Tag Archives: richard dawkins

Me every day on the internet

11 Mar
Things I repeatedly find myself saying on the internet and social media:
.
– That’s not true.
.
– That missing person was found weeks ago.
.
– That person was never missing in the first place.
.
– That’s a very old hoax.
.
– That hoax is older than your Mom.
.
– That’s a new hoax.
.
– Just kidding – it’s even older than the first one.
.
– And your Mom.
.
– No, Jesus didn’t say that.
.
– And Christians don’t believe that.
.
– Or do that.
.
– Or that.
.
– Not if they are serious about following Jesus, anyway.
.
– Which is what actual Christianity is, y’know, about.
.
– Yes, we do have evidence.
.
– Again, that thing you reposted on Facebook is a hoax – check Snopes.
.
– And Wikipedia.
.
– And any reputable news source.
.
– And real life.
.
– The effect of that change in social mores has not been nearly so beneficial as you claim, on any number of metrics that are commonly accepted as indicators of health, security and wellbeing.
.
– I know it’s only “one study”. It’s not the only one, and I’m telling you to keep an open mind.
.
– You’ll get the “lots of studies” when I find time to write a book about it. Otherwise, the research is out there. Has it occurred to you that maybe the real science doesn’t sell newspapers?
.
– Or that politicians don’t care about it?
.
– Yes, man did land on the Moon.
.
– No, we have not collaborated with aliens to build a secret base there.
.
– The second shadow comes from sunlight reflected by Earth, not studio lighting.
.
– No, not everything you read on Snopes is true.
.
– Because not everybody on Snopes understands what they are talking about.
.
– Or that opinion is not the same as logic, analysis or an impartial and thorough review of actual evidence.
.
– Nibiru? No.
.
– Because we would have seen it in all kinds of ways.
.
– But not on your mobile phone.
.
– Nor as a second sun mysteriously caught on a TV camera in one broadcast but also mysteriously invisible to billions of other people, millions of other cameras and the whole scientific community.
.
– Could you take my word on this one? Or make a common-sense assessment?
.
– Please?
.
– Nor Planet X.
.
– Nor chemtrails.
.
– Guns. Kill. People.
.
– Yes, there is a Planet 9.
.
– But it doesn’t do the things you say Planet X does.
.
– Which would make it not actually proof of your crackpot theory.
.
– Well, the person who first published the Nibiru theory claimed to have been spoken to by aliens.
.
.
– But who am I to judge?
.
– No, Hitler and the Nazis weren’t Christians.
.
– Pretty sure, actually.
.
– And they didn’t get caught up in a secret plot to perpetuate the Third Reich through the 1960s space race.
.
– The proposed changes in the legislation are not nearly so benign and neutral as this pressure group makes out.
.
– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
.
– Or transphobic.
.
– Or bigoted.
.
– It’s called freedom of speech.
.
– And thought.
.
– Yes, if it has a penis and testicles that produce sperm, it’s probably still a man.
.
– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
.
– Or transphobic.
.
– Or bigoted.
.
– It’s called scientific fact.
.
– And thought.
.
– Which was what we believed in before we decided feelings were the ultimate arbitrator of reality.
.
– And after we did away with God.
.
– Look, just let me know when Caitlyn Jenner starts menstruating.
.
– Could you please actually read the Bible?
.
– And try to understand that a New Testament can repeal sections of an Old Testament?
.
– Or ask a Christian what they believe?
.
– And how they come to that belief?
.
– And how they live it out in practice?
.
– Rather than telling them they believe and do what Richard Dawkins told you they believe and do?
.
– Or that lobby group.
.
– Or the National Secularist Foundation of Societies for Freedom From Religion And Anything That Questions Our Unquestioning Self-Regard.
.
– *yawn*
.
– Yes, I do eat prawns.
.
– But not oysters.
.
– You may have misunderstood the purpose of that commandment in the Old Testament.
.
– And imposed a 21st-century, post-modern view of justice and democracy upon it.
.
– Because an unmarried woman who had been raped couldn’t just go and claim social security in 1500 BC Sinai, that’s why.
.
– Ditto that commandment.
.
– And that commandment.
.
– Seriously? Yes, that commandment too.
.
– It’s not just an unfeeling clump of cells.
.
– Three words: Abortion to term.
.
– Liberal Christians don’t want to believe the Bible any more than you do. The clue’s in the name.
.
– I know Rob Bell said it.
.
– But Jesus didn’t.
.
– If Jesus didn’t talk about that thing, maybe it was because it was already commonly understood in that era from 1,500 years of Jewish history and law.
.
– Have you seen oysters? Seriously, no, thank you!
.
– No, it’s not a Delusion.
.
– And the translators do know what they are doing.
.
– And the real history of the Crusades is not like that.
.
– The evidence is there – you just have to investigate it honestly.
.
– For yourself.
.
– Because if Richard Dawkins is as blinkered, unresearched and biased as you are,* then it’s the blind leading the blind.
.
– Well, there’s a chance that if you investigate these things for yourself you will achieve that thing that you’re always insisting I should do.
.
– “What’s that?”
.
– Learn something that will open your eyes.   :o)
.
PS:
.
– No, Jesus won’t turn you away for believing in Nibiru.
.
– Salvation comes by faith in a God who has revealed Himself in numerous ways.
.
– Not by passing a science test.
.
Thank you for reading.
.
.
*There is plenty of evidence that this is so.
.

