The Argument from Morality

There is a kind of argument for God that seems very common amongst the “New Apologists” that is called the “Argument from Morality.”  I am bothered by this argument for a couple of reasons, and I’ll spell them out here.  This argument runs something like this:

1. There is objective morality.
2. A law-giving God is the only thing that could ground an objective morality.
Hence, God must exist.

Built into this is an unstated premise, that being that no person’s opinion is adequate to ground an objective morality as all opinions are merely subjective.  Sometimes this is made explicit, but often it is not.  So, if someone were to ask why people merely getting together and agreeing that something was moral or immoral would not suffice for grounding an objective morality, this would be the core reason.  If it is true that all people’s opinions on morality are merely subjective, then an objective morality would never be possible.  Subjectivity never gives you objectivity, no matter how many people agree.  Even if everyone agreed, that would never cut it, and that’s just because it’s still just opinion and not moral law.

This unstated premise is important as it provides the reasoning behind the premise (2).  I want to grant this without issue.  I think it’s fine, and I am happy to let it stand.  However, that’s the only thing which I am willing to concede to this argument.  Beyond that, it looks like it fails on all fronts.  That is, both of the stated premises just seem ridiculously problematic.  Certainly, they are not the kind of thing that can be taken as self-evident.

Starting with premise (1), we see that this is just a bald assertion with little genuine support.  Is there any such thing?  Maybe.  But, if there is, it is not obvious.  Even worse, it’s not obvious what the laws of such a morality would be.  Indeed, moral laws appear to vary from community to community, and this is simply indisputable.  I do not think much time needs to be spent on this.  Suffice to say that if there is an objective morality, what it is, how it works, and what justifies it are subjects of great debate.  As such, this premise cannot be  taken to be the starting point of any proof for anything, much less something as controversial as God.

The above said, I think the problem is much worse than that.  Even if we granted (1), it is not clear why (2) is true, and this, I think, is the big issue.  The idea here is that all we mere mortals have is a subjective opinion, and, as stated above, this never gets us to objective law.  But why should we think, then, that pushing the problem back to God solves this issue?  This is what I do not get about those who push this argument.  If tastes and opinions are all subjective, why isn’t God’s opinion subjective?  Does He not have a perspective?  Presumably He has some point of view, and that necessarily means He sees things from that vantage, that he has some perspective that is peculiar to Him.  But that means that his views are just as subjective as everything else’s, and, as such, His tastes (Tastes?) do not amount to objectivity, either.  Rather, what He has is some particular set of values, and He wants those values (Values?) respected and accepted.  But this is no different than anyone else.  Certainly, I want my values accepted by everyone else as well, but that does not make my values in any way objective.  So why does it work that way for God?

One possible response is that God’s values are objective because God created everything.  But how does this follow?  What is it about creating something that means that the creator’s values are what counts over and beyond any other entity’s values, including those of the creation?  For example, if I created a robot, and that robot was so sophisticated as to be sentient, would my values count as objective in relation to that entity?  So, if I thought it was a good thing for that robot to be tortured and caused to suffer for my own pleasure, would that be “good” for the robot?  Would it be morally obligated to suffer?  I cannot see why such would be the case.  But that seems to call into question the idea that a creator’s tastes count as objective moral imperatives for the creations.  I just do not see how this could work for me, and, as such, it does not look like it works for any creator, even the Creator.

Another response might have to do with God’s power.  That is, God’s values are objective and apply to all because His power is infinite.  But that seems to directly contradict our intuitions about morality.  It does not seem that if some really strong guy, say Superman, came along and wanted to impose a different morality, then that morality would become objective, and we would all be obligated to obey that “law.”  So, if Superman wanted you to kill your kids, that does not seem like his wanting it would make it good.  And if we imagine a Super-Superman, it does not look like it would work for him, either.  So we just extend that all the way out to omnipotence, the Super-Super-Superman, God, and it does not look like we are warranted in saying that His will has any more obligating power just because He happens to be infinitely strong.  Certainly, He can harm anyone who fails to live by His tastes, but that does not seem to make His tastes objective.  Rather, it just means that he can harm someone who does not do as He wishes.  As such, it might be prudent for us to follow His orders, but it does not appear that we are morally obligated to do any such thing.

