06 February 2013

Defaming the Wrong Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Frank Turk

The real shame of this post is that I'm getting on an airplane at 4 AM Wednesday morning, and I won't be here to field your "yeah Buts ..." to my point today.  However, It's my intention to field some of them from 10,000 feet if the WiFi hangs in there, so keep your fingers crossed.

And: Pack a Lunch.

I usually check in with Dan (and even Phil in spite of his so-called "retirement" from the internet) before I make a statement as broad as this, but I'll say it: there should be no questions in anyone's mind about where TeamPyro stands on Abortion.  Life begins at conception, and it is a gift from God.  Every person is made in the image of God.  Re-read Genesis 9 if you have trouble wrapping your mind around the idea that murder is wrong.

"Yes, But," comes the objection from the person who thinks a woman has a right to choose, "How is this murder?  Far many more of these so-called 'people' die in the womb due to a lot of other causes and complications than by the act of an OB-GYN, so doesn't that make your so-called God a murderer?"


Before we get to the meat and potatoes, I have a brief foreword for those in the Abortion apologetics business.  The people who are in favor of abortion as a policy is a broad spectrum of people -- and almost none of them are philosophers.  Most of them, if I can be so bold, are people under the age of 35 who are in their sexual prime and who have grown up in the most absurdly-comfortable and safe civilization in the history of human kind.  Most of them are emotional adolescents at best, and intellectually? They have a hard time distinguishing between facts (that is: the sort of thing their convenient pseudo-religion of Science is allegedly based on) and emotions (that is: how a story makes them feel).

We know this because every conversation, every conversation, every conversation about this subject with one of these people starts with their urbane narrative about the social mandate for abortion: people who wouldn't allow abortions are stupid, because abortion saves the lives of women.

Before I get into the thick of that, let me say this to the pro-life apologist who has just started unpacking his Greg Bahnsen playbook (some of you have blacked out "Greg Bahnsen" and have written "Cornelius Van Til" on a piece of tape and plastered it over the title) for presuppositional ribaldry: put a sock in it.  Even if you are dealing with a rank nihilist (and you might be), the problem here is not establishing a plausible epistemological system in order to detail the ethical implications of the Creator/Sustainer as it relates to reproductive ethical reasoning.  The problem in rather that this person is not reasoning at all: they are emoting.

Look: if you're on a stage with Gordon Stein having a debate about whether or not an atheist has philosophical justification to make comparative statements without an eternal and objective external standard to create the basis for saying anything is "good" or "better" or "best," I am sure everyone will be entertained by your high-brow retelling of "Who's On First?"  But the average so-called atheist, or the average so-called feminist, or the average woolly post-protestant doo-gooder, or the person who is some mash-up of all three,  isn't trying, really, to undo Jesus here; they haven't come to their decision because they have worked for decades on the problem of metaphysics in a universe sans teleology.  In their minds, the problem is that people are dying.

You know, Margaret Sanger was a vile racist.  That is: in retrospect.  She wasn't vile because she tossed around denigrating epithets, made profane jokes, kept slaves and shot guns at Jamie Foxx.  She was an educated woman, and was in the company of the intellectuals of her time -- who were, among other things, convinced that some races were superior to others.  Her racism was subtle, superior, and ineffable -- so much so that in her own mind, she was never any kind of racist.  She was an idealist, and wanted what was best for all humanity -- and especially for women.  Here's one of the slogans the American Birth Control League produced when she helped found it:
We hold that children should be (1) Conceived in love; (2) Born of the mother's conscious desire; (3) And only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health. Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied.
Now seriously: who would say otherwise?  It's only in retrospect that we see that her motives came from an urge to eliminate poverty, and therefore an urge to eliminate all impoverished people pro-actively.  She wanted it not because she was a committed atheist, or because she was some sort of necrophile: she wanted it because she had witnessed herself the awful state of women through the lens of her own mother's life. Her mother, Anne (Purcell) Higgins, was a devout Catholic who went through 18 pregnancies (with 11 live births) in 22 years before dying at age 50 of tuberculosis and cervical cancer.

