Street Level Foolishness
Do not under any circumstances let someone badger you into believing they have refuted your argument when all they’ve done is call you a name or otherwise ridicule you.
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 Hello friends, Scott Klusendorf here, president of Life Training Institute, and we are thrilled that LTI is one of our primary sponsors for this show. In fact, they are doing the lion’s share of the effort to get this out to you. We’re grateful for their help, and I’m delighted to serve as their president.

If you’ve never visited the LTI website, be sure to go to prolifetraining. com. And while you’re at it, be sure to visit our social media sites, scottklusendorf. com for example, there you will find our latest pro life training course available there called Making the Case for Life, I encourage you to sign up for that self paced study course.

It will equip you with the tools you need to master the pro life position. You know, one of the things we teach in that course, and everywhere we speak at LTI, is the fact that when you look at the ways people object to the pro life position, the kinds of criticisms they level at it, it is not necessary to memorize everything.

Every single objection you’ll get hit with because the truth is virtually every objection you’ll ever hear on the pro life uh issue From critics who don’t agree with us Will fall into one of five bad ways people argue and we’ve talked about this on the show already But yesterday I did something I normally don’t do.

I waded into a Facebook thread where some critics of the Pro Life View, really some pretty rabid pro abortionists, jumped on a page where we were advertising our new course and they decided to post their comments. And it was interesting to look at these comments and I decided to just wade in and see what they would do in response to my request.

Uh, rejoinder to their claims. And I’m just gonna walk you through some of these. And just to remind you, the five bad ways people argue are, number one, they assume rather than argue, meaning they assume the unborn aren’t human. Number two, they attack rather than argue. They don’t refute your argument. They attack your character.

They attack your character by saying things like, well, you don’t live out what you say, or You’re not really pro-life, or. a myriad of other things. But simple enough, they attack you rather than the argument. Third bad thing they do, they just make assertions. They don’t make arguments. They just make claims with no support, no evidence.

And then fourthly, they love to confuse functioning as a human with being a human. In other words, they assert all these characteristics that you have to have to count as a person with a right to life, but they never give you an argument for why those things are value giving in the first place. And then also, fifthly, they hide behind hard cases.

They bring up things like rape, Uh, life of the mother, whatever, but their real position is that abortion should be legal for any reason. Not just those things. So they’re hiding behind the hard case to disguise what they truly believe, which is a very radical position, that abortion should be legal for any reason or no reason through all nine months of pregnancy.

So i’m going to just kind of wade through some of what came out yesterday and give you examples of these five bad ways so you can kind of see for yourself how these come up. So the conversation started by a guy jumping on there, and I don’t need to name these people here, but I’ll just give a first name, a guy named Tom.

who basically jumped on the form and said, you’re not pro life, you’re basically just forced birth because you don’t take responsibility for the subsequent 18 years. In other words, you only care about kids in the womb, you don’t give a rip about them once they’re born. Now let’s stop for a moment and pretend that were true.

Now it’s not. Pro lifers do care and there’s plenty of evidence for that. We won’t get into that now, but let’s just say he’s right. We are heartless pro lifers who only care about forcing kids to be born and then we don’t care about them at all. If that were true, how would it refute our pro life argument that it’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings?

Abortion does that. Therefore it’s wrong. That argument stands or falls on its merits, not the behavior of pro lifers. Now again, pro lifers do care, but set that aside for a moment. Tom here does nothing to engage the pro life argument I gave him. I actually laid out my syllogism for him, and his response was to simply say, Oh, you want to either assassinate doctors or you want to force people to give birth.

Let’s say I’m the worst person in the world. I don’t give a rip about kids once they’re born. I’m that bad. Now it’s not true, lovable me, but suppose it were true. Can bad people still make good arguments? And of course the answer is yes. If Joseph Stalin argues that that gravity is real, and it corresponds to reality that gravity is real, he’s making a good argument.

And that good argument stands or falls apart from his dreadful and lamentable behavior. So this does nothing to refute the pro life cause. Then, after I point that out, the next comment we get is that all your premises are wrong. A blastocyst is not a baby, a zygote is an embryo, not a baby, and a fetus is not a baby.

