Last Update: 05 Feb 00
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REPLY #25 TO
[RE: Do you accept that the concepts of "right" and "wrong" exist?]
Not in and of themselves. Since they are tied to moral precepts and since there is no such thing as absolute morality, there can be nothing which is invariably "right" or "wrong". At best, "right" and "wrong" are standards of moral behavior to which a majority of a given population has agreed.
(R) First, this meanst that the whole weight of your argument rests on the foundation that since abortion is currently legal under our relatively democratically elected government, it is therefore "right."
(MB) Not at all. The fact that abortion is currently legal does not make it either "right" or "wrong" and that has not been my argument. My argument is that the pregnant woman should have the right to choose and that she is the *only* person who can or should make that decision for herself. Nobody else has the right to force their own arbitrary morality on her. The current status of abortion's legality has no effect on this argument. I know that it is in the anti-abortion advocates' interest to want to confuse this distinction because they have no effective answer to the relevant question of why their version of morality should be forced upon women who don't share it.
(R) Given such a narrow secular definition of "right", it's pointless to continue, which is exactly the reason I brought up slavery several arguments ago. According to the logical process you outline above, slavery was "right" up until the U.S. Civil War, when it was then determined to be "wrong."
(MB) This is not only wrong, it is also a red herring argument. Slavery was never "right" no matter what its legal status has ever been and no thinking person will ever argue to the contrary. Slavery and abortion are not directly comparable questions. Trying to argue otherwise introduces a red herring argument that evades a direct answer to abortion questions and attempts to obfuscate the issue.
(R) I disagree - slavery was and is wrong, regardless of what any majority says to the contrary. Same with stealing, murder, or any other wrong. Ultimately, I believe abortion falls into the same category. These things are wrong regardless of what any particular majority says.
(MB) It is easy to make arguments to support why slavery, stealing, and murder are wrong. Such things are wrong according to all cultures and societies. Abortion, however, is a different question since it is entirely an issue of the individual freedom of the woman vs. a particular version of religious morality. Where that particular moral view does not exist, neither do any arguments that abortion is "wrong". That simple fact undermines the entire anti-abortion position and clearly demonstrates that such a position is one based entirely on emotion and dogma rather than facts or reason.
(R) Second, your dogmatic rejection of any moral precepts prompts me to suggest that you look closely upon that which you base your position.
(MB) I don't reject that moral precepts exist. Clearly, they do. Just as clearly, however, they are all arbitrary and non-universal in nature. Such precepts are poor foundations upon which to support arguments about what should or should not be done.
That being the case, I base my position upon what the facts and evidence will or will not support. What could possibly be wrong with that?
(R) At numerous times during the discussions you ask me to define terms - obstensibly because you say I am being ambiguous or injecting theological or moral arguments into the discussion. It's my assertion that you know full well what I am talking about and instead are trying to spin the argument into an irrelevant direction.
(MB) It's not my fault if I'm causing you to put a little thought into what you are saying. Most arguments based on religious dogma are full of buzzwords and catchphrases which sound great, but, in actuality, have as little real meaning as most political speeches. I have no trouble answering any of your questions. Why should you have any problems with mine? Solid arguments hold up under critical scrutiny.
(R) I'm sure that you are aware that given the inherent limitations of language and communication, it's impossible to fully define or explain any given word or concept. Conceptually, a dictionary can be seen as an incredibly tangled endless loop. Most words in a dictionary have several definitions, none of which are "correct" but rather each with different shades or nuances of meaning. These definitions all consist of more words, each with their own meanings.
(MB) Another red herring. If any concept is fact-based, it can be explained clearly and adequately even using a language like English. You decry the limitations of the language, yet you use those same limitations to your own advantage while making your arguments -- just like any good spin doctor. However, I'm experienced enough as a debater to be able to recognize meaningless generalities for what they are. To complain about calls for precise definitions of such generalities does nothing more than admit that such definitions really don't exist and that emotional appeal is their true meaning.
(R) To define a word, look up every word in each definition, and then continue the process ad infinitum. If you want to do that for the words I used like "value", "humanity", "life", "special" and "define", I suggest you start a separate discussion folder on the philosophy of language. I won't be a participant, but perhaps you will find some kindred soul who is interested in such arcana.