And this is the narrative that survives through to today: women are oppressed by the state of their reproductive shackles, and suffer horrible consequences because of the futility of pregnancy and the profligacy of pregnancy -- while men are, they say, scott free.



This is why calling abortion "murder" lights the advocates for such a thing up into such white-hot indignation.  "Murder?"  You mean like all the women who die in childbirth?  Or how about the murder by inches of a woman trapped in poverty because she has more children than days of the week?  How dare you toss out a moral evaluation like "murder" when what a woman actually faces is both more morally-complex and morally-blighted than you so-called theologians and men can comprehend?  Trying to walk that person through the argument that you can't really say what is "good" or "better" without first referencing God's law is too clever by a long shot.  They are wrapped up in a compelling, emotional story upon which to base their support of abortion.  The idea that mothers put their lives at risk when they enter into pregnancy has a kind of gothic allure; it rings of Margaret Atwood by way of Mary Shelley.  Nobody wants their wife or mother to die for any reason -- let alone in child birth.

So you will excuse me if, on that basis, I will ask the presuppositionalist to stay out of it.  He's most of the way out of it already anyway.  If he wants to get involved, he should start where the person in question actually is rather than where he would rather they be.

And, as I said: where they are is emoting, based on a story they believe in, rather than considering the facts of the matter.  For example, they don't consider that the trend in the US for abortions over the last 20 years is, thank God, going down.  That's without much legislation, without much government intervention.  2009 (the last year for CDC reporting) counted "only" 784,507 abortions -- which is down from a peak of 1.4 million in 1990.  That kind of downward trend is really exceptional progress in spite of the number of abortions still being blasphemously-high.

The reason this fact has to be the starting point in this discussion is simple: the number of abortions have effectively been cut in half in the last 25 years, and there has been no correlating explosion of women dying in child birth.  In fact: the single most obvious cause for the change in the rate of maternal deaths in the US in the last 30 years has been the change in CDC policy for reporting maternal death in childbirth. Until that point, that rate had flat-lined at roughly 9 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies.  It's not hardly the riskiest thing women do.  Factually, vehicular accidents claim 10-times as many women each year -- and there is no narrative which casts a dark shadow over women with drivers licenses as there is over the fact that women give birth to children.

Abortion is not causing pregnancy to be more or less safe for women.

But that's not the end of the line: the next question is how we account for what happens in the abortion clinic as "murder."  Is this just an edict from our version of the flying spaghetti monster, or are we simply too stupid to understand that a fetus is no more or less viable outside the womb than a liver is outside the stomach cavity?

Well, we all appreciate a good one-liner because that's the kind of literate and sanguine Christians we are -- even when the humor masks a terrible and indefatigable ignorance and arrogance.  But if we again engage in facts, we see that perhaps the other side is defaming the wrong flying spaghetti monster.  It's not the God of Abraham who has his facts out of kilter: it's the god of Science.  Or rather: only her hapless accolytes.

It turns out that as recently as 2011, fewer than 14% of OB-GYNs are willing to conduct abortions for any reason -- at least, according to those knuckle-dragging fundamentalists at PBS and the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, who don't spare a moment to get to blaming traditional religion for that problem.  However, that doesn't account for the fact that only one in 4 OB-GYN's with no religious affiliation are willing to perform abortions.  It turns out that those who actually understand what's inside the womb -- because they are actually fully-informed about the Science, you see -- think it is unconscionable to go in after it.  That is: the Scientists are against the idea because  it turns out, it looks like murder to them.

So abortion isn't affecting the survival rate of pregnant women in our country, and the overwhelming majority of OB-GYN's have a moral objection to doing unspeakable things to unborn human beings.  Nobody expected that the story we find ourselves in looks more like Exodus than Rosemary's Baby, but the truth, as it turns out, is God's truth and declares to us our shortcomings rather than His.

It also declares to the so-called fact-based advocate for this procedure that she's not immune to the power of a good story.  However, if she's the sort of idealist and realist she says she is, when the fact is cleft from the fiction, she should calmly and consciously change her mind.

