Pro-Choice

Taking the Camels With Hammers Civility Pledge

Posted on February 13, 2013. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Internet Etiquette, Personal, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Social Justice |

I would like it if all of my readers read this pledge- and if those that were in agreement that civility is the key to productive discourse would sign it.  I worked with Dan Finke and several other bloggers to help craft this pledge (though admittedly I didn’t contribute a fraction of the time or energy that Dan and others did).   I think that the rules laid out here are important; I believe that if we wish to have constructive dialogue that focuses on ideas and doesn’t devolve into nasty epithets and hard feelings- then we ought to all support this effort. 

I normally would link to the original post and let my readers read the full text there, but since I was

Artwork by Steve Greenberg- Click for link

Artwork by Steve Greenberg- Click for link

part of the group that worked on the pledge and Dan has generously offered to allow it reprinted verbatim- I have decided to print it in its entirety here (including all links that reference Dan’s fantastic posts on these subjects at CWH).  I would like to have it handy so that I can link to it when people commenting here step out of line and also so that I have a standard to be personally accountable to.  

I hope you read the pledge, sign it here or at CWH, and share it if you agree.

-George-

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“THE CAMELS WITH HAMMERS CIVILITY PLEDGE”

by Daniel Fincke

 

Reasons for the Pledge:

I want to be able to engage in vigorous, rigorous, constructive, and truth-conducive public discussions about both the most philosophically fundamental and the most vitally urgent questions related to beliefs and values.

For truth’s sake and for freedom’s sake, I want no controversial topics to be made taboo in all discussion forums and I want no disputable propositions whatsoever to be shielded from all sincere and thorough rational interrogation. I accept that either my beliefs and values, including those I that myself cherish the most, can prove themselves against vigorous, sincere, rational skepticism and challenge, or that they need to be modified or abandoned.

I want to argue for what I think is true and good without hesitating over concerns that my views are too unpopular or unpleasant, and I want others to feel free to do the same.

I want periodically to publicly reexamine my own beliefs and values for any possible errors they may contain, and to critically examine others’ ideas until I am adequately satisfied with them before feeling like I have to endorse or adopt them.

I even may want the latitude of intellectual honesty to test ugly ideas that neither I nor most others even want to believe. I may want to do this so that we can thoroughly understand exactly why, or whether, such ideas are indeed as false as we would hope, or are as pernicious as we presume. It is important that rational people of good will have well-developed reasons, rather than just dogmatic moral condemnation, with which to answer the false and pernicious ideas of irrational, ill-willed, and bigoted people. This means rational people of good will should at least sometimes open-mindedly explore hypotheses that they or others may find morally or intellectually upsetting, and that they have the room to do this without being demonized.

I realize that a huge obstacle to honest, thoroughgoing, and challenging public inquiries into the rightness of beliefs and values of the most fundamental importance and urgency is our shared natural tendencies to take abstract criticisms personally. I realize another huge obstacle is that most people naturally are tempted to become more dogmatically committed to their existing positions precisely when presented with potentially unsettling counter-arguments. I realize that in most cases these and related problematic tendencies are only exacerbated, rather than alleviated, when we explicitly or implicitly turn abstract intellectual inquiries into interpersonally hostile confrontations.

I also realize that attempts to bully people into agreement with me by taking recourse to interpersonally aggressive treatment are antithetical to a principled commitment to respecting other people’s rationality and freedoms of intellectual conscience. Even where such appeals are successful, they come at a moral cost that should be seen as unacceptable to people committed to reason. I should want to persuade others into genuinely justified agreement with the best arguments and the most fair and relevant emotional appeals, rather than socially, emotionally, politically, or physically coerce them into acquiescence. Outside of the most extreme life and death circumstances, I should not consider the cause of winning people to my side philosophically or politically to be so important that I am willing to treat others abusively.

