Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why Anti-abortion activists are unpersuasive

Prolifers are an interesting lot. So persuaded they are that they are 100% correct on the issue of life and abortion. Yet they are plagued by a consistent failure of its adherants to persuade those not so disposed. This comes from a basic failure to follow the lead of Aquinas and understand the opposition thoroughly. The prolifers fail to understand the fundamental differences in basic assumptions made by the pro-choicers, and thus their arguments hasve no persuasive power.

Phil Harris is a good example of such a prolifer. Strident, absolute in his thinking, one can glean from his writing sheer astonishment and dumbfoundedness that his arguments fall on deaf ears. Here is why:

The issue of abortion provides an almost identical feeling of imbalance. Our innate awareness of good versus evil cannot be denied, and attempting to do so only serves to highlight the absurdity of what we collectively allow or accept.

I love when Christians talk like this. If this were true, then we'd need no laws, no cops, no jails and no judges. We'd simply follow our "innate" impulses, and all would be sweetness and light. Sorry Phil, but this innate sense exists only in your imagination. Those of us who tend to the pro choice side of the aisle have no feeling of imbalance, and no feeling of absurdity about our position.

Abortion must be ended with all due haste, and the idea that a handful of states should allow the evil to continue is absurd. This is no less urgent than was the abolition of slavery, and in fact it is even more urgent.

Phil goes on for a couple of paragraphs with this strained analogy in typical prolife style. They waste so much time on arguments like this to no avail because they violate a basic principle of discourse. To be persuasive, one must work from a common basis, a set of facts jointly accepted by both parties. If I do not accept that a blastocyst is a person like a slave is, no such arguments will persuade me, no matter how well formed or how boldly asserted, just as when a person declares their lack of belief in the validity of the Bible, no number of Bible quotes will persuade them.

You see, there never was any justification to declare that a child in gestation was devoid of personhood. The question of when a human child becomes a person should never have been a serious question, because there is never a moment in time, from conception through to the end of a human life that the entity is anything but a human being.

Argument from assertion and misrepresentation are also favorites of prolifers, and Phil does not dissappoint. Needless to say this argument fails because the issue is not "when does a child become a person?", but rather "when does a bundle of cells become a child?" And sorry Phil, but there is plenty of question whether something without a functioning nervous system or brain is a human being.

Even from a scientific vantage, the genetic code of the fertilized human egg remains unchanged for the entire lifespan of that individual. A human being is forever in a state of change, and the period of gestation is but a range of change that cannot be seen with our eyes.

And here we have the unstated assumption: genetic code is human => is a human being. Phil doesn't begin to try to defend this position, perhaps for good reason, since a fingernail is also genetically human, yet I doubt Phil is going to sponser a fingernail for personhood any time soon.

He then rambles on in bizarre fashion about the contitutional changes he'd like to see to shore up this problem, but based as they are on his flawed, unsupported assumptions, they are unlikely to elicit anything from prochoicers except derision.

He finishes appropriately enough with this:

Hey… I can't get this crazy hat off.

I know Phil, but I know you can't help it. But ont content with that rhetorical refuse, Phil comes at us again with his prolife commentary on the presidential election. Sadly, it is the same pattern of baseless assertion, and a complete lack of understanding of where his opposition lies.

This time, he clearly spells out that living breathing adults alive today are less important to him than potential adults in the form of clusters of cells, which he again erroneously refers to as "children":

curse the “F……” President Bush for making soldiers die in Iraq, and as you caucus in glee for Obama or Clinton because they will “end the suffering”, please note the following important numbers: Since the Revolutionary War through September of 2006, (about 230 years) a total of 2,693,128 American military men and women have been killed or have been non-mortally wounded. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, (about 33 years) there have been more than 48,000,000 children killed by legal abortion procedures in the United States.

I don't know what is sadder, that Phil equates the two, or that he thinks this will have any effect at all on prochoicers, besides prompting them to laugh at him.

it through again… won’t you please?

We'll think Phil, once you give us an argument that, you know, uses established facts and logic. As long as your premises are pulled whole cloth from your posterior, with no concern for where your interlocutors are rhetorically situated, you will continue to scream into the wind with no effect.

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