The big point here, then, is that this argument cannot demonstrate the necessary existence of God just because positing God is not a solution to the proposed problem.  That is, even if we allowed for the first premise of the argument to be true (which, as I’ve already shown, we have no reason to do), the second premise in no way explains the first premise given that the unstated premise, that subjective opinions will never grant objective law, holds for God as well.  As such, the conclusion cannot be reached:  God’s existence cannot be deduced from this argument.

In the end, this argument seems to suffer from the same flaw from which so many other arguments for God suffer.  That is, those pushing it attempt to make God necessary by suggesting that everything of which we are  aware is insufficient to do some particular job that supposedly needs to be done.  This is most obvious in the various cosmological arguments for God.  God becomes the Prime Mover, the First Cause, etc.  This is even a similar problem for the teleological argument that supposes that everything requires a designer.  The issue for all those arguments is why the thing they propose as a solution is exempt from the problem they are attempting to raise.  If everything needs a cause, what caused God?  If everything requires a designer, what designed God?  In each case of those arguments, God is supposed to have some special property that makes Him different from everything else, but in allowing for such a property, the proponents of those arguments undercut the supposed necessity of something like God.  If it turns out that not everything needs a cause (since God does not), then we no longer need a First Cause.  If everything does not require a designer, then we no longer need a Designer.  And, in the same way, if it turns out that something’s subjective tastes are sufficient for an objective morality, namely God’s, then the claim that subjectivity never gets us objectivity is completely undercut.

By proposing a solution to the problem of morality, the “New Apologists” only succeed in showing that they do not believe the most important premise of their own argument, thus negating the power of the entire thing.

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What Happens When a Theist Thinks Evolution Leaves No Room for God?

On the 12th, the Wall Street Journal published two essays together that had the author of each answer a seemingly straightforward question:  "Where does evolution leave God?"  The authors of the essays were Karen Armstrong, who has a book coming out entitled The Case for God, and Richard Dawkins, whose latest book is The Greatest Show on EarthGiven the differences between the perspectives of the authors, you’d expect them to say something very different.  And, indeed, they do come to different conclusions.  However, in response to the question itself, namely where does evolution leave God, their answers are strikingly similar.  That’s something of which to take note.

So, I’m late to the party again.  This has already been addressed by Jerry Coyne, Jason Rosenhouse, PZ Myers, Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and even Jesus and Mo (you really want to click this one).  Even so, I feel the need to say something about it, so here goes.

It will be no surprise how Dawkins answers the question posed to him.  After a brief explanation of evolution he says, “Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear.”  Entirely expected, of course.  How, then, does Armstrong, author of The Case for God, respond to the same question?

Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived. It tells us that there is no Intelligence controlling the cosmos, and that life itself is the result of a blind process of natural selection, in which innumerable species failed to survive. The fossil record reveals a natural history of pain, death and racial extinction, so if there was a divine plan, it was cruel, callously prodigal and wasteful. Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making.”

Yes, at least in terms of the question posed, “Where does evolution leave God,” Armstrong provides a response entirely consistent with Dawkins’ answer.  It might strike you as surprising that Armstrong, a writer on world religions, a former nun, and definitely someone who thinks of themselves as a theist, thinks that evolution leaves no room for God to work, at least in terms of humanity being a product of God’s creation.  Lest you missed the point, from above:  “Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making.”  I mean, it just doesn’t get much more clear than that.

