Princeton Prof. Elizabeth Harmon Says Fetus is Like a Vegetable. Why That’s Wrong

By Ryan Anderson Published on August 11, 2017

[Editor’s note: In a recent interview with James Franco, Princeton philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman defended abortion using an argument so bizarre that Franco could not hide his bewilderment. Ryan Anderson showed the weakness of her reasoning in detail after a 2008 panel at Princeton. His summary of the philosophical arguments for and against abortion is valuable for anyone wanting to understand the depths of the debate.]

Look, when we think about ending an early human life, this is something that is really bad for the embryo or early fetus that dies, it’s losing out tremendously — I agree with that as I already said. And then you said that it’s one of the things that we should care about. And, um, I think that I should have said before that I think it’s really dangerous to slide from noticing that something is bad for something, to thinking that that gives us a moral reason. And just to prove that that doesn’t follow, think about plants. So lots of things are bad for trees, and plants, and flowers, and often that gives us no reasons whatsoever, certainly no moral reasons. In my view, fetuses that die before they’re ever conscious really are a lot like plants: They’re living things, but there’s nothing about them that would make us think that they count morally in the way that people do.

That came from Princeton philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman during the question-and-answer period of last week’s star-studded symposium at Princeton titled, “Is It Wrong to End Early Human Life?” The participants included Harman and her Princeton colleagues Robert George and Peter Singer, along with Don Marquis (Kansas), Patrick Lee (Franciscan), Jeff McMahan (Rutgers), and John Haldane (St. Andrews). Moderating the discussion was Harold Shapiro, Princeton’s president emeritus and the chair of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission under President Clinton. On any measure, these are among the most prominent voices in contemporary philosophy and bioethics, and to have them together on one three-and-a-half-hour panel was an intellectual treat. (Disclosure: George, Lee, and Haldane are affiliated with the Witherspoon Institute, as am I.)

Many, no doubt, will find Harman’s comparison of human fetuses to plants — not to mention Singer’s moral defense of infanticide — deeply repugnant. I certainly do. But these are merely the conclusions of a chain of (gravely mistaken) moral reasoning, and such intellectually honest reflection is to be preferred, in fact welcomed, over the unprincipled rationalization that often takes its place. When people like Harman and Singer speak openly and follow their premises to their logical conclusions, the audience realizes what is at stake when a commitment to intrinsic human dignity and equality is rejected — and that realization is a very good thing.

Though ethical disagreement about such important matters as killing human beings, restricting women’s liberty, and forestalling scientific research often generate more heat than light, one of this panel’s many virtues was its consistent civility. The participants themselves stressed that intelligent and reflective people of goodwill can and do disagree. Eschewing ad hominem attacks, they opted to offer arguments and rebuttals, a mutual exchange whose currency is reason. This brought to mind Fr. John Courtney Murray’s famous remark that “disagreement is a rare achievement, and most of what is called disagreement is simply confusion.” So it is a credit to the panelists that the discussion was marked by a lack of confusion, albeit much disagreement.

Some would still question its worth. Toward the end of the Q&A, someone admitted to being impressed by the philosophers’ “ingenuity” but asked if it really mattered: Don’t people come to their ethical conclusions “viscerally” and then try to justify them?

Every human being — including embryos — is intrinsically valuable as a subject of rights.

I wouldn’t be so cynical. Such theorizing throughout the academy — and the Church — plays a crucial role in developing adequate responses to new ethical challenges. Objections are raised, theories are refined, misconceptions are cleared away, and arguments are developed — and truth can be discovered. It has been through exchanges such as this one, for example, that the pro-life side has refined its argument to the intellectually persuasive position that it is today. And championing this developed argument has its effects — on the young, who are consistently polled as being more pro-life than their parents’ generation, and even on older converts, like NARAL cofounder Bernard Nathanson.

So what was discussed? Patrick Lee opened the panel in good philosophical style with a thought experiment: Would it be wrong, he asked, to kill someone after a surgery that would irreversibly erase all his memories and leave him unconscious for several months? Yes it would, he argued, even though he would be in the same psychological position as a human embryo or fetus. For he would still retain, as a human being, the basic natural capacity for personal acts — even if the immediate ability to perform them would be delayed. Similarly, the human embryo or fetus has that same personal nature; she just needs time to develop herself to the point where she can exercise it. Lee summarized his argument in three simple steps: 1. We are intrinsically valuable from the moment we come to be. 2. We are essentially animal organisms of a rational sort, so that all human beings are persons. 3. Human organisms come to be at fertilization. Conclusion: Every whole human organism (meaning human beings, not human parts) — including embryos — is intrinsically valuable as a subject of rights.