It is, in the vast majority of cases, unethical to verbally abuse or otherwise attempt to emotionally bully others, no matter how right I might feel myself to be or how cathartic I might find the experience. Self-righteousness is a dangerous, blinding temptation. It leads to hypocritical double-standards, remorseless cruelty, smugness, authoritarianism, and false beliefs held with self-satisfaction. Worst of all, self-righteousness tempts us to become like the hateful people we start out opposing. So I should foreswear and guard against self-righteousness as conscientiously and with as much regular self-examination as possible. I should never consider myself to be so much better or righter than others that I see them as worthy of maltreatment and myself as morally pure enough to mete out their punishments of my own initiative.

found at demotivationalposters.net

found at demotivationalposters.net

I understand also that I am not perfect. I may not have always lived up to the highest standards of civility, compassion, or rationality in the past. I may struggle as much as anyone else to do so in the future. Nonetheless, I resolve to the best of my ability to make the commitments in the pledge below in order to ensure that I am as constructive and ethical a participant in public discussions as possible, and to live as consistently according to my professed belief in the intellectual and moral worth of reason, freedom, and compassion as possible.

 

The Pledge:

1. I commit that I will engage in all public arguments with a sincere aim of mutual understanding, rather than only persuasion.

I will make being honest, rationally scrupulous, and compassionate my highest priorities. I will conscientiously remain open to new ideas. I will consider the well being and growth of my interlocutors more important than whether they simply agree with me at the end of our exchanges. I am under no obligation to respect false or harmful beliefs or to hold back from expressing my own views or reservations forthrightly. I may even express them with passion and conviction where such are justifiable. Compatible with this, I will always respect my interlocutors as people and their rights to express their own views without personal abuse, even when I find myself riled up by them. I will cut off communications that are counter-productive to others’ well being or my own. I will respect others’ attempts to bow out of debates on particular topics or with me in particular. If I feel that I am in a position where my anger and frustration at the behavior of others, even entirely legitimate anger and frustration, is making the conversation less capable of constructive progress, I will remove myself and come back only at such time as I can be constructive again.

 

2. I commit that I will tolerate the existence of people with dissenting ethical, religious, or political views.

I will focus on understanding and appreciating what actual goods my philosophical or political enemies may be mistakenly trying to achieve and what genuinely occurring features of their experience they are inadequately trying to do justice to in their false beliefs. I will try to discern and appreciate what genuinely valuable moral and intellectual principles they intend to stand up for, no matter how wrong I think their ultimate ethical or factual conclusions might be. Wherever possible, I will try to find and affirm their good will, reasonableness, and any other potential sources of common ground, and work from there in order to persuade them of what I take to be their errors. If this proves impossible, I will simply stop engaging them directly and attack their ideas in the abstract, rather than make things acrimoniously personal.

 

3. I commit that I will always focus first on the merits of other people’s arguments and not disparage them personally for asking unpleasant questions, taking unpleasant positions, or simply disagreeing with me.

I will not assume the worst of all possible motives when people advance theses that I find false, morally repugnant, and/or potentially harmful. I will refute their arguments on their merits. I will discuss with them any harmful real world implications that I think would come from the promulgation or implementation of their ideas. I will not accuse them of wanting to perpetuate evils unless there is specific evidence that their ends are actually so malicious. I will try not to personalize intellectual disputes any more than is absolutely necessary. I will keep any personal fights that erupt limited to as few people as possible rather than incorporate more and more people into them.

When I am having a personality conflict that is making progress in understanding seem impossible, I will drop communications with that person–with or without explanation as seems most potentially constructive. I will not escalate unproductive arguments that are becoming interpersonally acrimonious. I will not participate in ongoing interpersonal feuds between other people but only participate in discussions that stay focused on what is true, what the best principles are, and how such principles may be most fairly and efficiently implemented in the world. I will correct injustices, bad principles, and bad ideas in ways that are maximally productive for changing minds and real world policies while also minimally likely to create or escalate distracting counter-productive interpersonal feuds.

 

4. When I feel it necessary to call out what I perceive to be the immoral behaviors or harmful attitudes of my interlocutors, I commit that I will do so only using specific charges, capable of substantiation, which they can contest with evidence and argumentation, at least in principle. I will not resort to merely abusive epithets and insult words (like “asshole” or “douchebag”) that hatefully convey fundamental disrespect, rather than criticize with moral precision.

