Monday, September 17, 2012

JT Eberhard on abortion: "Even human life has varying values..."

Atheist JT Eberhard discusses abortion on Patheos.


My position is that the destruction of a zygote is little more worrisome that the destruction of a dandelion. Richard Carrier, I think, said it best:

“From a point of view outside of this affair, the killing of a neurologically inactive fetus is no greater a harm than the killing of a mouse, and in fact decidedly less–a mouse is neurologically active, and though it lacks a complex cerebral cortex, it has a brain of suitable complexity to perceive pain.” 
Things that cannot suffer their own loss, though alive, have never really concerned us, whether they are trees, insects, mice, etc. I see no reason to believe a zygote or a fetus is different in any meaningful way up until they reach that point.

Any human being who dies unaware of the fact that they are dying "cannot suffer their own loss". A person in a coma who dies does not suffer their own loss. They suffer nothing at all by dying, because being in a coma is to be, by definition, incapable of suffering. When your wife is sleeping beside you, she would not "suffer her own loss" if you reached over and shot her in the head. She wouldn't know anything, including her own loss. If you drop your newborn off a cliff, your child wouldn't "suffer her own loss".

Eberhard asserts that it is morally licit to kill people who are unaware that they are being killed, whether they are zygotes, or people in coma, or sleeping wives, or unwanted newborns.

He certainly deserves credit for candor.

The reason it is wrong to kill human beings is not because they will suffer if you kill them. The reason that it is wrong to kill human beings is that they are human beings.

An argument that inevitably comes up in the abortion debate is that a zygote will one day become a child (perhaps the next Beethoven!) if left unchecked. ... do you not realize that every sperm in the male body is a potential human being (it just needs the female egg, itself a potential unique, glorious human being). Yet the prospect of this lost potential does not seem to frighten you into promiscuity... Don’t you worry that that particular sperm might have cured cancer one day, and you just let it slip away?
The abortion debate has nothing to do with "potential" human beings. It has to do with the protection of actual human beings.

Human life begins at conception, and at every stage thereafter-- zygote, embryo, fetus, child, adult-- this individual is a human being.

Each stage of human life has actuality and potentiality. An embryo is actually a human being with three germ layers, etc, and is potentially a fetus, child and adult. A child is actually a human being who is immature, learning to walk and read and write, etc, and is potentially an adult.

An individual is a human being at every stage of life, from conception to death.


Don’t you worry that that particular sperm might have cured cancer one day, and you just let it slip away?... Why then do we care about a particular set of cells in the female because they share a similar potential?

An unborn child in the womb isn't a potential human being. He or she is an actual human being-- just as actual as his/her mother.

Instead of hating this lost potential, which could never even come close to being realized in reality, why not love the fact that an unwilling mother was not burdened with an expensive and lifelong roll of the dice she didn’t want, with equally small chances of making the next Richard Dawkins or the next Torquemada?
No human being should be killed because he/she is a "burden". The mother's reluctance to carry the child to term is regrettable, and in some situations understandable (e.g. after rape), but that is not a justification for killing a human being.

I can be happy for the women who experience tremendous relief that they were not saddled with the responsibility for a child they did not want or for which they were unprepared. Could you look me in the eye and tell me that you hate the ruining of somebody’s life less than you hate the loss of a some incognizant cells? Would you even want to? That would tell me all I need to know about the compassion of Christianity.

No woman is forced to raise a child. She simply has no right to kill her child.  Adoption is always an option.

The whole idea of post-abortion trauma is mostly fabricated anyway.

What a callous ignorant thing to say. Millions of women (and men) suffer horribly after abortion, often for the rest of their lives.

The average cost of raising a child is almost $227,000. And that’s just the money, this is not including the time you spend raising a child. In this case, for women who do not wish to raise a child, the convenience of getting an abortion is similar to the convenience of not losing all your worldly possessions in a fire several times over. At what point does “Holy fucking shit this is potentially life-destroying!!!” become differentiated from “convenience?” Why would destroying a wad of unthinking cells for the “convenience” of not incurring these costs not be ok? 
And even if it was just a matter of convenience, why wouldn’t it be ok then? Potential? That argument sucks. God? That argument also sucks.

Not even worth a comment. Just depraved.

You do not get to dictate what other people do with their bodies unless you’re protecting a conscious being from harm. Often, it doesn’t even matter that the life form is conscious (this is why you can kill mice).

Killing unconscious human beings, or even insufficiently conscious human beings, is fine with Eberhard. It's like killing mice.

Look, lots of things are alive that we do not give the first damn about. Even human life has varying values (if you doubt this, imagine you had to direct a missile to either a kindergarten or a prison).
That is precisely the difference between the pro-life view and the pro-abortion view on the sanctity of life. In the pro-life view, slaughtering prisoners is every bit as immoral as slaughtering children.

It is immoral to kill human beings. Period.
I admit that a zygote has some worth (I think dandelions do too), but I think that worth is obviously negligible. And if you’re going to suggest that the value of those unthinking, unfeeling cells is worth more than that of the conscious mother who has memories, a life she has built, love, and the ability to suffer the loss of all of it, as well as the ability to feel resentment at being forced to raise an unwanted child, you need to get a new definition of “twisted.”
The mother and the child have exactly the same "value". Both have an inviolable right to life. Both lack the right to kill others.

You know what I hate? I hate that there are some people who think they have enough ownership over someone else’s life to dictate that they bear a child. And I hate the religion that hands them that privilege as though it’s god’s will.

The basis for a lawful society is protection of innocent life. No one has a right to kill.