Peter Singer went next. He reminded the audience that, as a utilitarian, he aims to weigh the costs and the benefits of various options to find the one promising the greatest good. On his view, there are four general reasons why it is typically wrong to kill a typical human being named Jane (all the “typicals” are required qualifiers in any utilitarian framework, for nothing is absolute): 1. Killing Jane would wrong her family and friends. 2. It would make others anxious that they could be next. 3. The world would be deprived of Jane’s inherent value (regardless of which theory we embrace to identify that value: hedonism, preference-satisfaction, rational-choice, etc.). 4. As a self-aware being, Jane has future-dependent desires that her death would thwart.

But, as Singer himself admitted, any of these reasons may be defeated or destroyed under certain conditions: “The intrinsic value of Jane’s life may be an important reason, or may not be, depending on the circumstances.” For example, Jane’s life does not produce a net increase of value in the world if “Jane’s death is a necessary condition for Helen, who will live a life of even greater value than Jane.” This could justify aborting a genetically defective child to conceive a healthy replacement (Singer’s own example) — but also justify killing some adults. The relevance of Singer’s fourth consideration also varies, since, he argues, some chimpanzees are “certainly more self-aware than some humans, and more self-aware than fetuses or, for that matter, newborn babies.”

After Singer, Don Marquis presented an argument for his well-known, moderately pro-life position (first proposed in one of the most widely anthologized articles against abortion). He rejected both utilitarianism and any straightforward sanctity-of-life view that would include anencephalic babies, Terri Schiavo, and people in irreversible comas (who, he argued, have futures of little or no value). Instead, Marquis argued, depriving someone of “a future of value” is what makes killing wrong. To kill Marquis today would be to deprive him of all the value that his future life holds. Thus, to have killed the fetus that Marquis once was would have been to deprive him of that same value, for the fetus that he was had a future larger than (and including) his current one. Marquis concluded that most killing of fetuses and newborns is wrong, but killing a human being with absolutely no potential for consciousness is not wrong, for such a being’s future has little or no value. To my mind, this view (though flawed) is probably most in accord with many people’s basic intuitions.

The final presenter was Jeff McMahan, defender of the Threshold Gradualist View, who argued that some threshold has to be crossed in human development before we exist. From there, our moral status gradually increases to that of persons as we develop self-awareness. To be clear, he doesn’t argue “that there’s a time when we exist and don’t matter.” Rather, he thinks “that there is a period in early human life when we don’t exist.” For him it is irrelevant when life begins: “The morally interesting question to ask is ‘when do we begin to exist.’” A human organism begins to exist at one point and we begin to exist at another point because, on McMahan’s view, “we are not identical with human organisms. We are not essentially or substantially human organisms.”

Utilitarianism is unable to defend human rights, since the calculation could justify the killing of any individual for the sake of a putatively “greater good.”

Why not? Among his other arguments, McMahan thinks that in diacephalic twinning — where two heads are attached to one torso — two people share one human organism, proving that people are not essentially human organisms but rather conscious subjects. In senility or dementia, he asks, “once the capacity for consciousness has disappeared, what’s left?” Not you, if you are only a mind: “Somebody’s there so long as there’s a conscious subject present in association with that organism, but there’s nothing there that’s a viable candidate to be you after the capacity for consciousness has ceased to exist.” An explicit appeal to body-self dualism — the ghost in the machine lives on. “I think that we began to exist when the developing fetal organism developed the capacity to support consciousness and mental activity. That occurs roughly between 22 and 28 weeks after fertilization. It’s at that point, I think, that there is someone there rather than just something.” As a result, “an abortion performed prior to that point doesn’t kill somebody like you or me; it simply prevents one of us from existing.” Until then, killing a human being “doesn’t matter morally,” because it’s an “unoccupied human organism — we’re not there yet.” His exclamation “I was never an embryo” drew noticeable (and decidedly skeptical) chuckles from the audience.

The other three panelists then offered brief comments. Robert George spent his turn criticizing utilitarianism for its inability to defend human rights, including an adult’s right to life, since the calculation could justify the killing of any individual for the sake of a putatively “greater good.” He also criticized McMahan’s theory by proposing that we are essentially human organisms, not mere consciousnesses “occupying” physical bodies.