I will refrain from hurling hateful generalized abusive epithets and insults at people. I will refrain from leveling vague, unsubstantiated charges of terribleness at people. I will give them fair opportunities to explain themselves. I will challenge the wrongness of their specific actions or apparent attitudes rather than hastily cast aspersions on their entire character. Before ever making moral accusations, I will civilly warn them that something they do or say strikes me as morally wrong and offensive, and explain to them why.  I will give them a chance to retract, restate, and/or apologize before taking moral offense. I will analyze with self-directed skepticism whether my offense is rooted in a morally justifiable anger at provably unjust treatment, or whether it is just my discomfort with being disagreed with.

I will always seek to maintain positive rapport with those who disagree with me as much as they enable. I will focus my criticisms on people’s ideas first and only if necessary criticize their attitudes, behaviors, or apparent character. I will not demean them fundamentally as a person. I will not uncharitably and hastily leap from specific bad thoughts, attitudes, or actions to wholesale disparagements of their entire character until there is overwhelming evidence that I am dealing with a fundamentally immoral person. And if I am dealing with such a person, I will use any of a wide array of highly specific available words

to make moral charges soberly, constructively, descriptively accurately, and succinctly as possible before cutting off communications with them. And I will not take unnecessary recourse to abusive terms when plenty of civil and accurate words carrying heavy moral force are available to me.

 

5. I commit that I will go out of my way, if necessary, to remember that members of traditionally marginalized groups and victims of abuse have experiences that I may not have and which I may have to strain to properly weigh and appreciate.

People who have been personally abused or systemically discriminated against in ways that I have not may also be acutely aware of a social power differential with respect to me of which I may be unaware. This may make them feel frustrated and intimidated from speaking frankly, as well as more sensitized to potentially silencing and Othering implications of my language and ideas. I will be as sensitive to this reality as possible and as careful as possible with my language to reduce rather than exacerbate their feelings of social disempowerment. I also will take into account and accommodate the reality that people with high personal stakes in the outcomes of certain debates about values are, quite understandably, more prone to emotional intensity in their arguments and especially likely to bring unique insights that are indispensible to understanding the issue adequately.

Of course none of this means I should feel compelled to surrender my own rational right and need to independently and rigorously assess what anyone says for its truth or goodness. I should not feel compelled to always and unconditionally agree with someone who has an experience or life situation different from my own. And I should not pretend to already fully accept beliefs or values of which I have not yet been satisfyingly convinced. I should also not tolerate normalization of emotional appeals of the kind that cross the line into bullying. But nonetheless, I will be extra cautious to learn from traditionally marginalized people about what disparately affects them in negative ways and about how to make discourses and other environments more inclusive to them. I will pay close attention to how hostile environments are implicitly created that exclude, silence, or otherwise adversely affect traditionally marginalized people, especially under the aegis of a perniciously false neutrality.

On the other side, I will also be sensitive to preempt counter-productively defensive feelings and reactions of people in traditionally advantaged groups by carefully avoiding even the appearance of prejudicially disparaging them all as malicious oppressors. I will distinguish carefully between those motivated by animus and those who are in the main only passive beneficiaries and unwitting perpetuators of injustices, or biased in unintentional and unexamined ways. When rightly calling out such injustices and prejudices I will frame my criticisms and calibrate my level of antagonism with respect to how generally good or ill willed my interlocutor actually is. I will scrupulously distinguish criticisms of harmful systems from criticisms of individuals. I will criticize harmful behaviors without hastily assuming people have malicious intentions or morally repugnant character. I will always respect others’ rights to disagree with me, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, disabilities, sex, and unearned privileges (or lack thereof). I will avoid all disparagement of people based on such core identity-forming traits, whether it be disparagement aimed at members of groups with lesser or greater social power. I will neither flippantly nor seriously disparage people based on such kinds of traits or try to invalidate their experiences, even should I think that they are misinterpreting the significance of their experiences, or even should I believe they are more advantaged than most people and should be able to take harsher treatment on that account.

 

6. I commit that I will not use any language that I know is offensive to either a subset of a marginalized group or to members of that group at large, for whatever reason.

I will not use racial or ethnic slurs (like “nigger” or “kike”), gendered insults (like “bitch”, “dick”, “cunt”, “slut”), homophobic slurs (like “fag”), or transphobic slurs (like “tranny”). Regardless of my private standards or understandings I have with my friends or customs within my local culture, in public forums I will respect that such terms make at least a noticeable number of members of marginalized groups feel hated and unwelcome. This risks silencing them in unjust ways. I will err on the side of caution and maximum inclusion by removing such words from my public discourse as superfluous, potentially harmful, exclusionary, and counter-productive to my goals of rational persuasion. The English language is huge; I can find countless better words to use.

