Dispelling the Myth that Pro-Choice Activists Minimize Adoption

From my friend’s popular anti-“crisis pregnancy center” website:

Adoption can be a positive choice for women and couples facing unplanned pregnancies.  Depending on the kind of adoption, you may have ways to remain in contact with your child as she/he grows up.  “Open adoptions” can be very empowering for women; in an ideal situation you may be able to choose the adoptive family, and you can usually remain in contact with the adoptive family as your child grows up. [. . .]

It’s important to note that there are many, many women who have given children up for adoption, and a woman who was well-informed about her decision will ultimately have a hugely more positive experience with the process than a woman who was coerced into the decision or left in the dark about the details.

Pro-choice activists encourage women to choose adoption, if it’s right for them. But we don’t pretend it’s their only choice. We’re in the business of helping people, not validating dying social norms.



  1. Get it? “Dying” social norms. Good one, Ames.


  2. “…dying social norms”

    I’m curious what you mean by that. Is it the obvious answer or more nuanced?

    As for choices, you may give lip service to adoption but it’s abundantly clear that you prefer abortion.

    1. Suppose that it is the case that abortion is preferred over adoption. What is it that makes this bad?

      1. Exactly. I certainly think that adoption is preferable in some cases; abortion in others. I certainly prefer terminating a two-month-old clump of cells than carrying it to term, adding another hungry mouth to the world. And of course, there are the situations where adoption isn’t a realistic option but abortion is, such as severe deformations.

        1. “…adding another hungry mouth to the world”

          Have you ever met anyone who was mentally stable and stated they wished they had been aborted rather than have the life they have?

          1. I fail to see the relevance of this rebuttal. That I have not met a person who believes X does not mean that X is never the case.

            All I’m asking for, Mike, is rigorous defense of your position. If this is the best you can do, just say so, and I’ll be off and doing other things.

            1. I just fail to see the logic of ‘adding another hungry mouth to the world’ as a justification for abortion. i mean, that might be a good excuse in Africa or North korea but no one is starving to death in the U.S. if you’re only rationale for abortion is based on our food supply it’s a thin one.

              As for a ‘rigorous defense’ of my position…any discussion of abortion in the 1st trimester is based on a morality that is impossible to come to an agreement on with someone that is pro-abortion. In the 2nd and 3rd trimesters the majority opinion seems to be that abortion is murder. I feel comfortable being in thr majority there.

              1. Actually, I have not offered any reason to have an abortion. I find myself almost entirely unqualified to do so.

                You say that it’s impossible to have a discussion about first-trimester abortions with someone who is pro-abortion; I disagree. I will even go so far as to grant you the assumption that to abort a pregnancy, at any stage, counts as killing an innocent human being.

                Now, consider the following well-known case (thanks to Judith Thomson): Suppose that one day you wake up to find yourself in hospital, connected surgically to a famous violinist. You’ve been kidnapped by the Society of Music Lovers because you are one of the only people in the world with the correct blood type to undergo this connection, which will save the life of the violinist over the course of the next nine months. The violinist is unconscious and had no idea about anything the kidnappers were doing. Do you have the right to remove yourself from the violinist, knowing that this will result in his death?

                1. Ames is right – the analogy is flawed because it removes responsibility from the mother.

                  Let me try a different one for you? Suppose you meet a girl, sleep with her and don’t use protection. 2 months later you get a phone call telling you she’s pregnant and she wants you involved with the kid. You tell her no thanks and have a nice life. 7 months later you get a letter from the child support office ordering you to start paying child support. Is that fair?

                  1. Mike, the “Famous Violinist” case really only works to justify abortion in the case of rape; I have lots of other cases we can talk about. But first, just to make sure we’re on the same page: Do you have the right to remove the violinist from your back?

                    1. I have no problem with abortions in the case of rape.

              2. Erik, I love that hypo. My belief is that they get around this by disputing the premise. In your hypothetical, you’re not at fault; to the right, it’s the woman’s fault she got pregnant in the first place.

                So, to step back into the hypothetical, how could you be so careless as to allow yourself to be kidnapped by a bunch of sissy musicians?

                1. Of course, of course. The case, as I said just above, only works for pregnancies that result from rape.

                  And the best response to the carelessness claim I ever heard came from one of my students the last time I taught an ethics course: “Well, obviously these particular musicians are also ninjas. It’s a hypothetical, it can be as crazy as you want as long as the relevant facts don’t change, right?”

            2. I think in the end the best argument for legal abortion is that people are going to do it whether it’s legal or not. The only difference is, if it’s illegal, it’ll happen in shady back room clinics with no standards of safety or of when it can be performed. A least with legal abortion, those things can be controlled.

              1. Yup.

                My problem with that argument, and the reason I don’t use it, is that it might prove too much. Doesn’t the same logic work for prostitution and drug use (both of which I’d prefer to keep illegal)?

