Questionable Motives

April 5, 2012

What do you think about this ten point secular plan?

Although American in detail, I think the plan is a really good starting point for all secular liberal democracies. Get religion out of the public domain where it has no business being imposed on all. Here’s a recent list:

1. Respect Our Troops – Our military shall serve and include all Americans, religious or nonreligious with no hint of bias and with no hint of fundamentalist extremism coloring our military decisions at home or abroad.

2. Reproductive Information Based on Science – Any federal or state funded program, whether offering services domestic or foreign, that relates to reproductive decisions shall be based on science and public health; not on religious bias or the denigration or women or secular minorities.

3. Healthcare Professionals Fulfill Professional Duties – Healthcare professionals shall fulfill their professional duties and they must do so without a hint of religious bias or they must find another job. That includes fundamentalist pharmacists that turn away rape victims from Plan-B (Morning After Pill Emergency Contraception).

4. No Religious Bias in Land Use or Employment – There shall be no bias in land use planning or environmental law or employment law based on religion or lack thereof.

5. No Bias in Marriage Law – Marriage can be defined by religious congregations howsoever they choose within their own services but marriage under American law shall have no bias whatsoever.

6. Autonomy for End-of-life Choices – When facing end-of-life decisions, all Americans shall be guaranteed control over their own bodies without being thwarted by religious bias.

7. No Religious Bias in School – America’s youth shall never be subjected to bias in education. If there is one penny of government funds there can’t be one iota of religious bias.

8. Congress Shall Include Secular Americans – The composition of Congress and legislature shall include secular Americans and there shall be no bias against secular candidates.

9. Children Protected from Religious Abuse –  There should be one consistent standard pertaining to the health and welfare of children regardless of a child’s parents, school, or child care center. They are all human beings that deserve human rights and protection.

10. Medical & Scientific Innovation Shall be Dedicated to Health & Advancement – Medical, technical, and science innovations shall be dedicated to the health and advancement of our fellow citizens and must never be impeded by religious bias.

Sean Faircloth is the new Richard Dawkins Foundation Director of Strategy and Policy and the author of this plan. His explanation can be viewed here (all ten points come up towards the end):

 

 

(h/t Russell metamagician and the hellfire club)

 

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57 Comments »

  1. Once you have gotten religion out of the public domain haven’t you gotten moral and ethical considerations out of the decision making process? Why shouldn’t Iran advance its nuclear program? It advances science, does it not? And if there are no moral or ethical principles undergirding marriage, what’s the point to marriage? Why not practice “free love”? And who is to say that human life is sacred? What makes it so? If the care of an elderly person is a burden to society, wouldn’t financial considerations mandate terminating that person’s life? And if the poor cannot afford healthcare (I’m speaking in the American context here), why should the rest of society provide it? Once you have gotten religion out of the public domain, aren’t all decisions made on the basis of self-interest?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 8, 2012 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

    • If this were true, then we should expect to find that the less religiosity there is in the public domain, the greater the ‘self-interest’ we should find, which you describe here in terms of self-gratification.

      So, is this true in reality?

      Well, when we compare and contrast societies and nations with the highest rates of religiosity, we should expect to find the lowest rates of self-gratification. According to your description we should find lower rates of immoral and unethical behaviours. We should find less morality where gay marriage is legal and higher rates of promiscuity. Where human life is not ‘sacred’ but autonomous with dignity and armed by euthanasia laws, we should expect to find a much higher rate of murder and killing of the elderly. In countries where religiosity is lower, we should expect less healthcare available to those who cannot afford it.

      Now let’s go on a journey and see what we find. Start here. Then follow the links to here, here, and here.

      Clearly, these numbers should be the other way around if your hypothesis were true.

      It is safe to say that your hypothesis is not informed by evidence we have from reality but stands contrary to it. In shorthand, your assertions are wrong. I wonder why?

      Comment by tildeb — April 8, 2012 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

    • Once you have gotten religion out of the public domain haven’t you gotten moral and ethical considerations out of the decision making process? Why shouldn’t Iran…

      Bob, I don’t know how to tell you this but Iran is not filled with atheists or secularists etc.
      Honest.
      It’s a religious nation. It’s a theocracy. That’s about as religious as you can get. They stone gay people. They burn books. They treat women as property. Priests have incredible power.
      It’s really very biblical.

      Once you have gotten religion out of the public domain haven’t you gotten moral and ethical considerations out of the decision making process?

      Non sequitur.

      No. 62: ARGUMENT FROM ABSOLUTE MORAL STANDARDS
      (1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
      (2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
      (3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
      (4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
      (5) Therefore, God exists.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 9, 2012 @ 1:04 am | Reply

    • aren’t all decisions made on the basis of self-interest?

      How are human decisions *not* made on the basis of self-interest? Not to be coy, but the point raised seems to be a little facile as most human decisions are made in context of self-interest with or without believing in the sky-daddy.

      Comment by The Arbourist — April 15, 2012 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  2. “It’s really very biblical.”

    Some would say it is literally biblical.

    Oh dear Bob, have you not realised that Iranian’s are just religious people, just like you – only their faith is stronger than yours. They really really really believe in the magic man in the sky, not like you – who is just a wardrobe supporter by comparison.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 10, 2012 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  3. 11. No one shall appoint any religious idol above the law, and all people regardless of their beliefs, practices and traditions shall be accountable to the rule of law.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 10, 2012 @ 4:49 pm | Reply

  4. You are all missing the whole point entirely. Tildeb (and Sean Faircloth) are arguing that religion should have no influence on public policy decisions, including war, marriage law, and medical research. But that raises the question, how do we make public policy decisions? Imagine for a moment that you are President of the US. You are discussing with your advisors whether or not to drop an atom bomb on Ottawa. Someone in the group says that that would be immoral, it would be a violation of the 6th Commandment. You tell him to shut up. He is trying to impose his own personal religious beliefs on the rest of the country. Someone else points out that science has given us the bomb, and it is a very effective weapon. How would you decide?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 13, 2012 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

    • “Imagine for a moment that you are the President of Iran. You are discussing with your advisors whether or not to drop an atom bomb on Ottawa. Someone in the group says that that would be immoral, it would be a violation of the teachings of Bhudda. You tell him to shut up. He is trying to impose his own personal religious beliefs on the rest of the country. Someone else points out that science has given us the bomb, and it is a very effective weapon. How would you decide?”

