I was surprised this topped the charts last year. It is on a very important topic, but is quite technical. I decided to write it because it needed to be written, but I didn’t think it would get many views. 560 people thought otherwise, making this the most popular post of last year. (It being promoted by someone else in December didn’t hurt either!)
It remains to apply the reasoning of the morality of abortion to three other reproductive technologies: embryonic stem cell research, genetic testing, and human cloning. Are there ever morally appropriate uses of these technologies? I believe so in one case, and not in the other two cases. Let me explain why.
In vitro fertilization, embryonic stem research, genetic testing and human cloning are moral issues of our day closely related to the abortion debate. The underlying issues discussed in this series concerning the morality of abortion also apply to these important topics. Whether one takes and essentialist or functionalist view of personhood will also determine the morality of these practices and procedures.
The alternative to life beginning at conception due to a human soul being present is a “functional” definition of personhood. This is the view underlying all pro-choice arguments. If this definition of life is correct, the pro-choice conclusion is completely reasonable. Yet there are at least five problems with the functionalist definition of personhood.
Many object to my conclusion that life begins at conception. The central objection is that we can’t observe a soul, to know when it begins. However, we can observe when certain life-sustaining functions begin. Therefore only when the fetus functions in these ways can we say it is alive. Yet this is well past the point of conception. So life must not begin at conception.
There are at least three responses to this objection.
The first step in determining the morality of abortion is determining what the fetus is. Is it a part of the mother’s body, or is it a distinct human being? To answer this we first must answer two logically prior questions: (1) what is it to be a human person? and (2) when does a human person begin? I’ll tackle these questions in the next few weeks.
“Roe Isn’t Just About Women’s Rights. It’s About Everyone’s Personal Liberty.” was the title of an opinion piece in The Washington Post on July 8. It is one of many articles written about the possibility of a new member of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. How can Christians best think about and discuss this issue with others?
(As we look back on 2017 I'm posting the three blog posts which received the most views. If you missed these the first time around, hopefully you will enjoy these reposts!) In the spring of 1962 “Jean” was eighteen years old, pregnant, unmarried, and scared. Her boyfriend wasn’t interested in marriage or raising a child. Her whole world was changing before her eyes, but she never considered abortion. On December 5, 1962 she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. On September 7, 2017—almost 55 years later— I discovered I am that child. From this discovery I have reflected on three essential truths in new and deeper ways.
In the spring of 1962 “Jean” was eighteen years old, pregnant, unmarried, and scared. Her boyfriend wasn’t interested in marriage or raising a child. Her whole world was changing before her eyes, but she never considered abortion. On December 5, 1962 she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. On September 7, 2017—almost 55 years later— I discovered I am that child. From this discovery I have reflected on three essential truths in new and deeper ways.
Can we hope to find common ground in “the public square” over the critically important social issues of our day? Over the past seven weeks I’ve illustrated how the three different answers to “What are we” determines our answer to this question. But our view of what we are also determines our view of whether abortion and euthanasia are ever justified, whether the gospel makes sense, how Christians best grow in their faith, what constitutes “ministry,” and so much more. Let me explain…
The third answer to “What are we” is that we are essentially nothing. Therefore each person should define his or her individual “essence” and pursue whatever activities he or she believes will lead to individual flourishing. On this view promoting the common good is nothing more than ensuring everyone has the freedom and ability to pursue one’s own definition of flourishing and “the good life.” But is this right? I think not. Here are three reasons why not…
Understanding what we are determines how we treat one another. In this series I’ve argued we are essentially a soul-body combination (Substance Dualism). But some say we are essentially material—only a physical thing. Over the past few weeks I’ve discussed five reasons given for this view, and showed why these arguments fail. We now come to the final argument for Physicalism.
Are there any good reasons to think we are purely physical, and not a unity of soul and body? Last week I considered four reasons that fail. This week I’ll consider a fifth.
Some argue that we should have “blind” faith in science, believing that though now it cannot explain all we are physically, one day it will. I’ll share four reasons this is wrong thinking.
All disagreements about what promotes the good life—human flourishing and the common good—depend on one’s answer to the question “What is it to be human?” The last two weeks I’ve argued we are a unity of soul and body. This week I’ll consider the second answer: “To be human is to be a purely physical thing—a human body.” Here I’ll discuss four reasons people give in favor of this view, and next week I'll discuss another two reasons. I’ll also explain why I think these reasons fail--why physicalism is not the right answer to the question.
What we believe we are, determines how we approach life, how we define human flourishing, and how we think about political, cultural, moral and spiritual issues. Last week I offered three reasons to believe we have a soul, in addition to a body. This then grounds our equality and dignity as human persons. This week I offer three more reasons.
We want to believe in equality, human dignity, value and worth, and the possibility of human flourishing and the common good. But these ideas make sense only if we have a shared human nature that makes us all the same and equally valuable. This shared human nature is not part of our physical dimension (our physical “substance”), but is part of our immaterial dimension (our immaterial “substance”). Therefore Substance Dualism is the only way to ground and defend these ideas.
“If I can’t see it, it isn’t real.” This is another way people often express their belief in Physicalism. So far I’ve offered two reasons Physicalism can’t be true. In this final post on the topic I’ll offer a third….
In sum, if Physicalism is true, then we would have to reject all consciousness, including all rational thought. This is a very hard thing to admit, and therefore few Physicalists are willing to do so. But the honest Physicalist must do so and grant that “no one has ever had a thought in his life” and “there cannot be a rational reason to believe in Physicalism.” Let me explain.
“If science can’t prove it, it isn’t real.” This is another way the belief in Physicalism” is expressed. Last week I discussed one reason Physicalism dies before it gets started as a rational approach to the world—it is logically self-defeating. This week I’ll tackle a second problem with Physicalism—it can’t explain so much of what we observe every day.