19 August 2008

Obama on Abortion: A Few Thoughts

See video of Obama's interview here.

Obama addresses abortion in Part 3 of the video, starting around the 3:00 mark...

First, let me review the question. "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?" Certainly this is a big question, one which in some ways strikes upon the very core of a person's worldview, while at the same time it can be the easiest of questions. I first saw this portion of the Obama interview with Rick Warren last night on CNN, in which Warren posed that very question to Sen. Obama.

I listed a few problems with Sen. Obama's answer on the posted item here, but I wished to share a few other thoughts. For one thing, I must note how many times the reporters and commentators last night remarked on how McCain's position "is just much easier" for handling a question like this, so that the question was practically a bit unfair. Which caused me to wonder: could it not be that in some cases a particular stance is easier because it is the right one? I can appreciate Sen. Obama's difficulty with such a question--if you do not say it begins at conception, then you have to very carefully consider what qualities of tissue and spark you calculate and tally until the sum equals a genuine human being worthy of human rights. God's answer is simple, per the Scriptures I have cited here recently; Obama's answer, however, is very complicated. And ultimately, in this interview at least, left unsaid.

As he declined to succinctly or specifically answer the question, let's consider Obama's possible beliefs.

1. He might believe that human rights are in fact the product of human government, so that the government defines when such rights begin--and may change its standard at any time, as the governors come and go. Therefore, there is no absolute answer to the question. PROBLEM: Obama states in this interview that there is a moral and ethical element to the issue of abortion. He does not state what that morality is, but his statement is enough to show that he believes there is some fundamental, absolute reality and truth which should govern the issue of human life and human rights.

2. He might believe that human rights are conferred upon a baby when it is physically independent of its mother. This is one typical defence for the abortion practise, claiming that the mother has absolute power over her own body at all times. (Of course, no one has absolute control over their entire body at all times, but well.) PROBLEM: A baby who has been born and is therefore bodily independent of its mother is yet physically dependent on her for food and care. If a mother were to set her baby in a room and leave it there for days on end until the baby expired, we would send her to prison for murder. Physically, a born baby needs only that which a prenatal baby needs: sustenance (food, water) and a safe place to grow. SOLUTION: Remove any laws which would penalise a mother for setting her baby in a room and leaving it there to die as it cannot help itself. Obama, in fact, has voted along such reasoning; he is, at least, consistent. ANOTHER PROBLEM: Many states have laws which count the murder of a pregnant woman with her unborn child as double homicide. SOLUTION: Revoke such laws. A THIRD PROBLEM: Sen. Obama acknowledges that he does not believe it morally good for abortions to occur in "late-term." At this point, the child is still in the womb but, Obama believes, has been trespassing in the womb too long and so cannot be evicted. One would think he would prefer late-term abortions, since this would demonstrate that the mother has thought longer and harder about the decision to abort than the one who aborts within weeks of pregnancy (see Obama's interview: he explains he is pro-choice because he thinks women do not make the decision to abort casually).

3. He might believe that human rights are granted when the child can experience pain. I have never heard this actually argued, but it was a possibility occurred to me, and I wanted to give a third option because I like the number three. PROBLEM: Apart from the impossibility of measuring this for each child prior to abortion, such a belief would not adhere to the moral element Sen. Obama expressly contends is part of this issue. I have never heard Obama voice such a belief.

We know this: Obama believes that human rights are granted not merely by human government, but by something higher than human government--something on a morally superior level. We might safely assume that Obama believes that God is involved in the equation, as Obama has plainly expressed his belief in God. So then, Obama must believe that God approves abortion and agrees that abortion is right in some circumstances. And for some reason, God disapproves of abortions which are "late-term" according to our current definition of the terms of pregnancy. So you have a narrow window of time--say, 20-something weeks--in which it is morally acceptable.

I can see why the commentators called John McCain's position "much easier."

But this morning as I was driving in to work thinking about these things, I realised that eventually abortion will be illegal in this country. I know it deep within me. It is so like the issue of slavery, needing only a bit of hard work and individuals committed to the moral good--just a few thousand William Wilberforces would be sufficient, I am convinced. Throw in some cleverness which exposes the lie of it all. Some bright lawyer who realises that if we can use DNA samples in courts of law to determine victims and assailants in a crime, why can we not consider DNA that significant factor distinguishing a child from its mother from the moment of conception? Some churches faithful to the truth that pure, undefiled religion which God accepts includes caring for orphans (James 1:27)--so that they turn their oversized church buildings into orphanages instead. That's not so much to hope or pray for. In time, these things, I pray, will rise and converge, and we will have a culture which loves life again, loves children again--even the silent and helpless.

06 August 2008

A Statistical World

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that there were no Truth.

I know, you think that’s hard to do, but let’s be honest, there are millions of people doing that every day. So put yourself in their shoes and pretend for a moment.

No Truth. No thing, belief, bit of knowledge or scrap of wisdom which is…simply is. No reality which is true whether it is known or unknown, mysterious or plain as day.

Now, how would a people respond to such a crisis?

A few thoughts: for one thing, they would begin taking measurements of everything in every possible way, hoping through extensive studying, sampling, statisticizing, logging, blogging, surveying, polling, scrutinizing, investigating, and otherwise calculating—hoping through all of this that they might come to some conclusions about how reality is. They have nowhere else to turn, so naturally they try to place everything around them in some kind of framework defined by their own terms.

Having taken proper measurement of all things, they next would begin to form “norms”—the standards for every item which define what a proper example of each item would be, or how it should act, speak, behave, think, grow, look, etc. You may insert any object you wish as the given item: pencil, potato chip, song, person, vegetable, and so on. These all must be compared to the new “ideal,” which is in fact no more ideal than any other such item—but the statistics make it so.

Of course, the scientists, psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, and other learned men who establish all of these norms are desperate for the comparisons to occur—not only because they themselves devote their lives to nothing better than comparison (such a sad imprisonment that must be!), but also because every comparison can be used as evidence for their “norm” by either justifying the created standard or violating it. Every comparison validates the standard.

All of these mathematical men would be far too blind to realize that their given, created standards are empty and vain. They have the length of the “perfect” banana set down in millimeters. They know the exact birth-weight for a “healthy” baby sycamore. They can tell you the “ideal” conditions in which to grow poppies, puppies, acorns and humans. Even if those conditions have never been seen anywhere on planet earth.

Thus we see that, in the absence of Truth, people will take measurements enough to establish ideals of their own, even a heaven of ideals which this physical realm can never touch.

The world does this; the Church does this just as well.