John Haldane suggested that the discussion was too narrow, that we needed to step back and reconsider how to go about doing ethics in the first place and how to think about human life:

In fashioning an ethic about our relationship with one another, that is done on the basis of an understanding of what human beings are as such; the recognition that human life is something that is spread throughout its career; and that the appropriate attitudes of respect, solidarity, regard and reverence that one adopts to human beings as such means that it isn’t optional for us to let those lapse or to see those as defeasible in particular circumstances or stages in which human beings are … [underdeveloped or] seriously damaged.

Finally, Professor Harman focused her comments on Don Marquis, agreeing with him that killing deprives us of our future of value but maintaining that this only matters because we count morally but fetuses do not. “So what we have is something that is really bad for the embryo or fetus, but in my view that is morally insignificant.” To defend this argument, she proposed her Actual Future Principle. And the one-sentence definition reads: “Things have moral status throughout their existence, just in case there’s any time in their existence at which they are conscious.” The basic gist: If a fetus one day develops to maturity, then it has been valuable all along, since conception. But if we will abort the fetus, then it was never valuable. Needless to say, this view received the most head scratching from the audience and from the other panelists. Her view on whether fetuses have moral status: “Some do, some don’t, and it depends on what’s going to happen to them.” In other words, if we kill them, then they have no moral status, but if we don’t, they do. So two intrinsically identical unborn human beings could have radically different moral statuses. Like I said, lots of head scratching.

As is usually the case, the question-and-answer period was even more clarifying. Lee and George explained the importance of fertilization as the initiation of a new and distinct individual life — and even the pro-choicers on the panel were willing to concede that, as a matter of biological fact, human embryos and fetuses are human beings. Lee also clarified that the goods that I recognize as fulfilling — including life itself — are good not only for me but for anyone essentially like me, others with whom I could be in communion: rational creatures. Likewise, both Lee and Haldane stressed the importance of basic natural capacities (Lee’s phrase) or second-order capacities (Haldane’s phrase). A fetus — not to mention a newborn baby — doesn’t have the immediate capacity to think or choose or speak, but she has the basic natural or second-order capacity to develop herself to the stage at which she can and does. And, as Haldane stressed, it’s only on the basis of second-order capacities that we distinguish types of beings from each other.

Taken as a whole, the discussions revealed several salient points. It was instructive to witness the ease with which various speakers could embrace infanticide or dehumanize unborn life — recall Harman’s argument that unborn children “really are a lot like plants.” But even more instructive was how unalarmed many in the Princeton audience seemed to be by any of this. I had forgotten that, for more than a few in the academic elite, this is just par for the course.

It was gratifying to see that all of the panelists agreed that the pro-life argument did not rest on illicit theological beliefs (something the Princeton biologist Lee Silver absurdly charges), though it was frustrating to see that, while pro-choice philosophers feel they have to take the pro-life argument seriously, they frequently respond to caricatured versions of it. (At times it was clear that some members of the panel did not truly understand the pro-life argument in all its details. In fairness to Fr. Murray, then, there was some confusion.) Nonetheless, most anyone present would agree that Lee, George, Haldane, and Marquis showed that the pro-life argument was every bit as intellectually sophisticated as the pro-choice alternatives — indeed, from my perspective it is more coherent and more plausible, since it does not entail bizarre premises (“I was never an embryo”) or repulsive conclusions (such as the moral legitimacy of infanticide).

None of the panelists announced a change of heart under the pressure of criticism. Each stuck to his or her guns while probing for weaknesses in the alternative positions. Still, it must be said that the internal inconsistencies among the various pro-choice views was telling: Whereas the pro-choice panelists all agreed that there was nothing wrong with killing an unborn baby, they couldn’t agree on why. And their internal disagreements actually undermined aspects of their competing pro-choice views. Some of the pro-choicers resisted the utilitarianism of Peter Singer, some of them resisted the dualism of Jeff McMahan, all of them seemed to resist the “actual future” theory of Elizabeth Harman.

We each have a fundamental moral equality founded in our dignity as equally human — and we mustn’t forget this truth.

As the panel was wrapping up and I was headed to dinner with the panelists, I realized how important these types of discussions are — not only in the public arena, where we are told to use “public reason,” but also for the life of the Church. As Lee, George and Haldane spoke, it became eminently clear that the public reasons they invoked were the real reasons behind their views. While revelation tells us that man is made “in the image and likeness of God” and therefore should be protected and not killed, the data of revelation doesn’t answer the question of what, precisely, is made in the image and likeness of God — a soul, a consciousness, an “embodied mind,” a body? Nor does it answer the question of when this entity comes into existence or when it becomes valuable — fertilization, quickening, formation of the brain, beginning of consciousness, beginning of self-consciousness? Beyond the abortion and embryo-destruction debates, many bioethical issues loom large for the Church. Besides issues of killing, the Church will need to address new biotechnologies that seek to create life and enhance life. It seems to me that the philosophical reflection on display at the killing panel will need to be applied anew.

