Burning research labs do not refute the pro-life argument
The question of who we ought to save is distinct from the question of who we get to intentionally kill.
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 Hello friends. Welcome to the case for life podcast. I’m your host, Scott Klusendorf. I serve as president of life training Institute. Some call us LTI, either way is fine, but life training Institute is the prime sponsor of this show and makes the content available to you each week. And I appreciate what they are doing for us.

I’m honored to serve as their president, but I wanted to let you know if you would like to sponsor this podcast, we’d be happy to have your help. And that will allow us to grow the reach, or grow the reach of this podcast to reach others that need pro life training. So if you’re interested, drop me a message on our social media sites.

Or at the Life Training Institute website@prolifetraining.com. Let me know if you’d like to be a sponsor. We would be glad to partner with you. I was thinking this week about a lot of the comments we’ve seen on this podcast that show up on our social media, uh, spots. And as I’ve told you in previous episodes, almost none of them.

are substantial. In other words, they’re not engaging the pro life argument at all. They’re just ad hominem attacks like, you hate women, you need to go die, I hope you burn in hell, things like that. And the most common ones we get have to do along those lines. But there is one out there that’s been circulating for about half a decade now that I want to take a few minutes to talk about.

That actually attempts to be serious. I don’t think it is at the end of the day, but you’re going to hear it if you haven’t heard it already. And it goes like this. Oh yeah? You say abortion is wrong? Even you don’t believe abortion is wrong and I can prove it to you. Here’s how I can prove it to you.

Imagine you are in a burning research lab. A fertility clinic. And in this corner over here, There are a thousand frozen embryos. In that corner over there is a six year old girl. You only have time to save either the embryos or the six year old. There is not time to save both. Which are you going to save?

And of course, everybody watching this right now, including myself, we’re going to go for the, the six year old, not the embryos over here. Why is that? Well, the pro abortion response is to say, see, even you don’t think abortion is wrong, because if you did, you would think about saving the embryos, but you don’t.

You immediately go for the six year old girl. There goes your whole, case that abortion is wrong. Now, the comedian that put this forward, a guy named Christopher Tomlinson, claimed it was his illustration. In fact, it was not. It’s been around for 45 years. Ellen Goodman used it a number of decades ago. Dean Stratton used it more recently.

It’s been in the literature related to the abortion topic for over four decades. But this particular comedian has very arrogantly broadcast to the world that he is a knockdown argument against our position. And so the question is, does he? Well, I’m going to suggest to you, he most certainly does not. And let’s examine why.

First of all, let’s go back to our syllogism. It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Abortion does that, therefore it’s wrong. Could that syllogism still be valid and sound? In other words, still a good argument. even if pro lifers don’t behave according to their principles? And of course the answer is yes.

So that argument is not defeated by saying, well, look at you, you’re inconsistent. You saved the six year old, not the thousand embryos. But let me ask another question. How does it follow that because I save one human over others that the ones left behind are not fully human? Suppose, for example, all of us involved in this podcast right now were in a burning warehouse facility somewhere.

And let’s say I had a choice of saving all of you, my dear listeners, or my daughter, Emily Rose. Who is going to burn? That’s right, you will. I’m not going to shoot you on the way out attempting to rescue her, but I’m going to save her first. Does it follow you’re less human than she is because I save her first?

Moreover, think about the Secret Service. The Secret Service will take a bullet for the president, but the Secret Service will not take a bullet for you. In fact, the Secret Service will save the president one man over a city of six million people. They will save the president not because he’s more human, but because his loss to the nation is catastrophic.

Therefore, they save him first. It has no bearing on the humanity of those left behind. The same is true with the frozen embryos. Their chance of survival is less than that of the six year old girl. This is a medical triage decision here, and the six year old has a much greater chance at survival. So we save her first.

It does not mean the embryos are less than fully human. But let me get to what is the core problem with the whole analogy, and it is this. The analogy, if it works at all, is about who we ought to save. The abortion issue is not about who we save. It’s about who do we get to intentionally kill. There’s a total mismatch here.

You cannot go from a question of who ought we save to who’s who we get to intentionally kill. Like I said a moment ago, I will save my daughter first. But I’m not going to shoot you on the way out. I may have a right to save my daughter first. I don’t have a right to kill people who are in the way. And this is where the analogy just goes utterly bankrupt.

I might also add that it’s true we all have an equal right to life. The embryos and the six year old. The six million citizens and the president. They all have an equal right to life. However, We do not all have an equal right to be rescued. Parents, for example, have primary responsibilities to their own children they don’t have to others.

Again, this is not a reflection on humanity, it’s a reflection on who gets primacy in the right to be rescued. And in this case, it’s The six year old has primacy over the embryos because she is more likely to survive the rescue and her capacity to suffer is worse. That doesn’t mean a humanity judgment has been made.

We are making a rescue decision. And that leads to a final thing I want to point about this. This analogy does not settle our intuitions the way that pro abortionists hope that it will. Let me tweak it just a bit and you’ll see what I mean. Pretend that instead of a thousand frozen embryos and a six year old girl, instead of the frozen embryos, it’s a hundred cancer patients in the final hours of their lives.

of life. They are now irreversibly unconscious. They don’t feel anything. They are dying from their underlying illness, in this case, cancer. And let’s say there’s a fire in the building, and we can save either the hundred cancer patients or, over here, a thousand embryos. Let’s make it even more interesting.

They’re your embryos. Now do our intuitions shift a bit? Yeah, they do. And here’s why. We can’t save the 100 cancer patients. They are dying from their underlying illness. The better chance of survival is with the embryos, who we might get at least a few of them out and transferred into an environment where they can survive and thrive and maybe later be born through a surrogate.

But the cancer patients, we can’t save. So we save the group more, most likely. to survive. In this case it’s the embryos. Are we making a value judgment on the cancer patients saying they aren’t human and valuable? No. We are making a rescue decision that the embryos have greater weight for their rescue than the cancer patients do for theirs.

That’s all this analogy proves. It only proves, if anything, Who we ought to save, not who is and is not a human being, or who we get to intentionally kill. And that’s why this analogy is off the rails from the start. You cannot jump from, we have a right to save some people over others, to we can intentionally kill those we leave behind.

And that’s what this analogy is getting at, and it doesn’t work, and pro lifers shouldn’t follow for it. That’s all for now. Look forward to seeing you next time. Again, if you’d like to be a sponsor of this show, we would love to have your partnership. Be sure to reach out to us and we’ll see if we can’t work something out.

Till next time. I’ll see you then.