What makes humans equal?
Hello everyone. I’m Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute. Welcome to our podcast. Great to have you with us. We try to equip you to defend your pro-life views in a persuasive manner. And today we’re gonna look at what is the core of the abortion debate. People get sidetracked all the time on what the real issue is.
The real philosophical issue in this debate comes down to one issue. Either you believe each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t. And if you don’t, it’s because you have bought into a number of worldview assumptions that are seldom defended. They’re usually just assumed, and it’s helpful as, as pro-lifers if we recognize these assumptions so that we can refute them.
Often what happens is you’re in a discussion on abortion and your critic says, well, how can you call an embryo that’s not even a person yet a being with a right to life? And you say, well, why isn’t the embryo a person? And they’ll say, well, The embryo’s not self-aware. It’s not able to feel pain. It’s not able to interact with his or her environment, therefore, it’s not a person.
And what typically happens is pro-lifers start buying the premise of their critics at this point, and they’ll say things like, well, wait a minute. That child in the womb can have brainwaves by week six and has a heartbeat by week three, and can be able to feel pain by week 20 or something like that.
That’s a mistake and here’s why. You’ve just bought the premise of your critic that those things are what define us as valuable. You should challenge the premise. And the first step in challenging the premise is to recognize the worldview assumptions that’ll idle, that are idling in the background there with your critic.
And today we’re gonna look at those assumptions so that you’re able to recognize them and refute them more effectively. Let me give you a little example of this. I pulled a passage from Katha Poll’s book Pro reframing the Abortion Debate. Now, Katha Poll, I’m gonna switch to my readers here. My Elton John glasses is my wife.
Stephanie refers to them as, uh, Kaha Poll has written a book that’s wildly popular. Among abortion rights advocates. And here’s what she says. She says, it’s hard to see how a fertilized egg qualifies as a person. Now we can argue with her about whether the embryo is a fertilized egg or not. The truth is, it’s not because sperm and egg die in the act of conception, but set that aside for a moment.
A fertilized egg, though not a, a mere fertilized egg, the way she says it, the embryo is already a whole living human being, but. Let’s not quabble with her over that or quibble with her. Pardon me. I’ll go to speech therapy when this is over. Um, let’s not quibble over that definition. Let’s just go ahead and read the rest of what she says.
Listen to her reasoning as to why the embryo does not count as a person and why she doesn’t believe each and every human being has an equal right to life. She says it has no brain, no blood. No head, no organs or limbs. It cannot think, feel, perceive, or communicate. It has no character traits or relationships and occupies no social space.
Listen to this. It’s the size of a period at the end of a sentence before it implants in the uterine wall, and usually for, for quite some time after that. The woman in whose body it exists does not even know it’s there. In fact, about half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant and are simply washed out of her body with her menstrual flow.
If fertilized eggs are persons, God is remarkably careless about them. They are potential persons, yes, but that is not the same as actually being one. Any more than my being a potential 70 year old means I am one now. End quote. Okay. All kinds of stuff going on there. A couple of things I want you to notice right away.
Notice that poll never once says why. The traits she mentions are value giving. She just asserts that they are. You could rightly respond to her and say, wait a minute, Katha. Why does body size determine my value and how big do I have to be, not to be intentionally killed? You could also ask her why brainwave development is what gives us value.
How does the fact I see myself existing over time or occupy social space? I. Mean that I can’t be killed? Why do those things matter? She never gives us a reason why, and I want you to pay attention here because a lot of times what pro-lifers freak out over is they think, wow, how am I gonna answer a Michael Tooley or a Peter Singer, or a David Boone and or maybe a Kate g Greeley who argue all these sophisticated philosophical arguments for why the unborn don’t count as one of us.
How will I ever be smart enough to refute them? What will help you is to recognize the common patterns in the way they argue. And the first thing all of them do is they assert that certain things matter, but they don’t fully argue why their value giving in the first place. Whether you’re reading Michael Thule, Peter Singer, Or Juve Minerva or David Boin.
You’re not told why. Why having desires or being immediately, uh, able to see yourself existing over time is what gives you value and a right to life. These things are asserted, they’re not argued for, and you are within your rights to say, hold it back up a minute. Tell me why those traits matter in the first place.
And of course, Paulette never does. She never tells us why. Your body size determines your right to life. So what if I’m the size of a.at the end of a sentence? She hasn’t given me a reason why. That means we can intentionally kill you. She just makes the assertion. She also makes the assertion that because these embryos don’t survive for very long, at least some of them don’t, they get washed away in miscarriage.
That that’s a justification for having an abortion. Wait a minute. How does the fact that nature. Spontaneously triggers a miscarriage mean that A, the embryos in question are not fully human, or B, we may intentionally kill them. Earthquakes happen in third world countries and kill hundreds of thousands of people due to poor building codes.
Does it follow? Mass murder is justified. She does not make any argument to jump from this is what happens to, this is what we get to do because it happens. This is a classic example of the is ought fallacy. You say something is morally okay to do because it is the fact it happens. You can’t get from that.