So, what then, does Armstrong have in mind when she talks about “God”?  I’m afraid you won’t get much from her essay.  What she says is that “God” is a symbol that is supposed to point toward something that cannot be understood.  No holy book is to be taken literally.  Rather, they are all myths that attempt to convey some kind of message.  Maybe not even that.  Maybe she thinks they are merely art.  It’s hard to tell with Armstrong.  She does seem to be of the opinion that it has only been since around the Enlightenment that anyone has taken “God” to be an actual entity that exists.  She writes:

But by the end of the 17th century, instead of looking through the symbol to "the God beyond God," Christians were transforming it into hard fact. Sir Isaac Newton had claimed that his cosmic system proved beyond doubt the existence of an intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent creator, who was obviously "very well skilled in Mechanicks and Geometry." Enthralled by the prospect of such cast-iron certainty, churchmen started to develop a scientifically-based theology that eventually made Newton’s Mechanick and, later, William Paley’s Intelligent Designer essential to Western Christianity.

Before that, Armstrong maintains, no one took the notion of God as presented in the Bible (or any other set of holy texts) as actually existing. 

In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call "God" is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

Armstrong is explicit that reason has gotten in the way of understanding this “transcendence,” and that reason was never thought to be applicable to searches for such things before…well, I guess the Rationalists of the the 17th century (Armstrong isn’t explicit).  But she is explicit that the early Jews, Christian, and Muslims did not think reason had anything to do with God, and she extends this to the Greeks as well.  She writes:

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos ("reason") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life’s struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity.

Really?  Greek thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (not to mention Parmenides, Heraclitus, Leucippus, Democritus, etc) did not all explicitly reject mythology as a means to knowledge and look to logos (roughly “reason”) as the only true route to knowledge?  I mean, I could have sworn that that was actually one of the hallmarks of the pre-Socratics, and that logos was at the core of Platonic and Aristotelian thought.  And, of course, I am right.  Contrary to the claims of Armstrong, the Greek thinkers did not privilege myth as a way to understand the ultimate nature of the world.  On the contrary, they were explicit in their rejection of such a thing.

Nor should we take Armstrong seriously in her claims about any other groups doing something similar.  It is absurd to say that the ancient Jewish conception of God, whose first commandment is to worship no other gods, is not an actual entity but only a transcendence toward which all religion is pointed.  Were that the case, there would be nothing of which to be jealous.  Clearly, ancient Jews thought differently, not even allowing the interbreeding of their people with worshippers of other gods.  And what kind of sense would it make to kill someone for collecting sticks on any day, if all the believers were merely using the rules as a rough guide to something about which they could not talk but which was understood to be myth.  Why would you have rules that would result in death for something you knew was a myth?  That’s absurd.  Further, there was an enormous amount of conflict in the early Christian church over the concrete way in which scripture was to be interpreted (and even which scriptures would be accepted as true).  If all these early Christians were aware that the scriptures were all myth, all equal in their attempt to point to something beyond themselves, why the fighting, killing, and dying over it?  Again, absurd.

I honestly have no idea about what Armstrong is talking about when she writes about “God.”  It is unrecognizable to me, as I suspect is the case for most everyone else.  I think she is as wrong in her description of God as she is on her history of how ancient peoples saw God and their holy books.  I think she is pretty much wrong all the way around.

Here is what is funny about the two pieces.  Neither saw what the other wrote before penning their own.  Yet, here are the last two paragraphs of Dawkins’ piece:

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn’t matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."

Well, if that’s what floats your canoe, you’ll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world’s peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They’ll be right.

Maybe there is such a thing as prescience after all.

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Economics and Values

Paul Krugman’s recent article in the New York Times Magazine traces the history of two competing schools of economics from the Great Depression to the current great recession.  Without being over-the-top, it is clear that Krugman, who had been warning about the dangers of a financial collapse due to lack of regulation for years, feels somewhat vindicated by recent economic history.  Krugman belongs to the school of economic thought which is sometimes called Neo-Keynesian, after the economist John Maynard Keynes.  It holds that government regulation in financial markets is a necessary intervention because free markets are not perfectly self-correcting entities.  This view comes in contrast to the Neo-Classical school of thought (popularized in the latter half of the 20th Century by the economist Milton Friedman) which holds that the free-market is a self-correcting system of which recessions are a necessary part, and that any government intervention into the market system is likely to prolong or worsen recessions, not shorten or eliminate them.  In his essay, Krugman makes the interesting observation that one reason the Neo-Classical view is so attractive to economists is because it involves elegant mathematics and a beautifully symmetric theory of the marketplace.  By contrast, Keynesian economics is messy, and its attempts to calculate for the chaos of the marketplace and the related irrationality of individual economic agents, while empirically useful, lacks the same kind of philosophical symmetry. While reading his essay, it occurred to me that many other non-empirical value assumptions figure into the attractiveness of an economic theory as well.  I want to explore a few of those here.

