Friday, March 13, 2009

Steele Slips Again, But America Should not Fall for it

Once again we are supposed to believe that Michael Steele had a slip of the tongue. This time in an Interview with GQ magazine which included the following exchange:

"The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion," he said. "My mother chose life. So I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other."

Interviewer Lisa DePaulo asked: "Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?"

Steele replied: "Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice."

DePaulo: "You do?"

Steele: "Yeah. Absolutely."

DePaulo: "Are you saying you don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

Steele: "I think Roe v. Wade — as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter."

DePaulo: "Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?"

Steele: "The states should make that choice. That's what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide."

Twice before on this site (look under the topic GOP failure) I have discussed Steele's departure from the pro-life stance. Yet in a way not clearly in evidence before, this interview reveals the insidious character of the argument Steele represents. According to this argument, individual choices are not subject to interference by the Federal government. Rather you state the case for one side or the other, and let the individual decide. The problem is, of course, that matters of justice, of right and wrong, always involve individual choices. The choice to rob, lie, cheat and murder are all individual choices. The choice to rape, kidnap and enslave another is an individual choice. The choice to serve or not to serve someone in a restaurant, on account of their race, is an individual choice. Obviously the real issue is not whether individuals are free to choose between right and wrong. That's been clear since Eve made her fateful decision to eat the forbidden fruit. The issue is when and whether they have the right to choose as they do.

American liberty is founded on the premise that we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. This premise is not a statement about human aspirations. It's a statement about right and wrong. An unalienable right can be transgressed by individuals and governments, but the premise of liberty forbids the assertion that those who transgress they have the right to do so. Right is not on the side of government when it commits or tolerates murder, theft and terror against the innocent. Individuals and laws that do so are inherently unjust, and powers used in this way are not lawful powers.

Steele consistently maintains that issues, like abortion, that involve respect for unalienable rights, are properly decided at the state rather than the Federal level. But the premise of liberty makes no such distinction. Respect for unalienable rights is required of human governments at any and all levels, because the just powers of all such governments are derived from the people's exercise of those rights. As the Federal government only has the powers delegated to it by the states, so the state governments only have the powers delegated to them by the people. But the "unalienable" aspect of each person's rights means that such rights cannot be given away, not under any circumstances. What the people cannot rightly give, the states cannot rightly claim.

But the premise of liberty includes the notion that "to secure these rights governments are instituted among men." Though government cannot claim the power to transgress against unalienable rights, the foundational purpose of government entails the obligation to preserve and respect them. No government powers are just except those derived from the only source consistent with this obligation, which is the consent of the people. Clearly however, the idea of consent based on respect for unalienable rights does not mean that the people have the right to do whatever they please, since they cannot rightly do anything that alienates (contradicts or surrenders) their unalienable rights. In this sense, government of by and for the people, is limited government: not only limited by the terms of its constitution, but by the purpose and terms of its institution or establishment. Liberty therefore is not identical with a simply unlimited freedom to choose. Individuals are free to choose actions that violate unalienable right, but they cannot claim the right to do so.

When, in their individual or collective capacity, people choose to violate unalienable rights they transgress liberty. Since liberty is its essential characteristic, this transgression effectively abandons the republican form of government. When an individual commits this transgression, it is a criminal act. When a government commits this transgression, it is an unlawful government. Under our constitution the supervision of this transgression when committed by individuals, has been left to the states. But if and when a state or states neglect this supervision, the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 4) explicitly requires that the government of the United States guarantee a republican form of government in each of the states. Like the guarantor of a loan, it must intervene to make good any deficiency in the states' respect for its requirements. Michael Steele's assertion that the states have the exclusive right to decide the issue of abortion is therefore incorrect. They should have the opportunity to decide it (which is one of the reasons the Roe v. Wade decision was prudentially wrong) but if they decide, by action or neglect, in favor of committing or allowing the violation of unalienable right, the Federal government has the Constitutional obligation to intervene. On abortion it may be sensible, after so many years of misplaced respect for the unlawful Roe v. Wade decision, to make this obligation clear to all the states by Federal legislation in some form. This could help to avoid miscalculations that might disrupt our civil peace. For this reason I think that such legislation, including a Constitutional amendment may be prudent. However, our reasoning here makes clear that it is not legally or Constitutionally necessary.