      By the way, Bob. You do know that Iran really is a theocracy? Right?

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 14, 2012 @ 2:23 am | Reply

      • So, how would YOU decide what to do if you were the president of whatever country?

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 14, 2012 @ 6:34 am

    • We are not saying science should make decisions; we are saying that science should inform decisions, because the information science offers is based on evidence.

      Science has given us many good things including the ability to use nuclear technology. It says nothing about whether we should use nuclear technology for a specific purpose. The fact that you know the consequences of nuclear weapons is not because of the lack of science, it is because the science informed the public (and your political leaders) of their true horror.

      Science has given us the ability to use electricity, it doesn’t say you should use this technology for capital punishment or for lighting your house – it just says you can use it for many things.

      There is no absolute right or wrong, morals are relative to the situations that we find ourselves in. It might be perfectly justify-able to use nuclear arms in some circumstances. Just as it might be perfectly reasonable and morally right to kill another human who was attacking another group of people for no rational reason.

      Take a terrorist attack, who has the moral high ground:
      a) The religious person who’s plan is to prove to god that his faith is strong by literally in acting out ‘gods words’ and destroying the non-believers – women, children, men because he believes in god; or
      b) The FBI marksman who has this religious fanatic in the cross hairs of his rifle scope.

      All terrorists think they have the moral high ground, they all think they are doing god’s ‘good work’ to please god, to be with god in heaven – to benefit mankind, to teach mankind a lesson in faith. If they thought otherwise, they wouldn’t do it because they would be afraid of making their god angry. They are so sure that there is a god, and that the god will be pleased of their terrorist actions that they will happily blow themselves up along with anyone else who is around them. This is religion… and this *is* a pure belief in god. And this is exactly why any religious theocracy should never have access to nuclear weapons absolutely – ever!

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 14, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  5. I just found the perfect youtube video. This is what happens when you allow creationists on the internet. Everybody get your bingo cards ready. 🙂

    Creationists’ First Time on the Internet

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 14, 2012 @ 3:52 am | Reply

  6. Bob, let’s assume that you are basically a nice person. I’ve never met you.
    However, I’m going to assume that you get along with your neighbours and you try to do the right thing.
    You don’t behave that way because of some magic, sky person.
    You are a product of your culture and your family and the influences of the philosophies that have touched your life.
    It’s nothing to do with magic.
    You do the right thing because of the integrity of your character. It’s all you.
    You get the credit when you make the right call. You and only you are responsible when you do something bad-not demons.

    Now you can say “Ah, but it’s all because of my brand-name magical, invisible friend.” but that is an extraordinary claim. You’d have to demonstrate your magic, invisible friend with evidence.
    You can’t go “Well, we have morals….um….therefore goddidiit”.
    It won’t work.
    It’s an argument from ignorance and nothing more.
    There’s a lot we don’t know about morality and psychology and human behaviour. Yet that doesn’t give us licence to just make stuff up to fill in the gaps.
    (Thor doesn’t exist but lightning does.)
    If you actually managed to convert someone that way, I would feel genuinely sorry for them. My sorrow would also be mixed in with a dash of intellectual contempt.
    That’s not having a dig at Christians.
    If you were Muslim and you said “Well, we have morals….um….therefore Allahdidiit” and some derp swallowed it and showed up meekly at their local mosque the next week, I’d have the same reaction.

    You can’t proselytize this way. You will only succeed only in attracting the “also-rans” of life to the fold at the expence of breeding cynicism amongst the smarter ones in your congregation who have access to the internet and can google this kind of thing for themselves.

    God of the Gaps & Frontier of Knowledge – Neil deGrasse Tyson.flv

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 14, 2012 @ 7:35 am | Reply

  7. But the quesion is this: if there is no absolute right or wrong, and morals are relative, then how do we know what is “the right call”? I’m not saying that the existence of morality is proof of the existence of God. What I’m saying is that if there is no God morality is an illusion. Logically that should lead us to Nietzsche. So if we exclude religion from the public domain, how do we make public policy decisions.? Who’s to day that anything the government does is “wrong”?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 14, 2012 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

    • Oh my gosh, Bob. Even without realising it, you accidently discovered proof of your brand name magic, invisible friend!!!
      Don’t you see the hidden genius of your words?
      First, you (very modestly) said that you are …not saying that the existence of morality is proof of the existence of God.
      So that’s crystal clear.

      We all understand your position on that and I’m sure you wouldn’t lie about something like that.
      But…well….
      You do believe that morals exist, right?
      Um. Ok.
      That’s important because you said that…“if there is no God morality is an illusion.”
      Yet we know that morals exist. Morals are…(trembling silence) not an illusion.
      So (…distant drum roll..) if……if morals are not an illuson then (….gasp of childlike wonder…) Bob? BOB???? that means that your magic, invisible friend exists.
      Quick, everybody do the happy dance of joy!