To, we ought to be able to do it because nature or some other force has something happen. You’ve gotta give us reasons why that results in a reason that says we can intentionally kill you, and Pollett gives us none of that. She simply asserts this. Now, there’s a, a worldview assumption going on here with Poll when she brings up all these traits that the unborn are too small, they can’t feel, they don’t have.
The ability to see themselves existing over time. They don’t have brains, they don’t have consciousness. There’s a worldview assumption going on here, actually two that we’re gonna look at right now, and these need to be contended for, and she doesn’t contend for them again. She merely assumes them to be true.
The first worldview assumption that she brings to the table is what we call a performance view of human value. Let me unpack what that means. There are two rival worldviews competing right now in our culture over the question. What makes humans valuable in the first place? The first worldview assumption is what we call the performance view of human value.
The performance view of human value says this. Being a human is not enough to give you a right to life. Rather, you have to function at a certain level. You have to perform at a certain level. You have to have an immediately exercisable capacity for self-awareness or for sentient or for seeing yourself existing over time or maybe interacting with your environment.
All the things we just saw Paul mention, until you can immediately exercise those things. You may be a human biologically, but you’re not a person with rights. That’s the performance view of human value. Being human is not enough. The rival view to that which pro-lifers hold is that you are not valuable because of what you can do at a performance level.
Your value stems from your nature as a human being. You are na. You are by nature, equal and valuable. Not because you can perform at a certain level. So this would be the view, for example, of the Declaration of Independence or Lincoln’s second inaugural address, or any of the other historical documents and writings like John Locke and others who argue that we are valuable because we have a human nature.
And of course as Christians, we know that bears the image of God. But you either believe humans are valuable by nature, meaning they’re valuable by the, the kind of thing that they are. Or you believe they are only valuable because they can perform at a certain functional level and until then they aren’t equally valuable.
They may be biologically human, but so what? That doesn’t matter. The other assumption that Paul is bringing to this that we need to be aware of is a deeper view of the human person called body self dualism. That sounds very complex. Let me make it very simple for you. Body self dualism is not the same as body.
Soul dualism. Christians hold the body, soul dualism. Body soul dualism says You and I are a dynamic union of body and soul. We’re not merely a mind or merely a body. Or we’re not separate entities that somehow coexist in a body. Rather, we are a dynamic union of body and soul. For example, if you look behind my shoulder here, you will see a picture on the wall as your eye is making contact with that picture on the wall, two things are happening.
Number one, your physical eye is making contact with that picture, but your immaterial mind is making sense of it. So it’s both a bodily action, which we. We’d call a physical action, and it’s also a mental, or what we might call an immaterial or soulish action. You have a dynamic union, a body and soul taking in that picture and making sense of it.
That’s the Christian worldview Body. Self dualism though, is very different. It is not a biblical worldview. The the body self worldview goes like this. You are not your body in any meaningful sense. In fact, your body tells us nothing about you. Rather, the real you is your thoughts, your desires, your feelings, your aims, your cognitive processes, so to speak.
The real you has nothing to do with your body. Your body is mere physical matter. That the real you, your mind is free to manipulate and redefine any way you want. Now think about how this plays out in the culture today. With abortion, it plays out this way. Until you have thoughts and desires, there’s no real you there.
There’s a body, but the real you doesn’t show up until your mind shows up. Okay? So we, we hear these arguments all the time, like what Paul just said. Hey, There’s no way that fertilized egg, that embryo is a person because it doesn’t have thoughts. It doesn’t even have a brain yet. Therefore, there’s no subject there.
There’s no human subject there. It’s just a body. You also hear it in the transgender debate. Ever heard this expression, I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body? How does that even make sense? Unless you assume. That the real you is separate from the body that you occupy. That is not the biblical worldview.
That is a very secular view. VA based on a secular view of dualism that is not the same as body soul dualism that we hold to as Christians. That view of body self dualism opens the door to saying that being human means nothing. There’s no intrinsic purposes for human bodies rather. The only thing that matters is our thoughts, our cognitive self, our awareness, our desires, and those are the things that determine who we really are.
Of course, if you’re a Christian, you reject that right away because you recognize that scripture places a very high premium on our bodies. Our bodies were bought with a price and were to honor Christ with him. If you read any of the Pauline literature, that is evidently clear and body self dualism, though.
Has a philosophical problem that a lot of pro-lifers don’t bother to challenge, but we’re gonna challenge it here first. If body self dualism is true, how do we account for the fact that it seems very counterintuitive? Let me ask you this, have you ever hugged your mother? I. Not if body self dualism is true.
Can you hug thoughts, desires, aims and feelings? No. You hug a body that of your mother if body self dualism is true. You’ve never hugged your mother because after all, the real person is not anything you observe physically through the body. It’s rather those immaterial things like desires, soul. Or consciousness or seeing yourself existing over time.