              2. Indeed, and I honestly would be inclined to take a similar approach to those things – not because I support either in the slightest, but also for purely pragmatic reasons: Criminalising prostitution makes it really hard to deal with human trafficking because the victims are less likely to report their situation, and decades of trying to deal with illegal drugs seem to have done nothing except waste a lot of money and enable the drug cartels to secure their positions.

              3. Lanfranc – if that is accurate, then why did the abortion rate go up when abortions were legalized in the US?

                Also, Europe has lower abortion rates despite generally having more restrictive abortion laws.

                1. …why did the abortion rate go up when abortions were legalized in the US?

                  I’m not arguing that everyone who want an abortion will get one even when it’s illegal. But many will, and those will be exposed to unsafe procedures carried out by untrained personnel.

                  Also, Europe has lower abortion rates despite generally having more restrictive abortion laws.

                  Abortion is legal in the great majority of European countries, although typically only 1st or 2nd trimester, so I wouldn’t say they’re that much more restrictive.

                  And if we have fewer abortions, it’s because we have a lower poverty rate and better entitlements for families.

                  1. Well i have to circle back around to Ames’ statement which is that we can’t legalize every activity that might lead to someone’s death if not legalized.

  3. (going back to the top level) Mike,

    OK, so abortion of pregnancies that result from rape is morally acceptable. Which means that, if you’ve accepted the framing I offered earlier, it is at least occasionally morally acceptable to destroy an innocent life. What is the morally relevant difference between a pregnancy that results from rape and one that results from consensual sex? Or, if you don’t accept the framing I offered above, what is it that makes abortion (in non-rape cases) morally wrong?

  4. Actually, morally speaking, I don’t think even rape-induced pregnancies should be aborted. i’m just willing to trade that tiny number of abortions if it means larger gains in stopping abortions of convienance.

    i’d also love it if you were willing to answer my question about child support obligations from casual sex.

    1. And I’d love it if you’d actually stick to the hypothetical as presented and say whether or not you believe yourself to have the right to remove yourself from the violinist. I am interested in presenting a defense of abortion rights, not a moral analysis of any individual abortion.

      But, since you’re interested: I do not see any obligations of the sort you describe. Mere biological fact is, in the absence of some other consideration, never a basis for duty.

      1. okay erik – if it makes you happy – yes, if i am ever the victim of pro-violinist medical terrorists then i should have the legal right to reverse the procedure performed on me.

        i’m curious as to wheather you believe there is ANY responsibility involved with sex or pregnancy?

        1. That’s great to read. (I first typed “hear” there; I wonder why that is?) So, if you should have the legal right to remove the violinist, either you should have the legal right to abort a pregnancy that results from rape, or there is something relevantly different about the situations. Yes, this is rehashing something we’ve probably already agreed on, but I want to be thorough. It’s an occupational hazard, I think.

          As for responsibility, well, it seems to me obvious that any party engaging in sexual activity has a responsibility to ensure that his or her partner(s?) are consenting in the right way (whatever that is; there are complicated issues that I think we can wave aside for now). Outside of that? No, I don’t see any sort of automatically-occuring duties. You seem to believe otherwise; if so, why?

          1. I think I already said I am okay with legal abortions for the very rare cases of rape-induced pregnancies.

            Because I acknowledge that nature intends for sex to lead to pregnancy and while we may also enjoy the recreational aspects of it, biology is a powerful force. It’s my belief (morally, legally, ethically) that any time a man and a woman engage in sex the potential exists for pregnancy and that equals assumed risk. Risk leads to responsibility both before and after that moment. Walking away is not an option.

            1. Nature intends? Wow, I’ve never met an actual animist that wasn’t a drippy Wiccan college student. Or I suppose you could be a Spinozist, but that seems even less likely…

              Of course, I’m kidding here. It’s far more likely that you’re speaking informally, and mean something more like “the natural purpose (or Aristotelian telos) of sex is reproduction.” This is probably true, if there are any such things as teloi in nature (of which I’m not convinced; but that’s an argument for another day). My question is: why does this biological fact matter at all? You say that any time a possibly-fertile pair engages in sex, they’re taking a risk of getting pregnant, and that taking a risk requires assuming responsibility for possible consequences, but it is not, at least to me, clear that “walking away” is analytically excluded from one’s options in such a case. Why is walking away morally blameworthy? (I have another hypothetical for you, which I’ll start in a top-level comment.)

              1. It’s blameworthy in exactly the same way it would be to run away from the scene of a auto fatality because you made the choice to drive drunk. Our actions have consequence and consequences require the assumption of responsibility. This isn’t a revolutionary concept

                1. But driving while drunk is, at least I really hope, significantly different than having sex. Consenting to sex is not the same as consenting to caring for a child, given modern contraceptives. Should a conversation be had? Sure thing. But, not to put too fine a point on it, your decision cannot burden me with a duty. Where we’re disagreeing, I think, is in the nature of what’s being consented to (in cases of consensual sex).