Finally, I think it's time we all stopped pretending that Steele's persistent advocacy of the "pro-choice" position is an accident, or a slip of the tongue. I believe these episodes are purposeful. His actions are meant to assert the fallacy that it is pro-life to be pro-choice. But this means accepting the position that at some level the choice to murder an innocent human being is consistent with respect for the unalienable right to life. Except we embrace the noxious position that right and wrong choices are equally just, this is not and can never be a pro-life view. Except we abandon the whole idea of unalienable right, this is not and can never be a view consistent with American liberty.

I think that Steele and the people he represents have gotten away with this disingenuous effort to warp, distract and mislead the pro-life movement for long enough. This issue is vital to the survival of America's free institutions. People of conscience deserve a frank and purposeful debate about it, not a sly attempt at argument by inadvertence. To that end I challenge Michael Steele to face me in such a debate, in a venue open to scrutiny by the general public. Though the courage to debate is not the test of truth, it may be a test of true conviction. I claim to be pro-life because I have stood that test, against Barack Obama, Alan Dershowitz and others. Why should pro-life people accept Steele's protestations of pro-life conviction if he refuses to do so?

Worth considering? Then don't forget to DIGG IT!!!!


Tim Miller said...

I supported Steele for GOP chairman; however, I am extremely disappointed not so much in what he actually said -- his statement was garbled and his words seemed very poorly chosen -- but in what he did not say. He couldn't bring himself to make a strong defense of the right to life, and that is a deep philosophical error. It seems to me that the chairman of a party that purports to be a pro-life party should be able to nearly instinctively respond to the usual pro-abortion arguments.

Terry Morris said...

What the people cannot rightly give, the states cannot rightly claim.

Ha! Good luck convincing people of that, taken to its logical conclusion. The reason "living wills" are so popular in America is because people don't understand (or don't accept) this idea that the Creator has exclusive authority over their lives, since He is the giver of life.

But you seem to equate the refusal to serve a person in a restaurant or private establishment based on one's race, or the "right" to do so, with theft and murder, which the federal government is obliged to prevent. How exactly do you come to that conclusion?

chiu_chunling said...

I will not yet impute malice to Steele's failures, neither do I excuse them for their apparent incompetence. The simple truth is that Steele represents well what the Republican party has become from continuous sacrifices of principle for political expedience.

The need for protection from private tyrannies is not fundamentally different just because the perceived scale of abuse is lesser or greater. Racist discrimination in public life was a real form of substantial oppression in the past, and still has potential to return if intelligent laws restricting it are not implemented. The question, as ever, becomes one of balance, whether the evil averted is greater than the evil inflicted. But let us not imagine that there ever is any government of men which is not, at its most fundamental practice, a matter of inflicting some evil on the governed. A law against murder or theft takes away the power of citizens to redress their own wrongs no less than does a law against writing to the newspapers. But we regard murder and theft as doing more harm than laws against them.

Currently, the law is entirely on the side of encouraging and protecting the practice of abortion, the evil of government reinforcing the evil of private tyranny. When such laws are swept away entirely, then perhaps we may have cause to judge how much intrusion into the presumed grief of would be mothers over the loss of unborn children will balance the evil of what remains of abortion without legal sanction.

On the principle of carefully limited government, I believe that the evil that exists because of the limits of government should always be greater than the evil of the government itself. Only when the imbalance is overwhelming should the power of government be extended, when the imbalance is negligible or even reversed government should be pruned back.

This concept of limited government was the last remaining principle of the Republican party until this last decade, but now there is nothing left at all. Steele's inability to express a reasoned opposition to pro-abortion governance is not a dramatic change, it is merely the inevitable outcome of a party reduced to rhetoric which polls well.

Karen said...

As a Catholic and as an American, I am so disappointed in Michael Steele. Thank you so much, Ambassador Keyes, for remaining steadfast, and especially for doing so in the spotlight. You give us hope -- a very hard thing to come by these days.

HistoryWriter said...

Quoting the Declaration of Independence may make nice reading for the uneducated, but the fact remains that the CONSTITUTION is the operative document with respect to the Nation's laws. The 14th Amendment is quite specific in that only persons "born or naturalized" are citizens of the United States who can enjoy the benefits of life, liberty and property. Sorry, Mr. Keyes, but fetuses simply don't qualify.

Alan Keyes said...


