The Fallacy of Emotional and Anecdotal Appeals: Why a Sad Story Does Not Justify Late-Term Abortions

Though abortion has been a contentious topic in this country for decades, there has usually been widespread support for banning late-term abortions.  Even many on the Left have often been uncomfortable with the image of a fully-formed and viable baby being killed, as that didn’t exactly fit the “clump of cells” rhetoric they often employ.  This, however, has changed in recent years; the “safe, legal, and rare” stance on abortion of Bill Clinton in the 90’s gave way to “shout your abortion” cheers at the DNC and to tacit approval of late-term abortions from Hillary in 2016.  More recently, lawmakers in Virginia introduced legislation which would allow women to abort their babies up to the point of birth for vague “health” reasons, and the bumbling Virginia governor Ralph Northam implied that doctors and mothers should have the option of allowing a baby to die even after birth.  Though polls show that opposition to abortion in general is increasing in this country, supporters of late-term abortions are also becoming bolder.  This is not a complete surprise; given the logic of most abortion arguments, it is only natural that their reasoning is extended to cover late-term abortions as well.

As I’ve covered before, pretty much all popular arguments for abortion completely miss the point, and one of the most pervasive is the contention that pro-lifers are caught in an inconsistency in the case of the mother’s life being in danger, the likelihood of the baby dying quickly due to extreme complications, and/or rape.  I won’t rewrite that entire post, but I will summarize why that argument is misguided:

  1. If the baby is human life, as pro-lifers contend, then of course extreme situations present difficult questions, such as weighing the life of the mother against the life of the baby.  The difficulty of this scenario does not contradict the premise that the baby should be considered human.  It is exceptionally bad logic to not see this.  Being pro-life does not necessarily rule out extraordinary scenarios that might call for the ending of human life, just like valuing human life in general does not rule out justifiable reasons for ending it (such as in cases of self-defense).
  2. The disingenuous nature of this argument shows itself when you present this to an abortion advocate: Would they be okay with banning all abortions unless a doctor concludes that the mother’s life is significantly in danger, that the baby cannot survive anyway, or in the event of rape?  There is not a single abortion advocate who would agree to that because that would eliminate the vast majority of legal abortions in this country, exposing the fact that their concern is not rare and extreme situations but granting abortion for any reason whatsoever.

Thus, the common tactic of presenting a very rare or even completely hypothetical scenario (like aborting a baby with an extinction-level disease) fails to work, regardless of what kind of emotions it brings up.  Being pro-life does not rule out exceptional cases, and exceptional cases usually do not make good general policy.  If that were the case, then one would expect laws against seatbelts because a handful of people die in car accidents precisely because they were wearing one and may have otherwise survived.  Still, identifying this argument as a red herring often brings accusation of lacking empathy or wanting to “control” women’s bodies, which itself is frankly not relevant.  One can be very empathetic but still see a bad argument.

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The Lack of Patience and Critical Thinking: When People are Addicted More to Narrative than Truth

As the mainstream media drifts further to the far Left and as they wallow in their narcissism, pretending that they are the noble protectors of truth at war with Donald Trump (as even Jon Stewart noted), they are becoming less and less interested in facts and truth and more interested in furthering whatever narrative they want.  Of course, that narrative is usually something like the claim that America is full of racist bigots who got Donald Trump elected, making this country a horrible place for certain victim classes.  It has become an embarrassing clown show as they continue to not learn their lesson.

The media suffered massive humiliation when the initial narrative about the Covington High School students turned out to be false.  This was not an instance of racist white kids who bullied an elderly Native American man; it became clear that the Native American man lied about the incident and that the true aggressive party was the Black Hebrew Israelites who came to confront the students, whose only crime was apparently wearing MAGA hats.  While a few members of the media were self-reflective about this mistake, most were defensive and even went on the offensive.  In fact, for some, the story became about how conservatives gleefully jumped on the media’s mistake rather than the media’s mistake itself.  “Look at how happy those mean Trump-lovers are that the white kids weren’t the bad guys!  Must be something evil about them!”

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Bad Theology Leads to Bad Practice: The SBC’s Problem with Sexual Assault

This morning, I was reviewing a sermon I was going to preach as a guest speaker, and I saw The Houston Chronicle‘s article on the years of sexual abuse that has gone on in Southern Baptist churches over the past two decades.  The article reported about 700 cases of sexual assault, many of which did not result in prison time in the perpetrator and even resulted in his moving on to a new church at a new position.  This follows an article I read a few months ago detailing sexual misconduct that had gone in the unaffiliated fundamental Baptist churches.  It is sad, infuriating, but unfortunately not terribly surprising.  This is not because there is a “rape culture” in the SBC, as if Southern Baptists condone or excuse rape, but it’s because of both bad theology and ignorance of the law and the nature of sexual assault.  These errors can lead to serious practical blunders that hurt people physically and spiritually, and they can also (deservedly) get churches or church leaders, however well-meaning they are, in a host of trouble.  It is horrifying and inexcusable that this happens, and churches need to be more educated and equipped on this.

