Worldviews are clusters of foundational beliefs, glasses through which we see the world. Everyone brings worldview assumptions to the abortion debate.
The dominant worldview contenders are philosophical naturalism, postmodernism, and theism. Naturalism reduces knowledge to the hard sciences and humans to cosmic accidents. Postmodernism says morality and human nature can’t be known objectively because we are trapped behind our own cultural biases. Christian theism grounds morality and human nature in a transcendent creator. Applied to abortion, we’re left with two options:
Human nature is fixed (objective) and so are the natural rights that flow from that nature. – or –
Human nature is not fixed. Rather, it’s socially constructed from place to place.
If human nature is not fixed, the natural rights that flow from that nature are also not fixed.
Three worldview questions drive the abortion debate:
1. Are morals real and knowable?
Moral realism says yes. They are objective, meaning they exist independent of me acknowledging them.
Moral non-realism says no. They are either fictions or socially constructed.
Only moral realism provides an objective foundation for ethics.
Pro-life advocates ground their case in moral realism, the belief that right and wrong are real and knowable. Morals are objective as opposed to subjective. Moral realism fits comfortably in a theistic worldview, but not in one where right and wrong are reduced to brute facts or utility. The evidence for moral realism is seen in:
how we talk about right and wrong — We do so passionately, in ways entirely different from how we discuss likes and dislikes. If morals are not objective, there is no morally correct position on rape, sex-trafficking, and murder.
how we view moral reformers — The very idea of moral progress assumes an objective standard. Without that objective standard, moral understanding can be changed but never improved.
how we view moral errors — We cannot judge evil tyrants without an objective standard to measure them by.
how we view moral obligations — We recognize an obligation to do the right thing even when it conflicts with our own self-interests or preferences.
2. Are humans real and knowable?
Traditional view: Human nature is objective and fixed, as are the natural rights which spring from that fixed nature.
Postmodern view: Human nature is not fixed, but subjectively constructed, as are the rights which spring from that constructed nature.
The postmodern view cannot account for fundamental (natural) human rights. If human nature isn’t fixed and objective, neither are the rights which flow from that nature. When it comes to human rights, might makes right. What a majority grants it can take away.
3. What makes humans valuable in the first place?
Body-self dualism says my psychological (cognitive) self does. My body means nothing. Cognitive function, not my status as a human being, bestows value.
Christian theism says my nature does. I am a dynamic union of body and soul. My nature grounded in the image of God, not my immediately exercisable functions, provide the only true basis for equality.
Morphological freedom says my choices do. My identity is grounded in making myself into anything I desire with no limits.