                  1. It’s really not any different. Both have a level of risk with potential outcomes that affect at least two people.

                    I’m not sure who’s decision would burden you with a duty. The decision is joint at the point where you decide to have sex. The unspoken context is, “If the woman gets pregnant and decides to keep the child, the man is obligated to 18 years of support.”

                    1. I don’t agree that, given modern contraceptives, the unspoken “context” (this is not the word you’re looking for, by the way) has anything to do with pregnancy. Given the vanishingly-small odds of a pregnancy occurring from sex with contraceptives, to claim that the sexual contract, as it were, contains a pregnancy clause would seem to require that said contract also contain clauses dealing with all the other million-to-one (yes, those aren’t the odds, it’s just an expression) possible occurrences, and that’s just silly.

                    2. Until there is contraception with a 100% success rate the risk of pregnancy, however small, is always there.

                    3. And until there is a perfect medicine, the chance that sexual activity will cause an unnoticed blood clot to become lodged in your partner’s brain is, however small, still present. Does this fact mean that, should your partner stroke out during sex, leading to a lifetime disability, you’re obligated to provide for her for the rest of her life? Of course not.

                    4. As I said, we’re not covering any new ground:


                      The obligation is to the child, not the mother so you’re blood clot scenario isn’t applicable.

                    5. And whence comes this obligation to the putative child? From the act of sexing? Then there ought to be an obligation to the partner as well. What makes the child different?

                      The Dubay case is about facts of law, which, as you well know, are often divorced entirely from moral facts. So it’s utterly irrelevant to this situation. Furthermore, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I don’t accept prima facie the “arguments” (Actually, a mere string of unsupported claims) produced by an entity which claims that Gödel’s incompleteness applies to Newtonian physics.

                    6. I think the responsibility to the child originates in it being, well, a child as opposed to the woman being an adult and able to exercise free choice.

  5. For anybody still playing along, hypothetical situation number 2:

    Suppose that you live in an apartment in the city. It’s not the best part of town, but you do have a state-of-the art security system. One night, you decide that it would be fun to go out on the town, have some dinner, maybe see a show, that sort of thing. On your return home, you find that, somehow, a completely delusional (and therefore innocent of wrongdoing) homeless person has managed somehow to enter the eleven-digit password for your security system, and is firmly barricaded in your kitchen, where he is attempting to lead the appliances in a glorious revolution against their oppressors.

    Do you have the right to kick the crazy person out of your apartment? Even if, in doing so, you (unfortunately) have to kill him?

    1. Erik – did you just discover these hypotheticals? They’re pretty old scenarios in the world of internet debate and have been covered ad nauseum. Not trying to rain on your parade but plenty of well-educated philosophers have already covered this territory.


      Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Maybe you have a fresh take on things?

      1. *cough* I know where they’re from. Did you miss the shout-out to Thomson above? I first read that paper as an undergraduate back in the 90’s and I use it every time I teach an ethics course, because it’s a classic.

        I am asking you about your intuitions. Do you believe that you have the right to kick out the homeless person? I suspect that your intuition is the ordinary one, especially common to conservatives, that your home is your castle and you can kick people out with as much violence as you like. I also suspect, though this is mere speculation, that you (being fairly clever) have realized where this conversation is going and don’t like it, so you’re trying to derail my deployment of the Thomson arguments by appeal to Wikipedia. Since you are apparently not (based on my own Gricean parsing of your comment) a “well-educated philosopher”, I really do hope you attempt to deploy one of the sophisticated objections, because you’re going to fail, and it’s going to be shadenfreudelicious. Besides, this conversation is way more fun than grading final exams, which I really should be doing.

        1. And I misspelled “schadenfreudelicious”. Dang.

        2. I don’t like where the conversation is going because I’m quite sure that anyone whose spent 5 minutes debatng on the internet has seen a variation. We’re not covering any new ground.

          The theory is flawed from the start (just like the violinist one) because it createss no responsibility for the event on the part of the homeowner. Given your response to my question about child support I think we can draw a pretty easy conclusion that you don’t believe in personal responsibility – or at least not personal responsibility when linked to pregnancy (one wonders if this atitude transfers to parenthood?)

          1. Really? You think that the homeowner doesn’t bear any responsibility? Risky behavior led to unwanted outcome. You’re still assuming that there’s something magical and different about sex, and you haven’t shown any argument at all for that claim. Note that an assertion about teleology does not constitute an argument.

            But fine. Forget the homeowner with awesome security. Suppose I live in a very bad part of town, and one night, I decide to go out on the town. I leave my door unlocked — wide open, even — and, on returning home, I (unsurprisingly) find a crazy person in my kitchen. Do I have the right to kick that person out of my house, even if that results in or requires his death?