      I’m not saying that the existence of the moral force in judicial systems is proof of the existence of Justitia. What I’m saying is that if there is no Justitia, the moral force in judicial systems is an illusion.
      I’m not saying that the existence of the Sun is proof of the existence of Ra. What I’m saying is that if there is no Ra, the Sun is an illusion.
      I’m not saying that the existence of lightning is proof of the existence of Thor. What I’m saying is that if there is no Thor, lightning is an illusion.

      Logically that should lead us to Nietzsche.

      Bob, not that many people read Nietzsche. I have but it was labourious going and I don’t really want to do it again. The man was no Christopher Hitchens.
      Morals exist. Cultures and societies have flourished for millenia with working moral codes, perfectly ignorant of Christianity and even Nietzsche.

      Morals exist=therefore your [Brand Name] just does not work. It rests upon flawed assumptions.

      You would not accept that kind of thinking from a Sikh or a Hindu and you know it.

      “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen F Roberts

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 15, 2012 @ 12:35 am | Reply

  8. What we’re trying to get at here is how do you make public policy decisions if we exclude religious considerations from the process? We can gather from Mr. Faircloth’s comments on abortion and euthanasia that he does not believe in any such thing as “the sanctity of human life.” Home sapiens is just a biological species like any other species, with no special claim any so called “right to life.” On Mr. Faircloth’s assumption, why should the taxpayers pay for care for the elderly? Wouldn’t it make more sense to “cull the herd” as it were?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 15, 2012 @ 6:35 am | Reply

    • What we’re trying to get at here is how do you make public policy decisions if we exclude religious considerations from the process?

      So you agree that the existence of morality is definitely not proof of the existence of God and it’s a silly argument, right?
      A straight “Yes” or “No” will do just fine.
      (Remember the Ninth Commandment)

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 15, 2012 @ 8:32 am | Reply

    • What we’re trying to get at here is how do you make public policy decisions if we exclude religious considerations from the process?

      Most likely, rational policy.

      Religion is not required for moral thought or action, most of the time it is an impediment to ethical behaviour.

      From what you have been arguing it would seem that you think that religion somehow provides the only way to function ethically and with morals. Your premise is false.

      No mythology is necessary to behave in an ethically acceptable way.

      Comment by The Arbourist — April 15, 2012 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

      • But how do we know what is “an ethically acceptable way”? If it is not based on an objective standard of conduct that is ultimately rooted in the will of the Creator, then what is it based on? Financial considerations? If there is no sanctity of human life, why bother keeping the aged and infirm alive at the taxpayers expense?

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 17, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      • I will let MUR or others answer how can know something about an ethically acceptable way. In the meantime, I grow tired of how often people confuse sanctity of life to automatically confiscate the notion of dignity, as if without sanctity – meaning holy or sacred – one cannot possibly understand and allow for dignity – meaning worthy of respect and value. Can you spot the logical fallacy here? It’s a false dichotomy.

        There are many excellent and compelling reasons to find value and afford respect without trying to base it on what might please some nebulous agency of Oogity Boogity. Seriously. In fact, religious apologists who use this atrociously poor argument fail to appreciate that they do exactly this throughout their day – everyday – yet have their brains addled when it comes to anyone daring to suggest that the two are by no means inseparable.

        I don’t need to believe in god-sanctioned objective moral code of conduct to behave with a standard of reasoned conduct that judiciously uses reciprocity, fairness, compassion, and love towards others even beyond my species. The religious apologist pretends this cannot be so and yet proves himself wrong every day without once bothering to figure out how this can be. It’s just willful blindness to reality in the service of upholding and protecting archaic beliefs that are wrong.

        How so?

        What can be made obvious is that the believer has no way to determine objectively what these standards of conduct are (supposedly straight from ‘the will of the Creator’). This is painfully obvious to anyone not blinded to reality when so many believers arrive at conflicting conclusions using exactly the same (poor) reasoning. In others words, believers themselves should find in this disagreement among believers a clue that the line of thinking simply doesn’t work; there is no reliable way to show that religiously inspired belief in the sanctity of life causes ethical behaviour… and much evidence that religiously inspired belief causes unethical behaviour.

        No secular value requires sanctity. These two notions are in direct ethical conflict. But don’t for one second buy into the religious apologist’s oft-repeated lie that respect for human dignity comes from sanctity. It doesn’t, and this notion is one of the major reasons why religious belief that presumes to know the will of god is so dangerous and antithetical (despite pious protestations to the contrary) to anyone honestly concerned about upholding human dignity.

        Comment by tildeb — April 17, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  9. Bob, considerations that are strictly religious in content are based wholly on religious faith. Faith of this kind is, by definition, personal belief without compelling evidence. It is not a wise course of action – ever – to design public policy on the basis of what some people find worthy of their faith alone. This is tyranny – where the faith-based assumption someone decides to accept as true is then imposed on all. This is what’s going on in Honduras this very day where making available any kind of female contraception is going to be a crime. That many roman catholics in Honduras are okay with this imposition does not mean it becomes the right public policy based on best medical practices; it means that a faith-based assumption about contraception is going to be imposed on everyone, meaning in effect that religious belief determines best medical practices. This is religious tyranny and another in a very long line of good examples why making religious belief a part of public policy is always immoral and unethical.

    Can you think of any reasons why the assumptions of an imam transferred into law and imposed on you might be morally and ethically repulsive? Or do want to hold fast to the notion that the imam’s assumptions – rooted as they are by his faith in islam and the writings of some guy named Mohamed – must be moral because they are religious and so have every right to be included in public policy to which you will have to submit?