You make some common errors.
1) The Declaration of Independence is part of the Organic law of the United States, which means at the very least that the Constitution should be read (as it was written) in light of its stated principles;
2) The 14th amendment language reads "nor shall any State deprive any PERSON of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any PERSON within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The language explicitly applies to persons, whether or not they are citizens. Do a little research and you will find that there is no dispute about this. When Blackmun wrote Roe v. Wade he acknowledged this, and said that if the nascent child must be regarded as a person the claimed right to choice fails. It's also why non-US detainees held under US jurisdiction (as at Guantanamo) may claim protection from abuse under the 14th amendment. Aside from avoiding bad feelings due to unjust treatment of foreign nationals under our jurisdiction, this also reflects the Declaration principle that unalienable rights are for all human beings, not just those who happen to be American citizens. Sorry, HistoryWriter, but scoffing at the uneducated is hardly an excuse for being one.

The Silent Consensus said...

Ambassador Keyes,
I agree with you on the interpretation that the 14th Amendment applies to persons. Where I differ is in your equating an embryo to a person. I respect and understand your position on this matter, and I admire the consistency you have demonstrated both over the years and through all your other view. For the following reason, I disagree:

What makes humans humans is their possessing the faculty of reason. An embryo is therefore a potential human, not an actual human. The faculty of reason is what separates homo sapiens from all other species. When possessing the faculty of reason is, in principle, impossible, the being in question cannot be a human. Yes, it's a life, but it's not a human at that phase.

Do not think for a second that I mean those who are mentally challenged etc...are not human due to the possibility that they don't possess the faculty of reason. In those cases, it's incidentally impossible, not impossible in principle. In the case of an embryo, it's impossible in principle.

tjmarz said...

mothers that
never were
lift their
babies unborn
out of cribs
tiny feet
dangle above the
like the feet
of the deposed
in air
below the
gallow's floor
that once was
but is
no more

-tj marz

Alan Keyes said...

The Silent Concensus:
Your argument as to the personhood of people with some mental deficiency reveals the difficulty with denying the personhood of the nascent child. The word principle means having to do with the beginning or origins. A mentally handicapped person is human in principle, that is in terms of his or her origins or beginnings. But the nascent child is the beginning of the human being. By our science we now know that the embryo has within it the code of every material attribute the human being will possess. Thus from conception the nascent child is in principle a human being, just as you say the mentally handicapped person is. I think it's insufficient however to suggest that human reason somehow constitutes the essence of personhood. The word person comes from the Latin persona, and originally referred to the mask or image an actor held before him on the ancient stage to represent the character he played. Human beings are persons because we represent the image of another, our Creator. I would not want to suggest that human reason alone fulfills this representation, not when the ultimate reason of our existence lies beyond it, in the will of the Creator. This is what I meant when I referred to "the mysterious subjective worth" of human life. Except we can know God in all His ways, we cannot fully know what constitutes our humanity. But His ways our not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. Best therefore to judge of it with reference to its principle or beginning insofar as we can know it-which means that if the parents are human, the child is human. The mother cannot then deny the humanity of the child without casting doubt upon her own.

The Silent Consensus said...

I am glad this has stayed civil, and I respectfully disagree. The saying "in principle" means fundamentally, relating to the definition of, or in essence. I do not believe a few human cells constitutes a human. By your definition, so do skin cells, tonsils, the appendix, and so on, and removing them would have to be murder. A piece of protoplasm is a life, but not a human. Potential is not actual.

Put another way, tadpoles are not frogs even though parents of tadpoles are.

When brainwaves are absent, possessing the faculty of reason is impossible, and impossible in principle. That's not the case with mentally challenged people.

As you notice I am trying to be logical here, and I've seen you be logical before as well. I happen to believe in God, but I admit I have no logical reason for it. God's existence is not logical. The Law of Identity states that everything is what is, nothing more. God is infinite, yet nothing can be infinite according to the Law of Identity. If He created the universe and everything in it, what did He create it out of? Something can't be created out of nothing.

I don't claim to have any evidence or logic for God's existence, my belief in Him is simply faith. Faith by its very definition requires a suspension of reason and logic. I believe, based on faith alone, that a power exists greater than any limitations imaginable, but I certainly don't know that for a fact and I don't make arguments that are based on suspension of reason and logic. I would appreciate it if we could stick to reason and logic.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Dr. Keyes is right, fetuses are people too and have rights.

To Dr. Keyes;
Sir, on a different track, I was sorry to hear that the State judge in California dismissed your suit requesting the college records of Obama and asking that he be ordered to produce a valid birth certificate.

Not being a lawyer, I still feel that that judge was wrong on several levels. That said, I hope and pray that you will not give up. We need to know the truth.

God Bless.

The Silent Consensus said...

