Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Don't look back!

Here's a parody of Catholic natural law reasoning on artificial contraception:

Don't look back
By MICHAEL FRAYN
It is with a close and warmly sympathetic interest that all men of good will, whatever their creed, are following the vigorous debate now going on within the Carthaginian Monolithic Church on the vexed question of rear-view mirrors.
It has long been the teaching of the Church that looking backwards while travelling forwards is categorically and explicitly forbidden by God, since it was for doing this that He visited instant fossilization upon Lot's wife. In this context "looking back" has always been interpreted as frustrating the natural forward gaze of the traveler, whether by turning the head (visus interruptus), or by the interposition of a mechanical device such as a mirror. Carthaginian Monolithic theologians claim that looking back is not only divinely prohibited, but can also be seen by the light of reason to be contrary to natural law, since it is patently interfering with nature to inhibit the inherent tendency of fast-moving objects to collide, and is frustrating the natural consequences of the act of driving—the possibility that an heir may succeed to the driver's estate. Moreover, they argue, there is a strong aesthetic objection to looking backward, since it must plainly detract from the spontaneity of the driving act, and they point out how much more insipid life becomes if the spice of the unexpected is removed altogether. It must in all fairness be pointed out that the keen interest of the monolithic clergy in preserving spontaneity and avoiding insipidity is entirely altruistic, since they do not themselves drive. Those arguments notwithstanding, the Church has long recognized the need to prevent cars crashing into the backs of one another indiscriminately, and Monolithics are permitted to avoid it by abstaining from driving altogether, or by driving only during the so-called "safe period", between midnight and 6 a.m., when the chances of being crashed into are greatly reduced. Nevertheless, there is a sympathetic—indeed anguished—realization among many Monolithic leaders today that self-restraint alone may be inadequate to meet the situation. The question was less crucial in the days when the main effect of the doctrine was to prohibit Monolithics from sitting with their back to the engine in railway carriages. But the increasing popularity of the motorcar is putting an intolerable burden upon the accident wards of the world's hospitals. There is intense sympathy, too, for the great strain undergone by Monolithic drivers who have been run into from behind perhaps 13 or 14 times already, and who now scarcely dare to drive home to see their wives if it involves turning right, or pulling out to pass a parked car. To is to this agonizing problem that "the Box" may provide an answer. "The Box" is a rearward radar scanning device which scientists are still testing. Monolithics believe that scanning aerial cannot be said to "look" back in the natural sense of looking, and that the radar screen does not deflect the natural forward gaze of the driver, like a mirror, but is a natural part of his natural forward view. It is emphasized that even if "the Box" were to be accepted, it could never be used for merely selfish purposes, to avoid a crash simply because a crash was not desired, but only where a driver had already had three or four crashes, and there were genuine grounds for believing that another one might have serious effects upon his health. All the same, some authorities doubt if the box could ever be an acceptable compromise. They believe that the safe period principle is more reliable—making absolutely sure that the road behind the car was kept clear by scattering perhaps nails or broken glass, perhaps small high explosives or napalm bombs. The Heights, Volume XLVII, Number 15, 17 February 1967

18 comments:

  1. Steve just curious are you for contraception?

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  2. Contraceptives are fine so long as they're not abortifacients.

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  3. Frayn's parody is cute. However, I'm not sure I can countenance comparing the birthing of precious children to rear-end vehicular collisions. Perhaps if an automatic half-million-dollar settlement for "pain and suffering" were included each time. But that would hopelessly muddle everything.

    Too bad almost all truly effective (and convenient) means of contraception ARE abortifacient.

    Just don't ever let it slip to Evangelical women....

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    1. Eric

      "Too bad almost all truly effective (and convenient) means of contraception ARE abortifacient."

      Let's take the male condom. It's an "effective" (98% if used consistently and correctly) and "convenient" (widely available, affordable, easy to learn to use) "means of contraception".

      The male condom is intended to keep sperm in the condom. If and when it works, which it almost always does if used consistently and correctly (again 98% effectiveness), the male condom prevents sperm from entering the woman's vagina, cervix, uterus, and Fallopian tubes. Sperm stay in the condom. Therefore sperm do not unite with a woman's egg when she is ovulating.

      Given all this, how is a properly functioning male condom an "abortifacient"? An abortifacient presupposes a sperm has already united with an egg and formed a zygote i.e. baby.

