Thursday, November 02, 2006

Racism and the Pro-Life Connection

I recently read a pro-lifer suggest that the pro-life position would one day come to be seen as the anti-racism position now is. It got me thinking about the connection between the two, and I came to a very different conclusion. Obviously I understand his point - both extend protection to more human beings than previously. Nevertheless actually I think if we look a bit deeper, we will find that a pro-choice position (certainly one which does not demand equal rights from conception) is the true heir of the anti-racism movement. To be clear, in no way do I suggest or believe that pro-lifers tend to be racist. However, I think that the very success of anti-racism suggests that the pro-choice position is to be preferred.

The reason for this is that the most widely-held intellectual justification of racism was that people of certain skin colours or ethnic origins are inherently inferior in some way to people of the favoured skin colour (usually white). Slavery was justified by the idea that black people were not worthy of protection as they were not like the slave owners. Now, as we know, skin colour is a genetic varient. The suggestion was that we can determine who is worthy of protection by genetic facts. The repudiation of the racist viewpoint is therefore a rejection of the idea that looking to genetics is enough. They were found to be wanting as an adequate explanation for why people are worth protecting.

On a superficial level the shift was from protection for whites to protection for humans. However, humanity is equally a genetic fact, albeit more widespread. If the shift was merely from one genetic fact to another then there appears to be no real justification for it. Why should we prefer one genetic fact to another? Was there any principle to the shift? Of course there was. People recognised that protection was needed because of the ability to suffer and feel pain or to grow and flourish. This is common to all colours and unifies our conception of those worthy of moral consideration. In short, the success of anti-racism was the success of a consideration of the characteristics of beings as beings, rather than merely their genetic make-up.

The pro-life movement (narowly defined as those who desire protection from conception) denies this shift. It argues that what is important is the genetic fact of humanity and nothing else. Thus all those genetically human must be protected whether or not they have any capacity for consciousness, pain or pleasure. They eschew any consideration of beings as beings. While they would use the wider genetic fact of humanity as their criterion, they fail to move past its arbitrary nature and merely insist that it is intuitively true, just as white supremacy was once intuitively true for so many people.

The shift from a genetic criterion to a beings as beings criterion was one from arbitrariness to principle. It expanded the scope of protection in some ways, to those of different colours. However it also excluded those who only fulfilled the biological condition of humanity without any of the characteristics (faculties and consciousness) of beings worthy of protection. Those desperate to protect such zygotes rely on a purely genetic argument in a way which, if accepted, would damage the coherence of the anti-racism movement. In the end, the pro-choice lobby is the heir of anti-racism.

11 comments:

John said...

What a moron.

Ed Hanks said...

Pejar,

This is one of the most bizarre arguments I've ever seen, and I'm sure it's because you don't know much about why pro-lifers believe what they do. You've probably listened to teachers and professors who are atheists who present their impression of pro-lifers, most of whom are Christians.

Abortion and slavery ARE related. Both involve the recognition of human rights and civil rights which inherently exist for any human being.

Pro-lifers believe that humanity is conferred at conception because any other determination is arbitrary. You could say you become a human when you're born, but where does that leave us? Is a person born at 7 months development less human than at 9 months? Premature babies have survived birth as young as 4 or 5 months development. Is it the physical act of birth, or the level of development? Is a baby not human until it can survive on its own? Where, then, does that leave elderly people who carry respirators?

Unless you define humanity as beginning at conception, your rule is not only arbitrary, but it also poses risks to other segments of human society, such as the elderly or disabled, who might meet your definition of "non-human" just as easily as a pre-born baby.

Pro-choice (pro-abortion) people are the ones who ignore the rights inherent in a human being, because they refuse to consider the possibility of human rights for pre-born babies. They treat them as if they are a mass of tissue, even though they themselves have difficulty deciding when human "being" comes to be!

I'll also tell you there is nothing racist about pro-lifers. Our pro-life group is undertaking outreach to the Black community because pro-abortionists (Planned Parenthood) aggressively move into minority neighborhoods and market abortion to Black and Hispanic mothers.

Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, believed in using abortion and birth control to make the human population more white. She, like Hitler and other racists, was a eugenicist who believed in taking action to protect the purity of the white line of the human race. Her organization, Planned Parenthood, is using abortion today to disproportionately kill babies of color in preference to white babies.

Therefore, your assessment is backward. Pro-abortionists are the successors of the racists. Pro-lifers believe in the sanctity of ALL human life.

Pejar said...

You've probably listened to teachers and professors who are atheists who present their impression of pro-lifers, most of whom are Christians.

Not that it needs saying, but this just shows your ignorance of my situation. I study law and live in the UK, neither of which make it likely that my teachers or professors will touch upon religion or abortion. That is a US stereotype only, sorry.

Pro-lifers believe that humanity is conferred at conception because any other determination is arbitrary.

Here you confuse arbitrary with difficult to pinpoint. Conception is an arbitrary point. The development of consciousness and faculties is not arbitrary, but is more difficult to pinpoint.

To be honest though, I don't care about the concept of humanity so much as I do about interests to be protected. If is wrong to torture animals because they can suffer, just as it is wrong to torture humans because they can suffer. When it comes to killing, it is at least prima facie wrong where there has to be some form of consciousness to extinguish. This occurs in most humans and animals, but not early zygotes.

I'll also tell you there is nothing racist about pro-lifers.

Uh, go ahead. Alternatively you could just read this sentence in my opening paragraph: To be clear, in no way do I suggest or believe that pro-lifers tend to be racist.

The point is that to refute my argument, you really need to explain why focussing on humanity is any less arbitrary than focussing on whiteness. I instead focus on consciousness and faculties, which *is* less arbitrary as protection only makes sense in the context of these. However pro-lifers have to eschew this because these points do not apply to early zygotes.

Chris Arsenault said...

pejar - I think the real argument you have with human ethical issues is still within yourself. On the LTI-Blog you said:

No-one seems able to address the crucial point here, which is what makes humans valuable?

That's a good question, yet surely you continue to question yourself, even though you provide what you believe is an answer, otherwise you wouldn't be attempting to forumlate a unified worldview of ethics. You lack the coherency of an absolute truth.

Basing your reasoning upon human particulars - your philosophy goes circular because ultimately such reasoning is a destructive process. It dissects things into their attributes while ignoring the unifying reality of humanity that is transcendent. How you ask? Do you consider yourself valuable? Why? Do you love others? If so, why? Are these things touchable or intangible? Is it something greater than the mere physical parts?

Do you see it? Do you see the problem with your reasoning? If you know for certain, then why are you seeking?

If you merely point to yourself and say, "I am at the center of things, that I exist is the greatest pinnicle of my own personal truth", then what happens when you die? Is that statement true? In what way is your "being" absolute?

If your worldview is non-transcendent, non-absolute then your seeking merely leads to latching onto the momentary, not the infinite. Your philosophy arises from living in a Post-Christian environment, and you freely borrow from Christianity where it suits your purposes, while rejecting what is distasteful to you, without your fully considering that Christianity is a whole which is only cohesive when taken as a whole. It cannot function in parts. It is fully unified already.

Moreover, Christianity rejects this piecemeal approach to building your own ethics, because ultimately we are limited in our human capacity, and so we look outside ourselves to one who isn't limited in any capacity. This drives us towards a unification, a singular vs a multiplicity. Certainly you have heard of the One Body of Christ?

What may offend you the most is our claim that we have found that unification which you still seek.

Think about it.

Oh, by the way, your abortion car crash woman analogy places her "rights" over the victim's right of being. Thus you value her time more than his life. If he had died in the accident, then what right did she have to take his life (his time) with the car? Are you allowed to kill people without consequences? Your argument fails to look at her responsibilities in conjunction with her rights. If you're looking to be a lawyer, you'll be studying liabilities quite closely. I suggest that you seriously look not only to competing rights, but weighing rights and responsibilities together, otherwise you'll get your butt kicked in litigation!