Obama is a natural-born citizen. Please let it go. The only speculation he isn't is the claim of "absence of evidence" as if that's evidence of absence. But, a copy of his birth certificate HAS been made public

What else do you need? One's opinion about Obama and whether you voted for him are completely irrelevant to this issue. You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts. If you don't like Obama, you can start working to unseat him in 2012, but don't keep raising this ridiculous speculation

chiu_chunling said...

"What makes humans humans is their possessing the faculty of reason."

Silent Consensus seems to think that this leaves the mentally disabled or merely unconscious person secure in their rights, since naturally "When brainwaves are absent, possessing the faculty of reason is impossible, and impossible in principle." The problem is that pre-natal children exhibit brainwaves do frogs and tadpoles.

The ability to reason may be dependent on an active, healthy brain. But possession of an active, healthy brain is not limited to those whom we define as human.

This sort of problem is why I leave the absolute distinctions to philosophers. As citizens concerned with restricting the level of evil positively enacted by our government, we should content ourselves with weighing the evil performed under the auspices of law against the evils averted or permitted thereby. Naturally this requires a robust and searching dialogue on the nature of evil, as well as practical examination of the actual evils present in society and the evils that arise as a direct effect of the power of government. The outcome of each of these examinations may be less than perfectly desirable to some with ideological commitments to a given measure or program. But they are necessary to democratic government. If we cannot advance the level of moral discussion beyond trivialities or unsupported axioms, democracy is doomed to total systemic failure.

To the side, the image posted is not a birth certificate, despite the similar name of the document. Nor, truthfully speaking, would it be sufficient to settle the issue even if it purported to be a birth certificate. To settle this issue, someone with the legal authority to determine Obama's eligibility must examine an actual birth certificate, something which Obama has refused to make possible.

Terry Morris said...

The Silent Consensus,

With respect, posting the link to the image of Obama's COLB as irrefutable (unbiased) evidence that Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen (and let's say, for our purposes here, that a "natural born U.S. citizen" is someone who was born on American soil to U.S. citizen parents according to the laws made in pursuance thereof at the time of his birth) is, for anyone whose done the slightest bit of research on this issue, and to use your word, ridiculous. You might just as well have posted a link to Obama's "Fight the Smears" webpage, calling it irrefutable, unbiased evidence of the validity of Obama's claim.

And a COLB (a Certificate of Live Birth) is not the same thing, nor does it serve the same purpose as a birth certificate, by the way.

The best you can possibly claim, on the evidence that we have available to us, is, contrary to what you've written above, that you in fact do not and cannot know whether Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen, unless and until someone forces Obama to produce his vaulted long form birth certificate. That being the case, what more are you than an agent of Obama's campaign of mass deception?

The Silent Consensus said...

Not in the very beginning they don't. I don't say humanity starts at brainwaves, but before that, I fail to see any dispute.

Chiu and Terry,
My opinion of Obama and your opinions of Obama are completely irrelevant for this discussion. is one of the most reliable unbiased sites you can find. I'm not interested in arguing semantics here. If you would like to claim that's a fake and he's committed fraud, then sue him for it and present your evidence. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defendant. It's not my job or his job to prove it's real, it's the job of you and everyone who believes it's fake to prove it's fake.

This whole speculation is based on zero evidence, just the idea that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Suddenly it's claimed he wasn't born in the U.S., and he's guilty and has to prove his innocence. Are we playing the anyone can say anything and it's perceived true game? This can get fun. Stonehenge was created by aliens. You have no evidence it wasn't, so that's evidence it was. Look at how easy that was.

This pursuit is a waste of time, money and energy. It's a war against the truth.

The Silent Consensus said...

If doesn't do it for you, try the Hawaii Department of Health. They acknowledged it's a legitimate Hawaii birth certificate

the3ltrwd said...

In reading the responses, I'm wondering how the intent of the act of abortion comes into play (or does it)? Abortions are not performed unless it's acknowledged by all parties that a human being is developing. Is the intent of an abortion to remove a "few human cells" or is the intent to eliminate the essence of the human being that the woman and the doctor acknowledges is developing? Why is there a different position taken regarding abortion than the one that is taken by the government in regards to pedophiles who attempt to meet minors they've "met" online, only to discover they were engaging in discussions with a police officer? The "minor" doesn't exist as an actual human being, but does the law consider the police officer to be a sufficient substitute? If so, isn't the police officer a substitute for the minor just as the embryo is a temporary substitute (in terms of its form) for the infant that will eventually be born? Can you please explain the differences?

chiu_chunling said...