Next week, we'll take a look at the objection: "Of course it's murder.  So what?"







39 comments:

Mike Westfall said...

It's funny how they continually paint us dumb religionist hicks as "anti-science," but when it comes to justifying abortion, to avoid the charge of murder, they insist that what is being aborted isn't actually a Human Being.

Science is not on their side.

Mike Westfall said...

... and instead, they appeal to their own Flying Spaghetti Monster for a faith-based definition of what a "person" is (or is not).

Robert said...

What is truly mind-boggling is the level of commitment that people have to their belief in Science...even when the facts prove that science really isn't on their side. And with abortion, we are battling with every bad argument that the pro-baby-murder groups throw out there. Just think about the whole "stupid Duggers" debate from last week and you can see a good example of somebody who didn't want to deal in facts, but just shift to the next bad argument without even dealing with the facts that refuted the previous argument.

I think the real problem that I see out there is that people don't really want to think about anything, especially issues that affect them seeking their own pleasure. And people wonder why we have people shooting children at school or in theaters...or a shootout at a college campus.

I, for one, applaud your efforts to try to bring that guy to a point where he would face the facts. We have to meet people where they are and actually engage them. And I think that some people tend to forget that there are actually Christians who are pro-choice and many more nominal Christians who are pro-abortion. Is pre-suppositional apologetics the best place to start when talking to them?

I can tell you that when my wife goes to counsel expectant mothers at one of the local pregnancy centers, she deals in facts and takes the wmoen step by step through looking at the development of the baby in the womb and what is involved in murdering the baby in the womb. She also offers the Gospel when they are open to speaking about spiritual matters. And one of the blessings of this ministry is that women who have had abortions can receive the truth of the Gospel and the forgiveness that Jesus offers. That is because these women know the truth once they have gone through it. Some may deny it, but deep down inside there is always lingering guilt that they are dealing with. Of course, that is another fact that the pro-abortion crowd glosses over and even suppresses. Which is funny because they claim to be all about supporting women, but that is only really up until the point the cash is in hand and the procedure is complete. After that, these women are left to pick up the pieces all on their own for the most part. Talk about an inconvenient truth.

Paul Reed said...

"Until that point, that rate had flat-lined at roughly 9 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies. It's not hardly the riskiest thing women do."

Excellent point. And even if a pregnancy does threaten the mother's life, how can a parent justify killing their baby to save their own life?

" the number of abortions have effectively been cut in half in the last 25 years"

I would question this. What about all the abortions via chemical means, such as Plan B, which are often uncounted.

Frank Turk said...

Paul - ID love to see the stats on the use of the morning-after poll, if you can find them.

Especially in Europe.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Have no fear, now that government atheists are in charge of health care and can mandate actions independent of the consciences of doctors, soon every OB/GYN will be willing to perform abortions: Because all of the ones who aren't in favor will have been driven out of the field.

Robert said...

Frank,

I'm still looking through the website for the General Household Survey for the UK, but I found the following online:


One in eight girls aged 16 has used the morning after pill, an alarming report has revealed.
It heightened fears over the reliance placed on the emergency contraception by thousands of youngsters.

Widespread use of the pill was uncovered by the Government's comprehensive General Household Survey. It found that 12 per cent of girls aged 16 and 17 had turned to the contraception at least once after having sex. One in 50 had used it twice, and one in 100 had done so more often than that.

In the 18 to 19 age group, 16 per cent of girls - more than one in six - had used the pill once and one in 25 had taken it twice.
The survey showed that nine out of ten 16-year-olds were 'fully informed' about emergency contraception and how to get hold of it.

Frank Turk said...

Robert -

That explains the anomalously-low abortion rates in the UK, doesn't it? a fascinating argument from the "women's health" advocates is that education is working in Western Europe to reduce abortions. If the data in your source is any kind of accurate, that's pure bunk: abortions are simply shuttled to the morning after rather than 6-8 weeks later.

