Ethicists’ logical conclusion could reclassify infanticide as a form of contraception.
A pro-life person may think the latest wisdom from the Journal of Medical Ethics is a spoof demonstrating the logical absurdity of justifying abortion. But this reasoning is deadly serious. In “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” two professional ethicists explain there is no logical difference between aborting a pre-born baby and murdering a newborn. Except they don’t call it murder because they do not believe newborns are “actual people.”1
While we say fetuses (and embryos too, for that matter, but that discussion is for another day) and newborns should receive the same protection, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue fetuses and newborns are equally deserving of no protection. The authors admit both a fetus and a newborn are human, but they redefine person as someone able to appreciate his own existence. They therefore count “many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals”1 as persons but exclude a newborn because she has not reached a “level of mental development”1 that is “capable of appreciating her own being alive.”1 “Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life,” they write, as only an “actual person” has a “right to life.”
Then they define harm as depriving a person of something they value. And since neither a fetus nor a newborn can value life, they assert there is no moral reason to prohibit abortion and therefore no reason to prohibit infanticide. In their words, “Since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions.”1
And what sort of reason could justify killing a baby? The authors write that even a healthy child can be a burden. Thus, “if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.”1 What of adoption? Not a good option for many, the authors claim, because “the mother . . . might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption.”1 In short, they write, “However weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people.”
The authors do not claim killing a newborn is euthanasia. After all, “mercy-killing” is supposedly merciful to the individual being killed, whereas “after-birth abortion” may only be merciful to the parents or society. Whether infanticide is merciful to the infant or not is irrelevant. They emphasize the distinction by noting a Down’s syndrome child can enjoy a happy “acceptable life” but be “an unbearable burden on the family and on society.”1
Giubilini doesn’t ignore the topic of euthanasia; he just doesn’t deal with it here. In a recent talk at St. Cross College he reasoned, “There is no sound moral reason against euthanasia.”2
Human life is a continuum that begins with formation of the zygote at fertilization and continues uninterrupted until death. We assign names to different phases of this continuum—blastocyst, embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, teenager, you, your grandmother, etc.—but logically there is no distinction between the willful destruction of a human person at one phase or another. What these “experts” on ethics are saying is not new. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix, said a child should not be considered “human” until three days after birth.3
Throughout history many cultures have practiced “exposure,” leaving an unwanted infant out in the elements to die. And lest we pat our civilized selves on the back too quickly, pro-choice people who justify partial-birth abortion—common practice in many places—should realize there really is no logical difference between a newborn baby just before its head enters the world outside its mother’s body and a moment later when it sees the light.
Similar reasoning—that we should “sympathize with the onerous demands of pregnancy and childbirth” and that as Princeton ethicist Peter Singer says “there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby”—was recently advanced by a Canadian judge to justify releasing a woman convicted of strangling her newborn baby and tossing him over a fence.4 Does the world need more professional voices building elaborate arguments to justify such barbaric behavior?
By distinguishing a person from a human being, these authors—like clever magicians—divert attention from the real issue. The National Catholic Register sums up their tactic well:
The second we allow ourselves to become the arbiters of who is human and who isn’t, this is the calamitous yet inevitable end. Once you say all human life is not sacred, the rest is just drawing random lines in the sand.
An ethicist’s job is like a magician’s. The main job of both is to distract you from the obvious. The magician uses sleight of hand to pretend to make people disappear. But when ethicists do it, people disappear for real.5
The real issue here is not “when does a human become a person with rights?” but rather “who makes the rules?” Who decides what is “ethical” or “right”? These ethicists argue “ethical” is that which puts even the weakest “needs” of society or “actual persons” ahead of those unable to understand they’re being deprived of life. Their standard is mere opinion, however.
Apart from a source of truth from someone greater than man, no person’s moral judgments are more valid than another’s. Only God who created mankind is justly in a position of moral authority over all mankind. God’s account of Creation recorded in the Bible is consistent with what we see in the physical world and validates His ownership of humanity and His right to set our standards.
God made man in His image. Therefore all human beings are of equal value in God’s sight whether or not they comprehend the value of their lives. The lives of the newborn and the unborn, the lives of human embryos in laboratories, the lives of the weak and the helpless—all have value because God made human beings in His image. God explained in Genesis 9:6 His reason for prohibiting murder was because He made man in His image. God commands us not to murder (Exodus 20:13) and to defend the “speechless . . . who are appointed to die” (Proverbs 31:8–9).