    You see, Bob, you suffer from a very common misunderstanding; you think an office holder has the right – maybe even the duty – to use that public office power to further personal preferences. Maybe you’ve never quite thought of it this way, but the power of an office (or public position) does not come from the office holder; it comes from the public as a whole, usually defined by legislation set out on the principles of a constitution, and is to be used in the name of the public as a whole. This is why a police officer is derelect in her duty to personally decide which public laws to uphold and enforce and which ones she doesn’t much care for and so ignores. This is why soldiers are legally held accountable to follow a chain of command and are not be held personally accountable for carrying out actions ordered by a superior. This is why a judge is to rule not on personal preferences but on public law and the public history of jurisprudence. This is why a teacher is not to wear a burka to work or a pharmacist decide not to distribute medications he doesn’t approve of. Too many people continue to forget that public offices are not springboards for personal agendas; by agreeing to serve in the public interst, a person is tacitly agreeing to serve as its agent rather than as merely an individual. That’s usually why we see uniforms… to reveal this representative role.

    With this understanding, I think you can better see why a personal religious faith-based belief has no proper place in the formation of public policy. In fact, allowing such personal faith-based belief to play any kind of significant role (even if supported by an overwhelming majority of those being ruled) in any public position is a fundamental betrayal and abuse of the oath of office. If the wider populace were better informed, then these people would be sent packing at the first sign of religious interference… especially by anyone who desires the personal freedom to believe whatever religious doctrines they wish to submit.

    Comment by tildeb — April 15, 2012 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

    • Somehow society has to decide what its laws should be, and it can be argued that every form of political activism advances someone’s personal agenda, whether religious or irreligious. The problem with political “progressivism,” at least here in the U.S., is that the progressives have an idealist set of social values (social justice, peace, concern for the environment), but then deny that there are such things as moral absolutes. An orthodox Christian can at least claim some sort of divine revelation in support of his values. The values of a liberal, however, are only his own personal preferences, and nothing more than that. What gives him the right, then, to impose his own personal value system on the rest of society? At some point, we as a society have to decide what the law should be, and I would hope that a concern for justice and human rights, a respect for each others well-being and a prudent use of our natural resources, would be a part of the discussion. And I would certainly hope that before the President decides to drop an atom bomb on a foreign city that he would weigh the moral and ethical considerations very carefully, and that he would think about how he would explain his decision to God on the Judgment Day.

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 17, 2012 @ 9:05 am | Reply

      • “An orthodox Muslim can at least claim some sort of divine revelation in support of his values.”
        “And I would certainly hope that before the President decides to drop an atom bomb on a foreign city that he would weigh the moral and ethical considerations very carefully, and that he would think about how he would explain his decision to Allah on the Judgment Day.”

        Spot the problem. Allah Akbar!!!!!

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 17, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  10. An orthodox Muslim certainly can claim divine revelation in support of his values. What westerners do not often appreciate is that the jihadis operate under their own set of rules, derived from the Quran. They would argue that jihad is justifiable only as a defensive measure. If you ask them why they hate the West so much, they would say it is because we are attacking them. Among the current crop of U.S. Presidential candidates the only one who seems to understand this is Ron Paul, and he is rejected by the majority of his own party.
    What makes atheism so disturbing and dangerous is the fact that under an atheist regime there are no rules. All ethical norms, in the last analysis, are man-made, and if they are man-made, they are disposable.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 17, 2012 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

    • An orthodox Muslim certainly can claim divine revelation in support of his values.

      Yes indeed they can and they do. Are they telling the truth? Or does that not concern you?

      What westerners do not often appreciate is that the jihadis operate under their own set of rules, derived from the Quran.

      No according to you. Muslims don’t operate under their own set of rules. It’s all divine revelation. Can’t have rules without a ruler.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 17, 2012 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

    • What makes atheism so disturbing and dangerous is the fact that under an atheist regime there are no rules.

      Oh indeed. Please allow QualiaSoup to enlighten you on the subject of morality and god.

      Comment by The Arbourist — April 18, 2012 @ 1:01 am | Reply

  11. Tildeb, I do not doubt in the least that there are atheists, and I certainly hope that you are one of them, who practice reciprocity, fairness, love and compassion. I would attribute this to the fact that you, like every other human being, have a conscience. The problem comes when we try to arrive at a “reasoned standard of conduct.” Most people would like to believe that there are universal standards and norms, but do not necessarily want to acknowledge God as the source of those norms. So where do they come from? Several different answers have been proposed. One theory is that morality is purely personal and subjective – a “woman’s right to choose.” But taken to its logical conclusion this leads to pure anarchy. Another approach is to argue that ethical norms are determined by the society in which we live. But this leads to tyrranny. What is right becomes whatever the government says is right. Some western thinkers have appealed to the idea of “natural law.” There are certain moral ideas that we know innately and thus are universal norms. Christian theologians identify this with the “law of God written on the heart.” If, however, physical matter is all that exists. if science is the only way we can get at reality, and if morality is biological, then evern the idea of natural law becomes problematical. In the strictest sense of the term there are no ethical norms that are binding. “Morality” merely reflects the personal preferences of the species, either collectively or individually.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 17, 2012 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

    • And this is why morality evolves. – what we call the moral zeitgeist. Slavery is an excellent example: what was once quite acceptable is now considered indefensible. The rights of women to be that of a person rather than property is another. Morality does change over time and within secularism transfer into laws of equality. No god is necessary for these enlightened values to clearly establish a standard of conduct that are empowered by better reasons than those opposed.

      You allow metaphysical musings about problematic ‘laws’ you believe are derived by mysterious means by some unknown mechanism from somewhere deep within the hazy recesses of ethereal mist to cloud the issues of ethical conduct. This is where Harris’ argument about informing morality with good science can significantly help us better understand the moral basis for our biological derived blueprint for behaviour and use this information to better promote laws of equality, fairness, reciprocity, and so on, to reduce personal abuses and improve human well-being through man made law. This basis and not the vagaries of selfishness is already well known and is developing through neuroscience at a very good clip. The arguments about what constitute morality and how these are enacted through ethics is a field that is currently enjoying some significant advancements based not on beliefs and metaphysics but on stable science that yields very useful and practical explanations that work. No god is necessary, and no conflicting beliefs need to have a greater voice than well reasoned, compelling information for values that can be demonstrated to improve the quality of life for all.