Ed Hanks said...

Pejar,

Your arguments seem to indicate that you are a secular humanist. I have some knowledge of this, since I used to be one.

From your argument -- you posit that human "value" is found most pointedly in consciousness -- I would think you would prefer a society where most humans are kept on life support similar to what you might remember from The Matrix. They would all be heavily sedated and/or anesthetized so that no one would ever suffer pain (your definition of harm).

Perhaps their minds -- their consciousness -- are employed by some bio-computer network to process information or create energy or something. They produce a resource, which is why they are harvested and kept alive.

Any humans who become unable to process information -- unable to contribute to society by producing a resource -- would, of course, be euthanized, because they would become what pro-euthanists refer to as "useless eaters."

The most intelligent humans -- the ones like yourself with the highest consciousness -- are the most valuable, so they would be kept exclusive from the others as a favored class in order to run things.

There have, of course, been movies about this sort of thing. They are generally found in the genres of horror, or sci-fi horror.

Please, consider the implications of your thinking. While perhaps my suggestions are over the top (though I believe they naturally follow from your flow of thinking), it definitely seems like you value humans only for consciousness, which means pre-conscious babies and post-conscious (senile) elderly would have no value, and therefore would be allowed to die in your society.

Pejar said...

Chris:

I'm struggling to find any coherence in what you said, so I'll address what points I can draw from it.

If you know for certain, then why are you seeking?

You seem to be going down the incredibly bizarre route of arguing that since I do not know anything, I must not think and try to understand things. I do not 'know for certain'. I try to improve my understanding and perhaps persuade others.

Christianity is a whole which is only cohesive when taken as a whole. It cannot function in parts. It is fully unified already.

Quite an absurd statement here. In no way is Christianity unified. I can think of no other religion with as many sects, denominations and differing ideas. I know many Christians who would agree with the majority of what I have said on this blog, and some who would disagree.

What may offend you the most is our claim that we have found that unification which you still seek.

Not really. Although unlike you I would prefer an incomplete, developing theory which tends to get things right rather than a unified one which tends to get them wrong. Just because there is a ready-made system to adopt doesn't mean that it is a good idea to do so.

Oh, by the way, your abortion car crash woman analogy places her "rights" over the victim's right of being.

Finally, something coherent. Although I did in fact say exactly that in my original piece: "While the right to life is important, I would argue that it is not enough to completely void the rights of others to autonomy and personal dignity."

Your argument fails to look at her responsibilities in conjunction with her rights.

You then go on to make a cheap joke at my law training. Well done. Once again though, you've missed out the tiny detail that I dealt with this in the original post: "While it may be legitimate to associate blame with the act, the point is that the 'punishment' or consequences are wildly out of proportion with the infraction committed." If you wish to disagree then fine.


Ed:

You seem to be rather into making assertions without any real knowledge to go with them. I do not consider myself a humanist, although I am a secular atheist.

I would think you would prefer a society where most humans are kept on life support similar to what you might remember from The Matrix.

Well I suppose of all the charges which could be plucked out of the air against me, this is the most imaginative...

You go on to accuse me of wishing to euthanase the least productive, as you lyingly claim that euthanasia supporters wish. You also seem to have no grasp of what consciousness is. Senile people are still conscious. Embryos are conscious after a time (although not in the very early stages, which was the point of this post).

If you actually care about what I, and not some straw man in the sky, believe, then here is a starting point:

http://unifiedview.blogspot.com/2006/07/life-death-abortion-and-animals.html

Here I explain that interests are violated wherever the capacity for them is taken away from a being. This I would not want to keep people in a happy unconscious state, but want them to have the ability to exercise their full mental functions.

If you actually were a 'secular humanist' and actually believed the crap you accuse me of, then you were one hell of a sick person.

Ed Hanks said...