If Silent Consensus is suggesting limiting abortion to the period of time before the development of embryonic brain tissue, I see no point in disagreeing. While I am not particularly invested in the issue one way or the other, I believe that there is little support for the degree of government intrusion that would be required to enforce restrictions on abortions in the first two months of a pregnancy. My point is that the implementation of democratically limited government should not rely on such superficialities, regardless of whether I think the outcome is acceptable.

As for the question of Obama's qualifications, I am not particularly concerned with the issue of whether he is a natural born citizen. I think that the man has far more serious Constitutional disqualifications for holding high office. And, seeing that I am not subject to the laws of the United States anyway, I have no reason nor standing to sue the man over it. I'm simply pointing out that, the suit having been brought, it needs to be settled by something more than an electronic image of an unrelated document. In so far as Obama claims to be president of the United States, he is obligated by basic principles of government to prove his claim to the satisfaction of those subject to that claim of authority. This is not just a matter of American or even Western government, but a basic principle of any organized government. Those claiming to exercise authority on behalf of the government must show relevant proof of authority.

Obama is being asked to show his birth certificate. This is a completely accepted requirement with literally thousands of well established precedents. His continued refusal to accede to such a simple and well established requirement is prima facie evidence that he intends to reject all legal restraints on the exercise of government authority. Such an attitude is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of government by law. Of course, I knew perfectly well from the beginning that Obama lacked even the most cursory understanding of the basic concepts of structured, legal government. So the particular issue of his failure to grasp that he is required to prove his claim to be president is of little interest to me. But that hardly makes it insignificant.

For millions of Americans being asked to submit to his legal authority, this becomes a real issue insofar as Obama (and his government) are the ones that suffer the burden of proof if they want to claim that those refusing to comply with their authority are guilty of any crime. More especially as the acts in question are indeed onerous. Obama's actions with regard to increased government promotion of abortion fall into this category, which has some tendency to muddle the debate.

The3ltrwd makes an interesting point about the possible role of an embryo as a proxy to establish the intent to commit a crime. I find it unpersuasive based on the principle that the potential of a lesser object is not considered is other cases. Stealing an ingot of metal that would have become a car body is not the same as stealing the car body, even if you take it right off the production line. Besides which, if we were to extend this reasoning, there would be no legal bar to burying, embalming, or cremating a living human as long as you established that you were doing so in consideration of the clear "potential" of the living body to become a corpse in the future.

I am content to restrain the government from active participation in encouraging and supporting the abortion industry. Doctors who violate the most fundamental standards of their profession should not be given legal sanction in doing so, those who molest children should not be permitted to evade the legal consequences. Further than that I would be loath to go absent clear evidence that a very great evil remained which required the active intervention of government to counter it.

The Silent Consensus said...

I never thought of this, and it's quite interesting. With that in mind, the difference comes down to intent. In the case of the fake minor, the pedophile intends to lure a minor into sex and is acting accordingly. For another example, regardless of where we stand on hate crimes, if someone attacks what he thinks is an African-American person because of the race, that's a hate crime. Even if it turns out the person was not African-American, the perpetrator can still be charged with and convicted of a hate crime. It was the intent of the situation

In the case of abortion, they're not doing it because they want to kill a human. Their intended target, if you will, is protoplasm.

Terry Morris said...

The Silent Consensus,

Might I suggest (beides everything else), that you embed your links via the use of simple encoding, thus.

Besides the fact that most of us have already long since perused the links you've so far provided, we tend to be a little bit lazy don't ya know. Or should we say, instead of laziness, that with limited time on our hands we try to be as efficient as possible.

Here is the format for doing so: enter title here

chiu_chunling said...

I believe Terry is indicating that simple HTML tags are enabled in the comments posted.

I do have to sympathize with Silent Consensus on the issue of Obama's Certification of Live Birth. There is something about the whole issue which irresistibly compels a sense of levity wholly inappropriate to the dignity of the world's foremost Constitutional republic. In fact, I'm unable to resist laughing as I type this. But a careful reflection on the evidence clearly indicates that responsibility for the ridiculous nature of the controversy must be laid at the feet of whoever created the incompetent document forgery which has served as the only available evidence for either side of the debate. That the debate persists at all is entirely due to Obama's obstinate refusal to release a genuine (or at least more competently forged) document for examination.