Most pro-choice and pro-abortion people wouldn’t consider murdering a newborn baby. They need to carefully consider the claims of these authors. We join with many others in being appalled at this logical justification of infanticide, but we hope many who support abortion will let their revulsion at infanticide awaken them to the logical reality of what they are supporting and see that the pre-born baby is also defenseless person made in the image of God, not a biological entity to be defined to death.
For more information about the public reaction to this article, see further discussion below.
Dawkins, Canterbury, and the Baroness—agnosticism, compromise, and tolerance
During a public “dialogue” at Oxford, “the world’s most famous atheist,” Richard Dawkins, told the Archbishop of Canterbury he couldn’t be sure God didn’t exist. Asked “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Dawkins said he does but is “6.9 out of seven” sure, adding “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low.”
As Dawkins and the Archbishop discussed creation, Dawkins said, “What I can’t understand is why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing – that is such a staggering, elegant, beautiful thing, why would you want to clutter it up with something so messy as a God?” The Archbishop clarified his own belief that (according to the newspaper report) “human beings had evolved from non-human ancestors but were nevertheless ‘in the image of God,’” adding the account of creation in Genesis “could not be taken literally” because, he said, “The writers of the Bible, inspired as I believe they were, they were nonetheless not inspired to do 21st Century physics.”
This public discussion came after a week of debate about the role of religion in British public life. Debate was touched off when Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim Cabinet minister, warned against “a tide of ‘militant secularism’ challenging the religious foundations of British society.”6
Despite statements by some that Dawkins has doubts about his doubts, Dawkins’s remarks are consistent with his worldview. And he made similar statements in the documentary Expelled. Dawkins simply means he sees no evidence for God’s existence. Whether he’s “sure” or just “pretty sure” amounts to the same thing.
The existence of God cannot be “scientifically proven” any more than the non-existence of God. Both beliefs are just that—beliefs, positions of faith. The Christian and even those with other religions (in the ordinary sense of the word) choose to believe there is a divine “Someone” to believe in. Atheists choose to believe there is no divine “Someone.” Both sides examine the same evidence and draw conclusions and interpretations based on their worldviews.
Creation scientists note that models based on the events in Genesis (like the global Flood and the fact that living things reproduce after their kinds and only vary within those kinds) explain the geology and biology we see in the world. Not even “21st century physics” can make experimental observations in the past. Because even evolutionary atheism (and agnosticism) is a position of faith, espousing an interpretation of the past based on untestable belief, we often point out that those are “religions” of a sort.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s position on Genesis is likewise one of “faith”—compromised faith. Though representing the church in a country with deep roots in the Word of God, his position compromises the eyewitness account provided by the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ—who is the Creator (Colossians 1:16), the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), and “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)—affirmed the Genesis account Himself many times during His earthly ministry.7 Jesus spoke of the Creation of man and woman in the beginning,8 the fact that suffering9 began soon after Creation in Mark 13:19, the Flood10 of Noah in Matthew 24:38–39, and many other events recorded in Genesis. Jesus connected the writings of Moses to a correct understanding of His own mission when He said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46–47). Those writings of Moses include Exodus 20:11 which clearly states, “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” When any church leader denies the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, he undermines the foundation of the Christian faith and calls His Lord a liar.
South Africa’s “earliest known evidence of abstract thought”
The Still Bay culture’s Middle Stone Age artifacts in Bloombos Cave and other sites in South Africa are fueling archaeologist Chris Henshilwood’s belief that the culture “emerged some 78,000 years ago in a startlingly early flourishing of the human mind.”
Grindstones and other tools apparently used to process the iron-rich red rock into a dye called ochre, carefully crafted stone tips, and engravings of cross-hatched patterns on pieces of ochre are in strata dated at 71,000 to 78,000 years ago. Henshilwood says the artifacts demonstrate “symbolic behavior and represent the earliest known evidence of abstract thought” as well as “planning skills and sophistication far earlier than was once believed.” Still Bay’s artifacts abruptly disappear from the cave strata at 71,000 years, and after a gap equated by evolutionary anthropologists with another 7,000 years, a different culture with different kinds of tools appears.
Archaeologists investigating sites like Bloombos Cave note growing evidence for “gradual cultural and technological development, beginning far earlier [than previously thought], during the Middle Stone Age throughout Africa.” They are trying to correlate anthropological findings with data about ancient climate change to determine the role climate played in human evolution. Henshilwood speculates the drop in sea level accompanying “the most recent ice age”—which as we have noted before is the only Ice Age for which there is indisputable evidence—may have made the continental shelf available for Still Bay habitation, eventually leading to its extinction as the sea level returned to normal. He says he’s found no evidence for that yet, however.