I was a rather unusual secular humanist. As an atheist, I did not believe in God, and like most secular humanists (which I still believe you are, based on your descriptions) I believed in the importance and inevitability of human progress and the necessity to do things to move society forward.

However, I was unlike most secular humanists in that I believed in absolute truth. I think most secular humanists believe in morality of some sort, but to most it's relative. Belief in an inherent moral truth is something foreign to most secular humanists. Belief in a morality beyond utilitarianism is foreign to them.

But secular humanism is what drives eugenics and the pro-abortion mentality. It's all utilitarianism.

One abortionist, George Tiller from Kansas, has been known to lie to young women and other more serious breaches of ethics in order to kill their babies. He is anxious to kill, because he believes it furthers his humanist agenda. He wants fewer people in the world, so he's willing to go to extremes to bring it about.

I really despair of convincing you of anything, as you're clearly smarter than everybody else.

Perhaps, though, I will read your old post and give it a go.

Pejar said...

Although many of my views may correspond with those of humanists, I do not consider myself one. Firstly because I feel no desire to become part of another religion and secondly because I do not subscribe to such a special focus on humanity, preferring to look at all beings which can suffer harm.

Belief in an inherent moral truth is something foreign to most secular humanists. Belief in a morality beyond utilitarianism is foreign to them.

The first statement is probably true, but I'm less convinced by the second. Certainly I doubt that most secular humanists support the kind of simplistic utilitarianism which you attack. While most would take interests and harms as the basis of their moral systems, most would reject a simple aggregation of these across all people to determine right and wrong.

One abortionist, George Tiller from Kansas, has been known to lie to young women and other more serious breaches of ethics in order to kill their babies.

Do you have anything to substantiate this? Furthermore, surely you must realise how ridiculous it is to tar an entire group with one bad example. Dr. Tiller has been shot in the arms by a pro-life extremist. Would it be fair for me to draw conclusions about pro-lifers based on that?

I really despair of convincing you of anything, as you're clearly smarter than everybody else.

No I'm not, and the sarcasm does not become you, especially after maliciously accusing me of supporting eugenics. I do change my mind about things, but this requires reasoned argument, not angry and ill-founded accusations.

Ed Hanks said...

An excerpt from a current (within the past couple of days) criminal complaint from the Kansas Attorney General against Dr. Tiller:

"The District Court judge overseeing this investigation has found probable cause to believe that crimes have been committed and that evidence of the crimes is found in the medical records. Now, a Sedgwick County District Court Judge found probable cause to believe that Dr. Tiller committed those crimes listed in the complaint. The District Attorney has sought to dismiss a case in which two courts have found probable cause to believe that crimes have been committed."

Mind you, this is regarding just one complaint of several significant complaints, criminal or civil, made against Tiller.

The charges in this particular complaint are that he performed a series of post-viability abortions on pregnant children as young as 10 years of age. While the complaint does not address this, I would be very surprised if Tiller provided any information to investigators about the pregnancies of underage minors, and in so not doing protected the identities of the fathers, some of whom were likely to have been the fathers of the pregnant girls themselves! Tiller is evil.

And Tiller may be the worst of the worst, but he is in no way atypical of abortion doctors. Many have been implicated in coverup of statutory rape, incest, late-term or even post-delivery abortions, etc.

By the way, even as an atheist I was pro-life. There is nothing exclusively "religious" about anti-abortion arguments. Abortion is ethically, philosophically and logically questionable.

Cheap Viagra Online said...

Racism... what a such retrograde and primitive though... i wonder what a person like this think or believe ? There's not to much to say about this primitive people, they are retrogrades...

Anonymous said...

You know someone's throwing crap at you when right after their post the spambots leave their mark and the posts seem interesting and sensible. (though to give credit where it's due "generic viagra" actually would've sounded pretty convincing had the OP been, say, an example of racial profiling by authorities somewhere)

Ed, that's a dangerously high inflammatory insinuation : actual point ratio. Is there any source or particulars to any of that, or are you just slandering because it's the right thing to do?