 

7. I commit that I will not use any ableist language that disparages people over physical or mental limitations or illnesses.

I will not falsely imply that people are in the main uneducable or incapable of rationality simply because they either disagree with me, have major intellectual blindspots, make huge intellectual errors, or prove generally unlearned in some specific area. This means that I will not call my interlocutors “retarded”, “stupid”, “idiotic”, “deranged”, or similar terms that convey with contemptuous hostility that I believe them beneath reasoning with and beneath treating as an equal, simply on account of what I take to be some major errors or areas of ignorance. All people can learn. All people can teach. Specific intellectual limitations, errors, and/or ignorance of a particular area of knowledge do not amount to “stupidity”.

Calling people stupid is not only usually false and woefully imprecise, but it threatens to hatefully discourage people from learning and to destroy the hope for dialogue with them. It also disrespects the undereducated (many of whom are financially disadvantaged or otherwise socially disadvantaged and disempowered) and makes them justifiably resentful. For some it continues a pattern of abuse suffered from parents, peers, partners, and others in their lives who damaged them during childhood and have harmfully misled them to underestimate their actual intellectual potential. It also irrationally ignores the reality that all of us are regularly victims of cognitive biases and institutionally inculcated deceptionsthat to a large extent account for their errors. They deserve education, not derision.

My interlocutors and I will both learn more if I try to understand the rationally explicable reasons for their errors and figure out how to most effectively correct them. I will also learn more if I conscientiously try to think up and refute the best arguments for my opponents’ views rather than seize on their arguments’ weaknesses and dismiss them categorically as “stupid”. I can point out the nature of mistakes more precisely, and with better hope of correcting them, if I engage in thinking together with people rather than disparaging and bullying them.

 

8. I commit that I will always argue in good faith and never “troll” other people. I will respect both safe spaces and debate spaces and the distinctly valuable functions each can potentially serve. I will not disrupt the functioning of either kind of forum.

I will respect that some venues are designed to be safe places for members of marginalized groups or abused people to seek refuge from abuse and certain forms of disagreement that they are, for good reason, not emotionally able to deal with. I will respect that these, and other venues designed for people with a shared ideological or philosophical disposition, are valuable. It is constructive to have some spaces where likeminded people can work out their views amongst themselves without always having to be distracted by calls for them to defend themselves on fundamental points.

I will not deliberately troll or otherwise attempt to disrupt forums that exclude me on such grounds. If they refuse debates with people of my philosophical views, then I will not try to participate in their venue. On the flipside, if I desire to make a certain conversation or forum, even a public one, into a safe space where some types of arguments are not permitted, I will make that clear as early as possible. And if I am engaged in a debate in a public forum not designated as a safe space, I will accept that not everyone present is going to share my basic beliefs, knowledge base, values, or concerns, and I will not treat them with hostility on account of their disagreement with me about fundamental matters.

Regardless of forum, if I decide to play devil’s advocate in hopes that it will help make a position’s merits clearer to me, I will be upfront about what I am doing so that I do not come off as obstinate or excessively antagonistic or in any other way a disingenuous “troll”. I will desist if others do not want me to play devil’s advocate to them whether because they find it badgering or trivializing of something important to them or for any other reason.

 

9. I commit that I will apologize when I hurt others’ feelings, even when I do so unintentionally and even when I do not think their hurt feelings are justified.

If I want to defend my actions or contest the moral justifiability of an outraged person’s feelings of offense, I will do so respectfully and always with an aim of mutual understanding. I commit to not treating those who accidentally upset or offend me as though they intentionally did so. I will accept sincere apologies that take adequate responsibility without requiring groveling and total surrender on all points of contention (especially if some matters at stake are distinctly separable from the offense and are rationally disputable). I will foster environments in which people feel comfortable expressing when their feelings are hurt because everyone regularly offers, and receptively takes, constructive criticisms. This happens where criticism is regularly free of hatred, demonization, and implicit or explicit purity tests and threats of ostracism. So I will oppose all such things.

