Saturday, November 08, 2008

Zach Needs 'Moore' Clothes: The Tale of a Pro-Abortionist in His Birthday Suit

Zach Moore offered another response to my argument(s) against his case for a woman's right to abort her baby. Since he refuses to deal with my actual argument, and I've done all the preparatory work, that will make this response easier. On the bright side, Moore dusts off some old pro-choice arguments (allegedly) based on Scripture, so I'll have the opportunity to help Moore understand the Bible he hates even better. At this point, due to my background work, all I need to do is sit back and point out that the good doctor has no clothes.

ZM: "So if I may be indulged to take Paul's words out of my mouth: the conclusion "it is morally acceptable for women to have abortions at any time up to and until the unborn human fetus emerges from the woman's vagina" is not mine. I do so hate to be pedantic, but if Paul can't even get my argument’s conclusion right in the first 500 words of his post, what's the point in following along for the next 2500?"

PM: Why is this conclusion wrong? Let's see:

ZM: But I like Paul, and I have great hopes for him someday, so I'll try yet again to correct him. IF all human beings are sovereign over their bodies, and IF sovereignty entails the ability to remove anything one wants from one's body, THEN any human being may remove anything one wants from one's body. I do so hope that Paul can confine his further criticisms to these words alone.

PM: Okay, let's also note something else Moore has claimed:

"Once removed from its uterine environ, the fetus is free to exercise that sovereignty in whichever direction it likes."

So, may I ask, what is the relevant difference between what Moore has claimed and what I said his conclusion was? Moore simply commits that age old error of confusing words and propositions.

Let's note another thing, I offered numerous reasons to suppose this sovereignty thesis false, Moore has yet to respond to, count 'em, one of them. Here's another one to pile on to that list:

Say that an alien super scientist implants a bomb into a human, Jones, so powerful that it would destroy half the universe if detonated. Now, assume that this bomb is about the size of a flea. Suppose it is harmless to Jones and all so long as it stays in the body it was implanted in. Assume that the bomb has a device built in to it so that the death of Jones diffuses the bomb. So, so long as Jones doesn't take the bomb out before he dies, nothing will happen. Does Moore's view allow Jones to kill every man, woman, child, and wookie this side of the universe! It would have to. Notice his conditional IF/THEN premise. If the antecedent could be true while the consequent false, then we'd have to assign a false truth value to the premise. Hence Moore's argument would be unsound. Therefore, for Moore to maintain the soundness of his argument, his must admit that his position allows someone to take the life of every single person and thing this side of the universe! To claim that Jones could not because sovereignty doesn't entail that we can do something which would kill billions of innocent people is about as clear as one can get to seeing one's argument crumble right in front of him.


So, either Moore's argument is false or is patently absurd.

Moore is too smart to admit absurdity (he is an atheist, after all).

Therefore, Moore must admit it is false (I won't hold my breath).


(I offer more of these kinds of arguments here.)

I'd also like to see Moore's argument that "sovereignty entails the right to remove anything one wants from one's body." That's not obviously true. All dogs are 4 legged entails that some dogs are. That’s self-evident. Moore’s claim isn’t.

Moore's prior reasoning went something like this: "Well, any human can remove any organ or non-human stuff they want from their own body." Okay, say that I grant this for now, it doesn't follow from that that: "One can remove a human being from one's body."

Moore claims that the humanity of the fetus is irrelevant to his argument. But it is clear this is not so as the above shows.

Moore thinks it's special pleading to allow that a woman can remove any organ yet stop at the human baby. Why's that? That's not clear to me.

Let's remind Moore of one of the claims he made which demonstrates the fundamental tension in his thinking:

"I am not talking about things people do to each other with their bodies; I am talking specifically about the right to decide what things stay in one's body and what things stay out."

Now, what did he say his conclusion was:

"IF sovereignty entails the ability to remove anything one wants from one's body, THEN any human being may remove anything one wants from one's body."

So we see that Moore is indeed talking about things people do to each other with their bodies! Well, if the fetus is human, that is. But he says that's "irrelevant" to his argument. I'm not sure I've ever been able to demonstrate such a clear case of special pleading and question begging and down-right absurdity in one's reasoning as in this debate.

It's more like a gimme (and Christmas is still a month away!), not because I'm so smart. I'm not.