And developing these lines of reasoning will be helpful both for the Church’s pastoral mission in guiding her members and for the Church’s contribution to public life. When it comes to bioethics, much is at stake for the foundations of our political life. At the end of the panel, one questioner expressed this well. If we redefine our founding principle so as to exclude those without consciousness or rationality from an inalienable right to life, he asked, what is to keep others from redefining it again to exclude those who aren’t morally upright (as he thought the “radical right” might do) or who aren’t religiously upright (as he thought radical Islam would dictate)? At this time in our national and world history, he wondered, shouldn’t we be uniting around the principle of the Declaration of Independence?

Peter Singer responded by pointing out that we don’t agree on who counts now, and we seem to get along just fine without agreeing on it. To unify around fair “civil procedures,” not around any particular value, is all we need to survive. Pat Lee, agreeing with the questioner, stressed the importance of the self-evident truths of the Declaration, reminding us of the role they played for Lincoln in his Gettysburg’s Address. Lee added that, while we are not equal in most respects, we do have a fundamental moral equality founded in our dignity as equally human — and we mustn’t forget this truth. Picking up this point, Robert George stressed how, in the history of the world, only America has been built on the principle of the “profound, inherent, and equal dignity of all human beings.” When you stop to think about it, he went on, “I think it’s a remarkable thing.” Given all the profound and manifest inequalities, it is remarkable that we’ve come to see this conclusion as self-evident.

George closed the panel by stressing that we must never undermine the foundational principle that grounds our refusal ever to countenance sacrificing the life of a profoundly retarded child (to harvest transplant organs) to save the life of a prime specimen of humanity like Albert Einstein or Michael Jordan: “History does show us that those whom we would exclude from the community of the commonly protected, those whom we would kill or authorize the killing of, we first dehumanize.”

 

 

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @RyanTAnd.

Originally appeared at First Things. Republished with permission.

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  • Trilemma

    I agree with Jeff McMahan. When my body was an embryo I did not exist as a person.

    Up to 70% of all fertilized eggs are either flushed down the toilet, washed down the drain, or simply thrown out. If killing a fertilized egg is the same as killing a conscious adult then why isn’t there more being done to save all these discarded fertilized eggs?

    • Mensa Member

      >> If killing a fertilized egg is the same as killing a conscious adult

      It simply isn’t. That’s one reason I’m pro-choice.

      • Jennifer Hartline

        You’re not pro-choice. You’re pro-abortion. At least be honest.

        • Kevin Quillen

          thank you. Also lbgtqwxyz are queers(abnormal), let us not let them dictate terms for their benefit. I have recently heard the term “non-hetero” couples. Again, trying to change the terminology to legitimize themselves.

          • Pigdowndog

            ” trying to change the terminology to legitimize themselves.”
            They don’t need to “legitimise” themselves, they’re already legitimate except in the eyes of bigoted god-botherers.
            Do yourself a favour and join us sane folk in the 21st century.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      Your thinking is ridiculous. When you were an embryo, you were the very same human person you are now, only smaller and less physically/mentally/socially/emotionally developed. But your humanity was the same then as now. Age and development are not a function of humanity. You were not a cucumber or a kitten, but a human person. Consciousness is also not the measure of humanity. Personhood is not determined by size, age, intelligence, consciousness, ability, independence, etc.

      The fact that many young embryos do not survive to birth has no bearing on their humanity. We are not in control of life or death. The fact that we are not always able to bury the remains of every child who dies in the womb also has no bearing on their humanity. We do what we are able, and we honor the humanity of every child in the womb.

      • Trilemma

        An embryo does not have an organized brain. So it has no thoughts; no memories; no emotions; no dreams; no personality. In short, an embryo has no soul. When my body was an embryo, it was human but there was no person there.

        When a couple uses In vitro fertilization, what should happen to the left over embryos?

        • Linda Hunter

          I think the lab person Chuck’s them down the drain or they could go to the highest bidder.

          • Linda Hunter

            Eggs for sale anyone for a bakers dozen?