Alice’s Baby (Part 2) – a law graduate comments

23 Feb

Welcome to Part 2 of “Alice’s Baby” – my look at the implications of abortion for the law, and the implications of the law for abortion and society. In Part One I outlined the hypothetical case of a woman killing her prematurely-born child just hours before he would have been aborted, had an accident not intervened.

I’ll get to the discussion questions in a moment, but first I’d like to frame the discussion by explaining what this is about and why I’m writing this pair of posts. I’ve been hoping to write this article for a while as I think there is some important light that the law, and legal philosophy, can shed on abortion, particularly in light of the fact that premature babies born before the legal abortion limit are now surviving in considerable numbers, and also following on from revelations about partial-birth abortions, as practised in the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic case.

(EDIT These posts seem all the more timely, given that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has this same week called for the legalisation of abortions up to term, for any reason, and claimed that the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) supports this. Members  of the RCM claim that they were not consulted and have denounced the move. END EDIT)

I’m also going to anticipate some questions and objections that people might bring up.

i.) Isn’t this case study all a bit silly and arbitrary?

No. Laws exist for a reason. Good law protects people from all kinds of negative conduct and consequences. Bad law does the opposite. Law students – and indeed lawmakers – study legal problem questions such as this one in order to understand how the law works and how it might affect the people it governs.

University students all over the world get their law degrees in part by studying questions like this one.

ii.) Isn’t this case study loaded in favour of your (i.e. my) Christian pro-life outdated religious bigoted views?

No. The case study is an invitation to discuss a set of hypothetical facts which are plausible and adequate for the purposes of examining the implications of particular judgments that we might make about those facts. These facts do not in themselves presuppose any particular judgment. That this study might lead some people to agree or disagree with a particular stance on pro-life versus pro-abortion does not mean that the case study itself is rigged.

iii.) Does this case study bear any relation to real life?

Yes. The issue we are trying to decide is not only whether a woman should be convicted in the rare event that she would do what Alice has done, but to shed light on the issues surrounding abortion and the value of human life in general. These issues affect us whether we want them to or not.

iv.) Is this case study intellectually tenable?

Yes. Law is very much a science, and forms the bedrock of every society. Whether we agree or disagree with certain laws, the law in itself is an intellectually demanding field of study with complex foundations and principles that have developed considerably over time.

Law operates entirely independently from the laws of nature as observed by science, although science can inform the law and vice versa.

v.) Are you going to get to the discussions soon?

Okay.  :o)

I will both explore the questions in brief and give my own answers as well as trying to examine other possible views.