(MB) I'm already doing something similar to that in my "Political Correctness" section. In any case, why do you object to being precise about the meanings behind your generalities? If you say "life is special", why must I take that at face value? What does it really mean? Is it not proper to ask "whose life" or "what life"? After all, I'm sure that you don't consider the life of a human being to be equal to that of a dung beetle, a turnip or a bacterium. Then, if it is posited that there is a difference, is it not proper to ask what that difference is and from where it derives? Likewise, is it not valid to ask what "special" means? For something to be "special" implies that it possesses a particular quality that is not possessed by something that is not "special". Why do you complain when I ask what that quality is and from where it derives?
This has nothing at all to do with the English language or any philosophy associated with it. It has everything to do with whether or not you have anything more than catchphrases to support your arguments.
(R) Regardless, it is still my assertion that these words have generally understandable meanings and are relevant to the discussion on whether abortion is right or not.
(MB) "Generally understandable" in so much as they correctly express the dogmatic generality of the anti-abortion position. However, this discussion is based on facts rather than generalities. If you wish to claim that your position is justifiable from a scientific viewpoint, you are going to have to accept the normal rigor of scientific explanation and evidence -- which includes precise definitions of critical terms.
(R) Third, I will not be drawn into a futile debate about the existence of God. As I said in the discussion, it is my opinion that the arguments I have made since your objections about religion stand on their own accord regardless of His existence and your questions about definitions. Your continued attempts to pull the discussion in the direction of God even though I have not brought Him up since your objections is curious at best.
(MB) Just because you didn't bring up God does not mean that your position is not based upon your presupposed belief in that deity. Therefore, if you expect one to accept your arguments, you must also expect them to share your belief in God. Without introducing God to the argument, how can you possibly give a coherent explanation of why you consider human life to be "special"? If God exists, you have a solid fact upon which to base such an argument. If God does not exist, the argument is purely one of emotion. Therefore, if you wish to advance your position, the existence of God is crucial to any chance it will have to succeed. If you consider the defense of his existence to be futile, then you are conceding that your entire argument is futile.
(R) But I do feel it necessary to point out that according to your above definition of "right" and "wrong", you are most definitely wrong since most Americans believe in God.
(MB) Since you are incorrect about my definition of "right" and "wrong", this statement is meaningless. Most Americans believe in God, but that belief is only shared by 1/3 of the world's population. If abortion is "right" or "wrong", then it is so for everybody. If "right" and "wrong" are determined by majority vote, then abortion would clearly be "right".
(R) While I feel that this statistic is incredibly irrelevant to His existence, that is the risk you assume when you base the correctness of your position on the winds of public opinion.
(MB) That's correct. That's why I don't do it and haven't done that in this case, either. On the other hand, it would seem to be your arguments which are dependant upon the force of majority opinion as expressed in the number of people who believe in God. I know you're not going to try to tell me that the anti-abortion position is *not* categorized by such a belief.
(R) Lastly, I'd like to tell you that I've been in your shoes. I debated abortion long and hard and used all the same tactics and techniques that you are using in an attempt to persuade people that abortion should be legal.
(MB) If so, then you should not be having so much trouble dealing with my questions or seeing the flaws in your own position.
(R) I have since learned that I was wrong. There was no magic bible verse, no irrefutable argument, no specific epiphany - but rather a series of realizations and experiences that led me to this position. Part of it was the experience of becoming a father, and part of it was the slow march of age. At 35 I realize that I have a lot to learn, but I also know that I have benefitted from my limited experiences here on earth.
(MB) I'm 42 and am also a father. The same can be said for a great many people on both sides of this debate. Therefore, the issue is not one of age, gender, or parenting experience. It is true that many people have become pro-life when they become parents. It is also true that many people have become pro-choice when reality overcomes emotion. Whatever any individual chooses for himself on this issue is fine with me -- no matter how they came to their decision or what it is based upon. Once again, my major point is that nobody has the right to force their arbitrary morality on anybody who doesn't agree with it.
(R) I am willing to bet that in time you will look back at these arguments and cringe at what you have written. It's happened to me, and I'm sure it will continue. Perhaps I am the one who will cringe - but at this point I doubt it.
(MB) If so, then why should you expect that *I* will look back and cringe? For me to change my opinion will require an effective counter-argument which is based upon facts and evidence rather than emotional appeal or any arbitrary dogma. My forum presents an opportunity for those who disagree with me to present their case and try to change my mind. All views are welcome, but opponents should not bring something weak and then get upset when I don't buy into it.
(R) In the end, I think this field has been sufficiently plowed and to continue would be pointless.
(MB) Then, perhaps somebody else will pick up where you have left off and will be better able to answer my questions and provide a factual basis for the anti-abortion position. Thank you for your participation!
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