 

10. I commit that I will hold my allies and myself to the highest standards of civil, good-willed, compassionate, and reason-based argumentation and ethical conduct, regardless of whether our enemies do the same, and regardless of the rectitude of our cause.

I will not defensively interpret sincere criticism from my allies as personal betrayal. I will be as above reproach as possible with respect to all charges of bullying, feuding, escalation, bad faith argumentation, ad hominem tactics, well-poisoning, trolling, marginalization, strawmanning, sock puppetry, tribalism, purity testing, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, goading, micro-aggressiveness, passive aggressiveness, and personalization of disputes. While not compromising my intellectual conscience for the sake of politeness, I will manage to model a conciliatory and reasonable spirit. While I may advocate forthrightly for ethical debate and treatment of others generally, I will spend as much or more of my energies scrutinizing my own public contributions for ways I can make them more rational, civil, compassionate, and persuasive than I will policing the behaviors of others I encounter.

 

11. I commit that I will not make accusations of guilt by association.

I will neither assume that one’s association with another person implies agreement with any specific belief, action, or behavior of that person, and nor will I assume that someone’s agreement with another person on a specific point implies agreements on any other specific points. I will hold people accountable only for their own expressed views and not for the views of everyone with whom they associate. I also will not assume total agreement and endorsement of all the ideas in books, thinkers, or links that someone recommends as interesting.

 

12. I commit that I will not use mockery and sarcasm in ways that try to belittle other people.

I recognize funny and perceptive satire’s indispensible and unique abilities to illumine truths and rationally persuade people. And I feel free to humorously point out apparent absurdities in others’ arguments or beliefs during discussions. But I will draw the line at using humor to personally attack, harass, or silence individuals with whom I am engaged. I will be cautious that my ridicule during discussions is aimed squarely at beliefs and does not have the likely effect of making my interlocutors feel like I am flippantly contemptuous of their reasoning abilities en toto or of their worth as people. In short, I will use humor to challenge and persuade others, rather than to abuse and alienate them.

 

13. I commit that I will empathetically, impartially, and with reasonable mercy enforce the standards of civility and compassion laid out in this pledge in any venues (including but not limited to: blogs, Facebook pages, subreddits, and discussion forums) where I have moderation powers with sufficient latitude to set and enforce standards.

Even in safe spaces where debates on certain kinds of topics are understandably restricted for people’s well being, I will still adhere to all the rest of the principles of compassion, charity, and civility in arguments here laid out.

 

Signed,

Daniel Fincke

George Waye

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I Had Hope For The World- Then This Happened……

Posted on July 2, 2012. Filed under: Abortion, Atheist Ethics, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Science, Social Justice |

The Catholic Church wants to party like it’s 1399.  Seriously.

There is a new ad campaign launched by a Catholic blogger that wants to make birth control “like,

Yes, HYSTERICAL- and by “hysterical” I mean an attitude causing a disturbance of the uterus

so lame” to the hip, impressionable young Catholics (and your kids, too!) out there.

Speaking as a parent, this is infuriating.  Speaking as a humanist, it is disappointing.  Speaking as a skeptic, it is indefensibly dishonest.

Here’s the scoop, from Claudia at Friendly Atheist:

Fellow Patheos blogger Marc Barnes over at Bad Catholic has realized why the Catholic mandate against contraception enjoys such pitiful support amongst American women.

It’s not because it’s an archaic, unrealistic standard that turns couples — and particularly women — into slaves of their own biology despite the existence of readily available alternatives. The actual problem is that it hasn’t been sold in a sufficiently attractive package.

Enter the new website 1Flesh, which seeks to sell 19th century ideas (12th? 1st?) in a 21st century package, Facebook page and all. According to Barnes, its purpose is “documenting the silliness that is artificial contraception, a grassroots movement promoting great, natural sex to the entire universe.” He then cites a list of “facts” that range from outright false to outrageously misleading.

Read on….

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What’s That? You Thought “Pro-Life” Meant Concern For The Unborn?

Posted on March 16, 2012. Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion |

Many atheists I know, myself included, will from time to time express some empathy for the absract goals of the pro-life movement. 

  • They are trying to save lives, right?
  • Their “value judgement” is noble, if myopic.
  • The ultimate goal of a “pro-life” advocate is not entirely dissimilar to many pro-choice proponents.