1.) Has Alice committed murder or infanticide? Has she taken a human life?

The Crown Prosecution Service (the body responsible for the prosecution of serious crime in England and Wales) defines murder thus:

Subject to three exceptions the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane);
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing);
  • any reasonable creature (human being);
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs – Rance v Mid-Downs Health Authority (1991) 1 All ER 801 and AG Ref No 3 of 1994 (1997) 3 All ER 936;
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH).

Under this law (which I guess to be broadly similar in most other jurisdictions), Alice could only exonerated from murder if found not to be sane. It does not matter that her child has been born prematurely and could have been aborted – at the time of its death, the child was “in being”, capable of independent life by its own strength.

The alternative offence exists of infanticide, whereby a mother who deliberately killed her new born child while the balance of her mind was disturbed as a result of giving birth receives a lesser sentence than she would for murder.

The burden then lies with the prosecution to prove that the balance of the mother’s mind was affected such that she killed her child when she would otherwise not have done so. If Alice can reasonably be said to be rationally in charge of her own decision-making, the offence is murder; otherwise it is infanticide.

In all cases, however, it is clear that the child, while legally capable of being aborted whilst still in the womb, is a human being in its own right once born. Alice has unlawfully taken the life of a human being, not merely fulfilled the intent of aborting her pregnancy.

In short, Alice is guilty of killing her child. This has, or should have, implications for our understanding of the value of that child, whether born or unborn, and thus should have implications for abortion too.

2.) If Alice has committed murder (or infanticide), what implications does this have for abortion?

This is where abortion most obviously becomes problematic. Children are surviving increasingly premature births at increasing rates, thanks to the development of neonatal medicine and technology. Abortion is legal in the UK up to 24 weeks’ gestation.[1] Premature babies can survive from as young as 22 weeks’ gestation, with the survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks ranging from 15 to 40%. [2]

The implications are clearly serious: if a premature child has a viable (albeit fragile) life and reasonable (if low) prospects of living, by what mechanism are we able to claim that the unborn child is not a life while the born child is?

What about child destruction?

The doctrine of “life in being” is helpful in distinguishing murder from the crime of child destruction, i.e. the unlawful killing of a child in utero. Child destruction too is a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment for life. The fact that a child has not yet been born does not mean that it is not subject to the protection afforded by the law – indeed the law extends protection of life beyond life “in being” (actual persons) to life still in the womb.[3] While the law against child destruction does not of itself criminalise abortion, the distinction between life in being and the life of the unborn child, and its implications for Alice’s case, are not at all helpful to the case in favour of abortion.

It is worth pointing out that the offence of child destruction, rather than murder, applies if the killing is so proximate to the birth as to constitute an inseparable act. Alice’s case, however, involves a noticeable delay between the child’s birth and its death (and the case study was deliberately designed that way so as to create clarity), so the offences of murder or infanticide apply.

What does abortion law cover?

English law permits the termination of a pregnancy on the grounds of grave risk to the physical health, mental health or life of the mother, and similar. [4] Clearly this is routinely being ignored since abortion is essentially available on demand.

What does the offence of infanticide imply for abortion?

If Alice can be said to have committed the offence of infanticide rather than murder – a reasonable conclusion if the balance of her mind was upset by her accident and the birth of her child – the infant is still that: an infant. While abortion may be acceptable, and indeed desirable to many in society, it is this point about life and the viability or life, and the morality (or otherwise) of taking that life that is at issue here.

Does abortion take a life? And if a baby born prematurely can be the victim of infanticide (or murder, if a third party such as an “Angel of Death” nurse, or a friend acting on Alice’s behalf, were to kill the child), what moral distinction separates that baby’s life from the life of an unborn child which is aborted?

Should we continue to support abortion so broadly in the face of clear evidence that it kills viable babies?