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    2. An abortifacient would be something that causes an abortion, and an abortion would be killing a baby in the womb. So having an abortion presuppose there's already a baby in the womb. However, if a contraceptive prevents a woman from getting pregnant in the first place, then there's no baby in the womb. How could the baby be aborted if there's no baby in the first place?

      Not all "contraceptives" are abortifacients but some are. Some contraceptives work after the baby has already been created. For example, some contraceptives work by preventing the embryo (i.e. baby) from implanting in the mother's womb. An embryo (i.e. baby) must be implanted in the mother's womb if it's to get nourished by the mother and live. If an embryo (i.e. baby) doesn't implant in the mother's womb, then it will die. So these kinds of "contraceptives" would indeed be abortifacients.

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  4. E of D--

    The operative words here are "if used consistently and correctly." Unfortunately, they are quite frequently misused. Actual effectiveness is reported at between 82 and 85% And the perception is that (relative to other methods) condoms are NOT convenient: users complain of a lack of comfort, a lack of spontaneity, and a diminution of sensation.

    At least 15 out of the top 20 contraceptive methods are deemed abortifacient (and that's including NFP and LAM). Every single pill, patch, implant, and injection is abortifacient. IUD's are abortifacient. Every method employing spermicides is likewise abortifacient.

    My wife has spoken with any number of Evangelical (staunchly pro-life) friends who have been told by medical professionals that their particular version of oral contraceptive is not abortifacient...and that reassurance is good enough for them. They very much do not wish to be "confused by the facts." They wish to maintain a plausible deniability when it comes to communicating with their own consciences.

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    1. Thanks for your response, Eric.

      "The operative words here are 'if used consistently and correctly.'"

      1. I added the phrase primarily because that's what the medical literature does.

      2. However this applies to other methods including Catholic natural family planning methods.

      3. We can debate methods at their ideal or in practice. It doesn't matter to me because it's not the primary issue.

      "Unfortunately, they are quite frequently misused. Actual effectiveness is reported at between 82 and 85%"

      1. Actually, that's still arguably "effective" depending on what one considers "effective".

      2. In any case, I'm responding to how you've framed the debate over most contraceptives being abortifacients, even though it's not how I'd frame the debate.

      "And the perception is that (relative to other methods) condoms are NOT convenient: users complain of a lack of comfort, a lack of spontaneity, and a diminution of sensation."

      1. Yes, many guys complain about how condoms feel during sex.

      2. Ultimately it's person-dependent as to whether or not how a condom feels during sex should be a consideration let alone a significant consideration in "convenience".

      3. And again, this is how you've framed the debate, not how I'd frame the debate.

      "At least 15 out of the top 20 contraceptive methods are deemed abortifacient (and that's including NFP and LAM)."

      1. I think the most important question I have so far is how you'd respond to my arguments about the male condom. Given what I've said about the male condom (above), how is a male condom an abortifacient?

      2. Also, please explain why you think natural family planning (NFP) methods and the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) are abortifacients. Simply asserting these are abortifacients doesn't necessarily mean they are.

      In fact, if NFP methods are abortifacients (by the way, LAM is an NFP method rather than something separate from NFP methods), then why would Catholics who don't generally subscribe to contraceptives recommend and practice NFPs?

      "Every single pill, patch, implant, and injection is abortifacient. IUD's are abortifacient. Every method employing spermicides is likewise abortifacient."

      1. I suppose we could try to go through each and every single one of these. For example, which pills are you referring to? Estrogen-progestin pills? Progestin-only pills? Both? Something else? Also, which injectable contraceptives are you referring to? The only injectable contraceptive I'm aware of that's available in the US is depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). But I believe estradiol cypionate-medroxyprogesterone acetate (Cyclofem) and estradiol valerate-norethisterone enanthate (Mesigyna) are available in other developed nations. And so on and so forth.

      2. Likewise, we could include others that you didn't include. In partciular, barrier methods which don't rely on hormones or related substances. I've already mentioned the male condom. I could also mention diaphragms and cervical caps. Among others.

      3. And again, please explain why you think spermicides are abortifacients. Spermicides are intended to kill...sperm. Are you suggesting spermicides will kill embryos too? Please explain how so?