Therefore, the rest of your claim is invalid. All right, well, let’s stop for a moment. We don’t argue as pro lifers that abortion is wrong because it kills babies. Our argument is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being regardless his or her stage of development. And the fact that they’re not babies is irrelevant.

All you’re basically telling me is you That a fetus is not at the stage of development, it one day will be after it’s born. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a right to life. And that doesn’t mean it’s not a human being. It just means it’s not yet at the developmental stage of a baby.

Now, after I pointed that out, here’s what we heard. Um, after I pointed out that they were humans, even if they weren’t babies, the response was, uh, a caterpillar. is not a butterfly. Okay, that’s true, but a caterpillar is the same species as the butterfly it will become. Caterpillar is simply one stage of development in the same enduring identical living entity that becomes the butterfly.

All they’re really saying in this objection is That a fetus is not an adult, an infant is not an adult, or a teenager. Well, yeah, because they’re at a different stage of development, but it’s the same species through all of it. This is really a weak assertion, but here it is. Um, he then goes on to assert that bodily autonomy is what is in play here, and that a woman who is wanting an abortion is going to be like a person who is like a fox caught in a trap, and they’re going to claw their way up to get that abortion no matter what the law says, no matter what, and it’s violence to women to infringe on their bodily autonomy.

Now, the big problem here is this. Bodily autonomy Abortion cannot get you from you have a right to withhold support to another person to you may intentionally slit their throat in the name of withholding support. Abortion is much more than merely withholding support. It’s intentionally killing an innocent human being through dismemberment, poisoning, burning, whatever.

In fact, even pro abortion author Kate Griesley, who argues for abortion in other ways, says that the entire bodily rights argument falls apart because you simply cannot leap in your logic from you have a right to withhold support to you get to intentionally kill those that need your support. And she’s quite right about that, though I disagree with her on other points.

I think Frank Beckwith puts this real well. He says calling abortion merely the withholding of support is like suffocating someone with a pillow and calling it the withdrawing of oxygen. There’s a whole lot more going on here than merely withholding support. You’re intentionally killing another human being.

Um, he then brings back up tadpoles are not frogs and butterflies are not caterpillars. He just reiterates this whole thing again and claims this. A fertilized egg is not a chicken. Okay. Well, let’s back up for a moment here. Again, we’ve already dealt with this. It is not a chicken in the sense that you have a grown rooster or something like that, but it’s the same species, the same being, it’s just that through that developmental change, it’s appearance changes.

changes. It does not mean you have a different entity at the beginning of life that changes to something ontologically different as it grows and changes its outward form. Tadpoles and frogs are the same species, but And that tadpole is the same being it is when it becomes a frog when it’s a tadpole. It just changes its outward appearance.

But its essential nature remains the same. The frog and the tadpole are identical creatures. It’s the same living being, So I asked him if he had an embryology source for his claim that embryos are of a different species than the parents that produce them. He didn’t give one at all. In fact, he only responded this way, Well, miscarriage happens.

Okay, that was his assertion in response. Well, we’ll see. How about miscarriage? Yeah, it’s true. Up to a third of all pregnancies spontaneously abort. But here’s the question that, that Tom didn’t answer. How does it follow that because nature spontaneously triggers a miscarriage, that A, the embryos in question are not fully or B, we may intentionally kill them.

I mean, earthquakes happen in third world countries. Does that justify mass murder? Not at all. In fact, in some countries where these earthquakes happen, earthquakes happen, hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives. That does not justify a mass shooting. And Tom does nothing to explain how his His claim that natural miscarriage happens means you can intentionally kill someone else.

It doesn’t follow at all. He then went on to say, which I found quite surprising, uh, he said that he used the word potential to describe the unborn. This, this is a typical thing people love to assert. They love to assert, not argue, that there’s a difference between a potential human being and an actual human being.

And some of this takes on a more sophisticated claim, like people like Michael Tooley argue this way. Tom didn’t go to that sophisticated level. I don’t think he’s read Michael Tooley. But let’s go ahead and deal with the strongest version of this claim, that there can be such a thing as a potential human being.

versus an actual one. What Thule argues, and it is kind of interesting though I’m not persuaded by it, Thule argues that only actual persons have a right to life and only actual persons count as people with a rational nature and to have a right to life you have, you have to have a rational nature. He says that fetuses, embryos, newborns, and perhaps even early toddlers, do not have a rational nature.