I find it difficult to believe that aesthetic beauty alone is reason to prefer one economic theory over its competitors.  Elegance is nice, but it’s no substitute for predictive success and explanatory power.  Economics is at least as much science as it is philosophy or mathematics, and that is why economists are compensated more than their counterparts in purely theoretical disciplines.  They are supposed to tell us something about how the world is.  But, economics is not a purely descriptive discipline either.  Every economic system has real-life consequences for the agents who comprise it, and every economic theory makes some normative assumptions which must be defended on independent grounds.   I find it troubling that so few economists are explicit about these assumptions, and I find it even more troubling that so many people seem to have a confused or incoherent notion of the intrinsic justice of certain economic systems.  So, I’m going to try to make some of these normative assumptions explicit.  Readers may judge for themselves whether my account is useful or illuminating.

1) The Consequences Are Better.

The first argument that a proponent of any economic theory is likely to make is that his proposed system “works” better than rival systems in the real world.  Libertarian-free-market-Neo-Classical-Friedmanites, social-democratic-pro-regulatory-Neo-Keynesians, and total planned-economy-Marxians may disagree on every other fundamental, but they all make the argument that their proposed system generates more stable prosperity over the long run than any other rival system.  And it would be a great argument if only it involved a less-dubious empirical claim.  Almost all of us prefer an economic system that generates technological innovation, wealth, and stable growth and development over time to one that is stagnate, poor, or unstable. Unfortunately, the claim that a particular economic system will be the former and not the latter can only be tested against history and theoretical models.  And, since every real-world economy is unique and every theoretical model infinitely less complex than the real world it attempts to reflect, it’s hard to make a strong case that one economic system will consistently promote these ends better than its rivals.  As recent history has reminded us, economics is notoriously unsuccessful as a predictive empirical science.  Fortunately, (at least for economists) there are other things that recommend an economic theory besides its predictive success.

2) Freedom Is Intrinsically Valuable.

Another major normative assumption that underpins virtually every economic theory is the notion that freedom is intrinsically valuable.  Some economic systems are intrinsically more just than others, proponents argue, because some economic systems preserve freedom while others do not.  Of course, the definition of freedom differs radically from the Right-Libertarian ideal of liberty from taxation and government regulation to the Left-Libertarian ideal of liberty from oppressive poverty.  It is a bit of a misnomer to speak of the “freedom” inherent in the “free market” because the only really "free" market is one that emerges in total absence of laws which protect extra-personal property.  If I pay taxes into a system so that there is a law and a police force that grants and protects my right to property, then I am sanctioning a form of government regulation.  Likewise, the Leftist ideal of “freedom from poverty” is peculiar inasmuch as that “freedom” can presumably only be guaranteed in a system that generates sufficient wealth to ensure it, meaning that my “freedom” is contingent upon others generating that wealth, which may be a constraint upon their liberty.  The problem here is that it is useless and confusing to stipulate that value of freedom without explicitly and narrowly defining the term, and then making an independent argument for its value.  “In what sense does this economic system promote freedom?” we must ask, and “Is this type of freedom a worthy goal?”  Generally speaking, when pressed on these questions, defenders of an economic theory will appeal to one or both of the following normative assumptions:

3) People Should Get What They Deserve.

