An embryo being small does not justify killing it
Welcome, friends, to the Case for Life podcast. I’m Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute. And I’m here to help you think more clearly about your pro life views. That’s what we aim for on this show. And uh, be sure to visit our, our social media sites. Uh, you can also visit a Life Training Institute at prolifetraining.
com, but take a look there. We’ve got resources, past shows you can log into and view and find helpful content for your pro life activism. I want to talk today about something that’s come up recently that I’ve heard and It has me scratching my head a bit. We have used for years, as pro lifers, a helpful acronym that was first put forward by a guy by the name of Stephen Schwartz.
He’s a philosophy professor at the University of Rhode Island and he wrote a very helpful book called, uh, The Moral Question of Abortion. And what, what Schwartz did is he said, you know, one way to simplify The difference between a performance view of human value and an endowment view of human value, I’ll get to that in a minute, is to use a helpful acronym that the guy on the street, who’s not equipped with academic accolades, can use and understand to see why the pro life view does a better job accounting for human equality and human value.
And what he did is he said, if you look at the differences between an embryo, and an adult or a newborn or a toddler, you will notice that the four main differences people cite between that embryo and that adult as a justification for killing the embryo, none of them on close examination work as a matter of principle for saying it’s okay to kill that embryo.
And he came up with this helpful objection based on those four differences I just mentioned. Size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. So if you think of the acronym SLED, you can remember these four differences. And what Schwartz said was this. If you look at the differences between the embryo that you once were and the adult you are today, the differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons to say it was okay or morally permissible to kill you then, but not now.
And lately, Uh, and by the way, we’ve used this for years, and it’s been very helpful. In fact, it’s the thing we get the most comment on from people saying, that is really a helpful tool for me to explain why all these performance views of human value don’t work. And by performance value, what I mean is, the idea that we’re not intrinsically valuable as human beings.
Rather, we only have value and a right to life when we can immediately exercise, uh, certain functions. And this comes from thinkers like Michael Thule in his essay, on defense of abortion and infanticide. It comes from guys like Jeff McMahon in his book, The Ethics of Killing. It also comes from people like Peter Singer in his book, Practical Ethics.
Uh, and even in some cases, modern thinkers like Kate Griesley and her. defense of abortion. These arguments, though, are largely restricted to academia. However, they filter down to people on the street, and your average guy in the street is not going to understand, much less follow, uh, an argument, a 10 minute or 20 minute a refutation of Kate Griesley’s range personhood argument or Michael Tooley’s defense of infanticide.
They’re too busy on their phone. They’re too distracted. You’ve got to have something that quickly points out the deficiencies with a performance view that says you only have value and a right to life. when you can exercise certain functions and do so immediately. And the SLED acronym is a very helpful tool for doing that.
And sadly, there are some pro lifers out there spreading this idea that it’s not a helpful tool. In fact, they say it’s counterproductive, maybe even harmful to our case. I don’t understand that thinking at all, but what they generally are saying is this. It persuades
everybody. In fact, even the science we present, there are people who now reject it based on their woke worldview. They say, well, science and logic, that’s just a tool of oppression used by whites to oppress minorities. It’s a way for them to impress their views on society and use hegemonic power to basically press minorities to having a viewpoint that no one listens to.
Well, we’re not going to give up our science because there are people who disagree with it. The question is, is there anything intrinsically illogical about using the SLED acronym? And the answer is no, and it does persuade a lot of people. So I think it’s still a helpful tool, and I want to take a few sessions to go over it.
Keep in mind, we are not saying using the SLED acronym is a slam dunk argument that just ends the debate and everybody who disagrees with us. goes home now hanging their heads in shame. We’ve never made that claim. That’s not why we use it. We use it to simply quickly and clearly illustrate that the differences between you the embryo and you the adult are not good reasons for saying we could kill you then but not now.
That’s the only reason we use it and we don’t make any other advanced claims for it. It’s just a helpful way. to show it doesn’t work. And by the way, as I’ll show you in a minute, this whole SLED acronym follows in the way that Lincoln would defend his case against slavery. He would show that there was no essential difference between the black man and the white man that would justify enslaving the dark man.
And I’ll give you a quote from Lincoln shortly that shows that. It’s the same idea. We’re using Lincoln’s model of reasoning. of showing there’s no essential difference between this group of humans over here and this group that you happen to belong to that would justify you victimizing that group. And that’s what the SLED acronym is designed to do.
So if you look at the SLED acronym, again, what we are arguing is when it comes to our philosophic defense of the pro life view. We are arguing there’s no essential difference, meaning a difference that justifies killing you between the embryo you were and the adult you are today, that the differences that exist are superficial.
They’re accidental. They have nothing to do with your nature as a human being or your value. And the first letter size or first. category size. Of course, the acronym SLED, S L E D, S is our first letter, is designed to show that as a matter of principle, your body size does not determine value. Now, this is important.
