Friday, March 27, 2009
Quotes by Robert George for Reference
This week, a prof. debated me on abortion. Essentially, this prof. framed the debate in this manner: a pro-life advocate is motivated by their religion; instead the debate should be motivated by scientific inquiry. That analysis is similar to that of Professor Stanley Fish of Duke University, which is quoted in this article by Professor Robert George of Princeton. In this article, Prof. George presents what science does tell us about the abortion question. He concludes that:
"The scientific evidence establishes the fact that each of us was, from conception, a human being. Science, not religion, vindicates this crucial premise of the pro-life claim."
I'll simply quote Prof. George at length here (mostly this is just for myself so that I can find these quotes later for reference, though I'd encourage you to read Prof. George's article, which I linked to earlier):
"Professor Fish is mistaken, then, in contrasting the pro-life advocate with the pro-choice advocate by depicting (only) the latter as viewing abortion as “a decision to be made in accordance with the best scientific opinion as to when the beginning of life . . . occurs.” First of all, supporters of the pro-choice position are increasingly willing to sanction the practice of abortion even where they concede that it constitutes the taking of innocent human life. Pro-choice writers from Naomi Wolfe (“Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic (1995), reprinted with commentaries by pro-life writers in The Human Life Review (Winter, 1996)) to Judith Jarvis Thomson (“A Defense of Abortion,” in Marshall Cohen (ed.), The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion (Princeton University Press, 1974)) have advanced theories of abortion as “justifiable homicide.” But, more to the point, people on the pro-life side insist that the central issue in the debate is the question “as to when the beginning of life occurs.” And they insist with equal vigor that this question is not a “religious” or even “metaphysical” one: it is rather, as Professor Fish says, “scientific.”
In response to this insistence, it is pro-choice advocates who typically want to transform the question into a “metaphysical” or “religious” one. It was Justice Harry Blackmun who claimed in his opinion for the Court legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade (1973) that “at this point in man’s knowledge” the scientific evidence was inconclusive and therefore cold not determine the outcome of the case. And twenty years later, the influential pro-choice writer Ronald Dworkin went on record claiming that the question of abortion is inherently “religious.” (See Ronald Dworkin, Life’s Dominion (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).) It is pro-choice advocates, such as Dworkin, who want to distinguish between when a human being comes into existence “in the biological sense” and when a human being comes into existence “in the moral sense.” It is they who want to distinguish a class of human beings “with rights” from pre-(or post-) conscious human beings who “don’t have rights.” And the reason for this, I submit, is that, short of defending abortion as “justifiable homicide,” the pro-choice position collapses if the issue is to be settled purely on the basis of scientific inquiry into the question of when a new member of homo sapiens comes into existence as a self-integrating organism whose unity, distinctiveness, and identity remain intact as it develops without substantial change from the point of its beginning through the various stages of its development and into adulthood."