Certain Marxians and Left-Libertarians bring up the issue of desert, but it is a more common point of appeal for people on the political and economic Right.  Both sophisticated Neo-Classical economists and unsophisticated adherents of Ayn Rand’s political philosophy share the common conviction that an unregulated free market* rewards virtue (hard work, ambition, innovation, and natural talent) and punishes vice (laziness, apathy, and dullness).  The idea that a certain economic system actually promotes moral ends within a society is thrilling, and it makes for a very elegant and symmetric socio-economic philosophy.  Unfortunately, this claim is simply not empirically substantiated, and it’s hard to make the case that it ever could be.  Random chance, both genetic and environmental, plays a huge role in the distribution of wealth within an economic system.  It is impossible to say how much of an individuals’ accomplishments are the result of favorable (or unfavorable) genes, upbringing, and opportunities, but each of these factors will play a role in an individual’s economic outcome, and none of these factors is deserved.  Moreover, even if the notion of desert itself weren’t so conceptually problematic, it is practically impossible to implement an economic system that consistently gives people what they deserve.  We start out in circumstances which we don’t deserve and develop dispositions which we don’t deserve, and we are motivated by ends, which we may or may not get, but which we certainly do not deserve.  These aspects of individual behavior are the foundation of every economy.  So, the argument for an imaginary economy where each of us gets what we deserve is about as compelling as the argument for an imaginary world in which we don’t manifest these characteristics.

4) Equality Is a Fundamental Part of Justice.

Just as we are not born into circumstances that we deserve, we are not born into conditions of natural equality.  We are not equally smart, strong, attractive, or ambitious.  This fact of inequality poses a problem for economic redistributivists similar to the problem that desert poses for Right Libertarians.  Generally speaking, programs that redistribute economic holdings from the rich to the poor are directed at one of two egalitarian ends:  Total economic equality or equality of opportunity.  The Marxian goal of total economic equality requires either a defense of the intrinsic value of economic equality or a compelling argument that it is the only means toward some other intrinsically valuable political end.  Suffice it to say, both cases are hard to make because natural inequality is persistently at odds with economic (and political) equality.

Admittedly, I am sympathetic to the social-democratic case for equality of opportunity (which, incidentally, syncs with Neo-Keynesian economics quite nicely).  But, when we ask why an economic system that promotes equality of opportunity is preferable to one which does not, it is likely that our answer will involves one or more of the following appeals:  1) The economy will be more productive, 2) People will have more freedom of opportunity, 3) Everyone will have a better chance of getting what they deserve, or 4) Equality is preferable for its own sake.  All of these assertions are problematic, but, as we have seen above, they are also perennial.

Whatever the economic theory, we can’t escape normative assumptions.

*Of course, as I pointed out above, they don’t really mean a "free" market.  They mean a police-protected system of private property ownership with limited government regulation and taxation, a capitalist free market.

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Abortion, Eugenics, and Human Rights

In this post I make the argument that the practice of eugenics is common and generally not morally problematic.  I make this argument in order to motivate another point about the rhetorical dishonesty of anti-abortion activists.  Though I will make the argument that anti-abortion activists are deceptive in their use of the rhetoric of eugenics, I will not make an independent argument for or against the claim that abortion is wrong.  For the purposes of full disclosure, I will state for the record that I do not think that abortion is wrong.  However, my personal view has little bearing on this broader point which is about the conflation of two distinct cases for moral personhood.

Abortion is an ethically murky issue.  If we have a moral obligation to refrain from harming (or killing) other persons, then it is fair to say that other persons have a "right" to our restraint, a de facto "right to life."   For this reason, the debate about abortion hinges on the question of whether human fetuses are persons to whom this obligation, and the corollary right, extends.  Generally speaking, Christians (and many other religious people) believe that fetuses are persons because they believe that the criterion for personhood consists of having a soul and that fetuses become soul-bearing entities at the moment of conception.  But you do not have to believe in a soul to worry that the distinction between a mostly-developed fetus and a recently-born infant is morally arbitrary.  However the criterion for personhood is cashed out, it will have serious implications for the broader moral theory and the political rights and laws that extend from it.