      Comment by tildeb — April 17, 2012 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

      • If we inform morality with good science abortion should be illegal. It used to be thought that a fetus became a human being at the point of “quickening,” when he the mother could begin to feel the baby moving in the womb. Then in the 19th Century science, not religion, discovered that the process of gestation involved the gradual steady development of a fertilized egg into a fully grown person. On the basis of science, then, most states in the U.S. outlawed abortion from the point of conception. Nothing scientifically has changed since then. Roe v. Wade, then, is simply irrational, a conscious moral choice to put the “reproductive freedom” of women ahead of the lives of their unborn children. It was a value choice, not an informed science based decision.

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 19, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

    • I would attribute this to the fact that you, like every other human being, have a conscience.

      Then an invisible, magic sky person seems unnecessary.

      Most people would like to believe that there are universal standards and norms, but do not necessarily want to acknowledge God as the source of those norms.

      Clearly, more examples are needed:

      Most people would like to believe that fire exists, but do not necessarily want to acknowledge Prometheus as the source of the knowledge of fire.
      Most people would like to believe that there are tricks and bad luck, but do not necessarily want to acknowledge Loki as the source of those tricks and bad luck.
      Most people would like to believe that small, family-run Italian restaurants exist that serve delicious pasta dishes, but do not necessarily want to acknowledge the FSM as the source of those delicious pasta dishes.

      What we’re trying to get at here is how do you make public policy decisions if we exclude religious considerations from the process?

      So you agree that the existence of morality is definitely not proof of the existence of God and it’s a silly argument, right?
      A straight “Yes” or “No” will do just fine.
      (Remember the Ninth Commandment)

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 17, 2012 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

      • Taken by itself, the existence of morality is an insufficient proof of the existence of God. Why? Because: 1) if by “morality” we mean a universally valid, objective standard of conduct, then you cannot prove that morality exists. If God does not exist, morality does not exist. Nietzsche denied both God and morality.
        2) If by “morality” we mean an inward sense of right or wrong, that again does not prove the existence of God. Our conscience could be simply an evolutionary quirk, and tells us nothing at all about objective reality. Just because we think that something is wrong does not mean that it is actually “wrong.”
        My argument about the existence of God is that it rests on the confluence of different types of evidence: the appearance of order in nature, the inward sense of morality, and written revelation.

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 19, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

    • Just like music, dancing, language, love, writing, counting, laughter, gestures, arousal, anger, fear etc. morality did not just spring into existence into the state that we see today – it did not exist one day and then appear here the next.

      Morality has evolved over thousands of years most likely because it improves our survival.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 20, 2012 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  12. My argument about the existence of God is that it rests on the confluence of different types of evidence: the appearance of order in nature, the inward sense of morality, and written revelation.

    No, you are creating a chain. The chain will not work.
    Either either you have evidence or you do not. There is no middle ground. It’s not “insufficient”. It’s not “sort of ok and lets’ just hold onto it for a while”.
    It’s just rejected as worthless.

    One “bad argument for [Brand Name]” plus “different bad argument for [Brand Name]” plus “different bad argument for [Brand Name]” does not magically one day poof into a super-duper argument for [Brand Name].
    Present such an argument and it will always be fatally flawed. It will always rest upon it’s individual components that never got off the ground in the first place.
    A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.
    Making a chain from broken and rejected links is a very, very bad idea.

    No. 665: ARGUMENT FROM MULTIPLICITY (V) (recursive internet edition)
    (1) There exists a web page (
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm)
    (2) That page has hundreds of purported proofs of the existence of God.
    (3) They can’t all be wrong.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    You need to abandon this line of thinking and get something better. Otherwise, you will be reduced to always saying dumb stuff about atom bombs on Ottowa and going Oggity-Boogity therefore Nietzsche!

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 20, 2012 @ 1:43 am | Reply

  13. Bob Wheeler: If we inform morality with good science abortion should be illegal.

    I would disagree wholeheartedly. Denying people their bodily autonomy is usually never a good thing.

    BW: It used to be thought that a fetus became a human being at the point of “quickening,” when he the mother could begin to feel the baby moving in the womb. Then in the 19th Century science, not religion, discovered that the process of gestation involved the gradual steady development of a fertilized egg into a fully grown person. On the basis of science, then, most states in the U.S. outlawed abortion from the point of conception.

    How convenient that you strip away societies input when you’d like and just attribute “science” as the one and only cause of a particular issue like abortion. Legislation does not happen in a vacuum. On the basis of the current social, economic and political zeitgeist most states outlawed abortion (wrongly) at the point of conception.

    BW: Nothing scientifically has changed since then. Roe v. Wade, then, is simply irrational, a conscious moral choice to put the “reproductive freedom” of women ahead of
    the lives of their unborn children. It was a value choice, not an informed science based decision.

    The wacky moral notion that “women are people too”, oh what will those crazy women think of next.

    a conscious moral choice to put the “reproductive freedom” of women ahead of
    the lives of their unborn children.

    How incredibly frakking dense are you? When you have an egg for breakfast are you eating a fully formed chicken? Do you often mistake a acorn for an oak tree? You conveniently gloss over those other sciency-terms like blastula, gastrula, and organogenesis fetus etc, and call those things – let me add the implicit emotive based meaning – [fully formed]”unborn children”.