Therefore, they are not persons with a right to life. But I think this confuses some things. Now, to back up just a little, Thule tries to illustrate his point this way. He says, imagine that we had a kitten serum that we could inject a kitten with that would change the kitten from a cat to a human. to a rational being.

Thule then asks an interesting question. Would you be obligated to give the cat the injection? And Thule says, well, obviously, no, you would not be. Then Thule goes to this point. He says, well, if it’s not wrong to refrain from giving the cat the, the injection that makes it rational, it’s not wrong to to interrupt that process of turning that potential rational agent into an actual one, and he argues that abortion and infanticide are acceptable examples of stopping a non rational potential human from becoming an actual rational agent.

Well, here’s the problem with that analogy. For the kitten to become a rational being, you must act on it externally. You must inject it with something from the outside that literally changes the nature of the cat from one thing to another. The cat changes from a non rational entity to becoming a rational one.

But is that true of the unborn? Or the fetus, the newborn. No, not at all. Why? Because fetus, newborn, embryo, zygote, all from the very beginning have the internal nature that allows it to become a rational being. Fetuses and newborns are not rational simply because of their age. A cat is not rational because it’s not in its nature to be rational.

So Thule is basically confusing what we call intrinsic. nature and potential with external potential. The unborn has the internal nature that allows it to give rise to a rational being, while the cat does not. You’ve got to act on it externally. So I think that whole analogy falls apart. I mean, think of it this way.

Do we think that sex organs are only potential sex organs? if they’re never used as the way they’re intended. Suppose somebody grows up and they never reproduce, they never have kids, they never get married, never have any kind of sexual encounters. Are their sex organs still actual sex organs even though they never function that way?

And of course the answer is yes, they are actual sex organs. Their ability to be called actual sex organs has nothing to do with their immediately exercisable capabilities. Put another way, a dog that can’t bark is still a dog by nature, even if it never functions by barking. Same idea here with the unborn and the newborn.

All right, Tom then goes on. to talk about, uh, well, human parents can in fact, I’m summarizing him here. Human parents can in fact produce offspring that is not human, because that’s the question I put to him. I said, Tom, how is it possible for two human parents to create offspring that isn’t human? But later become so and his answer was to reiterate the butterfly tadpole claim Uh, but this clearly will not do you’ve got to do better than just reiterate the claim He just keeps asserting this but he doesn’t argue for it.

It is a a sticky question for people who support abortion and who deny the humanity of the unborn. How is it possible for two human parents to create offspring that isn’t human, but later become so? They need to argue for that, and Tom clearly has not done that yet. Here. Um, he then uses the term that the unborn are just fertilized eggs.

Now, this is a misnomer. It comes up a lot on TV, in popular exchanges on abortion. Here’s what anybody who studies embryology understands. The term fertilized egg is a misnomer and here’s why. Sperm and egg cease to exist at conception. They both die, essentially, and surrender their constituents into the makeup of a new entity, the embryo or new living zygote, if you prefer that term.

In other words, sperm and egg cease to exist. So calling the unborn merely a fertilized egg is actually scientifically inaccurate and pro lifers ought to make sure that they, uh, clarify that for our critics. Tom then goes on to basically say that I am very selective on how I apply the so called right to life.

He’s back to asserting that this debate is really not about the argument but about me personally. Well again, suppose I am selective. Suppose I say only fetuses have a right to life and no one else. Not my position, but say it were. Could my syllogism that it’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings, abortion does that, therefore it’s wrong, still be valid and sound even if that were my belief?

And of course the answer is yes because my argument stands or falls apart from me, who makes the argument. And this in today’s world, I just want to let all of you know, in today’s world, almost never, except in academic circles, do you get people willing to engage the crux of this debate, which is, who are you?

Do the unborn qualify as one of us? Are they members of the human family? Instead of answering that question and dealing with it intelligently and fairly, they just turn their attention on you and make everything about you. But again, bad people can make good arguments. Even if you were the worst person in the world, you could still be making a good argument.