            (Ultimately, I think the whole discussion is silly. There are no such things as moral facts, only approbation and disapprobation governed by the operations of sympathy and comparison within a social context. Yes, I’m a Humean. I admit it.)

            1. Ask you home insurer if they would cover damages done by the crazy homeowner.

              1. I assume you mean the crazy home invader… which proves my point: since I chose to leave my door open, what happens next is my fault.

                Now: Either you believe that I have the right to kick out the crazy person in my kitchen, or you believe I don’t. Which is it?

                1. I believe you have a right to kick the person out. Now…before you attempt the same aha! as a thousand other internet debaters who like to use these hypotethicals, let me be clear: You don’t have a right to murder the homeless person.

                  Also, I wonder how well you’re scenario would hold up if the crazy homeless person was changed to a newborn infant.

                  1. OK, this is really beginning to bother me. YOUR is the possessive. YOU’RE is a contraction of “you are”. I deal with too much of that shit from undergraduates; you should be able to meet a higher standard.

                    Moving on then. Suppose, regrettably, that the only way to get the homeless person out ends up being fatal to that person. In this case, if I kick him out, am I murdering him, by your definition of “murder”?

                    And the scenario works just fine when you swap a crazy homeless guy for an infant. Consistency demands that rights be blind to morally equivalent agents; the crazy homeless person is just as innocent of wrongdoing as is the infant. That’s why Thomson’s arguments work so well.

                    1. Yeah – i’m well aware of basic rules of grammar – but i also tend to do a lot of no-look typing in the evening while i am watching the news. I’ve also had this same conversation so many times that i’m kind of on auto-pilot.

                      I’d say at the very lease you’re partially resposnible for his death. i believe that is why we have good samaritan laws.

                      there is no equivelancy in the eyes of the law. As an example, ask a woman who is married and also has an infant to stop feeding both her husband and her child. See which one lands her in trouble with the law.

                    2. Funny that your autopilot introduces so many errors, no? Anyway, you keep getting hung up on legal facts. I am not interested in the law, which is arbitrarily produced by human agents, but rather in moral facts, which (should they exist) are not.

                      There are certainly situations where it’s OK to be responsible for someone’s death; the paradigm case is of course self-defense. So that’s not immediately obvious as a problem here.

                      Or, if you don’t want to actually have a conversation, you can just say so. I’ll go away knowing that you couldn’t respond to my arguments, and you’ll walk away believing that I didn’t have anything interesting to say. Everybody “wins”.

  6. Erik, if you look at the key on your keyboard to the right of the 9 you’ll see exactly how much I care about my grammar or punctuation in this conversation.

    You can substitute a moral argument for the legal one here. Morally do you believe it is equivelant for a mother to stop feeding her husband and also stop feeding her infant child?

    I would also ask you (back to the support question) if you would view it as acceptable for a man to abandon his children 10 years into a marriage and not offer child support? What about 3 months after they are born (having previously supported them)?

    1. Har, har, Mister Clevernuts.

      If her husband has the mental capacity of the infant, then yes, the two are morally equivalent. If not, then they probably are not.

      There is at least one case in which I would think it entirely appropriate for a man to abandon his children ten years into a marriage and not offer child support — namely, the case where the children are all adults. Marriage is not the same as parentage, chuckles. If you’re not going to be careful with your language, there’s no point in continuing.

      1. So mental capacity plays a role? What about two children, one slightly smarter? Does the dumber one qualify for assistance or the smarter one/

        So you acknowledge that a father would be responsible for child support previous to his children’s 18th birthdays? if so, when does that obligation start?

        1. Of course mental capacity plays a role. Mental capacity is not the same thing as “smarter” or “dumber”.

          I did not acknowledge that a father would be responsible for child support previous to his childrens’ 18th birthdays; I said that it was uncontroversial that he would not be so responsible afterward.

          The obligation, if any exists, begins when the father makes the choice to be so obligated. Your claim is that that choice is the choice to have sex; my claim is that it is not.

          Bringing in something from the last thread: If it’s the case that you have a special duty to a child over your partner because the child didn’t consent to the sex, well… replace your partner’s stroke with that of someone who walks into the room, having no idea what’s going on and thus not consenting to anything risky at all. How’s that person different from the “child”?

  7. So once the father chooses to be obligated, can he un-choose at a later point before the child turns 18? If not, what is the rationale behind this?

    I’m not sure who the person is that walked into the room and what their role is in all of this (it’s starting to sound a bit XXX).

    1. Once an obligation is assumed, it, in the ordinary case, cannot be set aside. If you’re a deontologist, this follows trivially from any of the three formulations of the categorical imperative. If you’re a virtue theorist, well, it should be even easier. If you’re a consequentialist, well, the end will justify the means so it’s a moot point. (But consequentialism tends to be a bit strange, if you ask me.)