This issue, although trivial from my own point of view, serves as a microcosm of the entire phenomenon that is Barack Obama. Obama himself is clearly nothing more than a puppet, a shallow individual motivated almost entirely by a nearly pathological desire for validation from others. He admits as much in his own biography (even though it was written by someone else, I conclude that the sentiments contained are substantially Barack's own, including that admission). It would be reasonable to expect that those pulling his strings would be intent on using his ascension to the most powerful office in the world's most powerful nation to benefit themselves commensurately. But that overlooks some very simple realities.

First, Obama has too many strings. He is not under the control of any given individual or select group, his lack of personal conviction makes him a leaf in the wind, subject to every vagary of anyone willing to give him the approval he so desperately seeks. Second, those who approve of, and thus exercise influence over, a man like Barack Obama tend not to be particularly rational as a group, and as a large group their motives become anything but unified.

Most important, the most powerful proponents of Obama have no real need of what most of us would consider "benefit". What they desire is the diminution of factors which might allow others to reach a similar level of wealth and influence. Thus the real agenda of those who backed Obama in his rise to power is to use him as a tool to ruin the economic opportunities provided by America. The "success" or "failure" of socialism is a matter of entire indifference to them, so long as the free market is destroyed, along with its potential to create enormous wealth to compete with their existing fortunes.

Unfortunately, while this plan is likely to be effective in the short term, the fundamental strengths of America will only be purified and refined by the havoc wrought through Obama. Much as the nation emerged from the Civil War as a powerhouse without rival in the world, so to will the true America show its character in the current conflict between freedom and servitude. The founding of America was not an establishment of commodity markets and advanced weapons systems, but the promulgation of simple, timeless, and profound ideals.

The actual destruction of America will require far less subtle tools.

tjmarz said...

say grace
(in the name of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit) dear God, i am but one grain of wheat on this globe, Your earth. You have given us this place of unsurpassed beauty. You have given each one of us great nourishment. There are brilliant internal gifts with eternal blessings in each of us. You have given us nourishment in Scripture, yet complex men cannot comprehend simple thought. You send Angels to us to correct all ills of this world, yet man slaughters them all before they can become children and grow. i pray to You every night that Your strength will find warmth in my soul. please use my skin as Your costume. allow me to lead with Your Grace through this corridor of death. i will carry Your Perfect Trinity in the form of shield, sword and cross. let every righteous man, woman and child follow the path that Your sword clears. let those that follow dwarf even the greatest of all pagan armies. let the righteous trample under foot the demons and serpents that now dance in the fields openly. for this i ask of you in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

the3ltrwd said...

The Silent Consensus, I don’t agree with the assessments made on this issue. Abortion doesn't take place until after the doctor and patient have both agreed that if left to its natural progression the end result of the pregnancy is the production of a human being, which must be cut off before it's viable on its own. The intended target is not elimination of protoplasm. That's incidental. The intended target is the end result of the development of the embryo: a new person. Both the doctor and the patient agree on the intended target before the abortion is discussed or takes place. Reading arguments for abortion rights, or looking at the history of the language used to describe pregnancy and abortion, gives plenty of evidence that the intended target is the separate human being that will be produced, not the embryo that develops into the separate being.

Chiu_chunling, this situation is not analogous to the destruction or theft of a metal ingot, which the owner could mold into anything or could leave for 10,000 years without it being transformed into the end product. There’s no doubt that without human intervention or some natural failure, a human embryo develops and is born into the world within a specific period of time and only becomes one thing, a separate living human being.

The cremation of a living being is not analogous to this scenario in the way you describe. In the case of abortion, an action is taking place to prevent a natural result. In the case of cremation of a living being, an action is taking place to produce a result in a way that destroys a living being and that cuts off its natural development and progression. In reality, the cremation of a living being is almost directly analogous to the act of abortion.

Is it true that the potential of a lesser object is never considered? Are you only speaking in terms of living things, or inanimate objects as well? What is the rationale or legal basis for government laws banning or controlling the distribution of certain substances that have potential, when combined with other substances, to produce a negative result?

chiu_chunling said...

Well, I can see that you are invested in this line of argument. But I can't accept it so easily. It is simply too easy to twist to an absurd or merely contradictory outcome.

For instance, the authors of Freakonomics make the observation that violent crime rates fell dramatically some 15-20 years after the Supreme Court mandated legalization of abortion. From this they argue (persuasively, unfortunately) that a disproportionate number of the children killed prenatally in that period would have grown up to become criminals. Many people then take a leap that is logically identical (though very different in detail) to yours, saying that it was okay to abort those children because they would have become criminals anyway. I cannot accept that argument, just as I cannot accept yours.