He then goes on to argue the unborn do not. Have an inherent right to life. He asserts this rather than argues this. And the question I asked him is. Where does the right to an abortion come from? Where does that right come from? Now, here’s the problem for Tom and others. If the right to an abortion comes from the state, what is often stated, the Supreme Court, because of Roe v.

Wade, uh, if The right to an abortion comes from the Supreme Court or the government. The same government or court that grants a right to an abortion can rescind it, can take it away. And what we usually find when we point this out to pro abortion advocates is they’ll say, The unborn have a fundamental right.

Or, excuse me, women have a fundamental right to an abortion. All right, well, where does that come from? There’s only one answer left to you. A source that is pre political that transcends government. In other words, they’re going to have to argue that women have a natural right to an abortion in virtue of their humanity that transcends anything government might say.

Okay, fair enough. But wouldn’t the unborn have that same right to life that the woman has in virtue of their humanity? You either believe that each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t. And the way we like to explain this is that there is a difference between rights that the state grants you and rights that you have in virtue of your humanity.

If your rights are predicated upon what the state says, The same state that grants you those rights can, of course, take them away, which leaves you on a very insecure foundation for your right to life. What we argue as pro lifers, in response to the assertion that the unborn have no intrinsic or inherent value, is that the unborn have a natural right to life in virtue of the kind of thing that they are.

And I like to explain it this way. When I travel to England, which I do usually a couple times a year, or I try to, um, I do not have a right to vote in their next election, their next parliamentary election, which will be coming up here in this year or the next year. And why is that? Well, the answer is pretty obvious.

I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom. I am simply a tourist visiting that nation. That does not give me a right to vote there. However, just because I don’t have a right to vote in the next United Kingdom election does not mean I lack the right not to be gunned down in the middle of Trafalgar Square when I visit London.

My right not to be gunned down is a right that is a natural right I have in virtue of my humanity. It has nothing to do with whether or not I am a citizen who’s been declared legally lawful to vote in that country. My right to life transcends what the government says, and a lot of people like Tom seem to miss this when they claim The unborn don’t have an inherent right to life.

Well, yes, they do if they are human beings. But again, Tom doesn’t seem to want to argue that they’re not. He wants to keep coming back to this question of me. So I decided to call his bluff because one of the things he said here was, that he doesn’t believe pro lifers care about life in other contexts.

All right. So I thought, all right, let’s, let’s see where he’s really at with this. So here’s what I said, Tom. If pro lifers take on every social ill under the sun, we pledge ourselves to fix poverty. We fed, we pledge ourselves to to fix immigration. We pledge ourselves to help refugees. We do everything you demand we do.

Will you join us in opposing abortion? And of course, you can guess the answer. He ignored the question because the question exposed him. If it’s really true, then we’re that the problem here is the behavior of pro lifers. If we fix that behavior, will you now agree with pro lifers that it’s wrong to kill the unborn?

And of course he didn’t not, did not want to take the bait on that, and I understand why. This is what we get. So how did this conversation end? Well, it basically ended with him just coming back and saying, You remain very selective about who you want to say has a right to life. And again, if you take nothing else away from this particular episode, take this away.

We’ve said it before, but you need to memorize it. Your pro life argument stands or falls on its merits, not you, the person making it. It doesn’t matter if I’m selective. Tom needed to answer my argument if he was going to be successful. in arguing for the right to kill the unborn, and he nowhere engages that syllogism.

Now I want to address for a moment this whole idea that pro lifers don’t care. There was an excellent piece put out at Public Discourse a number of years ago by Helen Avari and Ryan Anderson and a few others called The Lazy Slander of the Pro Life Cause. And in that article, which we’ll link to in the show notes, In that article, the authors point out that pro life conservatives give more to charity, donate more of their time to charity, operate crisis pregnancy centers on their own budgets without government funding, and do way more than their liberal counterparts.

In fact, they cite sources where even some people at the New York Times, the editorial team, has admitted that bleeding heart liberals or leftists are very coy with giving to charity. They’re tightwads, as the New York Times called them. So this idea that pro lifers don’t care is simply false on the face of it, and the article we’re going to link to in the show notes will help you respond to that.