ZM: I want to work extra hard now to help Paul understand what I'm saying. Let's analogize from sovereignty over one's body to sovereignty over one's habitat. Paul and his wife just bought a lovely new house- they have sovereignty over it, and can decide who stays in the house, and who does not. Let's imagine that their friend Craig comes to stay with them, and they give him a room, over which he has sovereignty (ability to decide who comes in the room, and who does not). Although in real life, Paul and Craig are great friends, let's say that he and Craig have a falling-out, and Paul wants him to leave. Craig, although enjoying sovereignty over his room, does not have the right to force Paul to allow him to stay in the house against his will. Paul's sovereignty is complete throughout the house, including Craig's room, and therefore Craig must vacate. Whatever challenges and threats Craig may face outside of Paul's house may be something for Paul to consider, but they do not infringe Paul's sovereignty or remove his right to kick Craig out the door.

PM: Apparently Moore thinks I can go into my guest bedroom and suck Craig out with a vacuum strong enough to rip his arms and legs off his, or burn him alive with chemicals, or perhaps pull just his legs and torso out of the house with a giant forcept and then shove a spike into the back of his head.

I suppose Moore doesn't think that, though one can never be too sure with him. Assuming he doesn't, how is this argument supposed to work:

[1] A home owner may remove guests from house without killing them.



[2] A mother may remove fetus from womb by killing it.


Moore's heavy on the rhetoric, light on the argument.

This kind of argument also supports the old institution of Antebellum slavery. I take it that one has a right to do with one's property what one sees fit, *regardless if it is human or not*, that's "irrelevant" see. So, when slavery was legal, what argument could Moore have given in opposition to it, or would he have opposed it?

This kind of “reasoning” simply remind the intellectually honest why he can’t be an atheist.

ZM: Desperate to shore up support for his sloppy reformulation of my arguments, he introduces the so-called "Preservation Principle." That is, "Generally, any living human that is not insane or suffering some other mental disorder would not want to end their life by means of saline solution and, if they could tell us, they would tell us that they do not want their life to end that way."

And yet in Paul’s own Good Book we find the character of Job, who, (presumably not insane) following a long string of torments commissioned by the omnibenevolent Yahweh, asks for just that:

Job 3: Why was I not still-born, or why did I not perish as I left the womb? ... or, put away like an abortive child, I should not have existed, like little ones that never see the light.

It would seem that even a "blameless" "God-fearer" like Job would rather have been snuffed out in the womb (by saline or otherwise) than have to experience profoundly adverse circumstances later in life.

PM: Apparently Moore is too lazy to consult the standard commentaries. As most admit (liberal or conservative), contrary to Moore's reverting back to his naive and fundamentalist reading of Scripture, these statements are not meant to be taken as expressing normative propositional truths but are the laments of a man who has gone through some of the most traumatic psychological experiences a human could go through. Moore happens to think the emotional laments of a man who is going through an extraordinary situation somehow counts against the "general" rule I offered. This is like juding the ordinary vocabulary of a man to be that of a "sewer mouth" all because you hear him swear right after he cuts three fingers off with a power saw!

ZM: "And it should be pointed out that Yahweh is all too eager to put children to death after being born- for no other crime than being a member of the wrong ethnic group and religion. In Numbers 31, in fact, we find a particulary [sic] pernicious passage (on which I've commented previously) – Yahweh commands Moses to order the Israelites to kill all the baby boys belonging to the Midianite tribe… and leave their virgin sisters alive to be divided among the population and the priests as part of the “war booty.”"

PM: Clearly this doesn't count against my claim that, "Generally, any living human that is not insane or suffering some other mental disorder would not want to end their life by means of saline solution and, if they could tell us, they would tell us that they do not want their life to end that way."

ZM: "And while we’re perusing the Christian Scriptures for any information regarding abortion, it might be of interest to point out the passage where it is said that causing a woman to miscarry carries no more penalty than a few shekels:

Exodus 21: If people, while brawling, hurt a pregnant woman and she suffers a miscarriage but no further harm is done, the person responsible will pay compensation as fixed by the woman's master, paying as much as the judges decide.
While this is not abortion per se, nowhere else in the Bible gets closer to illustrating the true value of a fetus in Yahweh's law – a few coins, at most. Certainly not the death penalty, as advocated by good modern-day Christians like Craig Sowder. That horrific fate is quite explicitly spelled out elsewhere in Exodus, and clearly does not refer to anyone causing the termination of a pregnancy. So much for biblically-minded theology."

PM: Again, Moore just offers us his benighted, nullifidian reading of Scripture. No attempt at *exegesis*.

First, the term "miscarriage" isn't in the original. The Hebrew word simply means, "Her fruit comes out." It is impossible, by that word alone, to determine the state this child comes out in - dead or alive. The same Hebrew words are used in various other places to indicate live births. Moore depends on the notion that the child comes out dead for his argument, yet this view cannot be demonstrated from the text.