I believe that the term "homicide" should properly apply to abortion. And though I have a somewhat libertarian view of homicide, I don't think that most abortions qualify as justifiable homicide. I base this on the innocence and humanity of the prenatal child, not any speculation (however probable) about what that child may become in the future. And I can't countenance any principle that blurs the vital distinction between what is and what might be.

Take the "Minority Report" paradox, for just a moment. You have a group of psychics who can absolutely predict who will commit murder. You then go out and preemptively arrest the murderers, before they commit the murders. But...if you could prevent the is the prediction "absolute"?

I'm more used to appealing to that as a reason that you can't justify killing a child based on what you predict the child becoming, but it also logically applies to terminating something you do not consider a child because you predict that it could become one. Where can we draw the line? What if I see a man and a woman about to collide on a ski slope and happen to be confident that if they meet like that they'll get together and have a child, but I also predict that they'll make each other miserable along with their child? My position is that preventing them from meeting is different from an abortion because there isn't a child yet, just sperm and egg that haven't met and don't have to meet (and maybe I'd rather that she met me...). But what is yours?

That may sound pretty speculative, but I'm not the one that wants to introduce speculation into the equation here. I want to treat the prenatal child as a prenatal child, not what it once was or might become. I can't logically accept one argument based on such a speculation and yet disregard others because they lead somewhere different.

And logical consistency is important to creating just laws.

the3ltrwd said...

chiu_chunling, I apologize for taking so long to respond. Are you able to answer the questions I asked, namely:
"Is it true that the potential of a lesser object is never considered? Are you only speaking in terms of living things, or inanimate objects as well? What is the rationale or legal basis for government laws banning or controlling the distribution of certain substances that have potential, when combined with other substances, to produce a negative result?"

I want to make it clear that I am not asserting that the potential of a person is important when discussing abortion. That's a different argument, and not one I make. I actually believe the arguments made by the Freakonomics authors was flawed and I do not believe they were persuasive, because they dismissed or did not address other very plausible reasons for the drop in violent crime rates. However, I'd still like to get your answer to those questions so that I understand the basis for what you're saying.

chiu_chunling said...

I am able to answer the questions, but the answers may not satisfy.

"Is it true that the potential of a lesser object is never considered?"

Obviously not. Considering the potential of a lessor object is fundamental in the daily activities of most mammals, let alone humans. Think of turning wheat into bread. Wheat is actually not very good as a food source, it's hard to eat and digest. The same is true of many grains (maize is a notable exception), we grow them for food because we "consider" their potential. The practice of farming is a more profound exercise of this same consideration, the potential of a single grain to become an entire plant with hundred-full increase.

But there are many things which the government shouldn't be doing, and farming happens to be one of them. The law may be adequately informed on the value of goods by market decisions reflecting the contemplation that humans make of the potential of various objects. There is no reason, and no legitimate object, in having the law make its own judgments on such matters. Granting the law that power is inviting disruption of economic activity and individual freedom.

This is not to say that it is impossible to make such laws. A government may make laws against the sun setting or the rain falling, if the rulers (the people, in a democracy) so decide. A more relevant observation, the government can make laws punishing ownership of property and rewarding theft, or punishing fidelity and encouraging adultery. This doesn't mean that such laws are good.

"Are you only speaking in terms of living things, or inanimate objects as well?"

I was speaking of inanimate objects, as should have been obvious from my use of an inanimate object (albeit one subject to an automatic process) in my example. In a general sense, I do not regard the distinction between biological life and the lack thereof as being particularly important, though I know that many humans attribute some mystical significance to "life".

"What is the rationale or legal basis for government laws banning or controlling the distribution of certain substances that have potential, when combined with other substances, to produce a negative result?"

As might be evident from my above comments, I do not care about the rational or legal basis of such laws, I consider them bad laws. An ingot of steel, if combined with a human head, will produce a significantly adverse result (presuming we wanted that human alive and well). That doesn't justify banning ingots of steel or human heads, it would be more rational to ban the act of combining the two.

I am in favor of laws which prohibit actions which can serve no legitimate immediate or social good and produce a significant level of direct and social evil. A more realistic example, I fully support laws that prohibit giving addictive drugs to children or productive adults. The direct and social evil that results from such action is enormous, and no remotely serious argument exists to suggest any balancing good. Addictive drugs may be useful in treatment of conditions affecting individuals who are neither children nor productive, but even there I favor careful regulation. The penalties for engaging in efforts to distribute addictive drugs to children and productive adults should be commensurate with the damage this activity causes both directly and indirectly.