      "My wife has spoken with any number of Evangelical (staunchly pro-life) friends who have been told by medical professionals that their particular version of oral contraceptive is not abortifacient...and that reassurance is good enough for them. They very much do not wish to be "confused by the facts." They wish to maintain a plausible deniability when it comes to communicating with their own consciences."

      1. Welp, that's them, not me.

      2. Again, my main question to you is how you'd respond to my arguments about a male condom not being an abortifacient.

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  5. Hey, Dude--

    I'm trying to figure out your point. But, no matter, I'm going to need to amend mine.

    1. I never said that barrier methods were abortifacient. I said they were inconvenient in comparison to other methods.

    2. I never said that NFP or LAM were abortifacient. It should be self-evident that they are not...and thus, part of the five, not part of the fifteen (in 15 out of 20).

    3. In hindsight, all of that shouldn't matter nearly so much as the prevalence of each: 38% of American women of childbearing age use no contraceptives whatsoever. 34% use non-abortifacient methods. And only 28% use abortifacient means. (Maybe less. There is disagreement as to which methods count. Plus, to some extent, we just don't know. The science is not definitive.)

    A far higher percentage of U.S. women than I ever dreamed have been surgically sterilized. And condom use is at 9 or 10 percent. At any rate, the usage rate for non-abortifacient means renders my point rather moot...unless we take sterilized women, pregnant women, and women who are sexually non-active out of the equation. In other words, only counting women who need contraceptives and must choose. Then it becomes 68% who are choosing abortifacient methods, and only 32% who are not. But that's probably not fair, since many women HAVE chosen, but happen to have chosen a permanent solution.

    I'm not a Catholic, and not even sympathetic to the "Church that (one particular version of) Jesus founded." But I do wonder whether they got the contraceptives argument right. Up until 1930, Protestants were in lock step with Catholics on this issue. All of the major Reformers were virulently anti-contraception. Only 5% of women not using contraceptives choose to abort. The two ARE connected. The legal histories are connected. Most Evangelicals I know have not even taken the time to think through the issue from a biblical/ethical perspective. It's a mere pragmatic thing in their minds. Kind of like abortion was prior to Roe v. Wade. Evangelicals were way late to the party, finally joining in thanks to Francis Schaeffer and others.

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    1. Hey Eric

      "I'm trying to figure out your point."

      1. I'm just responding to your original contention: "Too bad almost all truly effective (and convenient) means of contraception ARE abortifacient."

      2. That said, it should be noted using phrases like "almost all" and "truly effective (and convenient)" gives you room to deny whatever contraceptives you wish to deny you meant to be included in your original contention.

      "But, no matter, I'm going to need to amend mine."

      I hope that's all you're doing.

      "1. I never said that barrier methods were abortifacient. I said they were inconvenient in comparison to other methods."

      Most people would take "almost all" to be a near universal statement.

      "2. I never said that NFP or LAM were abortifacient. It should be self-evident that they are not...and thus, part of the five, not part of the fifteen (in 15 out of 20)."

      Here's what you said (emphasis mine): "At least 15 out of the top 20 contraceptive methods are deemed abortifacient (and that's including NFP and LAM)."

      "3. In hindsight, all of that shouldn't matter nearly so much as the prevalence of each: 38% of American women of childbearing age use no contraceptives whatsoever. 34% use non-abortifacient methods. And only 28% use abortifacient means. (Maybe less. There is disagreement as to which methods count. Plus, to some extent, we just don't know. The science is not definitive.)"

      1. What you've just said about prevalence isn't a "scientific" issue. Rather it's a statistical issue. And yes, that depends on the study or survey that was given. Some studies or surveys are more reliable than others.

      2. Besides, science doesn't have to be "definitive" to be true.

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    2. "A far higher percentage of U.S. women than I ever dreamed have been surgically sterilized. And condom use is at 9 or 10 percent. At any rate, the usage rate for non-abortifacient means renders my point rather moot...unless we take sterilized women, pregnant women, and women who are sexually non-active out of the equation. In other words, only counting women who need contraceptives and must choose. Then it becomes 68% who are choosing abortifacient methods, and only 32% who are not. But that's probably not fair, since many women HAVE chosen, but happen to have chosen a permanent solution."

      1. Again, as I said, this isn't a primary issue. At best, it's a secondary issue.

      2. More to the point, this avoids dealing with my arguments in lieu of epidemiology. My main argument involves how to distinguish between a contraceptive that's an abortifacient vs. a contraceptive that's not an abortifacient.