          • Trilemma

            Many of the left over embryos are chucked down the drain or disposed off as medical waste as you say. But many are frozen indefinitely, some are donated for research, and a lucky few are adopted.

    • Nobody Specific

      I hear this argument a lot and it ignores the gulf that exists between natural events and events that we have direct agency in. There is a huge moral difference there. Lets move this to an analogous scenario we can better relate to as fully developed humans.

      Imagine if you will you and I are hiking along a ridge line. Its raining and quite slippery.

      Scenario 1) You slip and take tumble down the ridge.
      Scenario 2) I get fed up with your nonsense and give you a shove over the side.

      In scenario (1) I am witness to an unfortunate tragedy. In scenario (2) I am a murderer. We are still a part of nature we are still creatures in God’s garden even as we are special. We have a greater capacity to understand and influence events, with that we have a greater responsibility to behave ethically and morally. Comparing an abortion to a miscarriage let alone an unfertilized egg that is simply passed thru menstruation is downright silly. Both Miscarriages and the passing of unfertilized eggs happen as a fact of nature, they are unfortunate, at least in the case of miscarriages, in the way slipping and falling might be.

      • Trilemma

        Let’s look at scenario 1 some more. Suppose a month later, you’re with another person and you watch them slip and fall do their death. The next month the same thing happens and so on. How long will you continue to shrug off these deaths as simply natural events before you decide to do something? Will it ever be worth the effort for someone to put up a net or railing to catch people so they can get back on the path and reach their destination?

        The failure of a fertilized egg to attach to the uterine wall is a natural event. Someone who dies from cancer is a natural event. In the case of cancer, we spend billions of dollars trying to keep this natural event from happening. If a fertilized egg is just as valuable and has just as much a right to live as a person with cancer, then why aren’t there billions being spent to keep unattached fertilized eggs from dying?

        • Nobody Specific

          First because no analogy is ever going to be perfect. If it were it would be the same situation.

          We can’t prevent every single fertilized egg from failing to attach, its well beyond our current medical know how. On the other hand we absolutely do spend considerable resources investigating the cause, and prevention of later stage miscarriages just like we do treating cancer.

          On some level yes there does have to be a value judgement placed on some lives that allows us to choose them over others. Few of us would argue against evacuating children from a sinking ship or burning building ahead of others. Once again however those are situations that occur despite our better efforts, we try and design buildings so they don’t catch fire, we try and build and operate ships so they don’t sink. Not being able to protect everyone or rescue everyone from tragedy isn’t the same actively seeking to destroy them.

    • eddiestardust

      Then, by your logic you are not a human either.

      • Trilemma

        Please explain how my logic leads to that conclusion.

  • Linda Hunter

    Some people are Pro the Fetus etc and some people are Pro Lifer’s the woman. It’s not if a fetus can speak Mandarin, masturbate or twins play ring around the Rosey it’s about a woman’s choice to carry a Fetus to full term or terminate the fetus for whatever the reason . Procreate is between a woman and her doctor. Everyone else just butt out. It cost you nothing.

    • Kevin Quillen

      no, it is about a womans right to murder a baby. Does the father have no say? If not, then why does he have to pay child support if baby is delivered? You need to meet Jesus. I pray for you.

      • Linda Hunter

        If the man doesn’t want to pay child support for one night stands he can choose to not have sex or get a vasectomy. God Bless.

      • Boris

        “no, it is about a womans right to murder a baby.”
        No it’s about the fact that the Constitution does not give the government the right to force parenthood on people who don’t want it, can’t afford it, aren’t ready for it or may risk their own lives to try to give birth. You don’t give a rip about the unborn and we all know it. The only reason you oppose this medical procedure is because you’re afraid that the invisible man in the sky you believe in will not only punish the nation you live in but will tell you when you stand before him that ..”you didn’t do enough to save those babies in America. I never knew you.” You are only out to save your own skin from being burned in this imaginary lake of fire. You are as selfish and evil a person who has ever drawn a breath on this planet. By the way Jesus Christ never even existed.

    • eddiestardust

      Ms Hunter, IF you don’t think an unborn child is a person than YOU are NOT a person , either. Sorry , Ms Space Alien but you are either human or not!

  • blackfeather

    too bad she wasn’t “treated” as a vegetable.

  • Stephen D

    It is interesting that Peter Singer invariably thinks “we seem to get along just fine now”. That presumably is because he thinks abortion is fine – and so on. He is happy with the status quo. Biblically there is a notable actor in the human drama who would undoubtedly agree with Professor Singer. His name is Satan.