    25 to 30% of all viable eggs never implant and get flushed out in the menses thus your particular sky-fairy would be the largest proponent of abortion, never mind us mere humans. You many need some serious genuflecting/prayer time to square that particular circle. Furthermore, please don’t go the, it’s “god’s plan” BS, because if true, then its god’s plan to let women have control of their bodies too. We can both play “mouthpiece for jebus”.

    It was a value choice, not an informed science based decision.

    Most things in society do come down to “value choices”. Basing value choices on evidence and reality is a good start toward making a moral decision, but it cannot be the sum total of a moral decision.

    Science has nothing to say on the topic of religion because religion offers no empirical,
    falsifiable claims, in other words no truth about reality. That leads to the question then why bother with religion and all the wasteful mental-wanking that oozes forth from it?

    The above would be an example of a the beginnings of a ‘science based’ decision.

    Nothing scientifically has changed since then. Roe v. Wade, then, is simply irrational, a adfconscious moral choice to put the “reproductive freedom” of women ahead of the lives of their unborn children. It was a value choice, not an informed science based decision.

    Comment by The Arbourist — April 20, 2012 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  14. “Bob Wheeler: If we inform morality with good science abortion should be illegal.”

    If we inform BELIEF with good science abortion should be illegal.
    Morality is not a belief, it is cost benefit analysis.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 20, 2012 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  15. MUR has said it much better than I ever could. Having an abortion is an issue that is something to be decided only between a woman and her physician-everybody else can bugger off.
    Our society must never go back to the days of the coat hanger and desperate, poor women bleeding out on a motel room floor.
    Safe, legal, accessible abortions to any woman that wants it.

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 21, 2012 @ 3:21 am | Reply

  16. Bob, you assume abortion is a moral issue, which gives you the right in your mind to state your own preferences, your own decisions, your own sense of what is and is not morally acceptable. And you have every right to do so… when it comes to YOU. But you’re not satisfied with this constraint. You wish to argue why you should be legally entitled to impose your sense of what is and is not moral on the lives and actions of others and think yourself moral for doing so. This is a good example of what I have long advocated against: religious belief in action in the public domain causing negative effect and suffering to real people in real life.

    Why is it that a woman is just as much a moral agent as you… right up until she becomes pregnant? Suddenly, she is now subject you YOUR moral opinions transferred into law. What is the problem with this line of thinking?

    Well, unless you and other anti-choice supporters (to be honest, anti-choice is an accurate description of what it is you are supporting) can justify why pregnancy is not a physiological condition – subject to exactly the same moral constraints as all other medical issues between an autonomous moral agent called a patient and a professional doctor recognized by the state operating under a professional code of conduct to remain licenced – then you have trampled on the rights of your fellow citizens. Unless you can show why every medical issue you have should be subject and subservient to my moral consideration – that’s right, Bob: you are trying to argue that I have the right to impose my moral sensibilities over your medical treatments and therapies – then you have over-stepped your moral boundary and attempted to reduce the equal rights of citizens based only on YOUR morality. But that works both ways, doesn’t it? In effect, what you are trying to force others to do – give up their ability to exercise their moral autonomy – you must be willing to give up your status as an autonomous moral agent. Are you willing to this? Or do you want some special privilege and exemption?

    In the name of equality, you do not have this legal right to impose your morality on others unless you are first willing reject your own legal right to be an autonomous moral agent. This is what you are insisting should be the case for pregnant women, that they should be subject to your morality in place of exercising their rights and freedoms as autonomous moral agents. Because you have agreed to capitulate your own claim to be an autonomous moral agent in the name of your piety, you have removed the very basis on which you presume to pass moral judgements and impose them on others.

    This is a self-defeating argument, Bob. No matter how you look at it, this anti-choice position harms equality, harms our rights and freedoms, and undermines our own moral autonomy.

    And this is the worm of religious belief: a worm that reduces you and your rights in the name of piety, a reduction you presume should be enforced on all of us.

    No thanks, Bob.

    Your religious belief extended into the public domain is always a toxin that serves only to poison something, in this case a respect for equality, a respect in the equal rights and freedoms for all citizens, a legal value that constitutes the basis for each of us being autonomous and responsible moral agents. Religion taken beyond the personal domain, where it may be granted rule over one’s own rights and freedoms and morality, and imposed on the public domain is always wrong, always immoral, always an attack against the body politic.

    I am willing to grant that your subservience to your sense of piety is your business. But you are not willing to grant me the same. This makes you a moral hypocrite, using morality to undermine your personal right to be a moral agent. Whereas I draw the line at allowing you to reduce my rights and freedoms in the name of your morality, you are willing to give up your own moral autonomy in law.

    If your neighbour tried to do this to you, I would rally to your defense in the name of my own. That you seem oblivious to what it is you are actually doing, actually supporting, actually promoting, makes you a dangerous and seditious idiot.

    Comment by tildeb — April 21, 2012 @ 9:59 am | Reply

    • Since when does the taking of human life become a matter of personal choice?

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 23, 2012 @ 11:46 am | Reply

      • You forgot a very important word in your question: potential. There is a huge difference between potential and actual, a difference you’re all too willing to ignore in the service of your religious prejudice.

        For example, when you scratch your nose and holding true to your definition, you unthinkingly kill several hundred stem cells… cells that potentially represent hundreds of human lives. This makes you, by your own admission, a mass murderer, Bob. Your solution? Make it illegal to scratch your nose.

        How very reasonable.

        But are you really a mass murderer of several hundred human lives? Have you really murdered hundreds of actual human beings?

        Of course not, any more than a pregnant woman kills a child when she aborts. She removes the potential from becoming actual and this is not a crime.

        Let’s imagine if it were a crime and take Bob as an example.