      3. In addition to what I've already said earlier, I think a general rule of thumb to think about "contraceptives" is whether they are meant to work pre or post conception. Pre isn't abortifacient inasmuch as there's no baby, while post is abortifacient inasmuch as there is a baby.

      4. To reiterate, my contention has been some contraceptives are abortifacients while others are not. It depends which ones we're talking about specifically.

      "I'm not a Catholic, and not even sympathetic to the "Church that (one particular version of) Jesus founded." But I do wonder whether they got the contraceptives argument right. Up until 1930, Protestants were in lock step with Catholics on this issue. All of the major Reformers were virulently anti-contraception. Only 5% of women not using contraceptives choose to abort. The two ARE connected. The legal histories are connected. Most Evangelicals I know have not even taken the time to think through the issue from a biblical/ethical perspective. It's a mere pragmatic thing in their minds. Kind of like abortion was prior to Roe v. Wade. Evangelicals were way late to the party, finally joining in thanks to Francis Schaeffer and others."

      1. Of course, you're not discussing this with "most evangelicals" but with me.

      2. Again, the demographics aren't the primary issue. The main issue is over principles rather than percentages.

      3. Catholics as well as Protestants in the 1500s were quite ignorant and even wrong about a lot of things. Consider what major Catholic or Protestant figures in the 1500s thought about medical science. They had no idea about many infectious diseases (e.g. the bubonic plague), the details of how human physiology works, and so on. That doesn't make them right about medical science just because all major Catholic figures and Reformers in the 1500s happened to agree. Or consider how many were anti-Semitic. That doesn't make them right about the Jewish people.

      4. You're attempting to make an argument from analogy by comparing the debate over contraception today to abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. You've drawn the analogy, but where's your argument for how they're analogous?

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    3. "1. I never said that barrier methods were abortifacient."

      So I take it you're morally fine with using male condoms and female condoms given they're barrier methods.

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    4. TL;DR You're backing off of your original contention that "almost all" contraceptives are abortifacients. At least now you're saying you never claimed barrier methods (like the male condom) are abortifacients.

      However you're in a dilemma because you wonder if Catholics aren't right about contraceptives. Well, if so, Catholics are typically against even barrier methods like condoms.

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  6. E/D--

    The fact remains that my original statement, while slightly hyperbolic, was essentially correct. Three quarters of women who choose between pharmaceutical methods (pill, patch, shot, implant, IUD) and barrier methods (condom, diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap) choose the former. They choose abortifacients partly because--and perhaps mainly because--they are more effective and more convenient than non-abortifacients. If you wish to continue to argue against that thesis on technical grounds, I will not waste my time responding.

    The history of contraception and abortion are interwoven. The Reformers based their vehement opposition to contraceptives on biblical perspectives. Science really didn't enter into it. They looked at the negative example of Onan and the positive command to be "fruitful and multiply." Children were universally seen as blessings from the Lord rather than as tragic accidents and burdens.

    And at least some Evangelicals are waking up to these facts. Here's a selection from Toichstone Magazine:

    “ It is clear that there is a major rethinking going on among Evangelicals on this issue, especially among young people,” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently told the Chicago Tribune. “There is a real push back against the contraceptive culture now.”

    In his last years, Francis Schaeffer seemed to be moving toward the historic Christian view of contraception. Since 1980, several resolutions adopted by the Southern Baptists at their annual meeting have criticized contraception. By the close of the twentieth century, the Family Research Council featured special reports on “The Empty Promise of Contraception” and “The Bipartisan Blunder of Title X,” the latter referring to the domestic contraception program in the United States.

    Conservative Calvinist publishers are producing books not only against contraception but promoting Natural Family Planning. A movement of Missouri Synod Lutherans is working to overturn their church’s current teaching and return it to Luther’s, and observers report a new interest in the traditional teaching among conservative movements in the mainline churches. "


    Have you ever given this option even the slightest thought, Mr. Dude? And if you have, on what basis did you reject it?

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    1. From what I've read, the Reformers based their opposition to contraception on prescientific notions of conception.

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    2. Eric

      "The fact remains that my original statement, while slightly hyperbolic, was essentially correct."