Besides this, to what extent is viability a forceful argument in law? It is commonly claimed that abortion is justifiable because the foetus is entirely dependent upon its mother and is not a separate life. As we have already seen, this argument carries no weight as a defence to the crime of child destruction. And one might add that in addition to all foetuses, all 18-month olds are arguably fully dependent upon Mother and largely incapable of independent survival. Are they too candidates for termination?

3.) If Alice has not committed murder, or we would like to say that she has not, what implications does this have for the value of human life?

Is it reasonable for abortion’s supporters to claim that a child that has somehow escaped abortion should still be capable of being put to death legally? This is not idle kite-flying. There are some who argue that parents should have the right to have a newborn child put to death, since ending their lives is no different to abortion.

The obvious observation to make here is that this is the thin end of the wedge. What holds us back from broadening the scope of legislation that permits postnatal killing once it gains a foothold and becomes accepted? Moral philosopher (I cannot bring myself to use the word “ethicist”) Peter Singer has stated that no child should be considered a human life until it is 30 days old, and that some disabled children should be put to death without delay. Because they are not self-aware, he argues, “…they are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” [5]

Richard Dawkins, for many the chief spokesperson for popular atheism, has said via Twitter that it would be immoral not to abort a foetus that was seen to have Down’s Syndrome. He has since apologised for the outrage this caused, but still he seems to be committed to the idea that aborting Down’s syndrome babies is a legitimate course of action and, as Singer’s words prove, he is not the only one who thinks this way. This argument for eugenics is clearly an acceptable view in at least significant parts of the academic establishment, and the fact that so many are articulating it proves that it is no flash in the Twitter pan.

Where does this shocking logic end? It is an argument based on a subjective view of quality of life, rather than the objective and simple (but not simplistic) view that all life has equal, supreme value, and that quality of life is very much a secondary concern – a notion not conferred on us by evolutionary science, but drawn from the idea that all human beings are valuable because we are created in the image of God. While some might laugh at the idea of God having anything to say about our worth, this has been the basis of our laws in the West for almost two millennia

It is worth noting that most secularists and political and religious liberals normally consider it to be a sign of our increasingly civilised and morally irreproachable values that we have done away with the death penalties and cruel and unusual punishments that featured in earlier times. Of course this is put down to the triumph of science and reason, but with our leading “reasoners” calling for babies to be put to death, can we be so sure that it is secularism and science that have given us our most cherished values, or does God provide us with transcending moral imperatives that do not shift with the whims of society and the opportunities afforded by technology?

Are we in danger of taking away those historical killings with one hand, only to bring them back in a different guise with the other? [6]

Furthermore, Singer’s is an argument that is capable of shifting quickly to encompass all kinds of persons whom we might find it more convenient to consider “non-persons”. What is to stop us (or our representatives in Government) from deciding that along with severely disabled babies, healthy babies can also be put to death if there are grounds for the parents to wish they taken up the offer of an abortion when they had the chance? Arguments for abortion up to full term are being made by some who see no reason to limit abortion to 24 weeks; why not allow that to spill over into killing babies after birth, since the difference between born and not-born is only as thin as the skin of the womb?

And why stop there? If babies (disabled or otherwise) are non-persons, or persons not worthy of the same consideration as the rest of us, why not euthanise severely disabled people of all ages, and with them the old, the mentally infirm, the simple, people with Down’s syndrome, people with incurable diseases, people who refuse to work for a living, or anybody else whom the political class considers beyond the pale?

If we cannot value the lives of unborn babies consistently and without partiality, is there any substantial hope that we will be able to value the rest of us?

Conclusion: Is this a realistic assessment?

Is this simplistic alarmism? Or are these things knocking at our door? Ideologies that valued some people-groups and severely denigrated others knocked on the door in many European countries in the 1930s and were welcomed in, resulting in body counts in the millions that we still condemn today. These ideologies included eugenics and discrimination against the disabled and infirm. Is there any reason – in a Europe or an America once again beset by ethnic conflicts, political challenges, and financial difficulties – why such measures might not be taken again?