Paul Reed said...

@FrankTurk

We can't know exactly how many babies are killed by chemical contraception, but we can know that the number is likely high by looking at the sales figures for abortion-causing drugs such as Plan B. Here are some sales stats for just one type of chemical abortions available: "Plan B One-Step -- a one-pill product retailing for $40 to $50 each -- had nonprescription sales in 2010 of $99.4 million, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a market tracking firm in Chicago. Prescription sales in the same year brought another $80 million, according to IMS Health in Plymouth Meeting, Pa."
How many women who used the pill actually had a baby in her at the time? We can't know. But I think these high sales figures should caution us against saying the abortion rate is declining (unless you're defining abortion as only happening if the baby implants in the womb first).

Frank Turk said...

Paul -- that's a HUGE footnote to this blog post. The fast math there is almost 4 million doses of morning-after drugs.

Wow.

Robert said...

The really sad thing is that if you do a google search for plan b, you can see women blogging about how Plan B doesn't really cause abortion. Again we're dealing with the commitment to the movement instead of people willing to deal in facts and reality.

Rhology said...

So you will excuse me if, on that basis, I will ask the presuppositionalist to stay out of it. He's most of the way out of it already anyway. If he wants to get involved, he should start where the person in question actually is rather than where he would rather they be.

Where the person actually is? You mean like a sinner in rebellion against God?

Frank, I often cite your comic book graphic guy saying "The Gospel is the solution to culture!" I loved that and still love it. In my mind, you coined the phrase.
The Gospel is the solution to abortion too. Not statistics, not societal trends. And people don't want to hear the Gospel b/c their minds are in rebellion to God. Better to show them the absurdity of their worldview than to cite "science". Skeptics are at their best when selectively ignoring facts. You know this as well as most.

So, respectfully, I will decline your invitation to put a sock in it. I will continue to preach the Gospel and reveal the worldview absurdity of those who persist in their hatred of God and try to justify it with worldly wisdom.

Peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

the problem here is not establishing a plausible epistemological system

If I may, let me also add this:
A common criticism from presuppositionalists toward evidential/classical apologetics is that the ev/cl apologetics use the term "plausible".
Presupps don't - we talk about God's sovereignty and authority in all things and the utter worthlessness of the unbelieving worldview, of whatever stripe.

This evinces a bit of confusion here.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Chris H said...

I love this:
"...but the truth, as it turns out, is God's truth and declares to us our shortcomings rather than His."

I won't Frank this meta, but this single sentence fragment poked me right in the plank-filled eye. Thank you.

Frank Turk said...

Rho -

I absolutely agree that the Gospel is the solution to abortion. But neither of us are post-millennials who think we will get a perfect world prior to the returns of Christ. In that: evangelism -cannot- be harnessed to political activism. That is: we can't expect people to first become Christians before they will stop killing babies, for example.

For what it's worth, the presuppositional point of retreat to Rom 1-2 utter supports /my view/ that the unsaved person has enough information to make a reasonable and informed choice to do what's right regarding, for example, the murder of babies. You guys want to stop at the end of Rom 1 and forget that Rom 2 goes after the unbelievers who are not handed over to irredeemable idolatry -- they have a conscience that still works in spite of the wrong that they do, and it is utterly informed by God's moral decrees.

In that: the point is utterly not to get the baby murderer to first become a christian so that of course he won't kill babies anymore. In this case, this is a secular debate in which we cannot become the victim of trading what's unobtainably-best for what is obtainably-good.

It is obtainably-good to eliminate 95% of all abortions. And we can do that without deanding that first: people adopt all our preconditions of moral reasoning.

Frank Turk said...

Also, from 10,000 feet:

ILOVEYOUONESTARHATER!!!!!11!!!!

Robert said...

And OSH apparently hates babies, too. Of course, if you wrote about chocolate or bacon, OSH would probably hate them, too.

Rhology said...

Frank,

But neither of us are post-millennials who think we will get a perfect world prior to the returns of Christ.