Because the concept of personhood is so closely tied to moral and political rights, some members of the pro-life constituency have allied themselves with activists for certain politically disenfranchised groups, including the mentally and physically disabled.   Both pro-life and disability rights activists share the common belief that some groups of persons have moral rights which they may not be able to defend on their own, and they find common cause in their perception of themselves as defenders of these rights.  For this reason, it is not surprising that many pro-life activists have adopted a rhetoric that appeals to the social-justice values of other activists, rather than religious rhetoric about the sacredness of human life.  For example, some pro-life activists have begun using the politically-loaded term “eugenics” to describe certain common pre-natal tests that give pregnant women information about the health and development of their fetuses.

Pro-life activists argue that the practice of testing fetuses for Downs Syndrome, Tay-Sachs, and other genetic disorders or diseases amounts to eugenics because pregnant women are likely to abort fetuses that are not normal or perfectly healthy.  Of course, on a purely definitional level, this is true.  Any practice that seeks to promote good or improved offspring is eugenic, including the practice of non-random mate selection, in which nearly every reproductively active human participates.  If a pregnant woman could undergo some sort of treatment that could alter the chromosomal mutation of her in utero fetus rather than aborting it, the practice would be equally eugenic; it just wouldn’t involve abortion.

Were there a procedure available to suppress or alter genetic disorders so that a fetus with such a disorder could be born as a normal, healthy baby, most mothers would undergo such a procedure.   For example, if a pregnant mother-to-be learned that she was carrying a fetus with Downs Syndrome, and the doctor gave her the option of a procedure which would guarantee that her fetus was born a “normal” baby or the option of aborting the fetus and trying again, it is likely that the mother would undergo the procedure to make her baby normal.  No such procedure exists, of course, but this hypothetical possibility is relevant because it illuminates the crucial distinction between pro-life activists, and disability rights activists.  Pro-life activists have no reason to oppose a procedure that improves the fitness, health, or life expectancy of an in-utero fetus, and they have a good reason to support such a procedure if it is an alternative to abortion.  They can (and probably should) support eugenics of this type.  Some disability rights activists, on the other hand, do have a reason to oppose a procedure like this (and, in the case of some disabilities, they have), because eugenics of this type poses the threat of extinction for the population they mean to protect.

If no children were born with disabilities, older people with disabilities would, as a matter of course, become a smaller and more politically vulnerable minority, and eventually people with certain disabilities might die out entirely.  Many people without disabilities do not find this a worrisome or problematic possibility, but those who believe that the existence of persons with disabilities adds valuable diversity to society at large do worry about it, just as most of us worry that the extinction of a minority race or ethnicity of people -even through entirely voluntary, non-genocidal, reproductive choices made by individuals- would be bad.  In fact, the endangerment of a minority group of people is the outcome that gives the practice of eugenics a negative moral connotation.

It is disingenuous for pro-life activists to use the word “eugenics” with full awareness of this negative moral connotation to make an argument against abortion.   Virtually everyone practices some form of eugenics when they participate in selective mating with the intended purpose of producing healthy offspring with the traits they value.  Pro-life activists do not care about most of these eugenic practices, and there is nothing in their position that commits them to valuing the continued existence of some vulnerable minority group within society.  The only eugenic practices they want to restrict are those which terminate the life of a fetus, regardless of what kind of life that fetus might grow up to live.

“Who counts as a person?” and “what obligations do we have to other persons?” are two of the fundamental questions of moral theory.  Insofar as any of us care about preserving a minority group’s rights we must be concerned with these questions because people in virtually every minority group have been denied equal rights in society when their status as equal persons under the law was denied.  But our interest in protecting the rights of minority groups composed of those we do count as persons does not commit us to the claim that fetuses are persons who should be afforded the same rights.  Pro-life activists cannot motivate their case by drawing an analogy between the unborn and other historically politically vulnerable minority groups without first making an independent argument that the cases are relevantly similar.  In other words, they need to make the case that fetuses are persons.  Without that, their rhetoric of human rights is empty, and their talk of eugenics is a rhetorical red herring.

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