But there was one final thing that Tom brought up. He said, listen, you cannot force my daughter, who’s been raped, to bring a child into this world. that she does not want to raise. That’s violence. Notice again the attempt to hide behind the hard case. Tom’s argument is not that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape.

He thinks it should be legal for any reason as a fundamental right. Well he needs to argue for that, not merely assert it. Instead he hides behind the hard cases. He pretends that, oh, you know what, um, my daughter, if she got raped, it would be a crime. to make her carry this pregnancy, therefore abortion is a right that all women should be allowed to exercise.

You can’t get there from that. At best his argument shows that abortion would be okay and morally permissible in cases of sexual assault that result in pregnancy. Again, Frank Beckwith, I think, has a good quote on this. He says, When people say that abortion should be legal for all reasons because we need to allow it in cases of rape, that’s kind of like arguing that we should get rid of all traffic laws because you might have to run a red light rushing a loved one to the hospital.

It simply doesn’t follow that you can throw out the the entirety of the pro life argument because you come up with a hard case and yet people love to hide behind these hard cases. So again, you could always ask Tom, Okay, Tom, not our position, but suppose pro lifers grant that we should allow abortion in cases of rape.

Will you join us then in opposing all other abortions that have nothing to do with rape? I think you can guess Tom’s answer to that. I don’t need to read it to you, but obviously he is not going to go for that. Uh, I think that covers many of the things that he said. He asserted that embryos and fetuses don’t have a right to life.

They’re not self aware. They’re not conscious. They’re not intrinsically or inherently valuable. But again, note that these are assertions he nowhere defends. He’s got to tell us why things like cognitive awareness or self awareness is what gives us a right to life. It’s not enough to just assert these things.

So we’re going to try to make a link available to this thread or somehow illustrate it for you. And I think you’ll see that all five of these bad ways people argue are demonstrated in this thread, which I’ve only jumped through in a cursory fashion here in the interest of time, but you’ll see that you don’t need to memorize every possible objection.

Just slot their objection into one of those five bad ways people argue and you will have a good handle on how you would respond and what you ought to do. We say more about this in the Case for Life course that I commend to you and hope that you will go to our site and, and register for. Self paced study.

You’ll be exposed to these fallacies, but we’re going to go deeper. Honestly, Tom did not go very deep in this thread. We take you a whole lot deeper into the intellectual arguments of the other side. We take a look at Michael Tooley, Peter Singer, Kate Griesley, David Boonen, and give you resources for how you can respond to even the toughest academic challenges that you might face.

What we see here from Tom is largely just street level assertions and And arguments without foundation. His main technique here is to attack the person, not the argument, and then deny that he’s doing that, of course. So this is typical of what you get. And it explains why as pro life advocates, we not only need to be confident and clear on what we believe.

We need to be. We also need to narrate the debate for people. We need to be able to say, can I make an observation? Time out here for a minute. I made an argument that it’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. I noticed you didn’t refute that argument. Instead, what you did is simply call me names.

I may be the world’s worst person, but that isn’t going to address my argument. I concluded with Tom by saying this, Tom, I’m going to I’m an open minded person. I am more committed to the Socratic quest for truth than I am being right in my own argument, though I do think I am right. If you can show me where my argument is unsound, meaning one or more of the premises is false, or you can show me where the argument is invalid, where the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises, I’ll, I’ll adopt your viewpoint.

I’m open minded that way. And I must say it’s somewhat irritating to, to encounter people who come on my page and think they’re making a good argument when all they’re really doing is asserting things without any evidence and attacking the person rather than refuting the actual argument that’s made.

But that’s the discourse of where our public is today. You need to be aware of that and you need to be ready to point it out to people. It’s okay to point out to them their fallacious reasoning. You’re not being mean. You’re keeping the main thing, the main thing. And that’s what we aim to do here at Case for Life and what we do it at Life Training Institute.

And I hope that you’ll visit us online again at prolifetraining. com to visit LTI or one of our sites like scottklusendorf. com where we can help you with the tools you need to engage people like Tom that want to change the subject till next time. I look forward to seeing you then.