      There is a small but nonzero chance that modern contraception will fail and a pregnancy will result from protected sex. You claimed above that, because of this, engaging in penetrative vaginal intercourse that results in pregnancy creates an obligation (presumably on both parties) to the child thus conceived. I pointed out the risk of medical mishap, and you rightly noted that the child did not consent to being conceived. I am now asking you whether one has an obligation to an unconsenting adult who is accidentally injured by observing sexual activity. Yes, it’s a weird hypothetical. But if you don’t have an obligation to such an adult, then you can’t use the fact that the child did not consent to the activity as a basis for the obligation you’re claiming exists.

      1. Are you trying to dazzle me with philosophical terminology? maybe you coudl try that first paragraph in layman’s language.

        Did the stranger owe its existence to the man and woman?

        1. Deontology, or “duty ethics”, is the term for the systems generated from Kantian concerns for universality and rational consideration. The website you linked to earlier has a (mistaken and misguided) description, so I thought you’d be familiar with it. The categorical imperative is the fundamental maxim of ethical action, according to deontologists. The first formulation is the most commonly seen: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can will your action to become universal law.” The second formulation, which is provably equivalent to the first, is “Treat all rational agents as ends in themselves, and never as a mere means to an end.” The third formulation is slipping my mind at the moment.

          Seeing how this requires one to maintain one’s obligations should be obvious; the “clever knave” objection (from Hume) or the ring of Gyges example (from Plato) illustrate this quite well.

          Consequentialism is the branch of ethical theory that says that the right action is whatever produces the best consequences. Usually this is (in a standard Benthamite or Millian way) described in terms of utility; hence, “utilitarianism”.

          Virtue ethics harks back to Plato and (especially) Aristotle, and is the branch of ethical theory which encourages the cultivation of, well, virtues. It seems obvious to me that integrity should count as a virtue, though I’m sure someone somewhere disagrees.

          Does that clear things up?

        2. Your question tells me that you think the relevant fact about the child is that it owes its existence to its parents. This is different from the earlier claim you advanced, and is much better suited to defending your point.

          So now I have to ask you: What does it take for one object to owe its existence to another object or set of objects? (I’m going with the most general case I can here.)

          1. In the most basic sense I would say that it takes procreation. That applies to all of the animal kingdom. Continued life after the moment of conception (assuming for the sake of this discussion that life begins at conception) is a sort of moving target.

            1. As an aside, deciding when life begins is a real problem, complicated by the fact that there really isn’t such a thing as a “moment of conception”; you run into standard Sorites problems almost immediately if you try to pick a single instant on a continuum.

              Now. Do non-human animals have a responsibility to care for their young?

              1. Maybe we should confine this to the human species (and ignore my comment above about the entire animal kingdom). Human morality is tricky enough.

                1. OK, that’s reasonable. I’m pretty sure that chickens at least are not moral agents. Delicious, yes. Moral, not so much.

                  But this means that there is something about humans that makes them moral agents. Kant identified that as rationality; do you agree with him, or do you have another criterion?

                  1. I’m not going so far as to say there’s no morality associated with animals – I’m just not qualified to make that determination.

                    1. Well, sure. But if there is moral agency in animals, I’m pretty sure that some are going to get it and some aren’t. I tend to agree with Kant that rationality is the key; the great apes will probably be moral agents and katydids probably will not. But hey, since I don’t know what it’s like to be a katydid, I can’t really say for certain.

                      So: what do you think it is that makes some creature a moral agent? There are three classic choices. For the deontologist, it’s rationality. For the utilitarian, it’s capacity for pleasure and pain. For the religious moral theorist, it’s the presence of a soul.

                    2. My personal opinion is the third – but again, i’m not qualified to discuss.

  8. Mike,

    So, let’s say it’s the presence of a soul which makes things moral agents. It seems to me that moral agency is what’s required for moral consideration — we don’t owe moral duties to, for example, a ham sandwich (the pig is, if it ever was, no longer a moral agent). The question we now need to ask is: whence come souls? Do they arise from natural processes, or is supernatural intervention necessary?

    1. We’re off the reservation Erik – I’m a Believer and we’ll leave it at that. If you want to circle this back around to abortion then please do so.

      1. Oh, it’s getting there. I’m happy to grant you the assumption that there is a God. I’m interested in the consequences of that fact. So: Are souls natural or supernatural?

        1. Dude – land the plane.

          1. That’s not how this works, Mike. You don’t get to skip ahead in the conversation. This isn’t catechism, I’m not going to judge you for your beliefs — honestly, I’m a non-theistic substance dualist, and on a good (bad?) day I’m even a modal realist — but if you don’t tell me what they are, we can’t talk about whether they’re consistent or not.