Second, had the author wanted to indicate a stillborn birth, he could have used the word used in the very text from Job that Moore himself referenced earlier (in Job)! The Psalmist also talks about children born dead. The word is nephel. Nephal is defined by Gesenius as “a premature birth, which falls from the womb, an abortion” (p. 558; cf. Brown, et al., p. 658). Another word could have been used too. Shachol and its variations were used in places like Gen. 31:38; Hosea 9:14; Ex. 23:26. Shachol means “to cause abortion (in women, flocks, etc.)” or “to make abortion, i.e., to suffer it” (Gesenius, p. 822; cf. Brown, et al., p. 1013). But Moses didn't use these words. He used words that were used over and over again to refer to live births. But besides that, the term is not indexed to either life or death.

Third, when the text says "no lasting harm" or "no harm" is done, the text leaves it open, grammatically, that this refer to either the woman or the child. Moore cannot show that the object of the "harm" is the woman. To claim it means only the woman is an unjustified reading. The best interpretation is that the author meant for the ambiguity to be able to be indexed to woman and/or child. This is most economical as well rather than the author writing out the various permutations, viz. death to both child and mother, death to child but not to mother, death to mother but not to child, injury to child but not mother, etc., etc., etc.

As Archer states, "What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (ne-pes’) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus under this rule (Encyclopedia, 1982, p. 248)."

Fourth, in the text we're dealing with an unintended injury or death to mother or child (or both), this is clearly disanalogous.

Moore can consult these articles if he wants:

Or consult some standard commentaries, Stewart, Enns, Currid, etc.

ZM: And I'll note that Triablogue commenter Marshall has pointed out what I've repeatedly argued is the gaping hole in Paul's argument - if we're to take his position seriously at all, he needs to deal with the science of reproduction and development.

PM: Here Moore again shows his inability to grasp his own position and "my position." Again, "my position," in this debate, is: "Moore claims his argument works EVEN IF the fetus is fully human. I claim it does not work if the fetus is fully human." Therefore, as is obvious, I don't have to show "the fetus is human," I have to show, "Moore's argument doesn't work if the fetus is human." Most pro-choicer grant this, and so ask you to show the human. Moore doesn't, so he doesn't need the human shown. We can assume it. So, that's "my position."

So, as long as Moore continues to claim his conclusion goes through even given THE TRUTH of the premise: Fetuses are humans, then I will continue to take him at his word and ASSUME that they are.

Apparently, then, Moore doesn't "get" either his postion or mine.

ZM: I’m really starting to feel sorry for Paul Manata at this point; like the Rain Man, he has a single-minded fixation on revisiting the contrary paths his assertions have trodden. "Fetus is human. Definitely, definitely. Yeah. I'm an excellent apologist."

PM: Perhaps if Moore devoted Moore time to good reasoning than to bad jokes, he'd save himself the monumental errors he commits every single time he posts. Rather than answering questions and resolving problems, Moore just gives us reason to find more problems and ask more questions that arise due to the more queer his position gets as he continues to defend his absurd position. Pride is a nasty animal...

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.


  1. Personally, I tend to view the developed fetus as "fully human" and worthy of protection. No PBA, no late-term abortions. I don't see why we need to even resort to theological arguments for this: we can simply refer to the base clinical definitions of "not death" (heart rate, respiration, etc.) that are accepted by all.

    However, Paul, can you defend the notion that a fertilized egg is "fully human"? If so, can you do it utilizing language understandable and acceptable to both the secularist and the believers?

  2. James, Moore invoked theological argument, I didn't.

    I can and have defended that notion.

    But again, as this post makes clear, Moore said his argument works WITH THAT ASSUMPTION.

    So why give myself more arguing to do than need be. I was so happy when I ran across Moore's argument because it meant I could argue against his particular pro-choice justification *without* what I have had to do in (almost) every single other abortion argument I have ever had.

    Given your first paragraph, James, I assume you would agree with me that IF the "fertalized egg" IS "fully human," then it is just as "worthy of protection" as that "developed fetus" you mention, right?

    So, you must be able to see how Moore has shot himself in the foot. Perhaps he'll listen to you over me (we have a history, see. He's trying to win just one of our debates).

  3. The sentence "GIANT HOLE WHERE REST OF ARGUMENT GOES" should have had a larger font.

  4. Vytautus,

    As and you shall receive! :-)

  5. ha, your paragraph after Moore's analogy of your house is hilarious, and just what I was thinking.