Well, I'm undecided on that. :-) My abolitionist friends are methodological post-mills, and that sounds fine to me as far as it goes.


In that: evangelism -cannot- be harnessed to political activism.

I don't see abolition as political activism. It is a moral issue, as you know. It is a choice a woman makes. It is an act of murder. And God has said "Don't murder" in His law. We express God's law and insist that women not murder their tiny babies. If they show repentance and brokenness as a lady and her daughter did just two weeks ago at the local abortuary then we preach the Gospel to them. It works great.


we can't expect people to first become Christians before they will stop killing babies, for example.

Either the Gospel is the solution, or it isn't.
But if you're wondering whether I'm in favor of illegalising abortion and making sure churches spend more on assisting women in crisis pregnancies, etc, than they do on lawn care and lighting, I'm right there with you.


the presuppositional point of retreat to Rom 1-2 utter supports /my view/ that the unsaved person has enough information to make a reasonable and informed choice to do what's right regarding, for example, the murder of babies.

True, except they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and the law of God is that which breaks that suppression.


It is obtainably-good to eliminate 95% of all abortions.

That may be, and that's fine, but let's not stop there. (I'm not proposing you think we should stop there, mind you.)
We as abolitionists are indeed pursuing the total renewal of the culture to Jesus, as we are commanded to in the New Testament.


we can do that without deanding that first: people adopt all our preconditions of moral reasoning.

So... we can do that without people thinking that murdering babies is wrong? How would you propose that happen?
Does "murder is wrong" even make sense on a secular worldview? You and I both know it does not. And that is exactly what I'm saying.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Marcus Pittman said...

"We can't expect people to first become Christians before they will stop killing babies"

OK, so then we must embrace moralism. Got it.

Chris Brannen said...

When the science and scripture are on the same side, they just change the science!

Awaiting the follow-up with bated breath. Thank you for the excellent post.

Chris Brannen said...

Marcus,

I love how here you have somehow rolled caring about and arguing against abortion and a hostility to sharing the Gospel together.

Frank is right. Sometimes, as Christians, we have to partner with people to form a wider coalition against a great evil. Does that mean we can't share the Gospel as we go along? OF COURSE NOT.

Sometimes we have to make philosophical arguments in the world because the world is the world. Not everyone is going to come over to the Christian point of view. A cursory read of scripture might help you to understand that.

If we can stop a great evil, we should. Then, AS WE GO, we should preach the Gospel.

Mizz Harpy said...

I email this to ya'll but I'll post the link here so readers can view this short video on conception. This wasn't made by a pro-life group.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFrVmDgh4v4&feature=player_embedded

Notice the narrator says a human life is conceived, not a fetus, not an undifferentiated blob.

Rhology said...

Then, AS WE GO, we should preach the Gospel.

Let me share a bit of what I've learned so far about that.
We go, we preach the Gospel, and the Romanists that dominate the Pro-Life Movement turn on us and attack us with disturbing frequency. Since we preach the Gospel, we're "anti-Catholic".

We have to take that into account. Better to do what Jesus said in all cases and at all times, and let God take care of the consequences and the numbers and movement size.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Mizz Harpy said...

Ugh, me make mistake me need more coffee! I meant to type "I'd email" not "I email".

Shane Dodson said...

"When the science and scripture are on the same side, they just change the science!"

There is a very specific reason for that...a reason which can addressed presuppositionally.

But then, that apologetic was pretty much shown to the door in this post.

- Shane

Frank Turk said...

"I don't see abolitionism as political activism."

As I said: the presuppositionalist is mostly not in this conversation anyway.

Here's the acid test for the matter: does the pro-abortion advocate see it as political activism? Because if they do, then whatever else you are doing is either ineffective and below the threshold of engagement, or way over their heads and therefore ineffective.

Rhology said...

Because if they do, then whatever else you are doing is either ineffective and below the threshold of engagement, or way over their heads and therefore ineffective.

Preaching the law and Gospel and reducing competing worldviews to absurdity is ineffective or way over their heads?