            Unless by “land the plane” you mean what would ordinarily be expressed by “Souls are created by (super?)natural processes”, in which case I apologize for not understanding your idiolect.

            1. I’m jumping ahead in an effort to retain my interest, which is fading fast.

              You and I were discussing whether or not a father is responsible for their child simply because he procreated with the mother. I said there was a certain amount of responsibility to a child verses the sex partner because that child owes its existence to he father and that xcreates responsibility.

              You asked:

              “So now I have to ask you: What does it take for one object to owe its existence to another object or set of objects?”

              I answered:

              “In the most basic sense I would say that it takes procreation.”

              Now we’re talking about whether or not animals have souls and where those souls come from. I’m not interested in an existential conversation.

              1. Actually, Mike, we’re talking about abortion…

                And we’re not talking about whether animals have souls at all. I’m asking where you think humans (who ought to have souls) get their souls, because I’m attempting to expose a possible inconsistency in your claim about procreation as a source of responsibility. I don’t know if your beliefs are inconsistent yet, but I’m going to find out if you want to continue.

                If you don’t, that’s fine too. I enjoy this sort of conversation, but as a philosopher, that’s sort of an occupational hazard.

                1. Fine Erik – I believe that souls come from a ‘higher power’. Now wrap it up.

  9. Mike,

    You have now asserted the following claims:
    1. The presence of a soul is what makes things worthy of moral consideration.
    2. God is the agent who ensouls humans.
    3. Every agent which causes a child to exist has a responsibility to protect that child’s welfare.

    From these, we can conclude:
    4. God causes each child to be worthy of moral consideration.

    I will make the following, I think natural, claims:
    5. To cause to be worthy of moral consideration is to cause to exist as a moral agent.
    6. To cause to exist as a moral agent is, in a way, to cause to exist.

    We can now see that:
    7. God causes each child to exist.
    8. God has an obligation to protect the welfare of each child.
    9. God does not protect the welfare of each child.
    10. Therefore, God fails to fulfill His obligations.
    11. Any agent which fails to fulfill its obligations thereby behaves immorally.
    12. God behaves immorally.

    Since I’m pretty sure you won’t accept 12, it’s up to you to show where the argument goes wrong. That’s going to mean abandoning one of your premises. Which one do you want to get rid of?

    1. I think you fell off the rails at #7 – I don’t believe God causes each child to exist. man has free choice and part of that is engaging in the act which creates the child.

      1. I didn’t say that God caused each child to exist. I said that God caused each child to exist as a moral agent. I personally can cause a lot of things to exist — I can build a chair, or … well, I can build a chair. Maybe a table. Not the best carpenter in the world, me. But causing a chair to exist does not — unless I’ve misunderstood you — obligate me to protect and nurture that chair. And since no mere mortal can imbue anything with a soul, no mere mortal can cause to be anything to which anyone has a moral duty.

        You have two choices: God is free to ensoul or not ensoul each fertilized egg as He sees fit. Suppose that he is not so free: then God is not all-powerful. God, in this case, is constrained by the actions of humans! That’s clearly problematic, but there is a solution I just know you’ll hate, from Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics, sections 13, 30, and 31: God is not free, because a free being could choose to be evil, and God cannot, by His own nature so choose. Since God cannot choose to be evil, and His will is immutable and irresistible, the world as He has made it must be the best of all possible worlds, and all apparent evil must in fact be logically necessary to produce that best of all possible worlds; so there is no evil except apparent evil, and thus no just supernatural punishment for apparently evil actions.

        Let us suppose instead that it is up to God to choose whether or not to ensoul each fertilized egg. Now, there are three choices you have to make: Either God has perfect foreknowledge or He does not, and either Original Sin condemns the unsaved to damnation or it does not, and either God is just or he is not. If God has perfect foreknowledge, and original sin condemns the unsaved to damnation, and God is just, then no baby that will be aborted, spontaneously or otherwise, is ever ensouled by God, because that would result in an innocent soul’s damnation by God’s free act. If God does not have perfect foreknowledge, and original sin condemns the unsaved to damnation, and God is just, then God cannot ensoul any innocent who is as yet unsaved, since He does not know whether or not that person will die before they’ve had the opportunity to attain salvation, and to punish an innocent would be unjust. If original sin does not condemn the unsaved to damnation, then what’s the problem? Another soul gets its eternal reward without the chance of fucking things up on Earth. If God is not just, well, such a being is unworthy of worship.

        Choose wisely.

        1. Okay, three things:

          Firstly, it is a very interesting reading of the Discourse that leads to the conclusion that God does not have free will, considering that Leibniz asserts exactly the opposite prcisely in XIII. (“For it would be found that this demonstration of this predicate as belonging to Caesar is not as absolute as are those of numbers or of geometry, but that this predicate supposes a sequence of things which God has shown by his free will.” (tr. Montgomery))

          Secondly, your argument confuses care of specific things (or people), which is the province of humans, with the universal care of all things, which is the province of God. The moral rules that apply to the one do not apply to the other. (Cf. Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q. 22, Art. 2, esp. Obj. 2 and reply. Also re. God’s free will, I recommend Prima Pars, both Q. 22 and 25.)