      Only "slightly hyperbolic"? Surely you jest! :-)

      "Three quarters of women who choose between pharmaceutical methods (pill, patch, shot, implant, IUD) and barrier methods (condom, diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap) choose the former."

      1. You're hung up on the prevalence of various types of contraceptives. As I've already said, I think that's a secondary issue. I'm far more concerned with what makes a contraceptive an abortifacient. That's the more fundamental issue.

      2. However, if you want to debate prevalence, the most reliable source I've found is the National Health Statistics Reports (NHSR) from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

      a. The NHSR found 62% of reproductive aged women reported using contraception between 2006-2010. It found the most frequently used methods were the oral contraceptive pill (28%), female sterilization (27%), the male condom (16%), male sterilization (10%), IUDs (5.6%), non-oral hormonal methods such as implants, patches, rings, injections (7.2%), periodic abstinence/fertility awareness-based methods (1.2%), and "other" methods (5.7%). Here is the direct link to the source.

      b. All this is quite a deviation from the statistics you've cited! Very different.

      c. Male and female sterilization as well as the male condom account for 71% of the methods of contracpetives used. (Presumably female sterilization is tubal ligation or obstruction while male sterilization is vasectomy.) That's a significant majority which aren't "abortifacients".

      d. However, even if we consider the male condom alone, that's 16% of the contraceptive methods. 16% is not an insignificant figure. It stands in a contrast to your original "almost all" contention too.

      "They choose abortifacients partly because--and perhaps mainly because--they are more effective and more convenient than non-abortifacients."

      As I've already alluded, terms like "effective" and especially "convenient" are vague and need further unpacking.

      "The history of contraception and abortion are interwoven. The Reformers based their vehement opposition to contraceptives on biblical perspectives. Science really didn't enter into it. They looked at the negative example of Onan and the positive command to be 'fruitful and multiply.'"

      1. As Steve points out, I'd likewise conclude the Reformers based their opposition to contraception on prescientific notions of conception.

      2. The Reformers wouldn't have known about modern contraceptives like the male condom. It's plausible the Reformers would have changed their "biblical perspectives" if they knew what we know today.

      3. What is it about the command to be fruitful and multiply that you find inconsistent with a Christian couple sometimes using a male condom? Doesn't it depend on the couple's motives and their circumstances?

      "Children were universally seen as blessings from the Lord rather than as tragic accidents and burdens."

      What makes you think the use of a contraceptive like the male condom means children aren't regarded as "blessings" but are seen as "tragic accidents and burdens"? Again, doesn't it depend on the couple's motives and their circumstances?

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    3. "And at least some Evangelicals are waking up to these facts. Here's a selection from Toichstone Magazine: “ It is clear that there is a major rethinking going on among Evangelicals on this issue, especially among young people,” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently told the Chicago Tribune. “There is a real push back against the contraceptive culture now.” In his last years, Francis Schaeffer seemed to be moving toward the historic Christian view of contraception. Since 1980, several resolutions adopted by the Southern Baptists at their annual meeting have criticized contraception. By the close of the twentieth century, the Family Research Council featured special reports on “The Empty Promise of Contraception” and “The Bipartisan Blunder of Title X,” the latter referring to the domestic contraception program in the United States."

      1. As I've repeatedly said, much of this boils down to how you would differentiate between a contraceptive that's abortifacient vs. a contraceptive that's not. I've already given my answers. So far you haven't responded to anything I've said about this.

      2. Instead you've just cited demographics, statistics, consensus opinions, etc. However, I'm not as interested in what the majority do or don't do. Truth isn't based on what the majority decides. Like the old saying goes, would you jump off of a cliff if everyone else did?

      "Conservative Calvinist publishers are producing books not only against contraception but promoting Natural Family Planning. A movement of Missouri Synod Lutherans is working to overturn their church’s current teaching and return it to Luther’s, and observers report a new interest in the traditional teaching among conservative movements in the mainline churches. " Have you ever given this option even the slightest thought, Mr. Dude? And if you have, on what basis did you reject it?"

      What makes you think I reject NFP methods? I've never said I reject NFP. I'd say it depends on the couple.

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    4. "c. Male and female sterilization as well as the male condom account for 71% of the methods of contracpetives used. (Presumably female sterilization is tubal ligation or obstruction while male sterilization is vasectomy.) That's a significant majority which aren't "abortifacients"."

      Correction: 53% (still the majority).

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