No, Frank, that's just not the case. Plus, I'm not the best communicator in the world and I can easily lead people through the line of reasoning.
As a bonus, it's better than trying to lead people through a jungle of facts and figures and to jump over the naturalistic fallacy while you're at it.
As a double bonus, we get to preach the law of God the whole time. Imagine the potential.

I don't love your methodology, but you won't see me writing blog posts ripping you about it. I wish you'd returned the favor, and your critique isn't doing so hot.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Frank Turk said...

See: the question is, 'What are we trying to accomplish here?"

If we are trying to accomplish the best outcome -- the salvation of all men -- and will settle for no other outcomes because we believe that getting "the best" will cause all the others to fall in line, we have forgotten (again) the most rudimentary act of God's sovereignty and grace: /ordinary means/.

This is the presuppositional version of charismatic fireworks: unless someone is inside our version of systematic theology /prior to their conversion/, all of their actions are utterly meaningless. But somehow Rom 2 says that the unsaved have a different problem: they actually do have ethically-good actions which they can rightly commend themselves with -- which makes all the other times they miss the mark /worse/ for them.

Their ethics do not earn them favor with God -- but they can in fact benefit their fellow human beings. And what we're actually trying to do here is /save lives/ of people who are being murdered.

If we also wind up converting the lost because we found common cause over the death of infants, I think that's great.

Rhology said...

I don't think anyone said anything about accepting and being grateful for lesser outcomes than the ideal, but did you really mean to say we should be **SETTLING**?

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Frank Turk said...

The staggering thing in this dialogue is that there are some people in it who do not understand that the matter of which laws a government enforces /is/ actually a matter of "moralism", not a matter of grace or redemption. It is a matter of the ministry of the sword, not a matter of the ministry of the word in the sense our presuppositional friends have, um, presupposed.

Those people are excused from the rest of the comment thread. I insist.

Frank Turk said...

Rho:

I don't think we should expect the government should be a christian theocracy before it bans the convenient murder of babies.

Frank Turk said...

The example we should follow, since it was brought up, is the example of abolition. Everyone doesn't have to be a post-millennial Calvinist to outlaw human trafficking.

Now go and do the same.

Robert said...

I do wonder what the presuppositionalist would say to the Christian who is pro-choice? Or how about the nominal Christian who is pro-abortion? Are we so naive as to think these people don't exist? My wife sees them often at the pregnancy center. And she first works on showing that abortion is murder.

By the way, I'm wondering where all of this concern was last week when we were concerned with trying to bring shame to people because abortion is murder...did I miss something?

Rhology said...

I don't think we should expect the government should be a christian theocracy before it bans the convenient murder of babies.

Sure, neither do we, but that's in some extent our goal.


The example we should follow, since it was brought up, is the example of abolition

We follow those guys' example. You are not, really. Not in the way you're framing the conversation here.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

I do wonder what the presuppositionalist would say to the Christian who is pro-choice?

We would proclaim the law to them, take them to the Word of God and call them to repent of their sin.
It's not very complicated, really. I doubt your approach is a whole lot different.


I'm wondering where all of this concern was last week when we were concerned with trying to bring shame to people because abortion is murder

B/c of the Gospel, an abortive woman can say she is a murderer without shame.


Grace and peace,
Rhology

Frank Turk said...

Rho:

That you are willing to say you don't want something which is you goal points to the problem.

Seriously: step away. Let it be a request rather than a requirement.

Frank Turk said...

I'll be back in about 2 hours, and then I'll be out of internet.

Paul Reed said...

I'm skeptical that we can use science to change the minds of pro-abortion people. Ask a pro-abort, "If I can show you that the fetus is really a person, will you support making abortion illegal?". Don't expect a "yes". In fact they will often respond, "Well no because a woman shouldn't have to stay pregnant against her will". Also, in the process of conception video that was posted, how can science say that something is non-valuable one moment and valuable a split-second later? Engage a true Christian on abortion, and it's quite a different story.

Frank Turk said...

Paul:

Hence, next week's post.