          And thirdly, speaking of care, if I know Mike, I think he stopped doing that entirely pretty much at this point in the discussion.

          1. Well, God could not have created anything other than the best of all possible worlds, so there is at least one arena in which his will is constrained. 13 deals, iirc, with the compatibility of human free will with divine foreknowledge — the world that God chooses to create is simply one of many possible worlds in which each person makes various free choices. God wasn’t required to create any world whatsoever, but given that he chose to do so, the theodicy in sections 30 and 31 seems (to me) to require that his choice of world to create be constrained by his benevolence and some facts about causation (necessary evils, etc.). If God could have chosen one of the worlds that wasn’t either the best, or a member of the set of the best, then the theodicy fails, because we can’t check which world this is.

            And, I feel I must repeat myself: I am not assuming anything about God’s responsibilities, dude. What I’m saying is that Mike’s claims commit him to, absent further argumentation, the position that God is abandoning specific filial responsibilities.

            If you want to get into the thick and steaming jungle that is St. Thomas, we’ll need to back it up a couple layers, as I haven’t read any of that since I was an undergraduate. But I’m not interested in theology, really, so I fear I won’t be able to contribute much.

            1. Well, God could not have created anything other than the best of all possible worlds, so there is at least one arena in which his will is constrained.

              The classic answer is that it is in God’s essential nature to be good, so he cannot choose to act otherwise anymore than a human can choose to become a donkey. There’s also the distinction between decretory and permissive will from Leibniz’s Confession.

              If God could have chosen one of the worlds that wasn’t either the best, or a member of the set of the best, then the theodicy fails, because we can’t check which world this is.

              Well, that’s the whole point of the best world argument, that we can be sure this one is best because there would be no reason to choose another one. Principle of sufficient reason and all that.

              What I’m saying is that Mike’s claims commit him to, absent further argumentation, the position that God is abandoning specific filial responsibilities.

              Sure, I got that. But I am assuming that you’ll acknowledge some degree of ownership of your own arguments and that they’re open to debate. Otherwise this whole thing is truly an epic exercise in futility.

              1. But I am assuming that you’ll acknowledge some degree of ownership of your own arguments and that they’re open to debate.

                Absolutely. I’m completely happy to own my own arguments in this discussion and deal with them, as long as we’re dealing with them on the terms set by Mike. I am not at this time interested in engaging you on the details of Thomistic theology, mostly because I don’t know them (and I suspect that Mike doesn’t either), because the point of this whole discussion is to force Mike to examine critically his own beliefs. I would be happy to engage you in a conversation elsewhere on whatever topic you like; feel free to email me at unemployed dot philosopher at Google’s mail service. It seemed clever seven years ago when the thing opened up…

                1. “…the point of this whole discussion is to force Mike to examine critically his own beliefs.”

                  Annnnnnd that’s where I sign off.

                  1. What, you’re not interested in critical self-reflection? Well, OK. I would have expected you to realize the thrust of this discussion some time ago…

        2. “I didn’t say that God caused each child to exist. I said that God caused each child to exist as a moral agent.”

          Re-read what you said. Your exact words:

          7. God causes each child to exist.

          1. Re-read my amendment just below.

      2. Those first lines should read, “… that God causes each child to exist, full stop, no explanation given. If you want to object to 7, you need to show why ‘causing to exist as a moral agent’ is not at least one way of ‘causing to exist’.” Oops.

    2. Also, #11 does not follow if there are higher obligations involved – such as the obligation to man’s free will. The Almighty could also theoretically reach down and stop the bullet every time someone gets shot, or intervene every time someone tried to commit adultery, or whatever. But then there’s no free will, no choice between good and evil, and ultimately no need for salvation.

      Although assuming that God even has “obligations” in the first place is pretty bad theology, or temptatio Dei if one wants to be technical.

      1. I just want to note that I’m not assuming that God has obligations. I’m arguing that Mike’s claims about the nature of filial obligation require that God have obligations, and, more broadly, that the act of causing X to exist does not create in an actor any obligations toward X.

        1. Lanfranc knows me well – my concern for this conversation is directly proportional to how deep in the weeds you get on philosophy. I’m quite sure Lanfranc is smart enough to hang with you on this stuff but it’s not my academic background and I’m not going to even attempt it (if you want to discuss American history and/or archaeology in-depth I can do that all day long).