As a practical matter this isn't feasible, since you can only kill an offender once (if you do it at all properly), and it would be immoral to kill them as slowly as such a crime deserves. In other words, laws end up having to reconcile various principles which may demand different outcomes.

Even in this extreme case, should we criminalize possession of the raw materials to produce addictive drugs? Obviously not. Some of these substances can be made from common household chemicals, others require only dirt, water and light to produce in quantity. It would be like the ancient Chinese emperor who sought to forestall revolt by banning knives (though I hear that idea is making a comeback in America, land of the free). Granted that I'm somewhat more in favor of revolution than the scourge of widespread drug abuse, my position on banning something because it has the potential to be used in the furtherance of either is the same.

The law ought to be limited to punishing the evil that is actually done, not that which might be done. In legal terminology this is known as prior restraint. I heartily support the principle of prohibiting laws that engage in prior restraint. If I happen to walk out of a hospital with a packet of cocaine-based analgesic cream which got in my prescription by accident, I should be held innocent of any crime unless I attempt to distribute it (of course, I should also give it back, since it isn't mine). If I steal the cream with no plausible explanation of intention other than the presumption that I intended to distribute it, the matter is very different.

As it should be.

The law as it currently stands is defective, though mostly well intentioned (good know the rest). But the first step to fixing bad laws is to identify what makes them bad and stop making such laws. It is not to use the flaws in existing law to multiply the defects in the legal system.

the3ltrwd said...

>> Chiu_chunling wrote: “Obviously not. Considering the potential of a lessor object is fundamental in the daily activities of most mammals, let alone humans.”

I thought that when you originally stated “I find it unpersuasive based on the principle that the potential of a lesser object is not considered is other cases” you actually MEANT it was a guiding principal. If the potential of a lesser object IS considered in other cases, then although you don’t find the argument persuasive, it’s still a valid argument (even if it’s not one I’m actually making, as I pointed out before).
The rest of your post is directed towards different aspects of the discussion, but ignores completely the crux of the discussion. It also ignores the other statement you made concerning the ingot of metal that obviously was invalid and the live cremation analogy that was invalid. That’s OK.

Basically, the abortion argument is always re-directed towards intangible notions of “potential”, and ignores three well understood and clear conditions: 1) the intent of the doctor and the woman when discussing the specifics of abortion, 2) the true and obvious object of their intent, and 3) the well defined period of pregnancy that without a doubt results in the birth of a human (unless natural or man-made causes result in miscarriage).

The embryo is not a potential human, it is human. Just as the “grain of wheat” IS wheat. If the grain (embryo) did not fully contain the unique essence of the final product, then the final product could be produced without the grain and you could say they were not one and the same. That’s not possible. They are one and the same. If a human embryo could grow and result in the birth of a dog or a pig, then the idea that the “potential” of the embryo is important would make sense. Since that’s not possible, I don’t see how potential bears on the matter at all.

My original statements concerning the use of policemen to “substitute” legally for minors in the case of pedophile stings have nothing to do with “potential”, but everything to do with the actual nature of the embryo. If it IS human (which it is), then under our current laws, the human embryo should be accepted as BEING the actual victim of abortion. If a policeman can be a sufficient stand-in for a minor child, then the actual embryonic form of that child should be recognized as the child and should have equal protection. Even without the example of the policeman/pedophile substitution, the embryo should legally be protected based on its unique qualities (it IS the human in a different, but familiar and universally acknowledged, form).

chiu_chunling said...

You're assigning the law the character and rights of a sentient being.

This is dangerous for two reasons. The first is that the law is not (and shouldn't be) sentient. There is a reason that justice is supposed to be "blind". If you force the law to make judgments that require sentience, then what you really ask is that certain individuals in charge of administering the law have their own opinions enshrined in law. That is precisely the problem that has all but destroyed the American legal system, as well as forcing the legalization and promotion of abortion, which you would oppose.

The second is because the law is, unlike a sentient creature, capable of unlimited mutation. It can take any position, enforced to any degree, for any purpose. Where an individual person has certain core elements of desire and character which limit what might be done even with unlimited power, the law has no such intrinsic qualities. I mentioned earlier that one can make laws against the weather, and this is what I meant.

I argue in favor of awakening men and women to the potential of a baby. This is not only possible, but the natural reaction of human beings when confronted with their own progeny. You are suggesting that the law should be aware of the potential of a baby.

Do you really not understand the difference?

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