Eberhard expresses the depravity of the pro-abortion movement with uncommon clarity. 


  1. Just so we're clear Egnor, given the choice between flushing a human zygote through the toilet and shooting your dog, you'd shoot your dog every time, right?

  2. Pro-deathers always want to have debates about zygotes and never about fully formed children tugged screaming from the womb and thrown onto a heap. Some of those survive. Most don't. All are alive. The zygote stage lasts all of about four days. A woman does not even know she's pregnant for about two weeks.


    1. Trish,

      I'm quite happy to have a debate about the ethics of abortion. I'm pro-choice, not pro-abortion. I think a woman has the right to decide what happens to her body. The Supreme Court, in Roe versus Wade, decided that a woman's right to choice ceases at the time of fetal viability, which at the time might have been at 28 weeks. But they left the regulation to the states.

      I'd personally put the date at which a woman loses her right to choose to the time at which the fetus has developed a nervous system capable of feeling pain - at around 24 weeks, and to be conservative, move the date forward to 20 weeks.

      But abortion should be available as a backup. And women should have the right to elective abortions in cases of major irremediable fetal abnormalities such as trisomy 21 and spina bifida. But not in cases of remedial abnormalities such as cleft palate.

      The right - voluntary - not compulsory.
      This is also the date that many American states have opted for. It's also the date my home state, Western Australia has legislated.

      A fertilized human ovum is human, but not a human being. Even the electors of a conservative American state, Mississippi, in a referendum rejected the proposition that personhood begins at conception.

      Abortion shouldn't be encouraged. It's a surgical procedure with some risks. It should also be rare. All women should have ready access to affordable contraceptives and all children should have comprehensive sex education in schools.

    2. Trish,
      Succinctly stated and absolutely accurate observation.

      The 'right' (an abuse of the word, anyway) is not as important as the wrong.
      A right is something that may self actuate. You and I have the right to speak my mind, for example. We can think, and we can speak - thus we have the right to speak our thoughts. We have the right to life also. The process has begun, and we are alive - so, we have the right to finish our lives. A woman is not born with an abortion option built into her physiology or even (naturally) in her mind. There is not abortion button next to her navel any more than she is born with an automobile. Is it her 'right' to drive a 4x4?
      Elective abortion is a horrible privilege of the profane.
      The real question is: Should we allow such selfish and evil privilege in our countries. The answer, obviously, is NO.

    3. CrusadeRex,

      The answer, obviously, is YES, with limits. I'm pleased to see that you are willing to give a woman, even if only in theory, the right to drive a 4x 4 (why your obsession with 4-wheel drive vehicles?). Of course she has the right to drive, provided she's qualified, has a driver's license, isn't intoxicated or under the influence of other drugs, isn't sleep deprived etc. she has rights, but they're limited, just like yours and mine.

  3. Any excuse to offer up the blood of innocents.
    I would like to say it never ceases to amaze me - but in reality the argument made is as predictable as the decay of flesh.
    Typical that the author compares the killing of animals with that of a human being. "I can kill my lab animals with impunity and to satiate my own needs, why not your kids? Or YOU?"
    Typical that they mention expense ($$-their master's favourite toy).
    Typical that Christianity (and by extension Christ) are attacked.

    God forgive me, but I cannot wait for the day these people are called to answer for their sins against creation and mankind. I should not revel in the downfall of even the wicked, but I cannot help but look forward to the day when the people involved in promoting and actuating this mass slaughter of humans are brought to justice.

    1. “I cannot help but look forward to the day when the people involved in promoting and actuating this mass slaughter of humans are brought to justice.”

      The Christian desire to see their god torture those they disagree with is sick, but certainly not uncommon. From accepting the punishment of children for the sins of their ancestors, to allowing an innocent man suffer punishment in their place, so much of basic Christianity is rotten to the core it’s no wonder someone can consider themselves a good Christian yet lust for the divine torture of their fellow man.


  4. CrusadeRex,

    Where did you get your quote 'I can kill my lab animals with impunity and to satiate my needs, why not your kids? Or YOU?'

    I can't find anyone actually using those words. Eberhard does write that it's OK to kill mice, but I think you'll find that experimentation on lab animals is controlled, and there's no impunity anymore.

    There's no God, no afterlife, no Judgement Day, so you'll have to find some other tactic.

    1. so you'll have to find some other tactic.

      Don't give him any ideas, bachfiend. The self-styled crusader seems crazy enough to resort to some military-style tactics.

    2. bachfiend: "There's no God, no afterlife, no Judgement Day..."

      How can you be so sure of this? And what if you're wrong? And, if you are wrong, don't you think it's the biggest gamble one can take?

    3. Pepe,

      Pascal's wager is just silly.

    4. Pépé,
      Good to hear from you.
      Hope all is well.

  5. It's just the Olde Argument between Blackstone and Bentham, rights vs utilitarianism. Bentham was the founder of legal theory based on "suffering".

    "Blackstone adopted an essentially classical liberal view of the state. 'Bentham's blind spot about the problem of social order is of a piece with his enthusiasm for social planning. He worried about all monopolies except the most dangerous, the monopoly of political power.'"
    R. Posner, U Chicago School of Law (1976)

  6. "Any human being who dies unaware of the fact that they are dying "cannot suffer
    their own loss".

    On atheism/materialism, any formerly alive human being who has died is unaware of the fact that he has died, and thus, cannot "suffer his own loss".

    Therefore, when any human being successfully kills another human being, it is "immoral" to punish him for the so-called murder.