          So let me try to be clear here: You’re assuming certain Judeo-Christian charactics about the Higher Power I spoke of such as the concept of original sin. That’s fine but then you ignore the Judeo-Christian concept of free will. I would agree wholeheartedly with this statement by Lanfranc:

          “The Almighty could also theoretically reach down and stop the bullet every time someone gets shot, or intervene every time someone tried to commit adultery, or whatever. But then there’s no free will, no choice between good and evil, and ultimately no need for salvation.”

          It seems you’re trying to have it both ways. I imagine if the Pope weighed in on this he would say that every man and woman should understand that sex creates the potential for life and that life is ensouled from the moment of conception. For that reason, choosing to have sex means you’re choosing potentially create a being with a soul and to abort that life is murder.

          Once the child is brought to term I would consider obligations of support to be more of a human morality than a Godly one. For example, I consider putting a child up for adoption and finding them a good home to be morally equivelant to raising it yourself and supporting it with food, shelter, etc. I would hope God feels the same way on the subject but I don’t really know.

          1. Honestly, I am surprised that you’re this dense. First: “free will” is hardly a Judeo-Christian concept. Second, I am simply showing what can be deduced, logically, from what you have asserted. If you find any of these outcomes problematic, the problem lies in your assertions. You deny 7? Then you must deny 6. If you deny 6, then you owe an explanation of “causes to exist” that is coherent with denying 6, since 6 straightforwardly decomposes into a semantic entailment given a standard reading, either counterfactual (e.g. A caused B iff had A not occurred, B would not have occurred) or productive (e.g. A causes B iff B is produced by A’s action) of “causes to exist”.

            1. Actually free-will IS a Judeo-Christian concept. You’ll note I didn’t say it was ONLY a Judeo-Christian concept.

              After re-reading i would also say that 6 is incorrect. The parents cause the child to exist. God provides him with a soul. Also, see my previous comment about what the Pope would say. I view the soul as a gift, but that doesn’t make God the responsible party.

              1. OK, so the parents cause the child to exist. But the reason those parents have an obligation to that child is that the child is worthy of moral consideration; that is, that the child has a soul. God is the one who causes the child to be worthy of moral consideration — that is, it is God’s intervention that renders the child morally relevant.

                Is it the case that parents owe an obligation to a child that God has chosen not to ensoul?

                1. I know where you are going with this – and it’s not going to work. You are still ignoring free will.

                  1. Where am I going with this, why isn’t it going to work, and how am I ignoring free will?

                    1. Both Lanfranc and I covered where you misstepped on free will. Re-read.

                    2. Neither you nor lanfranc has done any such thing. Lanfranc referenced an argument about essential nature, which is a terrible argument — choosing to act is not choosing to be — and you have claimed that I’m “ignoring” free will. That’s not an explanation, here or anywhere.

              2. Oh, and now I have to ask: by what virtue is some concept, C, a Judeo-Christian concept? I can see only a few answers that aren’t very strange, and none of them seems to include “free will”.

                1. Free will has been discussed by catholic theologians since at least Augustine. I never said it was uniquely judeo-Christian.

                  You brought original Sin into this conversation. Lanfranc and myself simply noted that you ignored another principle in the same theology when making your point.

                  1. You didn’t answer my question. What is it that makes some concept, even non-uniquely, a Christian concept?

                    (Let’s be honest here: the “judeo-” in “judeo-christian” is, historically, mostly there to cover up the rampant antisemitism in the mainstream Christian traditions)

                    1. Seriously man? I’m not even going to answer that. You’re just being an ass now. I just explained to you that it was being discussed by Augustine in the context of his theological writing.

                    2. I’m being an ass? That something was discussed by Augustine does not render it automatically a Christian concept; I’m quite certain he talked about breakfast and lunch with some regularity, after all.

  10. Erik, my good man. Just to get some small bit of closure on this train wreck of a discussion, might I suggest that you retire to a library sometime and reacquaint yourself with Aristotle’s Rhetoric? Your present mode of discussion seems a little, er, unsuitable for people in the real world. It has a bit too much of, if I may, “the classroom” about it.

    (And do read some Aquinas, too. He is, as you will be aware, “ne pas à mépriser entièrement”.)

    Take care, now.

    1. But the real world is a classroom, my dear and stinking chum. Now, you are correct; I have not read the Rhetoric in many years, but it seems to me that the three divisions are political, legal, and ceremonial; I don’t see how my mutant little elenchus falls into any of these categories, or why I should want it to.

      As for Aquinas… while I am well aware that his work is worthy of theological respect, but I am not a theologian and have no interest in becoming one, nor do I have the time to do so.

      However, since you’ve been kind enough to make some reading suggestions, I will happily provide some of my own. Quine’s The Web of Belief is a marvel of lucid expression, and the Boolos collection Logic, Logic, and Logic is outstanding — especially the essay “Gödel’s Second Incompleteness Theorem Explained in Words of One Syllable”.

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