    • Boris

      I could not post this on that other thread.
      “I find political ideologies based on ‘rights’ unconvincing.
      Intelligent people find the Bible and the fatally flawed arguments for God’s or Jesus’ existence unconvincing.
      “I do not find ‘rights’ in the Bible.”
      You don’t find any history in the Bible either. You do find an awful lot of defenses against free inquiry and critical thinking in the Bible That’s because the backward, superstitious, misogynist, animal sacrificing primitives who wrote the Bible knew nothing about democracy or republics but only theocracy. We base our laws on the Greek and Roman democracies not on rules made up by desert nomads who cut the heads off animals and sprayed blood around to ward off evil spirits. You know the people you get your backward worldview from.
      “The foundational biblical pronouncements on ethics – the Ten Commandments, the teaching of Christ, including the Sermon on the Mount – seem to me to be about obligations, not ‘rights’.
      Sorry but we don’t obey orders from burning bushes in fictional stories. THOU SHALT TRY REAL HARD NOT TO KILL ANYONE, UNLESS, OF COURSE, THEY PRAY TO A DIFFERENT INVISIBLE MAN THAN THE ONE YOU PRAY TO.
      “Therefore to me a political system that starts with the need for a government to recognise ‘rights’ is already on the wrong foot. Biblical Christianity is much more radical than that. It demands the highest possible moral standard from the individual.”
      Kill all the women and children and rape all the young virgins. Christian morality at its finest. Hate your family or you can’t join our club. The rest is even worse.
      “In the end no political system, now matter how brilliantly conceived or how democratic, can deliver good results when the people have turned from God and have repudiated His ways and His rule.”
      Do you have any evidence at all that this God you grovel to like a sniveling coward actually exists? Or do you just have your own fear put in your head by OTHER PEOPLE that you’ll be punished for not believing what these OTHER PEOPLE told you that you must believe?
      “The impulse to tyranny is built into our fallen human nature. Only in Christ is there real freedom.
      The word “freedom” in the Bible means something very different from our usual notion of being able to make choices. It compares more closely to being free of lice. In Romans 6:17-18 it is clear that the believer is no closer to having free will. Freedom simply means “available for subjection to God” instead of to sin. With this new definition, it becomes interesting to look at that old favorite, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Another potent example of this manipulation of language is the use of love, which translates to obedience: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:15, 21). Just as truth is torn away from the realm of fact in Christianity, love is removed from the realm of human affections.”
      “Ah yes. That’s an ad hominem argument. In other words a form of rudeness.”
      Yes I have the right to be rude. Ain’t rights great? To bad you don’t have any. You’re just envious of my freedom and of my courage to thumb my nose at your threats and your insane superstitions that science debunked centuries ago. If you were half the man I am no one could have taunted you into believing the Buybull.
      “Feel free to engage in debate at any time. It is always worth trying to actually argue your case. If you believe in human rights, perhaps you could say why you believe in them?”
      Rights are things the state gives us so they can take our money. It;s a trade. We probably agree that rights do not come from any deity. They come from governments which is why each country has slightly different rights.
      “Similarly if you do not believe people should try to live according to Christian moral standards perhaps you could make that case? It’s up to you really. But the idea of a ‘discussion’ is actually to discuss things, not just trade insults.”
      Why does our sense of objective morality require a supernatural source? Morality is based in choices and choices are rooted in values. For humans, the most basic choice is between life and death, so the ultimate value is life. Anything which protects, enhances and improves human life is termed “good” that which harms or destroys it is “evil.” So my basis for morality is objective because it is based on the value of human life itself. This leads to a far more compassionate and rational system than that of an imaginary deity whose whims cannot be understood and who is not constrained in any manner by the commands he gives to others. Your morality is subjective to the extreme because it is established by a being whose motives and very nature are absolutely beyond human comprehension which makes it impossible to discern any moral law beyond, ”God wills it.” This is why religious people are so dangerous and Christianity has such a violent and bloodthirsty past. You have no basis for morals or ethics as a Christian.
      You don’t want people to have rights because you don’t have any. But that’s your choice. It’s the right to safe abortions that is scaring you. Because you know if Jesus actually existed that when you stand before him he’s going to tell you that “….you didn’t do enough to save those babies in America. I never knew you.” Frightening isn’t it? You are willing to try to take away the rights and freedoms of other people only to save your own skin, NOT because you give a rip about the unborn, or women who are in trouble. You’re as evil as a human being could ever be. Bit off a little more than you can chew didn’t you?

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