Uh, another problem with body self dualism, if it were true, how do you account for the fact that when you looked at this picture a moment ago, you were using both your body and your mind. You used your eyes to look at the picture. You used your mind to make sense of it. That suggests that we’re a dynamic union.
Not merely a mind that’s inhabiting the ghost in the body, A ghost in the machine type view that you see coming from people like pollett. Another issue with this is imagine a psychologist who cures a person with multi personality disorder. This person has multiple personalities and a psychologist working with.
Expert medical help is able to cure the person of this disorder well, on body self dualism, you just committed mass homicide because you killed a whole bunch of personalities, a whole bunch of real persons. If personhood is reduced to what we think in the mind and not our bodies, then how do we explain how it’s morally permissible to cure someone of this obvious psychiatric disorder?
Another problem with body self dualism, it means actual persons. Always have rights over merely potential ones. And this is what Pollett says here. She says, embryos are potential persons. Yes, but that’s not the same as actually being a person. Alright? If the real, actual person is limited, limited to those who perform at a certain level, cognitively, imagine this scenario.
A tornado strikes a town. Let’s just pick a town out. We’ll say Oklahoma City, where right there in tornado alleys during the spring in particular, there tends to be a lot of tornadic action. Suppose a particular tornado comes through town and wipes out an elementary school for gifted children. These are kids who have unbelievable IQs.
They are very bright. And in the course of that tornado wiping out that school, several of the kids are severely injured and they’re going to need organ transplants to survive. They have damaged livers, damaged hearts, whatever, but they need organs to survive. Now, around the corner from the gifted school is one for children who are suffering from cognitive disabilities, and that school escaped unscathed.
From the tornado, nobody was harmed. If poll is right, that personhood hinges on your immediately exercisable capabilities for seeing yourself existing over time or having mental functions. If that’s the definition of a human being, if the real you is reduced to your cognitive abilities. What would be wrong with taking those kids at the disabled school and killing them and using their body parts to treat?
The, the injuries in the gifted kids, after all these kids who are at the disabled school are merely potential persons ’cause their cognitive ability will never match that of the rest of us. So it would be not only permissible, I would argue it would be mandatory, an obligatory to intentionally kill those children so that we can use their body parts to treat actual persons.
After all. There’s a world of difference on the argument between potential humans and actual ones. This is the fallout from body self dualism, but there is one other fallout from this. We need to look at what does this do to the concept of human equality. If our value as a human being is based on traits that come and go, and that none of us share equally, Then it follows, those who have more of these traits are more equal and valuable than those who have less, which decimate the concept of human equality.
Human equality gets thrown out the window at this point, so this, this worldview, this performance view of human value and the body self dualism that is underlying it philosophically. Are deeply problematic for human value and human equality, and I think as pro-life advocates, we do well To point this out, because our culture is obsessed with equality, but it can’t tell us what makes us equal and valuable in the first place.
Pro-life Christians have an answer to that we are equal in valuable because regardless of how we differ on functional abilities, whether it’s cognitive ability, Or viability or performance accounts of any kind. We differ wildly on those things. And by the way, those things may come and go in the course of our lifetimes.
Still, we are equal and valuable on the biblical worldview. For this reason. We all share the same human nature. We are equal by nature, not function. If you ground equality in traits that come and go, You have no basis for equality. Instead, you get tremendous inequality that leads to savage treatment. Of those we deem not to be up to our level, and I think as Christians, we need to push hard against this deity or this idea, pardon me, that each and every human being doesn’t have an equal right to life.
If you believe each and every human being has an. Equal right to life. Then if we demonstrate to you that the unborn are human beings, and we’ve already dealt with that in previous additions where we looked at the scientific case for the pro-life view, if we show you that the unborn are human, then you are obligated to accept the rest of the argument that they too have an equal right to life just like you do, just like your friends do.
It’s only when we start dividing human being from human person that we get into this crazy area of, oh, well, some humans are more equal than others, and we can intentionally kill them if we deem them not to be persons. Sadly, we have a very long history of defining. People out of existence that we want to exploit to fulfill our own desires, and that’s exactly what it looks like is happening here.
So pro-lifers, instead of buying the premise that these things give us value, instead of saying, oh, the unborn canna self-awareness by week six in the womb, or they can feel pain by week 12. Reject the premise that those things are value giving in the first place and reject it by showing the underlying assumptions that have not been defended.
The performance view of human value and the body self dualism. That is I idling beneath that. Challenge those premises at the worldview level and show that only your worldview can actually account for equal treatment of all humans. If you want human equality, you need the biblical pro-life view. Not the view that says we can divide human from person and somehow still end up with a, a basis for human equality and value.
We can’t. Thanks for listening today. Great to have you with us. Uh, we will keep going with these issues and help equip you to make a good case for the pro-life view. Be sure to go to our like button and like the podcast on social media and let us know you’re listening. We appreciate you doing that.
Thanks for joining us.