I have at one time or another defended all three of these propositions.  What makes them true is that “the primacy of life” is a good thing to value.  Unfortunately for the greater “Pro-Life” movement, valuing life (and the primacy of it) is far from a forgone conclusion.

Surely there are those within the pro-life movement who think that the debate is only about the lives of unborn children.  There must exist those people.

Ahh, to be young and innocent….

Don’t be fooled though.  For the vast majority of pro-life supporters abortion is just one more extension of a religious culture war.  Do they support contraception? Not always.  Do they support social programs aimed at making pregnancy feasable for underpriveledged women?  Not necessarily.  Do they support arming women (and men) with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their sexual health?  Rarely. 

If you are not against unwanted pregnancy then you are not pro-life.  You are anti-abortion.

It becomes even harder for me to believe that the real issue is the ultimate primacy of life if the lives you are so desperate to save are tools to forward a religious agenda.

I submit for your examination this “pro-life” article that appears on “LifeNews”, a “pro-life” website. The article is titled “Godless and ‘Pro-Choice’- So Happy Together For Abortion“, and as you can imagine, it is a clear and moving defense of the lives of unborn children.  Note how central the life of the unborn is to the authors argument.  Note  how the author puts the “priceless lives of children” above any kind of alternative agenda.  An excerpt:

Godless. Apparently, it’s a growing trend these days. In the 60s, America was fighting godless racism within our borders and godless Communism overseas. We were also fighting a godless, drug-filled, narcissistic sexual revolution refusing to accept transcendent morality, that found a leader in famed atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

As an attorney, she led a public crusade against what she regarded as society’s most potent evil—prayer. In the 1963 case of Murray vs. Curlett, she successfully convinced the Supreme Court to ban prayer from public schools. That’s not where the story ends. She spawned a movement that would get publicity like never before, thanks to her provocative obscenity-laced PR, and a media establishment that was growing more antagonistic toward religion. She founded American Atheists, an organization hell-bent on proclaiming God doesn’t exist.

Wait a second!  I didn’t read anything in there about unborn children, let alone how valuable they were.  Maybe I need to scroll down some…..

 We are a country, contrary to many atheists’ historical impairment, founded upon biblical principles that are infused throughout many founding fathers’ writings, including the Declaration of Independence. The AHA’s Humanist Manifesto I and II attempt to excise our country’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings and replace them with their recycled religion of humanism.

Advisory: No babies have been mentioned in the making of this message. 

Planned Parenthood’s history and present is rife with animosity toward Christianity unless the abortion giant can use religious folk to justify the mutilation of human life. American Atheists and the AHA believe that modernity is better served without religion. In fact, the AHA’s motto is “Good Without A God”.

No thanks. I’m an advocate for the marriage of reason and faith in a world where moral absolutes still exist.

Fun fact:  In the French language the words “reason” and “faith” are both feminine.  So at least this guy is for same-sex marriage….

 if only rhetorically. 

 Bazinga.

 

 

 

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The Problem With The Abortion Debate Pt. 2: The Hopeless Analogy.

Posted on August 3, 2011. Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Personal, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Social Justice |

This is a continuation of my thoughts on the abortion debate.  Part 1 can be found here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of analogy.  I use analogies with great frequency, they are integral to my communication style.  The question is- Why do we use analogies at all?  I use them for clarity-to show the extension of my logic or the logic of others onto similar circumstances that might help elucidate my position (or theirs) on an issue.  But what happens when analogies go wrong?  There is no such thing as a perfect analogy, but some are definitely worse than others.

Sometimes analogies betray the reason why we can’t reasonably discuss a topic…..

Whether intentional or not, the analogies that I am encountering to argue against my position on abortion are misleading.  I say intentional or not because I am unsure whether they are crafted to purposely leave aside the point I’m driving at or if they betray the fact that the person I am speaking with has no real understanding of the topic at hand.

There is no other topic that I can think of that has as many interrelated interests and nuances, as many divergent definitions and concepts as abortion.  As such, this is not a discussion that lends itself to analogy- there simply are no analogies that suffice.  Yet the battlefield is littered with them, and each side feels they have won on the contingency of their analogy.  Each one feels they have won by exposing the fault of the opposing analogy.  Ultimately, what gets lost is a real understanding of the issue at hand.