You may think, well, who makes that argument? I’ll tell you who makes it, even senators on the floor of the U. S. Senate. A few years ago, defending embryonic stem cell research, Senator Tom Harkin from Arkansas held up what looked like a blank piece of white paper. And he pointed to the middle of that white piece of paper and he said, see that?
And of course nobody could see what he was pointing to because it looked just like a, uh, a blank paper. And people said, no, we don’t see anything. And he said, exactly. He said, well, what’s on that paper is a small dot and that’s how big an embryo is. And we’re sitting here on this floor worried about a small dot, eliminating a small dot that has potential for vast medical research for us and would benefit us in ways we can hardly imagine.
And there are people on the floor of this chamber worried about something the size of a dot and they won’t vote to fund research on that dot that could provide cures for millions of Americans. Now what he was getting at there was the whole idea that if we can kill embryos for research, we can then take the stem cells from those, those embryos that have been killed and use them to, uh, create cures for people allegedly with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, all kinds of things they said that embryonic stem cell research would cure, which now we know it won’t.
Empirically, we now know this was all bogus. We knew it then, too, but the press has finally caught on. The thing is, though, his argument for destroying embryos came down to this. They’re too small. They don’t count because they’re too small. Now, my question is this, and this is what pro lifers should do.
Typically, what pro lifers do is they say, well, They pull out their fetal models and say, Look, by week eight, it looks like this. It’s not a dot. It already looks like this. That’s the wrong way to go. You just bought the premise that body size determines value. Don’t do that. Challenge the premise. Ask, how big do I have to be not to be intentionally killed?
That’s the question our critics need to answer. Or if you want to put it more broadly, how does body size determine value and a right to life? That’s the question our critics need to answer. So instead of buying their premise, push back on it, and the SLED acronym helps you do that. So S stands for Size.
You are smaller as an embryo. And you know what your answer should be when critics say, Oh, you are the size of a dot. Why are you worried about that? Embryo the size of a dot? It doesn’t have a right to life. I really want you to put your snark face on at this point. Don’t be mean, but be a little bit snarky and say, So?
How does body size determine value? For example, Shaquille, Shaquille O’Neal, the former basketball star with the LA Lakers, is a foot taller than everybody listening to this podcast right now. He is big. His body mass outweighs mine astronomically. I mean, I’m, I’m a dweeb compared to Shaq. All right. But does body size mean that he has a greater right to life than me simply because he’s bigger?
Again, push the debate back to the principles that are involved here. How does body size determine value? Make your critic defend that and don’t back away until they They answer the question how body size determines what your right to life is or what your value is as a human being. Make them do the hard work of explaining why body size matters.
And this again is where the SLED acronym can be very helpful. It forces people to look at the underlying principles being advanced. I mentioned Abraham Lincoln earlier. This is exactly the tactic that Abraham Lincoln took when he would debate Proponents of slavery. Um, proponents of slavery would say that black man doesn’t look like us.
And Lincoln would basically say so, I think he was even snarky when he said it, so Be careful with that line of reasoning because the principle you’re advancing will end up enslaving you. And to quote Lincoln almost word for word, here’s how Lincoln would reply when his critics would say, oh, that black man is different than us.
Lincoln would say, so? Yeah, he’s different, but that’s not the question. The question is, is he different in ways that justify enslaving him? That’s the issue. Merely pointing out the differences doesn’t do the hard work you need it to do. So Lincoln would respond as follows. Quote, you say man A is white, man B is dark, the fair skinned man has the right to enslave the dark skinned man?
Take care. By that rule, you’re a slave to the first person you meet with skin fairer than your own. You say it’s not skin color, it’s intellect. The white man you allege has superior intellect to the dark man? Take care again. By that rule, you’re a slave. to the first person you meet with an intellect superior to yours.
I think you can see what Lincoln was doing here. The very arguments that were being advanced by proponents of slavery to justify enslaving the dark man worked equally well to enslave a whole lot of whites. And in the same way, the minute you start advancing these These arbitrarily selected traits that people who support abortion love to advance, the minute you start advancing something like size or level of development or environment where you’re located or your degree of dependency, you’re not going to be able to limit the killing to your assigned victim class.
You’re going to end up spilling out of those borders and justifying killing people you don’t want to. to kill. And that’s the problem with all of this. And the SLED acronym is a quick and easy way to illustrate how using these performance, uh, standards to judge human value don’t work. And that’s why I defend using it and think it’s still very useful and helpful and logically consistent to use.
So the first letter, S, size, is to show that the size of the embryo does not matter is a matter of principle. How big you are does not determine how valuable you are. Our opponents want to make that case, but they’re going to have to make it. Merely citing a difference isn’t going to work. Next time we’ll look at another letter in this acronym, SLED, Level of Development, and that one is, boy, that tends to be where all the action is, and I’ll explain why that one, too, can be helpful in showing that a performance worldview is not adequate to defend or justify the pro abortion view that one class of human beings can be set aside to be killed, while this class over here can’t be.
We’ll look at that next time. Again, visit us on our social media sites and I’ll see you then.