Saturday, May 30, 2015

Comparing something to nothing

I've already written a general evaluation of this response, now I'd like to zero in on a specific part of the argument:

As noted above, Mr. Cunningham uses these studies to point out that pro-life legislation is effective in saving babies lives.  He further argued that we ought to support these measures because they work, we lack the political clout to completely ban abortion, and failure to take what we can is tantamount to turning our backs on these neighbors.
So what do we make of this?
Even if we admit Dr. New’s analysis is correct and that there is a genuine correlation between abortion rates/ratios and the passage of pro-life laws, we do not think this study address the real question at hand.  Abolitionists do not argue that pro-life laws don’t do some good.  We openly admit they likely have some positive influence in reducing the number of surgical abortions.  The real question, however, is how do we know that rallying around an immediatist position in the 1990s would not have had the net effect of saving even more than are currently saved?  Simply put, Dr. New’s work, while insightful and interesting, cannot address this question because the data sets needed to address it do not exist.  We do not know whether or not a different strategy would have had a worse outcome.  It is entirely possible that the methods used in the 1990s yielded far fewer babies being saved than if a stronger immediatist position had been embraced.  The point is that we don’t know and, as such, these studies are moot. 
To return to the studies Mr. Cunningham raised in the debate, we are grateful that those children are alive, and we are grateful that surgical abortion has been curtailed to some degree.  We suspect, however, that those saved babies are not indicative of God honoring those methods but that He is bringing about good in spite of our failed, compromised methods.

It's important to notice that PChem is changing the subject. Here's a reminder of Cunningham's original statement:

Then, holding up Dr. New’s research on the effectiveness of incremental bills for saving lives, Cunningham asked, “What about these babies? Should we allow them to die instead of passing incremental legislation that would save them?” Hunter initially said “no,” but when Cunningham pressed him for clarification, he called the question a “charade” because if all incrementalists would become immediatists, we could put the ax to the root and end abortion. Gregg continued, “For the record, Russ didn’t answer the question. Should these babies have been allowed to die instead of passing the incremental legislation that saved them?” When Hunter again declined to answer and called incremental victories “shallow,” Cunningham again held up Dr. New’s study and asked, “Are you saying this guy made this stuff up when he said these laws save lives?”

Notice that PChem doesn't dispute the accuracy of Cunningham's claim. He concedes that New's studies support Cunningham's claim. Legal restrictions on abortion do, in fact, save babies. 

So far from being "moot," such studies are, by PChem's own admission, directly confirmatory. 

i) Since PChem can't refute Cunningham's claim, or New's supporting evidence, PChem attempts to recast the issue. The "real question" is whether incrementalism saves more babies than immediatism. 

From my reading, abolitionists play a shell game on this issue. On the one hand, there are abolitionists who refuse to admit that incremental legislation saves babies. They claim the restrictions are so easy to evade that they don't save any babies. Or they don't save a "significant" number of babies.

In that respect, it's important to remember PChem's concession. He grants the fact that incremental legislation does, indeed, save babies. He therefore changes the subject. 

From my reading, abolitionists oscillate between these two contentions. Sometimes they resist the claim that incremental legislation is effective. However, their fallback position is to say it doesn't matter if incremental legislation is effective. And they give two reasons: one is to claim that even if successful, the results are tainted by moral compromise.

But the other response is to shift grounds: it's no longer a question of whether incremental legislation is effective, but whether it saves more lives. 

It's important for abolitionists to be consistent. What's their actual argument? 

I think one source of the problem is that abolitionists have developed a conditioned reflex to certain objections. They have prepared answers. The aim is to deflect the immediate objection. They resort to any answer that's convenient at the moment. 

ii) Furthermore, they naturally squirm at having to admit that they are prepared to sacrifice the lives of tangible, living babies at hand to further their long-range strategy of maybe saving more babies at some future point. When you strip away the idealistic rhetoric, it's very harsh to say you will sacrifice babies in the short-term to possibly save more babies in the long-term. You will let babies die today to save hypothetical babies tomorrow. That's a choice they try to duck–even though their position commits them to that hard-nosed calculation. 

ii) In addition, they shift the burden of proof. They act as if the onus is on the prolifer to demonstrate that immediatism saves fewer lives. Of course, that's absurd. It is incumbent on abolitionists to defend their own position. It is incumbent on them to provide supporting evidence for their own position. In fact, their refusal to shoulder their own burden of proof betrays the poverty of evidence for their position. It makes no sense to say: "I have nothing to support my claim–now prove me wrong!" It's not up to prolifers to refute sheer assertions about a nonexistent, alternate history or wishful future.  

iii) PChem's comparison is inapt. The logical comparison would be to ask how many babies in the past would be saved by incremental measures had those same measures been in place at the time.  

Since, moreover, incremental legislation has a track-record, that supplies a frame of reference for extrapolating present laws and present results back in time.

iv) By contrast, immediatism has no track-record. There are no immediatist laws on the books–anywhere. New's studies are not deficient because they failed to compare something to nothing. There's no basis of comparison in the first place. Immediatism has no data to furnish a frame of reference. You can't extrapolate from nothing in the present to something in the past. 

Abolitionists are pinning all their hopes on a wishful future. They have zero evidence at present that abolitionist distinctives will be successful in any degree whatsoever. You can't pull estimates out of thin air. 

As we do this, we see lives changed and people who are used by God to save babies. As abolitionism grows the number of people going to abortion mills, schools, city streets, churches, and everywhere else grows. The number of memes we post, signs we hold, pamphlets we pass out, conversation we have, prayers we make, plans and campaigns we bring to fruition all increase. As a result, the number of abortions taking place will likely decrease. 

PChem doesn't know that abolitionism will grow. He doesn't know that it will probably grow. What if AHA is just a fad–like "Justice for Trayvon"? Compare some stats. AHA Facebook has 35,766 likes. Justice for Trayvon Martin Facebook has 283,346 likes. Remember 'Justice for Trayvon' rallies in 100 cities across USA? But that was just the cause du jour. Social activists moved on to other hot-button issues.

What happens when Facebook pulls the plug on AHA? Will AHA fizzle? Time will tell. But there's no evidence, as of yet, that AHA has any staying power. It's handing out vouchers backed by promises about its future achievements. But that's all hypothetical. 

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