Let’s start with the most common analogy I have encountered thus far. Spousal abuse.  The analogy goes that spousal abuse is wrong, we all agree to this.  I agree(though many pro-choice advocates do not ) that abortion is inherently wrong.  So why do I support laws that make spousal abuse illegal and not laws that make abortion illegal?

Let’s begin on those points I think are obvious enough.  We have (at least in Canada, perhaps America takes a more “the act is illegal, what more do you want?” approach) an entire infrastructure surrounding the protection of women from abuse.  We have Women’s Shelters, we have support networks, we have financial support, we have child services, we have legal protections- an entire network that takes away the most pressing concerns for a woman contemplating leaving their husband and reporting abuse.  As John Barron points out, we do this because women are worthy of being protected.  So why do we not offer infrastructure to take away the most pressing concerns of a pregnant woman contemplating abortion?  Are those children not worthy of being protected?  Are they only worthy enough of laws that protect society from perceived culpability in the immoral act- but not laws and policies that proactively seek to protect the victim?  Why the double standard?

So why not support both laws preventing abortion in tandem with policies designed to reduce the incidence of them?

Well, there is the matter of where the spousal abuse analogy falls apart.  Does an abusive husband’s abuse constitute some competing moral good?  Well, not that I am aware.  Does a woman’s choice to abort constitute a competing moral good?  If we value control over her body, true social equity with men, and personal liberty- then yes.  So our comparison falls apart unless we entirely set aside the unique issues that face a pregnant woman.  I don’t really care if you decide to value “the primacy of life” over these other considerations- so long as you acknowledge that there are other moral considerations.

If you realize that they exist, then perhaps you might begin by guaranteeing the financial and medical stability of the other human life involved, as well as the one you hold so dear.  Perhaps you might like to make laws that give some similar burden on the other 50% of the DNA donated at conception (and I mean meaningful, not just “yes, yes, he needs to give a token child support payment”).   That would be a good start.  If we did these things, I’m still not convinced that abortion should be illegal- but I can concede that I would find reasonable limitations on abortions more palatable.

So my offer is this:  Give me one worthwhile analogy that exposes the fault of my pro-choice stand.  Give me good reason to doubt that I’m holding to a reasonable position.  Every time you give me an analogy that ignores the bulk of the reasons to protect the right to choose at the expense of the very good reason to deny it, you tell me that you are either not listening or don’t understand…or worse still- you are committed to disingenuous dialogue.

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The Problem With The Abortion Debate

Posted on July 28, 2011. Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Internet Etiquette, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Social Justice |

Ed.-Read Pt.2 of The Problem With The Abortion Debate here.

Perhaps it is that me and my beautiful wife are going to be welcoming another member to our already large family this December (#5- if you’re counting)-lately I have been really getting annoyed with the tone of the debate over abortion.  There are the “pro-life” people- forever calling people who disagree “anti-life”, “pro-abortion”, “abortion advocates”, and the like.  There are those on the “pro-choice” side forever bringing up abortion clinic bombings as though every “pro-lifer” is a domestic terrorist- or the constant and droning use of the term misogynist at the drop of a hat.

There are words flying across both sides of the fence that make any reasonable treatment of the topic impossible.  It boils down to two very important and very reasonable positions.  On the one hand, we have the pro-choice camp who believe women need to have ultimate control over their bodies and be given the same opportunities as men.  This seems quite reasonable.  On the other side of the fence lies a group of people who believe in the primacy of existence- that once you create life there is no return policy.  Quite reasonable as well.  Both miss the point when boiled down to this kind of generalization.  Both miss the point when staring down the opposing position.

As  a Pro-Choice advocate, I am most familiar with what frustrates me when trying to explain my

This Graphic: Kind of True....Not Very Helpful.

position to people who have a laundry list of preconceptions, misleading talking points and bad logic regarding what it means to be an “abortion advocate”.  I know some Pro-Life people, and I can sympathize with their feeling that they are generalized and marginalized as well.  This post is meant as a treatment of what frustrates me most when discussing abortion- how I feel that my position is mistreated and misunderstood by the Pro-Life camp.  They surely feel the same, and I’m happy to make room for that conversation as well.

Conversation stopper #1:”You are anti-life”

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