Dates for the strata Henshilwood is investigating were obtained using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL). OSL is used to estimate how long quartz grains in the dirt around artifacts have been in the dark.
OSL assesses how much energy is stored in a mineral, assuming its electrons were excited by sunlight exposure in the past and trapped in crystalline imperfections. The energy it emits now when stimulated by laser light is compared to emissions from specimens obtained from the present environment. This ratio is used to estimate how long the mineral has been buried.
Like other dating methods, OSL is based on unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions. Can we know a sample has truly been in the dark for thousands of years? Can we be sure no other factor such as heat or water exposure has altered the energy stored in it? Can we be certain the mineral’s sensitivity to energy has remained unchanged? It is impossible to know these conditions have been met. Furthermore, the overall method must be calibrated by comparison to other dating methods based on their own unverifiable assumptions.
And those dating methods are also used to calibrate molecular clock calculations used in genomic mapping of populations through the ages. Thus the same assumptions are foundational to conclusions about the age of artifacts and the timing of population movements out of Africa. Even the “out of Africa” paradigm is based on unverifiable assumptions, including the presumption humans evolved from apelike ancestors in the first place.
Biblical history reveals people began dispersing throughout the post-Flood world less than 4,300 years ago. The Still Bay culture’s evidence of abstract thought would be expected from a world where intelligent people were using their skills to survive. As believers in biblical history, we understand the people who dispersed from Babel were not ignorant brutes. Though some groups lost skills and knowledge over the years, we’re not surprised to see the people who lodged at Still Bay—and Subudu Cave11 and Nubia and Oman12—had skills and the ability to plan, think, and record symbols of those thoughts.
Furthermore, after the global Flood, with its associated volcanism, unique condition—such as warm oceans and cool land masses shrouded and shaded by volcanic dust even during the summer—would have provided the meteorological raw materials required for an Ice Age. Meteorological estimates suggest these conditions could have produced the Ice Age within 500 years of the Flood. (Read more at Where Does the Ice Age Fit?) The drop in sea level Henshilwood mentions could indeed have opened new areas for habitation by various groups of people, and he may yet find evidence for it. But whatever evidence he now has and will find later does not prove humans evolved intelligence amazingly early but rather, like the evidence for intelligent ancient people elsewhere in Africa and other places, is consistent with the biblical account of intelligent people dispersing after God interfered with mankind’s rebellion at Babel.
Editorials debate the value of a sanitized Bible.
High school teacher Calvin Wolf, commenting on Yahoo.com this week, said a little sugarcoated Christianity is better than none at all. Wolf was responding to a CNN.com blog by Steven James. James was critical of the fact that “it seems like Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really is. They feel the need to tidy up God.”13
Wolf writes, “As a relative outsider to the Bible, I think that a sugary glaze to the words of God isn't necessarily a bad thing.” People put off by scary messages, he asserts, will miss out on the “positive messages” the Bible has to offer. Extolling the value of having some good news on Sunday in a world full of negative headlines, he adds, “God-fearing is less helpful to society than optimism.”
Wolf claims, “It's difficult to have well-adjusted children without sugarcoating Biblical lessons” and fears talking about what the Bible really says will confuse kids and fill “their young minds with violent imagery.”
Author Steven James explains in his CNN blog, “The Bible is a gritty book. . . . It deals with people just like us . . . encountering a God who would rather die than spend eternity without them.” That is the good news we need to hear on Sunday. He reminds us of Bible characters who struggled with doubt, depression, bitterness, and sins. James warns that making biblical people “bigger than life, immune from the temptations that everyone faces” robs the Bible of its relevance.
James adds, “Only when the Bible seems relevant to us (which it is), only when the characters seem real to us (which they were), only then will the message of redemption become personal for us (which it was always meant to be). We don’t need to edit God. We need to let him be the author of our new lives.”
Though this writer has not yet read James’s books, his blog echoes our message here at Answers in Genesis. Watered down Bible stories stripped of historical context rob many children of an understanding of the Bible’s relevance in their lives. When children—and adults—see God’s Word has answers they need for life’s greatest problems and questions, they can better see why they need Jesus Christ.
While Wolf is concerned about putting “violent imagery” into young minds, a look at television or the newspaper shows young minds are already surrounded by violence. Furthermore, correctly taught in the context of the violent pagan world in which it was set and with attention to God’s purposes and ultimate solution to evil, the Old Testament makes sense. Ken Ham’s recent blog elaborated on some aspects of this important question. And Feedback: Doesn’t the Bible Condone the Killing of One’s Rebellious Child? and Feedback: Elisha, Little Children, and the Bears explain more about “stoning” and other topics to which Wolf refers.