        You may have acted in such a way today that has the effect to eliminate certain potential outcomes for human lives, but we do not consider the loss of potential to be the defining factor in judging any of your actions. Fortunately for you, we only judge the loss of what’s actual. And rightly so. Imagine the crimes you could be charged and convicted of perpetrating against potential outcomes! Each sperm wasted! Your crimes would be vast, Bob. Absolutely vast. But you don’t hold yourself to the same standard you wish to impose on others. Funny, that.

        This anti-choice abortion perspective you support that equates a zygote and blastocyst to be equivalent to a human child, and then assumes its rights to be superior to the rights of the fully formed mother, is a dishonest argument because it is an intentional distortion of reality. It serves only to elevate the potential to be equivalent to the actual, and is used solely to serve as a primary means to inflict a very particular misogynistic bias on targeted women. Even the anti-choice supporters do not hold themselves to this same standard yet feel fully justified – indeed proudly and sanctimoniously arrogant – to inflict this perversion on fellow citizens. It’s morally repugnant and ethically repulsive.

        So let’s revisit the question not in terms of a particular zygote but in the loss of stem cells from scratching: Since when does the taking of so many potential human lives become a matter of personal choice?

        I think the honest answer is the obvious one: It’s a matter of personal choice when the action occurs before those cells become actual human lives, before they become independently viable human lives, a viability that demonstrably shows the difference between some hypothetical potential in their cellular form and the actual in their human viability form.

        Holding pregnant women to this privileged yet morally repulsive standard in the name of sanctity reveals once again that religion poisons the mind and too often turns its adherents into its willing stormtroopers of tyranny.

        Comment by tildeb — April 23, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  17. As Rick Santorum once famously asked, when he was still a U.S. Senator and the Senate was debating partial birth abortion, at what point during its descent down the birth canal does the fetus become a legal person?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 23, 2012 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

    • Rick Santorum, now there’s a deep thinker.
      I look forward to his TV show.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — April 23, 2012 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

    • !

      Fire up the popcorn; there’s going to be some entertainin’ about to go down.

      Comment by tildeb — April 23, 2012 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

    • When the fetus can survive separate from the mother. We call this ‘viability’. That Santorum was able to shift that timeline from 24 to 20 weeks in his publicly stated quest to outlaw abortion one step at a time, does not make the issue of viability advance. Love the terminology of the law, too: partial birth abortion. This is right out of the anti-choice handbook on how to best misrepresent what’s going on in medical treatments (therapeutic abortions) and why it is necessary. Note that we do not use similar phrases about any other medical treatment involving blood, bone, brains, and guts.

      I notice, Bob, that you don’t seem to spend much time actually reflecting on many of the points raised about why the anti-choice position is immoral, unethical, misogynistic, and deeply biased against women, but sort of skip over the reasons that back up why these words are accurate; instead, you quickly move on to the next popular talking point from the anti-choice campaign literature. You seem determined to miss this opportunity to change your mind because of better reasons.

      Comment by tildeb — April 23, 2012 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

      • So based on your scientific understanding of pregnancy, late term abortions should be outlawed? The fetus is no longer a “potential” human being but an actual one?

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 25, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

      • Well, when you speak of law you speak about legal rights. This is not a simple issue. When exactly does a late term fetus become a person with legal rights equivalent to anyone else? Usually, the issue of legal rights do not pertain until birth, but even then legal rights are not fully established until age of majority and even then can be subject to mitigating factors.

        In medical practice, third trimester abortions are rare and almost always of therapeutic necessity. This is why the decision about abortion is poorly served to try to make its considerations a legal issue rather than the medical issue between patient and doctor it is. There are huge ramifications and gross inadequacies if you attempt to make the rights of fetus’ equivalent to an age of majority citizen. Piousness is not a sound basis. No matter how much you may disagree on a personal level, the legal rights of another must be equivalent to your own. When you pre-empt the rights of a mother to be subject to the applied rights you are willing to grant to her fetus, you are undermining your own rights to be subject to the pious regards of another. In effect, you are trying to make to make a case for women who are pregnant to be a second class citizen in favour of her fetus, refusing her the very rights you insist must be protected by state law for her fetus.

        Comment by tildeb — April 25, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  18. Pro-lifers also forget that every woman is different – their path to pregnancy is different, their pregnancy is different, their prospective child or eventual child is different.

    Pro-lifers forget that some women have a choice between giving birth and dying; or taking the child to full term knowing that statistically it will not survive the birth; or bringing a child into life that will need intensive care for its life.

    Some of these issues are not morally compatible with everyone – no one size fits all strategy works! Some people can cope with the challenges that a new child can bring – others simply cannot.

    Some mothers do not want to exchange their life for a baby’s life – they may have other children to care for. Other women may be pregnant because they are rape victims, or they made a mistake with contraception or the contraception they used failed. Some women may know they have genetic disorders that they will pass on to children and have chosen through their life wisdom and experience of the illness that it would be deeply unfair, irresponsible and immoral to produce a child with the same condition knowing that they and only them could have prevented a life time of misery for someone else.

    For other women, they may not be able to cope with having a child emotionally or financially. Some people can barely look after themselves let alone another human being.

    This is the reality of life – people are different, and they live different lives. Not all people grow up with family support, financial stability, education, confidence, security, mental stability and are healthy. For some people a termination is exactly the right thing to do, for others it is not – everyone is different, so society has to provide safe options and choices for each individual and the circumstances that they find themselves in. To ignore scientific medical evidence in the 21st Century in favour of the advice based on stone aged beliefs is immoral – because we know better, we are better informed and as a result we provide better more ethical and moral care.