There are two major mistakes in theology that seem to contribute to this problem for Baptists (why stuff happens in the Catholic Church is a post for another day).  One is a misunderstanding of local church autonomy, and the other is a naive and simpleminded view of grace.  Both of these together often make Baptist churches or other churches like them (such as independent Bible churches) preferred targets of sexual predators.

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The Use of Sexual Assault as a Political Weapon: The Brett Kavanaugh Case

I haven’t been writing on this blog for a while (mixture of being busy and using my free time for football), and I actually wanted to write about other things first because politics tends to annoy me.  However, I have observed this Brett Kavanaugh case for a while, and it is shocking how much the lack of objectivity, the drive for political power, and the desire to virtue-signal has caused such a circus of indescribable stupidity.  It certainly doesn’t encourage us that this culture of extreme polarization, weak-minded emotionalism, and mob accusations is getting any better.

If you don’t know what’s going on in the Kavanaugh case, look it up; I won’t rehash it here.  I’ll just move on to some commentary on different facets of the case.

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Immigration and Families: The Complex Issue of Separating Children From Illegal Aliens

Lately, there has been a huge emotional reaction against the Trump administration for separating children of illegal immigrant parents who are undergoing criminal proceedings for crossing the border illegally.  The loudest voice is on the left because they obviously hate Trump for everything (ironic, given their disdain for the family unit in general), but many on the right as well have been vehemently critical of the administration’s handling of this issue because it seems to strike at the family.  Though most children in federal custody came across the border alone, there are still about 2,000 children that have been separated from their parents (or alleged parents) that the federal government has to figure out what to do with.

However, though simplistic takes are legion (as usual), this is a more complicated situation than many think.  Frankly, it is obviously more complicated than what the Trump administration itself thought because it severely underestimated the problem that would be on its hands after adopting this zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants.  Add yet another bungled reference to Romans 13 from AG Jeff Sessions, and you have an administration that isn’t exactly on top of things here.  On a summary note: No, Mr. Sessions, Romans 13 does not mean absolute submission to the government and certainly does not mean we cannot criticize it.

In any case, Christians should be concerned about this because while Sessions’ and Jeffries’ use of Romans 13 in the past have been bad, the text still teaches that we should try to be good citizens who obey and respect laws.  We should also obviously care about the family unit and children, and certainly, the family is far more important to Christians than to progressives who often find it to be an institution of oppression.  Also, Christians should care about those in need.  Even if someone is not a Christian, they should be able to agree that children are important, laws are important, and families are important.  It creates a tricky problem for this reason (and let me make this very clear): If the law is enforced thoroughly and consistently, then this situation is unavoidable if illegal immigrants are caught and especially if they claim asylum.

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Controversy at SWBTS and the SBC and Moving Forward

I haven’t updated this blog for a while, a combination of being busy and… watching too much basketball.  In any case, there’s a situation that I do want to briefly address, but I’ve held off due to the fact that I am a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and didn’t want my words to be twisted to target anyone else that has nothing to do with me voicing my opinion.  It’s probably a good time to state something obvious but often needed: What follows are my thoughts alone and nobody asked me to write them down.

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was recently held in Dallas, and it occurred during a time of controversy.  One of the stalwarts of the Baptist faith, Dr. Paige Patterson, was supposed to preach at the meeting but removed himself due to first being pushed into early retirement and then being fired outright from being the president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  If he didn’t remove himself, there was probably a good chance that they would have changed to someone else anyway.  From what I hear, it didn’t get prettier at the meeting because someone put up a motion to immediately remove the executive committee of the trustees for the school due to them firing Patterson while he was overseas in Germany.  The motion overwhelmingly failed (though evidently an internal report on the actions of SWBTS’ executive committee will be given next year), but it illustrated the fact that Patterson’s firing was polarizing, just as the man himself often was.

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Is God’s Freedom More of a Problem for a Libertarian or Compatibilist?

I was listening to a podcast recently which featured a friendly discussion between two philosophers: W. Paul Franks, a Wesleyan libertarian, and Guilluame Bignon, a compatibilist Calvinist.  They talked about several things, and it was a great example of intelligent, civil, and charitable debate between Christians.  Bignon even said that if all people get from the podcast is that they can see that a Calvinist like him can be good friends with a libertarian, it would be a success.  I think that’s a very mature attitude that is missing from a lot of Christians.  I just got his book where he defends Calvinistic determinism, and I hope I can find time soon to read through it.

