Monday, April 30, 2018

Another charge of pro-life inconsistency

I often hear pro-choicers say that pro-lifers are inconsistent because pro-lifers "pretend" to care about people before they are born, but they don't care about them after they are born. Their reasoning is that a lot of the same people who are pro-life also oppose certain social programs that would help poor mothers and their children.

But there is no inconsistency on the part of pro-lifers in this regard. Pro-lifers think it's just as wrong to kill people outside the womb as it is to kill people inside the womb, so they are consistent. If this pro-choice argument were sound, it would follow that anybody who opposes both murder and socialism is inconsistent. That's just crazy talk.

But even if pro-lifers were inconsistent on this point, I don't see what bearing that would have on whether the arguments for the pro-life position are sound. So this pro-choice retort strikes me as being a red herring anyway. It's an ad hominem fallacy. It attacks pro-lifers and ignores their arguments.

A more promising way pro-choicers might accuse pro-lifers of inconsistency might be to say that while pro-lifers claim it's wrong to take the life of an innocent human being, regardless of the cost and consequences of keeping it alive, the same pro-lifers are okay with collateral damage in warfare in which case innocent bystanders get killed. Those who plan bombings and stuff know ahead of time that innocent bystanders will be killed, but they do a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether it's worth it or not. If pro-lifers are willing to accept the taking of innocent human life after doing a cost/benefit analysis, like in warfare, then they should not simply dismiss the costs that pro-choicers bring up when trying to justify abortion.

I agree that pro-lifers should not simply dismiss pro-choice arguments, and it's been my observation that they don't. Pro-lifers also do a cost/benefit analysis when it comes to exceptional cases. Pretty much every pro-lifer I've ever met are okay with abortion when it will save the life of the mother. Most of them are even okay with abortion in the case of rape. So they do do a cost/benefit analysis. It's just that the reasons pro-choicers typically give to justify abortion are not sufficient to justify taking innocent human life. In the case of collateral damage in war, people typically think it's worth it because defeating the enemy will save more lives, especially those on their own side.

It's never easy to come to the decision to risk the life or take the life of an innocent human being. But as far as I know, pro-choicers set the bar lower than anybody else when it comes to doing a cost/benefit analysis. For most of them, the fact that the fetus is inside the womb is, by itself, enough to justify taking its life.

See also: Is it inconsistent to be pro life and pro death penalty?

Monday, April 02, 2018

Inconsistency in the intelligent design debate

I came across this video on YouTube this morning and thought I'd share my thoughts on something that jumped out at me. One of the criticisms people often make about natural theology is that none of the theistic arguments prove that the being at the end of the argument is really God. Even Christians, like Ronald Nash, have criticized natural theology for this reason. So I find it interesting that when it comes to intelligent design, it's always the people supporting the arguments for intelligent design who will say that the evidence does not warrant the conclusion that God is the intelligent designer even though they'll readily admit that they think it's God (for some other reason apparently). But then it's the critics who always insist that it must be God. In this clip, Eugenie Scott said, "Either the designer is God or somebody with the same skill set." Her argument is essentially the same as people who defend natural theology. The arguments of natural theology attempt to establish that the explanation for things like morality, the contingency of the universe, the beginning of the universe, the design in the universe, etc. has to have the same attributes that we would associate with deity and is therefore some sort of deity. Critics will say that even if they are sound insofar as they establish the existence of a being with these various properties, that is not sufficient to establish that the being in question is God because of all the attributes of God that they do not establish, like omnipotence, omniscience, the ability to answer prayers, etc.

So consider the argument from design. Natural theologians, like William Lane Craig, will use the exact same arguments that Intelligent Design people like Stephen Meyer use, only Craig claims the evidence warrants the belief that the intelligent designer is God while Meyer denies that the evidence is sufficient to identify the designer as God.

My impression is that a lot of people on all sides of the debate will say whatever is expedient. If an atheist is in a debate with a Christian apologist on the existence of God, and the Christian makes an argument for God from intelligent design, the atheist will say that even if there is an intelligent designer, that doesn't prove it's God. But if the same atheist is in a debate with an intelligent design scientist/philosopher over whether or not intelligent design is science or religion or whether it's creationism in disguise, he'll insist that the intelligent designer must be God and the intelligent design advocate ought to just admit it.

Likewise, if a Christian is trying to defend intelligent design in the context of wanting to have it taught in a public school science classroom, he will insist that the theory does not identify the designer regardless of what he personally believes. When accused of being coy, the Christian will insist that intelligent design theory will only go as far as the evidence allows, and while the evidence shows that there's an intelligent designer, it is not sufficient to show that the designer is God, which is why they don't identify the intelligent designer as God. But if that same Christian is in a debate with an atheist over the existence of God, he will gladly use the argument from intelligent design to try to prove that God exists.

Christians and atheists need not be inconsistent on these points. A Christian could admit that intelligent design does not prove something as specific as the god of any particular religion, but that the existence of a person who designed all biological life does serve as a premise in a larger cumulative case for the existence of something very much like the Christian God. An atheist could say that the evidence for intelligent design, if sound, may not entail the existence of the Christian God, but it certainly would justify belief in a supernatural intelligence. After all, if we are talking about an intelligence who designed all biological life, then whatever kind of life the designer itself is, it can't be of the biological sort.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The genetic fallacy and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Somewhere somebody on the internet asked, "How do we know the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist?" My reaction was immediate. We know the FSM doesn't exist because we know he was made up by Bobby Henderson as a parody of the argument for God from design.

But then I thought, "Isn't that the genetic fallacy?" After all, I thought the existence of the FSM was disconfirmed by pointing to the origin of belief in the FSM. But as I thought about it some more, I remained persuaded that since we know the FSM was made up, we know he doesn't exist. If he did exist, it would be a huge coincidence that there's something in reality that perfectly matches something we know to be made up. It's more likely that he wouldn't exist than that there would be that huge coincidence.

But I still think there is such a thing as a genetic fallacy. Let's say, for instance, that I believe the earth is round because a long time ago I had a dream in which a wizard told me that the earth is just a giant pizza, and since all pizzas are round, it follows that the earth is round. Well, that's obviously not a good reason to think the earth is round, but it doesn't follow that the earth is not round.

So I guess the genetic fallacy is like most other informal logical fallacies. There are exceptions.