The Bible does show us the dreadful dark evil of this world, and it is very clear in providing the explanation for evil and suffering and death. Children and adults frequently ask why the world is so messed up. The Bible has the answer. Evil and suffering and death entered the world when Adam chose to sin about 6,000 years ago. Mankind ever since has rebelled against our Maker. The Bible explains the devil is a thief who entered our perfect world “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10), but Christ came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Christ died so we could “have life” and “have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus Christ paid the price for man’s rebellion to show us all how much He loves us and to free us from our bondage to sin and Satan and death.
We at Answers in Genesis are dedicated to helping people understand they can trust the Bible’s answers from the very first verse. A sugarcoated Pollyanna version of the Bible can offer only an ostrich-eyed view of the world and makes the solutions the Bible offers for the world’s problems seem ludicrously senseless. Only by understanding the cause of the world’s evil does the solution God provides in Christ make sense. We don’t need to “tidy up God.” And He doesn’t merely offer to “tidy up us”; He offers us a brand new life of hope and love and peace.
Stable molecules still don’t hold the secret spark of life.
Scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver heard from physiologist Robert Root-Bernstein how natural selection acting on molecules could select those stable enough to survive for the leap to life. The headline here is really not saying anything new. Evolutionary scientists have claimed “Evolution created life from lifeless ‘primordial soup’” ever since the notion of molecules-to-man evolution sprang into being. (Just see last week’s News to Note14 for an example of the latest version as it relates to Darwin’s warm pond.)
Root-Bernstein proposed that when molecules susceptible to degradation due to ultraviolet radiation react chemically, “two become one” and may make a more stable molecule. “When molecules interact, they start taking on properties they don't have as individuals, but do gain when they're in a complex,” he says. “This provides a means of natural selection.”
Root-Bernstein proposes this answer to the “watchmaker problem” by letting more complex molecules needed to build living cells survive together until all needed molecules are present. “If you have to evolve a receptor composed of a precise ordering of 400 amino acids, it wouldn't be possible to do it all at once,” Root-Bernstein said. “You have to use stable modules.”
Yet evolutionary science cannot answer the “ultimate mystery” of how “primordial soup somehow sparked into life.”
Many people point to the variation within created kinds is if it were proof of molecules-to-man evolution. But in truth, no mechanism by which non-living matter can randomly spark itself into life has ever been demonstrated. It still hasn’t. Even if large molecules such as DNA, RNA, or proteins were to randomly assemble themselves, there is no way for them to combine to form living organisms. Even if they could randomly generate a DNA blueprint, without cellular machinery to read and transcribe the code, the code is useless. Information must come from a source of information.
The Bible provides God’s eyewitness account of His creation of all things, living and nonliving. God created ex nihilo, from nothing. He did not have to wait for stable molecules to accumulate. The fact that some chemicals are more stable than others is simple chemistry but does not provide any explanation for how those molecules, even when gathered together in a primordial soup, could become alive. God, however, as the only witness to His own actions, tells us He spoke everything into existence about 6,000 years ago.
The backlash of Giubilini and Minerva’s publication has been outrage on the part of many people beyond the pro-life crowd. Many describe this “call for legalized infanticide as chilling and an ‘inhumane defence of child destruction.’”18 As the disapproving publicity has mounted, Minerva—who says she has received threats (which we would never approve)—has expressed surprise at “the overwhelmingly negative reaction”18 and said the article has been “taken out of its academic and theoretical context.”18 She says, “I wish I could explain to people it is not a policy—and I’m not suggesting that and I’m not encouraging that.”18
While we of course agree that the only difference between a baby before and after birth is “a difference in geography,”18 the extensive reasoning provided by Minerva and Giubilini to re-define a human baby as a non-person and deprive it of any right to life provide a dangerous ethical statement. Words have consequences. Words have power. These words were published in a reputable medical journal of ethics. No caveats stating “This is just a theory intended to call attention to the absurdity of allowing late-term abortions” or “This is just an academic discussion intended to provoke thought not policy change” were attached to the piece. On the contrary, the only situation on which these authors declined to make a declarative judgment was the age at which a baby passes into personhood. And these words can be used by the unscrupulous—or those the majority of us would consider uncivilized, regardless of our religious persuasion—to grease the slippery slope to such horrible ends.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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