of the equation, and that is the woman's consent. That is what makes these situations unequal and a poor comparison.
[It's about the] JUSTICE of a woman being able to make her own decisions about her own body.
...at the end of the day it's up to the lawmakers to make the decision that will best ensure peace and cooperation in this nation.
And then there was this:
No one here is willing to allow that there is a REASON that people are supportive of legal abortion.
I had to re-read the sentence the first time I encountered it, because it's so obviously silly. In fact, the opposite is true. Everyone here is willing to allow that there is a REASON that people support legal abortion. Who would ever think otherwise? Isn't that a given? Even my grade schoolers know that people have REASONS for doing bad things. That is as true as it is irrelevant to the discussion.
Trying to get to the meat of things, we left copious questions, all linear, for Alyssa to engage.
Your idea of law “maintaining and protecting peace” without a moral or scientific basis actually falls completely on its face when you look at Roe v. Wade and the very first two unalienable rights [life and liberty] listed in the Declaration while simultaneously looking at the Court's reasoning in the decision and how it came down.
Do you see the ordering of those rights?
Do you know those are ordered that way on purpose?
Do you see how RvW never should’ve tampered with that ordering?
Do you realize those rights were never voted upon by any judiciary, but merely acknowledged and respected by the founders?
Do you know what the judicial opinions were? Have you read the critiques?
Where do you think those unalienable rights came from? A vote?
So basically, you're saying that the unborn are human beings (scientifically), but not all human beings are persons based on some random, arbitrary criteria. How is this any different than slaveowners deciding that human beings with black skin weren't persons? Or Hitler deciding that Jewish human beings weren't persons?
What is your arbitrary criteria for why only some human beings are persons, and others are not?
And later, when JoAnna tried patiently, methodically, to go with Alyssa's own terms and get to a conclusion...
Can you agree with me that a "person" is "a human being who is entitled to basic human rights"? Is that a fair definition?
...she got this in response from Alyssa:
JoAnna, I'm not going to argue semantics with you. I think you know exactly what I mean, and I choose to end this nitpicky sidebar here.
Effectively shutting the dialogue down.
So, you say you agree with MLK that we should not follow unjust laws, but you leave off the part where he explains what that means. How do we determine which laws are just or unjust?
Do you think it's okay for some human beings to determine the humanity of others? I mean, it's common, yes. Not just in abortion, but in all history, in many cultures. But do you think that is how we determine a person's humanity? By others' judgement?
Can you name for me any law that is not based on someone's moral judgement? Isn't all law legislated morality? If not, how so? I don't see it.
What is the source of morality? Not "how do we determine it", but what is its source? Or, another way to put it, what is the source of moral truth? If you say "self" or "societal norms", then you are saying it's subjective. And if so, does that mean you do not believe in objective moral truth?
My question to you (and it's just a logical question, looking for a logical response): Were you ever conceived? I can't get abortion-rights folks to answer.
And so.many.other questions left unanswered.
None of these questions was circular. All were socratic, designed to get us from Point A in the discussion to Point B, so that we could come to logical conclusions. Alyssa would not answer, would not follow the discussion forward.
So again, here is Point A on abortion:
Are the unborn human beings?
Because if they are not human beings, then I am in agreement with Alyssa that we may kill them at will.
But if they are human beings (or if there is even the slightest chance that they are human beings), we must put on the brakes, because we all know and understand that it is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.
The problem is that Alyssa wants to skip or dismiss the premise question altogether and go straight to explaining "why we may kill it", before determining what "it" is!
And yet she said:
I'm already exhausted by the way these goalposts keep moving and from all the words being shoveled into my mouth.
The idea that she thought we were moving the goalposts when we were just begging her to focus on them was perplexing enough, but just when we should have been getting to the heart of the discussion, she abruptly ended:
I've said all I can say here, because diametrically-opposed premises (and about eight different logical fallacies--look up "strawman" and "appeal to emotion" specifically) are driving us around in circles. All I can say is that abortion has been part of women's reproductive lives for thousands of years, and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Give me a clean, safe doctor's office over a wire hanger any day.
I doubt I'll be back, but thanks for the exercise.
(And she included a link to logical fallacies.)
It's so predictable, and it frustrates me.
Again, this is not unique to Alyssa (who I would welcome back here in a heartbeat). It's almost universal among those who defend abortion. I wish abortion advocates would just come out and say that their criteria for killing the unborn are subjective and arbitrary. Why are they ashamed of just saying it? Why not just admit, "Yes, science tells us it's a human being, but I'm okay with some human beings killing other human beings, even human beings who are innocent and weaker than we are, and who cannot fight back." Just say it. I wish abortion advocates would take their cues from the likes of Peter Singer, because although I despise his beliefs, he speaks with clarity and consistency and cold logic, and we can all see exactly where we stand.
And while I've got you, here's a great little science primer on the beginning of human life, with a quote from Peter Singer included:
** [T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.