    So remind me again why should some of these women be given no option in their hour of desperation but to go to a back street butcher to have a knitting needle pushed into their reproductive organs and mangled around??? When free, professional pain free clean medical attention can be given, which includes counselling, options for adoption, medical care for the child (if born) and emotional support when termination has been identified as the last resort.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 24, 2012 @ 4:24 pm | Reply

  19. This is why we have crisis pregnancy centers — we try to do what is best for both the mother and the child.
    And I understand the problem. I recently had a job in which I was working alongside a large number of young women, many of them 18 or 19, and many of them already had children, some of them by multiple partners. Many of them came from dysfuntional families themselves, and had either poor or non-existent relationships with their own biological fathers. It was a human tragedy on apocalyptic proportions. But the child is innocent, and doesn’t deserve to pay with his life for the mistakes of his parents.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 25, 2012 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

    • Perhaps if the middle aged virgins in the church stopped educating young people on the evils of contraception this might go someway to reducing the numbers of women that require a termination in the first place.

      But as I have mentioned in my post, the choice to have a termination is much wider than one case scenario – i.e. the scenario that you mention or claim to have worked with. Which means the one size fits all strategy that you mention does not work. So you do not understand as you claim, because if you did you would see clearly that your judgement is clouded with religious prejudice and miss informed facts about science, psychology, medicine, sociology and education.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 25, 2012 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  20. But Tildeb, you tied the fetus’ humanity to viability. That would mean that after the 20th week of pregnancy the fetus is an “actual” human being. Therefore after the 20th week of pregnancy abortion should be illegal, right?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 26, 2012 @ 11:34 am | Reply

    • No.

      Look, Bob, clarity of language is really important here. In practice, a fetus that can survive on its own becomes endowed with certain legal rights. You are attempting to argue that we need to change the law to carry backwards in utero and assign these rights earlier, perhaps at 24 weeks, perhaps at 20, perhaps at conception (or, in the case of Arizona, prior to conception… of all the ludicrous notions). What I keep reiterating is that the law is the wrong venue; medicine is the right venue and when we’re talking about abortion, we’re talking about best practices… including medical practice as well as ethics. These fall within certain legal guidelines but these are informed by best practices. But ethics alone rub up against reality, and we always need to account for ethical justifications by ethical effects. Regardless of how strongly you or I feel about this woman’s abortion or that, no matter how we decide where on this slippery slope of when human gestation produces a legal entity called a human being we think some arbitrary line can be successfully drawn, the reality is that women control their own bodies and will decide where that line is for them. Trying to use the blunt tool of law to make this decision for others is wrong for more powerful and better reasons than those in favour because to implement what you would like implemented reduces all of our right and all of our freedoms in favour of legal tyranny. This cannot result in a greater good even though in some specific circumstances it may appear to.

      If the goal of the anti-choice movement is really about reducing unnecessary abortions, then empower women. Until we see this happening in reality, we know that behind all of the rhetoric and piousness of the anti-choice crowd lies a dark and misogynistic impulse to reduce women into something less than what they truly are: fully actual human beings.

      Comment by tildeb — April 26, 2012 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

      • So what is the medical or scientific basis for saying that a fetus becomes an “actual human being” at some point after conception? The hard science is this: from the moment of conception to the point of full maturity (somewhere in the teens?) the organism undergoes a process of continual development until it reaches its full potential. It was with this understanding that most U.S. states outlawed abortion from the moment of conception. Was Roe v. Wade about science or feminist politics?

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 27, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

      • As I’ve already said, when a fetus can survive independently. But you keep mixing and matching your terminology and venues merely to suit your bias. Sure there’s development, but you want to proscribe superior legal rights to the fetus you are unwilling to grant to the mother that carries it. This is a pretty clear indication to me that something is badly skewed in your approach to this issue. Why you continue to talk yourself into supporting the unsupportable remains a mystery to me, although trying to blame ‘science’ for the unsupportable smacks of dishonesty. After all, ‘science’ doesn’t pass laws that reduce the rights of half of our population from the other half; bad legislation does.

        Comment by tildeb — April 27, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  21. The mother has a right to life; the baby has a right to life. How is that “proscribing superior legal rights to the fetus”?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — April 30, 2012 @ 9:06 am | Reply

    • The zygote, morula, blastocyst, and embryo have no rights. Zero. There is a legal argument that fetuses that reach the age of viability do begin to gain some ‘rights’ although these must remain subordinate to the mother’s if she is to maintain the same legal rights as any other citizen. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, this is a medical issue between mother and doctor until birth when the fetus becomes a baby independent of the mother and gains legal rights. Your notion of ‘rights’ is a word game – obvious by how you manipulate language to try to describe the fertilized egg as a ‘child’ and any pregnant woman as carrying a ‘baby’ to try to further your goal of compelling others to submit to your sense of what you think is right and you are trying to do so on the back of the legal system to actively discriminate against pregnant women. You are trying your best to subvert the rights of women by pretending the abortion issue is one of rights. This is a clue…

      Comment by tildeb — April 30, 2012 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  22. But a newborn infant is not “independent of the mother.” The mother is burdened with its care, and will be for quite some time to come. The aim of the law is to promote the autonomy of women, then shouldn’t infanticide be legal? (What I’m trying to get here is that “viability” is an arbitrary distinction, and it is hard to see why that should be the decisive factor in determining the fetus’ legal rights?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 1, 2012 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

    • Yes, Bob, the infant is independent of the mother and can live without her. In legal terms, this makes the infant a person and infanticide a crime.

      Comment by tildeb — May 1, 2012 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

    • But a newborn infant is not “independent of the mother.” The mother is burdened…

      Wow. Bob, that’s a very shameful thing you just did. Leave the English language alone. You will only succeed in looking dishonest.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 1, 2012 @ 4:36 pm | Reply


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