Nonetheless, here I want to hone in on Bignon’s claim that God’s freedom is a clear counterexample to the libertarian’s argument that one must be able to do otherwise in order to be free (the principle of alternative possibilities, aka PAP) and morally responsible.  God is impeccable (he cannot sin), so this principle obviously does not apply to God, Bignon argued.  Franks holds to source incompatiblism, which either diminishes or even eliminates the need for PAP, but Bignon still argues that it still doesn’t make sense of God’s freedom.

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“Don’t Let Anyone Look Down On You Because You Are Young”… Unless Your Behavior is Immature and Arguments Are Bad

Over a month ago, there was another school shooting in Parkland, Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School.  The more this happens, the more Americans get tired of it, and we should.  These are terrible, and solutions need to be discussed that are careful, nuanced, and sober.  Unfortunately, that is normally not what happens, as I’ve written about before after mass shootings like this.  Usually, discussions turn into political mudslinging contests full of red herrings, strawmen, emotional appeals, and groundless accusations.  The mainstream media tends to ramp up controversy only to rile up the right wing media to throw hay-makers back.  Politicians do much of the same.  Unsurprisingly, precious little gets done despite there being real research on general gun violence and mass shootings.  It is not an easy problem to diagnose, so instead of thinking carefully, people jump to their preferred slogans and cry and shout.  Even calling for calm is a quick way to become a target of emotional insults because somehow you are not empathetic for trying to tell people to use their reason.

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The Mutant Politician Donald Trump, a Pastor Fanboy, and Rationalized Polarization

I have stayed away from Donald Trump news for a while since it gets so annoying, but some of it is impossible to avoid.  Truth be told, there are some policy decisions that I have liked, such as his Supreme Court choice, the tax plan (mostly), and scaling back on regulations that helped encourage investors.  There are also things that are not so great and even predictably stupid, such as the disaster of a healthcare plan, the annoying Russia thing that won’t go away, trade tariffs, and dumb comments from him.  But Donald Trump is a weird politician, seemingly impervious to scandals that would crush other politicians.  This whole absurd saga with a pornstar that he allegedly had an affair with and paid hush money to is a great example of this.  Many of us already cynically think that at least some politicians get involved in shady stuff anyway, but can you imagine if a “normal” politician got hit with a scandal like this?  It would be politically disastrous, and yet for Trump, people’s reactions are kind of just like, “Oh yeah, well, there’s Trump for ya.”  At the same time, his approval numbers are low despite the economy doing well, which is normally something that correlates with high approval ratings (whether the president actually did anything to truly affect the economy or not).  He is some mutant politician; the things that would normally destroy a career don’t affect him that much, and the things that would normally help a politician don’t really assist him.

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When the Greatness of Sin Makes Us Doubt the Power of the Blood of Christ

I have been reading about the horrifying case of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, former doctor for Michigan State athletics as well as for USA Gymnastics.  It is astonishing, sad, and infuriating that he got away with it for decades, ruining so many lives and even leading to the loss of life as a couple of people committed suicide, partially as a result of his crimes.  This is a man who already was sentenced to 60 years in prison for having tens of thousands of images of child pornography and videos of him molesting kids.  Now, over one hundred victims have come forward to share their stories, making certain that even an elixir that doubled the average human life span would not allow him to ever leave prison.

He is a grotesquely evil man, and in many ways he is more dangerous than other traditional criminals because he is the kind who befriends people and gains their trust before abusing their beloved children.  The bitterness and anger that his victims unloaded on him the past few days to go along with the anger of the wider world is richly deserved.  Here is a piece of human garbage that one victim aptly called “a spawn of Satan.”  A coach who sent over 100 girls to Nassar for treatment, ignorant of what was happening, said to him out of guilt and anger, “Go to hell,” a sentiment that is probably shared by even those people who generally have a problem with the doctrine of hell.  If he were put in a room with every father of those girls to beat him in whatever way they chose, that would still be too light a sentence.

And yet, as Christians, we are to believe that if he were to put his faith in Christ, he would be saved and given eternal life.  At first glance, such a statement makes even Christians uncomfortable and downright enrages atheists.  Sam Harris finds such a belief to be utterly unjust and disgusting.  Harris has never made an argument that has impressed me, but I understand his emotional reaction here; it seems deeply unfair.  Sure, Jesus saves sinners, but come on: There’s a massive difference between a serial child sex abuser and someone who cheated on a test or has mild anger issues.

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