It is common for liberals to argue that such things couldn’t happen here, or again. We know better now, supposedly. But is that true? The current times, with the National Health Service being broken up in spite of the concerns of a nation, and rights and benefits for the disabled being undermined, with disastrous consequences for many, prove that much decisionmaking is beyond the control of the ballot box. Politics is too complex – and courageous voices too few – for all evil to be restrained. The current combination of financial crises and increasing demands on public services make it all but inevitable that there will be increasing calls to wipe out of existence first individuals, and then some whole class of humans who we feel are a burden to society.

We haven’t arrived at such dark days yet. But we are getting there. Can anybody honestly say that the foundations are not being laid? Surely a society in which there is hope for all life to be valued looks different from what we are building at present. The trend would run in the opposite direction, and our prominent ethicists would call for us to protect the life of the child, disabled or otherwise, for in so doing we would be protecting the lives of us all.

In a society in which many of us arguably consider abortion to be routine, desirable and a human right, what is to stop us from hardening our hearts against lives in being?

Law protects life

To begin where we started, law protects life. While it may be argued that the law encodes principles that most of us already hold in our hearts, it nevertheless carries a force that shapes both the views and practices of individuals and the destiny of whole societies. Bad law can be identified by its propensity to lead to bad consequences. Law that blurs the definition of the value of life and renders other lives susceptible to being deemed not worthy of living by a process of logical extension is self-evidently bad law.

The problem with the current law on abortion is perhaps not that it is flawed so much as that it is being flouted. In other words, it is clear, but it is being ignored. It defines abortion as a crime expect in very specific circumstances, but it is not being enforced as such. Poorly-enforced law is as bad for society as poorly-drafted or poorly-conceived law. And poorly-enforced law in turn may lead to more extreme laws being written that grow out of behaviours formerly considered extreme which society has come to accept as normal.

Let us hope that those days don’t come, or else future Alices may be responsible for the killing of more than premature children.

The author holds a bachelor’s degree (LLB) in law and French from the University of Bristol.

Footnotes

[1] Abortion Act 1967

[2] http://preemiehelp.com/about-preemies/preemie-facts-a-figures/preemie-outcomes/outcomes-by-gestational-age

[3] Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, section 1(1)

[4] Abortion Act 1967, section 1 (1)

[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 1st ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 122–23, quoted at http://www.equip.org/article/peter-singers-bold-defense-of-infanticide

[6] It is also worth pointing out that, while considered barbaric by many today, capital punishment and amputations in history generally took place in the course of execution of sentence by the courts. Today’s call for putting human beings to death is not on the basis of guilt for crimes committed, but on the basis of a subjective view of their worth, and even the inconvenience posed by their existence. Which is more barbaric?

I’m still waiting to hear an atheist say something impressive

2 May

Hello, and welcome to my first proper blog post on Cookie Supermarket!

I frequently have discussions about faith with atheist friends, usually on Facebook. Many of them are passionate in their claim that there is no such thing as God, or indeed any god. A lot of them appear to put great faith in the pronouncements of prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, et al.

After a couple of years of going around in circles, patterns are emerging. And they don’t bode well for atheism.

    1. Atheism is not rational, analytical, logical and scientific, as its proponents claim. I have never heard so much circular logic as when atheism is boiled down to its essentials. “There is no God because there is no God,” or indeed, “Miracles cannot happen because miracles cannot happen,”  is a fair summation of the logic applied. Much of the logic is founded on a vested interest: there is said to be no God because the atheist cannot or will not bring themselves to believe in God. As one has said, “An atheist cannot find God for the same reason that a thief cannot find a policeman.”
    2. The “high priests” of atheism make arguments based on mockery and disbelief rather than careful consideration of the facts. Consider this gem by Christopher Hitchens – hailed by atheists as a “destruction of biblical miracle claims” – in which he argues that it is possible to consider something a miracle if you are ignorant of the facts, i.e. you see your friend, whom you thought had been executed yesterday, walking around in town and assume he has been raised from the dead. Clearly that is not a miracle if the friend did not die. Christians and atheists can agree on that. Hitchens gets his laugh from the audience, but completely neglects to consider what happens if your friend who was executed (he is, of course, making a jokey reference to Jesus Christ) actually did die and was then seen walking around a few days later. In short, his argument is based upon the a priori conclusion that resurrection is impossible. The actual facts of the Resurrection are not even considered. Hitchens’ argument would not stand up in a court of law.
    3. Scandalous use of red herrings. Hitchens goes on to say that many people were raised from the dead in Jesus’ day, and that this disproves Jesus’ divinity as any of these other people who were raised from the dead could make the same claim. Again, Hitchens fails to consider the facts. Of all those raised from the dead, Jesus alone spoke of being the Messiah, God, and the Son of God. He alone was the fulfilment of centuries of Old Testament prophecy. And of Him alone was it said that “[God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) Hitchens’ reference to the “others” who were raised from the dead is a red herring: it proves (or indeed disproves) nothing, because once again the atheist has not done justice to the facts.

Obviously there is more one could say on so great a subject. Atheists put a huge amount of faith in physics explaining ever more distant acts of cosmic upheaval as proof that God was not involved in creation – yet this only delays the invevitable question of where the original matter, energy or space-time fabric came from which permitted that upheaval to take place. The principle that nothing can come from nothing is basic science, yet it seems to be conveniently ignored by atheists.

There is also the issue that many militant atheists, including Hitchens and Dawkins, apparently cannot see anything good in faith or religion. They give no consideration to the lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ: that faith in Him has turned millions from despair, drugs and crime, or indeed that countless acts of selflessness and charity are done by Christians precisely because their faith has inspired them to love, to give, to put themselves through discomfort and deprivation in order to serve those less fortunate. The argument that our law and much of western civilisation (art, music, architecture, various freedoms, etc.) owe their very existence to biblical concepts cuts no ice with the atheist. All this could exist without theistic belief – or so they claim. Never mind that these good things, which we take for granted, were pioneered by men and women whose faith was a passionate fire that blazed within them so that they prevailed against the spirit of the day until history itself was set alight.

In short, atheism is an attitude of mind. It rejects a study of the facts in favour of convenient beliefs; it draws false conclusions based on shaky premises; it places faith in its mockery of concepts rather than real analysis. It sees no good in a faith which in reality inspires virtues which no godless belief system can hope to imitate. Atheism is not a belief in something, but a belief in nothing – one which by its very nature is vandalistic, destructive and impoverished.

You can be an atheist if you wish, but don’t kid yourself about rationality. And for pity’s sake, make up your own mind, rather than being taken in by someone else’s mockery.

Jesus Is Healing Today

Evangelism and Healing Adventures In the UK

Mustard Seed Budget

FINANCES FOR YOUR MINISTRY

The Lesbians Daughter

Life as the offspring of a lesbian

KM Photography

Katie Maddocks

First, Do No Harm: Youth Gender Professionals

Professionals Thinking Critically about the Youth Transgender Narrative

Mr. Money Mustache

Early Retirement through Badassity

Thus Spoke Stacy

Always right. Not always correct.

Shadow To Light

Embracing Faith

The Failed Atheist Blog

A Redeemed Mind is a terrible thing to waste

the belfast bigot

Defending Christianity in the Marketplace of Ideas

4thWaveNow

A community of parents & friends skeptical of the "transgender child/teen" trend

More radical with age

The personal blog of Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

Stephanie Davies-Arai

Communication, Kids & Culture

Awaken-Love

Claim God's Powerful Gift

askthe"Bigot"

A place where ideas, not people, are under assault.

Heather Tomlinson's Blog

writes about Jesus, apologetics, the simple life etc

Armed With Reason

Gun Safety: The Scientific Evidence

Christena Cleveland

social psychology + faith + reconciliation

Vicky Walker

Author of 'Do I have to be good all the time?' wondering about life, love and awkward moments. A lot of of awkward moments, actually. And sometimes chocolate. You have been warned...